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Apologetics Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Ten Commandments Victoria K

The Ten Invitations

 

Thou Shalt NOT…

As a youth minister, I can tell you that nothing is quite as tough as teaching the Ten Commandments.  A lot of the youth have it about half-memorized, and because of that they think they know it all.  It’s a bunch of rules on stones, an old guy came down the mountain telling us what we couldn’t do, they made a really long really old really over-dramatic movie about it, blah blah blah.  These teens have stopped caring about it ages ago.

 

Re-Framing

It’s tough to overcome such a mountain of preconceived notions.  I find that I have to start basically from ground zero, totally rebuilding and reframing how we approach it.  I have one particular re-framing that I’m a big fan of. I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone said that the Ten Commandments were not so much a list of “Thou Shalt Nots” as much as guidelines that free you to live a life of real joy and real peace.  Kind of like a fence along the edge of a cliff–it enables you to run and play without tumbling off the edge.

 

The Ten Invitations

With that in mind, I decided to go through the Ten Commandments and rewrite them.    In place of commands from God, I’ve written them as invitations from God our Father.  In them I hope to convey God’s calling to us to be his children, and to rest in His Love for us.

 

Thou shall…

  1. Rest in my love, my father’s love for you, my child.  I overflow with love, pride, admiration, adoration of everything you are. Don’t settle for lies.  Don’t settle for anything that will love you less.
  2. In your time of darkness, in your time of need, cry out my name.  Be like Peter, who, when the storm raged around him, cried out my name.  I am here to save you, to comfort you, to guide you, if you but call my name.
  3. Rest, truly rest.  Oh my child, you work so hard.  You labor, and distract yourself, and overwhelm yourself with tasks.  Lay your burden down. One day a week, just be with me. Just be yourself.  Just rest.
  4. Take joy in your family.  Call your mom, make her smile.  Share a cigar on the back porch with your father.  Listen to them, their wisdom, their lessons learned.  And if your parents have hurt you, have abandoned you, have ripped apart the beautiful fabric of the family, I give you the divine power of forgiveness.  Don’t let them break your spirit anymore.
  5. Fight for those beautiful moments of life.  Clutch your dear friend around her shoulder when she’s struggling with mental anguish.  Clutch that ultrasound picture in your hands, and let the tears of awe overcome your fears.  Clutch her wrinkled, fragile, trembling fingers, and give her comfort that her she won’t spend her last days alone.
  6. Hold your spouse so close to you when he or she comes home today.  Buy him something superfluous just because.  Send her a text about a way that she’s changed your life.  Forgive him for that thing he said. Talk to her about that one resentment you held for years.  Work daily towards resolution, communion, his smile, her laugh.
  7. Trust in me.  “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”  Work hard, plan, but above all, trust. You have all that I have given you, all you need.
  8. Be set free.  You lie to protect yourself and others, you lie to seem more interesting, you lie for gain.  But you enslave yourself. Your forge chains around you. Break the chains of all the things you aren’t.  Set your true self free.
  9. Pursue my perfect plan for you.  I have a plan for you, a Vocation, that will lead you to my own heart.  It will be the completion of your joy. Take joy that others have found their path to my heart, and wait for your own path.
  10. Be happy, be content, give thanks, joy in your blessings.  Why waste your time being sad?  Do good work for those things that you want, but every day take the time to truly enjoy everything you have.
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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)

God is amazing! On Wednesday when I picked up my kids from their school (a Christian school, not Catholic) I asked them what their new memory verse was this week. They couldn’t remember all of it (they are only 5) but the part they remembered was “You are the light of the world.” I knew immediately which verse it likely was and once we got home I looked it up and sure enough, it comes straight from this Sunday’s Gospel! How perfect. I was able to talk to them a little about the verse before they got distracted and ran off to play.

I love it when things coincide like that. We’ll review this a few times over the next few days and talk about it more and I hope to see them recognize it at Mass on Sunday. That’s also one of the reasons I love doing these lectio divina reflections every couple weeks or so. It’s so nice to have time to read, pray with the text, listen to God’s voice speaking to me through the text, responding back to God, and really resting in the words of the Gospel. And then, to have that experience in my head when I go to Mass and hear the Gospel proclaimed from the ambo really helps connect me to the Word. I hope you also get something out of this as well.

If this is your first time here, we will be reading and praying with the Gospel passage for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (click the link to get to the text). Have it open as you read along below and I encourage you to follow the steps of lectio divina yourself before reading my own responses to my headings below. This is prayer time for you as well, not just you reading my reflections. If you need a quick 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

  • Must shine before others
  • See your good deeds

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

Reading this passage again and again, the word “must” keeps pestering me. I don’t have a choice–that’s what God is telling me. As a person of faith it is imperative, necessary, my duty to bring Christ’s light to the world. But how do I do this?

