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Franciscan Moments

Our Weekly Devotional from

Saint Miriam!

Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 22, 2016

 
You might say that God is trying to get our attention, making an effort to get us to listen to Him and to listen carefully. That is certainly what should be happening during this time of Lent. We have often heard that “God calls us”, but most often it is to a  vocational ‘calling’ such as the priesthood or religious life, but God also calls us all to a time of conversion, and to repentance, both important aspects of our Lenten journeys. 
 
Lent, then, is a time for us to reevaluate our faith and where we are. Each of us should be striving for holiness, for a greater sense of how to serve God and one another through love and stewardship and a renewed dedication to making the things that matter prominent in our lives; letting go of the fleeting and the passing things. None of us can fully achieve the yearning to be free from sin, but we can be better people, stronger Catholics, more loving Christians. This all begins with an earnest pause; a time to stop and evaluate honestly:  ‘Are we doing our best for God and others?’  The best way to resist temptation, to build a stronger spiritual life, to be better people is to first acknowledge our needs, our brokenness, and then seek God’s help in overcoming and healing.
 
During Lent we are all called to repent and to change. Jesus makes that call to repentance quite clear in our Gospel Readings from Luke, which includes the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, which will be soon heard in our Lectionary. Scholars maintain that God is the owner of the fig tree, and He looks to each of us to bear fruit, to do good and righteous works. Are we?  Do we?  That, too, is so important to us during this Lenten period. God is very patient with us, but even God’s patience has a limit. God grants us this holy time to repent and to change our behaviors.
 
As Pope Francis recently stated, “Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion!”
 
Is that what we are really trying to do?
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 15, 2016

 

The three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, known as the “Synoptic Gospels”, all report that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, fasting and praying, and resisting temptation until the ’devil departed from Him for a while”. That is the Gospel of Luke reading we all heard yesterday at Mass and it presents a wonderfully pointed Lenten perspective of what occurred and what occurs to us, too.

You see, we, too, symbolically enter “the desert” during these 40 days of this holy season of Lent. We learned from the pages of sacred scripture that the point of this season is that we need to place our trust in God, just as Jesus did. And, it is in the Gospel from Luke, that we find the ultimate trust in God.

You will remember, the devil presents temptations to Jesus, directly after his baptism by John at the Jordan River despite that fact that he was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ of God. We, too, face temptations on a daily basis – no matter how much we pray or how good a person we are – and this beautifully reflective period of Lent is the time to truly deal with our failures and temptations and all that removes us from being closer to God.

In this gospel passage, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus; the devil tempts Jesus to use His power to appease His hunger; he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if only Jesus would worship him, and finally he tempts Jesus to test God’s promise of protection. Jesus resists all because He trusts in His Father in Heaven. In this Gospel Jesus fasts, and He is hungry, but he is filled with the Spirit and that strengthens Him to resist and to trust completely.

In this era, we often have the opposite experience — our stomachs may be full, but we have empty spirits. One of the major purposes of our Lenten journeys is to empty ourselves and allow our hearts and souls to be filled with the Spirit. Are we able to learn something new this Lent?
 
Jesus experienced real temptations in human form. He resisted them because He placed His total trust in God. We are called to the same kind of trust all the time, but especially during this time of Lent. With God’s help we can develop that deeper relationship with the Lord we all need. We only need ask…
 
St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote,“At His Transfiguration Christ showed His disciples the splendor of His beauty, to which He will shape and color those who are His.”
 
This Lent, let us ask ourselves with honesty, “Are we His?”
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 8, 2016

 

So we are well into the political season and now Lent is almost upon us, too. I wonder…will we devote as much time to God and the story and feelings and love of Jesus, as we do to promoting hate and division? Will we be able to revaluate ourselves in this holy season; a season meant to bring about revelation, healing, revaluation, and change, or will we simply give up chocolate again, paint ashes on our foreheads, and walk around ‘talking the talk’, but with no real inner change from the heart where our souls dwell?

