Today is “Black Friday” a day dedicated to making us feel we have to buy more stuff. Yesterday was “Thanksgiving” a day dedicated to being thankful for the blessings of what we already have. Do you see our national schizophrenic disconnect here? Make every day Thanksgiving. Develop an attitude of gratitude, and never let it go.
In many ways I have had a rough couple of months. Thankfully however, I have been able to stay in good spirits as I deal with personal issues and circumstances not to my liking. Yesterday nature seemed to echo that theme as the overcast sky muted, but did not hide, the beauty of the fall foliage from my eyes. For some reason I have been so much more aware of the annual slow motion changes, noticing differences even in the course of individual days. Then as I turned down the side street toward home, God gifted me with a life lesson.
There was a little boy, perhaps three years old, who was looking at a small pile of fallen leaves he had pulled together. It couldn’t have been more than a foot or so wide, and up to his ankles deep. Then he ran the few steps to get to it, enthusiastically jumped as high as his little legs could take him, and landed in the middle of the meager pile laughing for joy.
What do you think about when you think of the Autumn leaves after they inevitably end up on the ground? Do you envision all of the extra yard work of raking them up? Do you think about raking them into a big pile for your grandchildren to jump in? Do you think about jumping joyfully in them yourself? These questions swirled in my mind like an overture of gently falling red and yellow ideas ready for gathering, just before I broke out in a huge grin as I caught the spirt of infectious joy from that little boy. Here was the real lesson to me.
As I progressed through life, I have developed a bit of an immunity to simple joys. They are often muted and even hidden by circumstances and expectations. Even if I held onto the joy of jumping in a pile of leaves, I would certainly envision a large deep pile, a pile worthy of calling a mountain of leaves, anything less would diminish my joy. That is what I have learned from the world. Yesterday God reminded me that I once was filled with wonder and joy in the experience of small and simple things. That my expectations and desire to always have ” better and more” are barriers to accepting the gifts that He wants to give me each day. Then I remembered the infectious joy that I have seen in the faces not only of a little boy, but on the face of a poor man in Uganda, a loved one in hospice care, a prisoner in jail, and sometimes, when I open my heart, the face in the mirror.
I don’t know about you but, I have a lot of stuff going in with work, my family, my health. The truth be told, I don’t have enough time to pray for everything I need to pray for, and that is just my stuff. Fortunately I was reminded, when I went to Confession recently, of the importance of reflecting upon sacred scripture every day. It was in that reflection upon First Timothy 2:1-3 that I was reminded that my stuff is not where my prayer should begin.
“First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”
So, first I should pray for everyone. That’s a bit of a change to praying for myself first and others later. The significance of the thought that I need to be praying for those in authority has not escaped me either. But what is going on when we pray for everyone, if every Christian was praying for everyone? St Ambrose had something to say about that in his treatise on Cain and Abel, “if you pray only for yourself, you will be praying, as we said, for yourself alone. But if you pray for all, all will pray for you, for you are included in all.” This is a simple truth, if I pray for everyone, I am praying for myself. But, I am not praying in a self centered way.
I don’t mean that I should stop praying for my specific needs, just that I should start with a foundation that puts things in the right perspective. Recognizing in humility that I am talking to God, giving praise and thanksgiving, considering the needs of others before my own. If I do it the other way, I can often get so wrapped up in my own concerns, I may not have much left to give to God or others in my prayer or my mind. This tends to make my heart and my world both smaller and harder. It occurs to me that this is not the reason that I pray, even if I do only pray for myself.
May God bless us all, constantly drawing us deeper into his mercy and love.
If you have time here is the context of the St Ambrose quote above, from today’s Office of Readings:
SECOND READING, From a treatise on Cain and Abel by Saint Ambrose, bishop (Lib. 1, 9, 34, 38-39: CSEL 32, 369, 371-372)
Offer God a sacrifice of praise and fulfill your vows to the Most High. If you praise God you offer your vow and fulfill the promise you have made. So the Samaritan leper, healed by the Lord’s word of command, gained greater credit than the other nine; he alone returned to Christ, praising God and giving thanks. Jesus said of him: There was no one to come back and thank God except this foreigner. He tells him: Stand up and go on your way, for your faith has made you whole.
The Lord Jesus, in his divine wisdom, taught you about the goodness of the Father, who knows how to give good things, so that you might ask for the things that are good from Goodness itself. He urges you to pray earnestly and frequently, not offering long and wearisome prayers, but praying often, and with perseverance. Lengthy prayers are usually filled with empty words, while neglect of prayer results in indifference to prayer.
