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Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Surviving Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost here, a time Americans have set aside to express gratitude to God in the company of family and friends. But at a time of deep divisiveness in the country and indeed the world, holidays that bring us together can also tear us apart. Here are three tips for surviving (and thriving!) this Thanksgiving:

  • Take the high road. You will never, ever regret it. Even if someone wants to argue with you, be graceful, change the subject, and acknowledge that they have a right to their opinion.
  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking only intensifies anger, bitterness, and sadness. You don’t need any of them at your Thanksgiving table! Choose a sparkling nonalcoholic drink instead.
  • Take a break. If the conversation is going somewhere that makes you uncomfortable, excuse yourself for a few moments. Go to a quiet place (even the lavatory!) and say a prayer. This won’t change the situation at the table, but it will change how you feel about it.

At this time of year it’s especially important to remember that we are all God’s children—even the people with whom you disagree. Try and see everyone through God’s loving eyes, and initiate conversations that heal rather than divide.

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

How much am I to give? One may ask when hearing today’s Sunday Gospel. Jesus was in the temple observing people putting money into the treasury. Afterwards he lauds one person who seemed to have surpassed them all. The Lord sees the heart and that is the difference!

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“. . . all she had . . .”

In the Gospel readings these past few Sundays, scribes have not fared well. Today Jesus castigates those who, in avarice and lust for prestige, twist the Law to line their own pockets, even at the expense of society’s most vulnerable members—widows. In a different twist, one of those widows unwittingly bests both that crowd and the rich, whose offerings clatter in the treasury boxes that line the Temple walls. As if to sketch the face of true worship, Jesus observes that she “contributed all she had,” not to extol giving that harms the giver, but to laud the offering of the heart.

Chances are, we’ve all been muscled into a donation of some kind. We may have wished that a lighter heart could have accompanied the lighter wallet. Our reluctance may stem less from selfishness than from caution. We want to give to a “worthy cause.” We might even want to control how our contribution—money, time, energy, talent—is appropriated. That may be prudent; after all, in trying to do good with our limited resources we don’t want to feel we’re spinning our wheels. But such clinging can tarnish the Godlike sheen that comes from a spontaneous, lavish outpouring of love. Whether we give or receive, if we look only at the numbers, we miss the Gospel point.

Do I resist giving of myself, including my prayer, because no one can guarantee its “success”? Do I compare myself with others and demur, with the excuse that my small contribution won’t make a dent anyway? Our widow doesn’t seem to care either way. What does it matter if others give more? She is free. It only matters that God esteems her gift of the heart. The Gospel story’s paschal/liturgical dimension backlights another sacrificial love: the Crucified/Risen One himself and the Eucharist—one life, one loaf, one cup, emptied for the life of the many.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

Uncategorized

My God, My All!

God is everything. Every good thing comes from God. Everything is his. Therefore, I must have complete confidence in him. (T5, 1955, 88)

My God, you are with us! You said to our Founder: Do not be afraid. No, I do not fear, notwithstanding my miseries, sins and defects. I want to remain with you always.              (T5, 1956, 123)

Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo

Inspiration, Uncategorized

All Souls: Thoughts and Memories

Commemorating our deceased loved ones is very much a part of our lives and the life of the whole world, for that matter!

I was once visiting Guam and happened to be there on November 2nd of that year. We were invited by our hosts to go with them to the cemetery to keep vigil and to pray and to celebrate the lives of relatives and friends who had gone before us in the sleep of peace. What an experience! People were there as early as the crack of dawn, praying and chanting, along with processions and song. I shall never forget that experience.

Go to any of the five continents throughout the world and you will find a wide variety of faith symbols that will leave you with much reverence and heartfelt prayer for those who have gone before us into eternity.

I remember my paternal grandfather making a trip to the cemetery every year on Palm Sunday to visit the graves of my grandmother and uncle, and bringing palm branches, flowers and a votive candle to recall their lives and to pray for them in a special way of remembrance aside from his daily prayers for their repose.

Each culture has their customs, tributes and vigils to offer that are deeply ingrained in their hearts as they recall the blessings and virtues these souls have lived during their lives.

I think that All Souls’ Day is closely linked to All Saints’ Day to remind us that there are souls, even today, who have lived heroic lives in the face of their everyday trials and tribulations and left us examples of fortitude, patience, and constancy in the face of the same difficulties that we too may have. Our ancestors are worthy of our veneration and lasting remembrance.

I hope this generation will have the opportunity I had of experiencing this deep devotion, of venerating loved ones and acquaintances who have passed from this life to the next in holy peace, of remembering the dead for happy times experienced together and for the virtues they lived.

by Sr Barbara Gerace, FSP

Read more: Purgatory, Candy, and All Saints by Jeannette de Beauvoir

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here is another Gospel  where a person is seeking to be their best in the eyes of God. A valid question, “What is the first of all the commandments?” And Jesus answers him directly stating the first and the second greatest that is very much connected to it. There is no doubt left in the scribes mind about the importance of love here.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“Well said, teacher.”

Mark’s Gospel—generally considered the first to be written—has a very human quality. Often we seem to be viewing events through the eyes of an actual witness: Jesus sleeping in a boat with his head on a cushion, looking lovingly at the rich young man, or gazing about in anger. Some early Christian writers thought that Mark wrote down what Peter preached, which would certainly account for the eyewitness quality of Mark’s writing. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all relate a discussion about the Great Commandment that took place between Jesus and a scribe. But there are surprising differences in the three accounts. (Well, perhaps not so surprising, if we remember that a few decades had passed between the event and the writing.) Of course, the possibility exists that two or three scribes questioned Jesus at different times regarding the same all-important point. But commentators on the Scriptures consider this unlikely.

