Monday, November 30, 2009

Begin Anew

Sunday was the beginning of Advent and the beginning of a new church year. It is a time to begin anew. To make a new commitment to make the changes necessary to more fully live our lives according to God’s instructions as we wait in anticipation of Jesus’ birth.

The bible is a living story which teaches us how to live our own lives. We are each living our own life story, but are we living it according to Jesus’ teachings? As our priest said, “all of our yesterdays were the prologue, anything we do today not only will affect tomorrow, but could change our outlook on what yesterday was.” It’s kind of like looking back on each moment, the happy times and the suffering times and to be able to see the blessings and purposes for those times. Will we have lived those times according to God’s commands? And how can we change our choices today to make those moments “learning moments.”

The reason for the season, the beginning of the new liturgical year, gives us the opportunity to take advantage of Jesus’ coming to live and die for us. We can take advantage of Christ’s death on the cross, if we start anew today and choose to live for him, to serve for him, and to obey him. He tells us to live this way: “Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves -you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” 1 Thes 3:12-4:2

We are also instructed to “not grow weary” to be vigilant and always watchful: In other words, to not give in to life’s anxieties and the demands and temptations of the world. (Or like children staying awake to wait for Santa’s arrival on Christmas eve.) “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

What part of my life would I like to “start anew?” Is it my relationship, or an attitude, toward God, my spouse, my children, my parents, or a friend? Have I become complacent in putting God first in my life? Am I praying for the strength to escape the tribulations (and temptations) of my earthly life? Am I taking time each day to pray or to attend mass or have I fallen asleep in my faith journey? Will I wake up, get ready, and be watchful and ready for Jesus’ arrival?

With hope, let us begin anew to make the choices God is calling us to make, so that we may stand before the Son of Man having shown each other abundant love with hearts of holiness, never to grow weary, and always to be ready for his coming. Amen.

Blessings, Charlotte

Monday, November 23, 2009

Give Thanks

Sunday’s readings for the feast of Christ the King serve to remind us that Jesus Christ is the King for all nations and all people( Daniel 7:13-14) and that his role here on earth was not to be king of the earth, but the king of heaven—an eternal kingdom of peace, justice and love.

“When Jesus affirms that His whole purpose is to testify to the truth, Pilate cynically asks, "What is Truth?" May those words serve to melt all pessimism, doubt and despair about the ultimate triumph of good over evil, and of the effectiveness of our witness through prayer and suffering, as we struggle to live the Truth that the "Pilates" of our day so freely reject!” USCCB Meditation on John 18:33b-37

God tells us that his Truth will triumph over evil and that our witness of the Truth thru prayer and suffering will gain us the eternal kingdom. How would the division between our families and churches look to the people in Daniel and John’s time?

Would they see us as all being of the same kingdom, following the truth that Jesus Christ spoke, or would we be seen as “political” kingdoms following politics and ideals of a human nature instead of Jesus’ teachings?

What about the “truths” being taught in our schools and homes—do we tell our children one thing and live our own lives differently? Are we speaking and teaching the truths of the commandments? Do our children hear and see the truth of God’s teachings, or do they see laws being made which “legalize” the politics of the day (legal abortion, legal living together without marriage, legal gay marriage, legal divorce, or an everyone does that/“me” attitude)? It gives me hope to know that God will ultimately conquer with good over evil in the light of our current political and moral decay.

The past weeks Christian radio programming has focused on “Thanksgiving.”

So here is an “unordinary” list of Thanks—I hope you all have your own “lists” to add not only on Thanksgiving Day, but on every other day for all that God has given us.

Dear God, Thank you for giving us your son here on earth to teach us the truths, to live and die for us.

Thank you for dying on the cross so that we may be forgiven for all of our “human” interpretations, errors, actions, hypocrisies, and misunderstandings of your truth.

Thank you for giving us the sacrament of marriage to teach us how to be unselfish and to depend on our faith in you.

Thank you for the sufferings in my life that have brought you nearer to me and my family.

Thank you for teaching me to pray so that I can give you my burdens.

Thank you for putting me in a place here on earth where I am not prosecuted for speaking your name, but have the ability to spread your word/truth by my actions and speech.

Thank you for giving us friends who share our values/your truths and who are willing to inspire us with their wisdom.

Thank you for giving me comfort when I am lonely or sad, hope when I am discouraged and peace when I am worried.

Thank you for parents, grandparents and great grandparents (those older than us) who teach us love, perseverance and courage from days past.

Thank you for the hugs, smiles, and innocence of children and grandchildren, our own and those that are shared with us, for they are God’s greatest blessings and our future.

Thank you for the ability to share my bounty: time, talent and treasures, with those less fortunate.

Thank you for every moment here on earth I am given to spend with my loved ones.

Thank you for the time I was allowed to spend with the loved ones that have gone before me.

Thank you for giving me hope in the Word that by living as your servant and following your Truth I will reach your eternal kingdom in heaven. Amen.

Blessings and Thanks for Your Friendship—

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Day at a Time

We have all heard the saying “just take it one day at a time.” Most commonly it is heard along with the 12 step process for drug and alcohol addictions and for mental illness. But how does that apply to the rest of us who may not suffer from those particular illnesses and the way we live our lives for God?

