Guide to Goodness, Uncategorized

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

I recently listened to organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s podcast about Givers and Takers where he breaks down three personalities and offers simple strategies to promote a culture of generosity in the workplace.  It was validating to know that the givers win out in affecting positive culture and increased results. Go figure!

Being a giver is good for others and good for us.  As we wrap up another Valentine’s Day, a day which has its roots in Catholicism and the profound concept of love, I want to focus on the third leg of the Lenten stool of good works: almsgiving or service to others. 

Because we are created to love and be loved, we yearn to love and be loved. This innate yearning is fulfilled and strengthened by the practices and traditions of our faith of loving one another which is service at its core.  

When we are in service of others, we willingly enter the loop of grace, giving away the gifts we have received.  A gift must be given for the original gift to be multiplied and enhanced. This is God’s grace. 

Most of us feel the weight of the symptoms of lack of love in our world today.  When we lift the veil, the problem is really lack of self-possession.  Self-possession is doing what is good, true, noble, and right.  Our ability to love is directly linked to the level of self-possession we have.  

How can I love my neighbor if all I am concerned about is myself and my needs before the needs of others?  

To give of ourselves, we must first possess ourselves.  Broken relationships, divorce, and dysfunction, which surround us, fuel our lack of self-possession.  But there is a blueprint for us to rebuild self-possession in the spiritual disciplines that make up the landscape of Catholic spirituality.  These disciplines are designed so we can love God and neighbor and be loved the way we were created to be loved.  The perfect Valentines gift to our world!

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  Our interior penance can be expressed in many and various ways, but scripture insists on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.   

This conversion of heart is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice, by the admission of faults, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, and endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness.  All these expressions allow us to take up our own cross each day and follow Jesus. Voluntary self-denial such as fasting and especially almsgiving allow us to be reverent, and experience brotherly love to both the living and the dead.  

One thing I have been learning about recently is that the Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.  I am understanding the importance of commemoration and helping those who have died by offer prayers for them.  

God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them.  The Church’s love for the poor is a part of her constant tradition.  Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working to be able to give to those in need.  It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.  When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.  Our world is in such need of true justice!

For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me. 

Focus on His truth, Matthew 25:35

The works of mercy are charitable actions where we come to the aid of our neighbor in spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.  The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.  

I will never forget my conversion of heart after I gave blessing bags every day of lent to a different person in need on the street.  Many times, I was blessed to see the face of Jesus as I looked into that person’s eyes.  For a COVID safe idea, check out the CRS Rice Bowl where you can help feed the world. 

How will you experience a conversion of heart and serve others this Lent?

As St. Francis of Assisi says, “Let us give alms because they cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.”

Out of personal devotion, we may promise almsgiving as a sign of respect to the divine majesty, love for a faithful God and to be Smitten with Goodness.  Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses as to how we love our neighbor, and it is also a work of justice pleasing to God bringing His love into the world. 

In His Service,

Cynthia

Guide to Goodness

Action: Ready, Fire, Aim or Aim, Ready, Fire?

Photo by Steven Arenas on Pexels.com

Have you ever heard the expression ready, fire, aim?  It seems to me that a lot of our culture operates this way taking immediate action and reacting to something before thinking it through.  If we are not careful and intentional, this behavior can transcend our life, including our spiritual life.

Landing on the word action for my word this year was a bit tricky.  I needed to adjust my mindset around its definition and what act means.  Action is defined as the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.  Since I am looking for holiness in my life, I measure success by my relationship with God and spiritual growth year over year.  This is my north star. The way I think, speak and act should align with this aim.  Being out of alignment with my purpose and my values is a recipe for stress and anxiety.  Many people go through life not really knowing what they want, and they drift.  As believers, we have a simple, clear, unambiguous articulation of the end goal of how we should live life.  We can do this by being smitten with God’s goodness.

Do you know the stumbling blocks that keep your eye off goodness?  I stub my toes often on my self-reliance, thinking things are all up to me.  This nasty coping skill was the result of lost connection with my mother from alcoholism.  As I learned later through recovery, I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and its easier for me to be concerned with others which enables me to not look to closely at my own faults.  It was easier for me to take on this responsibility and have what I thought was control over my chaotic world.

Our culture glorifies and rewards self-reliance even though it is destroying our relationships and our mental health.  We are called to love God with our whole being. I find myself asking for forgiveness more often than I like.   As humans, we are made for love and connection.  Through learning to do things different, I know the quality of my relationships correlate to my ability to trust and be vulnerable.  If I want to grow in my love with God, my husband, family, friends, and my community, I need to invite others to help and support me.  Self-reliance creates stress and anxiety and robs me of the gift of peace because I feel everything is up to me.  I feel like Atlas, carrying the world on my shoulders. 

