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Lectio Divina: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

twenty-seventh-sunday-in-ordinary-time-2016This coming Sunday’s Gospel passage can be found at the USCCB website HERE. Have it handy and read along with this post. If you need a refresher on lectio divina (or you’re new to this form of prayer) check out this brief explanation HERE. As you read my thoughts below, read the Gospel passage at the start of each section. You should read through it four times total by the end of the post.

READ

Read the Gospel passage and then think about what word or words (or phrase, phrases) most caught your attention. For me: “Increase our faith” and  “We are unprofitable servants.”

Read the Gospel passage a second time and then move on to the section below.

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

One of the many things I often ask God for is to increase my faith. So right off, that petition from his apostles stuck out for me. Then Jesus tells them that even a small amount of faith could move a tree. Really? I just want to cry to God and ask for forgiveness for having such poor faith. But then you read further and the second, seemingly unrelated story, helps put everything in better perspective.

I read this passage out loud to my husband the other night and lamented the whole “moving a tree” thing. He mentioned that you could move the tree with the faith the size of a mustard seed if God had a reason to move it. And that makes so much sense! What would be the point of moving something like a tree or a mountain or a house or whatever if it wasn’t God’s will. And don’t we see that all the time with other things too? God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we would like. Sometimes our desires line up with God’s will, but sometimes not. In those cases where it doesn’t, God may have to say “no” or “not yet.” That doesn’t mean that our faith in him is too small, it only means that whatever we’re asking for is not in his plan.

Thinking on that also helped me make the connection with the second story about the servant. Jesus tells us to do what we are commanded and then to say, “We are unprofitable servants.” This phrase also stuck with me when I read it. We are servants to God, so in the parable we are the servant who does the will of the master. We are to do what we are obliged to do (go to Mass, ask forgiveness for our sins, serve God’s people, take care of God’s creation, perform acts of mercy, etc., etc.) and in the end we are still “unprofitable servants.” No matter how much faith we have, how much we seek to do God’s will, and how well we serve him, we still don’t deserve his love. But he loves us anyway!!

That’s the Good News, isn’t it? That no matter what, we are loved. We may have all the faith in the world, but we might not be able to move a tree if it isn’t God’s will. Yet we could if he did desire it. We could do seemingly impossible things if it’s God’s will that it happen. And as his servants we should always be seeking to do what he desires. I suppose I could answer the question, What is God saying to you, by simply saying that he wants me to always seek his will and not to be discouraged when my prayers are not answered. Have faith and work on being a good and faithful servant. Not an easy task, but anything worth doing is never easy.

Read the Gospel passage again before considering the next question.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

To God I would say, thank you for loving me and thank you for the many blessings in my life. I pray that I am serving God as he wants and that I can always seek to be following his will.

REST

Read the Gospel passage one final time. Read it slowly, feel the words touch your heart, and rest in God’s loving message to you.

YOUR TURN

Share in the comments, what do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? You can also join the conversation on the Catholic Sistas’ Instagram account, but I’d love to hear your thoughts here too.

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Mary P.

Waiting Patiently on the Lord

Waiting. It’s such a difficult verb to master. Just reading the word makes me feel antsy. We especially in modern America don’t like to do it. We’re not very good at it. We want what we want when we want it (right now). We get agitated when people sit at the traffic light for a second too long after it turns green. We start celebrating Christmas after Halloween. And what would we do without Amazon Prime with its free two-day shipping?

cat-waiting-for-the-mail-9924I’ve noticed that I’m especially bad at waiting patiently on the Lord’s timing.  I want the Lord to get my husband the promotion at work that he’s in line for. I want Him to make it possible for us to move to a more comfortable home in a safer area. I want Him to bring about the conversion of certain people in my life. I want Him to fix the problems in the Church and in the country. Plus a whole long list of other things (some of which are more noble desires than others). And I want Him to do these things now. Shamefully, I find myself feeling envious when other people get things that I have been hoping for.