Matthew and Luke convey a negative impression of the scribe. He asks his question to “test” Jesus. Mark, instead, presents the scribe as a man who has deeply studied the Law and drawn his own conclusions. He sincerely wants to know whether Jesus’ thoughts on the Great Commandment match his own. He and the Master quickly find themselves on the same wavelength. It’s interesting that the scribe makes explicit what Jesus has implied, by adding: “. . . there is no other than he.” It’s as if this man had been mulling over these truths for years. I’m struck by his final comment: “. . . worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” which Jesus affirms.

In reflecting on this double commandment and its practice today, I get the impression that the pendulum may have swung too far toward good deeds and away from ritual. For many people, religion seems to consist only in helping others and not worshiping God. Instead, we’re called to do both, as the two parts of the Great Commandment indicate.

Everyday Grace

Everyday Grace: Praying for the Dead

Did you know that the general custom of praying for the dead dates back to the Hebrew Bible? (2 Maccabees 12:42-46) But it wasn’t until the fourteenth century that Rome set aside a special day of intercession for the dead, praying for souls in purgatory that they might find perfect union with God.

How can you mark the Feast of All Souls?

  • If there is a Mexican community near you, you might join in or observe Day of the Dead processions/celebrations. Why not try some special food? Pan de muerto (sweet rolls shaped like a bun, topped with sugar, and often decorated with bone-shaped phalanges pieces) and calaveras (sugar skulls, display colorful designs to represent the vitality and individual personality of the departed) are both popular.
  • Nearly every culture includes visits to cemeteries on All Souls’ Day (and the night before); in Hungary it’s a silent, reflective time, with extra buses available to shuttle people to graveyards, while in Louisiana, relatives whitewash and clean the tombstones and prepare garlands, wreathes and crosses of real and paper flowers to decorate them. In the afternoon of All Saints’ Day, the priest processes around the cemetery, blessing the graves and reciting the Rosary.
  • This is an important time to gather as the community of faith at your parish church. There’s a Polish legend that at midnight on All Souls Day a bright light shines on the local parish; the light is the holy souls of departed parishioners gathered to pray for their release from purgatory at the altars of their former earthly parishes.

No matter how you mark this day, it’s a time to stop the flow of everyday life and remember those we love who have died, to reminisce about their lives and the gifts they gave us, and to pray for their souls to be united forever with God in heaven.

My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Does Jesus hear me when I call? The psalmist wrote, “When I call answer me, O Lord.” Being persistent in prayer shows our faith in the God who sees all and knows all. He will answer in a way that convinces me that God knows what is best. Lord, guide me on the way.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“. . . many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more . . .”

Today’s Gospel has no red tape, no official procedures, no process to get things done. It’s plain and simple. Bartimaeus feels the fire of Jesus’ presence and sees possibilities for a new life. He begins to cry out, and he isn’t going to let the others in the crowd squelch that dream. Perhaps all the people following Jesus, maybe even the apostles themselves, are lazily listening, trailing behind the Master, soaking in what he says. Bartimaeus, however, wants action. He seizes the moment and takes Jesus at his word. Lord, I want to see!

Where are you? Is your discipleship lazily moving along? Does it involve only Mass on an occasional Sunday, extra donations here and there, Christmas and Easter celebrated in style, token comments on debates over issues that touch on morality? Or do you have a Bartimaeus type of discipleship? Do you go straight to Jesus? Do you tell him what you need, what you want? Do you know what you want, what you most deeply want? Do you have a vision for your life as a Christian? Are you growing, changing, maturing? Do you set goals? Do you have groups or companions for accountability? Do you live your relationship with Jesus as the most vital part of your life?

Jesus can make you aware, if you want to be. He can take away your blindness, deafness, confusion, and illusions. He can make your heart soft and compassionate. He can reinstate you in the community. He will do whatever it takes to bind you to him. Don’t just follow the crowd. Don’t just talk about Jesus and his agreeable sayings. Don’t just argue over newspaper headlines about the Catholic Church. Be a Bartimaeus Christian and get something done in your life. What do you really want? Take some time to reflect on that question because when you go to Jesus, he will ask you, “What do you want me to do for you?”

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

Uncategorized

Everyday Grace: 3 Ways to Get Ready for Advent

It’s that time of year when everything seems to suddenly accelerate. Summer ends and school starts and then it’s Halloween and All Saints’—and before you know it, we’re in Advent already! Whoa! How can you slow things down so you can really mark the season?

  • Plan ahead. Pauline Books & Media has a special planning guide called Put Jesus First that will help you navigate the season and ensure you have a good Advent. It’s a free download so get yours now!
  • Start with reconciliation. Confession is an important part of preparing your heart for Jesus: it will help you identify any cobwebs you may not be seeing on your own. Start with a clean slate!
  • Prepare for light. We’re entering the darkest time of year, which can be difficult for many. If you feel down, consider a “happy light” for light therapy. It’s hard to feel joyful when you’re feeling depressed!

Advent is a time of preparation, but doing too many things at once will always make you feel unprepared. Banish those feelings and get ready to welcome the Light of the World!