This week, we engage in discussions of the transformative power of forgiveness, and its incredible potential as a force for evangelization. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others allows us to enter more fully into the light of Christ, making our faith experiences more loving, positive, and open, which in turn encourages us to share those wonderful, warm experiences.
I thought long and hard about a practical way to bring evangelization and forgiveness together into one theme for this week — reflection and discernment are incredible exercises, but they often leave us wanting for some kind of concrete conclusion or action item that we can apply in a more general setting. Eventually, through reading all kinds of tips and tricks for evangelization, thinking, and many, many rough drafts, this week’s evangelization tip came to me: say the name.
Prayer is such a big part of evangelization: praying for ourselves, that we might live as the examples of Christ that we are called to be, praying for others, that their hearts and minds might see the light and the love that guides faith, and praying for a kinder, gentler society, that it might welcome the joys of belief and belonging that so often seem to be forgotten.
So say the name of the person you are praying for. It can be hard to stay focused when praying — drifting off into thoughts unrelated to the prayers at hand (as one is almost guaranteed to do) can often end with our forgetting the purpose of the prayer in the first place. Using the person’s name keeps the prayer real, and really present. Repeat their name over and over in the course of the prayer, and keep the focus on praying into that person. This can be especially helpful as we look to forgive others, and pray kindness and patience into their lives, as well as your own.
Science has shown that we are acutely attuned to the sound of our own names — we can pick out someone shouting our name in a crowded room and can even recognize our names even under deep sedation. Our names have power to informing our identities, and acknowledgement of these identities set us up for positive prayer.
It might be hard to find someone in the New Testament who exemplifies the spirit of evangelization (besides Jesus, of course) better than St. Paul. His epistles to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Thessalonians, and others are full of treatises to the people that they pray for themselves and others, joyfully, and always — “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for...me that speech may be given me to open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,” (Ephesians 6:18-19).
Paul uses their names, references to their hometowns, and always the greeting “brothers and sisters.” He keeps his prayer and ministry personal, spreading the good news individually to the masses, as we should strive to do this week. Don’t change yourself (you are already fearfully and wonderfully made), change a word — and use the name.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Our four-part series on the core values of stewardship – identity, trust, gratitude, and love – continues this Easter week with love.
Hallelujah! Today we rejoice, for our Lord is risen, and all of us with him. Easter brings us joy, happiness, brightness, and springtime. But what does our celebration have to do with stewardship?
Jesus gave all his time, talent, and treasure to others through his ministry, including his years spent with the apostles, and the spiritual and material gifts he gave to those who were suffering or in need. As Saint Peter says, Jesus “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
Love is essential. It compels us to give. We are a giving people. We give gifts on all kinds of special occasions, and sometimes out of a sense of obligation, or even hoping for something in return. We also give simply out of love and the joy of giving. When we do, this is the best, highest, and most beautiful way we imitate God, who gave us his son Jesus, the greatest gift of all.
Love is also charity, which Saint Paul tells us is the greatest of gifts from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:13). We need to give, and give of ourselves. We don’t hold back when we give, and we give our best to God and others. It is a sign of our love to give the best of ourselves.
That is what Jesus did, throughout his ministry, all the way to his passion and death on the cross. He surrendered his life for our salvation, all of us, down through time. God loves and blesses us abundantly. If we accept Jesus’ sacrificial gift, we can take our gifts and turn them outward to others. That is why we celebrate God’s great gift, and Easter is the ultimate example of stewardship.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Happy Easter! It’s kind of amazing how we can go from the saddest, most sorrowful moments of the entire liturgical year (Good Friday) to the most important, most joyful time of the entire liturgical year (Easter Sunday) in just a little more than 24 hours. Jesus Christ, the only son of God, died a painful, gruesome earthly death only to rise again in glory on the third day — just sit and take that in for a few moments.
It’s so easy to move through the motions of being Catholic. For many Catholics, myself included, being a part of the Church wasn’t a choice. Baptized by my parents when I was eight weeks old, I’ve pretty much been a Catholic my entire life. Going to church weekly, talking and knowing about God, and grace at the dinner table have always just been things that were part of life. While this comfort and familiarity in faith is a wonderful life experience, it also means that I can get really lazy about my faith and am not as active or engaged in it as I could be.
Like lots of Catholics, one of my biggest stumbling blocks in faith has always been a hesitancy to evangelize. It almost sounds like a dirty word. Evangelization just isn’t something that we do. Other Christians evangelize. We don’t. When surveyed, there are a few reasons that Catholics often say they don’t: “I don’t know enough to evangelize”; “I don’t want to push my beliefs on others”; “It’s not my job to evangelize.”
But we are called to evangelize; we just don’t partake because it makes us uncomfortable or embarrassed. There’s a big misconception about evangelization, though, that feeds into these feelings in a very direct way. At its core, evangelization is about bringing people into the love, light, and life of the narrative of Jesus Christ — the very thing we are celebrating today.
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” Jesus says to Martha, sister of Lazarus, in the gospel a few weeks ago (John 11:25-26). This is our faith. This is the faith that we are called to evangelize. Evangelization is not the “forcing” of Catholic beliefs onto everyone we meet. It is not going door-to-door asking people to share in the faith, or telling them that they will go to hell if they do not convert, like those on soapboxes downtown say.
