Saturday, March 16, 2024

Requiem for a Paradise Being Lost

“It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed, but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers, and not masters…….I do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to….” Majorie Kinnan Rawlings

“I believe until fairly recently our destructions of nature were more or less unwitting -- the by-products, so to speak, of our ignorance or weakness or depravity. It is our present principled and elaborately rationalized rape and plunder of the natural world that is a new thing under the sun.” Wendell Berry

Interbeing is the understanding that nothing exists separately from anything else. We are all interconnected….”Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Fight

Everything in nature, the sum total of heaven and of earth, becomes a temple and an altar for the service of God. - Hildegard of Bingen


A Prelude

I drove across the state Monday to see a dear elderly aunt, the last of my parents’ generation, who was hospitalized in Pasco County over the weekend. Ordinarily I would have taken I-4 southwest to Lakeland and northwest up US 98 to Dade City. It’s the shortest and fastest route requiring only about an hour and a half. At least in theory.

But these are not ordinary days here in what is left of Florida.


Google maps is now routinely routing people headed from Orlando to the Tampa Bay region west across the state to I-75 and only then south to their destinations. State Road 50, the main east/west artery in Orlando where it is named Colonial Drive, stretches across the state to its terminus at Weeki Wachee Springs on the Gulf Coast. That’s one of the few surviving tourist traps of pre-interstate Florida, now a state park which has preserved its air hose enabled mermaids performing their daily shows in a crystal clear natural spring.


Former Groves That Sprouted Subdivisions

SR 50 passes through the rolling hills and lakes that once were fragrant citrus groves, now jammed with tract housing, strip malls and the resulting traffic snarls. The Citrus Tower in Clermont, standing over 300 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in Florida, was built in the 1950s to showcase Florida’s then unchallenged citrus empire. But there are no more groves within its 35 mile visibility, the trees having succumbed to tropical diseases arriving on the heels of climate change, the hills having sprouted one subdivision after another generating traffic that routinely slows to a standstill. And that is hardly the only sign that the Florida of my childhood is dying.

About an hour outside Orlando, where SR 50 crosses the southern end of Sumter County where I grew up, the once pastoral drive through the Withlacoochee State Forest passing tiny communities with lyrical names like Mabel, Linden and Tarrytown, is being four-laned to handle east/west traffic across a state busting at the seams. No doubt it will soon become a slow motion parking lot as well. 


Monday’s Google maps route sent me north from Orlando on the Florida Turnpike, the opposite direction from where I was headed. It proved to be a miserable half hour endurance of construction and accidents mercifully limited to 18 miles. From there I was routed back south down a two-lane road into Groveland on SR 19, joining 50 there to head west. It was an unpredictable pattern, to say the least, but it saved me 20 minutes and an inestimable amount of stress by avoiding I-4, an almost impenetrable stretch of asphalt that has become one of the longest parking lots in the country and now holds the distinction of being America’s deadliest interstate highway.


Sadly, this is not a unique story in Florida these days. To our north, the traffic on the turnpike routinely becomes a parking lot as one approaches The Villages and remains such until one is well north of Ocala, a good 40 mile stretch. The same nightmarish accounts are routinely heard from motorists north and south of Tampa Bay and in the megalopolis of Miami from Jupiter south.

That Floridians find themselves in an almost complete standstill on our major highways has done nothing to slow down growth. People are moving to Florida out of avoidance of taxes and winter weather. And builders are more than happy to provide them more of the same congested suburbs and exurbs even as they are not required to provide for highways and utilities in impact fees to handle the new arrivals. One wonders how these new residents will assess their calculus in coming here as they sit in lines of stalled traffic fleeing the vulnerable coasts, unable to escape the approach of the next killer hurricane.

Blue Springs State Park (L), “development” project underway at Orange City (R ), 4.5 miles away, well within the Blue Springs/St. John’s River watershed.

“Development,” A Self-Aggrandizing Term

The real estate moguls and builders call themselves “developers.” It’s a self-aggrandizing term that suggests that their enterprises somehow leave the land in a better state than when they began their enterprises. But the destruction of the natural environment that prompted earlier visitors from the Spanish conquistadors to Harriet Beecher Stowe to describe Florida in Edenic terms evidences the fact that these enterprises, while profitable for a few, have NOT left the state in better shape than before. Their profits have come at a high price, not the least of which is the quality of life of its residents. If anything, Florida is rapidly becoming Eden squandered, a Paradise rapidly being Lost.


There is a description of this unregulated building and resultant overcrowding that is much more accurate than the misleading term “development.” Unlimited growth that occurs at the expense of a host organism is rightly recognized in the medical world as pathological.

Its common name is cancer.  


A Jammed Highway in the Middle of Nowhere

Monday’s encounter with the New Florida was not a revelation. My heart has been broken over and over as I visit places I knew from my childhood that now bear no resemblance to the natural beauty over which I once marveled. But it was on my return trip to Orlando Monday that the depth of this loss became very clear to me.


From Zephyrhills, Google maps had routed me east to US 98 and, after a couple of miles south, north on SR 471. This 21 mile stretch from SR 50 to US 98 runs through the middle of the Green Swamp. It is the watershed for Central Florida and the carbon sink for an I-4 Corridor that now hosts nearly six million residents.

Originally seen by many as a boondoggle, it was named the E.C. Rowell Highway in honor of Sumter County’s representative to Florida’s Pork Chop legislature, a racist, rural-dominated state government that required a U.S. Supreme Court decision to finally reapportion itself in the 1960s.

The highway was initially decried as an unnecessary road connecting Lakeland with Sumter County, a waste of tax money. And originally it was perhaps one of the lightest travelled roads in the state. My memories from 30 years ago of driving south to Lakeland included my praying that I wouldn’t break down on that stretch where, in those days before cell phones, I often did not meet a single vehicle between the two end points of the highway.

But that was not what I encountered Monday.

The road was jammed with semi-trailer trucks. My little Prius shook as these huge vehicles hurtled past at 70 mph, their fumes polluting the once pristine air, their toxic fluids leaking onto the asphalt to drain into the swamplands on either side of the highway. And all around me were SUVs hogging more than their share of the narrow highway, distracted drivers weaving across the center line as they texted. Clearly I’m not the only one relying on Google maps to provide them with detours to avoid the parking lot on I-4. 


Heavy Machinery That Pierces the Soul

I came home from my day trip exhausted and depressed. It wasn’t just the traffic that disturbed me, though increasingly I do find that difficult to deal with. Part of that is age but another part of it is my deep revulsion toward the explosion of congestion that I observe everywhere I go in this state where my family has lived six generations. It speaks to the rape and pillage of the Earth and the jamming together of new inhabitants who don’t know their neighbors, who have no clue what community means or interest in discovering it.

As I watch ancient cypress domes disappearing under the onslaught of draglines, pasture lands with lazy Angus and Brahma cattle grazing beneath venerable live oaks being replaced by strip malls and unimaginative tract housing, as I sit in long traffic jams, often made worse by accidents caused by road rage and distracted drivers, I feel my heart ache. The blades of the machinery scraping the very face of the Earth clear of every living thing slice deeply into me. What I experienced Monday as I moved in that train of vehicles pounding through what was once an isolated natural preserve was more than heart breaking.

I felt like my very soul had been pierced.

Little wonder I was in bed by 8:30 Monday night and slept for 13 hours.

The Spiritual Dimensions of Despoliation

I think I am beginning to see why people like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who made the preservation of the Everglades her life work, feel called to such Quixotic challenges. As she neared the end of life, Douglas had come to believe it was impossible not to act in light of what she was seeing happening in the unique ecosystem that is the Everglades.

But the work Douglas engaged was much deeper than mere public policy. It sought to respond to the implicit spiritual questions that become increasingly unavoidable as one watches the destruction of the very good Creation.  

At 70 years of age, I find myself with a new appreciation for her work as well as that of Marjory Kinnan Rawlings. She spoke of the enchantment of nature that, once lost, rarely returns. Sadly, I see that all around me.

Increasingly I find that the words of poet Wendell Berry speak my soul’s agonies as he notes that what was once a thoughtless despoilation of our world has become conscious, systemic and brutal. And as Engaged Buddhism founder Thich Nhat Hanh has articulated, this despoilation is not isolated to the natural world; when we harm “this fragile Earth, our island home,” (Book of Common Prayer), we inevitably impact ourselves in a deeply negative fashion.


