Posts Tagged 'Consecrated Life'

“I will be with you”

In yesterday’s liturgy (EX 3:1-6, 9-12), we read of Moses who stood in the presence of God, before the burning bush . Moses was afraid and didn’t understand what God was asking of him. Sometimes we don’t know to what God is calling us, but he simply wants our availability, “Here I am, Lord.”

I suppose its like being “Open 24 hours” – being ready to do the will of God always, trusting that even though we may not “know the way” (JN 14:4-5) or think we can accomplish what God is asking, he will help us do his will. The Lord won’t abandon us to fulfill his will, for “I will be with you (EX 3:12),” says the Lord.

Just do it.

We read that when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they responded immediately (MT 4:18-22). As I read this passaged I was very struck by the immediacy with which they acted. There was no hesitation, no rebuttal, no second-guessing…just action.

Its helpful to reflect on the way the Apostles responded and check my own responses throughout the ordinary situations in my life: waking up in the morning, how many times have I turned the alarm off and went back to sleep? Have I put off studying for a assignment or test that I know is coming up in school? Or have I even put off a chore that my parents or supervisor asked me to do?

Procrastinating is delaying or putting off something that should be done now. If you experience a “stir” within your heart about the priesthood or consecrated life, respond to it, act on it, ask your parish priest about it. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “It is praiseworthy to act quickly after taking counsel, which is an act of reason (II-II, Q. 127, a. 1).” Simply asking for more information doesn’t commit yourself to the priesthood or consecrated for ever; it just helps you answer the questions you have about it so you can respond to the promptings with reason. Don’t ignore it or let endless questions about it plague your mind. An old phrase from a “Nike” tennis shoes commercial come to mind: “Just do it.” We all have a responsibility to grow in our Catholic faith and in the spiritual life, but we can’t do it alone. The Church provides guides for us, to help us discern our vocation and live out our Christian call. Ask the questions; it won’t hurt.

May Our Lord strengthen you today to respond to His grace.

Shepherds and Robbers

Well, that was a little surprising. Here I was, ready at yesterday’s Fourth Sunday of Easter to hear another of the Resurrection accounts for the Gospel, when lo and behold, instead we hear Jesus talking about sheep and thieves. Even more strange than that, as he uses this imagery, he doesn’t say, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the shepherd,” like we might expect. Instead he says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.” He is the gate? Then who is the shepherd? Well, if I’m really paying attention when the Gospel is proclaimed, I’ll hear his answer: “Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.”

I’m no exegetical expert, and I have no vast theology background in the Christian Scriptures, but it seems to me there must be something happening in this passage from the Gospel of John that is “bigger” than what I’ve noticed before now. If we were to keep reading (continuing where this Sunday’s Gospel leaves off,) we would hear Jesus immediately say, “I am the good shepherd.” But before I jump to that imagery with which I’ve been familiar since childhood, I feel the need to sit a little bit longer with the imagery of Jesus as the gate. Only those who enter through the gate do so with integrity, freedom, and understanding. Those who try to get in and out of the sheepfold other ways are “thieves and robbers,” trying to take by force what would likely be freely given them if they simply came in through the gate…since, according to Christ’s own words, anyone who enters through the gate is a shepherd.

So what’s the take-home value of this Gospel? For me, it’s about discerning whether I’m a thief or a shepherd in my spiritual life. Do I “go through” Jesus in order to gain life, or do I try to “steal” it in other ways? Do I pray through all aspects of my life, or do I only have recourse to God when my own efforts have come up short? Do I “play God” in my relationships and ministry by trying to fix things (or people!) and control outcomes, or do I place it all in his hands and allow him to take care of what is rightly his anyway?

Yes, yes…there are some powerful truths for me to learn in this weekend’s Gospel. Might there be for you, too?

May 15 – World Day of Prayer for Vocations

What a tremendous encouragement we receive from Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which we will celebrate this Sunday, May 15th! The Holy Father reminds us that “Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life are first and foremost the fruit of constant contact with teh living God and insistent prayer lifted up to the “Lord of the harvest”…” Its so true…everyone who has a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life has realize their vocation through prayer. Personal and liturgical prayer help us grow in familiarity with Christ because we are listening to God’s word.

