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Advent, Bible, Family Life, Gospel

Considering our Family Tree Gospel Reflection

Thursday 17 December

Read today’s Gospel here: Matthew 1:1-17

This forced isolation is a perfect time to get my life together! I’m going to organize and purge, quit binge-watching Netflix, and finally sit down to read the Bible front to back. Well, maybe not the Old Testament – so many rules and too much smiting. But I can totally relate to the New Testament. But wait, you open Matthew, and the first thing you read is a long boring list of Old Testament people who seem sort of familiar.

This has nothing to do with the Gospel message – you’re certain you can just skip past to the good part. But not so fast – what if I told you that is the good part? That the Gospel message is encoded there? Stay with me on this.

In today’s Gospel, we see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bringing the Torah front and center. We see kings in Jesus’ lineage, but we also see Asaph the psalmist and Amos the prophet. And we see that Jesus, the Davidic King, has some wily characters in his lineage, indeed, some dysfunction.

Did you notice the shady characters in that list? There’s Tamar, who posed as a prostitute to get her father-in-law to sleep with her? How about Rahab, who actually was a prostitute (and non-Jew) in Jericho? There’s Ruth, who as a Moabite was not allowed to worship in the Temple. And poor Bathsheba – not even mentioned by name – whose husband was killed through the actions of her soon-to-be lover, King David.

One of the lessons in this lineage is that Jesus works through dysfunction and offers salvation to all people; he is prophet, priest, and king, and we as the Body of Christ share that with him.

As we wait for him this Advent season, think about Jesus’ ancestors. Even with their dysfunction, God worked through them. Jesus came to heal them and love them. He does the same with our families. Imagine that heavenly family reunion – after all, if we live in God with our whole selves, we’ll have a front row seat!

Erin Raymond

Meditation

Are there are some wily characters in your family, remember, that we really are one family, and Jesus’ love extends to all of them. Offer a prayer of healing for your family.

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Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Mass Reflection, Motherhood, Women's Ministry

What you Focus on Gets Bigger. Reflection for Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Luke 7:18B-23

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”


In our family we play a variation of Slug Bug called “Yellow Car.” The thought was to make the game harder because there are not that many yellow cars. That is, until you look for them… then they are everywhere!

That which you focus on, gets bigger. (Tip: Don’t focus on your backside!) When questioned by John’s disciples, Jesus asks them what they have seen and heard. The list of wonders grows and grows as they pay attention and look.  And then Jesus tells these disciples to go back and report what have found.

What wonders are you seeing? Are you even looking for the wonders? Many times, we must be intentional in our seeking, because like the proverbial snowball, once we get going our experience keeps expanding. Make note. Be grateful.

And then, Share! Tell what you are seeing and hearing.  You have a circle of influence and it starts in your domestic church, your home. Open the eyes of those you interact with to beauty. Witness to the work of God that is happening in and around you. Your joy, love and amazement at the goodness of God is contagious! Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the change in you will create change in those around you.

See. Hear. Go. Tell.

Jackie Henderson

Meditation

Your circle of influence starts in your domestic church, your home. How are you a witness to the work of God in your domestic church?

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Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Motherhood, Women's Ministry

Living our Faith with Courage. Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Tuesday 15 December

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


When my daughter was just starting to talk, I remember wanting to make sure we always said grace before meals. Growing up, my family knew how to say grace, but we didn’t do it regularly, and especially not in public. As I’m teaching my daughter to say grace, sometimes I’m tempted to skip public prayer if we’re dining at a restaurant. But let me tell you, my four year old never skips grace!

Saying that we’ll live our faith is easy.  Actually living our faith takes courage.  

In today’s world it can be so easy to post about doing the right things. We can tell people we pray before meals or post about attending Mass online when really we slept in. But we were made for more than easy. We were made to do the work not just talk about doing the work.

We were made to do hard things and sometimes praying in front of friends or family who are not Catholic is hard. Sometimes getting up to go to Mass, even Mass on TV, is hard, but doing that work is so important because it gives us encounters with the Lord. 

