Archive for the ‘Paul’s letters’ Category

Submit, obey, surrender – are these really bad words?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Here are the readings for today.
Ephesians 5:21-33; Psalm 128:1-5; Luke 13:18-21

Here is the Divine Office – click on Office of Readings.

Submit. Obey. Surrender. These words appeared again and again in both the daily readings and the Divine Office, Office of Readings. Here are some examples:

Antiphons from the Divine Office (from Psalm 37):

  • Surrender to God, and he will do everything for you.
  • Turn away from evil, learn to do God’s will; the Lord will strengthen you if you obey him.
  • Wait for the Lord to lead, then follow in his way.

And today’s first reading from Ephesians is the famous (or infamous) passage about submission and specifically, wives submitting to their husbands:

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the Church,
he himself the savior of the Body.
As the Church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Words like submit, obey and surrender are considered dirty words, especially in American society where rugged individualism, acquiring wealth and power, and making it to the top no matter what are of primary importance to so many. For women especially, these are fighting words (understandable since women have known oppression all over the world for so long, and so many still do).

What’s often missed, however,  is verse 21 which comes just before that section:

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This here is the key. Submit, obey and surrender don’t have the same meanings when applied to God. As is so common in the Christian life, things are not as they appear. In the world these words bring to mind slavery, captivity, restraint, limitation, imprisonment or subjection. In the eyes of God, submit, obey and surrender actually mean true freedom.

If I am to be subordinate to the Lord, I must learn to trust Him. Trust is not learned overnight, especially if your trust has been betrayed by those you love. I need to be intimate relationship with God and pursue Him constantly. As that relationship grows, I find that my desire to be subordinate grows too because I learn to trust Him.

A few years ago, anxiety over our finances ruled my life. I would wake up at 4am and worry myself sick until it was time to get up. I would make myself physically sick because of worry. I also disrupted the lives of my family members because of that worry.

I pursued a relationship with God but did not understand at the time about subordinating myself to Him. He in his graciousness showed me how even when I didn’t directly ask for it. Slowly He transformed me and in time, I learned to let go of my worries; I stopped trying to control every aspect of my life. In return, I found a deep and lasting peace – freedom from my worry -  which I wouldn’t trade for the world.

When I had my worry replaced by His peace, my relationships with family members improved, especially with my husband. I began to learn what sacrificial love was and desired to practice it. We became subordinate to each other our of our love for Christ.

Submit, obey and surrender are no longer dirty words to me. God has transformed their meaning for me into something beautiful and very desirable.

The meaning and need for community (daily readings for Oct. 23)

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Here are the daily readings
Ephesians 4:7-16; Psalm 122:1-5; Luke 13:1-9

These two verses, 15 and 16, stuck out for me from  Ephesians, chapter 4:

Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.

In particular, “held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part,” speaks to me of the real meaning, and need, for community.

So often I hear people say, “my faith is a private matter.” People go to church and sit apart from one another. We sing  hymns like “We Are One Body” and “One Bread, One Body,” telling us that we are a community. But if we need to be told we are a community and don’t know already know in our hearts that we are, haven’t we missed the whole point?

Community isn’t created because we gather under one roof and are reminded we are community. We are community because we share the same beliefs and goals. I remember studying Kung Fu years ago with my husband at a very traditional school and we marveled at the community we saw there – young, old, from many races, all sharing the same goal. No one had to tell them they were a community or exhort them to be one, they were one.

If you have experienced a true community then you know the benefits of being a part of it. In this day and age, community is a hard concept because so much emphasis is placed upon the individual, upon diversity, upon entertaining all kinds of ideas.

Perhaps as a church community we need to focus on what St. Paul is saying:  make our common goal Christ for from Him, the body, the community is formed. Put aside our individualism and focus on others, rather than on the self. Community will never happen so long as we focus on ourselves. Rather, if we allow Christ to lift us out of ourselves and our differences, desires and power plays, we will then learn what true community is, and what a blessing it is.

Then our hymns will not longer have to remind us that we are one, we will be one, through our love for each other. Our faith will no longer be a “private matter.”

Daring to dream – inspired by today’s Office of Readings (Oct. 20)

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There were so many great lines of scripture today in the Office of Readings that it was hard to choose (Divineoffice.org for Oct. 20). Here’s one from Psalm 18, verses 28 and 29:

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

I don’t have any great barriers that I need broken down at the moment nor do I have a large wall to scale. But, an idea came into my head this morning, an idea that has entered my mind before, and an idea I have resisted.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I used to create books to continue the stories of favorite classics (Black Beauty especially) or write about my trolls (remember those? :-)). I would illustrate and bind them, and I was very proud of them (in fact, I still have them!). When I was in middle school, I was discouraged in my writing by my teachers and gave up on the idea.

