Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Name of the Son

Michael shares with us his Lenten Journey. He currently serves at St. Paul Catholic Center at Indiana University.
"Anything you ask me in my name I will do." -John 14:14
Before Lent began this year, I was going through a grocery list of all the ascetical practices I could do. I thought about how much fasting would be healthy, how many hours a day in the chapel would be practical, better ways to give alms, and a more intense boot-camp-like prayer routine. However, in the depths of my heart I knew that this was all not really the end in itself I was looking for but rather a way to distract myself, a way to lose myself in the means to the end. In the end, right before Lent began, I figured out, or rather discerned, what the central focus of my Lent would be. I was going to give up as much theology as possible. As your jaw hangs open in disbelief please take a minute to close it (you may use a free hand if necessary) and let me explain. After much prayerful thought, I came to a very startling conclusion, or rather a question that shook the foundations of my faith. 
Do I really love Jesus Christ?
Sure I love scriptures, prayer, I love meditating on the mysteries of His life while saying the rosary. I love the nature of God, exploring the concept of the trinity, and many great theological mysteries. I love the face of Christ in the poor, the lonely, the heartbroken. I love reading the lives of the saints, and learning about the many ways they would connect with God. I love God in nature, I love the healing miracles Christ has worked in my life. Yet, this does not answer my question. I am beating around the bush. So I will say again, do I really love Jesus Christ-- not just circling around Him, but as an end in Himself?
An affirmation of this Lenten goal came about while reading the Word of God. I opened up to 1 Corinthians 13 (the chapter on love) but not to the part I am typically accustomed to hearing. I only read the first three verses which go as follows: 
"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This again shook the foundations of my faith and again caused me to ask, do I really love Jesus Christ? Well what is love? (And don't say baby don't hurt me). And more importantly, who is Jesus Christ? 
In Book I of The Confessions (I will put the theology fast on hold for just a little while longer), St. Augustine asks the Lord, "Must we know you before we call upon you?" He goes on and expands on this but the main point is that we need to ask whether we should know the Lord first or first call upon our savior. 
Jesus does tell us that anything we ask in His name He will grant to us (Jn 14:14). But for me, this still is not enough. I want to love Jesus with all my heart, mind, and soul. 
Back to St. Augustine's question of whether we should know the Lord before we call upon Him: I think this varies by the person. I think it is impossible to not know the Lord in some way, shape, or form. Yet I think it is impossible to get to know Christ better without calling upon Him. We must do both. 

Who is Jesus then? I could go into a long discourse about may aspects of Jesus, but to what end? He is the way in which I hope to go, He is the truth which I hope to know, He is the life which I hope to obtain. He is the reason I wake up in the morning, the reason I draw in every breath, the reason I can gaze at the stars, the reason I can feel blades of grass between my toes. Jesus is the center of my life, which nothing else can replace. 
Yet I live on the fringes most of the time, not in the center. I think that is why he asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Not so much as a question for Jesus to know the answer, but so Peter will constantly ask himself this question. 
Why do I bring this up? I think that I need to constantly reaffirm that Jesus is the center of my life, and that my baptism tells the world this. I need to also evaluate if I am living in the middle, or if I am circling the outside, fearful to truly dive in. 
Something that I can practially do is make the name of Jesus central in all aspects of my life. As often as I speak, I should be mentioning the name of my savior. All I need, want, or hope for I should ask in His name. I should have the utmost faith in Jesus, so that one day when we meet face to face I may not have to have this faith anymore but truly see what I believe in. I should hope in Christ's redemption, so that one day I may attain this redemption for my own when I meet my love face to face. And I should have as much love as I can muster, because once faith becomes sight, and hope becomes my gift, love will magnify, expand, and consume my entire being. Love is the greatest of these three (again see 1 Corinthians 13) but love is all we need. 
Do I really love Jesus Christ? I am trying. 
"He who obeys the commandments he has from Me is the man who loves me; and he who loves Me wil be loved by my father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him." -John 14:21

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lenten Promise of Letting Go

 Mary Paige "MP" Bausch currently serves in San Francisco, CA as religion teacher to the sophomore class.

