When I petition God for a favor, I sometimes pray, “If you wish, you can _____.” Then I hear or imagine God saying, “I do will it.” And I feel confident that my petition will be answered. Maybe it will happen exactly as requested; if not, I am still confident of an answer. Unlike the leper, I don’t hear or imagine God warning me not to disclose the favor. Usually I wouldn’t think to “publicize the whole matter” (Mark 1:45). There’s a time to proclaim answered prayer, but there’s a time just to keep it between God and me.
“Silence grows me and frees me,” writes Joan Chittister in Radical Spirit. “It enables me to become the ear of God on earth. . .” (p. 162). So often we remind ourselves that we are the hands and feet of Christ, but it is a bit surprising to talk about becoming the ear of God on earth. With our hands we make sandwiches for a food pantry, and with our feet we go to a Habitat site. Our hands and feet do the work of God to meet the needs of his children.
But what do our ears do? Listening to God’s small voice, we may discover our weaknesses, we may hear a different interpretation of Scripture, we may focus on a call to do more or be more. In this way silence grows and frees me. In the deep silence of listening, we may hear what enters God’s ear. We may hear the moans of suffering that God attends to. We may catch sounds that delight the Creator. We may catch the whispers of children, the agony of the grieving, the shouts of injustice. When we hear what God hears, we become the ear of God on earth.
Today let your hands and feet do the work of God that you heard by being God’s ear.
Vinita Hampton Wright is the author of The Soul Tells a Story. In her book Wright says, “Faith figures into creative work at every step. You say yes to the work, trusting that you are in some way called to it.” She goes on to say that the creative person has faith that there is a reason for the creative project, whatever it may be. It is this faith in the call to be creative that enhances one’s spiritual life. Whether the creativity produces a decorated birthday cake, a song, an essay, a lesson plan via zoom, an art piece in wood or clay, or a clean room arranged in a different way, it is you saying yes to the work to which you are called. And if the cake flops, the song isn’t a hit, the essay remains unpublished, and the artistic pieces doesn’t meet your satisfaction, your faith will be stronger in the effort. And that’s accomplishment.
Are you assessing your New Year’s resolutions after a couple weeks of resolve? Did you make a spiritual resolution? Because a spiritual life has goals and practices that engage us in our formation, it is open to a New Year’s resolution. This spiritual resolution doesn’t need to be taxing or arduous. No, our spiritual life is meant to be joyful, because we are being transformed into Jesus Christ, who lives in us. Paul writes in Galatians: “The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God.” Do you have a spiritual goal? Most probably, but if you want to do more, I suggest becoming more mindful of living the life of Christ at work, at home, or wherever you may be. Look over your day in the morning to set yourself a goal and examine your day at night. Then be grateful for the ways Christ has lived in you.
We’re starting Ordinary Time today. After the Christmas Season, these weeks before Lent may seem uneventful, even dull. But let’s take the “ordinary” out of Ordinary Time. These weeks until Ash Wednesday on February 17 are not some leftovers on the Church Year menu. Over half the Church Year is Ordinary Time, its name coming from “ordinal” or “counting.” There will be 33 weeks of Ordinary Time, and each week can be a gourmet’s delight. The Sunday gospel passages tell of Jesus’ call of the apostles, miracles, parables, relationships, and discourses. We see Jesus as a Teacher, Healer., and Reconciler. Stories abound for our imitation and inspiration. The seasons of Lent-Easter, Advent-Christmas are indeed extraordinary in their richness. But we can count on finding the Lord in extraordinary ways every day of the year.
The rite of Baptism has one phrase about original sin being taken away. Yet many people think the removal of original sin is the main purpose of baptism. Actually, there is much more richness in the ceremony. The ritual starts with the questions “What name do you give your child?” and “What do you ask for this child?” Both give the child his or her identity. There’s focus on the parents and godparents to raise the child according to the new life of God within the child. And there’s a whole lot of welcoming into the community of faith. This last element—the responsibility of the community–needs to be elevated in importance to see the purpose of baptism. The child is initiated into the community, becoming part of the People of God. Besides the parents, the whole parish community can say, “You are my beloved son/daughter, in whom we are well pleased.” And then it’s everyone’s duty to help the child grow into the Beloved.
From the moment of creation God ceased to be alone. God became totally involved with his creatures. Down through billions of years to this very minute God remains close at hand. God is always available. God is here in us as our deepest reality—ours and everyone else’s. With God so completely present to us, it is our privilege and responsibility to evolve out of our human limitations into the life of Christ. Surrounded by divinity, living the divine life, we can never have too high an opinion of ourselves. We are more than we can imagine. We are God’s.
Today’s lectionary Gospel shows Jesus withdrawing to a deserted place. Perhaps the past few weeks have been filled with unusual activity: putting up decorations and taking them down, cooking treats and exercising off the calories, shoveling snow and writing thank-you notes, getting back into a routine or wishing for some normalcy. Withdrawing to a deserted place may seem welcome. Can you find a park, a room in your home, a space in your heart to withdraw from activity? If Jesus needed to “get away from it all,” so do we.
Today’s lectionary Gospel reading tells of Jesus who regularly taught in the synagogues. “According to his custom. . .he stood up to read.” He selected a passage from Isaiah that we have come to call Jesus’ mission statement. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would give sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim glad tidings to the poor. The years of his ministry fulfilled his promise.
If you were to stand up to read a passage from Scripture that fits your life and its mission, what would it be?
As a Christmas present, I received Bead Attitudes, the polymer clay artwork of Dan Roth in Sandusky, Ohio. The ten prayer beads can be prayed in multiple ways as the accompanying paper suggests. I will share a few of these ways with you. If you don’t have Bead Attitudes, a decade of the rosary or your ten fingers will be fine.
- Pray for ten family members or persons in need
- Repeat your favorite name for God ten times.
- Count ten blessings.
- Feel God’s love and light on each bead.
- Bless ten persons you will probably meet this day.
- Call to mind ten Scriptural names for Jesus: Shepherd, Healer, Savior, Bread of Life….
The first time I received beads at Christmas I was five years old. My four-year-old sister also received her tiny first rosary. As on every other night of the year, we prayed the family rosary on Christmas Eve. My sister and I used our new rosaries. She managed to come out to the right bead. I was only half-way through my rosary. Just one of the many times my younger sister was smarter than I. (Don’t worry. We’ve always had a super-excellent attitude toward one another.)