Where Does Goodness Come From?

There are days when everything goes ever-so-slightly wrong, aren’t there? When you feel you’re just not paying attention? I have those days fairly frequently. I snap at someone I care about; I’m oblivious to the person behind me in the checkout line who has only one item where I have ten; I oversleep and so skip my morning prayers; I end the day without having contributed anything positive to the world, much less evangelized it for Christ.

And then I read St. Luke’s words and think, there’s no hope for someone like me. How could I possibly think I’m good enough to enter the Kingdom of God? Jesus himself says it—the gate is narrow, he won’t recognize evildoers at the end, people will be cast out.

I’m in trouble here.

No matter how hard I try, those moments, those days, of inattention and lack of charity, of sensitivity, of kindness—they’re always with me. Just when I’m feeling the most in control, just when I’m feeling I have this faith thing down, that’s when all those demons rear their ugly heads. And it’s overwhelming.

Maybe a clue to my problem is in what I just said, that bit about “having this faith thing down.” Wait—you’re really that complacent? Maybe you should dial down a little of that hubris and give some thought to what your faith is about, rather than congratulating yourself on having it.

If I really think about my life, I’ll realize it’s made up of both those things—of having faith and living it out, and then quite often squandering it, becoming dangerously close to the people Jesus is talking about, those who are “not strong enough.”

And then… enter St. Paul. While he spends time in many of his letters urging the various communities of faith to buck up, as it were, to crack on, he occasionally shares words of incredible comfort. Today’s reading is one of those times. Listen, he says: I know. You have those days when you do everything wrong. I know. You’re weak in a whole lot of areas. I know. You’re not all that good at prayer. I know all this. But—and here’s where he extends the comfort—the Holy Spirit is with you. The Spirit intercedes. The Spirit will help make you holy. The Spirit will help make you good.

Alone, I am in trouble. But today’s readings are infused with an infinite joy, because they tell me that though the dangers are out there, and I must indeed face them, I am not facing them alone. These readings are about trust. They are about faith. They are about goodness. They are about how God does wonders and how I’d live a better life if I’d just let him work within me.

Which doesn’t mean I’m always going to feel it. One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, wrote to a young convert some time after his own conversion: “It is quite right,” he says, “that you should feel that ‘something terrific’ has happened to you (it has) and be ‘all glowy.’ Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least” (The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis).

And there’s the trick. The Holy Spirit is working in us, every day, all the time; but most of the time we’re just getting on with life and aren’t really paying that much attention. Yet, think of it: there is a miracle happening every single day in every single one of us! God has not only sent his Son to live and die for us, he’s left us with the Holy Spirit to guide us, not just when we feel “glowy,” but even and especially when we don’t. When we’re short-tempered and tired. When we’re disappointed and afraid.

And it’s that Holy Spirit, interceding for us, being with us, that brings goodness into the equation. I’d like to think I’m good; and I am, sometimes. I display a casual generosity of spirit when it is convenient. But real goodness? Goodness that not only gives, but gives up? That sort of thing doesn’t fall from heaven in a Glad bag, as my mentor Aidan Kavanagh used to say. That comes from the Spirit.

So, yes: the gates of heaven may indeed be narrow, but we aren’t trying to pass through on our own. The Holy Spirit is on our side, behind every thought and act of goodness and faith we can muster. Even when we don’t feel it. Especially when we don’t feel it.

And that is everything.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

Who Belongs?

Every time I catch myself doing or saying or even thinking something unkind, and every time I chastise myself for it, I’m generally able to look to Scripture and find that while my reaction was indeed not top-notch, it was still pretty normal. Look at the disciples! They had the gift of the ongoing presence of Jesus, physically, every day, and still, they consistently exhibited the most human—and negative—of traits.

Today’s reading is no exception. Here Jesus is preaching humility while at the same time the disciples are arguing—essentially—over which one of them is the greatest. Seriously? I find this scene so difficult to imagine! These men who left lives, families, income, everything behind to follow Jesus in humility and simplicity, are now sitting around bragging and arguing. What’s wrong with this picture?

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” 

Jesus manages not to lose his temper with his slow-witted band. Don’t you see, he is saying, this isn’t the way to go. It’s about making yourself small, not big. It’s about modesty, not boasting. It’s about humility, not grandiosity. This child is closer to the Kingdom than you are.

And then John, perhaps in a desperate attempt to change the subject and deflect Jesus’ criticism, says, “Oh, and by the way, we did do something good. We saw this guy who isn’t one of us, he’s not part of the inner circle, and there he was, casting out demons in your name! We put a stop to that pretty quickly!” He and the other disciples were probably exchanging congratulatory glances with each other, maybe even a first-century high-five or two. Okay, so maybe they shouldn’t have done that “who’s the greatest” contest, but for sure Jesus is going to approve of this!

And then Jesus says something truly extraordinary.

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

I’ve belonged to exclusive clubs and even cliques before. You probably have, too. We bond with people with whom we have things in common, and the way we know we belong is because we exclude other people. And because others are excluded, there’s a certain excitement about belonging; we’re special because we belong, and we’re special because others don’t belong. It’s all pretty circular. I remember in particular in primary school I was part of a singularly idiotic group with a secret password; if you didn’t have the password, then you weren’t One Of Us. 

As adults, we’ve extended that sense of who belongs—and even more importantly, who doesn’t—into every facet of our lives, and we do it, at least in part, to underline that same sense of specialness. Smart people join Mensa. College graduates form alumni associations. People descended from various ethnic groups drink at exclusive clubs. Invitation-only parties help us rank ourselves and others. And of course it goes even deeper: we distrust those people who aren’t part of our groups. We label them as “different,” as “other,” as not part of “the norm.” And the consequences of this need to feel special is that we’re right back to arguing who’s the greatest.

