+ J.M.J.A.T. +

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reading the Mind of God

I know... it's not possible... don't worry I'm not suggesting anything heretical, haha.  But I cannot help but wonder sometimes what it would look like to see the whole picture of myself or of someone else's soul at a particular moment of grace from the eyes of God.  He obviously sees so much more but in that moment, for us to see, it would be breathtaking.  The past, present, and future of a person plus their unique makeup of personality, nature, dreams, hopes, fears, and sins all at the same time from one point of view - it's amazing.  And all of that perspective, all that knowledge at once fits into the equation of what grace to give... what God's will is for them individually.

I'm always trying to figure Him out... I love solving big questions.  I know this isn't one I can solve, haha... but I still always try.  When I know that there is a decision I have to make I think to myself, "How is He playing this round?"  I know I'm being fresh, haha, but I really do take it very seriously.  I think about what decision would be contrary to my own selfish will.  I think about the future effects of any decision.  I think about what I've done in the past.  I think about my usual sins, my usual goodness... I try to see the pattern, the design.  I never succeed.

I should probably just trust that God will give me the grace to follow His will when He has planned it.  However, I still am so fascinated by how He works that I just can't stop analyzing it.  I mean, try to imagine the way God sees you in each moment with all your complexities at once.  It's mind boggling.  Then add in the fact that you are part of the Body of Christ, all joined together - and He sees all of that at once... each of us individually and each of us together as one.  How can we not trust?!      

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Heart to Heart

I'm avoiding it... the heart to heart talk... the inevitable.  I've been filling my time and my spirit with work, reading,  stress, cleaning, email, and many other insignificant things.  Even my prayer hasn't been prayer but more of a task to complete - and a difficult one at that.  I feel a very real desire to bare my soul, to pour it out, to share myself - but at times it feels like there is no place for that - in community, in spirituality, in my busy-ness.

At the Easter Vigil, Father's homily was very touching for me.  He said that the vigil is the time for us to revisit the place where we first met Jesus - the tomb of our hearts - where He raised us from the death of sin to our new life in Him.  I was thinking... yes... that is exactly what I need to do - to meet Christ again in my heart where I first encountered Him.

Father went on to say that the place where we were all gathered as a parish community was our Galilee of that very moment and that in all the universe that was exactly where Christ had planned for us to encounter Him - Risen!  For me - that meant where I was in community.  It meant that the sisters I was with were the disciples I was meant to bring Christ to.  At the same time, they are the disciples who are meant to bring Christ to me.

I have to be honest - I haven't felt that way recently.  Maybe I haven't been holding up my end of the bargain.  I expect often a lot from community life.  I expect to be challenged, taught, educated, called, appreciated, corrected, and loved... but have I been doing the same?  Have I been putting my whole self out there - my faith, my heart, my convictions, my desires, my vision?  The truth is no... because I have been afraid of what the reaction would be.  I have been unwilling to be challenged, corrected, affirmed, and encouraged.  It is scary to share your heart.  But I know that right now it is what I most desire.

The other thing I desire is a spiritual director - but God has not seen it in His plan to give me one quite yet... I am getting desperate though so I ask your prayers that He puts someone in my path.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Reflection

Well, my reflections from this Good Friday weren't so "good" for me.  I'm sure they are good for my soul but I don't think anyone ever looks forward to loss and sacrifice -  both places where God brought me in my retreat today.

I'm finding myself feeling more and more confused as I ask, "What needs to die in me?"  The answers are all things that I don't want to have to give up... or things that don't want to give me up.  I am sure that there are deaths that must happen for my relationship with Jesus to deepen and spread to those around me.  This time though, I don't feel the zeal or the fight to let those things die.  I can see quite clearly where I am going wrong and how I can fix it.  I can see how my life would be better.  But for some reason my heart is not jumping to act on this knowledge... and I'm not sure why.

I spent my prayer time today reading Jesus' Prayer for the Disciples - John 19.  It hits me anew each time I read it and I think it must be my favorite Gospel.  Here is one part that really touched me today.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth."

