This Week in Prayer
“Spiritual Chillax-ability?” Last week it was about “Spiritual Chill-ability” and this week there is an “ax” added. What is up with that? A very mindful and generous parishioner sold me on the change. Quite easily. Said parishioner thought “spiritual chill-ability” carried connotations of spiritual coldness, frostiness, or desolation. Add the “ax” and there is no mistaking it. I agree. Hence, “Spiritual chlilax-ability” is all about – the capacity to regain that sense of being peacefully connected with Jesus; the ability to return to the graced state of spiritually chill-axing after feeling spiritually agitated.
Last week’s readings reminded us that the myth of incompetence strikes frequently, has a singular ability to deprive us of the sense of calm connection to Christ, and can sometimes be easily dispatched. That voice says “You cannot do the good God wants you to do.” We can sometimes dismiss it by recalling “If God calls you to it, God helps you do it, and God gets you through it.”
This week’s readings remind us that the evil spirits also like to hound us with the belief that we lack the ability to resist evil. That too is a voice that can prevent us from feeling spiritually chillaxed. It is also a voice we should expect to hear from time to time. Fortunately, it is also a voice we can generally eliminate without too much effort. In deepening our ability to ignore that voice, we grow in our “spiritual chillax-ability” – in our ability to return to a peaceful center after turmoil has hounded us.
Sunday’s first reading, from the book of Sirach, claims without qualification, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments.” It says nothing about “you might be able to keep the commandments” or “on a good day you can keep the commandments.” No. it says you can, as in right now. Today. Here. In the face of this temptation.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus also expresses total confidence in our ability to resist temptation. The gospel comes from The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-8. It comes from the section of Chapter 5 knows as “The Antitheses,” where Jesus compares old thoughts to His wisdom. Each phrase affirms our ability to resist the sins, especially the big ones of murder, adultery, and oath-taking. In telling us to do those things, Jesus implies that we can do so. We have what it takes to resist.
But Jesus takes it one step further. He admonishes us to be extremely self-aware and candid. He tells us to notice our first inclinations toward sin and to address those inclinations long before they grow. To use the garden metaphor, he urges us to pluck the sin-weeds as soon as we see them pop up. It makes no sense for us to let them grow into big, ugly, unmanageable tree-weeds that are very hard to eradicate.
God’s confidence in us is terrific. So is Jesus’ strategy advice – fight the sin in its earliest stages. But how do we pull those sin-weeds before they grow? How do we keep ourselves from indulging desires that we know lead us away from glorifying God, from finding deeper peace, and from loving others? One of the best ways to pull the baby sin weeds, a way endorsed by centuries of saints, is to tell someone, a very trusted someone, about the inclination that is taking root in our soul – as soon as it takes root.
So what about you? To whom can you turn when you are feeling the first urges toward violence in any form, toward terrible self-indulgence, or toward misuse of the abilities to speak and communicate with others? Is there a trusted friend? An old confessor? A family member? A church pal? To whom can you go, regardless of your age? Is it a teacher, a coach, a neighbor, or your youth minister? We all get shady inclinations. If we keep them as secrets, we become far more likely to indulge them. If we share our inclinations with others, especially via the therapeutic vent, the inclination loses its grip on us. What might have seemed irresistible seems quite manageable when we spill the beans. To whom can you turn? And who can turn to you, for a safe place to speak of the inclinations that lead us away from that graced, chillaxed sense of being close to Jesus. The irresistibility of sin is a myth. Whose ear helps you combat it?
This week in service:
This weekend, once again, and throughout the month of February (and a little bit into March), several ministries will be recruiting new members and re-recruiting old members who have taken well-deserved sabbaticals. This weekend in the gathering space you will encounter recruiters for: Becca’s Friends (the ministry for people with disabilities), The Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN)(which provides food and shelter for homeless area families) and the Respect Life Ministry. Informational flyers about other ministries will be available on the Moses Table. Keep in mind, we are not actively recruiting altar servers this week but still need a few more, especially at the 4:45 and the 6:00. Thanks. Big thanks.
On Saturday, February 11, over 30 of our high school teens spent the day performing random acts of kindness all around town. The results were outstanding: over 200 flowers were distributed outside ShopRite, at Avalon and at our municipal building; random books at our library include a small bonus and note from the youth group, meals were made and distributed that will feed hundreds of people in need of a hot meal and a little love; plus many more. If you experienced one of our teens out an about this past Saturday drop us a note - we'd love to hear from you. A blessed day all around!
This week in community:
FAMILY BINGO IS THIS FRIDAY NIGHT. It promises to be a superb time for all. Great fun for the entire family. Feel free to bring your neighbors and friends. $5 per person or $15 per family. Food, fun and prizes!!
The PJ Anderson Concert is on Saturday March 4th after the 4:45 Mass. Mark your calendars. With these two events – bingo and the PJA concert – our Spring fellowship series is off to a rollicking great start.
Our Blue Storm basketball teams continue to represent our parish with grace and will be playing a host of games on Saturday afternoon at the Auten Road Intermediate School.
Remember, the sun is now rising before 7:00 am and setting after 5:30 pm. The Equinox will soon be here! And then comes the Fourth of July!
All best blessings.