Author Archives: Monique Jacobs

Betrayal and Disappointment

Judas clearly chose to betray Jesus.

batik last supper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was no sudden impulse. It was a premeditated decision to sell his friend for money. But why? Surely, Judas has once loved Jesus. He left everything to follow him. How did this love die?

It probably began slowly.

Perhaps what happened to Judas, in the beginning, was the same thing which happens so often to us. As the fervor of his first love was tested, and he began to realize that Jesus and his plan were not like his initial hopes, Judas allowed disappointment to creep into his love.

man-walking awayOver time, his love for Jesus may have grown cold, even though he continued to “go through the motions” of discipleship. As disappointment grew into bitterness, his heart turned to other loves: money, personal ambition, independence, perhaps even the desire to follow someone or something else. We don’t know.

But we may face the same temptation to betray someone we love.

hands apartConsider the commitment to marriage for some of us – or a close friendship. Time inevitably reveals that our spouse or friend, is different, and that God’s plan for this relationship is different than we first imagined. Here we are challenged: will we trust in God, be faithful, and allow love to grow? Or will we give in to disappointment, begin to seek other loves, and slowly betray the other person (and God) even as we still “go through the motions”? – John Janaro

crucifixionIt is easy to remain aloof from the characters of Holy Week and to see them as figures locked in time.  Human nature is consistent, however, and the challenges of Jesus’ companions are challenges which we, too, share. Holy Week is intended to help us take a little more time for self-reflection and making amends. This takes candor and love.

What do I bring to the cross of Jesus?

 

Do You Stand as a Question Mark?

A parent might do all kinds of things, stoop to all sorts of indignities, to save a child.

syrophonecian woman3When the Canaanite woman approaches Jesus, every generation can hear her desperation and recognize that she is literally begging for his attention to her daughter’s condition. But she is a woman, and she is not a Jew, and so the scene surprisingly exposes a prejudice within this Jewish man of his time.

syrophonecian woman2Jesus not only refuses to help her but uses insulting language to make his point. Brilliantly the woman turns his metaphor around and reminds him that even the dogs are entitled to the scraps from the table. She turns an insult into an opportunity, and the mission of Jesus is opened wider than expected.

 

The Syrophonecian woman stands in the gospel as a kind of question mark.

catching rainWe might hear her asking whether our communities and families are more like those seated at the table or more like those begging for scraps.

And then her presence asks us to become sensitive to needs that draws us beyond familiar boundaries. She might also ask whether we are willing to make fools of ourselves to obtain what we need, or to speak out for what others need.immigration

Do YOU stand as a question mark?

 

Reconciliation vs. Forgiveness

Compared with reconciliation, forgiveness is a piece of cake.

sorrowForgiveness by God is, of course, a great and undeserved blessing. The biblical messages during this week of Lent are full of forgiveness. We hear from Daniel: “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil…but yours, O God, are compassion and forgiveness!” Micah reminds us: “Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin?” And then there is the classic story of forgiveness in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

reconcilation8But forgiveness is different from reconciliation.

Forgiveness requires only one, a forgiver, but reconciliation takes at least two, a forgiver and a recipient. God will always forgive us, but we will not always accept the forgiveness.

rembrant-prodigal-son-The story of the prodigal son does not reveal whether the two sons were reconciled with their father, even though he forgave them both. They may have festering wounds for years, the younger because of an inability to forgive himself, and the older due to resentment.

In the renewal of the sacraments mandated by the
Second Vatican Council, the Sacrament of Penance
received a new name:
“Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

This is not just semantics and was not done suddenly but was carefully studied for several years before Pope Paul VI approved the new name in 1973.

confession“Reconciliation” describes much more adequately the purpose of the sacrament, which is to reconcile the sinner to God and to the church, and to set the stage for reconciliation within the person, healing the wounds of sin.

GodsembraceThis is very different from simple forgiveness. Most of the time, a person entering the confessional has already been forgiven, because God forgives us the moment we turn to him.

There is an initial reconciliation with God at that moment, but it may be very fragile. There may still be no reconciliation with the Church, the community of faith, and no healing of the fissure that has been opened in the heart by sin.

Sin can be forgiven from the outside,
but it originated from the inside and
must be healed from the inside.

confessionario_07062013170607We may confess a lie, for example, and it is forgiven. But the lie did not spring up without roots. There was a cause, and the cause was a diseased organ, the heart. It doesn’t help much to attend to the mouth that told the lie if there is no attention to the heart that spawned it.

reconciliation2During Lent we desire to open ourselves to the reconciliation that reunites us to God and to God’s people and brings healing to the heart. Then the wonderful gift of divine forgiveness will be able to achieve its total purpose in freeing us from our sins.

