A change of seasons

April 1, 2010

 One thing I love about the Catholic faith is the seasons of the liturgical calendar. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, especially today, the beginning of the Paschal Triduum.

Paschal Triduum: A period of three days for the most exalted liturgical celebration of the year, beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and concluding with Vespers on Easter Sunday, recalling the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, along with His Institution of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.

For the last 40 days, the Mass Scripture readings, the prayers and the music have pointed us toward the this triduum celebration. I love this about the Church. There’s no way that Good Friday and Easter can just creep up on you in the Catholic faith.  Instead we’ve been slowing creeping up on it, preparing our hearts and minds through prayer, fasting, going to confession and meditating on Christ’s humility and self-sacrificing love.

And here’s what is so beautiful: We won’t just celebrate Easter for a day and then move on or go back to studying a randomly  selected book of the Bible. We spent 40 days in Lent, a season of repentance and dying to self. For the 50 days following Easter we will celebrate, rejoice and focus on Christ’s resurrection and his time on earth after his resurrection. All the prayers, Scripture readings and music will emphasize this. All of this then leads us to the celebration of Pentecost when He sent His Holy Spirit to lead and guide His Church.

I treasure these seasons and the rhythm of living them with our parish community. I love the preparation and then the joyful celebration. I think we humans are hardwired this way. Just look at the secular world, even they enjoy a change of seasons, reasons to celebrate. It’s so fitting then that God would redeem this part of our human nature and give us a Church that leads us through seasons and celebrations that emphasize the true meaning of life — the grace, salvation and love of God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

So tonight begins the Triduum. We call this Holy Thursday. It’s the night Christ  instituted the Eucharist. He celebrated the Last Supper, consecrated the bread and the wine, and called his 12 disciples to do the same. This is why we also celebrate the institution of Holy Orders today.  

With respect to Holy Orders and the priesthood here’s something to think about…

On the night before He died, Jesus even called Judas to this role of priest. He knew Judas was going to fail him as a priest and betray Him and His Church. The same goes for Peter whom He called to be the rock of the Church and the first pope (click here if you need more Scriptural support for this), except Peter repented. 

It’s interesting to note that the human failings of the disciples didn’t stop Jesus from building His Church and giving us priests to celebrate the Eucharist.  He knew all along there would be faithful priests who would still fall but repent and there would be some unfaithful, unrepentant priests. Maybe we need to have a little more faith and trust that God is in charge of the Church no matter how grieviously some our leaders might fail us.

Tonight my family and I plan to go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is a beautiful liturgy. After which the priest removes the Blessed Sacrament (the Body of Christ) from the Tabernacle.  The removal of his tangible, physcial presence from the church is symbolic of His death. 

At my parish, Jesus, who is present in the Blessed Sacrament is taken to an auxiliary chapel, reminiscent of the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the first disciples, we are invited to come and pray with Him “in the Garden” until midnight. After that the Blessed Sacrament is removed. Just as Jesus was taken from the Garden by the soldiers and His disciples were left without Him we too are left without the tangible presence of Christ until we celebrate His resurrection at Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

Last year was the first year Claire understood what was going on at this Mass. As the priest took the Body of Christ from the Tabernacle Claire started to cry. She leaned over and whispered, Mommy, I know Jesus lives in my heart but I don’t want Him to leave the Tabernacle tonight.  I imagine the disciples felt the same when the soldiers dragged their beloved Jesus away.

I don’t know if your church celebrates the Paschal Triduum but if you’re looking for a way to recognize these three solemn and holy days I encourage you to check out your local Catholic Church. You are always welcome and I guarantee that if you come with an open heart and mind you will be blessed by this liturgy.

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I know, I know, I know

March 3, 2010

 

When I said God’s word for me this Lent is humility I wasn’t kidding or thinking in the abstract.

Saturday morning Scott and I were in the car talking while waiting at a four-way stop. I don’t remember the details of the conversation but Scott was about to tell me something I really didn’t want to hear. It was nothing big, no life or marriage altering announcement, just something I’d done that was bothering him. Instantly, instinctively protecting my pride, I cut him off…

Me: I know

Scott: You didn’t even let me finish what I was saying.

