Gospel Reflections: Matthew 7: 15-20

Today, I share both my reflection and the wonderful community of CatholicMom.com with each of you! Tune in daily for wonderful insights, reflections, recipes, book reviews and more!

Gospel: Matthew 7:15-20

 

As a mom, we can easily recognize those choices that our children are asked to make each day. The food that they eat, the things that they watch on tv, and the friends that they listen to, all shape their growth and determine future choices. And it is the same for us as adults. We need only to glimpse the events of the day and the discernment called for in this gospel passage becomes clear.

What nourishes us at our roots will determine the fruit that we bear or even if we are to bear fruit at all. Because of this, we are asked to test with certainty that what occupies our thoughts, captures our hearts, and feeds our souls is worthy. And when the Spirit reveals otherwise, we must be willing to decisively cast away that which is detrimental to our physical and spiritual life in Christ. While the faults of others may be more than evident, Christ is calling us to examine our own heart first before we attempt to counsel one another.

So, what are the fruits? In Galatians, St. Paul speaks of the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These good fruits take time to grow in our lives, and require attention and practice. In fact, it is far easier to produce bad fruit or to allow fruit to ruin on the vine.

Yet, through prayer and Word, God gives us both the tools for pruning as well as the ability to be bearers of good fruit. This is the witness that others will come to also see as they look for the rooted faithful to seek shelter with, to lean upon, and grow closer to Christ.

Ponder:

Do I ask God for discernment for the right things in my life? Am I willing to remove that which is not enriching my growth in my relationship with Christ?

Pray:

God, thank you for choosing to be involved in the most intricate details in my everyday life. Help me to be bold in discerning that which is good and enriches my life in You.

Peace,

Signature

Advertisements

Worth Revisiting: Worn and Weathered

Physically and mentally exhausted, and having just navigated through a harried drive home I slumped through the door. Admittedly this extroverted people loving person was not in the mood to be in community for the rest of the evening. Yet, since being a wife and a mother total isolation is never a true viable option, I needed a plan b. Unfortunately I had determined, this master plan would have to wait as dinner would not make itself.

As I worked, however, I began to reflect on the days prior and just how I had found myself in this unpleasant state. I had allowed project deadlines, emails and unexpected conversations to wear my customarily sweet disposition down its foundation. Truthfully, I was beginning to feel much like the weathered statue of Mary that sat in my backyard looked. Though clearly resembling the beautiful image of Mary, time and environment had chipped her exterior paint and weathered parts of her revealing a rough texture underneath. Well loved and remaining a figure of grace, humility and faithfulness she had endured many a New England winter. Accordingly, she needed a new coat of paint and a grotto again and I could not help but see that I too needed the same.

“For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock” Psalm 27:5

This is when I remembered my spiritual director’s advice.

It’s ok, in fact necessary, for each one of us to take time away to get away and be with God. Scripturally, time and time again we see Jesus seek this respite to pray, connect and renew with his Father. (Mark 1:35, Mark 14:39Luke 5:16 , Matthew 14:23 , Luke 6:12) And while I am certain he considered the apostles good friends, perhaps he also needed this time to discern how best to lead them given their unique personalities, gifts and limitations.  Whether it be a desert, mountain top, or seaside the demands of the world around us compel us to find this space in the midst of our daily life.

We, like Jesus, need this time to care for our soul so that we can begin to love others as God loves us.  While the conversation might entail a good deal of self righteous complaining, without a doubt I usually discover moments where I have missed the mark that day. Things said or thought out of frustration instead of prayerfully considering. Instances where I lacked compassion or allowed the circumstances to steal my joy and peace.

Yet, God does not seek us to remain in a state of desolation over these misgivings but in prayer is there to guide us to learn and discern. Here God speaks, a burning flame reminding us how very much we are loved and his promise to always be with us. Lovingly leading us from a darkened state of exhaustion and frustration, to an openness to assent to the life he has planned.

“Today Father I seek to rest in your embrace. I offer up all of my concerns, irritations, sorrows, hopes and fears. I know that you can handle all of these and oh so much more. A brokenness made beautiful and whole. You love me as I am, yet call me to an incredible life in You. Thank you Father, for this time to be recreated anew. Lead me now to serve you with a renewed purpose and a spirit of joy!”

Peace,

Signature

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Worth Revisiting: Where We Are Meant To Be

Lately, I have found myself marveling once again at the way God can lead us in our ordinary day if we are receptive and listening. Whether it be an unplanned event, conversation, or the bedside of a friend- unimaginable grace and surprises await when we simply say yes to God’s movement in our day. Sometimes even God will give our souls an extra nudge to encourage our lazy spiritual dispositions when it is particularly important. Perhaps most amazing is when your examen leads you to realize that, because you had in fact listened, you had been truly blessed.

