Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009 ~ Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

John 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”


This Gospel directly follows the previous week's reading on the Eucharist. I am amazed at how Jesus' reaction to the doubt of his followers applies so directly to all of our struggles in life. Here is my translation of what the Lord is saying:

"This saying is hard; who can accept it?" = Life is hard, people. This is a fact. We are called to take the road less traveled. We are called to be counter-cultural. We are, especially as mothers, called to sacrifice in ways no one understands. Jesus could have said this about his other teachings, as I mentioned last week, and so, we can perhaps apply this to all that God asks of us.

"Does this shock you?" = Why are we surprised when life is hard? We go along happily and when we hit a rock, we act indignant. How could this happen to me? Rather than look at it as an opportunity for faith, as an opportunity for growth, we act astonished that we would be asked to endure such pain or carry such a burden. These are supposed to be gifts.

"It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail." = Our flesh is nothing. This life is not our focus. The things of this world will pass away, and we must be willing to sacrifice them...all of them. I do not wish to make light of tragedies, as I have read plenty lately to make my heart ache, but what I wish to do is question our attitudes towards our daily obsessions with material things.

"The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." = Faith is the way to eternal life. Even in the sometimes terrifying difficult times of our lives, our faith must remain. We must, regardless of whether or not we can utter any other prayer, continually state that we believe God works in all things for good. We know God has a hand in our crosses, our struggles, our tragedies, and that He will bring mercy to those situations if we believe.

"Many of His disciples returned to their former way of life." = Do we give up? Do we refuse to accept the cross God puts before us, because it is too hard? If we do this, we are lost. There is no place to turn except to the darkness. We must endure. We must not give up, persevering in faith, believing that eternal life is available to us through Jesus Christ.

"Master, to whom shall we go?" = If you believe in Jesus Christ, giving up is not an option. Blood, sweat, and tears must be shed if we truly love our Lord. There is no where else to turn than to Him, who allows us to receive the challenges of life to bring us closer to Him. We must endure. We must believe and in believing, accept His gifts of blessing and painful growth.

Lord, your hand is in all things. My faith is strong, because I believe that you are the one, true God. I believe that you have the promise of eternal life. Help me to stand firm in that faith. Help me to endure despite whatever difficulties you may choose to allow in my life. I will not turn away, and I know you will never turn away from me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review ~ Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to review Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice: A Guide for Spiritual Survival by Rev. Joseph F. Classen. We were very much attracted to the title, as its principles seem absolutely fabulous, and in the end, I feel it is an inspiring read...for the right audience.

First, I gave the book to my husband, since it was written for guys. Quite simply he said he could not get into the book. The anecdotes and conversational style were not conducive to his reading of the subject matter. True, the book is written as if Fr. Classen is speaking to his buddies after a long day of wild boar bowhunting (and if you do not know anything about wild boar bowhunting, read the book). So, I think it was simply written for a different audience. My husband prefers books on the faith that are very direct and applicable to his life. He doesn't hunt (although, for the record, neither of us are opposed to such sport) and isn't much of an outdoorsman. I guess I shouldn't have handed him the book.

So, in order to do justice to this review, I decided to pick up the book and read it myself. Honestly, I skimmed it. Once again, the stories and jargon definitely do not appeal to me. Several chapter titles can tell you why: Turkey Love, Hog Wild!, and Elk Lust, to name a few. This book definitely targets a very specific audience --- male.

Instead of detailing why I did not enjoy the book, however, let me instead tell you what type of person probably would enjoy this book (in my imagination). To its credit, it is creatively written and theologically sound, and overall an excellent book, just not my style.

This book is for men, preferably men who do some kind of hunting or at least wish they could, but live in a modern world. These men appreciate Tommy Lee Jones, Eddie Van Halen, and a couple of priests telling tales about their adventures in the wilderness, hunting and loving God. Their minds are willing to stretch a bit to understand the comparisons Fr. Classen makes between our spiritual life and sitting in a tree stand before dawn waiting for nature to come alive. He does an excellent job explaining such analogies clearly, but the reader has to be willing to follow them through. Should you know such a man, here is what he will enjoy:
  • Fr. Classen's easy-going writing style will inspire men to consider more seriously the virtues of faith, hope, and love while on a turkey shoot.
  • Pride and humility will make more sense while hog hunting.
  • Greed, envy, and charity come to the surface through the stories of the Trick or Treat Buck and a summertime float trip.
  • The perfect fishing trip introduces readers to positive ways to cope with anger and wrath.
  • A new humongous outdoor catalog will lead to an evaluation of greed, and he does manage to get to chastity with a great story about his first elk-hunting trip (okay, so I found that one pretty interesting).
  • Of course, finally, he explains the opposites of sloth and diligence with an outline of what makes a successful outdoorsman.
Overall, yes, I would recommend this book if you have an outdoorsy, hunting kind of man who wants some spiritual guidance that makes sense without making him give up his "man card." The creativity of this book just might captivate those reluctant readers, too! Head on over to The Catholic Company to order a copy for a father, brother, husband, etc...

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Tracking Virtue, Conquering Vice.

Prayerfully Planning Days 4-6 = Spontaneity

I have never been good at spontaneity. I prefer to lay out all of my plans in advance and then throw a fit (usually internally) that they do not play out as I had planned! For some reason, though, over the weekend, I decided we would begin "school light" this week, since the children were complaining of boredom approximately every hour. This morning, in the shower, I decided that today is our first day of school! Yes, I now have a pre-K boy and a 2nd grader! They received their Schultütes this morning (planned well in advance but assembled while they did morning chores), a new tradition for sure! Let me back up, though...

Although I have not been posting these last three days, I have been working. On Friday, I tweaked that schedule I posted on Thursday and moved some of the books to the living/learning room that hadn't yet migrated. Saturday, I added a step to my to do list and wrote down every book that I plan to use for each subject area listed on my schedule. That took much longer than I thought, as I had too much and had to make some priorities. Yesterday, I wrote lesson plans for this week, light ones, just to get us going.

What this means is that I now have a very rough sketch of how this year will go. The to do list is almost entirely done, including the added step of the book list. If you recall, I was on number 5 on Day 3.

For liturgical and catechetical, I am all done except for the First Communion notebook contents, but we are not starting her notebook until September (so I have time). I have decided to go month by month on liturgical plans, so August is done. My morning basket items are now set. And, I did accomplish the outlining of the essentials (reading, writing, math) and decided how to finish the Alphabet Path and Little Saints.

All that is left undone are items we are not starting until September: our liturgical plans, First Communion notebook, history, geography, and science. So, now you can see why I decided to dive right in and start school today! The children were actually quite excited with the surprise, so I was pleased.

Well, recess time is almost over, so I need to get back to it!