Throwback Thursday Reruns: Thy Will Be…

Welcome to another edition of Throwback Thursday Reruns. This post ran in December 2011 after a homily when the Gospel was the story of the Annunciation and Mary’s Fiat. I still find myself praying that God’s will be what I want instead of praying for acceptance far more than I would like. But, awareness is half the battle, right?

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This past weekend’s Gospel was from Luke 1: 26-38. This the the story of the Annunciation, when the Archangel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God.

Photo Found Here

In his homily, this weekend, Father put forth an interesting juxtaposition. Side note: does anyone else get excited to use a word like juxtaposition in their blogpost? Yeah, I figured. (I am SUCH a nerd!)

He reminded us all how fearful this moment must have been for Mary. She was young, a teenager, and she was being told that she would conceive a child, (when she had no relations with a man). Without the fact that this child would be the Savior of the World, this was scary. She was betrothed to Joseph who could choose to leave her; becoming pregnant out of wedlock might get her outcast (and that was probably the least scary option); and going through pregnancy, labor and childbirth without going through normal human means to get to that situation…the chances are that Mary might have wondered if there were ANY way at all to bring the Lord, our Savior into this world without having to go through all of this, that she might pray for that instead. But she said, “May it be done to me according to Your will.”
Then he reminded us all how fearful the night before His Crucifixion was for our Lord in the Garden. He prayed that if there were any way at all to accomplish what He needed to accomplish without going through the torture that lay ahead, that He would rather do that. But His prayer, ultimately, was “Thy Will Be Done.”
The juxtaposition was this: Instead of praying with the spirit and intention of “Thy Will be Changed” Jesus and Mary both prayed with the spirit and intention of “Thy Will be Done.”
How often when I pray, do I say the words, “Thy Will be Done” but with my heart and mind I say, “Thy Will be Changed”? I have caught myself more often than I want to admit with the prayer, “Please, Lord, Let it be your will that X, Y, or Z happen.”
I thought about this a lot this weekend.
It’s human to want things in our lives. We think we know what’s best for us. We would like to avoid suffering. We’d like to partake in all the comforts of this life while avoiding all of the discomforts (or most of them anyway). And I think it’s in some of Paul’s writings in the Bible (yes, I’m showing my Catholic laziness by not trying to find the actual Bible verses…sorry) that we are to petition the Lord. He wants us to pray and petition Him. That is how we build a relationship with Him. However, just because the outcome WE desire does not materialize, does not mean God has not heard our prayer or has not answered our prayer.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in our prayers to God and think that we must be praying for what is God’s will because we desire it so much in our hearts. We make ourselves believe that God put that desire on our hearts or else we wouldn’t feel it so strongly. And, then when our hearts’ most urgent and real desires do not become reality, we kind of stomp our feet and say, “Well, why do I desire this so fervently if it’s not Your Will, God!?!?” And sometimes we only pray all the harder for this intention.
It’s hard to remember that God answers prayers on His terms, in His time. And it’s hard to remember that God’s will is not always something we ourselves would choose.
I have a favorite line/quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first of the series). When I think about what I want versus what God wants, it pops into my head. It is at the end of the book when Dumbledore and Harry are having sort of debrief discussion after the climax of the story. Dumbledore tells Harry,

“–the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

Now, of course. humans do not ALWAYS choose something that is worst for them. However, that which is best for us usually entails a bit of work, or some suffering, most likely some sacrifice.
More than likely, God’s will for us is going to take at least some work on our part, most definitely some sort of sacrifice and undoubtedly a bit of suffering.
How often do we see our choices ahead of us and ask God to grant us the way with the least amount of work, sacrifice and suffering? And then, when the way that unfolds for us is the one with the work, sacrifice and suffering, we are sad, we think God didn’t hear us and we surely believe God didn’t answer our prayer if, somehow, He did hear us.
I have found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve thought about this message over the last 24-48 hours. I am challenging myself to honestly assess my prayers and hold myself accountable for where my heart is anchored.
Do I pray with the spirit and intention and request that God’s will be changed to conform with my wishes and desires?

Or do I have the courage, wisdom and fortitude to pray with the spirit and intention and request that God’s will be done in my life?