Have you seen the Disney movie, Frozen? It’s a delightfully friendly film about love and shaping oneself through the internal and external forces that challenge. As with many Disney films, this one has a lot of music. One song in particular speaks to me right now. The title, “Let It Go,” has recently become a personal mantra that I’m trying to incorporate in my life, especially during this Lenten Season.

The plane is delayed— let it go because the flight team is doing all they can do to work on the situation. My friend isn’t calling me back— let it go because they’ll get to it when they can. A student isn’t paying attention in my class— let it go because I’ve done all I can to help the student, she needs to take some ownership. Let it go! Let go of my expectations for others— I cannot control their reactions or responses. Let go of the things I take personally— I am the only person that has the power to control how I feel and react to any situation, experience, or obstacle. Let it go.

Recently, I’ve had some experiences that have developed the idea of letting it go—in my community and in my classroom.

In my community, the sisters pray the Divine Office from Dominican Praise every morning and evening. A few weeks ago, I was asked to plan and lead an evening prayer. In an effort to do something different, I decided to facilitate a centering prayer with the sisters and volunteers.

What is centering prayer?
Using the guidelines from Thomas Keating, he writes that centering prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated form. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.

How do you do it?
Sit comfortably, with eyes closed. Closing our eyes is a symbol of letting go to what is going on around us and within us. Settle briefly and silently. Introduce a sacred word (we used “Love”) as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. When engaged with thoughts, images, feelings, or reflections, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. Keating reminds us that these thoughts are inevitable, integral, and a normal part of centering prayer-- try to acknowledge these thoughts and return back to the sacred word.

Anytime I’ve tried centering prayer, I become frustrated because my mind never seems to quiet or calm down. Thoughts, images, and feelings always pop up. I attempt to bring myself back using the sacred word or phrase, but I would still be frustrated. WHY can’t my mind just settle down? Going back to Keating’s words that I used in planning this prayer-- these thoughts are inevitable, integral, and a normal part of centering prayer. Inevitable. Integral. Normal. It’s how you center yourself back to the sacred word when the centering prayer happens. On the way to centering prayer is, in fact, centering prayer.

After reminding myself of this, I felt freed. I should not be frustrated because these thoughts are supposed to arise. Good thoughts or bad thoughts, they’re destined to appear in my mind and the object is to let them go and return to dwelling on the sacred word. Finally, I can let it go of the thoughts and let go of the frustration during centering prayer; the outcome has been lovely finding peace in this unique type of prayer.

The idea of letting go has also come up in my Scripture class. Last semester, my sophomores focused on the Old Testament and this semester they’re learning about the New Testament. Specifically, we’re covering Matthew right now. Here’s a question for you... What is famous about the Gospel of Matthew? Yes, you’re right! It’s the Gospel that includes the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus summarizes the New Law, a new set of instructions for Christian living.

In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about worrying— about your body, what you’ll wear, food, anxieties. He says to not worry about these things. God knows you need them. So, instead give it up to God, seek God, and with that everything will fall into place. Yet another reminder to let go.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink,) or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

As someone who worries, tends to take things very personally, and sets high expectations for myself and others, incorporating this idea of letting go has not been an easy task this Lent. I constantly find myself getting wrapped up in worry or over analyzing situations that don’t need to be over analyzed. Gently, I tell myself to let go. Most of the time, there’s nothing I can do except let it go and keep repeating that mantra.

As winter turns into spring, there might not be much desire to watch a movie called Frozen or listen to the sweet soundtrack. However, the notion of spring cleaning and letting go is ever-so prevalent right now. We all have stuff in our lives that is waiting for us to let go-- it could be something physical such as the clothes collecting dust in our closet or something like worrying about the future. Try letting go of something that’s bringing you down. You never know what joys, beauty, or freedom you’ll find in doing so.