Morning Prayer of the Divine Office on May 30 spoke about this issue. The reading from 2 Peter was about waiting for the Lord to create a new Heaven and a new Earth, where there will be perfect justice and righteousness. These two lines struck me: “So, beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in His sight. Consider that our Lord’s patience is directed toward salvation.” They reminded me that the Lord’s plans and His timing far exceed the goodness of our own. They are perfectly suited to each one of us, and perfectly ordered to our salvation. I knew this intellectually, but really trusting and resting in it is the hard part. This passage addressed that difficulty by telling us what we should be doing while we’re waiting for the Lord to accomplish His plans in our lives: we should be working on becoming the kind of people that God intends for us to be; we should be trying to grow in holiness.

So how do we do that?

  • Develop a good prayer life. I have heard often that parents of young children shouldn’t worry about setting aside prayer time each day because they are busy, and they can just offer up every action as a prayer (and maybe throw in a few Hail Marys while they are doing the dishes). While I completely understand the busyness and exhaustion of parenting small children, and I agree that we can and should be offering up all of our works to the Lord, I think it’s very important to set aside time for focused prayer as well. The Lord desires that one-on-one time with us, and wants to use it to refresh us. St. Francis de Sales said that everyone needs a half hour of prayer, except when we are busy – then we need an hour. Prayer will help us become better spouses and parents (and Christians) – it will not hinder us in accomplishing what we need to accomplish in our day. I think it will also help us to develop more trust in our Father, so that we will be more able to wait patiently on Him and His plans, and we will conform our will to His.  We can start small, maybe five or ten minutes at a time (if you have ten minutes to read this article, you have ten minutes to pray).  Pray a morning offering; pray a decade of the Rosary; read a Scripture passage and meditate on it; start praying the Liturgy of the Hours (you don’t need the fancy set of books; I use www.divineoffice.org). Spiritual reading (e.g. saints’ writings) should also be part of our prayer lives.
  • Cultivate gratitude. When we are grateful for the things we do have in our lives then we are usually more patient in waiting for the things that we don’t have. To work on becoming more grateful, we should make an effort to actually say “thank you” to God each day. Starting a gratitude journal, or having each family member say something they are thankful for each night at dinner or before bed are good ways to remember to do that. We must make it a point stop looking around at what others have and focus on the blessings in our own lives. God has a unique plan for each of us.
  • Work on accepting the current situation and making the most of it. Waiting for something to change in our abandonmentodivineprovidencelives is going to be extra painful unless we learn to accept the situations we are in rather than dwelling on what we don’t have. And, the fact is that our situations might never change in the way we want them to, because God’s will might be different from ours. If we are miserable until we get what we want, then we might be miserable forever.
    I highly recommend the book Abandonment to Divine Providence to anyone who is struggling to find joy and peace in their lives. In it, Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade says that “by all creatures, and by every event the divine love desires to unite us to Himself,” and “The present is ever filled with infinite treasure, it contains more than you have the capacity to hold.” In other words, God wishes to use every moment, every struggle, every situation in our lives to bring us closer to Him. Spending our energy wishing away our current situations in hopes of something “better” means missing out on opportunities to become holier. Part of sanctity, he says, is “accepting that which we very often have no power to prevent, and in suffering lovingly…things that too often cause us weariness and disgust.”
  • Perform acts of service {with the right attitude}. Focusing on others is a great way to take our minds off of ourselves. And the less we think about ourselves, the less we think about the things that we want but don’t have – the thwarted plans and the successes we haven’t yet achieved. Parents are naturally in the position of service most of the time, but the key to spiritually benefitting from this service is to do it with a loving attitude and abandonment to God’s will for us. Getting up at 5:30am with my toddler every morning is an act of service I have no choice but to perform. I can either do it with a bad attitude, and be miserable (which is the case a lot of the time); or I can do it with love and abandonment to God’s will, and be at peace.
  • Go to confession often. The holy priests I know recommend going to confession every 4-6 weeks. It’s important to go even if we don’t have grave sins to confess, because we receive abundant grace from the sacrament. If we are giving into the feelings of impatience, ungratefulness, and envy, we should confess those sins. They might not be mortal, but they are damaging. And when we confess them, we get special graces to combat them.

