The sower and the dirt

Sitting on the porch, I watch a robin alight on our lawn, a hopeful sign of spring.  She pecks in the newly turned dirt and nibbles a seed. My mind rages. “Hey! That’s my grass seed we just planted! What do you think you’re doing?”

Big muddy bare spots dot our lawn now that the snow pack is gone. Yesterday, my housemates and I got out in the yard with rakes and seeds to try to bring grass back to these wounded parts. As the robin eats the seed I realize the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-20) is not abstract. I don’t usually sow seeds over a large patch of earth. The hard rocky path, the birds that sweep down, the brambles that grow up and choke out the good harvest seem like sweet and distant metaphors. But that bird just ate my seed! And there’s nothing I can do about it. Tonight’s rain could flood the fledgling seeds and wash them into the sidewalk. The neighboring high school students could trample over the yard on the way to class, hardening the soil and making it impossible to grow. More snow could fall. In Wisconsin, in fact, that’s quite likely. A whole flock of robins could find our fragile patch of ground and all the seeds would be gone. There’s nothing I could do.

The helplessness of God and the faithful disciple is highlighted in Jesus’ crucial parable. The seed is the Word of God. In our faithful evangelizing we spread the word of God everywhere we go over the ground of our circumstances. Faith in our life meets the often unfriendly and difficult realities of our daily lives. The birds eat it. The seed falls on rocky ground and the shoot sprouts up only to be withered by the sun and die. The weeds strangle out the good seeds and nothing comes of it. My life is busy and full of distractions. I can’t forgive the evils done against me. No one seems to understand. It’s so much easier to avoid helping out and just watch TV. Sickness, grief, loss and depression paralyze me, making it difficult to function. My heart is hard and rocky and full of lots of weeds.

Some scholars say this should be called The Parable of the Different Soils. The point of the story is not really about the sower or even about the seed. God’s good word pours down endlessly abundant with grace. We, however, do not always receive it. Our heart is the soil. Life’s daily grind and sorrows are the obstacles. The point is there are different types of soil—not just in the human family but also over the course of my own lifetime. Sometimes I am obstinate. Sometimes I am distracted by wealth and good times and easy fixes. Sometimes if feels like every day I am starting from scratch.

Actually, every day I am starting over and maybe that’s the point. Each morning I am given the choice to just live today. To give my day to God. To try my best. To not be anxious about tomorrow or depressed about yesterday. I am not being glib here. This is not easy. Sometimes it takes my entire willpower to get out of bed and brush my teeth and not be paralyzed by fear and sadness. I get stuck so often. Every moment is an opportunity to try again, again, and again.

Often, all I see is the seed that doesn’t grow and all the barriers in my ways. But this story is good news! For starters, God is sowing the good word in our hearts. This is the gift of all gifts. Plus, the good soil produces an overwhelming harvest: 30, 60 and 100-fold. Faith sustains us. Love transforms us. There is hope even for my muddy patches of lawn. The good harvest comes even to our rocky hearts.

Photo credit: http://www.scotts.com/smg/article/info-how_to/image/new_grass_T.jpg

Holy Week Soundtrack

During this sacred week there are certain songs that, without fail, end up on repeat in my head. Perhaps you’re interested, as the music could enrich your Holy Week too.

Palm Sunday

“Hosana” from Jesus Christ Superstar

Holy Thursday

“Stay With Me” by the Taize community

Good Friday

“Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?” Sung by Johnny Cash

Holy Saturday

Actually, this day does not have a song.

It is a day of silence, listening, waiting, and hoping. For me, this can is only done well without an agenda and with a lot of openness and trust in God. This will actually be the main thing I’ll tune into during Triduum this year.

From: http://virtualmethodist.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-sound-of-silence.html

 

 

Easter Sunday

“Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Preformed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

 

Hope you have a Blessed Holy Week & Happy Easter, Messy Jesus Business readers!

Peace, Sister Julia

Blessed by our brokenness

We’re all broken.

Broken by our pain and suffering, broken by injustice, broken by the Truth.

The activities of Lent help me encounter my brokenness. Or, more like, confront my brokenness. I am tuned into social injustices in a great volume. In particular, I am praying and thinking about poverty and hunger a lot due to the nature of the CRS Rice Bowl and the Food Fast I helped with last weekend.

And, I am getting more real with myself about my needs for real repentance. I am weak, I am a sinner. I am so far from perfect that sometimes it’s hard to believe I am a child of God.

