Adoption

Homily Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Image result for bulgaria city buildings

Sofia, Bulgaria (shutterstock.com)

As you may or may not know, Nissa and I adopted two children from Bulgaria about a year ago.  As part of the adoption process, we visited with the children in Bulgaria two different times.  The first was in a very small village in the far distant region of the country.  And the second was in the capital city Sofia.  We got an opportunity to see much of the country.

Bulgaria is a former republic of the Soviet Union, who recently became an independent nation.  No matter where we were, the country looked like pictures you’ve probably seen, all the buildings are the same color, the same architecture.  Almost all are what we would consider run down, walls cracked, plaster and paint falling off.  Inside, they were not any better.  Even the national museums were obviously in disrepair.  The roads were terrible, torn up and patched together.

By our standards, Bulgaria is a third world country.  The thing that really stood out was within that environment of poverty, everyone was wearing designer clothes, everyone sported their own smart phone, everyone drove expensive cars. 

And there we were, traveling 5000 miles to rescue two children abandoned in an orphanage, minimally cared for, while everyone around them was more concerned with pretending to be wealthy than loving their neighbor.

Everyone was focused on the wrong thing.

And that is exactly what today’s Scripture readings are trying to save us from.  We must stop and reflect on what God is telling us!

The first reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah telling us how to follow the Lord:  do no wrong and tell no lies!  What a wonderful world this would be if everyone lived that way! 

Even when we fail, we need to keep striving to live that way.  The challenge of course is that our present world no longer knows what is good and what is wrong.  The world does not know truth from lies. 

We are surrounded on every side with values that are so different from the values given to us by Jesus that we can become confused.  Far too often, whatever the present cultures wants to call good is accepted as good and whatever it wants to call bad is accepted as bad. 

Yet, we who follow the Lord Jesus, have the Word of God to form us and to guide us into all truth.

The second reading is from a Letter from St Paul to the Corinthians.  This letter reminds us that if we actually do choose to follow the Word of God and to follow Jesus as our Savior, we will be considered fools.  And this is still true for us today. 

But we are told in this reading:  “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.”  It is our foolishness in following Jesus that can actually bring light to the world and perhaps even draw the world back to God. 

The early Christians knew that to live in Christ was to fight against the values of their world.  The early Christians even knew that they might have to die to proclaim the truth given to us in Christ Jesus.

Today, we like to be comfortable and to be well off.  There is nothing wrong with that by itself, but when we are willing to water down the Word of God in order to maintain a comfortable life style, then we must recognize that we are betraying Jesus as our Lord. 

We must be able to stand up for the truth of the teachings of Scripture and of our Catholic Church.  When we find ourselves compromising because we don’t want to bother others, then we are guilty of passing on the lies of our current culture.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us what is called the Beatitudes.  These are the all important teachings of Jesus that tell us how to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!

The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Today we are invited us to renew our commitment to the follow the Lord.  We should walk in His ways and accept all the suffering that may bring us.  That way we can walk in His kingdom but now and forever.

Some content from Homily by Abbott Philip OSB

Happiness

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton

©Nissa GadboisA maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
 
 

I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity.  I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time.  I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.

Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed.  We all have.  That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore.  It makes you crave quietude.  And it often makes happiness feel elusive.  We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma.  Trauma is evil.  Trauma steals all good things.  It is hell.

And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently… 

We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home.  I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures.  But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony. 

The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations.  That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.

Pieces of Our Hearts

Today is one year.  One year since we walked into that orphanage in a tiny Bulgarian village and our world changed forever.

For many families, the day that they arrive at the orphanage (or foster home) to pick up their child(ren) is a happy day to be celebrated every year.  But when you adopt an older child – a much older child – it’s a day that is bittersweet to commemorate.  It is the day on which they are rescued.  It is the beginning of a new life, a second chance.  It is a full ride to the School of Love.

But it costs them everything. 

It is the day on which they’ve lost all that they know.  Everything.  It is devastating.  They have lost their language and culture, they’ve lost all of their friends, they’ve lost familiar surroundings, and any adult they had come to trust.  They’ve lost the possibility of being reunited with their birth family.  No matter what we are to our children, how much we love them, how hard we try to keep language and culture alive, we are not replacements for those people and things they’ve lost.  They are being saved from a life they (please, God) will never truly understand.  But they won’t know that until they are grown, until they are themselves parents.  Perhaps they will never fully appreciate what they have lost and gained.

