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A Sacred Act
AUTHOR
Joan  »

Ah…the things we seem to sacrifice as we move through our lives.  We might sacrifice a night’s sleep to sit with a dying friend, a big expenditure in order to save money for a grandchild’s camp fees, a Saturday in order to help an elderly friend move  When we do this we are reflecting the true meaning of the word Sacrifice.  The genesis of this word is sacrificus – sacre meaning holy or sacred and facere meaning to make or to do.  This seems important to me.  When someone sacrifices for me I need to see the holiness, the sacredness of this act.  And when I am called to relinquish something important to me can I do so with a sense of the holy rite of compassion and love that this action reflects.

What have you recently sacrificed and did you feel the true depth of how this impacts your world and those around you?

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The True Cost
AUTHOR
Mark  »

Be careful what you sacrifice. Be mindful of how your sacrifice affects both you and those around you. Do discernment.

 

Two be’s and one action help buttress how we engage in sacrifice, because by itself, I believe sacrifice is neither good nor bad, it simply is. I believe this because some sacrifice is brought on due to external factors, such as a change in health, income, or relationships. These changes prompt us to perhaps make sacrifices to our routines to ensure health, make sacrifices to ensure ends-meet, and make sacrifices to improve relationships. Some sacrifices are brought about by internal means: spiritual discipline, psychological well-being, a new goal that requires you sacrifice the amount of time you’d spend elsewhere.


If we “have” to sacrifice, or if we “choose” to sacrifice, we must employ discernment to know the true cost of the sacrifice and to take into consideration how our sacrifice might affect others. Discernment is key. If I choose to give up caffeine, to sacrifice caffeine either for the sake of a spiritual discipline (like Lent) or simply to assist in better health, I need to ensure that my going into caffeine withdrawal should not make those around me miserable.  If I sacrifice my time to help the team at work, I need to be mindful that the time I’m giving up outside of work is perhaps time I might spend unwinding, not time I’d spend with my kids, if at all possible. We are interconnected, what we choose to sacrifice can very well affect us and those around us and so it’s very important to be careful, be observant of our sacrifice, and discern if the sacrifice is achieving the positive end and/or how the sacrifice is affecting other aspects of life.

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A Path Above
AUTHOR
Jill  »

If I had to create a timeline of my life, it would not be a linear image of my fondest memories. But it would be an unambiguous fanciful record of my life’s heartbreaks against the backdrop of my hopes and dreams. The unveiling truth of where my focus has resided gives me pause, I can trace the intermission of my soul when I chose to inhabit the promises of God. For years uncertainty and doubt caused chaos and confusion, but the day I shifted my view toward Jesus I became liberated in the path ahead.

 

Where is your focus leading you? Try to develop a daily practice of focusing on the promises of God when you feel yourself veering off your path.

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The Household Hearth
AUTHOR
Joan  »

The genesis of the word “focus” is Latin for household hearth.  This makes perfect sense given the hearth in the house was the focal point of the household.  It kept the family warm and fed and was the gathering place for all the members of the household.  As I pondered this I became aware of the appropriateness for my life.  What I focus on does play a major role in how I feel about life – how well I am kept warm and fed emotionally and spiritually.  When I focus on the greater good, the world outside of my small needy self, I do feel a part of the great whole.  The things I focus on in my daily life do impact how nourished and sustained I feel.  My focus in life is my “household hearth” and I am called upon to be as conscious as possible to keep the fire warm.  I try to do that with prayer, meditation, mindful action and reaction and a focus on the important things in my life and the lives of those around me.   

What do you focus on and how well does that nourishes you and those you love and care for?

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Life In Focus
AUTHOR
Mark  »

What’s in focus is what we see in front of us. Equally as important to our sight is our peripheral vision, which is not in focus but rather blurry and off to the side. Pope Francis speaks often on focusing on the peripheries. To do this we must turn our heads, our attention, to bring the periphery into focus. When we make this movement to look at, observe, or otherwise pay attention – which is focusing – that which was previously out of focus and off to the side is transformed into our center of interest and clarity. As such, we first have to choose what we want to focus on, and then we must move in the direction of that object to make it clear, make it our focus.

As an example, if we want to focus on a person or focus on the conversation we are having with a person we must make sure we move our sight unto that person and away from things such as the cell phone in our hand. To focus is to provide definition through attention, and people – not things – should be our focus.

What helps you focus? For me, I prefer quiet and order. Noise, even music I like tends to distract me more than it enables me to focus on a person or a task.

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Off the Island
AUTHOR
Joan  »

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up their fellow. But woe to the one who is alone when they fall and has not another to lift them up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV

Ah...our need for others.  Our physical, emotional and spiritual desire for other people, a bond which reminds us we are human, reminds us we are communal animals.  But why is this so?  What is to be gained by having other people in our daily lives?