What’s more, we are called to be an example to others and a witness to Christ. People have their eyes on us. From our kids, to our friends, to our social media following, what we say we are going to do is far less important than what we actually do. God calls us not just to say what we mean but to do what we say we will do. He calls us to be an example of his love and while that may be easier said than done, I encourage you never to stop trying.

Rebecca Lockhart

Meditation

What does it mean to you to be courageous in your faith?

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Advent, Catholic Family, Family Life, Gospel, Motherhood, Self Care

You Have Ears; Use Them.

Thursday 10 December

Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”


Hearing implies listening.  A simple concept but a difficult application.  There is so much white noise in and around us, but it’s not the soothing, white noise that helps us to relax and puts us to sleep. It is noise that distracts, agitates, and keeps us awake: screens, children, meals, plans, activities, parties, husbands, chores, and let’s not forget our own heads.  This noise is constant.  Filling our ears.  Filling our minds.  Filling our hearts.  Stealing our peace.

Stop.  Breathe.  Look around.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Some of the noise can be controlled and chosen.  This is the season to slow down. Advent is a time set apart.  A time to look back and a time to look forward.  A time to slow down and listen.  What do you hear? 

Sometimes on returning home, I will sit in the car after all the family has gone inside.  The car is off and there is silence.  I sit and listen.  I soak it in.  Advent is like this for me.  Intentionally slowing down, sitting, and listening.

This is a time of preparation.  What is God saying to you?  Do you hear His call to come deeper and experience Him?  Where do you hear God speaking? What is He using? Who is He using? 

This year is different from all other years and there is a gift for you here, in this moment, in this season.  Don’t miss it!  This time is not about stuff, things, and business.  It is about a gift.  The gift of time. The time to hear what the Lord, the creator of the universe, has to say to you.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Meditation

You have ears. Use them. Take five minutes, and as St. Benedict wrote, “incline the ear of your heart.”

Jackie Henderson

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Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Self Care, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

Come to me, all you who labor. Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

Wednesday 9 December

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”


Can I tell you something? I was horribly late getting this piece turned in. The burdens of my life were getting in the way. Some of the burdens were big, but most were everyday burdens – what to cook for dinner, the kids arguing with each other, a lack of sleep because of a little one who still wakes up each night in need of extra snuggles. But the burdens felt heavy and instead of setting them down, I was gathering the burdens more tightly to myself and dragging them along.

Dragging heavy burdens gets exhausting, but so often this is the way we choose to go through our lives. Which is so counterintuitive, isn’t it? If something is too heavy, we ought to set it down. Or ask for help!

This inclination to carry on alone starts early.

When my five-year-old helps carry in the groceries she grunts and groans but refuses to quit because she wants to demonstrate how strong she is. But this only works until her little muscles wear out and we end up with a spilled bag of broken groceries on the ground. Are we like her, trying to show ourselves and others how strong we are?

Jesus offers us a better way: “Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

What he offers goes beyond just a quick break before we pile all our burdens back on our backs and trudge along. He goes on to tell us, “Take up my yoke, and learn of me.” A yoke was a harness for not one, but two oxen, allowing them to share the weight of the plow. Jesus is literally offering to carry part of the burden for us, to walk alongside us as we move through the hard stuff in our lives, a constant companion.

And He is offering to teach us, too, as we walk alongside Him. He will teach us a better way, a way that is meek and humble of heart, so that we can find rest in our souls. He is offering the five-year-old in each of us help to carry whatever is in our grocery sacks and to teach us how to accept that help, so that we don’t end up broken and spilled out, unable to go on.

That help comes to us in unexpected ways – the husband who picks up take-out so you don’t have to cook, the friend who calls out of the blue and asks if your kids can come for a playdate, the child who sleeps through the night (just once!) so you can get a good night’s rest. We must train ourselves to be meek and humble of heart so that we can recognize and accept the help that is being offered and to see Jesus in those moments when our burden is lightened.

And when we do, Jesus assures us, we will see that His yoke is truly sweet and his burden is truly light.

