Wednesday of Holy Week: Am I Rousing the Weary?

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Sorry about no post yesterday, I took a much needed mental health day.

Today I want to focus on the first reading from Isaiah.  I have always loved this verse, possibly because as a writer it speaks to me:

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.

We are called to build each other up, not tear each other down.  One careless phrase can do great harm to someone without you even intending it to.  You have to be vigilant in how you use your “well trained tongue” .

Can you remember the last time you hurt someone’s feelings, or made them feel less than their best by what you said or how you said it? It isn’t a good feeling.  It doesn’t cost you anything to build people up with your praise.

I learned this lesson from my daughter Katy.  She is so gracious to service people, wait staff, help desk staff, and check-out personell.  It might be because she has worked in the service industry for years, and has been the recipient of many a bad tempered client, but for whatever reason, she treats everyone with respect.  Because of her respect for them, they go overboard to make sure that she is well taken care of and her needs and concerns are met.

It made me think about how I was treating all these same people. I wasn’t being quite so nice.  I would get angry, or lose my cool when things weren’t just as I wanted them to be, even if the circumstance was beyond that person’s control as well.  I had to be intentional about being nice, until it became second nature to me.

Try being nice to those whom you encounter today.

Speak rousing words to the weary today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday of Holy Week: 03/30/2015 The Poor You Will Always Have With You.

in today’s Gospel Jesus is eating with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Mary takes a nard of fine oil and anoints his feet. Judas asks why the oil was wasted when it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus says ” the poor you will always have with you, but you do not always have me.

He was speaking to them in the present tense of course, but he is speaking to us as well. There is a time for everything: jesus is telling us that we need balance in our lives, even when what we are filling our life with is service to those in need.

When we expend all of our energy in one area of our lives, even if that area is in doing good, we will experience burnout. It is difficult to experience the love of Jesus when we are burned out. We need to find a balance among all of our activities so that there is a place for Jesus.

Are you finding balance in your life?

What can you do this week to help create better balance?

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Palm Sunday: March 29, 2015 Who Was That Naked Man?

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Okay, I can’t be the only person who every time we hear the Cycle B Passion wonders about the young man following Jesus wearing only a towel:

A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth.
They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. (Mark 14: 51-52)nrsv

Who was he? What had he been doing? Where were his clothes? And most importantly; why is this two line vignette in the gospel account at all?

I decided to do some digging. I started with the Catholic Study Bible Notes: which is silent on the subject.

Next stop Jerome Biblical Commentary:

The identity of the young disciple who flees away naked has attracted many guesses through the centuries. Whoever oe whatever he was, in the present context he is the individuation of 14:50, “And all left him and fled.

So, we are getting somewhere. The young man symbolizes the individuation; in other words Mark puts a face on all those who fled Jesus after he was arrested. But, there is more to discover!

In An Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond Brown says:

Attempts to identify the young men are probably in vain. (BDM1.294-304); he symbolizes failure: Those who had left everything to follow him (Jesus) have now left everything to get away from him.

Aha! To follow Jesus will cost us something, this we know. At least those of us who are “All in” and have offered everything to him. What will happen when our faith is tested; and look around, chances are really good if you are a Christian living in the world today your faith will be tested in a big way.

Will we be like the young man who was so eager to get away that he left everything behind?

Will we be like Peter, boldly proclaiming his faith, and then when put to the test denying even knowing Jesus?

Or will we be like Joseph of Arimethea; bold enough in our faith to stand up to authority so that what is propper can occur.

I know who I want to be like. I pray when my faith is tested that I will have the strength to do the right thing.

Have a Blessed Holy Week!

Lent Should Bring You Closer to God

Here we are again, coming up on another Lent. It is time to contemplate what we can do to “de-clutter the space” between us and God.  In some cases this might me taking things away, and in other cases it might mean adding something.  In either case nothing should be done without first consulting the One you are trying to ultimately reach, meaning first you should pray and ask God to reveal what parts of your life need work before carving away at your habits or adding a ridiculously challenging penance.

For instance, (you may have heard this story before) one year I gave up, of all things, chocolate! Yes, I the chocolatarian decided that giving up Chocolate for the entirety of Lent would be a really effective penance. After only a few days, I was miserable, and offering up my misery wasn’t enough, so I was inflicting my misery on everyone else, especially my husband, and children.  Halfway through that Lent I was so miserable I went to confession to discuss my misery, and a very wise priest told me that I should never attempt to give up Chocolate for Lent ever again. His reasoning was that unless what you choose to give up actually does bring you closer to God, what good does it do to give it up, especially when it makes everyone around you miserable for the entire time. 

This priest was the first person to ask me if I had consulted God in prayer before determining what I was planning for Lent.  Of course I hadn’t, I thought since I loved chocolate so much, giving it up would show God how serious I was about Lent.  This was the flaw in my reasoning Father said; Lent ISBN’ about proving something to God, Lent is about wanting to begin to affect actual lifelong change that will de-clutter that space between and  bring you closer to God.  If your Lenten penance is something that you give up for 40 days only to take it back up on Holy Saturday (or Holy Thursday depending upon how you determine the end of Lent) the what profit have you gained from it? 

