Category : Scripture

Philip Kromer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Faith, Grace, Lent, Life, Passion, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering
2

How Are You?

Ironically, for as difficult as it is in this time of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, at least we’re all in it together.

Be reassured: No one knows how to do this. No one knows what they’re doing. We’re all figuring it out together.

In my last two posts, I talked about needing to Reevaluate Lent and my decision to Be Real and Have Hope (with key insights from the story of the Raising of Lazarus). So here’s me being real: I’ve been going through a difficult time and things have been hard.

Here’s Me Being Real

About 9 months ago, I wrote about my son suffering 2nd degree burns. Five weeks later, I wrote one follow-up post. But nothing else because… it was just too much. It was just too hard.

While in the Pediatric ICU, the doctors said 2nd degree burns heal within 2-3 weeks. So, 2-3 weeks is what we mentally geared ourselves up for.

It was actually 3 months of daily wound care and intense restrictions. The most severe 2nd degree burns (“deep partial-thickness”) take longer to heal and leave thick, raised scars, which need another 18 months of care, including wearing compression garments for 23 hours a day. It was a lot. It took a toll on everyone, in every way.

Believe me: I’m not complaining. All you need to do is walk into any floor of Shriner’s Pediatric Burn Hospital to have every possible complaint in your life be put into perspective.

However, this was—and still is—our reality. And quite honestly, it was hard… really, really hard.

How Are You?

When we see people out and about, most of us greet each other with, “Hi! How are you?” Generally, Americans subconsciously intend this to be a surface-level, friendly greeting. Generally, in the aisles of the supermarket, we are not inquiring about the status of a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It’s not to say that we don’t actually care about each other. It’s just… usually, if we’re genuinely interested and aware that the standard answers of “good,” “fine,” or “alright,” aren’t actually the expected answer, we’ll lean-in and give permission to be truthful with something akin to, “No, really; how are you?”

For a long time, my honest answer wasn’t, “Good!” It wasn’t even, “Fine,” (which my mother considers to be a four-letter word). For a long time, I was struggling. And my personal integrity was taking a hit by answering with anything less than the truth – because things were just so hard. Eventually, I settled on a non-answer, “Hey! Good to see you!” or with a swivel, “Busy! How about you?”

The lenten promise to Be Real was born out of this struggle. For the sake of my sanity and integrity (aka—mental and spiritual health), I eventually decided I would be real with anyone I knew would want to know… whether they were prepared for it or not. I had a lot of conversations that started with me stumbling over expressing the truth: “Good! No. Actually, I’m not good. Things are hard.”

Speaking Truth

When I started “being real” and speaking the truth, I started to open the door to unexpected love and grace.

No. Wait. Actually, a caveat: Not everyone is entitled to know the truth. And frankly, not everyone can handle the truth.

you-cant-handle-the-truth

No joke. Some people are really bad at this.

But more often than not, I found support, love, and compassion. Sometimes I’d lay out my truth with a voice-quivering, “Things are hard.” Then I’d purse my lips and shake my head—tears might fall—and I’d whisper, “Can’t talk about it. Pray. How are you?”

Speaking truth opened the door to community; I wasn’t so alone.

Yes. This is hard.

We are all struggling with this “new normal” (which is hard), for an undetermined amount of time (which is—speaking from experience here—really, really hard).

It’s been a relief to hear more and more people being real and acknowledging that this is hard.

Acknowledging that this is hard doesn’t mean you’re complaining. Nor does it mean you’re lacking in faith or trust in God.

Take a look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16, right after the big question “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15) and Peter’s profound confession of faith. This is when Jesus begins to get real with the disciples, predicting the his suffering and death (v.21).

When Jesus speaks these difficult truths, he’s not complaining. He’s not lacking in faith or trust in God.

In fact, it’s Peter who lacks faith and trust in the one whom he just confessed to be the Messiah! Peter refuses to hear the difficult truth and rebukes Jesus: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt 16:22).