Three years ago, I had a chance to spend glorious day in the ruins of the monastery once led by 12th CE Rhineland, mystic Hildegard of Bingen. She declared nature to be the temple at whose altar the Creator is venerated. That is how I have always experienced it. And that makes what I observed happening in the Green Swamp Monday simply untenable. It is an ongoing desecration.


The Deepest Wound of an Unenviable History      


I need to note here that I do not wax nostalgic in any way about the social, cultural or political Florida of my youth. The Florida of the 1950s and 60s was a seething caldron of racism, sexism and inveterate homophobia. With a handful of notable exceptions, our power holders rarely made us proud. And, as is always the case in major growth explosions complete with big demographic shifts - not the least of which was the arrival of thousands of Cuban refugees - no small amount of xenophobia and tribalism dominated Florida’s airwaves and newspapers in my days growing up here.

I remember well the attempts of Governor Claude Kirk to prevent integration of the Manatee County schools in 1970, a highly publicized move that gave rise to a ballot measure in 1972 opposing forced busing cast in segregationist sentiment. It passed widely throughout Florida. I can recall the moral panics aimed at LBGTQ Floridians that played out first in the witch hunts of the 1960s Johns Committee and later in the sad “Save Our Children” movement of the mid 70s led by a fading beauty queen, Anita Bryant, which overturned Miami’s first human rights ordinance. And I remember well the ubiquitous bumper stickers of the early 80s that read “Will the last American leaving Miami please bring the flag?”  

Sadly, the devolution of Florida to Fascista, the culture war driven expression of authoritarianism that now dominates our political discourse, educational systems, libraries and lawmaking, suggests to me that we Floridians have learned very little from our experience over my 70 years of life.

Still, I confess that I feel sad seeing the mom and pop joints along the beaches I loved as a child replaced by condos blocking access to the waterfront. And I mourn the small towns whose charming palm lined drives have been replaced by six lane highways jammed with traffic. But the deepest wound to my Florida soul is not in the loss of the small towns or quirky tourist attractions. It comes from the destruction of the land itself and its fauna and flora.

I do not delude myself to think that Florida can return to its primordial status in the wake of this tsunami of unplanned and unregulated growth. The damage has been done. I do wonder how many of the newcomers will stay once the climate change fueled super-hurricanes begin to wreck their homes and they cannot find an insurance policy to cover them, a reality already beginning to play out across our state. Even so, I do not wish them ill. I know what it feels like to lose your home to a hurricane. And I know what it is like to sit in a 50 mile traffic jam with thousands of one’s most intimate friends fleeing our coasts in the face of an approaching storm.

I do not wish that on anyone.

Our state must do a better job of regulating this avalanche of newcomers if we are to survive. It must insist that builders no longer be allowed to offshore the bill for the infrastructure required to host their customers onto Florida taxpayers and preserve green zones where building cannot occur. And it must find ways to fund the massive infrastructural improvements long overdue in this increasingly overcrowded state that has historically been prone to social irresponsibility. That means that a state with a long history of adolescent behavior must come to grips with its arrested development and assume its adult social responsibilities.

But I’m not holding my breath.

I know Eden is not returning. But we still have a chance to prevent an intractable urbanized cesspool before it is too late. While I have to admit that I do not expect that, I’m still hoping to be surprised.


 Harry Scott Coverston

 Orlando, Florida

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either. – Mahatma Gandhi

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d?  - Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

   © Harry Coverston, 2024


Sunday, March 10, 2024

A G-d Who Always Loved the World


“For God so loved the world….” (John 3:16)

John 3:16 is perhaps one of the most frequently quoted passages of scripture in the Christian Bible. We see it everywhere from the charcoal lettering under the eyes of quarterback Tim Tebow to billboards and bumper stickers. It has sometimes been called “the gospel in a nutshell,” summing up all of Christian theology. Of course, the Christian faith is far too diverse to be summed up in a sentence. But these verses do reveal the understandings of the community which produced John’s gospel.


An Inescapable Verse

 When I was a kid, this verse was inescapable. The Gideon Society regularly came to our schools bringing wooden rulers bearing this verse to distribute to students. As we drew geometric shapes for class projects, that verse stared us in the face.

