all watch

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”   -Mark 13:33-37

With wonder, I gaze at a horizon hoping for a Light that fills me in a whole new way.  This time, may Christ come closer to me in my service, my teaching, my loving, my prayer.

May I stay awake and be alert.  May I pay attention and know what is mine to do, and then have the strength to do it.  May my heart and mind be open so Christ can find a home in me.  May I be quiet and calm so I can recognize Peace when it reigns on Earth.

This Advent, may we all watch for the ways we are to be ready.  To really be watchful, we must slow down and look and listen.  We must look and listen in and around.

May we be attentive to Christ’s invitations to be united through acts of service, generosity, celebration and prayer. Let’s all watch.

Advent has arrived.

thanks for giving, not buying

I am grateful.  It’s thanksgiving weekend, and I am blessed.  These days, gratitude and thanksgiving are in season.  After a harvest and a celebratory feast it’s easy to cozy up to a sacred sensation of appreciation.  It’s good and important, and I could become very long-winded about how grateful I am.

The truth is, though, I am not purely grateful. A few other feelings are mixed into this heart of mine that makes this season a little more complicated.

Yesterday at my family’s Thanksgiving meal there were several conversations about the dangers of consumerism and the goodness of simplicity.  My heart was filled with thanks for the fact that these are the values that have been instilled in me.  Simplicity and thriftiness shall help us survive, I’ve learned.  Consumerism creates more problems than solutions.  Happiness has nothing to do with the stuff you have.  Instead, joy comes from a relationship grounded in God.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” –Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus seemed to say so himself: It’s not the stuff of shopping that matters, but the stuff of heaven.

The danger and the challenge, however, is that it’s a heaven thing to have a pure heart.  Pure hearts are nonjudgmental and free of pride and self-righteousness.

It’s easy to become self-satisfied when I hear murmurings with negative tones about shopping crusades and I agree.  The truth is, I know many people whose joy on this day are the deals that they discovered on their shopping frenzies.  For many, it seems that the hype, lines, crowds and stampedes of this day are fun and exciting like sports events.  It’s hard to appreciate all this, instead I become grateful for Buy Nothing Day campaigns.  I can become angry about how people choose insanity.  When anger enters in, though, love seems to leave.

In my classroom there is a sign: “If you must have an attitude, have an attitude of gratitude.”  In reality, gratitude is tough.  The problems of the world glare at me, and it becomes hard to have a grateful heart.  When I notice people doing things wrong, I can quickly become judgmental, crabby, and angry.  When consumerism and materialism seem to be creating spiritual and social disasters, I have trouble appreciating any type of craze that supports it.  When oppression corrodes at the dignity of those whom I love, my heart rarely has room left for gratitude.

A wise sister in my community has told me that when there is a temptation to be judgmental, gratitude is the quickest remedy.  Once gratitude enters in, she says, all else has to go out.

Once gratitude enters in, I’ll have no choice but to know love.  That love can’t be bought or sold.  I’ll have to give it away, and with that it’s the gift that just keeps giving.

one year!

It’s the one year anniversary of Messy Jesus Business!  We’ve shared a lot this year.  Thanks for reading and participating!

What was your favorite post?

What would you like to see more of as Messy Jesus Business enters its second year?

1, 2, 3: eyes on me!

Guest blogger: Steven Cottam

One of my many duties as a religion teacher involves getting the students ready for our monthly school Masses. Despite our preparations together, predictably, some of the younger kids always get anxious. Recently, I was in a pew during Mass in front of a group of first and second graders when I heard a whispered discussion break out:

“Aren’t we supposed to kneel now?”

“No, not yet. We don’t do that til way later.”

“When do we say ‘Alleluia?’ I think it’s soon…”

After bickering quietly, one of the kids hit on what she felt was the perfect solution:

“Look, look, here’s what we’ll do… let’s just watch Mr. Cottam really closely. We’ll just do what he does!”

heads in the pews

Suddenly the group went quiet and I could feel 30 pairs of eyes glued to the back of my head. Thirty little sets of eyes following my every move.

Now, I’ve been going to Mass my whole life and know it by heart. Somehow though, with all my actions being scrutinized and dissected by small little souls intent on copying them, I felt a lot of pressure. Everything I did would be imitated. If I did well, thirty little Christians would do well also. If I messed up, thirty little disciples were going to veer off with me.

