Proverbs 27:17 – Iron Sharpens Iron as One Person Sharpens Another

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Today’s guest author is my good friend, Bob Magness.  Bob contributed Random Musings on a Spring Morning back in April. I love the way he assembles his thoughts and turns them into prose.  When I read his words I can hear him saying them in his baritone voice as though he were right here beside me.  

I first met Bob in April 2012 when I attended a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend (now called WELCOME) that transformed my life and led to my conversion.  Bob was one of the men who took me under their wing and taught me much about my faith.  He continues to do that today.  We just participated together on another WELCOME weekend.  As always, the experience was phenomenal and we received so many graces!  Two of these Bob put into words and he’s allowing me to share them with you.  The first is below and the second will be published tomorrow.  I’m sure Bob would appreciate any comments you have to offer.  

Sharpening Knives

by Bob Magness

For the last six months I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a Welcome team at our parish.  The process was not new to me – weekly meetings to form each other spiritually with the purpose of delivering a retreat weekend to another group of men that would bring them closer to Christ. 

I had been a part of this process a couple times before and I had seen the positive power of a good team and the destructive nature of a bad team.  Any apprehension I may have had was quickly dismissed as the team gelled almost immediately.  Five minutes into that first meeting and I could tell this team had something special.  Fifteen men: some who were friends, some just acquaintances, and some who had just met.  

It’s amazing what happens when a group gets together with a willingness to speak and to listen.  Maybe the best way to describe those conversations: life – just talking about life – what’s important, what needs addressed, what we can build off of, what we can celebrate, and above all, how we’ve seen God working in our lives. Being a part of this team was an absolute blessing.

We have a tradition in our parish that each Giving Team creates a banner that best describes the Team’s journey.  I had the honor of presenting our banner and explaining its significance to the men of the Receiving Team:  

Proverbs 27: 17- Iron Sharpens Iron as One Person Sharpens Another

Dull knives are dangerous not because they dont cut.  Theyre dangerous because theyre inefficient.  And that inefficiency leads to mistakes.  Those mistakes can be dangerous.  

To sharpen a knife, you need to expose a new edge.  This is usually done by grinding the old blunt steel against something harder than itself.  First one side and then the other until they form a new sharp cutting edge.  That newly exposed edge is then honed by repetition.  Honing takes care of any burrs.

For the last six months, weve met as a Team to find that new edge.  We started as strangers.  We talked as true friends.  We supported one another.  We challenged each other.  Grinding, polishing, honing… We prayed for truth, for wisdom, for each other.  Once strangers and now Brothers.  

Iron sharpens Iron.

Its a continuous process, even the best knife goes dull without proper care.  Keep it clean, hone it, keep it sharp.

Dull knives are dangerous. 

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(Proverbs 27:17 – Iron Sharpens Iron as One Person Sharpens Another 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.

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Respect for Life – The Great Cultural Divide

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October has for five decades been designated as Respect Life Month, a time to call to mind the value of every human life from conception to natural death.  Although the United States Supreme Court this year overturned the half-century old Roe vs. Wade decision regarding federal legalized abortion, we ought not to think any less of the continuing need to respect the lives of all people.  

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs vs. Jackson turned the legality of abortion over to each individual state.  While this can be considered a victory for our Church, for Christianity, and for our society, it changes the complexion of the abortion issue and presents new cultural concerns.  

A good friend forwarded to me yesterday a video of his parish priest giving his homily last Sunday, Respect Life Sunday.  Fr. Ed Meeks, of Christ the King Catholic Church in Towson, Maryland, delivered his homily with respect to the current state of affairs concerning abortion and respect for life.  Fr. Meeks calls the issue of legalized abortion in the United States “the fault line on the great cultural divide that separates two contradictory and exclusive world views.”  I believe it to be one of the best synopses I have heard of the issues before us and I wanted to share it with you here.  The homily entitled The Great Cultural Divide is 18 minutes long but I hope you will take the time to watch and listen.  It will be worth every second.  Please feel free to share and forward this to everyone you know.

God bless you all!

“Heavenly Father, we thank You for the grace to persevere and patiently endure in our struggle to combat the evils of abortion and euthanasia in our country and the world today. Amen.”

(Respect for Life – The Great Cultural Divide 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.

Lift High the Cross

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I have had the great fortune to spend this week at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas attending the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program as an alumni staff member.  As always, it has been an absolutely awesome week!  I received a text this evening from my spiritual director back home in Ohio asking me how my week is going and that he is praying for me.  I responded that, once again, it has been an amazing experience in an amazing place with amazing people and I still have three days left!  I added my thoughts about why it is that way, “It’s 100 people all seeking the same thing – holiness and the desire to help other men and women to do the same.  It’s the spiritual friendship that is developed from that common desire. It’s communion with God and with each other!  I wish you could be here, too.”