There are some obvious answers to this, like volunteering in my community by serving at a local soup kitchen or helping at a Habitat for Humanity build or volunteering at a local pregnancy help center. All these things are great ways to be a light in the world. But I’m at a point right now in my life when doing these kinds of things is really difficult. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I could still do. Not at all!

There are numerous ways to shine our light before others. This has actually been on my mind some lately and I’ve been thinking more about how to get to know my neighbors better, at the very least being the friendly neighbor that smiles and waves in passing as we are all going about our days. Remaining calm and joyful in my vocation, especially out in public. You know those days when you have to run into the grocery store, the kids are hungry, and the toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery cart because you didn’t get the cart that he wanted? (Yep, this actually happened recently.) Keeping your cool and just getting the job done could be an amazing witness to someone. I try to always keep a smile on my face and not get overly frustrated with the kids as I’m shuffling them through stores or the library or the doctor’s office. I would hate for someone to see me flustered and think, “Yep, that’s why I’m not having kids” or “Wow, glad we are ‘done’!” I don’t pretend it’s easy, and we all know it’s not, but I can suffer through the trying times and still remain joyful in the vocation with which God has blessed me. I think it’s also important to realize that our families are also people that would benefit from us shining Christ’s light before them. We can’t forget them in all this. How we serve our husbands (or wives), how we treat them, and the respect we show them are all ways we are witnesses of Christ’s love. I have to remember that how I discipline my children should also be done with the love of Christ. My witness to them in how I act around them, how I train them up in the faith, how I model the faith for them, and how I show love, affection, and discipline are all extremely important to their own understanding of how God loves us. This might be the hardest one of all!

God has a lot to say to me in this passage, and it’s almost all encapsulated in the very last sentence. I feel like God has mandated a very difficult task to us: be a light to the world, let other’s see your good deeds, and then they, too, will glorify God. That’s a pretty huge responsibility! I feel like I have a lot of work to do to be a better light to those I encounter on a daily basis.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

“O God, how can you trust me with so much!” Seriously, this is my initial reaction. But really, I just want to pray for guidance and for strength to be able to live up to this expectation. I think this is one of the reasons I need to go to adoration every week, I need his graces to help power me through the week. It’s also why I probably need to go to confession more often, I need those graces too.

What I really want to say to God is, “Thank you for bringing me back into the fold of the Church and for the precious gift of my family and my vocation. Give me the strength and wisdom to be a worthy light in this suffering world so that other’s may be led to glorify you in all they say and do as well.”

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.

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Current Events Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Prayer: Not Meaningless, Life Changing

PRAYER-

I’ve noticed in the last few years that when a tragic event happens there are often cries of “don’t pray!” As if prayer is a meaningless, empty exercise that helps no one. I can see how it can seem that way to people who have no faith. But those of us with faith in God and our Lord Jesus Christ know that this is not the case. Prayer is powerful.

The problem, though, is that even Christians are heavily influenced by the secular world these days. I say this because I know it is true of myself as well. We feel we need to do something. Just praying isn’t enough. What does that really do when there are people suffering? It seems we have forgotten the power of prayer in our modern, so-called advanced, 21st century world.

Following the horrible shooting in Orlando this past weekend I once again saw pronouncements on social media telling people “don’t pray.” All I could think was how wrong this is! What is needed now, more than ever, is prayer.

While it is true that there are many needs, both physical and emotional, and that we need to more proactively conquer the hate that fills our society, this does not mean that there is no place for prayer. Prayer changes people. Prayer brings about miracles. Prayer softens hearts. Prayer brings people together.

PRAYER CHANGES US.

If we come to God in all humility, on our knees, knowing we are sinners, He can change us. In prayer we talk to God, we establish a relationship. We are changed by the very act of submitting ourselves to our almighty creator. It doesn’t matter if nothing changes externally, prayer changes us as individuals. Just imagine if more people prayed with this kind of submission and humility. What would that look like? Would that have an effect on the world we live in?

I think the answer is yes. Yes, it would change it for the better. If we have the humility to go to God on our knees knowing that we are imperfect humans, and we do this on a daily basis, hearts will be changed. The hardest part is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll probably take years. Many, many years. And it won’t be easy.

This is how we spread love in the world. We are commanded in Scripture to love our neighbor. When asked what one must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answers a question with a question by asking what Scripture says. The reply:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

It’s one thing to say that we should love our neighbor, it’s another to do it. Want to love your neighbor more? The neighbor who you don’t know, the neighbor of a different faith tradition, the atheist neighbor, the LGBTQ neighbor, the neighbors that never speaks to you,the pro-abortion neighbor, and so on and so forth? Pray for them. Pray for them because they are all children of God and they deserve the dignity and love that every human person deserves. Pray for your neighbor, pray for all humankind.

