Archive for the ‘humility’ Category

Lay down your burden

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

“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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I just loved the homily given on Sunday by our pastor, Monsignor Mike Foley. He shared a true and compelling story of how he applied the above verses from the gospel reading to his own life.

Several years ago, Monsignor Mike was pastor to the largest parish in our diocese, St. Ann’s in Milford, MA. With approximately 3500+ families in the parish, St. Ann’s at one time had 5 priests to serve. Back in the early 2000′s, the death of a pastor caused the bishop to effectively “shuffle the deck”, redistributing pastors and promoting an associate to pastor to fill the various needs of the diocese. Monsignor was at the bottom of the deck. In the end, he was left alone at St. Ann’s without even the help of a deacon because the deacon was sick. He would not be able to get extra help for at least 3 months. On top of everything else, it was during the height of the sexual abuse scandal which rocked Boston and surrounding communities.

Monsignor knew he was in trouble. He described the various ways he could have reacted:

  • Get angry with the bishop
  • Work himself to death
  • Or turn to the Lord in prayer

He decided to turn the Lord in prayer. At at time when one would think more hours would need to be devoted to work, Monsignor Mike took 2 extra hours (together) out of his day to spend time with the Lord in prayer. He confessed his need and allowed the Lord to give him rest. He took the will of God (His yoke) on his shoulders, surrendering his own will for what he thought ought to be done, and surrendering the will and expectations of others.

In the end,  God showed him how to prioritize his work, helping Monsignor in his decision making, and ultimately, remaking the vision of the parish.

Monsignor Mike really shared from his heart. At one point, standing in front of the altar, he pointed back to the gospel book stating, ” I know that it works to allow God to carry your burden. I’ve lived it!”

All the while I’m marveling at the fact that this holy priest would spend 2 solid hours in prayer. As always, he, in essence, fertilized the desire already in me to deepen my prayer. It’s so helpful when God sets before you such wonderful examples like Monsignor Mike. We at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA are so fortunate!

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

In the last post I talked about holiness and how it creates an inner light. Mary was holy and she had that inner light. She must have been so beautiful to behold. That inner light, that holiness, made it possible for her to accept God’s will without question. Yet there must have been some preparation in her life for that moment. A farmer doesn’t just drop seed on the ground – it wouldn’t grow. The ground has to be prepared, tilled, aerated, watered . . . so that the seed can germinate and grow. How did Mary prepare? How can we prepare?

Tradition has it that Mary was raised in the temple. Certainly in the temple she was trained in prayer and scripture. She likely had a thorough knowledge of the prophesies regarding the Messiah and was obviously grounded in prayer. Notice that the angel Gabriel did not need to explain much to her for her to understand the implications:

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mary only asked one question – how would it happen? She understood the rest. The lifelong cultivation of her spiritual life through consistent prayer and study of scripture had prepared her to hear the words of Gabriel and accept them. Her eyes didn’t need to be opened by any explanation – they were already open.

Keith Fournier in his book, The Prayer of Mary, (chapter 2, The Way of Beauty, pages 9-14) maintains that Mary was beautiful because she grounded herself in this lifestyle. The angel declared that she was “full of grace” and Fournier says that makes Mary “beautiful.” She radiated a deeper, spiritual beauty flowing from her relationship with God (remember my example of our new real estate in the last post?). This inner glow was her beauty.

Fournier gives the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, a woman who was not physically beautiful by any means but who radiated joy and love in such a way that she became known internationally for her spiritual beauty. Grace does not change our physical appearance as much as it changes us from the inside out.

Fournier then goes on to explain specific ways that Mary was beautiful:

  • Her ears, because they were open and attentive, allowing her to hear a message so profound that it would change the world.
  • Her heart, because she emptied herself and allowed it to fill up with God’s grace. She also allowed it to be broken so that God’s ultimate will of saving of us all could come to pass (consider Michaelangelo’s famous Pieta statue)
  • Her feet, because she brought the glad tidings of her pregnancy to her cousin Elizabeth immediately after she heard (see Isaiah 52:7).
  • Her arms and hands, because they caressed the Christ. Imagine for a moment holding the dear baby in your arms, knowing that you are holding the Son of God . . .
  • Her face, because she saw God face to face.  Remember how Moses, after his encounter with God, had to wear a veil because the glow was so intense. 2 Corinthians 4:6 states the the Glory of God was revealed in the face of Christ, a face that Mary saw daily for 33 years! Imagine how her face must have reflected that glory.

