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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.

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Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her Soul

Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her SoulA week ago, I shared with my 14-year-old daughter that I live with same-sex attraction (SSA).

Why? Because despite receiving thorough catechesis on sex and marriage (we’ve studied John Paul II’s “theology of the body” for years), she was still struggling to accept that people attracted to their own sex ought to be chaste. While she understood the what and even the why of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, the knowledge was academic for her. (As it should be at that age.)

Years ago, I was sure I’d take this information to my grave. I imagined my adult children finding my journals, articles, and emails after I’d died, and being surprised to learn that their mother had struggled with homosexuality. More importantly, I hoped they see beyond the struggle to its outcome–that through Christ, I had won the battle for chastity. 

Then I witnessed the widespread celebration of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage, with rainbows being touted not just from secularists and (bizarrely) corporations, but from self-proclaimed Christians and even churchgoing Catholics. I saw the vitriol directed at social scientist Mark Regnerus when he published a study showing that children raised by same-sex parents did show negative psychological effects over those raised by a mother and father. I’ve seen states trample the religious liberties of Christian citizens by enacting legislation that makes it discriminatory NOT to participate in gay marriages as a photographer, baker, or civil servant. 

I’ve gradually watched the chilling effect of political correctness that arose in my own Generation X evolve into what can only be called ideological despotism, with pro-gay marriage supporters willing to virtually crucify anyone who even thinks it’s wrong. And I know it’s only going to get worse as her generation takes up more positions of authority in society, as nearly half of Millennials believe the government should have the power to stop people from saying offensive things about minority groups, according to a disturbing Pew Research Center study. 

I prayed about whether to share such information with my daughter for a long time. I talked to my husband, and sought the counsel of a dozen close Catholic friends. Though a few believed telling her at 14 was unnecessary or premature, it was the words of a seasoned mother of adult children whose hard-won wisdom articulated my own deep fears and motivations:

My husband and I have found that the outside world becomes much louder than our quiet voices when it comes to matters like this. We’ve always taught our children that homosexuality is not a sin in itself. but when acted upon is a sin. Then our oldest children went into the world and others began telling them how wrong we are, some pointing out that they are living a homosexual lifestyle and they are “just fine.” Because we weren’t very vocal, nor did we have the experience to back up what we were saying, our oldest children don’t believe the Truth about homosexuality. The reality is, if the world gets to your daughter first, she may shut out your experiences because she will have a plethora of others telling her differently. 

So I decided to tell her. I waited for the Holy Spirit to provide the right time and then it arrived one night when the two of us were alone in her room, having good conversations over tea, with hours ahead of us before bedtime. Even though my daughter is one of the kindest souls I know, my heart still beat painfully as I prepared to tell her.

I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to talk about this part of myself with her. Not because I carry shame about it; I’ve long since accepted that my SSA is simply the wound God allows to keep me close to Him. But I’ve listened to straight Catholics who don’t know about my homosexuality talk about “those people” with obvious disgust. They see diabolical agents of Satan where I see wounded souls. I’m discriminating about who I tell and so far, everyone has responded kindly. (Eventually, it’s a non-issue because mature Catholics understand that everyone is broken in some way.)

But this was my daughter, the beautiful child I’d loved as soon as I’d known she existed. I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with her (yes, even at 14) and I was scared she would see me differently and that closeness would be damaged. This was a bell I couldn’t unring. But I’d decided that shoring up her faith was worth the risk to me personally. Finally, I just told her:

“I need you to know something important about me. You know I treasure your father and we have a wonderful marriage. But if he died tomorrow and I was single again, I would probably define myself as a gay Catholic woman.”

Her eyes got round with surprise. She cocked her head to the side. “Does Dad know?”

I almost laughed. No, I’ve hidden this from your father–my best friend–for 20 years. I thought I’d share it with my teenage daughter first! But instead I just said, “Of course.”

It ended up being a beautiful, heartfelt conversation, as those orchestrated by the Holy Spirit usually are. She asked me about when, and how long, and who. And if I’m still tempted. And why. 

“Yes,” I said. “But not as strongly or as often anymore.” I explained that the strongest temptation comes when I neglect my relationship with God. “When I rely on Jesus to give me the grace to remain chaste and faithful to my marriage, it’s just a teeny tiny struggle for me,” I said. “That’s one important reason I try to stay so close to Him.”

After many tears (mine) and much discussion, she looked at me with a dawning awareness. “I get it, Mom…you don’t expect anyone else to do something you aren’t living out yourself. Even if they choose not to, you prove that it’s possible to be chaste.” I could almost see the Truth sink from her head down into her heart and take root there. Then my tears were happy ones, as I realized why God had prompted me to take such an intimate, scary risk. (For the record, things are still normal between us.)

My daughter is young; there’s no guarantee she’ll remain faithful to the Lord for the rest of her life. She may move away and reject the Church’s teaching out of a misguided attempt to avoid hurting her gay friends. If that happens, I’ll have peace that I did all I could to help her accept the truth about human sexuality. I’ll have hope, too, that one day the seeds of Truth I planted the night I chose to be vulnerable for her sake can still one day bloom into a sincere and lasting faith.