Sunday, March 29, 2015

Perspectives

Year B – Palm Sunday 
March 29, 2015



Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah 50: 4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15:47 

Can you even begin to truly imagine the experience of being present on that original Palm Sunday? So many sensory experiences were converging in one place, at one time! So many people traveled and gathered and witnessed the same events, yet came away with very different understandings and perspectives about what they had experienced!

Each reading today contributes some insight into the varied understandings and teachings known to the people gathering in Jerusalem that week, and the gospel readings provide us with a wide range of the voices and perspectives present as that Holy Week began. Still, it’s hard to even begin to fathom what it might have been like to be alive and experiencing it first hand.

How important, then, is the spiritual gift of discernment?

The charism of discernment, in the Uniquely His spiritual gift inventory tool, is defined as “the special grace to intuitively sense or recognize what is of God, or human origin or not of God, which turns out to be accurate.”

Many possess the spiritual gift of discernment and joyously share that gift through ministries and leadership; from spiritual directors to counselors, prison and outreach ministries to healers. People are found whose sharing of the gift of discernment empowers the whole faithful community to embody the loving presence of God in all creation.

Moving through the events of Holy Week, we are called to attune ourselves to this spiritual gift in particular. For it is not only in the time of Jesus we find ourselves surrounded by clamoring voices, noisy crowds, and values competing for our attention.  As we practice, hone and cultivate the spiritual gift of discernment, we come to see more clearly and intuitively that which is of God, which allows us to make more deliberately loving, generous, hope-filled choices in the imitation of Christ.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Openhearted Leadership

Year B – Fifth Sunday of Lent



Jeremiah 31: 31-34

How beautiful are Jeremiah’s words in today’s first reading, prophetically describing the charism of leadership? It’s a vision of leadership where the law is inscribed so deeply on the hearts of the faithful that all who know them will be inclined to follow in their ways of knowing and loving God.

So many models of leadership are known in our world, many of them with real validity and credibility across various aspects of life. We can all bring to mind people who are known, for better or for worse, to be leaders. Corporate leadership, educational leadership, church leadership, family leadership, team leadership, each of these (and many more we could include) carries with it specific terminology, practices and definitions, to be sure. Ultimately, however, true leaders in any arena of life reflect what Sheila Mellick’s Uniquely His spiritual gift inventory book describes as the spiritual gift of leadership:

“The special grace to share a vision or ideal with others in such a way that they desire your direction and become motivated to work together to make it happen.”

Jeremiah’s vision of leadership calls all of us who are the church today to pay attention.  How is the Spirit moving within our selves and within our communities, inviting us through the charism of leadership to become part of bringing God’s love into the world?  Whose leadership style shares hopeful vision and ideals in such a way that we are motivated to join in bringing goodness into existence? Where can we see evidence of leadership from the heart? What challenges a person to step into a leadership role?

Imagine how much more holy goodness we can bring into the world when our open hearts encourage, affirm and join with the leadership proclaimed in Jeremiah’s vision! How will you encourage that kind of leadership this week?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mercy and Kindness

Year B – Fourth Sunday of Lent


Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21


“What charism has the Lord given me?  How do I live this charism?  Do I assume it with generosity, placing it at the service of all or have I perhaps neglected or forgotten it?”  Pope Francis

How readily we are distracted! How easily it is to meander off from our purposeful vocations, so caught up in matters at hand we forget to pay attention to be faithful people of God!

And yet our God is faithful, and pours merciful love over us at all times, in all circumstances. The mercy witnessed in today’s readings from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and John’s Gospel show us yet again how powerful the charism of mercy is when it is embraced. 

“To be merciful is to experience deep empathy and compassion for those who suffer, to respond to suffering and pain with acts of loving service and assistance (Uniquely His).”  Our God’s mercy reaches so far in today’s Gospel as to see the pain of brokenness and sinfulness in the world and so love the world “that he gave his only Son.”

We are called, then, to offer such mercy ourselves in a world that clamors for healing and forgiveness, for empathy and understanding.  We are called to cultivate empathy, notice who needs our grace-filled generosity of spirit. We are called to “get over ourselves” and offer, without cost or strings attached, mercy.

This raises important questions, indeed. It’s easy to be merciful to those we already know and love.  But what about the people we don’t notice as much?  In our headlines, on our social media, in the cubicle and office and store, around our tables and in our pews, who do we see who is suffering?  Who do we see excluded?  Left out?  Whose voices are not heard?  Whose lives are unseen?  Whose lives are pained and broken?

