Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jesus Is Calling

What do you want me to do for you?

I want to offer a humble reflection about this Sunday's readings. I wish I could follow a specific order, but I have decided to write as the Holy Spirit prompts me to do it.  I write having in mind all you young people who are discerning a religious or priestly vocation.  I hope these reflections throw some light, so, like Bartimaeus, you can see!
The Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, while talking about the high priests says that "No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God." Those of us who have been called and responded to God's call to the religious life or the priesthood would not dare to say that "we" made the decision to join a community or enter the seminary in the same way we would've chosen to follow a career.  Rather, we considered religious life or the priesthood because, by God's grace, we perceived a call, an invitation, a divine seduction which was almost impossible to ignore.
Of course, it is an honor to become a bride of Jesus and/or to become an Alter Christus (another Christ), but the honor is conferred on us by God in all gratuity. John Paul II states in Vita Consecrata that "The profession of the evangelical counsels thus presupposes a particular gift of God not given to everyone, as Jesus himself emphasizes with respect to voluntary celibacy (cf. Mt 19:10-12)."

In the Gospel, we see that when Bartimaeus hears Jesus calling him, he "throws aside his cloak, springs up, and comes to Jesus."
Well, some of us definitely have not sprung up and followed Jesus like Bartimaeus because we lacked his faith.  But many of us, after a period of discernment, decided to throw aside the cloak and follow Him. For Bartimaeus, being a blind person and probably being a poor person as well, the cloak meant everything he owned; it was his security. 
To follow Jesus is not easy, Jesus is demanding.  We must throw the cloak, abandon our families, our comforts and our plans for the future.  
As I talk to young people who are discerning, they tell me that they are discerning where they can serve Jesus better.  Maybe that is not how the discernment should go.  In my humble opinion, it is not a matter of where I can serve Jesus better, because after all, God does not need our service. He is God!!! He has the power to do everything!
Maybe the question to reflect on should be: Has Jesus asked me to follow Him? There is only one thing God would not do: violate our freedom! As powerful as God is, He would not oblige us to surrender our lives to Him. 
So, for you young people discerning God's will, it is not a matter of service (even though definitely it is involved since every community has an apostolate) but of surrendering your life to God. Saint Mark points out that "He appointed twelve so that THEY MIGHT BE WITH HIM and he send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14). Our first and foremost duty then is to become one of Jesus, to be with Him. 

Have you heard his voice? Is the person of Jesus attracting you in a way that He becomes your spouse, in a way that He becomes more valuable than many children, a nice house and a car, a successful career?
Has Jesus whispered your name? Then, like Bartimaeus, TRUST JESUS and leave behind what has been your life and cling to Jesus' hand and follow Him wherever He goes.

The first reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah says that "They departed in tears, but [God] will console them and guide them; [He] will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For [He is] a Father to Israel."
Also, the Book of Revelation says that we will be given a white robe that has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  Religious life and priesthood are a white martyrdom, but when one loves, one is ready to sacrifice everything for the beloved to become one. And we long to become one with the crucified and risen Jesus.
All of us have shed tears when we have said our byes to our families and friends, but one moment of spiritual consolation is worth many tears.  
Believe me, after thirty something years of religious life, I can attest to what Saint Teresa of Avila says about Jesus, she says that this King knows how to repay his subjects, giving them many graces and consolations. God is such a good Father, confidant, companion, consoler, bridegroom.  In Him all the lofty dreams of our little poor human hearts are satisfied.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Little Sister

Viva Jesús Eucarístico (V.J.E.) 

