Monday, June 27, 2016

Religious Life or any Vocation: A Following of Jesus

Religious Life or any Vocation is a following of Jesus, who, as He reminds us in today’s Gospel, Mt. 8: 18-22, “has nowhere to rest his head.”  Following Jesus means hanging loose, so to speak, not seeking a place to “rest our head.”  How often do we, like the disciple in today’s reading, say to the Spirit, either in word or action:  “[L]et me go first and bury my father,” or do this or that. In other words, when the Spirit nudges us, we are likely to say: “Not now, Jesus. I got to finish what I am doing. Or, first, Lord, I got to run this errand or that errand.”   Or, “I’m too tired right now, Lord. I need to rest first my head.” And, what happens, you really do not follow the Spirit’s lead at all.  The son or daughter who wanted you to play with him or her is abandoned. Your wife or husband who wanted you to share your day and listen to what happened for him or her that day is ignored as you take time first to do whatever.

Many times, Jesus says: "'Follow me,' and let go of your plan right now!"

Friday, June 10, 2016

Discernment: The Importance of being calm and at peace

In today’s first reading, 1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-16, Elijah is fleeing for his life!  God finds  him hiding in a cave at Mt. Horeb and tells him to come out of the cave and “stand on the mountain before the Lord,” as God “will be passing by.”

Elijah comes out of the cave, as God asks of him and waits for the Lord to pass by.  Hurricane or tornado-like  winds pass by, “rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord.”  The earth quakes,  shaking it to its very foundations. A fire erupts. God is in none of those terrifying disasters.  Following these scary events, everything becomes calm.  In the quiet,  Elijah hears a “tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Note, that it is when the storm subsided, that Elijah hears God’s voice. In order to discern what God is asking of us, we need to enter into a state of calmness. We need to become still  in order to hear the Spirit’s “whispering sound.” 

Once it became calm around Elijah and Elijah is listening for God, God asks him why he is where he is, like say: Why are you here Elijah? What’s up?  From what are you hiding? Elijah answers the  Lord: “I have been most zealous for [you] Lord, the God of hosts. But the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” 

God wants us to tell Him what is going on in our lives, what we are thinking and feeling!  Being honest and open with the Lord is part of the discernment process.  God will meet us and talk to us where we are at! And that is where God reveals His will to us.  After Elijah opens up to the Lord, God says to directs him according to His will: “Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus.” He then gives him instructions of what to do for the people of Israel, against whom he had complained. And from whom he is fleeing for his life.

In order to discern God’s will, we need to,  like Elijah, come out of hiding and  face that from which we  are fleeing. We need to come before the Lord with our fears. We need to be honest with the Lord in prayer!    And, yes, we need to become quiet in order to hear the gentle, loving, caring voice of the Lord. The Lord cares about what is happening in our lives, as he did for his prophet Elijah,  and will  help us move on in accord with God’s holy will.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Religious Life: What influences you to say "yes" to your vocation in life?

Religious Life:  Religious life is a special calling to live for the Church and its mission. It is entrusting oneself totally to God and no other. It is living the faith in its depth, its width, its height, and its length to be of service to the needy.  Some beginners in religious life, studying to become Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, a Franciscan community, novices were asked what how Mother France, the Foundress of this community,  influenced them in saying “yes” to the vocation to which they were being called.

Sister Lara states: Since the beginning, I was attracted to the life of Mother Frances because she totally entrusted herself to God and His providence, certain that His faithful love was working only for her good. But what influenced me the most in my decision to join the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother was the great love Mother Frances had for the Church and her desire to give herself totally for the good of the Mystical Body of Christ. I try to imitate her but, for me, it is a great challenge to be faced every day. Young people of today live and grow in a society where all authority exists only to be denigrated or “fought.”  I believe that the constant and confident abandonment of Mother Frances to the Father’s love, bearing witness to a direct but respectful relationship with human authority is a great example for the youth of today.” 

Questions for reflection: 

1.      Who attracts you to be faithful to what God is asking of you as a disciple of Christ?
2.      What in your life gives testimony to your belief that God is working only for your good?”
3.      What is your attitude towards the Mystical Body of Christ here on earth, the Church?
4.      What is your experience of society’s relationship to authority in the world of today?
Who, for you, models a “constant and confident abandonment…to the Father’s love?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Discernment: God Really Wants What of Me?

