Today’s reading from Luke 5, spoke to my heart. In it, Jesus called a tax collector called Levi. He said very simply, “Follow me.” This speaks to my heart because I was like Levi, a sinner. I had strayed off of the path of what I had been taught as a child because of many reasons including:
- Everyone’s doing it and if I don’t, I’ll be weird
- If you love me, you’ll do it
- My parents just don’t get it and don’t understand me
- My parents are totally out of touch and just can’t understand
- The Church is just a bunch of rules which are designed to spoil all the fun
- Wouldn’t Jesus want me to be happy rather than be miserable
- I’m really not a bad person compared to others, so this little thing won’t matter
- My parents are the strictest parents around. They are totally unreasonable!
- I don’t really know what the Church teaches, so it doesn’t really matter.
If I sat here long enough and thought through a few more ‘situations’ I got myself into, I could probably come up with a lot more. But, I think you get the point.
When Jesus called me (and I will never forget the moment I realized and fully heard the call), I did my best to let go of the old life and begin anew. It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t perfect. But, I can look back and see that there is a definite turning point in my life.
I imagine that it was much the same way for those called by Jesus that the Bible tells us about including Levi. The reality is that I “thought” I was happy in that earlier life. I won’t say that I was an atheist, for I did believe in God, but I really had no idea who or what God was and didn’t really try to find out. It was easier not to and I was happy, right? So, why would I want something that would impose RULES on me when as a young adult, I was finally breaking free from all those rules I had been buried under as a child?
Twenty-six years later, I can say that those RULES that I had avoided for so long and didn’t want in my life, have saved my life more times than I could count. Those RULES have brought true happiness in a way that I never understood when I was avoiding the rules. I realize that the rationalizations that I was saying to myself left and right were really just a smoke screen blinding me to the truth. It is sad to say that as a youth minister, I see teens daily saying the same old rationalizations now that I did then and blinding themselves just as much as I did.
But, I have learned one thing. I CAN be there for them and I CAN live my life openly, full of faith and courage in Christ, and witnessing to the good that my faith has brought to my life. But, I can’t call them. That is for Jesus to do. I just hope to be there to help guide them when He does as others guided me.
Both of today’s readings (Isaiah 58:1-9 and Matthew 9:14-15) speak about fasting. It isn’t my favorite subject. I do fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and sometimes I wonder if I will really make it through the day. I count on my food. So, when I know I have to limit myself, I miss it 10x more. Why is that? Why does human nature do this? When we can’t have something is when we want it the most. I can not eat for most of a day on other days and only eat one full meal without a difficulty when I get too busy to stop to eat. But, when I HAVE to do it, it becomes an almost insurmountable mountain in my mind (and my growling stomach)!
I really wish I had the answers to this, for it is a part of our religious tradition that I struggle with regularly. I do know that as I struggle, it comes to mind even more the reasons I am even trying to make the struggle. For Jesus. Because He sacrificed and struggled to the death so that I wouldn’t have to. Maybe ultimately, that is the reason why it is so much harder to fast when we have to than when we do it unknowingly.
For that reason alone, I won’t complain. I won’t grumble (although I can’t speak for my stomach who does protest pretty loudly). I won’t shy away from this hard task. Instead, I will meet it head on, very aware of its difficulties and inherent struggles. For Jesus, how can I refuse?
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9: 24
This isn’t a very cheery thought. It isn’t one which had really struck me as poignantly before as it does now. I knew I lived in a country that celebrated freedom of religion, so I never worried that I would be faced with the choice as to whether to die for my faith or not. All of that has changed recently though as we have been now faced with the new HHS mandate. This new governmental control isn’t really an issue about contraception (which many people state is the issue) but is an issue of control and power.
Charles Kadlac wrote an article for Forbes which can be found here http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleskadlec/2012/02/13/the-audacity-of-power-president-obama-vs-the-catholic-church/. This is one of the clearest explanations of what is happening with this mandate than anything else I have read. Ultimately, this isn’t about whether the Catholic Church will be forced to provide whether they want to or not, all contraceptive medications including the morning after pill and abortions. This is really about our country’s First Amendment which states that we have freedom of religion. “If” this goes through, it will ultimately lead to destruction of America as we know it, whether you are Catholic or not. This affects you whether you are Protestant, Muslim, Jewish or an atheist. The reality is that if the government can do this to the Catholic Church, it can do anything it wants to any and all of us it decides to go after next. If the Church stands strong and does not give in to Obama, the Church would make clear to the American people that the alternative to religious freedom would be a mortal wound to our civil liberties and a complete disruption of civil society. This is something that is not life-changing to “some” individuals within our country, but to all of us.