With this context, action for me is aim, ready, fire.  This is the right-ordered action.  Since my aim is to do God’s will, I need to get ready through prayer and then fire or act!  It is simple but challenging given my tendencies – I oftentimes bypass the most important step, prayer. 

Whatever I learn, receive, or hear from God or what I see in Him, if I put it into practice peace will live within me allowing me to be smitten with His goodness.  The value of goodness is transcendent!  Goodness is not only a virtue but a practice where I find ways to create good things and make my life better including the lives of everyone else around me.  The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are abundant!

For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. 

Focus on His truth, Ephesians 5:9

Being smitten with goodness brings light into the world through partaking in the divine nature by faith and confessing the greatness of the One who created me.  When I am secure in this identity, rather than the old habit of self-reliance, I live a life worthy of the gift I have been given.  I am made capable by doing this by grace and the gifts of his Spirit, which I receive through the sacraments and through prayer.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1692

Living a life of virtue is a habit with a firm disposition to do good.  It allows me to not only perform good acts but to give the best of myself.  When I look toward the good with my whole heart, I take concrete steps to grasp beauty around me and have an attitude and disposition that will govern my actions, order my passions, and guide my conduct according to reason and faith. 

In action and goodness,

Cynthia

Inspiration

Do You Have a Word of The Year?

Last year’s word of the year for me was Be.  Upon reflection, Be was the perfect word that fueled my spiritual growth and cultivated my peace of mind.  Flash back to last February.  In my journey to understand love, the way our Creator intended, I stepped away from a 35-year career to support my husband through his lifesaving bone marrow transplant.  Little did I know, we would be contending with COVID the following month to add complexity to his immune compromised state as well as facing a grueling year of multiple complications from the transplant.  Hiring in my field of philanthropy slowed down as well and positions of interest were and continue to be on hold.  Since much of my time prior to the transplant and COVID was focused on working, it was hard to be still and just Be. Being is an uncomfortable space to find yourself in after years of doing.  Through faith and trust, I learned what it meant to Be and was blessed with many gifts through this surrender.  By being still last year, I was able to see and understand God’s grace and His goodness.  I started writing about this goodness which I hope inspires you in your journey.  Have you taken some time to reflect on how God has worked in your life this past year and written a few key moments in your spiritual journey and identified your hopes for the new year? 

St Benedict said, “Whatever good work you begin to do, beg of God with the most earnest prayer to perfect it.”  I am taking some of my dreams to God this year and asking for help to sort out what needs an action plan.  Dreams will never come true if I do not take conscious steps towards making them a reality.  It is the intention of my actions.  What are your dreams?

A few years ago, I started setting a word of the year when I felt called to pay more attention to my spiritual life.  The Spirit always reveals the perfect word when I take notice through specific themes, images, songs, scripture, prayer, or meditations. 

Action is my word this year.   I am excited to see how this theme plays out through my year.  I feel this word will create the conditions conducive for the spiritual growth God desires for me.  I am praying for the courage to take action on what I am called to do and fight the bad habits that sometimes get in my way.  At times, I get lost with distractions and do what is urgent rather than what is important, this keeps me from moving towards my goals and the big picture.  Recently during my holy hour, I found myself spending two hours reading daily meditations, in addition to the daily mass readings and prayers on my phone.  Although these can support my spiritual growth, it did not feel productive.  My spiritual growth is about strengthening my relationship with my Creator which I do through prayer and spending time with Him.  I had the realization, it is not necessarily about what other people’s interpretations are, I need to take action on what I hear in the whispers of prayer to bring to the world.  Contemplation and action are both important and I am looking forward to a flow between the being and doing this year.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. 

Focus on His truth, Proverbs 16:3

Planning is deciding what to change today so tomorrow will be different from yesterday. Our plans help us construct a vision of how we would like the future to be, but only actions will bring these things about.  With confidence in the rightness of our desires, we can be assured that God never gives us a dream we cannot reach.  I want God’s grace to take root in me this year to continue to see His goodness and take action to share this goodness.  I will need to ask for His help and guidance, not carry the weight of doing things all myself and saying no to being comfortable.  This will position me well to fully receive what God has for me in this new word and say Yes!

If you are new to The Word of the Year, check out this Abiding Together podcast for some inspiration and the great journal questions to get you started. 

I’d love to hear your Word of the Year.

Smitten with Goodness,

Cynthia