Worth Revisiting: Cleaning House

You may have heard the expression that “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and without a doubt this would not be a beloved mantra by most. Yesterday just so happened to be my opportunity to catch up on all the neglected household chores of the week. From the kitchen to the bathrooms, floors and counter tops, laundry and mealtime preparation it all lay before me demanding my diligent attention. Were there other things that I would have preferred to be doing on my day off? Most certainly, and make no mistake many of these diversions occupied space in my thoughts as I moved from room to room.

Yet, despite these thoughts, God was also calling me to see his presence both in the work at hand and introspectively in making ready for the season. Thus, advent, it seems to me, is a time of preparation of heart and home for the celebration that is to come. For, in a mere matter of weeks we are to rejoice in the birth of our savior and more than an calendar observation it requires our active participation.

If we are to make a home, a resting place for the Christ child, and a welcome for the visitors who come to see Christ within us what do we need to do this advent?

First, we need to prioritize. Recognizing, that as conflicts arise that we need to put God first. While Christmas shopping, parties, concerts and plays are all enjoyable albeit unavoidable excursions, we cannot forget to make time and space in our days for God. If necessary, put this appointment with God on your calendar. For many, if it is on the calendar it is more likely to be a reality. Then research the availability of local churches for adoration time, healing Masses, and reconciliation that will work the best.

  • “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Prov 24:27
  • Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me” Heb 10:5

Consider the interior work that needs to be done this Advent season:

  • “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
  • “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15

Create an Advent action plan:

  • Be determined and serious: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13
  • Spend time with scripture: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Ps 119:105
  • Examine the idols, or misplaced priorities in your life:

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:6

“If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and… direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only.” 1 Sam 7:3-4

  • Seek to be Sanctified and Holy: Are there sins in my life that need to be removed in order for my heart to be a home?  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” 2 Tim 2:20-21
  • Bring others with you on the journey: so that when the Christ child comes we will be a people ready for celebration and joy!  “And he will go before him in the spirit…to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:17

Reflect:

What spiritual housekeeping have I been neglecting lately? Have I made time to clean the corners of my heart and prepare a place for Christ this Advent?

Peace,

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The Fruit of Kindness

Kindness (Gk Χρηστότης): expressing genuine concern about the well-being of others; anticipating their needs.

“As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10

More and more these days we hear of communities and schools celebrating the virtue of kindness and compassion, in a world that far too often seems lacking from it. And yet, this is neither a new concept nor a new problem. In our humanity, mankind periodically goes through cycles of selfishness and divisiveness seeking merely to take care of ourselves rather than the needs of others. This is why the these acts of kindness and compassion stand out, as well as those who most embody them, both living and dead.

“In a world where you could be anything, BE kind”
St. Paul School Hingham, MA 2018-2020

Kindness is noted by St. Paul in Galatians as a fruit of the Spirit, that becomes a visible witness when we respond to God within by actions without.  Which is why for St. Clemens kindness was one of the seven “heavenly virtues” in the epic battle of souls in which our faith is continually tested. In the medieval and renaissance periods kindness was the virtue that stood opposed to the vice of envy. Which perhaps runs counter to our thought that kindness and compassion is to be reserved for those impoverished or simply to physical need. (Zechariah 7:9-10 ) But rather, as St. Isaac the Syrian asserts, is a true reflection of God. For,
“In God, there is no hatred towards anyone, but all-embracing love which does not distinguish between righteous and sinner, between a friend of truth and an enemy of truth, between angel and demon. Every created being is precious in God’s eyes.”

Because of this, the virtue of kindness is more than just a momentary fleeting feeling but an intentional inclined disposition towards choosing the loving, merciful and compassionate way of being. Kindness as a virtue, therefore, must be practiced and incorporated into everything that we do. It is not exhibited solely in magnificent feats but in small innocuous ways that could go unnoticed if not for the divinely inspired purpose behind them.  Seeking only the good in and for all, kindness expects no recompense but its recompense is magnified and witnessed in all the lives it touches.

This season and always, may we seek to live out the virtue of kindness in every part of our lives. 

On Kindness:

“Kindness is my only guiding star.  In its light, I sail a straight route,
I have my motto written on my sail: “To live in love.”– St. Therese of Lisieux

“Father of mercy and God of all consolation, graciously look upon me and impart to me the blessing which flows from this holy Sacrament. Overshadow me with Your loving kindness, and let this divine Mystery bear fruit in me.” – St. Blaise

“Kindness has converted more people than zeal, science, or eloquence.” – St Teresa of Calcutta, No Greater Love.

