Listening Lessons

Tags

, , , , ,

Jesus often spoke in what we know as “parables,” stories meant to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. He often emphasized the importance of what he was saying with the dictum: “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” I used to wonder why he didn’t just say something like: “Pay attention, everybody!” or just “Listen!” It’s a little strange to seek out people who have ears, since everyone has them. Sometimes though, if someone is talking to me while I’m doing something else I miss what the speaker is saying. That might necessitate the addition of “to hear” as in “Whoever has ears to hear…” which might then turn my head toward the speaker.

It’s likely that Jesus was signaling a deeper listening, one that would take more reflection because the meaning might be veiled somehow. In that case listeners would need to go beyond the reach of their ordinary minds. Then perhaps it would take the kind of listening that Jesus required for those who were following different way of being/living. If it was a really important point that he wanted his followers to understand, leaving the other people gathered in the dark until they “saw the light,” his disciples would then perk up and open the ears of their hearts.

When do you listen with the ears of your heart? How is that different for you? Might you hear God any better in the silence?

Are You Ready?

Tags

, , ,

As I sit this morning waiting for words that will satisfy the need of today I become aware that the heat is on in our house. I’m not speaking metaphorically but literally. I can hear the furnace churning away through the vents in the floor. It’s just 37 degrees (F) outside – startling for those of us who are not aware of the turning going on out there. How did it get to be the last third of September? Do I really need to be trying on warmer clothes to see if they fit? Must I ready my brain and my heart for the shift to all that the change of season means? We’re on the verge of the autumnal equinox (9/22 – next Tuesday!) after which we cannot deny the shorter days. How will life be different this year as we move toward fall and then winter in the northern hemisphere? Where will we be at year’s end? And what of our neighbors to the south? Is there more than the weather to consider for all of us going forward?

I’m aware of a rising consciousness in me that warns not to wait, allowing myself to float along the days. (I think of the squirrels who will soon be gathering their nuts for winter.) What preparations will be necessary to meet the challenges of the endings and beginnings this time? I think it might be wise to begin shifting, to wake up, open our eyes and say “yes!”.


Humility

Tags

, , , , , ,

As I was checking my e-mail this morning I found a message from yesterday that I hadn’t seen. It’s a great follow-on to yesterday’s post about love. The topic is humility. I learned long ago that humility is not beating yourself up and thinking less of yourself but rather is a recognition of who you really are, what capacities you possess and – most importantly – the willingness to embrace of the truth of yourself as a great gift, regardless of what/who you would prefer to be.

During this pandemic that we are all living in, many of us see ourselves as “less” than we thought we were: less energetic, less creative, less useful, less competent… We watch the days go by and the projects we planned either done poorly or not at all. We continue to plan but seem unable to achieve. For most of us it’s more of a “slow-down” than a failure, but we wonder, nevertheless, when we’ll “get back to normal.” A little humility, in the words of Beverly Lanzetta in a forthcoming book, may be helpful.

Humility implies radical trust in divine reality…Humility says, accept the limits of your situation and the fullness of your life the way it is. Humility says, be content with where God is taking you. Be content with what you are given. (Beverly Lanzetta, Spiritual Practices & Formation for the Monk Within, Forthcoming in late fall 2020)

Just Love…

Tags

, , , , , ,

If I were trying to give a definition to a being from another planet who asked: “What does the word love mean?” I could easily use today’s text from 1 COR 12:31-13-13 as an answer. This lectionary reading is known by some as an “ode to love.” It speaks not only of what love is but also what it is not. You have likely heard it at a wedding at least once. It is full of hyperbole, something St. Paul often used for effect. If we pay attention, however, and consider his words, stripped down and reflected in human (and “angelic”) behaviors, we might come to the conclusion that he is right in his assessment. (You know: If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge…if I have faith so as to move mountains…)

If every day, in everything, love was the motivating force and manner of expression, we would be living as God created us to live and the world would be the creation that God imagined in the beginning. That presumes, of course, that everyone in the world would have to buy into this way of living and it would take some time for us to practice thinking and acting that way.

But what a concept! Can you even imagine it? Some time ago my friend T.C. had a poster created for her workshops on positive thinking that said, “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it.” My friend Ken Whitt just wrote a book about it, entitled God Is Just Love, soon to be published.*

The first step, it seems to me, is to reflect deeply and often on St. Paul’s words. Next comes the willingness to find small ways in our thinking and our speech to put it into practice. Then more practice and greater “love projects” undertaken until it becomes who we are. Why not start (or re-start) today and, if necessary, every day, because, as I noted recently in this blog, what the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…

*I’ll keep you posted on the publication of Ken’s book. I’ve read it and would recommend it to everyone, especially parents and those who love children and want us to survive without destroying the planet for a long time to come!

Called By Name

Tags

, , , , , ,

It took me a long time to get comfortable with my name. My mother, I have heard, was looking for names that didn’t have the likelihood of devolving into nicknames. (That was a lost cause!) I think she was also interested in finding names that were uncommon, if not really unique. (The majority of Catholic girls of my age had a Mary or Marie attached somehow.) The one thing that comforted me about my name (although I was often asked where Superman was hiding) was that I was the only Lois in my class from kindergarten through high school.

