I don’t know if everyone is aware, but during the past year or so I’ve been contributing to the Diocesan.com website’s daily Gospel reflections. These are written by a number of contributors for every day of the year. Today happened to be one of my days and I have found myself continuing to reflect upon what I was inspired to write. The Holy Spirit seems to want me to share the message of God’s over abundance and generosity when it comes to His creation. Below is what I wrote for Diocesan. If you’re interested in receiving these reflections, the following link will take you to the website and you can sign up from there.
I think we are often afraid to ask God for things. We don’t want to seem greedy or selfish. We want to feel self sufficient and capable. And what person hasn’t heard a comment like, “Well I asked God for patience and He gave me so many opportunities to practice I just couldn’t handle it!”
Yet the apostles in today’s Gospel seek Jesus out and ask Him to teach them to pray. Jesus gifts them the most foundational prayer in Christianity, The Our Father. Jesus then continues, as if this intimate prayer wasn’t already revolutionary enough, and explains further how we ought to approach God in prayer.
Perhaps this is where the revolutionary aspect of the Our Father comes into play. Throughout the Old Testament, God was present with His people, but they could not see Him. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was only to be entered once a year on Yom Kippur. It was the most sacred place, the place where God met His people.
Jesus draws us into intimate communion with God, His Father. We don’t have to wait for a single day of the year, we don’t need a priest to pray for us. Jesus ushers into being a new relationship between God and His creation. Through Jesus, we become God’s children. It is fitting then, that Jesus asks the disciples to consider how a father responds to the requests of his children. If earthly fathers and mothers know how to treat little ones, how much more will God generously give to His beloved children?
Here is the trick, however. God desires a relationship with us. This isn’t a forced situation. In order for God to give, we must turn to Him and ask. And ask and ask and believe and believe. God desires every good thing for us and works all things for our benefit. This does not mean we will not experience trials or sorrow. It does not mean we will magically receive whatever we ask for – it didn’t work with our parents when we wanted that pony when we were 7, it doesn’t work that way with God either.
Jesus shows us the way. Come before our Father as a child, with empty hands. Ask in earnest, with every expectation that what is best for us along our journey to heaven, will be given to us.
Well dear readers, it seems my ideas about an ongoing series of series is perhaps not panning out. I do intend to do something with the Colors in the Focolare movement, but I need to learn more, ponder more. That being said, I am not without inspiration to continue writing. We are just back to the old “series” – a.k.a. as the Holy Spirit inspires me so shall I write. Which is what I’m bringing you today.
Presently, I am helping to pilot a new VLCFF (Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation) course on Mary in Scripture. Thus far it has been an enjoyable course. In these first weeks we have been studying typology. Typology, or the study of types, analyzes Old Testament persons, events, themes and motifs that can be seen as prefiguring New Testament counterparts. Some examples would be Jesus as the New Adam, Mary as the New Eve, the Eucharist and the Passover, etc. In this course specifically we are focusing on Mary and Marian types.
We spent quite a bit of time looking at the Gospel of John and how he used types to demonstrate Mary’s role within salvation history. The Wedding at Cana featured prominently in our discussions. We are using an excellent resource by Scott Hahn, “Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God,” (I highly recommend if this topic is of interest to you). In it, he goes into great detail going through the types found within the Wedding of Cana scene. Below is part of a comment I shared within our group discussion:
It is enlightening to consider Mary as the New Eve, and how both had a choice to make. Eve, to take the fruit or not. Mary, to try to solve this problem on her own or to hand it to her Son. As a mom, I know how easy it is to “just do it myself.” To let my kids help, each in their own way and according to their abilities, means that often, things aren’t necessarily done exactly to my specifications or perceived correct manner of doing things. Instead of trusting God to reveal knowledge and His plans for the couple, Eve “did it herself.” Mary, on the other hand, turns to her Son and provides Him the space to do and reveal as He wished.
Ever wonder what it’s like to have the Holy Spirit speak to you through your own words? That was me as I finished writing this. I wonder if I got the smallest taste of what it was like for the Gospel writers or other biblical authors. To have written something not totally of your own inspiration. The words were yours, but somehow, they came from someone else.
