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Gift of Grace

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What was the last gift you received that truly surprised you and changed your life? Maybe it was a tool that helped you better organize your life or helped you to finally lose that stubborn weight. Maybe it was a gift that changed the trajectory of your life or gave you a second chance at life itself. Gifts that have the ability to change our lives often come from people who truly love us.

Through the sacraments, we receive an undeserved gift from God called grace. This sanctifying grace helps us get into heaven. So what are you doing daily to stir your faith so that it is a fire that consumes all parts of your life?

Unfortunately, I believe many of us can treat our faith as another activity to squeeze into our busy lives. When we treat our faith as an activity, as an obligation, it is easy to place faith on the back burner when life gets busy. Our faith is not an activity, it’s a relationship with a God who loves us. A God who is constantly willing to give us the gifts we need to handle the turbulence in our lives and was willing to give the gift of Himself for us to spend eternity with Him. What are we doing with that gift to better ourselves, better others, and better our relationship God?

Complacent

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Recently at Mass, a word during the first reading popped out at me. The word was "complacent". The text read, "Woe to the complacent in Zion" (Amos 6:1). To be complacent is to be self-satisfied to the point of not working for change because contentment blinds you to the issues at hand. In the reading, those in Zion are resting on their laurels while suffering surrounds them. They are blind to it. Have I grown complacent? Have you grown complacent? So stuck in what I am doing that I have grown negligent to the needs around me? Have I grown self-absorbed to the point of not wanting to bother with anything outside my comfort zone?

That word has bothered me for days now. Complacent implies being unmoved. If our purpose is to come to know, love, and serve God, we can never become complacent. (This might be where the warning came from in the first reading.) Our goal is to live in relationship with Jesus. We strive to help one another get to heaven. None of this can happen with complacency. We can never be satisfied with just being, we have to move. We have to move from knowing, to loving, to serving. This is discipleship. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to never be complacent. To be better. To be more. Not just for yourself but for God and your fellow human beings. I guess I got my answer for how to be the best version of myself this week. What about you?

Be-Loved

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I must tell you, the gospel readings for these last two months have been challenging to me. Words that started the month with “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” A couple of weeks ago, the story of the prodigal son, and this week the story of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Most of the remarks from Jesus are directed to his disciples…that’s us. The words of Jesus around discipleship are both hard and easy at the same time.

Hard, because Jesus’ call to give up everything and follow him, means letting go of all the protections we have built up over the years. Protections which mask our shame, imagine our control, and falsify our security.

Easy, because of the realizations of the false, paper protections they are. What does God want from us? In short, he wants our response to the unconditional love he offers, and has been offering since he “knew us in the womb.” Why do we, including myself, find it so hard to believe God will provide?

Instead we struggle, we scheme, we try to make life work, and when it doesn’t, we run to God like injured little children run to their parent. I am sure God doesn’t mind how we come to him, but I also know the peace of really letting God provide, and knowing, even if sporadically, that his love lets us lead the best life possible. We could be distressed by the commands of Jesus by trying to be humble, to be compassionate, to be empathetic. The revelation in these attempts is the word “be”. If you wish to know what it takes to follow God, just remember who we are…his beloved, and stop trying so hard to “do” and instead…be-loved.

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