Monthly Archives: June 2012

Shadows and shade

Today was an interesting day at Mass. It was the first Sunday Mass with our new pastor. It was very obvious that he knew that this transition for our parish is not going to be an easy one. The parish is an old parish with members who have been attending there for 30+ years. Needless to say, we are the “newbies” even though we have now been parishioners for a year. Little things he did differently than our former pastor were immediately frowned upon by many there. I really pray for him and for this parish. Even though we rarely know the reasons why the different happenings in our life occur, there can ALWAYS be something learned if we only open our hearts. This is a maxim of life that I learned many, many years ago and makes the rough patches of life so much easier to bear! Time will tell how it all goes.

One of the things that Msgr talked about during his homily was about the references in the Old Testament reading as well as in the Gospel reading to shade.  He mentioned how when he was an Army chaplain and in the desert, the soldiers wanted to find shade. But, shade isn’t always “free”. In the desert, where there is shade, there are scorpions, snakes and other desert creatures also looking for shade.

I couldn’t help but think of this as an allegory to life these days in America.  As Christians, we work hard and see being in America as our “shade”.  But we need to remember that seeking rest in the ‘shade’ doesn’t always equal respite. Mary sat in the shadows of the cross. Her time in the shade surely didn’t equal a respite. Instead, it was filled with pain and sorrow.

What are we being called to route out of the shade here in America?  The next election needs to be considered carefully.  In case it helps, check out this video…

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path to virtue…

Today’s Gospel reading is of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5.  I love the “BE”- attitudes which all speak of virtues that we should be striving for if we ever have the hope of heaven.  Tonight at adoration, I read the 4th chapter of the Imitation of Mary.  A couple of lines caught my eye as I reflected on that chapter.

…for the good man must strive daily to become better…

…On the path to virtue, not to advance is to go backwards; not to gain is to lose…

These two phrases summed up the whole chapter for me.  They speak of how Mary didn’t settle for just being born full of grace.  Instead, she chose by her actions throughout her life to continue to live a life of grace and virtue.  For by living a life this way, she came even closer to God and even more filled with grace.  She is our example to follow!

This caught my attention because I realize that I have been just cruising along at a set speed.  I go along living life one day at a time taking things as they come and trying as much as possible to plan ahead to avoid difficulties.  But, have I really stretched myself?  Have I moved out of my comfort zone?  Have I improved myself in any way?  I didn’t think I was going backwards, but after reading this, I realize that I am — for “not to gain is to lose’.

So, how do I move forward?  In what ways am I being called to move forward at this point/season of my life?  An easy answer to that is prayer.  We’re always being called to move forward and to improve our prayer life.  But, I think it is much more than that.  Much more difficult than that.

Lately, I can honestly say that I have been working hard on my difficulties with fasting and abstinence.  I LOVE my food and it is one of the pleasures of my life (especially chocolate).  Those who have read any of my previous posts know that I have been following a new eating protocol guided by my doctor since Easter Sunday.  I have lost 26 pounds but I am now in a “stabilization” phase and learning how to maintain at this weight for a period of time.  That is much easier said than done!  I am finding that just little things (like not drinking my usual 3 Liters of water) or eating more salt or not exercising that day really throws the balance into a tizzy.  When I gain, I have to fast all day with nothing to eat although I can drink water or tea as much as I want.  Then, in the evening, I get to eat the largest steak I can eat along with a large apple or large tomato.  That’s it — until the next day.  Easy to say.  Hard to do.

I am learning how to ignore hunger.  I give myself credit for that much at least!  I was never able to ignore hunger.  If I felt even the slightest bit hungry, I would get something to eat.  If I was out and about, I would get fast food or stop by the store.  If I was home, I would get a snack.  I felt like I was always thinking about food.  Now, with this new knowledge of how to ignore hunger, I have broken some of that unhealthy attachment to food that I had.  I’m not saying that I am over it totally, but I can see improvement.  So, at least in this one small area, I see a small gain.  I pray that over time, I am able to conquer more of this food trap I have been in for years.

I have a pack of cards that I used to use with the girls with school.  We would each choose one virtue to work on each week and then do something each day to work to improve within that virtue.  I think I am going to pull those cards out and work once again on that goal.  For how else do we move forward until we first identify where we are on the path.  It is hard to take a step forward if we are blind and can’t see which way is forward and which backward.

So, one baby step at a time.  Thank God it isn’t a race!

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The 2 Great Commandments

Today’s Gospel reading is from Mark 12: 28-34.  In this passage, one of the scribes asked Jesus which is the first of all the commandments?  Jesus replied, saying that the 1st is to love God with our whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and all of our strength.  The 2nd is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Hmm, the first one I know I can do.  The second one… sounds easy and simple, doesn’t it?  HA!  Nothing is farther from the truth with all of the complexities of ‘etiquette’ in our world today!

