Two Sides of Discipleship

February 26th, 2017 Posted in writing | 1 Comment »

In chapter three of Mark’s gospel, Jesus calls the 12 apostles to be with him and be sent out to preach and expel demons. Jesus’ call was to be in close intimacy with him and to share in his own mission. Not one-or-the-other, but both-and.

Some believe that one of these two things is more important than the other, for instance, that intimacy is more fundamental than work. But at least in Ignatian spirituality they are seen as two sides of one coin.

Thus, Ignatius told his retreatants to earnestly pray for a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. But he also instructed them to ask just as fervently for the grace of hearing Jesus’ call to share his mission. Ignatius believed that in shared labor his followers would become closer to Christ and this closeness would lead to a more significant and lasting work for the glory of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth.

No matter how one sees them related, Lent can be a good time to examine how strong are the two pillars of discipleship (intimacy with Christ and shared labor with him) and see if, in our lives, they actually do feed into each other and support each other.

Role Call 2017

January 3rd, 2017 Posted in writing | 2 Comments »

I’ve found that my New Year’s resolutions are often short-lived, especially those about food, drink and exercise. Is there a more creative alternative to starting the year than the usual adopting of resolutions?

I got a hint that maybe there is from one of the characters in Shakespeare’s As You Like It who says, “All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players/. . .And one man [or woman] in his [or her] time plays many parts.” So why not think about the role I’d like to play in the drama of 2017 rather than the resolutions I might make.

Maybe you’d want to try the same thing. For instance, would you like to be the romantic lead in your personal drama or would the role of courageous adventurer be more appealing? Maybe you think it might be fun to play the role of someone who brings joy and laughter to others. Or maybe your chosen part will be that of someone who overcomes adversity, acts as a reconciler and peacemaker or becomes a trusted counselor from whom others seek encouragement and advice.

Then, as the year goes on, instead of focusing on those resolutions which you have or haven’t succeeded in keeping, you could look at the role you’ve chosen to play and see how you are doing with it. Maybe you’ll find that another role fits you better. But no matter what role you select, make it your aim and intention that it give pleasure and satisfaction to God, in whose presence you are playing it out.

Advent Longings

November 28th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want . . . but if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need.” A lot of Advent is about naming what we want and, more importantly, becoming aware of what we need.

Wants and needs aren’t the same, of course, for what I truly need is on a deeper level than what I might want. I may want a comfortable home in a quiet neighborhood, but I can live without it. I can live without eating meat, but I can’t live very well without protein. I may want to be married but whether I’m married or single I definitely need relationships in which I can both give love and receive it.

In December, we often ask children, “What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?” In Advent the Church poses to us a deeper question: “What are the deep needs and longings of your life, which only God can fill?” Paying attention to these and presenting them to God is very important because, as St. Augustine and others tell us, frequently presenting our longings to God actually prepares us to receive God’s fulfillment of them.

In a few short weeks, we will celebrate the coming of God’s once and final answer to all human longings and desires — Christ. As we prepare to receive Christ with the joy and gratitude his coming deserves, let us be bold in presenting ourselves, our needs and our longings to God. We might indeed find that we will get what we need.

Thanks Every Day

November 15th, 2016 Posted in writing | 1 Comment »

Every November we celebrate Thanksgiving when, if we are lucky, we can gather with family and friends to count our blessings and share a meal. But being grateful isn’t something just for one day out of the year. It should be our attitude on the other 364 days as well.

St. Paul urged his communities to be filled with gratitude. He taught that thanksgiving should mark all our requests to God. He wrote, “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians, chapter 4), as if every “please” should begin with “thank you.” It means that we are not only grateful for the good we been given but that we can look forward to a blessing in whatever comes.

That is easy to do, of course, when we receive something we truly desire and the goodness of which is apparent. It is more difficult when difficult and painful things happen. Are we expected to be grateful then? Perhaps that’s not possible; but we can leave open the hope that when bad things come, God will be present to help us bear the pain and suffering. Our faith assures us this is true (read the end of chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans) and for that we can indeed give thanks.

Yes, Thanksgiving is certainly a time to remember our many obvious blessings but can also be a time to affirm that even bad times cannot keep God away. So this year, and every day of the year, Happy Thanksgiving!

A Simple Thought about Inner Peace

September 16th, 2016 Posted in writing | No Comments »

Though plenty of things these days can cause us to be upset and fearful, the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians ask us to “ let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts” (Colossians, chapter three). Notice that Paul doesn’t say we have to create this peace on our own. Instead, he tells us to let Christ’s peace reign.

We do this when we open the doors of our hearts to accept the bedrock conviction of our faith, namely, that God loves us completely and entirely and that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8). When we do this, we find that Christ’s peace is the antidote for worried minds and disturbed souls.

So, though the world may provide us a diet of bad news about things that can worry and upset us, Christ’s peace can still reign in our hearts and minds if we ask the Holy Spirit to help us remember the profound truth about God’s abiding love and accept that truth into our lives.