Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday of Holy Week

“The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.”
 - Isaiah, 49:1-3

Today, I celebrate the most important event in my life: the birth of my first child.  As I hold my beautiful daughter in my arms, lulling her to slumber, I lose myself in deep thoughts of her future as I gaze upon her alluring newborn face.  Only hours have passed since she entered into the world, and already, her visage is forming more distinctly and uniquely.  Her identity is forming before my eyes.

“What will you look like when you’re older? 
Where will you go on your journey of life?
Who will you become? “

I think about how much she looks like me; a reflection of me.  I was once a baby in my father’s hand.  Perhaps he wondered the same.  Now, here I am on this journey of my own, still fumbling through thick fogs of uncertainty.   Yet, I am certain that I cast aside fear when I put my faith in God, and I feel most complete when I use God’s compass to help me find my true north. 

However, sometimes, I don’t use the tools I’ve been given effectively or at all.

Every one of us is all called to be an instrument of God’s love in one way or another.  How often do we try to discern God’s calling and ask whether our path is aligned with the path God has intended for us? 

I know I’m not perfect.  I know I’m a sinner.  I know I may and will falter and waver, just as Peter did when he denied Jesus three times.  But I also know God will never give up on me.  And I am most complete when I follow God’s compass, embrace God’s love, and answer God’s call. 

O Lord, grant me the strength, wisdom, and courage to be who You have called me to be.

Reflected by HD Nguyen

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday of Holy Week

As the days of His passion draw near, what was Jesus thinking? What was He feeling?  With his knowledge of His looming sacrifice, I wonder how frightened he had to have been. I try to imagine the internal battle He must have been fighting: to remain steadfast in completing the Father’s will or run away, overwhelmed by the price it would require. It’s simple: He must have been scared *&%$less!!!

I peer through the Gospel story lines. During this time of intense emotional turmoil, Jesus does what every one of us would do: He runs to the comfort of His closest friends. He “reclines at table” with Lazarus, Martha and Mary. I imagine Him completely relaxed in their presence, “letting his guard down.” He doesn’t have crowds to impress or Jewish Rabbis to scold---He can simply “be.” The trio must have sensed his nervousness just as any good friend of ours can sense our unrest. From their concern, Jesus shares with these closest of friends, His deepest fears and worries about the plan that is just around the corner. Knowing that they cannot take this burden from Him, Lazarus, Martha and Mary allow themselves to feel with Him, extending love with raw and vulnerable intensity. Mary comforts Him with the most intimate of actions---caressing His feet with costly perfumed oil. I imagine tears streaming down her face as she kisses His feet, gently soothing them with the softness of her long hair. I imagine Jesus trembling as Lazarus holds Him in a deep embrace of support while Martha rests her head in His lap as she kneels at His side, His hands entwined with hers. This is where He is most intimately and humanly known….this is where He can find the courage to keep walking in the way of His vocation, as hard He knows it will be.

As I let this Gospel story become real, penetrating my own encounters of friendship and being “known,” I recognize the subtlety of Christ’s model for discernment. At my core, I desire to do God’s will, but when I realize what it is, often I’m scared *&%$less. I’m afraid of the sacrifice it’s going to take of me, the time it’s going to take, the humility it would require…the list goes on.

Today, I take a cue from our Lord and consider that it’s ok to be scared. What matters is that I recognize the humanness of my call towards discipleship and openly share my fears with those who can extend the support I need. I trust that in these most intimate human relationships, God is at work, gifting me with the courage I need to continue with His plan.

This Holy Week, like Jesus, I too pray for Courage.

Reflected by Regina Galassi

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion: A Radical Love and Invitation

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” – Mk 14:36

I struggle to celebrate Palm Sunday and enter Holy Week. My head wants to declare that love and justice conquer all sufferings and evils, that humility underlies radical trust in God. My heart resists the humiliation that precedes humility and the pain that breaks open my soul to a greater self-giving love. It is very tempting for me to approach the Passion of Jesus like a bystander watching a dramatic play on a stage, or see it as a story that happened somewhere in history. Yet, two kinds of experiences invite me to enter this week differently: the persecution of Christians and remembering deaths of loved ones.

Last month, 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians were killed by Islamic State militants in Libya, simply because they were Christians. On their lips were only the words, “Jesus, help me!” Like Jesus at Gethsemane, they cried out to Someone greater. Someone they trusted, despite fear of death and horrific humiliations. In the way they faced death, they echoed Jesus’ faith that “all things are possible” to God.

