Reflection for Sunday, December 13, 2022: 3rd Week of Advent.

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Lenz, Tom
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|Reading today's gospel story in Matthew reminds me of my own experiences of being a parent. My wife, Nancy, and I have four children and I feel like the picture Jesus lays out in this story is so relatable. Like all the gospel stories, however, I find there are surface-level messages and there are additional teachings that are under the top layers that take a bit of work to receive. On the surface, this is a good story about obedience, following the commandments, listening to our elders, and following the rules—all great. But as I stay with this reading the layers begin to pull back and reveal more.|One of the messages from this story that stays with me is the idea of intentionality. In other words, our truest intentions, and desires. My experiences of being a parent have shown me that sometimes the immediate "No" that comes from asking the kids to make their beds was not because they wanted to be defiant. It just seemed to be the default response to being told what to do. The first son in the gospel story responded in a way that Nancy and I have heard a lot over the past 25 years. This is hard to hear as a parent because we want an immediate "Yes", which is what the second son gave as his response. But sometimes what we want and the reality of what is do not match. For me, this is the deeper meaning of the story…the Reality of what Is. For the first son, the desire to do the will of his father was not the socially acceptable default answer. But, his authentically truest self was still present, just hidden and needed time to reveal itself. On the other hand, the reality of what is for the second son was not what was shown either. His default response was to give a socially acceptable response. The response that he knew his father wanted to hear. But the reality of the response later revealed that his truest intention was not with the father, but rather somewhere else. In both examples, the reality of what is—is not what was shown by the initial response.|Thinking about this gospel reading in this way makes me think about my own intentionality. What are my truest intentions and desires when I meet with a student or colleague? Are they directed toward the needs of the other person, or my own? What about when I am at home with my family or talking on the phone with a friend, or when I am at church? I wish I could say that my most authentic desire is to, "do the will of my father" as in the story. But I don't think that is always true. But, what this gospel story does for me is to help me be more conscious of my intentionality while at home, work, church, and elsewhere. If I can become more aware of my truest intentions while doing anything I become more contemplative, and I can use that to help guide my actions going forward. I am grateful for all the times my kids told us "No" because it gave us an opportunity to engage more deeply with them as parents and to practice patience with our kids as they grew and matured. I think this is what Jesus is saying God does with us, too. Being more aware of my truest intentions and desires is in its own way "doing the will of the father." By moving ourselves in this direction allows us the space to reflect and grow which is always a movement toward God.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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