Martha and Mary

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(A reflection on Luke 10:38-42 NAB)

Martha and Mary

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary – Johannes Vermeer, 1655

Jesus told Martha, “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…”.

Martha thought her service to Jesus was the best thing, only to learn otherwise. Jesus didn’t say her effort wasn’t necessary, just not the better of the two.

Certainly the Church needs us to be like Martha and serve with our time, talent and treasure. The path to holiness includes service.

Jesus referred to our need, the need to attentively listen to the Word of God so our hearts can change to be like His. It is the better part on the path to holiness.

“‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of Your love.’ Open my heart to the Word of God each day, and let me serve Your Church by responding to its needs with the time, talent and treasure which, through You, I have been blessed. Amen.”

(Martha and Mary was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

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Good Samaritans

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(A reflection on Luke 10:25-37 and Galatians 1:6-12)

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan – Vincent van Gogh, 1890

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the scholar of the law that the greatest commandment isn’t just about loving God with all your heart, being, strength and mind, but also loving your neighbor as yourself. And, in His parable about the Good Samaritan, Jesus defines our neighbor as anyone who is near us, regardless of race, gender, social status, age, and political or religious beliefs. He asks us to be observant of our neighbors, and to look for opportunities to be charitable, especially in their times of need, even when doing so is inconvenient or forces us out of our comfort zones. In other words, He asks us to be merciful as He is merciful.

As I normally do each morning during my prayer and meditation on the day’s scripture, I try to relate to what God is revealing to me through His Word, and then write a resolution to do something along those lines that will help me grow closer to Him today. I pondered, “In what situations will I find myself today in which I can observe others and look for opportunities to be merciful?” And, then I realized my main plan for the day, besides going to morning Mass, was to stay home and work in the yard. I wasn’t going to have much of a chance to observe others.

Falling back into prayer, I asked, “Lord, unless You want me to scrap my plans to weed and spread mulch and go someplace where I can observe others, what else do You have for me today?” As I listened, my mind came back to today’s first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which Paul reaches out to the new Christians after others had perverted his teaching and led them astray. Paul’s mission was to convert souls, never giving up no matter how frustrating or exhausting it was to him. I thought how lucky the people of Galatia were to have had Paul reach out to them as their Good Samaritan, and how they should have been thankful.

Then I remembered a time when some good Samaritans made it their mission to save my soul by bringing me to Christ. At a time when I was hurting spiritually, two couples, in cahoots with my wife, gently but persistently preached the Word of God through their actions and set the stage for me to meet with our Lord through His Holy Spirit. Had they not been the faithful, on-fire disciples that they are, they could have easily passed me by as I lay on my “road to Jericho” struggling for survival.

With prayers of thanksgiving for opening my heart to this revelation, I made it my resolution today to thank God, for the millionth time, for placing these merciful friends, who didn’t steer clear and look the other way, in my life at the time when I needed them most.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for these and all the other Good Samaritans whom You have put in my life! Help me, I pray, to look with love upon all my family and friends, and neighbors who are yet to be friends, and to be observant of their trials so that I will not miss the opportunities to be an instrument of Your mercy. Amen.”

(Good Samaritans was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

One Day At a Time

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This morning I returned to our local YMCA after being off for a couple weeks from a minor surgery. I’d got out of the habit of going in that short time and could easily have talked myself out of it today. But, something told me I needed to go and put in my three miles on the indoor track. Nevertheless, the thought crossed my mind about how nice it would be if I could snap my fingers and the extra weight I’m carrying would simply disappear.

The track at our Y is one-ninth of a mile per lap. I was in my fourth or fifth lap when a man, probably in his seventies, came in, hung his walking cane on the hook by the door and slowly, very slowly started ambling around the track. When I came back around and lapped him, he’d travelled all of twenty-five feet. When I lapped him again, he’d gone about that far again.

I noticed as I approached him from behind how intentionally and carefully he made each footfall. More than once I saw him almost stumble. I wondered if perhaps he’d recently had a stroke and was teaching himself to walk again. He was taking it slow and easy, one step at a time, completely focused on not falling.

After lapping him a dozen or more times, I approached him again as he was reaching for his cane after finishing his one lap. I wondered if he had set one lap as a goal for himself. Regardless, I was impressed with his determination to finish and, as I reached him, I lightly clapped my hands and congratulated him with a, “Well done, sir, well done!” In return he gave me a smile from ear to ear.

In my final mile and a half, I thought back to my own situation. I couldn’t snap my fingers and make the weight disappear. No, I was going to have to do just like this old gentleman, make progress one step and one day at a time. If I keep at it, I’ll reach my goal.