Evangelization is living fully the spirit of Christ into everything that we do and everything that we are. It is not forgetting that we are always in the process of faith formation; it is remembering that we are always on a journey in our relationship with Christ. It is preaching the Good News of Christ in our thoughts, actions, and interactions with others. This Easter season, let us lean into the spirit of evangelization. Let us not be crippled by overthinking or doubting. Let us share Christ universally.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
From relationships to thoughts to physical belongings, we’ve spent the last several weeks thinking about decluttering our lives. We’ve talked about all the different behaviors that can help with this massive undertaking, from meditation and journaling to prayer and donation. But we haven’t talked about keeping up these habits. As Lent (and this message series with it) comes to a close, it’s important to devote some time to thinking about how we’re going to maintain all these new goals. If you’ve never meditated and prayed over your relationships, or if you have a stack of mail and papers dating back longer than you’d care to remember, staying focused on minimizing the clutter can be difficult.
So how can we take all the things we’ve talked about this Lent and bring them forward into Easter? Once, someone reminded me that we don’t give up something for Lent only so that we can gorge ourselves on it come Easter (hello chocolate, looking at you), but that we give up things so that we might be more mindful of them as we reintroduce them into our lives. Since it would be pretty difficult to keep up all the things we’ve talked about, choose one. I’m choosing one, and I’m going to focus on making it a meaningful part of my life.
Let’s make decluttering something we focus on every day for 10 minutes, or every week for 60 minutes. Devote that time to cleaning off a countertop, folding laundry, or putting away dishes you might otherwise leave. Devote that time to taking stock of the thoughts in your mind, praying strength into your relationships, or meditating. Make an effort to keep a practice of continuous decluttering; starting is the first hurdle, maintaining is the second. If we maintain, we never have to start again.
But how do we actually maintain? Having another person to keep you accountable, setting alarms to remind yourself, or keeping an accountability journal in plain sight all might help. When we have another person holding us to our commitments, we’re much more likely to continue them (for some reason, we tend to be excellent at justifying our own excuses).
Everyone knows that alarms drag you out of bed in the morning — what about reminding you of other things? Changing the label on your phone alarm from “Alarm” to “Meditate” or “Prayer Journal” can result in fabulously hard-to-ignore reminders. Putting the journal you pray in or meditate with in a conspicuous place also works — you’re much more likely to write in it when it’s on your nightstand or hall table than if it’s buried deep in a drawer.
Last week, a friend gave me a shirt that reads “Live with intention.” I think it might’ve been a sign to remind me to live into my Lenten goals, to keep them a part of my life (even though it’s not Lent anymore), and to remember that the benefits I’ve seen from focusing on them in the past few weeks are only going to continue to multiply the longer I stick with them. Together, let’s live into Lent always.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Last week, we talked about decluttering our relationships, making the ones that we have healthier, by increasing the time and energy we spend on the positive ones and reducing the time and energy we spend on the less-than-positive ones. When we stop to take stock of our relationships, we quickly realize how much time, thought, and energy go into them. We spend a lot of time on our relationships, as well we should, because of how positive they can be for us. But what other emotional things do we dwell on? What other things clutter up our minds?
When it feels like our brains are in overdrive because of all the things floating around in them (decisions and responsibilities about everything from work and chores to family and friends), we are a lot less productive than when our minds are clearer. We’re more stressed out, less patient, and less open to new ideas when our minds feel full. Most importantly, finding space for God is really hard when it seems like every millimeter of the brain has 15 things stuffed into it.
So how can we go about decluttering our minds? Like our homes and relationships, our brains need a good “Marie Kondo” every so often. Getting rid of that extraneous mental material helps us be more present, focused, attentive, and productive, so that the time we spend using our minds (read: all the time) can be more worthwhile.
Number one: set some goals. When we work without goals, we are simply throwing effort at something with no outcome in mind. We’re not quite as motivated to work hard, nor are we motivated to improve when we don’t do very well on something. Without a goal to look forward to, our energies aren’t very focused, and lots of random thoughts and feelings take up residence in our minds.
Number two: keep a journal. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down how you felt during those hours. Research from the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that people who write expressively about their thoughts and experiences have more cognitive resources for other mental activities. When the journal holds all those worries and anxieties, your brain doesn’t have to anymore. Better yet, add a prayer to the end of the journal. If worry was the theme of that journal, thank God for your blessings and ask Him for peace. If stress was the theme, ask Him for rest.
Number three: let it go. This is so, so hard for us. We don’t ever want to let go of our negative thoughts and emotions. In fact, our brains make it so that we don’t remember positive experiences as easily as we remember negative ones. We have to work extra hard to face each day with positivity, but when we do, the results cannot be ignored.
Also, try physically decluttering your desk or workspace. With fewer physical items around us, it is easier for us to stay focused on the task at hand. And, like we discussed last week, meditate for a brain break. It will clear the mind in ways that you never knew you needed.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Our four-part series on the core values of stewardship – identity, trust, gratitude, and love – continues this week with trust. Trust in God comes naturally from our identity with him, as his daughters and sons. We don’t create all the things we have; God does, who gives them to us. We trust in him that there is something greater than ourselves going on around us. This strengthens our faith that this is so, and that we are carrying out his will.
We show our trust in God in how we manage and share all of our talents and material gifts that he gives us, that is, our time, talent, and treasure. We can feel confident that, if we are trustworthy in small, everyday matters, then God knows we are trustworthy in matters of greater importance. This realization means that we can grow in our own personal spirituality and stewardship and demonstrate God’s loving justice.
Being truthful and trustworthy and showing justice to others are important and essential components of stewardship. Justice is based on truth; we must be honest in how we treat others. We should not make excuses, or limit and hold back upon what we give to people in need.
Let us model our efforts on Saint Paul, who says in our second reading, “I … do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
As stewards, we have integrity, and should be forthright and honest in all of our dealings. All we need to do is to trust in God, and have the strength and willingness to carry out his will. Everything else that we need will follow.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
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