I can hear Jesus' impassioned prayer to the Father to care for each of His own and it amazes me that he could be so close to arrest and death yet so focused, not on Himself, but on me and on you.  And here I am, avoiding the death and sacrifice that is so necessary to what is happening in my church, my community, and my own soul right now.  Is that how I lost my zeal and my "heart"... by losing sacrifice?  I'm not sure.  What I do know is that it was unintentional but has now become learned and I must unlearn it with little or no feelings passion and desire to do so.  My mind is on one track and my heart is hardened on the other.

I'm sure this happens to us all at some points.  There are times when we are at our best and others when we are at our worst.  My best is when I'm working hard at a very focused task and when I'm praying and living well the community life I've been called to.  My worst is when I become preoccupied with my "image" - how I look, how people see me and when I feel stressed and out of control.  I know I need to hand this over to Christ but I'm having a difficult time doing that now.  I know who I want to be and how to be that... but the work - the sacrifice and the suffering - seem more than I can give right now.  I know that that feeling - the feeling of some task being beyond my resources - is really a very special opportunity to trust completely in the power of Christ's saving love.      

I know I must die to have life.  Christ please give me the grace to die the deaths I must die to truly be a follower of You.  I want to be close to You only.  Hold me in your Sacred Heart and let me respond to Your words alone.

Edited to add... Can you tell I need a spiritual director??  It's extremely difficult to find one! :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's all about me!

Actually... it's not - but I like to think it is.  I guess it's human nature to a certain extent to see the world around us in terms of how it affects us personally.  I've been doing that a lot lately.  I think, first, because of necessity.  I've been having to do a lot of reflecting at this time of the year so I've been a little focused on myself.  Secondly, I've been under a lot of stress and because of that I've been looking at all MY work, MY school, MY prayer, MY charge, MY time.

It's strange how something small can suddenly jerk you back into perspective.  For me, today, it was the simple fact that someone I care about hasn't answered an email from me for two days!  I know - how impatient - two days is nothing... but it was important to me.  Then I got an email from someone else about that person and I just felt my heart sink.  All of the sudden I realized that I was being really self-centered.  I couldn't rejoice with the other person because I was so caught up in myself.

It stinks to realize that it's not about me... it stinks to realize that I've been so full of pride and selfish.  But I'm thankful it happened.  I'm thankful I can see it now.  Perspective really makes all the difference in the things that happen.  I'm going to definitely take this to prayer now that school is ended for the holy days to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Cross is your cross

This week has had me doing a lot of thinking in preparation for this holy week and I've come to focus through my prayer on something that has really touched me.  I don't know if I can quite put it into words because it is more of an experience but I'm going to try.

I have had a lot of suffering in my life.  Lots of that suffering has been suffering that I haven't been able to understand.  It has been confusing.  It has made me feel worthless, self conscious... just plain bad.  I get more and more in touch with that everyday that I am with middle schoolers.  Their own lives are such a raw picture of the suffering that I have somehow "made it through."  This week I've had students being beaten up by their parents, students failing, students hurting one another and fighting... It has been insane!

Those were just examples of what I've been thinking about though.  I've felt really called in prayer recently to penance and suffering for the sake of the Church.  The scandals, lack of vocations, moral deterioration, Church and school closings are all calls from God to step out of the comfort zone and into the unknown - an unknown that I am certain is filled with sanctifying suffering.

Each of us is carrying a different part of the one Cross carried by Christ for all eternity.  Each of us is blessed with a share in this saving, suffering cross because none of us can possibly carry the same weight Christ did once and for all.  I need for you (whoever you are) to carry your part of the Cross - because I can't carry all of it and in order to participate in the life of Christ I must pick up my Cross and follow Him.  I know intimately that this Cross was specifically chosen for me to carry for you so that you wouldn't need to.  You carry a cross for me so that I can carry my own.  We make up the one Body of Christ crucified on the one Cross of our Redemption.  As I look at all the pain in the world around me I see so many people offering up a suffering I could never offer.  I see others who make the offering of the Cross more and more difficult for those around them.

We are all called to carry our crosses.  The question I am faced with this week is; how have I been carrying mine?  Have I carried it well?  Have I united it with Your's? Am I offering my suffering for those around me?  Am I appreciative of the unique Cross each of my brothers and sisters carries for me?  How do I show my gratitude and love for each of them?  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Going back in time...

Do you ever wish you could go back in time?  I frequently do - but especially today.  I'm just too fiery for my own good and for the good of others sometimes.  I wish God would calm me down a bit because I'm so bad at prudence sometimes!

Have you ever known that you are right about something but haven't discerned correctly in the moment whether it was the right time, place, or person to discuss the topic?  That's exactly what I did today.  It wasn't the right person, time, or place to discuss what we did and I showed more than I was comfortable with of my emotions about the topic.  I wish I didn't - but I did.  Maybe I wasn't wrong in sharing... maybe I'm just uncomfortable with sharing my feelings like that.  Maybe I care so much about the topic that I felt too vulnerable, too raw - not "ladylike" enough.

Maybe, really, I'm just uncomfortable with being passionate about something.  It is as if sometimes there is a wariness in me about "rocking the boat."  I feel like there is this expectation that we don't talk about things that cause disagreement, discussion, emotion, and different viewpoints.  I don't know where the expectation comes from.  I'm not sure why I even entertain it... I'm not exactly a peacemaker most of the time.

I just don't know.  What is the right way to stand up for what is right?  How do you know though?  Is it only good when you're comfortable afterwards with what was said?  Or is it good that I'm disturbed and uncomfortable with what happened?  Is it an indication of passion and growth?  Or is it stubbornness and close mindedness?

I don't think I'm going to get an answer.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Daily Life, the Cross of Christ, and Prayer

I have this enormous crucifix in my classroom.  It is beautiful - dark wood, detailed corpus.  I've never seen such a large crucifix in a classroom but it definitely is helpful when I start a spiel to the kids about how Jesus died a terrible horrific death on the Cross and they should be able to give a pencil to the person sitting next to them, help pick up someone's books, do their homework, stop complaining... etc.  I get all serious and dramatic and point up at it and give my lecture - and surprisingly they listen in the little things and I know it makes a spiritual impact.  If only these little situations were the only ones.  Unfortunately, they have crosses that are much bigger.

They have parents who have betrayed them and their families.  They are shuffled from house to house according to a legal document.  They feel unlovable, unworthy, and unimportant.  They have to justify their very existence because most of them never see the love that brought them into the world.

I just read a study about how the brain feels emotional pain in the same way as it feels bodily pain.  I can honestly say that I have experienced and felt that abandonment, confusion, frustration, and pain that comes from family strife.  I'm sure that that abandonment and pain is united to Jesus on the Cross.  I'm sure that my students don't realize it but they are also held closely in the heart of Christ as they suffer that same pain.

The other day one of the teachers at school asked to talk to me after school.  We sat in her classroom and talked about our students, our own families, our own trials and sufferings.  We had tears in our eyes during most of the conversation.  She told me that her sister says she doesn't pray enough and that she should pray the rosary more.  Now, I love the Rosary... like super love it, so my comment was NOT about not praying the rosary.  It was in recognition of the prayer that was already happening in her.

God's grace really came to me in that moment bringing me to the realization that the carrying of that pain and those crosses each day  are absolutely moments of living prayer.  It is a true crucifixion.  Jesus wasn't sitting in a Chapel.  He was carrying a Cross.  He was actively involved in the march to His death and the crowd around Him.

Now it is my turn, and that teacher's turn to carry our crosses with Him for the crowd around us - our children, who will unfortunately carry their crosses in turn.  I can't quite explain the feeling and "knowing" I have that this is true - that this suffering is important to life, to the Church, to the Body of Christ.

It is a comfort to know that my suffering means something to Him.  It is a comfort to know that I can understand and share my suffering with others in love and hope and peace.  It is a comfort to know that that same love, peace, and hope are waiting, as gifts of grace, to our children.