Do We Pay As Much Attention to Positive Gestures as to Negative Ones?

I get a lot of newsletters in my e-mail and confess that they don’t all receive my full attention. But one I do try to read regularly is Joyce Rupp’s monthly reflection. The reflection I received this morning invites us to reflect on whether we see people as “essentially oriented to the good” or as “basically corrupted.”

Rupp’s post mentions a. book by Dutch author Rutger Bregman titled Humankind. His book presents stories designed to illustrate his contention that humans are “hardwired for kindness and cooperation.” He suggests that while humans have committed many horrific and evil acts, they commit a vastly higher percentage of good ones. The problem is that those positive action receive a lot less public attention than the evil ones, with the result that we have a tendency to view others suspiciously, rather than generously, thinking the worst of them rather than the best.

As Rupp recognizes from her own experience the “essence of human kindness is everywhere” if we only notice it.

So, do you notice the people shoveling snow for their neighbors, as many in the Twin Cities have done after last week’s major snowfall? Do you notice those collecting goods for local organizations providing assistance to those being hard hit economically? Or do you only attend to stories of stolen packages of porches and similar venal acts?

What we notice affects how we respond to others, whether we view them with suspicion or generosity, whether or not we trust in the fundamental goodness of human beings or not.


Lent is Just About Here!

Perhaps because I spent the latter part of January in the Holy Land, it is hard for me to believe that February 22 and the beginning of Lent is just around the corner.

Whatever else it does, Lent gives us a time to reset.  We speak of prayer, almsgiving and fasting as traditional Lenten practices.  That doesn’t mean we do these things at Lent and not at other times; these practices should be part of our lives as a normal matter. 

However, sometimes the busyness of our lives causes us to lose track, lose our focus on practices that are fundamental to who we are. Lent reminds us of their centrality to us perhaps our prayer has fallen off a bit, maybe gotten a bit rote.  Lent is a time to brush ourselves off and recommit ourselves to this path of Christian discipleship.

So, how will you reset? How will you use Lent as a time of recommitment?

As always, there are some wonderful resources to help in that process. Here are some:

The Jesuit Midwest Province has put out a wonderful booklet of reflections for self-guided prayer, which you can download here.

As usual, Creighton Online Ministries has put together an extensive collection of prayers, reflections, audio talks and practices, available here.

Loyola Press’ offers its contributions to your Lenten prayer here.

St. Thomas More’s Lent retreat in daily living provides daily prayer material and both live and online small group meetings.

And, depending on where you are located and/or your ability to get away, I’ll be offering several Lent opportunities:

Parish Mission for Community of the Good Shepherd in Cincinnati, March 6-8 – The Lenten Journey

Weekend Retreat at Loyola Morristown Jesuit Retreat House, March 24-26, Journey of Sorrow, Journey of Love

Women’s Lent Retreat Day at Christ the King Retreat House in Buffalo MN, March 18; and they have several other lent opportunities available.

There is no shortage of resources. May you have a blessed Lent!