Today, unless you accept everyone else no matter what they believe and allow them to do things that you believe are wrong — then you aren’t a loving person.  In fact, one example of this is regarding society’s view of sex.  If you speak up and state that you believe that sexual intimacy should be shared only by people who are married and that if a couple isn’t married, they shouldn’t be living together — then you are ostracized as being out of touch with reality.  If you go one step farther and state that you believe that marriage should be one man and one woman, you are then a bigot.  All of this is decided based upon words — NOT actions.  Even if you act in a loving manner to those who are not following these beliefs, it doesn’t matter.  You are considered prejudiced and a bigot just because of your beliefs.

I heard a talk this morning on the radio about our call as Christians to confess our sins.  The speaker talked about how most of us struggle just to get our actual sins out when confessing.  But, have we looked at the second part of what we are commanded?  We are not only to confess our sins, but we are also supposed to confess ‘the good that we failed to do’.  So, what does that mean exactly?

The Spiritual Works of Mercy

                To admonish sinners.
                To instruct the ignorant.
                To counsel the doubtful.
                To comfort the sorrowful.
                To bear wrongs patiently.
                To forgive all injuries.
                To pray for the living and the dead.

The Corporal Works of Mercy
                 To feed the hungry
                To give drink to the thirsty.
                To clothe the naked.
                To visit and ransom the captives.
                To shelter the homeless.
                To visit the sick.
                To bury the dead.

All Christians are called to do corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  There has always been a pretty strong support for the corporal works within in the Christian community and society, but what about the spiritual works of mercy?  Society tells us that we aren’t loving our neighbor if we admonish them for their sins.  If we try to instruct them on God’s ways or counsel those who are doubting, all of this is wrong.  We are told that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves and not force them on others.  This stance of society is totally ignoring the first two spiritual works of mercy!  Yes, we need to counsel, comfort, bear wrongs, forgive and to pray.  But, we also need to admonish those who are sinning around us.  We need to instruct those who are ignorant.

As a business owner/manager and employer in today’s world, I try to live the commandments — the original 10 as well as these 2 great commandments given by Christ.  But, with all of the legal restrictions of what you can say, what you can’t say, what you ‘should’ say and to whom, and all of the other millions of little legal etiquette of being an employer, it isn’t so simple.  For example, when a fellow business owner calls to ask for a reference for a previous employee, the law ties your tongue.  Sometimes, I feel like being an employer is a tightrope walk!  Just to take one of these calls turns my stomach into knots of fear about possibly saying something wrong and then having to deal with fallout for our business!  Even being honest and not saying anything bad has gotten fellow business friends into whole heap loads of trouble.  So, it makes me not want to even take these calls!!  I do love my neighbor and want to help my neighbor however I can.  But, the reality is that in these days, saying something you perceive as being ‘great’ and a ‘great review’ can be the exact opposite of what the other business is wanting to hear and might cause that person to not get the job. *sigh*  As I said… it’s a minefield ready to blow someone into smithereens even when they are trying to walk the straight and narrow!

Sometimes, it feels like the same type of thing with our kids — especially teenagers today!  You think that you are doing what they have told you they want, and then find out later that you weren’t really supposed to believe that what they said was really what they wanted. *bigger sigh*

Life isn’t easy.  But, even though it isn’t easy to walk against the current of today’s complexities and social intricacies, I find that if I keep my eyes on Christ and keep on trudging against the current that is trying to pull me down, I can make progress towards heaven even if it is only small baby steps!  After all, what else here is worth keeping our eyes/focus on?

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Serenity in life?? Is it possible?

Wow!  It is amazing to see how much time has flown by since I lasted posted.  It isn’t that I haven’t been doing my daily prayer and reading, but is more a function of deciding that I would rather relax in the evening and my computer is downstairs while the family is upstairs.  So…. time slips away!

I had the opportunity today to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament for two hours.  This was especially nice because I was just on retreat last weekend and have felt rushed/overwhelmed since I came back.  Re-entry into life is sometimes the hardest part of going on retreat for me!

The theme for the retreat was The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.  Most people know the prayer by its first lines.  But, there is a whole lot more with a lot more power in the rest of the prayer.  If you haven’t heard the whole thing before, here it is…


Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference,

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying each moment at a time,

Accepting hardships and pain as the pathway to peace,

Taking as He did this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it,

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will,

That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with

Him forever.

During the conference, there were 10 conferences/presentations.  Each of the conferences focused on just one of these lines.  For example, the first line — “God” — the conference focused on who do we say God is for us?  Is He the picture of the old man with the gray hair and beard surrounded by cherubim that is so often pictured in art?  Just who is God?

The line that stands out to me today is the 9th line of the prayer (Trusting that He will make …..).  In today’s Gospel reading from Mark 11, Jesus told us point-blank…

“Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.”

Isn’t this what this line of the prayer is saying?  Trust Him!  Probably one of the hardest things to do in life, but the most important!  I’m working on it God…

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