Happy New Year: Resolve to be Good today and better tomorrow…

new-year-greetings-love

As I take just a few brief moments to reflect on the closing out of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, I am reminded of a quote by Blessed Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy.

“The simplest and most practical lesson I know…is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow. Let us take one day only in hands, at a time, merely making a resolve for tomorrow, thus we may hope to get on taking short, careful steps, not great strides.” –Catherine McAuley

Many of us probably go through the task of making new years’ resolutions or because we have failed at them so many times, we have simply given up on setting the course for our next year.  However you do or do not approach resolutions, they have been identified to make our lives better. Unfortunately, lots of times these resolutions fade away come mid to end of January. Why?

For some, these resolutions become tough to keep because they are so drastically different to the way we live our life today. We live in a society that is impatient and wants to see the change automatically. For most, the image that is used for New Years resolutions is based on a chronological image. In one minute it is 2015 and the next 2016. However, anytime we want to make changes in our lives, it takes a great deal of time.

Mother McAuley gives some great advice in trying to change our lives for the better. A better image see the transition of the New Year is to see it as a journey that begun before the year that is ending and will continue into the year that is beginning. The image of the journey is a long road that is only completed through short careful steps. When we take the short careful steps, it gives us time to focus on today and prepare for a better tomorrow.

It has been said that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. During the transition of years, we often evaluate our life. For most people, helping and caring for others is something that we do right here at home, whether it’s spending more time with your family, developing relationships to make our work better, helping people in the community, or putting your desires on hold for the sake of your family and/or your team at work. The key is to find your purpose and help others while pursuing it.

We are constantly reminded in all of the major religious traditions that our life is a journey from something….to something. As a Catholic Christian, I feel my life is always a journey from individuality to community, from isolation to reconciliation, from sickness to healing and from judgement to mercy & justice. This journey from something….to something is a journey that causes us to look deeper at ourselves and at the community we live, work and have our being within.

In the New Year, we tend to look back over the past year to see where we came from and make some projections about where we are going.

  • When we look back over the years from where we came, can we project where we are going?
    • In what ways can you see the progress of the journey you began a longtime ago, continuing to get better in small careful steps?
    • Ask yourself what went well over the past year?
    • We move so fast we forget to pause and think about the accomplishments we’ve had.  Take a moment to think about what went well this past year.  At work, home, school.  Make a list of what went well.
  • We all make our living in one way or another, but do we give back in service to others while we are doing it?
  • When we see where we are going can we say that we are making a life? What are the primary movements you see in your journey?

Celebrate this list and continue to build on it in all the aspects of your life; family, friends and coworkers. When we celebrate our accomplishments and strive to do better tomorrow then we can truly have a

Happy New Year!

 

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Merry Christmas: A Reflection on Mercy in the World

christmasAs I reflect on the celebration of the Birth of Christ, I cannot help how we continue to bring to life his presence by our very presence in this world.  This year with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we also commemorate the 50th year of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. In the Misericordiae Vultus, the Papal decree calling of the Jubilee celebration, Pope Francis recalls the significance for the connection of this year to the council.

  1. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.

    We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity… The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children”.[2] Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council… the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council… a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed… Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channelled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need”.[3]With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.[4]

  2. 5. The Jubilee year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20 November 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!

For me, this celebration of Christmas calls for a reorientation, a new experience of the incarnation, of communion and of sacramentality.  This reorientation is not only for Christmas, but also for the ongoing reality of my Christian journey.

As we reflect on the gift of the incarnation of the Word Made Flesh, of the God-Man, Emmanuel, God-with-Us and with the connection to the Second Vatican Council and the Year of Mercy, I see a need for at least four new imperatives for my work as a disciple.

  1. The orientation of all pastoral activity focuses outwardly in the mission of the world toward a greater communion.
  2. Remembering that We are the Church, but not the whole Church. We need each other’s experiences to embrace the richness that the incarnation reminds us of in each other.
  3. That through our work and life, the Church becomes so vital to society and the fabric of the culture that we can re-emerge as native to it and truly transform it in light of the Gospel.
  4. As Church, we must continue to address the world around us and the neighborhoods in which we live and move and have our being to be of service to them and for the total human development of the people in light of the person of Jesus.

May you have a Blessed Merry Christmas!

The Year of Mercy: A Call to Conversatio, Prophetic Dialogue and Communion

Continuing with the second call in the celebration of this Jubilee year of Mercy, the Call to Conversatio and Communion I want to explore for the moment a connection between the ongoing conversion of life and greater communion, that is, prophetic dialogue.  The Holy Father calls us in this year to build a culture of encounter, one in which can transform the world around. At the heart of this culture of encounter is a prophetic dialogue.

