Monday, February 24, 2020

Our Choice: A Reign of Death or To Reign in Life

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, March 1, 2020, via our parish blog

We made an impromptu date night of it -- put the kids to bed early, enjoyed a quiet dinner at the kitchen table, and read through this Sunday's scriptures. Here's what we came up with:

As Lent begins, our readings this week present a choice. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes two options -- a reign of death or a reign in life:
"For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17, emphasis added)
In our reading from the book of Genesis, we see a reign of death begin as Satan tempts the first humans in the Garden of Eden: seeing "the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom," Eve ate the fruit and gave some to her husband, Adam, who was with her (Genesis 3:6).

How can we tell if we're living under a reign of death?

1. We're more easily tempted away from God's best for us; like Adam and Eve, we are easily sidetracked by things that appear filling, beautiful, or powerful.

2. We're more likely to bring others down with us, as Eve did with Adam, offering him the fruit after she ate it.

3. We're more likely to have poor moral support around us, as Adam was for Eve as he stood by, silent and inactive, during Satan's attempt to pull them away from God.

This Sunday's Responsorial Psalm 51 mourns our choices that lead to death; we pray with the scripture, committing ourselves to God's grace: Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Then, in our Gospel reading from the book of Matthew, we see Satan tempt Jesus in a similar way that he deceived Adam and Eve. Will hunger, a beautiful view, and an invitation to immediate power distract Jesus, as it did the first humans? On the contrary, Jesus recalls God's Word and uses it to dismiss Satan's manipulation of Scripture; Jesus' choices lead to a reign in life.

How can we tell if we're reigning in life with Jesus?

1. We hold onto God's Word; if someone tries to twist God's words, as the serpent did with Adam and Eve --

"Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees…?" (Genesis 3:1, emphasis added)
-- we can respond like Jesus, with the accurate words of God, and command him to leave:  
"Get away, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10) 
2. We hold onto God's goodness; we believe that God desires the best for us, and we won't be distracted by Satan's suggestions that anything is more filling, more beautiful, or more powerful than God.

3. We hold onto God; our ultimate Source and Summit, the One who created us and desires good for us, will care for us with tender compassion in times of temptation and distress, just as in Jesus' weakness, angels came to minister to him. (Matthew 4:11)

How can I use this Lenten season to help me better hold onto God's Word, hold onto God's goodness, and hold onto God? How can God's "abundance of grace and gift of justification" help me reign in life with Jesus?

Photo by Daniel Leeves (2016) via Freely, CCO Public Domain.

*Also published 2/23/20 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Was St. Josemaria Escriva a Feminist?

An excerpt from my post at FemCatholic, responding to a reader's question whether Opus Dei and feminism are compatible:

I’ll stop short of declaring St. Josemaría's inevitable endorsement of Catholic feminism out of respect for his repeated refusal to connect Opus Dei to any social or political movement to avoid detraction from his one central focus, Jesus Christ:
“For more than thirty years I have said and written in thousands of different ways that Opus Dei does not seek any worldly or political aims, that it only and exclusively seeks to foster — among all races, all social conditions, all countries — the knowledge and practice of the saving teachings of Christ. … But there will always be a partisan minority who are ignorant of what I and so many of us love. They would like us to explain Opus Dei in their terms, which are exclusively political, foreign to supernatural realities, attuned only to power plays and pressure groups.” (Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By 70)
From this uncompromising conviction, Josemaría protected Opus Dei’s primary mission — “the saving teachings of Christ” — by refusing to entangle his organization in any political alliance, liberal or conservative, even when those politics claimed Catholic foundations. 

When Monsignor Giovanni Benelli, a high-ranking Vatican official, attempted to create a Catholic political party in Spain, Escrivá firmly refused any support from Opus Dei. He condemned what he called the “pseudo-spiritual one-party mentality,” insisting that “Opus Dei can never be, in the political life of a country, a kind of political party: there is and always will be room within Opus Dei for all outlooks and approaches allowed by a Christian conscience” (John Allen, Opus Dei 105).

For more perspective on Opus Dei & women, and for my take on this, um, special quote from St. Josemaria --

“Women are responsible for eighty percent of the infidelities of their husbands because they do not know how to win them each day and take loving and considerate care of them.” (Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer, number 107)
-- read the rest at FemCatholic!

Monday, February 17, 2020

St. Josemaria, A Train, & Motherhood

Often, the moment-by-moment intensity of parenting young kids so overwhelms me that I accidentally block God's presence from the everyday ruckus in my life.

Oh, I ask Him to bookend each day -- morning prayer (before the kids get up), examination of conscience as I fall asleep -- but all that mayhem in the middle? There just doesn't seem to be space for Him.

Surely God has more important places to be than in my kitchen in Conroe, Texas, convincing my 3-year-old to wear pants.

Surely He would prefer a quiet church to my loud house...

Or a safe tabernacle to my rough-and-tumble crew...

Or a cloistered convent where everyone's capable of praying without kicking the person next to them!

And yet, St. Josemaria Escriva, a Spanish priest and founder of Opus Dei, is helping me realize that God's favorite place to be is simply... wherever we are. In a homily on October 8, 1967, Josemaria counseled:

"There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it… We discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things." - St. Josemaria Escriva

We might say, with a little envy, "Well, what would he know? He's just another solitudinous priest who could never comprehend the decibel level of daily life in my household!"

And yet, do you know where St. Josemaria had one of his most profound visions of God? It was on a rush-hour train in Madrid, crowded with passengers.

Maybe Josemaria stood up without a seat, holding an overhead railing; maybe someone repeatedly bumped against him as the train jolted along the tracks; maybe someone on one side chattered nonstop about nothing while someone on the other side grumbled for them to be quiet. That sounds something like motherhood, right?!

Yet, somehow, within the cacophony of that crowded train, St. Josemaria unexpectedly encountered God: in a passing, transcendent moment, he understood God as Father in a way he never had before. Hours earlier, Josemaria had struggled to hear God's voice in the quiet atmosphere of his parish, and yet here on a train, surrounded by the clamorous city of Madrid, Josemaria could hear and understand God with complete clarity. He began to exclaim, "Abba! Father!"

People must have thought he was crazy. Or, I don't know, just another day on the train with weird commuters.

As moms, how many of us, while earnestly living our family vocations in the everyday world, have had others glance our way and wonder, "Is she a little crazy?" 

Every one of us! I have no doubt that every person who has ever taken a small child out in public has experienced the blessed humility of divine vocation crashing into public reality.

In my most hectic days, St. Josemaria's extraordinary encounter with God on a crowded train in Madrid is a comforting thought.

God desires to be fully present with every one of us, wherever we are -- driving in rush hour, praying in Adoration, printing copies at work, with kids at the store, even wiping someone else's pee off the toilet seat for the thousandth time in a week.

God's favorite place to be is… wherever we are.

Where will you discover, as St. Josemaria described, "something holy, something divine" in this hectic, ordinary day?

Photo by Oleg Sergeichik on Unsplash

*Also published at in Feb 2020