It had been a while since I read all Twelve Steps—although they are often quoted in books in some manner or another. As I read them again I realized how central our faith in God is in helping us take every day one day at a time. Steps #1/2/3 are to admit I am powerless, to believe in a higher power/God and turn my life over to God; #5 is forgiveness from God and others; #6/7 are to ask God for help to change and steps #11/12 are to search for God thru prayer and to carry out God’s message in each of our daily tasks. step- program #Twelve_Steps

I am thinking that is how we should all live, illness or not…. Admit I am powerless without God, ask forgiveness and change my “sinful ways, to search for God in prayer and carry God’s message in my daily life. To not worry about either what happened yesterday that I cannot change, or tomorrow when God may change it thru prayer for me.

In searching the internet for “one day at a time” the following list popped up: The most useless thing to do, worry (not giving up our life to God); the greatest channel of communication, prayer; the greatest joy, giving; the most powerful force in life, Love (originated by God, and God’s most important command to us); the greatest asset, faith; the most satisfying work, service to others (God’s asking of us to be like Christ, to serve). Once again, I am sure the author did not realize that what he/she was writing was focused not on something “worldly,” but on our lives serving and imitating God.

Last week Father made mention that it’s the littlest things that often make the biggest difference in our lives. Everything from a kind word, a hug, a helping hand, an extra prayer, or even a small gift—none of them necessarily take a lot of our time, require any significant amount of planning or preparation, but given unconditionally can make all the difference in the world to someone who is struggling in health, sorrow, pain, guilt, or a worry that we don’t even know about. Likewise it might be the smallest moment in time, which has the biggest impact on someone we meet.

Today’s readings1 Kgs 17:10-16 and Mk 12:41-44 were about the widows who gave their last food and small amount of money to help Elijah and the poor. Once again it was the small thing that made the most difference and had impact on Jesus. And the widow who gave her last bit of food, trusted in God, to take one day at a time and God rewarded her with the entire year’s supply, and Jesus ultimately raised her son from the dead. They did not worry about tomorrow, but served God today. Are we hoarding our belongings or talents or sharing them and letting God take care of us “one day at a time?” Is our trust in God?

How often are we looking forward or backward agonizing over something we feel guilty, regretful or angry about, or wishing there was something we could have that we can’t? Am I missing the one day, the one time, the one person, the littlest thing, that is most important, because I am worried about yesterday?

What about our spouses, what are the little ways that we can help them thru one day at a time—with a hug or gentle touch, with a request to pray together, with an offer of forgiveness (even if no one did anything wrong), with a prayer to make their day go better, or to keep them safe?

Are we letting God have all of our daily problems, so that we can offer our energies to loving and caring for those around us, instead of wasting time worrying needlessly? Are we offering God our individual daily tasks? Are we serving God one day at a time, letting our faith and trust in Him be our greatest asset?
From Matt 6: 24-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

Dear God, Thank you for another awesome day with you. I offer up to You all my weaknesses, pains, sufferings, and sorrows. Help me to be more like you, to be generous and a kind servant. Help me to not worry about what will be tomorrow but instead to live for you, to unselfishly give my love, my time, my talent and my treasures one day at a time. Allow me to look at my neighbors and my loved ones and meet their unspoken needs in Your name. Amen.

Blessings, Charlotte

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Face to Face

Today is “All Souls” day and yesterday was “All Saints” Day. It seemed to be a fitting end to October, a month where I attended 8 funerals. What is it about the finality of human life that makes me stop and think about my own life? I haven’t decided if it is the eulogies where someone lists all of the “good” about a person, or if it is the idea that any moment could be your last. I have been to funerals where the list was short and others where the list was long; and whether the list was short or long did not determine saint or sinner, ready to enter heaven or hell.
It does make me think one thought though about my own life: “Who will I be when I come face to face with God and how will I be remembered?”

In one of the daily meditations this week the bible reading was that where Jesus named all the apostles. The only one Luke gave a “label” to was “Judas, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16 It is a little scary to think about what Jesus would label me at this very moment, or even how a writer like Luke would list my weaknesses.

Today’s gospel has always been one of my favorites: from Mt 5:1-12a He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

I see so much hope in this passage of labels. Hope for those who mourn, hope for those who seek God’s truth, hope for those who have God in their heart. And I see eternal love for the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for standing up for the truths of the church and Jesus’ teachings.

Notice, too, that none of God’s labels are ways we would traditionally label people: we do not see happy, rich, great mom/dad, had many friends, did many good deeds, won many awards or games, was a great doctor, accountant, or teacher (insert your own profession), was a great cook, housekeeper, etc…. Instead we see labels of the heart: poor in spirit, meek, righteous, merciful, peacemakers and clean of heart.

Am I any of those people who will have great reward in heaven and be called a child of God? And am I willing to change my life to become one of those people?

How thankful I am that because of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross so it is never too late to ask for forgiveness, wipe away my human labels, and change my wants into his wants. Am I ready to answer his call, and am I always ready to meet God face to face?

So who do I want to be? What do I really want said at my eulogy? Will I look at the labels for my life differently? Will they be God’s labels instead of human labels? Will I be what I want to be, or what God wants me to be? How will I be labeled when I meet God face to face?

Dear God, make my heart ready to meet you face to face. Amen.

Blessings, Charlotte