Kim Miller

To Ponder

Can you think of a time you were dragging along a grocery sack full of stuff? Are you dragging something now? Look around for people offering to help share your burden.

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Catholic Family, Family Life, Homeschool, Motherhood, Self Care, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

This Fall May be a Season of Pruning and That’s Okay

Late August in my family is usually filled with last-minute beach trips, back to school shopping and sports try-outs.  It’s fun for the kids but hectic for me as I balance leisure time, with the kids’ needs, and my own work.  By September, I relate well to that internet meme where the kids are all lined up at the bus stop with frowny faces, and the mom is jumping for joy at the realization that she gets the house to herself for a few hours.

But that’s not happening this year, is it?  Nope!  Most of our back to school plans have been up-ended as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. My older children began classes digitally, and we have opted to homeschool our rambunctious second grader for the first time. Instead of a quiet September, we’re bumping up the chaos.

My aspirations of autumn “me time” in a quiet café with a pumpkin spice latte are cooling off faster than my re-microwaved home brew.

So how am I finding and balance amid the noise of competing demands and an ever-changing pandemic environment?  Honestly – it’s tough, and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.  But when I do manage find balance, here’s how: 

The name of the game is recalibrating.

friend recently had to abruptly change a plan that we had made together.  In her email, she wrote that we needed to “recalibrate.”  Her word stuck with me because that’s how I’m managing in this pandemic.  I’m constantly recalibrating.   

I’ve seen and read a fair bit of unhappy stuff on social media lately, and I am concerned that a lot of us are facing the fall with other re words. Re-ticence, Re-sentment. Re-servation. Re-calcitrance. Re-sistance.      

As I face this school year, I’m focusing on recalibrating.  Why?  Because back to school days should be a time of re-newal. You see, recalibrating is adjusting to a true and accurate value.  Like orienting a compass toward north, when we recalibrate to the correct value, we get renewal.  This fall, I’m recalibrating life to my Christian vocation. 

Recalibrating to your vocation.

What do I mean by recalibrating to my vocation?  Well, let’s back up.  The word vocation gets tossed around frequently in Christian circles, but what does it mean?  Very broadly, our vocation is how we express our love of God and share the Gospel.  We live our vocation through married life, religious life or holy orders, or singleness, and it’s possible to have more than one vocation. St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example, spoke of her vocation to the religious life and her vocation to start a new religious community to serve the poor as a “vocation within a vocation” or a “call within a call.”

If my life is properly calibrated, each part of my life feels like a “vocation within a vocation” and life makes sense.  Married life dovetails with motherhood, and my job fits within our family dynamic.  When I’m working within my vocation, instead of feeling pulled toward competing priorities and anxious, I feel clarity. 

This doesn’t mean that working within your vocation won’t ever be hard.  Take one look at a crucifix and you’ll be reminded that living our vocation can be extremely challenging.      

But when I feel pulled in all different directions at once and everything in life becomes a chore, that’s when I know it’s time to recalibrate to my vocation because my vocation matters.  The other stuff frankly doesn’t.  I take time to remind myself of what my vocation is, and as importantly, what it is not.  I scrutinize whether the things that demand my time help or hinder my vocation. 

This is a prayerful process through which I’m reminded that that God created me as a finite being with finite capabilities and finite hours in my day.  I’m am not called to do everything.

Holy Pruning.

During this pandemic, God is certainly calling me to focus on my family, keep my children safe, educate them, and catechize them.  This is requiring me to prune things out of my life and make more space for these priorities.  It’s a holy pruning.  Some of the pruning is obvious:  I need to limit the time I spend on Instagram and Netflix, for example.  But I’ve also made some harder decisions to prune away fun social functions and volunteer work that I enjoy, so that I can give more attention and energy to my vocation. 

Navigating this fall’s evolving school schedules and family dynamics will require continued recalibration and pruning, but I find it consoling to remember Jesus’ words that God prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it can bear even more fruit for the kingdom (see Jn 15:2). How are you recalibrating?