Customs

No, no, not the customs that you go through when entering a country (and that brings back memories of trips to Canada for dancing and gambling).  Rather the customs of our prayer life, our faith, our families.  Our traditions (small t, not big T!).

On the Monday of Holy Week I was able to attend one of the youth groups I’m an adult leader at (it’s my every other week group).  We were talking in small groups about our Lents and how they had gone.  One of the adult leaders mentioned asking Christ to point something out in the passion narrative to us, something to think about, ponder, meditate on.  Well, for me, that had already happened on Palm Sunday!  I had such a tough time with Grace during that mass.  We had been late, I never heard a word of the first two readings and during the gospel she decided it was time to nurse.  And the cry room was full, so I was nursing her right in the pew.  Goodness!  In the midst of all that chaos a few simple words jumped out at me. (From Luke’s gospel:)

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.

Wait!  As was his custom?  You mean, this is Jesus’s “Thing to Do”?  He did this a lot?  Hmmm, interesting.

On Good Friday we hear John’s version of the this.

Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.

Now this puts it into a bit more context.  Jesus went to his favorite hang out while in Jeruselem, and then one of his friends betrays him there.  It’s like when you have your secret club house with your friends and one of your friends goes and tells your mom and she comes to get you cause you didn’t wash the dishes (or some other punishment).  Course, you’re not getting led off to bear the sins of the world and die a horrible death, but if you’re at the age of secret club houses it probably feels that way.

Matthew and Mark don’t put in this qualifier about it being the hang out spot, but there are occasions in both of their gospels where Jesus is telling VIT’s (Very Important Things) to his closest disciples there.  It’s a special place for them to pray, to discourse, to fellowship.

So as I meditated on this for the past week, I started thinking about my own customs.  Where do I pray?  Where do I fellowship?  What are my customs?

Jesus was fully human.  He got distracted, I’m sure.  But when it was time for serious discussion with his friends, when it was time to tell them important things or when it was time to have some serious one on one time with his Abba, he withdrew to a special place.  And this wasn’t a rare thing or something surprising to his disciples.  It was his custom.  His tradition.

We are to follow Christ in all things, be imitators of him.  So how can I imitate him in this?  I know there are times when I should be praying.  But do I make the effort to withdraw from my daily life to do so?  No, I sit at my computer to read the prayers while eating my breakfast.  Forever stuck in the society of multitasking, we do not recognize the value of stopping everything and withdrawing.

I read somewhere that we should be working on new things in the Easter season.  This is the time of “new”: new life has come with the resurrection.  So I’m going to be working on new customs.  Finding a place, a specific place, to withdraw to.  It doesn’t need to be daily, after all, Jesus wasn’t in Jerusalem the whole time.  But I’m going to work on this.

What are your customs?  Do you need to discover new ones?

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I spy with my little eye…

Today is Wednesday of Holy week, also known as “Holy Wednesday” (makes sense) or “Spy Wednesday”.  WAIT!  Spies?!  Like in Get Smart?  Or any number of other movies and tv shows of which I can not think of a single one?!  Well, sort of.  It’s named for Judas (jerk) because tradition teaches that today is the day that he went to the bad guys and asked what they’d be willing to give for Jesus (30 pieces of silver, which could have been anywhere from 25 bucks, not such a great deal, or 250,000 smackaroos, which would have been a better deal if Judas were playing “Deal or No Deal” instead of gambling away GOD”S LIFE.  Good one Judas).

So today is a day to meditate upon our involvement in betraying Christ.  Yes, we are part of that.  He wasn’t just betrayed by his good buddy Judas Iscariot.  He was betrayed by EVERY SINGLE HUMAN EVER.  Every time we sin, every time we fail to do good, every time we deny that we know Christ by word or action, we are betraying Him.  So think on that happy thought (yes, happy, because it’s because of our betrayals that we got a savior.  Now that is a good deal!).

In other news I have a bit of a prayer request.  So far, I’ve been having a pretty good Lent.  As I told some women on Monday night, I felt like I really had grown closer to the Lord.  I spoke too soon.

Honestly, doesn’t it seem that the minute you take one step closer to the Lord, the devil takes you two steps back?  I suffer from mild to moderate depression (triggered by hormones) and of COURSE this is the week for it to kick in.  I’ve become ridiculously lazy and it took all my will power to get to mass yesterday morning (10 minutes late, but I did make it).  Heck, I’ll tell you the whole story on that one cause it illustrates my point pretty perfectly.

