The Wisdom of the Childlike

“But Moses said to God,
Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh
and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
He answered, “I will be with you…”

“At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.”

(emphases added)

Many times in my life, I have felt like I was the one to do a job right.

My husband calls this my “justice” instinct… if there’s something awry, someone’s gotta fix it, and I don’t like waiting for people to fix things that I feel I could easily take care of. At many points in my life, people have told me I’m a good leader, and I have internalized that. I feel like God has called me to some role of leadership. But, at the same time, there have been circumstances that shatter these expectations, and my identity surrounding my capability and call to lead has been shaken.

Lately, I’m realizing there has been a slow work of God trying to refine this instinct to hire and volunteer myself as a leader, and these verses exemplify the heart God wants for His leaders here on earth: abandoned, dependent, humble, childlike.

The extent to which we empty ourselves of relying upon our own power, paired with the confidence we have in God’s, is also the extent to which God can powerfully act through us.

Moses was the perfect choice for a leader, in part, because he knew the enormity of the task and his complete ineptitude to carry it out.

And so, like children, the truly wise know to the depths of their soul that God is the sole animator, ruler, guide, and goal of their life. And that is the source of their joy, comfort, strength, perseverance.

Sometimes, maybe even oftentimes, God lets us work and do life while we think it is ourselves who are holding everything together. He lets this happen, sometimes, until everything falls apart, and we can search through the rubble to rediscover our foundation. And if we are wise, we ask Him to rebuild. We ask for His Will to be done.

I’m sure God has so much more planned for us if we would only give up the reigns. It’s not that He doesn’t think we can do more, there sometimes simply isn’t enough space for Him to work as freely as He wants to in our lives.

I feel this question keenly in my own life: What would God do through me if I would trust more fully in His power and not my own? How would He use me? What leader could I become? 

Jesus, our eternal Leader and Friend, we surrender more of our hearts to Yours.

Father, teach us to trust you, even if it hurts.

Holy Spirit, teach us the wisdom of trusting children.

Amen.

To Be Close

The first reading is one of my favorites from the Old Testament, the story of Jacob, who wrestled with the Lord until the Lord blessed him.  The significance this story holds for us today is the physical proof of just how close the Lord can come to us. People commonly believe that since God is all knowing, we, as sinful human beings, have no possibility of changing or altering the will of God, but in this Old Testament story, Jacob actually does, and is blessed for it:  he becomes the father of the Israelites.
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”  Genesis 32:28
God wants nothing more than to maintain a close and intimate relationship with each and every one of us.  Thanks to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who lived among us, we have the gift of entering and exploring a close relationship with our Creator every day. All we need to do is pray. Prayer allows us to transcend this world and enter the realm of the divine. When we pray, anything is possible as we talk with our Creator and Father, bringing our brokenness to Him, asking for mercy. The Gospel reading continues to reveal the compassion of the Lord and His willingness to be close to us.
“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 9:36
As believers, we are also given a mission; we know how to find closeness with the Lord, but so many of the Lord’s people have not experienced His love.
“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Mt 9:38
Jesus Christ calls us to show others the depth of the Father’s love. We have the chance to spread the word of God to as many of our fellow human beings as we can, and this way the power of the Lord’s love can grow. Imagine what the world would be like if the Lord’s love was known to all! Although this may sound over-ambitious, it is precisely what we are called to do. If we actively seek an intimate relationship with God ourselves, we will receive the power from Him to accomplish this mission.

Valuing Sacrifice, Not Success

By Father Pier Giorgio Dengler, O.P.
on the Feast of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, July 4, 2019.

What does it take to be great? What is it that the angel of God approved in Abraham’s offering of Isaac? What is the secret of charitable works or the source of blessedness in the Beatitudes? The answer is not in the outcome, but in the offering.

In offering something to God, we consider it as a gift we have received from God and we seek to discover from Him how to best place it at the service of His plan of salvation. This is good news, because anything can be offered—riches or poverty, success or failures, wonders or wounds.

Bl. Pier Giorgio offered much—not just the corporal and spiritual works of mercy among the poor. More than even these, he offered what was most dear to him: his relationships—treasured or tragic. Instead of using his family influence and good name to blow off studies, he knew when to subordinate fun with friends to his student obligations. He even turned down traveling with his friends for hikes if it meant that he would have to miss Sunday Mass. He had to surrender his beloved sister as she left the family and the country to get married, and he held back on pursuing the love of his life when the circumstances of beginning a romantic relationship would spell doom for his own parents’ marriage. He lived the words of St. Paul: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1).