Again, Christ urges you, when you ask forgiveness for yourself, to be especially generous to others, so that your actions may commend your prayer. The Apostle, too, teaches you how to pray; you must avoid anger and contentiousness, so that your prayer may be serene and wholesome. He tells you also that every place is a place of prayer, though our Savior says: Go into your room.
But by “room” you must understand, not a room enclosed by walls that imprison your body, but the room that is within you, the room where you hide your thoughts, where you keep your affections. This room of prayer is always with you, wherever you are, and it is always a secret room, where only God can see you.
You are told to pray especially for the people, that is, for the whole body, for all its members, the family of your mother the Church; the badge of membership in this body is love for each other. If you pray only for yourself, you pray for yourself alone. If each one prays for himself, he received less from God’s goodness than the one who prays on behalf of others. But as it is, because each prays for all, all are in fact praying for each one.
To conclude, if you pray only for yourself, you will be praying, as we said, for yourself alone. But if you pray for all, all will pray for you, for you are included in all. In this way there is a great recompense; through the prayers of each individual, the intercession of the whole people is gained for each individual. There is here no pride, but an increase of humility and a richer harvest from prayer.
I may not agree with everything in Running Afoul of the Catholic Left and Right: Calling for a Ceasefire but it is well written, and worth a thoughtful read.
This point is spot on, we need to stop assuming that people who disagree with us are either stupid or evil. I also agree with this recognition:
“Catholicism (defined as broadly as possible) is a form of Christianity that has an increasingly hard time fitting into the structures of the United States. On the one hand, we are pro-life, many of us have traditional sexual ethics, we think the family is the basic, pre-political foundation of any given society and think there are aspects of our society that require conserving. On the other hand, we believe in preferential treatment for the poor, we combat racial injustices, we believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings (born and unborn), we believe in caring for our common home. We don’t fit. We never will, that’s simply part of Christianity.”
May God bless America and bring about a revival in the hearts of individual women and men, for it is in our hearts that the true battle is being fought. In many respects, the legitimate importance of this election and other worldly concerns override and trample the time and importance we need to give to nurturing the peace and wisdom that God wants to breathe into us. We stop that from happening by our passionate fixation on things that will pass away, and in so doing, end up relying upon our own wisdom to the best of our limited abilities. Our wisdom, has brought us to where we are. There is a better path.
The Lord has been sending me messages about something all week. I have been letting other people’s complaining affect my actions and I have allowed myself to complain. I need to listen to God, and I need to go to confession. Telling you doesn’t count. Besides, that’s just two of this sinners shortcomings.
My daughter, I have something to tell you. I replied, “Speak, Jesus, for I thirst for Your words.” It displeases Me that, because the sisters were murmuring, you did not ask to have Father Andrasz hear your confession in your cell. Know that, because of this, you gave them even greater cause for murmuring. Very humbly I begged the Lord’s forgiveness. O my Master, rebuke me; do not overlook my faults, and do not let me err (Diary, 1460)
My Prayer Response: Lord, help me not to be a cause of murmuring among my family and friends nor react to their murmuring. May I avoid offending You and be quick to beg Your forgiveness when I sin.
From Daily Reflections on the Diary of Saint Faustina
When George Lucas wrote these words for the character Yoda to speak, he touched on the truth uttered so often in the Bible. Do not be afraid. We must not be a people ruled by fear, anger and hatred. We must become a courageous people who dare up love, who act with mercy and compassion, and who shine the light of the Gospel in our world where darkness seems to be growing with little restraint.
I have intamacy with God, not in spite of of the fact that I am sinful, but precisely because I am sinful, know it, and confess it in my heart to him. This is my personal proof of the the wisdom of following the “little way”.
I get it. You have reasons for not going to church.
If you aren’t going to church today, perhaps even more so if you are, there is something you need to know. Going to church isn’t about going to church. Once you understand that, and if you ask from your heart for the grace to know what it is actually about, and you receive the gift of knowing; it is a game changer.
“The Heart of Christ must be recognized as the heart of the Church: It is He who calls us to conversion, to reconciliation. It is He who leads pure hearts and those hungering for justice along the way of the Beatitudes. It is He who achieves the warm communion of the members of the one Body. It is He who enables us to adhere to the Good News and to accept the promise of eternal life. It is He who sends us out on mission. The heart-to-heart with Jesus broadens the human heart on a global scale.” – Saint Pope John Paul II
Faith is a gift. Open your heart to that gift. It isn’t about going to church, it is about family coming together in love, to spend time with the one who loves us best, and with each other. In this way we remember, we celebrate, and we believe. In this way we find joy and strength to carry us through the storms of this life. In this way we stay connected to those who have gone before us in life to their eternal home. In this way we are given a space and time which removes many of the distractions that surround us so that we may have a heart-to-heart with Jesus.
Change your game. Change your life. Together, we can change the world.
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