Sacrifice in The Ordinary Moments

I love my job!

I probably have one of the coolest jobs in the world… and most people would agree.

I am a direct support professional. I serve individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities (i.e. autism, muscular dystrophy) by helping them manage life out in public.

This opportunity is many things: it is fun, it is fulfilling, it is at times confusing and challenging. But especially for the Lent season, it is an opportunity to put others before me.

The program that I work under is called “Self-Direction”. As the title implies, the individual I am serving decides how we will spend the session. If he wants to have tacos every week for an entire year, then we are having tacos every week.

I often say that my life is other people’s lives. I don’t have heroic opportunities to be selfless but instead very small, frequent occasions for sacrifice.

And that isn’t bad! I mean, don’t get me wrong. I totally fantasize about a legendary, divinizing sacrifice that would cement my person into the framework of modern history, like the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or St. Maximilian Kolbe…

But God gives me opportunities for small deaths, like eating tacos for the 20th week in a row (not an exaggeration).

The Queen of ordinary sacrifices, St. Teresa of Calcutta, once said

“JOY: Jesus, others, yourself.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Living a life of joy requires a kind of death, a death to our own selfishness.

Find opportunities to sacrifice your preference to care for others.

Be like Christ!

Be awesome!

 

 

 

 

During the week, Matt is a mentor for individuals who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. On the weekends, he is a drummer for Full Armor Band.
You can find more content by Matt and his band at www.fullarmorband.com

Sacrificio en los momentos ordinarios

¡Me encanta mi trabajo!

Probablemente tengo uno de los trabajos más geniales del mundo… y la mayoría de la gente estaría de acuerdo.

Soy profesional de apoyo directo. Sirvo a individuos que tienen discapacidades intelectuales y de desarrollo (por ejemplo, autismo, distrofia muscular) ayudándoles a manejar la vida en público.

Esta oportunidad tiene muchas cosas: es divertida, gratificante, a veces es confusa y desafiante. Pero especialmente en la temporada de Cuaresma, es una oportunidad para poner a otros delante de mí.

El programa para el que trabajo se llama “Self-Direction [Auto-Dirección]”. Como el título lo indica, el individuo al que le esté sirviendo decide qué quiere hacer en la sesión. Si quiere comer tacos cada semana durante todo un año, entonces comeremos tacos cada semana.

A menudo digo que mi vida es la vida de otras personas. No tengo oportunidades heroicas de ser desinteresada, pero en cambio tengo pequeñas y muy frecuentes ocasiones para el sacrificio.

¡Y eso no está mal! Quiero decir, no me malinterpretes. Fantaseo plenamente con un sacrificio legendario y divinizador que me cimiente en el marco de la historia moderna, como la muerte del Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. o san Maximiliano Kolbe…

Pero Dios me da oportunidades de tener pequeñas muertes, como comer tacos durante 20 semanas consecutivas (no una exageración).

La reina de los sacrificios ordinarios, santa Teresa de Calcuta, dijo una vez,

“Alegría: Jesús, otros, tú mismo”.

¿No es eso cietrto?

Vivir una vida de gozo requiere una especie de muerte, una muerte a nuestro propio egoísmo.

Encuentra oportunidades de sacrificar tus preferencia para ocuparte de los demá

Sé como Cristo

¡Sé genial!

 

The Lord Looks on the Heart

What did Jesus see in Levi that made Him call to the tax collector? There were other publicans there, sitting alongside Levi. Why did the Christ only invite Levi to follow Him?

Jesus saw something special in Levi. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Perhaps Jesus saw a generous heart full of longing.

Despite his wealth, Levi knew he was missing something. He trusted that Jesus knew what he was missing and trusted that Jesus could fulfill that need. So he got up, left the emptiness behind, and followed Jesus.

Levi was so excited about his new-found treasure that he wanted to share it with his friends. Who were his friends? Outcasts: other tax collectors, of course, and prostitutes.

Jesus did not shrink away from Levi’s friends. He cared not that the popular and (self-)righteous among the Israelites considered these people deplorable, undesirable, unclean. Jesus knew that they, like all people, needed Him. So He dined with them.

CatholicMom.com was started by Lisa Hendey in 2000 to create a community for Catholic parents to share insights on living their faith with their family. The website has grown substantially over the years to become a rich resource for all Catholics seeking spiritual enrichment for their families.  It continues to provide fresh perspectives from the enriching columnists and contributors with daily articles and reflections as well as book and tech recommendations.

 

El Señor mira el corazón

¿Qué vio Jesús en Leví (el recaudador de impuestos) que lo hizo llamarlo? Había otros publicanos allí, sentados junto a Leví. ¿Por qué Cristo sólo invitó a Leví a seguirlo?

Jesús vio algo especial en Leví. “Porque el Señor no ve como el hombre ve: el hombre mira el aspecto exterior, pero el Señor mira el corazón” (1 Sam 16:7). Tal vez Jesús vio un corazón generoso lleno de anhelo.