Both my cousin and maternal grandmother suffered greatly at the end of their lives. Although they died two decades apart, they taught me a similar lesson. In their own ways, they struggled yet embraced their crosses. Despite my ability to accept her impending passing, my grandmother had come to peaceful acceptance of her death. Before she passed, she shared with me that Jesus was with her, that she was sharing his suffering. That he was sharing hers. Throughout much of her life, this was her experience, her crucible of faith – Jesus’ way of drawing her close to him. My young cousin Thy witnessed a similar intimacy. When suggested by her pastor to unite her suffering to Jesus’ and offer them to help children in a nearby hospital nearby, she understood fully and said “yes”. She allowed so many of us, including myself, to be with her in her last moments. We sang the Prayer of St Francis in tears as she gave up her spirit. Like our grandmother, she embodied Jesus’ stance before his passion; she taught us how to die with grace. While the doctors and our earnest prayer could not save her, I believe our presence may have eased her suffering and accompanied her home to God. Remembering the way she and our grandmother lived and died beckons me to enter the passion of Jesus.

When we enter the suffering of anyone around us, including ourselves, Jesus' Passion becomes more real. So would the radical love God has for us. This week, let us allow ourselves to be drawn close to the poor, needy, marginalized, or afflicted. Consider becoming more aware of the rising persecution of Christians in the world. Watch the films Of God and Men or Romero as contemporary portrayals of Jesus’ radical love. Get in touch with the death of someone who inspires you.

"Jesus, help me!" Help me be united with you in my suffering and in solidarity with those who suffer.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fifth Saturday of Lent

“…But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God….” – Jn 11:49-51

Have you ever said something truly profound and wondered, “What was that I just said, that thing that was so inspiring?  Did that come from me?  Did I really say that?  Why is everybody suddenly writing in their notebooks (or in the margins of their books)?”  Caiaphas didn’t mean what he said in the way that we understand it now, but he certainly spoke the truth.  John says that Caiaphas prophesied so truly because he was high priest for that year, that words were put into his mouth by God because he was the high priest.  Most of us do not hold such high office, but sometimes God does put words into our mouths. Sometimes, even when we are at our worst, God uses us, uses even our faults for his purposes.  God has a wonderful way of turning everything upside down from the way we expect it to be.

Subversive Love
Just when I think
I’m lost, abandoned,
shivering alone at
the brink of the abyss,
I discover I’m found
flying with angels,
soaring among stars.
You turn my life
You heal my wounds into
You transform my failures into
grace that washes
my heart
with an everlasting
rain of love.

When has God surprised me?  What was my response?

Reflection and poem by Sharon Sullivan

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fifth Friday of Lent: The Vast Array of God’s Love

“The breakers of death surged round about me,
the destroying floods overwhelmed me;
The cords of the nether world enmeshed me,
the snares of death overtook me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry to him reached his ears.
From on high he reached down and seized me;
he drew me forth from the mighty waters.
He brought me out to a place of freedom;
he saved me because he loved me.” Ps. 18:5-7,17,20

I am continually amazed by the many facets of God’s love for us. He weeps with us in our moments of sorrow. He strengthens us during challenging times. He sweetly whispers during quiet, prayerful moments. He counsels us when we weigh major life choices. He lovingly corrects us when we make poor decisions. He constantly gifts us with each new day. Perhaps it should not be all that surprising since God is love, and God is infinite. So it would stand to reason that His expression of love for us is also infinite.

The Psalm in today’s reading focuses on one particular way God loves. With dramatic imagery and poetic language, it beautifully describes the times in our life when everything seems to be on the brink of unraveling or when we are surrounded by either personal, relational, or professional challenges that are seemingly insurmountable. Although it may be difficult to accept, there is nothing we can do but surrender. It is then on the precipice of total despair that He deigns to intervene and rescues us “because he loved us.”

I remember reading the story of the Footprints in the Sand when I was young and being deeply affected by it. I could not have been more than 10 years old and certainly had not experienced any great tragedy, except maybe an unrequited crush. What moved me was a personal God who walks, shares and laughs with me as a companion and then would carry me when I grow weary from the burdens of (a 5th grader’s) life…a God who personally loves me through the various circumstances in my life.

Lord, open me to become sensitive to the vast array of Your love.

