Reflections

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Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.
(Luke 17:33)

Lord, please help me to shed this shell of myself. When I was reading this morning, I reached for a notebook and pen and wrote:

I am not a self-made woman;
I am God-made.
I am not self-sufficient.
I am God sufficient.
I am not self-confident;
I am God confident.
I am not self-assured;
I am God assured.
I am not self-conscious;
I am God conscious.

Keep me conscious of you today, Lord. When I think “my,” let me substitute “our,” as the nuns used to do, for nothing belongs to me, not even my self. Please let me lose myself in you.

The Lord said to him, “Oh, you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”
(Luke 11:39)

The Pharisees, Lord, had ritualized the laws into external practices that no longer reflected their purpose. Everything was for show. We used to call it “putting on the dog.”

You who are with us when no one else is looking, who know us when we do not know ourselves, help us to seek only your approval. Show us how to cleanse our souls by giving and forgiving.

Let me examine my faults, not wallowing in them, but trusting in your mercy to heal and convert me.

The Lord said to him, “Oh, you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.”
(Luke 11:39)

The Pharisees, Lord, had ritualized the laws into external practices that no longer reflected their purpose. Everything was for show. We used to call it “putting on the dog.”

You who are with us when no one else is looking, who know us when we do not know ourselves, help us to seek only your approval. Show us how to cleanse our souls by giving and forgiving.

Let me examine my faults, not wallowing in them, but trusting in your mercy to heal and convert me.

He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
(Luke 11:28)

When the woman in the crows praised the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you, my Jesus, your reply did not deny the blessedness of your mother, but clarified the reason for her honor. Mary, indeed, heard you, and her “Fiat” proclaimed her dedication to your Word.

Nothing you could ask of me could be more difficult or significant than the invitation your angel made to her, and yet never will I respond so readily. Please help me to listen and observe. How can I do that today?

This evening, I will receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Holy Spirit, please show me what is lacking in my obedience and give me the courage to change. Only you, Lord, can make me worthy to receive you. As you come to me in the Host, let me welcome you in the words of your blessed mother, “Be it done unto me according to your will.” I am yours.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
(Luke 11:23)

Lord, in and age and climate that seems increasingly scattered, how can we return to unity in you? How can I gather with you today? I will see just a few people. Focus me, please, on what we have in common.

I just read an account of how an Amish church, which is the whole community, came together to support the family of a young man who died in an accident. They planted the crops, brought coal and wood for fuel, and supplied both goods and labor. Would that we could all share so readily.

I say, “We are all in this together.” Do I act on this? Of course, I share little things, food, clothing, and household items, but how much do I give of myself? I guard my time and energy. Why? They, too, are gifts from you for the good of all. With your grace, I will strive to be more available.

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
(Luke 11:9)

Lord, why am I still surprised when my prayers are answered? Have I not yet learned to trust you? Again and again you have given me whatever I need, before I even knew that I needed it. Please help me to pray with confidence. I don’t know what is behind the door you will show me, but I will knock and see. Your will is all I need. Show me what you want from me. I know you will give me the courage and strength to follow you.

And forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.
(Luke 11:4)

Lord, how do I know whether I have forgiven everyone? Are there memories that still rankle? Are there people I want to avoid? Please heal me of any lingering grudges.

What is the final test? Some say it means the last days of this world, before you come again. No one knows when that will be. I think every generation has experienced trials and fears that seem to predict doom. Still, my last day could be today. What I have thought of as trials during my life seem small now. I do not relish pain; I do not ask for it, and yet I want to be purged of sin and worldly desires. Give me courage enough to endure whatever happens and love enough to rejoice in your holy will.

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.
(Luke 10:41-42)

It was Martha who had welcomed you, Lord, and Martha who set about serving you. You do not criticize her for that. Only when she became frustrated and angry with her sister that you gently corrected her.

When do I get frustrated, and what do I do with that frustration? It happens when I am rushing and depending only on myself. If I think only about the task itself and something interrupts, I become angry, sometimes with myself, sometimes with the person who interrupts or fails to assist me.

Instead of going quietly to Mary and asking for her help, Martha asks you to rebuke her. “Do you not care…?”

The Apostles would ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” when you were sleeping through the storm at sea. Martha is not perishing, but she has assigned so much importance to hospitality that she thinks Mary is wasting time listening.

I am Mary and Martha. Even while praying and listening for your will, I think of all that needs to be done. Trusting in you does not mean that I do not have to act and pray at the same time. My work becomes prayer and my prayer becomes work. I am both active and contemplative when I pay attention to you. Please focus me.

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:36-37)

The parable of the Good Samaritan is your answer, Lord, to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The question you pose is “How can I be a neighbor?” You give a practical illustration in response to a theoretical query.

In the Good Samaritan, we see you, who came to save and heal us, to care and provide for us. But you invite us to unite ourselves with you, in whose image we are created, by caring for one another.

How can I be a good neighbor today? Whom do I see who is beaten, oppressed, lying in front of me? Do I cross over like the priest and Levite, to avoid contact? Suppose the victim is my enemy, someone my fellow citizens reject. Do I see my neighbor?

I live a sheltered life, removed from uncomfortable situations, and yet I know about the cruelty and injustice that surrounds me. Yesterday, as I walked to the store, I saw someone farther up the path whose behavior seemed odd. He stood in a peculiar stance, then moved to a bench, climbed up so he was sitting on its back with his feet resting on the seat, and took a sip from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. I have to admit that I felt apprehensive. It took an act of will for me to approach and greet him. He answered in a friendly manner and asked how I was. “Good,” I replied, but it’s too hot for October.”

“We were just discussing that,” he said, as another man joined him. “I wonder if we’ll still be saying that in December.”