-Abbot Jerome Kodell OSB, Subiaco Abbey, Arkansas

 

 

There are Alternate Routes to being Christ

A little musical inspiration on this fourth Tuesday of March and third Tuesday of Lent. I love this song, and when I heard it again yesterday  it felt like the perfect Lenten meditation. Here’s “Nothing More” by The Alternate Routes:

We are Love
We are One
We are how we treat each other when the day is done.
We are Peace
We are War
We are how we treat each other and Nothing More

Big – Lenten Desert – Sky Country

bigskyAll you have to do to appreciate the big Nevada sky is go anywhere else in the country, right?

Okay – I’ll admit it – I am biased!

I was first assigned to live in Reno in 1981 and have lived here off and on since.  The big sky struck me from the first day.  There is something so elementary about the freedom of what goes on up there.

We can’t “batten down the hatches” of the atmosphere. The big sky – Nature – teaches a kind of surrender…an invitation to surrender, anyway.  We  accept that we are connected in deeply profound ways to all that God has made.

What goes on up there goes on
within me as well.

DSCN0569A number of years ago, I was with a friend who was struggling with her faith and her circumstances.  I told her that I saw the face of God, heard the voice of God, in what went on in the sky. It was comforting for me to know that God “covers” me the way the sky covers the land and that the ever-changing sky was a clue for me of how God is daily adapting the message of love in order for me to hear it.

She was quiet for a long minute.

pirate moonThen she said, “I guess if that were true for me right now - I’d have to trust he’s there. If God has another face; I’d see it in the darkness.”

The night sky…I love that thought.

Have you looked up lately? The amazing thing is that all those beautiful stars and all that “comet action” is going on all the time.  The timing just has to be right – the sun disappearing beyond the horizon – for me to see it clearly.  So, I have to wonder, what else am I missing because I am only looking in one way?

Lent is about taking time to see things – to see God – differently.

Sometimes it takes this special time, when we are kind-of “primed” to connect with God and holy things more closely, for God to be able to get through all the noise and distractions that our lives are built around.

So let me ask you,
how will you see God this Lent…
and where?

 

 

 

Jesus, Son of God….Have Mercy on Me

The Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

man-meditatingTwo men went into the temple. The Pharisee, confident that he had done everything necessary to be right with God, prayed:

God, I thank you that I am not like other people…”

The tax collector, whose job was even less popular in Roman Palestine than in our day, took a different tack. He knew he was like other people, and in that piercing recognition, his prayer was: “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

man beggingA blind man begging by the road could hear a great crowd passing by. Hoping for some alms, he asked what was up and was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” That name banished any thought of skimming a few coins off the unexpected traffic. Here was a one-time shot at what he longed for most – to see. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

forgiveSinful and unseeing, desperate for forgiveness and healing: I am that tax collector, I am that beggar on the road into Jericho. A consolation is that I am not alone, for there is no prayer more frequent in the churches of the East and West than Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” The blind man knew that in Jesus the merciful God has come close, and Christians soon discovered the power of the name of Jesus, which after all, means, “God saves.”

Early monks loved to repeat Kyrie eleison and the Holy Name as a way to keep the Lord close and devilish thoughts far away. Better to fill the heart with Jesus, they believed, than to leave it open to distraction and temptation.

In the fifth century, Diadochus of Photike said that we should give the mind “nothing but the prayer ‘Lord Jesus.’” The monks of Sinai brought Diadochus’s suggestion back to those Gospel stories of calling upon Jesus. the result was the Jesus Prayer.

prayer beadsThe Jesus Prayer became their equivalent of the Latin church’s hail Mary. It has its own kind of rosary, usually a cord with 33, 50 or 100 knots. Monks and devout laity wear a small version around their wrist, reminding them to call out to Jesus in their struggles.  The prayer became linked to the body’s own rhythm of heartbeat and breath, breathing in Jesus and breathing out sinfulness.

footprints 3Those who practice the Jesus Prayer learn not to be surprised by tears. Like any meditation, this one can bring stillness and heightened awareness, touching depths of feeling beyond the day-to-day range of our emotions. The Jesus Prayer names those depths in classic Christian terms with the language of compunction: sinfulness and mercy. Even as it does so, the prayer brings with it the only answer to our completeness – Jesus Christ, the Lord and Son of God.

