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Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, OSB

Sister Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, OSB, is in first profession as a Benedictine Sister of Erie, PA. She is on staff with Benetvision and Emmaus Ministries. Sister Jacqueline is a part of her community's Care for the Earth committee and the Steering Committee of Benedictines for Peace. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work (Rutgers) and a Master’s degree in Divinity (Princeton Theological Seminary) and studied Biblical Hebrew at Swarthmore College and Princeton.

Easter Sunday

April 17, 2022, Easter Sunday
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

It’s too bad that the lectionary cuts today’s Gospel passage off after “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” By ending the story there, the narrative is centered on the interactions between Peter and John, instead of on the exchange between Mary Magdalene and the risen Christ that follows these verses. But breaking the story at that point also raises questions:  Which characters in a story have we been taught to see as relatable or significant?  Why are the stories of women so infrequently read from the ambo? And what do we miss when we get caught up in the kinds of patriarchal ways of relating to each other that Peter and John demonstrate? 

In the section of John 20 that is excluded from the lectionary, Mary shows what can happen when, instead of getting caught up in the patriarchy’s competitions, power struggles, and need for certainty, we open ourselves to the transformative power of authentic encounter with God.

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Palm Sunday

April 10, 2022, Palm Sunday
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

One of the ways that I do lectio is by translating psalms. I love how reading them in Hebrew and writing a few different versions in English forces me to slow down and consider what each word means, what each line suggests. But, on occasion, my psalm translations are used for communal prayer, and when that happens, I always feel horribly self-conscious. 

The most mortifying case is my translation of Psalm 5. In the New American Bible, the eighth verse reads: “But I, through the abundance of your mercy, will enter into Your house. I will bow down toward Your holy sanctuary.” I translated those lines: “Yet with abundant love, You pull us into Your own home, into moments of perfect worship…”
Whenever I listen to other people pray those words aloud, all I can think is, “Oh, my God, I hope no one thinks that I think I’ve experienced ‘moments of perfect worship.’ What does ‘perfect worship’ mean, anyway?” 

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Fifth Week of Lent

April 3, 2022, Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB
Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

... Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

One day, when I was in grade school, my religion teacher asked the class what we imagined Jesus was writing in the dirt as the woman and the angry crowd stood before him. I don’t remember how I answered, but I remember that she thought he may have been writing out a list of the specific sins committed by each scribe and Pharisee, so that they would recognize that they were no better than the woman. And I also remember that another girl in my class, wise beyond her years, said, “He was probably writing, ‘Why didn’t you bring in the guy?’” 

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Fourth Week of Lent

March 27, 2022, Fourth Sunday of Lent
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

...While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.”...

There are many obstacles to human freedom and flourishing, from structural injustices like racism, war, poverty, and misogyny, to those that are more personal, our private traumas and limiting beliefs. These obstacles keep us living narrow lives, lives in which we may be “good,” but really feel fearful, petulant, or even bitter. That is not what God, the God who came so that we may have abundant life, wants for any of us. 

This parable asks us to consider how free we really are, and how free our friends and neighbors really are. Are we living with a fear of punishment, from God or from others, if we step out of our prescribed roles and know our own worth as beloved children? How can we confront the lies and the structures that keep us acting out of a sense of obligation, instead of from a sense of liberation?

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Third Week of Lent

March 20, 2022, Third Sunday of Lent
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”...

...But then we met the gardener. Gardeners often represent God in Scripture, and not only in parables: God is the gardener in Eden; Mary Magdalene sees Jesus as a gardener after the resurrection. It’s a fitting image for God because good gardeners are known for their nurturance, their close watchfulness, and their ability to bring forth life from the earth. The merciful gardener gets the final word here, convincing the fed-up owner to give the fig tree a little more love and attention, another chance to bear good fruit....

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Second Week of Lent

March 13, 2022, Second Sunday of Lent
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

A few weeks ago, I met a young Episcopal priest who was very interested in monasticism. She particularly wanted to understand its appeal for some spiritual “nones” who are leaving parishes like the one she serves. 

“Monasticism seems to have a certain mystique that makes it very attractive,” she sighed. “Being in a regular parish church is mostly a matter of putting out folding chairs and then putting them away.” 

I laughed and said that, although she’s probably right that many people who are drawn to monasticism expect it to offer something exotic, our day-to-day life also largely consists of chores. “We’re not exactly living on the mountaintop,” I said. 

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First Week of Lent

March 6, 2022, First Sunday of Lent
Jacqueline Sanchez-Small OSB, Mount St. Benedict Monastery in Erie, PA

At first glance, it’s a little odd that Psalm 91 is the responsorial psalm chosen for this week. For one thing, it appears in the Gospel passage coming from the lips of Satan. And for another, if you were to illustrate this psalm and the promises it holds– “no evil will befall you… God will give the angels charge over you… you will not dash your foot on a stone…”–you would probably not choose this Gospel scene for your model. When we meet Jesus here, at the beginning of Lent, he is in a state very much like the one he will be in on Good Friday: alone, frightened, a target of ridicule, and profoundly vulnerable. Psalm 91’s promises ring rather hollow when someone is starving, when someone is being crucified. 

Of course, these promises are always a bit of a challenge to believe. If we take them at face value, as a guarantee that nothing bad will happen to us if we place our trust in God, then we will certainly be disappointed. No one makes it through life without suffering some tragedy, great or small; no one can avoid witnessing hundreds more. Children go hungry in our neighborhoods, women are denied access to education, refugees are forced to flee their homes, people die from COVID, cancer, car accidents.... 

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