The Good Shepherd

Tags

, ,

Icon of the Good Shepherd

Yesterday’s Gospel, Jn 10:1-10, brought back memories from long ago.  Like 53 years ago when I was 12 years old living in the small village of High Ham, Somerset, England.  My friend, John, a year older than me, lived a few hundred yards down the road.  John and his family were dairy farmers with a fine herd of Holstein cows.  And, they had a large flock of sheep which they raised for the wool.  I spent every moment I could down on John’s farm helping with anything his dad would let me.  I learned to milk and feed cows, deliver calves, shovel manure, cut, bale and pitch hay, drive a tractor and a car, and herd and shear sheep.  

To the best of my recollection, I enjoyed every aspect of it – some more than others.  Perhaps my least favorite was herding the sheep.  I think I preferred shoveling manure to messing with those unruly critters.  Driving the flock from one pasture to another was always a challenge.  If one sheep got a notion to jump through a hedge or over a low spot in a rock wall into someone’s yard, they all followed the leader.  I did not have what it took to herd sheep.  But John, he was the good shepherd.  He had the knack.  When he was herding them down the main road through the village they were perfect darlings.  He loved those fluffy ovines and they loved him.  He treated them gently and kindly, and spoke to them softly.  With John, they were happy sheep. Me, I just wanted them to do what I wanted them to do – go from point A to point B without detouring to points C, D, E and F along the way.  But, they wouldn’t listen to what I had to say.

In the 53 years since then I’ve learned that people can be the same way.  We know who loves us and who doesn’t, who cares for us and who has our best interest at heart.  Just like sheep, we can sense the difference between someone who is loving, caring, and sincere, and someone who is trying to control us for their own purposes.  We become friends with the former and turn our backs on the latter.  

Or not.  Some folks decide they don’t need any help making it through life.  They can do it on their own.  Wander where they will with no concern for anyone else.  They’ll jump the hedge when something spooks them, and poop in someone else’s yard and think nothing of it.  Their actions are driven by fear, or because it feels good, or because it’s convenient, or to simply show they can.  But, they’re never really happy.

Still others let other people lead them to places they shouldn’t go, and they blindly follow. Often these are unhealthy relationships based on false love. Some idolize entertainers, politicians, or athletes thinking happiness will be found if they can be like them.

For my part, since I began to follow Jesus ten years ago, I’ve learned that no one loves and cares for me more than He does.  It’s His voice I listen for each morning as I sit in the solitude and silence of my daily meditation, conversing with Him, asking Him what His will is for me each day.  He is my Good Shepherd.  I know where He is leading me, to heaven, and I want to get there virtuously without detouring and ending up in other places that He doesn’t want me to go.  Why?  Because I hear His voice and follow Him out of love.  It’s where I find true happiness.

To whom do you listen?  Is it the Good Shepherd?  Or is it the harsh and demanding voice of today’s world that invokes anxiety; or the inviting call of pride; or the sexy but illusory whisper of self-pleasure that beckons you?

“Lord Jesus, You are my Good Shepherd.  I find peace and consolation each day knowing that You are watching over me, that You know what is best for me, and that You will lead me there.  All I have to do is listen to and follow You.  Amen.”

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

©2013-2022 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.

Be Like St. Mark

Tags

, , ,

St. Mark the Evangelist, Frans Hals, 1625

Today is the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, the author of the second Gospel.  Mark tells us that Jesus told the eleven Apostles, “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel.”  Tradition tells us Peter preached in Turkey and Italy, Thomas in India, Philip in Greece, Andrew in Ukraine and Russia.  Mark evangelized Egypt.  Others went elsewhere. Together, risking their lives, they spread the Good News.  

But, they didn’t get everywhere.  They saved the low risk people for you and me:  our next door neighbors, brothers-in-law, hair dressers, and plumbers.

Be like St. Mark.  Go and evangelize!

(Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for the grace of fortitude bestowed on me in the Sacrament of Confirmation that overcomes any fear I may have of evangelizing to those who may not know you.  Help us all, Lord, to complete the work of the Apostles, St. Mark and the other Evangelists.  Amen.)

(Be Like St. Mark was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Random Musings on a Spring Morning

Tags

, , , , , ,

My dear friend, Bob, and I were sharing stories a few evenings ago, both aware of how God has abundantly blessed us with family and friends.  Like me, Bob has been graced with the gift of tears and as we talked those began to well up and leak out. It’s often difficult to express how it feels to be on the receiving end of Christ’s infinite love and mercy, especially when we don’t feel we deserve it.  I can’t think of a better reason for tears of joy to be shared among friends.  The next morning, Bob sent me the following reflection that expressed that feeling perfectly.  I asked, and he consented to let me share it with you on Reflections of a Lay Catholic.  Thank you, Bob.

Random Musings on a Spring Morning, by Bob Magness

It’s been a bit of a surreal morning, enjoying a cup of coffee thinking about the day ahead and reflecting on the day that was.  The sun was poking through the trees and for the first time in a long time there was dew on the ground- not frost!  And my thoughts turned green.  Green with the thoughts of leaves budding from the trees… Green with the spring season… but mostly Green with the thoughts of the garden and the vegetable season ahead.  I like gardening.  I like the smell of soil and how it feels in your hands.  I like the promise of hope from putting that seed into that soil.  Hope that it sprouts and hope that it produces.  Hope is a pretty good thing.  

I got up to fill the coffee cup and clean the coffee pot.  And in doing so, I put the coffee grounds into the compost bin.  Yeah, I compost.  But it’s a lazy man’s compost.  It basically consists of coffee grounds and eggshells and whatever vegetable scraps we happen to produce throughout the week.  And then this goes into a pile behind the shed.  The unwanted, the scraps, the not pretty parts.  It’s amazing how much is generated- all that stuff you’d just as soon forget about – that you don’t want anyone to see.  So, into a pile it goes and thru the magic of Heaven and Earth a robust soil is created.   And it is magic especially if you garden- because it’s almost alchemy in its ability to turn that discarded rubbish into a black gold.  

My thoughts turned to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and Seeds and how some of the seeds fall on rocky ground and some of the seeds get mixed in with weeds and of course the preferred case where the seeds fall on fertile ground.  There’s probably a reason most people remember this parable even if they can’t remember the Book or Chapter or Verse.  It’s a great analogy and lesson that leads to deep conversation about whether you are the sower or the seed and how your perception transitions depending on where you are in that particular moment in time.  It occurs to me that no one ever talks about the terrain in which those seeds fall.  Perhaps we think that the terrain is static and unable to change.  

I remember hiking and seeing trees growing through the tiniest of cracks on a nothing but rock-faced landscape of a mountainside.  And I thought about how that seed was able to penetrate even the tiniest of cracks and even thrive in that rock.  And once in that tiny crack it’s able to open that rock and allow more soil which invites more seeds and increases that crack…a vicious cycle if you’re a rock. I began to think about glaciers and their ability to flatten mountains and grind those rocks into sand and how this helps the plants extract the valuable mineral content.   And again, I thought of Christ’s word and God’s ability to change anything.  But mostly I was thinking about that tree on the side of the mountain.  I concluded that Hope is the reason it’s holding on to that rock face.    

And I returned to my compost and what that compost has been able to do to the native, neglected, heavy clay soil in which my garden started all those years ago.  The biology that happens in that compost pile is worth noting – fungi and mold start the process. Then worms and insects move in to break down that material into something that is not only usable but beneficial.  Biology- more things that people don’t want to talk about and endure but it’s part of that magic.  It’s not a quick process, it can seem like a glacier.  Maybe it would proceed more quickly if I followed the rules or did it better.  Every now and then I’ll turn the pile to mix but mostly it just sits there.  When it’s ready, I add to the existing garden bed and plant. The seeds and plants flourish; and everyone comments how great the garden looks and how good those fruits and vegetables taste.  All from the discarded rubbish- those kitchen scraps and eggshells and coffee grounds and how they became part of my garden.  

