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Nancy Ward is a convert, journalist, blogger, published author and speaker on her conversion, Catholicism and Christian community in Texas. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars and DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com
Need a Speaker?Bring "Sharing Your Faith Story" to your Catholic group. Nancy tells her faith story and 10 on how to effectively evangelize through personal witness.
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”Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles,” (Matthew 5:41).
Your son comes home from his first day of Early Childhood all excited, “Guess what, Mommy, we get to go on all the field trips together! Every week!”
“Why is that?”
“Because we have a station wagon!” Blam! There goes your writing time.
From a carpool friend comes a plea to take her duty this week with, “You’re the only one I can count on to do this for me.” Blam! Another unwelcome commitment busting your schedule.
Your husband calls you from work worried about Walter, a contract employee. He injured his back, not while on duty on the survey ship, but off duty in a jeep accident. He’s coming home from the hospital, and he needs a place to heal until the insurance approves an apartment. His wife concurs that I can take better care of him her than she can in England. BLAM!
Pressed into service
When pressed into service, it’s not the situation that causes me to struggle but my knee-jerk reaction. You see, eventually I enjoyed the weekly field trips and deepened my friendships through the second-mile commitments.
Walter was different. He needed a special bed and wanted special food. He was so bored that he followed me around to talk about his adventures. I wasn’t listening. My husband came home later and later as he tried to untangle the insurance mess.
I was like the man whose mother-in-law was coming for a visit for a week. He asked the Lord to give him patience for just one week. And he succeeded. Trouble is, she stayed an extra day, and he blew it. I was asking for patience with Walter while fussing with my husband. Yes, I blew it when my husband went out of town for a weekend business trip. Since Walter couldn’t climb stairs, I retreated to my bedroom upstairs, fuming.
God stretches our limits
Even when we know our limitations, God doesn’t seem to. He stretches our limits. Then shows us our need for him. But we don’t listen. We don’t trust that he’s in control. We feel tricked when pressed into service that extra mile. Then we feel guilty about complaining, stuff it and end up resentful. Should we go to confession because of our angry outbursts? After all, it wasn’t fair. We didn’t sign up for this. And on and on we battle with our emotions and our rights. Forced generosity pits our will against God’s will, a battle that puts us on the wrong side of victory.
But what does Jesus say? Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me, (Mt. 25:40) Even though Walter was helpless when he came to us, he was the least likely person that I would volunteer to help.
charity is seldom easy, never an imposition, always merciful and noticed by God, who tells us, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38)
A second chance
More than twenty years after Walter, God gave us a second chance and huge blessings that keep on coming. We knew a priest who was temporarily assigned to our parish, but he would have to sleep on the couch in the rectory. He stayed in our guest room for a month, and we grew fond of him.
A year later, when he had hip surgery, Fr. Bob pressed us into service for outpatient physical therapy at our home instead of entering a rehab center. My husband took care of Fr. Bob’s physical needs and I handled meals and laundry. We weren’t looking for payback, but the Masses Fr. Bob celebrated in our family room as the sun rose over the lake had us singing and dancing well into the morning. I loved listening as he read aloud from his favorite spiritual books. Now, at my sunrise prayer time, I remember those intimate celebrations that God gave us every day for several weeks.
Sometimes I still stew and fuss and rebel against those who press me into service. Then I remember to choose to do it all for the least of Jesus’ brothers. The joy hidden under my efforts transforms forced generosity into authentic charity.
When pressed into service, how do you handle unexpected expectations?
(© 2013, revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)
In Strange Gods: Unmasking the idols of everyday life, Elizabeth Scalia writes beautifully about how she struggles with distractions during her prayers. Can you relate?
When I first began to pray—and I am forever a beginner—I struggled with focus, particularly in contemplation and in praying the Rosary. I let the struggle take more of my attention than it should have, until praying seemed like a nice idea, but clearly one meant for other people, and not for me, with my head full of monkey chatter and shiny things. When I said as much to an elderly nun named Sister Alice, she smiled and said, “Distraction in prayer is overcome in God’s good time, but it is actually one of the easiest things to manage. You must first be willing to admit that you are imperfect. Then, when the distractions come, you simply recognize them for what they are, and bring your attention back to prayer.” Continue reading
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Ps 67:2-3, 5,6,8; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32, Matthew 15:21-28
In the past months of my travels I have learned some new things that are helpful for my understanding of our church and world. One bishop described the church in three parts.
The first is those who still come to church and have been brought up or been to some extent evangelized as Catholics. Half of those do not know Jesus personally. This is a problem because they don’t know what God’s kingdom is about in the world. They don’t know the love and power Jesus comes to bring us.
The second level is those who need to be taught more about the faith. These need to be “catechized.” We can’t do that much in a Sunday homily at Mass with an audience of those from cradle to grave. We have all kinds of programs we can offer during the week but people are too busy with other things and not interested in “more faith.” That is a great problem. Continue reading
For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:20)
Our permissive culture subtly deceives us is into believing that our bodies are our own. It gives us permission to use them to gain popularity, express our worst desires or further our careers. We seem foolish if we don’t. “It’s just the way of the world.” This mindset permeates into every aspect of the media, literature, conversations at work, social networking and our approach to life.
We counter this with the truth: we were bought at a price, and what a price! The crucifixes in our homes and churches remind us of what price Jesus paid for us. Continue reading
There it was printed on a carry-on bag: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” I was fascinated with it and visually followed it past me in the airport.
After a glorious time during a quick three-day trip to attend my daughter’s grad school commencement, we said a sad goodbye outside the airport.
Soon after she pulled away from the curb, I discovered that no planes were flying to Dallas that day and probably not the next due to hail damage to the planes at DFW Airport.
I quickly called my daughter so she could stay at the airport and wait in the cell phone lane.
The first phrase, “Keep Calm,” helps us when we are beset by unexpected events—joys or disappointments, changes and cancellations in our schedules. I spent an hour in line with the other stranded passengers. Most of them were furious at the interruption of their plans. That would have been me if I were missing a vacation, a job interview, a family wedding. Continue reading
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Ps 85:9-14; Romans 9:1-5; 14:22-33
There is a link in the first and gospel readings today. The Elijah story harkens back to Moses on the same mountain amidst storms, lightning and clouds when God gave him the Ten Commandments. Yet God was not those frightening elements.
In the story today, Elijah is on the same mountain. Why? The Jews had moved into Canaanite pagan territory between Syria and Egypt. Elijah, a major Jewish prophet, was running for his life from Jezebel. She was the queen of Ahab of Israel and fostered worship of Baal, the most important pagan Canaanite god of rain, storms and fertility. Jezebel also supported 450 of Baal’s false prophets. Elijah challenged those prophets on Mt. Carmel and had them all killed. Continue reading