Worth Revisiting: Portraits of Martha and Mary

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Personally, I have always been able to identify strongly with the personality and perspective of Martha. Ingrained with a strong work ethic and desire to serve, I have been often called and always quick to step forward. Discernment and ample grace have even helped me to see how best to use my gifts to help others.  Yet, with a “Martha” disposition there can also be a temptation to frustration and jump to judgement of those not working.  Likewise while true that “many hands make light work”,  not all are being called to serve at that time.

Two different but essential illustrations of what it is to follow Christ in our daily lives are given here. An inner awareness and desire to seek to simply be with Christ as well as an outer response of that encounter with Christ provides a balanced portrait of what a full life in Christ entails. For how can we serve fully without time and prayer spent at the feet of Jesus? Without our labor being sourced and steeped in love from the One who is love itself? This is the better part that Jesus speaks of- that continual respite and turning of our hearts to God and the journey he has intended. Pulled by the pace of the day and the weight and concerns of life we may have found that we have wandered far away.

Becoming Mary

With a quick cup of coffee, light breakfast and short reflection I pause as I head out the door. Having tended to the most immediate needs of my family, I recognize all of the others things that were left undone. Laundry that needs to be folded, homework that needs supervision, and errands to be run. Very easily I could (as before) allow these loose ends to consume my thoughts and keep me from becoming Mary. What then is the difference in today? Simply, I have chosen in this moment to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen in silence. An appreciation that though the world is moving swiftly my soul is not. As the sunlight streams through my window and the trees sway in the breeze I am in utter awe for the beauty of the day. As the rain beats upon the windshield in the grey of the day I feel refreshed again. Whatever the day might bring, it is here in the place of Mary that I find rest and am able to see God in every detail. Though broken and imperfect, I am loved and this time with my beloved is beyond measure. No longer far away , though the Eucharist I find myself ever closer- intimately sharing in the very real presence of Christ. Breaking into my day, God has confirmed that I am where I am meant to be.

Active like Martha

If our journey were to remain here, I am sure that you might agree it is a graced place to be. And still, like the disciples our path of discipleship carries us out into the world to share this love that we have received. Within our families and communities there is a hunger for love and a tendency to be fed by everything that leaves us unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The need and work ahead can seem overwhelming if we go it alone. That is just it- having spent time with our Father we know we are not alone in the work that we do. Our prayer lifted, our petitions spoken, now with Martha we step ahead. With faith in the one who is always faithful, we seek guidance and strength to be attentive to the needs of others. Following Christ is not passive, but calls forth from us a response and a challenge. Though we know through scripture that Jesus spent much time in prayer he also encountered. The lost, broken, and marginalized sought, taught and healed were not to be his alone.

 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Wherever you are in your walk of Christian discipleship take time today to rediscover Mary and Martha. We have much to learn from these two close friends of Jesus, and all of the saints in discerning the path ahead.

Peace,

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You Lead I’ll Follow

Spiritual direction, it seems to me, is a beautiful dance.

An intimate sharing of self, a gracious reception of the Other. Each step towards self knowledge is but a lyrical movement towards acceptance of the pre-existing dispositions and disequilibrium within our lives. Oh the freedom of  movement that comes with self acceptance! No longer are we resolutely restrained by the confines of our former self, but in desiring to model the steps of our divine Partner we can finally abandon our will for His.

This is what St. Ignatius would refer to as resignation or indifference, a course of abandonment from self seeking fulfillment to a desire to know and follow the will of God for our lives. This conversion of self and discernment of our next steps is, of course, the fruit of spiritual direction. Yet, as mankind is by nature relational, this dance reaches its fullest potential in dialogue with and under the guidance of a trained spiritual director.

Helpful Rules of the Road of Spiritual Direction:


1.    “Spiritual direction cannot be confined to the religious realm, as though this existed in isolation, but must deal with the whole man and his actual problems” Friedrich Wolf, Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner.  Because of this, the more authentic and truthful you with are with the challenges you face in spiritual direction- the more helpful the time spent will be.

2.     You must be open to hearing and giving consideration to what your spiritual director notices about you and your situation without automatically defending a position. In entering spiritual direction, you are eliciting a consulting perspective, not asking simply for an echo of your own. You may have not noticed something simply because you are too close, or to familiar with its occurrence.