Jesus is consistently about inclusion rather than exclusion, about sharing rather than denying, about acceptance rather than rejection. Here he takes it a step further: if someone has not actually pronounced themselves as your enemy, then you have no reason to reject them. 

Think about that for a moment. I can only see someone as “The Other” if they have, essentially, threatened me harm. The rest of the world? It’s just like me. Dresses differently, speaks differently, thinks differently—but is just like me.

For Jesus, there is no “Other.” There is only a whole vast world of people who do not yet have the gift of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God. We have that privilege. It’s not something to brag about, any more than we can brag about where we were born, or into what societal group. No one is greatest by virtue of the accident of their birth. If we are Catholic, we would do well to feel grateful for the way the world arranged for that to happen, not be disdainful of those not so fortunate.

As we look forward to this fall and to the liturgical season of Advent, we might do well to remember that Christ was born a helpless baby, to poor parents who immediately became refugees, that he never went to college, never owned a house, and that he spent most of his time with people we would most decidedly think of as “the Other.”

Today’s Scripture reminds us that we’re not alone when we mess up; but it also shows quite graphically what that messing up looks like. The picture here of the disciples is anything but flattering. How many times in the past week would we have numbered among them? How many times would Jesus have had to remind us of God’s priorities?

Christianity isn’t a club. We shouldn’t have hidden passwords or secret handshakes. We shouldn’t judge ourselves better than anyone else. Jesus calls us to welcome the whole world into our hearts.

Today is a good time to start.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

Love Your Enemies

My father and his family lived through the German occupation of France in World War Two. For the duration of the war, uniformed strangers lived—literally—in his home, told him where he could and couldn’t go, dictated everything about his life. His sister was arrested for Résistance activities and executed; his mother’s health deteriorated; his education was interrupted. No one had enough to eat, it seemed, ever; and everyone lived in fear, all the time.

I think about his experience whenever I read anything that touches on the Roman occupation of Judea and Galilee because as horrible as all my father’s stories were, the fact is France was occupied for four years. Judea was occupied for three hundred.

So it’s not altogether surprising that centurions show up in the Gospels—and in the Acts of the Apostles—with some frequency; an occupying force requires a permanent military presence to quell resistance. But what I do find surprising is the portrayal of these military figures, which is almost exclusively positive. Perhaps when an occupation goes on for generations, it becomes a way of life for many. Certainly, in today’s passage from Luke, there is an easy and ordinary relationship between the Roman centurion and the Jewish elders.

Think about it: this occupier sends the leaders of the very people he’s occupying to speak to Jesus on his behalf—to give references, as it were, that he’s a good person and has been a good patron of the Jewish people. (Even then, it seems, building projects could curry favor, for they were quick to point out this centurion built the Jews’ synagogue!)

But it seems he immediately has second thoughts. Perhaps he’s thinking about his role as an occupier. Perhaps he’s just falling back upon his own life experience, the set chain of command within the Roman army. He would be given an order, and he’d command those under him to carry it out; with the command came the power and resources to complete the mission. Perhaps he’s thinking about that when he sends his friends to Jesus to amend his request: he knows Jesus’ authoritative command—whether given in person or from a distance—means ipso facto that the sick slave would become well again. And the centurion, recognizing in Jesus the power and authority of the Kingdom, sees himself as too small, too unworthy to have Jesus come into his home. You can do anything; he is implicitly saying. You can even do it from afar.

Why? How is he so confident? Remember, the centurion says this at a time when even the disciples don’t understand who Jesus is. They know he’s special, but they don’t yet realize he’s divine. Peter won’t declare Jesus to be God’s Messiah for another two chapters.

And yet here is a Roman military officer, a pagan, who knows who Jesus is. It’s this foreigner who has to teach everyone else—the elders, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, even the disciples—a lesson in faith.

Somehow, it seems fitting in this surprising story that Jesus himself is surprised at the trust this centurion demonstrates. He’s amazed to find faith in a Roman that surpasses what he’s seen in anyone from Israel; this enemy soldier is a model of faith for the people of God.

As I read this surprising story, I think that maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by the unlikely places faith shows up in our own world. It could even show up in those we think of as our enemies. Jesus cares about, ministers to, and wants to bless our enemies; how do we dare turn our backs on them?

In the midst of my father’s horror stories about the Occupation, there were moments of humanity that came shining through. The Gestapo killed my aunt, but the army officers stationed in my family’s home risked much themselves to make sure she could be properly buried. When my grandmother fell ill, they lied to their superiors to get her the medicine she needed.

Jesus is clear: love your enemies, he says, because you may be very sure that God loves them, too, just as much as he loves you. We are all equally unworthy for him to come into our homes. Perhaps that common ground can open us up to others, to people who are different from us, to those we’re taught are to be avoided, feared, despised. And it’s entirely possible that, like the centurion, they can teach us something about real faith, too.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

What: Me, Holy?

For a very long time, I thought I might have a vocation to the religious life. It turned out that I didn’t, but I gave the possibility a lot of time and thought and prayer. My everyday life seemed very far removed, indeed from what I envisioned for my future. Instead of spending hours rapt in the chapel, I was spending hours working, running errands, dealing with people, making mistakes. I didn’t want that everyday life: I wanted holiness, and I believed that the way to holiness was through the monastery doors.

Yes, well, that shows you how little I knew about vocations, about holiness, and about life!

