I am reading a
book called The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski. The subtitle is
Discovering What Death Can Teach Us about Living Fully. The third
invitation-- “Bringing Your Whole Self to the Experience”—resonated with me as I
read today’s passage from Hebrews. That is exactly what God does for us by
becoming one of us. God brings God’s whole self to our experience.
years, I have struggled to understand Christ’s suffering and death, particularly
since it can seem like it has made no appreciable difference in our world. Wars
and horrible violence continue, children starve, the poor grow poorer, and the
haughty prosper. But by the Incarnation, God was born (and continues to be born)
so that we might learn how to live and live fully. By his resurrection, Jesus
taught us (and continues to teach us) that nothing we encounter on this earth is
his whole self to every experience. He listens to each person he encounters. He
never assumes to know what they need but allows them to tell him. He takes time
to engage every person he meets and does so on their own terms, even when they
choose to walk away. He suffers frustration and loss and pain; he revels in the
presence of friends and feels anger at injustice. He asks God for help when his
body and spirit are weak.
By his life,
Christ consecrates our lives, welcoming us as sisters and brothers, accompanying
us as we travel the path he has already laid for us. Let us look to him always
to guide our way to abundant life!
“Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please
people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of
I can think of a few politicians to whom I might send this verse. It seems some
put pleasing people (and getting reelected) over and above integrity! It is a
sad truth that being faithful to Christ’s teachings can put us at odds with
family members, friends, co-workers, and society. Maybe it’s sticking up for
someone being discriminated against or calling out those who spread rumors in
school or the workplace. Perhaps we find ourselves called to speak out about
injustice. Or perhaps, like Jesus, we are called to listen patiently and discern
wisely, being open to learn something new (think of the story of the Syro-Phoenician
woman). As you do your examen each night, ask yourself, “Did I look to please
who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to
I’ve read a few articles recently about members of hate-groups who have seen the
light and are trying to make up for past sins. It can be hard to discern at
times if someone who has gone through “a conversion” is genuinely changed. They
may have been hurtful, even vicious in the past. The best advice is found in
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:16: “By their fruits, you will know them.” Are they
truly repentant, willing to admit their past sins and make amends, or do they
deny their sins? Have they asked for forgiveness? Has enough time passed that
the new fruits of their lives are evident? Have we given them the support they
need to sustain the change? We glorify God for his gift of mercy and pray those
who have seen the light will continue to follow it.
James, Cephas, and John gave me their right hands in partnership that we should
go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, we were to be mindful of
the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do.
(Gal 2:1-2, 7-14)
There’s a lot to do for the new church, lots of people who need to hear the Good
News, so the early disciples divvy up the responsibility: Paul and his crew will
travel to the Gentiles, and Peter, et.al, will tend to the Jewish population. It
makes sense; charitable outreaches do that same thing today. But it’s important
to remember that just because we are focused on one need or one population, we
not ignore the poverty right in front of us. In an effort to do well in our
chosen ministry, we might forget to do good for those closest to us who might be
suffering from spiritual or emotional poverty. Let’s always be mindful of the
poor, including those who are well-fed but starving from a lack of the Spirit.
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be
opened to you.”(Lk
There’s a New Yorker cartoon that pictures God in front of a TV.
Responding to a request from an attendant angel, God says: “I can’t deal with
any famines, massacres, or epidemics right now—I’ve got to help some guy sink a
foul shot.” We don’t like to admit it, but often the things we ask of God are,
in the grand scheme of things, quite trivial. And when we don’t get our desired
answer in the desired amount of time, we question if God is there for us, or
blame God’s unresponsiveness on our own sinfulness, as if we have control over
what God does or does not do! Ask God, not for things, but for the grace to
accept his will.
“He will forever be mindful of his covenant.”
we fail over and over again, God keeps his promise. God is ever mindful of the
covenant he made, not just with our ancestors in faith, but with each one of us.
Reflect on that fact—it is truly amazing! Then give thanks and praise to the One
who is eternally faithful.
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with
A professor friend of mine works with young people as they discern their future
professions. Using St. Ignatius’ rules for discernment, he advises them to “try
it on”—to think practically about what life in this or that job might look like.
I thought of this when I read “clothe yourself with Christ.” Paul tells us we
are already adorned as such by virtue of our baptism, but I know for myself, I
don’t always “wear Christ” very well. At times, Christ is hidden under a cloak
of selfishness and stubbornness. I don’t always care for my garment through
regular prayer and reflection. Sometimes, I question myself: Am I wearing the
real thing, or some cheap knock-off I try to pretend is authentic? Think about
this verse each morning when you are getting dressed. Be conscious of clothing
yourself with Christ and see what difference that can make in your day!
Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to
maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life.
She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral
Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental
psychology and spiritual guidance. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is
a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral
parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday
life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children,
David and Maggie.
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