Counter Cultural Calm and Comfort-All Souls

  • All Soul’s Day – Isaiah 25: 6-9, Ps 27: 1-9,13-14, Romans 5:5-11, John 6: 37-40


Tuesday afternoon, I sat with a bedridden elderly woman. I was just beginning to introduce myself to some residents at a nursing home.  I had no information about this woman other than a staff person suggesting she might enjoy a visit.  So I asked, “How’s it going for you?”

Her eyes began to form tears. “Oh, my husband, he’s here, he has dementia, Alzheimer’s.  He sits in a wheel chair and he just talks nonsense…he was never that way before.”   She made no mention of it, but it was clear she had her own health issues too.

We talked for a few minutes about the strain of watching a beloved spouse’s health deteriorate. I asked her: would she like to have me read to her out the Bible.  “Yes”, she nodded.  So I opened to Psalm 103, and read of the goodness of God, about God’s love and faithfulness, compassion and mercy.  She grew visibly calmer as I read.  “Oh, thank you,” she breathed.  The Bible I had with me was donated by the Gideon’s, and I left it with her.  Those free Gideon Bibles have a well-deserved reputation for helping people who are overwhelmed by life.

It’s very easy, and entirely normal, to forget God’s love when crisis strikes.   But in every section of the Bible, we can find reminders of the tender love God has for us, all of us.  Today one of our reading is from Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet who lived some 800 years before Christ.  It speaks of the Lord ending death and grief and tears on the earth, and offers assurance that the Lord will save us.  Then the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation……..wait for the Lord with courage.”

Years later, St. Paul declared with great certainty that we will not be disappointed by our hopes in God.  Wearied by the sound bites of politicians, we need to be reminded of this!  Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us…we are justified and saved through him…”  Paul adds, “We also boast of God.”  Now, if you have read much of St. Paul, you know when Paul says you can boast of something, he means it’s rock solid, without a doubt.

But if you might have any remaining doubt about hoping in God, our Gospel will dispel it.  John quotes Jesus saying, “…Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”

All Soul’s Day is about remembering those who have gone before us; those we miss, those we will mourn for the rest of our lives. But this day calms us, and draws us back from the pain of loss to the comfort of God’s love.  It is almost counter-cultural to remember that God didn’t make us disposable. We are eternal beings.  It is absolutely counter-cultural to say that we are eternal beings, but we still don’t know very much at all about eternity.  And it is probably close to anti-cultural to say that we don’t need to know more about eternity than we already know.  What do we know?  We know Eternity is real, prepared and waiting for you and me and those we love, and it will be beyond anything experienced in this life.

So, today we rejoice in life. We light candles to remind us of eternal life; their light breaks through the darkness of doubt.  We delight in the memory of those who have been born into eternity, even as we remain here for a time, and we continue to share the love of God.



Baptism of the Lord

Posted in Uncategorized by coapbk on January 9, 2009

ISAIAH 42:1-9, MARK 1:4-11

Reflection for Friday, Jan 9th by Father Joseph Diele

“I have taken you by the hand and kept you;”

When I was little I remember, crossing the street by my father.  I remember his big hand and my little hand in it. I remember those walks to school and my father being there taking my hand and I remember feeing safe and secure.  I remember feeling nothing bad can happen to me as long as I hold daddies hand.

What if it is God who is walking us across all life’s dangerous ways? God is with us leading us, beside us, holding us so that we would know we are not alone.

I remember a story I heard from a Franciscan Fr. Bede Abrams at a preaching workshop back in the early 90’s.  The story goes this way:

There once was a train and it was speeding and speeding. It soon became clear to the riders that the train could not stop. As it sped through city and town, it did not stop at any of the designated stations it just kept on barreling through, faster and faster.  People were screaming, some were calling their families on their cell phones and some were sobbing. On a seat in the first car was a little girl of five or six and she held her doll and was combing her hair. The people around her were in a frenzy and some looked at her with pity.  Through it all, she simply combed her dolls hair.  She was not scared, she was not perturbed she was confident and happy playing. As she combed the dolls hair some of the adults screamed and said little girl don’t you realize we are all going to die?  She just kept on combing her dolls hair.  Someone yelled why aren’t you upset kid?  She looked up for a second while stroking her doll’s hair and said my daddy is driving this train.

Yes, God is driving this train, holding our hands of what should we be afraid? We hear Jesus saying do not be afraid.  We heard in a song from the early 70’s, “Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.” God has taken us by the hand so what should we fear?

-Can we imagine our hand in God’s hand?

-What does it feel like to be held by God?

-Will we allow God to hold our hand?

-Do our communities invite us to trust God enough to allow God to lead us?



The Epiphany

Posted in Uncategorized by coapbk on January 1, 2009

Reflection for Thursday, January 1, 2009 by Father Joseph Diele

The Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-6, Matthew 2:1-12

This piece of Isaiah is written at the end of the Babylonian captivity.  The time is shortly after the return t of the exiles.  The people are discouraged.  Instead of a large flow of returning captives, there was a slow trickle.    Many of the Hebrews had adjusted to living in a new land and had adapted to the customs and the culture of the new land. Some had even abandoned God for the gods of their captives.

God here gives a rousing speech of encouragement.  God says, “get up and be bright.”

The world, the holidays our families and or friends never seem to live up to our expectations.  Life is always harder than we would wish and it is easy for us to fall into discouragement. Yet here is the time and the place. This is the moment now to rise up and be the light that you were made to be. It is in this present darkness that we must shine.  God is encouraging us as God had encouraged our ancestors.

-In what ways did the holidays not live up to our expectations for them?

-What is the present darkness that surrounds our lives?

-What do we hear when God says get up and be brightness?

-How do our communities encourage us?