It occurred to me, too, that the goal of holiness can only be reached in the same way. We don’t become holy overnight. We get there one day at a time, each day focused on not falling into sin but carefully taking one right and just step after another. I hope to reach my goal of making it to heaven. And, when I do, I know I’ll be smiling from ear to ear when I hear Christ clapping and congratulating me, “Well done, my son, well done!”

“Heavenly Father, thank You for urging me to resume my good habits this morning, and thank You for the blessed experience of seeing that elderly, determined gentleman make progress toward his goal. Through him, You inspired me to persevere towards my goal and grow in my relationship with You one day at a time. Amen.”

(One Day At a Time was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

God Answers Prayers of Thanksgiving

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Sometimes God answers prayers so profoundly it blows my mind. I had one of those God-moments back on 26 May and I’ve been waiting since that Saturday morning to tell you about it. And now, after several weeks of preparation, I can finally share it with you as it is coming to fruition.

I mentioned in a couple previous posts that I am training to become certified as a Catholic Spiritual Mentor. Through the teaching of the Sisters of The Apostles of the Interior Life, and the Holy Family School of Faith of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, my classmates and I are both growing in our relationship with God and learning how to help others purposefully grow in their relationships with God and their neighbors, as well. It’s an amazing program and I feel blessed to be part of it.

With three semesters down and one more to go, we were told at our week of in-residence training in May that our homework for this last session would be to find a person to mentor. To be honest, all that I’d been eagerly anticipating for a year and a half seemed a little daunting now that it was upon me. This was the real thing.

The Sisters of The Apostles of the Interior Life are an extraordinary community of women who exude a holiness and happiness that can only come from an intimate relationship with God. In forming our interior lives, we are fortunate to be beneficiaries of their relationship with God through daily talks, lessons and meditations.

Sister Michela’s meditation on that Saturday morning was entitled, The Art of Giving Thanks. It was based on Luke 17:11-19, the Cleansing of the Ten Lepers, specifically zeroing in on the Samaritan leper, who, “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and then fell at the feet of Jesus thanking Him.” Jesus responded by saying, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

This one leper proved his faith by recognizing Christ’s mercy in healing him. Unlike the other nine, he showed his true gratitude by returning to give thanks. He glorified God in a loud voice, not caring what others thought or said, and indicated his total surrender. He demonstrated his humility by falling at the feet of Jesus. And, his giving thanks was an act of justice that recognized God’s love for him.

It was a powerful meditation which was strategically placed immediately before an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. It would have been impossible to not spend that hour on my knees at the feet of Jesus giving thanks for every blessing ever received, every hurt ever healed, every lesson ever learned, and every loving relationship ever built.

I specifically said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for giving me the desire to grow closer to Him; the desire to reach out to other men and help them grow in holiness; and for the training I was receiving. I prayed for the grace to recognize the opportunities to help other men that He would put before me. And, acknowledging that all I have is because of Him, I prayed I would be able to repay Him in the only way I know how – to bring others to Him.

At the end of the Adoration hour I left the chapel and walked back to my room to retrieve a notebook in which to write during the half day of silent retreat coming up next. It was less than a 60 second walk to my room. As I stepped inside, I heard my phone, which was on the desk on the opposite side of the room, give a “chirp” indicating an email had just arrived. It was a forwarded email from our deacon back at home saying, “Jerry, I received this email this morning and thought of you.” It was an email from Elizabeth’s New Life Women’s Center in my home town.

Elizabeth’s New Life Center is a faith based pregnancy resource center serving Southwest Ohio. Their mission is to empower individuals to choose life instead of abortion by showing them the compassion and love of Christ . Their life affirming programs strengthen families and save thousands of lives annually. It’s an organization which I’ve gladly supported financially and with prayers over the last few years.

Their email said, “ENLC is looking for a few good men to participate in their new mentoring program for expectant fathers. Some qualifications for the program are: he must be a believer and focused on God…is motivated by his faith…is a man of prayer with a strong dependence on God…has a passion to help young men as expectant fathers, and meet them in their situation…is unafraid to share the Gospel with others…must be an example of a good father…and he must be capable and willing to show a Christ-like love to young men who at times may seem unlovable.”

I could hardly believe what I was reading! I had to support myself on the edge of the bed to keep from falling over. I had just prayed a minute before for God to place opportunities before me to help other men, and He didn’t waste a second. This wasn’t quite the spiritual mentoring I had in mind but the qualifications met all that I was being taught and it was certainly a worthy and desperately needed ministry. And, as I thought about it, it was one that could parallel and would complement the individual mentoring for which I was being trained.

And, as I sat there pondering the possibilities, I no longer viewed future mentoring sessions as daunting encounters. I suddenly had a welcome confidence that, if God was calling me this clearly to work for Him, He would send His Holy Spirit and not leave me hanging.