Reflected by Michael Jamnongjit

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fifth Thursday of Lent

If you’ve been a Christian long enough, it’s easy to get too much in your own head. I think I know the patterns of deathàresurrectionàascension, the paradoxes of suffering and joy, submission and freedom, law and gospel. I see these motifs play out in my own life, in the lives of those I care about, in the news, in my own travails and triumphs, in areas of discernment. They often form the basis of my hope and line my prayers with handholds that both fuel faith and chisel it.

But sometimes knowledge of the Scriptures, of the Stations of the Cross (literally and figuratively!), of the sweeping arc of the Christian story that reverberates in the lives of everyone who signs up to enter the Story, just paralyzes me. It’s like I begin to play mind games with God, or think I know His mind, so why bother asking and prostrating myself for the needs of the present?

Today’s readings remind us of God’s covenant with His people, a covenant that was and is and will be regardless of what we think or do. And in one Psalm we are told, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hearts. Note that it is our hearts, not our minds, that need to stay soft, regardless of what reason and even good theological breeding is dictating. This speaks to the endless surprises of God, not surprises that betray His character but rather those that bend our lives to a will we somehow know is not fundamentally our own. But it may require a surrender of mental control, and an opening up to that lower, scarier place.

In what ways might you need to soften your heart to hear His voice and obey? Does this scare you? What would it be like to picture God waiting for you with an embrace and delighted eye? Can you catch the twinkle of His covenant assurance? Perhaps today is the day to lean in and entrust your heart to the holiness logic cannot explain.

Reflected by Anne Snyder 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fifth Wednesday of Lent

Lent is often associated with NO: saying “no” to certain luxuries or treats (whether it is sugar, fast food, coffee, or another indulgence), saying “no” to selfishness, and refraining from certain joyful acclamations in the Liturgy. With so much “no,” it sometimes can be hard to recognize where or what we are saying “yes,” to.

I love that the Feast of the Annunciation, the feast of Mary’s “yes” falls during Lent 95% of the time. It is a reminder to me of a “yes” that cries out louder than all that “no”. The Psalm response today, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will” echoes that total willingness of Mary to say “yes” to whatever it is God is asking of her. It is a “yes” to uncertainty and the unknown struggles that will come.

The words of the Muslim poet Hafiz capture for me the deep peace of Mary’s “yes” and the place I yearn to speak from:

Every Movement by Hafiz
From my mouth
Because it is so plain to my soul
That God has shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in Existence.
I rarely let the word "No" escape

It is because God has first said “yes” to me (to my uncertainty, pain, and longing) that I want to answer “yes” to whatever God asks of me. I am not there yet, but for me the Feast of the Annunciation is a reminder to strive for that “yes.” Instead of stressing about what God might ask of me, or if I am getting the message right, I am tying to focus on making it “plain to my soul” that God’s yes is resounding everywhere. I know that if I can focus on God’s yes, that yes from me might flow easier. Today is a refreshing respite in the desert of Lent, and in many ways a renewal of that yes we proclaim with our own Baptism.

“Do not be afraid… for nothing is impossible with God.” Are there subtle reminders today of God’s YES to me?

Reflected by Jen Coito

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fifth Tuesday of Lent

But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses - Numbers 21:4-5

“I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” - John 8:21

"You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world." - John 8:23

During this season of lent I have found myself frustrated or disappointed about a wide variety of small or large situations. When I sit down to journal with God about it (my Lenten practice), I get the same message every single time - PATIENCE. Somehow every time I hear this message I am surprised by this consistent message. But soon after, what I was frustrated or disappointed about is resolved in a much greater way than I would have planned myself. I see myself, just like the Israelites in the desert. Easily worn out and complaining to God. It makes me wonder - why am I so easily "worn out"? How do I become resilient against these tendencies and how do I find patience and trust in God's time?

Today's gospel is perhaps showing us the way. Jesus declares that he is going away and the Pharisees (we?) cannot go where he is - even though they (we?) will look for him, they (we?) will die in their (our?) sin. He goes on to say "You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world." I have a literal sense of humor and so at times I do consider the literal aspects of the gospels, which can surprisingly give symbolic insight. I imagine the Pharisees literally searching the town for Jesus, meanwhile ignoring the meaning of the events that occurred. Don't we all do this - look for God, satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment in people, things, jobs, accomplishments, or approval? All the while ignoring or pushing aside the inner voice that softly calls our attention to a deeper experience of people, events, and the world. 