His response:  “Amen!  The Lord’s prerogative!  His words at the Last Supper:  ‘I pray for them, that they may be one…me in them, I in You, and You in Me, that we may all be one!’”  

Did I tell you I love my spiritual director?

I wish each and every one of you could be here!  We receive so many graces and feel the presence of Christ in so many ways, especially through our interaction with the students and staff.

Yesterday I posted Recognizing Miracles:  How You Can Resurrect the Dead in which I suggested that the dead or lukewarm spiritual lives of people we know can be resurrected by our witness to the presence of God in our lives.  I want to practice what I preach by passing on to you a special moment from yesterday.

Wednesday was the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a feast that was first celebrated in Rome before the end of the 7th century.  It commemorates the recovery of that portion of the Holy Cross which was preserved at Jerusalem, and which had fallen into the hands of the Persians.  It was recovered and brought back to Jerusalem in the year 629.

At mass yesterday morning in the chapel we sang the hymn Lift High the Cross.  The song’s refrain goes:

“Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim

’Til all the world adore his sacred name.”

The cross, that instrument of death which the Romans utilized to put fear in anyone who might think to counter their authority.  The cross, upon which Jesus died for our sins so that we might have eternal life.  The cross that, because of His resurrection, became a symbol of victory to all believers and, ironically, was used by Christians to thumb their noses at Roman persecution.

As I sang those words I thought how it explained our mission perfectly, to proclaim the love of Christ so that the world will adore Him.

Later in the day we were gathered in the chapel for Adoration and Reconciliation.  At the end of the Holy Hour I lingered for a few minutes as the others processed out.  When I bowed to take my leave, I looked up at the crucifix behind the altar and froze in wonder.  I took this photo so that I could share it with you.  

The shadow behind Jesus on the cross, which isn’t visible most of the day, struck me as an image of God lifting the cross high as if to say, “Here is my only Son Who gave His life for you!  Adore Him and proclaim His sacred name!”  Can you see it?

This is how God works in your life when you are open to receiving His love and reassurance that He is with you at all times!  You see and feel His presence in so many and unexpected ways.  

Ask our Lord to open your heart so that you may readily feel His presence, too.

I would love to hear of how you’ve seen or felt God working in your life lately.  Please feel free to share by adding a comment.  Thank you and God bless!

“Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to feel Your presence in my life.  ‘I adore You, O Christ, and I bless You, for by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world’.  Amen.”

(Lift High the Cross 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.

Recognizing Miracles: How You Can Resurrect the Dead

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“Jesus Raises the Son of the Widow of Nain” – Mathias Gerung, 1500-1570

(A reflection on Lk 7:11-17)

In Tuesday’s Gospel, Jesus performed a miracle and raised the son of a woman from the dead.  He showed compassion and mercy for the woman, a widow, who, without a son to care for her, would be left destitute and begging for sustenance.  Many people witnessed the miracle and were struck with fear, and they glorified God for what they saw.  They couldn’t contain their amazement and so spread the word across all Judea and the surrounding regions.

God works miracles of different degrees in all our lives.  They usually aren’t as profound as bringing someone back to life after they have died and are already in their coffin, but miracles nonetheless. We may recognize miracles when our prayers are answered, or when we receive some special grace or blessing which we feel we have not earned and don’t deserve.  The birth of a child is certainly a miracle.  Our guardian angel performs a miracle when we are saved from  a near death experience.  In smaller ways, we can consider the geometry and symmetry of a perfectly formed flower, or the beauty and iridescence of a hummingbird’s plumage when seen in a sunbeam, as miracles given to us by God.

Sadly, it seems, many miracles go unnoticed.  They aren’t recognized as miracles because they’re considered too commonplace, or they’re written off to science, or to simple good luck.  But, mostly, miracles aren’t recognized because people don’t look for them.  They aren’t open to receiving them.  They’re too caught up in the thick of thinner things to see God working in their lives.

Last week I posted in Is Your Faith Contagious? a reflection from my daily meditation wherein I asked myself whether I actively make the effort to reach out to bring people to Jesus for healing of their spiritual and emotional brokenness.  Today’s reflection is similar yet different.  Today, I was struck by how often I do see God working in my life, how I receive unexpected graces which sometimes I don’t feel I deserve, and how, like those who witnessed Jesus’ miracle, I absolutely need to bring Jesus to others by telling of the miracles (large or small) I experience in my life.

My wife and I marvel over and share with each other the beauty of the flowers in our garden, and the hummingbirds which frequent those flowers.

Each month I relate to my spiritual director, and the men with whom I am a spiritual mentor, how I’ve felt the Holy Spirit working in my heart.  And, I meet with two or three small groups of men for the explicit purpose of sharing our God-moments and encouraging each other to keep our hearts and minds open to receiving them.