Without prayer, we can’t truly have love. We can’t love our neighbor if we don’t pray for our neighbors. And as we love our neighbors more and more each day, that love will become more and more apparent. That’s what this world needs more of: love for each other. I don’t think we can fully achieve that without prayer.

[And as a side note, it’s important to say here that loving our neighbor does not mean agreeing with them. We can still disagree with people’s choices, lifestyles, etc., and still love them because they have dignity as fellow humans.]

St. Paul sums it up best in his letter to the Romans:

Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

The only way to learn to love all our neighbors, especially those who we don’t understand, those with whom we disagree, or those who are hard to love is to pray for them. God can do amazing things when you take it to Him. Some can say, “don’t pray.” I say, “Pray like your life depends on it.”

Lord Jesus Christ, help me to love as you love and to treat all people with the love and respect they deserve as children of God. I pray today especially for all those who lost their lives in the fatal shooting at the Orlando nightclub. Have mercy on their souls and may they rest in eternal peace. Amen.

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Sacred Scripture

It’s All About Love

Next to my bed, written on a yellow scrap of paper in scribbled handwriting, was a quote. I don’t know where I found it or when I wrote it down. I just knew that I wanted to remember it and to one day write about it. For months it’s been sitting on the stack of books that I eye every evening, wishing I had an extra two or three hours in my day so I could enjoy one of their author’s insights. Instead of reading the books though I read the words written on that fragment of a yellow legal pad. Over the last several months I have pondered the words. They have affected me deeply.

“How can you love the one you cannot see if you don’t love the one you can see?”

These words are powerful, insightful, beautiful, and true. The quote, wherever it was that I found it, was attributed to Venerable Fulton Sheen. When I went to do a little research to make sure he truly wrote it before quoting him here, I couldn’t find a reputable site that would lead me to believe he did. In fact, I couldn’t find a direct link to anyone saying these exact words. However, I decided to use the quote anyway. It is so compelling and persuasive. I knew, regardless of where the quote came from, I needed to share it.

loveAs I further researched I was lead to 1 John 4:7-21 (don’t worry… you can go look it up, I can wait for you!) This, this was exactly what I was looking for! It was exactly what God was placing on my heart! It was exactly what I knew God wanted me to bring to you, my friends.

In 1 John 4:7-21 we read about love, but not just any love. We read about God’s love- a love so beautiful and so giving that we can’t possibly understand the depth to it. We are reminded that God’s love for us is so great that He sent His Son to die for us. We read “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” God wants us to live in Him and He wants to live in us. But this isn’t where the passage ends. There is much more to this whole love thing.

While God wants us to love Him with our whole hearts, minds, and souls, He also wants us to go a step (or two or a thousand!) more. This passage doesn’t tell us that we just have to love God. No, God insists on much more from us. We are reminded that to truly love God we must love each other as well. Verse 11 of this passage reads, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” It’s simple really… God loves us and so we love each other! Ugh, but wait, what about those people? You know the ones- they sit in judgment of everyone; they ridicule the weak and don’t take care of the poor; they think they are better than everyone; they are hypocrites, racists, and bigots; they profess other faiths or sometimes even no faith; they were in jail once; they look different than we do- what with their hair and skin being different from us and of course the way they dress; they are from other nations and speak foreign languages. What about those people?

love your brotherThe answer is made clear in verses 20-21, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”  We can’t claim to fully love God if we don’t love our brother. Because we believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, each of those people listed above are our brothers. We must love them as well. If we don’t we can’t truly and fully love God.

“For the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” This sure does sound an awful lot like the quote I shared above! But what does that mean exactly?

When we treat our family and friends poorly, ignore the pleas of those in need, judge the hearts of others, pretend to not see injustices happening around us, put down others for their beliefs, look past the beggar with his hand stretched out, turn our backs on the abandoned, the lonely and the discarded, condemn others for what they have done or been in the past, and when we refuse to recognize Christ living in each and every person around us we fail to love our brother and thus fail to love God.

“We love, because He first loved us.”

christ on the cross

Christ has modeled this brotherly love for us. We only have to look to the cross to see how much He loved us. He didn’t look out at the crowd and tell them, “I can’t love you!” No, he looked at the crowd and said, “I love you so much I will give my life for each of you!” There was no distinction between race, creed, sex, political leaning, nationality, profession, or any other dividing characteristic. Christ loved each of us regardless of our backgrounds. Likewise, there shouldn’t be qualifiers for our love either. When we profess to love like Christ it must be all encompassing. We must love despite our differences. We must love because He first loved us.

When we love those we see we show our love for God, the one we cannot see. Christ tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” He reminds us that everything we do for others we do for Him. He also reminds us that when we ignore those in need we ignore Him. He speaks clearly to us- love those around us and we will love our God!