Category Archives: Spiritual ponderings

3 Things Lent Taught Me About Prayer

What we learn from LentPrayer is not something new to me. My Catholic resume has some pretty decent bones to it. Even so, I do believe we tread on dangerous ground when we feel like our faith cannot teach us something new. As a lifelong learner, I love when old “practices” can bear new fruit.

Sometimes simply making a few changes feels like opening wide the windows, allowing bright light and fresh air to pour in. Spiritual refreshment is an important part of our faith walk, otherwise we can experience pitfalls, such as mindlessly go through the motions or getting stuck in a spiritual rut. This Lent, my approach to prayer was different {read more here}. For 40 days, I prayed for 40 people and their at least 40 intentions — my 40/40/40 Lenten Prayer Pact.

It was a beautiful time of intercession, and I’m really grateful to all who participated – either through asking for prayer, or hosting your own. My heart swelled when my Sister-in-Law told me that she had her whole South Florida Catholic grade-school class doing the 40/40/40 for Lent.

What did I learn during the 40/40/40? Here are three things that Lent taught me about prayer:

1. Generosity and reciprocity.

My 40/40/40 in no way suggested to participants that anything may be expected back from those submitting their prayer intentions. This was not framed as, “Let’s pray for each other this Lent.” I told people that I wanted to pray for them, and that was that; yet I found that prayer begets prayer more often than not — reciprocity.

Many signup forms or emails were returned telling me, “I’m praying for you too!” Whether you call this show of generosity “Pay It Forward”, Karma, or the Law of Attraction — I know it was a blessing for all involved. Some of the intentions tapped into such a personal part of my own journey, so my heart was moved with compassion many times throughout Lent.

2. Outward focus begins in the heart.

If you do a Scripture search on “heart”, you will see from all the results that the Lord addresses the disposition of our hearts frequently in the Bible. As the central part of our person, that is intentional. Scripture affirms that our actions, thoughts, and words all flow from the heart. It follows that if we are to follow Christ’s example of Servant-Leadership, then our hearts need to be focused on others.

Prayer is a movement of the heart, so interceding on another’s behalf inclines the heart outward, which brings us to a frame of mind to be focused on others before self. When our heart, mind and prayer is not consumed by our own desires and thoughts, we become less self-seeking and desire to serve and help others more. I found myself participating in more ways than normal to support and help others that were in need.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8

3. Prayers prepare your heart for the answer.

We all can relate to asking others to join us in praying for something that we want God to provide for us. Whether our heart is seeking a general provision, like God send me a spouse, or a specific provision, such as heal this person of Cancer, our hearts are set on the answer of YES. Should God provide another answer it can be painful.

This weekend God further reminded me of how we ask people to pray for one thing, but it can be at work in another way. On Friday night, my husband and I decided to drive to Austin to see some properties we were interested in touring with our Realtor. Everything fell into place (thanks to a friend, with 3 hours notice, that responded, “You’re staying with me!”) On Saturday morning, after viewing a few lemons, we walked into a beautiful home that felt perfect. We agreed — we could live here — felt excited, and made an offer on the home the next day. Considering that we weren’t the only offer, even though the home was on the market for only 2 days, we immediately began asking our closest family and friends to join us in praying that they would accept our offer.

There was no lack of prayer, yet several hours later we learned the news that our offer was their 2nd choice and the home-owners were going with another offer. I believe that my prayer and the prayers of others afforded the grace to receive the news and remain positive and open to God’s provision still. The home for us is still out there, exactly where we are meant to be. My heart was readied by prayer to hear and accept the news that I did NOT want in that moment, but answered the greater prayer of moving exactly where we are meant to be. Was it disappointing – sure – but was I devastated and thinking God had failed us, certainly not. Everyone’s prayers lifted us up, and are still at work for the overarching prayer.

When we pray, we must also be open to the answers of no or not yet.

A BIG thanks again to all my 40/40/40 participants. Know that as the Triduum began on Holy Thursday, I also spoke each of your names and petitions before the Altar, laying each of them there.

