Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

Sunday BibleTalk, March 3rd, 2019

into the wounded heart
of God
and there find mercy.
Hide, take refuge
from all that hounds you
into the dust;
those in pursuit
draw close,
itching to tear you
limb from limb,
frantic for your blood.
Crawl in deeper:
there, in the heart's core,
carve a place of safety
where none dares follow.
Secure at last,
cast off fear
and gaze instead
on the One who weeps
for you
and for the world.

Let heart speak to heart

From Extraordinary Time,
Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, 1988

For information about my publications, visit:

As individuals and as a church, we need to look in the mirror and see what is tarnishing the Image of God.

Please note that roughly 8 mins into the video I should have done a better job of explaining that it is not the Christ-light that is tarnished, but the church's reflection of that light. Sorry for any confusion!
Greetings, SBT Readers:

The theme of a fruitful tree not only appears in our first reading from Sirach but also in Ps. 92 and in today's Gospel. As Jesus points out, " A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit" (Lk 6:43). Now that the Vatican Summit on Clerical Sexual Abuse has come to an end, we, as a church, need to ask what kind of fruit we are bearing. The answer, of course, lies in the testimony of those whose lives have been shattered by sexual abuse, whether as minors or as adults, whether male or female, whether lay or religious. The stories which have been shared publicly, along with those still hidden in archives, and those which have gone to the graves of both perpetrators and their victims, are the "fruit" -- the rotten fruit, to be precise. Let me be clear: it is not the telling of the stories which is the problem -- storytelling is a sacred activity which brings healing to the teller and exposes the Truth; rather, it is the heinous crimes against humanity and episcopal cover-ups that are rotten.

The fruit bowl, of course, is multi-faceted and long in the making; it is certainly not as simple as some would make out. In my own lifetime, I have been exposed to several of these facets. For starters, the priest who baptized me in England was convicted of molesting a little girl; decades later, a Nigerian seminarian asked me if I would be "his woman" after ordination as he had no intention of staying celibate-- apparently, I was the "right age" to be a safe mate. In between, I had male colleagues who had been molested by priests, female friends whose lives were wrecked by supposedly "consensual " relationships with priests, and a preaching associate who ended up in prison as a notorious pedophile. Clearly, the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church cannot be blamed on "gay priests" in the clergy and is not just about pedophilia; it involves 1). clerical entitlement; 2). abuse of power; 3). lack of clerical psycho-sexual maturity; 3). the exaggerated "mystique" of priesthood; 4). the valuing of the priestly office over the lives of victims; 5). the valuing of the institutional church's image over Truth; 6). the exclusion of women in positions of church leadership and 7). the suppression of women's voices. I have probably left out some important points here, but my own examination of the "fruit bowl" has led me to these conclusions.

And where next? As I wrote last week, a dismantling of the "pyramid of power" is the first step. Next on my list would be priestly religious formation that addresses the needs of the whole person and which is taught by both women and men. And, thirdly, women need to be included at all levels of church governance. It goes without saying that perpetrators of sexual abuse and their protectors must be brought to justice, and that the survivors should receive the justice they deserve.

As long as the rotten fruit hangs on the tree, the good fruit of evangelization, spiritual renewal and social justice will be "nipped in the bud," to use a cliché! We cannot expect "good fruit" when the old ways of being church continue to dominate laity and clergy alike.

Many Blessings!



"Why do you notice the splinter in your brother or sister's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your sibling,
'Let me remove that splinter in your eye,'
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother
or sister's eye."

Lk 6:39-45

You have before you two items: a giant magical magnifying glass and an equally large magical mirror. The magical magnifying glass allows you to scrutinize your neighbors' habits, foibles, sinful behaviors and secret thoughts; the magical mirror allows you to see your own reflection, not just your outer appearance but also all your hidden thoughts, wishes, motivations and addictions. Looking through the magnifying glass, you feel better about yourself because you can focus on others' weaknesses and failures; the more closely you examine your neighbors' shortcomings, the more you despise them and feel superior to them. "Thank God, I'm not like THEM!" you say to yourself. "Thank God, I'm more virtuous, less foolish, more impressive and therefore more worthy of respect!"

The more you stare though the magnifying glass, the greater your sense of self-importance, and the more despicable the rest of humanity seems to be. Looking into the magical mirror, however, is not such a gratifying experience. At first everything seems cloudy and you wonder if the mirror is defective. Then, it begins to dawn on you that the cloudy image you see before you is your own reflection. At first, you rub your eyes in disbelief; then the ugly truth settles in -- all the faults and sinfulness you observed in your neighbors are reflected in the mirror but at ten times the strength. In other words, the magical mirror is informing you that you are much more of a failure and a sinner than those whom you were scrutinizing with the magnifying glass.

You have three choices: 1) You can walk away from the mirror, only trusting the information you received from the magnifying glass; 2) You can destroy the mirror so that you never have to confront your shadowy self again; 3) You can walk away from the magnifying glass, only trusting the mirror's revelations -- in which case, the logical response is to embark on a process of conversion.

As Lent approaches, we need to put down our magical magnifying glasses and pick up our magical mirrors instead. Of course, in reality there is no magic involved. Our distorted reflections are the result of sin. Scripture tells us that we are all made in the Divine Image; sin is what obscures this image. In some cases, our reflection may seem a little less sharp than we expected, perhaps a little tarnished; in others, it may be that we can barely make out our features, let alone our form; in still others, it may be that mirror reflects back to us nothing but darkness. Whatever the case, the mirror doesn't lie. It shines forth who we are and who we are becoming. It radiates goodness or reveals spiritual atrophy. It both affirms and challenges; however, it never condemns for that would be destructive. Instead, it invites us to become a new creation that we may shine like the stars in the firmament, giving glory to our Maker.

May our mirrors shine brightly this Lent and always!

  1. Do you find the magnifying glass/ mirror analogy helpful and, if so, why?
  2. What do you tend to see when you stare through the magnifying glass at your neighbors?
  3. What do you tend to see when you gaze at your own reflection in the magical mirror?
  4. What Lenten discipline are you going to embrace this year and why?
This year will mark the 30th Anniversary of my graduation from the Claret Center, Chicago, where I studied the art of Spiritual Direction. My video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well:

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,