PierGiorgioFrassati-PrésentationBl. Pier Giorgio is not famous because he was good-looking or rich, nor because he skied, climbed mountains, or hiked with friends. He wasn’t known for any of his achievements. Rather, we know him because he offered all of those goods to God, along with all of the failures, sorrows, struggles, and sacrifices which came his way (of which he has so many). Bl. Pier Giorgio united all of the elements of his life and times in a consistent litany of personal piety and prayer. Above all, he incorporated everything he had into the universal prayer life of the Church—the liturgy and its source and summit, the Eucharist.

How can we achieve such unity of purpose? A simple prayer provides the outline that Bl. Pier Giorgio personified in his brief but memorable life:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

Morning Offering composed by Fr. Francois Xavier Gaulrelet

This prayer truly offers God everything in our day, good and bad. It puts into action the importance of praying for others, seeks the help of our Blessed Mother, and it allies our offerings with our bishops and our Holy Father and thus the most pressing needs of those overseeing the Church itself.

Unity of life means integrating everything that comes our way and everything we aim at to God, lifting it all up in our hearts in the celebration of the Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist. It means offering everything as a sacrifice, not seeking after showy success. And it means that everything we have to offer—not only our triumphs, but also the pains we suffer, sorrows we endure, and raw deals we receive—has eternal significance and yields a bountiful harvest of grace.

Your Heart Is My Home

About 8 months ago, while on a retreat, I glanced through the retreat house’s library to borrow a book for the weekend.  Though I can’t even recall the title of the book, the spiritual nugget that the Lord gave me through it has stuck with me.  And on today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I am reminded of this nugget. 

The book was a sort of prayerful and guided walk through St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, and while I barely had time to skim the book, this specific principle stuck with me.  The author encouraged the reader to prayerfully discover a personal representation of the place within her (or his) soul where she meets and dwells with God.  I wish I could more accurately remember how the author guided this meditation, but the point is, it was an opportunity to create a visual “place” that resonates with you personally to help you enter into the presence of God in the innermost chambers of your heart and soul. 

For me, as I took time to allow the Lord to show me this “place,” I began to visualize a flower.  The flower petals opened gently, and there, safe within the beauty of the petals, I saw a tiny version of myself.  I was “Honey I shrunk the Kids”–sized, peacefully dwelling in the center bed of this flower.  A peace came over me as I received the gift of this image from the Lord.  It was like He had given me a new way to enter in to His presence in prayer through the uniqueness of this image of my heart and soul. 

Even though I began this prayerful meditation trying to visualize my own heart, as I sat with the image, I felt this security of being enfolded in the Lord’s Heart.  It is difficult to describe the experience, but I think it represents the reality of the exchange of hearts we partake in when we are in covenant with the Lord.  A Christian covenant is more than a contractual exchange of goods—it is an exchange of persons.  And we are loved enough by Him to be in a covenant relationship, a dynamic exchange of love, with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our heart, the place where He dwells, is swept up in His own precious and Sacred Heart.  I believe it is this mutual abiding of hearts, mine and His, that I was experiencing in prayer.

I invite you to spend some time in prayer, asking the Lord to help you see your own heart in which He dwells, and so come into contact with His Heart.  Today’s readings illustrating Jesus’ role as our Good Shepherd remind us of His overwhelming love for each of us.  He will go out in search of you, His single lost and beloved sheep, to bring you back into His Sacred Heart.  He loves you personally, deeply, and unashamedly. 

Allow yourself to sit and receive this immeasurable love of His Sacred Heart today.  Dwell in the joy of your covenantal relationship with Him.  May this remind us that Jesus’ love is this genuinely personal for each and every person.  I pray that we can receive this great love of our Savior each and every day, so we can in turn reflect this love to every soul who has yet to experience this love.  Right now, I hope you will take a few moments to dwell in the reception of His love for you.

“Why should I love God? …if one seeks for God’s claim upon our love here is the chiefest: Because He first loved us.”