Here’s the thing: We’re called to be holy, to be a holy people. That call is clarion-clear on nearly every page of scripture; today we hear it from Saint Paul, writing to the young Christian communities in Thessalonica. (He also talks a great deal about it when writing to the communities of Corinth and Ephesus.) And it’s reasonably easy to imagine those people, living still in apostolic times, believing the end to be near, risking everything to worship: yes, we say, those were holy people.

But how does holiness translate into the modern world? How do we live it in everyday life?

Living holiness doesn’t mean living perfection. Looking back on those first communities, once we get past our admiration for their courage, once we focus on what Saint Paul was saying to them—well, it’s clear they were up to things they shouldn’t have been; otherwise he wouldn’t have had to be so forceful in his recommendations! Their lives weren’t perfect and flawless, any more than the lives of the nuns I so wanted to join when I was young were perfect and flawless. We’re all human, and being human means being stuck in the everyday bustle and noise and frustration of ordinary lives. 

And that very ordinariness is blessed, made holy, by God through the incarnation. Jesus was born into an ordinary human family. For most of his life, he worked at a job, and he took on the same social relationships that complicate our lives today. We sometimes think it would be easier to be holy apart from the people with whom we live and work. But the incarnation reminds us that God calls us to be holy precisely in the midst of those relationships. 

Holiness is found in the daily struggle. We shouldn’t think lightly about how difficult it is to show up every day. To not give up. To do whatever tasks your life has set before you and tend to them as best you can. A character in the wonderful movie Chariots of Fire says, “You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection.” 

And you don’t peel potatoes in the chapel.

Weathering the storms of life is difficult, and Jesus knows that. He’s been there. And yet still he asks us to carry our daily cross. Struggling to take that cross through the chaos of life is practicing holiness, no matter how messily we carry it or how many times we drop it. The very act of picking it up and moving forward is part of acquiring holiness. Perseverance is a holy act. When we navigate life, work, relationships, problems, joys, and concerns with Christ in our hearts, we are practicing holiness.

The popes are well aware of this. In his 1981 papal encyclical On Human Work, Pope John Paul II explained that work is our sanctification; it is redemptive in nature. “The Christian,” he wrote, “finds in human work a small part of the cross of Christ and accepts it in the spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted his cross for us.”

And Pope Francis devoted an entire apostolic exhortation to the call to holiness. “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious,” he wrote. “We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”

The sanctification of ordinary work was the cornerstone upon which Saint Josemaría Escrivá founded Opus Dei, an apostolate dedicated to spreading the message that work and the circumstances of ordinary life are occasions for growing closer to God, serving others, and improving society. “For the ordinary life of a man among his fellows is not something dull and uninteresting,” he said in a homily. “It is there that the Lord wants the vast majority of his children to achieve sanctity. Either we learn to find Our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find him.”

Saint Augustine, as usual, finds the right words to express what is in many people’s hearts:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.

So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Right now, they’re not making saints like the ones I used to read about and admired. They lived in different worlds and had different graces suited to their times. But God has asked me to live my life in this world, to sanctify it somehow, to make of all the distractions and drudgery and lack of time a holy thing, an offering of love.

That’s a call to holiness I can handle.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

It Just Has To Be Somebody

When I was in school—I went to a small Catholic girls’ school—I started writing. A lot. My reason for this burst of literary activity was revenge. I was most definitely not one of the cool girls, and as I stood in line for this or that and watched them (and watched them watching me, because they could only gauge their coolness when contrasting it with someone who wasn’t), I was determined to get even with them by someday publishing a novel à clef detailing how awful they’d been to me. A little like Chaucer threatening, “I will eviscerate you in fiction.” He carried through; I never did.

It was my literary ambitions that had put me there in the first place because they made me studious. I worked hard in school. I didn’t smoke in the girls’ room. The worst behavior I ever showed was in sliding down the banister in the great hall. So I was excluded.

It didn’t matter that it was me; as a person, I was irrelevant. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been somebody else. It just had to be somebody. For a group to feel exclusive, by definition, someone has to be excluded from it. There’s an “us” and a “not-us;” it’s how we all form group identities.

I didn’t look any different from the cool girls. I did act differently, though. I had clear goals and was determined to reach them. When I wasn’t studying or writing, I was out with my equestrian club getting blue ribbons at horse shows. I was driven to achieve. The cool girls didn’t see the point. Like me, they came from affluent backgrounds. They didn’t have to try as hard as everybody else. I showed the lie to their assumption of extra privilege, so I wasn’t one of them.

And I’d lie if I said it didn’t hurt.

I was thinking about that exclusion when I read today’s scripture passages, especially Matthew’s gospel. For all that we consider them saints today, Jesus’ disciples sometimes exhibited the worst of human behavior. Imagine the scene: they’ve taken their ministry on the road, traveled into Lebanon, when a woman from the area begs Jesus to cure her daughter. The disciples are brusque. “Send her away!” they say imperiously. It’s pretty much the same reaction they’d had earlier when Jesus proposed feeding a crowd of five thousand people. “Send them away,” was the disciples’ verdict; “feed them,” said Jesus instead.

We like that story. Jesus compassionate, Jesus making a miracle happen, Jesus using it as a teaching moment.

But this story strikes a discordant note, doesn’t it? Because Jesus says no. Not because she was a bad person, but because she wasn’t one of the group. Essentially he says, “I’m not here for you; I’m here for them.” And then he goes further still and, in a statement most of us find extremely uncomfortable, he compares her to a dog. She’s quick with her comeback—even dogs get scraps—but that doesn’t obviate his initial response to her, and neither does his subsequent healing of her daughter.

The problem with this passage is the light—or lack of light—it casts on Jesus. We want him to be fully human, but we don’t want him to be too human. It’s uncomfortable to see our own prejudices reflected in him.

