On being deliberate…

John 15:4-5 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

One word keeps popping up for me lately, and when that happens, I know I have some pondering to do. The word is “deliberate” in the context of being more deliberate in my actions, more mindful and intentional. So often our actions throughout the day are automatic. We are not present to our actions, but like horses bolting for the barn door, our minds race on to other things. We do things impulsively or rashly, we fail to ponder. We neglect to live in the sacrament of the present moment, and in so doing, we lose the joy and grace unique to each moment.

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Opening God’s Gifts…

Isaiah 60:5-6 …the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

One of the enduring Christmas traditions is the exchange of gifts. This lovely tradition, when celebrated rightly, brings joy—often more joy to the giver even than the receiver. I think the closer we get to Christ, the more pleasure we derive from giving. This is a sign that we are becoming more like him. God’s generosity knows no limits. At times, we are permitted to participate in his generosity and it fills us with holy joy.

God’s gifts are manifold, simple, and free. So much so that we often take them for granted. Once, right before Christmas Eve Mass, I thought to ask the Lord for a gift I was very much in need of—the gift of self-control. As I asked the Lord for this gift after Communion on that holy night, an infused knowledge came to me, as if God were saying, “I gave you that gift years ago…you just haven’t opened it yet.” It was one of those moments when the scales fall from your eyes and the truth can no longer be denied. Of course, I received that gift years ago—on the day of my confirmation. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Have I really left it unopened for over 40 years? Shame on me!

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Gratitude before sacrifice…

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten (lepers) made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)

Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I once heard a priest say something very challenging in his Thanksgiving homily. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act—including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Many of us have come to the BSP in response to a felt call to increased prayer and fasting. Sometimes it is easy to feel that if we live the rule to the best of our ability, we have done what we should. But if our practice does not flow from a grateful heart, even if we manage to live the Rule perfectly, our sacrificial gifts will carry the stench of ingratitude. How can God be pleased?

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Walking the Wire…

(The woman with the hemorrhage) came up behind (Jesus) in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she had said “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. (Mark 5:28)

On the night of June 1, 2011, Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The event was televised. It didn’t watch it live myself, but I did watch the video on the internet a day or so later. It was a spectacular stunt. Nik Wallenda walked that rope at night, in the mist and fog with nothing but the dizzying thunder of raging water below him.

I must say that what surprised me most was that the whole way across, with almost every step, Wallenda thanked Jesus and praised God. The video showed him in a prayer huddle before his walk and, as he had a microphone on while on the wire, you can hear him praying frequently all the way across.

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Saints and Angels…

The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)

A few years back, a website came to my attention whose mission it is to match people with a patron saint for the year. The website is http://yourpatronsaint.blogspot.com/. The claim on the website is that your patron saint actually chooses you. The concept is based on this excerpt from the Diary of St. Faustina:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

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Entitlement…

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40)

Who of us, when reading the story of Mary and Martha, can not sympathize with poor Martha, left to do all the work while her sister sat at the feet of the Lord? Having come from a large family I can tell you that those who sat around while the others worked were not easily excused or forgiven. They had better have a cast on a major limb if they wanted to get out of the dishes!

Family dynamics aside, and with all due respect to holy St. Martha, there is an attitude in the above excerpt that bears pondering. It is an attitude that is prevalent in our society today and I’m sure you have noticed it, perhaps even—during a thorough examination of conscience—in yourself. I am speaking of the epidemic of entitlement, the attitude that we somehow deserve more than we are being given, that our rights have been trampled, and that it’s just not fair! Certainly, one of the Baals of this age is the Baal of entitlement.

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Gratitude before sacrifice…

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:28-30)

Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Some time ago in his Thanksgiving homily, our priest said something that really gave me pause. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act—including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

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