Before I lay down to sleep one night last week, I heard so clearly in prayer how God had intended the following day to go. Admittedly, I had wanted to sleep in the next day but God was asking me to listen. So, having hurried to make it to Mass I slid in a pew near the back with communion pyx in hand. From that moment on, there was such peace, and intentionality found with everything that I was encounter that day. To no surprise, I ran into someone who I hadn’t seen in a year who had unexpectedly thought of me that morning and decided to go to Mass. Then was the hospital visit for a very dear priest friend of mine, who despite the circumstances remains a fountain of peace and inner joy. As we spoke and prayed the Our Father together I could not help but wonder who was receiving the greater blessing, him or I.

Throughout my day, that God had planned, there were many more sacred moments that had I been recalcitrant I indeed would have missed. Whatever you do, you cannot go wrong by turning over your day and giving God the lead. Below is a prayer that echoes this idea of receptivity and discernment and can be especially fruitful first thing in the morning.

Prayer for Choosing a State of Life

From all eternity, O Lord, you planned my very existence and my destiny. You wrapped me in your love in baptism and gave me the faith to lead me to an eternal life of happiness with you. You have showered me with your graces and you have been always ready with your mercy and forgiveness when I have fallen. Now I beg you for the light I so earnestly need that I may find the way of life in which lies the best fulfillment of your will. Whatever state this may be, give me the grace necessary to embrace it with love of your holy will, as devotedly as your Mother did your will. I offer myself to you now, trusting in your wisdom and love to direct me in working out my salvation and in helping others to know and come close to you, so that I may find my reward in union with you for ever and ever. Amen.

From Finding God in All Things: A Marquette Prayer Book © 2009 Marquette University Press.

Peace,

Signature

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

In Search of Water

 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 4:28

Growing up as a southern girl in a small town, where everyone knew everybody and all their business there wasn’t much that ever stayed hidden for long. Gossip tended to flourish even over the smallest insignificant things despite the Sunday sermon that preached against it.  And yet, there was a wide path of forgiveness, where amends could and would be made if you planned on becoming a lifer. Especially, if you belonged to the same church and came with either a contrite heart or with a reasonable explanation requesting prayers.

Church was known to be a place where reconciliation occurred not just between the penitent and God but with the community. Where you were encouraged to foster relations between Christ, neighbor and stranger alike refusing to let them fall. Moreover, by inviting a new friend you participated in a grownup Christian show and tell. Out of town relatives and those who had left other churches were considered indeed special as they were entitled to a warm welcome.

Now in an age where an event can not only make the evening news but is broadcast all over social media, it is no wonder why community reconciliation seems near to impossible. Likewise while you may know several repeat families at a particular Mass, the thought of inviting a new friend and introducing them is itself a foreign concept.  Thus, in a strange dichotomy, Church can be a place that is a solitary and isolating experience where the in club includes everyone but you.

Recently I encountered one such believer, who through no fault of her own had found herself alone and pitted against the world. Circumstances created by another had placed her family first and foremost in the center of the news. Due to the nature of the event, she could not help but feel judged and defined forevermore. However, now in need of help she knew of no where within her own community to turn. And “why would they?”, she questioned, for she did not have the bonds of neighbor or friend to call upon.

For this reason, her call for help involved a conversation with a church in a neighboring community whom she hoped would have a different perspective. Though, despite my best efforts to encourage her reach out locally, she had already resolved that help was unavailable. Whether or not her assessment was accurate, one thing became clear she needed someone she could trust to turn to. Someone, that is, who could see beyond the precipitous of the crisis providing mercy without scrutiny.

 “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” John 4:35-36

While her story is highlighted here it is not a remote occurrence within our society or our churches. Quick to rush to judgment we often listen to the side that is portrayed without considering all of the victims of the situation. Even unintentionally we fail to provide the same merciful encounter with Christ that we are being asked to witness. Yes, “the fields are ripe” and there is much work ahead.

We who have “reaped the benefits” of the labor of saints long before cannot remain idle if we are to have a church community living the Gospel. Welcoming needs to mean more than a smile at the door… as Catholics it must entail an encounter with the real presence of Christ. That is, we must be willing to attend to the real needs of those around us, extending both hand and heart to the isolated, and disenfranchised. Each person becomes then more than a member but a profound witness to Christ alive in this world as well as the promise of eternal life.

Reflect:

Do I take God’s love and mercy for granted? Has my discipleship and witness become stale? Who might be in need of an encounter with the living Christ today?

Peace,

Signature

His Promise

What does God’s promise fulfilled look like to you?

In this season of Advent we travel with Mary to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth. There is both the infinitely salvific promise begun within Mary, a mere 14,  but also the one now visible with Elizabeth believed to be well in her 70s. Like Mary, Elizabeth received her news with an angelic proclamation, and in circumstances when natural conception seemed inconceivable. In contrast, however, Elizabeth had spent a lifetime wrestling faithfully with her desire to be a mother and undoubtedly questioning the working out of God’s will for her life. Yet, here they were together two women promised the seemingly impossible joyfully awaiting its fulfillment.