Responding to God’s Invitation to trust, to take risks, to act in faith can be very, very tough at times!  In today’s first reading, 1 Kings 17: 7-16, Elijah goes to Zarephath of Sidon and there is told that a widow would provide for him.  “As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, ‘Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink…[and] a bit of bread.’  She answered: ‘As the Lord, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug.” She is reluctant  because that is all she has. Her plan was to prepare a last meal  for herself and her son and then wait to die.  But Elijah insisted:   “…make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son.  For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’ She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.”

Many times what God asks of us seems impossible.  The widow was challenged to give the last of what she had to live upon. She expected to have enough for one more meal and then, because of the drought, she and her son would starve to death. However, she gave all, trusting that the Lord, the God of Israel, would provide, as Elijah prophesied.

Discerning the Lord will is many times a challenge! “Give up everything to become a Sister, a priest, to enter marriage, to remain single?” we ask. “ Risk everything of what I cherish: my independence, leaving home, leaving my friends? No way,” we cry.  “What if it does not work out and I am left with nothing?” “What if I fail?” And on and on we go digging up excuses to not trust, to not believe, to not surrender!  Miracles then evade us!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Discernment: Reading the message on the "wall"

Discernment:  In the first reading of today’s liturgy,  1 Kings 17: 1-6, Elijah tells Ahab that as long as he was serving the people, “there shall be no dew or rain except at my word.”  Imagine the uproar once the people heard Elijah’s proclamation. And what might have been their reaction at hearing that Elijah was  nowhere to be found.  The author of 1 Kings tells us that the Lord commanded Elijah to leave and “go east and hide in the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan.” There, God tells him, “[y]ou shall drink of the stream, and I have commanded ravens to feed you there.”  Elijah follows God’s command. As he settled by the Wadi Cherith, ravens “brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening and he drank from the stream.”

What can we learn from Elijah about discernment of God’s will? Elijah is a man like any other!  Set apart as a prophet—yes. But by baptism, we all are prophets sent into the world to proclaim Christ,  to preach the Gospel. St. Francis tells us to do so by words only when necessary, as our lives are the proclamation of the Good News of our salvation.

Elijah is in trouble. And he knows it! He realizes that is it not safe for him to stay where he is. Something/Someone—we know as the Spirit within him, the quiet voice of God guiding him—directs him to hide, to leave.  He reads his environment accurately. It is not safe for him.  God speaks to us all day long: Do this! Don’t do that! Shelter in place! Go there! Don’t go there; it is not safe. Go; it’s safe now,” etc.

Discernment involves listening to our environment as well as paying attention to our feelings and our thoughts.  For Elijah, it did not feel right to stay where he was. He needed to relocate. No one would do this for him. No one would protect him. He had to do this for himself. He had to act alone! He had to be true to what “his gut”—translate, “the Spirit”--was telling him to do.

Putting this in the language of faith, theologizing about the situation, we would say exactly what the author of I Kings said:   “The Lord then said to Elijah: ‘Leave here, go east….’” In our words: I knew it was time for me to make a change. God is calling me to something different, to leave this place, this job, this whatever! I knew it was time for me to do something about my life and my well-being."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Discernment: Being in Sync with God's Will

Discernment:  In today’s first reading, 2 Tim 1: 1-3, 6-12, we are challenged to “fan into a flame the gift of God that…[we] possess through the laying on of…[the priest’s ] hands” when we were baptized and the bishop’s hands when we were confirmed.  God, St. Timothy tells us, “did not give us a spirit of timidity but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.” Over and above these gifts, God has saved us and called us to be holy—not because of anything we ourselves had done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”

Each one of us possesses “the gift of God” !  We know, from Timothy teaching, that timidity does not come the God but from humans who taught us to be afraid.  Neither does hatred and a lack of discipline, that is of not being restrained or obedient, originate from our Creator God.  If we experience ourselves being timid when it comes to being our true selves, the self that reflects God’s nature, that is unafraid to be honest, caring, forgiving and loving, we know that we are not in sync with the will of God for us.  God has given us  “the Spirit of power and love and self-control.” So when we exercise the power of the Spirit, we find ourselves fanning  “into a flame the gift of God”, that is, the gifts of love, kindness, forgiveness, hope, faith, justice, obedience, restraint, and so on in imitation of Jesus, who has shown us the way to the Father.