 And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Another person will gladly take alms from his wallet to give to the poor, but refuses to draw kindness from his heart to pardon his enemies. Still another person will pardon easily but refuses to pay his creditors unless compelled to do so by law. All these persons may pass for being “devout” but they are nevertheless not so.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace. Money will come if we seek first the Kingdom of God – the rest will be given.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – St. Basil

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive out many shadows” – St. Francis of Assisi

“I just remember their kindness and goodness to me, and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within.” – Thomas Merton

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Worth Revisiting: The Grace of Vulnerability

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me..
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Cor. 12:9-10

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

 In seeking to minister to or care for others,  our willingness to become vulnerable can also be of tremendous value. For, listening with our hearts requires a letting go of pride and a seeking to meet one another eye to eye. Knowing that each of us is but one or two steps shy of finding ourselves in a similar circumstance. In this way, we begin to glimpse our commonality and walk with others in the challenges that this journey of life can bring. 

Recently, I sat down with a beautiful family who had just lost a loved one to suicide. As they spoke I heard and experienced the ache and yearning of their questioning souls to probe the reason why. Confusion, regret and intense longing to turn back time had consumed their thoughts and added a profound layer to their grief. This path I knew very well having lost my own brother to suicide 20 years ago. Should I become vulnerable and share, or merely listen and help them through the funeral planning process?

Sensing the Holy Spirit’s urging and guidance I realized that this was indeed a moment for vulnerability. And as I did, visibly their tension eased a bit, each leaned in and God’s grace filled the room. Rather than speaking in overwhelming detail, I touched on our sudden and shared experience of tragic loss. A rip in the fabric of family, suicide is a death considered socially and religiously unacceptable making the grieving all the more difficult. They needed to know, that day, that they were not alone.

Just how vulnerable should I be? 

While vulnerability can be an asset, there often is also a need for a few appropriate boundaries. Far from perfect, we know all too well what revealing our faults, fears, and difficulties can bring. Oversharing can be detrimental both to you and to those you feel led to help. Remember this isn’t about your need to share, as it is their potential need to be helped by what is being said. 

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”

1 Cor. 2:4

And here, though an inner prayerful conversation, is where the Spirit should be given the lead. Though you may still initially wonder if the invitation to vulnerability was well spent, God’s promise is that you will know it by its fruits.  In God’s hands our weakness becomes strength and “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  are often most fully revealed.  

Peace

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Worth Revisiting: Sowing Gratitude

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

About this time of year many of us take a moment to reflect on all of our blessings and the things that we have to be grateful for. Yet, why is it that gratitude so often has become such a seasonal pastime or a clever marketing cliche hung up on our walls? And, what about the challenges and trials we face, are we ever thankful for those? I’d venture to say that most likely we do more complaining than we ever do praising God for his constant companionship and the smaller things in life in experienced difficulty and joy.

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Growing up, though I never had everything I thought I wanted,  I always had all that I needed. A life lived in gratitude began not, however, from suddenly receiving the perfect gift or from an act or two of kindness, but from constantly witnessing it in the lives of those closest to me. For my mother, more than an acquaintance put on for social norms, gratitude was sown much like the soybean and cotton fields she worked on with her family.

As a small girl, she would awake shortly before 4 am, dress and quickly head for the barn. Though she might not have been ready, the cows were and she understood the great responsibility for their care and that of family. Breakfast depended and waited on the cows being milked, the eggs collected and chickens fed. And while she worked rather than bemoan the lost time in bed, she would often dream of the warm biscuits and pan gravy that would accompany her morning efforts.

With an assortment of hand me downs and few things of her own one might incorrectly assume that she simply never knew the difference. One pair of new shoes a year were not the result of an expectation but rather of a summer’s hard work out in the field.  And blessings, well they were recounted on the front porch under the stars listening to stories of health and financial storms weathered and new possibilities on the horizon. Sunday service was then a true celebration, a time to give thanks for all that God had given and to share that with their neighbors in need.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,  for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:8-9

I thought of this spirit of gratitude last weekend as my family and I worked to collect food for our local food pantry drive. Home from college, my son had decided that there was no where he would rather be at 6:30 than out in the cold with me greeting parishioners with bags in hand.  Joining us a bit later my husband and youngest arrived too and my heart felt full. This was the legacy of gratitude that had been passed on to my mother then to me and that now I could leave to my children.

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way” 1 Cor. 4-5.

This is none more evident than at the close of day when we gather together as a family to pray. Going round in a circle, from oldest to youngest we offer up our prayers of petition and praise. Any guests that happen to be present are also invited to share. In this way, all things big and small in our lives are brought before God and one another. It has become such an important part in our lives, we have even have had call ins when one of us is away.

Wherever you are today, God is calling you near. If you long to hear His voice, begin with a moment of gratitude for something, however small, that you are truly thankful for. Odds are this will be followed by other things perhaps forgotten or overlooked in your life. Then you are invited to share these occasions with someone else. Become a sower of gratitude today. You need not know or see all its effects to realize that gratitude is a gift that cannot be contained but overflows in many expressions.

A Blessed Thanksgiving to you all!

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Worth Revisiting: Good and Faithful Servant

“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability…” Mt 25: 14-30

 Today’s Gospel reading, if only taken on its surface, can leave us with a challenging understanding of God and his expectations of us. After all, didn’t the servant with one talent return his loan in full? And why were some given more to start with? Perhaps the servant with one talent might have invested some if had the security of a reserve. Yet, as per usual, Jesus is revealing more about what is possible with God than what we could ever do on our own.

First, we see that each servant was given talents “according to his ability”. Our Father who knows both our strengths and limitations isn’t going to give us more than we can handle. Rather, he recognizes where each of us are in our journey and gives us the tools and support to do the work ahead. So, the servant with one talent did have the ability, but lacked the trust in God to go any further. Not only could he not advance the kingdom, but he was unable to grow in relationship with his master.

But what about the other two servants, what can be learned from them? Each had been given a portion to use, and both in trusting in God’s provision had doubled the gift. I am reminded here of 2 Kings, in Elijah’s utmost desire to inherit a double portion of the gift of the Holy Spirit which Elisha had. Elijah wasn’t seeking a talent for his own purpose, nor was he asking for simply a change in leadership responsibility. In asking for a double portion, he was asking to be given more responsibility and expressing his conviction in God and dedication to the task. This is what the other servants did and their reward was God’s recognition of their faithfulness and confidence that they were now ready to accept more.

‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’

Do we yearn to hear these words in our journey as disciples? Or are we content to simply return the gift unopened for fear of failure in the tasks ahead? Much of my work as director of ministries, is to help those I encounter to discover just how their gifts can be used in the work of the kingdom. And to date, I have yet to find anyone who is without a talent.. though perhaps a bit unused.

Reflection:

Are there unused talents that I am failing to recognize or use today? How might I better trust in God that he will use my gifts to build his church in the world around me?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Facing the Music

Ever have a day where you focus on one mistake and in its place you made several more? Where you can’t seem to get back on track, or even see the track because for whatever reason you can’t get out of the weeds?  Couple a stellar combination of exhaustion and perfectionist tendencies and you have a perfect storm. Teemed with emotion and a desire to stop the purge,  each task strung together seems but a unending comedy of errors.

At an early age, I discovered a love for almost anything musical. From children’s and adult choir to accapella  and from recorder to tenor saxophone I relished the opportunity to encounter the world around me musically. That is not to say that I would distinguish myself as a virtuoso, by any means, but more that I enjoyed embracing the troubadour identity within. For everything encountered could be made more bearable when set to a lively tune.  I even put study materials to music and sung my way to remembering the most obscure facts for exams. So it was, that I not only learned about the world around me but music taught me about the inner workings of who I truly am.

As a sophomore in high school, having worked for months to prepare a difficult piece for a solo competition I felt ready. With all of the practice behind me, I told myself all that was left was to breathe. Surely I could do that. Yet, what began with flawless fluidity soon began to unravel with just one inarticulated note in the second movement. The more I tried to focus on the note in front of me the more obvious each previous mistake became. Now, my only hope I thought was to merely finish the piece and bow out gracefully to end the day. This is when I came face to face with an unexpected act of kindness.

I had never met her before in my years of competition. A small thin woman, she had given no indication of a merciful disposition other than her initial smile when I had entered the room. “Elizabeth, is it? Can you stop for a moment?” This was quite unusual and I wasn’t sure what was coming next. Was I being stopped because she couldn’t tolerate any more, or because there was just no use in continuing?

“I would like for you to take a minute, close your eyes, and breathe. Feel the notes inside, the sadness, the joy of each measure and when you are ready..open your eyes and begin again.” Doing as she said, I remembered all of the hours of practice and the reason why I had chosen this piece in the first place. And forgetting the past few minutes, I began again. This time, the result was a nearly unblemished performance and a satisfied pause.