If you see paintings and icons of Mary from different cultures, you will see that she is depicted in many races and many forms. Why is this? Because Mary’s beauty transcends every cultural definition – her beauty is reflecting God who transcends all.

How do you suppose Mary’s beauty played out in daily life? In my next post, I will consider portions of Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, where she gives numerous examples. Here’s a tease – it involves leading a sacramental life . . .

*******************************************************

Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

 

Contemporary Example of True Shepherds

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Reflections on the readings for February, 22, 2011
1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19

Yesterday I saw the most wonderful article in the Boston Globe about the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He was sent to Ireland to represent the  Church and offer sincere apologies with regards to the sex abuse scandal there. The Church in Ireland has been deeply wounded by this scandal, even as we have felt it here in America and especially in the Boston area where the story broke and was extensively covered by the Boston Globe.

Therefore it was especially welcome to see coverage of this story in said Boston Globe, and on the front cover too, above the fold. It is the perfect reflection of what a true shepherd in Church ought to be as pointed out in today’s first reading from 1Peter:

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The article by Lisa Wangness begins as such:

DUBLIN — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lay prostrate before a bare altar as the packed cathedral watched in silence.

They listened as lectors read long sections of government reports detailing horrific abuse of children in Dublin parishes and church-run industrial schools.

Then O’Malley and Martin washed the feet of eight abuse victims. Several wept as Martin poured water from a large pitcher and O’Malley knelt and dried them with a white terry cloth towel.

Anyone familiar with the story of the Washing of the Feet, read on Holy Thursday liturgy, knows that Jesus was teaching his disciples true service and humility. He was putting the disciples in positions of authority and wanted to make sure they understood that being in authority meant to serve. Washing someone’s dirty feet (and in ancient times, they were especially dirty!), normally a slave’s job, was the perfect example of true service and humility.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Martin understood that. They knew that if the Church in Ireland, and around the world, was to begin to heal, that they would need to show the ultimate sign of humility towards the sex abuse victims. Thanks be to God that they were open to the Holy Spirit enough to show this sign.

This is what St. Peter meant in his writing to the Church; he knew firsthand because the Lord had shown him, even though he initially resisted.

May more shepherds be like these two men – not just clergy, but all shepherds, for we all tend our little flocks.

Here is a link to the entire story.

Learning true humility (part two)

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The Catholic Spiritual Direction blog had an outstanding post today on the Gospel from last Sunday (Matthew 5:38-48). It fits right in with my journey of discovery about true humility. The words of this Gospel are hard but throughout this stretch of Ordinary Time, it seems that Jesus has been constantly challenging the people of His time (and of all time) to dig deeper, finding the real meaning.  For the first time, I am beginning to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.” Check out this excerpt from today’s Catholic Spiritual Direction blog:

Christ the Lord When Jesus says, “You have learnt how it was said,” he is referring to the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses. That Law gave the Jewish people their unique standing among all the nations of the world, because God himself had given it to them. For 1500 years Israel’s prophets and rabbis had interpreted it, applied it to changing circumstances, and exhorted the people to live it out, but never had a faithful Israelite ever claimed authority over it. Therefore, when Jesus says, “… but I say to you…” – implying an addition to the Law – his listeners are faced with something entirely new: someone who claims authority over the Law of Moses. Jesus is requiring of them a new allegiance and making way for a New Covenant. The Sermon on the Mount was revolutionary not only in its ideas, but in the claims of the Lord who gave it.

Want to read more? Click here . . .

I’ve been turning this post over and over in my mind all day long. It is true meat to chew on!

