Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

March 3, 2019

March 3, 2019

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March 3, 2019

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jaclyn

Newns

Self-Awareness. Demanded attention inward; our necessity.

This Gospel compels me to pay attention, to look inward to the truth of my own life, to examine what fills my mind. This Gospel invites me to be attentive, to slow down, to pause. Noticing myself and where I am internally cannot be done urgently. I cannot rush and see.

On this college campus, I see a lot of busyness and attention outward, emphasis on the external, to the point of blindness and ignorance to truth within. Students are distracted from their own goodness and there is a culture of self-inflicted pressure to have it all together, to constantly present ourselves as capable, efficient, ready, established, sexy, powerful. I hear a lot of yearning, and I get caught up in it myself: how to get from point A to point B, to expand a resume, to travel, ignite change, to take on more leadership; to do more, be more, be better. In this addiction to filling time with busyness and driven passion, there is a neglect of the heart, a self disregard. In this pace, people fumble over their self-worth. There’s this tone: I’m not there yet, and where I am right now is not enough.

Ten years ago, I went on a five day Ignatian silent retreat. I hated it because it was hard. It was hard to be alone with myself with feelings of unworthiness, self-doubt and fear around my identity, sexuality and belonging. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, and I wasn’t sure if God loved the skin I inhabited.

I remember laying on the carpeted tweed floor of my bedroom at the retreat house with a tray oil pastels and what came out of me was this sketch of the vine and the branches and these abundant grapes. And with this messy mix of brown, olive, blue and magenta paint on my hands, there was the real prayer that came from within: this longing for my life to bear fruit. This longing to be enough for God’s work. And the radical realization was that I only needed to be a branch. I am the vine, you are the branches, remain in me. “Remain, remain” became the only prayer that I could say. I felt fear about the quality of fruit. I realized then and remind myself today, I am not in charge of the fruit-bearing, about the productivity. I’m tasked with being the connector, the channel of God’s grace that needs to be hallowed enough, wide enough, open enough to transport love from the lifegiving source of the vine to others. It’s not in my control. My authenticity, vulnerability and ownership of myself - as the branch that I am - allows the vivifying Spirit to move through me and cultivate the fruit that God dreams of producing.

Over and over again, in the words of this Gospel, when we waver in our enoughness, we hear: A good tree does not bear rotten fruit. I am good, you are good.We must remind each other of our individual, unique goodness in a culture of self criticism, when there is an obsession over the wooden beams and splinters in our eyes.

When I was young and had a splinter in my finger, my mom would tell me to leave it alone, stop picking at it. It would work it’s way out. Or eventually, she would tweeze it out. I believe it is the same with God. With patience, my splinters and my wounds do ease and do work themselves out. With surrendered cooperation, God removes the beams that obstruct my view from my own goodness.

We need to image God as a vine grower and gardener admiring us, proud of us. If we really believe that we are worthy of God delighting in us and rejoicing in us, then we have to delight and rejoice in ourselves - and each other.

I want to share an image with you.

I took this photo in January 2016 in Miraflor, Nicaragua. I was staying at the home of Doña Lucia, a woman of hospitality and strength. This image of Lucia’s hands continue to serve as a entrypoint for my prayer.

Visio Divina, divine seeing, is a form of prayer that invites me to gaze inward and foster self understanding through my sense of sight. Eyesight as insight (Margaret Miles).  

This image gives texture to my relationship with God and invites me to look at my own goodness. God is laboring, her hands holding the seed, dirt under fingernail, harvesting. God encourages me to open myself up - to gaze at the red seeds within my life - exposing my identities, relationships, dreams, ideas, growing edges, gifts.

When I pray with this image, I am invited to behold the instracies of my story as my Creator does gazing at her creation. God holds me gently, gazing into the seeds with reverence and respect, and I’m invited to look at my life and the identities and lives of the people around me with the same love and admiration.

The fruit of a tree grows from the care it has had.  God cares for, tends and cultivates life, I must offer myself the same attentive, nourishing love. I must respect the creation I am becoming. Claiming goodness in every corner of who I am is necessary in my seeing and my flourishing.

And so to the students I met with this week, God dreams for you to see your own beauty.  

You are more than good enough and worthy to:

stand in the chapel;

change your mind and change your major;

text him I need to talk;

grieve your grandmother;

put on 20 pounds;

tell your roommates that you are living with depression

You are more than good enough and worthy to:

speak more kindly to yourself;

celebrate your relationship with your beautiful partner;

praise what you see in the mirror;

belong in the church you question and wrestle with the church in which you belong;

carve out boundaries with your sister

You are more than good enough and worthy to:

disappoint your parent’s expectations and take a risk next year;

reject the pressure of being in a non-committed relationship;

talk about how much Ecuador changed your life;

release guilt;

and to re-image God in any way that liberates you to fall more deeply in love with the person who you are called to be

First Reading

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19

PSALM

Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17

Second Reading

1 Cor 12:31—13:13

GOSPEL

Lk 4:21-30
Read texts at usccb.org

Jaclyn Newns

Jaclyn Newns is a spiritual director and retreat consultant based in the Philadelphia area. As a campus minister at Saint Joseph’s University, she supports students through Christian Life Communities and weekend retreat experiences grounded in encountering Ignatian Spirituality through the Arts.

With a passion for sacred space design, she creates intentional environments that lend themselves toward introspection, brave dialogue and transformative prayer experiences. Jaclyn engages parish groups and young adult circles into creative reflection with photography, watercolor, clay, and mixed media.

Jaclyn has presented in a variety of venues including the 2018 Saint Joseph’s University Ignatian Spirituality and Leadership Conference on Spiritual Direction for Millenials and the 2019 Boston College Women’s Summit on Self-Awareness as a Spiritual Practice. In June 2019, she will be speaking at the Office of Ignatian Spirituality Symposium on Ignatian Spiritual Direction at Fordham University.

For more information on her ministry and pastoral offerings, go to jaclynnewns.wixsite.com/redseeds.

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