All the unspoken things from earlier times… and my mind reflected on all those things I would rather not talk about.  Those scraps of bad actions and broken eggshells of worse ideas.  Like that lazy compost pile behind the shed, and what is returned has an amazing ability to amend the poor and rocky soil of my heart.  And somehow that pile produced a family garden.  Not through any work of my hand, but in giving that mess to Christ.  A garden.  Beauty beyond measure.  Pride beyond words.  

And there are still some thistle seeds present- always present.  I like to blame the finches but somewhere I know the truth.  

And there are still rocks in that garden.  

But there’s hope that the seeds sprout and take root and produce fruit and then yet more seeds.

And hope is a pretty good thing.

(Random Musings on a Spring Morning was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Peace in Knowing the Meaning of Easter

Tags

, , , , , ,

(Editor’s note: In the original posting yesterday, the link to the included homily broadcast did not work. It has been corrected.)

Resurrection of Christ, Noel Coypel, c. 1700

Happy Easter, everyone!  Christ is risen today!  Alleluia! 

It’s been a beautiful day here in Southwest Ohio.  A perfect day to celebrate and be joyful.  It didn’t begin that way for me, though.  I caught my annual springtime cold on Thursday and it’s steadily worsened.  I did go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper Thursday evening and coughed and sneezed my way through it.  And, as my cold got worse overnight, I knew better than to go to the Stations of the Cross and the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, and  I decided to skip going to the Easter Vigil Mass as well.

After a fitful night’s sleep I poured myself out of bed this morning and made it to 9:00 a.m. Mass.   I managed to make it through with only a few coughs and no sneezes. But, between my head being stopped up and the additional noise from all the extra people, I didn’t understand a word of Father’s homily. 

In resignation, I closed my eyes and repeated Simon Peter’s words from the Transfiguration, “It’s good that I am here”, and gave thanks for the opportunity to offer up my suffering and unite it to His cross.

As I stood to go up to communion I recalled the words from the second reading, Col 3:1-4, “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  With each step forward I was drawn to the glory of Christ resurrected, and away from the fogginess I’d been experiencing all morning.  By the time I reached the priest to receive the Eucharist, I felt an intense inner peace and knew I was smiling from ear to ear.  As I walked back to my seat, letting the Body of Christ dissolve on my tongue, I looked upwards, still smiling, thinking of what is above, and I spied above the entrance doors to the church the Risen Christ on the cross with His arms spread wide in love.  He was saying to me, “Your life is hidden here with Me.”  

As I knelt back at my seat and said my prayer of thanksgiving after communion, that feeling stayed with me.  I wasn’t focused on the way I felt, didn’t work to fend off a coughing fit or stifle a sneeze.  I just focused on Jesus, thankful for the hope that my destiny will be with him.  I knew that I will suffer things in my life much worse than a common cold, but in the end all of it will pale in comparison to the joy I will find when I find myself with Him.

I left Mass feeling pumped up spiritually yet drained physically, and still somewhat frustrated that I hadn’t heard well enough to understand Father’s homily.  I felt a little cheated.  Then, about two hours later, I received a message from a friend with a link to a homily from Fr. Ehli at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, North Dakota, where my friend’s daughter attends church.  It was like the Holy Spirit heard my grumblings and blessed me with what was probably an even better homily on which to meditate.  It hit home with me and I feel I need to share it with you here:  Fr. Ehli’s homily.  The homily begins at the 20:30 mark and ends at 31:30.  I won’t give his message away except to say that, between it and my experience at Mass, knowing what’s in store at the end makes the getting there, even with springtime colds and other struggles, much more peaceful.

I pray that your Easter has been a joyful one, that your Hope has found new life knowing that Christ defeated death and He is holding a place for you.  God bless you!

“Lord Jesus, You suffered and died for me and redeemed me of my sins.  Your resurrection defeated death and gave the world hope that, by following You, we may also defeat death and live with you for all eternity.  Thank you!  Amen.”