A pesar de su riqueza, Leví sabía que le faltaba algo. Confiaba en que Jesús sabía lo que le faltaba y confiaba en que Jesús podía satisfacer esa necesidad. Así que se levantó, dejó atrás el vacío detrás, y siguió a Jesús.

Leví estaba tan entusiasmado con su nuevo tesoro que quería compartirlo con sus amigos. ¿Quiénes eran sus amigos? Parias: otros cobradores de impuestos, por supuesto, y prostitutas.

Jesús no le dio la espalda a los amigos de Leví. No le importaba que los populares y los fariseos entre los israelitas consideraran a estas personas deplorables, indeseables y sucias. Jesús sabía que ellos, como toda la gente, lo necesitaban. Así que cenó con ellos.

CatholicMom.com was started by Lisa Hendey in 2000 to create a community for Catholic parents to share insights on living their faith with their family. The website has grown substantially over the years to become a rich resource for all Catholics seeking spiritual enrichment for their families.  It continues to provide fresh perspectives from the enriching columnists and contributors with daily articles and reflections as well as book and tech recommendations.

Fasting and Sacrifice

The first Friday of Lent. I immediately think of fasting and recall the numerous tuna casseroles, fish sticks, and creamed peas on toast served for the Friday dinners of my youth. I really hate canned tuna fish and canned peas. I secretly hoped my Mom would send the meal that the rest of my family seemed to enjoy, to the kids that didn’t have enough food, even though I knew it would be spoiled before it could get to them and I would go to bed hungry. I couldn’t wrap my elementary school brain around the concept of why we fast and what that had to do with Church. Church happens on Sunday, silly.  Ah, the focus and ideals of youth.

The readings today both speak of fasting. Does my fasting end in quarreling and fighting? Am I snippy with others because I’ve skipped a meal as part of my fast and my blood sugar starts crashing? I don’t believe this type of physical fasting is the kind of sacrifice God truly wants from me. So then what is it that God is calling me to fast from this Lent?

I want my fast to be pleasing to the Lord. Pope Francis has some thought-provoking words in his annual message for Lent 2018 about keeping our hearts from becoming cold. He uses Dante’s description of hell to compare our cold heart to, “the devil seated on a throne of ice in frozen and loveless desolation.” Yikes! Definitely not who I want to become! There are also a few things from our Holy Father’s words that have me taking a look at how I can fast on a deeper level.

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and have trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

These are very realistic ways for me to fast, however challenging they may be when you take a second or third read through them. Lent, during the two-year process of separation and divorce from my former husband, was extremely painful. I tried to fast from making negative comments about our situation. I tried to fast from hurtful words and bitterness. It was a struggle. I joined the choir at my parish to lift my brokenness to God in song during Lent. I cantor to make sure I go to Mass on Sunday and be nourished with the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I do these things because I cannot survive on my own. I need the love outpoured in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Jesus so loved me, a sinner, that He gave His life for my redemption; for your redemption.  

Fr Thaddaeus Lancton wrote a beautiful reflection on “The Secret of Lent”.  He speaks about looking at Lent in the example of St. Faustina; how we can please the Lord by obedience.

He says:

“When St. Faustina asked her superior…. for permission to fast, it was denied due to her poor health. Instead, she was told to meditate upon the Passion — particularly how Jesus accepted vinegar and gall — while eating. As St. Faustina wrote: ‘The benefit is that I am meditating constantly on His sorrowful Passion and so, while I am eating, I am not preoccupied with what I am eating, but am reflecting on my Lord’s death’ (Diary, 618).

The goal of Lent is not simply self-improvement or adding to resolutions. Rather, as St. Faustina learned, it is a time to be conformed to Christ in His Passion, so that we might share, too, in His glory (see Diary, 446). Let us desire, then, to be obedient to Jesus, for our salvation came about through His obedience, and we receive the grace of our salvation through our obedience to Him.”

Bishop David L. Ricken offers another reflection in 10 Things to Remember for Lent. My Lenten offering will include praying for at least one person per day, whom I do not know. I will try to fast from words so I can be silent to listen to the Lord in those around me and through the mundane situations and routines that make up my life. I will try to attend daily Mass 3 time per week. What is God calling you to do?

Beth Price is a Secular Franciscan (OFS) and spiritual director who has worked in several  parish ministry roles during the last 20 years. She is a proud mother of 3 adult children. Beth currently works at Diocesan.

