Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Benefits of Year B

The Catholic Church has three cycles of Sunday readings:  Year A when Sunday Gospels during Ordinary Time are usually from Matthew, Year B when they are mostly from Mark with some from John, and Year C when they are mostly from Luke.  Especially in these early weeks of Ordinary Time, I think there is a distinct benefit to our Year B readings.  It is the benefit of multiple perspectives.

As an English major in college, I studied literary analysis and writing as a craft.  I have always enjoyed creative writing as a hobby, but studying it gave me a greater appreciation for what it takes to be a compelling writer.  As I read and write now, years removed from my college studies, I find that I notice and appreciate differences in writing style.  Year B gives us the opportunity to experience these differences, to “see” the events portrayed in the Gospels through the eyes of different authors.  Each evangelist had their own distinct motivation for writing the way that he did and for a specific audience.  Because we hear from both Mark and John regularly during the periods of Ordinary Time in Year B, we benefit from these differing motivations.

In the early weeks of Ordinary Time, we hear first of Jesus’ Baptism and then we hear the deeper significance of it.  We see Jesus’ apostles coming to him in a variety of ways, but always staying with him of their own free will.  We are given many examples of the healing works that Jesus performed.  And because Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, he doesn’t dither around, but gets straight to the point.  This is how it happened.  This is why it is the way it is.

In our Gospels from John, we are shown the deeper, more mystical truths of who Jesus is and the effects of his actions.  John is all about symbolism and the weight that it carries.  He writes in a much more artistic style, drawing us in to the mystery of Jesus as fully human and fully divine, in contrast to Mark’s very straightforward, almost journalistic approach.

It is good to have exposure to multiple forms and genres of writing.  It makes the act of reading much more interesting.  Hopefully, having a variety of writing styles presented to us in Year B helps us to be more attentive to the Gospels in particular and to the Mass as a whole.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

When Should We "Curb Our Enthusiasm"?

 I was quite honestly disappointed by events in the news over the last few days.  First, there was the coverage of the opening of the new US Congress, touted as the “most diverse Congress.”  The US has elected the “most diverse Congress ever” for several years in a row now.  That wasn’t what was disappointing to me though.  What was disappointing was when, at the end of the invocation, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri closed with “Amen and Awoman.”  Quite apart from being complete nonsense, this tramples on literal millennia of the use of “Amen” as an expression of belief.  It is encouraging that as “One nation, under God,” the US Congress opens with an ecumenical prayer, but leave the politics out of it, especially if, in an apparent attempt to acknowledge diversity, you do so in a way that distracts from the purpose of prayer in the first place!

The second event that had me disappointed was the actions of the protesters at the US Capitol in disrupting the acknowledgment of the count of electoral college votes and ultimately causing the evacuation of the capitol yesterday.  Whether you agree or disagree with the outcome of this election, it is no excuse to resort to senseless violence.  The US Constitution gives us the right to protest, this is true, but it is the right to peaceful protest.  Further, in it’s document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, the USCCB quotes our patron, St. Ambrose:  “Prudence enables us ‘to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1806” (quoted in paragraph 19).  It goes on to say in paragraph 20, “We have a responsibility to discern carefully which public policies are morally sound.  Catholics may choose different ways to respond to compelling social problems, but we cannot differ on our moral obligation to help build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended” (emphasis added).

Further, paragraph 52 reminds us, “We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences.”

Obviously, emotions have been running high, discontent has been growing, and none of it has been made any easier by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.  People are upset.  But it is important not to allow emotions to prevail over reason.

We are told repeatedly in scripture and in the writings of the Saints to trust in God.  Trust in his will.  God is so much bigger than us.  He is unknowable in his entirety to our feeble human minds.  Similarly, our human actions, while known to him, cannot influence the ultimate outcome of his plan.  As we come to the end of this Christmas Season, let us strive to say, with Mary our Mother, Thy will be done.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Putting 2020 in the Rearview Mirror

It has been two months since I have written for this blog.  I have missed it.  I hope to be able to resume regular posts in 2021.

2020 certainly has presented us with many challenges, changes, and disappointments.  The “new normal” remains elusive.  The shorter, darker days of winter have arrived.  But, as Christians, and especially as Catholics, we have hope for the future.  Jesus is born for us, as we recall each Christmas, and He remains with us always, as long as we do not lose sight of Him.