Jesus has no tolerance for telling himself (and others) a lie that will make everybody feel better. Because although the pain and suffering of the Passion and Death will be hard, that is not the end of the story. (More on that another day.)

We’re all in this together

There is tremendous grace in hearing others being real and speaking truth. We’re reminded that we’re not alone. We’re reminded that we’re not doing it wrong. And in the broken Body of Christ, we’re reminded that our Savior is with us in our suffering, present to us through one another.

  • Is there someone you can call (old-school phone or Zoom) and be real about the things you’re finding most difficult right now?
  • Really. How are you?

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Raising of Lazarus Van Gogh via flickr
Divine Providence, Evil, Grace, Hope, Lent, Passion, Scripture, Suffering, Transformation
1

Being Real, Having Hope, and Lazarus

The other day, I talked about the need to reevaluate lent. The lenten practice that I’ve found really helpful, especially in this time of pandemic, is both being real and having hope, understanding that it’s important to do both together. It’s a practice that the Scripture story of the “Raising of Lazarus” has really helped me understand and practice.

Being Real and Having Hope

By “be real,” I mean to courageously acknowledge the truth of what is going on – in the world, in my community, and in my home – which includes honestly accounting for feelings, whether anxiety and sadness or laughter and love. Therein, it’s the humility to be real with both joys and sorrows… with both success and struggle… with both death and Resurrection… with myself, with others (including my kids) and with God.

By “have hope,” I mean to continually have faith in the transforming power of God in the Paschal Mystery. To hope is to both trust in God and to actively cooperate with God’s grace. Hope is a bit of an elusive virtue for many of us. We tend to take it to one of two unhelpful extremes, with either too much reliance on self (while lacking trust in God) or too much professed reliance on God (without bothering to discern how God may be calling us to cooperate with grace).

Hope Virtue with Extremes

I need to, I want to, and I have to do both: be real and have hope. To only focus on one without the other leads to more unhealthy extremes: negativity-and-panic… or saccharine-sweet-rainbow-unicorns. (Read more about the virtue of hope here.)

The Raising of Lazarus

The Gospel for the 5th Sunday in Lent, the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45), speaks to both “being real” and “having hope.”

Jesus receives word from his good friends, Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus is ill. But instead of rushing off, Jesus curiously stays where he is for two more days. By the time they arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days. First Martha (v.21) and then Mary (v.32) each greet Jesus by, saying If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

How many times have we similarly lamented, “Why? Why didn’t God do something to stop this?” Even now, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, how many of us have wondered “Why has God allowed this to happen?!”

In The Passion and the Cross, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI redirects our “Whys?” simply and succinctly: Because our God is a fellow-sufferer and a Redeemer, not a Rescuer.

“God doesn’t ordinarily intervene to save us from humiliation, pain, and death; rather, he redeems humiliation, pain, and death after the fact” (38).

Honestly articulating our questions and struggles directly to Jesus is being real, but Martha and Mary don’t stop there. They don’t just speak their sorrow. Immediately following her lament, “If you had been here…” Martha models having hope: “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11:22).

And Jesus. Even though he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, we find Jesus deeply troubled by the reality of the situation. It’s here that we read the shortest verse in all of Scripture, “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Talk about being real with emotion!

Having hope in a God who Redeems (not rescues) means that things might not unfold as we would expect. Things certainly didn’t unfold the way Martha and Mary expected. Nor did things unfold the way the disciples expected following the Crucifixion.

Having hope in a God who Redeems means we are open to goodness and grace – especially when we least expect it!

(More on that in the next post!)

  • Are you able to be real and have hope about your joys and sorrows in the midst of all that is going on? (Or do you find yourself going to unhelpful extremes?)
  • Do you expect God to be a rescuer?

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gifts
Advent, Grace, Holy Spirit, Scripture
0

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

As a post-Vatican II cradle Catholic, initially catechized by 1980’s parish CCD, I didn’t grow up memorizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, during Confirmation prep, I remember wondering how I would suddenly receive these gifts when the bishop anointed my forehead… as if the Sacred Chrism Oil were some magical Gummi Berry Juice.