I then took up songwriting and did that for several years. I enjoyed especially writing the lyrics, as you can imagine, inspired by my heroine in music and lyrics, Joni Mitchell. That lady could sure write a line!

I moved into writing music about my faith and enjoying sharing about it through the lyrics, and praising God through the music.

And when email came along, I would write long, newsy letters that got a good response from friends. And when I ran GrapeVine Magazine for several years (a magazine about Catholic musicians), I wrote articles about artists and many CD reviews. (After ten years, I turned over GrapeVine to a new editor, Jim Logue).

So the writing never really stopped.

Entering the ‘empty nester’ phase of life, I’ve found more time for reading and I’m discovering that for the first time since my childhood, I am really enjoying the escape that is reading. Reading is the one thing I can do where I am not multitasking (which is why I refuse to read anything but an old fashioned printed book!), and that is immensely relaxing.

And now, the idea that was planted in me as a child is coming back, the idea to write a real book. It’s a book that taps into my endless interest in Louisa May Alcott and her writings. It’s come back several times and each time my response is, “What an absurd idea! I’m no writer. I don’t have the discipline. I don’t have the background, the education. I haven’t read nearly enough books, it’s been done before,  I have no idea how to do it!”

But the idea that presented itself today for a possible book spoke back to me: “You are reading now. You are writing two blogs (this one and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion). Your other blog is full of over 100 great, thoughtful comments from learned women who are writers, historians, English teachers and students. You have a whole community there to support you in your effort. A close friend of yours is a published author. Any other excuses?”

And then I listen to the Divine Office this morning and hear these verses:

You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

It also says in the scriptures, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

This is what I will need to discern over the next several days in prayer – does God want me to pursue writing? How can I use it  for His glory? Do I dare dream about what could be if I do write a book? I’ve never dared to really dream before.

But maybe it’s time I put myself out there and dare to dream. I only know that the best way to find out if God wants this is to try it and see if the interest lasts and if the doors open. Perhaps I have a gift that God wants me to use that I am not fully using. Stranger things have been known to happen.

God’s wisdom is deemed foolishness in the world. Perhaps my “absurd” idea isn’t so foolish, if it’s inspired by the Lord. Only time will tell.

The gift of stumbling blocks – reflection on daily readings for October 13

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Today’s readings
Galatians 5:18-25; Psalm 1:1-4,6; Luke 11:42-46

We all have them in our lives – people that push our hot buttons. They aggravate us, make us angry, even hurt us sometimes. When that hot button is pushed and the emotions surge to the surface, it’s very hard to resist giving into them and either being overcome with  negative thoughts or worse, acting out on those thoughts. It could begin as murmuring to oneself and build to talking behind that person’s back or a direct confrontation.

I have two people currently who do that to me. One is a family member and the other a colleague at work. Even when I step outside of myself and see myself reacting badly to them, I cannot stop the surge of emotion, and I sin. I confess the sin after the fact, right away sometimes if I am aware of what I have done, but I’m at a loss as to how to stop that tidal wave of emotion that leads to sin.

Today’s first reading from Galatians 5:18-25 states the following (verses 22-26):

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Living the Spirit, I’m finding, requires constant vigilance. Constant. Moment to moment. It’s impossible to do without calling on God’s grace all day long. This, most likely, is one of the main reasons why St. Paul urged us to pray constantly. That connection with God’s grace is meant to help me rise above such passions and circumvent them. It’s obvious to me that I will need to really pray a LOT during the day to avoid giving in my feelings.

And this is why these two people are a gift to me. They are the reminders I need to constantly seek God and His grace. I know they can cause me to stumble, so I must cling to God and remain Christlike in my love for them.

Live in the Spirit, following the Spirit . . . remain constantly close to God in order to be more like Him.

Sharing in suffering and consolation – reflection on the Divine Office morning prayer, September 20

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I was struck today by the short reading included in the Divine Office morning prayer:

Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation! He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him. As we have shared much in the suffering of Christ, so through Christ do we share abundantly in his consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I immediately thought of my dear friend whom I take communion to every Tuesday. She endures much suffering but freely shares how God consoles her through that suffering. It always amazes me how she is able to hang on, and not just hold on, but keep trying. She leads a life full of purpose even though she can do little physically.

Someone in her shoes could so easily become bitter and be blinded by the suffering. But my friend is open, looking for, asking, expecting God’s consolation. And because of that, she offers consolation to others. I know that is certainly true for me. Every week I learn something new from her which deepens my understanding of the faith. She says that I console her too – I do all I can.

I remember last year when my husband Rich was laid off. This was a second layoff for him but we opted to trust in God and support each other, and not allow worry to undo us. At that time, I felt so much consolation from God that I just had to share it, and that’s when I produced a limited podcast series called “How Can I Keep from Singing” as part of the  Marian Cenacle Rosary Podcast. In this series, I freely shared what was going on in my life and how I leaned on God, trusting Him to see us through. I knew there were a lot of people out there like us and I wanted to let people know that trusting in God does help. My husband didn’t land a job immediately – we were on unemployment for 4 months – and I’d be a liar if I said there were no bumps in the road along the way. But for some reason, God graced both of us tremendously with confidence and we remained calm and peaceful throughout the layoff.