These words are ones I’ve needed to hear, and needed to hear, and yes, needed to hear over again. And they are words that, obviously, I haven’t been able to effectively teach myself. I needed them to come from someplace else. A Godly place.
Whenever I hold on too tight, I cannot hold onto anything at all. The more I try to control a situation the harder it becomes to manage the smallest details. A concrete example.
I have tried for many moons now, years actually, to have better control over waking up on time. Yes, we’ve had lots of babies and rocky sleep and teething and nursing and all the things. Yes. But deep down, I’ve known that there were definitely periods of time between the hard that I could have been rising earlier than I was. I wanted to be able to get up before everyone else, to have that morning time with God, to have time to stretch and exercise, to read a book, to listen to the birds, to have a cup of tea, to…..whatever! Just to get up! Of course, I’ll probably never get all those things done in a single morning before everyone else wakes up (I mean if I started at 4am maybe but since I was having trouble with 7am I’m thinking baby steps were a better idea).
Then, I heard a powerful idea. Coming full circle, it’s something Chiara of the Focolare said. It is from the end of a meditation on what Jesus did for each of us in coming to earth and sacrificing Himself so that we might go to Heaven. I will put the meditation in full below. But the short phrase that I have carried with me is, “For you, for you Jesus.” All that I do, I ought to do for love of Jesus. Before opening my mouth to speak, before choosing what work to do next, before disciplining or praising a child, it’s all for Him. This little phrase has radically altered so much of how I act, when I remember to say it frequently. And I can tell when I haven’t been.
How does this relate to getting up in the morning and relinquishing control? I no longer get up and out of bed for me. I get up for Him. When the first words on my mind when the alarm goes off are “For you, for you Jesus!” I’m immediately turning myself outward. I am getting up for Jesus. To be with Him in prayer, to stretch my body so I can serve Him and my family better. Some mornings I am getting up to simply read a book or to knit a few rows of a project. But I am getting up and out of bed most days of the week before any child is awake or at least allowed out of bed. I am not perfect but I feel the habit forming. This wasn’t something I could do on my own, I had to let it go. I had to find a different purpose.
So now, I find myself trying to order my day around this phrase. For you Jesus, I will cheerfully go about my chores, knowing that when I work cheerfully the work is done more efficiently. For you Jesus, I will chase Nathan around swim lessons because the skills the confidence his siblings are gaining in the water are worth his pterodactyl screeches. For you Jesus I will help Ben cook tofu nuggets (yes, really. They were my idea but Ben made them…and everyone ate them!) because it is good for our family to continue broadening our palate and appreciation for all kinds of food. For you Jesus, I am typing this blog post instead of knitting the shawl that’s sitting on the floor at my feet waiting to be loved, but I felt the Spirit’s promptings and instead of ignoring them, I am full of peace.
Here is Chiara’s reflection in full. I do not have the reference for where and when she wrote this, unfortunately. I found it in a collection of meditations titled, “Heaven on Earth: Meditations and Reflections.”
Speaking of Jesus, Paul writes, “…and he gave his life for me” (Rom 5:8). Each of us can repeat those words of the apostle: for me.
My Jesus, you have died for me, how can I doubt your mercy? And if I can believe that mercy with a faith that teaches me that God has died for me, how can I not risk everything to return such love?
For me…Words wipe away the solitude of the most lonely and give divine value to every person despised by the world. Words that fill every heart and make it overflow upon this who either do not know or do not remember the Good News.
For me…For me, Jesus, all those sufferings? For me that cry on the cross?
Surely, you would never give up on us. You will do everything imaginable to save us if only because we have cost you so much.
You gave me divine life just as my mother gave me human life. In every moment you think of me alone, as you do of each and every person. This – more than anything in the world – give us the course to live as Christians.
For me. Yes, for me.
And so, Lord, for the years that remain, allow me also to say:
We come to the conclusion of the Encanto Series and can finally answer the most pressing question of the movie, “What is Mirabel’s gift?” Being that this is a Catholic blog and is the lens through which I try to view the world, my take on Mirabel’s gift comes from a Christocentric place.