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God

To further your meditation, check out this song that guides me right to His heart… Will Reagan — “Your Heart is My Home” Listen on Spotify | Listen on YouTube

 

 

Arriving to Heaven Together

When I was in grade-school I remember having scheduled fire drills. The alarm would go off and everyone would stop what they were doing, we would put on our coats and file in two lines. The teacher would give the class directions as simple as “stay calm, follow me”. We would walk out of our classroom together and merge in the hallway with the other classes exiting their own classrooms. We would all make our way to the stairwell to exit the floor. One day while orderly walking down the stairs, I distinctly remember noticing all the children in front of me, all the children behind me, all the children in the stairwell from the floors above and, all the children in the stairwell from the floor below. We were all moving towards the same exit door to leave the building. Every single person was going to leave the building through the same tiny door. Suddenly my grade-school mind began to wander, what if there truly was a fire? What if we truly were in danger? How could everyone possibly fit through that tiny door out to safety? I became worried and scared for myself and all these people.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling his disciples that they should “enter through the narrow gate”. Jesus had given the disciples the simple direction of how to get to heaven by walking on the road that leads to the narrow gate; through him, by following him, by being in communion with him. Jesus had told us that this road was not easy. By picking up the cross we would be judged as he was judged and we would be persecuted as he was persecuted. When life becomes difficult it seems beyond tempting to drop our heavy cross. It seems tempting to cross over to the road that is wide because it seems to be less stressful, it seems like more fun, it seems like less work. But these are deceptions that take us no where. Jesus warns us that this broad road will be the destruction of many. We are not meant to walk the road of deceit and evil. We are meant to walk the road of love and forgiveness. We may get lost at times and end up on the wrong path but, God always gives us many opportunities to get on the right path, on the path to holiness.

How easy it could have been to cause distress in the middle of a fire drill. It could be easy to lose focus of the goal (exiting through the door) and be stuck inside the building in a dangerous situation. If people started to push and shove it would get us no where. But, “pushing and shoving” were not the instructions the teachers gave us. They told us to remain calm, to stay in line, to follow. They gave us directions and we worked together. My class worked with the other classes on our floor, which we may see from time to time, and my class even worked with classes a few floors above, which we never even interacted with before. Remain calm, stay in line, follow. We all became one moving body as we made our way through a tiny exit door to safety.

God didn’t make us to be alone. He made us to be in communion with Him and in turn to be in communion to one another. Right before Jesus told his disciples about entering through the narrow gate, he told them exactly how they would enter through the narrow gate; “do to others whatever you would have them do to you”. We have a responsibility to love each other, to help each other and work together in the name of Jesus Christ. Being in communion with one another means to be in fellowship and have a mutual participation or sharing. If we see someone on the broader road, suffering, take them by the hand and walk with them and Jesus on the narrow road. Share with them the word and love of the Lord. On the narrow road, no matter how pact or how difficult, when we remain calm and follow Christ everyone gets through the narrow gate and we arrive to heaven together.

Holy Spirit Inspired

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church. Because the feast of Pentecost was celebrated last Sunday, the liturgical readings for this memorial particularly resonated with me. The Gospel quotes Jesus as He gives His disciples their ultimate mission:  “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 2:4
It is easy to read this passage as history instead of a direct call to action. As a child, I remember reading these passages and being interested in the disciples’ stories, but never making the connection to my own life.  We are the disciples of today, and the harvest is just as abundant as it was back in the earliest days when Jesus’ first disciples embarked on their mission. This past Pentecost weekend I was blessed to attend a rally where one of the speakers pointed out that the Lord constantly makes everything new.  This speaker believed the Lord is doing something new right now, preparing the Church as He did the disciples, but in a way that addresses the new and different times in which we live. The Church is like a volcano ready to erupt and when it does, it will change the landscape of the entire world.
As the disciples of this current age, we have work to do. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, we will succeed. “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1

Insta Set-up

A group of elementary school students got off a school bus at the rest stop. They instinctually gathered in formation and started a choreographed routine welcoming their classmates in the next bus that pulled up. Their joy spilled forth in rhythm as they stepped in time.

A student from our group prompted one of his classmates to join the children. The children embraced our student as he joined their circle; our students snapped the photos for Instagram. The freeze frame suggested a meaningful encounter that our student  initiated and embraced. Seeing the setup, though, contradicted the reality. Perhaps, contradicted is too strong a word. At the very least, it expanded the reality beyond the portrayal and sentimentality.

Sometimes, we read situations through a lens of what we assume to be reality without ever questioning the set-up. Other times, we orchestrate and edit to crop situations to what we desire to portray or what we think is desired of us.  Watching the scene unfold, compared to the still frame, it was the elementary students joy that was magnetic – not the forced participation of one of our students. This is not a call to be cynical of what we view; however, it is an invitation to question if we see through the lens of reality or our assumptions. 

Verso l’alto,

Kathryn Grace

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,

Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,

High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

 

It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day