Today I came across a prayer by Joseph Tetlow, SJ that focused more on who we are in the eyes of God and how our name becomes us as we grow into that identity. Knowing that I am unique in all the world (as we all are) because of God’s call, I pray:

Oh, Lord my God, you called me from the sleep of nothingness merely because in your tremendous love you want to make good and beautiful beings. You have called me by my name in my mother’s womb. You have given me breath and light and movement and walked with me every moment of my existence. I am amazed, Lord God of the universe, that you attend to me and, more, cherish me. Create in me the faithfulness that moves you and I will trust you and yearn for you all my days. Amen. (Hearts on Fire, p.14)

Who’s Complaining?

Tags

, , , , ,

The first line of the first reading in today’s lectionary texts could have been written about us in our present predicament, i.e. Covid-19, the coronavirus. From the Hebrew Scriptures we read: With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses. (NM 21:48)

When things aren’t going our way, especially if the distress continues for a long time, people usually begin to look around for someone to blame for the trouble. In the Bible passage today, the guilty party is clear. Moses is at fault; he brought them into the desert. He could complain also, however, since he was just doing what God directed.

We’ve now been in this situation for six months – throughout the spring and our summer vacations. Who is the culprit in our predicament? Some say nations in faraway lands. Some blame the president of the United States. Then there are the people who refuse to wear a mask, or those who want to party in large groups. There’s enough blame this time to go around. The big question, however, is not how the virus began and grew to pandemic strength, but rather how we are responding to the situation now at hand.

It’s tricky because ultimately we are fighting something that is invisible and we aren’t good at seeing what cannot be seen. We have to look deep inside ourselves for coping mechanisms that will help rather than harm. Pointing fingers is no remedy. We need to be about silencing complaint and be doing what we are instructed that will help to mitigate the disease until such time as a safe and effective vaccine is found and made available.

Pointing fingers and complaining never did solve anything. It just escalates the problem. It has been said that those who are not part of the solution are usually part of the problem. It’s time to stop complaining and find out how we can help. It may include some uncomfortable or inconvenient practices but it surely beats wandering in the desert for 40 years!

Forgive

Tags

, , , ,

It’s hard to miss the message in today’s lectionary readings. There are examples in each one, building to the most instructive: the story of the servant who successfully begged the king to forgive him a huge debt and then turned around and refused to forgive someone who owed him a much smaller amount. (MT 18:21-35) There are so many familiar lines in that passage, calling us to compassion and forgiveness for one another. Can you imagine Jesus suggesting that we forgive “seventy times seven times?” (aka as many times as we fall short.) Think about it though.

Is there anyone you love enough to forgive every time that person fails to measure up? Isn’t that what it takes to sustain a relationship? Is there any one of us who hasn’t been hurt or disappointed at least once that we can remember by a person we have loved? If we do forgive, doesn’t that strengthen the relationship? If we don’t, the transgression usually seems to hang onto us and deepen until the relationship is ruptured and it becomes impossible to remedy.

Nobody would say it’s easy to forgive serious injury but most of us, at least, would agree that forgiveness is the best way to heal. Jesus suggests that way today, saying: “Love one another as I have loved you.” With him as the model, who of us can resist a love like that?

Saturday Morning, 8:00

Tags

, , , , , ,

Saturday has long been a “catch-up” day for me. Two of us were just sitting in the kitchen downstairs speaking of our plans for the day. Most of the time there is at least a resemblance of, if not a completed check-list at the end of the day, but it’s always good to begin that way. Now I’m sitting upstairs, looking out at the stillness of the giant tree that stands ready for the day, waiting for the sun to break forth from the fog that is now dissipating, waiting as well for a morning prayer to emerge. It is all so quiet that I would prefer a longer preface…so I yield my active self to John Philip Newell just for a little while. Pray with me if you will.

In the busyness of this day grant me a stillness of seeing, O God. In the conflicting voices of my heart grant me a calmness of hearing. Let my seeing and hearing, my words and actions, be rooted in a silent certainty of your presence. Let my passions for life and the longings for justice that stir within me be grounded in the experience of your stillness. Let my life be rooted in the ground of your peace, O God, let me be rooted in the depths of your peace. (Celtic Benediction, p.77)

Look in the Mirror

Tags

, , ,

Luke’s gospel (LK 6:39-42) reminded me this morning of a saying on a coffee mug that I’ve also seen on a T-shirt. It says, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Luke is a bit more direct and is asking a question so I would expect a more forceful delivery. I can hear him challenging us, wanting to know: “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Life-long Learning

Tags

, , , , ,

There’s a lot to ponder in the lectionary readings for today: (Luke 6: 27-38). It’s all about love but because Jesus was speaking to his disciples rather than a large crowd the message was not flowery or sweet. It cut to the heart of how to live a good and meaningful life in the way that God would have us act. Spend some time with it if you will. I’ll just offer a taste to get you started, three thoughts that take some real honesty to get to the heart of things.

  1. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…
  2. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
  3. Stop judging and you will not be judged…Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Read the statements aloud. (How does it feel on the first read?) It will take some doing to go deeper than just recognizing the words. No squirming! Just stay with it until you’re ready to make a decision and a plan of how you can take a step toward this transformation in practice. (And then keep walking that path…)