Author Archives: Monique Jacobs
And your willingness to offer that, knowing it will be received, might just well bring you to tears on at least two levels.
First for your own incapacity – I can’t do it! Lord, have mercy on me. That’s the only way to begin to pray: I don’t know how to pray!
I hope you’ve had that moment from one beloved partner of friend: when you know you’ve just done a really stupid thing, but they don’t judge you and they don’t dismiss you. They just look at you with soft eyes and receive you. It’s tears of immense release and joy and happiness – that there’s a heart out there big enough to receive what I can’t receive, to forgive what I can’t forgive. That is what makes you fall in love with God. If you’re on the spiritual journey, that will happen many times.
It’s the experience of a lover who sees your nakedness, when you don’t have the perfect body of your youth and they love you anyway. That’s the kind of love that we all want, that we all wait for, that we all need.
Although we want it from one another and we get it occasionally, we find there is only One who can be relied upon to always receive us and mirror us perfectly as we are – without demanding changes of us.
The great sadness is that so many Christians don’t know that.
They’re afraid to be naked before God because what they expect from God is what they’ve learned to expect from other people – which is judgment and analysis.
Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate…Seeing God in All Things by Richard Rohr, OFM
After summoning his chosen ones, Jesus proceeds to share his power and authority with them. His instructions can be paraphrased as bullet points:
- work the home turf first
Thinking globally may be more glamorous,
but acting locally is more difficult.
Who among us does not know the numbness that comes with familiarity? When is the last time you took a really close look at something or someone you see everyday? Remember Yogi Berra’s wisdom, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” But you must be paying attention.
But how much are we willing to be attentive? The price of attentiveness is letting go of our preoccupations and our agenda.
We must stop (put down the cell phone), look (turn away from whatever screen is in front of us), and listen (remove the ear phones and buds) to liberate what constrains and to heal what cripples.
With such attentiveness “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Attentive love heals wounds, physical and spiritual; it proclaims the presence of the One whose care for us never wavers. – Father Richard Gula, SS
Every mother wants what is best for her children. The mother of James and John was no exception. She wanted her sons to sit at Jesus’ right and left when he entered his kingdom. But sometimes even a mother can get it wrong.
Sometimes we can get it wrong.
She did not understand what her sons would have to endure to enter God’s kingdom.
Like the mother of James and John, we often seek what is best without understanding the cost we must pay.
We trade in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”: discipleship without the cost, glory without the suffering, resurrection without the cross.
This is why reflecting on the Gospels is so important – especially on the moment when the mother of James and John makes her famous request. It reminds us that while grace is God’s free gift, there is a cost to discipleship.
That cost is to drink the chalice that Jesus drinks. -Father Frank J. Matera
What does it cost you to be a disciple?
Have you experienced what Dietrich Boenhoffer is talking about…that sometimes living a life of faith – or following Christ – has been comparatively easy? Does your faith pinch in any way?
This is a very good time to take inventory of the way you live your faith.
Seize this very moment.
How can your attitude be adjusted and how can you put yourself out there “on the line” as you seek to be a light and bear witness in our world of a love that is unconditional and offered to everyone?
We say we are Christians. We say – like James and John – that we can drink of the chalice that Christ drank from.
So…let’s see where that takes us. Most likely, right into the footsteps of Jesus and into the limelight of a world that will resist the message of your life…yet, we are in this together and we know that ultimately, God’s grace will do the work that we cannot complete.
Let’s pray for each other!
Jesus responds to Martha’s stubborn, passionate faith that he is no ordinary person with the revelation of himself, “I am the resurrection and the life…”, and Martha responds with a confession of Christ which stands out as a special climax in the New Testament: “You are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world…”
This confession of Christ which takes similar form only once more in the other Gospels, where it is uttered by Peter.
For the early church, to confess Christ in this way was the mark of an apostle. The church was built upon Peter’s confession, and to this day the Popes understand themselves as Peter’s successor’s.
However, we must conclude from this story and this confession that Martha is also a leading personality, like the apostles in the early church.
She was tenacious, wise, combative, competent, emancipated woman with many practical responsibilities in the community…
He saw strength in the combative extravert. As far as John was concerned, the church needed women who were aware of themselves – we still do.
- Elisabeth Moltman-Wendell The Women Around Jesus
The true price of things may not always equate their monetary value. Something worth only a few pennies at the local flea market may in fact be our most valuable possession because of its association with a cherished memory or a person we love dearly.
Sitting at the kitchen table and making a list of personal possessions to update our insurance policy coverage is one thing, but sorting through the rubble of our home after a destructive tornado is quite another.
If replacement at current market value is the issue, we evaluate the things in our closet and apartment in one way. Other objects are truly priceless because they are uniquely irreplaceable: precious family photos, a patchwork quilt sewn by one’s grandmother, a wedding ring or graduation gift from a deceased parent. What is the market value of the one letter my dad wrote to me shortly before my diaconal ordination in Rome?
And how can one put a price tag on the less tangible treasure of friendship with God?
Solomon, friend of God as he was, considered an “understanding heart” (literally, a listening heart) more valuable than any material object in his palace.
The heart was where the ancient world assumed decisions were made, and Solomon was determined to make wise ones.
The parables of the kingdom in the Gospel invite each of us to determine the most valuable item in our lives and to act accordingly. Some things matter more than others, and the difference has nothing to do with dollars and cents.
-Bishop Richard J. Sklba Fire Starters: Igniting the Holy in the Weekday Homily
I love to bake bread! I delight in watching what happens when sugar is added to the yeast and water. I love the sensation of kneading the leavened dough and feeling it’s “life,” the thrill of seeing it rise. This, says Jesus – who had no doubt observed the process many times – this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.