In many ways, I feel like such a small voice in the sea of much more important and louder voices. I realize that I am just one small drop of water in an ocean. I can do what I can though to fight this and will. Because, maybe, just maybe, if we all take a stand together across the spectrum whether religious or atheist, maybe then that one small drop can pull together a tsunami that will bury this plan for a long time if not forever. I can hope, can’t I?
One of the definitions of the word lent according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means to put at another’s temporary disposal something they can use. Of course, the main definition for lent, the noun, is the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting. But, even though these two definitions aren’t the same, I see a connection between them that I hadn’t thought about before. If we truly enter into this season to prepare ourselves for the coming of Easter, we work to put our own needs and desires aside in order to be more open to God’s call within our life. In other words, we have “lent” ourselves to God to use us as He wills. That to me, has a much deeper meaning and calls more from me than the usual “giving something up”.
Yesterday on Facebook, friends were posting left and right that they were “giving” up Facebook for Lent. Now, by itself, that can be a good thing if one uses the time one saves to do something else to bring them closer to God. But, if you give up Facebook only to play games on the computer or watch TV instead, how is that a sacrifice? The other question I have with these posts is that Scripture tells us that Jesus told his disciples to “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them”. To me this means that we shouldn’t be broadcasting our lenten sacrifices to everyone everywhere. Instead, by our actions (whatever that ends up being), others should be able to see by our actions and by our attitudes (not by our words or by us drawing attention to our actions) that we are indeed closer to Christ than before. This, to me, is the goal.
Now, I don’t have a problem sharing what I will be doing for my own sacrifices during lent to those I am close to as I am not boasting of my tremendous “feats”, but because I am counting on them to help me in this not so easy task of denying myself and putting aside for a period of time my own vanity and selfishness. As much as I would like to say that doing these things is a piece of cake, the reality is that it is anything but easy. I know, more than anyone else, my weaknesses.
So, no, I am not sharing the “what” of my lenten sacrifices, but I do hope that I will be sharing the fruit of those sacrifices. If that happens, then I will know that my small feable attempts have been accepted by God and that I was successful. What more can I ask?
From Mark, Chapter 9: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” This is a true Christian quote; one I have heard more times than I could ever count. And yet, it is a lesson that so many in America have not grasped — especially today’s teenagers and young adults. Now, I don’t mean to pick on those in this age group, just stating a fact that I have witnessed with my own children as well as with those I have worked with in youth ministry programs.
To live this passage, arrogance can not be part of your life. What exactly is arrogance you might ask? Well, according to the Merriam – Webster online dictionary, arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions. Hmmm – an attitude of superiority. Probably a lot like the head motion and attitude in many teenagers voices when they think an adult is being ridiculous. Or maybe an eyeroll … or two… or three… It could even include the “listening” an older teen does to the wisdom of the parent on a subject, the head nod acknowledging not that they agree but that they have heard you followed by the complete snub that “your” way is not even to be considered. It includes the attitude that they know what they know and we are the ignorant ones. Need I go on? I could for quite a while yet without running out of examples from my own children.
And yet — my kids are good kids. We are homeschoolers and I know from experience that they do not have the attitude that most of their peers in the school systems have. But, that does not take away that arrogance which is so prevalent these days within the youth of our times. Whether they got that way after adults are displayed on TV as total idiots or whether they have just always been arrogant, the reality is that they are. All children are.
I believe that arrogance is connected with pride and self-esteem. If one thinks highly of themselves they usually think lowly of others. With time and experience, humility is forced upon them. Life is like that. Whether we as parents force that humility or whether their peers or experiences do. Eventually, humility appears and we realize that we aren’t perfect and are in reality, helpless without God. If we have arrogance, God says we serve. Hmmm, now how to put that to work within the family dynamics — that is the question.
It’s been a long few weeks! Between the normal busy-ness of life as well as being sick, I feel as if I haven’t stopped in ages as I try to catch up! I’m especially thankful that I have had several occasions where I have been reminded that whether I am ready or not, Lent starts right around the corner. So, with that in mind along with all of the crazy busy-ness, I plan to, for Lent, re-energize myself and this blog by upping my “goal” of one post per week to 3 posts per week minimum. That is going to take a bit of an adjustment for me as I tend to wait until around 10 pm to do this reflection (as I am doing at this minute instead of going to bed — hence the title which is what I am doing as I type). Instead, I am hoping to switch up my schedule a bit and work on doing this at lunch time. Hopefully, that will jump start and energize these reflections.
As far as today’s scripture, I can’t help but think I have been blind for years! Today’s Gospel reading is one that is very familiar to me about the friends who cared so much that they cut a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down so that he could be cured by Jesus. Now, I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever hearing mentioned or discussed this line which hit me today. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.””