Even though I am a planner and like to get all my ducks in a row in advance, I was the one that suggested we travel to Austin this weekend on a moments notice. Everything fell together beautifully, in that we were able to still spend time with family (even family I had never met before!) and friends. Sharing a few of the sweet moments that we spent in Austin over Easter weekend:

Home Slice Pizza Austin Things to do in Austin St Mary's Cathedral Austin cowboy boots in Austin S Congress St Austin

Kirby Lane Breakfast

It may be blurry, but the flavor of Kirby Lane’s Chicken Biscuit topped with Eggs and Green Sauce is crystal clear in my mind.

With Bill Williams family in Cedar Park

What did you learn this Lent? Please share in the comments — I would love to hear!

Tagged , , , , ,

Advent Meditation

Patience quotes

As we begin our Advent journey, this is the message I have been given to meditate upon.

“Patience with others is LOVE. Patience with self is HOPE. Patience with God is FAITH.” – Adel Bestavros

Ever since I was a little version of myself, I have thought, acted, and spoke quickly. Mover and a shaker – I’ve been called that a time or two. It’s how I was created to be, to get things done. But it can flip to become my biggest weakness – impatient!

One is the lessons that is still the hardest for me to embrace is staying still, quiet — not acting – and simply being patient.

Maturity in life and in our spiritual journeys demands patience. The majority of life happens in the “waiting” and if we are always trying to rush through it, then we will miss out on much of the golden nuggets buried in life.

I am preaching to myself right now, but I pray that this will bless another soul too.

My husband and I have been in a time of deep discernment about many big life things. While my natural tendency is to “Haste, haste”, I know that the Lord is slowly unveiling His plan as He moves each little piece of His Will bit-by-bit into place.

If you share my tendency to hustle, I’d invite you to sit with this meditation for some quiet time as well. See what wisdom it wants to speak to your heart during this Advent season, as we wait and yearn for the birth of our King. This season of waiting has been given to us a gift, not as a punishment. We are to prepare our hearts, not just our shopping lists!

Tagged , , ,

Whole-Hearted Living Is Not for Sissies

InTheHandsofTheLordA few weeks ago, I reflected on how the heart will not be silent. Since then, a friend introduced me to the thought-leadership of Dr. Brené Brown — a ground-breaking researcher on shame and vulnerability, which now has named the life approach that really resonates with me: Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, a beautiful-yet-sometimes-gut-wrenching way to live. Give yourself a tremendous gift, click that link to Dr. Brown and watch her videos if, like me, you had taken up brief residency under a rock causing you to miss her breakout 4 years ago.

Amidst all of these heart-ponderings (literally), a passage in my morning meditation one day this week caused me to stop and sit with it:

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it whatever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1

A stream of water… Water is a powerful symbol. Considering it is Lent, my thoughts encircle the Catholic Liturgy, where we often draw upon that symbolism. One such way is during Baptism, where the water demonstrates the action of the Holy Spirit, and so is a sacramental sign of new birth.

“Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (CCC 694). 

Although it’s a longer passage, this is a profound illustration of the similar characteristics of water and the Holy Spirit, from one of the early Church Fathers — St. Cyril of Jerusalem. It’s also part of an excellent reflection of images of the Holy Spirit by Msgr. Charles Pope here:

“But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.” (Cat. 16, De Spiritu Sancto 1, 11-12.16: PG 33, 931-935. 939-942) –St. Cyril of Jerusalem

As we know, water is essential for all living things, and even though it remains unchanged – each creature responds to it differently, using it according to its needs. St. Cyril compares this to the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us (if we allow it).

Stop and reflect on that for a moment: There is one Spirit, unchangeable, yet His actions adapt according to the specific needs of each particular person…. #mindblowing

So while I’ve not done my few weeks of exegesis on this text (sorry, Dr. Scott Hahn–my beloved Scripture professor from back in the day), I’m going to still take a stab at pulling this all together:

  1. A King is a leader.
  2. The heart is our lifesource, our center, our core.
  3. Water is the action of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Where does the center of this action reside? In the hands of the Lord. What better place is there to be, then safely tucked in the hands of the Master of the Universe?
  5. “He turns it whatever he wills.” Oh boy…let’s talk about that one.

