Worth Revisiting: A Stop at Bethany

This week of Lent we are led to with Christ and his disciples down a path of growing awareness, one in which each  is contributing towards something fully unknown and yet momentous. Perhaps our familiarity with the story deafens us to truly hearing the significance of the words and numbs us to the fear, anxiety and profound pain at what is to come. Yet, this week we are summoned to do just this. We are to allow ourselves to be immersed in the details, to become a part of the scene, and to experience the depth of the Passion-ate love God has for each of us.

As we make our own preparations this week, we are invited to sit too at table with Jesus at the home of his friend Lazarus in Bethany (John 12: 1-11).

As you look around the room, would you be helping Mary in the kitchen in preparing the food for all the guests that had come? Perhaps serving or greeting each so that all feel included? While part of you longs to truly enjoy the company of Jesus you also recognize that your gift of service is the way you have chosen to show your love for him.

Or possibly you would have chosen to carry that immensely extravagant gift of aromatic oil to anoint the feet of Jesus? Oh, the fragrant almost intoxicating smell that suddenly fills the room! Yes, there are drying cloths to be found somewhere, and yet the closeness of his love compels the use of the soft silky strands of your own hair.

“There is honestly no place I had rather be, and here there is only You- the one who has captured and transformed my inmost being”.


Maybe you are feeling a bit like Judas, uneasy at all the attention that Jesus is drawing?  Why can’t we do all of this in private? Do we need to display our faith for all those that do not even believe..that appear to be here simply due to the newsworthiness of it all? This money we are frivolously spending to feed and entertain this gathering is that which we will need to flee when all of this comes to its inevitable end.

How fickle my heart, oh the weakness I show.  Why can’t I grasp the importance Jesus is calling to this moment and partake in the richness of the aroma that marks a time I will never have again?

Or perchance you have arrived at this place purely out of curiosity, one of the many wanting to hear the rabbi and teacher so many have spoken of. What of Lazarus, was he really once dead and if so what does he have to say of that time? Seeing the devotion of those around Jesus you wonder what draws them close, endearing them to leave behind all to follow. Beckoned in, you take a step closer, but still are unsure if you are willing to surrender all that you’ve known- to commit to that which is far greater than yourself.  You say let it go. Yet, if you did, who would you become?

As we too enter the holiest of weeks, we are asked to pay attention to the sights, sounds and inner callings of our hearts.   Amidst the business of preparations, we are asked to see the love in our gift of service and also take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus even if for a moment. To proclaim our faith in an unbelieving world, knowing that though this life ends there is something much greater that is to come.  Not merely standing at the water’s edge we are being asked to plunge deep in committing ourselves fully the life of a disciple.  This is the invitation. Come join me as I seek to walk the way of  the cross and joyously anticipate the sight of the empty tomb! God’s blessings for a beautiful awe inspiring Holy Week!

Peace,

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Failing at Lent?

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 8-9

I was beginning to wish I had given up chocolate for Lent. Nonetheless, the overachiever that I long to be decided to go for a more challenging endeavor. Couple that with a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and you have the perfect storm. What is it you may ask that is vexing this Lenten pilgrim so? An ingrained sneaky habit of gripe and honesty.

How did I become a new master at the subtle art of complaint and disclosure? For it seems that I no longer could leave unattended the age old rhetorical question, “How are things going?” with a simple “Good and you?”. And let’s be honest, this is the response the majority of people who ask the question are looking for. This socially accepted elementary exchange of greetings had become, for me, a unexpected conversation of all that was on my plate that day.

Yet, am I suggesting that lying is a better option? No, but that is the excuse that led me down this path in the first place. One that, if indulged, can cloud our perception to all of the blessings we have been given and to the grace that awaits in the struggle. And it isn’t that life is going poorly for me at all. My day is often busy and full, true, but would I really want it any other way? Not at all, but I had begun to bear my gifts and invitations to grow as if they were burdens.

‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? Jer. 8:4

Not once but 3 times, last week, God sent reassurance. Through scripture, the unknowing words of a friend and then a priest his message came through loud and clear. “Stop being so hard on yourself! You act as if you are alone and unloved.” Failure doesn’t come from not achieving our goals the first time, but rather success is found in falling and getting back up again. Just take a glance at Peter- apostle, saint and martyr who publicly denied Christ three times. God not only forgave him, but offered him the opportunity to profess his renewed faith three times in return.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Eccl. 4:9-10

So it is with God and our walk as well. We are a people intended to be continually renewed and reconstructed to his image and purpose. And as the greatest human resource manager ever, God places us in one another’s lives to provide encouragement, and to strengthen us  for the journey. That is when his answer to my dilemma came to me.

She was visibly tired and worn. New expectations at work, long hours and demands at home had taken its toll.  We spoke briefly and it became apparent that each of us was in need of a companion, and a purpose to help this Lent. The idea of a prayer promise, a commitment that when things got overwhelming or we began to slip this Lent we don’t just pray for ourselves but for the other. It is a positive way to take the challenge and invitation to grow closer to Christ and place it exactly where it is meant to be- in community.

“Father, today, I am ready to take on Your will and plans again. I recognize Your love, mercy and forgiveness are immense and I am no longer defined or held captive by past mistakes. It is only because of this that I am able to get up again, or to have the strength to help another.  Thank you for showing me that we are never alone and that Your Spirit always stays by my side. Sweet Consolation, let me with each step grow to be who you created me to be. “

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Saints and Sacrifice

“It is by the apostolic preaching of the Gospel that the people of God is called together and gathered so that all who belong to this people, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’.”

Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 2

With Lent, the word sacrifice frequently looms and weighs upon our hearts as something undesired or sought after and yet something we are being asked to pursue. Could it be that we are working with a poor understanding of the rich true meaning of what it is to sacrifice? First as Christ has shown, and St. Paul reiterates, a sacrifice isn’t static or dead. In fact, rather than as an action performed it is more of a state of being. We are to be a ‘living sacrifice’, a testament to the continual love we have come to know as followers of Christ.

So, then we are brought to the heart of the matter. Sacrifice flows out of love. One cannot truly offer sacrifice without having experienced love otherwise it becomes a complaint ridden, shallow and inadequate substitute. It also entails giving of ourselves at a cost- from our need rather than our surplus. Just like the widow’s might, this is what it is to give and witness love.

As a young mom, I remember the countless sleepless nights- of feedings and changings, of fevers and nightmares, as well as, the meager availability of sleep and time. Yet, I cannot imagine making any other choice, than to give all that I am for the life and welfare of this great love entrusted to me. Sacrifice then also carries with it gratitude and responsibility. It is a graced notion of incorporation, for the needs of others can then remarkably become our own.

This Lent, take a moment to think of the profoundly beautiful invitation to sacrifice, to be a living witness to the love of a Father, the gift of the Son and of the Spirit’s renewal of hearts and lives.

Am I seeking to be transformed this Lent?

Is my sacrifice deep and life affirming? If not, what might God be asking me to do differently?

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving…Without sacrifice there is no love.” –Maximillian Kolbe

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“True love grows by sacrifice and the more thoroughly the soul rejects natural satisfaction the stronger and more detached its tenderness becomes…”           –Teresa of Avila

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

― Thérèse de Lisieux

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone. I want to see you as a sacrifice of living love, which only then carries weight before Me… And great will be your power for whomever you intercede. Outwardly, your sacrifice must look like this: silent, hidden, permeated with love, imbued with prayer.”

– Diary of Saint Faustina

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”-St. Ignatius Loyola

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”- Mother Teresa

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Those who are willing to lose their own consolation for their neighbors’ welfare receive and gain me and their neighbors…and so they enjoy the graciousness of my charity at all times. […] Then she must love her neighbors with such affection that she would bear any pain of torment to win them the life of grace, ready to die a thousand deaths, if that were possible, for their salvation. And all her material possessions are at the service of her neighbors’ physical needs.” –Saint Catherine of Sienna

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.
If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”       –Dorothy Day

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love.”

Pope Francis

724f2-ashwednesdaycross“Love Jesus, love Him very much, but to do this, be ready to love sacrifice more”. –Padre Pio

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Lenten Love Notes

Fair to say that when we remove the unnecessary, that we are more prone to notice the essential.  So too, it is in this intentional, purposeful consecration of time and space during Lent, that God’s voice can be so clear. Still, as we do not live in isolation, there remains a number of unavoidable interactions and temptations that inevitably seek to pull us away from our Lenten promises. And, I would be remiss not to call it for what it truly is-the devil at work. For, the closer we seek to walk with Christ the more determined Satan is to pull out all the stops.

Oh how prideful we can be to ever think we could accomplish any virtue on our own! What an open door these hard lessons can be for Satan to enter in with reminders of failure, guilt, suspicion and exhaustion. This voice can be so deafening that we might tend to forget that we are not alone on our Lenten journey. Or that in following Christ, we too would be tempted to abandon our faith and challenged to choose God’s ways over the world’s.

This Lent has proven not unusual in this constant barrage of testing and time of trial. Though, what has been remarkable is that God has given me the awareness to see it plainly. In disengaging from conflict, giving voice to the struggle, and going to prayer I can see my part and that of others. Regardless, however, there will always be moments missed or inadequately handled. And this is where God’s faithful love never ceases to amaze me.

In the upturned days of confusion and uncertainty , are the often missed reminders of his promises. In striking out on our own we may think it is too late to ask for guidance or call out for help. Yet, God is merely waiting for us to call on Him.  Here in our experience of frustration and loss, He meets us with intimate notes replete with love, mercy and peace.

In just a few words, and in just a mere motion of the heart much is conveyed. If but aware, the answer sought in prayer finds its homecoming in the most surprising ways.  Perhaps through a scripture passage, a conversation, a song, or creation’s beauty we glimpse God’s love laid bare for all to see.  And still, we know that these Lenten love annotations are indeed intended just for us.

Reflect:

Take a moment to write down on one side of a piece of paper the challenges you have encountered this Lent. Then on the other side, make a list of God’s promises, or answers to these challenges also experienced. Be creative in seeing God’s love spoken to you in these times of trial and testing.

Peace,Signature

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The Perfect Anchor

Marriage as a Sacrament

Life is full of so many joys, but also ups and downs, twists and turns and at times an all out storm that can bring us to our knees. Our faith, if we choose to embrace it can be that life line that tethers us when tossed about by either our own will or the circumstances that life brings. Quite often this connection to Christ is the only certainty which keeps us from going adrift altogether.  For the grace that so readily flows is available to strengthen, heal and renew us in and within all of our relationships.

Why choose a Catholic sacramental marriage?

When my husband and I were asked to speak to a group of about 24 Pre-Cana couples about what it means to live a sacramental marriage, we felt honored but also cautiously optimistic. How do we convey the permanency and faithfulness of a vocation, in a world that values instant gratification and self fulfillment over sacrifice? How do we encourage fruitfulness in a culture that seeks to limit life and the witness to life?  That this call from God to live our lives in a certain way is intended to be a dynamic collaboration between you, your spouse and God? A daunting challenge to accomplish in a mere span of 20 minutes. Yet, one most definitely worth undertaking if only to be the first to plant a seed.

Within each of the sacraments, God is doing something remarkable. Taking the ordinary stuff of life: water, oil, bread and wine , and even our vows to transform what is there to be extraordinary. Unlike other sacraments where it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament, here it is the mutual consent to one another to accept and live this gift from God. Your full yes is the Permanent, and Faithful part of this vocational call.

A sacrament is a visible sign, we say, of an invisible in-working of grace. However, the sacraments are more than a solitary event, but rather an invitation to encounter God daily in a very intimate way.  As a church, while we have done an incredible job at promoting the initial reception of the sacraments, we haven’t been as good at imparting what to expect after. When this happens, it is as if that grace goes unnoticed, or lies dormant awaiting our yes to God’s action in our lives.

Why including God makes all the difference!

Though from the very beginning my husband and I realized the importance of God as the foundation in our marriage, it has been through the beautiful mess of life that we have experienced this grace most abundantly.  The year our youngest son was born, was to be undoubtedly one of the most challenging years of my life. In my third trimester,  my grandmother who was a both a pillar and close confident passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Unable to physically be present, I sobbed as I packed the bag I knew I could not use as travel was not in my near future. Taking the bag from my hand, my husband held me as we prayed our goodbyes together. Then 4 weeks after Thomas was born, my mom flew in welcome the latest addition. Only, that is, to discover that she could not breathe and upon a doctor’s visit that she had stage 4 lung cancer and given but a month to live.