When God’s call to the priesthood or consecrated life is realized in a person’s heart, often there can be fears or resistance to accepting and doing God’s will. But again, the Holy Father encourages us, “entering into God’s will does not crush or destroy a person, but instead leads to the discovery of the deepst truth about ourselves…” This truth is realized most clearly in our personal relationship with Christ. It is also realized in relationship with others, for in being generous and fraternal in relationships with others, we become open to and share with others the love of God. And in doing so “we discover true joy and the fulfillment of our aspirations.”

Let us continue to invite young men and women to open their hearts to God’s will and prayerfully consider His call.

On the Road

Have you ever wondered if you would have recognized Jesus if you had been one of the Emmaus disciples? When I truly pay attention to St. Luke’s Resurrection account, I notice that the two men who meet Jesus on the way to Emmaus are good disciples. They are heart-broken at his death in Jerusalem, they are familiar with his teachings, and they are desirous of sharing his story with this total “stranger” who joins them for the long journey out of town. We aren’t told why they’re leaving Jerusalem or where they’re really headed. We aren’t told whether they planned on telling the story of Jesus Christ all along their way or if they just so happened upon someone who was interested in chatting about it. We aren’t told what their ultimate destination is, nor how they intend to spend the remainder of their lives.

What we are told is that they found their hearts burning within them as they shared time and memory with Jesus. They desired his company, and they invited him in to continue to be in relationship with them. They shared bread with him, they received blessing, and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. And then he was gone. Then did the fire of his love catch flame in them, and compelled them to get up from that very table and run all the way back from where they’d come…just to tell the story!

Maybe this week we can take a moment to reflect on our own discipleship of Jesus. Even when we don’t recognize him, he walks with us, telling us the story of his life, sharing with us the story of ours, and inviting us to see where the two intersect. Even when we’ve journeyed a long way, perceiving him to be absent, somehow in those moments when we listen to the story of his life, we can also sense his presence right there with us. Even when we don’t realize it is Christ we have invited to “remain with us,” he comes and reveals himself in ways quite unexpected. And even when he disappears from view, he sets our hearts on fire, sending us urgently out to those we love most, sharing the good news: we have seen him—he is alive!

More Company for Holy Week

Along with drawing strength from his Heavenly Father (see post “Who is your company for Holy Week?”), Jesus had other company during his journey from Palm Sunday to Easter.

It’s subtle, but it’s significant.

As you read the Scriptural accounts of the passion and death of Jesus, she is not mentioned much, but I think Mary played a huge role. What mother would not be there for her son? Especially in the toughest moments of his life, while others abandon him. I think he drew a lot of strength from her.

There are times when doing what God wants is greeted with great fanfare, and there are times when it is very difficult. Jesus certainly experienced this. His miracles attracted great multitudes, and yet he sweat blood in his struggle to accept his Father’s will in Gethsemane. He accepts that cup, and as he struggles to carry the cross, Mary is with him every step of the way.

Spend some time with Mary. She always helps her children in their struggle to accept God’s will and carry it out. No matter if the crowds are thick or thin, you can count on her company.

Mixed Emotions

I don’t know what Palm Sunday means for you, but for me it’s a little bit of a jumbled combination of things. It means the proclamation of the Passion during the Gospel at Mass, it means the reception of new palms to be brought home and placed behind the crucifixes all around the house, it means the beginning of Holy Week, and it means somehow that it’s time to “turn toward Jerusalem” and consciously ready myself for the celebration of the Paschal Triduum beginning on Holy Thursday.

But Palm Sunday has many other meanings as well, particularly if we look carefully at what exactly happened upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict tells us that the acclamation “Hosanna!” had many different connotations for first-century Jews. He says it was “an expression of the complex emotions of the pilgrims accompanying Jesus and of his disciples,” namely joyful praise of God, ardent hope that the coming of the Messiah was imminent, and fervent prayer that the arrival of this King would be the definitive beginning to God’s everlasting reign over Israel. As I read this, I ask myself, “What are the complex emotions of this pilgrim—myself—as I accompany Jesus today?” Yes, there is much joy in the praise of God and all the ways He continues to bless me, there is certain hope that He will fulfill all His promises to me and to our world, and there is indeed fervent prayer for all that requires His power, His grace, His touch. There are a few other emotions mixed in there, too, as I’m sure there are for you. A bit of fear about all that is uncertain or painful in my life, a bit of anxiety over all that is stressful, a bit of negativity that I’d rather not own up to. But all of these put together make up the “me” that celebrates Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and I shout with all other pilgrims of “complex emotions” down through the centuries and even down through the pews, “Hosanna to the King of David!”

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