Do this is memory of me

This morning at Catholic mass, I heard the words that are familiar to so many of us:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

Luke 22:19

I have heard these words every week since before I was old enough to know what the words meant.  And today, for the first time, I think I understood them.

Jesus commands us to do this in memory of Him.  But do what?  I have always believed that He was just telling us to go to church on Sunday and celebrate the Eucharist.  But today, I focused on the actual words.  This is my body, which will be given for you. Jesus is giving up his body… for us.  He is giving himself… for us.  “Do this in memory of me.”  This is what He is calling us to do.  Give ourselves for others.  Give ourselves to Jesus. Its not just about breaking bread or drinking wine.  He is calling us to do.  He is calling us to give.  He is calling us to love.  John captures His words in this way:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13

“Do this in memory of me.”  It is a tall order.  Just showing up at mass on Sunday is a lot easier.  Give myself for someone else?  Lay down my life for someone else?  Lay down my wants and needs for someone else?  Put someone else ahead of me?  Ouch.  I can barely hand over the remote control. But this is what Jesus calls us to do.  This is what true love is.  It’s not just the romantic love we see on tv. It’s not lust.  It’s not sex.  It’s not just enjoying the other person’s company.  It is giving one’s self, putting one’s own needs to the side, and laying down one’s life for someone else.

And today at mass, as the priest said these words, I got it.  Jesus loves me.  Jesus gave his life for me.  How can I not try (and I say try, because I know I will fail) to give myself fully to God, as He gave Himself to me?

Jesus,

You came to earth to show us what love is.  A love so strong and pure that we cannot fathom its depths.  Our own selfish needs, or more accurately “wants”, keep us from being capable of the love that you shared.  And yet you still call us to do it.  Jesus I love you with all of the love that I am capable of today, but I want to love you deeper.  Help me to continue to grow.  I want to give myself fully to you.  Help me to love here on earth with the love that you have shared.  Help me to give up my selfish ways and let go of the need to control.  Help me to give myself for the others I encounter.

 

My Spirit Rejoices

My spirit rejoices in God my savior!

Today the Bible opened to Mary’s words before the birth of Jesus.  Mary models how I want to live.  Her strength and faithfulness inspire me.

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

I am stuck on the first line:  My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  Is there a difference between soul and spirit?  For me, soul is that deep inner part, the root of our being, our inner most self, the part that is our truest being.   That is the part that Mary says proclaims the greatness of God.  That is the truest of proclamations — not just a Sunday morning proclamation.  It is not her mouth or her hands or her brain that proclaims it — but her soul.  A part that does not lie or fake or just follow the crowd.

Mary goes on to state: My spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For me, spirit is the part that we share with others. Mary knows to the depths of her soul that God is great, but she does not keep it there, she shares it with others.  Her spirit rejoices in God.

I want to know God in the depths of my soul.  And I want my spirit to rejoice in Him.

God, you are great indeed.  Fill my inner heart.  Fill my soul.  Help me to follow Mary’s model of faithfulness and strength.  Help me to trust in you, like she did.  Help me to share your love with the world.  My spirit rejoices in you!

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners!

BC — beyond comprehension

I have been struggling all day with the Bible’s words.  This morning, the Bible opened to Luke, where Jesus talks about John the Baptist.  There is a similar passage in Matthew.  I read both, read the footnotes and read a few commentaries, and I am still not sure what Jesus is telling me:

I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)

“Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?  They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,  ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’  For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Luke 7:28-35

The best I can discern is that Jesus is telling us that as great as John was, he preceded the kingdom of heaven.  He preceded Jesus’ death and resurrection, preceded Jesus’ opening the gates of heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit.  My first thought is how fortunate am I to have been born when I was.  My second thought is one of utter awe and amazement.  I am suddenly struck by just how huge Jesus’s coming was.  Jesus’ love and grace changed the world — changed heaven.  And there is no way to compare what was before with what occurred after.  And there is no way for me to truly comprehend life before Christ.

Lord,

I continue to be amazed by you.  By your love and grace.  By your words and plan.  I am humbled.  I know that it is a gift of which I am not worthy and yet is freely given.  I seek your wisdom.  I seek you.  Help me to listen so that I might see.

GPS: God’s Plans Save

GPS — Global positioning system.  Our navigational tool.  It always seems to know where we are, where the closest fueling station is and how far to the nearest McDonalds. We rely on it for direction.  We rely on it to show us where to go and to get us to where we are going.

This morning I was headed to a meeting when my GPS suddenly changed from an 8:00am arrival time to a 9:10am  arrival time.  Within moments I was sitting in traffic in between two exits on the highway with no way to reroute.  Sitting.  Still.  Not moving at all — I was 10 miles away from where I was supposed to be and my projected arrival time kept getting later and later.  I was going to be late.  Since I was completely stopped in traffic (I promise I did not text and drive),  I pulled out my phone to send a quick email to the person I was supposed to meet.  I started typing that according to my GPS I was going to be late.  I typed gps and as soon as I hit the spacebar, gps turned to God.  I felt an instant warm tingle.  GPS — my navigational tool — was autocorrected to God.  GPS the thing I was blaming for slowing me down had autocorrected to God.  I tried it several more times — and each time I typed the letters gps and hit the space bar, the word changed to God.  Hmmm.  Was He trying to tell me something?  I thought about that as I sat in traffic for another hour and as I finally passed the accident that had shut down the highway, thankful that I wasn’t in it.

Later this evening, as I was driving home, I somehow found myself in another traffic jam.  Once again I was stuck on the highway between two exits with no way to reroute and the GPS was telling me I was now 3 hours and 50 minutes away from home (instead of the hour and a half I should have been).  I was bored.  The entire highway was at a standstill.  We were not moving anytime soon.  I pulled out my phone and tried typing gps on a text to see if it would autocorrect  — I was disappointed to see it did not autocorrect on my text and remained gps.  Maybe it was just a fluke this morning.   Or maybe it only worked on email.  I decided to text my sisters to see if when they typed an email it changed the word gps to God.  Wouldn’t it be cool if I told them to email something like “I love my gps!”  or “Follow gps” and it changed to I love my God or Follow God.  I decided on “I need gps.”   I texted them  asking them to email me this phrase and as soon as I typed I need gps — it autocorrected to “I need God”.  A moment ago when I typed gps it recognized it as a word, but when I texted “I need gps” — it automatically changed to “I need God”.  Was God talking to me?  I fixed the text message so it told them to text or email “I need gps” and waited for what I hoped was a stream of emails or text messages that said “I need God.” Instead they all came back “I need  gps.”

Now I was certain God was trying to tell me something.  But what?  At this point I had been up since 3:30, had driven or been stuck in traffic for almost 8 hours total, and had spent 6 hours in a meeting, so I was a little tired and a little slow.  Then it hit me.  Duh! God is the only GPS I need.  I need to rely on Him for direction.  This was not really a new lesson– but one for which I can always use a reminder.   But I felt there was more.  I put my hands up in the air and asked (I was still sitting in traffic) — what direction are you telling me to take?  And I looked at the traffic around me and at the gps that was still taunting me with a red line representing the traffic on the route and the added time it was telling me the journey would take.  And I thought — how strange that twice today I have been sitting (literally sitting)  — forced to sit still in traffic for long periods — and thinking about God and GPS. The message was suddenly loud and clear.  SLOW DOWN.  BE STILL. And I kid you not, I heard the song  Still, by Hillary Scott.  Its words hit the nail on the head:

I believe that You are God alone
But sometimes I still try to take control
Cause I get scared when I can’t see the end
And all You want from me is to let go

You’re parting waters
Making a way for me
You’re moving mountains that I don’t even see
You’ve answered my prayer before I even speak
All You need for me to be is still

I just need to be still.  God has it all under control.

Tonight the Bible opened to Luke:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.  But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”

Luke  6:46-49

Lord,

You have my attention.  I am listening.  All of todays devices and media and GPS’s cannot show me the path that you have set for me.  Help me to listen and to act upon your words.  You are my GPS.  You know where I am and where I am going.  You know how to get me there.  Help me to follow.  Help me to turn off all of the distractions.  Help me to be still, to slow down, to see what you are doing.  Thank you for slowing me down today and keeping me safe.

 

Put the buts behind!

Today’s passage makes me sad.

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”  And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “[Lord,] let me go first and bury my father.”  But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62

“The Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”  There was no room in the inn at the time of his birth, the Samaritans did not welcome Him, and how many times are we not welcoming, do we turn Him away?  How many times do we put other things in front of following Him?  How many times do we say through our actions: “I want to follow you, but now is just not a good time, can you come back tomorrow, or the next day? or maybe after summer is over?”  Unfortunately, it is easy to read this passage and feel like I am looking in a mirror.  I know I am not always welcoming.  And I know I put other things ahead of following God.

