Lent

YOU ARE THE IMAGE OF GOD

Your story starts here: 

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness . . . God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them . . . God looked at everything he had made and found it very good.”
— Genesis 1
dad and i.JPG

I have a distinct memory of cuddling up in an oversized chair with Emma and Andrew when they were little and looking at a family photo album.  They were turning the pages quickly when one picture caught my eye.  I was certain I saw my dad.  It did not compute because the picture was of an event that happened long after he had passed away.  I made the kids turn the page back to look at the picture again.  When I saw it this second time, I realized it was me!  I looked a lot like my dad.  Many have told me over the years that I look like a Nettesheim.  Whether I am aware or not, this is who I am- this is my identity- I belong to the Nettesheim clan. 

Just like being a Nettesheim is who I am, both you and I belong to God.  Our origin is from God the creator whose image and likeness we resemble.  This is pretty awesome and overwhelming stuff when you consider the vastness of the universe.  It is also affirming because it demonstrates to us that the default of creation was to be unified with God. 

Okay, stop!  Take a breath and follow these instructions:

 

Take one minute to ponder one way you resemble God.  How do you reflect God to the world? 

Is it your love, compassion, empathy, willingness to forgive, joy and happiness or maybe your passion for justice? 

 

(Did you allow a minute to pass???  I hope so!)

How did you do?  Were you able to name something? If not, this is your starting point, our starting point for Lent: to learn and accept who you are.  This is building block #1 in developing a relationship with God- know your authentic self as a child of God.  

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time
— Fred Rogers

 

It was easy for me to forget that I looked like my dad. It was not until I saw the picture that I was reminded that I resembled him.  This Ash Wednesday reflection is your photo, or your mirror meant to remind you, or perhaps allow you to hear for the first time, that you belong to God!  The ramifications of this is enormous.  If you belong to God, it means you have value, purpose and your life has meaning.  Belonging to God means that, even if you have negative behavior, in your essence you are good.  Belonging to God means there is nothing you need to do to earn God’s love.  It means you are valuable, worthy and loveable right now, as you are!  It is when we forget who we are that we get ourselves into trouble.  (More on that on Sunday.)

 
My mom, her sons and her only Nettesheim grandsons.

My mom, her sons and her only Nettesheim grandsons.

My mom is 87 and has been experiencing some health problems.  Sitting with her after a procedure, she told me she was afraid to die.  I asked her why.  She told me she was not certain what would happen to her after she died.  My mom raised 9 kids, has 36 grandkids and 18 great-grandkids.  Her entire legacy has been about faith and family.  She has sacrificed, loved and served all of us. If she is not going to be with God after she dies, none of us will.  With great confidence I told her that I believed she would be with God right after she dies.  She responded, I don’t think many do.  My mom grew up in a faith that emphasized sin and punishment.  Humans were bad and sinful.  God was a judge to be feared, not a creator who loves us, delights in us and desires a relationship with us; not a God who sees us as good with the potential to show others the image and likeness of God.   

Unfortunately, my mom is not alone, I remember leading RCIA at a parish many years ago.  During a retreat day for our sponsors and catechists I asked the leaders to share one gift or talent they bring to the group who is preparing to be initiated into the faith.  One of my most trusted, valuable and engaged leaders said, “I hate this question.  I have no idea how to answer this.”   It made me sad.  She was a faith-filled, caring, leader who was giving a positive witness to her relationship with God and she didn’t see herself as having value or gifts.  There are many reasons why this might be.  In the age of social media there are constant comparisons to others and quite frankly it is next to impossible not to play the game if: I was __________ then I would have value.  We should not be surprised that anxiety and depression is on the rise.  If we are not comparing ourselves to what we see, we are having to put forward images of an identity that is all front.  It is not too often you see posts of someone’s dirty house or laundry or them writing about a failure or self-doubt.

This is the trap.  A temptation to doubt that we are not good enough to stray from whom God created us to be- it is a denial of our authentic selves and of God our Creator.  Marianne Williamson said it this way in a segment of her popular quote: 

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

If Lent is a journey to freedom from sin and death, our first step is accepting our true identity as children of God.  These are easy words that require difficult actions.  Start by being joyful and grateful that we are created to be in relationship with God.  Yet be humble.  Although, we are created good, we remain the creation and not the creator. 


Questions for Reflection

  • How do you resemble the image and likeness of God?