There’s a couple of ways to view, “He turns it whatever he wills.” To the adventurous souls, it’s the opportunistic promise that the Christian life will never be dull, and to keep in the flow of the stream of the Spirit. To the cautious souls, it’s an invitation to deeply trust whatever way He turns where your heart and the Spirit will lead you.

And for people like myself, that feel like they reside somewhere between those two descriptions depending on the day: Keep seeking the Lord as your helper, and then try and enjoy the ride, as whole-hearted living is not for sissies!!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Story of A Soul

Today marks the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a young French Carmelite, who has profoundly shaped my spirituality.

StThereseQuote

Since I’ve written several posts in the past about Therese, creating this graphic was a new way to honor such a beautiful soul. Last night I opened “Story of a Soul”, her autobiography, and out of the many underlined and bookmarked pages, I was captured by this simple reminder.

Our daily life and work often is teeming with demands. It is action oriented and results-driven: “Go big or go home,” right?! The challenge is not to approach our spiritual life in the same manner. God does not ask us to prove ourselves to him, or perform great actions to gain His approval or reward. Therese simply relates to bring it back to “surrender and gratitude”. It’s speaking to my heart right now – what about yours?

There’s great freedom and refreshment in receiving that kind of Love.

Read my earlier posts on the Little Flower, which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese:

– A Test of Faith

– Happy Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

– Loving Our Littleness

A Heavenly Shower of Roses

True Love

Victim of Love

The Power of Prayer

– On her profound autobiography, Story of a Soul.

– On another of my favorite books on her spirituality, I Believe in Love

Tagged , , , , ,

The Hardest Prayer for Me to Pray

Prayer is not something foreign to me, or that I struggle to formulate. There is one prayer that, if I’m being honest, has been difficult for me to embrace — The Litany of Humility.  Gosh, it’s humbling even to admit that.

Throughout my waking hours, as well as the moments where I’m drifting off to sleep, there are often little and then longer prayers interwoven into the rhythm of my day — many of which are never spoken aloud. The prayers vary: It may be the scriptures in Morning Prayer, offering up a friend that suddenly comes to mind, begging for grace needed at the time, entrusting special ongoing intentions, prayers from the heart with my husband before bed, and many types in between…

But have you heard the caution: “Be careful what you pray for”?  Unfortunately, this is the main prayer I associate with that warning. In praying this particular Litany, part of my hesitation lies in what opportunities I’m inviting beyond my normal humbling moments. Scratching beneath the surface, it’s likely because not until I pray these words do I fully realize exactly how prideful and sensitive to forms of rejection I am. If I’m being really honest, I think that this Litany throws a right hook square at my old people-pleaser tendency. WALLOP! Ouch!!

Humility

Photo: How to Nest for Less

Click this link for the FREE printable format of The Litany of Humility.

Where did The Litany of Humility first originate? Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val wrote this prayer which he recited after every Mass he celebrated. The sweet irony is that he is said to have had “one of the fastest-moving careers in all ecclesiastical history.” In fact, he was chosen by St. Pius X to serve as Secretary of State, a position of honor and authority, serving as the right hand to the earthly head of the Catholic Church. What generosity was shown to the man who daily prayed, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.”

“Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine,” was a prayer I recited often with my household in college. It’s one thing for me to say it, it’s a whole thing to embrace the opportunities to live it.  After all, beyond our own desires, how many voices in the world bombard us with opposing messages…we want to be esteemed, preferred, praised, and noticed!

This is the model of humility Christ gave us:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
– Philippians 2:5-8
 

I understand this, but how can I overcome my fleshly aversion to this prayer and what it really calls me to embrace?

