A Message from Prof. Harkins

A Message from Prof. Harkins

Among my favorite passages from the Hebrew Bible is Joshua 3: 1-5. The NRSV version reads like this: 

3 Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 

“For you have not passed this way before…” 

We are indeed in new terrain, crossing a metaphorical Jordan River in this season of Covid-19 and the concomitant Social Distancing, itself ensconced in the liturgically liminal season of Lent. 

Indeed, perhaps the word “liminal” is instructive. In anthropology, for example, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants no longer hold their prior status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. 

But what sustains us as we cross over or pass through such transitional spaces? What do we carry with us in the Ark of the Covenant, and what do we leave behind? How do we know whether and how to cross? What will sustain us on the journey? 

Cultivating resilience can change our neural pathways and neurochemistry (neuroplasticity). Resilience transcends disciplines, and has applications in engineering, ecology, medicine, finance, leadership, and religion. It is an alternative to “pathology based” assessments and theory. 

Cultivating resilience can change our neural pathways and neurochemistry (neuroplasticity). Resilience transcends disciplines, and has applications in engineering, ecology, medicine, finance, leadership, and religion. Cultivating resilience can change mind, body, and spirit. Indeed, the “Flourishing in Ministry” project at Notre Dame encourages us to enhance clergy “recovery experiences”: 

-Restorative “niches” such as hobbies, etc.. 

-Relaxation and detachment having nothing to do with work. 

-Contemplative and meditative practices, e.g. mindfulness, centering prayer, et 

-Experiencing congruence and authenticity in one’s roles…integrity as “wholeness.” 

In this season what might we learn to hold on to and what might we let go of, as spiritual disciplines? As our friend Mary Oliver has said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” 

Perhaps we can learn something from the barred owl about waiting, and watching. 

And, paying attention to gifts we might typically miss. 

I pray blessings upon you all. Remember that it is relationships that heal us. As Wendell Berry has said, practice resurrection, and times and places of transition are the perfect ways to do this. Let us endeavor to remember to laugh, and to practice gratitude. We may not have passed this way before, but together we will cross over, walking each other home. 

Lenten blessings, 

Bill Harkins 

 

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