Love God the Most

The Gospel reading at Daily Mass yesterday was one of those really hard ones to hear and probably even more difficult to completely understand.  I could have many different reflections with regard to this Gospel reading, but this time, I was struck by the part I have italicized and bolded below:

GOSPEL: Matthew 10: 34 — 11: 1 34 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.  He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” And when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

There are similar passages in Mark and Luke where Jesus says that we must love God more than anything else…more than our family and friends.  This is a hard thing to comprehend because I think it’s a pretty normal thing for most of us to feel like we love our spouse more than we could love anyone or anything else. Or maybe we look at our children and we acknowledge a level of love that we cannot fathom being surpassed.  Yet, Jesus still commands us to love God the most.  


The homily centered on the fact that we are not to love God because HE has any NEED for our love.  That idea is preposterous because God, Himself, IS love.  There is nothing we can give to God.  But, our happiness (whether to be had on this earth, in this lifetime or in the next life) depends on our ability to love God the most.  If we love God more than we love our family, our friends, our things, our jobs, our activities…then we order our actions in such a way that we are happy.  

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What are the implications of ordering our love in this manner?  When our spouse desires something either from us or from him/herself, if that is not ordered in such a manner that God is served, first and foremost – and we recognize that – then we must try to serve God and deny our spouse’s wishes, or at the very least…attempt to influence our spouse to order desires with love of God in mind.  As we raise our children they will reach the age of reason and discernment.  Very likely, they will want certain things in a material sense, or they will desire to participate in something which is not ordered to a love of God.  And if/when we recognize that, we, as parents, have a duty to guide our children away from their own personal desires to take action that is ordered to love of God.


If we order our actions to a love of God, we will be happy.  But that happiness is not necessarily immediate…most likely it will not be reached until we meet God face-to-face when our earthly life is done.


Our society tends to think of happiness in the here and now.  We don’t like to suffer and we think that if an action helps us to feel happiness, then God must surely approve.  I’m not convinced that God approves of our happiness in the here and now.  It seems to me that Jesus usually speaks of our happiness in the future tense.  


It also follows, for me, that happiness on earth doesn’t seem to jive with happiness for eternity.  It seems there are many times that Jesus infers that we must forego earthly happiness to attain true happiness with Him in Heaven.  So, even loving and being happy with my spouse, or loving and being happy with my children doesn’t mean that I will have happiness with Jesus for eternity.  I would imagine that ultimately, the suffering I may endure here on earth will help me appreciate and attain happiness for eternity. 


Our lives on earth are full of suffering…for some of us suffering looks very different than it does for others.  Perhaps we have financial struggles.  Perhaps our marriage is put to the test.  Perhaps we endure spiritual warfare.  Perhaps we raise our children in the Catholic faith, only to have them eschew it as soon as they are on their own.  Perhaps we struggle with our state of fertility.  Or perhaps there’s an addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography.


Through these bouts of suffering, it seems that Jesus is asking us to love Him the most.  In the times it is probably the hardest to do, He is commanding that we do it.  
There is a lot more suffering in this world than there is happiness.  But I’m trying to remember that happiness on Earth isn’t the ultimate goal.  Possibly understanding that happiness with our state here on Earth isn’t necessarily what we should strive for is the biggest step in Heaven’s direction.  


True happiness is loving God the most.

 

Pondering the Unknowable Future

When I set out to work in my field, I had every intention of working my way to the top as quickly as possible.  Craig and I hadn’t intended to have any children (I’m sure God has slapped His knee and had a hearty laugh over that one!) so we would give everything to our respective jobs to make as much money as possible so we could have lots of fun vacations and cool toys.


Having more than two children…depending on where in your timeline you have them…limits options in the professional realm.  When it comes to the industry I am in, there’s a decision to pursue advancement or have a family that seems to take place all the time.  I have accepted the fact that I made the decision to be open to a larger family and that has limited my professional opportunities.  As a matter of fact, I have retreated and sometimes simply side-stepped in my “career” (for lack of a better term) in order to ensure I can balance my family commitments and work commitments in such a way that I can be fairly happy with both.


I feel like I make that decision to pursue professional opportunities or pursue my family over and over again.  The more children I have, the more the decision has been in favor of family.  


There is a part of me that wonders if I might have ever reached the professional heights I started out seeking had I never married and had children.  —–Because, you know, I might have had a wreck of a career anyway.



I feel like I go in phases with where my thinking leads on this stuff.  Sometimes I am jealous of those folks who have their one or two or three kids and say, “Enough!  I have had enough children!  I am going to move forward and know that I am DONE!”  (DONE referring to the having children thing)  Other times, I am bewildered by those folks.  Internally, I ask, “how can you KNOW?  I mean, for sure.  Like even when you know….how do you know you’re right about that?”  


