Mass, Parking Tickets, and the Lie of Worry

I wrote this Scripture reflection for this Sunday’s readings for Catholics on Call. It first appeared on their site, here. 
 
You can find this Sunday’s readings, for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary time, here. 
 

I’m driving to Mass after having just skimmed these readings to prepare for this reflection, and I can’t find parking in the free lot, so I park on the street, in an area where the signage is unclear about whether the parking was free or not. Seeing as this parking stress is causing me to be/feel late, I decide to risk it and go into church without feeding the meter. The whole first ten minutes of Mass, I squirm in my seat, worrying that I am going to get a ticket (on my roommate’s car at that!). I justify my worrying with a running inner monologue, “I can’t afford a ticket… I’m in grad school for goodness’ sake! And my roommate will be nice about it but would of course not be happy that I got a ticket in her car. And did I already say I didn’t want to waste that money?! Groceries. Running shoes. Plane tickets to visit my niece and nephew. Spiritual Direction. The homeless man on the corner.  All more important uses of that money.”

My worrying is of control. But aside from leaving Mass, there is nothing I can do to fix the situation. This Sunday’s gospel reading comes into my mind, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat….If God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more provide for you?” The reading assures me that God will provide, but my usual response kicks in—that not everyone has their basic human needs provided for—and the inner monologue seems to be winning the worry war. But I try again, because it seems a waste to sit in Mass while my mind is outside trying to protect the car from being ticketed.

I preach gospel to myself: No, not everyone has their basic needs provided for, but that is not a lack of God’s provision; it is our lack of stewardship and sharing of the earth’s resources that interrupt that provision. But what is not interrupted, is God’s care, concern, and presence among us. We can trust that we are remembered, known, and not alone: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isaiah 49 in this Sunday’s first reading). And this Sunday’s psalm (Psalm 62) reminds me, “Rest in God alone, my soul.” Worrying just makes me feel like I’m doing something, but I’m not. Take a deep breath, and rest in God’s presence, here, in the present. Choose God, not mammon (Mt 6:24). That obviously doesn’t mean I shouldn’t steward my resources wisely, but in this case, in this moment, to keep worrying about the ticket would be to serve mammon instead of God.

The wind changes. My inner monologue reluctantly gives up on the worry and chooses Presence instead. Worrying about the future, worrying so that it feels like I’m doing something, is ultimately the belief that God will not be there whenever the next bad thing happens. It’s a lack of trust in God’s faithfulness and a false substitute for real action. Good and bad, abundance and lack, joy and tragedy, will continue to happen regardless of the amount that I worry. But when I worry, I rob myself of receiving the comfort of a God, who loves me like a mother, and I’m unable to offer my best self to the world, “as [a] servant of Christ and [a] steward of the mysteries of God” as I’m called to be (in this Sunday’s 2nd reading).

A potential parking ticket is a small example, of course, but if I can’t practice this gospel-living in the small stuff, how can I be expected to live it in the big stuff, when worrying feels even more “justified?”

May we forego the lie of worry today and instead choose to trust the loving provision of our God.
May we be moved to action when we are called and needed, and may we “Rest in God, alone” when we must accept the limitations of our circumstances.
Amen.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I didn’t get a ticket. 🙂

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Scandalous Love

I wrote a Scripture Reflection for this Sunday’s readings for the Catholics on Call website this week:

Scripture Readings:
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

It doesn’t make sense.

I mean, sure, we get the “point” of the parables of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, of the prodigal son (included in the long form of this Sunday’s readings). God is merciful. Each one of us matters and is infinitely loved by God. God rejoices when we return from our erring, less-than-selfless ways. Yet, yet… if I can admit to myself, I don’t get it, in my core. Because God’s mercy is not like mine. (Thank God, literally).

I wouldn’t rejoice in the same way over one lost and returned sheep. I’d be glad I managed to not lose the other 99 sheep! And while I might be happy if I found a lost quarter or a stray $20 dollar bill in a pants pocket, I’d be more grateful that I had a savings account with more than a quarter in it, than at the fact that I just found a quarter to add to it. And while we’re being honest, I’ll admit that I can identify all too readily with the self-righteous older son, though I happen to be the youngest in my family. It’s seems unfair that the younger son, the recklessly wasteful one, is welcomed back so extravagantly. Even in the times in our life when we are the prodigal ones, the ones desperately seeking and hopefully accepting God’s mercy, it doesn’t feel “fair.” It is hard to accept God’s mercy. God’s generosity is scandalous.

Something else is scandalous.  Click here to continue reading…

An 18 mile grab bag

1. I ran 18 miles for the first time today. I never thought I’d have any reason to write that sentence. But in honor of that, I’m writing a post that is an odd combination of updates and reflective musings because one’s mind goes through an odd combination of thoughts when running for that long. (Today’s thoughts were mostly 14 miles of gratitude and positive running vibes followed by 4 miles of stomach cramps and an epic mental battle to keep going). I can only imagine what lies ahead after 26.2 miles. 26.2 thoughts?

2. Failure. I knew this whole running thing would teach me some life lessons. Of course, one of them is about failure. The first time I tried to run 8 miles, and then the first time I tried to run 14, I failed. Tears fell. My body shut down. Walking ensued. But I have no choice but to try again next time. And not let the doubt and “failure” win but let it motivate me. And “victory” (over those miles) tastes that much sweeter!

