Making God #1 in Our Lives
Turn our hearts around! Lent provides the universal church and each of us a good time for self-reflection and practices that lead to a change of heart, true conversion. In this week’s readings, we are reminded that soon after Jesus’ baptism, he went to the desert where he was tempted. And he resisted! When you read the Gospel, or hear it proclaimed this weekend, pay close attention to the way Jesus responds to the devil, to the temptation to put self before God. How often do we do that?
Is God first in our lives? Above all else? What evidence do we have for that?
This Sunday we celebrate the Rite of Sending and the Rite of Election with our catechumens and candidates. Our adults, teens and children have been discerning their calls to conversion, to radical change in their hearts. Perhaps the questions they are reflecting on will spur us to return to making God #1 in our lives.
- What concrete evidence in your life demonstrates that you have listened to Go’s word and have been formed and transformed by it?
- In what way have you patterned your life on Jesus’ life in the Gospels? How have you changed?
- What evidence in your life and in your actions demonstrates that you have taken the word of God out into your world?
- What evidence in your life demonstrates that you are incorporated into the life of prayer and worship of the Catholic community?
Called to BE Providence
Recently, my community, the Sisters of Divine Providence gathered to reflect on what we are experiencing as the call to be Providence. Sister Marie McCarthy provided some wonderful reflection pieces for us.
What does it mean to name God Providence? God provides everything we need. We love that about God. AND the mystery of Providence is even larger and more profound than this, because the mystery of Providence is incomplete without our response. Sister Marie tells us that
Providence, the Energy of Love, is the mystery of the ongoing, enduring interrelationship between the God who makes all things possible and us creatures, handiwork of the creative activity of Love—creatures made in the very image and likeness of Holy Mystery, creatures who are themselves creative.
Each of us then, by virtue of the relationship we have with God, has the ability, the choice to continue God’s Providence by becoming involved in creating new possibilities, new connections to all of life. Sister Marie says:
The call to be Providence in our world is a call to engage actively in bringing about the transformation of the world….To be Providence is to trust, not in the false treasures of material possessions, better arms, and fleeting securities, but in the foolhardiness of casting aside these concerns for the sake of building a genuine human community, founded in justice and relying on Providence.
To be Providence is to find one’s treasure in that community of people who give themselves to radical hope. That hope, she says, is “a thoroughly engaged and courageous hope which faces the overwhelming evils and possibilities for destruction which surround us and yet persistently plans for, hopes in, and builds towards that future which God desires.”
We discover what God desires for us, what God provides as new opportunities to serve our brothers and sisters when we gather as a community of radical hope and we search for ways to be Providence for our world. See you on Sunday to explore together!
Holiness is About All of Our Relationships
What do “holiness” and “love of enemies” have in common? How should we respond to injury within the community? How do you imagine yourself being holy? Knowing that your body is a temple of the Lord, and therefore holy, what might you change in your behavior? If we all “loved our neighbors as ourselves” do you think there would be wars, trafficking of human persons, pornography, prisons, hunger, executions and poverty?
Wow! These readings are filled with images that are “different” from what we probably expect. Are you, like me, thinking “Do you really mean that, Jesus?” It’s just too hard to do this “love your enemies” thing!
Jesus spent his entire life on earth trying to teach us what it means to do the will of the Father, to be perfect as his heavenly Father and to trust that we have been given all that it takes to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Jesus asked his disciples, and us, to think differently, live differently, love differently and talk differently. If we claim to be disciples of Jesus, then we too must “be holy.” Holiness is about all of our relationships, not just our relationship with God. It includes our relationships with others, even our enemies. It includes our relationships—our action and in-action—regarding so many of the things we pray for daily. We are called to ACT. And it also includes our relationship to ourselves, to our bodies which are temples of God and therefore holy.
Turn our hearts around, we pray. Help us to see, understand, love and act differently! Help us to be holy!
Jesus Asks for More
Our readings for this weekend present us with numerous choices. Jesus uses the phrasing, “You have heard that it was said….But I say to you” to teach his listeners about the underlying authority of his words. Those who hear his Word are challenged to live fully by living in the deep spirit of the Law, not merely according to its literal meaning. For example, the commandment “Do not kill” means much more than physical killing. Jesus asks for more. Do not let anger, jealousy, retribution or anything that leads to killing in your hearts be a part of your life. Make amends. Reconcile with others. “Do not commit adultery” also asks us to be faithful in our hearts, to try to work things out, not give up, respect self and others and not objectify anyone. This mandate provides a critical insight into his entire mission. Jesus asks more of us.