At recess my Baptist classmates often sang a gospel hymn which stated: “
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, to die on Calvary’s tree, from sin to set me free….”  In all honesty, I never liked that hymn. While I couldn’t articulate this at eight years of age, I sensed that it made Jesus a means to an end, his entire life and ministry reduced to a proposition – that his crucifixion provided the means by which individuals insured themselves of a happy afterlife, assuming they bought into the right set of ideas about that event. Little wonder this verse is so popular among those who understand their faith largely as a way to achieve a single purpose, individual salvation.

In the 1980s, a new display of this verse became unavoidable. In the face of a failed career in acting, a 30-year-old Rollen Stewart had joined a millenialist cult in California. Convinced that the world was going to end soon and that Jesus was coming back to rescue the true believers in a Rapture prior to Armageddon, Stewart began donning a rainbow colored Afro wig and planting himself in places where he was guaranteed to be shown on national television. From PGA tournaments to end zones at football games, he would suddenly leap from the crowd whenever the camera came near frantically waving a sign reading “John 3:16.”


These behaviors reveal what seems to draw many people to this verse. In the words of the Baptist hymn, the only reason for Jesus’ even coming to this world was to die for our sins so that those who get the theology right can go to heaven. It’s all about me. The other aspect of the use of this verse is very tribal. From the evangelizing efforts of the Gideons Society to the antics of the Rainbow Man, there is a sectarian impulse that asserts “We’ve got it right and everyone else has it wrong. G-d is on our side and those of you outside the circled wagons - you will get yours in the end.”


I can see how this might be appealing to some. As modern mystic Eckhart Tolle often says, we are all expressions of our level of consciousness. But I don’t think this thinking reflects what Jesus was about. And, in looking critically and contextually at this passage today, I think it’s easy to see how this thinking arose.



John’s Community Speaking, Not Jesus

The passage that we read this morning begins midway through the third chapter of John’s gospel. In the verses immediately prior to these, Jesus is engaging in his famous dialogue with the Pharisee Nicodemus where they discuss the notion of being born again, this time of the spirit.

It’s instructive that the folks who created our lectionary excluded the first half of the chapter. It is precisely at verse 16 that Jesus stops talking and the writers of John’s Gospel begin to offer their own commentary on how they understood him. As such, these words about Jesus that so many people cherish were simply never uttered by Jesus himself. Rather they reflect the mind of John’s community and its existential struggles at the end of the 1st CE.

One of the ways we know that is the sectarian flavor of the writing. While the opening words of this verse are universal in their scope
– “For God so loved the world…” – the gospel writers almost immediately began to attach conditions to that assertion. Before this passage is over, they will tell us that those who do not share their understandings are already condemned, presumably by G-d. We are told these condemned people simply do not know “the truth,” that being defined by the beliefs of John’s community. They are dwellers in darkness, avoiding the light which only John’s community has. This pattern of thought clearly bears the mark of a highly tribal sect.


Arch of Titus, Rome. The Sacking of the Second Temple. 

To understand where this thinking has come from, it’s important to know its historical context. John’s community is writing their gospel at the end of the 1st CE. During the lifetime of these writers, the Temple in Jerusalem, the central worship site of the tradition, has been destroyed by the Romans. The scholars of the Hebrew tradition who survived were desperately attempting to define their faith in order to preserve it. And that would leave no room for the Jewish followers of Jesus, with their letters from Paul and an oral tradition of the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Gospel of John reflects the anger and hurt of a community of Jews who have been expelled from their religious communities. There are few disputes that are nastier than those within religious bodies. Little wonder we hear the folks who have expelled them referred to in John’s Gospel as condemned, those who refuse to know the truth, dwellers in darkness.

Now in all fairness, John’s Gospel contains some of the most beautiful writing in the New Testament. The lyrical restatement of the Genesis account that opens the gospel with its reference to the logos, the word that was with G-d through whom all things were created, is a cherished part of our tradition. It is from John’s Gospel that we get Jesus’ assertion that he is the bread of life, the good shepherd, the way the truth and the life.  

This Gospel has much of value to offer us. 


