#WorthRevisit: Do We Really Want to Change?

It’s not today’s Gospel, but it’s definitely one worth considering during Lent, when we are doing our best to change our hearts. Today’s “Worth Revisit” looks back at 2009.

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Be Reconciled to God

Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.

Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.

Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)

Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.

So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Advertisements

“Restore My Sight”

Today’s Gospel (Luke 18: 35-43) always reminds me how dependent I am on the sense of sight. I am a very visual person. When someone in the house has lost something, they’ll ask me; I mentally scan the rooms of the house and can usually tell them exactly where to find that missing thing. I’m a voracious reader. I’m a musician. And I’m an editor, so I’m looking at words (and punctuation) all day.

Loss of vision is something I secretly fear. My grandmother suffered for several years with macular degeneration. She loved to read. Every Sunday she spent hours working on the New York Times crossword puzzle while her Sunday-dinner chicken roasted. Each day she prayed her way through a thick packet of prayer cards as she sat at the kitchen table. When she lost her sight, she was no longer able to do any of those things. I spent hours typing the prayers from those cards on my computer, setting them in a large font and printing pages to insert in a binder. That helped for a little while, but eventually she was unable to read at all.

"Restore My Sight" by Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS (Franciscanmom.com)
Via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain

Soon after my grandmother died in 2002, one of the Secular Franciscans began to lose her sight to the same disease. I remember Jean attending each fraternity meeting, chiming in when it was time to state our prayer requests with the same words each time: “For good vision.”

Jean didn’t regain her ability to read the small print on prayer cards, but the wisdom she’d share at our meetings as we learned about living our Secular Franciscan vocation proved that she hadn’t lost all vision. Stripped of her ability to watch TV and read, Jean had keen insight about what really mattered.

Do I focus on what’s most important? Or do I let the things I see around me cloud my vision?

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Who Does He Say You Are?

When you open up Colleen C. Mitchell’s book, Who Does He Say You Are, expect to be surprised, challenged and changed.

I took the “Which Gospel Woman Are You?” quiz before beginning to read the book, and I got a result that didn’t surprise me: I’m Martha. As Colleen observes in the chapter on Martha and Mary of Bethany, Martha is “stuck in her either/or mindset”–a place I often find myself as well. So when I started reading this book, I didn’t expect the women in the other chapters to resonate with me; after all, I’m Martha.

Turns out, I’m challenged to be like Anna the prophetess, and the woman with a hemorrhage, and the Syrophoenician woman, and, yes, Martha. And so are you.

who-does-he-say-you-are

Colleen brings out the qualities in each of these women (and several more) that are in every woman, and directs our spiritual journey as we discover how we can be healed as they were. Throughout the book, she shares her own journey of brokenness, faith, healing and trust. The Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter aren’t merely journal prompts: they are calls to action.

We are not all called to be missionaries in remote parts of the world as Colleen and her family are, but we are called, Colleen reminds us.

“I do not know your story. Yours may read  lot like mine, or it may be altogether different. But I do know this: wherever you are in that story, God desires to draw near to you and remind you who you are. In the midst of your cracks and suffering and hard places and pain, he has a love letter to offer you. He handed it to your sisters of the Gospels in person. He hands it to you now through their stories. And I believe that in these stories there is healing and grace and purpose for you. There is wholeness and newness for the having.
And I know with every fiber of my being that God wants that for you. Because he says that you are loved by him.” (from the Prologue)

When you open Who Does He Say You Are?, open your mind and heart to the surprises and challenges within it. Be prepared to open your soul to God’s transforming love.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, Servant Books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: A Wise Choice

For Worth Revisit Wednesday, I’m thinking about Mass. TheKid is attending theatre camp, so I can’t easily make it back here on time for daily Mass. There are two closer churches that I can attend, and while they’re not “home,” a Mass at some other parish is better than no Mass at all.

On Friday, I attended the Church Where Everybody Knows Your Name. Or at least Father does. At the end of his homily he asked mine. A woman in front of me turned around and said that Father likes to know everyone’s name. Then, during the prayer of the faithful, he named every single person in that building (at least 50 people!) I was amazed.

Father H

Let’s look back at a one-liner today, from 2007. I miss Father H’s homilies!

Father H, in his mini-nugget of wisdom that passes for a homily at daily Mass, told us that “Every time we hear the Gospel at Mass we are left with a choice.” (chew on THAT for a while–he’s right!)

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Loaves, Fishes and Spiritual Writing

On the Ask a Catholic Editor Facebook page yesterday, Heidi Hess Saxton of Servant Books (Franciscan Media) observed,

one of the many important differences between journalism and spiritual writing: the ability of the writer to process events in a way that uncovers Truth. Journalists tend do “hide” themselves in the writing process. Spiritual writers “reveal.”

My immediate inclination was to conclude that I’m a journalist. I’m a “nuts and bolts” girl.

And when I heard the Gospel for today, I could relate to the Apostles, because I think many of them were “nuts and bolts” people too. Remember, one of them was a tax collector!

…it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already very late.
Dismiss them so that they can go
to the surrounding farms and villages
and buy themselves something to eat.”
He said to them in reply,
“Give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food
and give it to them to eat?”

I’d worry too! It’s the Martha in me–she was a “nuts and bolts” girl too.

Nuts and bolts are important. They hold the whole thing together. But sometimes I can be so focused on those little fasteners that I lose sight of exactly what they’re holding together!

DSC_0318The Apostles did that. How would they possibly feed thousands of people with what little bread and fish they had?

Martha did that. How would she ever be able to offer Jesus and his entourage of followers proper hospitality without her sister’s helping hand?

Jesus let the Apostles know that they needed to trust. He let Martha know that her priorities were misplaced.

There’s a time and a place for nuts and bolts. And there’s a time to let the details fade into the background so you can see the whole picture. I’m not just talking about writing here, either.

What can I do today to trust more–and let God take care of the details?

Scholastica, Benedict, Mary, Martha and Me

On this feast of St. Scholastica, Father M. read the Gospel story of Martha and Mary, then began his homily with the familiar story about St. Scholastica’s prayer to prolong her brother’s visit–which was answered with a storm so severe that St. Benedict was unable to depart. benedict and scholasticaFather mentioned that Benedict was concerned about following the rules–under the Rule he himself had written–and wanted to end the visit in time to return to the monastery by nightfall. Scholastica, on the other hand, wanted to savor the time of prayer and conversation with her brother, and wanted him to stay. When he refused, she took the matter straight to the top. Benedict realized that the storm was no coincidence, and when he called her on it, she replied, “I asked a favor of you, and you refused. I asked a favor of God, and he granted it.”

BOOM.

Father went on to preach about the Gospel. It’s one of my favorite passages–even more so after what was said today. First, he said that it’s not a bad thing, in and of itself, to be concerned about serving a meal. That’s a great comfort to me, as I’m all about serving meals. But here’s the best part:  Jesus wasn’t chiding Martha because she was working on serving a meal to her guests. He was chiding her because she didn’t take into account Whom she was serving.

Guilty as charged. Every single time.

I guess that’s why I have a soft spot for Martha.

St. Benedict, in his efforts to stay true to his Rule, forgot whom he was serving during his visit with his sister. It took her prayer and God’s answer in the form of a thunderstorm to show him that his sister, like Mary of Bethany, had “chosen the better part.”

Sts. Benedict & Scholastica image source: Wikimedia.