Friday, March 28, 2014

YOU ARE NOT FAR...

You are not far from the kingdom of God.
                                                      --Mark 12:34

Jesus spoke these words to one of the scribes, a group that was often at loggerheads with him.  But this particular scribe seemed to approve of Jesus, noticing how well he spoke and listening to what he was saying. He asked Jesus "Which is the first of all the commandments?"  

Jesus answered with two: love God and love your neighbor, and summed up by saying "There is no other commandment greater than these."  

The scribe then responded, "to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Answering with such understanding then drew forth Jesus's comment, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

My reflection from The Word among Us suggests that because this scribe was not yet ready for the revelation of Jesus's divinity, Jesus left him with the invitation to keep searching, and that in many ways we are all encouraged to keep looking for a deeper level of intimacy with Jesus throughout our lives.  As one spiritual writer explained, "We are always only at the beginning of love."

Each day offers us new opportunities to grow spiritually, and I am very conscious of this during Lent, particularly this year when my nephew Zachary is going through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and will be received into the Church during the Easter season.  We talk about his class nearly every week, read the Scripture readings for the coming Sunday, and I always feel enriched by his questions, his astute observations and his deep desire to become a better person, husband and father.  We are not far from the kingdom of God, yet each day we can take one step closer in the light of His love.


Monday, March 17, 2014

A GOOD MEASURE

Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. 
                                                                                               --Luke 6:38

This Gospel verse has been one of my favorites for a long time, and it brought to mind the experience, probably 35  years ago, when our parish chose to become a tithing parish.  We had three speakers, from three different financial backgrounds, from quite wealthy to relatively poor, talk about their journey to tithing, giving 10% of their income, before taxes, to the Lord, with half going to the parish and half to other charities.  The parish, in turn, gave 10% of its income to other charities, including a sister parish we adopted in the inner city.  

Although we had always given to our parish and other charities, we had never given the full 10% of our gross income, but this seemed to be where the Lord was calling us, and taking a deep breath we began right away, and we did always experience the Lord's provision, whether my husband was doing well financially or when he lost his job for seven months and we had no savings, three small children, and a mortgage that had doubled in size when we moved to California.  We experienced God's arms around us through our community, especially our parish and our Worldwide Marriage Encounter family.  When my husband chose not to pursue a possible job opening with a company that turned out to be one of the largest producers of artificial birth control pills, the local right-to-life group gave us a large check that enabled us to keep going.  Our M.E. couples gave us a Christmas party complete with Santa Claus, gifts and a new dress for each daughter. One couple babysat for us and gave us a small cash gift that enabled us to go to lunch together.  Another couple hired us to help them reroof and the money we earned meant we could buy a new pair of shoes for one of the children, and we felt so happy that we could actually make some of the money that we needed.  We were preparing to give a Marriage Encounter Weekend, and couples brought us meals so we could focus on finishing our talks.  

Before he died, my husband told me that all the money we had saved had already been tithed on, so that it would be entirely up to my discretion as to what I donated.  He forgot about the life insurance, so I now have the ability to be more generous than I might otherwise have been, and I feel truly enriched to be continuing the legacy that he left for all of us.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE STRENGTH THAT COMES FROM GOD

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. 
                                                                                                                       II Tm. 1:8

When I read this verse from today's Mass readings, it resonated with all that I have experienced since my dear husband died over a year ago.  As I have told many people, I have experienced being lifted up and carried when I didn't know how I could put one foot in front of another and get through each day.  I've taken the train to my daughter's alone, and traveled by plane four times, waded through the flood caused by our exploding water heater, started a business, and learned a great deal of patience during the nearly nine months it is taking for the reconstruction to be finished.  

I know that I have not done this on my own but that, supported by prayers of family and many friends, I have been given God's own strength to keep moving forward into Chapter 2, to listen for God's voice and see where it is He wants me to go each day.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BAPTISM

I will give you thanks with an upright heart,
     when I have learned your just ordinances.
                                                     --Psalm 119:7

I set my alarm for 6:00 this morning so I would have time to have breakfast, reflect on Scripture, journal, and practice my French horn before I left for a Baptism.  I had also set my phone to go off at 7 and 8 so I would stay on task and get out the door in time to drive down to the church.  Instead, I slept through all three alarms, woke at 8:30, and had to really rush to get there in time.  It was the first time I had been to this parish since my husband died, but I was thankful that I made it, the family of the baby girl coming into the Church seemed delighted that I was there, and I had the chance to talk to many friends at the reception whom I hadn't seen since the funeral.  

In addition, the priest who baptized baby Minh has been a friend of ours since before he was ordained, and he had come back from studying for his doctorate at Notre Dame to officiate at the Baptism.  His homily on why we baptize babies was beautifully thought out, particularly since he is a convert from a faith that baptizes when one is older.  His comparison of the freedom the world proposes, where the more choices one has, the freer one is, to the freedom of being set on the path to Truth at the beginning of your life, was succinct.  He illustrated his point with the image of driving into a traffic circle, and once you take a turn off it, you are now limited in what direction you can go, so that if you choose the freedom of the world, it would seem that the greatest freedom would be to keep going around in circles forever!

Little Minh has been set on the path by her parents to begin learning the just ordinances of God, and to pursue her Savior, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A BUTTERFLY IN THE DESERT

They seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods.
                                                                                     --Edith Wharton

I have been thinking about this quote since I came upon it several days ago in the book that has been my companion through grief, Healing after Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman.  Although I live in Southern California now, for half my life I lived in states where winter was serious business, and three of my daughters now live in areas where this long winter has seemed oppressive and endless.  From last Thursday until yesterday, we had downpours, and cold, dreary weather that seemed to creep through every crack in the house and seep into my bones.  I even had a fire on Sunday since I had friends coming over and wanted to welcome them with warmth.  I would never have expected to see a butterfly anywhere about, and even the birds were subdued and silent, except for the crows who carried on much as usual, banging their nuts on the roof and having extended conversations across tree tops.

On Saturday, when it wasn't actually raining, I suddenly heard a huge bang and went looking to see what had caused it.  When I looked out the family room French doors, I saw a small goldfinch splayed out on the doormat with one wing spread out at an awkward angle.  I could see he was breathing rapidly, but I judged that with the force with which he must have flown into the window, he had probably broken something and wouldn't live long.  The doormat was soaking wet, and then it started raining again.  I went out with an old towel, and picked him up in it and moved him under some bushes where he had a little shelter.  He barely moved and I assumed he didn't have long to live.  It poured the rest of the day, and the next morning when there was a break in the rain, I went outside to check on him, and discovered he had flown away.  I wondered if he had been the goldfinch who skittered up and down a long climbing rose branch that leans outside my office window where I worked at designing my new logo, that includes a colorful little wren who has all the colors of Carolina, Bewick's, purple topped, and fairy wrens and then some.  So when I realized this golden yellow finch had returned to the skies, my heart lifted and soared in an unexpected burst of happiness.