I find myself so easily distracted from this non-worldy mindset, this soft inner voice. The high I get from the approval of others or even the immediate rush from doing something new and exciting brings me back to a mindset of depending on these feelings, depending on worldy things. While they are not bad in and of themselves, my dependence on them sets me up for disappointment. In our humanity we are not perfect, we let people down, we overlook how we react, we get distracted. Jesus reminds us that in focusing these "highs" we belong to this world. 

It's hard for me to practically find a way to enjoy worldy experiences and things while not falling into the habit of depending on them, belonging to them. Perhaps we are called to find those places, people, or types of prayer that allow us to hear that soft voice of God reminding us to be patient, reminding us he is always with us, he never leaves us. Perhaps in doing so we will begin to look beyond this world and see God and Jesus hidden beneath it all.

Lord help us to recognize you, your call, your message. May we be willing to recognize our distractions and look to you for guidance.

Reflected by Joan Ervin

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fifth Monday of Lent: Patient Willingness

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” - JN 8:1-11

In today’s gospel, we are taken into the heart of Christ, one that is compassionate, forgiving, and merciful. Jesus forgave the adulteress without word on her part and asked the searching question, “Who is the one without sin? Let them cast the first stone.” Upon self-examination, each accuser walked away. The woman remained with Him. Jesus offered His forgiveness and encouraged her to break off from her sin. God’s forgiveness does not negate responsibility but requires conversion. He invites all of us to ponder, “From now on, will you choose to walk in the light with me?”

Not only is God aware of our darkness, but He also longs to journey in the shadows of our heart and illuminate light. He recognizes a truer story beneath the one we generally offer to the world, the stuff we cannot see, the evasions and delusions, and the places where we are simply stuck. No matter what we have done or how long we have strayed, God welcomes us back with open, loving arms. He does not exploit our guilt, but heals it. And because we are human, beautifully imperfect and complex, we will return to Him time and time again. In doing so, we allow for a radical change to take place, unbecoming who we are and becoming our truest selves. During these moments, I find myself enveloped in His love and asking, “Why is that You believe in me? What do You see in me that makes me feel loved and precious?”

My challenge often transpires in the healing process when I am simultaneously happy, sad, grateful, angry, accepting, and every possible emotion, all smashed together and amplified. Perhaps, I hope the word ‘healing’ to be more pure and simple. With God’s encouragement and love, I realize that I am not to thrive in spite of my losses, mistakes, and sorrows, but because of them. All He asks is for my patient willingness and trust to be transformed along the way.

Lord, help me to walk towards Your light...

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Lent: God Waits, Keeping Promises

“Do you believe …” that “I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD”? – Jn 11:26 & Ez 37:14

A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out to the back porch and bring her the broom. He turned to his mother and said, “Mama I don’t want to go out there. It’s dark.” The mother smile at her son reassuringly, “You don’t have to be afraid of the dark, dear,” she explained. “Jesus is out there. He will look after you and protect you.” The little boy looked at the mother real hard and asked, “Are you sure he’s out there?” She replied, “Yes I’m sure. He is everywhere, and he is always ready to help you when you need him.” The little boy thought about that for minute and then went to the back door. He opened it a little and said, “Jesus, if you're out there, would you please hand me the broom?”

I’m like that little boy. I focus on fear, often asking for a miracle so I don’t have to face the present challenges in my life. This Lent has not been easy. It’s almost over and I haven’t done a good job with my Lenten practice. I’ve been feeling a lot of self-doubt, perfectionism, and giving in to the nagging voice that “I’m never enough”. My deep insecurities have come back like the first 27 years of my life. I am tempted to focus on my dark side, on my lack of faith. Jesus, if you're out there, would you please hand me the broom?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus does three things. He wept. He waited. He raised Lazarus from the dead. When I turn my focus on how Jesus responds to Lazarus’ severe sickness and the grief of his sisters, a shift happens. I notice a similar pattern in my life. When I turn my focus on what God is doing and how God sees, I discover a greater Spirit. I find myself looking more at Jesus, and asking how he is present, hiding, and working in my life. I am surprised that he is waiting with me, going through what I’m going through, yearning and longing to come closer to free me from my fears and insecurities. He asks me, like he asks Martha, “Do you believe in me?” Slowly slowly, I find new life and spirit in my day, giving me strength to wait patiently, to be with people who suffer, and to untie whatever keeps them from trusting God and living fully.