3. Trust. Tied in with failure, during those weeks of disappointing, unfulfilled attempts at new mileage, I just have to trust the hard work will pay off and that next time will be better. Looming negative thoughts of “What if that happens on the marathon day?” or “If I can’t run 14, why do I think I can run 26.2?” beg me to give in. Similarly, during July, running in 90% humidity and 90 degree weather in sunny Florida and thus running at a pace that is 1-2 minutes slower than normal, does not do much to help one’s confidence. But it does tell me a lot about trust. Trusting in the slow work of God. Trusting that though we can’t always see our tiny bits of progress amidst the mess of sweat and tears, God is there.

4. Part-time job #1. Since moving back to Chicago, I have been working full-time at the Archdiocese, my site placement last year. Since school starts this week, I will change to being at part-time employee at the Arch.

5. Part-time job #2. I will also being working at Catholic Theological Union (CTU, my grad school) as the student enrollment ambassador. It’s a new position. We’ll see what that means! I’m very thankful for both these jobs to help supplement my loans.

6.  Catholics on Call. The first week of August, I had the privilege of attending a conference/retreat (“contreat” so to speak) that happened to be at CTU for young adults discerning ministry in the Church. It was a beautiful week of needed reflection, engaging speakers, heartfelt small group discussion,  beautiful Liturgies, and melt-in-your-mouth cookies. And wonderful, precious people, like my small group:

Beautiful people. Precious hearts

7. My apartment. The building. We live in a 4th-floor walk-up, i.e., there are NO ELEVATORS! And you Chicagoans know that we’re talking steep stairs!  Moving our furniture in would have been impossible without our dads. But it is only 3 blocks from CTU. Lucky me!

So.Many.Stairs.

8. My apartment. The roommates. I live with two Annas, two of my housemates from last year at Amate House. We formed our own little “baby community” because the thought of living without “community” after last year was just a bit unpleasant. I am so very thankful for them!

9. Catholic Heart Workcamp (CHWC). When I was home in Florida for the month of July, the first week I actually spent chaperoning a high school mission trip to Knoxville, TN with my home church. It was a blessing to return to a camp that had been so formative for me just a few years prior.  My FAVORITE PART was spending time with the high schoolers (esp. the girls from my church every night!) and getting to share our hearts. To listen. To pray for them. And to share my story with them. And ok, I’m not gonna lie, I LOVED hanging out with the other chaperones too 🙂

10. Catholic Heart Workcamp. The plants. Ok, so my service group of 6 was assigned to work on a community farm for the week with another group. Let me tell you, my passion for turning work/life/play/everything into life analogies and lessons, was in full swing. I mean, planting, harvesting, watering, not seeing the end result, etc…. the possibilities are endless! I do believe the lesson that friends are like fertilizer was one life lesson we learned 😉

11.  Running for a cause. If you missed my previous post where I explain that my marathon efforts are to raise money for Catholic Charities of Chicago, you should check that post out!  Then, you should listen to your heart and see what it says about supporting those in need in Chicago through this amazing organization that reaches over 1 million people per year! Through my link of course 🙂 http://www.active.com/donate/ccofchicago12/melissamarathon

12.  Public Transportation. Still breaking me out of my bubble since August 2011. I love it 80% of the time. 10 % of the time I feel neutral but still grateful for such a helpful system. And the other 10% of the time- like Friday- it is utterly frustrating.

13. Madison Half-Marathon. I ran my first half-marathon a few weeks ago in Madison, WI! It was my first trip to WI and my first trip to see my midwestern buddy, Marissa (MoMo!!), on her turf. It went surprisingly well for Ace (my roommate, friend, and running buddy) and me. Nice weather. Stayed on pace. Beer (icky tho!) afterwards. Gorgeous route. Even a few hills didn’t ruin our spirit 🙂

Marissa, our #1 fan and my emergency contact 🙂

14. My Baby. My nephew, that is. In July, I got to spend lots of time with him. He is precious and I miss him. That is all.

Auntie misses those big, round blue eyes.

15. CTU. School starts Wednesday. A big day 😉 I’m SOOOOOO excited!! The people there are just wonderful. But grad school is a bit overwhelming too of course. The student body is incredibly diverse- from so many countries, of all different ages and life experiences, of all different colors and backgrounds, I can’t wait to learn from my fellow students!

16. Hyde Park. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park. It’s one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, as to which my own apartment building is a testament! Hyde Park is home to the University of Chicago, in addition to many other theological schools like CTU. It’s got a small-town feel in the big city. Love it.

17. A running tradition. Gratitude. On our long runs, my running buddy and I try to say something we’re grateful for every mile. It keeps us in the right mindset and pulls us out of that self-focused, negative talk that can try to work it’s way in there, especially as the mileage increases. What are you thankful today? Speaking of my running buddy, check out her marathon blog! It makes her boss cry. Maybe it will make you cry too 😉

18. Imani. Faith. My running Angel. So today, you may have seen in #1 that the last four miles of my run were… rough. I was battling so many fear-filled thoughts (about this happening in the marathon) as the last four miles were filled with stomach cramps that felt like someone was holding a broom stick into my side. Enter Imani, my running angel. At mile 17, I passed a woman I had never met and asked her, “I can do this right? One more mile?” She gave me an affirmative answer. About a tenth of a mile later, she was running next to me and ran with me almost til the end (until her street came up). She helped me finish only about a minute behind my running buddy (I sent her on ahead since I kept having to stop!) and most importantly, she saved my mental health and helped distract me from the negative thoughts that I was battling that were ruining what had been an other-wise good run. I told her she was my running angel. I truly think she was. And cool fact… her name means Faith!

Thanks for sticking with me for the 18-mile grab bag that goes here, there, and everywhere like my thoughts during a run! Almost all of these could be a post in and of itself, so let me know if you want to hear more about any topic in particular!

Also, shameless plug. Read #11 again. Ponder. Click here. Thanks!!

Much love,

Melissa