I remember so clearly the joy my cousin and I shared in discovering that we were both expecting our first child at the same time. Having grown up much like sisters, we had experienced both the wonder and angst of childhood together. Hopes longed for, and prayers lifted became real when confided with one another.  This sororal bond and spiritual friendship serve as the backdrop to the scene that I have long imagined when Mary and Elizabeth meet. And here, Elizabeth was not only a first witness to God’s promise in Mary but also a confirmation of a promise to Mary.

Still this is just the beginning of the working out of God’s promise. Each as mother, one to a prophet and forerunner and the other to the messiah would need to be patient and continuously surrender to God’s will. However, this internal wrestling with just how God’s promise is accomplished should not to be confused with a lack of faith. For, it is difficult to guide someone content to not entreat assistance or who is not willing to participate in the unfolding of their lives. Rather, it is the seeking and discerning heart that is most inclined to growth and transformation.

Perhaps there is a question in your life today that you grapple with, ‘pondering’ as it were just how God will choose to answer. Or even whether or not He chooses to answer it. Do not loose faith but instead you may find consolation in the fact that you are in very good company. For while His promise may be humbly proclaimed in the silence of our hearts and like Elizabeth take a lifetime to be revealed, it is only in the seeking and wrestling that we can give our own fiat to God.

May you find joy in the quest this Advent!

Peace, Signature

 

Worth Revisiting: Cleaning House This Advent

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,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: My Delight

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph.  3:17

Have you ever experienced a time of holy delight with God? Lately, I have noticed something quite exquisite happening in my daily walk with the Lord.  Though it is not unusual for me to notice God’s presence in my day, my amazement in discovering him has now turned to sheer delight. And the more my delight rests in finding joy in him, the more he responds lovingly in return.

Much like courting, there is a growing desire to be near one another and to make the other’s happiness your own. This is what it is to be in love and to desire to show that love constantly. Then, even the tiniest of favors does not go unnoticed, but is rejoiced with gladness. From an answer in the depths of my heart, to a song played just because he knew I longed to hear it, to a person placed in my path intentionally who needed to see Christ..this has now become my heart’s delight.

But how do we come to this place of delight with the Lord?

  1. First, we are to to delight solely in his will in our everyday and to keep his law always within our hearts. (Ps. 40:8)
    So much so, that it penetrates our inmost being. (Rom. 7:22)
  2. We are to seek truth and be trustworthy with God and others. Prov. 12:22
  3. And we are to honor and find delight in the Sabbath “not (by) going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words” Is. 58:13-14

What does God promise in return?

  1. Rescue: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Ps 18:19
  2. Vindication: “But let the one who boasts boast about this:that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,  justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” Jer 9:24
  3. Direction: The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Ps. 37:23
  4. Desires of our Hearts: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4

Reflect:

Do I take delight in God’s will for my life? Am I ready for God’s promises in his delight of me?

May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” Ps 35:27

Peace,

Signature

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,

Signature

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,

Signature

 

 

Unfulfilled Potential

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.” Pope John XXIII

Recently I had one of the most surprisingly profound conversations on this idea of fulfillment and God’s purpose for our life. Surprising and unexpected because these are not the conversations you choose to begin only minutes before the start of Mass and with someone you have met only once before. And yet as we spoke it seemed as if there was all the time in the world. Instantly I perceived his spiritual depth and receptivity as well as the Holy Spirit’s intentionality in this brief encounter.

“What is it that you do”, I asked inquisitively with a smile , “that is when you aren’t serving here?”
“Well I used to be in social work with those suffering from addictions and difficult life choices..but for the last few months I have been working in the technology field.” Though he spoke about his recent work, it wasn’t his life’s work. Immediately, sensing the urging of the Spirit to respond I prayed for the words that needed to be said.

“I can see that you would be very good at your previous work..not sure if you are aware, but you have been given a beautiful spiritual gift of connection. This is not something that everyone obtains, to be able to meet, connect, and relate spiritually with purpose. Have you thought about God’s purpose for your life?”
“Yes, in fact I have said that I would give this present job one year, I  have been discerning where I am meant to be.”
“While I am certain that in whatever you do, you can use this gift, I truly believe that God may have greater plans in store for who you are meant to BE. Financially, we work at various jobs because they provide a necessary income to provide the essentials in life. And, this is important. However, in my own life in an initial desire to use my education and potential to achieve success in this world, as a follower of Christ, I found myself saying yes to another path. In doing so, I began to glimpse all of the unfulfilled potential in my life, to ask what God’s will is for my life and to grow to be who God has called me to be. I will be praying for you, and I cannot wait to hear how God leads you!”

As the first lines of the opening hymn played, we finally parted and each made our way to our pews. Taking my place beside my family,  the grace received from being who and  where I needed to be, was undeniable. This journey of staying unfulfilled isn’t about never finding happiness, but in a realization that all happiness lies in God’s will for our lives. It is refusing to rest success and failure in what we have tried in the past or in what the world sees as a realized potential. But instead choosing to shed our fears for God’s hopes and dreams. For “What I know of myself I know only because you shed light on me.” St. Augustine.

Reflect:

What are my gifts? Do I have unrealized or unfulfilled potential in my life? What might God be asking of me today?

Peace,

Signature