 [True, but I knew where he was going with this conversation and I wanted to let him know that I already knew.]

Me: I know, Scott. I know.

Scott: When you cut me off like that and won’t let me explain what it is you’ve done and what I’m thinking, that drives me crazy…

Me: [Cutting him off again] I know, I know, I know.

Scott: Do you realize this is what Claire does when we’re trying to explain something or correct her? She interrupts and won’t listen.

 [Cringing, I flashback to Wednesday when I was trying to explain to Claire why something she’d done to her sister was wrong and she kept interrupting saying I know Mom, I know. In her pride she didn’t want to be corrected and told what she was doing that was wrong. That lead to a conversation about how she needs to listen even when she thinks she already knows what she’s done wrong and what we’re going to say. ]

Me:[Long pause]…I do that a lot. I’m certain that’s where Claire gets it. I’m sorry. 

Scott: [Nodding and accepting my apology he graciously lightens the tone of our conversation with his humor…] Finally, one bad habit they have that can’t be blamed on me!

Nope, this one is all on me. And more than I wanted to admit at the time.

As we drove through the four-way stop God brought to my mind a time when I was 14 and my sister Meg and I were stopped at a light (coincidently only two blocks away). She was trying to tell me something my prideful heart didn’t want to hear. I did the same thing to her that I did to Scott. Like the good big sister she was, she put me in my place for it. Clearly I didn’t learn my lesson.

Later I asked God…

Have I really been doing this for all these years? Am I that prideful, that slow to learn? Did I really pass this habitual response on to Claire?

I don’t think I need to tell you God’s answers. Ouch!

It’s week two and God isn’t letting me get away with much.  I think this is going to be a long Lent.


To be or not to be…

March 2, 2010

 

It seems God’s word for me this Lent is humility. The Mass and Magnificat readings, the books I pick up, the homilies I hear, they all seem to be saying one thing:

If you want to be more loving, more like Jesus, then

allow yourself to be humbled.

St. Therese of Lisieux put it this way: You want to climb a mountain whereas God wants you to descend: actually He is waiting for you below in the valley of humility…The one way to make rapid progress in the life of love is to remain always little.

To remain little…It’s so contrary to the message of the world and even the message of some people who believe they’re following Christ.  

Remaining little is not easy. Ego, pride, self-love, they dictate that we deserve so much more in this life and keep us from truly loving others. Perhaps that’s why we need “to be humbled” as much as we need “to humble ourselves.” 

Convicted of our pride, on some level, many of us impose upon ourselves a certain standard or rule of humility in order to humble ourselves before God and even man. Not surprisingly the insidious nature of our ego encourages us to take pride in doing so. That’s why there is something different about choosing humility in the face of humiliating circumstances and interactions with others. 

In his book Holy Abandonment, Fr. Lehodey offers this quote by St. Francis De Sales:

 There are two ways of humiliation…most people consent to humble themselves but not to be humbled by others. This is a serious mistake..

Lehodey goes on to suggest that if you want to know if your humility is genuine or whether you’re growing in humility all you must do is look at the way you accept being humiliated. Ouch!

So here is a little questionnaire for us today:  How do you react…

…when someone is inconsiderate of your plans, desires, needs, feelings?

…when someone contradicts your opinion publicly or even privately?

…when someone points out a mistake you made or proves you wrong?

…when someone points out your sin or a character flaw in you?

…when life doesn’t go as you planned and God doesn’t answer your prayers in the way you wanted?

… when your spouse, children, friends, co-workers disregard your advice?

… when you’re criticized unjustly?

…when God asks you to do something but you feel self-conscious, embarrassed or don’t want to be seen by others?

…when someone is simply rude to you?

The list of questions could go on and if you so desire you might make your own list as you reflect on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about humility. Of course He can speak volumes to our hearts on this subject but in the end it’s up to us as to whether we are willing to be or not to be humbled.

 

a journey with Jesus…

February 18, 2010

 

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent is upon us already. This is such a powerful season and beautiful reminder of how we are called to live with humble and contrite hearts before God. 