Our Lenten journey is like Lazarus’ movement in today’s Gospel. From death to life. From being bound, to being freed.  We can focus on “Jesus, are you really out there in the dark?” Or we can turn our gaze on what Jesus is doing in our lives, calling us from our tombs, to untie and set free.

God chooses to wait, keeping promises. How will you respond?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fourth Saturday of Lent

“Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” – Jn. 7:46
“This crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” – Jn. 7:49

During the 9 years I have been involved in young adult ministry, I have had two very memorable encounters with people in the Church who have accused me of not being ‘qualified’ to minister. And while I am grateful that there have only been two instances like this, I’m not going to hide it: both encounters hurt. It hurt that these people did not take the time to see my heart. It hurt to be accused of not being qualified. But what hurt the most was that they criticized me of being ‘wishy-washy’ in the faith because I was choosing to stand with people who they described as ‘living in sin.’

As I read today’s gospel, I begin to wonder if Jesus felt some of this hurt when he was accused of not knowing the law. I also wonder how the crowds felt when they were called ‘accursed’ by the Pharisees. I know that accusations like these seem to be a part of every religion, but it doesn’t erase the pain. This gospel compels me to ask Jesus a simple question: “Lord, how did you learn to see those who diminished you through the eyes of compassion?” Teach us all Lord how to humbly accept those who do not want to accept us. Teach us all Lord how not to judge those who judge.

I have come to experience that Jesus is always inviting us to gather people, not necessarily ‘convert’ them. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our faith needs to be defended, that somehow we need to provide answers to the world. But that is the trap of the Pharisees. Rather, Jesus calls us to do one thing before all others: to stand with the marginalized no matter the cost. Sometimes this may cause some hurt. Sometimes this makes a big mess.  And sometimes this may even lead to death.

Lord, we lift up to you right now all those people around the world who are being persecuted because they are choosing to stand with you.

Reflected by Tony Cortese

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fourth Friday of Lent: With Greater Love Than Fear

“Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.” – Jn. 7:12

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was moved with greater love than fear. Despite threats to his life, he journeyed to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles. He could have remained in the safe in Galilee out of fear. Yet, moved by a greater love for God and for people he was sent to serve and save, he accepted the risk of arrest and death. Trusting in God’s timing, he not only goes to the feast, but also reveals Himself and speaks courageously of God’s untiring and unstoppable mercy to all.

I recently learned that the human brain is made up of three parts. The “reptilian” brain is the first to form, followed by the “limbic”. These two parts of the brain register survival instincts and catalog fear.  The third and most developed part of the brain is the neo-cortex, where human intellect, consciousness, and the spirit reside. It enables us to choose love. Interestingly, when we choose to appreciate and to love, signals of fear and anxiety from the “limbic” are shut off from interrupting the neo-cortex, which physically prevents the states of love and fear from occurring simultaneously. It’s amazing how our multiple-layered brain develops and functions to enable us to receive and share God’s love.

Coincidentally, I recently came across these two quotes that echoes the invitation to choose love over fear. Dan Baker said that “human beings have only two essential, primal feelings: fear and love. Fear impels us to survive, and love enables us to thrive.” Similarly, Jim Carrey spoke: “You have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t let fear turn you against your playful heart.”

While we often give into fear, let us pray for the openness to receive God’s gift of love more fully each day. And allow this gift to diminish the grasp of fear on us and to create courage and wisdom from love.

Is there something you have been compelled or feel called to do, but have been uncomfortable, reluctant or afraid to do?  Talk to Jesus about it and ask him for help you to act with greater love than fear.

Adapted from HD Nguyen

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Happy Lent!  

I have to admit to you that this Lent has been extremely tough for me.  I have been indulging in two things, and it has not been pretty.    

Facebook likes and Taylor Swift.  

The first may be a problem.  You see, when I post on FaceInstaTwitterTube, I look later to see the number of likes or shares.  And with each that I get, it makes me feel more important or more liked.  Literally.  Even as I started to write this reflection, I thought of ways in which I could create something witty to encourage people to like it, but I kinda said, “Eff that.”  And I ended up writing this.  Honest.  Open.  Just me.

I told you that it has not been pretty.  But the first step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you have one.  And, problem, I´ve got you.  

