Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 12 - Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord

‘On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, (even) the king of Israel.” Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written: “Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass's colt.” His disciples did not understand this at first, but when Jesus had been glorified they remembered that these things were written about him and that they had done this for him.’ John 12:12-17

This is one of those beautiful chapters which makes Reverend Mill’s book worth its price even if it’s the only chapter you read. It is a ‘taking apart’ if you will of the familiar Palm Sunday and Passover stories which we think we know but maybe we could stand to examine in a lot more detail, if for no other reason than during Holy Week there is so much going on, it’s hard to take everything in.

Although there’s no way to do justice to this chapter and I’d have to plagiarize half the text in any attempt to do so, I thought I’d keep my ambitions for this post extremely small and just focus on the chapter title, which also happens to be the most important line in that Scripture reading: ‘Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord.’

I want to be blessed, don’t you?

Mostly I believe I am blessed. Whenever I see my eighty + year old friend Lloyd and ask him how he is, he answers, “I’m blessed!” I love his Faith. It’s a reminder to me that I’m blessed too.

But what about the rest of the sentence, ‘. . . is he who comes in the name of the Lord’?

When do I come, ‘in the name of the Lord’? Whenever I make the Sign of the Cross*, I say, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Isn’t that the name of the Blessed Trinity? Isn’t that my God? If I begin every journey with the Sign of the Cross then am I not going – and coming – in the name of the Lord? And by extension am I also not blessed?

“In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Blessed Trinity, help me to remember to begin all my endeavors—however small—in Your Holy Name that I may be blessed in all I say, think and do by Your Grace. Amen.”

* When I make the Sign of the Cross I hold my hand as shown in the picture above. I learned about this Byzantine Catholic or Eastern Christian tradition when I was teaching my own children about the Sign of the Cross many years ago. The position of the fingers gives additional meaning to the physical signing action and I liked that. As a teacher I had learned that the more sensory involvement in any activity the greater the overall learning potential and individual participation. The Byzantine view is explained in more detail here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 11 - God Doesn’t Give Handouts

‘Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”’ Mark 8:31-38

There’s an old Chinese proverb which says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I’m a teacher. It’s my vocation, my charism; it’s in my blood. I taught my baby sister to read when she was three and I was thirteen and then went on to organize a summer neighborhood nursery school camp for her and her little friends which I ran for the next three summers. I wasn’t going to charge for it, but the mothers of the tots—children I babysat for—all insisted. Still my profits were nil because I reinvested every nickel I made in treats, art supplies and games for the kids. In the military I was a part-time instructor. When I got out it was to homeschool my own children. Now I’m the Director of Religious Education for my parish. What can I say? I love to learn and I love to share that love of learning with others.

Some lessons are harder than others. One of the hardest is this one: God, and your fellow man, are here to give you a hand up, but not a hand out. There’s a difference—a big difference. Ultimately, my destiny is my own responsibility. It is the result of my own choices. Every time something happens to me, I have a choice. I can accept what happens or I can whine, complain, and blame others for my circumstances. I wish I could say I never resort to those childish forms of behavior—that I always cheerfully accept whatever circumstances I encounter. I wish that were true, but it isn’t . . . yet. I’m still working on it.

That’s why I like this chapter so much. I need this reminder. In the next hour or the next day, something will happen which I don’t like. I can focus on those things or I can keep my eyes on what I can do, my next goal, what lies ahead.

My oldest daughter graduates from high school tomorrow. I’m feeling many things as I look ahead to this milestone. Fortunately I’ve been so busy lately; I haven’t had a moment to think about my feelings concerning this event, which swing from excited to sad and from proud to lonely all in the space of five minutes. Last night we went out to help some friends who were hit hard by the May 10th tornadoes clear trees. My house needed cleaning and I was tired from a full day at work, but somehow—with His Grace—I found the energy to do everything. Best of all I forgot about my daughter growing up, graduating and moving away.

Life changes and moves on. Today I went to a funeral—always a good reminder of the brevity of this life. I know that mine is going by at a break neck speed! In the meantime, if I can lend someone a hand up, I hope I do.

And I pray that somewhere along the line I taught my daughter to fish—literally and spiritually.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 10 - In The Groove

‘They were on the way; going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”’ Mark 10:32-34

Of the chapters which I’ve read thus far in Reverend Mill’s book, A 30 Day Retreat, this has been my favorite. In it he describes Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, knowing where He is going and what He’s about to do. He is on track and on purpose. His disciples, by contrast, couldn’t be more lost. They don’t get what’s happening, where they’re going or what Jesus is saying and doing. Put in common parlance, Jesus is in the groove and they are out of it.

Where does that leave me?

Am I getting this? Do I know where I’m going?

Do I stay on track keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus, or do I keep letting little unimportant things distract me?

When I catch myself getting off track, what do I do? Do I immediately take corrective action such as prayer and/or confession? Am I willing to admit when I’m wrong, to be humble, and to be last and the least of all?

Do I forgive as I want to be forgiven? Love as He has loved me?

Am I willing to share my faith with those who don’t know about Christ or might need to hear me witness to the Truth?

Do I go daily for spiritual sustenance? Attend Mass as often as I can, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and say the rosary?

Do I keep studying and trying to learn, understand and grow in the truths of my faith?

Do I accept that being a Catholic Christian isn’t necessarily an easy choice, but it’s my only choice?

Do I?

Right now dear Lord, help me find that road to Jerusalem with You. That’s where I want to be—the road I want to take. Take my hand. I want to be ‘in the groove’ with You, not wandering lost somewhere. Basically Jesus I’m a coward and sinner, like the rest of your disciples. I probably don’t ‘get’ what is going on any better than they did, but with Your help I want to. Please help me. Hold on to me tight Lord. Keep me with You and don’t let me get in Your way.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 9 - The Long and Wending Road

‘Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, “Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.’ Luke 15:11-13

It’s been a long week. The 30 day retreat I meant to do every day has melted into the reality of the month of May with its tornadoes, end-of-school year awards ceremonies, graduations and other myriad of functions and obligations which must be met. And so it goes—the best laid plans, as the saying goes.

I have started almost a dozen posts on this Scripture story, which is a favorite. Sometimes, like Father Henri Nouwen,¹ I think I could write a book on that parable; it is so rich and meaningful.

Instead I’ll just share that our family is in the middle of its own prodigal child story. No, it isn’t one of my own children, thanks be to God. But I know the young woman's parents and they are at least as loving and well-intentioned as my husband and me, if not more so. I don’t see them as to blame for their daughter’s behavior any more than I believe we can take credit our grown children's successes. As parents, we all did the best we could. Then our children made their choices.

Recently, this daughter wrote her heartbroken mother an e-mail in response to this one:

“Dear R, I would love to hear from you, just to know if you’re all right.
Love, Mom”

R's reply:

“Hey, don't bother replying to this, but yes, my life is fabulous. It's done nothing but go uphill since I decided to ditch anybody that holds me back from getting what I want in life.

Hope you all have a great life, best of luck, etc. No hard feelings. Please feel free to forward this on to anybody I'm related to who hasn't yet got the clue that I turned in my club membership card a while back.


P.S. This was written by me, R, and not M². Just thought I'd throw that on there for all the low-expectation morons who missed the part where I stopped being 14 years old.”

This was forwarded on to us because my husband spoke up to this young couple concerning how they treated family members, thus earning himself the honor of becoming one of the ‘morons’ mentioned.

I don’t usually air family laundry. I don’t like to say anything bad about anyone. And yet, she herself suggested her e-mail be forwarded, which I read as a plea for help. I’ve changed the initials and won’t mention how we are related to this young woman. I just ask for your prayers for her parents, grandparents, siblings and for the young couple in question. Only God can change hearts and even He needs our cooperation, but I do believe in the power of prayer to work miracles.

I also believe in the story of the Prodigal Son. I should. I was something of a prodigal daughter myself once. Although I'm grateful I never wrote such a letter to my own mother, I also know I didn't grow up in this age of instant communication and, in my opinion, instant regret. Still I managed to cause her more tears, disappointment, grief and worry than she ever deserved. I traveled that long and wending road, made my way back to my parents, was forgiven and have had many happy years since, thanks be to God. By His Grace, I pray for the same reconcilation and reunion for this young relative.

Thank you for your compassionate understanding and God bless you for your generosity in joining us in prayer.

‘His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But his father ordered his servants, “Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”’ Luke 15:21-24

¹ Author of The Return Of The Prodigal Son

² Her husband of three years

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 8 - The Man in the Mirror

Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’ Luke 18:10-14

Today is Mother’s Day, that annual tribute to motherhood. I believe it’s a wonderful tradition—despite what my husband says about it being a ‘Hallmark Holiday’—because it honors all the sacrifices made for life, God’s greatest gift to us. In this culture of death in which we live, we need to take every opportunity offered to celebrate life and those who cherish, nurture and protect it. Let’s all give thanks today for mothers everywhere. God bless and strengthen them for their work in His Holy Service.

That said, as a mother myself, I am also painfully aware of my shortcomings: all those times I did not live up to my vocation. Yes, I know deep in my heart I've tried to do my best in raising my children, but I also remember occasions I wish I could forget when I didn’t listen or understand, when I put myself first, or when I wasn’t so loving as I could have been. And do I even need to say that when/if I could forget them, my own children would remind me of them? (sigh) Trust me, they do!

But it’s okay. My failures are there to keep me humble and remind me how much I need God’s Grace – and Mary’s intercession – while I strive to do my best for my family.

Still, on this day when everyone is telling me how “great” I am as a mother, I’m going to tell you ‘the rest of the story’. I’m going to rat or snitch on myself. This publican is going confess just one example of why she knows she always stands in need of God’s mercy.

When I was just embarking on my homeschooling career—many, many years ago—I had an extremely difficult time getting my children to sit and do their work on their own without my constant supervision. I knew that if this whole homeschooling ‘experiment’ – as I called it then – was going to work, my children were going to have to learn to be self-motivated and disciplined. What I didn’t know was how to teach that.

I preached at them a lot!

One morning I came back for the fourth or fifth time to find one of my daughters—I’ve forgotten which one—gone from her desk. Vigilante-like, Mom here, was all set to chastise the absentee scholar, the little miscreant. Without checking the circumstances and at the top of my lungs, I yelled out, “________, where are you?!”

The contrite child appeared shortly and looking down at the floor she said in a very small voice, “I was making your bed mommy.”

I dissolved. All my self-righteousness melted into tears and I went down on my knees and enfolded her in a hug of remorse. Then we went upstairs to admire her accomplishment. My eyes still tear up when I think of the lesson that God—using the love of my child—taught me that day.

This mom looks into the mirror through the eyes of her children and knows her true self.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Day 7 - Today Salvation Has Come

‘He (Jesus) came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.’ Luke 19:1-4

What a fun story! It’s a religion class and Vacation Bible School favorite—and for good reason. There’s lots of visual imagery and action, just what children like and will remember. First, it’s not just any tree but a sycamore tree and a man so short he can’t see over the crowds ... running ahead of them to find himself a good high spot from which to hail this Jesus-person.

But with all that slap and dash, it’s possible to overlook some deeper aspects to the encounter.

Jesus was there then. Not tomorrow or the next day, or next week, but on that day. It was a now or never kind of opportunity. As Our Lord says a few lines further on, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Today.


Is Jesus coming to my town today? Is He ‘about to pass my way’?

He is here for me every day. Jesus lives in my church. The Bread of Life awaits me at every Mass. Reconciliation can be mine for the asking almost whenever I want it. What am I waiting for?

What indeed?!

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 6 - Do You See What I See?

Now as he approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me!"’ Luke 18:35-39

The beauty in this story is in the irony. The blind man, Bartimaeus, could see what those who still had two good eyes could not. Jesus was so much more than his traveling companions knew or – if you’ll forgive the pun – could see. They saw Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, a teacher, a holy man, someone they wanted to follow to be sure. But the sightless man saw salvation in the form of God’s promised Messiah.

Do you ever feel that way? That you can see more than meets the eye? Have you ever been in a crowded room at a social gathering where everyone is making small talk—about the food, about the night’s events, about the weather (yawn!)—and you were seeing a different picture? Maybe I’m just weird (okay I know I am!) but sometimes when I’m at those kinds of social events, I look around at all the people and tell myself, ‘God loves all these people—every single one of them.

And yet they are each unique individuals; completely different from each other. Every man and woman here is an original in the eyes of God, with his or her own special story, maybe of pain and suffering, but also of hopes and joys. He knows this man’s fear of bankruptcy and that woman’s insecurity about her weight. He sees back into the past which has brought them here and beyond this day/night until that soul returns to Him.

When I begin to think like that, it’s easy for me to get lost and sometimes I get ‘caught’ at it. People accuse me of daydreaming. Yes, I’m a daydreamer, but I also like to think that I’m a little “blind” when it comes to social functions. I don’t fit in and I’m frequently at a loss for words. Still when I’m seeing things in just that way, I am often reluctant to return to ‘real life’. I prefer to see as a socially blind person.

I wish I could have met Bartimaeus and talked with him. I would have asked him what he saw.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 5 - Let Your Light Shine

‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.’ Matthew 5:14-16

I love this time of the year! The days are getting longer but it’s not too hot yet. There’s plenty of sunshine left over even if I have to work late and yet it's already light out when I drive to work in the morning. The birds must like it too; they sing me to sleep and wake me up again the next morning. May and June should be three months instead of two.

Reading the Gospel passage above, I felt God wants us to love the light ... and knows we will be drawn to do so. Can you just picture Jesus almost dancing as He said those words from Matthew? I know I can. His face must have been very animated and He had to be smiling.

As Christians we must share our joy and our love, not because of ourselves but because of Him! He lives and He lives in each of us.

We need to go out and spread some of that Christian sunshine with the rest of the world still living in darkness.

Here catch some of my fire and pass it on!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 4 - Whose Child Is This?

‘When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and to offer the sacrifice of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.’’ Luke 2:21-24

To receive the full benefit from this retreat or any other, it must be experienced personally. In addition to the Scripture passages each day, I’m reading the selected verses and then the associated text in the book. Not everyone can afford the time or money required for most retreats, so this on-line format offers readers the opportunity for spiritual growth in the comfort and convenience of their own homes.*

This chapter is about names and their importance to identity. In the book we learn about the significance of Biblical naming and name changes. We also read about the dangers of labeling and how cruel labels hung on a child or a young person can damage self image for life.

The baby Jesus was taken to the Temple on the Eighth day—as was the Jewish law—and presented for naming by his parents Mary and Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth. He is their son and it’s their responsibility to do this.

Jesus is also the only Son of God the Father.

And He is Our Savior . . . the Alpha and Omega . . . the Good Shepherd . . . and so much more.

Names are so important and so tricky.

Whose child is this?

He is mine.

I pray He is yours as well!

*Each day from June 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010, the author, Reverend Mills will post questions for discussion and reflection on his blog, which will relate to corresponding chapters in the book. After reading the day’s chapter, participants are encouraged to post answers to the questions on the blog, or use them as starting points for daily journal entries. Acting as guide and facilitator, Mills will respond to daily postings with comments and questions of his own, creating a month-long online spiritual community. For more information about this on-line retreat opportunity, check out this Press Release.

Day 3 - Peace Be With You

‘On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."’ John 20:19-23


Don’t we all long for it?

I know I do.

Inner peace, peace-of-mind, a tranquil home, amiable co-workers, neighborly neighbors and a world free from war? It sounds like Heaven on earth. Where can we find it...?

Today I put myself with the apostles in the inner room. I accepted the Peace of Christ when He offered it to me—both times. I invited the Holy Spirit to dwell actively in me today. I asked for a day of spiritual communion.

Mostly I know what it takes to have peace: to let go of outcomes. It’s the old saying, pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you and then trust that whatever happens is God’s Will.

He has sent me now to you. The Peace of Christ be with you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 2 - Love One Another

‘This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.’ John 15:12-15

The reason God gives us the commandment to love is because love is a choice, not a feeling. Love is a decision. It is a verb, an action word.

We can always choose not to love. We can turn our back on a brother or sister in need. We can hold on to a grudge, refuse to forgive, nurse old wounds. We can tell ourselves that this or that person has hurt me and doesn’t deserve my love.

And we may be right.

In my meditation today I recalled a conversation I had with my daughter’s boyfriend. He believes that none of us ‘deserve’ love, that all love is a great gift, to be treasured when and where it is received. Part of me agrees that we don’t deserve love. As God’s creatures, we can never merit the love He gives us, anymore than we can earn our salvation or justify our lives.

And yet, as a parent myself, I also know that a helpless infant denied love will not survive. We need love. It isn’t a question of whether or not we deserve it; we don’t. But we still have to have it. We are still commanded to give it to each other.

He gave us the commandment to love each other for our own good. I derive more tranquility, joy and gratification from the love I give than from the love I receive. Withholding love from someone brings neither peace of mind nor emotional satisfaction. It does shrivel the heart and shrink the soul.

Today I choose to love.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 1 - Walking By Faith

‘Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.’ Hebrews 11:1-3*

Raised in a good home by two loving parents, sent to Catholic schools for twelve years, married now for twenty-five to a devoted, believing husband, it’s easy for me to take my faith for granted. Not my Faith maybe—I remember often enough that Christians are still martyred even now. What I often fail to appreciate is the simple fact that I do believe, that I am able to believe . . . that God has granted me this grace, especially in this age and time of unbelief.

Today I began the retreat, a 30 day retreat. In his Introduction, Father Mills suggests taking some time to quiet yourself each day before reading the selection from the book, A 30 Day Retreat.

After the hectic pace of today, I was only too happy to oblige. I waited until my family had all left or gotten busy doing things. Then I relaxed in my easy chair with a neck support, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. It was delicious to be quiet, to come away, to seek time out to be alone with Him.

I begin my retreat in joy and humble gratitude.

I also begin it in prayer. My prayer today is one of thanksgiving for the great gift I’ve been given, this incredible Gift of Faith. Reading further on in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews I learn of all my ancestors in faith—those wise women and brave men who walked this path before, who light the way.

Dear brothers and sisters-in-Christ, continue to pray for me, and all of us who know, love and serve Him. But even more, join us in praying for the millions who do not know God or what it is to believe. All journeys, ne all endeavors begin in faith, without which the next step would not, could not happen.

* All Scripture quotes used in this series are taken from the New American Bible, Catholic Edition, found at the USCCB website.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A 30 Day Retreat

Want to do a 30 day retreat with me?

I was asked by this book's author to review his book. As it is entitled, A 30 Day Retreat, I don't know any other reliable way to approach it except to do the actual retreat over a thirty day time period—one chapter each day as laid out by the book.

Now I'll be honest. I'm pretty scared about this. You can look back over my recent blogging record and see that I haven't exactly been very consistent.

I could blame it on many things: this being my first year in a new job which is very creative and non-routine; going back into the work force full-time after seventeen years of being a stay-at-home mom; the challenge of having two dating teenage daughters, one of whom is a senior this year; my overprotective, wanting-to-be-involved-in-my-children's-lives style of mothering; my in-laws having just moved within a block of us this past year, or a combination of any/all of the above.

But whatever the reason(s), I haven't managed to blog very often recently. Can I now read a chapter from this book and write something about it every day? I don't know.

This won't be an easy month either. Tomorrow is First Communion. My oldest daughter graduates from high school in three weeks. Mother's Day comes in there too. It won't be easy, but I think I need this.

So, I invite you to join Father William C. Mills and me as we spend the next month on retreat.

God bless you!