Your Lenten activity or penance should at the end of the Forty Days profit your relationship with God in some tangible way. It should make you stronger, bring you more peace,  and/or help you to learn something about God, the Church, Scripture, or Tradition.  It should also be balanced with charity, temperance , humility, and grace.  An example of this might be: you struggle with high blood pressure. After prayer and contemplation discern that for your health it would be a good to give up red meat for Lent.  Your in-laws invite you to dinner and your mother-in-law has spent the entire day cooking a beautiful roast, but you don’t eat any and you announce to the entire dinner table that you cannot eat her wonderful meal because you have given up red meat for Lent.  The more charitable responses would be to either keep silent and eat everything at the dinner including a small helping of roast or, eat only the sides without letting anyone know that you have skipped the  the main dish.  In fact you should go through the entire forty days of Lent without anyone knowing what you have given up unless it is necessary for that person to know.    The world does not have to be your accountability monitor, and certainly all of Facebook doesn’t have to know how much you are struggling with temptation. 

One of the best ideas I have ever had about what to “give up” for Lent came the year I found myself in discernment being called to abandon worry for Lent.  That entire Lent every time I began to worry I would stop myself with a reminder that I had given that up for Lent and had to leave the situation in God’s capable hands. It became so freeing to realize that God could handle any situation much better than I could with all of my worry.  That freedom for worry remained with me after Lent and to this day nearly the years later.  Now each year I discern in prayer if there is some aspect of my life that I could do without, and I work on that during Lent. 

If I discern to add something during Lent there are many things from which to choose.  I might attend an extra daily Mass, or Adoration, or a daily Rosary or Chaplet.  I might choose a book of the bible to focus on for reading and study. I might pick a spiritual book, either a newer book or a classic to read or re-read.  I might take a retreat somewhere.  I might join a group for prayer or bible study.  Again, remembering that these are done with virtue, meaning if something should derail my ability to accomplish one or two of my Lenten devotions I will see those things as being sent by God and not let them ruin my entire Lent, because all is gift, even the little annoyances and changes in schedule that cause us to have to alter our carefully laid plans.

I am still in discernment for this year, but I do have a few ideas about what will de-clutter the space between me and God.  This Lent should be a revealing journey. 

Have you been praying to discern what your Lent will look like?

Third Sunday in Advent: Who is Your Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness?

In today’s Gospel we hear the introduction of a man named John who came before Jesus as “avoice crying out in the wilderness”   This Gospel’hit me in a very personal way because I was spending the weekend with my Graduate School friends.  One of the members of our little family was a man named John.  He was our voice crying out in the wilderness. 

John Simmons had been a permanent Deacon for twenty years for the Diocese of Louisville.  We met during my very first class at St. Meinrad, he was just beginning his second year.  We became fast friends over shared jokes and a common love of Liturgy and Spirituality.  He was one of the finest homiliests I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  Whenever he was invited to give the homily at our student mass it was always something that incorporated not only the readings of the day, but also personal stories about the lives of our classmates he had overheard the day before, woven seemlessly into a perfect tapestry that showed us the way to a greater understanding of the paschal mystery. 

Our little student  family remained together even after we began to graduate.  We would all come back to St. Meinrad for a weekend twice a year just to spend time together.  Just before his graduation John found a small lump on his breast bone which turned out to be multiple myeloma.  We prayed with him and his wife and joked with them and tried as hard as we could to keep his spirits up as he went through chemo, lost his hair, and had not one but two bone marrow transplants.

And throughout his illness John was always concerned about how we were doing.  He eventually went on ahead  of us into the heavenly realm.  We all figure that he is up there making sure that God doesn’t have such a huge shock when the rest of our little group finally get there. 

Today at Mass a man named John who was not the light but prepared us for the light, preaching  repentence and readiness for the future.  My little Graduate School family heard that gospel in a very personal way, because we could not help but think of our very own John; our very own voice crying out in the wilderness. 

Do you have someone in your life who helps you to prepare your way?

Advent Week Two: I am the Handmaid of the Lord . . .

In my faith tradition we believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was set apart from her conception as a special soul destined for great things.  To that end, by the saving grace of God who lives outside of time she was born without the stain of original sin of Adam and Eve.

The priest at Mass today said that the original sin was that Adam and Eve doubted that the benevolent Love of God was enough for them.  I really love that description.  So much of our human sinfulness stems from our doubting that God has our best interest at heart and trying to take the reigns of our lives to make things happen how we want them to happen, when we want them to happen. 