And Taylor Swift.  Dear Lord, can she write a hook.  I am obsessed with her song “Blank Space.”  Maybe because it speaks of the initial attraction of one to another, the risk of loving another despite a history of failures, and the hope of love found.  And I think I have had my fair share of all the above.  For some reason, it is the last line of the chorus that gets me.  “I´ve got blank space, baby, and I´ll write your name.”  

And the next step to dealing with a problem is admitting that you don´t have all the solutions and you need counsel.  And, counsel, O, how I need you.  

And I think somewhere in the gospel today, I may have found that counsel in this FaceInstaTwitterTube problem and finding God in Taylor Swift.


There is not much written on him but we know some things about him from these passages today.  That he is righteous.  That God speaks to him in his dreams, to “not be afraid… take Mary your wife into your home… to name (her son) Jesus.”  He listened to the those dreams, doing as the “Lord commanded.”  

And I think that we maybe know a lot more about him by the people that he influenced.  Mary.  Jesus.  Who do you think worked hard to provide Mary a home?  Who do you think taught Jesus how to love, to be patient, to be kind?  I can only imagine of all the time that the three spent together…  Joseph enjoying Mary´s cooking, teaching Jesus how to carpenter, et cetera.  You cannot spend that much time with someone with not affecting them or them affecting you.  And somehow, I think Joseph loved them both so liberally, without expecting so much in return.  How else do you love someone, as Joseph to Jesus, that maybe is not of your own flesh and blood as your own?

And maybe God spoke to Joseph in his dream like Taylor Swift speaks to me now.  “Here`s a blank space.  And I will write your name on it.”  And maybe the question He is asking us during this Lenten season, “Will you make a blank space for me?  Will you write my name on it?”  Just like Joseph writes Jesus´ name.

And maybe that is what lent is about.  It is about making space for God.  (To listen deeply to His dreams, which really are just the deepest dreams of our hearts).  To not be afraid to follow these dreams.  Just like Joseph.

And Joseph did not seek likes or some another`s approval to know that he was following his deepest desire to take Mary in, to love her and to love Jesus.  He was just following his own dream, and in the process, the only things that mattered to Him were the people closest to him (Jesus and Mary), two people that maybe continue to have an impact on us today.

And for that, I like Joseph alot.  Like it or not.

How is God inviting you to listen more deeply to Him? To not be afraid? To dream with Him? To be loved completely as you are?

Reflected by Anonymous

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fourth Wednesday of Lent

Today’s passages from Isaiah 49 and Psalm 145 each point to the relentless command that God wields over our days, and the responsiveness He promises to all those who call on Him “in truth.”

Thus says the LORD,” writes Isaiah. “In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you…For he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level.”

The Psalmist also declares: The Lord is gracious and merciful. The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works. The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down… The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

These are words to feed upon in all searching and trust, particularly in seasons of wilderness, loss or exile. Even if present circumstances deny a felt experience of deliverance, the resume of this LORD is one who walks with His people through every valley and desert, and will have the last glorious word.

But the third reading from today, the one taken from the Gospel of John, adds an even deeper dimension to the trust-fall posture we’re invited to take as we call upon God’s grace in our lives. Here’s Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders, who were questioning his Sabbath healing practices:

“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. …I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” (From John 5)

I cannot do anything on my own…I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

Jesus himself was utterly dependent on his Father! Though he was God Incarnate, the nature of his union with the Godhead was such that nothing could be done outside the Father’s will. This is the profound and perfect embodiment of calling upon Him “in truth.”

How does this posture of both dependence and love for the will of God help you see your circumstances today? How does it mirror some dynamics in your human relationships, and how does it challenge them? How does it turn you back to the Lord who is at once inviting you to fall into His tender mercies, even as He desires to work His loving and perfect will precisely through and for you. I pray a revived understanding of this intricate dynamic deepens your own prayers afresh, perhaps shifts them, and allows you to love and submit ever more comprehensively to the beauty of the Lord’s will in your life and in all the spheres you find yourself touching.

Reflected by Anne Snyder

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fourth Tuesday of Lent

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” – Jn. 5:6-8

This text has a particularly strong meaning for me this year. I have suffered from lower back pain for several years and finally had spinal surgery last fall. The surgery was successful, but I have to want to recover completely in order to do so. I have to do the work of physical therapy and exercise in order to be able to walk without a cane. It is a slow process of several months, but I am now beginning to see real progress. I am beginning to be able to rise, take up my mat, and walk. I pray that I will walk for the glory of God; my heart is full of gratitude and hope.