The Truth is, Jesus was broken too. Right — he was not sinful, of course, but he certainly experienced pain, suffering and dependence on his Father for wholeness and completeness. We depend on Jesus to be whole, healthy, and holy.

Living a Eucharistic life means we embrace our brokenness and acknowledge that our pain and brokenness is, amazingly, a blessing. Somehow, suffering is redemptive. And we get to know this through Christ. Our brokenness unites us with Christ, for Jesus is with us and knows suffering. Just like the Eucharistic prayers say, Christ is blessed, broken and shared. This is the Bread of Life that nourishes us, strengthens us.

We are also blessed, broken and shared through Christ, in community. Let us lean on each other and unite and heal. Let us open up to the graces only found in Jesus for the True freedom and peace that comes with trusting the mystery that our brokenness is truly a blessing. Soon we’ll be rejoicing with hope and joy, for we trust that Jesus is our redeemer. Yes, this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and we’re getting very closer to the celebrations of salvation on Easter Sunday.

photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA
photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

As we lift up our voices and wave our palms, let us really cry out to Jesus in gratitude for the freedom that is offered:

Amen!!

Lent is my restart button

Some days, I feel like I just want a restart button.

From: http://randalldsmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/restart-windows.png

At times, I even feel this way about my life.

And then, when I look at all the problems in the world, aware of how complicated and messy the issues of injustice really are, I frequently feel the same way.

I just want to press a button and let everything reboot, wake up all refreshed and renewed and ready to do things much better, to be more like we’re supposed to be.

That’s why I love this sacred season of Lent. I want to grow, I desire holiness, I pray for justice. I really do believe that things can be better and through God’s grace, we have something to do with it.

Back on Ash Wednesday there was a lot of chatter about what people were “giving up” for Lent. I didn’t chime in then, but now I’ll tell you some of what I’m up to.  A full Lenten experience is not just about “giving things up” but committing to any activities of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in order to, in a sense, restart our relationships with God and others.

In fact, I am finding that the actions I have been taking work much more gradually than it does when I push a restart button. People and social problems aren’t machines, after all. Forty days is probably a good amount of time for a proper restart.

  • In my classroom, my students and I have been praying with the CRS Lenten calendar and putting money in our rice bowl.
  • In my living community, the sisters and I are eating vegetarian then donating the money we would have spent on meat to the area warming center. We are holding Friday nights as a silent hermitage time for contemplation. Plus, a couple of us started volunteering at a free community dinner, which I think we’ll continue doing after Lent.
  • Personally, I am praying with the daily readings all through Lent.  And, I’m using a web-browser add-on called Waste No Time to stop me from using Facebook or Twitter for more than 10 minutes a day.
  • Lastly, today I’m leading a small group of youth in a CRS Food Fast retreat. Please say a prayer for the high school students who are fasting and will engage in service-learning and prayer activities after school.  All of our actions should help us be in solidarity with those who are really hungry in other parts of the world.

The restart process is not pain-free, of course, but it’s so worth it.  Basically, the activities of Lent are chipping away at the hardness in my heart and helping me learn some big lessons:

  • The acts of service and fasting have taught me that I am way too comfortable, not just materially, but also with my plans. I’ve realized that I have fallen into a bit of a rut of liking my routine to be a certain way.  Even though I have good intentions, I practically walk around every day with my focus on my to-do list with a giant “do not disturb” sign hanging from my face. How can I help build up the kingdom of God if I am not open, flexible and available? Am I awake to the work of God?
  • Speaking to being awake to the work of God, the activities of prayer have helped me gain a deeper desire for more intimacy with God.  I entered Lent looking forward to my Triduum because then I could have a little vacation. Now, I am hoping for a silent retreat over those days, almost isolated from civilization.
  • Lastly, I believe again that every little action has an impact. I realized that sometimes when I pray or do acts of charity I am tempted to become cynical about whether I am really making a difference. Now, because of some feedback received from others, I’m remembering that the littlest things do indeed matter; we just don’t always know how.  This interdependence among us reaches across the globe to our brothers and sisters who are desperate for the pennies that we throw away, too. Our choices to be in solidarity with them this Lent really improve their livelihood, thanks be to God. This video helps me understand that:

Ultimately, the Lenten restart button that I was hoping for has had an impact on me. I have gotten disturbed. I am changed. I am getting to be a bit better, we all are.

And, for this I am very thankful.