El Ayuno y el Sacrificio

Es el primer viernes de la Cuaresma. De inmediato pienso en el ayuno y me acuerdo de las innumerables cacerolas de atún, los palitos de pescado empanados, y chícharos cremados sobre pan tostado que me sirvieron para las cenas los viernes de mi juventud. Realmente no me gusta el atún enlatado ni los chicharos de lata. Aunque parecía que el resto de la familia lo disfrutaba, secretamente esperaba que mi mama mandara la comida a los niños que no tenían que comer, aunque sabía que se iba a echar a perder antes de que les llegara y yo iba a tener que ir a la cama con hambre. Mi cabeza de niño de primaria no llegaba a entender el concepto de por qué ayunamos, y que tenía que ver el ayuno con la Iglesia. Pues la Iglesia era para los domingos. Aaa, como es el enfoque y los ideales de los jóvenes…

Las dos lecturas de hoy hablan del ayuno. ¿Mi ayuno termina en discusiones y peleas? ¿Hablo cortante a los demás porque he faltado una comida como parte del ayuno y se me ha bajado el azúcar? No creo que este tipo de ayuno físico es el sacrificio que Dios me pide. Entonces ¿qué tipo de ayuno Dios me pide hacer esta Cuaresma?

Quiero que mi ayuno sea agradable al Señor. El Papa Francisco ha escrito unas palabras muy profundas en su mensaje anual de la Cuaresma 2018 sobre cómo no dejar que se enfríen nuestros corazones. Utilizó la descripción del infierno de Dante para comparar nuestro corazón frío al, “diablo sentado en un trono de hielo; su morada es el hielo del amor extinguido.” ¡Aycaray! ¡Yo definitivamente no quiero llegar a eso! También hay unas cosas de las palabras del Santo Padre que me tienen pensando cómo puedo ayunar a un nivel más profundo.

  • Ayunar de palabras dañinas y hablar palabras bondadosas.
  • Ayunar de la tristeza y llenarme de gratitud.
  • Ayunar del enojo y llenarme de paciencia.
  • Ayunar del pesimismo y llenarme de esperanza.
  • Ayunar de las preocupaciones y confiar en Dios.
  • Ayunar de las quejas y contemplar la sencillez.
  • Ayunar de los agobios y ser una persona de oración.
  • Ayunar de la amargura y llenar sus corazones de alegría.
  • Ayunar del egoísmo y ser compasivos con los demás.
  • Ayunar de los rencores y reconciliarse.
  • Ayunar de las palabras y mantener silencio para escuchar.

Para mí, estas son maneras muy realistas de ayunar, aunque parezcan más y más difíciles la segunda y tercera leída. La Cuaresma, durante el proceso de dos años de separarme y divorciarme de mi ex-esposo, era demasiado doloroso. Hice el esfuerzo de ayunar de los comentarios negativos sobre nuestra situación. Intenté ayunar de las palabras dañinas y de la amargura. Era una batalla. Me hice miembro del coro en mi parroquia para elevar a Dios lo quebrado en mí con el canto durante la Cuaresma.  Guío el canto para asegurar que vaya a Misa los domingos para nutrirme con el Cuerpo y Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  Hago estas cosas porque no puedo sobrevivir a solas. Necesito el amor derramado en el sacrificio Eucarístico. Jesús me amó tanto, una pecadora, que dio su vida para redimirme, para redimirte a ti.

El P. Thaddaeus Lancton escribió una reflexión hermosa sobre “El Secreto de la Cuaresma” (“The Secret of Lent”).  Habla de ver la Cuaresma a través del ejemplo de Sta. Faustina; cómo podemos agradar al Señor con la obediencia.

Dice:

“Cuando Faustina le pidió a su superiora…. permiso de ayunar, se la negó porque sufría de mala salud. La dijeron que en lugar de ayunar, debe meditar en la Pasión – en particular como Jesús aceptó el vinagre y hiel — mientras comía. Como escribió Sta. Faustina: ‘El beneficio es que mientras estoy meditando constantemente en su triste Pasión mientras estoy comiendo, no estoy preocupada de lo que coma, sino estoy reflexionando en la muerte de mi Señor’ (Diario, 618).

La meta de esta Cuaresma no es simplemente mejorar a nosotros mismos o agregar propósitos, sino como aprendió Sta. Faustina, es una temporada para conformarnos a Cristo en su Pasión, para que podamos compartir también en su Gloria (vea el Diario, 446). Deseamos nosotros también entonces, ser obedientes a Jesús, porque hizo posible nuestra salvación a través de su obediencia, y recibimos la gracia de nuestra salvación a través de nuestra obediencia a Él.”

 El Obispo David L. Ricken ofreció otra reflexión en “10 Cosas por Recordar para la Cuaresma” (10 Things to Remember for Lent).  Parte de mi ofrecimiento cuaresmal será rezar para por lo menos una persona por día que no conozca. Intentaré ayunar de las palabras para que pueda ser silenciosa y escuchar al Señor en aquellos a mi alrededor y a través de las situaciones mundanas y las rutinas que forman mi vida. Haré el esfuerzo de asistir a Misa diaria 3 veces por semana. ¿Qué es lo que Dios te pide a ti?

