Serve It Up

Hurricane Harvey arrived for dinner.  Although “his” entrance into middle Tennessee was gradual, and not as uncivil as his arrival into Texas, he wasn’t yet bold enough to prevent us from having our Encounter with Christ this week, since we met earlier in the day.  The people of Texas and everyone affected by the flooding and rains of this storm were held especially in our intercessory prayers during our meditation of the upcoming Sunday’s gospel. 

Matthew 16:21-27

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. 22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 23 He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

The Conditions of Discipleship 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

After our usual invitation to the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, our lights came together into one beautiful message.  Trust and serve.  Inspirations were as follows:

  • You are an obstacle to me“; How often am I an obstacle to God’s grace working in my own life?  The things we do every day and our general business keep us sometimes from focusing on what really matters, our eternal life.
  • You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do“; We think we know what is best for ourselves and others, and view all kinds of situations without the wisdom of God.  How often am I dealing with a difficult situation and really trusting what God is doing within it? How can I carry my cross or difficulties with the attitude of trusting God and relying on His loving plan for my life?
  • What profit is there in gaining the world but losing our life?” The version that was read aloud at our meeting was a translation that used the word “soul” instead of life, reminding us that the stakes are eternal, not just this earthly lifetime for us. We must be willing to view our circumstances in the light of God’s eternity, which implies that our circumstances are temporary and passing; we must do what we can to yield our small inconveniences or troubles over to God, out of love for Him.
  • This passage brings to mind a talk by Matthew Kelly in which he discusses the “isms” of life; Individualism (“it’s all about me”); hedonism (“if it feels good, do it”) and minimalism (“what’s the least I can do in this situation? How little can I get away with doing?”)  We have come to believe that we should never feel uncomfortable in this life.  How can I look at inconveniences as opportunities to join my small cross to Christ’s?  
    • How can I do this daily and make little “deposits” of loving sacrifices into the “bank” of God, so that when something happens I can afford to make a “withdrawal”? 
    • We must always be working to form habits that lead to cultivating our virtues.
      • An example given at this point was about the common trend of not letting our children “want” for anything.  Not letting our kids feel any discomfort.  How can we teach them to rely on God when things get difficult if we prevent them from ever having a difficulty and jumping in to “fix it” for them?
  • We use the phrase “offer it up” in our Catholic faith a lot.  Many people don’t understand what this means.  It’s often joked about being a mean Catholic mother’s way of telling their child to “suck it up and shut up”.  Even though we all laughed together about this, the reality of uniting our sufferings, even small inconveniences (one example given was as small as “my coffee isn’t quite warm enough”) to the sufferings of Christ, which is something that we have done in our faith for millineums.  Even in the Old Testament, sacrifices were made to please God; not just animals and “burnt” offerings, but those of faith and praise. (Psalm 51 for one example). 
  • The exclamation on this meditation was the entertaining way one of our member’s husband (who isn’t Catholic) who tells their children in handing their problems over to God…”Serve it up!” He mistakenly, but poignantly says “serve” instead of “offer” in order to give our troubles to God, so we aren’t letting them become a hindrance to our being a light on this earth for others.  Nothing is more in the service of the church than that! Brilliant! 

Along the lines of service comes our beautiful case about two teenage friends.  A girl who is in junior high has a friend who has been long-suffering with and some family issues, also recently began experiencing some social issues with friends as well.  Deciding her friend needed some kindness, the first teen spent hours constructing a plan that would bring joy and consolation for her friend.  She made a jar with color-coded slips of paper with sayings; some bible verses, some inspiring quotes, and others messages of personal friendship.  She made one for each day of the year and gave them to her sorrowful pal.  The friend, upon receiving the gift, was overjoyed with the concept and proceed to share her gift to her family and friends over the next several days.  It was said that the family who had been struggling with issues, was moved to tears by the jar and its loving messages.  The jar’s creator, a diligent 8th grader, spent hours on the project.  She didn’t think anything about spending that kind of time to make her friend feel loved, not just as a friend, but as a child of God. 

We begin by examining the case/story in light of other similar or “parallel” cases.  The following similar stories were mentioned:

  • A mother-in-law put messages on her daughter-in-law’s mirror, expressing love and affirmations during a difficult time.
  • A daughter made her mother a gift of a picture frame with an envelope full of hand written letters expressing love and gratitude for her mother to be opened at various times.
  • A high school health teacher assigns a project where teens write five encouraging quotes on five different sticky notes and go place them in public places.  Two known teens put the messages in a grocery store; on shelves in the store, or on the back of the bathroom stall door.
  • A man who went around his community putting tiny mailboxes in random places where they could be found.  Inside were letters of kindness and encouragement for the members of the community, in order to combat the culture of “anger” around him.
  • Parents asked guests for their baby’s first birthday party to bring, instead of gifts, letters to the baby to be opened on her 18th birthday.  When their daughter turned 18 and opened her letters, many of the people who had written the letters had passed away (grandparents, etc.) and this made the messages of love all the more precious.

Other points of the case study may examine how this case may mimic a story from the gospels, how the world would see the case (which we did discuss) and how we would view it in light of our own spirituality.  We then end with our own personal lights about how to live the virtues we identified in this case. 

VIRTUE:

Theological:  CHARITY;

Human: Justice because we saw elements of loyalty to the friend as well as magnanimity

RESOLUTIONS:

APOSTOLIC (Action):  Write something encouraging to someone who needs support, kindness or love. (Tip; Think loyalty and magnanimity as help when you write.

SPIRITUAL (Prayer): Prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for guidance about who we know that could use the note of encouragement. 

Finally, one of the items we usually try to cover at our Encounters with Christ include fruits of what came from trying to practice the virtue from the previous week’s resolution.  Since we were unable to meet last week, we went over the previous resolution.  We agreed to turn to God in prayer first thing in the morning before looking at our cell phones or computers.  We wanted to try to focus on letting God guide our day, instead of whatever news or distractions technology may bring.  As varied as we are many, it is beautiful to see the way our resolutions manifest themselves in our lives as each person had a different tilt on the way they implemented and were affected by the resolution.  Here were a few of those fruits:

  • One person found that not looking at her phone and sitting in silence for five minutes at the very start of the day made a great impact on the peace that she maintained throughout the days she practiced this virtue. 
  • A few people mentioned the effectiveness of sitting in the same place at the same time of day in developing good prayerful habits.  Not having technology in that sacred place was important. 
  • Another mentioned putting her phone down, and in front of her computer, she placed a framed picture of a morning prayer/offering that her daughter had made for her.  She said having it in FRONT of the computer screen diverted her from being distracted to emails, texts, and all that comes with technology. 
  • Many felt using pen and paper instead of our apps/phones to help our morning meditation to be very effective. 

As always, we pray for those who cannot be with us and invite you to join us in trying to practice our virtue of the week with our resolutions to guide you.  If you would like to give us prayerful feedback on the results of your resolutions, please feel free! 

butterfly

Photo: mbn

 

 

 

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