Resolution: I desire to sow the seeds of this Word today by making a concrete resolution to live with more peace in the present moment.

(Peace in Knowing the Meaning of Easter was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Facing Temptations

Tags

, , , , , ,

(A reflection on the Gospel of Luke 4:1-13)

The Temptation of Christ, Juan de Flandes, c. early 1500s.

Today’s Gospel is Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus. My Bible has many dates written next to this passage indicating I’ve read and meditated on it several times.  But, today, something caught my attention for the first time:  “Jesus…was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” (Lk 4:1-2).

Jesus didn’t just wander into the desert, He didn’t decide to take a mini vacation, or simply try to get away from it all.  No, God took Jesus there.  It was God’s will.  

One’s first thought might be, “Why would God do that?” Well, I think it was to test the human side of Jesus, to lay before Him a trial so that He could prove Himself.  Would He truly trust in God as He was taught in Psalm 91:1-2, that God would be His refuge and fortress, even with the devil trying to trick Him by reciting verses 11 and 12 from the same Psalm?  We know, of course, that Jesus passed the test and the devil “departed from Him…for a time.”

We may often wonder why we are faced with evil, with hardships, failed relationships and any measure of things we didn’t choose, can’t change, and don’t like.  Sometimes God may impose inconveniences and certain sufferings to test our faith, our resolve, and our willingness to trust in Him.  But, sometimes, God allows things to happen that challenge us, make us dig deep for courage, or cause us to love in ways we are not used to loving.  Sometimes we have to give up and turn loose of things to which we are attached.  Either way, God is putting us in the desert for a while, asking us to make room so that we can replace those attachments with Him. 

We are in the season of Lent and we are trying to prove ourselves by devoting more time to prayer, to making room for Him through fasting, and being more charitable through almsgiving.  We have been led into the desert by the Spirit.  The devil will certainly try to derail our promises with various temptations.  Be strong.  Don’t cave in.

And, any other time of the year, we will also find ourselves in situations, either imposed or allowed by God, where we will be tested.  Our trust in Him will be on the line.  When we are tempted, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this the right thing to do?”  Although the devil will lie to us and encourage us to listen to our feelings and say, “Yes”, we can prove ourselves by taking a moment to listen to our heart and our intellect and let those drive our decisions.  

How will you be tested this week?  What temptations will you face?  Where has God led you such that you’ve had to trust totally in Him?

Be strong.

Be smart.

Be like Jesus.

“Heavenly Father, help me to resist the lies and temptations of the devil by being more grateful for all the many graces and blessings You’ve laid before me.  Help me to remember all the tough times You have been there for me and how my trust in You pulled me through.  Amen.”

(Facing Temptations was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Are You Prepared for Lent?

Tags

, , , , , ,

Last summer my wife and I remodeled our kitchen and half of the first floor of our house.  Well, actually, we hired a contractor to do the work.  But, there were a few things I reserved for myself.  Before construction began we moved everything we could into the garage except for major furniture items which we moved to the basement.  After work was completed we moved the furniture back into the upstairs.  The stuff in the garage…well, it’s still there.

Another task reserved for myself with the idea of saving a few bucks was painting an accent color on a four by seven foot wall in our living room.  It’s now been seven months and it’s still not painted.

My wife occasionally, and patiently, asks me if I’m ever going to get these things done.  My response has been, “Yes, dear, you don’t have to remind me every six months!”

These things came to mind while reading yesterday’s scripture passages.  In the first reading from James 5:9-12, we are cautioned to keep our promises, to “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’”.

In the Gospel, Mark 10:1-12, Jesus and the Pharisees debate whether divorce is permitted in marriage.  In a nutshell, Jesus makes it clear that with marriage, a promise is a promise, and it can’t be undone through simple justification for convenience sake. 

It is four days before the start of Lent and most of us are considering what promises we will make during Lent.  For many, those promises will consist of giving things up, especially food and drink such as quarter pound burgers, chocolate, caffeine, and beer for 40 days.  

But, Lent is about more than giving things up.  It’s about preparing our soul to receive the glory of our Risen Lord at Easter.  The Church has traditionally suggested three ways to do this:  prayer, fasting and almsgiving, often called the Three Pillars of Lent.

The first pillar, prayer, is intended to dispose our hearts and souls to grow in friendship with Christ through conversation with Him.  It’s telling Him what is on our hearts and with what we are struggling.  It’s giving thanks for all we’ve been given and asking His assistance when we know we can’t do something ourselves.  It’s listening to His response, His message about what His will is for us, and then resolving to take action on those inspirations.  That resolution in itself is a “promise” which we then fulfill.

The second pillar, fasting, may include the challenge of giving something up, something difficult that will stretch our efforts.  But, that’s not the whole deal.  It’s more about clearing space in our soul for Jesus.  It’s rooting out the unnecessary stuff that takes up room and crowds Him out of our life.  It’s looking at our poor habits and vices and resolving to change so that God can replace them with virtue.

The third is almsgiving, the component that looks beyond God and ourselves and focuses on those around us.  It’s attention to the needs of others and seeing how we can love others as Christ loves us.  We may think of almsgiving as throwing a few extra coins in the collection basket, or dropping off a few extra boxes of cereal at the food pantry.  Those are good things but they aren’t everything.  It’s good to get creative with almsgiving, to do something which, like fasting, stretches us.  It’s not just about giving of our treasure, but of our time and talent, too.  

Resolutions don’t have to be excruciatingly difficult.  Keep them simple but challenging, doable and worthy of your effort.

I’ve never shared my Lenten resolutions because I didn’t want it to appear like a prideful thing.  But, this year, I am in hope they will help others use this season to become the person God created them to be.  Here are mine:

Prayer – I resolve to spend at least 30 minutes in meditation, reflecting, making a resolution and keeping it, every day without missing a day.

Fasting – I resolve to set aside the comforts associated with idleness and procrastination and be diligent about completing projects around the house.

Almsgiving – I resolve to write a note a day to 40 people whom I love and cherish, letting them know how much they mean to me.

In your effort to grow closer to Christ, the evil one will put obstacles in your path, especially the need to rationalize and justify why you should give up on your resolutions.  Do not give in!

“Dear Jesus, You sacrificed everything for me.  This Lenten season, help me to make sacrifices that will make room for You in my life.  Amen.”

(Are You Prepared for Lent? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Feed Your Flock

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

(A reflection on 1 Pt 5:1-4)

Christ’s Charge to Peter, Raphael, c. 1515

One of the most significant moments in Simon Peter’s relationship with Jesus was the third time Jesus revealed Himself to them after His resurrection when He asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”  Peter answered three times, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You!”.  And three times Jesus asked Peter to take care of His flock. (Jn 21:15-17)

Peter obviously took that request to heart and remembered it for the rest of his life.  In yesterday’s first scripture reading from 1 Pt 5:1-4, Peter writes to the Presbyters, the teachers of the faith, to tend to and be examples to the “flock of God”.

This passage struck me in a number of ways.  First, I recalled the many sentiments that were offered from comments at our deanery’s recent Synod on Synodality meeting.  Although those present were a mere microcosm of our Church, there seemed to be a general opinion that one of the problems in our Church today is that our bishops and priests are not adequately “feeding their sheep” or “tending their flock”. 

Secondly, it brought to mind that we are all called to be teachers of the faith in one way or another – through our vocations as a parent or friend, through our occupations, and our volunteerism in various ministries.  We only have to recall Jesus’ words to His disciples when He was faced with feeding the five thousand, “Give them some food yourselves” (Lk 9:13), to understand that He wants us to join with Him in His mission to save souls.

Today more than ever, our Lord needs us all, you and me, to help feed and tend His flock.  Too many are not being fed and are straying to what looks like “greener” pasture in today’s world of materialism, idealism and relativism.  Once they leap that fence they become easy prey for the wolves.  We need to fertilize our “Catholic” pasture so that the grazing sates their appetites.

