Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy New Year! Advent 2011

The new year is here! I was a little more prepared this year since I had just had spiritual direction last week and the 1st Sunday of Advent had really been hyped up this year due to the NEW TRANSLATION of the Roman Missal.

I have an awesome friend who gave me the strong advice to start singing the phrase "new translation" to the tune of INXS' "New Sensation" whenever someone started complaining about the changes in the Missal- ha! My friends are 80s/liturgical nerds as well.

You're welcome.

I was almost a little nervous to go to my parents' parish this morning for Mass because I wasn't sure how the parish would respond or how they had been prepared for the changes. I shouldn't have really been nervous. The priest and the parishoners did great. I think the hardest part was the "and with your spirit" response, but once we get it down, it's going to be beautiful.

And I absolutely love the new response post-Lamb of God where we articulate the words of the centurion: "Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word and my SOUL shall be healed."

My SOUL shall be healed. LOVE THAT.

The priest gave a really lovely homily on the typical Advent speak: Waiting, Expecting, etc. But he called to our attention the distinction between waiting and expectation.

Waiting tends to be negative. He used the example if a flight gets delayed, we are stuck in traffic, etc. We hate waiting and lose focus of what is expected- namely, the destination, the hope, the joy that awaits us on the other end of what we are waiting for.

I thought this was a nice thought to begin Advent. I get so focused sometimes on celebrating Advent and doing it right, that I lose sight of the joy of Christmas. Or Christmas just creeps up on us, which is why we need the waiting of Advent. I think the priest today was saying to truly use this holding pattern of Advent to focus on the joy that awaits- at Christmas and in heaven.

I actually tend to give even "expectation" a negative connotation sometimes. Alot of us set our expectations in a way that they aren't realistic and then they set us up for disappointment. The beauty of Christmas is that it IS real- there is a real goal of Christ and of heaven. And I remember a sister telling me before I entered the convent to even "expect MORE" from Jesus.

So as I wait for Christmas this year, I want to continue to draw closer to His Sacred Heart and his person (as mentioned in a previous post)and to focus on the reality of that expectation of joy and hope.

I'm also bringing back my Advent resolution of last year to pray the rosary each day. I also bought an Advent wreath since I have a CLASSROOM to put it in and intend to pray each day with my students as we prepare for Christmas.

As we mediate on the waiting and expectation of Christ's birth of Christmas, I think of this song:

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

A little old school made "new" in honor of the new translation. Man, I'm a nerd!

You love it. Happy Advent!

The Year in Pics 2011

I did a post before Advent last year with pictures of highlights from that year as I reflected on beginning the new liturgical year. I'd like to do the same with 2011, even though I have NO IDEA where it went! Here are some highlights:

Well, first of all, I became a teacher:

And this led me to Camden, NJ this summer

We lost my Grandma Strukely, but have the hope and blessing of her prayers:

I said goodbye to my old "jinger" roommates and hello to a new, "divine" household:

And 2011 was the year of many significant birthdays...

My Mom's 60th

Many friends turning 30...

...including me!

And started off with the annual Winter retreat and my Spring Break trip to FL!

And no year in my life would be complete without music ministry and a wedding or two:

Stay tuned for my official "Advent"/New Year reflection, but all and all, 2011 was a great year! Bring on 2012!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Heaven Isn't Too Far Away

Yes, that's right. I just used a Warrant lyric as a title for this blog. You're welcome. Here's even a link to the video

Talk of heaven has been the theme for my past week as I taught the Ascension to my students. And now we have upon us the theme of Christ the King today which we celebrate Jesus as the King of Heaven and Earth.

And here's another 80s hit with a heavenly theme

For the record, as much as I LOVED this song growing up, Belinda Carlisle's concept of heaven being a place on earth is not liturgically correct. Heaven HELP US if Heaven is like a place here on a earth.

Also, I never understood the children in masks in that video. Makes heaven seem a little scary, huh? Though, if heaven is a place on earth, I think that would be scary.