And if the kingdom of heaven is like the yeast and the seed, both with great potential for growth and transformation, to whom or what can we compare the flour and the soil? Could it not be us?
The yeast needs the flour to become bread.
The kingdom of heaven needs us
if it is to be realized
and brought to fruition.
“The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a first fruit of his creatures,” a fitting Gospel acclamation. But the fruit is produced only after the seed has been planted and sheds its hull. The flour must yield to the action of the yeast.
And each of us must yield to the leavening of God’s word, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “cling” to God in order to be transformed into God’s people, God’s praise and beauty.
Remember the God who gave you birth and wills to bring you to the fullness of life in the kingdom of heaven, both now and in the age to come.
-Sister Anne Elizabeth Sweet www.klosterliv-monasticlife.org
There is a pilgrim in each of us. We often sense the pilgrim aspect of our lives when we experience being stirred by a memory, a word, or a story. Something awakens in our yearning for purposeful living.
We are drawn into a deeper search.
As we become more sensitive to such moments, we may become aware that our entire life is a pilgrimage. It is not always possible to ritualize our pilgrimage in the traditional way of actually travelling to a sacred site; however, we have within our beings a pilgrim path.
Each time we sit down at the altar of our own lives to evaluate our growth in Christ, whether this is through spiritual direction or part of our personal rule of life, we are on a pilgrimage.
It is possible that this psalm was sung by pilgrims on the way to the temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes we are able to make a pilgrimage to a particular shrine, a cathedral, a temple, a holy mountain, even to our birthplace.
There are also inner pilgrimages we can make.
All these pilgrimages are sacred. We move toward a place of deeper intimacy with God. We walk in the footsteps of other pilgrims who in their own unique ways led the way. Now it is our turn!
You are on the road to Zion. In biblical history, Zion usually refers to a certain section of Jerusalem. For your pilgrimage through this psalm, you might look at “Zion” as your own personal promised land, a place where God dwells. Or, it could be the temple of your own being where the Spirit of Jesus lives…
– Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, Abide
Make this pilgrimage thoughtfully…dedicate your journey to your increasing awareness of God growing and maturing within you. There is no limit to the times you will make this journey; each time beginning from the new place and time in which you find yourself. God, who is beyond time and space, is already “where you are going” while joining you on the way. Allow the mysterious love of God to direct you – you don’t have to know every detail of the journey…after all…that is what faith is.
Most of us know the discomfort and restriction of suffering from a stiff neck.
And all of us know the annoyance and pain of living or working with a stiff-necked person.
The stiff-necked can be obstinate and stubborn, rigid and inflexible, mulish and pigheaded. They’re not the folks we want as kin, colleagues, or committee members. But we all have such folks in our lives and often enough might ourselves be the stiff-necked neighbor in the lives of those around us.
Like our ancestors in the faith, we also can be stiff-necked in dealing with God: slow to trust and believe, dismissive of God’s bidding, heedless of God’s warnings, and unfaithful to the covenant binding us in love.
The prescribed treatment is very much like that for its physical counterpart. Immediate relief can be had from massage, with the Lord serving as your massage therapist.
You’ll need to sit still, bowing slightly, surrendering your stubbornness and pain to the Lord’s healing hands kneading your heart, his skillful fingers probing your soul to relax the knotted tightness holding you fast.
A daily program of prayerful exercise will continue to relieve spiritual tension.
Practice nodding your will forward and backward, in grateful assent to your Trainer’s instruction. Follow up with a set of soul stretches until with steady supple ease your heart begins to beat as one with God, your stiff neck healed, relaxed by warmth and touch divine. Repeat as needed.
- Fr. Austin Fleming
Would they be words of advice?
Words of comfort? challenge? forgiveness? love?
In a letter to the people of Ephesus, Paul continues his very challenging final words to the leaders of the church, friends among whom he lived and ministered for over three years, people he was certain he would not see again.
Similarly, at the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus finds himself in the midst of a great and final prayer to God. Shortly before his death, Jesus prays for his disciples, asking God to protect them from the evils of this world and keep them united and joyful.
In this prayer, Jesus prays to God – but significantly, along with the disciples – we hear his words. -Fr. Felix Just
Jesus prays for you.
This prayer holds time still and at the same time Jesus’ prayer for you moves swiftly through the generations to reach you where you are today. Jesus has not stopped praying for you. When you feel like you keep falling short of some imaginary ruler that measures your “success” as a Christian – think again.
Jesus prays for you always and everywhere – regardless of merit or worth. You belong to him. How could he ever – ever – forget you?
Your life, here on this planet, is not just about getting ready for heaven…it is about living in the light of this love today and believing that Jesus is in your corner NOW.
This is the promise he made to us: eternal life.
Where is it? When is it? For a long time I have thought about eternal life as a life after all my birthdays have run out.
For most of my years I have spoken about the eternal life as the “afterlife,” as the “life after death.” But the older I become, the less interest my “afterlife” holds for me. Worrying not only about tomorrow, next year, and the next decade, but even about the next life seems a false preoccupation.
Wondering how things will be for me after I die seems, for the most part, a distraction.
The great mystery of the spiritual life – the life in God – is that we don’t have to wait for it as something that will happen later. Jesus says: “Dwell in me as I dwell in you.” It is this divine in-dwelling that is eternal life. It is the active presence of God at the center of my living – the movement of God’s Spirit within us – that gives us eternal life.
But still, what about life after death?
Death is no longer the dividing line.
Death has lost its power over those who belong to God, because God is the God of the living, not of the dead…
-Henri J. M. Nouwen, Here and Now
Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was an internationally known priest and is among the great spiritual writers of modern times.