There are a few names you could give to Mirabel’s gift once the film is finished. She helps to heal the wounded relationships between the family members, making her a Healer. She also is unafraid to speak truth to Abuela about the harmful pressure she has put on the family, making her a Truth Teller or in Biblical terms, a Prophet. It is Mirabel who places the doorknob on the rebuilt Casita, bringing it back to life, making her a Life Giver.
I would like to take all of these facets of Mirabel’s gift and bring them under one theme – Unity. I’ve been learning more about unity lately and it seems Mirabel was tapped into it in a special way. It is Mirabel who has a heightened sense of the disunity happening within the Casa Madrigal. She sees it first in the cracks forming on the walls and then within the family itself – there’s the Bruno ban, Luisa’s insecurity, Isabela’s sacrifice, Pepa’s anxiety, etc.
Our first indication that Mirabel has a heightened sensitivity to familial relationships comes in her conversations with Antonio before he receives his gift. You would expect a 5 year old to turn to his mom, dad, or perhaps an older sibling with his fears about receiving his gift. But he looks to Mirabel instead and she’s the one he needs by his side when he approaches the door. The movie does a good job showing how painful this moment is for Mirabel as it brings into sharp relief everything that went wrong for her. Instead of refusing to participate, she places Antonio before herself and is there to support him in a way no one else is.
Mirabel seems to have a unique relationship with Luisa as well. Again, Mirabel is the one confided in when Luisa feels her power fading. Luisa’s admission is something she would never have said aloud to anyone else. With Mirabel, she can be her true self.
When she finds Bruno, she draws him out of hiding and back into the family. He is reluctant at first but is encouraged by Mirabel’s strength and perseverance to set things right. After learning about Bruno’s vision, she sets out to find a way to embrace Isabela. I think it’s interesting to note than while Mirabel is able to see the cracks and problems in the Casita, she isn’t able to affect any changes until she first fixes her relationship with Isabela.
What does all of this have to do with unity? As I mentioned, I’ve been spending more time pondering what unity looks like. Specifically, I’ve been beginning to dig deeper into the Focolare Spirituality, of which the reality of unity is central.
Chiara Lubich, the founder of the movement, discovered the desire for unity in Jesus’ final prayer in John 17:21 – “May they all be one.” She was inspired by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus’ prayer a living reality. She strove to make herself one with everyone she encountered. How, you may ask? Chiara understood that if God is Love, and in God we find our true selves, then we need to strive to live every action in that Love. Chiara explains:
Christ is love and a Christian must be love. Live generates communion: communion as the basis of the Christian life and as its summit. In this communion a person no longer goes to goes alone, but travels in company. This is a fact of incomparable beauty that makes our soul repeat the words of Scripture, ‘How very good and pleasant it is when kindred lives together in unity!’ (Ps 133:1)”
Chiara Lubich, No Thorn Without a Rose, pg. 33.
How beautiful! I find this really describes the reality Mirabel brings to life in her family. When we strive to love someone as God loves them, we seek what is best for them. We speaks truth to them, even when it is difficult to say or hear. We desire for them to be whole, to help repair what is broken, to encourage the full flourishing of their lives. There isn’t room for pressure to perform or for unrealistic expectations. When we love as God loves, when we allow ourselves to be transformed in love by Love, communion between people springs forth.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Encanto. It has brought about fruitful conversations in my own life and I hope in yours as well. Looking forward, I truly do feel myself being drawn more closely to the Focolare movement and am feeling inspired to continue sharing more about the journey with you here. I’m planning to do another series, perhaps starting in mid-to-end of June, which will go through what the Focolare call the Aspects of the movement, or more colloquially, the Colors. It is how the movement practically comes alive in an individual’s life. I’ll be sharing how I’m seeing these colors shimmer in my own daily ordinary.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the series and if you like this more scheduled approach to things. I’m curious! Peace my friend, May your summer be full of sunshine and peace.