“Merciful like the Father”


Spiritual Journey framed

Many thanks to the SJT community for reflecting on the OLW “merciful.” Please join us; please share your insights. Thank you!


“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ” (Luke 6:36)


“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Thanks to Pope Francis, the Catholic Church is sponsoring a Jubilee Year of Mercy from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016. All are invited–no exceptions.

In announcing this Jubilee, the Holy Father wrote beautifully about God’s Mercy and our need to respond to His Mercy. You can read his words here.

In response to the Jubilee, my OLW  has been “mercy,” which, Providentially, we had explored as the SJT community last Fall. In retrospect, I see that writing about mercy and reading others’ posts on mercy was a wonderful preparation for the Jubilee.

Because we recently had reflected on “mercy,” I did not submit that word as my OLW–not that there are not always wider and deeper ways of reflecting on God’s Infinite Mercy. No. But I was not wanting to write a SJT post on “mercy” again.

Nevertheless, as we came to the end of our OLW schedule, Holly and Carol encouraged me to submit my OLW “mercy.”  I proposed building on the “mercy” reflections we had done; I requested taking “mercy” a step further, in the form of the OLW  “merciful.”

First, as an adjective, “merciful” speaks to me of being full of mercy. As a participle, “being merciful” speaks to me of putting into action, of demonstrating, of distributing that mercy of which one is full. In keeping with the Jubilee theme “[Be] Merciful like the Father,” I am grateful that Holly accepted to present this week’s OLW as “merciful.”

Jubilee logo

(The Mercy Jubilee logo (created by Jesuit Father Marko I. Rupnik), based on the Jubilee motto “Merciful Like the Father” (taken from the Gospel of Luke, 6:36) is found on the Vatican Jubilee website, specifically on this page, which contains a beautiful explanation of the Scriptural basis for the intricacies of the logo.)

For most of my spiritual journey, starting from my earliest years, I found the Scripture, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48) totally daunting. On the one hand, I felt the weight of the Lord’s command. I needed to be “perfect.” As an only child born to a super-perfectionist older father, I felt great paternal human pressure to be “perfect,” and so the Scriptural requirement seemed perfectly understandable–but none the less unachievable.

And yet, that unachievableness wasn’t just a lack of ability on my part to be the perfect child of my human father and my Heavenly Father. No, it was deeper, and led to a troubling contradiction that, in retrospect, I should have “called” the adults on. But I didn’t.

Knowing that I was a nervous, anxious child, my parents and teachers would tell me to stop trying to be perfect–just to do my best. Spiritual teachers would say that because we are “only human,” of course, we cannot be perfect. Only God is perfect. And the contradiction between “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” on the one hand, and it is prideful to think that you can be perfect, on the other hand, definitely made my head spin. Why would God call me to a personhood I never could–or shouldn’t even be presumptuous enough to try to–attain?

And then it happened! At a particular noonday Mass in a Jesuit retreat house, the priest explained that the perfection we are called to in the verse “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48), as revealed in the parallel discourse, is mercy: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). (Honestly, it never even occurred to me to compare or to juxtapose the Lord’s parallel discourse in Matt. 5:43-48 and Luke 6:31-36 in that way!)

To say I was relieved and jubilant is an understatement. The unattainable burden of trying to be perfect was lifted for me. Being merciful seemed a lot easier than being perfect–even if the priest said that the terms were interchangeable in that parallel Scripture context.

In the years since I first heard those words, I have done much reading about God’s Mercy, particularly once I became introduced to the Divine Mercy Devotion. Most recently, I have been reflecting on the Holy Father’s Jubilee announcement. I realize how naive I was to think that being Merciful like the Father is easier than being perfect. But still, for whatever reason, my comfort in that thought continues.

In this Jubilee, the Holy Father has encouraged us to be merciful like the Father by performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, as he details in his Jubilee “Bull of Indiction”: Misericordiae Vultus (Face of Mercy), [#15, internal paragraphing and itemizing, mine]:

“It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.

“And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.

“Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy:

  • to feed the hungry,
  • give drink to the thirsty,
  • clothe the naked,
  • welcome the stranger,
  • heal the sick,
  • visit the imprisoned, and
  • bury the dead.

“And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy:

  • to counsel the doubtful,
  • instruct the ignorant,
  • admonish sinners,
  • comfort the afflicted,
  • forgive offences,
  • bear patiently those who do us ill, and
  • pray for the living and the dead.”

For me, the hardest work of mercy is to forgive others, even though I continue to pray: “Forgive [me my} trespasses as [I] forgive others their trespasses against [me].” Scary.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)

For He makes the sun (His sun) to shine on the good and bad and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust; whereas, if it were up to me, I would deny the sun to the “bad” and rain to the “unjust,” condemning myself, because I, too, am “bad” and “unjust.”

As the Holy Father points out (#9): “Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences [sic] becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.”

Thank God for His Mercy, which embraces us first in His forgiveness so that we can be merciful to others. I could write much more about my response (or lack thereof) to the call to be merciful every day of my life.

For now, I will end, knowing that there is no end to God’s mercy, no end to my need for that mercy, and hardly a beginning to my being truly merciful as my Heavenly Father is Merciful.

Merciful like the Father…those are Infinitely BIG SHOES to fill. I take heart that when I was little, I would dance with my human father by standing on his shoes, and I  would move along with him. Maybe that’s what I need to do now–to ask the Lord Jesus, Who the Holy Father says is “the face of the Father’s mercy,” to dance me–to lead me–into being merciful like our Heavenly Father.

Thank you for considering and responding to my O[BIG]LW: merciful.

May God lead us all to become “perfectly” merciful!

p.s. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the Pope’s Jubilee message: “With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.” (#8)

Here, too, are a couple of my favorite “merciful” Scripture quotes:

“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.” (Psalm 145:8)

“The Lord is just in all His ways, merciful in all His works.” (Psalm 145:17)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13)

And, “of course”:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)



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Spiritual Journey framed

This week’s focus word comes compliments of Donna S. Please join us; please share your reflection. Thank you!


Bold. The word “bold” sounds to me onomatopoeic. One syllable that cuts to the chase: strong, direct, emphatic, without equivocation. Bold. There’s no mistaking it for wish-washy, ambivalent, tentative.

The spiritual journey problem for me is that when I try to be bold in dealing with fellow humans, finding it hard to be assertive, I become, instead, mouthy, rude: aggressive. And then regretting that behavior, I reinforce my not being bold, if that makes any sense.

Interesting, though. The One with Whom I should be most afraid of being bold, I am not the least so!

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Hmmm… Why is that so? Do I have no respect, no reverent fear, no sense of the Infinite?

Yes, I do…There is only one answer to why I, a poor, weak, sinner-creature could presume to go “boldly” before the throne of grace, and that answer is well expressed by St. Paul:

“…in [Christ Jesus Our Lord] we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.  (Ephesians 3:12)

And that explains that the “boldness” with which I approach the throne of grace is “confidence” in Christ Jesus, Who said that He is the Way to the Father.

Another translation of Hebrews 4:16 bears out that “bold-ly; bold-ness” connotation:

“So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Praise God for the confidence we can have in Him….

Maybe that explains why I find it difficult to act boldly with fellow human beings. Maybe I know that we all are imperfect; that I cannot count on justice, let alone mercy!  Maybe fear and cynicism keeps me from making myself vulnerable—transparent, in a way—to trust letting someone else know my hopes, fears, desires, complaints, needs etc.

So, until I get comfortable being assertive in human relationships that have to do with personal aspects, I hope that at least in terms of my Baptismal privileges and responsibilities, I can be bold in my dealings with fellow human beings in the way that St. Paul also stated…that having boldly/confidently approached the Throne of Grace, I can share that grace, boldly/confidently proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the way appointed to me because to the extent that the Lord appoints, in my little area of the world, with believers and nonbelievers:

“To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things …This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness of speech and confidence of access through faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:8-9,11-12)

If only….