Prophetic dialogue is not just about making sure we speak our truth to another, but it begins with starting from a stance of listening to the other, so that we might truly be in dialogue rather than waiting our turn to speak what is already in our minds.  In the case of prophetic dialogue, we are called to encounter the other with a true sense of empathy and ask the question “Where do I come to meet God in this experience and how does this experience proclaim the reign of God?”  This experience might directly reveal the reign of God in the affirmative or it might even reveal the reign of God in negation, in either case, the encounter is changed because we are bringing to mind that through each encounter we are called to experience God and to give insight into the reign of God. I am mindful of the rules of discernment of St. Ignatius of Loyola, that even the Evil one can use the good feelings in our lives to lead us astray and God can use even the stinging moments to bring us back to him.  In either case, it is all a matter of perspective—that is, how is this experience encounter according to the reign of God and where you stand in relation to God, the community and yourself.

In the US context we find ourselves not so much to have a dialogue about secularism and religious thought, although there is more of a secularity that continues become part of the fabric of the US social context, what we need is a deeper conversion of the already religious.  Since I stand within the Catholic-Christian tradition, I will speak from my seat in the pew.  What I see is that folks believe in a God, but the needed ongoing conversion has to do with the implications of that belief in God on the political, economic and social fabric of their context.  It is something that is extremely hard to do.  We have become part of the cultural fabric, but we have not transformed it according to those Gospel values.  So in many ways, we need  to re-engage in dialogue with the Gospel tradition and have new eyes to see and new ears to hears and in doing so, see things how they really are and not how we think they are….and see them in light and dialogue with Gospel, always widening the circle of understanding.  In this process, sometimes it will reaffirm our part of the oppressive structures, but also our own great conversion through the dialogue. So prophetic dialogue not only becomes essential to the evangelization of cultures, but to us as well.

This is the Call to Conversatio and the Call to Communion that is entered into through the process of prophetic dialogue that I see in this year of Mercy. While prophetic dialogue has a lot more to offer in terms of a reflection, this begins the motion of moving us to an encounter with our culture, to dialogue, to reconciliation and to providing hope.

The Year of Mercy: A Pause

In this reflection on the three interdependent Calls in the celebration of the year of Mercy, a call to experience Mercy, a call to conversation & communion and a call to mission, I want to reflect briefly on the value of a pause for the process of communion and the ongoing conversion of life.

When we take time to pause and let God’s gaze come upon us lets us feel our connection to the world around us, helps us find a place in which our greatest desires unites to the world’s greatest needs.  A pause to spend a year reflecting on the Mercy of God, allows our very self to connect to our way of being to an invitation to union in God’s unconditional love for God’s people.  This connection, this pause allows us to seek the transformation of the world that we live in this particular time, this particular place and with these particular people. A pause with this focus helps us connect to the real needs of the people before us and let us be open to those needs.  When we pause and let God’s gaze come upon us, instead of spending the time running frantically everywhere, the embodiment of the union with God found in the pause pushes out of ourselves in the a mission uniting all humanity in the two aspects of the one act of God’s love.

So today, the church asks us to pause and reflect on God’s Mercy. In the pause, we not only reflect so we can notice and experience Mercy, where we are and where we are called to show mercy to others.  In this pause, we learn to receive and believe in the mercy of God rather than to act as if it all depends on us by running around and being busybodies.  There are times in our lives when we just do not take the time and yet, there are ways that stop us in our steps, not just the dramatic moments of illness and death, but also those not so dramatic moments of stress and anxiety. In these moments, the pause comes, calls us beyond ourselves, calls us to see the world and our relationship to it in a new ways, and transforms us. When we pause, we re-collect ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves to God and to each other.

To be a Christian in this age, calls us to take notice of those silent still moments even those dramatic moments, which call us for a greater transformation.  To be a Christian in this age pushes us to challenge the noise of our head, hearts and the world around us keeping us distracted and to transform the interaction by paying attention, deeply listening and sitting still.  The western appreciation for efficiency and productivity keeps us from doing the other part of the work of the Christian that is, finding ourselves in union with God and letting God’s gaze come upon us. The Liturgy becomes another place of the Christian work, which is the place where we are to stay awake, to step back, hold still and let God’s gaze come upon us.   This is place that we come to recognize that bread does not come from nowhere, but it comes from everywhere, it is everything. The ordinary becomes extraordinarily ordinary for those who are awake enough to see the Body of Christ receive and give the Body of Christ so that they go forth to be the Body of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Look around your communities, pause and listen deeply, what are the stories, unspoken values?  What needs reconciliation and healing? How are you called to encounter and dialogue?

The Year of Mercy: A Call to Conversatio & Communion

In my first reflection on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I noticed three interdependent calls for celebrating this year: A Call to Experience Mercy, A Call to Conversatio & Communion and a Call to Mission.  My last post reflected on the Call to Experience Mercy and today I would like to reflect briefly on the Call to Conversatio & Communion.

In the monastic tradition, Conversatio or the full phrase Conversatio Morum is commonly translated as the ongoing fidelity to a way of life or the ongoing conversion of life.  At the heart of this monastic phrase to conversion of life that is anchored by remaining faithful to a way of life through the vows of stability and obedience.  To make a lifelong commitment to a way of life is in fact a heroic way to live one’s life and this will cause the need for ongoing conversion in the way in which we lead that committed life.  A good reminder for us during this Year of Mercy, that the beginning of our Call to Conversatio is to find its context within our particular experience of God’s Mercy.

