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October 28, 2004 Edition

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The little life: Reaching up, surrendering to God

photo of Faye Darnall
Living the Scriptures 

with St. Paul University 
Catholic Center 

Faye Darnall 

He's little, Zacchaeus. We don't want to be little. We want to be big and powerful and in control.

We want to tower over others, if we can. If that's not possible, then at least we want to be big enough not to be stepped on.

To be little is to be in danger. It is to be needy, not self-sufficient; weak not strong. To be little is to be vulnerable. Yet Jesus says that unless you become like little ones, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3-5).

Zacchaeus did that. Not by being small of stature, of course; that is just a symbol. He longs to see Jesus, to know something of him.

31st Sunday
in Ordinary Time
(Oct. 31, 2004)
Wis 11:22--12:2
Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
2 Thess 1:11--2:2
Lk 19:1-10

Zacchaeus is a seeker. He wants something, and he wants it badly enough to try to get it. Knowing his own size, he reaches up toward God.

God always responds joyfully to the seeking heart. Just look at what happens to Zacchaeus.

He ends up hosting the Lord in his own home. He didn't even ask for the teacher's attention; didn't even try to hail the Rabbi, just climbed a tree so he could see.

In Scripture, seeing always means more than mere visual apprehension. It means light in our darkness, God's healing grace touching our lives. Seeing means the light that came into the world has penetrated our souls, and nothing can be the same again.

Isn't that what we all want? Yet we have a natural antipathy toward knowing ourselves as "little."

Back in New York City, when I first read The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the saint popularly known as "the little flower," I detested her saccharine self-designation. "Gag me with a fork in the subway," I groaned at almost every page.

Still, I could not let her book rest. I kept going back to it and going back to it. Thérèse was a puzzle that intrigued by irritation, and much more, of course, though I couldn't "see" it at the time, never mind apply her "little way" to my own life. It never even occurred to me to try.

Now I understand, somewhat, at least. Thérèse wanted to be a priest, a missionary, a martyr, but her sex, circumstances, and health made all these things impossible, or so it seemed while she lived.

She resolved instead to become an "apostle for love." Within the small world of her cloistered convent, she lived heroic humility: being kind to those who were unkind to her, generous to the petty; acting selflessly even when she felt ill and weak; holding onto faith when she felt abandoned by God.

Christian love is rarely lived in great events or actions, but rather in the minutiae of day to day life. Being big and strong and self-sufficient doesn't necessarily help us do that. True humility does, because when we know we can't do it ourselves, then we let God do it in us.

Reflection questions

• In my own life, how can I relinquish power to God?

• Has humility ever brought you closer to God? In what way?

It all begins with acknowledging the truth that God's love can accomplish anything, and we can't. Then desire for God starts to fill our lives.

Then surrendering everything to God begins to make sense. Then praise flows forth from our lips like a child's cry of joy. We have become like the little ones, and salvation comes into our house that day.

Faye Darnall is Woman Chaplain at St. Paul University Catholic Center on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus.

St. Paul's Web site is www.stpaulscc.org

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Faith Alive!

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In a Nutshell

  • The church today is making known that domestic violence is a real issue that must be addressed.

  • In addition to preaching and other efforts, some parishes are using their Web site, newsletter or bulletin to provide information about domestic violence.

  • Pastors, pastoral staff and concerned parishioners are making their parishes safe places where abused women and abusive men can come for help.

    Catholic News Service
    3211 Fourth St NE
    Washington DC 20017
  •  Food for Thought
    "Domestic violence has been and continues to be tolerated and minimized," Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., said in a 2001 pastoral letter. "For generations," he wrote, "violence in the home was common and went virtually unchallenged."

    Ramirez urged everyone to become "aware of the scope of domestic violence" and committed to finding ways to end the "nightmare" of this "shameful exercise of power against those whose lives are entwined by ties of blood and family."

    Ramirez described domestic violence as "abuse, whether physical, verbal, mental or sexual, that takes place among family members."

    Domestic violence "is manifested in various forms: degrading comments, manipulation of financial resources to intimidate, the use of physical strength to bully and, ultimately, to injure or kill. These are only a few in a long list of its manifestations," said Ramirez.

    full story

    Why the Church Is Concerned About Domestic Violence
    By Sheila Garcia

    Catholic News Service

    The church can play a vital role in breaking the cycle of domestic violence. In partnership with law-enforcement agencies, the courts and social-service providers, the church works to raise public awareness about domestic violence. It supports women who are abused and holds abusers accountable for their actions.

    Domestic violence is any kind of behavior that a person uses to control a partner through fear and intimidation. It includes physical, sexual, psychological, verbal and economic abuse. It cuts across all ethnic and economic backgrounds.

    full story 

    Factors in Abuse That Occurs at Home
    By Frederic Flach, MD

    Catholic News Service

    I've dealt with cases of physical domestic violence only a few times in my career as a psychiatrist. In one instance, a 42-year-old man in a severe depression panicked when his wife threatened to leave him and struck her hard on her head. Thankfully, she was not seriously injured, but his actions hardly encouraged her to change her mind about a divorce.

    Most of the violence I see is verbal and ongoing sarcasm and deprecation from one spouse to another. This is guaranteed to make the victims seriously doubt themselves and their worth; it also makes them angry and depressed unless they are particularly stalwart.

    full story 

    Steps Parishes Take to Address Home Violence
    By Father Herbert Weber

    Catholic News Service

    Linda was seeking a church annulment of a previous marriage. The form required that she answer questions about her home life as well as her relationship with her husband. As she reviewed her background, she started making discoveries about herself. Overcome with emotions, she called me.

    A child of an abusive father, she explained, she had married to escape her home. The marriage, however, was to a man who also abused her. Only when her husband came close to beating their children did she take them and flee.

    full story

    Faith Alive! logo
     Faith in the Marketplace
    This Week's Discussion Point:

    How can family members create an atmosphere of respect at home?

      Selected Response From Readers:  
    Copyright © 2004 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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    This week's readings

    Week of Oct. 31 - Nov. 6, 2004

    Sunday, Oct. 31, 2004
    Reading I: Wis 11:22--12:2
    Reading II: 2 Thess 1:11--2:2
    Gospel: Lk 19:1-10

    Monday, Nov. 1, 2004
    Reading I: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14
    Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a

    Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004
    The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
    Reading I: Is 25:6, 7-9
    Reading II: Rom 6:3-9
    Gospel: Jn 11:17-27

    Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004
    Reading I: Phil 2:12-18
    Gospel: Lk 14:25-33

    Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004
    Reading I: Phil 3:3-8a
    Gospel: Lk 15:1-10

    Friday, Nov. 5, 2004
    Reading I: Phil 3:17--4:1
    Gospel: Lk 16:1-8

    Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004
    Reading I: Phil 4:10-19
    Gospel: Lk 16:9-15

    Pope's Prayer Intentions

    October General Intention

    Christians, firm in their faith and eager to dialogue: That, firm in their faith, Christians may be eager to dialogue with those who belong to another religious tradition.

    October Mission Intention

    Due presence of Catholics in the life and the media of the Latin-American Continent: That the due presence of Catholics in the national life and the media of the Latin-American Continent may increase.

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