Some journeys can be slow. The book of Genesis finished this a.m. The importance of patriarchy and wisdom passed on from father to son is not lost in this book. Like modern times, fathers of the past had errant sons too. Jacob, while preparing for death, tells his sons, “Simon and Levi are brothers; Instrument of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council” for the various ill-deeds their tribes performed. The rest of the brothers seemed to get off very well with their father’s blessings and prophecy, with Joseph being the leader of them all. Families are not perfect and Joseph forgave his brothers their ill will even after his father passed.
Meanwhile, in Matthew, Jesus is growing his ministry with miracles and words of confounding wisdom. The scribes and Pharisees are asking for signs and laying traps for Jesus. He is foretelling many will not listen to what is before their eyes. They listen with the intent to carry out their agenda – not the agenda of God or truth. Jesus drops the artificial ties that we all define our relationships by, even his blood relatives, by declaring, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” This is telling me my brother and sister are not defined by blood alone. it is also telling me if I listen with an agenda in mind, I am apt to not truly be listening.
And today, my meditation speaks to the “Mysticism of the Streets.”[i] Richard details the 1100 years of the desert fathers and then introduces St. Francis bringing monastic life and theology into the practice in the streets with other people. In ordinary life, the Friars of the Franciscan order followed not a life of solitude, but life among the people:
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.”
My Grandfather’s hard work, stoic nature, and disciplined mind came into my heart this morning. He was a quiet man. If whispers came to him that I broke a window or a fence in the community, he would, without words, ask me to join him to help with some project. There I was with him in hand mending a fence I broke, or a window shattered—no words needed to be passed. Quiet work, job done, no words exchanged. None needed. I was not moved to write this morning, which happens often enough.
I had the day off today by surprise. The governor made Juneteenth day a holiday. I was going to go to the gym but instead scheduled to give blood at the blood bank and visit a friend I had not seen in some time. I like to think I was doing a service, but a small part of me thinks I was avoiding the gym!
At the blood bank, a German lady serving the juice and cookies decided my name was German, and I was not to spend the 15 minutes reading a book alone. She pulled in another German lady to boot. We discussed Germany, my Grandfather, and Grandmother, the town of Ubrirkichen, stonemasons, the arbitrariness of money, and families torn apart by WWI and WW II. She knew exactly where the town was and her accent mimicked by Grandmother.
I had not thought of my Grandfather before this morning for some time, and an hour or two later, his immigration to the United States and strong character are celebrated. Elsa, his wife, my grandmother, is remembered as well for her love, principles, and tenderness. I do not remember her being beautiful in the way she is in this picture. I remember her being beautiful as a grandmother with a warm and delicate smile. Both of them were quiet people, but stronger than anybody I knew, perhaps that is still true today.
Happenstance? I think not. Patriarchy, history, and remembrance made real hours after my a.m. spiritual reading bought my Grandparents’ love and lives into my mind.
My day did not include much solitude or prayer today. It did include giving blood, sharing history with two German ladies, visiting an old friend, returning home to plant some flowers, joining my wife for dinner out, giving up the television room to my daughter and her friends just when I wanted to sit and watch the bloody news, and now writing this morning dew as the silences from the past and present have blessed me today.
Somehow scripture seemed intimately connected to my day without any conscious effort on my part – just gentle whispers of grace. These two grandparents left indelible images in my heart, and one of them gave me stubbornness as well, which sometimes serves me well and other times, not so well!
What would their words be today if they were here? I don’t think they would have to say a thing. They might start pruning a tree or inspecting a crooked door for repair, but words of guidance no need, they teach only by doing.
The Old Testament and The New Testament came alive for me today in subtle ways. Someone else reading the same exact passages would walk away with different sentiments and thoughts. How these sentiments and thoughts guide our lives is the test of true spiritual discernment.
[i] Richard Rohr Daily Meditations page 43.