Enter this new song, I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad, that I LOVE. Another irony — it’s based on the Litany of Humility. Yet there’s an echoing of Psalm 23 as the refrain, which is a Psalm of comfort:  “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

What a beautiful approach to the Litany, challenging my perspective: Why narrow your view coming from a place of pain, from suffering various forms of rejection? What if you approached it instead from a stance of fulfillment in the Lord, of wanting for nothing?

BOOM – the uppercut that rounds out the hit to the ol’ people-pleaser!  If nothing more, the best place to start is the final line:

“Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Raising a Saint

Although they are unmentioned in the Bible, the lives of Sts. Joachim and Ann have been gleaned from an apocryphal Christian writing, the Protoevangelium Jacobi, or Gospel of James, written about the year 170. As the story goes, Joachim was a prominent, respected man; yet he and his wife, Ann, for many years had no children. At that time, that was viewed as a punishment from God, so they prayed and asked for a child.  This is why she is the patroness of childless couples, pregnancy, and many more (see below).

God answered their prayer, and an angel appeared to tell the older couple that they would conceive. Anne promised that their child would be dedicated to God, and Mary was born.

annenmary

What was it like to raise not only a Saint, but the Mother of God? I wish there were writings on that. Still, I picture it something like this photo: With Ann teaching Mary her “Catechism”, and how to tend to a household, and little Mary faithfully and sweetly learning and growing. We do know that Joachim and Ann were people of faith, and raised Mary in such a way to be worthy of her calling. They did not waste any time either, as Mary was only about 12 or 13 when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

On the vigil of Sts. Joachim & Ann’s feast last night, the Hispanic and English groups joined together to celebrate our Patroness. About twice a year, our thriving Parish in Texas, St. Ann, combines the English and Spanish choirs to sing for bilingual liturgies. It’s very lively and moving – even us musicians were moved to tears during parts of the Mass.  Since Ann & Joachim were Jesus’ Grandparent, we honored the Grandparents of our community — they joined the procession, carrying white flowers and placing them in vases on the altar.  With 8 priests and deacons celebrating the Mass, and so many choir members to overfill the risers, it was a beautiful liturgy.

Here’s more about Anne & Joachim, from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens:

PATRON
Anne: against poverty; barren; broommakers; cabinetmakers; carpenters; childless couples; equestrians; grandmothers; grandparents; homemakers; housewives; lace makers; lace workers; lost articles; miners; mothers; old-clothes dealers; pregnancy; pregnant women; horse riders; seamstresses; stablemen; sterility; turners; women in labour; Brittany; Canada; France; Quebec; archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan; diocese of Norwich, Connecticut; Santa Ana Indian Pueblo; Taos, New Mexico.

Joachim: fathers, grandfathers, grandparents.

SYMBOLS
Anne: Book, symbol of her careful instruction of Mary; flowering rod; crown; nest of young birds; door; Golden Gate of Jerusalem; book; infant Virgin in crib; Shield has silver border masoned in black, with silver lily on a blue field referring to the girlhood of the Virgin.
Often Portrayed As: Woman holding Mary or Jesus in her arms or lap; Woman at her betrothal to Joachim; Mother teaching Mary to read the Bible; Woman greeting Saint Joachim at Golden Gate; Woman with a book in her hand.

Joachim: Basket containing doves; model of Golden Gate of Jerusalem.
Often Portrayed As: Man bringing a lamb to the altar and being turned away by the priest; greeting and/or kissing Saint Anne at the Golden Gate; elderly man carrying a basket of doves and a staff; elderly man with the child Mary.

Sources: catholicculture.org; catholic.org

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When You Are Running on Empty

It has been a profound week, my friends.

Instead of write about it, I decided to design something to fit the theme of this week.

Satisfy the Heart

The background image is photo I captured in a beautiful little chapel on the grounds of a religious community in a small town in Coahuila, Mexico. I have gone on Mission in Mexico about three times, and miss my friends there deeply.

This quote I found today, and LOVE love LOVE it.  It fits so much into the theme of this Lenten journey, for me, for those He’s brought to me, according to HIS purpose and design.