This post is out a book I am getting tempted to buy called The Better Part by Father John Bartunek, LC. Click on the book title to purchase.

Learning true humility (part one)

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am extremely blessed to have 2 wonderful people in my life who act as friends and spiritual advisers – Deacon Dave from Delaware and my spiritual mother. The other day, they both gave me a powerful affirmation on the need and meaning of true humility.

It had occurred to me at the last confirmation retreat that I assisted on that I was very rigid in my routines. As God is prone to do on occasion, He shone a bright spotlight on this issue, but this was not what He was trying to show me as this was just a symptom. What became clear to me as I observed others on the retreat who lived their faith so openly and radically (and who loved so well), I was containing the Holy Spirit through micro management. I knew I was into control but I had no idea how much!

I began to deeply desire letting go of this tendency to micro manage but had no idea how to do it. This past Tuesday, God showed me how and it was a very obvious answer – prayer.

Prayer. Duh. But as my deacon friend pointed out, it could not be prayer that I dictated (which was one of my rituals). God had to direct the prayer. This meant I had to face up to a fear I had of being alone with God and quiet.

I have felt the pull to do this for quite a while. I am very dependent on technology as a tool for prayer and scripture reflection, using my iTouch extensively for everything from listening to podcasts and music, to using the new Confession app (an excellent app by the way, I highly recommend it) and various rosary and prayer apps I had downloaded. These tools work well but I was using them to avoid letting God direct my prayer.

This pull from God began to reveal a more root problem – fear of failure and a relationship based on trying to please God rather than just learning how to BE with God. This was tough stuff!

Because of all the times I have tried to be quiet with God and failed (either the mind races or I fall asleep – happens every time I go to adoration), I was afraid to try again.

Deacon Dave exhorted me to try and laid out a basic formula for it. I avoided it. My spiritual mother described how she did it which so affirmed Deacon Dave’s exhortation, and that helped. And she gave me a very wise piece of counsel – you can’t fail if you are with God. You simply do the best you can – He accepts you exactly as you are.

Yesterday was the first time I tried it but it was certainly not in a place I would expect it to work! I had spent much of yesterday putting together a PowerPoint presentation for the Sung Rosary using the Sorrowful Mysteries. Over the course of many hours I poured over images of my dear Jesus, tortured and crucified for all of us, for me. It was work at the time and I wondered why I was not moved more by the images. Later on in the day, that would all come flooding back.

I went to the gym to work out on the elliptical and proceeded to read as I always do. I was very distracted by the noise around me and realized that would not work. I plugged in my iTouch and began listening to one of my favorite classical pieces, Bach’s Cantata 140. The power of the music immediately triggered an intense period of prayer like I have never experienced before. All the images I had poured over earlier in the day flooded my mind and 2 in particular haunted me. I found myself attracted to a very physical and human Jesus as well as a powerful and divine Christ and I longed to be with Him, to touch Him. I kissed His feet and re-enacted Mary’s public devotion of washing His feet with precious perfume and drying them with her hair. I begged for Him to lift the veil and let me see His face, all while working the elliptical harder than I ever had before. There was something about the physical sensation of the running, the grunting, the panting, the sweating . . . I imagined myself like St. Paul, running the race with Jesus right beside me, just as Deacon Dave and my spiritual mother had said. For true humility is having Jesus right beside you, not behind or in front of you. Beside you, as He was with the disciples at Emmaus, opening their hearts to the scriptures and the truth.

There is more I want to write about this discovery of humility that I will share in future posts. But needless to say, this first true experience of prayer that was controlled by God left haunting memories and a deep desire to go there again. My spiritual mother was right – you can’t fail, and especially if you let God lead the way.

Following up on the healing

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

As you may recall from my last post, my singing voice was healed through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary while singing the rosary. I also mentioned that a lot of the healing was psychological, that in fact, through her intercession, God showed me how I could sing so as not to damage my voice – He opened my mind to the proper techniques. Yesterday at mass, I had to put all of that to the test.