Mercy, Evangelization, and Pope Francis

During the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016, I read a wonderful book by Pope Francis titled, “The Name of God is Mercy.” Actually, I read it three times over the course of a year. The book is the transcript of a long interview the Holy Father did with the Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli about the Year of Mercy.

The book was comforting and refreshing, but also very challenging, reading it was a kind of examination of conscience. While the entire book really is fantastic, I wanted to share one powerful passage that I think speaks to our journey through this season of self-reflection, penance, and mercy. I would encourage you to read Pope Francis’ words slowly and prayerfully, read them as if he was writing to you personally.

This passage comes from the chapter titled, “Shepherds, not Scholars of the Law.” Pope Francis says:

“We need to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers live. We need to be able to make contact with them and let them feel our closeness, without letting ourselves be wrapped up in that darkness and influenced by it. Caring for outcasts and sinners does not mean letting the wolves attack the flock. It means trying to reach everyone by sharing the experience of mercy, which we ourselves have experienced, without ever caving in to the temptation of feeling that we are just or perfect.”

While he doesn’t use the word “evangelization,” I think that is precisely what the pope is talking about here. I’ve heard it said that evangelization is one beggar showing another beggar where the bread is. Likewise, I think Pope Francis would say that evangelization is one sinner showing another sinner how to encounter God’s mercy. What’s cool about thinking of evangelization this way is that it’s not complicated and it certainly doesn’t require a theology degree. How have you experienced God’s mercy in your life? How has God saved you from your own sin and suffering? Have you ever shared this story with anyone? The pope continues:

“The more conscience we are of our wretchedness and our sins, the more we experience the love and infinite mercy of God among us, and the more capable we are of looking upon the many “wounded” we meet along the way with acceptance and mercy.”

Shortly after being elected pope, Francis was asked: “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” And his response was, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” The Holy Father says that it is a true grace for someone to feel like a sinner and that if we don’t feel that way then we should ask God for the grace to feel like a sinner. It is only as a sinner that we can experience God’s infinite mercy, it is only in our weakness and humility that we can truly know God’s greatness. If I am not a sinner then I have no need for a Savior. Recognizing oneself as a sinner is also one of the first steps of evangelization, the pope says:

So we must avoid the attitude of someone who judges and condemns from the lofty heights of his own certainty, looking for the splinter in his brother’s eye while remaining unaware of the beam is his own. Let us always remember that God rejoices more when one sinner returns to the fold than when ninety-nine righteous people have no need of repentance. When a person begins to recognize the sickness in their soul, when the Holy spirit – the Grace of God – acts within them and moves their heart toward an initial recognition of their own sins, he needs to find an open door, not a closed one. He needs to find acceptance, not judgment, prejudice, or condemnation. He needs to be helped, not pushed away or cast out. Sometimes when Christians think like scholars of the law, their hearts extinguish that which the Holy Spirit lights up in the heart of a sinner who stands at the threshold, when he starts to feel nostalgia for God.

This passage reads like an examination of conscience. I find myself quick to judge someone else’s faults. Too often I act like a “scholar of law” who stands on a self-righteous pedestal judging others. It’s easy for us to treat people as “the other,” as enemies in a culture war, as bad Catholics, instead of Children of God. But judging other from “lofty heights” is the opposite of evangelization.

It’s easy for us to judge the young unmarried couple bringing their baby to be baptized, the couple who lived together before their wedding, the couple you know is using contraception, the person with outrageous and ignorant Facebook posts, the person with the Other Party’s bumper sticker in the church parking lot, etc, etc. I use all of these examples because these are ways I have judged others in the past. “These people” aren’t enemies in a culture war, these are the “lost sheep” who Jesus rejoices over more than the ninety-nine who never strayed.

Pope Francis is telling us that we can only stop judging others and start loving them when we have the humility to see ourselves as the greatest sinner in the room. The Holy Father said, “Every time I go through the gates into a prison to celebrate Mass or for a visit, I always think: Why them and not me? I should be here. I deserve to be here. Their fall could have been mine.”

The Year of Mercy is long over, but during this penitential season of Lent let us pray for the humility of Pope Francis and the courage to share God’s mercy with those who have fallen away from the Church. Let us pray for the tremendous grace to see ourselves as sinners so that we may fully encounter the God whose name is Mercy.

Durante el Año del Jubileo de la Misericordia en 2016 leí un estupendo libro del papa Francisco titulado: “El nombre de Dios es Misericordia”. De hecho, lo leí tres veces en el transcurso de un año. El libro es una transcripción de una extensa entrevista que el papa Francisco le concedió al reportero Andres Tornielli acerca del Año de la Misericordia.

El libro fue reconfortante y alentador, pero también muy desafiante, y su lectura fue una especie de examen de conciencia. Aunque todo el libro realmente es fantástico, me gustaría compartir un pasaje conmovedor que creo que habla de nuestro recorrido por esta temporada de autoreflexión, penitencia y misericordia. Te animo a leer las palabras del papa Francisco lentamente y en oración, a leerlas como si te estuviera escribiendo personalmente.

Este pasaje proviene de un capítulo llamado, “Pastores, no doctores de la Ley”. El papa Francisco dice:

“Tenemos que entrar en la oscuridad, en la noche que viven tantos hermanos nuestros. Debemos ser capaces de entrar en contacto con ellos, de hacer notar nuestra cercanía, sin dejarnos envolver ni condicionar por esa oscuridad. Preocuparse por los marginados y los pecadores no significa permitir que los lobos ataquen el rebaño. Significa tratar de llegarles a todos dando testimonio de la misericordia, de esa que hemos experimentado nosotros en primer lugar, sin caer jamás en la tentación de sentirnos como los justos o los perfectos”.

Aunque el papa no usa la palabra “evangelización”, creo que eso es precisamente de lo está hablando aquí. He oído decir que la evangelización es un mendigo mostrándole a otro mendigo dónde está el pan. Del mismo modo, creo que el papa Francisco diría que la evangelización es un pecador mostrándole a otro pecador cómo encontrar la misericordia de Dios. Lo bueno de pensar en la evangelización de esta manera es que no es complicado y, ciertamente, no se requiere tener un título en teología. ¿Cómo has experimentado la misericordia de Dios en tu vida? ¿Cómo te ha salvado Dios de tu propio pecado y sufrimiento? ¿Alguna vez has compartido esta historia con alguien? El papa continúa:

“Cuanto más viva está la conciencia de nuestra miseria y de nuestros pecados, más experimentamos el amor y la infinita misericordia de Dios sobre nosotros, y tanto más somos capaces de estar frente a los muchos «heridos» que encontramos en nuestro camino con una mirada de bienvenida y misericordia”.

Poco después de ser elegido Papa, le preguntaron a Francisco: “¿Quién es Jorge Bergoglio?”. Y su respuesta fue: “Yo soy un pecador. Esta es la definición más precisa. No es una figura retórica ni un género literario. Soy un pecador”. El Santo Padre dice que es una verdadera gracia para alguien sentirse un pecador, y que si no nos sentimos de esa manera entonces debemos pedirle a Dios la gracia de sentirnos pecadores. Solo como pecadores podemos experimentar la misericordia infinita de Dios, y solo en nuestra debilidad y humildad podemos conocer verdaderamente la grandeza de Dios. Si no somos pecadores, entonces no tenemos la necesidad de un Salvador. El reconocimiento de nosotros mismos como pecadores es también uno de los primeros pasos de la evangelización, dice el Papa.

Por eso debemos evitar la actitud de alguien que juzga y condena desde las alturas excelsas de su propia certeza buscando la astilla en el ojo de su prójimo, mientras no está consciente de la viga en el suyo. Recordemos siempre que Dios se regocija más cuando un pecador regresa al rebaño que cuando 99 personas justas no tienen necesidad de arrepentimiento. Cuando una persona comienza a reconocer la enfermedad en su alma, cuando el Espíritu Santo -la gracia de Dios- actúa dentro de ella y mueve su corazón hacia un reconocimiento inicial de sus propios pecados, necesita encontrar una puerta abierta, no una cerrada. Necesita encontrar la aceptación, no el juicio, el prejuicio, o la condenación. Necesita ser ayudada, no ser alejada o expulsada. A veces, cuando los cristianos piensan como doctores de la ley, sus corazones extinguen lo que el Espíritu Santo ilumina en el corazón de un pecador que está en el umbral, cuando comienza a sentir nostalgia por Dios.

Este pasaje se lee como un examen de conciencia. Soy rápido para juzgar las falencias del otro. Muy a menudo actúo como un “doctor de la ley” que se encuentra en un pedestal con derecho propio para juzgar a otros. Es fácil para nosotros tratar a la gente como “el otro”, como enemigos en una guerra cultural, como malos católicos, en lugar de tratarlos como hijos de Dios. Pero juzgar a otros desde “alturas excelsas” es lo opuesto a la evangelización.

Es fácil para nosotros juzgar a la joven pareja soltera que lleva a bautizar a su bebé; a la pareja que vivió junta antes de su boda; a la pareja que uno sabe que está usando métodos anticonceptivos; a la persona con mensajes escandalosos e ignorantes en Facebook; a la persona que tiene un sticker del Otro Partido en el parachoques en el estacionamiento de la iglesia, etc, etc. Utilizo todos estos ejemplos porque son formas en las que he juzgado a otros en el pasado. “Estas personas” no son enemigas en una guerra cultural, estas son las “ovejas perdidas” por las que Jesús se regocija más que por las 99 que nunca se apartaron.

El papa Francisco nos está diciendo que solo podemos dejar de juzgar a los demás y empezar a amarlos cuando tengamos la humildad de vernos a nosotros mismos como los más grandes pecadores. El Santo Padre dijo, “Cada vez que paso por las puertas a una prisión para celebrar una misa o para una visita, siempre pienso: ¿Por qué ellos y no yo? Debería estar aquí. Merezco estar aquí. Su caída podría haber sido la mía”.

El año de la misericordia  ya ha terminado, pero durante esta temporada penitencial de la  Cuaresma oremos por la humildad del papa Francisco y por el valor de compartir la misericordia de Dios con aquellos que se han alejado de la iglesia. Oremos por la tremenda gracia de vernos a nosotros mismos como pecadores para que podamos encontrar plenamente al Dios cuyo nombre es Misericordia.

 

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He is a student of Theology, History, and Catholic Studies. If you like what he has to say, check out his blog, The Porch, or follow him on Facebook.

 

We Rise Again From Ashes

I have always wondered why Ash Wednesday services draw huge crowds. Churches are bursting at the seams! A friend once explained that every time the Church gives something away for free, people come. On Ash Wednesday we give ashes, on Palm Sunday we give palms, on Holy Thursday loaves of bread, on Easter…um…new parishioners? and Christmas…er… calendars??

I’m not quite convinced by this observation, but it is worth noting for sure. We are sticky, messy sinners who tend to look more for what we can get, rather than what we can give. And perhaps this realization is a good starting point this Lent.

Quoting the popular hymn: “We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do…” So often we have failed to GIVE. Perhaps we are living in a day-to-day financial crunch or raising a small army of little ones that leave us weary to the bone. Perhaps we are sickly or elderly or have a calendar so full of obligations that we scream, “What do you want from me? I have nothing left to give!”

Cue the second verse: “We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given and dreams not fully dreamt…” That is what God wants from us. Our failures, our half-given gifts, our unfulfilled dreams, our stumblings and most importantly our attempts.

How often we motivate others to try something new, whether it be a business venture, an article of clothing or a vegetable. “Just try it!” we encourage them. Perhaps God is asking us to just try something new as his ambassadors (ref 2 Cor 5:20), whether it be to pay it forward in the fast food line, bite our tongue when unconstructive criticism threatens to spew out, proclaim a small fast (ref Joel 2:15) and offer it up for a suffering soul, or speak a kind word to someone having a bad day.  Our attempts at kindness, holiness and truth. Because let’s face it, one Lenten season most likely won’t make a monumental difference in our spiritual lives or dramatically change our character from stubborn to virtuous, but God honors our attempts and “leaves behind a blessing” (ref Joel 2:14).

“Thanks be to the Father, who made us like himself. Thanks be to the Son, who saved us by his death. Thanks be to the Spirit, who creates the world anew, from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.”

May your Ash Wednesday and your Lent be full of attempts at giving to Lord and his people.

Siempre me he preguntado por qué los servicios del Miércoles de Ceniza atraen a grandes multitudes. ¡Las iglesias no dan abasto! Un amigo una vez explicó que cada vez que la iglesia regala algo, la gente viene. El Miércoles de Ceniza damos cenizas; el Domingo de Ramos regalamos palmas; el Jueves Santo regalamos pan; en la Pascua…quizá… ¿nuevos feligreses? y en Navidad … ¿calendarios?

No estoy muy convencido con esta observación, pero no vale la pena de seguro. Somos pecadores complicados y desordenados que tendemos a buscar más lo que podemos conseguir que lo que podemos dar. Y tal vez esta reflexión es un buen punto de partida para esta Cuaresma.

Como dice aquel popular himno: “Nos levantamos de las cenizas, del bien que no hemos podido hacer…”. Muy a menudo no hemos podido DAR. Tal vez estamos viviendo una crisis financiera cotidiana, o estamos criando un pequeño ejército de chiquillos que nos dejan agotados hasta los huesos. Quizá estamos enfermos, somos ancianos o tenemos un calendario tan lleno de obligaciones que gritamos: “¿Qué quieres de mí? No tengo nada más que dar”.

Esta es la entrada del segundo verso: “Te ofrecemos nuestros fracasos, te ofrecemos intentos, los regalos no dados del todo y los sueños incompletos…” Eso es lo que Dios quiere de nosotros. Nuestros fracasos, nuestras regalos a medio dar, nuestros sueños incumplidos, nuestros tropiezos y, sobre todo, nuestros intentos.

¿Con qué frecuencia  motivamos a otros a intentar algo nuevo, ya sea un negocio, un artículo de ropa o un vegetal? “Solo inténtalo!”, los alentamos. Tal vez Dios nos pide que probemos algo nuevo como sus embajadores (ref 2 Cor 5:20), ya sea pagar algo en la fila del restaurante de comida rápida, mordernos la lengua cuando la crítica no constructiva amenace con escaparse, proclamar un pequeño ayuno (ref Joel 2:15) y ofrecerlo por un alma afligida, o decirle una palabra amable a alguien que está teniendo un mal día. Son intentos de bondad, santidad y verdad. Porque seamos sinceros, es muy probable que una temporada de Cuaresma no haga una diferencia monumental en nuestras vidas espirituales o cambie dramáticamente nuestro carácter de terco a virtuoso, pero Dios honra nuestros intentos y “deja una bendición” (ref Joel 2:14).

“Gracias al Padre, que nos hizo a su semejanza”. Gracias all Hijo, que nos salvó por su muerte. Gracias al Espíritu, que crea el mundo de nuevo, de una ofrenda de cenizas, una ofrenda a ti”.

Que tu Miércoles de ceniza y tu Cuaresma estén llenos de intentos por darle al Señor y a su pueblo”.

 

 

Tami Urcia spent early young adulthood as a missionary in Mexico, while simultaneously studying Theology and Philosophy in Spanish. She has worked in Family Life Ministry at both the diocesan and parish levels. She currently works for Diocesan, is a freelance translator and blogger. She and her Peruvian husband are raising their children bilingual and love sharing reflections of life, love and everything in between. Find out more about her here: https://togetherandalways.wordpress.com

 

 

2018 Lent Reflections

Welcome and thank you for joining us on this journey through Lent.

Our first reflection will appear on Ash Wednesday (2/14/2018).

We pray that your lenten journey draws you closer to the person of Christ.

From all of us here at Diocesan – God Bless.

Bienvenidos y gracias por unirse a nosotros en este trayecto de la Cuaresma.

Las reflexiones cuaresmales empiecen a partir del Miércoles de Ceniza. (2/14/18)

Esperamos que caminando por esta Cuaresma les acerque a la persona de Cristo.

De todos nosotros aquí en Diocesan, que Dios los bendiga.

As Diocesan Publications’ Solutions Evangelist, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage.  He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at tshultz@diocesan.com or find him online at www.rodzinkaministry.com

 

 

Christmas is the Fulfillment of God’s Promise

When I was little, I really wanted piano lessons. My parents said I could have them when they could find a piano and a teacher we could afford. They kept their promise, but it took a lot longer than I would have liked. First, we found a used piano in the classified ads (which was going cheap because someone had done a very bad job trying to refinish it), and then we found a teacher (still a high school student herself) who charged very little. And then, I got piano lessons!

In the first reading for today, there is an amazing, breathtaking promise by God. It comes about, not because King David asks for it, but simply because God decides to make it.

The reading starts with David proposing to build a house for God. He wants to build a beautiful temple for God to dwell in, instead of the tent that is still being used, even though the people have settled, and David is living in a palace in Jerusalem.

But God sends a message to David, saying, in effect, “You want to build me a house? I’m the one who took you from being a shepherd and made you king. I fought your enemies and made you famous.” And then he makes this promise: “I will establish a house for you.” And the breathtaking part: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

So, did God keep this promise he made to David? It seemed for a while that he had not. Yes, David’s son Solomon did inherit the throne from his father, and there were kings descended from David for a period of time. But the dynasty of David went into decline for generations. It didn’t seem that there was anyone on his “throne.”

But in today’s Gospel we see that he did indeed keep it! The first hint is at the beginning, in the description of who the angel Gabriel is sent to. Before it mentions Mary’s name, she is described as: “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David” (Luke 1:26). And then, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son will be the Son of God, and “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1:32).

There are other references to Jesus as the Son of David, such as when the blind man calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). And when the crowds shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” when Jesus enters Jerusalem before his Passion.

Yes, it took a while, but God sent his Son as the fulfillment of his promise to David thousands of years ago. On Christmas, we will celebrate that coming and thank God once again for Jesus, whose kingdom is forever.

Sr. Maria Grace Dateno is a Daughter of St. Paul, and is currently an acquisitions editor at Pauline Books & Media, as well as an author of books for children. Her many nieces and nephews (25 at last count) inspire her writing, including the six-book Gospel Time Trekkers series, which are time-travel adventures for ages six to nine.

You will be Called to Your Unexpected Bethlehem

We’re nearing the end of the Advent days of waiting. Soon it will be Christmas Eve. A busy night. Christmas trees and gifts and Christmas Eve dinners. Christmas family traditions, decorating, preparation for Christmas Day cooking. Christmas cookies, and wrapped Christmas gifts. Excited children trying to sleep so Santa can bring presents to good boys and girls….

Advent has been a busy December month of preparation for Christmas. On the road yesterday, I offered praise for the love that has warmed each choice, each gift, each effort, each sacrifice, each desire to bring happiness in the hearts of holiday shoppers and Christmas family planners.

All these years as we each turn the pages of the calendar Christmas after Christmas, our busyness makes us think that Christmas is something we bring about, something we produce, something we give each other, something we do for others or for God.

The ways of God, however, are always an unexpected reversal. We take our cue from this morning’s Gospel. Mary could have helped her cousin Elizabeth with the attitude that she was giving something, providing much needed assistance, bestowing kindness on her elderly cousin. She was giving the gift. Instead, as she proclaimed in her song of praise the Magnificat, Mary knew that it was the Lord, who was the Giver of all gifts, who had done great things in her. In awe at the unfolding mystery of God’s gift, Mary put herself at the service of all God had planned. A humble joy at being a part of something so magnificent: the birth of John the Baptist to her elderly cousin who had been barren, a birth announced by an angel to her husband Zechariah, a birth of a boy that would run before the Dawn and herald the coming of the Messiah…her Child.

This is Mary’s way of putting herself at God’s disposition. Even when it came time to give birth to her own Child who would sit on the Throne of David forever, she makes no attempt to orchestrate the perfect situation for his birth. She has no pretense of greatness for having said yes to the angel Gabriel and having given her body and soul as the home of God’s Son for nine months. She is waiting, watching, listening, serving, letting him lead. She lets Jesus give the gift.

Marian eyes. Have her eyes in these days as Advent melts into Christmas joy. Eyes that look to see what Jesus is accomplishing right in front of you. Eyes that transmit faith. Eyes that offer love and understanding. Eyes that can still experience wonder at the mystery of the birth of God in our midst, saving us.

Mary left behind her planned preparation for the birth of her baby, for the uncomfortable and probably dangerous trip to Bethlehem, trusting that God had a plan. She says to me, don’t hold too tightly onto your preparations and expectations. You will be called to your unexpected Bethlehem, and it is there that you will receive the gift of Jesus.

Rest from all the work you’ve done now. Christmas is here and it will be what it will be. Let Jesus in and see what he will do within you and through you.

My heart cries out with Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP is a compassionate mentor and guide. Through her writing and online ministry she takes others along with her on her own journey of spiritual transformation, specializing in uncovering in the difficult moments of life where God’s grace is already breaking through. Connect with her website and blog: www.pauline.org/sisterkathryn

The Joy of Gift

One Thanksgiving when I was a child, our family prepared food at the local homeless shelter. I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the workers as well as the recipients. In spite of the hard work put into preparing the meal, the genuine act of love and care filled the room with joy. Those who gave and those who received were united in communion.

I reflect on that day quite frequently and Advent has been the perfect time for my optimistic outlook on the world to shine as brightly as that star in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. No matter how dark and negative the world may seem at times, no matter how many news stories we see about death, heartache, and pain, and no matter how many people hated Star Wars, there is something innate in the human person that makes us want to give and brings us joy when we do so.

This is not something unique only to the Christian or to the person who we would say has a high moral standard. It is a universal that comes from so deep within that one might even say it is not so much a characteristic of the person as much as it is the person itself. Man (male and female) is a gift. The Encyclical of the Catholic Church, Gaudium Et Spes, makes the claim that “man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.”

This is a bold statement; that we cannot even begin to understand who we are unless we give of ourselves. Why is that? Well, the easy answer is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This is a fact that has been watered down to meaning that we should have a positive self-image. That is part of it but really sit with this reality for a second. God creates man in His image to be with Him forever, man turns his back on God, God becomes his creation so that His creation can be reunited with Him forever. Talk about the ultimate gift.

And precisely because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is perfect gift, we truly find ourselves when we make a genuine gift. Gift transcends, every time, the physical world into the supernatural.

In one of our earlier Advent blogs, Paul Fahey reflected on “how God became man so that man might become God.” This doctrine of the Church is known as divinization, where we will share intimately in the divine nature of God when we reach heaven. St. John Paul II said,

“Divinization means participation in the inner life of God himself. In this state penetration and permeation of what is essentially human with what is essentially divine will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before.”  

This is the destiny of every human person, to be intimately united with the divine nature of God. But this is not just some abstract idea or something to look forward to. We can begin, so to speak, to enter into this reality right now. Every act of gift imitates the Divine because the Divine is the origin of the gift.

During this time of Advent, we reflect on the most beautiful gift of all, the incarnation of the Word. St. John Paul II said, “Because of the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” These are some rich words with deep meaning. This essentially means that because God became man, we can make the invisible (God), visible (tangible), through the visible (the gift of ourselves).

This is indeed reason to rejoice. So this Christmas season, if you are frustrated with the cashier at the busy store you are shopping at, having to stomach an awkward family reunion, or sad that you may not be able to see family or friends, think of one way you can be a gift. Don’t finish reading this blog without a change. Let this be a moment of transcendence. You may just find that it brings you immense joy. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

As Diocesan Publications’ Solutions Evangelist, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage.  He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at tshultz@diocesan.com or find him online at www.rodzinkaministry.com