Many of us are struggling to find or maintain peace. Some feel completely lost. Nothing in this world, search as you may, will give the peace that passes all understanding. And just remember – don’t give up on HOPE, because HOPE hasn’t given up on you!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Find Peace of Heart

Back in December, I made an important appointment. I felt like I was teetering along a fine line of hold-it-all-together and my-head-may-spin-off-its-axis. Can anyone relate? Hello? Bueller?

At any rate, the appointment I made was with an old friend. Back when we were young and rambunctious college Freshman, we met and became buddies at Franciscan University. Now he is known in many parts as the Skating Friar (skating as in skateboarding, and yes, Friars sometimes do other things that people do then just pray 24/7).  Our appointment was for what we practicing Catholics like to refer to as Spiritual Direction – basically, I like to think of it as some therapy and direction for the soul.

You can see, it took at least 3 tries to get a decent photo out of us LOL

Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

CFR belly punchFr Pio Maria CFR

So, during our time of Spiritual Direction and Reconciliation, the topic of interior peace surfaced. Fr. Pio recommended a small book for me to read, and gave me a copy. Do yourself a favor – get this book.  It’s well worth the $7.95 for this little gem, “Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart” by Father Jacques Philippe. It’s a small booklet too, so not hard to get through.

I wish I had heard of this Fr. Jacques Philippe before. He is profound, yet simple and straightforward — definitely not hard to grasp. He maintains a great balance between the flesh and the spirit, psyche and spirituality.

I’ve not read the whole book, as I am letting his words marinate slowly, and taking it a couple pages at a time through some prayer-times. Great Lenten reading, or anytime reading, really.

An important concept on peace, one that I had never really put together like he does so clearly, has become my recent revelation.  Often embroiled in the struggles of life and the vices to overcome, the battle can easily be waged in the wrong direction – focusing on the wrong thing altogether.  Check this out:

“The believer, throughout the entire battle, whatever the degree of violence, will strive to maintain peace of heart in order to allow the God of Armies to fight for him. Additionally, he must realize that this interior peace is not only a condition for spiritual combat, but is quite often the goal itself.  Very frequently, spiritual combat consists precisely in this: defending one’s peace of heart against the enemy who attempts to steal it from us.”

How silly it seems now after reading that, that I have too often focused on trying to fix whatever situation or thoughts/emotions that are disturbing the peace, rather than just focusing on maintaining interior peace.

And let’s be clear about peace here. This is not to be confused with “Kumbaya” hold hands and smile feel good stuff. Father is clear to distinguish that this is not about what the world defines peace as: “Because everything is going well, because we aren’t experiencing any annoyances and our desires are completely satisfied, etc.”

Isn’t it so easy to get caught up in that mentality – that all has to going in our favor for us to be at peace. It’s like we doggedly chase after this illusive but deeply desired state of being, barely finding a moment of peace, because we are seeking peace the world cannot give, and trying to find it in all the wrong ways.

What is peace?  Read and ponder in your hearts Romans 11:29 and John 16:33.  Then leave me some comments when your done.

And get this book. I recommended it to a friend of mine, who wrote this to me the other day,

I have been experiencing a peace in my life like never before.  I am trying to put myself into a “place of peace” and let the Lord do the rest of the work

May you experience a deep and abiding place of peace, peace of heart.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Hearts Cry Out: A Response to Newtown Shootings

Yesterday, I was standing in line for Confession before Mass started, trying to complete my Examination of Conscience.  As I did, the names of the victims of the Newtown school shootings were read, as a bell tolled for each one of those souls. Twenty-six souls, twenty-six times the bell tolled for each one.  It struck me, especially juxtaposed to the examination of my Conscience — which arguably seems a slightly used and even slighter formed faculty these days.

I’ve not added more “noise” on the subject of school shootings for good reason, until now, as there’s been more than enough already; but, that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought, prayed, grieved, and done considerable soul searching.  Down in Texas, when my husband and I heard of the news of 26 lives slain in such a horrific and blatant attack on the innocent and defenseless, we held each other and cried.  As we’ve been trying to start our own family, it hits us very hard to see the world that we want to bring new life into with slight to little decaying moral fabric intact.  We are all aware that these are tough times, and at some point I’m sure we all question how much worse it will become before it gets better.