The main purpose of this blog is to share inspirations and close moments with thousands of people around the world in hopes that they, too, will learn to see the presence and goodness of God in their lives.

I participate on a parish ministry team with other men in leading retreats where we give witness to the many ways in which various aspects of our lives have been touched by the Holy Spirit.  

Unlike the people who witnessed this miracle in the Gospel, we may have to heighten our awareness and pay closer attention to the smaller miracles God works in our lives.  But, just like them, we are all called to glorify God and spread the news of His good works to others.  When we do, we find that miracles beget other miracles as men and women are spiritually “raised from the dead” and given new life when they see how God has truly blessed them.

How have you seen God working miracles in your life recently, and how have you witnessed to others so that their spiritual lives might be resurrected from the dead?

“Dear Jesus, thank You for the grace to recognize Your presence in my life, especially in all the miracles that confirm Your love for me.  Thank You for the desire to share Your love with those who need to know both You and Your love for them more deeply.  Lord, I resolve today to sow the seeds of this reflection by reaching out to friends and ask them to share how they have seen God working in their lives recently.  Amen.”

(Recognizing Miracles:  How You Can Resurrect the Dead 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.

Is Your Faith Contagious?

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Jesus, the Divine Physician – St. James Catholic Church, Duluth, MN

In today’s Gospel, Luke 6:12-19, Luke tells of the great multitude of people who sought out Jesus to be healed of their diseases and to be cured of the torment of unclean spirits.  Luke doesn’t elaborate on how this great multitude of people learned about Jesus’ healing.  But, I suspect it happened by word of mouth, by those who heralded the healing and curing power of Jesus to their family and friends.

Reflecting on this passage, I related to the poor tormented souls as I recalled a time when I was overwhelmed by stress and the exigencies of life which brought so much unhappiness.  I wasn’t looking for Jesus to cure me, but I let friends who knew I needed Him carry me to His emergency room, an ER with zero wait time!

So, I ask myself today, have I been one of those friends who, after being cured, or having witnessed His healing, made the effort to tell others who need Him?  I can say “Yes”, but reservedly.  This blog is one way I get the word out.  I evangelize through spiritually mentoring other men to develop their interior lives and their relationships with Jesus.  I share my faith in small groups with other men who already have a strong faith.  But, do I reach out effectively and proclaim the Good News to those who have not heard it or are indifferent to it?  Is my faith contagious?  I think I can do better.

How about you?  Is your faith contagious?  In what ways do you tell others about Jesus and His saving grace?  How might you do better?

“Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your constant presence in my life.  Lord, open my heart to new ways to bring others to You, and, through Your grace, help me to realize the virtue of fortitude I need to be outgoing in bringing Your Word to others.  Help me, Jesus, to live my life in a way that others want some of what I have.  Amen.”

(Is Your Faith Contagious? 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.

St. Anthony of Padua – Patron Saint for the Recovery of Lost and Stolen Items

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Monday was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, a Portugese Franciscan friar who died at the age of 35 in the year 1231 in Padua, Italy.  He was a holy priest, loved by everyone and known for his preaching, knowledge of scripture, and care of the sick and homeless.  He was canonized by Pope Gregory IX in less than a year after his death.  He is considered the patron saint for the recovery of lost and stolen Items.  

Yesterday I decided to invoke his assistance.

There’s been some strange and mysterious stuff going on around my house lately.  Too many things have come up missing.  I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it but something’s going on.  I need St. Anthony’s help.

Monday night we had a tremendous storm roll through our area with intense lightning, heavy rain, and unbelievably strong straight-line winds.  It only lasted a half hour or so but it knocked out our power and downed one large maple tree and broke two others in half.  I do not own a generator so we ate dinner by candlelight and then went to bed when it got dark.  

We awoke yesterday morning with still no power.  I wanted to reach out to friends to see how they fared but my cell phone was almost dead and, with no power, I had no way to recharge it.  So, I went to my vehicle to plug my phone into the car charger but it was nowhere to be found.  I have an identical charger in my wife’s car so I went to plug it in there.  Again, no car phone charger.  Both gone.  An hour later I picked one up for $30.00 at a department store which fortunately had power.

Monday, I was sanding down a table top in preparation for refinishing.  There was a small crack in the oak top which needed filling with a little wood putty.  I went to my storage cabinet where I thought I had a tube of putty purchased last year for another project but it was nowhere in sight.  I’d used a quarter teaspoon of putty out of that tube and now it’s gone.  Six dollars later I had a new tube.

Last week I lost two pair of reading glasses.  I have searched every room in the house and garage to no avail.  I have (had) about six pair laying around but these two were my favorites.  

