On Emptier Nests, Turtles and Faith

I take great comfort in today’s First Reading from 1 Peter 5: 6-7:

 So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.  Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”

Every so often this blogger needs to be reminded that God is still in charge.  Lately I’ve been dreading the college graduation of two of our three children because their next phases of life involve out of state relocation.  Instead of celebrating their accomplishments and trying to view life through their eyes, I keep retreating to the security of life as it always has been, the security of home and routine and planned outcomes.  In a sense, I’ve become like a turtle deep in his shell.

This isn’t really what we, as an Easter people, a people of the Gospel are called to be.  Have I already forgotten the joy of Easter?  I noticed yesterday that the Easter lilies have all been removed from church but the azaleas are still flourishing.  Shouldn’t I still be radiating the light of Christ instead of being sullen and sulky and downright moody?

In the Church of Mercy, Pope Francis reminds us “To be faithful, to be creative, we need to be able to change. To change! And why must I change? So that I can adapt to the situations in which I must proclaim the Gospel. To stay close to God, we need to know how to set out; we must not be afraid to set out.” 

Even freshwater turtles need to come out of the water and bask in the sun.  Basking strengthens their shells and keeps them healthier.  Today, I too must bask in the SON and remember that none of us walk alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

On Joy, “Mousetrap” and Mercy

Do you remember the children’s board game called “Mousetrap”?  The words some assembly required on the front of the box are slightly misleading, as there must be one hundred pieces to put together before play can even commence, well maybe not one hundred, but certainly a lot of pieces!   And just as everything is snapped into place, even the slightest jolt or jiggle of the board can cause the boot to prematurely kick the bucket which sets off an entire chain reaction of movements that lead to the basket-like mousetrap being dropped.  So then one begins the arduous process of re-setting the trap and on it goes…probably eventually the game is played and laughter ensues, but most of my memories of “Mousetrap” conjure up feelings of annoyance and lots of interrupted playtime.  Before readers write me off as a complete “Debbie Downer”, here’s where I’m heading with the “Mousetrap” analogy:

“Christians cannot be pessimists! They do not look like someone in constant mourning. If we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our hearts will “light up” with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

             I recognize that not every waking moment is joy-filled.  In fact, sometimes it can be a struggle just to get through the day unscathed.  We work too hard, we rest too little, and often we lose sight of the joy that once came from our relationships and from our chosen vocations.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  One of the first things we need to remember is that we are a people of encounter, another Francis word.  We don’t have to go it alone:

            “But, careful! Jesus does not say, Go off and do things on your own. No! That is not what he is saying. Jesus says, Go, for I am with you! This is what is so beautiful for us; it is what guides us. If we go out to bring his Gospel with love, with a true apostolic spirit, with parrhesia, he walks with us, he goes ahead of us, and he gets there first. As we say in Spanish, nos primerea. By now you know what I mean by this. It is the same thing that the Bible tells us. In the Bible, the Lord says: I am like the flower of the almond. Why? Because that is the first flower to blossom in the spring. He is always the first! This is fundamental for us: God is always ahead of us! When we think about going far away, to an extreme outskirt, we may be a bit afraid, but in fact God is already there. Jesus is waiting for us in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded bodies, in their hardships, in their lack of faith.” 
― 
Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

             Okay, so back to “Mousetrap” and the idea of a chain reaction. If I consciously choose to seek JOY daily in ordinary life events and encounters with others, perhaps I will be more apt to show kindness and mercy.  If I remember to turn to God for guidance and strength, if I keep prayer a part of the daily regimen just like exercise or healthy eating, will I have a healthier and happier attitude at home and at work?  I’m no Pollyanna and I understand that there will be times when I will be shaken to the core, where the game will fall apart, where it will seem like I never want to play again.  But being a person of JOY allows me to remember that with each new day comes a new beginning, another “Resurrection,” just as Easter always follows Good Friday. Today I willingly and wholeheartedly choose JOY.  I hope you will too.