2 Corinthians 21:3-4 is something I have truly lived and I can tell you, is possible for anyone so long as you don’t let your suffering blind you to God’s goodness. Surrendering your sorrow to God is essential – He must be allowed to lead the way.

Rock-solid faith – reflection on daily readings for September 17

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Psalm 17:1,6-8,15; Luke 8:1-3

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians lays out a brilliant and logical argument for the cause of eternal life and Christ rising from the dead. As I read that scripture passage I thought, “No problem here, I know I believe that Christ rose, and I believe in eternal life.”

Then I recalled a visit I had the other day with a dear friend of mine who possesses a lot of spiritual wisdom. We were talking about mutual friends who have lost a grown child to cancer and how their faith had been shaken.

I shared how I felt that God had blessed with me with a rock-solid faith, as I truly believe in eternal life and believe my parents are safe with God. My friend then looked at me intently and shared rather bluntly how her “rock-solid” faith was shaken badly when her husband passed away years ago. She has since regained her foothold but she stated it so strongly; it really caused me to pause and think.

I think the underlying message of her statement was a warning: don’t ever count on your own ability to hold on to your faith. Perhaps she saw me as being a bit naive in stating so blithely that my faith was rock-solid. Perhaps there was a little pride hidden in there: “I know my faith is solid while others may be faltering.”

Job certainly seemed solid in his faith at the beginning of his trials, but as the trials multiplied, he began to falter. Anyone can falter in their faith – after all, we are only human!

I recall a statement made last weekend in the homily at Sunday Mass – we always ask God “why” when trials come up, but do we also ask “why” when things are going smoothly? Actually, I silently answered “yes” because my life has gone so smoothly these last 4 months since my dear mother passed away. Almost too smoothly.

And I find myself wondering: will my faith hold up when a real trial comes along? What if I lost a member of my immediate family, would my faith still be “rock-solid?’

I certainly don’t want to ask for any trials, but I do want to be ready. I pray now as things are going smoothly, that my faith will be just as rock-solid when the rug inevitably is pulled out from under me. It is during our most difficult trials that Christ is closest to us, having endured the ultimate painful trial Himself.

Lord Jesus, be with me always and never let me think that I can believe all on my own. It’s Your Spirit in me that believes.

Running the Race to Win – reflection on readings for Sept. 10

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Today’s readings can be found here.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-27; Psalm 84:3-6,12; Luke 6:39-42

From today’s Divine Office, morning prayer:

2 Corinthians 12:9b-10
I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.

St. Paul tells us to run the race to win.A cup of coffee so I can wake up, a longer commute than usual because of heavy traffic . . . I think you know where this is leading. It’s painful like no other. I struggle mightily with this pain even though it is so small in the scheme of things. In the midst of it I tried hard to remember that it would resolve itself in due time, but in the middle of it, I was desperate. I could not figure out how to maintain my peace .

This happened a couple of days ago and I am still reflecting on it. Then I read the above reading from the Divine Office and wonder how Paul did it. Did he lose his peace when he was in pain? Or did he maintain it? I suppose the best way to find out is to ask him through intercessory prayer, and to study his life.

In today’s first reading, Paul talks about running the race to win. Since I am not an athlete, I never could relate to the analogy of running a race. But now that I have begun working out at the YMCA 3 times a week, I am beginning to understand. It’s about total commitment, and total belief in that commitment. You can’t run a race to win if you don’t believe you can win.

I have to believe that I can win in my spiritual life as well. How can I lose with the Lord’s Holy Spirit inside of me? I can lose only if I don’t believe.

I think I would almost welcome the challenge of my “pain” after coffee again and see if this time, I can run that race to win!


Rethinking our approach to our enemies

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

This morning’s reading in the Divine Office really challenged me. It reads:

Look on the needs of the saints as your own; be generous in offering hospitality. Bless your persecutors; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same attitude toward all. Put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay injury with injury. See that your conduct is honorable in the eyes of all.

If possible, live peaceably with everyone. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves; leave that to God’s wrath, for it is written: ” ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; by doing this you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Romans 12:13-21

For some reason, the verse “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves; leave that to God’s wrath, for it is written: ” ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” really stood out in thinking about how we as a country react to terrorism. I am no pacifist and I have always believed that terrorists only understand force and therefore must be dealt with in that way.

As September 11th approaches and we remember the dead, I ponder these verses and wonder what would happen if we did leave vengeance to our Lord and treated our enemies with kindness. This really challenges my faith.