Monday, February 27, 2017

I Must Decrease so Christ can Increase

What to Give Up for Lent?

Sacrificing and giving things up for Lent creates an opportunity for us to be mindful and appreciative of God’s unending love, embodied in Christ giving up his life for us. The focus of Marianist spirituality is on virtues in conformity with Christ in the deepest part of our being and in all our actions. Marianist spirituality includes exercises designed for us to give up control of our life and give ourselves over to God’s will for us. Discipline and self-mastery are necessary to follow Jesus. But that isn’t easy. As I think of giving things up this Lent, I think of silencing my personal desires and actions. Marianist spirituality consists of virtues called the silences:

  • Silence of Words
  • Silence of Signs
  • Silence of the Mind
  • Silence of the Passion
  • Silence of the Imagination

These are things I wish to silence and give up for Lent.

Fr. Quentin Hackenewerth, SM author of A Manual of Marianist Spirituality says of the silences (pages 43-45):

Silence of Words
We become conscious of our words in order to speak deliberately and purposefully for the good of our listeners. Words reveal and communicate. Even ordinary words have great power. Words can enlighten, inspire, and encourage. They can heal and console. Words born in communion with Christ or Mary are carriers of life. Of course, our words, when they come from egoism, can also do the opposite. We silence the words coming from the interest of our egoism. Like Jesus, we want to speak words born of attentive listening and understanding.

Silence of Signs
We communicate much more by noverbals than we do by words. The look in our eyes, the expression on our face, the movement of our head, the stance of our posture, and the style of our dress (as well as thousands of other signs) tell others what we mean to them and they to us. Our very presence “speaks.” So we give close attention to what we are communicating with our facial expressions, gestures, dress, manners, etc. Are they coming from our old self-image or from our new image in Christ?

Silence of the Mind
That which goes into our mind becomes a part of us. We live and act according to what we know. If we fill our mind with mush, we become milksops. Our aim is to take on the mind of Christ. So we fill our mind with what is good or useful in view of our calling. We put out of our mind what serves on the demands of our ego or sensuality.

Silence of the Passions
Passions are the desires or feelings that move us to act in a certain way. Practically all of our actions are moved by some feeling. If we want to understand our actions, we must discover to what or to whom our feelings are attached. The more our feelings are attached to something, the more hey push us toward it. Are we attached more to our old self of to life in Christ? Silence of the passions is the exercise of denying our self-indulgent feelings and of becoming passionate in Christ for what is good.

Silence of the Imagination
Images usually move us more than ideas. Our imagine gives us images of what is or of what could be. The exercise of silence of the imagination cultivates and disciplines our fantasy to serve our call. For example, images of living the virtues of Jesus in serving our neighbor can move us powerfully toward good. On the other hand, we silence those images which contradict our life in Christ.


As I practice these silences, I pray that I open my heart and life to God’s will, not mine. May I decrease so that Christ may increase (John 3:30).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Birthday to the Marianists

On this day in 1801, Blessed William Joseph Chaminade and a group of committed men and women formed the first Marianist sodality, giving birth to Marianist Lay Communities. As I reflect on my own involvement in Marianist communities, I pause to reflect on their impact on my life and how I relate to my family as community, my church as community, my city as community, and the wider world as community. I'm reminded of my responsibility to remember that we are to be united with one soul and one heart. I am who am I because of all I've experienced and all whom I've encountered. A part of me lives in them too. If only the whole world could experience this gift. We have much work to do to continue to build community. May we continue be guided by Chaminade's inspiration.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day aka Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

In his New Year's Day (aka Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God) homily, Pope Francis addressed the importance of finding peace through non-violence. Mary's song of praise was for a different world, made possible by her allowing God into her life. May our world be different for the same reason.

To read his homily, go to http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/peace/documents/papa-francesco_20161208_messaggio-l-giornata-mondiale-pace-2017.html

Francis has regularly written about how we must "encounter" the other to truly recognize the presence of Christ in them and allow them to recognize Christ in us. Coming out of our last election, and  attentive to the world stage that largely went unreported in 2016, may we be the peace the world needs in 2017. May we be bold enough to encounter those who disagree with us, and attempt to see the world through their eyes.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

God is Still Speaking

In the readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent, the Lord spoke to Ahaz, and Isaiah tells us “the Lord will give you a sign.”

In the Gospel, an angel comes to Joseph with a message, just like an angel came to Mary.

To borrow from the United Church of Christ, my thought for today is this: God is still speaking.


Are we listening?


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Love Wins

That's it. My reflection on the readings for the third week of Advent. Love Wins.

Patient persistence pays off. And so does seeing God in the unlikeliest of places.



Sunday, December 4, 2016

Making All Divisions Cease

Reflection on scripture readings for the second Sunday of Advent.

Building on last week’s readings, this week’s first reading alludes to the day when all divisions will cease, all will know God, and it will be glorious.

Isaiah says God will not judge not by appearance, but with justice for the poor and afflicted. It is a hopeful vision. Peace on earth. Good will to all. God will strike the ruthless and wicked.  This reading made me think of Mary’sMagnificat in regard to mercy, the lowly, the hungry, the rich, etc. I think, even in this day and age, how relevant but difficult that vision is to achieve; in a war torn world, in a world of greed, in a world of haves and have nots, in a world where the way for some excludes or judges others.

In the second reading, Paul acknowledges that achieving such a vision is difficult. Being Christ-like isn’t easy, and Paul offers hope and encouragement so that we might persevere. He also gives us a command so that all those things in the first reading can be fulfilled. We must welcome others as Christ welcomed us. Jesus loved the outcasts and people in the margins. We are called to do the same. But it also means we must welcome those and be present to those whose actions cause oppression.  We must use our love, through word and deed, to change hearts.

John the Baptist, in the Gospel, isn’t worthy. He’s humble and knows that Christ can offer something he can’t.  He wasn’t self-righteous like the Pharisees and Sadducees who believe their way is the only way and that their place in life makes them superior to others.  It’s not enough to be a person of status, civil or religious. It’s not enough to say we are Christian or that we go to church, or that others are lesser for not having what we have (including jobs, education, food, money, etc.). We aren’t worthy, just as John wasn’t worthy. We must bear fruit in this world or we will be judged on the last day. We mustn’t be self-righteous. We must act as Christ would act. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Climbing the Mountain of the Lord

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge meets the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. Christmas (and Advent) is a journey for us too as we recall Christ who was, Christ who is, and Christ who will be.  With Christmas we mark the historical birth of Christ. But we are also called to prepare to take Christ into our hearts and lives so that he is present today. Doing so then prepares us for the end times when we will see Christ at God’s right hand.

Today’s Gospel reminds us to be vigilant. We don’t know when the end time will come. We must change our ways now to welcome Christ so that we’re ready for those end times.  The second reading reminds us to put on Christ and to conduct ourselves properly.

But it is the first reading that really strikes me.  One doesn’t just turn a sword into a plowshare or a spear into pruning hooks.  It takes active involvement of parties coming together, laying differences aside. As for climbing the mountain of the Lord, mountain climbing isn’t easy. One is usually dependent on others. If we want the same thing as others - to reach the other side - we must do it together or at least acknowledge that there might be more than one path, and that neither is wrong. In doing so, we can realize the Kindom of God on the other side, but here on earth as well.