Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nobody Said it was Easy

These lyrics from Coldplay's "The Scientist" keep ringing in my head as I pray these last couple days (which is quite ironic in and of itself, I do realize. See, Science and Faith DO go together :)

But the chorus goes:

"Nobody said it was easy
Nobody said it was gonna be this hard
Oh let's go back to the start"

There are days when trying to live the Gospel surely makes us want to sing these words, and lately I've been singing 'em!

It's hard to live what one believes when a culture is telling us to do what is easy, what is convenient, what will get us ahead. And this isn't what the Gospel tells us.

Jesus pretty much tells us what Chris Martin says in these lyrics. He tells us this life isn't going to be easy, living the way He proclaims isn't always convenient, and it may seem crazy to the rest of the world. He certainly seemed crazy to a lot of people. His followers who jumped on the train thinking He was cool at first, eventually started to turn away when the Truth began to get to be to much:

"Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This is hard; who can accept it?...many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."

How sad this must've been for Jesus. To be trying to share Good News with people, tell them about how He wants to give them His Life, and they walk away because it is hard.

This passage is actually taken from the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 which I LOVE just because it is so radical, but is the central core of our faith. Jesus tells the disciples in this passage that He is giving them Eternal LIFE if they believe in the Eucharist- that He will die for us, but remain with us on earth through BREAD. This is what we are saying we believe every day at Mass!

But I know myself I question all the time. And I want to give up because some of the things God asks us seem just too crazy these days. Especially when it seems no one else around us believes these things anymore.

"Nobody said it was easy"

I am blessed, however, to have many people around me who are willing to fight the good fight and are witnesses to me. This week when I was feeling discouraged, I had at least half the people in my phone to call and have them tell me they also knew how hard it was to live the words of Jesus, which is ultimately counter-cultural and not what the world says.

So this blog is a tribute to them and though I have been discouraged and frustrated, wanting to give up the fight, the witnesses of the friends God has placed in my life (many of you reading this blog) keep me going. I hope this blog will return the favor should you ever feel discouraged in your journey with God and what He asks you to do.

For even Jesus surrounded Himself with people He knew would not ultimately leave Him, but would lift Him up. After the discouraged disciples walk away from His Gospel message the Apostles remain:

"Jesus then said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered Him, 'Master, to whom should we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.'" John 6-67-68

We are working towards Eternal Life, friends, not the life that our culture tells us to live. And I am glad I have you to 'run the race' with me! The verse that spawned this blog- Hebrews 12:1-2- can be our guide!

Thanks for reading and for running.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reflection on the Manger by Blessed James Alberione

Reflection that one of the sisters sent me this Christmas on the manger (from the writings of the Daughters' founder, Blessed James Alberione)

From the writings of Blessed James Alberione

The manger is way, truth and life:

The manger is a way:
Descending from the heavens, Jesus does not choose to open a great university before men’s eyes. He comes to us instead, in a cave where the animals find refuge. And Mary, instrument of Divine Providence, places him in a manger. The reign of God begins always like a mustard seed. The works of God begin in this way. Blessed is the one who begins from the manger.

The manger is a truth:
The manger is the center of the story. The manger is a lamp for humanity, a lamp that must give light to all humanity: ”He was the true light that enlightens every man.” (John 1:9) Since then, everything flows from the Son of God, who is the light, the Truth and Wisdom of the Father, so then all of the human and theological sciences find their center in the manger, because the true Master is Christ. All light comes from Jesus. God in his mercy, gives us His wisdom.

The manger is a life:
The manger is grace. All the good things that we could ever desire or seek, we find in the Child Jesus lying on the hay in the manger. Jesus is totally poor as regards earthly goods but he is totally rich in heavenly goods, or better still, he is the wealth of the Father and of men. Let us go to him with trust and express to him our personal needs, the needs of humanity, the needs of our brothers and sisters, the needs of all we love and who love us. Let us remember everyone, widening our hearts, especially let us reach out to those in need of spiritual help.

Silent Night(s)

It's Christmas Eve- Advent has come to a close! And so now it's time for me to look back at Advent and see if I have prepared well for the coming of this new life in Jesus!

Advent is our 'new year' and so it is natural to look back at the year and make resolutions for the next. It is also the time to prepare for Christmas as well as Christ's second coming.

I must say (if I do say so myself!) I really tried to take advantage of Advent this year, perhaps because this year has been one of somewhat desolation- a lot of Silent Nights between God and I.

The desolation was good because it led me out of one vocation and has brought me into discerning again. And it has helped me to be more patient in waiting for the Life that will come at Christmas and in the next.

Through Advent we hear a lot about people in the Bible who are barren. Most recently there was Hannah who remained barren until the Lord gave her Samuel. Elizabeth was barren until John. Both Samuel and John are essential biblical characters meant to demonstrate Christ's coming from the Root of Jesse, the Tree of David.

I was praying about barrenness and the signifcance of it, though, because we've all experienced it to different degrees- times where we feel we are lacking something. The little 'blue book' I use for Advent reflection mentioned that the signifcance of the barrenness of these women was to show the importance and specialness of the child that then comes.

So this had led me to think about the barrenness in my own life this year. As I mentioned, there has been desolation. And in our women's group we often talk about suffering ( I know this is a weird message the night before Christmas, but I'll get there, I promise!) because it is something we can all relate to on different levels. One thing I've realized is that though there is always someone who is suffering more than we are and we can look to them to give us perspective on our own suffering, but we still need to embrace the suffering (the barrenness)that God gives us specifically. Because I believe it will show us the specialness, the importance of the Life that will come.