Everything up to this point was written before Mother Angelica’s death Easter Sunday. Now, I realize I could rewrite this post to speak to her holy boldness. I might do that for the next post. For now, I will just add this postscript:

Boldness should be the eleventh commandment.
– Mother Angelica

Those who knew and worked with her said that her bold faith emboldened others…

Now I realize that this boldly holy woman lived my “If only…”

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Stations of the Cross–Mercy Reflections

Over the last number of weeks, mercy reflections on the Stations of the Cross have been published on Catholic365.

Here for your convenience, consideration, and comment are links to the reflections.

Please share your insights as you pray the Stations. Thank you!

On Good Friday and always, may God abundantly bless you.

First Station     Jesus is condemned

Second Station       Jesus accepts His Cross with love

Third, Seventh, and Ninth Stations     Jesus falls three times

Fourth Station        Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother

Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Stations        Jesus receives consolation and gives counsel and consolation

Tenth Station        Jesus is robbed of His garments

Eleventh Station       Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Twelfth Station        Jesus dies on the Cross

Thirteenth Station         Jesus is taken down from the Cross

Fourteenth Station      Jesus’ Body is placed in the tomb

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Shine, Jesus, Shine!

Spiritual Journey framed

This week’s focus word comes compliments of Doraine. Please join us; please share your reflection. Thank you!


“…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (1 Corinthians 15: 17, 19)

SHINE…  Thanks to Doraine, what a perfectly Providential OLW for this week! …If this OLW had been presented at another time of year, my reflections–most likely–would have been decidedly different. But with the reflection on “shine” coinciding with Holy Week, there is but one aspect of this word that is foremost in my mind, and that is its Easter Vigil liturgical connotation.

Unfortunately, I did not experience my first full-fledged Easter Vigil liturgical celebration until just a couple of years ago. “Unfortunately,” that is, because I wish I had experienced the Easter Vigil earlier in my life so that I could have enjoyed more of them!

By full-fledged, I mean that at nightfall, I witnessed the lighting of the outdoor “New Fire.”  Supervised by the Eagle and other Scouts and their leaders, the huge bonfire turned crimson our little section of the night sky, and the crackling of the wood pierced the silence.

Although I don’t have a photo from my parish of their huge bonfire, here is an image of what I am trying to describe. (Please know that none of the illustrative photos in this post do justice to the firsthand visions!)

vigil outdoor BIG fore 794px-Paskeld800 (2)

 By User Per Johansson on sv.wikipedia (own work by Per Johansson) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
To use the trite expression “better late than never,” I am grateful to have experienced the Vigil when I did. Bathed in the sight of physical light and the sounds of light-related words and metaphors,  my sense of the magnificence of the Lord’s Resurrection was greatly heightened.
When I’m honest, I admit that I still cannot full grasp; cannot totally wrap my head around the enormity of Jesus’ Resurrection—either as a sign of the Lord’s Divinity or as a sign of the power and the faithfulness of God to fulfill every promise He ever made. Yet, the events of the Easter Vigil have moved me far along the path to greater appreciation and awe of Jesus’ Rising from the dead.


In helping me to better realize and appreciate the reality of the Lord’s Glorious Resurrection, the Easter Vigil brought to life for me what St. Paul said, “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins…If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19)

Yes, without the Resurrection which Jesus promised to accomplish on the third day after His death, as St. Paul said, we would be foolish to believe and to follow Him, even if St. Paul said earlier in the same letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:10) that in humility and meekness, we need to be “fools for Christ,” risking ridicule, prejudice, and persecution following Him, Who is our Lord and Savior.

And so with deep gratitude for the Easter Vigil, it is the sense of “shine” as it relates  relates to liturgical fire/candle-light that I feel “compelled” to recall and to acknowledge as a milestone along my spiritual journey.

Using the prescribed words in the Roman Missal (which I found online for this posting), I heard our pastor lead us in a beautiful prayer, which asked the Lord to “… sanctify this new fire…and grant that…we may be so inflamed with heavenly desires, that with minds made pure we may attain festivities of unending splendor…
Next, I saw the Pastor use the flames of the “New Fire” to light the huge Paschal Candle (representing Christ as the Light of the World). At the same time, I heard him pray the beautiful benediction, “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”  (That blessing is one that is beautiful, day in day, out, don’t you think?)


