Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Listening for God this New Year (Part 2)

Circumstances of Our Daily Lives
Of course it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are called to listen for God in our daily lives.  However, it seems that it is easy to go through each day in a hurry, not fully awake to the presence of God in each and every moment.  Throughout each day we have many experiences – some we name as great, wonderful, and maybe others as bad or not so good.  We might enjoy an experience or want it to be over and yet, do we reflect on how God is speaking to us in our daily lives?  Could God be speaking to me in that disagreement I had with my father this weekend or that wonderful conversation I had with my sister?  When I passed that homeless man this morning and found myself looking down rather than meeting the sad gaze in his eyes, could God have been speaking to me then?  When I arrived this evening and someone welcomed me with a hug, did I take time to reflect on the warmth of God’s presence? God is speaking in every moment.  How do we listen?  Are we listening?

Integrity of Daily Life
            And, finally, how is God speaking to me and how am I listening for God through the integrity of my life.  What do I mean by this?  Well, it seems to me that, in today’s world, there are so many ways to present ourselves to others.  We can so easily compartmentalize our lives and not be true to God’s call in all places.  For instance, we can present ourselves one way on Facebook and another way with our Church community.  Or it might be that we look one way with our Church community and another way at a party.  People can meet different versions of us in different places rather than meeting who we really are.  Who is God calling you to be?  Can you risk being the person God calls you to be in every place you find yourself?  I think as we listen for God’s voice in 2011, we might do well to listen to our own lives and see if we are living our with integrity for God. 

            As we begin this New Year, we have been given the gift of 365 days (we’ve already lived 26 of them) to listen for God. Let us use this time well and may we find ourselves transformed by the experienced and filled with the love that God gives.  May we truly be astonished by what we hear when we truly listen for God in everyone and everything, every day of our lives.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Listening for God this New Year (Part 1)

How are we called to Listen for God in the New Year.  God is close to us, always present, ever near.   In a sense, all we need to do is to listen, to open ourselves up to the presence that is already within and all around us.  It is so easy to walk through our life not fully awake.  But God wants to communicate with us and offers us a multitude of ways to listen.  So the first thing we need to do is wake up.  How and where is God speaking, and how are you called to listen?

If you have or would visit our monastery, you would read the words Seek God above the entryway as soon as you enter the doors of the monastery.  It is a reminder to each of the sisters and to all of our guests that we are called to Seek God to listen for God in each moment of our lives.  In fact, we have a refrain that is sung at the election of a superior, the vows of a sister, and at any other important moment in our monastery – “Seek God in everyone and everything, every day of your life.”  We could just as easily say Listen for God in everyone and everything, every day of your life.”  And yet, how do we do this?  I would like to offer us four ways of listening for God. 

I believe that the foundation of all of our listening is found in prayer.  It is so important to take time each day for silence so that we can open up a space within to hear the voice of God that speaks to us in every moment and every place.  It is easy during our time of prayer to forget to listen for God.  We might have lots on our mind that we want to share with God and, as a result, we talk a lot but forget to listen.  So one way to listen for God is to include within your time of prayer time for silence so that you can listen to God with the ear of your heart.  Maybe this time will come after you have spoken to God, maybe it will come before. It is not important when you take time for silence but that you take time for silence.  As we learn to listen for God in the silence, we slowly tune our hearts to the sound of God’s voice.   There is no substitute for prayer.  It is on the foundation of prayer that all of our life is built.  It is through prayer, that we will more readily hear God’s voice in other places.