Normally I sing with a partner, Kathleen (who is a dream partner, by the way). She plays piano beautifully, has a nice clear voice and we work really well together. I lean on her a lot. Yesterday she could not be with me, so this first test of singing had to be done solo.

At first I was terrified! Intellectually I knew what to do and my faith told me just to hang on to Jesus like St. Peter did when he started walking on the water. I knew I had to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus to get over my fear.

And again, that voice: “Why don’t you believe?”

The first song, “City of God,” was a little rough! It’s a hard song to start off with and my fear was getting the better of me. But I kept thinking of St. Peter and forced myself to keep my eyes on Jesus.

By the time I sang the responsorial psalm, I knew I was going to make it. After all, I was singing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, of whom should I be afraid, of whom should I be afraid?” My whole body relaxed and my voice came out nearly without effort.

The rest of the mass went off just fine. I had to pay close attention to technique to make sure the voice was being used properly but it didn’t distract me the way I thought it would. I just kept my eyes on Jesus.

By the end of the mass, I was singing out “We Are Called” in full throttle, happy and tremendously grateful that I had gotten to the other side. I walked on water and Jesus made that possible!

I am therefore very thankful that I lost my voice over the holidays. I’ve learned several important things:

1. Don’t depend on myself alone.
2. Take good care of the gifts I’ve been given by God
3. Stop drowning out my dear partner – we need to sing like a true du0!

Humility. That was the big lesson. And how bitter/sweet it was!

A healing miracle, thanks to Mary’s intercession

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post regarding St. Marie’s in Manchester, NH, I experienced a healing while praying the rosary and remembering the beautiful altar of this church. That healing took place in my singing voice.

I had mentioned on Facebook that over Christmas I lost my singing voice. It didn’t happen suddenly but came about over a long period of time. I had noticed as I ministered at my parish that my voice was getting weaker and weaker, and I had little control over the vibrato. I am in my mid 50s but my voice was beginning to sound like that of an old woman.

It became extremely stressful singing at mass. I would open my mouth and have no idea what would come out! Sometimes my familiar voice would come out and sometimes a horrible warble would come out. Not fun.

I had forgotten all my training (proper breathing, singing from the diaphragm, etc.) and couldn’t apply technique to solve the problem. I tried doing vocal exercises but eventually I strained it through misuse and had to go on vocal rest with no singing, and quiet (and limited) talking.

I tried to apply what the Lord had shown me about ‘going with the flow’ and letting Him lead, and most of the time, I was okay with that. But occasionally I would panic that my voice was gone forever, or beat myself up because I hadn’t taken proper care of it (which is true). Often I would grieve.

Then last weekend I attended mass at St. Marie’s. The beauty of the interior (see last post for pictures) stayed with me, and I used the memories this past Monday while praying my rosary. And this is when the healing took place.

Before praying the rosary, I had been talking earlier in the day with Deacon David McDowell, a dear friend from Millsboro, Delaware. We were talking about praying to Mary for her intercession and how it feels when we notice her protective mantle around us. I was very inspired by our conversation and so I decided to try to sing my rosary on the way home in my car.

As I began the rosary, I sang it very softly to myself, afraid to strain my voice. The “Hail Mary” portion is particularly difficult for me to sing even under the best of circumstances because of where the notes are situated. Still, I pictured Mary and I kneeling together in front the throne of our Lord in heaven (resembling the altar at St. Marie’s) and it was glorious.  I longed to truly sing my prayers and attempted it but got nowhere. I then felt a prompt by Mary to pray for healing for my voice.

I had not prayed actively for healing since I had lost it and I even hesitated now. I realized that I didn’t believe a healing would happen; I felt responsible for its condition and didn’t believe I deserved a healing.

Still, I felt this voice saying, “Why, why don’t you believe?” At that point I gave in and offered the intention during the rosary. Nearing my destination, I tried to sing it again, but felt afraid to push my voice. And again I felt this prompt from Mary, questioned my fear, and I started to sing.

Suddenly it was like a secret trap door opened inside my throat and a beautiful, strong, confident voice rang out! No weakness, no horrible warble, just a clear, strong voice. It was like I had found a new route to my vocal chords which bypassed all the post nasal drip, the sore throat and strain, and the huskiness.