In living out a Call to Conversatio we must find ourselves attentive to “the other” in the journey. Knowing the journey in the year of mercy is not just prayer and reconciliation—but a re-membering and an ongoing encounter/experience with a particular person in a particular time in a particular place, Jesus.  Maintaining long-term relationships reminds us to learn to distinguish between what is essential and what is nonessential.  Conversatio calls us to let go, to go beyond where we are, to where we can be, it is an invitation not to cling to past works. Mercy is not just a social event but is it is a holy event.

Inside of each person is some inner loneliness, homelessness or some alienation that longs to be welcomed.  Merely being nice to people, showing up to and following the rules does not fulfill the deep requirements of mercy. The Holy Father calls us to experience God’s mercy and to have an encounter in a way that the other stirs us and moves us out of ourselves to make a connection.  Mercy, like hospitality, will extract a cost from us and it will move us into the realm of the personal and the social transformation needed in our world. Mercy puts an end to injustice; t is a spiritual practice that leads us to becoming more human and answer to today’s inner loneliness and homelessness.  This loneliness/homelessness at the center of each person is there to lead us to greater experience of communion with one another and ultimately with God.

Look around your communities deeply; what are the stories, the unspoken values? Where are you being called to encounter ‘the other’ and called to a deeper sense of communion? In light of this information, how do we create an authentic community—not one that serves our own particular needs, but challenges us to be connected to the past, while enlarging our circles and working for a future that is larger than myself and calls for fidelity to that way of life?

If Today you hear God’s Voice harden not your hearts…Year of Mercy

During this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I talked about there being three distinct, yet mutual and interdependent movements in the calling for in this year of Mercy.

  1. A Call to Experience Mercy
  2. A Call to Conversatio & Communion
  3. A Call to Mission in the World

For today, I just want to take a brief look at the call to experience Mercy.  In Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis asks us to “let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and repeating that he love us and wants to share his love with us.” So how do we experience Mercy? How do we let God surprise us?

Remind ourselves that as a human we are capable of having a real encounter with a personal God.  We are created for community, we are social by nature and we exist in a particular time and in a particular place.  Our first encounter with God is a dynamic relationship where we first begin to understand the “i-thou” relationship of the whole person and God.  Our second encounter with God comes when we become conscious of our experience. Therefore, there is a role for memory, ritual and imagination.  When reflect back on an encounter to become more conscious of the experience so that we can go forward in new ways. It reveals to us ways in which God might be working, anchors us in a tradition and sends us forward with new inspiration and vision to see God.

So think back on your life when you had your first experience of being loved, even when you felt unlovable.  Just sit with this experience and let God’s gaze come upon you……

How are you in the experience (What is your immediacy and intensity with the experience? How did this experience speak to who you are and who you are to be?)

Now think of the particularity of the experience itself…it is this particularity that speak of an expression of the incarnation and this experience can be uncommon and moving or a common and related experience.

Where there self-imposing consequences?  Did your encounter with being loved, even when you felt unlovable move you to be more loving?  We cannot give what we do not have….If we have received an experience of Mercy, we enter more deeply into the kingdom of God’s mercy by making it more available to all.  At this moment, where do you need mercy? Can you ask for it?  At this moment, where can you show mercy? Can you give it?

Pope Francis call us to an experience of Mercy, not only are we called to remind our own experience of Mercy, but to share that experience and to re-enter more deeply into that experience of Mercy rendering the world more merciful.

The Year of Mercy….a return to blogging

HolyYearOfMercyIn this Year of Mercy, it is my hope to return to the process of blogging. A lot has changed since my last post, so hopefully this year I will post more regularly.  In my return to blogging, comes at a request from some folks asking me to return to writing reflections and thoughts, so I have begun with my reflections from the workshops/retreats and classes as part of my work to give back.

So here we sit on the eve before the opening of Extraordinary Year of Mercy, December 7th– a day that will live on in infamy– and all I can think of is in light of all that is going on in the world today, we could stand to experience a little Mercy in our hearts, homes and in our world.  Today, want to look ahead for the Jubilee year of Mercy. For me, the way in which I understand the focus of the year of Mercy is through the Papal Bull, Misericordiae Vultus that established the Extraordinary year of Mercy.

In that document, the Holy Father invites us to “contemplate the mystery of Mercy.”[1] Pope Francis reminds us that Mercy is “a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.”[2]

  • “Our Salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. (communion) Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. (mission) Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”[3}

Pope Francis reminds us that purpose for this year is that we must take the time “gaze more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives….A time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”[4]

I like how this year is summed up in paragraph 25:

“I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy. She knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.”[5]

So when I thought about reflecting on the Year of Mercy for today, I see three distinct, yet mutual and interdependent movements in the Calling of the Year of Mercy:

  1. A Call to Experience Mercy
  2. A Call to Conversatio & Communion
  3. A Call to Mission in the World

In my upcoming posts, I will reflect on these three callings in the Year of Mercy.

 

[1, 2, 3, 4, 5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Vatican, April 2015. Paragraphs 2., 2, 3, 25  https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html