At our Wednesday afternoon park day with some other Catholic home school families some of the moms talked about sacrificing things for Lent. It proved to be a very interesting conversation. [ And no Nancy, I’m not going to take your suggestion and write about THAT! 🙂 ]

Three conclusions I made from our discussion:

1) Your Lenten sacrifices and commitments should come from the heart. If you give up a food or beverage don’t do it to lose weight or just get rid of habit. Let it be a real sacrifice. When you desire it, offer up the sacrifice of that desire to God with a specific prayer intention for someone else.  For example: If you’re giving up dessert then each time you’re tempted to eat it offer up your sacrifice and pray for the the single mom at your church who can barely buy enough food to feed her kids dinner much less buy the treats and extras. 

2) Your Lenten sacrifices and commitments should draw you closer to Jesus so you become more like Him.

3) People will offer you many “holy” and interesting suggestions for what you should or shouldn’t do during Lent. But, if you’re paying attention to #1 and #2 then the sacrifices you make for the Lord will most likely look different from those around you. And that’s as it should be.

Each one of us is unique and have our own faith journey to walk with Jesus. While we can learn from the saints and other holy brothers and sisters, we aren’t called to be another St. Clare, St. Francis, St. Therese’ or Mother Teresa. We are called to be holy and to let God express His love through our unique gifts and personalities. This is what I want for my Lenten journey and my life. I hope that’s what you want too.


To Refuse Him Nothing

February 25, 2009

Tomorrow is  Ash Wednesday. Hard to believe it’s the end of February and Lent is already here.

Lately, I’ve found myself re-visiting the writings of Mother Teresa as well as her Patroness, St. Therese of Lisieux. I think I did the same thing last year at the beginning of Lent. It must have something to do with how these two women truly understand what self-abandonment and sacrificial love mean. They were both so in love with Jesus that they held nothing back from Him. Their lives on earth were testaments to what it means to die to one’s self-love and personal desires in order to love him and the people around them. Mother Teresa even made a vow in this regard; a vow to refuse Him nothing.

On the surface it sounds so simple. How often I’ve said I will surrender everything to God. The words are easy to speak but to live them, to abandon myself so completely that I refuse Him nothing nor resist Him in any way, that’s another thing entirely. 

I want to love Him so much that I would do His will no matter the cost to my pride, my plans, my comfort, my deepest desires. But, the truth is I am weak and more often than not I wrestle with God before I finally submit to his will. I have journals full of conversations with God that reveal just how hard my flesh will fight to hold onto what it desires. Over the years I’ve learned to give up and go fewer rounds with God but sadly my selfish resistence often results in sin that comes in the form of  missed opportunities to love others.  These small opportunities to love are the very thing that Mother Teresa was convinced Jesus wanted most from us.

To the good God nothing is little…He stoops down and takes the trouble to make those little things for us–to give us a chance to prove our love for him…Yes my dear children, be faithful in little practices of love, of little sacrifices–of the little interior mortification–of little fidelities which build in you the life of holiness and make you Christ-like…So do not look for big things, just do small things with great love. (Mother Teresa)

As I think about Lent and the ways in which I might sacrifice during this season my spirit wants to refuse Him nothing. I want to stop wrestling with God and submit my will the first time He asks (in the big stuff and the small stuff).  My flesh, however, is another story.  This makes giving up dessert and Blue Moon look like a piece of cake (bad pun fully intended).

Actually, this isn’t something I would want to say lightly to God. It’s only by grace that any of us even desire to surrender and it’s only by grace that we ever choose His will over our own selfish desires. So as I begin my Lenten journey I think I’ll start by asking for grace–the grace to learn what it means to die to self for the next forty days (and the rest of my life).  

 


My Great Temptation

March 21, 2008

bread 

*** 

No, it’s not “carbs” as the picture might suggest. I’m sure that’s surprising to those of you who know I have a huge sweet tooth and a penchant for Blue Moon beer. No, my great temptation is something different.

I’ve come believe that knowing who I am in Christ and who I am a part from Him is the key to persevering in His grace. The great temptation I (we) face on a daily basis is to deny, forget and lose faith in our identity as God’s beloved son or daughter.  