Urgh! I wish I could break that mirror and follow Jesus more fully, faithfully without looking back.  I want to follow Him without any buts!

So, as I read the passage and think about how it reflects on my own life, I am saddened and ashamed.  Then I read the part where Jesus rebukes the apostles who want to bring retribution to the Samaritans who won’t welcome Jesus.  Even when we turn our backs on Him, Jesus does not respond in kind.  Jesus does not punish those who turn away.   Jesus just keeps walking, He doesn’t rest.    He does not  force us to follow Him.  (Sometimes I think it might be easier if He did.)  We have to choose to follow Him.  We have to choose to put Him first.

God,

I want to follow you!  Help me put the buts behind me and keep you and only you in front of me.

Don’t Tempt Me!

It seems like I first heard the story of the devil tempting Jesus at a very young age.  And have heard it many times since:

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread. ”Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.  The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.  All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”

Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and:  ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”  When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

Luke 4:3-13

Jesus gives us three pieces of advice when faced with temptation:

  1. “One does not live by bread alone.”  There is nothing on earth that can truly satisfy us.  Even if we are starving — the temporary satisfaction on earth is not what we need or truly want.  Remember the temptation, the good that we think will come from it or the harm that we think will otherwise befall, is temporary. Indeed everything that we eat here on earth eventually ends in the toilet.
  2. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”  Focus on God.  We struggle when we take away that focus,  when we try to serve human wants and desires.  When we feel ourselves struggling, when we feel temptation, it is a reminder that it is time to turn back to God.  Worship Him.  Call out His name.
  3. “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” God is there.  He doesn’t have to prove it.  Faith is our greatest defense against temptation.  God has a plan — it may not always match up with ours — but I am certain it is better than mine (and better than satan’s plan).

Lord,

Help me to separate myself from worldly desires.  Help me to focus on you and stay strong in faith.  I wish not to be tempted,  But help me to be strong when I am.  Jesus, help me to follow your example.

 

God or Robert Redford?

Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek are in town.  And everyone is milling around the streets hoping to catch a glimpse.  I admit I was one of the gawkers.  Drove through town a couple of times trying to see something besides the big movie trailers and security personnel.  Why?  So I can tell people I saw Robert Redford or was this close to Sissy Spacek.  I assume the same reason the small-town streets that are normally empty are suddenly streaming with people.

This morning when I opened the Bible, it opened to the story of Peter’s denial of Christ in Luke.

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance.  They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them.  When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.”  But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”  A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.”  About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”

Luke 22:54-61

I am struck by how many people are desperate to be able to say they met Robert Redford (or insert any celebrity here), a man who they know primarily through the make believe that he creates.  And yet here is Peter who is desperate to hide that he knows Jesus.  The Truth.

We want to be around fame and fortune, fleeting as both may be.  And hide from God and truth, and eternity.  And of course it is easy to say , if I had known Jesus, I would not have been like Peter (I remember thinking that as a child), but now I recognize how many times I, in fact, do deny Him. How many times I hide knowing Him or having a relationship with Him.

So I may not meet Robert Redford, but that is ok.  I think I would rather brag that I met God, that I know God, and that I will one day see God.

(No disrespect meant to Mr. Redford, who seems like a very nice man, its just that God is better —  But I would still be happy to meet Mr. Redford too!)

God, I am sorry for the times I deny you.  I am sorry for the times I look for happiness in fame, fortune and worldly treasures.  I want to know you better!  I want to be with you.

 

Daily reminder

Today the Bible opened to a verse of which I could use a daily reminder.

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.   And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36

Sometimes it is hard to do good to those who are good to me, let alone those who are not.  It is easy to get wrapped up in myself and my own needs.

Help me Lord to be more giving.  Help me be good to those who are not good to me.  Help me to remember to pray for those around me — in particular those who have hurt me (and pray more than just “Lord help them not to hurt me anymore.”)  Help me to do good and not expect anything in return.  Help me to show love and mercy, even when I am hurting. And God, please remind me of these words every day.

A little faith…

Today I opened the Bible and my eyes fell on this short verse:

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6

How often I question my faith.  I am counting on the fact that we only need a little bit.  A little bit to grow.  A little bit to start a fire.  A little bit can move mountains.

Dear God, start a fire in me!  Nourish Your tiny mustard seed in my heart.  Keep that seed safe and strong through all of the doubts and temptations of the world.