I breathe him in, I breathe me out. Mercy indeed.

-Fr. Columba Stewart

Our Ancient Cry to God

Praying the “O” Antiphons

From December 17 to 23, the Church observes the ancient custom of praying each day one of the seven “O” Antiphons, so-called because each one addresses the God who comes in Christ with a different biblical title, beginning with the invocation “O”.

In Latin, the first letters of the titles, read in reverse order, form the acrostic “Ero Cras” which translates as “I will be with you tomorrow.”

prayer bookThese texts, traced back to seventh century Europe, are drenched in biblical allusions offering a rich source for personal prayer and reflection during these final days of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

We list them here for you – briefly – with suggestions for looking more deeply into the scriptural heart of these antiphons, which appear in the liturgy as the Gospel acclamations for each day.

ancient_wisdomDecember 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

Sirach 24: 3-4,7
Baruch 3: 29 – 37
Wisdom 9: 1-6 I Corinthians 1: 24

December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)

Exodus 3: 1-6
Exodus 6:6
Exodus 19: 16-20
Exodus 20: 2-6

jesseDecember 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

Isiah 11: 1-5; 52: 13-53: 6
Revelation 5: 5; 22: 16
John 15: 1-4

December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)

Isaiah 22: 20 – 24
Revelation 1: 18
Revelation 3: 7
Revelation 20: 4-6, 13

dayspringDecember 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring/Dawn)

Luke 1: 78 – 79
Hebrews 1: 1-4
Malachi 3: 2
John 8: 12

December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)

Genesis 2: 7
Ezekiel 37: 21 – 28
Isaiah 26: 8-9, 40: 31

god-with-us_t_nv-1024x768December 23: O Emmanuel (God-With-Us)

Isaiah 7: 10-15
Romans 8: 20 – 24
John 1: 1-18

This is a GREAT way to connect with all those who came before us and have prayed “Come Lord Jesus!”
Spend some time with these names of God this Advent…these few short days that are left to us this week and see what ELSE God has to say to you!

Yoohoo – anyone home?

I love Einstein’s motto.

EinsteinA young reporter once asked Einstein if he could go into detail and explain the Theory of Relativity for the interview at hand. Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I make it a practice never to retain information in my head that I can easily look up in the library.” Let the library carry the burden of the data that I don’t need everyday.

Thus,  I am riding on automatic pilot a bit more often than carefully being attentive to the details around me. My sister tells me that I “rent space” in my body instead of inhabiting it thoroughly.  I don’t really have an argument for that!

Therefore, many times I am surprised by life!  I am easily amazed at the creativity and diversity of the world around me and of the people I encounter during the day, especially when something new pops up and demands attention.Buddha Lemons

I was in the store, grocery shopping on the weekend, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Have you ever seen one of these before? They are called Buddha Hand Lemons.  I had to take a picture for you!  How do you eat these things? How do they grow – on a tree like regular lemons?

I don’t often stand still gazing at produce, but this time I HAD to.

These lemons were such an interruption to the normal shopping excursion. No “business as usual” here at all…and that is what it took for me to look twice at the amazing things that God is doing.

When we were children, we lived within 15 minutes of the beach. We spent many hours in the sun, crusted with sand, building castles or looking for shells; for sand dollars.

sand-dollar-surf The older we got, the fewer sand dollars there seemed to be.  They became the prize of the day – especially when we could find one intact and unbroken by the surf.

For a while my sisters and I surmised that perhaps we had picked them all up – that there were no more to be had.

Yet, this just doesn’t fit with the way God works.

A God of abundance and generosity is never outdone…God is always giving.  The key here is, am I watching…am I listening?  I mean, what exactly does God have to do to get my attention?  I know, God grows Buddha Hand Lemons!

The beauty and changes in nature highlight for me the activity that God does everywhere else. It is much harder for me to “rent space” in my head when I am surrounded by the extravagant color and shapes of the outdoors. It is like God gives me a gentle shake and says, “Don’t miss what I am doing here…what I am doing in you, too.”Tahoe Autumn

So…what is God doing today in your life?  Is there something new happening?  Is someone calling for a little more time and energy from you?  It could be God’s communication…not just for the good of the other, but also to get you to re-evaluate where you are going right now.  Slow down, take a deep breath, and exhale and connect with someone outside your head.