Then, with the Paschal Candle carried by the deacon leading the way,  I joined in the procession into the darkened church, where some people who opted not to come outside had been listening to the prayers, broadcast through speakers.

vigil paschal candle 2 449px-Osterkerze_in_Dunkelheit

By Nahefoto (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At a certain point in the procession, when the deacon carrying the Candle was about midway between the main doors and the sanctuary, the flame from the Paschal Candle was used to light the tapers that all the members of the congregation held. In order for that to happen, a small group of altar servers lit the candles of those standing at end-aisle seats, and then, slowly but surely, as the flames were shared, person to person, the whole interior of the darkened church became filled with candlelight. What a moving sight to see and to participate in!

vigil darkened church 2 449px-Gemeinde_osternacht

By Nahefoto (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When all the worship-leader members of the procession had taken their places in the sanctuary, and after various beautiful prayer-intonations, the individual taper-candles were extinguished (to be re-lit during the renewal of Baptismal promises later in the Vigil). Some artificial lights were then turned on, but the sanctuary remained in virtual darkness until the completion of six readings from the Old Testament.

Then! after the Old Testament readings were complete, but before the readings from the New Testament, the altar candles were lit and the pastor initiated the choir’s leading the congregation’s singing the hymn “Glory to God in the Highest.”  Simultaneously with the singing, church bells were jubilantly ringing and the trumpets triumphantly were sounding, and the sanctuary lights, as well as the full interior lights of the church were fully engaged. Yes! lights, voices, bells, and trumpets were heralding the Resurrection, giving “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Although only a lit Paschal Candle is shown below, once the lights were on full force, the full array of flowers that were fully present in the sanctuary were visible, adding great gaiety to the lights and music.

vigil paschal alone Osterkerze-2014 (2)
 By Andreas Janik (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since that first Easter Vigil, the whole sense of the darkness of sin versus the Light of Christ, and the enormity of Christ’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection have been more real to me. The whole juxtaposition of “light” and “dark” in the Gospel of St. John makes more sense to me. And the Baptismal privilege and responsibility of sharing and spreading the Light of Christ (as we did lighting each other’s taper candles twice during the Vigil), so joyfully commemorated in the children’s song that I love to sing: “This Little Light of Mine,” has never been more paramount in my mind and heart.

Today, on this SJT that occurs during Holy Week, something else is on my heart, too, and that is that without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Vigil, and so I postpone my jubilation until Saturday evening, immersing myself in the sorrow and thanksgiving that is Good Friday, sorrowing for the sins–my sins– that caused the Son of God to suffer immeasurable pain, and thanking God that the story doesn’t end when the tomb is sealed on Good Friday. Death does not have the last word. The Word, Who is the Light of the World, rises again. And so on Good Friday, I do what St. Paul described is the posture of the believer; that I grieve, but not like those who have no hope (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Whether and however you celebrate this next holy days, I pray that God embrace you and those you love with His Merciful Light and Love.

As the refrain from a popular lively hymn “Shine, Jesus, Shine” says:

“Shine, Jesus, shine; fill this land with the Father’s glory.
Blaze, Spirit, blaze; set out hearts on fire.
Flow, river, flow; flood the nations with grace and mercy.
Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light.”

(FYI: The YouTube video link has one visual lyric mistake; “kindly” should be “kingly.”)

Risen 2006-07-19_-_United_States_-_New_York_-_Long_Island_-_North_Fork_-_Jesus_is_Risen_-_Cutout_-_Yellow_4889034806 (2)

 http://www.cgpgrey.com [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


He is Risen. Amen.

risen lilies 800px-Field-of-Easter-Lilies_ForestWander (2)

http://www.ForestWander.com [CC BY-SA 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons



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Spiritual Journey framed

This week’s focus word comes compliments of Linda. Please join us; please share your reflection. Thank you!


