Tag Archive | Lent

A very Good Friday

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I had the privilege of serving as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Thursday Mass. Ministry has been a gift. I have difficulty forgiving myself for the sinful choices I make and I wonder if I will collapse on the altar someday. It is a blessing to be able to offer Eucharist to my fellow parishioners. Those intimate moments when we look at one another and sometimes share smiles are beautiful. I feel small and humble. I am reminded of my call to service.

All the Eucharistic ministers were asked to take part in a procession during the transfer of the Eucharist. It was a simple procession around the church. We walked in lines of two. I was so proud to show reverence. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed my loved ones who have died: Brett, Don, Charlene, David, both of my grandfathers. They were there as all the candles were gathered around the Blessed Sacrament. As we knelt, I felt the love of everyone around me including those who have crossed over. It was a perfect way to end Lent.

I am truly grateful for these last 40 days. Despite my struggles, I gained so much. I recognize the blessing of being M’s mother and to model love the way God loves me. Listening to music that promotes spiritual reflection and speaking and speaking daily about my faith and experiences has been transformative. Writing for 40 days has changed me. I will soon be announcing a major change in my life. That would not have been possible if I hadn’t been in the middle of my Lenten journey. I’m more aware of who I am and of who God intends me to be. I am grateful to God.  This is a very Good Friday.

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Servant to all

I don’t forgive betrayal. There I said it. My struggles with resentment and self-righteousness are rooted in betrayals by those I have loved and trusted. I pray for an open heart. A few years ago, I served as friend and mentor to someone by sharing my experiences and advice.  I was betrayed when this individual compromise my safety and that of my child. (Betrayal blues) I still have not forgiven this person.  I pray for the open heart to do so.  I stay praying.

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On Holy Thursday, the Gospel and Mass call us to reflect on Jesus and the washing of feet.  Jesus’s act of humility  is met with resistance. Peter tells Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Peter has respect for his teacher. He doesn’t understand why he’s on the ground washing others’ dirty feet. Jesus tells them he is modeling how they will live.   Peter may be a potential leader but he has not learned that true leaders are servants. Jesus even washes Judas’ feet. Jesus knows Judas is his betrayer.  Washing his feet won’t change that.  Yet Jesus serves him in the same way he does for all the disciples.

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Caravaggio’s Betrayal of Jesus 

People will turn on me and disappoint me. I have to serve them. I struggle with being a servant for everyone. I will be civil and polite but I will bear a grudge. I pray that I can be a humble servant to all. I pray that I love those who are not equipped to love others or even themselves. May my love help inspire others to serve the world.

First step

 

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This week, I was blessed to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of the Lenten journey. I always come away humbled and motivated by the sacrament. My confessor was a priest I’m familiar with from one of the other parishes I frequent; he’s a great speaker so therefore he had great wisdom to share with me. I appreciated his kindness. Not all priests are warm when they give their advice or take on what you share.

No one is perfect. We all have sins and struggles. It’s important to not be complacent and to express and exercise a willingness to change. That helps in making positive changes in life. I know that I have areas in which I am lacking. I have reflected often this season. I want to see changes. It’s a day by day, moment by moment journey.

One example from real life and in real time is my problem with running late. While this isn’t directly one of the four challenges I took on this Lent or not necessarily something I discussed in confession, time management is related to my struggle with patient parenting. I want to do things differently. As an adult set in my ways, it’s difficult to be proactive. I have a desire for my days to begin differently. I desire to change my attitude. I am willing to change and that is a great first step.

With any negative action or attitude, we have the capacity to change.  We can choose to desire and do so.

 

Love as key to holiness

For Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), my parish priest gave a homily about Christ’s Passion in the Gospel of Matthew. It was one of the shortest homilies he has ever given, approximately two minutes. He explained that Holy Week is not made holy by Jesus’s suffering but by his love and by the love we have for one another. It was poignant and important.

This Lent for me has involved my struggle with forgiveness, loving my enemies, loving myself, and fully expressing love for my child in the way she deserves. So often, dealing with other people or my own demons or as a parent, I get focused on all the sacrifices I make.  Given my self-righteous streak, I’m quick to say, “Look at all I’ve endured and done for myself, my child, and all these people.” I focus on the sacrifices.  Sacrificing for self and others is hard work; it is much more giving to sacrifice rather than be apathetic and walk away or to be angry and attack. Yet I lose sight of what motivates me to give of myself.

My best friend recently had her second child.  We were discussing how traumatic and horrific the birth experience can be. I know many women and families who were fortunate enough to have a positive birth; for the two of us, birth was painful, tiring, overwhelming, long, and difficult.  Because as mothers we love our children, we somewhat block out those bad memories.  Despite the 34 hours of labor and the two years she never slept through the night, M is my greatest love. The sacrifices involved in being her mother I would gladly do over again.

I have reflected often on the hard work it has taken to love and appreciate myself. It took years, effort, pain, and sacrifice. I want to love others in that same way.  I’m praying for more love in my heart so I can forgive my enemies. It’s easy to forgive my loved ones. I have to forgive those who have injured me. During Holy Week, I’m praying on and for love.

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The death and life of a friend

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21

For the fifth and final Sunday of Lent, the Gospel was about the raising of Lazarus.  Verse 21 in Chapter 11 of John reminds me of the losses I’ve faced, especially my friend Brett. His death was the beginning of a series of difficult moments in my life but also a sea change which made me truly commit to healing.  God was never absent in those moments.

