Monday, June 26, 2017

Gospel Word Today: Judged

Today is a special day for Jay and me. One year ago today I walked down the aisle in Ireland at Tearmann Anama (Soul Sanctuary) toward my beautiful husband with all of our children/sons-in-law/grandchildren in attendance. And to top it all off, Fr. Darragh Connolly was the priest marrying us and Anne a lay apostle gave a short talk after the ceremony. That day was perfect.

As I think about my journey in life and the choices I've made, to be in that moment, June 26, 2016 . . . I felt complete, satisfied. No one judging me for the mistakes of my past. Only love, family, and fellowship with those closest to us. I have learned many things in this year since our Catholic wedding. No matter how many blessings we are graced with, there will always be struggles to contend with and judgments to assess and navigate. This mission has taught me many things. One important lesson being from The Guide to Contemplative Prayer by Anne a lay apostle:

"Next, we examine our conscience using the formula which connects our sins and mistakes to our humanity. We think of our sin and then we try to connect it to the wound or human characteristic which prompted it. It looks like this: ‘I felt rejected and then I did this. I felt angry and then I said this. I was bored, tired, anxious, hungry, addicted or what have you and then I did this, that or the other.’"

When I feel a particular emotion, I try to contemplate what causes those emotions in me by connecting it to possibly something which occurred in my childhood/young adult life. The result is I am refocused and usually overcome the feeling of judgment or hurt fairly quickly.

Life is a roller coaster lay apostles. And I feel so privileged to have Jay to hold on to through all the ups and downs. With Jesus and Jay by my side, how can I lose?

In today's Gospel (Matthew 7:1-5), Jesus asks us to look within before we judge others:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

In Anne a lay apostle's book Serving in Clarity, she is spot on . . . examine our own behavior first:

"It is distressing to witness a spirit of pride and arrogance. We must always look for personal outrage as a marker for pride in ourselves. By this I do not refer to the outrage one feels regarding injustice done to others. This is appropriate. By this, the marker for pride, I refer to personal outrage associated with being treated less respectfully than we would like or being judged in a way that is less positive than we feel we deserve or desire. To clarify, we can go, as usual, to the Lord’s example. When people lied about Jesus personally or mistreated Him, He let it go, as in the Garden. He did not puff up and sputter in outrage. He was very consistent in behaving like a lamb. But when people planned to stone an adulteress, He stopped them. He exhibited a sense of outrage, turning the situation on its head and using it to promote non-judgmental treatment of others. Also, when He witnessed His Father’s house being used as a marketplace, He exhibited outrage, even reacting with just anger. Jesus quietly accepted personal insults and slights to Himself. He did not accept cruel behavior against people or blasphemous behavior against His Father. There are those who will say that to behave in obedience is to offer up our free will. This is true. This is what we are striving for, to offer up our free will to the Lord. It is only when we give up trying to be masters that we can become servants. We will not enter heaven with our hands on our hips, telling everyone else, least of all Christ, where they are getting it wrong."

Lay apostles, let's all vow to leave the judging up to Jesus today. If we judge another, we will be judged by the same standards. I, for one, am far from perfect. I am a sinner. There is not one human being on this earth who has not sinned. Jesus knows us, and He knows EVERYTHING. So, before you become angry with the rude waitress, try to show her the Light of Christ by thanking her for serving you. Don't judge, just love.

Thank you, Lord, for teaching me to leave any judgment up to You! Please continue to remind me, when I start stumbling in that direction, You have it all under control! And, thank You for the blessing of the most wonderful husband alive!

God bless,

Friday, June 23, 2017

Gospel Word for Today: Easy

The first time I saw the Staples commercial with the "Easy" button, I wanted to be the first in line to purchase it as a reminder to remove the congestion in my life! Who doesn't want an Easy button? Kids giving you a problem . . . hit the EASY button. Feeling unappreciated . . . EASY button is right there! As time has passed, I realize there actually is an Easy button . . . it's Jesus Christ! Not that we won't suffer as Christians on our path to eternity.  But without Him, the suffering is far worse. Choose Him always. And remember, He knows what is best for us. He has the bigger picture!

Today's Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30) teaches us that relying on Jesus is all the comfort we need:

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 little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

In Volume One, Anne a lay apostle shares with us the importance of service to Christ on days we just don't feel like serving:

"This day is beginning with sickness and pain, but a light spirit. How joyful is the service of our God. Truly, His yoke is easy and His burden is light in that the closer you get, the greater your desire to serve. Indeed, the lightness of spirit is present in our Lord’s service and prayer restores the buoyancy of the soul so that one proceeds joyfully. I am not cut out for martyrdom. I don’t mind complaining when necessary. But Jesus makes you smile. So it would be fakery to have a sad face because you are sick. Such courage is required to begin a day at times, when you feel sick. But when you have practiced depending on Jesus, you get better at it. You then have the courage to begin difficult days or tasks because your experience assures you that Jesus will be not only walking with you, but sharing and sometimes completely shouldering the weight of your cross. Every morning you must wake and think, God has work for me. There is something terribly important I must do today for Him. I have been placed here particularly for this day and these tasks. This morning, feeling cheerfully ill, I said, “Lord, I might not get much accomplished today.”  He replied: “Slow down. Work steadily. Yesterday you accomplished a great deal, but today you will accomplish much more important work. Sometimes your tasks have to do more with loving. You could remain in bed all day but have loved much and achieved greater things than on a day when you ran from one task to another with a rapidly beating heart. My creatures were meant to move steadily. The world seems to be demanding that you move quickly. Refuse this gambit by the evil one. If you are forced to move frantically through your days, that is a sign that I want your life to change. This is important, dear souls. Be advised. I want your life to move more slowly. I want you to be recollected with Me through your day. Every day, always."