That's why it's so great that it's not. We don't know exactly what heaven will be like, but we do know we will be in complete union with God. I know I've mentioned before how my students don't understand how this could be positive. They think it's going to be boring. I keep telling them that getting to just SIT and BE for all eternity sounds AWESOME. They also can't imagine a world without video games, so they worry me a little.

Though today is a great feast in its own right, I was struck yesterday at daily Mass by the Gospel reading:

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
"Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her."

I was struck because these Sadducees sound like my students. They are posing some very specific questions to Jesus: "Well what if this dude marries this girl, but then HE dies, and then another dude marries her, and then He dies, and then..."

UGH. I HATE the "what if" scenarios my students create just to stump me in class.

The Sadducees are doing the same thing- trying to stump Jesus. Only here's the thing- I'M NOT JESUS. Wait. WHAT? Yeah. I'm not. Glad we cleared that up.

Though, I AM the students' teacher, which is why they pay me the big bucks. (yeah, right). And the people of Jesus' time called Him "Rabbi" and "Master". (Note: my students call me neither of these things).

So lately I have been kind of beating myself up when I DON'T have all the answers for the students. I want them to understand and answer their questions, but the reality is, again, NOT GOD here. Also, Heaven is a MYSTERY to us in a way. But it is a reality that we should want to work towards, so I want to make that message as clear as possible.

God has taken to humbling me this week. I mentioned last post how Mother Nature was perhaps making me a little vulnerable. Well, i don't know if that's still the case or the change in the weather, or the inquisition of students, or just the need for the upcoming Thanksgiving break, but God has been allowing me to be a little vulnerable and broken down this week. And humility is good, because it keeps us close to Him. I just wish it didn't feel so icky at times.

I finally got to have spiritual direction (Yay!) and it was so good. I have been struggling- as is often the case with ministers- to separate my prayer time that's just for ME vs turning it into lesson planning time for my classes. I will go to pray and immediately think of what I can use in a lesson plan or bring to my classes. Lately, I've just needed to be me in front of Jesus. Not Julia the teacher, Just Julia. (no jazz hands, please :).

Our bishop in the Arlington Diocese has been promoting a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus recently. My spiritual director and I both agreed that we didn't initially understand fully the beauty of this devotion. My roommates and I have been talking about having an image of the Sacred Heart blessed and dedicated in our house, and while I wasn't against it, I guess I didn't understand the need I had in my life for this devotion at this particular time.

At Spiritual Direction, Father shared with me how beautiful the devotion really is- How we can go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and just allow ourselves to be loved by Him. It sounds so simple, but it is what I needed this week. These past couple of months have been so full of ministry opportunities and I'm so grateful for them, but I've found that I needed to be ministered TO of late. And to just allow the Sacred Heart of Jesus to love me, all going back to that whole concept of being the Beloved.

So Jesus, though breaking me down a little, is doing some good things in my life- drawing me close to Him again after a couple of months of giving a lot in ministry. I think this period of time will be a time of refreshment. We have Thanksgiving coming, up and...omg...ADVENT NEXT WEEK! Our liturgical new year! Time to make some resolutions!

Also, this is the LAST SUNDAY for the "old" Mass translations. Beginning on the 1st Sunday of Advent next week, we will have some NEW responses in the English Mass. I've blogged about this before. I'm a little nervous, little excited in such a ridiculously nerdy way. I'm ready to begin the changes and see what fruit they bring.

That seems to be a theme- a little stepping outside our comfort zone, a little change, to bring about great fruit if we let it.

Heaven isn't too far away, people :) We are working towards it little by little in each of these ways.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving! I know we all have much to be thankful for.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cursing and Crying

So I was supposed to have Spiritual Direction today for the first time in I don't know how long and had been somewhat looking forward to it. I had no idea what I was really going to say. I've still been focusing on detachment and spiritual poverty in my prayer, but I haven't really been DOING anything of those things.

My prayer has been there, but it's more like I'm just kind of punching my time card in with Jesus. I will swing by past Adoration before or after the gym and I know that's good and all, but I haven't been actually practicing the spiritual detachment or emptying out myself before God as one of the definitions of spiritual poverty.