When Brett’s health worsened, he was full of serenity and warmth. It was as if his best qualities were magnified in those final moments.  I was moved by his love and gratitude. The closer he got to death, the better and more holy he became.

It is difficult to accept you will lose someone to terminal illness. It is hard to understand God’s glory is present in those moments. On a personal level, I didn’t want to lose my friend. I didn’t want to lose someone who had been my comforter. A lot of people didn’t realize how unwell I was back then; Brett was ministering to me in my hours of need. I sat with him during his illness but it wasn’t enough to help him get past it.

His life and death have served as an example to me. Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, whether it is half-marathon training or my own health woes, I meditate on how Brett prepared to die. It’s hard not to say, “Lord, if you had been here, you could have spared him.” After all these years, the wound is deep. I am hurt I lost my friend the way I did. I am sad I lost a good person.

Lazarus’ death was one of the few times Jesus broke down in tears. He was a minister to the sick and the dying.  Yet he grieved for his friend. Raising Lazarus was both a gift he gave to Lazarus’ grieving sisters and the beginning of the end for Jesus himself.  The Pharisees gained more evidence in their case against Jesus; in challenging the status quo, Jesus was condemned to death. His death, like Lazarus, became a new beginning.

The raising of Lazarus is a foreshadowing of what is to come. As Lent winds down, we reflect on the journey to death, which we walk with loved ones but also our own journey to resurrection.

Jesus raises Lazarus to life - John 11:1-44

After three days

Recently, M and I decided to read stories from my children’s Bible. We read the Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and the Beggar. Then we chose to read The Book of Jonah.  Jonah has always been one of my favorite books from the Bible. In the darker times of my younger years, I could relate to the character and his desire to run away from God. We all want to escape God at times. We don’t want to be leaders or visionaries. We don’t want to be holy. We want to attend to our desires; we may call them needs but they are personal wants.

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Jonah does not want to listen to the Lord. So he escapes on a ship. In an effort to survive a storm, the crew throws baggage and cargo overboard. After gambling (M’s favorite part for some reason), the sailors Jonah is to blame. Jonah agrees that he should go. The crew is more than happy to say “boy, bye.” Jonah ends up in the belly of a whale where he stays for three days. He then arrives to Nineveh, finally ready to serve as prophet. He preaches repentance; the people proclaim a citywide fast. Even the cattle and family dogs don sackcloth and ashes and refrain from eating and drinking.  Nineveh is spared which leads to Jonah becoming self-righteous.

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Jonah is incensed when God decides not to destroy Nineveh. He becomes depressed and even considers suicide. Jonah sits outside the city under the shade of a gourd plant. God destroys the plant and Jonah responds in anger. God points out that Jonah was upset by the plant’s death but was willing to kill many people. God helps Jonah realize his shortcomings.

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Jonah is a good Lenten reflection. Out of the storm, Jonah finds his purpose. He is able to convert others though he doesn’t recognize it. He lacks the patience and foresight to know he is valued by God. Though Jonah is fearful and petty, God recognizes his potential. Jonah experiences doubt while he is in the desert. God does not abandon him. Jonah is a story of a flawed person who experiences redemption and transformation.

Open my eyes

“Open my eyes, Lord

Help me to see your face

Open my eyes, Lord

Help me to see.” Jesse Manibusan

4th Sunday of Lent marked  our getting past the season’s halfway point. I was looking through past Mass journals and noticed many entries indicated that this is the most challenging time. I have notes about Gospel readings and homilies which discuss different trials; this is the time when the journey gets most difficult.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been reflecting on my own struggles in the last two weeks. I hope the next few weeks and Holy Week brings me more serenity, patience, and understanding.

This week’s Gospel was from John and was the story of the blind man who gained sight from Jesus. Both the reading and the homily show how we make sense of challenges, pain and grief.   A belief from that time, and one that has continued to this day, is that bad things happen because of what we have done. Some call it karma. It can also be seen as the negative consequences of negative actions. We all fall prey to black and white thinking. As a disciplinarian both in my career and in my role as a parent, I know that many behaviors are the result of poor decisions.  That doesn’t mean a person deserves less sympathy or empathy. We all make mistakes; being judgmental makes us no better.

The blind man was an outcast. His family had not protected him; he was forced to survive as a homeless beggar. His parents were probably judged harshly. They felt insecure about their place in the community so they quickly declined defending him. Jesus chose to make conversation with him; Jesus always looked to serve everyone. The Pharisees didn’t believe the blind man was worthy of salvation.  So they were skeptical of his healing.

Why do awful things happen? It’s a question we all ponder. I got teary-eyed as Father discussed this Gospel. I know from personal experience about painful losses.  It sounds strange to say that these things happen and can help us to see God’s glory. Tragedies occur on a global scale. It seems cruel for God to allow these things to happen. Yet we could grow in faith by changing our perspective. We are all blind. We need someone to wipe our eyes clean and to open us up to see. It takes effort, experience, and discipline.

I often think about the people I have lost. I think of my friend Brett when I’ve been faced with challenges or challenging people. I ask how is it right that a good man who was positive, loving, warm, and open-hearted was taken from us in such a horrible way and these other people who seem to lack conscience, morals, or the ability to love have life?  It’s not for me to judge or disbelieve. I have to understand that all is for God’s glory. I struggle to grasp that concept. I’ve made peace with the loss. I have yet to accept that terrible people can help us to see God.  I am still unable to see.  But I know I need to be open to truly see God for the first time.

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