Jimmy Kimmel posted a video that may be satirical, but certainly drives home a valid point. It brings “WWJD” into a whole new light! Do we even know how Jesus loves? Do we love like Jesus, even those we disagree with politically, or socially, or even hate within ourselves? Do we go the extra mile to forgive and let go, or do we harbor and deceive and conspire to get even?
 
St. Francis once said, “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”.  Who and what will hear your sermon today?
 
As we enter our time of Lent together this year, don’t just give up chocolate and wear sack cloths filled with meaningless ashes, rather make this your best Lent ever and change your life. By doing so, you might just change the world and your ultimate destination…
 
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 1, 2016

 

In December of last year, Pope Francis officially opened the doors to the “Year of Mercy,” a focused effort to remind us of the mercy God shows us each and every day, and a call to show that mercy to others in our world. His document announcing the year, and it’s purpose, is a wonderful resource of inspiration and something that could easily serve as a guide to one’s prayer life.

Recently, our own Presiding Bishop announced an exciting show of solidarity as we join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in this Jubilee year for the 2016 Liturgical Season. It began on the Feast of the Conception of the Theotokos (The Feast of the Immaculate Conception) and will end on November 20, 2016 on the Feast of Christ the King. During this Holy Year, it is Pope Francis’ desire to see the church focus on practicing Mercy to all those we meet. He has also called on the universal church to practice mercy when it comes to those who have hurt or damaged the church. We practice this form of mercy every day in our interactions with those who have been hurt and disenfranchised by the mainstream churches. Therefore, as a show of solidarity we are committing ourselves at Saint Miriam to the participation in this Holy Year.

As we know, mercy is an essential aspect of our life as Christians, right up there with love, justice, sacrifice, and faith in terms of our most used words. Christianity, by its very nature, is a religion of mercy. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God has come to be like us, has shown us love, and offers us a new path despite our sins and failings. Rather than give us what we deserve, God gives us what we do not deserve: forgiveness and eternal salvation to those who follow.

As we have just witnessed through the pages of sacred scripture within our gospel lessons over the last few weeks how even those who were enamored by Jesus turned on Him and tried to push Him from a cliff, all because He dare teach us to have love and mercy for the foreigner and the stranger among us. How do we fail God in our daily lives? How do we push Jesus from the cliff by what we do and by what we fail to do?

Mercy begins within…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 25, 2016

 

Ask most people about this past weekend’s winter weather storm and most will tell you that it was one of the worst they ever went through. Ice and blizzard conditions, and hail and slicing cold winds, below zero temperatures, and a dark dreariness that felt like perpetual night. It also seemed to go on and on, Mother Nature’s winter storm never ceasing, never giving us a break, always enveloping us in its cold, wintery, blackness, perpetuating a feeling of “always winter” as we were homebound for safety.

Imagine being stuck in “always winter”.  No sunlight, no daytime, no life, always a sense of being gripped by a feeling of emptiness, dull coldness, depression, and constant nighttime.  Each of us has faced our own “always winters” as we have been, or are presently immerse,  in our own sufferings, loss, illness, loneliness, or tragedy.  But this “always winter” sensation will end with the coming Spring that promises a warmth renewed and a sunlight brightly focused on each of us. In the meantime, we must remember that our loving, comforting God is always holding us closely, as we weep in sorrow, anger, hurt, and even times of unhappiness. Yes, the winter will end…

Perhaps it will help for us to begin this week, the week following the storm, to note the magnificent characteristics of snow! Did you know that new fallen snow can affect how sound waves travel, dampening them in some cases, or enhancing them in others? For instance, people often notice how sound changes after a fresh snowfall upon the earth. When the ground has a thick layer of fresh, fluffy white snow, sound waves are readily absorbed at the snow surface, dampening sound. However, time and weather conditions may change the snow surface and as the surface melts and refreezes, the snow becomes smooth and hard. Then the surface will help reflect sound waves. Sounds may seem clearer and travel farther under these circumstances.

How might we use these same ideals found in snow to reflect the sorrow or enhance the joy in our own lives? How might we live into what St. Francis called us to when he reminded us that, It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”

As we make our way through winter coldness, let us always celebrate the Christ of new life, and help one another to bring “always winter” into “always spring”!

 



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 18, 2016

 
Well the door has opened for us once again to Ordinary Time!  “Ordinary” only because it is a time between two significant liturgical seasons, Christmas and Lent/Easter and is marked by the entrance of ordinals, or numbers, that change in sequence to mark their passing.
 
Somehow, “ordinary” sounds a lot like most of our lives, moving along with its joys and sadness, delight and disappointments, hopes and fears, but without any real great drama. But, let us not lose sight of the promise and remember that Jesus spent most of His life in “ordinary time.” Sometimes all we like to note are the famous parables, and His passion and beautiful birth narratives, and that visit we just left from those Magi, but alas, Jesus was fully human and lived as we do…
 
Case in point, the last we read about Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, He was lost and found in the Temple, then returned to Nazareth with His parents. He was about twelve years old. Now Jesus reappears at age thirty being baptized by John in the Jordan last week in our lectionary and yesterday He was already performing His first miracle with wine and water at the wedding feast!
 

The point?  We know nothing about those eighteen years when Jesus grew into adolescence and into adulthood. We do know that at His baptism, a voice from heaven said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  God affirms the way Jesus matured in wisdom and grace during those eighteen ordinary years. Now Jesus is ready to begin His mission.

So bring on Ordinary Time! We are ordinary and yet extraordinary women and men,  created in the image and likeness of a God who loved us so much! Now we are presented with yet another opportunity to continue the mission of Jesus to bring some light, some hope, some peace with justice into God’s most extraordinary world! We are called to spread light and salt wherever we go!

How have you allowed God to work in those quiet times of your life to mature you in the faith? How have you taken advantage of these ordinary seasons, when life slows and regains a noted and regular pulse, to better yourselves for a life of service to a God who has given us so much?
 
It’s time to grow!
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 11, 2016

 

I don’t always get along with my brother Friars. I know, I know. You are stunned! But, alas, it is true. While the love of Jesus and God’s holy Church, and our mission as Franciscans certainly bind us together when we are in a room, physically or proverbially as bothers, sometimes very little else does!

When we gather in person, as we will in August this year, it is hard to miss how diverse we are at times when it comes to country of origin, culture, political leaning, vision for the Church, definition of friar life, ideal lifestyle, and personality. The old adage, “When you meet one Franciscan, you meet one Franciscan” rings so true in living color! It is hard to also miss how we don’t get along all the time. And, yes, we are very human, so it is not that hard, dare I say, to also see how certain guys actually don’t like each other. Gasp!  I know, but it is true. Yes, we are fully human…

While some in the world would point to conflict and division as signs of weakness, we see it as one of the strongest points of our continuing witness that we have to offer the world. Here we are, gathering together day in and day out, broken and fallible human beings, bearing differing personalities, egos, illnesses, hurts, issues, et al, and yet we’re still willing to come together for something greater rather than giving up on the people and things that annoy us. We pray through our prejudice, disagreements, and yes, even hatreds. Do we do it perfectly? Absolutely not. But, at least we are willing to try to follow Jesus in His mission to help bring about the kingdom.

In two weeks, as we always do n the fourth Sunday of the month, our Secular Franciscan Group will meet at Saint Miriam. We, too, do not always get along. We, too, are broken and hurting to varied degrees. We, too, do not always like to even come together! But, we do, every month, accepting each other, loving each other – warts, baggage, and halos alike – not because we want to, but because Jesus did it first.

There is a moral here to our life together as a parish, too…
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: January 04, 2016

 

I wonder if we ever stop to consider that our life is almost always about the intersection between story and journey? I wonder if we ever really stop!  As we begin a new year, perhaps we should pause and reflect on how we might more intentionally divest ourselves of selfishness and self-centeredness to actually see how our lives impact, intersect, or perhaps unintentionally transgress with the ‘others’ around us;  and, how we might make the most of these sacred happenings to bring about a better world and a deeper faith in ourselves. After all, we are all missionaries if we are truly Christians.