I knew immediately it was because of Mary’s intercession. I had always had great difficulty singing the Hail Marys and when I recorded it for my Mary, Queen of Peace Meditation Guide & Sung Rosary book and CD, I had prayed for God to show me how to do it. I believe that Mary interceded as it is the rosary, and I was taught the necessary technique through my prayer to sing it properly for the recording. Remembering that experience, I knew it had happened again. Mary took me by the hand and revealed to me the means by which to properly open my throat (as per my training) and let the real voice come out without doing further damage. The healing wasn’t so much physical (although I believe there was some physical healing) as it was psychological.

I wanted to test my voice further so when I got home, I got out my guitar and started singing the songs I’d be doing for mass that weekend, applying this new technique, and truly, my voice was back! I sang my heart out (probably overdid it but I will pamper my voice now till the end of the week) and felt such joy that Mary had interceded for me! I was able again to sing my prayer to God. I went over to a painting I have of her with the Eucharist, touched the painting and thanked her, and God, from the bottom of my heart.

Lesson learned? NEVER deny Jesus a chance to heal you. Had Mary not prompted me to ask, I wouldn’t have asked, and my false pride would have prevented a healing. I can never presume to know the mind and will of the Lord. As usual, I had to step out of the way so He could act. How patient He is with me, and how good He is to me, especially in giving me His beloved Mother as my guide and companion.

You can listen here to the power of prayer which enabled me to sing these prayers to our Lady.

How we can see with the eyes of God

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96:1-6; Luke 2:22-35

I received an iTouch for Christmas from my wonderful husband. At the time that I received it, I was very ungracious about it. I had made up my mind that I didn’t want touch screen technology but rather preferred an older model of the iPod and I was a little annoyed that he got me the iTouch anyway. Even my two grown children remarked about how I reacted with such ingratitude. Ouch!

Now that I have gotten acquainted with it, I am finding that it has many rich possibilities and I’m getting excited about it. My eyes have been opened, my stubbornness has fallen away. I apologized to my husband, told him he was right (not easy to do! :-) ) and asked his forgiveness.

I had made up my mind beforehand that I was not going to like it. I was stubborn, and it caused me to offend someone I love. That certainly is not seeing with the eyes of God!

In today’s Gospel reading, baby Jesus is brought to the temple by his parents to be presented to the Lord. An old man was there, Simeon. He had been patiently waiting for the Messiah to come and trusted in God’s word that he would indeed see the Christ. What if Simeon had been like me, mind made up, stubborn in his perception? What if he had set in his mind that the Messiah should come like a great king, or on a cloud, or in some other spectacular fashion? If he had done that, he would have missed everything! Instead, he was open and trusting, ready in love to receive the vision of the Messiah in the form of a helpless infant. By being open and loving, Simeon saw so much more than a great king. He saw God fully divine and fully human. He saw the unfathomable, uncontainable God incarnate as a little helpless, humble infant. Imagine what he learned about the love of God simply by beholding Jesus in this fashion! Imagine the incredible, uncontainable joy he must have felt as he held this wonder in his arms; the peace and gratitude in knowing that God had kept His promise, not only to Simeon personally, but to the whole human race!

So how do we keep our eyes open and keep our hearts trusting, as Simeon did? John tells us in the first reading: if we keep His commandments, we are in union with Him. If we love our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light, and the light allows us to see with God’s eyes.

How easy it is to be blinded by our pride! My know-it-all attitude regarding my husband’s wonderful gift blinded me to its possibilities, and worse, made me act unkindly towards my husband. I walked in darkness. This may be a small thing to be in the dark about, but it’s the totality of all these ‘small things’ that creates a larger darkness in our lives, a darkness that prevents us from seeing what God wants us to see.

