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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Prayer

Lectio Divina: First Sunday of Lent (2017)

I always feel a shift in my own life when the Church shifts into Lent. Do you as well? There are a few subtle changes in the Mass (no Gloria, no Alleluia), the readings take on a more solemn tone, the colors change, and there is a greater focus on confession and sacrifice. In my own life I sense that shift in the sacrifice or sacrifices I plan to take on, in the extra prayers I hope to incorporate into my everyday, and in how all those will bring me closer to God.

It’s a great time to start letting go of the things of this world. We see that pretty clearly in the Gospel passage for this coming Sunday. It is the things of this world with which the devil tempts Jesus. But he knows that nothing in this world can compare to our Heavenly home with God.

Sit back and take some time to read, reflect, respond, and rest in the Gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent. Join me as we read this passage in the manner of lectio divina prayer. To find the Gospel reading, follow this link to the USCCB website for Sunday’s readings. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

Don’t forget, I’d love to hear some of your own thoughts (what caught your attention, what you feel God is saying to you, etc.) in the comments below.

READ

  • He fasted
  • The tempter
  • Worship me

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

I found this Gospel reading particularly powerful. We all have temptations in our lives and for many of us we are trying to identify and rid ourselves of the things that tempt us during this Lenten season. The thing about temptations is that they can overtake aspects of our lives. Even our whole lives if they are addictive enough. And they lead us away from God. If we’re not worshiping God, we’re worshiping the devil, the tempter, the temptation itself.

The more I reflect on this the more it scares me. I’d be kidding myself is I said that all my love and devotion was focused on God alone. I’m human, and like anyone else there are things in my life, temptations, that get in the way of giving 100% to God. One thing I love about Lent is that the Church gives us readings like this one and encourages us to use this season for serious reflection on the temptations in our lives and growing closer to God. We should use this time to not just give something up for the sake of giving it up, but to give it up for love of God. With this in mind I know I want to be much more conscientious of how I spend my time each day and to focus more on God’s plan for me each and every day. My Lenten sacrifices will be a constant reminder each day to keep the focus on where it should be, God’s love for me.

I can’t help but also think of the countless people in our society today who worship the devil. They may not recognize that this is what they are doing, but when you deny God and his Church and turn instead to worshiping things of this world, you are worshiping the devil. This Gospel passage is a reminder to me to intensify my prayers this Lent for my loved ones who are away from the Church.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

I hope that this Lent I can become more conscientious overall of the temptations that draw me away from giving my all for God alone. I have given something up this Lent, and in doing so I hope that it will afford me the ability to focus more on the things that really matter, serving my family and serving God. The concept of dying to self will be much more present to me this Lent (I hope). I pray that God will hear my prayers and help me to stay on track so that I can more fully love him.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
Allison Bible Mary Motherhood

Loving God when Our Children Suffer

When we mothers see our children suffering, the slip off the cliffs of despair can be easy. When Pope Francis tells us, “Let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God” (April 7, 2013), the trust doesn’t exactly overflow. Mercy would be nice, Lord; how about a cure please. But we are commanded to love the Lord our God from Genesis to Revelation. How do we do that when our beloved children suffer? How do we work up warm feelings for the great I Am, Who could fix things but does not? How did Mary do it? Love loves. The abstract noun actively verbs. God’s love gave the world Jesus and He told us that whoever keeps His commandments loves God (John 14:2), warm feelings or not. And I have found that thinking about Jesus does indeed touch me deeply with plenty of loving warmth.

What are God’s commandments we are to obey? Jesus Himself told us to ~

Pray (Matthew 6:9)
Forgive (Matthew 18:21-22)
Humble ourselves (Matthew 23:11-12)
Shine (Matthew 5: 14-16)
Believe (John 14:1)
Commit (Matthew 16: 24-26)
Stay Close (John 15:4)

So we do it. We obey the best we can when our kids are suffering and when we are suffering with them. Heaven is real. Jesus is real.

Focusing on Jesus can reach into our wounded souls and soften us to love God, even kindling those elusive warm feelings for the God Who made us and loved us first. My sadness (or anger or indifference) toward God melts into His love if I take time to contemplate Jesus in a crucifix, a painting, or film. He is strong, beautiful, and loving. “Because He Himself has been tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18).

We are commanded to love, to do what lovers of God should, even if our lot in life includes suffering children. But we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit that leads our aching, angry motherly hearts to lovingly obey (It’s the first fruit.); we have Church sacraments imparting real graces; we have the communion of saints offering personal prayers with us and for us if we just can’t. Since the Church calls us to aid the human condition (CCC 1928-1948), others will come alongside us. And we have Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (and our children’s). When we look at Him, we can do it. We can love God with our obedience, even in maternal heartbreak. Just like Mary.

To soothe some hurts ~

Categories
Allen Fatherhood Guest Posts Perspective from the Head Vocations

All You Need Is Love

The Beatles were right, all we need is love.  As the father of nine children, one of my biggest concerns is ensuring that my children receive a solid foundation rooted in our Catholic faith.  In my experience, achieving this end is a delicate balance of clear boundaries coupled with love.  As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, we can do all the right things as parents, have the most efficiently run home on the block, provide our kids the best education, use the right form of discipline every time, always have the right words to say to soothe a broken heart or a scraped knee, but if we do not have love, then we are a noisy gong (and we will not achieve our desired goal).

A Lesson in the Importance of Love

A few years back one of my daughters was participating in a sport and was not giving it her best effort.  For many children this may not be a big issue, but for her I saw this situation as a perfect opportunity to teach her an important lesson about the importance of perseverance in the difficulties that we encounter in our lives.  For her, most things come easy and when she encounters something that is difficult, she is tempted to give up rather than persevere.

In my endeavor to teach her a lesson in the virtue of fortitude, she questioned my love for her.  When she believed that my love for her was conditional based upon her success in that particular sport, she effectively ceased to listen to what I had to say.  She even got really mad at me and refused to speak with me for a couple of days.  Instead of trying to prove my point about the virtue of fortitude, I decided to tell her that no matter how mad she was at me, there was nothing she could do to cause me to stop loving her, it didn’t matter if she was successful and I would still love her even if she didn’t love me.  She thought about that for a little while and when the anger subsided, we were able to talk about the situation and the motivation behind my actions.  No matter how right we may think we are in an argument, if the other person does not believe that we have their best interest at heart (otherwise known as loving them), we risk being a clashing cymbal or a banging gong and the message we are trying to convey could be lost.

The love of God is much more than many of us have experienced in our earthly relationships.  His love is patient and kind, it is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and His love for us will never end.  As a father, I can tell you that I fall short of demonstrating God’s love within my family on a regular basis, but I get back up and try again each time.  A quick search of the Internet will show a plethora of articles citing the reality that the way our earthly father shows us love has a major influence on our perception of God’s love.

The Love of God

We have all been told that God loves us since we were young, and thus there is a temptation to believe that we know that and thus don’t need to meditate upon it again, however I don’t think we will ever truly know the depths of that Love until we, God willing, meet our creator in Heaven.  His love is not conditional, He does not love us because we obtain some great achievement, He does not love us because we are beautiful, He does not love us because we love him, He loves us because of who we are and by the mere fact that He is our Father.  There is nothing we need to do to earn his love.  He only desires us to love him back, but even if we completely reject him and mock him and offend him, He will never stop loving us, in fact He will pursue us even more to save us from ourselves.  The more we run away from his love and reject him, the more He will do to draw us back to himself.

God’s love may seem irrational and foreign to many of us, but that may be due to our lack of experience with it.  Through prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and reading scripture, we can come to a better understanding of God’s love and thus be able to love our children as God loves us. “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)