It is equally important not to lose sight of what 2020 has brought us and taught us, no matter how much we might want to forget some, if not most, of it.  Here are a few things I learned from 2020:

  • There is usually a way to adapt your routine to fit a certain set of restrictions.  Change is hard at any time, yes, but it is not impossible.
  • Just because “we’ve always done it this way,” it doesn’t mean there isn’t an equally effective way to do it differently, and more safely.
  • Time with family is precious.  Enjoy it when you can, whether it be virtual or socially distant.
  • Connecting with people in some way is good for the soul, even for those of us who are introverts!
  • Work isn’t the be-all, end-all of life.  Finding time for hobbies is crucial to staying sane.
  • God never abandons us.  Lean on Him when times get tough.

What lessons from 2020 will you carry forward into the new year?  What are you looking forward to being different in 2021?

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Blog Hiatus

 

The blog will be taking a hiatus for the next several weeks.  We hope to be back to our regular posting schedule soon!

In the meantime, please enjoy some of our previous content about the rosary!

My Developing Relationship with the Rosary (originally posted October 2018)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

What Have You Gotten Used To?

 There are many things in our lives that we tend to take for granted.  We have gotten so used to these things that we don’t realize just how fortunate we are to have them or have access to them.  Before the Pandemic (BP?), there were many things, I’m sure, which we discovered we had taken for granted when they were no longer as easily accessible.

Think how easy it was Before Pandemic to get your weekly groceries.  Think how automatic it was.  Now, there are many extra considerations involved with just going to the store.  Can we afford a certain item this week?  Do we really need it now after all, or is it something that can wait?  Think how automatic it might have been to send the kids to school each day.  Now, it could be a mess of deciding who needs the family computer the most at any given time for home-based learning, or it could be an added item to the checklist to make sure that everyone has the required mask among their other materials for school.

Life has changed.  Things we took for granted are no longer certainties.  Things we thought would always be there just aren’t anymore.  Even seemingly mundane tasks are no longer quite so simple.  How are we reacting?  And who, in our immediate circles, is watching how we react?  We can be certain that the ever-present and all-knowing God is watching us.  And yes, He knows why we are reacting the way we are.  He knows what our choices will be before we make them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t our choices to make still. He knows our thoughts and motivations.  It can become easy to take even God for granted. 

How can you strive to keep God a welcome presence in your life?  How can you make your relationship with Him stronger and more intentional?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Hearing God in the Silences

 As I originally wrote this blog on Thursday of this past week, I could hear my neighbor’s generators humming in the background.  This week sure threw us a curveball with the Great 2020 Windstorm (as I have been calling it) affecting the Wasatch Front.  I was very fortunate to have power myself, but across the street, they were still in the dark up until yesterday (Friday) afternoon, if not for a generator providing some small amount of electricity.

It’s amazing how much we as a society have come to rely on electricity, especially in recent decades with the advent of the World Wide Web and almost ever-present technology in our lives.  I can sympathize with our neighbor kids who couldn’t participate in online learning or anything else online due to a lack of electricity and internet connection for the past few days.  Our own Vaughan Center was still “in the dark” as of Thursday.

Such natural disasters are often classified as “acts of God,” sometimes even for insurance purposes.  Let’s examine that terminology and thinking a little closer.  Yes, God can act in grand and sometimes even destructive ways.  We see this in the symbolism of Genesis when God the Father sent the Flood over the entire earth, when He destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and when He scattered the people and confused their language at Babel.  But there are also times in the Old Testament when God acts in a much more subtle way.  We read in 1 Kings 19:11-12, that God was not in the great rushing wind, but rather in a still small voice, or according to the NABRE translation, “a light silent sound.”

Often, we are tempted to look for God in the grand gestures.  We ask Him for a sign.  How often do we take time to be still and listen for God in the silences?  He is always at work.  We just have to put in some effort to see it sometimes.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Where Two or Three are Gathered

 I read a reflection for this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading earlier this week which indicated that the familiar passage, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20) might be taken as alarming due to our current situation.  How are we to know that those two or three are doing everything they can to limit the spread of the virus?

Personally, I see this as a hopeful passage for this moment in human history.  Even though we are not able to gather in larger groups safely, God is still with us.  He is always with us.  Further, if we entrust our prayers to God, we can be sure that He listens to them, whether or not we get the answer that we want, and whether we do so as individuals or as a community.  Of course, having a community behind you can’t do any harm.

This is an excellent moment for us to consider how we are reacting to our current situation.  Are we being prudent and cautious?  Are we being alarmist and potentially over-reacting?  Are we being reckless and careless toward those we might interact with on a regular basis?  Take some time for reflection, and try to discern how you can strike a balance between caution and practicality.

Above all, put your trust in God.  He will never abandon you, no matter how isolated you may feel.