3.    If there is something in particular that you are aware of holding you back before a session, and your spiritual director is a priest, ask to begin with the sacrament of reconciliation. If this is the case but you are seeing a lay spiritual director, consider reconciliation at a nearby parish before your session. Otherwise, you may feel very self conscious of the sin, guilt or shame you are harboring and unable to be as open and ready to be moved through direction.

4.    Spiritual direction does compel a response or corresponding action by you.

“nothing less than a real conversion is needed if the searcher is to accept the profound self-knowledge which he gains with the help of another…in a word to carry his own cross after Christ.” Friedrich Wolf  

Simply speaking, once we see ourselves truthfully, in the light of faith, we begin to desire change. When we seek to follow Christ, we also wish to model our lives after him.

5.   Letting go of that which prevents us from growing spiritually closer to God.

Very few choices in our life are without consequences, be they good or bad. So it goes without saying that which doesn’t bring us closer to who God has intended us to be, is at best keeping us spiritually delayed.

6.  Recognizing who we are now, allows us to envision who God wants us to be and to            invite God into the decision making process. This is the ideal environment for spiritual      growth! Our relationship with God grows as we partner together in all of the                        decisions-big and small- that come before us. We may just find that we are less                    stressed about the outcome, because we trust that we ask God to guide us in the first          place!

Reflect:

Have you thought about seeking greater direction in your life? If so, research local spiritual directors in your area to find one that might be accepting new directees.

If you already have a spiritual director, does he/she challenge you to see things from a new perspective? Are you resisting or accepting of the task ahead?

Peace,

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Checklist..or Grace Missed?

This post begins with a confession of sorts. I am a checklist enthusiast. With each item and chore checked off, comes a corresponding feeling of accomplishment. Not to mention that should I neglect to make a list, I am prone to amble aimlessly as a boat without a rudder. Advent is a particular challenge in that my list is always a work in the making and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete each of these necessities. Yet are each of these items REALLY necessary?

One of the most common expressions heard in parish ministry when an innovative thought is floated or an old one reevaluated, is that “We have ALWAYS done it this way!” When in truth, we truly haven’t. This goes for our own individual or family traditions. Advent is a perfect time to consider the things we do that bring us closer to Christ and those that merely busy us. Some of the greatest gifts of grace I have received were those never planned or even conceived. Impromptu conversations that I begrudgingly entered,  car mishaps and vacation disasters, delayed or rescheduled appointments..all within God’s purview and grace. Easier perhaps in hindsight..but how do we see this in the moment?

If I  may, I offer this as a guide for a receptive heart and renewed perspective…

Time with our Father: Listening. Have we provided quiet time for God to speak to our hearts as we go about our day?

Time spent with the Word: It needn’t be an entire Gospel but simply a short passage that is a seed for later reflection and growth. Can we spare 5-10 minutes?

Meet Christ in your time spent with others: Do something unexpected for someone else, or say yes to an invitation to visit someone who is sick, lonely, or troubled. I can tell you of the blessings in doing so, but the surprise that awaits is far better!

Pray: Petition for help with all of the other things that you would like to complete each day. Ask for direction for those things that you can let go and are unneeded. Don’t be afraid to make a new tradition, or say no to something that has become unfruitful. Sometimes we have to say no to one thing in order to be free to say yes to another!

St. Ignatius describes the process of discernment as “motions of the soul”. In order to decide between competing ‘goods’ (good vs a greater good)  we must be prayerful, and attentive to the Spirit. Therefore discernment isn’t a choice between good or bad but a better choice that will bring us into a fuller more intimate relationship with Christ. And because of the persuading case that can usually be made for either choice, this decision may be a challenging and be met with resistance. Yet, again some of the hardest battles fought have brought great spiritual rewards.

With this, I have made a few changes to my own checklist. Items that might be expected but not essential will be left off , trusting that God will give me the courage to explain when needed. Other desired tasks that are preempted by more immediate concerns will indeed wait till another day. There is such peace that comes from putting down or relinquishing a “to do”as an obligation and instead choosing to pick up and carry each as a grace.  And never alone..for when we invite God into our busyness, he shares the load.

