Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Be Blessed

At some point during this past Advent season, I adopted the following tagline:

"Be blessed. Be bold. Fight for JOY!"

The first two components I lifted from the signature line on my brother's emails / message (thanks and sorry, Joe). The final piece was added from the inspiration of one of my favorite musical groups, Rend Collective Experiment. 

As I reflected and prayed throughout the course of Advent and during Christmas break, I started to form a list of steps that could be taken to live out the three components, and I realized that doing the first two (being blessed and bold) can lead to the third (fighting for - and finding! - joy). 

How can we live blessed? It seems somewhat self-righteous, doesn't it, to live in recognition of the many blessings God has bestowed upon us? It somehow feels too prideful, too greedy, too self-promoting. "Look at my blessings. Look at how wonderful my life is because of how much God loves me." While this humility helps to keep our human pride in check, In some ways that same humbleness can work against us accepting God's blessings as we should. 

Being blessed starts with prayer. We can't come to love what we don't know and we can't come to know God without a life of prayer. If you're feeling a lack of blessings in your life, it may stem from a lack of prayer. It may stem from a lack of the right kind of prayer. It may stem from the wrong kind of prayer. Jesus gives us the words we are to say when we pray, "Our Father..." Similarly, at the institution of the Mass at the Last Supper, Jesus passes on the highest form of prayer and the opportunities to participate in it. Prayer, done "correctly" (as any conversation and openness you have to God is "right"), consists of four components:

1. Adoration
2. Contrition
3. Thanksgiving
4. Supplication

Taking Jesus as our model, we also have insights into how often we are to pray. Throughout the Gospel stories Jesus frequently goes off by himself to pray:

Mark 1:35 - Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Matthew 14:23 - After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.

Luke 6:12 - In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer* to God (scripture from usccb.org)

Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C., wrote this about the importance that Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross (who's feast we celebrate today), placed upon prayer:
Blessed Moreau knew and understood that for busy and apostolic religious who worked hard, there could be the temptation to sacrifice time in prayer. And so he says that a minister who does not pray is like a canal without water or a tree that is withered. Tiredness or weariness should not take them away from prayer, but be all the more reason to give themselves over to the Lord (FaithND). 
Take the time each day to pray. It will start to reorient your life toward a spiritual destination and will give you the eyes to see God's Hand working in your life. You will start to see that you are blessed

Being blessed continues with sacrifice. Once we start feasting on God's abundant goodness we start to live in that same abundance. Instead of sitting on it, we give it away. Through service to others we can come into a deeper understanding of the One who gave everything for us and from Whom every good thing comes. The more we give of ourselves, the more we become the people God created us to be. If you're feeling a bit lost and unsure of what God's asking of you, it may stem from a lack of self-less, sacrificial service to others.

Being blessed also involves connecting with others. The best days of your life most likely center around a connectedness to others. The best days of our lives have nothing to do with things and everything to do with people. Unplug. Stop posting, tweeting, hash tagging, instagramming, pinning, messaging, liking and commenting and start connecting (or blogging!). Eat meals with others. Spend time with others, especially time with others engaged in prayer. Accept invitations and opportunities to connect with others. Talk on the phone (instead of texting!). Write a letter (instead of emailing!). Turn off the TV and turn on the conversation with those around you. If you're feeling a bit disconnected, it may be that you are more connected to electronics than you are to people. 

Finally, being blessed entails conserving. We live in abundance. We have too much food, too many clothes, too many distractions (see above), and too little appreciation for the things (blessings) that we do have. Abundance leads to wastefulness. Wastefulness leads to greed. Greed leads to unrest. Unrest makes it nearly impossible to be blessed. Embrace a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude, through prayer, giving of yourself, and  connecting with others instead of accumulating things. 

Be blessed: Pray. Serve. Connect. Conserve.  

Be bold.

Fight for JOY!