It takes a great measure of bravery for these kids to keep their heads up and move on into a new life about which they know nothing.  It takes enormous strength to leave behind little pieces of their hearts and give the rest to someone new.  Some kids, particularly much older ones, can never give the rest of their hearts to their new families.  They cling desperately to the remains.  They don’t know that this act of preservation isn’t saving them at all.  They slowly die inside.  Only they can choose whether to love or not.  Some never choose love.
 ©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

And us? 
We left pieces of our hearts behind in Bulgaria, too.  One child in particular became very special to us throughout the process of adopting Nick and Olivia.  We left the orphanage that day knowing that we might never meet again this side of Heaven.  And we loved each other well.  We smiled and we laughed, we hugged and we kissed.  We held hands.  And we wept.  We sobbed as we tore pieces of our hearts off and handed them to each other.  And it remains one of the most enduring and precious memories I have. 

©Nissa Gadbois
This day is a day to be treasured always for so many reasons. 

For the work that God has done through us.
For the children we rescued.
For the love they’ve brought into our lives.
For their resilience, and their bravery.
For the strength we have gained through the difficulties.
For the wisdom and courage to follow our hearts.
For the desire to keep on helping those left behind.
For a daughter who is ever present in our hearts, if not in our arms.

Make a Way

A year ago today, we arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria to bring Nick and Olivia home.  We were filled with the joy of the fulfillment of a dream, knowing that God had lead us along a winding road to this time and place.  We had no way of knowing the heartbreak and difficulty that this road would bring on the other side.  The stress of those two weeks was so great that we feared for my health in a very real way.  We questioned our decision many times.  Could we meet their needs?  What were we bringing home to our other children?  They had never experienced anything like these kids; knew nothing of the things that their new siblings had experienced before coming home. 

©Nissa GadboisSt. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church – Sofia, Bulgaria

Through the extreme anxiety, we prayed.  We prayed constantly and never as fervently as we did during that fortnight.  It was about as close to Gethsemane that either of us could ever have imagined.  We begged for God to allow this cup to pass from us, but ultimately accepted His will for all of us.  We knew that God had brought us this far.  That He had asked us to adopt THESE two children.  That He had put it on our hearts to help more children.  We knew He’d lead us through all that was happening and all that was to come.

Nothing we had ever experienced, nor read, prepared us for this.  NOTHING.  It has been the most awful, most blessed year of our lives.  We have discovered how to lean hard into the weight of that rough-hewn cross and press that thorny crown down firmly on our heads, how to smile through the blood and the tears. 

©Nissa GadboisBe not afraid to walk through the door that God shows you

Throughout those two weeks and many, many days since, this song has been a source of strength. 

You brought me to the desert so You could be my water
You brought me to the fire so You could be my shield
You brought me to the darkness so You could be my morning light
If You brought me this far, if You brought me this far

Wherever you lead me, I know you won’t leave me
Wherever you call me, You will make a way
Wherever we’re going, I will be holding
To the promise you have made
You will make a way
You will make a way

And when I’m in the valley, You will be my comfort
And when I’m at the end of me, I find You there
When I’m in the battle, You will be my present peace
Cause You brought me this far, You brought me this far
If You brought me this far

Wherever you lead me, I know you won’t leave me
Wherever you call me, You will make a way
Wherever we’re going, I will be holding
To the promise you have made
You will make a way
My God will make a way

Cause You brought me this far
You brought me this far
You brought me this far
You will make a way – I Am They, “Make a Way”

He is calling us again and we know that He’ll bring us through whatever comes. 

©Nissa GadboisAlexander Nevsky Cathedral – Sofia, Bulgaria

©Nissa GadboisIconostasis, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – Sofia, Bulgaria

©Nissa Gadbois  +Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner+

Art. Life.

©Nissa Gadbois

An impromptu art lesson for my Bulgarians.  They were never taught how to make art.  It is clear that they desire to make art.  We ALL desire to make art because we are made in the image and likeness of God.  The essence of our very being is that of creator.  Making art is a useful means of communication when spoken language fails.  It is therapeutic.

They are learning not only how to use art materials, but also how to observe. As teenagers, they had not really learned to pay attention to how the human form, nor plants, nor anything else was made.  Arms too small, bent weirdly, coming from the midsection of the body instead of from the shoulder.  Trees that look like lollipops instead of like trees. In some small way I am helping them to communicate when spoken language fails.

They are showing improvement in their artworks.  They practice daily.  It is as though a light has been turned on in an inner room in their minds.  “Aha!”  And there is a rush to use their newly learned skills.  It is beginning to pour out like a stream in spate. 

We are finding that letting them unfold naturally was a wise decision.  Forcing them too quickly would not have produced any fruit.  Rushing to have them diagnosed with this or that disability before they had a chance to become themselves would have been tragic.  We have had such a bumpy transition, and we still have days that are excruciatingly difficult.  We tend to avoid suffering at all costs. 

But in avoiding the suffering, we often miss the holiness and wholeness of life.

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