Sunday, March 19, 2017

Finding God in a Donut

At our retreat, a participant shared that she found God in donuts. All kidding aside, her memory, as a child was a five-year-old unrefined child who didn’t think that she was anything special. She somehow found herself inside a church and she remembered watching the people eating donuts. Perhaps, it was coffee social after a morning service. She felt awkward and hungry, but nobody looked down on her or said anything to make her feel unwanted. At one point, she noticed that people were putting money into a basket for the donuts, and she felt like a “bad little girl” for taking a donut. Instead, out of nowhere, someone placed a few coins in her hand and let her put them in the basket. No nasty looks or nasty comments, so these must be God’s special angels.

Life can be messy and maybe you have memories about your past in which you felt awkward, out of place, someone who didn’t belong, or worse you had no one in your life that made you feel special.

One of the topics we discussed at the parish retreat was: “Life is Messy.”
For example, when a patient was told that they have cancer. You walk out of the doctor’s office and your head is just spinning, and you realize that nothing else in the world has changed. Life goes on and everyone is just going around their business, going about doing their thing. Nobody knows what you’re struggling with. Yet in reality, we’re all struggling with something. A tough childhood where no one made you feel special, or you suffered the humiliation and shame of an injustice that still haunts you in your dreams. 

It’s important that we realize that everyone’s carrying a heavy burden. It’s important that we realize everyone’s struggling with something. It’s important that we realize that everyone is fighting a hard battle. Because when we do realize that, we treat people differently. That means we surrender our tendency to judge others, to gossip, or put other people down.  

We are challenged to see one another as Christ sees us, women and men who are not perfect but in whom God has limitless love. Sometimes, we even need to see that in ourselves.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they learn to be gentle with themselves because you got your own struggles. And give us the grace to be gentle with other people, because everybody is fighting a hard battle. Life is messy, but nobody can take your hope from you. So hold onto your hope no matter how messy life gets, and share it with everyone who crosses your path.


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Be Happy for Lent

It was only 5 degrees this morning when I went outside to fill the bird feeders and put warm water in the kitty bowls. You might have slept in this Sunday when your alarm clock went off in the morning, what did you do? Did you get straight out of bed, thinking it’s the First Sunday of Lent and you need to get ready to come to church and get your ashes? Or, did you roll over, and think, “I can get a few more minutes of sleep.” What just happened? You just took a few extra minutes of sleep and never got to Mass. Wrong. Resistance just kicked your butt.

Resistance is that sluggish feeling that stops us from doing the things that we know are good for us. Like, I should be coming to church every Sunday especially during Lent. It’s that sense that, “I don’t want to do that,” even though we know it’s the thing we should do. Sometimes it’s the sense that, “You know what, I’m going to do whatever I want even though I absolutely know it’s the wrong thing to do.”

Resistance is a big part of the reason why we often feel like happiness is just outside of our reach. God created each of us for happiness. You got to remember that what happened on Good Friday was designed to restore the possibility of happiness for you and me. Not only in this life, but in the next life. Because God does have this enormous desire that we experience the happiness that he created us for. And resistance absolutely gets in the way of that happiness. It gets in the way of us accomplishing our dreams. It gets in the way of us doing what we know is good for us. It gets in the way of us being the-best-version-of-ourselves. And what I want to help you discover  this Lent is that resistance is real.

So, how did you experience resistance in the last 24 hours? There will be hundreds of temptations to make excuses. You will push the idea out of coming to Mass, or fasting on Friday, or reading the bible, or donating money for the missions, or coming to the Parish Retreat or attending Holy Week services because they’re held on a Thursday or Saturday night, maybe you’ll come to Easter, just maybe, no guarantee. These are your temptations, and behind all those temptations, very often, you’re going to find resistance. What we’re talking about here, this concept of resistance, it’s real. It’s something we experience every day.

That’s really the paradox of happiness. It’s that, we know the things that make us happy, we just don’t do them. We want to be happy. In 90% of the cases, we know the things that will make us happy, but we don’t do them. Why? Resistance.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they keep in mind that in every situation to be holy, either resistance is going to win, or you’re going to win. There’s no middle ground. So when people received ashes on their foreheads, instead of saying: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That won’t make any of us happy, we offered this blessing prayer:
“Let go of worry and resistance and with the help of God be happy.”

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Give Up Worry for Lent

Lent started for me four weeks ago when I received the news that our parish rectory suffered major water damage due to a frozen pipe. I shared with our people that I was heart broken.  For the past eighteen months, a group of dedicated volunteers have planned to restore the former convent into a hospice home. Now this parish faces another awesome challenge to discern what does Jesus want us to do with the rectory. The initial response is to dry out the damage, assess what it will take to restore the structure and decide what direction is best for the future of the parish. The possibilities can be overwhelming or depending on your perspective an exciting new opportunity.

So this morning is ash Wednesday, and let me suggest that you might want to “give up worry” for Lent.

Lesson #1: Just focus on today. Jesus says, "Do not worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." Dr. Seuss explained, "Step with care and great tact, and remember that life's a great balancing act." That said, sometimes we make it worse on ourselves. Sometimes we just make up extra stuff to worry about, like what might happen tomorrow or what could happen day after tomorrow. Dr. Seuss explains, "I've heard there are troubles of more than one kind; some come from ahead, and some come from behind. But I've brought a big bat. I'm all ready, you see; now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!"

Lesson #2: Realize that worry is a waste of time. Jesus says, "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" Can we? No. We can't worry a mistake away. Harsh words or actions can't be taken back. And worrying about it simply takes the focus away from what we should be doing: working to move forward and making things right. The irony is that if we stop worrying, we might be able to take some steps forward on the things we are worried about! Dr. Seuss adds, "When things start happening, don't worry, don't stew, just go right along and you'll start happening.

Lesson #3: We have no reason to worry for we are loved and worthy exactly as God designed us. Jesus taught: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these."
Jesus says, look, if God dresses these little flowers so beautifully, will he not even more clothe you, you of little faith? Bottom line: humans and lilies are not that different. We are both creatures molded from God's hands. We are both exquisite and perfect just as we are. Most importantly, we are loved and we are worthy. The main difference is that the lilies know it, and we don't.

Imagine this morning on this first day of Lent: the dawn is beginning to break, the skies are lightening, not quite its cloudy in western New York, the birds are beginning to chirp, and the little lily raises its beautiful face to the morning sun and says, "I feel fat. I hate what I'm wearing. Everyone hates me.” No, a lily is not going to say that. But we will. We will because we just can't trust the gift we've been given. Unlike human beings, lilies know without a doubt they are loved and worthy and beautiful exactly as they are made. There's no worry that they should be something they are not. There is no worry about where they fall short because every moment of their lives is spent living their gift--living simply as God designed them to be. As Dr. Seuss said, "Why fit in when you were born to stand out!"

Let us pray: “The Lord is my shepherd. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that you remind them we are your beautiful, beloved children of God. Do we not trust? Do we not have the faith that we will be cared for like the lilies of the field or the tiniest of creatures? What is the old saying? Worry or believe. You can't do both.