Monday, July 06, 2009

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday's "Following the Message" question has been a tough one for me. The Gospel passage is from Mark 6:1-6. Although the "Following the Message" exercise is specifically related to the Gospel passage, I found the first reading to have some interesting parallels, which is often the case (for some reason the second reading is often harder to relate to the others, at least for me). Sunday's first reading was from Ezekiel 2:2-5.

Question: When have I been surprised to find holiness in everyday life?
Alternate question for kids: When have I misjudged someone?

From the bulletin:
Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith among the people of his own town of Nazareth, who take offense at him. Having known him and his family for years, they cannot reconcile the ordinariness of Jesus' life with his profound teaching and his performing mighty deeds. "During the greater part of his life, Jesus shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 531). "The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed. The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life" (CCC 532-33). "For all (our) works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit -- indeed even the hardships of life if patiently borne -- all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (CCC 901).

Reading the excerpts from the Catechism in the above paragraph gets me thinking about the concept of redemptive suffering. I attended a lecture not too long ago on this topic and it is probably one of the hardest concepts to fully grasp. But each time I read about it or hear a talk about it I feel that I come away with a bit more understanding. The idea of suffering being a part of our everyday lives here on Earth is a difficult one. No one wants to hear that to be holy you will have to suffer. More and more in this day and age, people want things to be easy. It's just not so.

I said above that I found this question very difficult to reflect on. For me this is probably because I know that I am not very good at seeing holiness is everyday things. But there is so much holiness around us! It's in the chores we do, our work, loving our family (especially when they are not being very lovable), and in the strangers around us. And as I type I realize that I do have one example I can share from my life.

My husband and I both knew, without even discussing it, that we would follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on contraception in our marriage. In other words, we would not use any artificial means of birth control. The Church teaches that it is wrong and we both knew that we wanted to uphold the teachings of the Church in our sacramental marriage. This was a big step for me because I was very much ingrained in a culture with a contraceptive mentality. This step took faith, trust in God, and quite a bit of suffering. We decided to learn a method of Natural Family Planning to help us understand my fertility better and to be able to help us plan for our family in cooperation with God.

In our culture, there is this idea that two people (any two people) can have sex anytime they want. But that is not how God designed it. Sex is intended for marriage only, and I encountered a lot of amazement that both my husband and I had never had sex prior to our marriage, especially because we were both already in our thirties! Oh the horrors!! Not only that, but when people find out that you aren't using any form of artificial birth control they think you are nuts. Why? Because it would be too hard!! Or, you'll have a dozen children. I want to expound on the aspect of suffering in regard to the practice of NFP.

By the way, a bit of a side note: NFP is a generic term for a host of methods. All are natural, no chemicals in your body, no side-effects, no long-term effects that will cause you problems later in life. The most commonly thought of method is the Rhythm Method, but this is an old-fashioned method that I don't hear of anyone using any more. We use the sympto-thermal method (STM) as taught by the Couple to Couple League. There is also Creighton, Billings, Marquette, and many others.

The thing that people find so "hard" about the thought of using NFP is that if you have reason to avoid a pregnancy, there is some abstaining that has to happen. My doctor actually said to me once, "You have to have quite a strong will for that!" I was a little taken-aback by her comment, but I let it go, knowing that the medical establishment feels more comfortable putting chemicals into your body to prevent pregnancy than actually taking the time to learn and understand your fertility signs. I don't understand the problem with abstinence. Yes, it can be difficult, but don't people abstain when their spouse is out of town, or when one of you is sick for a week or more, or what about for 6 weeks after the birth of a baby (or however long you're told to abstain after going through childbirth). Abstaining is part of marriage, even for those using birth control. So what is the difference?

For us, we have suffered in a variety of ways, but through it all we grow in holiness. I've learned that after a pregnancy loss, we have to abstain for a time, and then I've learned that my cycles are completely out of whack. And that gets frustrating when we want to start to try again and my cycles disrupt our efforts every two weeks. My fertility signs are kind of all over the place, but despite the difficulties, we know we are doing the right thing.

It's difficult at times, but we are following what we believe to be God's will for us. We have to trust in Him and we have to suffer the rejection from the culture around us. But in the end it will all be worth it. Christianity is hard, and for us, this is part of being a Christian. It may be difficult at times to completely trust God and it might be frustrating to not get the results we want, but God knows what He is doing. I have to keep reminding myself of that. And I know that we are growing in holiness through our perseverance.

I do want to say that I found it interesting in this Gospel passage from Mark that we see Jesus hurt by the rejection of his family and friends. We are used to seeing Jesus as suffering for us all through His dying for us on the cross. That is an extraordinary act of suffering! But to see Him suffer in a way that many of us can relate to in a much more human way is also amazing. It's too easy (at least for me) to forget that Jesus is both divine AND human. This passage illustrates that well. It also shows that He persevered, a good lesson for us all.

So tell me: When have you been surprised to find holiness in everyday life? What are your thoughts on this question?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I could talk a lot about this one, but first let me tell you that I'm enjoying this series of blog posts.

    Your openness about this and the holiness of sex within marriage is beautiful. I did a Bible study recently on this by Kay Arthur (Return to the Garden) and it was amazing, such a great study. I, too, was a virgin until marriage and I am happy that I waited. Was it a popular decision, is it one I had to feel like I had to hide sometimes? Sure. It is amazing how the enemy works in our culture to devalue the beauty of it.

    On a personal note, NFP is not easy but I applaud your desire to go that route. I used a form of it when we were trying to get pregnant and as someone with PCOS, I hear you about the signs being everywhere and confusing (for me, it was due to the PCOS). Hang in there!

    As far as holiness in everyday life - the passage about a "sacrifice of praise" keeps coming to mind. (Hebrews 13:15). It's not easy to praise Him in difficult times, hence the sacrifice, but we grow in holiness when we do? I still need to think on that more...a lot of thoughts in my head about it. When we sacrifice to do His will, it is as praise to Him - all of it working towards holiness in us as well?

    Holiness in everyday life to me lately is Psalm 19:14 - even the meditations of my heart and everything that passes my lips should be pleasing to Him. I'm not always good at it and I strive to do better. Lately, holiness in everyday life also entails how I care for and feed my family, seeking His will for my next steps in life and seeking Him first (as opposed to my friends :) when I need wisdom. I also think about the time I spend with Him, and through every day life and my actions, and also in struggles, reflecting Him more and more through all of it. (Isaiah 48:10, Psalm 119:5)

    I hope that made sense. It always sounds better in my head. :)