Author Archives: Monique Jacobs

The Cost of Discipleship

ocx2on39Every 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.

The mother of James and John wanted what was best, but she did not take into account the cost of discipleship. Mothers of kidnapped teenagers

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

all decide

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!

Martha’s Strength of Faith

Jesus and MarthaJesus 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…”

Thus John placed the confession of Christ on the lips of a woman, a woman who was known for her openness, her strength, and her practical nature.marthamagdalene

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…

Martha-and-MaryJohn wanted to use Martha to portray the strength of faith; for him, Mary was the weaker of the two, the average woman.

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

Appraising Life’s Treasures

ringThe 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.

Reclami-ImcSitting 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. Photo albumOther 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

The Leaven of God’s Word

kneading-doughWho doesn’t love to eat freshly baked bread? The aroma, alone, makes your stomach growl and taste buds sing!

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. child kneadingThis, 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.

bean-seeds_shutterstock_57850783-272x164The seed needs the soil to grow and bear fruit.

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

Pilgrim Path Within

pilgrimPsalm 84 is a pilgrim song.

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.

wee monkEvery time we prayerfully walk through a Scripture passage, we can make that prayer journey, a pilgrimage.  The Word of God becomes our pilgrim guide.

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!

al aloneWe journey to our personal yet communal Zion. The “on the way” part of the journey is as precious as our arrival…

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

act in faith

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.

Surrender Your Stiff Neck!

stiff-neck6

Most of us know the discomfort and restriction of suffering from a stiff neck.

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.NO

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.

stiffneck-painBeing stiff-necked in the spiritual life is an affliction often diagnosed as sin.

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.

stiffneckmassageYou’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.

head-noddingPractice 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

Final Words

sickbedWhat parting words would you wish to give to members of your family, your community, or your closest friends if you knew it was the last time you would see them here on earth?

Would they be words of advice?

Words of comfort? challenge? forgiveness? love?

head-in-handsAnd what words would you wish to address to God in prayer shortly before the end of your mortal life, praying not only for yourself but also for those dear to you?

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.

protecting othersPaul exhorts these elders to be faithful shepherds, humbly serving and diligently protecting the congregation the Holy Spirit has entrusted to their care.

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.

10428490_10152097073117681_7005671247057170516_nHe prays that they might be “consecrated” in the truth of God’s word and send them into the world to make it a place more holy, a place more filled with God’s love.

In this prayer, Jesus prays to God – but significantly, along with the disciples – we hear his words.   -Fr. Felix Just

Jesus prays for you.

IMG_30477627848631This 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.

 

Here and Now

This is the promise he made to us: eternal life.

Iamthe Light 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.

cosmos4When my clear goal is the eternal life, that life must be reachable right now, where I am, because eternal life is life in and with God, and God is where I am here and now.

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?

GATEWhen we live in communion with God, when we belong to God’s own household, there is no longer any “before” or “after.”

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…

emmausWhen eternal life is our clear goal it is not a distant goal. It is a goal that can be reached in the present moment. When our heart understands this divine truth, we are living the spiritual life.

-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.

So much more than his Voice…

Not even 2 years ago, my father died of cancer…too quickly, really…in two weeks it was over, start to finish.

80th birthday breakfastHe was a joyful man. We celebrated his 80th birthday as a family one month before his death and he was set on fixing breakfast for everyone…ok, we all helped, but it was a delight to have him take charge in the kitchen.

Soon after he died, I called my mom’s house to check on her and I got the answering machine – with his voice still responding to the caller. I just listened…and then quickly, I called again…and again.

It was more than his voice…it was my Dad whom I was trying to reach – contact – possess…my dear Dad who was lost to me too quickly.

GodsembraceSince then I have pondered so often about the amazing love of God.  A God who would allow me to – perhaps –  love and long for my Dad more than I might daily long for Him. What kind of God would allow for substitutes?

Well, not really substitutes, right? I mean we would never “substitute” people for God…yet, I have come to believe that God is so free, so expansive, so “outside da box” that He rejoices in the love I have for my Dad, the way I miss his voice and touch, and meets me in the “middle” of that love, instead of needing me to love Him to the exclusion of loving my Dad.

father and sonI know, in some ways, I might seem to be walking a fine line here for those who read Scripture literally. I mean it says quite clearly in Scripture that “you shall love God with all your mind and heart” and love nothing before God or more than God.

I remember being VERY distressed as a child when I first learned the commandments – especially #1.  I wanted to be honest with God.  Yet, at that moment, at 8 years old, I knew I loved my parents more than I loved God and I hoped He would understand and that – eventually, if He was patient –  I would most likely love Him more.

But – I mean REALLY – it is not a competition, is it?

I love God deeply and have come to love God more and more and more in my life. I have spent my life trying to be responsive to this God and every day, I go into the world aware that God is the message of love I want to spread and I am the lucky messenger.you are loved

In I Corinthians 13 it says that God is not jealous…and I think that is what it all boils down to for me.  THIS is the God that I believe in and love…a God who cuts me slack and actually enjoys, revels in, the love I have for my parents / for others – God’s personal gifts to me.

Hey! Isn’t that a commandment too?

The love of God is immense…in fact, I would hazard a guess that the love of God is as big and wide, deep and tall, as you need that love to be.

My Dad was a joyful man. Where did that come from? From the God he knew as loving parent – a God whose heart is big enough, loving enough, compassionate enough that He is not threatened by any other love.  After all – ALL love comes from God, right?

If the love I experience on this planet between human beings and creation opens me up to the larger experience of God’s love – it’s all good.

Thanks Dad!

During these days of Easter we are reminded that love never dies…so, who is loving YOU today? Eyes wide open? Coming at ya!

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?

 

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