Reflected by Sharon Sullivan

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fourth Monday of Lent: Our Grateful Response

“Hear, O Lord, and have pity on me;
O Lord, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.” Ps. 30:11-13

Many of us have had faith conversion or deepening experiences after a tragedy in our life. Perhaps a death in our family opens our eyes to the realization of our affection for a loved one that only became apparent after he or she has passed to the other side of eternity. Maybe the dissolution of a marriage have caused us to question if love really does conquer all. Perhaps losing our job brings to light the fallacy of our ability to control everything. In the depth of our despair when no explanation is sufficient and no well-intentioned consoling words bring comfort, we cry out, “O Lord, have pity on me!” This period of turning back to God and the awareness of our poverty and dependence on Him is a great gift and an opportunity for a deepening relationship with God.

We may develop a richer prayer life where tears of initial sorrow and subsequent joy flow freely. We may rekindle relationships with our family and friends that have been neglected. But what happens when we stop mourning and are able to stand up, walk, and finally dance again? Do we squander the graces we received by reverting to our old ways of thinking and living? Do we treat God as a parent who we only acknowledge when we need something and then who becomes an afterthought when things are going well? St. Ignatius said that the deadliest sin is ingratitude. This speaks to the nature of God: He is generous. He is lavish in His kindness. If we truly understood His generosity, we would return His love with love. We would be as the Psalmist who exclaims, “O Lord, forever will I give you thanks!”

O Lord, open my eyes to the ways you constantly gift me in both challenging and flourishing times that my response to your graces may be love and gratitude.

Reflected by Michael Jamnongjit

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Engaged Heart

"But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." - JN 3:14-21

The season of Lent and Easter calls each of us to take part in the dying and rising of the Paschal mystery within our everyday lives. We are encouraged to cultivate and recapture meaning day in, day out by walking in the light and living in truth. Whether or not we follow and allow the light to shine through is a matter of choice. Today’s gospel invites us to seek every opportunity, encounter, situation, and activity as a continuous exercise of faith, hope, and charity. The challenge comes in doing it with love and Jesus by our side, allowing these experiences to penetrate our hearts, transform us, and set us free.

This reminds me of a scene from Evan Almighty where Morgan Freeman asks, “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?” God gives us free will and the ability to choose. We are not forced into a relationship with Him. It is the consciousness we bring to bear on our lives which constructs meaning and how we choose to respond in any given situation.

By inviting Jesus into my daily life, I am able to lean on Him to observe a situation from His perspective, one that is more generous, reasonable, forgiving, loving, bighearted, and grateful. He encourages me to move towards the light, even if it is a hard direction to move. He reminds me to be gentle with myself when I make a mistake and how life is more meaningful when lived with integrity, compassion, and love. In my experience, those sorts of revelations help. They unclench the stronghold of one’s fears. They push intimacy to a more vulnerable place, leading us into a new and deeper life with our heart and mind engaged.

Lord, enfold me in the depths of Your heart.

Reflected by Tam Lontok

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Third Saturday of Lent

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — 
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 18:9-14

When I was younger, I was taught the importance of humility, and the importance of never placing yourself above anyone else.  However, as I finished school, I was told repeatedly that I need to project an aura of confidence and brag about my achievements in order to get a job.  Going into interviews, I found it difficult to talk about myself, but somehow I managed to get hired anyway.  Once I entered the workforce, I discovered that humility can be viewed as a hindrance when dealing with new customers, and that even for engineers, the need to be a good salesperson can be important.  With each passing meeting, it became just a little bit easier for me to start believing the arrogant declarations of my own awesomeness that were coming out of my mouth and the humility slowly slipped away.  After all, the meek may inherit the Earth, but how often do they get promoted?  

When I chose this reading to reflect upon a few weeks ago, I decided that this would be my Lenten sacrifice: to try and act with humility and gratitude like I was taught a child, and not be a self-absorbed braggart as society seemingly expects.  I can’t say that I’ve succeeded completely (I really would like that promotion!), but I have at least tried to let my work speak for itself rather than trumpeting my own qualifications.  Of course, I’m not going to change personality overnight, but I hope it’s enough that I recognize my own failings (without dwelling on them in a negative way), and strive to be just a little better version of myself each and every day.

Reflected by Dan Judnick