Today's Gospel happened to be part of one of the FaithICS passages that I worked with this past summer, and one that we used during our opening retreat on Monday August 11:
Sunday, August 17, 2014
I continue to be AMAZED by the presence of God in my life. As if speaking directly to me, today's readings resound in my heart, as if God selected them specifically for me. Even the homily at Mass today seemed as if it was made for me...
It was. It always is.
Today's first reading, from Isaiah, talks about the universality of God's House. All are welcomed. All are accepted. Keep His commandments. Observe what is right, do what is just. His House is a House of prayer for all peoples.
Our theme last school year, HOME, reinforced and galvanized the already strong message of community and family within our school. And like any good theme, even though we replaced it with something new and fresh, its message continues to ring true. Here, on the cusp of a new school year, we are reminded to continue to focus on making our school a HOME for our students - a place where "love can dwell and all can safely live. A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive" (from All Are Welcome, by Marty Haugen).
Then, in the Gospel, Jesus rewards the faith of the Canaanite woman, healing her daughter from a chronic illness. Perhaps the most profound part of today's Gospel is how Jesus rewards faithfulness and how the woman in the story displays the type of faithfulness required to be rewarded. Jesus ignores her first request. She persists. She speaks to Jesus directly. He challenges her. She is not dismayed or discouraged, but remains faithful in her trust and belief that God can heal and restore all things, and she responds back to Jesus with a declaration of her faith. In turn, her daughter is restored to full health.
Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us, "God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful."
We have faced and overcome many challenges already this school year (and it has yet to begin with children!) and there are still others looming over us, distracting us, trying to get us to give in and give up. Let us not focus on the trappings of success but remain committed to a focus on God, reliance on each other and a faithfulness to living out our call as Catholic educators.
Let us GO: excel, love, serve, learn, teach, pray, love, inspire, awaken, create, change, transform, empower, open, evolve, be, write, accept, breath, bloom, grow, reveal, challenge, courageously, relentlessly, proactively, loyally, with serenity, in gratitude, with strength, with purpose, now.
GO. Do what you believe and believe in what you do.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Even though the weather outside has been hot and humid, like any summer in Florida, the temperatures in the Zelenka household have been downright frigid. Gloves have been worn, along with hats, scarves and other items from the winter department.
Disney's movie Frozen set off an eternal – at least since the first viewing in June – winter in my house. We listen to the songs, we reenact the scenes, we sing, we dress up as if in the tundra, and we watch the movie (albeit, in moderation on the last one, I think we’ve watched it 5 or 6 total times thus far).
And, I’m not ashamed to admit that I thoroughly enjoy the entire process, and that I can do a pretty decent Sven!
Despite how beautiful the animation, musical score and dialogue is, I have been most impressed by the themes. I’ve written before about how much I dislike the entire “Disney Princess” phenomenon, especially as the father of two young girls. As such, this is the first “princess” movie my girls have seen, and it’s not likely that we will convert anytime soon. But, of all of the movies that fit into the genre, I am glad that this was the one that resonated with my kids.
Love is an overarching theme throughout the movie and (SPOILER ALERT!) the anecdote to a “cold” heart. The best part is that, for once, it isn’t romantic love that is romanticized; rather, sacrificial love is promoted. Kristoff is willing to give up his love for Anna so that she can be saved, Olaf is willing to melt for Anna, and Anna is willing to die for her sister.
Olaf: “Some people are worth melting for.”
Olaf: “An act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.”
Elsa: "Love will thaw...love...of course."
Trolls (Fixer-Upper song): “We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange. People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed, but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.”
As we prepare to enter the 2014 – 15 school year, and undoubtedly await countless Annas and Elsas for Halloween, I pray that the messages of this movie can resonate with more than just my daughters. Imagine a school filled with teachers who choose sacrificial love in regard to all of their students. Consider the constructive conversations between parents and staff when love is exchanged across the table. Reflect on a school of students who see the importance of putting the needs of others before their own.
Jesus commands us:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15: 12 –14).
A secular movie, to which my daughter Catherine refers as “Go” (because of the fact that she serves as a great back-up singer to Elizabeth and gets the last word of most lines of a song right), can offer a message that echoes this commandment and many others better most homilies, religious movies and blogs on Catholic education – especially this one.
Let us ensure that our school, because of the sacrificial love we show to each other, may just be worthy of the title “Catholic” this year and always.