(I know because I just gave a test to my students in which spiritual poverty was a vocab word. I also accepted other variations on the definition. I'm a NICE teacher. Sometimes :)

Something came up and Father had to cancel and it really was probably for the best. I took that time to go pray and actually set out to try and do the things I have been SAYING I've been praying about for the past month or so.

I should start by saying I have had a crazy couple of weeks. Nothing bad, just a lot going on at school with the end of the quarter and the non-stop ministry month that was October sneaking into the beginning of November.

I also should start by saying I have been in a somewhat vulnerable state of late. I'm assuming it just begins with a P, ends with an S and has an M in the middle. Sorry if that's TMI for my male readers. It happens.

I had just been having typical mini-moments of "humph" that is affliated with such a state, but today I had the tears. I'm not ashamed to say that because they were just mini-tears and somewhat laughable, but they felt good in a weird way at the same time.

I couldn't remember the last time I had a little emotional teary-eyed moment. It surprisingly did NOT occur when I was babysitting last Saturday and the beautiful child asked me TO PRAY PART OF THE ROSARY with him! This could have ended in ovary explosion (again, sorry for too much detail, boys. Please see this post from earlier this year for further explanation about the somewhat vulgar image).

Anyways, the tears came- as they often do with the P and the M and the S- in a stupid, laughable moment. I was crossing the street and actually playing the voicemail Father had left me saying he had to cancel our appointment. As I'm doing this- crossing IN the CROSSWALK, mind you, with seconds to spare- some jerk lays on his horn and calls me an idiot...FOR WALKING IN THE CROSSWALK.

Being the sass queen that I am and now the proud East Coaster, I let out a little NYC and told him what was what. Namely, that I was IN THE CROSSWALK.

I'm sure you've all had similar experiences in cars (or you know, in other modes of transportation like on foot...) where you just get so ANGRY! And you don't even KNOW the person but you DESPISE them!

This was the case and when I made it to my own vehicle, I sat in the car and I shed a tear. I did.

But the release felt good. And so I continued it before Jesus in the chapel.

It was then I realized I haven't been detaching or emptying or even really PRAYING the way I wanted to. I apologized to Jesus, and then I felt the nudge to look to Scripture. This is what I turned to:

"Jesus Curses a Fig Tree" and the "Cleansing of the Temple"

Cursing and Anger, for the win! :)

The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree seems funny without the bookend of that story. As is common technique for the Gospel writer, Mark, the story of the fig tree has the cleansing of the temple smashed into the middle of the beginning and the end of the fig tree story.

The story begins with Jesus cursing at a fig tree because it didn't have anything on it. Ha! I love Mark's picture of a Sassy Jesus.

After he throws everything around and tells people what's what in the temple, he returns to the fig tree and the fig tree He had cursed is now withered. BAM! Do not mess with the best!

But then Jesus uses the fig tree to teach THIS lesson to his apostles:

"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. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours."

And for some reason (we probably all know what reason by now) I cried some more.

Jesus was using his sass to tell us to TRUST Him. This is a language I SPEAK. Also, it spoke to my needing to empty everything out so that there is NO doubt in my heart. DETACHMENT. Detach from the doubt. Detach from going through the motions. Be a little spontaneous. Yell at some fig trees or whatever else might listen :) Be vulnerable.

I like it. Sassy Jesus never lets me down.

I also sang (in my head. I know that's WEIRD but that's what I DO sometimes in prayer. Secret's out) this song that I have always loved and kind of puts me in my place before God (and may or may not get me a little weepy from time to time):

Before You Now, in the beauty of Your Presence
And as I bow, you surround me with Your radiance
I worship, I worship You.
I worship, I worship You.

Before You Now, as your loving arms enfold me
I am in awe of your power and Your glory
I worship, I worship You
I worship, I worship you

I surrender to the call upon my heart
I surrender to Your Passion and desire....

It repeats and it is pretty :) And that is all you get from me today. Enough secrets for one post!

Please pray for another Senior Retreat we are going on tomorrow. I really do pray for these kids and I know your prayers work! Thanks!