I replied to my deacon friend explaining what had just happened and confessed that I couldn’t pass this up especially when God, in answering my prayers, placed the opportunity right in my lap.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been volunteering a couple hours per week at the Women’s Center learning their policies and procedures. Finally, this last week, I had the chance to meet with two young expectant fathers who, along with their childs’ mothers, have chosen life for their unborn children. As I get to know them and build relationships with them I expect I’ll have many opportunities to coach them on the responsibilities and the happiness that comes with fatherhood, and possibly, if they choose marriage, on how to be loving, faithful and servant husbands, as well.

But, mostly, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus and the eternal love of our God.

Please pray for me and the expectant fathers.

“Good and Gracious God, I shout out with thanks for Your love and all the many blessings You have bestowed on me and my family. Thank You for answering my prayers and for Your confidence in my service to others. Thank You for placing the desire in my heart to serve others and bring them closer to You. Thank You for giving me a loving father from whom I have learned much about fatherhood. And, by Your Grace, I pray that by helping young men learn to be loving and responsible fathers, their love for You and family will perpetuate for generations to come. Amen.”

(God Answers Prayers of Thanksgiving was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Fishing

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( A reflection on Luke 5:1-11)

I love to fish. I learned from my dad. He taught me that fish don’t just jump into the boat. You have to present them with food that satisfies their hunger. And, sometimes the bigger fish aren’t always closest to shore.

Six years ago I went fishing for more happiness in my life. I met Jesus and I welcomed Him into my boat. He’s been teaching me how to be a fisher of men. He provides the bait and the Holy Spirit tells me where to cast and how to present it. Still, sometimes the deeper water scares me.

“Holy Spirit, help me to trust in You in all things. Give me the courage to venture out of my comfort zone of shallow water into the deep where the catch may be more abundant. Show me in each case, I pray, how to present Your truth so that it satisfies their hunger. Amen.”

(Daily 100:  Fishing was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Tuesdays at Five

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Every Tuesday evening at five o’clock after my Adoration hour, I meet with a small group of two to three other men to share our faith over the last week. This summer when the weather has been nice we’ve met on the bleachers in the shade of the trees behind the baseball field backstop at our parish school. We take turns talking about our progress in piety; the sincerity of our study to learn and grow our knowledge of our faith; any action we’ve taken to help others grow closer to Christ; and to relate any close God-moments we’ve had where we’ve seen or felt God’s presence at work in our lives. We also take this opportunity to help hold each other accountable.

Yesterday, it was my turn to go first. I shared that my prayer life had improved from a couple weeks prior, and, uncharacteristically for me, my study had taken off like a jackrabbit. I’d read four books in the last week – one on meditative prayer, one on life in the Spirit, a short book on devotion to Mary, and Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae – as well as listened to some of my classroom lectures. I had a couple action items worth honorable mention, and concluded that I’ve struggled lately with actively recognizing when God has been working in my life. I simply haven’t had any tremendous revelations to speak of.

Next up was my friend Mike. When he got to his study sharing he confided, with a wink in his eye, that he used to read a blog called Reflections of a Lay Catholic but for some reason it’s author had stopped writing. He added that, in fact, he would often get some of his weekly God-moments from that blog site.

Of course, his comments were intended to be a friendly jab at me for slacking off in my writing and they were taken as such. Nevertheless, I made a mental note to double down on living in the present so that I might better realize, when they come along, those small God-moments about which I often write. After my other friend, Paul, finished his sharing, we, as always, held hands, prayed for special intentions, and then together prayed the Lord’s Prayer.

During the forty-five minutes that we sat there sharing, the parking lot had filled up with the minivans and SUVs of soccer moms and their sons eager to get on the field and play. When the three of us finished our prayer we stood and walked to our own vehicles. Mine was the farthest away and as I neared my pickup truck a young mother caught my attention and told me with a sincere smile, “That was a beautiful display of your faith, the three of you praying together in public. I am so glad that my ten-year old son got to see that! Thank you so much!”

I didn’t know what to say other than, “Thank you!”.  I think, but can’t say for sure, that I babbled something about doing that every Tuesday evening.  I know I said, “Thank you!” more than once and I know at least one of those expressions of gratitude was not just back to the young woman but to the Lord above for creating that special moment and for allowing me to experience it.

Before driving away I sat in my truck and reflected on what had just happened. I thought about the Gospel passages from our daily scripture this week from Luke, chapter 4, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and how He calls us to minister as well. I thought about the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. And, when necessary, use words.” I thought about how I often fail to use words as much as I should in proclaiming my faith, but, in this case, I was grateful for the affirmation that my actions spoke so loudly.