“Thank you,” I said, “Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to try again. I know that there are many other students awaiting their turn.”

“Elizabeth, at this minute you are the only student I have before me. Sometimes, we look back at the small mistakes we make and are unable to face the rest of the music ahead of us. I had a feeling all that was needed was a break–not to recall the mistakes but the joy. If you can remember this, beyond today,  then you can be more patient with yourself as a musician.”

Her words and the mercy that I was shown that day are reminiscent of the grace found in reconciliation. For, our patient heavenly Father knowing that we are far from perfect, always sees our trying. He wants us to know the joy and love that following His lead can provide. And rather than staying focused on the past mistakes , and allowing that to create new ones, He is the Author of new beginnings.

“I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” Isaiah 43:25

Reflect:

Where do I need a new beginning today? How can I show mercy to those most in need of it in my daily walk?

Peace,

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Yes, Catholics…We Can Do Bible Study!

File:We Can Do It! (3678696585).jpg

Now approaching our 4th year of bible study, I have seen God work amazing things in the lives of those who attended. In fact, it was one of the first things that we did together as a community of faith. Each parish already had various ministries, service opportunities and small prayer groups, but neither had a bible study. While the need was certainly present, it could only be filled if they committed to join a study at one of the other Christian churches in town.  Not to mention, there were a quite few who had never considered themselves called or “qualified” to study scripture outside of the readings at Mass.

God qualifies the called..

Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in approaching scripture reflection for the Catholic is the fear of misinterpretation. Not only lacking encouragement prior to Vatican II to pursue study, the more pressing concern for the Catholic lies in the absence of formal theological training.  In this believer’s mindset, only a priest, religious or deacon would be equipped to interpret scripture.  Yet Vatican II, notably Dei Verbum, gave Catholics an invitation to nourish their faith by participating in the active study of the Word of God.

God desires to communicate with us, in this case in His word itself. All that is required, is the action of the Holy Spirit and the gift of ourselves. For, it is the Holy Spirit that opens the heart and mind to hear God’s voice in the scriptures and to understand its relevance within our lives and world today. Does this mean that the Church’s magisterium is no longer needed? No, the Church will always remain the authoritative reliable interpreter of God’s Word. It is, rather, that we the faithful are now entreated to encounter the “living, personal, life-changing word” and to grow in our relationship with Christ.

For as long as I can remember, scripture has served as a beacon of hope, voice of discernment, and a path to the One who called me as His own. Perhaps one of the greatest witnesses to this was my maternal grandmother. Not a day passed that she didn’t spent time in conversation with God. Beginning from the beginning, she walked with God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, sang the psalms with David, and journeyed through history with the people of Israel. The story of God’s love continued and fulfilled with Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, intended to be intimately experienced and shared with others.

To her, this time spent in prayerful study was a profound movement of her heart to God’s. Chronicling insights and comparisons within the margins had become a diary of dialogue between her and Christ.  And one need but read these lines penned to know that she sought and found God daily in the illuminated revelation of the Word. Her witness is both a gift and a challenge in my own walk with Christ, as I realize that I still have much room to learn and grow.

Guidelines for Study

So what advice would I give if you are new to scripture reflection and study? 

  1. Pray. An essential first step in all things prayer must guide both reading and reflection. This is the invitation for the Holy Spirit to open both heart and mind to what God has in store for us.
  2. Find a good translation and resources. There are several approved translations like the ecumenical Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible. If you are in a specifically Catholic bible study you will want a bible that has 73 books and a copy of the catechism. Or, you may choose to google the catechism reference, as I do, since it provides a ready search.
  3. Find a time and study that works for you. Many studies have several meeting times during the day or evening to accommodate those that work or conversely cannot travel at night. In terms of format, I have found that the bible studies through Ascension Press work well for the needs within our particular community. Providing both workbook and online video access, they are engaging and provide connection to the study if the participant is ill or away.
  4. Be open to sharing. Oftentimes though we have read and answered the study questions, it isn’t until we speak with others that we are able to articulate what God has put upon our hearts. Also, don’t worry about having the perfect answer but be willing to learn from others.
  5.  If you haven’t prepared adequately… go anyway. This is a point I underscore in my group of regularly over committed study participants. Even if you simply go and listen you will have grown more than you would by skipping it altogether. Likewise, Satan can’t use your absence as fodder for abandoning the cause altogether!