  • What are the circumstances or mindset that prevent you from believing in your goodness and accepting God’s unconditional love?

  • In whom do you most readily see the presence of God? What do they do? How will you let them know?

  • Are you more comfortable reflecting on your sin or goodness? What does your answer reveal to you? What steps do you want to take this Lent to better identify God in your life?


Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been a Pastoral Minister since 1991 serving as an Executive Director of Inspirio Youth Ministries for six years. It is his belief that to renew the Church the Spirit is calling us beyond doctrine and to become humble servants like Jesus caring for people as they are and allowing God to do the rest. Joe and his wife Maribeth have a blended family of five kids, eight grandkids and an “oafish” Golden Doodle named TS Eliot.

joe and Mari bio.jpeg

Love Returns

Scripture (John 7:40-53)

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
"This is truly the Prophet."
Others said, "This is the Christ."
But others said, "The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David's family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?"
The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man."
So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed."
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
"Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?"
They answered and said to him,
"You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."

Then each went to his own house.

Reflection

In the Gospel today, both the people and the Jewish leaders are trying to figure out Jesus’ identity, based on the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Is this mysterious man truly the Messiah or not?  Nicodemus is the sole courageous voice who defends Jesus against the angry bias of the others. Because of his engaging conversation with the Lord at the beginning of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus had a completely different and positive understanding of who Jesus was.

A clear dynamic exists between knowledge and love.  We can only truly love a person that we know but we can only truly know a person through the lens of unconditional love.  How easy to judge a situation or a person of which we have no clear understanding.  How quickly we can categorize people, based on race, religion or legal status, but when we actually come to know and love individuals whom we have seen as “other,” our prejudices fall away.  Those who criticized, attacked and eventually condemned Jesus never knew his heart.

Patrick.png

Saint Patrick, whose feast we celebrate today, was born in Britain, captured and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he suffered all of the injustices and drudgery of oppressive injustice.  He eventually escaped, went back to Britain, became a priest and a bishop and returned to Ireland to evangelize the very people who had held him captive.  What an example of unconditional love!  Patrick returned to the place of his enslaved abuse and preached Christ’s Gospel of mercy and forgiveness to the very people who had hurt him.  He had come to know the Irish and came to love them.  Patrick’s witness to Christ converted an entire nation.

When we can look at others with the eyes of Christ, we see goodness, dignity, suffering, perseverance and potential in even the most disagreeable or difficult person.  When we dare to love others, even those who hurt us, we come to know them as children of God, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as fellow pilgrims on the way to the Kingdom.   Each person can only be understood, known and loved from the inside.  This Lent, we have been journeying ever deeper into the heart of Christ, because we can only know Jesus from the depths within.  This pilgrimage of the heart is the royal road of our salvation.

Questions

  • How can you love the challenging people in your life with greater generosity and authenticity?
  • Which categories of people are you most ready to judge and criticize?
To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
— Timothy Keller
 
Discovery House ad.png

These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

Action 

Consciously choose to get to know and even befriend a person who you may have labeled as “other.”

Prayer

Lord, help us to unconditionally love others as you do.  Like Saint Patrick, may we help heal the world by forgiving like Christ, proclaiming the Gospel like the Apostles and serving the poor and suffering as did all of the saints.  May we know the Lord Jesus from the inside and so come to salvation and new life.  Amen.

Author

bishop hying.jpg

Bishop Donald J. Hying grew up in West Allis, WI.  Ordained a priest in 1989 he served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee until being named auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 2011.  He was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Gary by Pope Francis in 2014. 

Where I am From

Scripture (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
"Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

 

Reflection

I am from Staten Island, the fifth borough of New York City, often called “the forgotten borough.” Despite the fact that over half a million people live on Staten Island, most Americans confuse it with Long Island (not a borough), or do not recognize it as part of NYC – if they recognize it at all.  

Staten Islanders are often characterized as having a chip on their shoulder, having to justify their borough’s existence to even their city mates. Manhattan stands for itself. Bronx has Yankee Stadium. Queens has Shea (now Citi Field). Brooklyn no longer has a ball club but could be considered a city in its own right. And in the post-Dump years (you know, the landfill you could see from space?) Staten Island is perhaps now best known for its iconic orange Ferry – a vessel which allows you to leave the borough it symbolizes.  When I left home to attend Elon University in North Carolina, I found it far easier to say I was from “New York City.” If anyone were really curious, I would go further and say “Brooklyn” – where I did attend high school and spent hundreds of hours of my early life.