I was more conscious of my movements than ever before; I went through the rest of the service keenly aware of my participation. I executed every gesture slowly and broadly, so that it could be easily followed. When I raised my hand to cross myself, I heard jackets rustle behind me. When I knelt, I heard kneelers bang down against the floor just a few seconds later. Quickly glancing over my shoulder, I saw that the position I took while praying the Our Father, head knelt and arms out and up, was the exact same position taken by all those in the pew behind me.

I think I did an alright job of showing those kids a good example of theMass.But later, I was reflecting: what if those kids watched my whole Christian life like they watched me during Mass? What if one of them had said, “I don’t know how to be a Christian… I’ll just watch Mr. Cottam really closely and do what he does!” Would I be happy with the Christian that child would become?

 In some ways yes, but in a lot of ways such a thought experiment shows the deficiencies I have in my walk with Christ. I’m lost a lot of the time. I’m confused, too. Sometimes it’s from sin and a personal, conscious failure to live the life I’m called to live. But often, like these kids, I honestly just don’t know what to do—there are competing goods, or confusing situations, and I want to be a good Christian and I just don’t how!

 And it’s times like this that I am thankful for Christ as the one who came to show us how to be (not tell us how to be, but show us). When I am confused about how to live and how to love, when I am bickering with those around me and stressed and distressed, every now and then a moment will break in, and I’ll hear a small voice…

 “Look, look, here’s what you’ll do…just watch Jesus really closely. Just do what he did!”

Ours is not a God who says “do as I say, but not as I do.” Our God came and said, “Love as I have loved! Go forth and do what I have done!”

If someone was watching you today, would they be able to imitate Christ by imitating you? If not, then perhaps it’s time for all of us little children in faith to turn our eyes to the front and watch the motions of the teacher a bit closer.

Photo credit: 

messy wonder

piles to file

thicker than the bed

of rest

the to-do list,

too long

can’t know

what to bless

desk deep

big mess

anxiety eats

at the sleep

dreams, concerns

for Christ’s kingdom

make one weep

distracted from NOW:

so stop, breathe, be

praise God

run wild

into wonder

and ride renewal

to joy.

God has got this

Guest blogger: Ben Anderson

I was left dumbfounded and depressed sitting there at my desk. “Rape in War” was the topic for my feminist ethics course last week. As I finished my reading and was trying to think of how to write something philosophical about it I was overwhelmed by the stories and stats that show such an astounding capacity for evil in our world. Lost, I didn’t know what to say.

My heart hurt.

Outside of my time as a grad philosophy student I am equally hit with truth. As a community organizing intern I have been helping with listening sessions in schools on the west and south sides of Chicago. We have been talking to kids about problems in their neighborhood and helping them name and unravel the intricate systems and structures spinning good but mostly evil around us. Hearing the same things named over and over of problems out of control, again, my heart hurt.

"Sacred Hearts" By Fr. Jim Hasse, SJ

How to keep going and make sense of a world where people endure so much?

I was given a quote from a brother Jesuit, Yves de Montcheuil, who was a philosophy professor who decided to become a chaplain to the French resistance during Nazi control and later was killed for it. He wrote from jail:

How will we remain in this spiritual atmosphere? By recalling the fundamental truths that must enlighten this commitment. We must first of all not forget that it is only a response to a call. It was not we who thought of it first; it was our Lord who called us to it. He can say to us as he did to his disciples on the evening of the Last Supper: “It was not you who chose me; it is I who chose you.” Left to ourselves, we would never have turned this way. We would have taken different routes according to our character, our inclinations, circumstances; we would never have taken that one, we would never have loved the Kingdom of God for itself.

God calls, but it is always too much. My weak heart never feels confident enough to really listen to others, to love and be loved, to write an intelligent enough paper, to pick-up the phone and organize, to keep stirring the pot again and again to agitate for justice… yet, somehow, I keep on doing it.

And much more: we are only following an inclination, an impulse given to us by grace. Our Lord not only shows us the road; he gets us to walk it. Our progress is always only an acceptance and, as it were, an abandonment to the impulse that he communicates to us. All that we give to him comes in reality from him.

I never really understand nor always like how I got here and through that God continually reminds me my life is not my own to do with what I will. My own gifts and weaknesses, the people who show up in my life, and the doses of reality that have been granted have moved and have pulled me to respond beyond what I ever thought possible. God is too good and keeps inviting me, one day at a time. It is too much, but God has got this. God is moving and working harder than me and I am not alone. When I stop and look around, when I take time to be grateful for the crazy people in my life, I see God is at work in every heart.

God has got this and that gives me hope.