 

Magnanimous is the Word of the Day

I had never heard or used the word magnanimous until I read The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis.  To be magnanimous is to be charitable, kindly, generous, and forgiving.  A person who is magnanimous is one who “has their heart in the right place,” according to Thesauras.com.

So, why aren’t people magnanimous more often?  Now dear reader, this blog may not be directed at you, but rather at society as a whole, at least lately that’s what it looks like to me.  In the checkout line at the grocery store, tabloid after tabloid shows glaring headlines that attack people’s appearances, poke fun at marital infidelities and ultimately profit from at least one celebrity’s “fall from grace” each week.  I wonder if tabloid planning meetings begin with, “So, who’s our next victim?”   This lack of mercy, that’s right, mercy, also is evident in social media postings, often from well-meaning friends and family members who are passionate about one issue or another.  What I gently want to say is that by all means, be passionate in life about those things that are near and dear to our hearts!  But don’t take someone else down in order to prove a point.  That’s not mercy.  That’s not being magnanimous, as Pope Francis calls us to be.  If we are a people of encounter, a people of mercy, we must always consider how any actions on our part could potentially affect another person or group of people.  And then we need to choose the high road.   And like any good habit, the more we practice being magnanimous, the more it will become second nature to us.

Just to be clear, I’m not asking to set up a movement or to establish any “Let’s be Magnanimous Day.”  Rather, I challenge you and I challenge myself to take the opportunity daily to be kind, to be thoughtful, and to be generous with either time or resources, to be forgiving.  It’s not rocket science and I witness so many people already living lives of mercy.  I want to be sure, at the end of the day, that my “heart is in the right place.”  Plus, magnanimous is very fun word to say!  Try it out.  Try it on.  Live it.

 

 

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?

A little musical inspiration for this week’s blog comes from The Bodyguard soundtrack…

 

“As I walk on through this wicked world,

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,

I ask myself, Is all hope lost?

Is there only pain, and hatred and misery?

 

And each time I feel like this inside,

There’s one thing I wanna know,

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?,

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?”

                   (Curtis Stigers, 1992 Cover of Nick Lowe song from 1974)

You may be wondering why this blogger has selected somewhat downhearted lyrics for a blog post that occurs on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Only two weeks into Easter and is all the joy gone already?  On the contrary!   In John 20: 19-31, it is in Jesus’ encounter with Thomas that we see the importance of “peace, love and understanding.”

When I look at the first four lines of the song, I imagine Thomas, or anyone who had loved Jesus, could have experienced this kind of pain and sorrow.

The peace part is pretty clear.  Jesus greets the disciples by wishing them peace.  Do WE strive for peace in our households, in our neighborhoods, on our daily commutes, in our workplaces, at the ball fields or stadiums, in our classrooms and churches?  If not, why not?  Is it too much effort?  Have we been hurt one time too many?    Have we stopped caring?  These are tough questions but ones we are compelled to ask ourselves when we’re sent forth at the close of Mass to be Eucharist for others.

One could say it is obvious that Jesus loved the disciples by coming back and “standing in their midst.”  He did not have to do that, but Jesus understood the level of their pain, the need for closure, so to speak, their somewhat slowness of heart that is often used in the gospels to describe the disciples of Jesus.

Love and understanding often go hand in hand.   Perhaps it was Jesus’ love and understanding of Thomas that prompted Jesus to let Thomas come a little closer and probe the actual wounds.  Jesus saw in Thomas a crippling disbelief and so our LORD provided tangible proof.  This was truly an act of great love.  An act of compassion.  An act of mercy.

In our homes and in our communities we sometimes encounter “prickly people,” those who may be low on JOY and overflowing with negativity (aren’t we ALL like that at times?). Just imagine, if we follow Jesus’ example and act with peace, love and understanding instead of reacting with indignation, sarcasm and hurtful words, what mercy we can bring to others!  We have so much potential to be loving to one another each day.  Let’s encourage one another to keep the Easter JOY alive by being people of mercy, of peace, love and understanding!   Remember, even “prickly people” need love, too, and sometimes we all get prickly!