When the Gospel is hard…

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

John 9:2

Can I tell you how this verse tears my heart into tiny ribbons every time I read and hear it? I have long ago rejected this kind of thinking even before having my own special needs child, but a lot of the world, and a lot of Christians…have not.

The idea that children born with various physical, mental, developmental and cognitive disabilities were a punishment for sins of the parent pervaded well into the late 20th century. Why didn’t we see more of these children in public in decades past? Well, the majority of them were sent to institutions where society could ignore them and the parents could silently bear the “burden.” And it happened in Catholic families as much as in the general society. How remarkably pro-life of us to treat the least among us with such dignity! (For the un-initiated, that last sentence is sarcasm.)

For a society that prides itself on how “progressive” and “accepting” it is, we sure do abort unborn infants for suspected inferior traits at an alarming rate. Let’s not forget how we rush to defend the parents who murder their children with disabilities in cold-blood by decrying what a hard life the parent had. And while we’re at it, why don’t we also talk about how welcoming churches are in general to those with developmental and cognitive disabilities. By the way, I’ve heard people use today’s Gospel reading to defend all of the above actions because Jesus cured the man’s blindness which means surely He rejects the imperfect as well.

If you think that way…if you think my child is a punishment for my sin and that Jesus loves her less, it might be time to turn in your Christian card.

Just look at the next verse:

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

John 9:3

In the case of the blind man, restoring his sight was a very specific action to show Jesus as the light of the world. It does not mean Jesus rejected the man and his disability. As our pastor pointed out today, this man had an encounter with Jesus. We can all know as much about Jesus as the Bible, the Catechism, our parents, attending Mass, receiving the sacraments and events like Eucharistic adoration can teach us, but have we really and truly encountered Christ? And his first suggestion to meet Christ in your life? Head to our local Miracle Field and watch the differently-abled athletes compete. Watch their parents faces. Watch those who volunteer with them. He pointed out that from all the commandments the greatest was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength but the second, was to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). And at the final judgment when the people on the right ask Him when they saw Him hungry, thirsty, a stranger, etc, He reminds them that whenever they did something for the least among them, they did it unto Him (Matthew 25:37-40).

In the face of all that, it is undeniable that God creates each life for its own unique purpose and it is completely irrelevant if we fail to see what that purpose is. It is most definitely arrogant and even evil if we suppose there is no good purpose and no right to life and dignity of those with disabilities if we cannot see for ourselves what that purpose is. It is most-likely not the only reason God created my child, but let me tell you, she has allowed myself, my husband, my children, her grandparents, her Godparents, and all she meets to encounter God in an amazing and profound way. I can tell you my boys have learned more in their short lives about patience, compassion and self-sacrifice than I did in the 26 years I lived before God blessed us with Shelby.

And it’s not just the disabled who can help us encounter God. There are also the elderly, the homeless, the sick, the marginalized…

And why does it matter that our children have these kinds of encounters with God on this level?

A while ago there were a few articles floating around the interwebs that claimed to give Catholic parents a guaranteed way to keep their kids Catholic. They spent a lot of time talking about going to Mass, reading the Bible, having the Catechism at the ready, setting a good example in the above and parents being the primary educators of their children. But in none of them was included the actual living out of the Corporal Works of Mercy and seeking out these encounters with Christ. Which may be why so many parents read those articles and wept because they did all those things and one or more children fell away from the Church. This morning our pastor held himself up as an example of one who left and it wasn’t until he encountered Christ in real way, not just learned about Him, that he realized just how important it is that our kids learn where and how they can meet Christ.

And this is the real reason this Gospel is hard. It makes us really reflect on what we’re doing to encounter Christ in our own lives and how we’re making it a priority with our kids. It forces us to reckon with the fact that we may not only not be living Christ-like but may not be seeking Him out for substantial encounters. And it might be a sobering reminder of what we really need to do this Lent…find Jesus and truly encounter Him.

When God wants more…

Lemme start by bringing you up to speed on Lent two weeks in.

The lack of poultry, beef and pork has resulted in B-12 deficiency. For me. Jeff seems to be okay. And I eat a lot of fish too. But despite increasing other food items higher in the nutrient in my diet, yeah, I’m deficient. I was tired. Which I expected. I had headaches. Also expected. Then I started with vertigo. Not expected. So today I headed to the pharmacy to get a B-12 supplement. And I already feel better so there’s that.

Also, it snowed here Sunday. It also all melted same day but it snowed. I headed to Mass in rain and then about half way there, I realized it wasn’t raining anymore. It was snow. And by the time I got to church, snow was sticking to the ground. Had it been colder and therefore more stuck, it would have been about 3-4 inches. William and I stopped on the way home and got donuts for everyone and I got a latte.

snowman

In case you missed it or you live in a state or part of a state that doesn’t observe it, Sunday also marked the start of DST.