Matthew doesn’t clean up this story or try to make it pretty. Matthew dares to give us a very human Jesus, and he paints a specific picture of this woman. She is called a Canaanite, which was an outdated and possibly derogatory term (by Jesus’ time, the people of the region were called Phoenicians, not Canaanites). Either way, she is not one of Jesus’ people. She is definitely on the “not us” side of the equation.

Yet she somehow knows about Jesus. She knows he has the power to heal. She knows he’s already fed a multitude of people. After all that, surely there has to be a little compassion left for her and her daughter! And, understanding what she’s asking, Jesus reverses course and heals the child.

This story shows Jesus enlarging his understanding of the people of God. He saw and heard a fuller revelation of God in the voice and the face of this foreign woman. She was not one of his people, but she was one of God’s people.

Jesus changed his attitude that day, and today’s reading challenges us to do the same. Every generation sees different people as “not-us,” as not part of that cool girls’ group at school. We need someone to not belong in order to assure ourselves that we do belong. And our insecurities at being not cool enough, along with our fear of anything or anyone different from us, make it critical that we continue to belong and continue to banish or refuse entry to others.

There are myriad people in the world from a metaphorical Tyre and Sidon. Different from us in race, customs, religion, gender. Who are today’s “Canaanites” who we feel can be treated as dogs? Are they Muslim? Women? Central Americans?

Jesus learned the importance of inclusion, of making sure everyone—not just his little band—had the opportunity to be part of God’s kingdom on earth. Is it really okay for us to do any less?

I don’t think any of those girls in school remembers my name, perhaps not even my existence. But I remember theirs, everyone. And how much what they did to me hurt.

With God’s help, I’ll never hurt anyone else like that. Not ever.

Are you in?

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I will start with a confession: I’m a junkie, and my drug of choice is English mystery shows. Foyle’s War, Grantchester, Single-Handed, Christie… the list goes on and on. I like them because what they show is people in stressful situations, and that always ups the ante, so to speak, on human interest.

Plus, I love the accents.

In re-watching Broadchurch recently, a drama that deals eloquently and respectfully with a village torn apart by a child’s murder, the grieving parents go to the local priest and say, “We prayed and prayed! Why can’t we find peace?” And the priest replies with compassion and love and a little sadness, “Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we ask for. Sometimes he gives us what we need.”

It’s a profound lesson for those of us who grew up on (and still use) laundry-lists instead of prayers. “I want this… and this… and this…”

I’m very struck by the story within the story of today’s Gospel when Jesus—already hurrying on his unquestionably important mission of raising a child from the dead—stops when he feels someone touching his garment. A woman has touched it, a woman with a terrible disease, and believing she would be healed, she reached out to him. Matthew’s account of this encounter is shorter than that of the other evangelists, but we still get the idea. She believed him to be a healer—a good thing—but she also didn’t really see much beyond what she was asking for. I want to be healed. I want to be out of pain. I know you have some kind of magic. You don’t even have to turn around. I just want to be healed; that’s all.

She wanted health; she would have been quite contented to have had no more to do with him, if she could only have been cured and then slipped away from the crowd. She had her prayer list: “I want this… and this… and this…”

But Jesus isn’t about lists, and, as the priest in the other story observed, sometimes we don’t get what we want, but rather what we need. In this case, the woman got both. She got what she wanted, instant healing, which in turn may have made her more open to what Jesus subsequently observed she needed: faith in the healer.

Probably accustomed to slinking around—any disease having to do with blood would have automatically made her unclean—she was now suddenly in the spotlight. Jesus stops, he turns. The crowd around him stops too, probably disgruntled: they thought they were on their way to a resurrection. Everyone is staring at her. There are probably some unkind words said. But Jesus, having caught her in her part of the bargain, now seals his: you took a risk, he tells her. Now you’re well. What’s next?

Even if we get what we want, even when we get what we want, there’s always a “what’s next?” God isn’t a benevolent Santa Claus in the sky, happy to hear what we want and give it to us, his only reward a plate of cookies and a glass of tepid milk. God could have originated the adage “to whom more is given, more is expected.” You have been healed; is your life the same?

Of course, it isn’t for us, any more than it was for her. Matthew is brief in his description, but Mark goes into more detail. In his version, the woman stands up, only to then throw herself at Jesus’ feet. She got her healing, but she got so much more besides. She didn’t slink away. She didn’t cover herself in shame. She became a follower of Jesus. There was no real connection between touching the robe and healing, but the woman thought there was, and so Christ stooped to her childish thought, and allowed her to prescribe the form his mercy should take. He gave her what she wanted. And then, by acknowledging her, by—shockingly—speaking directly to her, he gave her also what she needed: the opportunity to take the pathway to eternal life.

My dearest friend Caren is struggling in a job that has become increasingly toxic. She has education, years of experience, immense qualifications. For over a year she’s been sending out her résumé, and every time a company seems interested, something dramatic suddenly happens. The company is acquired by another one. There’s a freeze on hiring. Some reorganization is going on. Meanwhile, things at her current job are going from bad to worse, as her department is being phased out altogether.

She keeps asking God—no, imploring God—to help her secure a new job. For reasons far beyond our understanding, he apparently is saying no. Or not yet. We don’t know.

God isn’t giving her what she wants, what she’s asking for. Is he giving her what she needs? In some convoluted way, that’s what we’re being called to believe. That is the essence of faith. To touch the garment. To take the setbacks. To not see where the road is going, but to trust it’s going somewhere. To put away the list of things we want and sit for a time with what we have and then ask, humbly, for the next best step.