By then I had passed by, feeling relieved and encouraged.

Please, Lord, defuse my fear. Let me expect decency and camaraderie from all I encounter. Help me to see and to be a neighbor.

Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.
(Matthew 21:43)

My Lord, you have just told us the parable of the vineyard owner who sent his servants and finally his beloved son to collect from the tenants. They attacked all of them and killed the son. You, Father, are the vineyard owner, and Jesus is your Son. Who are the tenants appointed to tend the vineyard? Historically, it was the Jews, but now that you, my Jesus, have come to save and reunite us, we are all entrusted with your creation. It does not belong to us; we are the caretakers.

How can I be a better steward and produce fruit for you? I have been offering a little physical support to a neighbor and emotional support for a few. I am trying to say yes to whatever I am asked, without jeopardizing my time for prayer and quiet. I could be more effective in organizing my space and getting rid of unnecessary possessions. If I work harder at that, there will be more time for you to use me. Please make me more diligent.

At that very moment, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such is your gracious will.”
(Luke 10:21)

Lord Jesus, as you taught us, let us also rejoice in the Holy Spirit who enables us to hear your Word.

How can I be more childlike? A child, although he or she might misunderstand, has not learned hypocrisy. A little child is open, trusting and transparent.
When I was a little girl, an older playmate used to tell me I wasn’t sophisticated enough. How I would love to be that honest, uncomplicated person again! As I re-read some notes I made during my last visit to the Mother House, I recalled that a sister who had known me since the Novitiate had complimented me on my ability to laugh at myself. I felt flattered and comforted, for that is one of the traits I so admired in my father. Please keep me from taking myself seriously. How simple life would be if I could lose myself totally in you, not just when I pray, but always. Please draw me closer, Lord.

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.
(Luke 10:16)

These words are addressed to the 72 disciples you are sending ahead, my Jesus, to announce you and to heal the sick. You know that some will reject them, and you have told them to just shake the dust from their feet. Now, you encourage them, informing them that it is you and your Father who will be rejected. And you, my Lord and God, will judge them.

Help me to remember this. You have put me here to do your will. Though I may not understand what my mission is, you will accomplish it in me. If I am rejected for myself, that is of no consequence. If I am rejected because I serve you, I will just move on. Still, I pray for those who resist your Word. In your mercy, you can reach them, perhaps though another disciple. The results are not my concern; it matters only that I seek your will and devote myself to it. Please give me the courage and energy to proceed.

Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way.
(Luke 10:4)

Your disciples, Lord, had only one purpose, to go ahead of you and announce your coming. They are to take nothing with them and greet no one so that they will not be distracted from their mission. That sounds harsh! Surely, they say, “Shalom” to those they passed, without stopping for conversation. I don’t know, but they must have understood. They went in pairs so they could support and encourage each other. Even then, when most did not have extra clothing or money bags, it must have taken great courage.

How often do I leave my apartment, even to go a short distance, without taking something along? I call my walker my wheelbarrow because I use it to carry things I might need: a water canteen, a notebook and pen, a book, tissues, some cash. When I pack for a trip I throw in anything I might possibly use. I want to be prepared for any exigency.

I have insurance on my health and household goods. I add a little each month to my savings account. I buy enough food to last months. I keep batteries, candles and cooking fuel in case of power outages. I have clothes I haven’t worn in a year. I forget how fleeting this life is and how unpredictable. I want to be self-sufficient, even though I know that nothing but you can suffice.

If we take nothing, we are totally dependent on you. Isn’t that what I want, Lord? My Jesus, I trust in you. Let me prove that trust by eliminating attachments and distractions.

Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
(Luke 9:58)

This was your answer, Lord, to someone who proposed to follow you wherever yu went. As I struggle to free myself from attachment to ease and security, I realize how settled I have become. Am I owned by what I have, by the lure of my comfort zone? A few hours without cable rattles me.

Yesterday, I was talking with someone who had to evacuate during the hurricane in Florida. He described how he felt, walking away from the home he had shuttered, not knowing whether it would be there when he got back. He didn’t know, either, whether he could make it to safety, whether there would be gas for his car. He said he was literally running for his life.

So often I sing the verse from “The Summons” that says, “Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same.” It is such a challenge, and yet, even if I stay where I am and do what I am used to doing, change will come. I think my problem is that I want to plan and control the change. When it comes unexpectedly, I feel confused and frustrated. If I were truly open, truly committed to following you, then confusion would be a mere circumstance, or even a signal that you are in charge. Please help me to surrender to your will.

But they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
(Luke 9:53)

You were going “resolutely” to Jerusalem, my Jesus, knowing that you would be tried, tortured and crucified. A Samaritan town rejected you because of hatred of the Jews, but you rebuked your Apostles for wanting to punish them. You simply went on to the next place. You came to save us, not to condemn us.

Would I welcome you if you came as a stranger, dressed in unfamiliar garments, speaking a foreign language, and going to a place I hated and feared? How can I welcome you today?

My morning was filled with overlapping distractions, phone calls, knocks on the door. Did I grumble, just a bit, inwardly, before answering? None of the people with whom I talked were strangers, and I did welcome the conversations, but still there was at least a hint of apprehension. Would my schedule be disrupted? What would be asked of me?

A schedule is only a guideline. Sometimes I wonder how much of my planning is a device to fill up my day. I pray to be open, and then I start structuring. My phone dies. The Internet stops working. The TV cuts off. I realize, once again, that I am becoming a slave to technology. How difficult it is to let go, to look for another way, to see how small and rigid I am. I balk at the most gentle touch of your rein. Please, Lord, give me the patience and obedience you illustrated for us. Let me proceed, as you did, to the next place, the next encounter, without wanting to “call down fire from heaven.”

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