But it is also the repository of angry, deeply sectarian thinking that is often focused on those who expelled their members from their synagogues. There are more than 70 references to “the Jews” in John’s Gospel, more than all the other gospels combined, almost half of them cast in derogatory terms. 

A more accurate way of hearing those references is to be more specific – “those Jews,” the ones who kicked us out. Unfortunately, most readers of this gospel are not aware of that context when they read it. That has led many to draw a false dichotomy between Jesus, who was himself a Jew and had never heard the term Christian, and his fellows Jews who are inevitably referenced in negative terms.


Where Is the Good News?

So what do we do with a passage like this? How do we make sense of this familiar verse in a new way? Where in all of this anger and pain do we find good news? And why are we hearing this passage from John during Lent?

First, let’s go back to the original assertion in this passage: God so loved the world. Perhaps if John had stopped right there, his gospel would have given us a gift to cherish. The truth is, G-d has always loved the Creation. At the end of the creation narrative in Genesis, G-d looks at all that has been created - ending with the imperfect human beings bearing the divine image - and blesses it. G_d looks at all that has been created and assesses the creation as “very good,” not perfect, but very good. 

The truth is, G-d has always loved the world, with all of its warts, from the very beginning.

So why did Jesus come? In the Franciscan tradition of which I am a part, scholars like Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure have long taught that the coming of Jesus was always part of G-d’s plan from the very beginning. Jesus came out of G-d’s great love for the Creation. Human sin did NOT pry Jesus out of G-d.


Christo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro 

Moreover, Jesus did not come to assure us of our status in the next life, he came to show us how to live here and now. In my admittedly biased Franciscan perspective, I would say that this is a lot healthier understanding than the substitutionary atonement theology for which John’s Gospel reading today provides a starting place.

Second, as critical as my words about the writers of John have been, I do think we need to give them a break. We all know what it feels like to be rejected by those whose affirmations we have sought, to have cherished relationships end in acrimony, to feel betrayed. We all have thought, felt, said and done things when we were angry and hurt that we later regretted. The response of these writers to expulsion from their community is certainly something we can all relate to beginning with our life as a parish in a diocese we often experience as hostile. As such, they merit our compassion.


Questions John’s Community Poses Us

But there is a reason these readings appear in our Lenten lectionary. I think John has given us some things we need to reflect upon during this Lenten season. And so I leave you with the following questions:


·         One, where in my own life has my faith tended to be egocentric, focused only on my own needs, both in this world and the next? When have I seen Jesus as a means to my own personal ends and not the revealer of a way to follow in my life?


"The Problem We All Live With," Norman Rockwell, (1964)  


·         Two, where do I tend to be self-righteous in my own understandings of others, presuming I am right and “they” – whoever they may be – are just plain wrong if not evil? Where do I lose sight of the image of G_d borne by those with whom I bitterly disagree, reducing them to their worst aspects in order to dismiss them?


·         Finally, what do I lose when I engage in either of those thought processes? And what do they lose?


John’s Gospel provides us with much to consider on this fourth Sunday of Lent. May the G-d who has always loved all of the very good Creation and sent his Son to reveal that love be palpably present in our reflections on the contents of our souls as we move through these last three weeks of our Lenten journey. AMEN.



A sermon offered on Lent IV B, March 10, 2024, St. Richard’s Parish, Winter Park, FL

You can watch this sermon given live at this link beginning at 26:00


 Harry Scott Coverston

 Orlando, Florida

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either. – Mahatma Gandhi

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d?  - Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

   © Harry Coverston, 2024


Monday, February 19, 2024

Driven Into the Wilderness: Lenten Reflections

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness…..


Our lessons on this first Sunday in Lent have a number of aspects worth noting. I would like to focus on three of them.


First, emerging from the waters of the Jordan River Jesus hears the voice of the Holy One whom he has always experienced in intimate, familial terms, addressing G-d as Father. He has come to the Jordan River for baptism, responding to the calling he experiences as coming from the Holy One. And in today’s Gospel, G_d affirms Jesus’ response to that calling: “You are my Son, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”


Such an affirmation must have been overwhelming. Direct experiences of the living G-d always are. As Lutheran scholar of religion Rudolf Otto described it, encounters with the Holy One are shrouded in mystery, evoking both awe if not terror as well as a compelling fascination drawing one to that mystery. Otto called it the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.