Meanwhile, our house was being re-sided with vinyl and new windows put into our antique home. Truthfully, I felt much like that old house- stripped and vulnerable to my core with but my husband, children and God as my only shelter. In order to help my mom and settle details of the estate, my husband stepped up to take on both a full-time job and mine as well. Our marriage was not a 50-50 split at this point but 100-100 as each of us were giving more that we could ever imagine possible. That is, because God was in the middle of it all, working alongside and enabling us to do the impossible.

That Spring, we would soon discover that it would be my turn to take the reins as we received news of his imminent deployment to Iraq and selection to fly the Apache right into the worst of it. We made the necessary preparations and continually prayed that God would work it all out for good. And did he ever! My husband leaned into God, praying the rosary that each of these men and women under his command would go home if it was God’s will. One by one all but two were released, when my husband fully lifted up his own deployment status. Standing in front of the flight surgeon with the deploy stamp in hand, his shoulder x-ray was examined again. Given the choice to have the tear repaired there or return home to Boston, he knew God had intervened.

So many times things don’t go as we have planned, and others where we discover God’s plan is so much better than our own. Including God enables us to love and carry beyond our own abilities, desire to want what is best for one another and to remain faithful as God has proven to be. 25 years later, how thankful I am that God is part of this journey and vocation in life!

In Christ,

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Worth Revisiting: Waking Up to Lent

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

A purple sky gradually taking on the coral, rose and gold tones of the break of day, what  a spectacular sight to behold. Since I was quite small, I have cherished the soft warmth of a sleepy awakening nestled under the protective covers of a new morning. It is where the day before has been put to bed and the new day awaits to be discovered. Hushed stirrings of hope and a renewed resolution to seek a will other than my own. Where my heavenly Father has my undivided attention, and discernment takes shape in the freedom to surrender any preconceived notions of completeness.

And while it may be so tempting to remain where we are, undisturbed by the demands of others, our Father calls us onward constantly to a graced life of encounter. Eyes opened to see Christ in one another and hearts prepared to experience the deep contrition for our failure to love. Here, we are called to live out our discipleship not cloistered away but in the very midst of community. Where knees are made firm, hearts rended and hands strengthened for the work ahead.

In these moments Father, you are lovingly and continually recreating me.

Lent comes to us in the drowsiness of winter and beckons us to be awakened recreated anew.  “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die..”   And still to do so, we must take this essential time with God to search our hearts and steps, to even see the need for change.  To embrace this given space to delve into the commonplace, the habitual, and the un-examined parts of our life to reveal the invitation for conversion. To unearth the sin from the darkest corners that has slowly made its home, to be restored to what God has created us to be. For, “everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

Now is the time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving…

Prayer:

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions… be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Prayer is a light that reveals, and directs that without it we are truly without a compass in our desire for change. Using this time set apart to pray is likewise an opportunity to reconnect with God. Who, in the hustle and bustle of life may not be our closest companion in our journey.

Fasting:

Why fast? Scripture has a lot to say about the practice of fasting and the benefits of doing so. First of all, it expresses a desire on our part to offer sacrifice and penance for wrongs committed. Yet, it is also proven to be a quickening agent to prayer, providing the perspective to see God’s direction and will. And if done with also an awareness of community, it can lead to the directed efforts to offer the allocated money for food to others who may be in greater need.

Almsgiving:

The giving of money, time, and talents to assist the poor is to be a outward expression of our inner desire for charity. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Therefore, the Christian understanding carries with it more than just helping one another, but in doing so we actually are serving Christ. In this way, it becomes a visible witness of love in action. You need not travel far to identify ways to answer this call to charity.  In the inspiring words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, ” Stay where you are, find your own Calcutta…”

Reflect:

Is there a need in my life to wake up this Lent? Where might God be calling me to grow or serve?

Peace,

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