Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC


Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 14th, 2023

Excerpt from

A Pocketful of Sundays

C. 2009, Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

The emphasis on Jesus' death and resurrection fulfilling the scriptures shifts the focus from the disciples being awed by the resurrection as an isolated event into seeing it as part of God's plan of salvation. The event is bigger than Jesus being restored to his friends; it is about God's work for the entire cosmos. The Jesus whom the disciples had known in a particular kind of way is now to be shared with humanity; Jesus of Nazareth has become the Cosmic Lord. The drama in which his followers have participated does not end with Jesus rising from the dead any more than it ended with his death on the cross; on the contrary, the story is only just beginning. It is the disciples' task to carry the story to all nations; to accomplish their mission, however, they first have to understand the mystery they are called to preach-- and live it, too. And this, my friends, is the task of Christians everywhere.



* To what extent do you feel "orphaned" in life?

*What types of experiences trigger the sense of being "orphaned"?

* How does your faith help you through times of alienation and disappointment?

*To what extent has your faith grown since childhood and what are the signs that growth has indeed happened?


Ways of Sacred Listening

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That sanity will prevail

and that all those suffering

on account of the war

in Ukraine

will find the comfort

and resources they need.

Greetings, SBT Readers:

I offer a collage of images in honor of Mother's Day, perhaps colored by Pope Francis' urging that Italian women should produce more babies, given the dramatic decline in live births in Italy. Now, I'm a great fan of Pope Francis but as he himself pointed out at a conference in Rome, May 12th, 2023, having a child can be financially prohibitive for some couples. What he didn't address, however, is that not every woman is suited to motherhood. From ancient times until the present, from Euripides's 5th-century BCE tragedy Medea, to the notorious Lori Vallow Daybell, fictious women and real women have shown that being a mother involves more than the act of giving birth. I admit that mentioning filicide on Mother's Day is rather "off-color" but the sad reality is that so many children never know the warmth of a loving home or what it is to be loved unconditionally. Child abuse takes many forms but while there can be interventions for physical abuse, emotional abuse often goes unnoticed. Neglect, lack of guidance, ridicule, punitive treatment, unrealistic expectations, over-indulgence and parental indifference can all set the stage for a child's stunted intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth-- and for a future filled with unhappiness.

On the other hand, there is nothing as strong as motherly love-- that selfless pouring out of love and focused attention that lets a child know that she has been seen, heard, listened to, accepted and understood. Even if material resources are in short supply, even if the family struggles financially, motherly love ensures that a child experiences abundance not want. The C14th mystic, Julian of Norwich, considered motherly love to be divine. For Julian, God is our "merciful Mother" for "in our Father, God Almighty, we have our being. In our merciful Mother, we have reformation and renewal." Likewise, Jesus is also to be honored as mother: "In our Mother, Christ, we grow and develop; in his mercy he reforms and restores us; through his passion, death and resurrection he has united us to his being. So does our Mother work in mercy for all his children who respond to him and obey him" (Rev. 58).

This Mother's Day, let us remember all mothers everywhere, especially those who birthed us and those who "mothered" us through their love and example. Let us pray for those struggling with motherhood in any way, for those who cannot conceive and for those who have suffered the terrible anguish of losing a child. And may Jesus our Mother increase motherliness in all of us, as we strive to be more like him...

Eastertide Blessings -- and Happy Mother's Day!!



Link to the Sunday Readings

Jesus said to his disciples:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father who will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know the Spirit because he remains with you,

and will be in you.

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

In a little while, the world will no longer see me,

but you will see me because I live, and you will live.

On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father

and you are in me, and I in you.

Those who know my commandments and observe them

are the ones who love me. And those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

Jn 14:15-21

Considered collectively, dictionary definitions of "orphan" refer to children under 18 years of age who, having lost both parents, are therefore alone in the world. If there are no relatives who can step in, orphans in the United States usually end up in the foster care system, while those in other cultures are often institutionalized while they await adoption through domestic or international agencies. At the time of Jesus, the term "orphan" generally applied to children who had lost their "father" -- the breadwinner in the family. This meant that while they still had the emotional benefit of a mother, they usually lacked the necessities of life. Jewish law, in fact, lists orphans in the three categories of people needing protection: "You shall not mistreat or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry" (Ex 22: 20-22). When Jesus promised not to leave his disciples "orphans," then, he was promising to provide the comfort, protection and nurturing they needed to thrive-- in other words, to be their father and their mother!

Today we are experiencing "being orphaned" in ways that go beyond biblical and dictionary definitions. In fact, even the middle-aged and elderly can still feel "orphaned," even if both parents are alive and well. This became strikingly apparent during a retreat I facilitated some years back. I had assigned a quiz based on Carol S. Pearson's The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By. To my surprise, a member of the group who seemed both successful and emotionally healthy identified with qualities Pearson ascribes to orphans:

Worst Fear: Abandonment, exploitation

Response to Dragon: Denies it exists or waits for rescue

Spirituality: Wants deity that will rescue and religious leaders that provide answers

Relationships: Wants caretaker(s)

Emotions: Out of control or numb

Material World: Feels poor, wants to win the lottery or inherit money

The participant later explained that his identification with "orphan" was directly related to his recent divorce. In addition to grieving his marriage and the life he had built with his wife and children, he had been permanently "shunned" both by his faith community and his parents, siblings, and other close relatives; moreover, he had now lost all rights to the farmland that should have been his inheritance. In effect, he had been written out of the family tree.

Though this is an extreme example of someone feeling "orphaned," it is true to say that many adults today -- of all ages-- feel disconnected from life-giving relationships, guiding institutions, and support systems. The path is no longer clear; the future is no longer a certainty; loneliness has become epidemic; and the old answers are too small to address the complexities of modern life. Some seek refuge in faith, but their spirituality has often not grown much beyond what they learned in confirmation class -- if they were confirmed. Others seek meaning in service opportunities or in pursuing personal interests, but that nagging emptiness at the core continues to persist. Still others turn to addictive behaviors to fill the void or else tune out global crises and the growing violence surrounding all of us, living vicariously through celebrities and "influencers." Ironically, given their high rate of suicide, the celebrities and "influencers" don't hold the answers, either.

In a world in which millions -- perhaps billions-- feel alienated,

religion must engage, inspire, challenge, motivate, and invite the orphans among us into full, active, conscious participation. My own tradition -- Roman Catholicism -- needs to do a better job of moving the faithful from "habit," private devotions and "obligation" into an ever-deepening relationship not with the historical Jesus but with the Cosmic Christ. As I wrote in Jesus the Holy Fool (Sheed & Ward, 1999):

"Wine flows at the Feast of Cana because Jesus, like the mythical Dionysus, invites us to transform the water of our lives into that which is truly intoxicating-- the elixir of the Spirit. This wine fills us with ecstasy, allowing us to taste the inebriating presence of God, even in the heart of the mundane; it fills us with passion, allowing us to love wholeheartedly,

to honor our commitments and to live each moment to the fullest. It gives us the courage to speak truth and to live authentically, while inviting us into the delight of playful spontaneity" (175).

If we Christians want to experience divine belonging, we must cease to live as orphans and instead embrace the Risen Life to which Jesus invites us. And this is truly the "Road Less Traveled," a journey out of our comfort zones into new and always startling awareness, with Jesus as our companion along the way...



This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. Most sessions are on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate in-person or "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.

Spiritual Direction

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | | [email protected]

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,

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