Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ready for Lent. No, seriously.

I know. Who says that, right? Who anticipates and counts down the days until Lent?

This girl. Namely 'cause I don't want to get in trouble with my spiritual director ( like when I showed up a couple times for Advent unprepared...) and I also was a girl scout. I like to BE PREPARED. That's just the kinda girl I am ;)

I overpack (because you never know what fashion mood you'll be in or what shoes you'll need!) and I make lists and color-coded piles of folders for work, school, etc. (In a COMPLETELY NON- OCD WAY, mind you). It's just what I do.

But winter makes me LAZY. And so I am anticipating the discipline of Lent. 'Cause I need it!

I've already started to think of some possibilities for my Lenten observance/sacrifice (over-achiever. I KNOW). I definitely need to get back into my routine of Daily Mass. That's just a must. I also haven't done a food fast in a while and I've been meaning to do one....

I also thought of kind of a cool idea- if I do say so myself and I do- of picking a saint to make this journey of Lent with.

It's amazing how much spiritual reading HELPS me in my spiritual life. I can be totally off track and then I read something from Therese of Lisieux or The Sanctifier and I want to run to confession and spend an hour in prayer.

So I think I might pick a saint to talk to/read about throughout Lent. Possibly the Blessed Mother or one of the Teresas I am reading about now.

While I am pretty disciplined and kind of crave it in my life right now, while I was praying this morning and reflecting on a passage Father had spoken about on retreat- John 21 where Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him 3 x- this verse struck me:

"Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." (John 21:12)

RANDOM. I know, right? I'm not even kidding. And it wasn't 'cause I was hungry (though I did immediately go to Trader Joe's afterwards 'cause I had a hankering for the Three Layer Hummus which I am convinced has some kind of nicotine or crack in it because it is SO ADDICTIVE, but that is neither here nor there....) but because my translation said:

"Come, break your fast".

That's not very Lenten, is it? Now, the Bible I was reading was obviously not the New American Bible translation...but I don't think the translation I was reading was way off. We know Jesus often encouraged his disciples to break or examine the rules as they knew them. Not for lack of discipline, but to challenge them and have them examine why they really were doing things.

And so while I wait for the discipline of Lent- as always- I will try to balance with the attitude of the resurrected Jesus. 'Cause we can forget that we are supposed to be a people of rejoicing and feasts!

Feast days are something the Church used to do so well (and still does in certain parts of the world). Let's balance the discipline and desert of Lent with the feast of all the good things we have in our lives and days to come.

Is that okay that I'm entering into Lent already eyeing the Resurrection that comes after it? Meh...doesn't matter what.

So for all you under-achievers...LENT IS COMING! Get on it ;)


Friday, February 18, 2011

Motivated By Love

The theme of love continues! My women's prayer group met last night for the first time in a lonnnngggg time. It was way overdue! My friend G led the evening for us and brought us this book (pictured above) to reflect with/on.

I haven't read the book yet- but I intend to! It takes the lives of four famous Catholic Teresas: St. Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux (I can never spell that right), St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), and Mother Teresa.

I also haven't done any spiritual reading for myself in a lonnnnngggg time (shhh! don't tell my spiritual director! ;) He had been wanting me to read stuff from Teresa of Avila ('cause she is a sassy sister and we have a lot in common! ;) and then this literally fell into my lap!

G had each of us (there were four of us besides her gathered) read about one of the Teresas. Wouldn't you know I got my girl Teresa of Avila.

I was struck by her persistence and commitment to battling her vanity and selfishness. Like I said, she was a strong, sassy woman- lots of pride! But she practiced humility in a realistic way. She was aware of her faults, but did not beat herself up about them. She- and all the Teresas- balanced humility and confidence in God well. I have had to learn this practice in humility too! And keep learning it!

The reading on Teresa of Avila also reminded me of something so simple- all of our actions should be motivated by love. For as practical and down to earth as she was, she also had a great, deep love for Jesus. And she let that be the motivating factor in all her actions.

I have learned to surrender things and to do things for Jesus, but even those things can be done out of a different place sometime- out of knowledge or practicality- not always of a conscientious love.

I did do some spiritual reading earlier this week- but it was for my grad class. We read "Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision" which Archbishop Wuerl of DC came up with (I believe) last summer. It is a good read- inspiring and practical. It encourages us practicing Catholics to reach out to those non-practicing or fallen away in a non-confrontational way.