With Advent Grace,

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Reflect: What is on your checklist today? Are you willing to put aside your list to accept His?

 

Why I didn’t want to write..but needed to.

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Today, the advice of a good friend of mine Sr. Marie Paul, a Pauline sister by vocation, echoed in my mind. “If you find yourself at a loss of what to write or how to write what you feel you need to, just write about why you cannot write.” Why? First, it gets the flow going but also there may be something there worth exploring-the reason behind why you are feeling blocked or resistant. Doing this has helped me to see more clearly what it is that is holding me back and captive.

And so I begin..no longer a slave to fear but recognizing that it is with God , with his strength and desire that I can do all things. It isn’t that I am fearful of writing, or surrendering my inmost thoughts and feelings, but that the task of writing with and for a purpose takes both time and energy. Two things that can far too often seem in short supply. For, introspectively I understand my own tendency to give fully of myself to whatever I commit to. Not treading in the shallow, I long to see things to completion and rest only when I feel I have given my all. Yet, in my desire to serve, have I neglected my own cup that longs to be filled? Is this why I am clinging to down time, and stingy when it comes to writing lately?

And still I know that spiritually that tending to the seed of a budding question, or emerging prayer through writing is more than a facet of self expression. The fruit of which has, for me, been  a window of clarification and a path of discernment. It is an opening of mind and heart to the Spirit, a discovery of areas of needed improvement,  an acceptance of mercy and a recognition that I am loved. Even still it can be a means to encourage others in their walk of faith too, who may wonder if they are alone. In need of a Savior? Wonderful, there is much companionship in the journey!  However, for this to be possible we must be authentic-sharing equally of the challenges and successes, of the sorrows and joys and of a brokenness that is only made complete through Christ.

So, it is then that I am called to write. Hanging by a thread I cannot see the entire tapestry that God weaves. Perspective. Writing spiritually becomes a way to better see the gifts that we have and understand the why behind what we are to do. Up, down, in and out his hand guides my heart towards his purpose. With each word written and each pause placed -there is a conversation between my heart and God. A seeking and a finding, and a renewed desire to stay near when I once again have strayed. “There you are!”, I say. “I am where I have always been, right beside you.” He says.

While I initially had little inclination to write today, God knew that it was exactly what was needed. Have you considered writing as a way to move your heart, or as a means of discernment? What is holding you captive today?

Peace,

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Wit and Wisdom: Overcoming Disappointment

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“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’d venture to say, that each of us has experienced disappointment numerous times in our lives. There are the daily goals that don’t work out the way we had planned or expected and also those milestone moments that either shape us or rock our world. Sometimes both. Yet, how we understand and overcome disappointment is key to any way forward. For otherwise, we may find ourselves stuck in our imagined happiness rather than open to the happiness and joy that God truly desires for us. The fruits of which we might not realize until much later in life.

When my then fiance’ and I were in our undergraduate years, we began to map out and plan our life together. We knew that as an ROTC officer’s candidate that he would have a corresponding service commitment , one that we were happy to give. So we prayed for his choice of branch and active duty..well one out of two isn’t bad.  You see, active duty would have afforded a more certain path in terms of job and home security and for a newly married couple that was very attractive.    Having scored in the top percentage  for his flight school entrance exam he received his choice of branch, but to our surprise was not slotted for an active duty assignment. Wait, did they not know of our readiness to serve? Did they not see his potential to lead? Oh, and what of our prayers..why did they go unanswered?

Then it hit me..In the course of our prayers, we always ended every petition and prayer with THY WILL BE DONE. If in our faith lives we meant this prayerful intention then we had to take comfort that it truly was. God was looking at our potential and journey and rerouting us to where he knew we needed to be. Why? Because we had asked him to do so. We had invited God to the final say, and now we needed to get on board with the new coordinates and let go of what might have been. When we did so, I have to say God has never ceased to surprise us!

Oh, and through my husband’s time in the Guard and Reserve, we were given many opportunities to lead soldiers and their families in that same discernment process of time and service. Sudden deployment activation held many concerns for these men and women who had never wanted active duty status. Now unexpectedly thrust oversees in tenuous and dangerous situations, we prayed for each of them and their safety. And again at the end of every decade we prayed that it be God’s will.