The part that is screaming out at me today is the word “their”. Usually, Jesus says that one’s faith is what cures you. But, not here! In fact, in this passage it is the friend’s faith that is what brings healing. This is important to me because I know of two women who have lost babies at birth in the last few days. They are hurting and whatever I can do to help them lighten that load of hurt, I will do. This passage brings me comfort knowing that even as helpless as I feel in the midst of their intense suffering, I can still help through my prayer and petitions. This passage can also help me when I try to explain to friends who aren’t Catholic why we in the Catholic religion pray not only to the Saints, but also why we as Catholics have Masses said for loved ones. What these friends are doing in today’s Gospel is no different than any of these practices. Others can bring healing to us. We can bring healing to others. Don’t we have an awesome God who allows all of this?
Sickness carried us away last week! A virus which was probably the flu carried away 5 out of the 6 of us at the house last week. It ended up being a chaotic week with a lot of medicine, trips to the doctor, and not much else accomplished. Since I also had it, it meant that I wasn’t thinking too clearly myself and was on a “necessary only” functioning ability. But, as the effects of the virus wane, there are many reflections wondering through the brain that would like to come down on paper. Knowing that it is already past midnight and I need to get to bed so I don’t relapse, I will only give a synopsis of some of the ideas that came to me today after reading the Scripture of the day, the Magnificat reflection of the day, and hearing Msgr. Nolan’s homily this morning. Each of these events/readings took me even deeper into today’s readings on 3 different tangents.
The first tangent is regarding leprosy and what living with leprosy is like (not that I have the disease leprosy, but taking leprosy as a symbol of being unclean, full of sin — now that is something I can truly speak on).
The second tangent is regarding the Sacrament of confession – my long-time fear of it, my coming to terms with it, and my ultimate goal of wanting/desiring to go with no hesitation. The next tangent is off of this 2nd one and regards preparation for confession and how to know what to confess, along with the sin of pride by thinking that there isn’t anything to confess and hearing how Blessed Pope John Paul II went to confession NIGHTLY.
Finally, the last tangent is off of the Gospel reading of today from Mark 1:40-45. The Magnificat had a powerful reflection on the cured lepers response. He was told to not say anything but instead he went around proclaiming that Jesus cured him. This was always something that struck me, but I didn’t delve into very deeply. Today’s reflection and reading made me look at that again realizing that this leper going out and proclaiming Christ’s cure is no different than if I would go to confession and then go out and proclaim my sin saying that I am cured of it due to confession. Isn’t that a type of pride and arrogance as if to tell someone else “Go and sin and you can experience Jesus healing you too!” There is just something inherently wrong with that and is something I need to dig a bit deeper into when I am more awake than I am now.
So, with a promise for more to come… goodnight!
I know this blog is supposed to be my reflections on the daily readings. But, tonight I am going to go off on a tangent and mention a movie screening that I just saw for October Baby. This is a phenomenal movie. It is being billed as a pro-life movie and anti-abortion. It is designed to raise the awareness of the realities of abortion survivors. But, there is SO much more to the movie than these political hot buttons. They are there and they profoundly speak of the beliefs of the Pro-life movement that every life has meaning and purpose as God created us to be. But, this movie also delves into the realities of family life. Family life as it grows and changes. Family life as it goes through the rocky parts. Family life as it traverses the reality of our own human weaknesses. This is a family. A family who has seen tremendous pain. A family who has seen pain and has wanted to protect their daughter from this pain and in doing so, caused pain. This is a story of a person finding out who they are, who God intends them to be, and who they CHOOSE to be. This is a story of a loyal friend who wants to help but doesn’t quite know how to help both sides of the family in turmoil. Ultimately, this is a story about choosing. Choosing to forgive. Choosing to live. and Choosing to love. For that is what life and family is all about.
GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!
What are we called to do on this earth? We are called to know God, love God and serve God on this earth. At least that is what the catechism answer is. The real question comes to what exactly that means when it comes to being put into action. Knowing God to me means reading and studying Scripture to better understand who He was and is. Loving God comes from knowing Him. The serving part is the hard part. What exactly is serving God? If we look at John the Baptist, serving God meant encouraging people to repent and be baptized. But, it also meant death to John as by preaching about God’s ways, he angered Herodias which led to his beheading. So, by serving God and standing up for God’s ways, will we also get beheaded? Hopefully not, but if so, am I really ready for that? Do I have the strength to hold my ground even when death is facing me? I pray that I do but don’t really know. I don’t like pain. I don’t like even having a headache and take meds when one is coming on. Can I handle the pain I might need to face to stand up for God? That is the question. Honestly, I know without a doubt that “I” cannot. But, with God’s grace, I can do anything. So, my goal becomes one of earning God’s grace however possible. Hmmm, isn’t it in many ways all the same thing?