The choices between life and death, good and evil, right and wrong and giving good examples or leading others astray might seem easy to us. But most of us know through lived experience that life gets messy and complicated. The wise person chooses the positive option, but we are always free to choose either. This is where we need wisdom. This is where we ask Jesus to help us turn all of our law-keeping into love and to co-create with God a world where justice, love and compassion are our choices. What life choices remind you of the challenge of being a disciple?
Isaiah’s instructions from the Lord have come to be known as the Corporal Works of Mercy. In many ways, they are akin to the Beatitudes. Good actions on behalf of others lead to blessings from the Lord. Doing the will of the Lord is like the light of the dawn, bringing forth a new day of grace and justice. Today we pray these words from Anne Osdieck: “We want to share our bread with the hungry; we want to shelter the homeless and help the immigrant. Show us how. Show us how to clothe the naked, free those who are prisoners. Teach us to give, a little at first, then all we have.”
Catholic social teaching tells us that charity (the Corporal Works of Mercy) must be followed by solidarity. We give bread to those in need (Mobile Loaves and Fishes and St. Vincent de Paul), but the next step is entering into relationship with those who are hungry. When we relate to those who are hungry, those who live on the margins, we become the “light of the world.” Pope Paul VI told world leaders that peace is rooted in “sincere feelings” for those In need, for those who have hunger for many other things in life, not only food. Many of the hungers we encounter are those for peace and justice.
As we move out of our comfort zones to spend time with those who are different from us, Pope Francis encourages us to rejoice in their presence; he urges us to spend time in their company and to communicate with them. We can be both salt and light. Salt transforms the blandest food; light is precious in any kind of darkness. Jesus says: “You are the salt, you are the light.” That is the nature of discipleship.
We want to share. Show us how! Teach us to give, a little at first, then all we have.
The Beatitude Life
The Beatitudes are a way of life. They describe attitudes that lead us to following the call to be disciples of Jesus. Which one of these Beatitudes inspires your ministry at St. Francis of Assisi? Reflect on all of them and after you choose one, make that your mantra for the week. Write it out on something and keep it in front of you all week. At night, or on your way home from work, ask yourself how you did in living that attitude all day.
Recently, Pope Francis offered us six new Beatitudes. He tells us that he created them to “confront the troubles and anxieties of our own time with the spirit and love of Jesus.” Here they are:
•Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart.
•Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.
•Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.
•Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
•Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
•Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.
All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.
Holy Mass in Swedbank Stadion, Malmo Switzerland | Nov. 1, 2016
A Sense of Urgency
We are called to discipleship. Discipleship is not something that we take upon ourselves. To be on Jesus’ team, we have to be present, hear the call, respond, leave all things behind, and follow. I am always amazed at how Jesus’ personality and strength was such that the men he invited left everything. They didn’t store any of their possessions. They didn’t have farewell gatherings. They just followed and never turned back. I am in awe of them.
“I urge you…that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
If I am listening to the readings this weekend, I will hear an all too familiar tale of choosing sides and other divisive behavior. Paul reminds the Corinthians (and us) that if we consider ourselves brothers and sisters, there can be no divisions. He says it with great urgency!
I am urged then, to leave some things behind. I must leave behind my inclination to choose sides, to pit one position against another, to dismiss as disloyal or narrow-minded those who understand things differently than I do.
Jesus does continue to seek others to join him in preaching the gospel—both in word and in action. He invites us to make peace with the divisions in our life where there could be unity.
I confess: I have lots of repenting and healing to do. The kingdom of God is at hand. Lots of unifying to do. There can be no hesitancy. Anybody ready to jump out of the boat?
I Come to Do Your Will
Almost eight years ago, I was besieged by calls from Sister Frances. Her first question was always, “Rose, has the Holy Spirit spoken to you yet?” You see, she was trying to get me to say YES to ministering at St. Francis. I put her off at least three times. Each time, she persistently invoked the Holy Spirit!
I believe the Spirit came upon me at the Easter Triduum, when I experienced the St. Francis community for the first time. I tried to be anonymous, sat in a back pew, observed all that was happening from a visitor’s perspective. I was trying out a “fit.” You see, I could not imagine myself working in a parish. All of my life, practically, was situated in convent Masses—with adult women, primarily, related by congregational bonds. We were all Sisters, all women of different ages, all adults. For me, it was hard to imagine how I would fit in PARISH life.
And then something changed. As I experienced Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, I know the Holy Spirit visited me. I know that I never looked at my watch, not once, during the Easter Vigil. The music, the silent reflection, the readings, and then the adult baptisms and confirmations were like the movements in a symphony. I was captivated and captured. Suddenly, I knew that I could do this! I felt the Spirit.
