Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gratitude and Mercy

I think for maybe the first time in my life (that sounds dramatic. Let's go with:" at least in my most recent memory") my prayers have been solely that of gratitude. I remember being in the convent and confessing something and the priest telling me that the cure for whatever it was that I was struggling with at the time (probably lack of trust on my part) was gratitude. And I have come to find that gratitude can be the cure for many, many things.

I am truly grateful for the answered prayers that I began to share on this blog this past summer. Since then, the Lord continues to affirm and show answers to prayer in abundance. After taking the risk of receiving a cut in pay and switching to teach Middle School, God has affirmed that this is where I am meant to be. I have been fully supported and welcomed by the new staff and students at the school that I am at. I have the opportunity to be creative in my new position. I found and am able to afford an apartment in a great part of town and am able to take a class at a local university in hopes of (possibly) pursuing another degree next year (stay tuned!).

None of these things are earth shattering or life changing. But as I've discovered in my 30s, my relationship with God is now more dependent on the day to day rather than major life changes. I am still searching for some answers regarding my vocation. But more and more God continues to affirm that the little decisions that I am making are affirming my true call to share the faith with others. And it's been an awesome answer to my reflection on God's covenants in my life that I started in Lent.

Quintessential Pic of a rainbow over Richmond when I was out running(ish) the other day! Covenants and signs of promises kept!

So I have been very grateful in my prayer lately. Of course I move away from DC right before the Holy Father is going to be there, but I am still super excited about his visit. I feel like we need the blessing and insight that he will bring to our country now more than ever. And not in a desperate kind of way, but with an upcoming election and an opportunity for change, I think that the Pope's message (whatever it may be) will be much needed.

The Holy Father has also proclaimed an upcoming Jubilee year starting this Dec. 8- the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Typically, Jubilee years happen every 25 years, but as I may have said before, this Pope does what he wants! When a Jubilee year is celebrated, the Holy Door is opened, and any pilgrim that walks through it, receives an indulgence of forgiveness of sin.

Here's my pic of the Holy Door in St. Peter's from my trip there this summer! You can see how it's sealed up now, but come Dec. 8, it will be open!

I know that many think that this Pope has been more progressive or forward thinking, and it's true that he thinks differently than some of our more recent popes, but he really isn't saying anything new. He is just simply reminding us of the facets of our faith that many may have lost sight of. With this special Jubilee Year, he is calling it the Year of Mercy which I think is just so perfect. We have forgotten that our faith is about second chances and forgiveness. So while some people think he is being super radical making it easier for people to get annulments or being forgiven of abortion, this really is nothing new. Anyone who seeks God's Mercy is able to receive it if they truly do seek it. I think the Holy Father is just reminding us of that and I LOVE IT! Who doesn't need God's Mercy?!?

The last little thing that I've been reflecting on comes from last week's Sunday Gospel which was a complex one. There was a lot in it:

"Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. 
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?” 
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.” 
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?” 
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.” 
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days. 
He spoke this openly. 
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. 
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.” - Mark 8:27-35

First, there is the question of who Jesus is, which isn't an easy one. Then, He predicts His Passion. When Peter doesn't want to accept that this will happen to Jesus, Jesus throws Peter under the bus. And finally, Jesus hits us with: anyone who wants to follow Him, must take up our cross and lose our lives. Uh...what just happened here???

I meditated on this passage with some of my students, who, as 6th graders tried really hard to make sense of it, but naturally it was difficult for them. I chose for my own meditation to focus on the "taking up our cross" part for my prayer. Even though my prayers have been one of gratitude, there's always that one thing, right? There's that thorn that St Paul talks about, that thing that keeps us close to Christ. 

The priest who said Mass on Sunday, in his homily, reminded us not to compare our crosses with one another's. This is always difficult to do. We want to see if our cross is "bigger" or "heavier" than others or the opposite: "at least MY cross isn't like  _____." This isn't really helpful in our own spiritual journey. We simply just need to do as Christ says in the Gospel: pick it up and embrace it. And, to tie everything back to gratitude, perhaps even add our prayer of gratitude for it as it brings us closer to uniting ourselves with Christ. But that sounds much more glamorous than it actually is, I know.

Another thing I am grateful for this week: I wanted to get involved in my new diocese and my new parish, which is the Cathedral:
pic of Cathedral at night. Notice the turning leaves! FALL IS COMING!!!

The DRE at the Cathedral said that her main need was for that of sponsors for the RCIA program (for those inquiring to become Catholic at Easter). We had our first meeting this week and I am really glad that I volunteered. In all my years of ministry and study, I really haven't worked with adult faith formation, so I'm excited for the experience. It is so refreshing to see people who want to learn about the faith and to see the Holy Spirit working in our lives. 

There are just a lot of really good things going on and in the air right now...(especially that cool nip in the air that means all things FALL!) and my response is just gratitude, gratitude. 

Here's to a great start to one of the most wonderful times of the year! And gratitude for the reminder of God's great, amazing Mercy. We are united in prayer!


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