An idea for Sunday

October 3, 2008 | 19 comments

A while back I read a thought-provoking post by Ouiz (one of my MegaMom interviewees) in which she mentioned an interesting idea she got from the How-To Book of the Mass: before Mass, she prays to ask God to help her hear a single word or phrase that she’s supposed to take with her and ponder throughout the day. She said that God has answered this prayer every time.

I was intrigued, so I tried it.

In my typical ADD, scattered way, my “prayer” was more like thinking that I would like to do that thing that Ouiz did the day before Mass, and then completely forgetting about it after that. So I was caught off guard when I was kneeling in Mass the next day, and during the Consecration a phrase I’ve heard every single Sunday since I began attending Catholic churches hit me like a ton of bricks:

A death he freely accepted.

I suddenly remembered my little prayer, and there was no question that this was the phrase I was meant to hear. Normally I would analyze something like this to death, focusing on a bunch of other phrases after that, wondering which one I was supposed to meditate on or if this whole thing was all in my head — but this time there was no doubt. That was my phrase, and God wanted me to think about it.

As I lay in bed that night, I rolled it over and over in my mind.

A death.

God died. God…died. God — the author of all that is, the Force behind everything from love to oceans to supernovae — experienced death.

He freely accepted.

In his human form, he felt pain, experienced dread, wished it could be some other way. He could have gotten out of it. But he didn’t. He gave up everything, and he gave it up for us. Without complaint. About to experience the most painful, unfair, unjust, undeserved act in the history of the universe, he accepted it without even an utterance of the type of complaining I do when I feel like I have too much laundry to do.

This ended up being a powerful meditation that gave me a lot of important food for thought, specifically in areas that I most needed to work on (ahem, complaining about even the smallest sacrifices).

I thought I’d share in case anyone else finds it interesting. Every time I’ve prayed for this since then, I have received an equally clear, helpful answer. Each Sunday now I look forward to seeing what new word or phrase I’ll be given to ponder throughout the week.


  1. Betsy

    Oooh, that’s precious, Jen.

    There’s something that I learned that is so similar to that, which a friend (OK, a counselor) turned me on to, and which (like in your example) really works every time. The answer might be quick or slow, but it always comes.

    It’s this: When you are suffering some pain that someone has caused you, or even that you caused yourself, ask Jesus specifically, “When did you experience this same kind of pain?” Because He did. He experienced it all.

    When Jesus reveals to you what he felt and when, then you are no longer alone in your pain. You are joined in your suffering by the Firstborn who reigns, and you are comforted (and so, more able to forgive).

    I’ve prayed this prayer with precious results. Some of the answers are things I’ve read before in the Word, and some aren’t! Sometimes, it really seems like Jesus is sharing with my how he felt on the cross or other times that aren’t recorded in Scripture.

    One of the most memorable times was when I had done a good and difficult thing, and one of my friends was accusing me of having bad intentions. Although I had been speaking the truth in love, she accused me to others, calling me self-righteous, judgmental, and controlling.

    I was wounded so deeply, and I prayed the prayer I described above: “When, Jesus, did you feel the deep sting of being accused of evil when your heart was completely obedient?”

    I didn’t really have much faith that the prayer would work, but I tried it, because I desperately needed comfort so that I could forgive.

    Immediately these words popped into my head: “It is by the prince of demons that He casts out demons!”

    And I began to weep on Christ’s behalf. How could someone talk that way about my Brother and Savior whom I love?

    My pain seemed so small at that point, and I was no longer shocked at my friend’s betrayal. And I was able, like Christ, to forgive.

    Isn’t He amazing?

  2. tootie

    I like this idea! I’m going to have to try this.

  3. Mary-LUE

    It is VERY interesting! Thanks for sharing it. I’m like you… I intend to do something, think about, then forget when it is actually time.

    But the Lord is so faithful to me in spite of my inattention.

    I loved this post. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. Jenny

    Beautiful post Jen.

  5. Agnes Regina

    Wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for posting that.