So it’s hardly surprising that Jesus felt driven by the Spirit into the wilderness where he would remain the next 40 days, a common biblical reference indicating a significant period of time. An experience of the divine is always unsettling, destabilizing, disorienting. Jesus needs time alone with no distractions to figure out what his calling means and how he will respond to it.


There is much in this account on this first Sunday of Lent to inform all of us who would follow Jesus. We, too, are beloved children of G_d as are all living beings G-d has created bearing the divine image. And G-d is well pleased with us, even when we doubt our own value. We, too, seek to respond to G_d’s call to us in our lives as Franciscans. And, like Jesus, we, too need time alone, in silence, stripped of the constant distractions that a world dominated by deafening noise would no doubt see as a wilderness. We need to make sense of what G-d is calling us to be and to do at this point in our spiritual journeys. And we must stop talking and cut out the noise all around us long enough to hear G_d’s voice.


There is a reason the church has long marked a 40 day period of Lent.


But how do we engage such an undertaking? What should we reflect upon? How do we discern G-d’s voice among the chattering in our minds competing for our attention, a condition that those who meditate often call our monkey mind? I would like to suggest that the creators of today’s lectionary have given us a framework to guide us. And it comes in the form of our psalm. Let’s hear portions of it again, observing periodic moments of silence to engage the questions it raises for us:


Psalm 25:1-9, Ad te, Domine, levavi



1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.


·         What are the aspects of my life I find easy to entrust to the Holy One?

·         What aspects do I tightly hold onto, afraid to let go and let G_d direct me?

·         What might my life look like if I did?



3 Show me your ways, O Lord, * and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me, * for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.


        Callings change over lifetimes. Seeking to discern what we are called to be and do here and now is an ongoing process.


·         What truths about myself, my soul, my world, does G_d have to offer me this Lenten season?

·         What is G_d’s calling to me at this juncture of my life?

·         How can I know?




5 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, *
for they are from everlasting.


        Jesus was the revealer of G-d. If we want to find Jesus in the Gospels, we should look for where the suffering is occurring. There we see the compassion of G_d, a willingness to enter into and be present with the suffering of others.


·         Where am I called to be compassionate?

·         What in my own life requires letting go of judgment, creating a place for me to show compassion for my own life struggles?

·         And where is the suffering around me in the world where my compassion could make a difference? 


6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love

        and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

8 He guides the humble in doing right *
and teaches his way to the lowly.


        For many of us, our challenge is not believing G_d can forgive us our sins. It is forgiving ourselves. We readily recall our failings stretching back to our childhood. And we often labor under the misapprehension that G_d does, too.


·         Where am I called to trust that G_d loves every part of me, including the parts I don’t like, the parts I am ashamed of?

·         Where do I need to take seriously the words our baptismal covenant - “I will with God’s help” - in seeking to let go of my own shame?

·         What might G_d have to teach me this Lenten season about G-d’s goodness and loving kindness toward all of Creation, including myself, without conditions?




9 All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness *
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.


Let us give thanks for the paths of the Lord which the psalmist tells us are marked by love and faithfulness. Let us give thanks for the Way of Jesus we see revealed in Gospel accounts like today’s lesson. And let us give thanks for the model Francis and Clare have provided us in following that Way in our own lives.

May our time in the wilderness be meaningful and prove fruitful. And let us depart for the Wilderness with the words of our Franciscan prayer The Aborbeat on our lips:


May the power of your love, Lord Christ,

fiery and sweet as honey,

so absorb our hearts

as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven.

Grant that we may be ready

to die for love of your love,

as you died for love of our love. Amen


A Reflection for the Lenten Retreat, TSSF San Damiano Chapter

Holy Names Priory, St. Leo, FL

Lent I(B), Sunday, February 18, 2024 


 Harry Scott Coverston

 Orlando, Florida

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding. Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.

Those who believe religion and politics aren't connected don't understand either. – Mahatma Gandhi

For what does G-d require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d?  - Micah 6:8, Hebrew Scriptures

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. - Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Jewish Sages (1993)

   © Harry Coverston, 2024