Whether you go it alone, or join in fellowship with others I pray that you will begin or continue to walk with Christ though scripture. If you are curious about starting up a study check out Ascension Press or Formed.org and then reach out to everyone you know!

In Christ,

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Worth Revisiting: Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: On the Right Path

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think Then you will learn God’s will for you which is pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

“Why is it that it seems when we try the hardest to do everything right that everything seems to go all wrong?”, he asked.  The question itself is a loaded one, and there isn’t an easy answer.  At its heart is an engagement of evil in the world and an assertion of righteousness. And yet, though not always privy to all the details, we can be assured that there is a multitude of underlying questions and situations present here.

In this case I was well aware of the back story.  Always the protagonist of a seemingly unending drama, choices past and present had become instrumental in determining the future.   Prior friends, and lifestyles had in fact become so constraining that the opportunity for change almost unthinkable and hope but a distant thought.

“All my hard work is just for nothing..I am beginning to wonder why I should even try.”

As a prayerful pause occupied my soul, I sought for a worthy response.

“Adam, It isn’t that you are being punished for choosing to do right here, but that life is a series of choices not just yours but that of others. The gift of free will affects not just our lives but all those around us and sets into motion consequences that may not be immediately recognizable. Doing the right thing is not simply one or two choices, but a daily decision to choose to walk in life and love. Especially when faced with disappointment and we are tempted to walk away that is when we need to recommit  and ask for help.”

This is what it means to walk and grow in virtue. As a child I enjoyed the simplicity of the proverbs. Do this and this happens, or in contrast don’t do that for it will bring about ruin. While there is profound truth here, these platitudes barely scratch the surface on the challenge of our human condition. We think that we would much rather have a detailed list of steps, a tailored prescription as it were on the right course in life and corrections where necessary. However, I wonder if that were available would we follow it or even understand it.

“I guess I get that, but I have nothing left. I am tired of the struggle, tired of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Not sure how much more I can give” After a brief discussion about concrete ways to practically approach his situation with work and finances,one thing became glaringly apparent. There was no room made in his life for anyone else but him.

“Adam, you mention all the things YOU have tried and relied upon, but do you realize you were never meant to do this alone? It isn’t all about what YOU can do but what Someone much greater than you can do. “

“Oh, you mean God..you know I haven’t gone to church. Not sure that will work for me.”, he answered. “Well, you say that you have tried everything and that you inevitably find yourself in the same predicament. That, you cannot do this on your own, and you are running out of steam. What needs to happen before you try something different? What have you got to loose?”, I posed. “Not sure…” he responded hesitantly. “Well, Adam I will be praying for you. I am always here if you need to talk.”

Lord these are the words you wish to speak to each one of us. Oh, how you wish for us to invite you into the messiness of our lives. The path we are on can be so difficult, and made even more so by our stubborn independence. Jesus help us to reach out to you for help, quiet our fears and guide us on the right path.

Peace,

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Gospel Reflections: Enough.

LK 12:13-21

When is enough… enough? And what is it that drives us to achieve or accomplish more in life? As parents we seek to provide the best for our children, often sacrificing to fill not only their needs but many times their wants. Still, does our happiness truly lie in this provision? Or instead, in the love built in relationship- within those priceless moments where time, grace and gratitude all meet?

Some of my fondest memories as a child are ironically times where financially or situationally we had the least. Whether it was a holiday meal, Halloween costume or project for school, my mom was extremely creative with the most unlikely resources. Looking at the list of “essential” items, she would hone it down even further or implement a substitution to make it work. I could not help but marvel at how she stretched our budget and still set aside for others living in our community. “Elizabeth, we are fortunate. There are so many who may go hungry or find themselves alone tonight.” This indeed she stressed was the greater tragedy and a lesson that would not be lost on me.

Today’s gospel is a clear reminder that we cannot make an accumulation of wealth or position in this world our sole focus if we are to also work towards the building of the kingdom of heaven. That is not to say that having either of these is in itself wrong, but rather our intention in its pursuit. When we value life and see the value in others then that begins to guide our actions with the resources given. For never outdone in generosity, God’s gifts will always surpass whatever we choose to share with another whether in this life or the next.

Ponder:

Where am I storing up treasure today and how might Christ be challenging me to give or work towards building in a different way?

Pray:

Father, thank you for this opportunity to refocus the use of my gifts and talents towards your will and purpose for my life. Help me to not to forget that the things of this world will fade and that your love is always eternal.

Peace,

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