God also speaks to us through our relationships.  Sometimes God nurtures us through these relationships and at other times God challenges us.  I think it is important to take time to look at our relationships and reflect on who the people are in my life that helps me listen for God more clearly.  As we reflect on these relationships, we will also want to take time to look at ourselves and reflect on how we help others listen for God in their lives.  It might be that as we reflect we realize that some of our relationships are not relationships that open us up to God’s voice.  It would do us well to spend time with this reality and discern what we need to do to change the quality of these relationships. 
I know that in my own life I am very thankful for the relationships that help me listen for God more deeply and more clearly.  In these relationships, I can be myself, I can be vulnerable and I am able to hear God speaking to me through them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Courage to Follow God's Call

This past weekend, we received a new Affiliate to our Community. As I was waiting with our Sisters in the lobby, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the day that I became an Affiliate nearly 11 years ago. I had been discerning my vocation to religious life and was spending some time at Our Lady of Grace Monastery, learning about and experiencing Benedictine monastic life and getting to know some of the Sisters here. One day, I was telling my story to Sr. Catherine, one of our Senior Sisters. When I was finished, she pondered a bit, and said to me, “I think you are ready.” So, she walked with me down the hall to Sr. Joan Marie’s office (Vocation Director at the time) and then she got on the elevator.

I know Sr. Catherine was praying for me as I stood on the threshold of my future life. I stepped into Sr. Joan Marie’s office, took a deep breath, and before I would run out of courage, I told her that I would like to become an Affiliate of this Community. As we began planning the next steps, I felt a slight panic. What was I doing? My whole life could change if I pursued this call that I felt deep in my heart. I told her, “I feel really reckless right now.” “How do you think Simon and Andrew felt when Jesus called them?” was her response. I felt in good company then, and a deep peace in taking this first step toward the rest of my life. Actually, I knew deep down, as those early disciples of Jesus must also have known, that my heart had been “seized by Christ.” I could make no other choice than to follow him.

My spiritual director at the time had been helping me to understand that Christ was laboring within me to lead me to where I would find union with him. On the evening of my Affiliation ceremony, I had this image of Christ riding on a stationary bike (laboring within me). For a brief moment, Christ stopped pedaling, raised his hands off the bars, rejoiced that I had taken this first step, and returned to his pedaling – he knew he still had a lot of labor to do on my behalf. In the weeks and months that followed, I received a profound grace to prepare to begin my life here at Our Lady of Grace Monastery. Christ’s labor within me and God’s love, grace and mercy continues to keep me here as a Sister of St. Benedict.

During this National Vocations Awareness Week I thank God for the gift of my vocation and for the abundance of blessings I continue to receive as I strive to follow God’s will. I know for certain that God cannot be outdone in generosity. And, I am continually encouraged by a saying that appeared on a bookmark that my mother gave me on the day I entered: “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Holding Christmas and the Triduum Together

On Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, we will come to the end of the Christmas Season.   This Christmas Season was short and it seems hard to believe that it will be over so soon.  In just two months from Sunday we will begin the season of Lent.  Sometimes the seasons of Advent/Christmas and the season of Lent/Easter can seem so different and yet they are so closely connected.  The reading from the Orthodox Royal Hours is deeply moving to me and makes the deep connection that we cannot celebrate one with the other.  I hope that you find it meaningful as well.

“The Winter Pascha”
(Verses from the Orthodox “Royal Hours”
for Christmas Eve and Good Friday)

The One who holds all creation in the hollow of a hand is born today
of a Virgin.

The One who hung the earth upon the waters is hung today upon
the Cross.

The One whose essence none can touch is wrapped in swaddling clothes
as a mortal.

The One who rules the angels is crowned today with thorns.

God, who in the beginning created the heavens, lies now in a manger.

God, who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple.

The One who rained manna down on the people in the wilderness is fed on milk from a mother’s breast.

The One who set Eve and Adam free in the Jordan is slapped in the face.

Today the Church’s Spouse calls forth the Magi.

Today the Church’s Spouse is nailed to the cross.

The Virgin’s Child accepts their gifts.

The Virgin’s Child is pierced with a spear.

We worship your nativity, O Christ!

We worship you passion, O Christ!

Show us your glorious Nativity!

Show us, too, your glorious Resurrection!