The psalm response for this Sunday became profoundly real for me, almost as strong as my first profession of vows as a Sister of Divine Providence. “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”
In all of our lives, I think we all get chosen for something. It may not be for fame, greatness, or fortune. Rather, we know that we are called for something beyond what we would imagine, dream or choose. That’s when the Spirit comes upon us, usually out of the blue, and we find ourselves moving out of our comfort zones, to something that is good and probably “stretching” us to BE more or to DO more. It becomes clear that we can’t help but say YES.
When have you found the Holy Spirit calling you to something new? To stretch you? To grow sacrificially? And can you too respond, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will?”
I hope your life is filled with many responses of “I can do this!”
Wise Ones Still Seek
We conclude our Twelve Days of Christmas with the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. Some refer to this day as the Feast of the Three Kings. In my childhood home, we brought blessed chalk and holy water from church and blessed our home with prayers for safety and security for all who came into our home. We blessed our barns and our cattle too, asking that all activity would prosper and be for good. We marked the doorposts with the initials of the three wise men. The practice is etched in my memory. The meaning of the practice grows in me each year, especially when I focus on the images surrounding the three Wise Ones.
One of those strong images is the star—a star of wonder, a star of light that leads! We celebrate light—the light that comes in our darkness, the light that is the glory of God that shines, the light that is an invitation to walk in the light. Light also brings out the “radiance” of things. Look in the faces of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Kings, and we see radiance all around. What star leads us? Where does the light in our lives come from? And where does it lead us? Are we wisely seeking?
Another image in this story is journey—not knowing the destination, having to pay attention, looking for signs and knowing when to trust and whom to trust. Herod did not have good intentions. And the magi were crafty and clever, wisely choosing another way home. When do we struggle in knowing who to trust on our life journeys? What evidence do we use for choosing right paths? And when to we choose “another way home?”
A third image is that of gifts. The wise ones brought gifts to the child; they opened their treasures for the child. That image of “opening their treasures” is described as physical gifts in Scripture. For some time now, I have been discovering what it means to open my treasures for the sake of someone else. Do you remember O’Henry’s short story, “The Gift of the Magi?” The moral lesson in the story is that people are willing to give up what means the most to them for the person they love. In the story, the couple acts on impulse as each strives to please their spouse. Both the husband and the wife want to buy their love a meaningful Christmas gift, so they sell their most prized possessions. They do not consider the consequences of their actions as they are determined to make the other person happy. The wife cuts and sells her long hair to buy a fob and chain for her husband’s watch. And he sells his watch to buy her combs for her hair. In sacrificing possessions, they end up possessing an even greater, irreplaceable treasure: affirmation of their love.
What are the treasures that I want to open up in this new year of life? How will I offer them to the Christ child? To the Church? To my St. Francis community?
An epiphany is a moment of revelation, a moment that can occur when something long expected finally happens, or when something completely unexpected breaks into our lives. What are the epiphanies in my life? What is the light I seek? Where is the journey taking me? And what treasures do I open up out of love for others?
If you’d like to do the Chalking Ritual in your home, you can find the prayers and explanation by clicking here.
Becoming Artisans of Peace
One of the gifts of Christmas is peace! And peace is what we often long for in our families, in our communities, in our offices, and in our world. On this feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the World Day of Peace, we focus on Mary’s role in our salvation. At various times in our faith formation, we have come to know her as our Mother, Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. We also remember that she has the title, “Mary, Queen of Peace.”
Pope John Paul II recognized Mary’s role in his “Sollicitudo rei Socialis” (The Social Concern), an encyclical promulgated on December 30, 1987, the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples). It is part of a larger body of writings known as “Catholic Social Teaching.” In that teaching, Pope John Paul II says:
“We present to the Blessed Virgin difficult individual situations, so that she may place them before her Son, asking that he alleviate and change them. But we also present to her social situations and the international crisis itself, in their worrying aspects of poverty, unemployment, shortage of food, the arms race, contempt for human rights, and situations or dangers of conflict, partial or total.”
When we read in Luke’s gospel that Mary pondered these things and treasured them in her heart, we imagine what those things were. This Sunday, we too are given the opportunity to give voice to the blessings in our lives, to name the things that we are pondering and wishing for, and to treasure with gratitude what God is doing in our lives. Praying the Magnificat and pondering the words, taking them to heart, would be a great response
At the birth of Mary’s son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will. We pray to Mary today for guidance in living that peace. Pope Francis wrote this in his World Day of Peace message for 2017:
“All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. Nothing is impossible is we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”
May the Lord look upon our St. Francis community kindly and give us peace in 2017. May we, like Mary, take God’s actions in our lives to heart, ponder them, and give praise and gratitude. And let us commit ourselves to being artisans of peace in 2017.
Happy New Year!