There was a quote over the doors of my high school, in bold metal letters – “THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.” That truth and freedom cry out from the pages of today’s Gospel. The truth is dangerous. The truth has men out to kill him. The truth, despite his radiance, travels in secret to be with his brothers. People whisper in the corners. Is that him? Do the cops know? Why don’t they grab him? Others say – and I can almost picture the others here today in the risk-averse, quantitative aeon we live in – we know him. He is from Nazareth. His father is the carpenter. He is not the Christ; how could he be?

The answer from Christ – you know me and yet you know me not at all, because you do not know my Father. I make this mistake all the time, so I know it well – the others in this passage saw only a man when really there was the Spirit at work.  

I read this passage and thought at first – man, I like this, Jesus is finding himself and finding his voice. That’s my human projection onto the scripture, anyway! Jesus had his voice since the beginning, when the Word was with God. He doesn’t need to find his. But we are all still trying to find ours. I would so love to find my voice. I would love to stand out in the crowd who thought they could classify me, label me, and cry out my own goodness to them. Instead I accuse myself and shut up before saying even a word.

Staten islandmike.jpg

Inspired by Christ and inspired by the words above my high school, I will say now, you do know me, and you know where I am from. I am Michael from Staten Island, New York. I grew up on William Street in a white house with my brothers and sisters. We read books late into the night and drank cups of tea in the mornings. I come from my mother and father, who selflessly gave me the life I am learning how to live. I make mistakes every single day – and every single day I ask for the grace to overcome them. I am not a big shot New York Yankee. I am a Staten Island Yankee (the minor-league affiliate that plays near the ferry terminal). I am a simple Irish guy who likes to read, learn from strangers, and take long walks through the forgotten places – where God always surprises me and sends me blessings.

 
Discovery House ad.png

These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • Where do you see God at work in your life today – have you read something, met someone, observed something in nature that speaks to you of His works?
  • What is one time you felt a sense of failure in the last week?  How might God restore and rejuvenate you from this event?
  • Who is one positive person who knows you, and knows where you are from? Can you write a few words about what that person might say about you? How are you feeling about your Lenten journey?
  • Is there anything you wish for in your prayer life these last couple of weeks before Easter?
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you, try to figure out what you have to say.
— Barbara Kingsolver

Action 

PRAY to always know where you are from and to whom you belong. 

FAST from self-doubt

GIVE voice to your faith to someone who needs to be inspired.

Author

Mike Mc.jpg

Mike McCormick is a former volunteer with the Augustinian Volunteers, where he served in Ventura, CA from 2014-2015. Mike currently works as the Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Volunteer Network in Washington, DC. 

Heart of the Father

Scripture (John 5:31-47)

Jesus said to the Jews:
"If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John's.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

"I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?"

Reflection

I just need to start by letting you all know today’s readings were a real struggle for me… I just couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to say, what I was supposed to write that would enlighten you all. After repeated cycles of reading and thinking and frustration, I got stuck on verses 39-40.

“You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.”

I’m searching the Scriptures. I believe they give life and God speaks to us through them, but I wasn’t hearing it because I had been going to my head and my heart to come up with the words to write and not to Him, the one who gives us life. Then the Spirit really hit me hard and served up a little humble pie. He sent me back to verse 34.

“I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved.” 

Ultimately what I have to say doesn’t matter. Christ can use me and my testimony (when I’m/ it’s humble) as an instrument to bring others into Him, but He’s the one doing the work. And anything I can say or do is so small in comparison to what Him.

I swallowed that humble pie and asked, “So what are YOU saying Lord?” “What do YOU need me to hear and focus on?” His answer to me:

I AM here. I AM present. I AM at work in every moment saving you and bringing you to life. I have proven this time and time again if only you would simply believe. Let go and have faith in me when times are overwhelming, scary, hard. I was there for Moses and his people when the desert seemed like it would never end, and I am there for you when you feel like you’re in the desert. I have promised you my life and my love, and I don’t disappoint. My cross and resurrection weren’t simply to save you from sin. You were saved from sin, so our relationship could be restored. So, I could bring you deeper into my heart and my love, a love that never fades and never hides. You need to believe and trust in me in order to see and know that I am at work in every moment loving you.

WOW God, WOW.

