By Jill Mraz
Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness,
and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
New Year, New Body
The most common desire is for a better body. How infatuated our society has become with the exterior. The health of the body is a good thing. Still, it can quickly become skewed when the temptation for a predictable posting of the newly sculpted, nearly naked statue in a provocative pose on Instagram is indulged. This matter does not matter, but it is easy to get caught up in this as a young person as there are so many years and decades stretched out before them before it’s time to get serious. The years will go by, and the time will come when the clinging to all things passing will be recognized as a mere exercise in futility, and the fear then will not be about failing to achieve the perfect 6-pack but in where they will go when they die. If they have never sat alone in a quiet room, still and silent, this would be a very good place to begin to ponder the state of their soul. For in the stillness, God can finally be heard. And if the heart is open, God will enter. This is the beginning of the interior life, the heart of the matter, the tending of the soul.
~ In the bleak midwinter/Frosty wind made moan/Earth stood hard as iron/Water like a stone. ~ Christina Rossetti
Those of us who live in northern climates where winter can dominate nearly half of the annual calendar are familiar with a landscape of varying shades of gray and white, patterned with grids of icy streets and the yellow glow of little lights coming on at dusk in the homes of our neighbors. This is the perfect time of year for the interior life to blossom and grow. I like to begin a day of retreat by asking for and then ordering the day to whatever God has planned for me. I consciously step away from self-criticism, turning the mirror to the wall, and honest scrutiny is ushered in. The only envisioning exercise for my body is as a vessel to pour forth whatever gifts I have been given for the glory of God. Sometimes it is just in my breathing that a rhythm can be detected, and in that, I can create a little song of love for my beloved. My other senses come alive in the simplicity of touching the roughness of the woolly blanket around me, watching a hearty little cluster of birds hop from branch to branch, and the scent of a fragrant candle which dips obediently when I blow on it before resuming its steadfast silent accompaniment. My mind quiets, focusing on a word, most often gratitude.
I love to make lists, so my mind naturally underlines the word, and then I begin a litany of all that I am blessed to know, to love, to have, and to have lost. My soul rejoices, instructs, and rests throughout the afternoon, and as evening comes and the little lights come on in the houses around me, I pray for each of my neighbors and the health of their beautiful souls.
Spring hopes eternal
As the days begin to thaw, those who have kept their new year’s fitness resolutions move outdoors, resuming their routine of running up and down the exterior granite steps leading up to the tall front doors of the beautiful Cathedral of St Paul where I attend daily Mass. As I walk or drive by, I hope one day to see just one of them pause at the top, open the big front door and step inside, if only for a short rest in silence in the exquisite beauty under that magnificent dome. That could be a real beginning. That would make my day. I imagine them sitting there in awe, maybe even kneeling to offer a small prayer of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds them. If they are surprised at that moment by a movement in their heart. I pray they do not resist but surrender to Jesus, gently knocking there and letting Him in to transform their soul. I will step out of my car this spring and invite one of them in for a little retreat. Please pray for them and me in this endeavor.
Lord, I pray for the courage to help those you put in my path who might need a bit of encouragement to rest in you.
Call to Action
“There is nothing so needed in the world today as a retreat from it.” ~ Jill Mraz
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