Lay apostles, let's all try to make life easy today . . . no matter your situation, take a minute to include Jesus in our frustration, difficulty or pain. Let Him comfort us. Read from the Bible or Volumes. He has so much wisdom and solace to give!

Thank you, Lord, for taking my life and making it easier. If I would have known relying on You would be this blessed, I would have done it a long time ago!

God bless,

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Gospel Word for Today: Babble

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word "babble" means to talk enthusiastically or excessively. Considering Jesus uses the word babble as a behavior not becoming of a Christian in today's Gospel . . . well, the Italian in me is hard to subdue when I am passionate about something or someone. There are times I am in conversation with a new acquaintance and find I need to remind myself over and over to listen instead of "babble."  Is my need to chime in the need to feel connected? To show I understand or can relate to the story at hand? I love to find common ground with people I meet, to bond on commonality. But that doesn't excuse my lack of listening at times. This prompted thinking about my prayer life. Do I listen to Him or give Him my long list of prayer requests? Usually, it's the latter. One of my goals this year is to listen to Him more, and babble less. A goal once perfected, will (prayerfully!) spill over into everyday interactions.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 6:7-15), Jesus gives us the perfect prayer to live by:

Jesus said to his disciples: "In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

"This is how you are to pray:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

"If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

In Anne a lay apostle's book Whispers From the Cross, she reminds us to be cautious of what comes out of our mouths:

"In moments of useless communication when we are not in communion with Jesus, the enemy can come with temptation. Our talk is then subject to a dark influence. Our talk can then become subject to the enemy’s plan. In many ways and on many occasions we have furthered the plan of Satan through talking and other forms of communication that are not willed by heaven. Better we be mute than assist Satan in tearing down what the Lord attempts to build. Many things can happen in useless talking and random communication. Often what happens is destructive gossip. Before any communication, therefore, we must seek to determine if Jesus wants us to communicate. Is Jesus asking us to make this communication? Many times and probably most times the answer will be ‘No’. Jesus needs only the smallest percentage of the communications we make."

Lay apostles, let's take note of how much we listen to others today. Do we cut people off to "babble?" Do we finish their thoughts for them? I know I am guilty of this!  As I am a work in progress, this is my ultimate goal . . . less babble, more listening!

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me to listen first and respond second (which I know is a common reminder for You in our relationship!).

God bless,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gospel Thoughts: Love Your Enemies

There couldn't be better timing for the Gospel message today. With up-to-date news as close as a swipe on our smartphones, any time of day or night, the violence/intolerance occurring here in our own country is disturbing. There is so much self-pity and childish behavior being flung since our president's election, it has become like projectile vomiting . . . most can't stop it from freely exiting their mouths! There is such a lack of control in the emotional department, I wonder . . . how did they become so angry? The only thing I can come up with is God is nowhere to be found. Christ assigns us a very difficult task today . . . love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. When people I love frustrate or disappoint me, it's easy to continue loving them and coming to a resolution. But when it is a famous celebrity portraying radical islamist terrorists or politicians obstructing the great strides President Trump is making, I have to admit I struggle with loving and praying for them. The solution for me? Don't spend my hard earned money by going to the theater to see these characters try to act. I also try to stay focused on positive political #NewMedia like YourVoice America (Bill Mitchell is the best! Extremely positive and explains what is actually going on in America!). I am a work in progress . . . trying my best to pray instead of being disturbed! Pray for me!

Today's Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48):

Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The following quote from Anne's book Staying in Place perfectly states the reason we must stay focused on love and gratitude, not hate and anger:

"Self-pity is the enemy of wellness and joy. Self-pity is the enemy of virtue. Self-pity targets initiative and accomplishment. Jesus Christ kept working from the cross of His death, organizing care for His mother, obtaining forgiveness for His persecutors, doing the hard work to wrap His head around His circumstances, even asking, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'

My friends, if we are breathing, life has expectations of us. Today’s expectations could jump to a far higher level at any moment. We must prepare to serve. And when we are most disappointed, we must practice finding what is good around us, what is pure, even when it is only pure sorrow. Then we might say with profound gratitude, 'Thank you, Jesus that someone taught me to believe in the next life, where all of this suffering will have evaporated and where I will be united with loved ones in safety and celebration, free from pain, harm and threat.'"

Lay apostles, how do we detach from all the noise encompassing our daily lives? Put the smartphone down. Call instead of text. Serve each other. Turn the TV off and read a Volume. Talk to each other. Pray.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me I have to love and pray for my enemies. I will need some extra graces FYI!

God bless,