I go back and read what I just flowed out when I let the Lord do the talking and those powerful words rock my core. Then I go back and reread the Scripture and I see that’s exactly what He was saying to the Jew’s, but I was too caught up in myself to hear it, just like the crowd he was talking to. He told them the exact same thing: I’ve proved time and time again that I am the one sent by the Father to bring you salvation and life. John says so; my miracles and works say so; God, the Father, says so; and Scripture says so, if only you would listen and believe.

 
Discovery House ad.png

These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • Where have you seen God witnessing His love and salvation in your life:
  • Who, like John, has been a “burning and shining lamp” for you?
  • What miracles has God performed in your life lately?
  • What is the Father speaking into your heart right now?
  • What Scripture speaks most to you about God’s salvation and love for you?
Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works.
— Rick Warren

Action 

PRAY for the Lord to open your eyes and your heart that you may always see His goodness and love at work in your life.

FAST from people or things that distract you from seeing the truth of God’s love.

GIVE your time to be a “bright and shining lamp” for someone who needs to know God’s active love in their life.

Prayer

Good and Loving Father,

We thank you and praise you for your faithfulness to your people. Throughout salvation history, you have come time and time again to restore our relationship with you. We thank you for the ultimate gift of restoration, the cross and resurrection.

Father send your Spirit down upon us so that we may live each and every moment with the joy and hope that comes from being your chosen people. Strengthen us that we may walk each and every day witnessing your love to each and every person we meet so that they may encounter you more deeply.

Amen.

Author

julie and Zeke.jpg

Julie Trzebiatowski is the Camp Director for Shepherd's Fold Ranch in Avant, Oklahoma.  Before moving to Avant, she was a teacher and retreat director in the Milwaukee area.  Julie is also the proud mom of Zeke! 

Be Human. Like Jesus.

Scripture (John 5:17-30)

Jesus answered the Jews:
"My Father is at work until now, so I am at work."
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the Sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

"I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me."

Reflection

"I cannot do anything on my own;

I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,

because I do not seek my own will

but the will of the one who sent me." John 5:30

 

Jesus has his humanity on full display today.

“I CANNOT do anything…”

“...I DO NOT seek my own will…”

This is Jesus we are talking about here. This is the guy who walks on water. This is the dude who heals. This is the man who preaches the best messages. That man has always known he is special. That dude has always known he is God. That guy has always known who his REAL father is.

The fact is Jesus is as human as you and me. It's so easy for us to dismiss his humanity and say, “Oh, he knew he was God.”  Jesus is no superhuman that walks the earth. Jesus is still trying to figure out who God is the entire time before his death.  Jesus’ humanity is one of the biggest keys to our faith. Jesus is an average guy. He’s got a mom and dad. He’s got friends who are true. He’s got friends who are bums. He likes to get together with people. He likes his quiet time.  If we never put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus, realizing that we are no different than him, Jesus says it himself, we can’t do anything. We won’t see anything. We won’t get God.

See Jesus this Lent as a human. Take away all the awesome things we cite he's done to make him the GCOAT - the Greatest Catholic of All Time. If you do, Jesus says today that you will see God.  And for that matter, quit looking at everyone else we assign as a super Catholic. Saints are just as human as Jesus. That woman at church, who is the nicest, most holy prayer warrior, is human. Don’t think for a minute that holiness and the will of God cannot be yours.

Look at your humanity as God looks at your humanity - PERFECT! Let God’s look at you make you want to not do anything unless He’s involved. Let God’s look at you make you want to do only His will. Your holiness will shine. Your life will change. You will be a saint. You will be human. You will be like Jesus.

 
Discovery House ad.png

These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • How many times have you looked at the life of a Saint and thought, “There’s no way I’ll ever be that good?”
  • How many people in your life do you see with an unattainable holiness?
  • How can you see them as human?
  • How can you quit your thinking that you can’t be as holy as Jesus?
  • What will it take for you to let God do things for you, but His way?
The God of the Incarnation is more domestic than monastic.
— Ronald Rohlheiser

Action 

Precious and Human Lord,

Your life can show me how to give my own life to God.

Your life can show me how God’s will can be my will.

May my humanity reflect God’s perfection.

May His actions be shown through my humanity.

And may actions show honor to our heavenly Father.

Amen

Author

Bryan-Ramsey-400x400.jpg

Bryan Ramsey is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry for St. James Catholic Church Menomonee Falls.