I didn’t get it. I surely didn’t get how Sacramental grace worked. Nor did I get how wisdom differed from understanding, which somehow differed from knowledge. Amid my solid grounding in the abundant love and mercy of God, I especially lacked a healthy understanding of what was meant by “fear of the Lord.”

As a teacher of adolescents and adults, I’ve spent some time making sense of this beautiful concept.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are identified in Isaiah 11:2-3, which was in Tuesday’s daily Mass reading and will be proclaimed again in the First Reading on the Second Sunday of Advent.

Isaiah 11.2-3 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gift of God’s love poured into human hearts through the Holy Spirit provides us with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

Explaining Each Gift

To better understand each of the gifts, we turn to St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • Knowledge as a gift of the Holy Spirit refers to knowing divine truth in a way that guides one’s moral life in both theory and practice; it is a knowledge of justice, balance, proportion, and judgment.
  • Wisdom extends from the perspective gained from combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience in order to make wise judgments aligned with goodness.
  • Understanding offers penetrating, intuitive insight into the very heart of things; the ability to “see” God and “to see as God sees.”
  • Counsel moves us beyond the human power of self-reflective deliberation, allowing us to be guided by the Holy Spirit in discerning God’s Will
  • Fortitude is the firmness of mind to do good and avoid evil, particularly when doing good is difficult or dangerous; beyond the cardinal virtue, this gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to confidently endure evil, fortifying us with the strength of God.
  • Piety is the gift that enables us to show the proper reverence, respect, honor, devotion, and worship for God
  • Fear of God is a fear only in the sense that we deeply fear losing those whom we deeply love; being in such “awe” of the relationship, rooted in such deep love, that one fears losing that relationship.

The Gift of Grace

The gifts of the Holy Spirit work as all gifts of God’s grace. Grace is the word we use to describe God’s freely given gift of God’s very self. Think of grace like divine assistance. This assistance only works if we cooperate with it.

It’s like this: imagine Jesus throws you a football of grace. Football of GraceYou either catch and run with it or it falls flat. Without your cooperation, nothing happens. The grace–and gifts of the Holy Spirit—lay dormant at your feet, waiting for you to do something with them. God deeply respects our freedom and dignity. God will not force the gift of Grace upon us.

Another beautiful image places the the gifts of the Holy Spirit as deeply planted roots from which the fruits of the Holy Spirit grow.

Gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit

If we cultivate and grow the internal gifts that we have been given, by life lived in the Spirit, those gifts will bear fruit.

Are you cultivating those gifts or is the Football of Grace lying dormant at your feet?

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Litany of Humility Feature Image
Grace, Humility, Scripture, Spirituality, Virtue
2

Reflecting on the Litany of Humility

Have you ever prayed the Litany of Humility?

Litany of Humility

The beauty and wisdom of the Litany of Humility are especially evident in the way it manages to address both sides of our struggle with humility: pride and insecurity.

Both “too much pride and “too many insecurities are unhelpful, and both are violations of truth.

From Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life, though often attributed to CS Lewis

Humility is about LOVE

Humility is about loving God and knowing that you are loved by God, fully and completely.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 10.11.48

There is no need to “desire God’s love. You already are loved by God, fully and completely. Have faith in God’s perfect love. Stand firm in the knowledge of that love.

Allow the truth of God’s perfect love to speak to any insecurities.

Anyone or anything that would give you the impression that you are not fully and completely loved by God, just as you are, is violating the truth of God’s perfect love.

Humility is about TRUTH.

Humility rejects the falsehood of TOO MUCH pride, arrogance, or self-centered ego.

Pride prevents us from honestly seeing ourselves before God.

The problem isn’t taking pride in a job well done… the problem is when we claim all glory, honor and praise for our accomplishments as our own, without recognizing that in truth, we only build upon and work with the gifts and talents God has given us.

Moreover, the problem isn’t receiving praise and honor… the problem is the desire.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.12.44

Deliver me, Jesus, from the desires of my pride.

Humility also rejects the falsehood of TOO LITTLE confidence, which feeds insecurities and dwells on unworthiness.

