Advent Reflections – December 5, 2015

Open to Life: Mary in Scripture

Mary is the perfect example of what it means to be open to life. She was a young girl, recently engaged, when she is visited by the angel Gabriel. We say that so casually – “she was visited by an angel” – like it was a normal occurrence. “She was visited by a friend, her father, her sister, etc.” To say that the experience would have been shocking is an understatement. Mary was not only visited by a being that lives on an entirely different plane of existence from us, she also interacted with it, talked with it, questioned it. The angel’s opening greeting (if you can call this admonishment a greeting) is “Don’t be afraid.” You don’t say something like that unless there is reason for fear. You don’t tell someone “don’t be afraid” when presenting them an ice cream cone or asking if they would like to sit with you at lunch (at least I hope you don’t have to). No, Mary would have startled at best, perhaps panicked, certainly stopped in her tracks.

Mary’s willing submission to the angel’s proposal is the culmination, rather than the start, of her openness to life. Mary already had a relationship with God, she was a prayerful person, she, who was immaculately conceived, had perfectly aligned her will with God’s throughout her whole life. Mary’s “yes”, her fiat, to carry Jesus within her demonstrates what it means to welcome life wherever and whomever it comes from.

How am I inspired by Mary’s “yes” in my own life? How can I say my yes to God today?

Happy Birthday to my brother Michael!

Advent Reflections – December 4, 2015

Open to Life: The Reality of Motherhood

The reality of motherhood is very simple. A woman is a mother in the physical sense when she conceives and bears a child. If we were to leave our definition of motherhood at this fact, our understanding would be very narrow indeed. Just because someone bears a child does not necessarily give them the monopoly on the title “mother.” A grandmother or grandfather who takes care of their grandchildren because the mother is absent. An aunt or uncle who adopt their niece or nephew because their mother has passed away. A friend who cares for her friend’s children while she is deployed. The two best friends that raise their families next door to one another, sharing their parenthood across their backyards. The older couple at church that quietly and gently mentors young couples in their relationships with each other and with God.

Motherhood is more than physically bearing a child. It is recognizing that a life outside of our own requires our time, attention, compassion and nurturing. When we are open and welcoming to the life that is around us, especially the life that is in need, we participate in our own motherhood, whatever that may look like.

Think of one person who you have been like a mother too (if you are a mother, try to think of someone who is not your physical child). How were you open to welcoming their life into your own?

Salt Cravings

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Do you ever have one of those days where you need salt. Everything salty sounds delicious and you find yourself fantasizing about french fries, potato chips, pretzels, or anything with enough salty goodness  to satisfy the craving. And no, this doesn’t just happen when I’m pregnant. I’m sure you’ve all had at least one day like this. Our bodies need salt. It is one of the components necessary to help water move through our systems. Our bodies do not function properly when we do not have enough salt.

Everything in life needs a little salt. Have you ever noticed on pretty much any cooking show that has a judge, someone is always critiqued for not using enough salt. Just the other day I heard a judge say “If you had just put a few more grains of salt, then the flavors would have really popped.” Even desserts need to have some salt.

There was one time, I was in high school, that I was making a new cookie recipe. I believed that the recipe, in my fairly inexperienced baking hands, called for too much salt. These were supposed to be sweet cookies after all. So I left the salt out. I think that we all know how those cookies tasted. Lifeless.

It is interesting, Jesus told his followers to be the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He didn’t say to be the yeast, to be the flour, or to be the water – all other fundamental ingredients. What makes salt different is it’s ability to add flavor. Flour, yeast and water are all basic components to make bread. You don’t technically need salt to make bread, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like to eat cardboard. Maybe you do.

I definitely don’t like cardboard. I like flavor in my food and my life. I like to think that Jesus did too. After all, he did hang out with some pretty “flavorful” people for the time (tax collectors, women, non-Jews, lepers, to name a few) and he certainly spiced up the lives of his followers. Jesus asks us to do the same. We are supposed to spice things up. How? By being fully alive.

To be fully alive, we have to know who we are. We are children of the most high God, the author of all creation. We cannot be fully alive without recognizing that we are not the source of our existence. How can a building stand when it’s foundation is cracked? The basis of our “saltiness” comes from this primary fact of our being.

If you are ever feeling like you are losing touch with your “saltiness” (aka your ability to connect with Jesus and therefore your ability to see the world as he would want you), take some time to think about your encounters with Jesus. Pope Francis just said ““He never forgers, but we forget the encounter with Christ. And this would be a good assignment to do at home, to consider: ‘When have I really felt that the Lord was close to me? When have I felt the need to change my life, or to become better, or to forgive someone? When have I felt the Lord asking something of me? When have I encountered the Lord?’ Because our faith is an encounter with Jesus. This is the foundation of our faith: I have encountered Jesus.” (see more at http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-our-faith-is-an-encounter-with-jesus)