lessons.

Photo Courtesy of Jared Schaaf Photography

“Jesus, Son of the Father, you show me how you live by your Word. Let your lessons be bound to my heart.”

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network

For the last 31 weeks I have been participating in an Online Retreat offered through Creighton University. Anyone may start the retreat at any time; however, it was developed for and encouraged to be made following the Liturgical Seasons. Which simply put means: an outlined calendar provides a guide for making the retreat according to a schedule that conforms to the Liturgical year!

In early September our Pastor, Fr. Larry Richards, encouraged parish members to consider making this retreat. I was intrigued, looked into the specifics, and then invited a few others to join me in signing up for the 34 week retreat.

I was the only one who did.

(Giggles.)

When I first began in mid-September with Week One I began with great hope and confidence!

By the end of Week Three…I wanted to quit.

The retreat at first felt daunting – and there were many initial steps which were rather challenging for me. Understandably, whenever God calls us into a deeper relationship with Him there are bound to be growing pains; however, by following the advise of the study guidelines – to take it easy, go slowly, take a little bit each day – I discovered quickly God can never be outdone in generosity. Ultimately, through the ensuing flow of the weeks, a tremendous opening for God to work in me was being created.

Now, just 31 short (ha-ha) weeks later, I can barely believe that there are only 3 weeks remaining – and I am a bit saddened by this. However, if I’ve learned anything it is not to expect, look for, or demand anything. It’s about feelings. It’s about God’s fidelity. It’s about gratitude. It’s about a journey.

Sometimes the journey will move slowly.

And sometimes lightning fast!

But no matter – because all we need to do is give God just a little space to transform our everyday lives, a moment at a time.

This week in the Liturgical Calendar with the scriptures, as the study has encouraged me to walk my own Road to Emmaus beside Him, I’ve begun to realize the mystery of our everyday lives is – that Jesus IS with us! (With a Capital I-S!)

We just don’t often recognize Him.

Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,1 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.  Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Luke 24:13-35

Just like the disciples, who were quite caught up in discouragement because Good Friday had been so devastating to the hopes they had – we too can easily get absorbed in problems, discouragements, and worries and are thereby unable to see Jesus with us. The study encourages us to identify with the two distraught disciples with their saying, “we had different hopes.” And to share the experience of recognition in the breaking of bread. Throughout the week, in all the background times, we are to return to these thoughts. By doing so, this will help to be more conscious of Jesus’ being with us. It will also help to see and experience the discouragement and really dark moments that can happen in the day in a very different way. Some examples from the study to help better explain are:

“I find myself at a meeting with several difficult people (or on the phone listening to a friend talk about a family conflict, or I’m watching television and seeing the terrible news of war or some violent crime). The moment I feel my spirit start to go down – in the presence of such conflicts or failures at reconciliation or outright evil – I will do a very brief exercise. I will imagine Jesus: taking, blessing, breaking and giving bread. In that moment, I can be open to the grace of seeing that He is present here, in this situation, being broken and given, if only I open my eyes and see.

Creighton University Online Retreat, Week 31

In this breaking-of-bread moment, in our everyday life, we recognize HE IS THERE! In that moment, we will no longer be alone. We will instead be opened to experience love and freedom.

God’s victory over this encounter with sin and death becomes very real!

In these past 31 weeks Jesus has been confronting my own discouragement by revealing himself and inviting me to fall in love with him and his pattern of giving his life away.

His gift of SELF is – for me – as for all of us.

And just as the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus with Him, recognizing this very thing – my heart is burning within me!

hugs n’ blessings for all the lessons to be learned, when we open our eyes!

Do you remember?

A wise Irishman.
An Irishman.

A wise Irish Man once asked us: “Do you remember, the 21st of September?”

“Yes, we do!”

And there have been indelible marks left behind as the clock changes to 22 September.

 Like wine stains on your favorite table-covering that can never be removed, some memories remain forever.

There will be several 21st(s) of September I will always remember.

I will definately add this years’ to the list (along with the others!)

Yesterday Pope Francis delivered one such indelible moment as I listened to the live coverage of his homily message to the thousands gathered in Revolutionary Plaza in Cuba.

I pray a word or two leave an indelible mark on your heart as well.

PopeFrancis2015
An Argentinian.

Pope Francis told the crowds on 21 September 15:

On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: “Follow me”. Matthew got up and followed him.

Jesus looked at him. How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did! What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table! We know that Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others. Publicans belonged to this social class.

Jesus, on the other hand, stopped; he did not quickly take his distance. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully. He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart; it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: “I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”. I ask you, in your homes or in the Church, to be still for a moment and to recall with gratitude and happiness those situations, that moment, when the merciful gaze of God was felt in our lives.

Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.

After the Lord looked upon him with mercy, he said to Matthew: “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him. After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion. Before, he had sat waiting to collect his taxes, to take from others; now, with Jesus he must get up and give, give himself to others. Jesus looks at him and Matthew encounters the joy of service. For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be “lived off”, used and abused. The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.”

Jesus looks at Matthew with Love and Mercy. Everyone wants to be noticed. Children are forever saying to their parents ‘Look at me, Look at me.” One of the most painful crosses are those who feel invisible. No one seems to notice or look at them.

Jesus looks at us. Jesus looks into our eyes. In the Gospel today, Jesus stops and looks at a man who everyone considered an outcast. Jesus simply looks at him with Love, and Matthew followed him.

Jesus is looking at you today with eyes full of love and mercy.

And so I ask: “Will you remember?”

these hugs n’ blessings are for that holy moment when you realize God is looking at you.