Why is this such a great temptation?

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete expresses it beautifully. Here is an excerpt taken from one of his meditations found in yesterday’s Magnificat readings.

Meditation on the temptations of Jesus has always been part of the Church’s celebration of Lent…

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves.” (Matt. 4:3)

All particular temptations are expressions of this one original or “primordial temptation. This is the temptation to believe that the fulfillment of the desires of the human heart depends entirely on us. Dependence on another leaves us at the mercy of what we cannot control. Therefore, we are tempted to reject all forms of dependence.

The most radical dependence is love. Therefore, the original temptation is to deny that our existence is a pure and perfect gift of an infinite Love that deserves to be loved in return. The fullest revelation that God is love is the incarnation of Christ. Therefore, the primordial temptation is to reject the incarnation and its consequences.

Even Jesus himself was subject to this temptation. He was tempted to deny the very experience of his own identity: “If you are the Son of God…” The boldness of the temptation is terrifying. The temptation of Jesus is to doubt his own identity as the Father’s Son. It is really not a matter of proving his divinity; it is a tempation to reject his absolute dependence on the Father as the revelation of his own divinity! It is to betray the revelation of God as Trinity, of God as Love. [Magnificat: March, 2008, p. 122]

This is my daily temptation as well.

It seems the world, my flesh and the enemy conspire to lead me down my own path of independence and self-reliance.  They whisper lies to my heart that tempt me to forget what my innermost being knows to be true: I am sustained by my Father who loves me, who calls me his beloved daughter and has my very best interests at heart.

When I listen to the lies and forget this truth I am tempted to pick up the stones around me and feast on them. I look for sustenance where sustenance can’t be found.  In the process I’ve nibbled on those stones and suffered the consequences. 

That is why I need and choose to run to to the table of our Lord as often as possible. It is there I am reminded of the truth of who He is and who I am in Him. It’s there that I feast on true sustanance, Jesus, the bread of life.

This is the truth that Jesus knew:  

I am the Son of God and my Father will sustain me. How simple and yet profound and powerful.

We can know and rest in this truth too.  Living in this helps us overcome  that great temptation to depend on ourselves instead of the loving provision of our Abba Father.

We must always remember we are His beloved sons and daughters and Father will sustain us by the power of the Holy Spirit through His Son Jesus, the true bread of life.


What are you giving up?

February 11, 2008

The most asked question during the Lenten season:

So what are you giving up?Some years I’ve answered this question. Other years I’ve felt like the Holy Spirit has told me to keep it between the Lord and myself. One year it wasn’t so much a giving up as it was a “taking on” of the active pursuit of reconciliation and healing in some relationships that had become strained.I’m not sharing the things the Lord has asked me to surrender or give up this year. Let’s just say this is gonna’ be a challenging Lent, a really really challenging Lent. God must have known it was going to be hard on me because He called me to this sacrifice a few weeks ago. I guess He thought I needed a little extra time on my knees in prayer (yes, that’s how strong-willed I am).  

Because I’ve had a jump start on this Lent my flesh is starting to rebel a little and I have moments when I feel  a little cranky about this whole “sacrifice thing.” [Hey, for you it’s only day 6, I’ve been at this for a few weeks!] 🙂

The other day when someone asked me what I planned to give up here were a few of the thoughts that crossed my mind. 

  • Driving in the traffic caused by the slow snowbirds who’ve invaded Florida for the winter!
  • Brussel sprouts (ok, I gave those up a longggggg time ago)
  • Exercise!
  • Planning and prepping for dinner  each night (don’t mind cooking, just all the prep work)
  • Folding laundry (Actually, I don’t have to give that one up, Scott folds most of the laundry in this house. Don’t ask me how I got lucky with that one. I just did.)
  • Did I say exercise yet? 🙂
  • Standing in line at the grocery store with all the slow snowbirds (yes, I have patience issues)
  • Doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors…Cleaning in general

I think that’s all for now. I’m feeling better now that I shared what my flesh really wants to give up.

Seriously though…

There’s great joy that comes with obedience to God’s call to sacrifice and surrender during Lent. May you know the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings as you prepare your heart during this season.