Automatic pilot is good for some things – it let’s me focus on what is really begging for my time and attention.  Like God…

Falling for Change

This time of year takes my breath away! You too?change7

All of a sudden the air has a chill to it – I can see my breath in the mornings when I walk the dog! – and the trees all over town and at the Lake are beginning their slow, magnificent transition of letting go of “business as usual” and turning toward the long rest of winter.

I often wish I could zip up these colors and contain them inside me.  change6

Trees have always been an amazing revelation of following God, for me.  They do exactly what they are supposed to do! They respond to the deepest invitation of their nature and conform (easily?) to the demands of each season.

Now you can see why they inspire me. I do not follow the same path for myself…at least, I am sure, I don’t do it so beautifully.

CHANGE ME

Why is it that CHANGE, which is so important for all of creation in order to get from HERE to THERE, looks so different on us than it does in the example of Brother Sun and Sister Moon?

change4I think it is our fear of being changed – of not recognizing ourselves on the other side of it – that makes us so leery, or resistant even, of releasing ourselves to the process which allows us to grow.

Do you agree?  What do you think? Pause here, will you, and reflect for a second.

 

changeAre we so satisfied with the way things are right now that we couldn’t benefit from a little transitioning? In our head – intellectually – I think we would push that idea aside and reply, no.

But…we don’t respond to change with our intellect – do we?

change2Ha! I know the answer to that myself!  Often I have to force myself to move my need for change TO my head in order to win myself over.

So…if our resistance to change is located in our emotions, then what is the formula that will help us to see this invitation as something that is not life-threatening – though, perhaps it will be life-style threatening.

change3What will help?  We can lay a few thoughts out here but you will have to do your own personal homework in order to make a new approach to change, stick.

Reflect for yourself:

  • What do I like about the way things are?
  • What isn’t working anymore?
  • If I can’t change everything about what isn’t working anymore, what IS possible to shift? Is there a new habit that I can begin that would take some weight off the issues I struggle with?
  • Decide to try this new shift in attitude, as well as in practice, for one week…ok, I know we are playing a mind-game here BUT mind-games can become pretty persuasive if they succeed!

OK – now determine what “success” would look like. What would make your efforts at shifting-what-isn’t-working-anymore feel “successful?”

KEEP DOING IT.

change5Don’t forget.  Even though you might be a wee bit more resistant to change than the breath-taking trees around you this season – as a friend of mine said last weekend – this is only a season.  The next season is coming soon, we can bank on it.

If we don’t do the work of this season – letting go of what isn’t working anymore – we won’t have room for all the new growth and beauty of what comes next.

We think we know ourselves so well.  We’ve lived inside this body for so many years but there are amazing, wondrous, new breath-taking realities just waiting to take hold in your life.  Things you haven’t even begun to dream about.  spring crocusSpring comes after the slow, deep sleep of Winter and this time – you’ll be ready!

 

 

 

Ali Babba’s Treasure…or something more…

I love to read…but you already know that.  I have to admit that when I was young, I did not aspire to be a nurse or a doctor.  I always dreamt of being a pirate or a brilliant detective or Tonto’s sidekick.

imaginationAll of my dreams were linked to my wonderful imagination.

I could see myself hanging onto the rigging of the ship that I sailed with my shipmates – forget taking baths, pirates have the sea spray in their face! The treasure I’d find was also exciting, whether I’d find it as Bluebeard, Ali Babba, or Nancy Drew.

Who were your childhood heroes?

It is SO good to remember that when we were younger we aspired to things that may not have really been practical, realistic, or even possible!  reach for the sky

We didn’t just reach for the sky…we reached the sky!

We get so sensible – cynical? – as adults. We filter the dream from the concrete reality and so…more often than not…we stop dreaming all together.

Somewhere along the line, you may have been told to snap out of it…to get real…to grow up.

That Ali Babba’s treasure existed only in your dreams.treasure chest3

Yet – isn’t there great value in  remembering the dreams; the joyful yearning of your hopeful heart?

Scripture tells us to be like little children again - and reaching for the sky was one of our best attributes.

So – what is there to lose today by shedding some of the cynicism we have begun to wear like a cloak – that doesn’t really define you, does it? – and embracing the young person we once were? hero

What could you do to rekindle the sparkle of hope in the next 24 hours…and well, have fun with what life dishes you?

Perhaps there really is a treasure in your life that you have overlooked…or, perhaps, the treasure is God, the one who never lost sight of the joyful, hopeful person you are and can help you remember once again to believe in buried treasure…

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