Yet, don’t just listen to me..here is a bit or wit and wisdom from others..

~GK Chesterton

“Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. ” Chesterton began his writing career not as an college English major, but unexpectedly as an art student and critic. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, it is said that he suffered early on from depression and had also experienced a nervous breakdown. Renown for being absent minded,  he relied on his wife and secretary to help him with the details in life.

~Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Long considered a spiritual authority on Trappist contemplation and Christian spirituality, Merton himself initially wanted to be a Franciscan. His writings advocating peace, justice  and religious tolerance remain a continual call to live out our Christian faith in the world around us.

“If we really want prayer, we’ll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we’ll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what’s going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves….The best way to pray is: Stop. Let prayer pray within you, whether you know it or not.”

~Oscar Romero

On proper focus- “If we are worth anything, it is not because we have more money or more talent, or more human qualities. Insofar as we are worth anything, it is because we are grafted on to Christ’s life, his cross and resurrection. That is a person’s measure.” Soon-to-be-saint Romero’s appointment as bishop of San Salvador is said to have been met with great disappointment by his fellow priests and colleagues. And still with ever growing unrest, poverty and violence in San Salvador, Oscar Romero heard and responded to his calling with holiness and unbelievable fortitude. With this passionate shepherd and martyr for the faith, we learn where our true hope lies.

~Dorothy Day

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:The Case for Asceticism

Today humanity has  “enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic power, and yet a huge proportion of the worlds citizens are still tormented by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before has man had so keen an understanding of freedom, yet at the same time new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance. Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces. (Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes)

This begs the question, could there be a modern role for the practice of the spiritual discipline of asceticism found through fasting, prayer, spiritual direction, almsgiving, corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our lives today?

To this I would answer yes, most definitely!  The traditional practices of asceticism are relevant for our time, especially when taken out of a monastic framework and considered within the broader context of our everyday life. While most of us perhaps are not disposed to a total life of self denial, there is immense merit in seeking order, centeredness, and being open to God’s presence in our lives. In a world that often strives, or so it seems, to ascribe the attributes of beauty, intelligence, position, and wealth, or lack thereof -what a gift it is for our souls to discover who we really are! That is to shed all opinions and titles other than how God might call us as his own beloved children. In this way, we are both humbled in all of our preconceived notions of self, and yet raised to see how wonderful it is to be made in the image of God!

It is here that we recognize the importance of prayer, for this is how we come to be familiar with the voice of our Abba, and to know that whatever the world perceives of us that each of us have been divinely special, and loved dearly. God’s opinion, and concerns then can be seen more clearly and put in the right order as first and centermost in our lives. I believe, therefore that this practice of asceticism, of prayer, perhaps helps us to understand how to go about and truly practice the other disciplines. It is true, that the place of prayer is important because, at least initially, it must be one that encourages us to limit some of the outside distractions of life. I find that daily mass or morning reflection provides this time for me to center myself in God. Oh, how often I have found myself actually rushing in the mornings to find that time with God, and heard myself let out an audible sigh of thankfulness! Taking time to experience a retreat even further allows for the opportunity to tune out the noise and discover a way to live a more conscious spiritual life.

As for fasting, and abstinence they too are important when we consider the “why” or the purpose for this practice in our own lives. Too often, I believe that we as a church could do a better job at teaching and emphasizing the deeper intentions. Without this, the “Rice Bowl” or almsgiving box simply becomes a collection device during Lent for all the times we break our renewed intention to God. On the contrary, I believe it is important to ask ourselves each time,

Why am I fasting or abstaining? Is it to be in solidarity and to understand if for but a day what others in poverty feel every day? Or is it for an intention that I hold in my heart and desire for God to know its importance in my life and request for help?

This brings us to the immense value of works of love, mercy and justice when they are sourced in Christ, and practiced in community. This is not to say that other faiths cannot and have not practiced similar works of mercy. Rather, as a Christian community they are essential, in changing our perspective from that of the world to recognizing Christ in others, and actually in being Christ in the world.

These athletic exercises or practices are our warm-up so to speak for the real thing- that is working for the kingdom of God.

How can we say, “Put me in Coach!”  if we haven’t even shown up for practice?

