Archives: February 2021

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God Created Us for Service

Several years ago a friend of mine went through an unplanned job and resultant life transition. We kept in communication during his transition period via phone calls and emails. In one of our conversations he said: “John, I’ve been praying and trying to discern God’s plan for my life, but I’m not getting any clarity.” In response I told him that I wasn’t convinced that God had a specific plan for each of our lives, as that would negate our free will. And our free will is one of God’s great gifts to us—and more than occasionally—something that gets us (or at least me) into trouble.

If God had a specific plan for each of our lives, if we didn’t have our free will, we would be nothing more than automatons. Now in saying this, there is a need for great clarity, while I don’t believe God has a specific plan for each of us, I do believe that God has a “general” plan for all of us. The old Baltimore Catechism stated this well when it indicated that: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Our free will allows us to make the choice for God in our each of our lives. Unfortunately, our free will also allows us to choose things other than God. Without free will, we would have no choice, but to love God in all God’s magnificence and glory. Free will is a great gift, but it also comes with great responsibility. Because of it even small decisions can have significant consequences.

Now the above having been said, I also believe that there are times when God does call us to a specific service. Cardinal John Henry Newman stated this well back in 1848: “God knows me and calls me by my name….God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.” These words of Cardinal Newman remind us that we are not created without a purpose.

I do believe we are called to some specific service—even though we may never know what that purpose or service is. Perhaps the service God is calling someone to be good husband/wife, father/mother, son/daughter, friend, neighbor, or co-worker. Perhaps it is simply to invite others to come to know Jesus by the witness of our lives. This service can be accomplished in a variety of ways. And at different times, this service may take a variety of forms. Being called to a specific service or purpose by God, though, is not the same as God having a specific plan for our lives. A specific service is not the same as a specific plan.

Like Cardinal Newman, we may never know the service God has committed to us in our individual lives. But with prayer and our free will—and even though we might not know it—we will accomplish that service.

 

Lenten banners hung above sanctuary

Lenten Journey: Week 2

As we embark on the Second Week of Lent we invite you to consider the following suggestions for the three Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer and charity. These can either be in addition to last week’s suggestions or you can start anew. 
 
I recently came across a wonderful article by Fr. Jerry Kurian, a Syriac Orthodox priest. In it he proposes that our Lenten fasting and abstinence are fir naught if these do not change our hearts. Lent he says is a time to learn anew how to bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands. This is truly a beautiful description of what we are called to do during Lent and in fact, throughout our entire Christian Journey.
 

Mending our Hearts: Fasting from Gossip

  • On a number of occasions, Pope Francis has declared gossip to be rotten and poisonous. At first, he suggests that it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, “it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.” 
  • Gossip not only hurts other people and brings them down it is also contrary to our Christian way of life. As Pope Francis notes: “a loving community, a caring community, a Christian community is a community that is free from gossip.”
  • Fasting from gossip requires great attention to our feelings about others. It also requires a careful and disciplined use of language. Lent is the perfect time to “soften our hardened hearts and to silence our sharpened tongues.” 
 
Bending our Knees: Praying the Station of the Cross
  • Praying the Stations of the Cross is an ancient Christian devotion which invites us to meditate on the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. A history of this devotion is offered in this week’s Art that Surrounds Us: https://www.mary.org/blog/202102/art-surrounds-us-stations-cross#.YDU4dNhKiJA .
  • On Fridays of Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross at 5:30pm. You can join us in person or via livestream. Each Friday we will pray a different version of the Stations of the Cross both in terms of the text and the images that are used. If you join us in person a QR code will allow you to see the images. For those at home you will see the image on your screen. 
  • If you would like to pray the Stations of the Cross at home you can use the weekly recorded livestream or you can find a narrated slideshow of our Scriptural Stations at https://vimeo.com/403088034. These stations were commissioned by The Basilica of Saint Mary from local artist Lucinda Naylor and master printer Steven Anderson to mark the second millennium of Christianity. The art was inspired by Scripture while the meditations by Johan van Parys were inspired by the art.  
 
Lending our Hands: Charitable Giving of Blood
  • During the Season of Lent we give thanks for Jesus’ willingness to die for us on the cross. This act has deep sacrificial meaning and great theological implications for all of us.  
  • May Jesus’ willingness to give his blood so that we might live inspire us to donate our blood to save the lives of others. This is particularly important during this pandemic, especially for those who have developed antibodies to the virus.
  • All blood banks are in need, now more than ever.  To donate blood you can contact the Red Cross at www.redcrossblood.org/give or the Memorial Blood Center at www.mbcherohub.club
 
 
And please remember to be patient with yourself and others.  Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian stamina. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
 
 
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