If you were wondering, no, I am not talking about my height (but I’m pretty sure I am the smallest of the sisters in formation hahaha).   
I just entered postulancy about two months ago.  There have been many things to adjust to like sharing one bathroom with three other women, wearing the same outfit every day (and keeping it clean), eating meals at the same time as the whole community, the prayer schedule, and living in a convent with Sisters!  With a total of fourteen women in the house, it is a challenge, but one that is filled with joy! I had anticipated many of these changes, but one in particular was totally unexpected: the adjustment of being the “little sister.”  
In my almost 24 years of life, I have been accustomed to being the oldest or the older one in both my family and among friends.  I have several people I look up to and confide in, but I have never been involuntarily the “younger sister.”  I am the youngest in the convent, and I didn’t realize it for a while.  It came to light one day when false thoughts about my sisters were storming my mind.  In my weakness, I became sensitive and broke down crying.  Why was I crying over such trivial things that weren’t true?  In this moment, Jesus revealed two things: 1) I have control issues and 2) I am the youngest. 
As for control issues, I will always have them so I was grateful that Jesus was showing me how to grow in trust even more.  But as for being the youngest, this was new to me.  My sisters affectionately treat me as the “baby sister,” but I did not want this, yet God has placed me here right now as the “little sister.”  What does this even mean?  Why is this even important?  Taking this to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, He told me I need to live out being the “little sister” of the family which means I need to learn how to be the “little sister.” 
So for the past two months, this has been a great challenge so far, but truly a gift.  Each day as I learn to be the “little sister,” I grow in charity towards God and towards others, especially my sisters.  I am learning to be the “little sister” who serves her older sisters (postulants and novices) and listens to them, and the “little daughter” who serves and listens to her mothers (professed Sisters). Yet, I am also learning to receive and accept the acts of charity of my Sisters when they desire to serve me and sacrifice for me as their “little sister” or “little daughter” (or when they occasionally want to spoil me!).  
I am growing to be “little.”  That’s the paradox of the Gospel.  He must increase; I must decrease (John 3:30).  If I desire to be full of Love, I must give myself entirely to Jesus.  This doesn’t happen overnight.  It will be a gradual change, a gradual decrease of self, but an increase in Jesus ChristIt is in the small daily things that God calls me to great fidelity, humility, and charity.  It is in my littleness that I will grow in love for my Father, for His Son, and for the Holy Spirit.  All I have is a small, poor love to give to God, but it is enough for Him because He only asks that I freely give Him everything. 
Please pray for me as I continue to discern God’s will, and please pray for my sisters in formation: Marianne, Michelle, Yve, Sr. April Marie, Sr. Ines, and Sr. Katie.  

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” –St. Thérèse de Lisieux 

Fiat voluntas Tua 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Back Pew

          Something that’s come to mind recently has been a question of why the back pew of any Church, Cathedral, or neighborhood parish is more frequently occupied by a lone straggler while the front pew remains vacant. Every Thursday here, with the Mercedarian Sisters, we attend our holy hour at 3pm at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a parish within the Westside happenings of Cleveland, OH. Every Thursday, people wander into the church, some recognizable, others, with faces unknown. As anticipated, almost every one of these individuals come in from the streets and sit in… the back pew.

What is so becoming of that back pew?

             During Sunday or daily Masses, I have noticed upon entering or exiting a Church that the body of some stranger mysteriously occupies the wooden pew far, far away in the rear of the church, bent over with their head in their hands. Meanwhile, the pews closest to the altar are occupied by invisible air, kneelers tucked in tight.
Maybe in that back pew, we feel safer because the doors to the world are nearby, a quick exit into the noise is accessible if the silence grows to be too unbearable.
Maybe in our brokenness, we feel we belong there, in safe distance from the purity of all-knowing God who in His might could not possibly forgive our wrongs once more.
 Maybe the shame or suffering we endure is so heavy we can’t lift our limbs forward anymore and we collapse into the lonely pew with an ounce of hope.
Maybe it’s simply the want for privacy, away from wandering glances or uninvited stares, from judgmental thoughts or unkind looks.
Maybe the pews in the front are falsely believed to be reserved for holy people, not me.
Maybe the person who comes in is aware that the stench emitting from their unwashed body may be an inconvenience to others around them.
Maybe the hiddenness, away from the light of the altar is what we are drawn towards when we want to crumple up, weary, tired, and sad.
Maybe we don’t want others to see us vulnerable in prayer, gazing at Him with all our beings, all our attention, as if He is All there is in that moment.
Maybe we don’t believe He truly loves us and that His beating heart pumps all the more as we approach Him, as we choose this moment to be with Him. The God Who made us, Who saved us, Who saves us every day and supplies us with His own flesh and blood to keep us going here on the earth.
I do wonder if our church community as a whole would be transformed if we each decided to sit in those intimidating front pews, near the altar. Perhaps the distractions will diminish, leaving our senses more capable of perceiving the visible and invisible enormity of what takes place for our sake.
Imagine walking into a Church on Sunday or even at a random time during a weekday and seeing fellow brothers and sisters closely gathered as if they were eager students sitting in the front of the classroom at their favorite class or dedicated fans at a concert or show. I would think when Jesus was here on earth looking like a man that the crowds pressed up as close as possible to Him to hear Him speak, to observe His mannerisms. Think Zaccheus.
He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.
When we meet up with friends, we don’t think of sitting more than an arms breadth from them. In the Church, we don’t exactly have the accessibility to sit very close to the tabernacle all the time. What we do have is the power to choose. No matter where you are, Christ is beside you but, what if you moved towards Him?

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