Chris and I are usually scatterbrained in the morning, but yesterday we managed to have all our bags and Grace by the door before we headed out.  We grab everything and get out.  Chris had to work at 8 and I was babysitting at 9:30 so I figured I’d go to 8:30 mass (it’s in the perfect time slot).  Well, we thought we grabbed everything.  And besides Grace and Chris’s bag that has his work stuff in it, we would have been fine forgetting anything else since I could have gone back to get it after mass.  Well, we remembered Grace, but Chris forgot his bag.  So I had to go back, bring it right back to his work and then go to mass.  Well, it was 8:30 when I got back to his work.  Yes, you could say it was “accidental” or a “coincidence” or some other such nonsense, but I maintain that the Devil didn’t want me going to church, therefore he hid Chris’s bag so we would forget it.

So yeah, in general I’m just not doing to great this week.  I was looking forward to it so much and now it’s kinda lame… and yeah.  I know that this might also be a way for me to grow in virtue, but it’s getting a little grating.  I can’t really pray well when I’m exhausted cause Grace wouldn’t go to sleep.  I can’t focus on Jesus when my cross is so heavy.  I’m sure there’s some wise thing that I could say, but well, it’s escaping me due to the heavy weight I’m carrying in my soul.

Pray for me.  I’ll be praying for you (at least right now as I type this!).

Holy of Holies

After yesterday’s joyous celebration of Palm Sunday, we’ve officially moved into Holy Week.  We’re closing in on the most important of feast days and there is much preparation to be done!

For us mamas (and dads who want to help) this week should be one of cleansing.  In particular, I mean the cleansing of our homes.  I’m taking part in a spring cleaning challenge with some women via a message board, and oh what a wonder it’s done to my house and my attitude!  I’m surprised by how much some imaginary points (ala Whose Line is it Anyway?) can make me keep my house so neat and on track!

Traditionally speaking our homes should be thoroughly cleaned for Easter (hopefully being an outward sign of our inward cleanliness).  I’m pretty convinced that this stems from the need for Jews to cleanse their homes of all leaven (down to the tiniest crumb) prior to Passover.  One of my favorite tips to get the kids involved is the hiding of pennies or small prizes in nooks and crannies to make sure they are cleaning thoroughly.  This is something they did in the All of a Kind Family books and as soon as Grace can help me clean (probably next year, my goodness!) I’ll be utilizing it.

So as we go into this week I encourage everyone to put an apron on (bonus points if it is a cute apron!) and get moving on scrubbing down the house.  Perhaps you have a lot of “issues” in this area of your vocation, that’s ok!  If you can’t go through all the clutter laying about, then just bag it up and chuck it somewhere hidden to take care of at a better time.  The goal is to make our homes clean so that when Easter gets here we wont’ be worrying about it.

Spend some time in serious prayer this week.  Look NOW at your calendar to figure out if you can attend any Holy Week services at your parish (or maybe a nearby parish).  When will you be going to mass?  Are you going to try and institute any new family traditions?  Do you have easter baskets, candy, and plastic eggs?  Food coloring?  Are you READY!?

How are YOU doing?

So I know I’ve been a bit MIA the last few weeks.  I’ve been focusing a lot on spending my time wisely.  So many bloggers take Lenten breaks so I didn’t feel totally alone.

There was a pretty significant part of me too that really didn’t feel like I had much to say.  Maybe I just needed to listen more, but I don’t know if I was.

I go up and down in my life.  Lent is no exception.  You have that thrill of the first week, then you lose enthusiasm, and then before you know it, holy week is next week!  I’ve done fairly well on some of my resolutions.  I hope all of you have been doing the same.

So many of the blogs I read are getting into the “Extra mile” of Holy Week.  If you haven’t heard of this type of thing, it’s basically just upping the ante on your resolutions for this last, most holy of weeks.

What will I be doing?  Spending time with my family, perhaps more concentrated prayer.  And for sure on Good Friday I’ll be going “no technology” which will be difficult for me.

But you know, it was pretty difficult to die on a cross.  I think I’ll be able to handle it.

So how has your Lent been?  Did you fall down a lot?  Did you rise to the occasion?  No matter how you’ve done, remember that this week is full of grace, if you ask for it.  I’ll be back for a bit of Holy Week reflection, but until then, go be with your family.  Turn off the electronics or turn on a movie to watch together (I particularly like dancing to nick jr stuff with my girl).  Build a tent out of chairs and blankets (I did that today too!).  Be with one another.  If Lent does anything, it reminds us that we will die one day.  Relish today as if it was your last.