My prayer life, while improving this Lent, still has a lot of room to grow. And last week I got behind on EVERY-BLESSED-THING. It was so not funny. And I kept plugging along but something wasn’t right. I wasn’t giving up, but I wasn’t gaining ground either. I was stuck as to what was going on. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Finally, this morning I figured it out.

In addition to fasting from meat, I gave up my personal facebook for Lent. And while that is going pretty well, it’s still a struggle a lot of the time. And today as I continued playing catch up, I read a reflection written by Elizabeth Foss in the Blessed is She Lenten devotional journal, Put on Love. In it, Elizabeth talks about being tied to screens and not being tuned into our family. Yesterday I had an epic day with the snow, Mass, donuts, and a lot of good family time (a lot of it planning for a big trip we were surprisingly gifted Saturday). It wasn’t lost on me that I was more plugged into both God and my family and less to technology. As I read the words and reflected, I realized that facebook wasn’t enough. God was asking for me. He wanted me to give up all personal social media. Boom.

This mainly means snapchat and instagram. Today I deleted both off my devices. This is going to hurt. I was really enjoying the Blessed is She instastories. I was also loving hearing from friends who only use snapchat. But God wanted more.

Greatness, in God’s eyes, means sacrifice and humility. Well, the humility was there this time. I knew I needed God more and when He told me the sacrifice I would have to make…I sighed. I won’t lie, I totally sighed. But I did it.

Lent has been, in the past, a time for me to realize what an awesome fail-er I am. This year, I’m learning lots of interesting things about myself. And God. And our relationship. I’m finally able to do lots of hard things. Things I’ve struggled with and failed at so often in the past. God’s timeline is always so radically different than mine and I’m seeing that again. I’m learning how much humility works to my advantage. And how weak I am and how much I need Him. His guidance has brought me to places I never knew existed. Being open to Him and submitting when God wants more is a wild ride. But I encourage everyone to pray and listen and see what God wants. And to be ready to submit beyond your comfort zone, because this is where trust begins.

Why I’m Celebrating My 14th Wedding Anniversary by Going to Work

…followed by teaching faith formation.

Unless you live under a rock (no judgment, I’m living under the one called Lent right now), you probably know that today, March 8, 2017 is International Women’s Day and in the US is the day chosen to be “A Day Without Women” protest/strike.

And I’m not participating. I’ve been emboldened by Molly at Molly Makes Do who posted a pic of herself in her work uniform on her instagram (@molly.makes.do) with this caption:

Today I do show up for work because I respect my job and it’s [sic] rules for PTO and sick leave. My patients don’t have the privilege of choosing a day off and I don’t get a day off from mothering. Today I wear blue because it’s my uniform and I don’t have the privilege of choosing what I wear. Today I buy things because women in other jobs, with small business, etc. rely on the money I spend. Today I do all these things because a woman before me fought for my right to work, have an education and be a mother, the best way I can show my importance is showing up and remaining visible in my world, not running from it. Support a woman run business today, support women in crisis in charity and volunteering, write more letters to your elected officials. We are important when we show up and get the job done.

to share with you why I am going to work today.

Today I show up to work because the children I work with deserve to have a safe place to be after school where they can learn, play and grow. Today I show up to work because the mothers of those children deserve to have a safe place for their children to be cared for while they work. Today I show up in particular for the single mothers of some of those children who don’t have a choice to not work because their every penny earned pays to feed, clothe, and shelter their children. Today I show up because I work with two amazing women who are also mothers and we are a sisterhood that depends on one another. Nothing works quite the same when one of us is forced to be out because of illness or emergency. Today I show up out of respect to my own mother who made the difficult decision to go back to work to try and build better futures for her four children. Today I go to work to earn money to help women in small businesses provide for their families and donate to women in situations who need it. Today I show up to work because I will not been seen and not valued if I do not show up (yes, it really is that simple). Today I show up to work to show my daughter and my sons that we have to carefully decide what is worth fighting for but also how we take up arms in that fight. Today I show up to work to honor the many women who came before me  who fought for my right to be there.

Finally, and most importantly, today I show I up for work because it’s my 14th wedding anniversary to my amazing husband. When we stood before God and our families we vowed to each other and God that we would be united in marriage for richer or poorer. There’s been a lot of poorer over the last 14 years as we’ve struggled to parent three young children, one of whom has special needs, on a single income that he provided. My unemployment and under-employment meant we’ve done without a lot; more that most people understand. While we are certainly not rich by earthly standards, my job, acquired less than a year ago, has put us in one of the richest (materially) times of our marriage. It has relieved much of the stress on my husband for me to pay a few bills and buy groceries. Today I go into work to honor my husband and our marriage vows. We’ll celebrate when we’re both scheduled to be off in a slightly larger way than in years past. And we’ll celebrate today by supporting each other for richer or poorer.