Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Discernment--Facing the Truth and Not Running from It

Discernment in Tough Times:   In today’s Gospel, when the apostles heard Jesus’ message that one of them was about to betray Him, they frantically begged to know which of them would do such a thing. “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” He gives the consecrated bread to Judas. At that moment “Satan entered him.” Jesus says to him: “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas leaves. “It is night.” Darkness seems to have triumphed. So even more urgent is the act of redemption, Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, giving His life to save us from the kind of night that engulfed Judas.

Jesus discerns what is going on around Him. He knows what Judas as about. He also knows that Peter, under pressure, will collapse of his good will and, out of fear, feverishly deny Him.  Jesus does not hide from this hour of truth but enters into it deeply. If I am going to discern what is really going on, I, also, need to stay in the heat of the moment from which I would rather run and hide! By working through that which is troublesome, I come to know Truth and Freedom. I will experience new life, enlightened vision, and stronger faith and trust when I face the pain in my life, as Jesus did and, yes, as Peter did. He followed Jesus to the chambers of the High Priest, even after Jesus predicted his downfall. He looked Jesus in the eye in those chambers and his eyes were opened. Am I willing to face Jesus in my darkest hour and thus discern my sinfulness and my need of Jesus?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Religious Life Today: A Call to Wake Up the World

Pope Francis has declared 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life. In The Associate, winter 2015, Vol. 20, No. 1, p. 1, Associate Cathi Duffy, Society of the Holy Child Jesus, writes in an article entitled “Wake Up the World: Year of Consecrated Life”:  It would be easy to focus on the problems in religious life today, such as the diminishment of numbers and ministries. But that would be to miss a most important reason for celebration – why women and men have stayed in religious life. In her essay, “Why They Stayed,” Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Sandra Schneiders says those who stayed found “the taproot of their vocation. They don’t just belong to religious orders, they are religious.” These individuals remember the one who drew them to religious life in the first place and who alone is their ultimate reason for staying. Having studied their founding charisms, they have embraced them anew. They have grieved losses of members, ministries and customs, and have emerged with an inner freedom to face the future with joyful hope. They are grounded in God’s creative project of bringing fullness of life to all of creation. Does this sound like any of the sisters you know?”

As a member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi,  this reflection by Associate Cathi Duffy strikes a cord of gratitude to the Lord who has given me and so many others the grace to stay. That is not to say that those who left religious life following Vatican II were unfaithful. No, they, too were following the will of God—the will of God for them.  Those of us who stayed were following the will of God for us.  We are here today to witness to God’s faithfulness to us and to the call to renew our charisms in the world of the 21st century. Though smaller in numbers than prior to the exodus from religious life back in the 60s and 70s and thus having fewer ministries than then, we are no less vibrant, no less committed, and, by far, no less needed than then!  The problems our world faces now are as urgent as the ones faced by our founding Sisters. And I am delighted to be a part of religious life today when the world is so blessed to have a Pope who understands the necessity of women in today’s Church and the essential presence of men and women religious to wake up the world of the 21st century!

Think about it! Is God calling you to join a religious community of your choice (and God’s) to make a difference in the world of today?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Discernment: From the Perspective of the Annunciation

Discerning God’s Plan: Today we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, the angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen by God to be the mother of the Son of God.  Mary, hearing of God’s plan, says:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your  word.”  She surrenders her will to the will of God at the risk of losing her own life. “Yes” to God’s will involves a letting go of my will, a dying to my will, an acceptance of the pain involved in dying. It involves taking risks, not knowing the consequences.   When “an angel of the Lord” announces God’s plan for you, what is your response? Are you willing, as Mary was, to have it done to you according to God’s word, or, like Adam and Eve, do we follow our own will and set God’s aside?  “Not now, Lord. I can’t leave what I am doing? I have no idea where my “yes” to your call will take me? Will I ever see home again? Will I be able to visit my friends? Will I be able to have my own cell phone? What will happen to the home I own? The car I own?

The leap of faith is a difficult leap! With your hand in the hand of the Lord, however, it is not too wide from “here” to “there.”  You will make it because God is in charge, God leads, God shows the way, God lights the dark, God strengthens the weak!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Discernment: What blocks it?

Discernment:  Today’s first reading of the Liturgy, recounts the story of the Israelites in the desert. Their patience has grown thin from the long journey in the desert and they grumble against God and Moses.  Consequently, they are punished by poisonous serpents. Many died.  In their distress, they come to Moses and acknowledge their sinfulness: complaining about their hardship and exaggerating the harshness of their situation.  “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food and no water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”  First they complain about having no food and then say that they are disgusted with the food!
To discern God’s presence, goodness and mercy,  to hear God’s voice,  one needs to 1) stop complaining, 2) stop lying by exaggerating one’s situation—how awful it is, how distant God is, how deaf are the ears of God-- and 3) acknowledge one’s sinful behavior.  Complaining, lying, exaggerating and staying mute about our “bad” behaviors and attitudes are poisonous venom that blinds and deafens us to God’s voice of love and mercy, to the God who is leading us through the difficult times, to the God who is directing our lives to the place where our wills and God’s will harmonize.  When we cease grumbling, stop being deceitful, and honestly acknowledge our waywardness, only then, will we be able to discern God’s power at work in “our deserts.”   Only then, will we be set free and brought back into harmony with our God. Only then will we be ready to see rightly and to walk on the path that leads to the Promised Land which God has ready for us.  For now, is that marriage? Is that religious life? Is that the single life?  Later, that is heaven itself!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Discernment: Reflection of Wisdom and Intelligence

Discernment:  In Dt. 4: 1, 5-9, the first reading of today’s liturgy, Moses speaks to us of obeying God’s laws and decrees. In the Gospel of today, Mt.5: 17-19, Jesus tells us that He is the fulfillment of the Law and that He has not come to destroy it.  In discernment, we are faced with laws and decrees that God places before us, including a decree that has to do with which vocation in life will I choose, what specific decision will I make.  Moses encourage us to keep the decrees of God so that “you may live” and so that “you will give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence.”  So, we will know that we have discerned properly if the choice that we make is life giving to us, first of all, and life-giving to others. We will also know that we have rightly discerned God’s will if the choice we make for ourselves gives witness to our intelligence and wisdom! And the first one to know will be ourselves. Each of us knows when we make “stupid” choices. We say to ourselves: “What did I do that for?” “I knew that was a wrong choice for me.”  Or we even verbally abuse ourselves, saying: “How stupid of me,” rather than gently recognizing that, as a human being, I am prone to error and that any mistake I make is an opportunity for growth. So, what I need to say to myself is:  “What do I need to learn from the mistake I made? What does God want to teach me from this mistake” and thus personally grow in grace (humility) and wisdom. Both of which are elements of discernment!