Confusing and confounding

SacrificeAbrahamThis Sunday we hear about Abraham and Isaac in the first reading from Genesis. (Readings here.) This is a really tough one, even though we know the outcome.

By contrast, today, on Saturday, we hear about obedience, following God’s laws, statutes, and commands. (Readings here.) Today’s Gospel is very clear, we are compelled to love our enemies.

Sacrifice our children and love our enemies. No wonder we are challenged by our faith. How can we make sense of any of this? It is thoroughly confusing and confounding. Yet here we are, trying to make sense of it. We see that Isaac is spared, but we know that Jesus is not. As a result of Jesus not being spared, we are free. Given this, is Continue reading

Ash Wednesday, one week later – a guest post by Susan Grunder

shutterstock253202413Ash Wednesday was one week ago. How is it going? Did you start out Lent with the best of intentions?

Last Sunday we heard about God’s covenant with us. In the Psalm, we cry out to the Lord to teach us his paths. To remember us. In the Gospel, we see Jesus driven by the Spirit into the desert. Jesus doesn’t lead the Spirit into the desert. The Spirit drives him. Where is the Spirit driving us this Lent?

800px-The_Game_of_LentSometimes we look at Lent as a chance to reboot our New Year’s Resolutions. We just change the names to fit the traditional “Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.” We might call it fasting, but, let’s be honest, we are really hoping to lose some weight while we are at it. We might set aside time for prayer so we can check that box or mark it off of our daily Lenten to-do-list, but are we really engaged in our prayer? Are we opening ourselves up for the activity of the Holy Spirit? For Inspiration in the true sense of word? Are we pausing for a moment to allow Continue reading

Temptation

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_(Jésus_tenté_dans_le_désert)_-_James_Tissot_-_overallFrom the Gospel of Mark heard on the First Sunday of Lent:
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

Jesus was tempted. Sometimes it may be difficult for us, with our binary brains, separating everything into one side or the other, to fully hold and understand Jesus’ full humanity along with his full divinity. As a result, understanding Jesus subject to truly difficult temptation can be a challenge.

Recently I was in Baltimore for the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and I heard James Martin, SJ speaking about Jesus humanity, as he often does. Jesus, Fr. Martin reminded us, felt all the things that we feel, from nausea to annoyance, from exhaustion to being achy, and everything in between. Those are my words, not his, but you get the idea. Today we are clearly reminded of Jesus’ human state in the Gospel, but can we resist the temptation to dismiss Jesus’ Continue reading

#takeupLENT

This is a great video from America magazine. Short, to the point, lots of America staffers, plus one famous special guest star, you get to hear what they are giving up for Lent.

As Fr. James Martin SJ points out, we also need to remember to be kind… it is not just what we are giving up. No matter you do, his advice is important. Be kind and love one another.

Staying and going – a Lenten journey

MetanoiaIt is Ash Wednesday, and Lent begins. There were many Lents when I was away from church, and did nothing – barely noting the season. When I returned,  it was in a gung-ho fashion – excessively abstemious, but frequently failing and overdoing the mea culpas. What a pity that I lacked any insight about mercy, compassion, or the reconciliation that comes from metanoia.

That brings me to the present moment, a place that offers a different point of view. On my heart today is that Lent is a journey that is simultaneously about staying and about going. We are called to go to the desert, that is the going part. The staying? Well, that is often the hardest part, staying in those places of challenge, which paradoxically can only be found when we go out into the desert.  We must Continue reading

Looking Towards Lent

Keeping-a-Holy-LentAlthough it may be hard to believe, Lent begins in less than three weeks, on Ash Wednesday, February 18. For many of us, Lent offers us the time to re-orient ourselves through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  As we walk with Jesus in the desert, we are given gifts which may appear heavy and burdensome, as we are confronted with the weight of our own sin. That said, we are also given the gift of change and transformation, ultimately dying and rising with Christ our Lord.

Long before Lent begins, I am on the lookout for prayer resources to use during that season. This year, I have before me, three books, each one offering different gifts of prayer that you may Continue reading

Sprouting and blooming – some thoughts on Thomas Merton

e7881216984a7402ae7a60713960607eToday we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth.

Many years ago, when I first returned to church, I – like many others – read his landmark work, The Seven Storey Mountain.  This book moved me in many ways, including to being the catalyst to get me out of my “God’s-only-up-there” piety and into a faith where my feet were firmly planted on the ground.

There are many gifts that God has given to me through Merton and his work, but today, I am grateful that it was the beginnings of a more integrated life of faith that the book shaped in me. And trust me, that seed was planted in 1990, but has taken many years to start to sprout, and even more years to bloom.

And with feet on the ground, those seeds are still sprouting, still blooming.
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Thomas Merton, pray for us!