I would surmise God has graced us with this need in order to give us numerous opportunities throughout of day to grow in our love for all creation and transcend our limited egotistical selves – in essence so we can spiritually grow.  As Ecclesiastes states “if they fall, one will lift up their fellow…How can one keep warm alone?”  I can’t “wing it” totally on my own.  I am not, and can never be, an island unto myself.  And for this I am grateful to my creator.

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AUTHOR
Mark  »

As Jean Vanier wrote in Living Gently in a Violent World:

The Word became flesh to bring people together, to break down the walls of fear and hatred that separate people. That's the vision of the incarnation — to bring people together. ...

Maybe the most important thing is to learn how to build communities of celebration. Maybe the world will be transformed when we learn to have fun together. I don't mean to suggest that we don't talk about serious things. But maybe what our world needs more than anything is communities where we celebrate life together and become a sign of hope for our world. Maybe we need signs that it is possible to love each other.

 

Some years ago I read that excerpt of the late great Jean Vanier on a retreat. It resonates with me, especially as we progress from holiday gatherings to the newness of time in this New Year. We’ve gathered. We’ve celebrated. But, alas, have we built communities of celebration?

 Sometimes Christmas parties may seem like “forced fun” insofar as we’re obligated to spend time with folks we may not want to. Sometimes we think the only way we can have a celebration is by having a potent beverage in our hand. But striped of liquid courage or of family obligations, immersed in total freedom how would we choose to love one another? How would we build communities of celebration? In the bleakness of winter how are we going to be a sign that life, and love, and our relational nature is both possible and hope-filled? I, for one, plan on asking a specific question: What do you need? For I believe we can only build community when we know what we’re building with.

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Pursuit of Peace
AUTHOR
Jill  »

The dawn of a new day, a new year, a new beginning approaches with every drifting second. The collection of thoughts and plans scattered on the frontier of the imagination yields possibilities. Those annual fragmented promises we reflect on and recite like rituals keep the mind in a constant pursuit of personal peace. Peace that sets the scales for all future prospects and promises that will expand spirit and body into something greater.  Allowing ourselves the opportunity to reset and realign our anatomy and intention of ever prayer going forward. Peace we seek in every ambitious endeavor and habitual action we strive to make or break. So here’s a proposal for the year end reset/resolutions; remain in pursuit of peace in every personal practice old and new, and most of all become the peace you seek.

James 3:18 “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace…”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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AUTHOR
Sr. Rose  »

The ninth chapter of Isaiah contains this beautiful prophecy concerning the Messianic king:

 

The people who walked in darkness

    have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

    on them light has shined.

. . .

For a child has been born for us,

    a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

    and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:2, 6)

 

What does it mean for us to welcome Jesus? Is it even possible for us to welcome the Prince of Peace in this world torn by violence and discord?

 

We are indeed called to welcome gladly the peace and love of Christ, so that his peace becomes our own. But the peace of Christ that is poured into our hearts, if it is truly Christ’s peace, is not just for us, and not just for the people most like us.  It is to flow from us into the world around us.

But what about this troubling saying of Jesus:  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. (10:35-36)

Is this contrary to the peace that otherwise seems to be promised and that we are called to embody? Does this justify wars and violence?

No, the Prince of Peace does not call for violence. He is speaking here metaphorically of what happens in practice: when people become followers of Christ, they risk alienating family and friends. (See the parallel passage in Luke 12:51-53, where the word “division” is used instead of “sword.”)

Even today, there may be people, perhaps in our own families, who will disagree with us or condemn us—or even cast us out—if we are true followers of the Prince of Peace. Like Jesus, we risk disapproval, alienation, or worse if we share his love and peace, particularly with those whose lives seem to indicate that they are unworthy of the love of Christ.

We must remember, however, that we ourselves are also unworthy. We are unworthy, but we are of infinite worth. And amazingly enough, we are to be Christ-bearers in the world. We are to be bearers of the love of God, not only to the peaceful and the loving, but also to those unwilling or unable to receive the gift.

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AUTHOR
Joan  »

As we enter the 3rd week of Advent we can be tempted to be distracted by the ever growing list of things to do, cook, purchase and decorate. We can lose sight of the miracle we are celebrating – the arrival of God in the flesh and presence of a little baby. The mystery and message of the incarnation can easily get lost in the effort we put forth to “do” Christmas. But can I pause? Can I take a step back from my lists, my time tables and easy access to technology and consumption to really consider just what the arrival of this baby centuries ago means for me? Can I consider the message the Christ child brought to the world as he grew and traveled about preaching the gospel of love, compassion, peace and charity? How am I going to slow down to embrace Christ’s presence in my life? I find the stepping back is simple if I ask God for help. Inevitably, God responds in the way that is best for me, and often with a sense of humor. It might not seem helpful to sit in traffic after a long day at the office but I have learned to turn off the radio and use this time to pray and converse with God. When I do that God helps me pause and within that pause I find the peace I know Christ came into the world to show us.

 How does God help you pause? How do you find the true peace of Christmas as you travel towards Christmas Day?


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