On those English mystery TV shows I watch, this all gets resolved in an hour or so. In real life, it takes a little longer. I ask for your prayers for my friend. And for patience in your own lives. God really is at work in our world. We may not see it, but we know it. We have touched the garment. We have been healed… and so much more.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

The Power of Storytelling

The first humans, we learned in school, domesticated fire, and in so doing they changed their species’ trajectory dramatically. Now humans could cook food. Now they could live in colder climates. Now they could keep wild animals at bay.

Those early fires served another purpose, just as important: they provided a place for people to gather. And when people gather, the first thing they do is tell stories. We love stories! We love true stories, the stories of our ancestors, the daring feats others performed, the cautionary tales. And we love made-up stories, too, through which we stretch our creativity and learn truths we might not understand otherwise.

God gave us a love of stories, and then he gave us a plethora of stories to love.

It’s not accidental that Christianity is one of the three “religions of the book.” Being Christian is holding dear the stories handed down to us that define who we are, teach us our faith, and challenge us to become better people.

And no one knew the value of storytelling better than Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, we see him time and time again speaking and teaching in parables—stories—just as he is doing in today’s Gospel, when he contrasts the wise man building his house upon a rock with the foolish man building his on sand. In a scenario not unlike those we’re facing already with climate change, “the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house.”

I have to admit this example makes me a little nervous. I live in a very small cottage in a place particularly vulnerable to floods, as my whole community was built—no joke—on a sand bar. In a literal way, I am the foolish man of Jesus’ parable: I see the peril and have chosen to live here nonetheless.

Oops.

But that’s the power in Jesus’ story, isn’t it? It hit close to home for me—well, literally, but figuratively as well. I know well and have accepted my foolishness in living where I do; having that mirror turned toward me in the guise of a story underscores what I already know to be true. So how much more powerful was it for me, then, to understand the truth that’s behind the story: that I can bear to lose my home, should that terrible storm come… but I couldn’t bear to lose something deeper, the point of Jesus’ narrative.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell–and great was its fall!”

We’re all foolish sometimes, in some aspects of our lives, aren’t we? That’s part of human nature. Sometimes we do what’s right, and sometimes we don’t. We make good choices and we make bad choices. But behind all that day-to-day decision-making, beyond all the ups and downs of what each new moment might bring us, is the point Jesus is making: in our spiritual lives, we can’t afford foolishness.

In other words, live in a cottage by the sea if you must, take your chances in this life, but be serious about what needs to be taken seriously.

And what is Jesus so serious about, that he’s making it into a story so we will understand it, so we won’t forget? That we aren’t supposed to just hear the word of God. We’re not supposed to just read the scripture, say the rosary, go to Mass. We’re supposed to act on it. Do something about it. Take it seriously.

The power of storytelling is the power of memory. We might not remember lists, or advice, or historical dates, or what’s in the periodic table of elements, but we remember stories. They enter our consciousness at a different level from facts. They become part of us. To communicate with someone at the deepest level, at the level of memory and faith and love and everything serious, you tell a story. Stories give ideas power.

And so Jesus sits us down around a metaphorical fire and tells us a story. The story has a moral, and it’s a deceptively simple one: we are to act as though we were followers of Christ. A folk song back in the 60s said, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Farther back still, St. Francis of Assisi said, “You may be the only Gospel your neighbor ever reads.” We are called to live differently, to act differently, because we have heard the word of God and it has changed our lives.

Hear Jesus’ words. Act upon them. That is what will make you the wise person, the one who thinks things through, the one who is ready for the storms.

As to where you build your physical house? Well… maybe I’m not the best person to ask about that!

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.

Everything is Different Now

Life-altering events change our perspective on everything around us, don’t they? I remember so clearly how I felt the day my mother died. I walked down the street and looked around me and felt astonished, truly astonished, that so many people were out and about and acting as if nothing had happened, nothing had changed, everything was the same as before.

For them, of course, it was. I was the one who’d felt the earth move. I was the one who could now divide my life into two halves, my life when she was still here, and my life after she’d gone. I was on the second half of that journey, the one I had to undertake alone. I knew then—and I was right—that nothing would be the same. Everything would be different forever.

I’d passed from what-was to what-is. I couldn’t yet imagine what-will-be.

Today’s first reading is about change, too, the change of transition from one way of living to another. The old order, St. Paul tells us, must give way to the new. “Everything old has passed away, everything has become new.” Before, as a community, we lived in the what-was, the first half of our journey; after Christ, we’re living in the what-is and we look forward to a future what-will-be.

In other words, everything is different now.

If grasping that change wasn’t enough—and heaven knows it should be, drawing a clear line between the past and the future is difficult all by itself!—St. Paul has more to say about it. It’s all fine and good that we acknowledge the change; now we have to live it. To enter into it. To change our lives to reflect this momentous, earth-moving event.

In other words, once we know, nothing can be the same. Everything is different.

One of my favorite writers and theologians, C.S. Lewis, explains the transition better than anyone. “It is as if there is a door behind which, according to Christians, the secret of the universe is waiting for you,” he writes. “If their claim is not true, it is the greatest fraud in history. It is obviously the job of every man to find out if the claim is true; then to devote his life to exposing this gigantic humbug… or serving this tremendous secret.”

God opened that door to us, and now everything is different. We need to serve that difference.

The letter defines what’s at the core of that difference: we are reconciled through Christ; a fundamental relationship has been changed fundamentally. One recent translation of this passage talks about a “fresh start” and “settling relationships.” Can you feel how the words themselves are filled with excitement? Accepting that everything is different isn’t about mourning what was past, but setting out on an adventure into the future, and St. Paul is clear: we’re to include everyone in that adventure. God reached out to us through Christ, and now it’s up to us to pass Lewis’ “tremendous secret” on to others.

It’s moving forward into the what-will-be with confidence, not knowing what awaits us there, but trusting that whatever it is, we won’t be alone in facing it. God will be with us, and our community of faith will be with us. Because we’ve been reconciled to him, and through him to each other, we’re never again alone. Everything is different now.

Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), this is the anniversary of that life-changing event: my mother has been with God in heaven for exactly thirty years today. And as I look back on that transition, I realize that all change, whether it’s losing something or gaining something, is a reflection of the transitions we live in our lives in Christ: the what-was we once had becoming the what-is we are living now as we wait with joyful anticipation for the what-will-be.

Or, as St. Paul assures us today: everything is different now.

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.


How Love Changes Everything

Love. We sing about it, talk about it, aspire to it, even are blessed enough to experience it. People do both intensely beautiful and amazingly wicked things for love. It can be the most selfless and also the most selfish of feelings.

I remember one of my first romances; I had to be all of fifteen or sixteen. And very, very insecure. After our first awkward adolescent declaration of love, I believed if he were not actively continuing to declare it, his love for me had somehow disappeared. So every time we saw each other, I asked him, “Do you love me? Do you really love me?”

My teenaged Romeo—quite rightly—finally had enough and decided that he didn’t love me after all. I was devastated, of course, and wrote a lot of bad self-pitying poetry in response, as one does. It was a good lesson in trust, and I don’t think I made that particular mistake in subsequent relationships (though of course, I made plenty of others!).

I don’t remember the first time I read or heard today’s Gospel passage, but I do remember my response to it: surprise. How could Jesus, who knows everything, who sees into the very hearts of those around him, how could he keep asking the same question I’d once repetitively asked with such teenage angst? Even Peter is astonished by the repetition: you know everything there is to know, you’ve got to know I love you!

As happens with many scripture passages, there’s a subtlety here that isn’t immediately apparent. Jesus isn’t asking Peter how much Peter loves him; Jesus is asking about how Peter loves him. It’s not a question meant to quantify, but rather to qualify.

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” What is Jesus asking Peter here? Peter, a little taken aback, says, yes, of course you know I do. Jesus responds by saying, in essence, “Okay, then, feed my lambs.” Fair enough.

But then Jesus presses the point. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter is paying closer attention now; perhaps he wants to make sure he hears Jesus correctly. “You know I do,” he says. This time, Jesus says, “Then tend my sheep.”

The question has not changed, but its consequence has. If you answer yes the first time, that’s all well and good, and I expect you to continue as we’ve been doing together, feeding those who hunger for the Word of God — giving my children sustenance. But the second question’s consequence is more profound: tend my sheep.

There’s a big difference between feeding and tending, just as there’s a difference between lambs and sheep. I happen to be rather fond of sheep, and I enjoy going to county fairs and petting them; sometimes, I’ve been allowed to give a bottle of milk to a lamb. It’s a lovely experience, and then it’s over. I go back to my life, and someone else does the hard part, keeping the flock safe, shearing the wool, staying up when one is sick. I “love” sheep, but my love doesn’t extend to caring for them. It’s a love without commitment.

Feeding lambs is one thing, but caring for the whole lifetime of the sheep requires more, a deeper commitment, a real love that transcends inconvenience and hardship. Tend my sheep, Jesus said. Take care of one another; accompany your sisters and brothers on the journey to healing. Commit to them, not just for the moments you’re together, but forever.

And then, unbelievably, Jesus asks Peter yet a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

This time Peter gets exasperated. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” to which Jesus reiterates that Peter is to feed his sheep. He adds something else, a foreshadowing of the future, and finally ends his questioning with the most significant consequence of all: “Follow me.”

The commitment of a shepherd to his flock is total; it has to be. Their lives depend on it. There can’t be favorites: the shepherd is there for every one of those sheep. And Jesus is asking us to care about him and each other in precisely that way. That’s what love is — not a breathless self-serving declaration of a feeling, but a lifetime commitment.

To love me, says Jesus, is to follow me. To follow me is to care genuinely, effectively, and appropriately for others, and that includes standing up for those the world has forgotten, speaking out for those in misery and poverty. To love me is to follow me; this also means doing the unpopular and the misunderstood.

English, though well-intentioned, is a language without much subtlety. We use the word “love” for many different things: I love ice cream, I love my child, I love to read, I love God. The Greek of the New Testament wisely knows all love is not equal, and it uses these differences in language to make a point lost to us in English. The word for love Jesus uses is agapa: a verb meaning sacrificial, redemptive love, the highest form of love.

“Do you love me in this way, Peter?” And Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know I am your friend; I have such affection for you,” using the Greek verb philein. But this kind of love between friends or even family is not necessarily agape love. So Jesus asks again, “But do you love me? You’re not hearing me! What is the quality of your love, Peter?”

What is the quality of your love?

Jesus tells Peter the answer: if this is love, then there are consequences. You will go where you don’t want to go. You will do what you won’t want to do. If you love me, you will follow me, and the journey will not always be to your liking.

Loving Christ entails consequences. Loving him will take us on a journey that is long, and arduous, and often very scary indeed. Loving him means being with others on their journey, and looking out for them along the way and keeping them safe, as the shepherd keeps his sheep safe. Keeping them nourished and healthy, as the shepherd keeps his sheep nourished and healthy. That’s loving well. That’s what Jesus was trying to show Peter.

Do you love him?
Do you love him?
Do you love him?

When Jesus was alone in Gethsemane, he was saddened by the disciples falling asleep and leaving him to face the night alone. I used to read that and think, I wouldn’t have fallen asleep, I would have stayed with him. Then I got older and wiser and understood with some sadness that I, too, would have slept.

Peter slept. And now, after the crucifixion, after the resurrection, Jesus is giving him a chance to redeem himself, by clarifying the kind of love Peter will need to sustain him into the future and to sustain the church for which he will become responsible. This is not a love for the faint of heart. This is a love that cares more for others than for self. This is a love that keeps all the sheep safe, no matter what the threat, even if it means dying to protect them.

Love changes everything. Can we love that way? That well?

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.


Where’s My Map?

When I was twenty, I knew exactly what the rest of my life would look like. I had it all mapped out. I’d created goals and lists for the steps it would take to attain them. And now, decades later, I can tell you that it all came to pass exactly as I’d imagined.

Okay, just kidding. My life has resembled what I thought it would be in the same way a turtle resembles a quiche. It has been filled with detours, surprises, and a whole lot of recalibrating the goals and the lists. I suspect yours has, too.

The difficult lesson to learn here is that we’re not in control. We can map out the simplest journey and have our plans come off the rails; there are too many factors that can change everything, whether in a split second or in a long, gradual way. We create our goals and make our lists in an attempt to tame the chaos of the world around us. We really, really want to know where a journey is taking us before we set off on it.

Jesus understood our need to look at the road ahead, to know where we’re going, to visualize the future. In today’s Gospel passage, on the night before the crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon be leaving them. Thomas—always one to try and clarify things—says, in essence, “we have no idea where you’re going, so how do you expect us to know the way?” The disciples are confused. Remember, they haven’t yet grasped that Jesus was not the Messiah who would throw off the tyranny of the Occupation, but rather the Messiah who would bring them eternal life. They’re struggling to understand the next step along the path to freedom. If he’s going somewhere, they need to know where that is and how it fits into the master plan. They’re willing to follow him; they just need to know how.

So where’s the map? Where’s the list? How do we follow you if we can’t see into the future?

Jesus responds, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” We’ve heard this verse so many times, we probably don’t realize how startling it must have been to the twelve Jewish men assembled that night in the Upper Room. They had been taught that the way to God, the truth of God, the life in God, all came to them through the Torah, through keeping the law. And now Jesus is opening up an invitation to the world: it isn’t only the high priest who can stand in the presence of God. Through Jesus, all people can access that presence.

The disciples loved the Torah; they kept the law. The Torah was their touchstone. It provided a roadmap. It’s filled with what are, in essence, a lot of lists and goals. Follow this way, keep the law, be faithful, and salvation will be yours.

Jesus knew the world can be a difficult and ambiguous place. He knew that plans go awry, that we often have to stop and recalibrate and set ourselves once more upon our path. He wanted to give humanity a different way to God: through love, rather than law. But love, as we’ve all discovered, has no roadmap. Love takes us down winding roads and along hidden footpaths; it takes us to places we never imagined existed. Love isn’t susceptible to plans or goals or lists.

Following Jesus means trusting in love. It means leaving our internal satellite navigation system off. It means not always seeing the road ahead. It means accepting the ambiguity and unknowns of a journey through a foreign land. It means trusting that he will be our guide, instead of all the maps and GPS systems and lists we cling to.

It means, at the end of the day, accepting that we can’t control our lives, our world, our future. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; God is the one in control. If we put our trust in that promise, if we let go of our fears, then we will have a future we could never have imagined for ourselves. Stepping into that future only requires one thing: faith. Letting go of our lists and goals and letting Jesus lead us instead.

Sometimes, when there’s heavy cloud cover, our satellite navigation systems stop working, and we feel stranded, lost, even afraid. The beginning of today’s reading assures us that we don’t have to feel that way: don’t let your heart be troubled. I am going to take care of you. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and I’ll be back to guide you there.

There’s no amount of cloud cover that can separate us from the guide who will help us navigate life and live forever in the Father. And that trumps lists and GPS systems any day!

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.


Disappointed? Remind Yourself of this Instead

One of the aphorisms with which we try to reassure ourselves when we’re feeling things we don’t want to feel is this: “into every life some rain shall fall.” In other words, at some point, you’re going to feel disappointed.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that any too amazingly comforting. I don’t want rain to fall in my life! I don’t want to feel hurt, or anger, or disappointment. Reminding me that those feelings are part of the human condition is about as helpful as telling someone who’s upset to calm down. Never in the history of calming down has the injunction to “calm down!” worked.

So I’m not going to write any of those neat little aphorisms here. I don’t have to: today’s readings convey the same message far more eloquently—and more forcefully—than any tidy fortune-cookie message ever could.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is clearly doing something that, these days, we would call venting. He is exasperated, frustrated. He just arrived in Jerusalem, cured a crippled man at a healing pool, and now everyone around him is freaking out—not because he did it, but because he did it on the Sabbath. It must have been very clear to Jesus that people weren’t yet “getting it,” that their minds were still fixated on petty things, that their hearts weren’t yet engaged. He points out—again—as clearly as he ever does, precisely who he is and why he is there. He assures his listeners that anything he does comes from his Father. Imagine him, looking around at the faces surrounding him, faces that are incredulous, baffled, stupid, angry, self-righteous. No wonder he needs to vent! How many miracles does he have to perform before these people understand? How disappointing can they be?

That kind of frustration can’t be encapsulated in a neat saying or a fortune-cookie message. That is real anguish. God sent him to these people because God loved them so very much, and this is how they respond?

The Rev. Martin Luther King wrote, “there can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love,” and that, too, is clear from this passage. Jesus loves these people. He wants them to understand, to respond, to love. He’s feeling a very human emotion that we’re all familiar with. Any parent reading this passage, in particular, is nodding in agreement: if there is one truth every parent shares, it’s that our children will inevitably in some way disappoint us. (The flip side to that, of course, is that it’s just as certain that we as parents will disappoint our children.) Humanity stumbles through life, making mistakes, exhibiting poor judgment, going for the quick win, even when we’re trying to do our best.

As a species, in fact, we’re a pretty disappointing lot.

This is especially clear in today’s first reading. Yahweh has taken the children of Israel out of bondage. He has freed them, given them a home and a life, and what did they do in return? Started worshipping a patently false god, a metal calf of their own creation. How disappointing is that?

Yahweh is apparently ready to do something drastic, but Moses—the consummate diplomat—intervenes. Moses doesn’t pretend there’s nothing disappointing in what is happening. He doesn’t try to justify anyone’s bad behavior. He knows there’s nothing he can say to defend the indefensible. What he does, instead, is remind Yahweh of his love for his people, of the promises made to his people. He reminds Yahweh to remember the bigger picture.

In other words, Moses—who has more reason than others to understand this—knows that, given the opportunity to disappoint, people will do it. That as a species we tend to take the easy way out, to be lazy and self-serving. We coddle ourselves and make excuses for our bad behavior. But just as the parent continues to love the child who isn’t living up to his or her promise, so has God engaged to love us, no matter what. He has promised love to a species intent on self-destruction, on waging wars, on oppressing the weak and glorifying cruelty and greed. Sit with that thought for a moment. What greater love could there be? Jesus didn’t come to earth to live and die because we’re all such perfect people. He came because of the tremendous love his Father has for us.

Martin Luther King was right: we can only be disappointed by those we love. And we can only disappoint those who love us. So instead of clinging to our outrage, our disappointment, our self-righteousness, and judgment of others, perhaps we can remember what Moses reminded Yahweh: that in the end, it is always (and perhaps only) love that matters.

 

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Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.


Who Should Eat?

I work for a Catholic publishing company, and so now in early February, we’re already preparing for Lent. That means, naturally, that it’s on my mind, and so I’ve turned my own attention to the Lenten practices I plan to observe this year. The three “pillars” of the early Church— prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—are always at the center of Lenten observances, and they provide a logical current: prayer flows into fasting, and fasting flows into action.

Well, that was the early Church, wasn’t it? And as the Church grew and changed, fasting became a lost discipline. It may have been standard operating procedure for God’s people in both the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament (in Matthew 6:16, Jesus didn’t say “if you fast”—he said “when you fast”), but because fasting has fallen out of popularity, we don’t recognize it as applicable to our lives. Yet, just like prayer, it can be a powerful tool, comfort, and catalyst for change.

Today’s Gospel is about food: it’s the famous miracle of the loaves and fishes. The disciples were concerned that the crowd of people that had come to hear Jesus had nothing to eat. Were they afraid the crowd would disperse out of hunger? Riot? Or was it just human kindness and compassion that gave rise to their concern? We’re not told that. We’re only told they brought what they had to Jesus—seven loaves and a few small fishes—and Jesus multiplied the food so thousands of people were fed, with seven baskets left over.

It’s an appealing story. An opportunity for Jesus to demonstrate to a crowd that he was more than just another itinerant preacher. A reminder to us that with God, anything is possible.

And yet… and yet.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 815 million of the 7.6 billion people in the world, or ten and a half percent, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Almost all hungry people live in lower-middle-income countries, but there are eleven million people undernourished in developed countries—places like the United States.

The irony is this: the world produces enough food to feed everyone. The problem is that many people don’t have sufficient income to purchase—or land to grow—enough food, or to access nutritious food.

So the obvious questions become, why does God allow famine and hunger? Why do children in the wealthiest country on earth go to bed at night hungry? If Jesus could multiply loaves of bread and “a few fishes” to fed multitudes there to hear him speak, why isn’t he concerned about the 815 million undernourished people in the world today?

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong questions. Perhaps it’s not a lack of concern on his part, but on ours.

Jesus lives forever in heaven, but it was never part of the plan for him to live forever on earth. He passed his authority to Peter for one reason—so the Church could continue to do God’s work in the world. So that we, the community of faith, could be the presence, the voice, the love of God to all of humanity. It’s true that with God all things are possible, but God expects us to be the instruments of that possibility.

Which brings us back to fasting. Most of us think of it as a passive activity: we don’t eat something. But if we want change to happen, prayer and fasting are our first steps in the process, and if we’re serious about change, then the two are inseparable. Fasting is what enables prayer: it is an incessant reminder of the need for help and the need for action. Fasting is what sets the process in motion; it gives intentionality to our prayer. Growth and change never come from a place of comfort, and fasting keeps us uncomfortable, forcing us to think about consumption and privilege.

Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else. It is a sign of becoming aware of and taking responsibility for injustice and oppression, especially of the poor and the least, and is a sign of the trust we place in God and his providence. (Pope Francis)

We live in a culture of fast food, instant gratification, and self-centeredness. Fasting forces us to think intentionally about the foods we eat, the goods we consume, and the ways in which we are privileged. Fasting forces us to consider what it is like to go without. And, honestly, what better way to understand those who are hungry than by… going hungry?

Perhaps as you consider your own Lenten practice this year, you might include the three pillars of the early Church in it: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Pray to discern what God is calling you to do. Fast—and if you can, make it a real fast, one that leaves you understanding what hunger is about. And then take the money you would have spent on that meal or those meals, and give to an organization fighting hunger.

Jesus didn’t leave the crowds hungry. Neither should we.


Jeannette de Beauvoir is a writer and editor with the digital department of Pauline Books & Media, working on projects as disparate as newsletters, book clubs, ebooks, and retreats that support the apostolate of the Daughters of St. Paul at http://www.pauline.org.