I thought about how, just possibly, that ten-year old boy might remember, years down the road, the moment when he saw three old men sitting on the bleachers praying together, and that he may decide to do the same. I thought about the young mother who’s faith may have been severely shaken in light of the current crisis in the Church, but may have just had that same faith reawakened. I thought I will probably never know but I can hope that good will come from it.

Finally, I took a moment to give thanks again to God for allowing me to experience that moment, for showing me that small acts done with love and gratitude are especially appreciated.

And, this morning, I give thanks to God again for giving me the fodder I need to post again in Reflections of a Lay Catholic so that my friend Mike will have something to read for his daily inspiration.

“Father, I love You and I know You love me. You are there for me each and every time I turn back to You after journeying away. Thank You, Lord, for my faith in You and for allowing me to share it with others. Please, Lord, let this ministry be efficacious in bringing others closer to You. Amen.”

(Tuesdays at Five was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Just Keep Learning

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(A reflection on Matthew 16:13-23)

Poor Peter. Jesus gives him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven for affirming that He is the Messiah. Then, He rebukes Peter for presuming to know more about God’s will than He does. Just when Peter thought he understood, he discovered he really didn’t.

That’s me, too. I think I understand this business of faith but then I get challenged anew and realize I have a lot to learn.

I’m okay with that.

“Lord, You have created in me a clean heart (PS 51:12) on which You have written Your law (Jer 31:33). Lead me, Lord, and help me to follow. Amen.”

(Daily 100: Just Keep Learning was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

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Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

(A reflection on Micah 6:6-8)

It’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep the older I get. This morning I woke up grumpy (me, not my wife), missed my morning coffee, and waited forever on traffic at a busy intersection. It was not a good start to my day. Kneeling in prayer at mass, I knew I was in a foul mood.

In the first reading from Micah, God reminded me of His expectation regardless of the circumstances: to be just and merciful, and to walk humbly with God. I needed to hear that. It changed the rest of my day.

“Thank you, Lord. Amen.”

(Daily 100: Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

The Yoke’s On Me

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(Image Credit: Caitlin Bristow – Lettered Life)

You may (or may not) have noticed there hasn’t been a whole lot of posting going on in the last month. I did get inspired and make time for three reflections but, for the most part, my focus has been on other things. Those other things included an almost three week trip to South Dakota and Montana for a family reunion followed by a four day mission trip to Appalachian Eastern Kentucky. Both were fun and filled with “God-moments”, but were chocked full to the brim with activity.

Since returning home this past weekend I’ve been busy catching up on all the stuff that didn’t get done while I was gone, such as yard work and generally dealing with the exigencies of life.

Last night, as I was preparing for bed, the effect that all this activity has had on my prayer life hit my conscience hard. Although I’d made it to morning mass this week, being away from my comfortable place of solitude and silence for so long had suspended my morning prayer, reflection and meditation, and I knew I needed to get back in a groove. But, I asked myself, how can I do that with so much else to be done? I knew the answer was to just let everything else go and spend time with the Lord this morning. So, before falling asleep, I prayed for the grace to be able to do just that.

I made it to 7:30 a.m. mass this morning and heard our priest read from the Gospel of Matthew:

”Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30 NAB)

I closed my eyes and uttered, “Jesus, You’re talking straight to me! You know what I need to hear. Your yoke is nothing more than making that little bit of effort to spend time in conversation with You.”

After mass I came home and spent time in the solitude and silence that He asked of me, and I decided to share this with you in hopes that it would get me off high-center.

Isn’t Christianity a dichotomy? It’s such a contradiction to the ways of the world. You turn left to go right. You go up to go down. You focus on the present and the future takes care of itself.

The work which needs to be done, and which burdened me yesterday, is now something I look forward to today. The hour I spent with Jesus this morning was the invigoration I needed to begin again.

“Lord Jesus, I ask and You provide. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for being there to lead when I need to follow. Thank you for lightening the load by helping me to focus on You Who helps me carry it rather than on my own futile struggle. Amen.”

(The Yoke’s On Me was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

An Opportunity for Mercy

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(A reflection on Hos 11:8 and Mt 10:7-15)

This morning I find myself back in Appalachia volunteering with Hand in Hand Ministries, preparing to serve those less fortunate than me. I will be working today to make Sam’s house more livable. But, my real job will be to mercifully bring God’s healing power of love and understanding to help set him free of his weariness and isolation.

“Lord, as I work at Sam’s house today, lead me in your merciful ways; overwhelm my heart and stir my pity; and, as you told your disciples, ‘Without cost you have received’, so, without cost let me give of myself.”

(Daily 100: An Opportunity for Mercy was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.