I should have known that overcoming overthinking, overdoing, over-collecting would be a lifelong spiritual journey struggle–the seeds, the symptoms were clearly visible.. Perhaps the most salient metaphor:

Freshman algebra: I failed the first test because I neglected to simplify.

I knew I was “supposed” to simplify, but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. Reducing, minimizing, lessening. No. The answers were correct, full, in tact just they way they were.

My teacher didn’t agree. Forty was my reward (or penalty). …She did commiserate. I learned my lesson in algebra…but somehow it never transferred to “real life.”

(That always is the teenage objection , isn’t it–that school–e.g. that algebra– isn’t relevant to real life. Here was a case in point wherein it was totally relevant, I’m the one who failed to apply the lesson.)

One of the reasons I like Twitter is that it forces me to simplify messages. I like the challenge, but still, given my druthers, I’m afraid I prefer to prattle on, even in prayer, in total disregard of the Lord’s advice.

Speaking of the Lord’s advice, too, to travel light, when I think of various religious communities which restrict their members to having just one bag of personal possessions to take with them on a transfer, I feel frightened at the specter of being so limited in possessions (especially books), but then I realize that there is something liberating about traveling light, a metaphor so often used for leaving the past behind. It’s liberating to be healthily (holy) detached!

The older I get, the more mindful I am of the necessity of simplifying my material possessions. Having witnessed both my parents, who died at home, being taken to the funeral homes devoid of any possessions except the clothes they were wearing at the time of their deaths, I am convinced that simplifying is a grace and a responsibility.

Inasmuch as today is St. Patrick’s Day, I think about the way he and other missionaries down to today found ways to simplify the Faith, as they introduced it, connecting it to the listeners’ culture and familiar ways–ergo the shamrock/Blessed Trinity lesson. (Simple isn’t necessarily simplistic.)

First the joy of St. Patrick’s Day, and then the poignancy of Holy Week. As we approach the Good Friday, there is a clarion call, I think, to recognize the meaning of life, simplifying it to  make it worthy of the One Who suffered and died for us to fully live.

Meanwhile, on this day that celebrates the wearing of the green, I think I’ll honor green: recycle, reduce, reuse, and simplify my life–at least a few of my material possessions–at least a bit, in honor of my Irish heritage.

What about you? God bless you! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!






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Spiritual Journey framed

This week’s focus word comes compliments of Holly, SJT facilitator and hostess. Please join us; please share your reflection. Thank you!


“Wait for the Lord with courage, New Jersey. Be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.”

PTDC0979 (3)

October 5, 1995


Those were the farewell words, based on Psalm 27:14, that Pope St. John Paul II spoke to the participants of the Papal Mass he celebrated at (what was then called) Giants Stadium.

I had the blessing of being at that outdoor Mass, although I ashamedly admit that I almost didn’t go, having had second thoughts that morning…because of the rain–not just “rain,” but R A I N–pouring, teeming, wind-soaking rain.

As much as I didn’t want to be drenched, I had to admit that it wouldn’t be “right”–it wouldn’t be “fair” to be a “Fair Weather Friend” of the Lord. And so I swallowed my preference to be warm and dry, and headed off to join the caravan of bus passengers being driven to Giants Stadium.

For the hours we sat in the stands before the Mass began, we sang and prayed and waited for the rain to stop–which it never did. (I flew out to California for a business trip the next morning, and when I returned home a number of days later, the boots I wore to the Stadium, in which I stuffed newspaper before I left, still were wet!)

“Wait for the Lord with courage, New Jersey. Be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.”

If you’ve followed my SJT posts, you have to know that patience is a test for me, a real test! And so even though the Pope’s words did not magically change me, I must admit that every time I’ve been majorly impatient or downhearted when a goal I’ve long aspired to isn’t coming to fruition, I think of what our beloved St. John Paul II said.

I take strength from those words, not only because they derive from Sacred Scripture and were the farewell words spoken by the Holy Father, but because they were directly addressed to “New Jersey”–to me!

“Good things come to those who wait,” popular wisdom reminds us.

Yes! An amazingly good thing came to me that day, waiting in the rain. A firsthand experience of worshiping God in the rain with sixty thousand fellow worshipers, equally as rain soaked, and yet happy and proud and grateful to have participated in a Mass celebrated by the Holy Father.

And as a bonus, words I’ve recalled and drawn strength from ever since; words spoken by the Vicar of Christ on Earth:

“Wait for the Lord with courage, New Jersey. Be stouthearted and wait for the Lord.”

Based on that experience, I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who were alive during His Public Ministry, those who had been personally addressed by Jesus Himself, who had been given admonition and counsel from His Sacred Lips.

For me, I will have to wait for a comparable experience. And the words I pray to hear are “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Words well worth waiting for.










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Spiritual Journey framed

This week’s focus word comes compliments of Julianne. Please join us; please share your reflection. Thank you!


Without consulting a dictionary, based on having lived through three years of high school Latin, I know that “ad” means “to” or “toward.” Likewise, based on many more than three years of learning English, I know that “mire” means “slush” or “muck.”

Putting those two things together, I cynically see etymologically what experience and observation has shown me; in the pop culture, we often direct our attention to individuals whose attitude and behavior are not worthy of emulation. (Unfortunately, even children’s literature (e.g. early series books) holds up characters whose behavior would not have cut it before edgy plots and bratty characters became the standard.)

Interestingly, consulting an online Latin dictionary, I have discovered that “admire” has two Latin roots: “ad,” whose meaning I already knew, and “mirari”: “to wonder at,” which I did not know! … Surprisingly, I discovered that the parallel Greek roots for “admire” translate into “smile.”

Yes! Smile! We smile at what we admire. A smile of appreciation. A smile of approval. A smile of contentment. We smile!

When I find myself spontaneously smiling (without consciously thinking that I want to be smiling), I know I am in the presence of a resonating truth…Truth about myself, the situation, or S/someone else.

Have you ever had that happen to you—that you smiled before you even figured out why?

When that happens, I surprise myself, knowing that I know more than I consciously think, and knowing that there is a knowledge in me I can trust; a knowledge that doesn’t depend on human thinking.

Maybe that’s what St. Paul was referring to when he said that we should…

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“ (Phil. 4:6-7)

And so this week’s OLW “admire,” it seems to me, connects with last week’s OLW “mindfulness.”

Truthfully, I’ve noticed that when my mind is full of myself; when I am self-absorbed with fears, concerns, and anxieties, I don’t admire anyone. I’m not free to smile, to appreciate, to acknowledge another’s goodness (which is, in fact, a reflection of God’s Goodness shining through that person).

Admiring requires humility, a self-forgetfulness, an ability to rejoice over and to be gladdened by another’s blessings. Every time I’m tempted to be jealous of and to resent someone’s gifts and achievements thinking them unworthy of admiration, I recall a preacher’s strong admonition.

When we resent someone’s good fortune, lamenting to God that they are undeserving of this or that material or spiritual benefit, we really are disrespecting God’s Providence. We really are like the workers in Jesus’ parable (Matt. 20:11-15) who complained that those who started working later in the day had been overpaid. And God says to us (as the owner in the parable said to the complaining workers about His money), “Am I not free to do as I wish with My own [gifts]?”

And so, as I make this spiritual journey home to the Father, I’m realizing that it really is God Whom I best admire…His Goodness, His Beauty, His Creativity, His Mercy, His Kindness etc.…

Anyone whose behavior is not worthy of God—anyone whose behavior is not reflective of those attributes of God’s—still is worthy of my smile of love and respect since that person is made in the Image and Likeness of God (as am I).

But as for my smile of admiration, which is the highest form of consent and approval I can offer to a fellow human being without idolizing him or her as a god, I need to be judicious in my willing admiration of others, even if they never know or see my admiration. I’m guarding my mind and heart, my prerogative to admire in keeping with God’s Goodness.

That being said, SJT community members: please know that without hesitation, I admire the truthfulness with which you share your strivings to journey with and toward God. Thank you for revealing His Goodness to me through your weekly reflections and sharings.

(p.s. Yes! When I think of you, I’m smiling–grateful smiles of admiration.)

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