Peace,Signature


¹Definition of asceticism taken from The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Worth Revisiting: Decision Making

If you find yourself today considering where you are in life and where God might be leading you..there is guidance found in the scriptures. What follows is a decision making tree, that doesn’t leave the outcome in your hands alone but is an invitation to walk with God, to align your heart with his will.I encourage you to spend some time with each, especially if you feel a pause in answering any one of these resolutely.

Keeping it short and sweet today, but I thought I’d share my own adaptation of a spiritual decision making tree. The first three are quite essential in that they ask of us to go to the source..

God’s word, God’s voice, and the Holy Spirits guidance in all. The other five invite us to consider our intentions, and the effects of our decisions on others. I enjoy reflecting on these particular scripture verses too, giving each a bit of time to bear fruit.

When making a significant decision,  I have also found it important to discuss the situation with my husband, a close friend and when possible with my spiritual director.

Sometimes, inviting another perspective and experience can provide both distance and clarity. Notwithstanding, in taking the time to pray together, we begin to appreciate the necessity of community and the strength found through these faithful bonds of fellowship . None of us are ever intended to embark on this journey alone, but invited to reach out, uplift, lean on, and carry one another when the way seems difficult.

Thank you Father for all those you have placed in my life- my family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. For the truly prayerful counsel of Fr. Jim who continues to fill this time of discernment for me with great joy and faith-filled wisdom.  May every decision be less of me and more of You, for you know the way ahead so much better than I. 

Peace,

Signature

When God Talks

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What is it to say that God talks? How do we know that God is really speaking and guiding us as we seek to follow?

I would venture to say that nearly every believer has at some point in their walk of faith has questioned and sought certainty of God’s constant dialogue with them. Silence might seem deafening at times and the fear of abandonment or trial just too great. Hang in there, you are in good company…what you are describing has been felt by countless saints and even uttered by our Lord himself on the cross.

Not that long ago, my teenage son who had experienced a very difficult day with a friendship, and dealing with academic pressures found himself unable to sleep. Pausing by his room to say goodnight, I became suddenly aware that he needed to talk.

“Mom, why is it that when I pray I cannot hear God speaking to me? I pray every night, even apart from our family prayer…and I never hear anything back.”

“What is it that you are expecting to hear”, I ask, “an audible voice?”

“I’m not sure, he responds, but right now it’s just silence.”

“What is it that you feel…can you feel God present even if it may seem he isn’t that close?”

“Yes, but I really wish he would answer me, and help me figure out how to handle all that I am dealing with”

Smiling, “Were you just praying earlier? Have you ever considered that is why I am here now?”

Thinking of this moment today, I am reminded that perhaps we sometimes set expectations on just how God is to respond to our prayer and miss him working in the events and lives of all those around us.

Setting time aside for scripture is another way that we, if open, can “hear” God speaking to us. This past week was a beautiful testament of this! With a number of prayerful concerns on my mind last

 Monday,

I picked up my coffee and sat down with a few scriptural reflections for some Father-daughter time. Asking God for guidance, I opened my eyes and to my delight was a reflection on Luke 11:8-9..

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God was asking me not to carry these matters alone but to ask, seek and depend on him. Though I was pleased with this consolation, God was not satisfied. He underscored it with the 2nd completely distinctive reflection on James 1:5-6…

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

It wasn’t enough for me to simply ask, God was telling me I needed to trust that he had it all in control. Without faith and trust, my prayers and conversation were shallow and superficial, not at all the deep friendship that God longs to have with each and every one of us.

Wednesday:

I had hit the ground running from the moment my feet first met the floor. Scrambling to get put into place things that should’ve been done earlier I had skipped my morning reflection time. God had not given up on me though. My chosen post for Worth Revisiting was a reflection on Matthew 13:1-9, and focused on the essentials of prayer, mass, love and scripture. Quickly I had uploaded it and opened the linkup for the week without giving the post itself the needed read. That is until the Holy Spirit got my attention. Unbeknownst to me initially, my colleague Allison Gingras had also chosen that very same scripture passage to revisit. As she and I both sat in amazement, I knew that there was something God wanted me to notice in that passage and post. Then there it was, in my writing by my own hand. I had woken up without tending to my own weeds and preparing my soil adequately. “Father, thank you for your patience, persistence and humor in seeking me- when I am otherwise occupied and not always seeking you!”