Francis’ vision of mission included the very strong idea of leaving one’s own “camp” and crossing over to another “camp.”  In Francis’ time these “camps” were both Christian and non-believers alike! Francis fully possessed his Christ, Jesus, as a central defining guide to this life and the next. In other words, to be truly a follower of Francis is to be missionary across boundaries in whatever form we might encounter them, even the boundaries of self, prejudice, bias, and selfishness. This idea of “crossing over” to another side is at the core of a modern understanding of mission, but its roots are as old as Sacred Scripture because it is a holy act.

How might we use this new opportunity called 2016 to become better people? What have we done in the past, or continue to do, that harms the fabric of community, friendship, church, or friendship? How might we more intentionally repair the world, as Francis was called to repair the church? Is there something that needs to begin with us?

“Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me.”



Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 28, 2015

 
Life is all about change and the transitions we experience as we adjust to them from year to year.  And one of the biggest ones is almost here! New Year’s Day!
 
As we enter each new year, many people make big plans, sometimes grand and audacious plans, with huge goals and big ideas! They make seemingly impossible new year’s resolutions that almost always get broken, as real life settles back in as the norm. But, this time of transition should mean new changes deeper within us; the kind that will make us better people.
 

Think back before you move forward and ponder with me! What new resolutions do you plan to make this time around?  How did they hold up last time we flipped the calendar into a brand new year?  Consider for a moment why you made this or that resolution or goal last year at this time, and then ask: Are you making something better, or are you the only one selfishly getting something out of it?  Will you be truly happy for doing it? Are you a better person, better Christian, better Catholic? Will others benefit from this intended change? If you are going to make changes in your life, major or minor, there should be some balanced approach to making that decision and the world around you should become a little better, a little brighter!

St. Bernadette Soubirous once said, “From this moment on, anything concerning me is no longer of any interest to me. I must belong entirely to God and God alone. Never to myself.”

That will be my resolution effort this year: to lessen the focus on ‘me’ and to continue an intentional focus on the needs of others, the church, my parish, and my God. I yearn for a deeper relationship with God.  Why? Because I have learned that I am truly happy when I give to others and find God in the small things.

Let us approach our lives as a true gift, as good stewards and caretakers of the many blessings we have been given. This new year, let us become what we want the world to be.

May God give you the gift of His peace!
 


Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: December 21, 2015

 

Evil. Enemies. Hatred. Poverty. Need. Terrorism.

Those are words we don’t hear often this time of year. Usually we hear other words  like joy, merry, greetings, happiness, santa, gifts, and hope. Advent is indeed a season of hope. A season of joy and anticipation. But, it is also to be a time of watching and waiting.
 
Then again, it might be appropriate for us to pause and to ask ourselves:  For what?  For what do we hope? For what are we joyful? For what are we waiting? Our modern Christmas season seems to have swallowed Advent whole and spit it out with nary a whisper of our true anticipation, our true needs, our deepest desires.
 
While many American children (and some adults, too) are waiting for the latest gadget, the best deals on fancy things, there are many faithful Christians around the world who are simply waiting for something quite different. They are waiting for justice. They are waiting for peace. They are waiting for freedom. They are waiting for the God, promised in sacred scripture in Second Samuel, who will give them rest from all their enemies, as we will hear in the first reading given us for Christmas Eve.
 
This season is about proclaiming the good news of the coming Christ Child, but there are many who know not of that kind of peace, nor the depth of that kind of love. Our desire, as Christians, should be to change that. It really is that simple.
 
Every morning in the Daily Office, we recite the Canticle of Zechariah. This year, we will hear it proclaimed on the Eve of Christmas, as our Gospel, at the Mass of the Day. As you read these partial words now, how might they change your focus for this coming Christmas? There is still time to focus on the things that truly will last.
 

“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

to give his people knowledge of salvation

by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”