We could learn an important lesson in humility and peace from our Mother Mary. When the Angel Gabriel came to her and proposed God’s outrageous plan for her future: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you shall bear a son and He shall be the Savior foretold, Mary simply said yes. She realized that however improbable God’s plan was, His will was perfect and she should follow it.  Her response was: ” behold the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done to me as God wills.”. 

At times in my own life I have been confronted with an improbable situation that through prayer I have discerned to be God’s will.  My first instinct was to think, this can’t possibly be, and I had to fight the urge to go in the opposite direction.  As I have said yes your will not mine Lord to those improbable situations, in fact to any situation that turned out differently than I had prayed for it to happen, it becomes easier the next time to say yes, let it be done to me as God wills. 

Second Sunday of Advent. Every Mountain Shall be Made Low

In the state where I live there is a rather large city in one corner, but you can’t get there from here. Well, you can drive there, but there isn’t a good way to get from the Capitol city in the center of the state to this city in the corner of the state without going miles out of the way in one direction or another and using State Roads that slow down travel because they wind through every little town along the way. 

In an effort to make travel routes for trucking more efficient throughout the Midwest corridor of the United States, a new Interstate was proposed that would connect  Detroit to New Orleans.  This new Interstate just happens to run right next to the city in the corner of my state and connects with the Capitol, thus making a way to get there from here.  We have been in the center of the construction of that interstate for the past ten years and it will continue for at least ten more to complete.  Parts of the construction are just a few miles from my house and have disrupted my husband’s drive into work. We have watched the valleys being filled in and the mountains (well, hills really) being made low to make a highway for the people.

Watching all of this construction has given me a deeper understanding of the power of these words of scripture.  This is not a simple task, and it requires much work to complete.  If our spiritual life is the rugged land that must be tamed in order for the glory of the Lord to be revealed there is much work to be done. 

Advent Week One: December 6 Feast of St. Nicholas

When I was growing up, every year on the evening of December 5th we would place a shoe by the fireplace before we went to bed so that St. Nicholas could fill it with goodies when he stopped by for a visit in the middle of the night.  This was a tradition that my mother’s family had followed when she was young and she shared it with us.  She told us the story of Nicholas of Myra and all the good he did for those to whom he ministered.  He helped those in need and  even found creative ways to share with those who needed help.  He remained strong in his faith even after he was sent to prison for it. 

The most important gift that Nicholas gave to the people  in his care was the gift of his presence.  This is the greatest gift  anyone can give. Is it any wonder that the story of a man as giving as St. Nicholas morphed into the loving mystery of a man in a red suit that comes to give every child in the world gifts on Christmas Day? 

We are called to be as faithful and giving as he was, especially at this time of year when God in His infinite wisdom chose to offer to us the most perfect gift of his divine presence in the person of His only begotten Son to be our Savior.    This year instead of putting so much of our focus on the presents of this Christmas season why don’t we place more emphasis on offering the gift of our presence instead?

Advent Week One: Almost, but Not Yet

I remember when we got our very first microwave.  What an exciting time in our house.  We didn’t have to wait for things to cook because a microwave took so much less time and energy.  It began a revolution in our household because from then on we would try every new time saving gadget that came out. One of the side effects was we became less patient because we didn’t have to wait. 

That attitude has spilled over into our culture.  We all want things to happen right here, right now, on demand at our fingertips, because technological advances have made it possible for so much to happened so quickly.  We even think of time in nano-seconds.  In this high pressure, right here – right now world people have to be reminded to slow down. Even Ferris Bueller said “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”

Advent is our reminder to slow down; to stop and take a look around. When we do slow down we will see the beautiful things that we might have otherwise missed, and we will see the sad, lonely hopeless, people who could use a little help that we might be able to give.  That almost, but not yet time of Advent is there for us to use not only to our advantage, but to the advantage of the entire Kingdom of God, if we are willing slow down long enough to stop and look around.

Advent Week One: Do Small Things

When my daughter was very young she wanted to check a book out of her school library. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of it now,  but it was from a popular series of the time and had well over three hundred pages.  Her school teacher told her it was probably not a good idea because the book was so much higher than her reading level. She felt so  defeated because she really wanted to read it.  I gave her the advice my mother used to give me when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem: 

“How did the man climb the tallest mountain in the world?  One step at a time.  You can read this book because you will read it one word at a time.”

My daughter did read the book after we checked it out of the public library and with each word she felt such great joy.

The same is true for us when we look at all the good we could be doing in the world.  We become paralyzed by the enormity of the problem before us and think that we cannot do anything.  We have to think about it in a different way.  

St. Teresa of Calcutta used to say “I cannot do great things, but I can do small things with great joy.”   If you know anything about her life you know all of the good she did in the world.  If we take the larger  problem and break it down into smaller tasks we can begin to tackle the smaller tasks.  Each small task we accomplish with great joy will bring us closer to the goal of tackling the greater problem. 

What I am trying to say is if we all were willing to do  the small good things we are capable of doing  with great joy just think how quickly the world’s insurmountable problems would begin to disappear; one small step at a time.