How do we tend to the flock?  I think the first step is to set aside the idea that our faith is something that is done to us, that it’s someone else’s responsibility.  With too few priests and deacons to go around, the laity needs to take some ownership in their personal faith formation and that of those in their “pasture”.  We need to become better catechized, grow deeper in our relationships with Christ through prayer, and live virtuous lives that are examples of holiness to others.

Every person has an opportunity to be a witness to someone who is hungering for the Bread of Life and thirsting for the Living Water.  We need to remember that Jesus gave us one mission, to make disciples of all nations, and we need to make that a priority in our lives.  We don’t have to become missionaries or monks, we just need to live simply and find synergies in our everyday lives that will edify our families, friends and acquaintances.

We need to remember that the basic building block of our Church is not the parish, but rather our homes, the Domestic Church.  If we want to rebuild our Church we need to recall how the Apostles and the first disciples lived after Christ’s death.  Theirs was a two-pronged approach:  to stick together and build and protect their community, and to draw others into it by teaching them the truth of the Gospel.  We can do that with our families by practicing our faith with our children.  We can live hospitality and invite people into our homes for friendship and good conversation which may lead to opportunities to pray together.

We need to look for opportunities to be charitable to those in need by practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

We need to not be afraid to practice our faith in our work places as employers and employees; at school as educators and students; in athletics as fellow athletes and coaches; and where we volunteer.

Our faith ought to be personal but it should never be private.  We need to be bold and leave others with no doubt about our love for Jesus.

Put more succinctly, as laity, we need to step up our game, take ownership and not depend on just our clergy to feed the flock.  We need to survey our “pasture” of influence and determine who is grazing mindlessly in that pasture and on the verge of wandering off.  We need to provide them with “green grass” that will nourish and satisfy their souls.

What is your pasture?  Who is in your flock?  How can you feed and tend to them with the love of Christ?

“Dear Jesus, thank you for providing priests and friends who, through their gentle love and care, have shepherded me in my faith life.  I pray for the grace to do the same for those whom I mentor and lead to you through spiritual friendship.  Amen.”

(Feed Your Flock was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

It Is Good That We Are Here!

Tags

, , ,

(A reflection on the Gospel of Mark 9:2-13)

In today’s Gospel we find Peter, James and John atop Mount Tabor where Jesus is transfigured before them.  Elijah and Moses appear to them and converse with Jesus, terrifying the three disciples.  Peter, with deep respect, amazement, and, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words, tells Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!”

As we attend mass this weekend, or any day when we receive communion, let us remember that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist in all his divine glory.  Let us remember to tell Him, “Jesus, it is good that I am here!”

When we make a Holy hour of Adoration, let us remember that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist whom we adore, and let us remember to tell Him, “Jesus, it is good that I am here!” 

And, any time we enter a church, let us remember that Jesus is alive and at home in the Tabernacle and is welcoming us in.  Let us remember to tell Him, “Jesus, it is good that I am here!”

“Dear Jesus, You are my Savior, my Redeemer.  You love me more than I can ever imagine.  You are always by my side.  May I never forget Your presence and to love You in return.  Amen.”

(It Is Good That We Are Here! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

From the Archives: Groundhog Day

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Happy Groundhog Day!  I don’t know how it is where you live but if Punxsutawney Phil lived in Southwest Ohio, he would not have seen his shadow this morning!  We are facing the worst winter storm of the season with predicted ice accumulation and several inches of snow on top of that.

The weather forecast made me think of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day, and I remembered that I had previously written a post with that title.  Turned out it was from one year ago and it was a reflection connecting today’s first reading from the prophet Malachi (Mal 3:1-4) with the plot of the movie.  I re-read it and thought its message was worthy of reposting.  Thank you for taking the time to read it.  I hope its message will help you in your spiritual life.