  6. Peggy

    This morning at Mass, suffering the crappy feeling of a cold, I turned to meditating on how much worse Christ’s suffering was. True, I have a cold, but I wasn’t being beaten and spat upon (or hated by those around me). My thoughts then turned to wondering if I loved Him enough to have endured the same suffering out of love for Him as He did for me. Unable to fathom that I could (since I was already whining to myself about how awful I felt…)I had to bring it to a more personal level. Could I do this for my son? Of course, any mother would endure torture out of love for her son! But He did it for every human being — past, present and future! I was beginning to get a glimmer of the magnificence of His love.

    Reading your blog today caused me to want to share this with you.

    Thank you for all your insightful writing.

  7. Mum-me

    Thanks for that post. It is an idea I will try. I have found in the past that prayng very specific prayers will bring an answer more quickly. Eg, I once felt I was supposed to help a friend financially. Instead of praying “How can I help her” I asked God to give me, in the course of our evening together, a specific amount He wanted me to give. And He did. Several times she mentioned a specific sum, just in casual conversation, as we were discussing and comparing our grocery shopping habits (and this conversation was started by her too, not me.)

    Sorry to blather on – really just wanted to leave a positive comment.

  8. Stephanie

    What a wonderful post (and blog! – I came across it 2 weeks ago and have been devouring it every chance I get. My husband and I are both converts as well and it is wonderful to hear other peoples conversion stories – especially from someone as articulate as you!) Back to the post. I’m inclined to comment on this post because the SAME PHRASE jumped out at me at daily Mass on Tuesday. I was listening to the liturgy, but I “heard” those words – like they were spoken directly for me to hear them.

    A death he freely accepted

    I love your reflection on those words. Christ freely . . . accepted . . . death. Each word is loaded.

    My own reflections in the past few weeks have revolved around the human’s call to live a life of love. But what is love? God it love. And what does God do? He pours himself out, He freely gives, he even dies, for the sake of the beloved. And this is what we are called to. “Take up your cross and follow me” “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”

    For most of us, laying down our life in love will not mean being martyred. It will mean learning to do the laundry without grumbling or resentment in our hearts. It will mean learning to extend compassion and forgiveness to those who have wronged us (like betsy commented on). And in all of this, Christ is our example – He actually lived this.
    He freely accepted death.

    (as an aside, the book “Covenanted Happiness” by Cormac Burke talks about this in relation to marriage and family. I would highly recommend it)

    Thanks again for this great post and your blog!

    God bless

  9. noreen

    I have had many experiences in the past that make this post ring so true. I often know that God uses Mass to give me specific messages. One Sunday morning I woke up with the word “Discipleship” in my head, like coming out of a dream. And sure enough, the homily was on the topic of Discipleship. I still analyze what this is to mean to me. And, my whole life mission came out of the words of Romans 5 just popping out of the liturgy at me one Sunday, “And Hope Does Not Disappoint.” Perhaps it’s no surprise logically that at God’s house he would have something to tell us, but the clarity is nothing short of a miracle. This post is a great remider that the Lord asks us to rejoice at all times, even in our suffering.

    Thank you!

  10. lyrl

    …the most painful, unfair, unjust, undeserved act in the history of the universe…

    All the adjectives are apt, but “the most”? My view of human history must be more different from yours than I thought.

    On the main topic, I have also found worship helpful in putting perspective on issues that I get unduly upset about. The Yom Kippur service in particular, which is coming up just Wednesday night. I think your making this post this week will help me be more open to the message of that service.

  11. Ouiz

    I am so thankful for this suggestion given in the HOW TO BOOK OF THE MASS, because God has answered this prayer every time.

    Every time.

    Thank you for your post!!

  12. Jennifer F.

    All the adjectives are apt, but “the most”?

    I say “the most” because he’s God. It’s not to say that nothing worse than *a* crucifixion has ever happened, but that the Crucifixion of God incarnate is the most unfair, unjust, etc.

    Let me know how the Yom Kippur service goes!

  13. Whimsy

    Oh, and it looks like timechimes has a free download.

