Friday, September 11, 2020

Sorrow, Prophecy, & The Desire To Be Affirmed

Every person has seven basic desires: to be affirmed, safe, chosen, touched, included, blessed, heard and understood.*

These desires begin in childhood, and their fulfillment contributes to our healthy development as adults. We might ask ourselves, how were these desires met when I was a child? Did I feel affirmed? Safe? Chosen? Included? Blessed? Heard and understood? Did I experience positive physical touch?


As parents, we can ask, how am I meeting these needs in my children? 


An 800-year-old Scripture meditation on Mary's Seven Sorrows can deepen our understanding of these seven basic desires. In the words of St. Alphonsus Di Liguori: "As a general rule, the sufferings of children are also the sufferings of their mothers who are present at and witness their torments."


When we meditate on Mary's sorrow at different points in Jesus' life, it opens our hearts to a new perspective on Christ's revolutionary mission. Consider Mary's First Sorrow, The Prophecy of Simeon, in light of the basic human desire to be affirmed.


In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph bring baby Jesus to the temple for consecration. Mary knew she held a special baby; but what did that mean practically, for the future and for that moment? Were they making the right choices so far? Were they missing anything? What if they messed up? 


How affirming it must have been to hear Simeon's prophecy, reassuring Mary and Joseph, yes, this is God's chosen one, "a light for revelation" (Luke 2:32). Yes, God is working in good ways in your life! 


His prophecy was both comforting and disconcerting, as Simeon warned Mary: "You yourself a sword will pierce" (Luke 2:35). His words brought a foretaste of the sorrow Mary would experience at Jesus' Crucifixion.


I wonder if Simeon felt nervous as he stopped to talk with Mary and Joseph. Have you ever felt your heart stirred to share an encouraging word with someone? Have you hesitated for fear it wouldn't be well-received? What if it doesn't resonate with them? What if they think I'm crazy? Couldn't the Holy Spirit say this better through someone else?


We are affirmed when someone acknowledges the good in us and the good in our work. Simeon affirmed Mary's role as the mother of the Messiah. Mary affirmed Simeon's prophecy and received the truth that she would experience deep sorrow as Jesus' mother. 


As we reflect on Mary's First Sorrow alongside the basic human desire to be affirmed, consider: How is this desire for positive affirmation met in my life? How can I meet this need in my child? 


Next week, we'll contemplate Mary's Second Sorrow, The Flight to Egypt, and the basic human desire to be safe.


Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin,

fresco by Niccolò Circignani and Antonio Tempesta, c. 1580

Alekjds / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) / Wikimedia Commons


*For more information on the seven human desires, check out: Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark & Debra Laaser.

Also published September 2020 at Sacred Heart Blog and CatholicMom.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

When Catholics Disagree on Politics: A Reflection on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, September 6, 2020, via our parish blog.

Wally and I don't always see eye-to-eye on politics. Thankfully, that's not a prerequisite for good, Catholic marriage! 

Despite disagreements on policies, programs, or candidates, we still find common ground in our faith. We're both discouraged by political polarization within the Catholic Church. We're both frustrated when political parties claim sole representation of our religion. We're both disheartened when Catholic leaders in formal relationships with the Churchour bishops, priests, nuns, sisters, and brotherspledge allegiance to secular American politicians (across the political spectrum). 

As we talked through this Sunday's readings, our conversation kept returning to religion, politics, and the temptation to cloister away from people who disagree with us. 

The Old Testament reading warns us to "dissuade the wicked from his way." (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

How many times do we justify political condemnation of "the other side" as concern for another's soul [when, let's be honest, we just want to win an argument on social media]?

Then the Psalmist admonishes, "Harden not your hearts." (Psalm 95)

How often do we assume "the other side" has hardened hearts — but surely not ourselves? 

In the New Testament reading, St. Paul teaches, "Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)

How tempting is it to claim the higher ground of love and assume any other viewpoint is motivated by vice? 

And then, in the Gospel, Jesus addresses how to correct someone we believe to be in error: "...take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church…" (Matthew 18:15-20)

How simple is it to find two or three Catholic friends who agree with us and are ready to condemn anyone who doesn't? How quickly can we flip through our Bibles, Catechisms, encyclicals in attempts to prove another Catholic wrong in politics? 

I know I'm guilty of all of these thoughts and actions. A helpful antidote is loving, praying and living with a Catholic who sees the world differently. We don't have to agree about everything for our prayer, as Catholics, to be effective. Jesus doesn't offer us political or secular power in exchange for our prayers anyway. He offers us something far greater:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:15-20)

When we gather together in prayer, even with all our differences, Jesus offers us himself.

And isn't that why we're Catholic in the first place?