Our God who again and again tells us “fear not” and “be not afraid” does not want us to feel insecure. Our God who blesses us with gifts and talents so that we may be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone we meet does not ask us to dwell on unworthiness.

Humility isn’t about unworthiness.

St Theresa of Avila quote on Humility

But before getting to “unworthiness,” there’s a TRUTH-related vocabulary word that needs clarity.

What is “calumniated” and how do you even say it?

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.56.06

Calumny [CAL-oom-nee] appears in the Catechism’s section on truth, following the Eighth Commandment (Thou shall not bear false witness), and refers to misrepresenting  someone’s reputation, particularly with the intent to harm.

In the Litany of Humility, this speaks to that fear of being talked about behind your back. Ouch.

Deliver me, Jesus, from my fears and insecurities.

It’s Not About Worthiness

Far too often, we want to make our relationship with God about worthiness.

The Scripture passage about worthiness that we are most familiar with comes from the healing of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13, which we pray before receiving the Eucharist.

Lord I am Not Worthy

The Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. As Jesus agrees, the Centurion stops him with his powerful line, “Lord I am not worthy…” and goes on to express tremendous faith, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Read this passage closely, and you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t disagree: the Centurion IS NOT worthy.

Of course, he’s not worthy. None of us are worthy. And if you’re the kind of person who struggles with the pride and ego side of humility, sit with this for a while.

Grace, mercy, love, and healing are gifts given by God, to us, freely.  It’s not about worthiness; it’s never about worthiness. We should really stop making it about worthiness.

The Virtue of Humility

Humility is the virtue that asks you to:

  • know that you are completely and fully loved by God for who you are
  • stand firm in the truth
  • value God’s opinion of you more than the world’s
  • trust in God’s Grace and Mercy
  • use the gifts and talents that God has given you to glorify God by your life
  • recognize that you are a vessel and God is the source of those gifts and talents

Humility is not to be confused with humiliation, which is a violation of TRUTH. Humility doesn’t ask you to be a doormat, content with verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. But when you experience humiliation, the virtue of humility grounds you in the truth of God’s love, not the world’s opinion. Humility frees you to trust in God’s Grace and Mercy.

Humility asks you to keep your pride in-check. To remember that all that you have and all that you are extend from God’s goodness, love, and blessings. Humility takes all of the glory from all our accomplishments and uses it to give greater glory to God.

And in everything, humility relies upon the virtues of courage and wisdom; to courageously and wisely speak the truth with love.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.51.34

Grant Me the Grace

The Litany of Humility invites us to explore the parts of the virtue of humility that you may find uncomfortable.

Through the Litany of Humility, petition God: Deliver me from my desires and fears… and grant me the grace to desire those aspects of humility that I still struggle with.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.52.33

Please feel free to print and share my Litany of Humility graphic, available in PDF.

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Screenshot 2019-02-04 12.19.55
Action, Article, Calling, Scripture, Service
0

Here I am, send me!

A 5th grade girl asked a simple question. A frequent visitor to nursing homes (while her Mom works as a nurse practitioner), Ruby asked a resident why she was looking outside so intently.  The woman paid a pet-sitter $12 to bring her dog of 12 years to visit; she watched as the dog left, not knowing when she’d see her beloved pet again. With tremendous empathy, Ruby saw that what brought this woman so much sadness had a simple answer. More, she started to wonder what other simple requests residents might have. So she simply asked: asked residents “if I could bring you 3 things in the whole world, what would those be?”  CNN reports Ruby found that rather than asking for a new car or a million dollars, the requests were simple things: pants that fit, a phone, pet food, fresh fruit. With the help of her mom, they set up a Facebook page “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents” and a GoFundMe account, raising more than $93,000 for residents in five nursing homes in Arkansas.

It’s so simple: See a need and respond with love.

On the path of discipleship, this is what God asks of us: to love one another as we are loved (John 13:34). To see and respond to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40).

Say to the Lord: “Here I am, send me!”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

hands heart volunteer

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