Crashing and suffering

If you have one of the “Little Black Books” that parishes give out and are keeping up on the readings, this will be familiar.  Bear with me, please.

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.

Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.”

He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;

he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”

Mark 14:32-36

This is amazing.  Look at what Jesus is doing!  He is “troubled” and “distressed”.   He is full of sorrow.  He’s so upset that he has to fall to the ground!

How many times have we been so upset that we’ve just crashed on our beds and gone “God!  Hey you up there?   What the heck?  Why does this hurt so much?  Why must I suffer?”

But do we say the last part?  Not my will, Lord, but YOURS.

Life sucks, it really does.  We have days when it seems perfectly acceptable to cry over spilled milk.  Babies die, earthquakes hit and generally things are just hard.  As Christians, however, we are all called to pick up our crosses.  Sounds tough right?  Does it sound as tough as being mocked, whipped, wearing a crown of thorns, having nails driven into your flesh so that you can hang up by that cross?  And on top of that, you are suffering in payment for the sins of every single other human being ever.

Yeah.   Doesn’t sound so hard now, does it?

That doesn’t invalidate our sufferings though.  That doesn’t mean we should brush them off or feel guilty about asking God to take them away.  If they need to stay though, God will give us the strength to persevere.  Jesus made it, right?  Remember what happened a few days later? The “Son” shone.  Literally!

Today, I encourage you to go to the Lord with your sufferings.  Feel free to crash on your bed, or the couch, or on a kneeler at church.  Complain, whine, tell him how much you don’t want these sufferings.  And then remind Him and yourself: Not my will, but yours.  Hold me Lord.  Carry me through my trials.  And let me always remember that the resurrection is waiting.


Damned

As one of my protestant friends always reminds me, we are all damned in our sins.  If not for the grace of God, we still would be.  God steps into our lives, infuses us with grace, we turn to Him and look.  And what do we see?  What is that image that is the center of salvation?

Christ is up there.  On the cross.  Bearing OUR sins.  He’s not suffering cause he sinned.  He’s suffering because WE sinned.

As a mother, we want to save our children from suffering.   Imagine for one moment how the Blessed Mother must have felt watching her son up there.  Imagine your child in pain.  Multiply that by all the millions of sins and punishment in hell that Christ was taking care of  up there.  His suffering was immense.

When we turn away from our sin, we are looking to the cross.  When we own up to our sins, we are willing to suffer and die and go to hell over them because we realize how severe even the littlest sin is.  But we don’t have to do that.  That’s why he did it for us.  So we don’t have to.

That doesn’t mean we get out of suffering.  No, Christ did tell us to pick up our crosses and follow him.  We don’t get a free pass on suffering.  But the load is far, far lighter than it should be.

We must embrace suffering with joy.

Because after the suffering and the death, comes the resurrection and the life.

What are your sufferings?  They are nothing compared to what he suffered.  And they are nothing compared to the joy we are now able to receive.

Praise God my friends!  Lent is a time to reflect on our sufferings, to embrace them and carry our crosses with joy because in a few short weeks, we celebrate the greatest joy of all!  Easter!

Ambivalence and the February blues

Ambivalence is defined as:

1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.

2. Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneouslydrawing him or her in opposite directions.

The February blues is another name for mild depression that is seasonal, particularly in the wintery Northern states in the middle of the school year.

Now I’m not in school anymore but I’m still feeling a bit of ambivalent Lenten blues.

And I’m starting to realize why the Church has Lent now.  Easter comes during the spring, when things start turning green and rabbits are having babies and everything is giving birth and “resurrecting” from the winter.  But Lent, oh Lent, starts right around the time the blues get the strongest.   Michigan doesn’t have very many sunny days in February.  We had a couple at the end of last week, but today we were dumped with about a half foot of snow.  The clouds have come back.

In many ways, Lent has been mirroring that.  There were some spiritually sunny days last week. Going to mass on Ash Wednesday, feeling as though I can and will do well with my Lenten resolutions.  Everything was pretty sunny.  And then the clouds came back.  And the ambivalence, the feelings of wanting to do well, but also wanting to do other things have set in.

So here’s a bit of encouragement.  If you haven’t gotten the Lenten blues yet, you will.  And when you do, remember that the clouds go away and the sun comes out.  And maybe you’ll falter a bit in your resolutions.  But you can always start anew.

This post is part of my Lenten series.  Click on the tag “Lent” to see more!