theROCK

Pruning

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As a Master Gardener, I have developed an appreciation for the practice of pruning. Sometimes, I prune away plants carefully in order to protect the integrity of the landscaping design. Other times, I am bold in order to promote growth where it has grown stagnant. This may be why I like Lent so much. It is my favorite liturgical season. It is an intentional time of year to prune away habits that have prevented me from being the best version of myself. It provides the time to focus on new
growth through the three pillars of praying, fasting, and almsgiving. 

Prayer helps us to connect with Jesus to truly appreciate what He has done for us and continues to do for us throughout our lives. He suffered so that we do not. Fasting helps us to remove those things from our lives that get in the way of us being the best versions of ourselves. It is more than just giving up chocolate or other tempting food. We are called to examine our lives and work to eliminate the obstacles that prevent us from loving God as we should and loving others as we should. Try to fast from bothersome behaviors that create conflict and discord. Many of us choose to fast from food to appreciate suffering and identify with the poor. Our temporary suffering due to a growling belly can be a reason to turn to God in prayer. Almsgiving helps us to support others who are not as fortunate as us. We have so much while others have little. Almsgiving requires a level of sacrifice much like fasting does. Take the money you would spend on something frivolous and unnecessary and use it to share with those in need.

 

Posted by Jill Fischer

The Continuation of the Gospel

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What does it mean when St. Paul implores us to preach the Gospel?  Does that mean we need to know every word of scripture and shout it from a soap box on a street corner? While this could be one way, I would argue St. Paul is talking about a more personal Gospel.

I once knew someone who was fond of saying that the Bible has many chapters, but it is only the first chapter in the larger Gospel, the Good News of God. She claimed each one of us, our individual stories, are a continuation of that Gospel. We all have episodes of time where we feel close to God, but then something, like sin, separates us from Him. He then restores the relationship with us, causing us to turn back to Him and His Church. Each of these personal stories that we hold in our hearts are little Gospels. When we tell others of these stories we are doing what St. Paul implores in 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19 .

When I first became Catholic, I hesitated to share what God did in my life, because I thought I might sound crazy to others. However, in every instance, when I thought it would be poorly received, I was met instead with open minds and curiosity, even while working in the secular world as a recruiter at ManpowerGroup Solutions. 

As Simon says to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 1:29-39, “Everyone is looking for you.”  Everyone around us is looking for a savior, most spend years searching in the wrong places. It is our responsibility to share Jesus, by sharing the Gospel He works in our lives, with them, so they might see and hope in Him. 

Brokenness

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In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus is calling his Apostles and welcomes the tax collector, Levi, into the group. Tax collectors were considered the dregs of humanity back in Jesus’s time. They were overwhelmingly unpopular for many reasons. However, here is Jesus calling one unto himself. The text says that Levi simply got up and followed Jesus. No question. No concern. Simply obeyed. Later in that passage, Jesus is seen at dinner at Levi’s house with the other apostles and growing number of disciples. Some scribes, who were Pharisees, imagine spies for the religion police, were watching this and commenting among themselves, for how could Jesus sit among such horrid and wretched people as tax collectors and sinners. Evidently, they are above reproach. The scribes ask themselves, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus hears this and responds, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do; I have come to call not the righteous but the sinner.” This is for sure a mic drop moment! I am fairly certain that the scribes don’t quite understand what Jesus is saying. We should, but they don’t. Jesus did not come for those who are “perfect”; He came for those who are broken. We are all broken in one way or another. Jesus came so that we may be united with Him and healed of that brokenness. We are already whole in just knowing Him, further healed by serving Him, and all consumed when loving Him. It is in our imperfection that we are made perfect. Jesus meets us right there just like He did Levi and every other poor soul at the table. It was those who already thought they were perfect that He simply couldn’t reach. I think of them as the do-gooders who are just looking for appreciation but miss the purpose of doing good, or those who can regurgitate doctrine or dogma but just can’t seem to apply it. They didn’t get it. They were unable to humble themselves.

When reading the gospel, place yourself in the story. Take a moment to read Mark 2: 13-17 and the surrounding verses. Where would you be found? Would you be at the table, in the room, in the shadows, among the scribes, out in the street? What would it sound like, smell like, feel like? If you heard this first hand, what would you be thinking? Encounter Christ here. Let him speak to you. Let your mind get carried away in the exercise. Build your relationship with Jesus.

Posted by Jill Fischer

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