Monday, March 31, 2014

Thirst, Light, Life

To become an "everyday evangelizer," I first need to let myself be evangelized.  Again and anew.  Today, as if for the first time.

Have you been tracking the encounters with Jesus which the Church has delivered during the past two Sundays of Lent?  Coupled with this coming Sunday's passage about the raising of Lazarus, these three scenes from the Gospel of John give us a glimpse into the journey which Jesus invites each of us to make:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Going Forth with Francis

Evangelii Gaudium
Have you been enjoying all of the commentaries about Pope Francis' first year? 

I think the most beautiful reflection came from one of his "gang of eight," Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who offered an interpretation of Francis as a faithful follower of Jesus walking in the footsteps of St. Ignatius.  (And, of course, as a young man St. Ignatius wanted to become like St. Francis of Assisi!)

Pope Francis wants each of us become missionary disciples who "go forth" from ourselves into our daily world filled with joy.  So how might we enter more fully into this journey during the second year of Francis' pontificate?  If we could give the pope one gift on the anniversary of his election to the Chair of St. Peter--besides the prayers he so humbly requested--perhaps it would be to use his "Joy of the Gospel" as a road-map for a personal examination of conscience. 

Even if we started with the first chapter, entitled "The Church's Missionary Transformation," there would be much food for thought.  Indeed, Pope Francis throws down the following challenge:  "Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need of the light of the Gospel" (n. 20).  Here we quickly arrive at the heart of the matter:  The fundamental question is how Christ is calling each of us personally--as well as our communities--to become a more authentically missionary people. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Glimpses of Glory

As you may have heard, a legendary Chicago winter continues to fend off spring.  At least last week’s six inches of snow was the most beautiful of all the others.  Yet somehow it seemed inappropriate for the marvelous month of March--as do the current temperatures hovering around the freezing mark.

The Gospel for the second Sunday in Lent may similarly strikes us as being out of place:  After all, as we journey through the penitential season of Lent--focused on more intentional prayer, more purposeful fasting, and more generous acts of charity--the Transfiguration of Jesus just doesn’t seem to fit.  Like Peter, James and John, we might be baffled by the burst of divine Glory during what can seem like such a long, rather dreary journey toward Jerusalem. 

But haven’t we all experienced this at one point or another—the fact that “Joy and woe are woven fine” (W. Blake)?  Haven't we all realized, usually in retrospect, that our most painful life moments have the potential to propel us toward a deeper, more abundant experience of life?  Lent gives us a chance to recall our experiences of this Paschal dynamic at different junctures in our own life journey. 

Maybe it was a “going forth” from ourselves, a dying to self-interest, in a moment of authentic generosity: we find ourselves giving until it hurts, and yet somehow renewed and refueled through the process.  Maybe it was a surprising or even a self-inflicted suffering which left us totally dependent on someone else: after our humble admission that alone we can do nothing, as well as our openness to accepting help, we find ourselves almost physically carried along by a gift so gratefully received.  Maybe it is even the failure to keep our Lenten commitments (once again!): we find our pride pricked and yet choose to persevere, with God’s grace, rather than give up amid another bout of low-grade self-loathing

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten Fasting and Feasting

Perhaps one or two of these will jump out at you, as they did for me;
compliments of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, in Mishawaka, IN:
Fast from judging others:
Feast on Christ dwelling in you.
Fast from words that discourage:
Feast on words that encourage.
Fast from discontentment:
Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger:
Feast on patience.
Fast from complaining:
Feast on appreciation.
Fast from shadows of sorrow:
Feast on the sunlight of serenity and joy.
Fast from food:
Feast on the word of God.

Blessed Mother Maria Theresia, pray for us!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Give up, Take up, Lift up

Ash Wednesday is a most unusual day.  Indeed, it is the most unique work day of the year.  It is a singular spiritual experience marked by the following widespread occurrences:
  • People ordering their entire day around getting to church, as if honoring God is the absolute first priority of this day.
  • People filling church pews, as if the Son of God himself were going to be present.
  • People-acknowledging their fallen nature, their brokenness and even their sinfulness--expressing a desire for a deeper conversion of mind and heart; often the day is also marked by commitments for a Lenten journey to sacrifice sensual pleasures ("give up"), to hone better habits ("take up"), and/or selflessly to serve those in need ("lift up").
  • People publicly--albeit humbly--putting their faith on display, wearing their ashes as if they aren't ashamed to admit that their bodies are mere passing dust but that Christ has reached out to save their immortal souls for eternity.
Ash Wednesday is a day that speaks to Catholics who only visit a church once or twice a year.  It is a day that intrigues the ever-growing number of "nones," who self-identify as being not-affiliated religiously but who find the ashes somehow compelling.  So, as each of us strives to become better "everyday evangelizers," there seems to be at least three key questions worth considering at the beginning of Lent this year: