Friends. I cannot believe that school begins in about a month. I'm going to be Ms. Wood for the majority of the week starting so soon. One of the most exciting parts of this new job is that I am not only going to be teaching English to 60+ wonderful kiddos, but I also get to minister to them daily. At a Catholic school, I'm fully empowered to share about my faith in a way that most occupations don't have space for. But we are all called to minister in our ways!
However, we have to prepare to minister! Just like the Twelve, we can't just venture out on our own. Jesus prepared them through spiritual guidance to be able to minister the Children of Israel. What can we give others if our own wells are dry?
Luckily, there are three easy ways for us to prepare before we venture out each day:
Obvious and relatively self-explanatory, by spending some time each morning with God, we are better prepared for our day in a world that often does not have space for our beliefs. I love the emailed devotional I receive in the mornings alongside the daily readings, paired with my prayer journal. I try for at least five minutes of intentional focus on God. Ideally, this happens before I begin my day but my schedule is not my own, which means I make it happen when I can rather than stressing because it didn't happen immediately. God called me to marriage and motherhood. There's no need to tear myself down because I am serving who I was called to serve at 6 am.
2.) the Word
I mentioned above that I spend time with the Word through a daily email subscription from the USCCB (United States Catholic Council of Bishops). Although it is an admittedly short time and lacks the physical act of cracking open my Bible (which I used to do daily), this meets my needs for now. I love the intentional pairing of the readings that the Church had provided for us and the guidance I receive from the Blessed Is She group. God's Word is truly alive and oftentimes, has something that offers much-needed guidance, whatever the season of life you are in. Most importantly, the Word is a resource unlike any other and should be made a priority, whatever your walk of faith.
3.) Personal time
Snuggled into these intentional 5 minutes with God is the underlying personal time you get to be alone with your own thoughts and feelings. The struggle with rushing through our day and getting little to no time with ourselves is real and dangerous. We can't just turn off how we feel or our need to take care of ourselves. Self-care in the form of bubbles baths and manicures is lovely, but spiritual and emotional self-care is even more important. If you're neglecting those deepest, most sensitive parts of your life, no amount of wine and chocolate is going to help you feel ready to minister to others.
There are also three things we can do weekly:
1.) Attend Mass
Again, self-explanatory and obvious, but also exceedingly essential! Setting aside time each week to literally come to God to worship is integral to being prepared to minister to others. We should practice what we preach and we need God in the form of Holy Communion. Just like we nourish our bodies with healthy, whole foods, we need to nourish our spirit by literally receiving Jesus through the incredible sacrament of the Eucharist each Sunday. Strive to not neglect such an essential piece of our faith, regardless of your feelings on a Sunday morning.
Take a bit of stress off of yourself and plan what you can , which enables you to minister more fully. You can meal plan and prep, make to-do lists, schedule when or how you intend to minister for the week, or whatever else strikes your fancy! I even have a weekly cleaning schedule that keeps me accountable and helps me avoid putting too much time and energy into things that are not more important than God and family.
Even God rested on the seventh day. We also need to rest. We sleep each night, and hopefully wake up feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the next day. But we also need to take time to rest each week. This is the time for those bubble baths I mentioned earlier! It could also mean choosing to eat leftovers one night and watching your favorite show rather than cooking. Whatever it means for you, allow yourself the time to rest and recover. Again, that cup analogy. If you're constantly running yourself ragged and wearing yourself thin, how can you possibly care for, serve, and minister to those around you! Carve out time that has a clear intention of resting. Not doing.
These six simple things, when used purposefully, can help prepare you each day and week to minister as God calls you. We have been called to share the Good News and we have been called to act on it. We can only do that when we are prepared and able.
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Today's Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12 is pretty straightforward for Jesus. No parables, no lofty references, just a clear message: "...but do not follow their example. For they preach, but they do not practice."
The scribes and Pharisees preached the Jewish law but failed to follow it. They preferred their works to be seen by many rather than simply done. They made certain that everyone understood the difficult rules in place for them, but made no effort to help their fellow man try and attain holiness. In short, they were hypocrites.
Our society is flooded with men and women like the Pharisees. I'll even admit that there have been times I have been one. Posting one thing and opting for a Netflix and jammies kind of Sunday instead of a get-up and go worship kind of Sunday. In particular, social media has enabled us to show one thing and do another and leave none the wiser. From celebrities to Insta-moms to our best friend from middle school, what they show us has been carefully curated to exhibit a certain of persona.
The Gospel also warns us that hypocrisy runs deeper than saying one thing and doing another. The intention behind what you do is equally important. If you are giving because others can see you give, that is as good as not giving at all. If you volunteer to coach a basketball team because you love where it will seat you (an "in" with a certain group or person), then you aren't really volunteering to serve, are you?
Start giving up your hypocrisy today by answering honestly why you do what you do. Try to find a way to make your intentions mindful and purposeful, rather than self-serving. But before you do any of that, admit that you cannot do it alone, "Lord, I need you."
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