There is this part of me that wonders if I will ever feel the finality of childbearing…before the physical reality of menopause hits.  —–Because, you know, I might not ever be ready to be done.  What then?

I guess what I do know is this:  Having children changed what I valued.  Over the years, baby smiles, First Communions, Christmas mornings, days at the park, sharing books, and ball games and practices have all proved to be greater than a spot in the board room, overtime and networking.  


Over time, and through my reversion and the precedence my relationship with God has taken in my life, I have come to value gifts from God in the form of eternal, irresistable, goodness (those irresistable souls of my children!) over money, prestige and material importance.


Further, the idea of being done receiving eternal souls entrusted to us by our Heavenly Father, continues to feel elusive.  There are times I pray that I could receive such a sense of surety about the matter.  And others, where I believe I will feel sad to receive that surety.  Because let’s face it:  the day will come when I am no longer able to conceive, carry and bear a child — God, in His infinite goodness and mercy, worked it out that way.  


Sometimes I feel like the one-who-is-opposed-to-everything-God (Satan, himself) knows how to prey on my weaknesses; my insecurities.  The devil points to my house or to our van and he says, “See, you don’t have any room.  Would you make all your girls share a room again?!?  And…you’d have to buy a new car if you had another baby.”  


And the devil points to my lack of savings and says, “See, you don’t have any money saved.  You can’t afford another baby.”  


And the devil points to my hectic schedule and says, “See, you don’t have enough time for the children you have now…why do you think you could ever handle another?”

But then I wonder…why do these ideas have to be the bad ones? Just because I feel weak?


But then I try to view these things through the heart of Jesus.  And I think Jesus might say, “Yes, you might need a different vehicle, but would it really kill you if you had to drive two vehicles to Grandma’s house?”  Or even, “If you need a different vehicle, it will happen, just maybe not in the form that you thought it would.”  


Jesus might look at my lack of savings and remind me, “Blessed are the poor.”  And Jesus might point out that our bills are paid, and no we’re not rolling in money, but we have what we need.  


As for my schedule, instead of pointing out what I think I may not be able to do for my children, Jesus might point out that my children benefit from having both parents involved as much as we are.  They get to see their father after school and before he goes off to work and then have their mother to tuck them into bed.  Jesus might point out that I have time to coach volleyball and read with my children.  And Jesus might also point out that as siblings, my children obtain benefits I cannot measure as their mother.  I can pull from my own sibling relationships to see there is value in those that cannot be found in the parental relationships.

But then I wonder…why do I think these are the good thoughts and not the evil ones? You see, sometimes I wonder if I am ordering my thoughts to MY wishes and desires instead of truly seeking what God wants.


A wise man once gave me the advice that should Craig and I ever feel that we are “done” having children, as the world views it, we should take that feeling with us into prayer, in front of the blessed sacrament and also have a talk with a good priest about the issue.  


I’m experienced enough to know that whatever I am feeling right now about this topic is really not to be trusted as I am in the throes of new-babydom since Vincent is just over 6 months old.  It’s a tricky time to be deciding anything for sure.  


But yet, there’s the pressure to decide.  Sometimes, the rewards of the eternal are difficult to embrace in the face of the immediate, material sacrifices.


And so I continue to pray that at the very least, my husband and I can stay close to the same page with regards to the future and to what blessings we remain open.  


And I pray for the wisdom to recognize God’s call – whether it be to postpone or pursue His Supreme Blessings.  


And I even pray for the grace to understand and the courage to accept that God’s call may be to proceed indefinitely as we are – with the trust that we are complete – a family of seven.

Would you please pray for me through this process?

Thy Will Be …

This past weekend’s Gospel was from Luke 1: 26-38.  This the the story of the Annunciation, when the Archangel, Gabriel, appeared to Mary and announced that she would conceive and bear the Son of God.  
In his homily, this weekend, Father put forth an interesting juxtaposition. Side note: does anyone else get excited to use a word like juxtaposition in their blogpost? Yeah, I figured. (I am SUCH a nerd!)
He reminded us all how fearful this moment must have been for Mary.  She was young, a teenager, and she was being told that she would conceive a child, (when she had no relations with a man).  Without the fact that this child would be the Savior of the World, this was scary.  She was betrothed to Joseph who could choose to leave her; becoming pregnant out of wedlock might get her outcast (and that was probably the least scary option); and going through pregnancy, labor and childbirth without going through normal human means to get to that situation…the chances are that Mary might have wondered if there were ANY way at all to bring the Lord, our Savior into this world without having to go through all of this, that she might pray for that instead.  But she said, “May it be done to me according to Your will.”
Then he reminded us all how fearful the night before His Crucifixion was for our Lord in the Garden.  He prayed that if there were any way at all to accomplish what He needed to accomplish without going through the torture that lay ahead, that He would rather do that.  But His prayer, ultimately, was “Thy Will Be Done.”
The juxtaposition was this:  Instead of praying with the spirit and intention of “Thy Will be Changed” Jesus and Mary both prayed with the spirit and intention of “Thy Will be Done.”
 
How often when I pray, do I say the words, “Thy Will be Done” but with my heart and mind I say, “Thy Will be Changed”?  I have caught myself more often than I want to admit with the prayer, “Please, Lord, Let it be your will that X, Y, or Z happen.”  
I thought about this a lot this weekend.  
It’s human to want things in our lives.  We think we know what’s best for us.  We would like to avoid suffering.  We’d like to partake in all the comforts of this life while avoiding all of the discomforts (or most of them anyway).  And I think it’s in some of Paul’s writings in the Bible (yes, I’m showing my Catholic laziness by not trying to find the actual Bible verses…sorry) that we are to petition the Lord.  He wants us to pray and petition Him.  That is how we build a relationship with Him.  However, just because the outcome WE desire does not materialize, does not mean God has not heard our prayer or has not answered our prayer.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in our prayers to God and think that we must be praying for what is God’s will because we desire it so much in our hearts.  We make ourselves believe that God put that desire on our hearts or else we wouldn’t feel it so strongly.  And, then when our hearts’ most urgent and real desires do not become reality, we kind of stomp our feet and say, “Well, why do I desire this so fervently if it’s not Your Will, God!?!?”  And sometimes we only pray all the harder for this intention.
It’s hard to remember that God answers prayers on His terms, in His time.  And it’s hard to remember that God’s will is not always something we ourselves would choose.  
I have a favorite line/quote from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first of the series).  When I think about what I want versus what God wants, it pops into my head.  It is at the end of the book when Dumbledore and Harry are having sort of debrief discussion after the climax of the story.  Dumbledore tells Harry,

“–the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”

Now, of course.  humans do not ALWAYS choose something that is worst for them.  However, that which is best for us usually entails a bit of work, or some suffering, most likely some sacrifice.  
More than likely, God’s will for us is going to take at least some work on our part, most definitely some sort of sacrifice and undoubtedly a bit of suffering. 
How often do we see our choices ahead of us and ask God to grant us the way with the least amount of work, sacrifice and suffering?  And then, when the way that unfolds for us is the one with the work, sacrifice and suffering, we are sad, we think God didn’t hear us and we surely believe God didn’t answer our prayer if, somehow, He did hear us.
I have found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve thought about this message over the last 24-48 hours.  I am challenging myself to honestly assess my prayers and hold myself accountable for where my heart is anchored.
Do I pray with the spirit and intention and request that God’s will be changed to conform with my wishes and desires?

Or do I have the courage, wisdom and fortitude to pray with the spirit and intention and request that God’s will be done in my life?

Love and Forgive

It has been 10 years since the day the US was attacked by terrorists and New York’s Twin Towers fell.
Thinking back, I remember how unreal it felt. There was coverage running over and over of one of the towers on fire with smoke and the second plane being flown into the other tower. The images played over in my mind of what it must have been like for the people there at work that day. It horrified me to think of someone on the phone saying, “Oh God” as they see a plane headed right for their floor. When I heard that some people on Flight 93 had actually spoken to loved ones on cell phones and worked together to crash the plane before it hit the intended target, I was in awe and at the same time horrified.
For weeks following that day, I had trouble sleeping. I had nightmares of terrorists breaking into my house and doing unthinkable things to my baby girl. I remember thinking that watching anything happen to my daughter would be worse than death. Most likely, I was suffering a form of anxiety but I worked through it without medication. I remember that Craig and I thought we would have no more children…what kind of world was this? And we felt horrible that our daughter was born into it.
I know those are normal feelings when something so terrible happens. But it doesn’t make it any easier to experience them. It was a scary time. It IS a scary time.
In our Gospel this week (Matthew 18:21-35) Peter asks Jesus if we should forgive 7 times. And Jesus says that is not enough. That we must forgive 70 times 7. As our priest said in his homily, Peter probably thought he was being quite generous offering to forgive seven times. The priest also said that Bible scholars agree Jesus is referring to infinite forgiveness and he follows it with a parable that reflects God’s Love for us and that he forgives us over and over…infinitely. God says we must forgive each other the same way He forgives us.  When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us.”  That little word “as” sure makes a huge difference, huh?
I remember hearing this reading close to when the attacks happened 10 years ago. I was so angry and fearful then. It was a hard thing to hear that I must forgive this atrocity…even should it happen again and again. I still get fearful when I think of the events of September 11, 2001. It is difficult not to fear terrorism…fear is the desired result for those who commit terrorist acts. But the fear is often a fleeting thing; I feel it and then I move on because I cannot live my life in fear.
A common theme on this day is that we never forget. And I’m glad. I don’t think we should ever forget 9/11, even though we forgive. What happened on that day is a glimpse of true evil in our time.
We must always remember what evil looks like.  It is not often that evil shows its face so openly, we often must uncover the layers to find and identify and expose evil.  In this case, evil was right there to be seen.