This concept of "re-evangelizing" those who have already heard the Good News of Scripture and the Church is what JP2 called the "New Evangelization". So, reaching out to people who have been catechized but no longer practice or aka- a large percentage of Catholics, unfortuantely.

To do this, we have to come out of a place of love. It can't be motivated by pride or just merely knowledge. It has to be motivated by love, which goes back to my Teresa of Avila reminder. I DO feel called to New Evangelization, in whatever state in life I might be called to. I have been priveleged to work with teens in a very strong Catholic diocese. They know their faith. The challenge is making it meaningful for them. This where I believe the New Evangelization comes in.

So this week has put me back on a path of digging into spiritual reading for myself so that I might live this call I feel to New Evangelization. And above all, the call to do all things with love.

So far, this year has had lots of themes of Love! Bring it!
Hope you all are well!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Mystery of Love

I can't believe it's been two weeks since retreat! Which means a.) I've been BUSY. b.) I haven't even really begun to unpack all that was retreat. Yikes!

Enter Valentine's Day :) The day we naturally turn our minds towards love.

This is NOT going to be lonely hearts post 'cause I've DONE THAT.

I'm in a different place this year. God has been very faithful.

I'm still "living the mystery" (which I also just realized I wrote in the month of February last year. Something to be said for those seasonal cycles!) but I think I'm content with it, for the most part.

Also, the readings for this Sunday are very different than the twisted, cycnical ones I rejoiced in last year. They are mysterious...and also kind of hopeful. Yeah! :)

The first reading is from Sirach (note: I just taught about deuterocanonical books so Sirach is fresh in my mind. Win!):

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.
Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.
The eyes of God are on those who fear him;he understands man’s every deed.
No one does he command to act unjustly,to none does he give license to sin.

Okay, so maybe this isn't uber mysterious, but there is a mystery to choice and free will. My students often ask, why did God give us free will if He knows we are going to mess up? I always answer them with, "well how many of you like to be forced to do something? Didn't think so. Aren't things much more special when you choose?" Answer: yes.

God gives us free will out of his immense love for us. Score 1 point for the goodness of retreat!

Okay, next up- my man, St. Paul (henceforth, MMSP):

Brothers and sisters: We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,not a wisdom of this age,
nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
and which none of the rulers of this age knew;
or, if they had known it,they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God

Um, what was that St. Paul? I don't quite follow you. We speak a wisdom but not one of this age? Nor of dead guys? Then of who?! Oh, right, Jesus.

But this kind of goes with the question my students ask: "if God knew from before time He would have to save us, then why didn't he....(insert this, that or the other here)"

Again, the answer: Love. (And the light of the Holy Spirit! The Sanctifier #FTW. Remember when I was obsessed with that book? I think I need it in my life again...)

Love cannot be forced. And love is a mystery. MMSP says: "what eye has not seen and ear has not heard...God has prepared for those who love him"

We can't even imagine what awaits us if we keep the faith.

And God even gives us little consolations to keep us going while we are here on earth. I've been reminded of that of late.

Yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I wrote about how during Advent I committed to pray a rosary in the car on the way to work each morning. That is a practice I have (somewhat) continued, but had failed at lately. I felt the urge to pray one yesterday, but I am too stupid in the morning (see exhibit A: this is something I have long said about coffee makers):

to realize what day it is, let alone an important feast day. (I need coffee before I can do anything. I swear decisions are not my own otherwise).

Anyways, so I decided to pray a rosary and to give things up to the Blessed Mother as I had once done much more intentionally.

Come to find once I showed up at Mass that it was Feb. 11- the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes!

Our Lady of Lourdes was/is very special to my friend in my women's group and she actually made a pilgrimmage there last year. I'm sure I've referenced it in this blog before too. Her experience (and answered prayers!!) inspired me and I entrusted a thing or two to our Lady a while back because of the HOPE brought about by that devotion.

I am inspired to once again entrust things to Jesus through Mary this Valentine's/Lourdes/Lovefest this weekend :)

I also had time to make a holy hour yesterday for the first time in a longgggg time. Not only was the time with Jesus very fruitful, but I ran into a couple people I knew and wasn't expecting to see! It was a good reminder that Jesus has placed the right people in my life at the right time throughout my personal journey with Him. (There is hope :)

Oh, and the Gospel this week? Maybe a little cynical/ironic for Valentines just because God has a sense of humor (and Jesus was single, am I right? :):

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Keep it clean this weekend, kids ;) Lest this happen....

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your membersthan to have your whole body go into Gehenna."

Indeed. Happy Valentine's Day! ;)