Whether or not that 'life' means, an event happening to us here on earth- finally figuring out a vocation, a fulfilling job, a spouse- or perhaps just the realization of how beautiful Heaven will be (because that is when we will only truly be fulfilled). Christmas is a time to look at the barrenness in our lives, but also the hope of life that comes through Christ and the gift that He is.

I hope this all makes sense, as usual!

So this Christmas I am tying in all that I've learned this year (or at least trying!) God puts us through some barrenness, so that we may come to see- either in this life or the next- the specialness of his Gifts of Himself and of others. May God give us Light and Hope this Christmas to embrace both the waiting and the gifts of the here and now!

I must say- since we are all waiting for something (ultimately heaven!) but a new job, or a baby, or a spouse- it is almost easier to live in the waiting period. We grow accustomed to it. It is much harder, for some reason, to embrace the here and now! So this Christmas I am trying to embrace the present, see that I am lacking nothing right now, and if I am barren in anyway, it is with the hope that life will come in God's time. Either here or in heaven.

Merry Christmas everyone!!! May you feel His HOPE and Love this time of year!

Peace in Him,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I should also mention that today is my sister's 26th birthday and I am grateful for the support she has been to me throughout my life, but particularly this year as we both lived in (and left!) St. Louis. Happy Birthday, Janet! And congrats again on getting engaged to Josh! (my sister and I pictured with Babci, everyone's favorite Polish grandma!)

O, Antiphons!

It's that time- the octave before Christmas! Hard to believe it's already here! I feel like I just blogged about my Advent intentions- yikes! I haven't been keeping up so great with St. Paul as I had planned. I have been doing Lectio before bed, though, with the daily Advent readings and that has been beneficial during this time of Advent.

Last year with the Daugthers was the first time I really prayed the 'O Antiphons' probably because it was the first time I was consistent with the Liturgy of the Hours (some people love to pray it- I can't get into it as much. I like praying the Liturgy, but I have a hard time being consistent with it. So much easier when it is built into your community schedule!)

Anyways, the O Antiphons are the names for the Messiah based on the prophecies of Isaiah. Fr. Saunders- one of the priests from the Diocese of Arlington- writes in detail about it here:

I don't know why I love them so much! Maybe because it helps really drive home the idea of our Salvation History. That there is so much rich history leading up to this event of Christmas! People waited centuries to experience what we take for granted now- a relationship with Jesus. And the O Antiphons easily describe and lead us into prayer about that relationship with Christ. He is our Wisdom, He is our Key, He is the Root of Jesse, He is Lord, He is King...I think I also like that it gives us different ways to think about and pray about all that Jesus is for us.

So anyways, enjoy these last days of Advent! I will be praying the O Antiphons with all of you in Spirit. And I also pray that we can live the O Antiphons- that we can live like we believe in the history it proclaims and the presence of Christ now in our lives.

Also, another fun link I just found a few days before Christmas- an interactive Advent calendar! The little doors open up when you scroll over them! The USCCB was never so cool...

Happy Octave!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lookin' like Christmas!

Our 'Real' Christmas Tree
We decked our halls...

Shopping for Tree #2

Decorating the 'Fake Tree'- that's right, we have two trees, folks.

Stockings hung by the window with care for each Jinger...

Be Not Afraid

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception-

So let's address the common 'mis'conception, and get that out of the way- today celebrates the day MARY was conceived by St. Anne without original sin. Not the day Mary conceived Jesus.

Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to share with you my reflection today!

The first reading for this feast is from Genesis, and it is the fall of Adam and Eve. It is pretty common knowledge in the Church that Mary is known as the New or Second Eve. That she is meant to right what Eve did wrong. And so the readings today also show this. The Gospel is the Annunciation account, or Mary's 'Yes'.

Both Mary and Eve were afraid in their respective stories. The difference is how they react to this fear.

In reading the Genesis account, I always identify with Adam and Eve, as we all should. We are all born with the original sin that this story is meant to depict. And it can be a hopeless account, if we get stuck there. We can get paralyzed by the fear of sin, we can think that there is no way out. And there isn't, on our own. Which is where the Gospel- the GOOD NEWS- comes in.

Mary's Immaculate Conception is that she isn't born with the original sin we are. She was set apart. I used to think this made me not able to identify with Mary. I'd get a little jealous of her. It seemed so easy for her then. But then I think about her getting pregnant out of wedlock and what that meant in her culture and getting betrothed, and watching her only Son die violently. Hmmm...nothing I really have or hope to endure. She wins. I'll give her the no original sin thing ;)

The beauty of Mary is that she was afraid when the angel came to her and asked her to do something she didn't think she was prepared for. But she said 'Yes, let it be done to me'- her fiat. So rarely like us. We get caught up in our fear and let that control us, rather than surrendering to God like Mary did.

So Mary is the new Eve, in that she gives us a new example. Where Eve failed, she picks up and shows us if we rely on God- not our own control, or fear- then we are free.

And I often forget about the Sacrament at Baptism. This feast day also reminds us of our Baptism and the NEW LIFE promised through Mary's yes. Because Mary said yes, we have Jesus. And because we have Jesus, He died and rose from the dead, giving us freedom and new life-freedom from the chains of sin! And because of this, we have Baptism which wipes away our original sin and helping us to be more reliant on God.

May we thank Mary and Jesus for their 'yes' today. Thank God for sending them to us and caring that much about us. And may we think of our Baptism and what it means- that we can TRUST our God and our faith, and not live in fear like Adam and Eve.