The ultimate triumph over evil is love.  And love=forgiveness.  Jesus died on the cross forgiving the world’s sins that put him there.  Jesus loves us and forgives us infinitely.

When we forgive those who do evil to us, we love them the way God loves us.

So remember, yes.  And FORGIVE.

What Kind of Light Am I?

The Gospel reading for this Sunday was Matthew 5:13-16:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

We had a great discussion on this topic at my Familia group on Saturday.  I shared my recent experience with my Aunt Bea with the ladies.  The kids and Aunt Bea (one day after her 99th birthday) and I were out to eat.  The kids know that we pray before we eat, no matter where we are, and so we did.  Sign of the Cross and all.  When we were finished, Aunt Bea told me, “You know you don’t have to do the Sign of the Cross in public.”
I had simply replied, “I know.  But it’s part of my prayer.  We are not ashamed.”
Tonight at Mass, Father’s homily was (as per his usual) well done.  He touched on the fact that it is okay to make the sign of the cross in public.  That it isn’t “showy“…unless of course a person’s intent was to be “showy” but there’s nothing wrong with praying, even in a restaurant, before we eat.  It’s never wrong to pray anywhere.  I really loved how he said this part:

Jesus says here, ‘You are the light of the world.‘  He does NOT say, ‘You are the light of the church.’ 

He went on to explain that it’s all well and good that we are lights to each other at church and within our church walls and ministries.  But we are called to be lights to the world.  We need to shine before ALL, not just before other Catholics.
Father mentioned a few things “lights” could mean.  Lights could be guideposts…for example the lights on the runway for the airplane to land.  As lights to the world, we could be good examples of God’s love for the world and following God’s commands.  Another example he used was that lights could be leading you somewhere.  He spoke of the fact that in peer groups, it often only takes one voice to say, “Hey, that’s wrong and I’m not doing that” and sometimes others follow.  Of course not everyone is called to be a leader, some of us are called to be followers.  But he asked us to reflect on whether God calls us to be leaders and what kind of leaders we are to be.  Father made the point that there are all kinds of people out there that are leaders, but only a few worth following.  A third example of what lights could be were warnings.  He had some words for parents in this area.  He mentioned that even though they might warn their child, of course the child could still choose to ignore that warning…but that does not exempt the parent from shining their light in the right direction anyway.
Finally, Father asked us all to pray this week about what kind of lights we are and can be in the world around us.  Are we supposed to be leaders?  Are we supposed to follow?  If we are followers, we should pray about those whom we follow.  We are to think and pray about our positions in our lives…the people God has put us in contact with, and how we are shining our light for them.
This gives me a lot to pray about.  Lately, I have wondered just what the heck I am doing working where I do?  What is the purpose when it seems that there is so much wrong with the place?  The work environment is toxic.  But perhaps this is my challenge, my charge from the Lord.  I still must be Christ to all of the people at my workplace whether I agree with what they do or not.  I must still perform my job duties with the intent to glorify God.  I must still be the light of the world to those I come into contact with in my workplace.
My Sarah is also a leader.  I believe she is someone worth following.  I plan to follow up with her sometime this week just to see if she’s taken any time in her prayer to reflect on how she is a light of the world at school, at her Challenge group, at basketball practice and in games.  But also whether she’s prayed about her role in our family, with her sisters and brother, with me and with her father.
I think that at different times and in different places, we are all leaders, followers, guideposts and warning lights.  The trick is to be more intentional about shining our lights at those different times and places than bringing about the murky darkness.
And with all this talk about being a light to the world, I’m reminded of a song…
This little light of mine…
I’m gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine…
I’m gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine…
I’m gonna let it shine!
Let it shine!  Let it shine!  Let it shine!