And how do we, as a people of mercy and kindness, harness the spiritual gift of mercy to alleviate suffering?  What can be done today to offer myself as a beacon of hope through merciful, generous action and presence in the world? What kindness can be extended?  What invitation might be offered?

How can our parish family extend merciful love?  How will we live this charism, as individuals and as the Body of Christ? 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Law and Love

Third Sunday of Lent – Year B


Exodus 20:1-17

John 2:13-25

One year, I had a job proofreading law books. Hundreds and hundreds of pages of laws: lists of rules for everyone living in one of the fifty United States.  Doing this work required precision and deep attention to detail for many hours at a time. Some people glaze over at the mere thought of reading the law closely and attentively; others find it to be deeply rewarding and relevant as they set out to apply those laws to the messy reality of real life in our world.

Today’s Gospel reading sets out a listing of such laws. The story of Moses delivering the commandments echoes across our history as a people of faith. Many of us memorized them in our early religious education days, and most of us can quote at least a few of them directly from memory.

But where’s the inspiration in them? Where’s the charism? What spiritual gifts are evident in such a listing?

Two things come to mind:

First, where would we be without the people whose charisms include knowledge?

This spiritual gift consists of “a special grace to seek, collect, organize or analyze information or data to effectively advance the good and growth of God’s people and the mission of Christ” as defined in the booklet, Uniquely His.  The people whose gifts include knowledge bring the entire Body of Christ the form and infrastructure that allows us to stand on structures and foundations of consistency and strength.

The ability to further engage law and knowledge with wisdom, to bring deep perspective and meaningful practice of knowledge into the world, gifts the Church with the ability to be an organized and connected group of people who strive to practice together the mission and vision of God’s presence in our world.

Thank goodness for the people with knowledge as their charism, for they are the structurers of our practices as we strive constantly to embody the loving presence of God!

Secondly, we find in Jesus’ example a new covenant and a new perspective on the law, as witnessed in today’s Gospel reading.  Those who are overly zealous for fulfilling the letter of the law are called to task as he reminds us the law exists to bring fuller meaning and love to the world.  His call to cease making his Father’s house a marketplace reminds us of the spiritual gifts of wisdom, hospitality and true intercession requiring not costly false sacrifices, but faithful prayer that moves mountains.

Who do you know who embodies the spiritual gifts evident in the readings of today?  How can you affirm those gifts and call them forth for service to the greater good of your community this week?



Thank you to Paula Kampf, Retreat Facilitator for the Joyfully Gifted program in the Diocese of Cleveland for contributing this week’s blog post. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Faithfully

Year B – Second Sunday of Lent
 



Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18, (26B)
Mark 9: 2-10


“You’ve gotta have faith,” we hear echoing across our lives.  Whether it’s a pop song, a professional sports team chant, a catchphrase of self-help, or a prayerful mantra, we strive to be people of faith when we hear those kinds of words.


Today’s readings push us to really consider the spiritual gift of faith as it shows up in our lives and the life of the Church. To many of us, faith is fine until it is challenging, right?  Abraham withholds nothing, not even he who he most loves on the earth, as he trusts in God, faithfully.  Peter, James and John witness a transfigured Jesus, seeing their friend and teacher in a new light even as they continue to question and wonder just what “rising from the dead” might mean.

The charism of faith is defined in the Uniquely His book by Sheila Mellick as “The special grace to have such great trust in God and belief in his will in a given situation that one acts in faith or obedience without concern of the outcome.”

As we consider the experiences of the faith-full people in today’s readings, we are invited to examine our own charism of faith. In what situations of life so far, have you leaned in and actively chosen to trust fully in God’s loving presence in your life, without concern for the outcome?  How are you challenged to practice the charism of faith in some aspect of your life today, or this week?

In the Joy of the Gospel document, Pope Francis uses the words “mysteriously fruitful” to describe a world in which disciples and churches are fully embracing their charisms.  When we embrace and practice trusting in God in our daily lives, we plant the seeds of faith that carry the hope of “mysterious fruitfulness” in them. Imagine the harvest that can grow from such faith and cultivation!

Where will you plant and nurture seeds of faith today, believing in God’s abundant fruitfulness at some future point?