Jesus… the Measure of Truth and Reality

 Jesus breathes, speaks, and embodies the great truth of God’s love, redemption, and sanctification for all people. Jesus is the foundation and the context for everything we say and do as Christians. This means that we are often called to go beyond our own version of the truth and choose him as our yardstick or measure of what is important and what is ‘real’ or ‘fake.’ For example:

Early in Therese’s third pregnancy, she was sick and exhausted, and her mother was seriously ill. John knew he had to do something. He tried helping around the house, but that didn’t seem to matter; neither did talking things out. He thought of suggesting a call to the doctor, but she had just seen him.

What to do? Then John realized that Therese would experience peace only by talking to Jesus. So each day when he got home from work, he asked her, “Did you have a chance to pray yet?” The usual answer was, “No, and I don’t want to!” But he was convinced that God could help her, so every day he would ask again. About ten days into his campaign, when he began to ask, she cut him off and ran into the bathroom. It would be easier to face God than to face John!

Therese sat on the edge of the tub and cried. She told God about all the diapers, the disturbing visits to Mom, the children’s short naps, the nausea. “Right now, I don’t need one more obligation. I don’t need to pray. I don’t want to! I just need to relax. I need to have some fun in my life! Sorry, God, but you’re not much fun to talk to.”

Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes so that she could listen to God’s voice. “Well, Therese, right now you are not much fun either!” That was the breakthrough she needed. God’s challenge and sense of humor would keep her going for the next seven months, during which her mother would pass away.

Here are guidelines for sharing the truth in love, as John tried to do.

  1. Speak with gentleness and confidence in God’s love for the person whom you address. This does not mean that difficult feelings won’t emerge. It does means that your goal is another’s wholeness. You are not adversaries but brothers and sisters in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  2. Try presenting the truth through a question. “Have you ever thought of . . . ?” “What would happen if . . . ?” “What have you tried so far?” “What are you options when . . . ?” Then listen carefully for the other’s point of view and needs.
  3. Report just your own observations about another’s behavior using “I” statements: “I noticed that you . . . ” or “I felt . . . when you . . . ” And do so in private. Remember the way Jesus spoke to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. It takes humility to approach another this way, especially if you have been trained to assign blame for hurt.
  4. Admit that you may not be the right person to share what needs to be said in a serious situation. If that is the case, then turn to someone who may be able to help you sort out your options in the relationship. This is especially true when the behavior of a public person is causing a stressful and angry response in you.
  5. Consider the quality of your relationship and the importance of the matter at hand. Is this person a parent? A spouse? A friend? An employee? Ask if the matter is serious enough for a challenge. We are called to honesty in all things unless the role we have in a relationship, makes it inappropriate to speak.
  6. Try making an agreement about challenging behavior. For example, Mark and Barbara were in the habit of criticizing the Sunday sermon after Mass on the way to the coffee shop. Mark realized how inappropriate and unkind this was. So he asked Barbara, “Next time I start complaining, would you please say, ‘Mark, you told me you didn’t want to do this anymore.’”
  7. Be aware of the prevalence of relativism in our culture. It can erode our ability to share objective truth. Some believe that any position or “truth” is as good as any another “truth.” Some believe that ‘my truth’ is real and yours is fake.”Excerpted from Mending Broken Relationships. by the Bouchers
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Six Ways to Pray to and Share the Newborn Jesus through a Christmas Carol

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope.” *

At the heart of the most endearing Christmas Carols is a glimpse into the manger scene in ancient Bethlehem. The kernel of meaning in these Christ-centered Christmas carol is contained in four small words: “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phil. 2: 11). First, the name “Jesus” comes from the Hebrew, “Yeshua,” and means “God saves”. Carols that help us recognize Jesus include What Child is this? and Silent Night. Second, are carols about Christ, Greek for “the anointed one.” These include Angels We have Heard on High and Hark the Herald Angles Sing. Finally, the experience of choosing Jesus as Lord is described in O, Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World. When we sing any of these Jesus-centered carols we have an opportunity to revisit Bethlehem ourselves and then share Christ with others through these songs.