_______________________________

It’s been two days since the world’s most renowned groundhog, Punxsutawny Phil, popped out of his burrow and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. (For my international readers who are unfamiliar with Groundhog Day, go hereto learn more).  Personally, I can’t make it through the second day of February each year without thinking about the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day,one of my all-time favorites, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

In it, actor/comedian Murray, plays the part of Phil Connors, an abrasive and self-centered television weatherman who is sent on assignment along with his producer and cameraman to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania.  During the festivities, Phil records his news report on the celebrated groundhog’s prediction with all the contempt for the “rat” (and the people of the town) that fits his egotistical personality.

In a kind of karma, Phil and team are forced to spend the night in the small town because of a severe winter storm which he failed to predict.  The following morning, Phil awakes in his hotel room bed and discovers it is February 2nd all over again, a deja vu which only he experiences.    Then, every morning afterwards, for what seems like a lifetime, he wakes at 6:00 a.m. to the same song on the radio only to find it is still February 2nd.

As the film progresses, Phil’s life progresses from denial to rebellion to despair and then finally to acceptance of his situation.  With acceptance, he learns to replace his pride with humility, his lust with love, and greed with generosity.  He learns the importance of beauty in life and placing others before himself.  In a sense, he is being refined each and every day that he is stuck in the seemingly endless time loop which only he experiences.  In the end, when he finally experiences the true meaning of selfless love, he wakes up one morning and it is February 3rd.

On Tuesday as I was reading the daily Scripture during my daily meditation I thought of this movie again.  For the last four years I have hi-lighted in yellow pencil the passages I have read each day, and underlined in red those phrases which the Holy Spirit put on my heart that day.  And, next to each, in pencil, I have written the date I meditated on that passage.  I’ve now been doing this long enough to see that I’ve read that same passage on or about the same date in a previous year.  

Many Catholics don’t know that the Church repeats the daily readings on a two-year cycle for weekdays, and a three-year cycle for Sundays.  I knew this and always thought it was simply an effective way to read almost the entire Bible over a three year period.  But, on Tuesday, I saw it differently.

In the first reading from Scripture that day, I read in Malachi 3:1-4, “For He will be like a refiner’s fire…” so that their offerings, “will please the Lord.”  It struck me that the only way we can grow in holiness is to continually be refined; that our purpose on earth is to be refined to the point where our final offering will, indeed, please the Lord and we will be united with Him in heaven.  

As Catholics, we don’t wake up to the same song every morning like Phil did, but our two or three year cycle does give us the opportunity to grow in holiness and virtue every day.  

For one who does not spend time in daily meditation listening to the Word of God and asking what His will is for them every day, it can be a difficult journey.  Without prayer and trusting in God to help, you can easily do like Phil, that is deny, rebel and despair when life doesn’t seem to get any better.  But when you spend time daily in conversation with Jesus and you’re docile to the Holy Spirit, and you accept and take responsibility for your faults and weaknesses, it becomes much easier to resolve to grow in virtue knowing you can trust in Him for help.  One day He may show you where your pride is strong and how to replace it with humility.  The next day the Word of God may lead you to growing in love and charity and away from lust or selfishness.  Still another day you may decide that you need to be more generous, or less envious, less angry, more grateful, or stronger in your faith.  Some days it will seem like you’re stuck in your own Groundhog Day (movie) time loop because you didn’t get it the first time…or the second.  But, with each conviction, you can resolve to become better in a particular aspect of your life every single day until your vices have been refined into sustainable virtues that “will please the Lord”.

My goal in life is to become a saint.  I want you to become one, too.  I would much prefer our refinement take place day by day here during our time on earth than when we have no control of it in Purgatory.  Ask the Lord to show you each day how you can grow in holiness, and pray for the grace to resolve to take action daily.  Even if they’re just baby steps, they’re still steps forward towards your goal.  A lifetime of baby steps will get us there.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and every day that I have to grow closer to You.  I pray for the grace to make the most of them by living my life as You would have me live it, with humility, prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, faith, hope and love.  Amen.”

(From the Archives: Groundhog Day was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.