Thursday:

Having come to the realization that all of my notes for my radio interview that day no longer existed, I was feeling quite dismayed. That is, until I turned to this reflection,

“We must always be starting again. These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again, tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting. We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive. But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise.” — Dom Augustin Guillerand

Once again I found strength and determination to take up the task at hand, knowing that God had a purpose in the re-do, in my beginning again. Humble but reassured, I saw purpose in the work ahead.

So, how do we know when God is talking to us?

This tangible experience of his presence, which is at times overwhelming and also more subtle, is both anticipated and yet surprising. It lifts us up, reassures, comforts and guides, giving us hope when we have none. Even when we are not aware of it, God is ever present and faithful.. waiting for us to make space in our day. When we do– the more attentive and attune to the sound of His voice we are, no matter what the world throws at us. When was the last time you heard God talk?

Peace,

Signature

 

 

 

 

The Case for Asceticism

Today humanity has  “enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources and economic power, and yet a huge proportion of the worlds citizens are still tormented by hunger and poverty, while countless numbers suffer from total illiteracy. Never before has man had so keen an understanding of freedom, yet at the same time new forms of social and psychological slavery make their appearance. Although the world of today has a very vivid awareness of its unity and of how one man depends on another in needful solidarity, it is most grievously torn into opposing camps by conflicting forces. (Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes)

This begs the question, could there be a modern role for the practice of the spiritual discipline of asceticism found through fasting, prayer, spiritual direction, almsgiving, corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our lives today?

To this I would answer yes, most definitely!  The traditional practices of asceticism are relevant for our time, especially when taken out of a monastic framework and considered within the broader context of our everyday life. While most of us perhaps are not disposed to a total life of self denial, there is immense merit in seeking order, centeredness, and being open to God’s presence in our lives. In a world that often strives, or so it seems, to ascribe the attributes of beauty, intelligence, position, and wealth, or lack thereof -what a gift it is for our souls to discover who we really are! That is to shed all opinions and titles other than how God might call us as his own beloved children. In this way, we are both humbled in all of our preconceived notions of self, and yet raised to see how wonderful it is to be made in the image of God!

It is here that we recognize the importance of prayer, for this is how we come to be familiar with the voice of our Abba, and to know that whatever the world perceives of us that each of us have been divinely special, and loved dearly. God’s opinion, and concerns then can be seen more clearly and put in the right order as first and centermost in our lives. I believe, therefore that this practice of asceticism, of prayer, perhaps helps us to understand how to go about and truly practice the other disciplines. It is true, that the place of prayer is important because, at least initially, it must be one that encourages us to limit some of the outside distractions of life. I find that daily mass or morning reflection provides this time for me to center myself in God. Oh, how often I have found myself actually rushing in the mornings to find that time with God, and heard myself let out an audible sigh of thankfulness! Taking time to experience a retreat even further allows for the opportunity to tune out the noise and discover a way to live a more conscious spiritual life.

As for fasting, and abstinence they too are important when we consider the “why” or the purpose for this practice in our own lives. Too often, I believe that we as a church could do a better job at teaching and emphasizing the deeper intentions. Without this, the “Rice Bowl” or almsgiving box simply becomes a collection device during Lent for all the times we break our renewed intention to God. On the contrary, I believe it is important to ask ourselves each time,

Why am I fasting or abstaining? Is it to be in solidarity and to understand if for but a day what others in poverty feel every day? Or is it for an intention that I hold in my heart and desire for God to know its importance in my life and request for help?

This brings us to the immense value of works of love, mercy and justice when they are sourced in Christ, and practiced in community. This is not to say that other faiths cannot and have not practiced similar works of mercy. Rather, as a Christian community they are essential, in changing our perspective from that of the world to recognizing Christ in others, and actually in being Christ in the world.

These athletic exercises or practices are our warm-up so to speak for the real thing- that is working for the kingdom of God.

How can we say, “Put me in Coach!”  if we haven’t even shown up for practice?

Peace,

Signature


¹Definition of asceticism taken from The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company