Mother Teresa always said to do “small things with great love.” St. Therese the Little Flower served God with a smile for everyone she met, whether she liked them or not. These small things add up to a loving and trusting heart, able to see what Simeon saw. This is what I will strive for today and always.

p.s. It’s really cool to be able to read the Daily Readings on my iTouch! And I haven’t even begun to explore  Apps yet . . . :-)

I’ve already received what I want for Christmas

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Lately two dear friends have been on my mind. They both love God passionately and serve Him earnestly through their service of others. Yet their methods of service couldn’t be more opposite, and it shows the beauty and diversity of our God, and how His light shines brightly in so many different ways.

One friend serves the youth of our parish. She coordinates service projects, retreats, social outings . . . every week in the bulletin I see yet another opportunity for young people to engage with God in our parish. Her heart is as big as Texas, so warm and caring, and the kids see that. They also see (as I and many others do) this lady’s tireless efforts on behalf of Haiti. She has been involved with relief efforts in Haiti for years, spearheading fund raising for a new hospital, sending food and necessities to orphans, and even visiting Haiti on several occasions on mission trips. This year her entire family will join her on such a trip, on December 23. I am dumbfounded at her energy and commitment, especially as the needs in Haiti are so dire that just contemplating them for a moment totally overwhelms me. How brightly the light of Christ shines through her!

My other dear friend is home bound with a debilitating illness. Her love of God is equally strong and her light equally bright. Her service is in the form of prayer, meditating on God throughout the day and into the night, and praying for family and friends. She is a front line prayer warrior. She suffers in silence from her disease. But in the spirit of St. Therese The Little Flower and Mother Teresa, my friend works hard to put on a smile and a brave face, keeping her complaints to a minimum, and loving her friends with a sacrificial love that astounds me. Her sacrifices may seem small when in fact they are huge – going out to lunch with friends even though she feels ill enough to stay in bed all day; going on trips in the car with her companion even though riding in a car aggravates her condition; writing letters and Christmas cards even though her head is spinning. Her top priority is to treat people with kindness and focus on their needs even though she could so easily become self absorbed in her own.

The friend who serves the young people of our parish and the poor in Haiti challenged me to ask God for direction as to how I should serve. I felt like I needed to be ‘out there’ more, like my friend, putting myself out on the line. So far His answer has been to remember her, to bolster her in prayer as often as I could, and to remain alert and awake for opportunities. The home bound friend reminds me that kindness to even one person is what Jesus commanded us to do, for the image of God is in all of us. Kindness can be expressed in large ways, such as the service of my Haiti friend, or it can take a very small, humble, nearly invisible form, such as with my home bound friend.

Both forms of service are equally powerful, shining the light of Christ into our dark world, and both examples teach me so much about Christ and the spiritual life.

I don’t need any other presents this Christmas. Having these two special friends in my life gives me spiritual presents that could fill my house to overflowing. I only hope that I can begin to give to them what they have given to me.

Naked before the Lord

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

All Israel, too, cried out with all their strength, for death was staring them in the face.

Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. Taking off her splendid garments, she put on garments of distress and mourning. In place of her precious ointments she covered her head with dirt and ashes. She afflicted her body severely; all her festive adornments were put aside, and her hair was wholly disheveled.

Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: “My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”

Divine Office, Office of Readings for October 20, Esther 4C:11-14

I was very taken with this passage because I saw a powerful and symbolic undressing of the soul in preparation for meeting with the Lord. I’m certain that Queen Esther took off her outer royal garments and covered herself with dirt and ashes,  laying herself out practically naked before the Lord, to show Him the state of her soul, in anguish. She knew to present herself as nothing before God so that she could beg mercy for her people.

It’s a very powerful metaphor for the state of my soul. I’m wondering what I need to peel off from myself in order to see it in its true state. That kind of undressing requires humility and courage, to lay oneself bare, and make oneself truly vulnerable.

Queen Esther received the answer she desired from her heartfelt prayer to the Lord and her people were spared. They were very fortunate to have such a wise ruler who understood the need to lay herself bare before her Creator.

It leaves me much to think about as I consider the casual way in which I approach the Lord or do my examination of conscience. This story is a great reminder of my need to take the time to appear naked before my God.