Below are six ways to find and to share Jesus, the Christ, through a carol:

1)  **Sing a carol aloud, like “Silent Night.” Let its melody wash over your heart and touch your soul. Sing it aloud again, allowing its message to sink in – God so loves you, that he sent his son, Jesus, to become one with us. **If you don’t have any lyrics, download a free copy of fifteen Christ-centered Christian carols at http://www.christmascarolfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Christmas-Song-Sheet-2011.pdf)

2) Read the lyrics, after asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you and touch you.  Read them aloud or in silence slowly, three times. Whenever a word, phrase or image touches you (calms or excites you), stop and repeat that line, holding it in your heart for a time.

3) Reflect on one title/name for Jesus from within this carol (i.e. Holy Infant, Christ, Savior, Son of God, Light, or Redeemer). What does it say about Jesus? What does it say to you or about you?

4) Carry this title/name for Jesus with you into your day. Pray this title for a few moments before you send an email, text message, or before making a phone call. When you feel rushed or anxious, pause and let this name for Jesus echo in your heart and calm your spirit.

5) Write out your description of what this carol is saying to you. Then condense it down to one sentence for possible sharing with someone who has a need for Christmas peace and joy. Remember. Your experience with this Christmas carol can connect others to the Christmas event and to Jesus.

6) Consider preparing a longer sharing for more serious conversations about how you were moved from… fear to courage, or from hatred to love, weakness to strength, despair to hope, guilt to peace, loneliness to community…  through singing and praying this carol. But remember most sharings will normally be of the one sentence variety.

For video clips that feature images/titles for Jesus from two carols each… visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa4Awga9K9r81CwNcbLu5D7bGt-5tRp72.)

*Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Seek That Which is Above, Ignatius Press, 2007

 

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Are You Afraid of What God is Asking?

Early in 1912 St. Frances Cabrini had a reservation for an ocean voyage from Europe to New York, but because of administrative problems at Columbus Hospital in New York City, she canceled her trip and took another ship a month earlier. The ship she would have traveled on was the Titanic. This brush with death was yet another example of God’s ongoing protection. It all began with a near drowning in a river at the age of seven, which left St. Frances with a persistent fear of water. This life-long anxiety caused her great turmoil as she realized her call to be a traveling missionary.

Tell God Your Fears

So one day St. Frances took her fears before the Sacred Heart in prayer. Jesus responded with a promise, “I (will) protect and guide you with my hands from one sea to the other.”  So she put her faith in God often and boarded many sea-going vessels for the sake of her missionary commitment to immigrants. Mother Cabrini survived many dangers at sea during her twenty-three international ocean voyages. And she also survived dangerous visits in coal mines, trips into yellow fever infested neighborhoods, a donkey ride down the side of a precipice, and decades of poor health. But none of these things mattered. She trusted God.

Move Forward in Trust

Therese was reminded of this trust during a visit to St. Frances Cabrini’s shrine in New York City where she offered God a newly released book on evangelizing children. She enjoyed talking to St. Frances about this work and recommitted herself to her educational ministry, despite fears of managing whole classrooms full of children. She told God she was willing to “speak of Jesus and make Jesus known,” as St. Frances would say. Then Therese went to a side chapel to light a candle for her dad whose leg was recently amputated. She had just lit an electric “candle”, when a young boy named Manny charged into the side chapel and pushed the buttons on three more candles.  Therese stopped him after the third one and told him she could show him something exciting about the candles. He was interested.

Act on What God Asks

“These candles are like little door bells that we can use to talk to God,” she explained.

“I want to talk to her,” Manny said pointing at St. Frances’s statue. Therese asked what he would like to talk to St. Frances about. Then they were ready to begin by lighting one (more) candle.

“Mother Cabrini,” Therese prayed aloud, “Let me introduce you to Manny.  He came here to talk to you and to ask you to help his dad find a job. And since we know that you loved Jesus so much, please ask Jesus to help too. (Then she paused.) Thanks for listening and for this great place where we can talk to you and to God. Amen.” Manny enjoyed their prayer and left with a quick “Thank you” when his grandmother appeared at the entrance to the side chapel.

Tap into God’s Love

What fears do you face as you try to live out the vocation and the call to ministry that you have received from God? What particular people has Jesus Christ asked you to serve and to lay aside your fears for? Perhaps praying St. Francis Cabrini’s favorite Scripture often might help you. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

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