Advent, 2018

Tonight marks the beginning of a new liturgical season, with the Vigil for the First Sunday of Advent. I love this time of year!  Even more than January 1, with the calendar’s New Year, this is a season of reflection, evaluation, course-correction, and preparation.

For what? For living our lives more faithfully for God.

I am taking stock of my various roles and responsibilities (a couple of new ones, this year) and looking at how to be more effective in performing them. From my housekeeping (always a weak point) to time management (too many games on Facebook) to the sacramental life (how long has it been since I went to Confession? It’s important to confess venial sins, too, before they grow into a nasty problem), the way I treat people I encounter during the day . .  everything counts.

After all, Advent is the time to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” — not just as He is born in Bethlehem but also as the King of Kings — and Lord of our hearts.

 

Stewardship for the Rest of Us

The talk I’d like to be able to give to my parish:

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard some inspiring stories from some wonderful people who serve our parish in a variety of ways. These stories have celebrated the goodness of God and challenged us to give back to Him from the blessings with which He has gifted us.

But some of us are living a different sort of life. We’re broke. Our health is poor. We are weighed down with grief and bereavement, and sometimes with estrangements. In a variety of ways we are just barely hanging on for dear life. We’d like to give something to God, but all we can see in ourselves is emptiness, pain, and lack.

My dear friends, when this is all you can see, then this is what you give.  Catholics have a wonderful saying: “Offer it up.” We are a people who believe that God is not limited by our limitations. We are a people who base our lives on the hope of a Divine Economy which takes our sufferings and transforms them into something redemptive.   And out of our brokenness, God will give us something we can give back to Him.

Many years ago, I knew a precious woman who was so crippled with arthritis that, when her youngest child was born, she was unable to hold him. But this same woman had a rich and powerful prayer life, and she was an effectual intercessor. Your sufferings may prevent you from teaching CCD, your poverty may prevent your contributing to the offering basket as you would like — but God will open to you ways of serving Him:  in prayer. In counseling and comforting. In encouraging.  All our gifts are needed to fulfill the purpose of the Body of Christ. Even the ones you don’t know you possess.

So begin where you are. “Lord, I am empty, so far as I can see. But please take my life and use it for Your Glory. I make an offering — an oblation! — of my life to You.”

Amen.

A Prayer of St Benedict

Grant to me, O Father,
most holy and most merciful,
wisdom to understand Thy intentions with
regard to me, a heart to share Thy feelings,
courage to seek Thee alone, and a way
of life that contributes to Thy glory.

Give me, O my God,
eyes that see only Thee,
a tongue that may speak only of Thee,
and a life devoted entirely to Thy will.

Finally, O my Savior, grant me the joy
of seeing Thee one day, face-to-face,
with all Thy saints in glory.

Reading St. Paul

There’s a lot I don’t understand when I read the Epistles of St. Paul.  This shouldn’t surprise me, given his background.  The man was utterly brilliant, and he had what sounds like the equivalent of a doctorate in his Hebrew studies, as well.  I don’t, I can’t operate on that level.

But what I do understand grabs me and won’t let go.

I’m rereading the Pauline epistles for the first time in a number of years.  I keep going back and reading portions of Philippians and Ephesians again and again – and Romans 12. . .   so I decided it’s probably a good idea to just start with Romans and read through.  I’m keeping a journal as I read, and my color pencils are by my elbow as well (although I’m really not using them as much as I’d thought I would).

Frankly, most of the first half of Romans zooms right over my head.  Paul gets into some pretty heavy theology there, and while the first two chapters are vividly accessible to me, only bits and pieces grab me from the beginning of Chapter 3 into Chapter 8.  I’m trying to use those bits and pieces, and a general sense of background as I know it, to construct a clearer sense of Paul’s teaching.  After all, this is an epistle — a letter! It’s not supposed to be his dissertation! even though that’s sometimes how he feels.

Paul was writing to the Romans, here, and it seems so apt that this epistle begins the succession of all his works. Rome ruled the world, politically, militarily, and culturally. It was a place of tremendous sophistication. It was also a hotbed of depravity.

Amazing that a core group of Romans rejected the strength, the power, the luxuries and excesses of Roman culture to become followers of that still-obscure cult, Christianity.

In fact, this is the whole point of the Pauline epistles: to teach a formerly pagan people how to adapt to the radically different paradigm of Christian discipleship.

More soon. — God bless you.

 

Draw close to Christ

So much upheaval, and the acceleration is alarming! – Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, Islamic terrorism on the rise, public school crises, personal violence  . . .  crises in the Church . . .

It’s easy to take our eyes off God, but now, more than ever, we must draw close to Him.  All the indignation in the world, all the activism, means nothing if we aren’t close to the Source of our passion.  There must be time each day, out of the craziness, which we devote to being still and quiet with the Holy Trinity. Time for prayer, time for Lectio, time for entering a personal sanctuary where nothing matters at all but His sweet Presence.

 

Drifting by the Sloth of Disobedience

From the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict:

. . . The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. (v. 2)

It’s a funny thing about drifting:  you’re just there, and you get distracted by new ideas, new distractions, new activities . . . and you finally look up and — Whoa! where am I?  I was over there, but now I’m over here! How did that happen?

It’s particularly easy to do in our walk with the Lord.  A day of skipping prayer makes it easy to skip again, and before you know it, weeks and even months have gone by . . . and you’ve lost your bearings and you aren’t really even sure when or how it happened.

Sloth. Laziness. Slack off in the habits of discipleship and before you know it you’ve been carried way on downstream and not in the direction you’d intended to go.

So stick with it.  If you’ve been lazy, if you’ve been careless, renew your resolve and turn the “ear of your heart” to sound instruction.