Where Sin Increased, Grace Overflowed All The More

Tags

, , , , , , ,

It was ten degrees this morning when I drove through our sleepy little town of Lebanon, Ohio on my way to Mass. As the sun was beginning to peek over the eastern horizon, I encountered the usual light traffic of folks making their way to work. Ours is a quiet town, an historic town, with good folks.

As with most small towns we have many churches and as Catholics we are well represented.  I’d say the majority of the town’s citizens lean towards the conservative side of life and, in elections, generally favor the more conservative candidates and their views.  Thus, it was no real surprise that our City Council voted in May of 2021 to become the first city in the state of Ohio to be a sanctuary city for the unborn, a decision that nevertheless ruffled a few feathers.

In Scripture we hear, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom 5:20 NAB).  I truly believe St. Paul’s conviction, but it seems that it’s never the end of the story.  Evil has a way of rearing its ugly head in new and different ways, creating new opportunities for grace and goodness to abound.  

A particular opportunity will present itself this afternoon, at 4:00 p.m. EST.  The inaugural meeting of The Satanic Temple After-School Satan Club will be held in rented space at Lebanon’s 3rd/4th grade elementary school campus.  The flyer that was distributed encouraged children (with parental permission) to join and participate in “Science Projects! Puzzles & Games! Arts and Crafts Projects! Nature Activities!”  It went on to tell parents their child would learn about benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, creative expression and personal sovereignty.  

It all sounds good until you get to that “personal sovereignty” part.  To me that’s just another way of saying we don’t need God because we are our own gods.  As Christians, we know that the Mother of all Vices is Pride, and there’s no greater expression of pride than to reject God, thinking that we can take His place.

As you can imagine, there has been quite an uproar.  Parents have protested to the School Board only to be told that their hands are legally tied, that, since space is currently rented out to The Good News Club (a Christian club for children), they must accept the application from the Satanic Temple Club.  I understand, and agree with, the State’s point of view.  We are a country founded on respecting one’s religious preferences.  It’s what guarantees our own right to practice our faith.

The thing is, this is not a political battle.  It’s spiritual warfare, and once again, the forces of Goodness and Grace are being called upon to face off with the forces of evil.  We don’t do that by sending disciples with swords to cut off ears at an elementary school.  No, we do it with prayer and refusing to give the Devil his due.  

Today’s Gospel is from Mark 4:21-25, The Parable of the Lamp.  Jesus asks His disciples (and He’s asking you and me), “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?”  Also, today, we read from Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”  As Christians, we receive Him to light our path and we are called to light the pathway for others.  

There’s an old analogy relating God and evil to the science of physics.  Physics defines cold as the absence of heat, and darkness as the absence of light.  Our faith tells us that evil exists as the absence of God.  Put another way, the darkness of evil exists due to the absence of the light of God.  One might ask, “Why doesn’t God just shine the light on the evil ones?”  Well, he respects their free will.  But, he also expects us to do our part to bring His Light into the world. We ought to ask ourselves if we are doing that or are we being a barrier that blocks out the Light?

Our parish is conducting a prayer service at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon and will consist of praying the Rosary, calling upon our Blessed Mother to intervene, to turn hearts away from the evil that lurks in our midst, and let the Light shine.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today is Thursday, the day on which we pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  No, it’s the Divine Providence that we need.

If you are in Lebanon and would like to come to St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church today to pray at 4:00 p.m. EST, you will be welcomed.  You don’t have to be Catholic to pray a Rosary.  You can just show up to pray.  For those of you who are not local, please consider taking time to pray for us wherever you are at that time.  And, please feel free to share this post on FaceBook or forward it to your friends.  We need all the prayer warriors we can get.  Thank you!

Lord Jesus, Light of the world, open our hearts to be the light that shines on the path for all those who are searching for peace, beauty and goodness in the world today.  Let us not hide Your Light, but be Beacons of Light to others.  Amen.”

(Where Sin Increased, Grace Overflowed All The More was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2022 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.