Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mary's Joyful Yes

At the Annunciation, Mary’s “yes” to God was a joyful one. Sometimes it's hard to say yes to God, when it means doing something difficult or distasteful that might involve suffering. For those times, we have the example of the "yes" that Jesus said in Gethsemane. In the agony in the garden, Jesus knew he was entering into a cosmic struggle with Evil. He prayed to the Father to be spared that trial, but with the proviso "not your will but mine be done." It was the Father's will that Jesus go into that struggle, and he did.

But Mary's yes is a joyful one. God was offering her a great gift, and she accepted wholeheartedly. This isn't just a pious thought, but is borne out by the Gospel text itself. The word Luke uses to describe Mary's acceptance is "genoito"--let it be done. It's a form of the verb that's used only rarely in the New Testament--the optative mood. In Greek this verb form expresses a joyful willingness, even an eagerness to do something. It expresses a desire and a strong wish. So Mary said "yes" with all the desire of her heart. May we too have the same openness to accept God's greatest gift--our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Change your habits, change your life

This advice comes from Wayne, a prisoner. I heard it at Mass recently from a priest who is a prison chaplain. 

It’s good advice for Lent. Sometimes we can get bogged down because we take on too much. I’ve done that a lot and you’d think by now I would have learned that lesson. Maybe this Lent will be different! I now realize a few things:

1. I can only change one habit at a time.

2. The new habit has to be ridiculously easy or I won’t keep it up.

3. I need a reminder so I don’t forget to do the new habit.

My new habit is to stop spending time on email first thing in the morning, and to start working right away on my most important project. My reminder is attached to something I always do without fail: walk into my office in the morning.

The ridiculously easy thing I will do is to simply open up the computer file for that project. That’s it. It’s how I trick myself, though, because once I have the file open I’ll start working on it. Just to open the file takes no effort at all. Working on the project does take effort, and sometimes I read email instead because I’m dreading the complications of the project. Yes, the email eventually has to be read, but it can wait until later, after I’ve worked on the project a while and can use a break from it.

Our life is made up of little things. But their accumulated effect has a huge impact. One French fry isn’t going to clog your arteries. But eating an unhealthy diet day after day could eventually lead to a heart attack or a stroke. It’s the same for Lent. Little changes done day after day can get us to where we want to be for Easter, with the grace of God.