  14. Jessica

    Before I thought about it, this idea struck me as, “oh, a gimmick.” But then I did think about it, and I realized, “no, it’s just one child telling another: here’s a cool thing to do with Dad – try asking him THIS.” 🙂

    And I did, at mass, this Sunday. What stood out to me, and what I thought about all yesterday and am still thinking about today, was a line from our collect, “oh God, who art ever more ready to hear than we are to ask.” It’s been encouraging me towards prayer in an amazing way.

    So thanks for sharing this cool thing to ask our Dad. (Capital, capital, CAPITAL “D”. 🙂 )

  15. Daiquiri

    I just love it when he speaks to us so clearly! What you’re describing happens to me frequently when I read the Bible. Something I’ve read many times before suddenly LEAPS off the page and into my heart and mind. It’s incredible how he can change me so thoroughly with just a single word or phrase. Our God…is…Amazing.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  16. 'Becca

    This is such a fantastic tip for parents of young children! When we’re distracted by the kids and have trouble listening, still that one word or phrase can get through!

    And when I read this, I realized that even without praying for this, I had received this blessing on a day when I thought everything had gone wrong. God is so great!! See link behind my name. (Apparently I can’t do the “post a link” thing without having a Google account.)

  17. Gina

    Coming late to this post . . . but I just wanted to say that I tried it, and it worked, and then I tried Betsy's idea in the comments about asking Jesus when He had felt that kind of pain, and THAT worked.

    Um, wow.

    (I've been praying a long time for someone who's on the wrong path, and the Lord put the rich young ruler into my head as an example of when He felt the same kind of pain. And now I'm fervently hoping and praying that just because He felt the same way, it doesn't mean that both stories have to end the same way!!)

  18. Aldenia

    yourself you like most southern goepsl, well what is most southern goepsl? It’s a form of country music, same chord progressions same instrumentation. Hmm thats sounds a little Nashville to me.For that matter many of our sacride hymns that were writen 200 years ago were melodies taken from popular bar and pub tunes. And those wonderful annointed writers were ridaculed at that time for bringing the WORLD as you say into the church. So fast forward to today,look at what you are saying. Phil Cross is in pretty good company. I wonder how many religious people Fanny Crosby had to endure in her day. Remember religious people are the ones that put our Lord on the cross. I agree there are many songs that are shallow. There are many churches that have shallow worship or no worship or its emotionally or performance driven. But you are being shallow to say that your way is the correct way, or your prefrence of instruments and how they are played and the volumn level they are played at are the correct way. I have a pretty good idea the STYLE of music thats probably done in your church. Do you think your style of music would go over in a Cowboy Church or your way of approaching music would go over in a Black Gospel church? How bout a Christian Rock church? Lets take it a step farther, lets go over seas to Asia or Africa. Haiti a country destroyed by earth quake, the following day a call to worship was started by the loud beating of the drums, hmm i bet you guys dont start your worship service with the loud beating of a drum. But Jim thats ok, ITS A PREFRENCE,what matters is the subject as Phil put it, Its about JESUS!JESUS!JESUS!and making Him famous and lifting Him up. If that is the drive and motivation of the pastor, worship pastor, choir, worship team, musicians and cogregation then its gonna be a great sunday.And if the people go out from the service challenged,encouraged and ready to live and share the goepsl then thats what you call true worship, what we do on sundays is only a small part of worship, true worship is not about a certain style. True worship is about a lifestyle. And your 7/11 comment,PS 47:6 KJV.says, Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. Guess your not a fan of Psalms. And your comment on immproperly used distractive instruments, PS 33:1-3 KJV, says, Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the Lord with the harp; sing unto Him with the psaltry and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise. That pretty much says it all. Oh and lastly no matter what the final style may be, with millions of saints all around rejoicing,its not gonna matter, guess what,its gonna be loud brother. And I bet every style will be represented, every tongue, every tribe, every nation.Oh my stars what will you do? Lets give praise to God that there is a generation of true worshippers out there. Lets stop getting our uderware in a wad over stuff that God is probably laughing at. 100 years from now whats gonna truely matter?

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