The week before I lost a fairly new pair of sun glasses.  They were in my truck and I moved them to my wife’s car and now they’re in neither place.  Gone.

That same week I lost a spoon and fork that belonged to a friend who left them at my house.  One day I had them and was going to take them to his house but something else came up and I didn’t get to deliver them.  The next day when I went to take them to him, they were gone.

A few days before that I changed the oil in my truck.  I have a long-nozzle funnel which I need to add new engine oil.  I use it for this one purpose only and keep it with the other items I need for changing oil but it, also, had disappeared.  

I don’t know what’s going on but it’s getting frustrating.  I don’t have any children at home to hide my stuff, and nobody’s asked to borrow anything.  Maybe I’m losing it?  As you read this, does it sound like I’m getting feeble minded?  Is forgetting where one puts things the first phase of dementia?  I’m at my wit’s end.  It’s time to invoke St. Anthony.

“O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and Charity for His creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Encouraged by this thought, I implore you to obtain for me the return of the above mentioned items. O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours. Amen.”

(St. Anthony of Padua – Patron Saint for the Recovery of Lost and Stolen Items 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.

Ask and You Shall Receive

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(A reflection on the Gospel of John 16:23-28)

One night a week or so ago I didn’t sleep well and I woke up groggy and too late to go to 7:30 morning mass.  In fact, I barely had time to get my act together and make it to 9:00 mass at another parish.  I didn’t have time for my morning meditation and, because of the slew of errands i I had to run during the day, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit it in until my Adoration hour that evening.  So, my resolution for the day was the standard I use in situations like this:  “Heavenly Father, grant me the grace to recognize and act on the opportunities you present to me today to be charitable to others.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

My first stop after leaving mass was the grocery store.  As I pulled into the parking lot the skies opened up and it began to pour down rain.  I decided to wait it out and lay my seat back and take a little nap until it stopped raining.  I checked the clock to see what time it was and then closed my eyes.  Three minutes later, just as I was about to doze off, I heard a knocking on my window.  There, looking me in the eyes with her nose almost touching the glass, with either rain or tears running down her cheeks, was a young woman asking, “Sir, my car won’t start, would you mind giving me a jump?”

I immediately replied, “I don’t have any jumper cables” (which was the truth), to which she responded, “I do!”.  I couldn’t very well say we should wait until it stops raining since she was already soaked to the bone, so I agreed to help her.

The shopping cart corral was between her car and mine so I pulled out and maneuvered my truck close to her little sedan.  By the time I got my hood opened I was already sopping wet.  The young woman pulled her jumper cables out of her back seat and they were the shortest set of cables I’d ever seen, only about three feet long and they wouldn’t reach my battery.  I repositioned closer to her car, reopened the hood and connected the cables, which barely reached, and soon we had her car started.  As I disconnected the cables and closed the hood, she politely told me, “Thank you.”

I got back in my truck and pulled back into my parking spot.  As I watched her pull away I realized the extent of my sogginess.  I started to complain when it hit me that I had received exactly what I’d asked for, a chance to be charitable to someone else.  I looked upwards and, with a chuckle, prayed, “Lord, you didn’t waste any time, did you!”  In my imagination I could hear God, with a chuckle in His voice saying, “You asked for it so I gave it to you.  Thank you, my son”, to which I replied, “You’re welcome….and thank You!”

This memory came back to me as I read today’s scripture.  In today’s Gospel, John 16:23-28, Jesus tells us that “whatever you ask the Father in my name He will give it to you….ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete.”  This was nearly the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before He was arrested.  It was His last request to His friends.  He had told them He was going away but He would send the Advocate to be with them in His absence.  He wanted them to know that He wasn’t leaving them alone and if they trusted in Him they would still find joy no matter what.

Jesus wants us to trust Him, too.  He wants us to know that His Spirit is with us all the time and all that we have to do is call upon Him and ask Him for what we need.  We please Him immensely when our request is for something good, something that is in line with making us like Him, something that leads us toward holiness.  

If our request is for something that is not good, we might get what we ask for or we might not.  We might get it to teach us a lesson, or we might not get it because we’ve sold ourself short and He’ll give us something even better.  The important thing is to ask Him, to include Him in our daily lives, to trust that His generosity will provide the best for us and that it will complete our joy.

How often do you ask Him for help?

“Lord Jesus, I know that I don’t ask You for Your help nearly enough.  You’ve told me that, without You, I can do nothing.  I need to take that to heart and spend more time asking You for the good things in life like:  loving my family and neighbors as they deserve to be loved, being more virtuous, and loving You more dearly by spending quality time with You in prayer.  Come, Holy Spirit!  Amen.”

(Ask and You Shall Receive 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.

The Good Shepherd

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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

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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

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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)

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