The truth is that God is not like Amazon; we can’t put in our order for a ready-made, cookie-cutter product and find it on our doorstep in two days. Instead, God is more like an expert artisan who takes His time hand-crafting gifts personally designed for us. They probably won’t arrive as quickly as we want them to; and when they show up, they might not look exactly like they did in the picture we had in our minds. But this Divine artisan knows our hearts better than we do, and he knows what is best for us. We must learn to wait patiently—seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness–while he completes His masterpieces.

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Charla Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Prayer Sacred Scripture Vocations

Trust in the Lord: the Stages

trustTrust is an incredibly loaded word. It is an integral aspect of our daily physical and spiritual and emotional lives, and as Catholics, we are expected to live our lives according to some aspect of trust. According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, trust is “the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something and one in whom confidence is placed.” This reliance is crucial to our spiritual well-being, because without trust in God, our lives are edgy, depressed, and angry. In my view, there are three stages of trust: trust in our parents, trust in ourselves, and trust in God. As parents, we teach our children to trust us. At some point, we must trust ourselves, which is then connected to the ultimate trust in God, which reverts to our trust in our parents. It is quite a remarkable cycle but one we struggle with, nonetheless.

Babies cry for their needs of food and comfort. When a baby cries, the parent immediately tends to his needs. The baby learns to trust that when he or she needs something, the parent will be there with food, a clean diaper, or simply affection. What a parent teaches his child is what the child knows and trusts. My seven year old daughter often prefaces her statements with, “Mama says…” She trusts what I say and what I show her how to do. She relies on me and has faith that I will remain true to her and her needs. I have to model what I want her to believe. She trusts me, so I share my trust in God and my faithfulness to the Sacraments and my moral behavior on a consistent basis, unrelentingly, because I know she is watching.

mom aAn adolescent seems to trust no one, however, really does revert to the child stage in which he trusts his parents. The trick is that we parents have to allow them to trust themselves and the lessons we have taught them. This self-trust is crucial to an individual’s development and the hardest step we have to take as parents. In my experience with my teenaged students, as well as with my teenaged sons, I have discovered that adolescents want rationale and reasoning– those things that go hand in hand with the free will God has bestowed upon us. Adults must allow adolescents to deduce and trust themselves and their own reasoning. We must, and this is crucial, teach them to pray for themselves as well. Asking God for grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, modeling what they witness as children, and the reasoning we provide for them as adults, enable young people to trust themselves and their own God-given innate morality and conscience.

“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted” (John Holt).

We parents have to trust our children too, because in that, we model that we have trusted ourselves to have instilled the correct values according to God’s Word. We also then teach them to be trustworthy, an important virtue to possess. They will mess up; we all do, and that is okay. God calls us to be faithful, not perfect. We have to able to teach and expect our children to be faithful and faith-filled. That is our job.

thy willProbably the longest and most arduous stage in trust is moving away from merely trusting ourselves to steadfastly trusting in God. We constantly want our own way, but that is not what will bring us to happiness and peace. Following God’s Will for ourselves is what brings contentment and satisfaction. We have to become like a child again, leaning on our parents for guidance. We have to trust God as our father, just like we trusted our own parents: “Mama says…” I need to say to myself, several times a day, “God says…” Not only that, but God has proven to us that He is to be trusted; He sacrificed His own SON, and that son modeled trust in His father in the same way, when He said, “…yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Just like the adolescent, we have to pray for grace and trust that the Holy Spirit will speak to us. We also have to not chastise ourselves too vehemently when we make mistakes, because we will make mistakes– and often. That is why we trust in the Sacraments, which are God’s outward signs that He is with us. Reconciliation and the Eucharist, in particular, remind us of the trust we have in our heavenly Father and more proof of His love and trust in us.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 35-6).