Politicians, Media, the NRA – they all so quickly say what the “problem” is and what laws or changes need to happen to address it.  But, the sad thing is, so many point to the symptom of the problem, and not the actual root of the problem.  The scriptures and moral Theology and Philosophy tell us that no object is evil in and of itself — it is our fallen nature and inclinations from the human heart that all too often tend towards evil.

Magnum

What does that tell us? The gun and access to it is unfortunately not the biggest problem we have. It is addressing what is in the hearts of people. And that, friends, is a much bigger and challenging problem to tackle.  No law from man can change the human heart–only God’s laws–which would be his teachings and specifically the 10 Commandments.

Yes, the good ol’ 10 Commandments.  Today, the Commandments may mainly (and unfortunately) be known as the things prohibited from being displayed in public.  That’s certainly making our nation a better place now, isn’t it? While some people view them only as a set of antiquated negatives – “thou shalt not this” and “thou shalt not that” – I have learned a bit of their ancient wisdom. God’s laws aren’t meant to cut off our freedom and suppress us like human laws can; no, they are meant to guide us into the best form of freedom – where we are not enslaved by our passions or inclinations towards evil!!

In prayer this morning, I asked the Lord what more can we do, besides have our hearts cry out, send money and gifts, and pray for the families and community of Newtown. In morning prayer today, this scripture spoke to me:

“It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Cast off the deeds of darkness. The more people try to push God, the light in the darkness, out of public places – especially schools – the more the darkness spreads. How does God say we combat that? Put on the armor of light. Armor is defined as coverings formerly worn by soldiers to protect the body in battle. Light can most basically be defined as transmitting a reflection of God’s light. We must cover ourselves in God’s light and love, and transmit it to others.

One more thought from Proverbs 12:20

“Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

It doesn’t say create an arsenal and have everyone pack heat.  It tells us to become promoters of peace. Am I saying that a gun should never be used to protect someone? No. But is that the answer that will solve all of our problems? Is it? Think about it… I sure have been.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Leaving Everything Behind

The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (1602), painting by the Italian master Caravaggio

Happy feast of St Matthew, apostle and evangelist!  There aren’t many instances where Matthew is written about in the scriptures, although he did author the first book in the New Testament.  We do know that Matthew was a Jew from Cana, working for the occupying Roman forces as a Tax Collector, later known as “publicans”. As Romans were not concerned about what publicans took as their own cut from an already excessive tax, they were generally despised–second to executioners–by their fellow Jews.

While on the Mediterranean Damascus road along the Sea of Galilee, Jesus first encountered Matthew.  Walking by, Jesus saw something in this ‘notorious sinner’, and simply invited him — “follow me.”  What happened next was almost as shocking as Jesus asking this outcast to become one of his apostles…Matthew arose, decided to leave everything behind, and followed Him.

Matthew didn’t tell Jesus to hang on, while he left to go and wrap up a few loose ends.  And it didn’t say that Jesus sat and talked with him for bit or performed any miracles.  It was a simple “call and respond” scenario, and Matthew just got up and followed him.  Can you imagine how scandalous it would’ve appeared when Jesus called such a man to follow him, especially by the Pharisees–who would not even sit at the same table as a Tax Collector?

Jesus knew what they the Pharisees were thinking and muttering under their breath.  “How could this great teacher associate Himself and His ministry with such an immoral person?”

I love how Jesus responded to their indignation:

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:12b-13).

Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  The Catechism tells us that “outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: ‘The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. . . .’ The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor” (CCC 2100).  Jesus was not denouncing ritual and worship; but, He was saying that loving our neighbors is more important still.

A simple yet sincere act of love from Jesus, asking Matthew to follow Him, completely changed this “enemy of the country”.  Since that time, I can only imagine how many people have also experienced the mercy of God through the Gospel according to Matthew.

One pure act of love can change everything.

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: