Fiscal Report for 2014

Published on 24. Feb, 2015 by in Administrative, Uncategorized

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2014 Fiscal Report

Fiscal Year 2014 (July1. 2013-June 31, 2014) showed St. Ann Parish with an operating deficit of $20,333. (For the members of the 21 Club, with the Archdiocesan year-end audit, we reclassified some expenses/receivables into the current fiscal year, thus the slight discrepancy from the original $21,007) That deficit was after capital expenditures and bad debts were added in. In terms of ‘normal’ operating budget items, we showed a slim ‘profit’ of $25,418, compared to a ‘profit’ of $85,189 in FY 2013. Cash in our checking account and money market fund total $76,585, down from $121,789 last year. But, as I mentioned in my homily on Stewardship Sunday, that operating deficit is a direct result of the founding grant by Ann Lucas Hunt which set the mission of this parish: “To see to the needs of the congregation and the education of the children.” Here is the breakdown.

Expenses – Capital and Non-Cash

Capital Expenditures (cost element 61) totaled $34,599, significantly down from the year that saw the replacement of the boiler and redoing of the school computer lab. The breakdown of major costs is as follows:

  • Parish Building expenses of $8,400 covered repair of the gym floor from some water damage, the second half of the window replacements in the school hallways, and the internet rewiring project of this summer.
  • Equipment expenditures for the parish/school were $26,078, which included 2 replacement a/c units; an additional boiler water treatment tank; the hearing assist units for the church sound system; some replacement computers for teachers, plus $16,587 for a Mac-Mini and 30 i-Pads for school whose costs were split between the parish and a Boeing grant.

Non Cash expense (65) was $11,158, attributable to bad debt and uncollectable tuition.

Expenses – other than Capital or non-cash Capital

  • Personnel Costs (51) rose at a 4.7 % level, reflecting an Archdiocesan mandated 3% raise for faculty, with the resulting increases in Federal taxes, Health Insurance premiums and the like.
  • Supplies (52) showed a overall decrease of $8,649. Major variances include: The costs to replace the English Series as compared to last year’s Math Series ($3,500) and Parish Organizations’ expenses – aka: Men’s club, SAPO, Ladies Guild, etc., ($4,314) were offset by savings in janitorial supplies, (-$1,503) one time software Operating Systems for the computer lab purchased in FY13, (-$5,752) a reclassification of Teachers wish list monies to the areas where we spent them -transportation, instructional items, supplies, etc.) (-$10,316)
  • Fees and Services (53) showed a decrease of $5,327, as a result of some savings by our School Marketing committee as well as reclassifying the Shipping and Handling fees for our textbooks into the just mentioned “Supplies” category.
  • Occupancy (54) saw a decrease of -$7,151 overall as compared to the previous year. Higher heating costs and Snow removal costs (Remember the Polar Vortex?) were offset by having less Repairs and Maintenance needed, (Remember the hail storm the night of the 2012 Dinner Dance?). The purchase of a copier last Fiscal Year resulted in $3,103 of savings in the Equipment Rental category.
  • Transfers to Other Parishes/Diocese (55) jumped as expected. The bulk of this ($11,430) was due to the Alive in Christ Initiative, as this ‘tax’ hit its “2% of external revenues” ceiling, and an increase ($2,000 ) to the Priests Retirement Fund expenses.

Revenue

  • Unrestricted Revenues (41) of $364,236 were flat this year, showing a minimal $554 increase from last year’s giving. This includes our Sunday Envelopes, Holy Day and loose changes, as well as memorial and other unrestricted gifts. (Offertory gifts for normal Sunday collections were up, but were offset by a decline in unrestricted gifts – funeral memorials, and gifts given in honor of individuals, etc.)
  • Restricted Offerings and Gifts (43) were down (-$11,034) as compared to the previous year’s specialized appeals for the boiler fund in both our Visitation Appeal and the Pay It Forward appeal. (Visitation netted $35,906. The bulk of the Pay It Forward appeal came in the previous fiscal year, with the remainder trickling in this year at $2,385.)
  • Program fees (44) compromise tuition, book fees, registration as well as the Archdiocesan Alive in Christ Scholarship money to St. Ann School families. There is good news and bad news in this category. The good news is that the Alive in Christ program supplied 36 school families with $59,300 of scholarship money to help them afford the Catholic education we provide. The bad news you know: nearly 20 families initially took advantage of the School Transfer Law, so that our enrollment based revenues were down by -$43,276. This was partially offset by the sale of some cemetery plots, ($5,200) for a net decline in program fees of -$37,987.
  • Investment Income (45) – It was another good year for the markets, showing a net increase of $7,688. We were able to realize $21,667 from the endowment from last fiscal year, and we will receive $5,664 this coming July 1. Endowment earnings are held, as of Dec. 31, in a protected fund for budgeting purposes, until they are deposited into our account on July 1 of 2015.
  • Grant Revenue (46) was up by $19,500 from last year. We were the recipients, once again, of a generous gift from the Catherine Manley Gaylord Foundation to St. Ann School of $5,000. And, as mentioned above, Archdiocesan Grants to St. Ann parish through the Alive in Christ initiative; Tuition assistance to Teachers in Catholic Schools and CFTA, (offset by no insurance settlements this year), rose by nearly $28,000. We continue to pursue grants for our School and Pre-school to help pay for improvement projects in the future.
  • Other Revenues (47) shows decrease of -$5,091. It was a good year for the fiscal health of the various organizations that comprise St. Ann parish – Men’s Club, Ladies Guild, SAPO, and the like, showing an increase of $14,230. These revenues were offset by a decline fund raising revenues from the previous year to the tune of $16,134 (School plays, fish fry’s Dinner Dance, Recycling, etc)

Thus, total revenues show a decrease of $26,370 over last year’s totals. So, when you add it all together, we are left with a net income of – $20,333.

In summary, we nearly absorbed the decreased enrollment numbers due to the School Transfer Ruling.

People’s amazing generosity in response to my Stewardship appeal in October has stabilized our financial bleeding. In the short term, our cash reserves are not where I would like them to be. And the school enrollment trend, which most Catholic Schools are fighting, is still problematic. Yet, I am confident that we will continue to be able to fulfill the mission given to us by both our Savior and Anne Lucas Hunt, to “see to the needs of the community and the education of the children.” We will be conducting the Pay It Forward appeal this spring and the Visitation Appeal in the fall, as usual. And we will be doing some long range planning in the near future to look at building improvements and ongoing maintenance. In the mean time, for the 158th year and counting, we will continue to be a community “living Faith since 1856”.

— Fr. Bill

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The first question of Lent…

For the thirty plus years of my priesthood, I have been using the same tired joke that always gets a laugh. When asked: “What are you giving up for Lent, Father?” my response has been the same. With a dead pan face I say one word. “Celibacy.” …Though sometimes the pause is a bit longer than I would like, the response is always laughter, as I hoped it would be.

I do have to say, though, that there has been a shift in my understanding of this season away from asking that question first. The focus is not necessarily: “What am I going to give up for Lent?” nor even: “What am I going to choose for Lent?” Rather, my preparation begins with two more foundational questions. First, “What do I need (in my life) this Lent?” The second is like it. “What is missing from my life that needs to be there for me to be a more faithful disciple?”

Those are radically different starting places than that traditional question around the giving up something. The focus of both of these questions is the desire for wholeness and holiness of life before God. And though the answers I give might indeed lead me to those tradi-tional practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving, that is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. “Holiness is not measured by the scale of our deprivation, but by the fullness of our life in Christ.” (Jerry Welte – All Saints Press, 2015) Once I can give voice to those deeper needs in my soul, then finding the practice and disci-pline that helps me to get there becomes much easier.

So, one of my Lenten choices is to watch the movie “UP”, a Disney Film. Another is to return to the gym/my stationary bike at least 4 days out of every week. A third is to connect on a weekly basis either in person or by phone to my three best friends. Though these are not your typical starting places for Lent, I know they will root ME in some of the practices that will enhance my life in Christ. And that will be a very good thing.

So, as we begin this great season of Lent, perhaps the most important question is not “What will you do?” but rather “Where will you start?” Any of the questions above will serve you well in this endeavor to greater ho-liness. But, if, for some reason, none of them do, then simply post this quote on your bathroom mirror and think about it each day for these next 40 days. “There is so much indifference in the face of suffering. May we overcome indifference with concrete acts of charity”. – Pope Francis

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demonsAs soon as you heard the question, you knew the answer. No, God does not really care if we give up chocolate for Lent. The devil might, but for a different reason. His reason is so that this SMALL matter becomes the distraction that keeps you from the GREAT work of Lent. So, what is THE work of Lent? Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, and very far from here, a great Tibetan poet named Milarepa studied and meditated for decades. He traveled the countryside, teaching the practice of compassion and mercy to the villagers he met. He faced many hardships, difficulties and sorrows, and transformed them into the path of his awakening.Finally, it was time to return to the small hut he called home. He had carried its memory in his heart through all the years of his journey. Much to his surprise, upon entering, he found it filled with enemies of every kind. Terrifying, horrifying, monstrous demons that would make most people run. But Milarepa was not most people.
Inhaling and exhaling slowly three times, he turned toward the demons, fully present and aware. He looked deeply into the eyes of each, bowing in respect and said: “You are here in my home now. I honor you, and open myself to what you have to teach me.”
As soon as he uttered these words, all of the enemies save five disappeared. The ones that remained were grisly, raw, huge monsters. Milarepa bowed once more and began to sing a song to them, a sweet melody resonant with caring for the ways these beasts had suffered, and curiosity about what they needed and how he could help them. As the last notes left his lips, four the demons disappeared into thin air.
Now only one nasty creature was left, fangs dripping evil, nostrils flaming, opened jaws revealing a dark foul black throat. Milarepa stepped closer to this huge demon, breathed deeply into his own belly, and said with quiet compassion: “I must understand your pain and what it is you need in order to be healed.” Then he put his head in the mouth of his enemy.
In that instant, the demon disappeared, and Milarepa was home at last.

In so many ways, that story echoes the story of Jesus we hear each first Sunday of Lent. It’s the story of Jesus being LED by the Spirit into the desert – where there were no distractions – just the raw, naked elements and the silence. In that deserted place, Jesus meets HIS demons head on. What he learned there is the enemy he HAD to face there in that desolation was none other than the enemy within. The enemy was not outside of him, but rather, within. And He learned that the only way out was in. THAT is the GREAT WORK OF LENT. Not giving up chocolate. Not fasting between meals. Not even praying more or sacrificing more. Nope. The great work of Lent is to face the demons within!

The demons are all that is wrong with us that we continue to run from—that we refuse to attend to and refuse to treat with compassion in ourselves. They will surface again and again until we face them. For whatever we bury, we bury alive. They take on a life of their own. Robert Bly wrote: “Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us.” Those parts of us become that demon we fear—they become the enemy! But once we face them, we can be transformed by them. Once Jesus learned THAT, he came to know that if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.

And what is the face of this inner enemy, those demons who would not go away? As Matthew and Luke were later to describe it – somewhere inside Jesus, he wanted to be powerful, he wanted to be noticed, he wanted to be celebrated and acclaimed. He was tempted to turn his considerable charisma and talent to his own ends. The temptation was to let it be about him. He had to wrestle with that in him. This was a frightening foe; the enemy within him would not go away. It would haunt him throughout his ministry. And it was that desire that he had to face down if he was ever to be free to love and to serve. Only by taking it on, only by facing it, only by putting his head in its mouth, could he have ever gotten free.

And so it is for us. This is where it all begins – what Lent is really about. Unless we start here we will not be able to love. And if we cannot love we do not live! Unless we face those “enemies of love” that are real and live in us, as surely as they lived in Jesus, we will not be able to know true love, healthy connection, a love that lasts – that for which we most hunger and thirst. Facing those “enemies”, we will begin to see that our enemy is actually our ally in disguise.

Once we dare face the ENEMIES that live in us—welcome them, bow to them; once we dare put our heads into their very mouths, then they can disappear. Oh they will hang around to come and tempt us again. But next time we will not be so afraid. And we will be that much less afraid of other people hurting us, or those demons having power over us.

The heroes and leaders of our times will be those women and men who have the courage to plunge into the darkness at the bottom of their personal lives and face the enemy within. Please God, give us the courage NOW, this Lent, to do just that!

And if we do so, then perhaps what we will learn is the most profound thing of all: That what was wrong with us, when faced and loved and understood, is exactly what is right with us.

Milarepa was a great sage who met his enemies with an enlightened mind and an open heart. “In that instant, the demon disappeared and Milarepa was home at last.” So will you be, home at last! Home, in your own home!

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

February 22, 2015

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ashesDoes anyone here have a Fitbit? If you don’t know what they are, they look like a watch, sync to your computer, and are meant to be your companion on a journey to live a fit and healthy lifestyle. Among the metrics they record:
• The number of steps taken each day, floors climbed, active minutes working out, and calories burned per day. (and per hour if you want…)
• It will tell you what time of day you were most active THAT DAY, and track when you did NOTHING for your fitness goal.
• It will track your weight, BMI, lean mass and body fat percentages and automatically syncs it all to your computer
• Paired with your phone, it will track the distance you have run and even the record the path you took while running through various neighborhoods or terrains.
• It will record your Workouts in seconds or minutes and post those times instantly on a monthly exercise calendar.
• The more advanced ones can use your phone to take a picture of the food you are about to eat and it will tell you the approximate number of calories you are about to eat.
And then, it will take all of that data, and give you a score for how well you exercised and kept to your fitness regimen, even sending you encouraging emails to keep you motivated. It will tell you if you are over or under your daily goal. From the company’s website: Fitbit tracks every part of your day—including activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep—to help you find your fit, stay motivated, and see how small steps make a big impact. It is a pretty amazing piece of equipment.

Now, what kind of person buys a Fitbit? Obviously, only someone who is SERIOUS about their health and fitness. Someone who really wants to lose those extra pounds and get themselves into a way of living that is healthy in mind and body. What kind of person wears a Fitbit or its equivalent? Someone who is ready to do the work of fitness!

Which made me wonder if they have invented a SPIRITUAL FITBIT yet? And if they have, what would IT measure and what kind of person would wear that?

In some ways, we know already what the three big areas it would measure don’t we? Fasting. Prayer. Almsgiving. Those three practices that today’s gospel invites us to look into – they are the hallmarks of a spiritually healthy person. Fasting, not so we can say what good “do bees” we are, but fasting so that we train our desires to long only for the things of God. Prayer, not so others will see the halo around our heads (like the thinner waste line after fit bit) but that we might learn to hear the voice of God inviting us to wholeness. Almsgiving, not that others will notice how generous we are, but that other simply will have what they need to live.

Like the regular Fitbit, our spiritual Fitbit can keep track of our best times to pray, and how far we have journeyed to help those in need and how often we sacrificed our own desires to desire the things of God. And those are all good things. But like the other Fitbit, the first goal of the Spiritual Fitbit is to help us ask the question: What is missing from my life? What do I need to receive from this lent so as to become the saint God invites me to be. If we don’t answer that primary question first, then we’ve kind of missed the point.

And finally, what kind of person wears a Spiritual Fitbit? The same kind who chooses to wear ashes on their forehead as a sign of repentance. So this lent, I will give you permission perhaps for the only time in my priesthood to take a Selfie. Let it be of your ashes. And then post them on your Facebook wall, or computer background. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Or on top of your daily planner. Let it be the reminder of the Spiritual Fitbit journey you have decided to hold yourself accountable for this season. And may it inspire you, DAILY, to keep making those small steps to the greater holiness God invites each of us to know.

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On the doorstep of Lent…

So, how will this Lent be different from other Lents in your life? We know the drill, the three practices by heart by now, don’t we? Fasting. Prayer. Almsgiving. The $10,000 question is: “How will you fast and pray and give alms this year?”

Though I cannot answer the first and last for you, I can give you some possible ideas for the middle choice – prayer. By the doors this weekend are the reflection booklets we have been providing for a number of years now – “Five Minutes with the Word.” For those who like something tangible to hold in their hands and page through, this little pamphlet gives you a short meditation based on one of the daily readings from the mass of the day.

For those who enjoy the electronic method of acquiring content, there are two I would recommend and a third the Archdiocese suggests.

I have always enjoyed the website: Word On Fire, hosted by the Archdiocese of Chicago and featuring Fr. Robert Barron. This Lent, you can have a daily Lenten meditation from Fr. Barron delivered directly to your inbox. Just go to http://LentReflections.com to sign up.

The Irish Jesuits have a little online website called Sacred Space. In their own words, they bid you: “…to make a ‘Sacred Space’ in your day, praying here and now, as you visit our website, with the help of scripture chosen every day and on-screen guidance.” It is a series of screens, (with optional music) containing a short paragraph to center the heart and guide you through a few moments of prayer. You control how quickly/slowly you page through the screens. Sometimes, it is the perfect break in the middle of a long day at the computer.

Finally, as mentioned 2 weeks ago, Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever email program begins on February 18, Ash Wednesday. Like Fr. Barron’s Lent Reflections, each day, Matthew Kelly will email you simple yet powerful messages that explore the genius of Catholicism and will inspire you to become the-best-version-of-yourself. Go to BestLentEver.com to register.

Finally, just a reminder: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence for all Catholics over the age of 14. On these two days, fast, as well as abstinence, is also obligatory for those from the ages of 18-59. Abstinence means refraining from meat. Fast means one full meal a day, with two smaller meals and nothing between meals (liquids are permitted). All Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence from meat. No Catholic will lightly excuse himself or herself from these obligations.

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reach out“He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” Those final words in our passage from Leviticus today might be the saddest words recorded in the Old Testament. Can you imagine what that would be like, especially in the Bedouin-like existence of the Jewish people during their sojourn in the desert?
• Practically, it is a nuisance. You are farthest away from the source of water. And you’ll go through ½ of the camp, ringing a bell and saying: “Unclean, Unclean.”
• You’d hear the sounds of laughter, the late night murmur of conversations, the playing of children – but you would not be able to take part in them.
• Your family would struggle as well – and though the skin conditions that would be declared unclean were not the debilitating symptoms of what WE know as Hansen’s disease, (climate is too dry for what we know a leprosy (rather it is what we would know as eczema, psoriasis, severe acne) yet, you would STILL not be able to help your family with anything – even though physically, you are ‘fine’ and mostly able bodied.
• And in the absence of the creams and lotions and over the counter medicines that we are accustomed to, you could be forced to dwell apart for a long, long time – angry, frustrated and isolated, because of something that you had little or no control over.

The biblical prohibitions against leprosy were designed to protect the community (similar to the involuntary quarantines of health workers returning from ebola infected patients, or un-immunized kids exposed to the measles)– but did so at the expense of the individual. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. For the good of the group, the individual was isolated from everyone.

I suspect that Jesus ‘knew’ how difficult it was to dwell apart, to be an outsider, wanting to be in. Because He does not flinch, does he, when the leper approaches. For to touch the leper risked the same fate as the leper – to be on the outside, looking in, should you contract any of those skin diseases.

And you sort of ‘hear’ that in the conversation: The leper says: “If you wish, you can make me clean. You can restore me to family, to friends, to the life that I was so vibrantly a part of and want to be a part of again.” Jesus’ response is just as immediate: “I do wish it. Be made clean.” And then, because it is not enough for someone to be cured to be allowed to be returned to family, he commands the man to show himself to the priests – the final steps in his restoration to the community.

So we see in this story, not just the physical healing of the man, but his restoration to the life of the community, his inclusion back into the family that nourished him. In fact, he is so thrilled to be back, that can’t stop telling people about his good fortune. He disobeys Jesus’ command – to not tell anyone – because in the joy of restoration, of no longer having to dwell apart, outside the camp he cannot keep silent. The good news is just too good not to be shared.

There are, I think, two concrete consequences, to ‘easy ways’ for us to be a part of that same healing that is recounted in the gospel today.

The first is easy. Contact someone who has been ‘dwelling apart, outside the camp’ as it were, for whatever reason. Perhaps they lost a spouse, a son, a daughter recently, and it is just so dang hard to come back to this church, because the last time there were here was at the funeral and it is still feels too sad, ‘too much’ just yet. Offer to sit with them, and tell them ‘you’ll bring the Kleenex’. Or call the neighbor who can’t see so well to drive at night – an offer to pick them up. I know a gentleman at Normandy Nursing home who would love to come to mass here, but has no transportation – so, though I bring him communion, it is not quite the same. Who haven’t you seen in the pews around you these days? Give them a call and check in on them. It will mean the world to them.

Secondly, like the man who was healed who couldn’t shut up about the good news he knew in Jesus – pick ONE blessing to share this week – with your spouse, your kids, your parents, your neighbor – about how good God has been to you. It does not need to be earth shattering. But it does need to be shared.

You see, here at this altar, we bring all that keeps us dwelling apart, with our abode outside the camp to the one who says to us, as he said to the one in the gospel – “I do wish you to be whole, to be connected, to be made clean. Come to the table of life!”

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* Click image below to view bulletin (pdf)

February 15, 2015

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An epic list of self care ideas, continued…

I have the luxury of having 5 siblings. Because of that, we are able to do the ‘divide and conquer’ approach to caring for my mom who just turned 90. She is able to do many things independently, but other things are beginning to be beyond her ability. So my sister does the shopping. My eldest brother does the taxes and financials. Another brother manages the interactions with her current place of residence. I do the medical stuff and doctor’s appointment. Everyone calls. Each takes turn visiting, when they are able. We are able to do quite a bit for mom without overloading any of us beyond the point of burnout. Not everyone has that luxury. When you don’t, self care becomes an essential element to discipleship.

Whether it is the commandment to honor father and moth-er, or the invitation to ‘be fishers of (wo)men”, we are not running a sprint, but a marathon. There is a gospel imperative to choose what is necessary to keep ‘running the race’, caring for the elderly parent, being committed to the parish, loving your spouse and children. With Lent looming on the horizon, what if one element of whatever you will choose to embrace/sacrifice, would involve “just one thing” to keep you balanced on your road to Calvary? Here are a few final ideas from the pamphlet Just One Thing.
Be a tourist in your own town – check out an art exhibit, market, festival, café or shop.
Plan an outing for coffee and conversation with your best friend.
Start a gratitude journal
Treat yourself to new sheets or towels.
Go to the park and see how high you can swing. (I dare you to jump off mid air like you did at 8!)
Get together with friends for a guys or gals night out on a bi-monthly basis.
Create something with your hands.
Go to a florist shop or farmers market and buy your favorite flowers to fill up your home.
Take an entire day off.
Cook ‘breakfast for dinner’ one day a month.
Try out tai-chi or yoga for one class. Feel no pressure to go back, just enjoy the experience.
Take an afternoon nap.
Go on a date night with your spouse.
Once a day, compliment someone.
Once an hour, say a prayer of thanksgiving, stretch and SMILE.

Holistic Wellness is the practice of self care that enables you to prayerfully, joyfully and completely.

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restThere are at least two pieces of technology that can grade the quality of your sleep. A fit bit. (I don’t have one, but I know it can be programmed to give you feedback on your sleep.) And the 3rd(?) generation of c-pap machines. About an hour after waking up, mine sends daily reports to an internet site which then assigns me a sleep score. The score is a composite of Usage Hours, Mask Seal, Events/hour (when I stop breathing) and the number of times when the mask is on or off. (aka – how interrupted my sleep is) So I am ‘graded’ each night on the quality of my sleep. I got an 88 last night. I have seen quite a bit of progress since when I first started on the new machine. I am doing better on the quality of my sleep. But here is the rub, I now know that there is a huge difference between sleep and rest.

I suspect you all know this at some level or the other. You can be bone tired, bone weary, and crash into bed after the long day, and wake up 8 hours later and still feel that same bone wearying tiredness. You slept, but you did not rest. Likewise, you can be that same kind of tired, fall to sleep and wake only a few hours later – but you are rested, energized, and ready for a new day. What is the difference?

Though not an expert as to the science behind the ‘why’ some sleep more restful than others (beyond knowing it has to do at least a bit with REM level sleep and delta waves in the brain) my spiritual awareness tells me this. When I am ‘on mission’ – doing that which is at the center of who I am and what matters, then I REST well, even if my sleep is not so great. When I am scattered, fighting someone else’s battles, waging someone else’s wars, not doing that which is at the center of my calling – even though I might sleep well, I am not rested. I become like Job in the first reading – my days are a drudgery…

Jesus knew this pretty early on in Mark’s gospel. We hear today the second last story of Chapter ONE – sometimes called “a few days in the life of Jesus.” They are busy ones. Once he hears of John’s arrest, Jesus begins his preaching. He calls his first disciples; makes his way to Capernaum. On the Sabbath, he cures a man with an unclean spirit. Then he cures Simon Peter’s mother in law. And the whole town after the end of the Sabbath (when it was evening – the Sabbath would be over and they can now “carry people” to Jesus without violating the law’s prohibition to do work.) Finally, bone weary and exhausted, he crashes into bed for some sleep. But it is not restful sleep, is it?

“Rising early the next morning” we are told, Jesus seeks the place, not of sleep but of rest. Of abiding. Of connection. Because, in the temptation of instant success and having whole towns and villages at his door, he knows what dangerous ground he could quickly be on. “Successful but not faithful” would be how I would name this temptation. Humanly having it all together, but in terms of what mattered to God, he could fly so quickly off-center.

In that quiet place, Jesus is re-connects to his mission. “To the other towns I MUST go – This is my purpose.” Only his resting in God’s love allows that kind of freedom, that ability to turn his back on success beyond his wildest dreams, to pursue rather his Father’s will.

So what did Jesus do to transform sleep intervals into rest intervals? Two things, it appears.

First, Jesus finds a place he could be alone and keep his own counsel. Jesus seeks out a place free of noise, people, expectations, demands, and things. Mark describes it as “a deserted place”. The word translated “deserted” is the noun for “desert” or “wilderness”. There are few desolate places on planet earth quite like the desert places in the Middle East. In those places, there is no water, no vegetation, little life – only solitude. Unplugged from the bustle of his new found fame and popularity, Jesus is able to rest in the presence of his God.

We will never find a cure for our exhausted lives until we find our own desert place. It may be a room in your home. It could be a city park or a quiet corner of a coffee house. It could be your car, as you stop a block away from home and turn off the ignition, radio and any other source of noise. It must be a place where no iPad, no iPhone, no laptop, no friends dropping by, no Day-Timer open, and no life-noise (music, words, traffic if possible) can enter. Find that place that works for you in the concrete reality of your life.

And then, in that quiet place, release your cares to God. Let him know of your day and your life and your struggles and successes. And in that prayer, LISTEN. Listen as God reminds you who you are and who God is. Prayer creates a space where we can let go of all that wearies us and allows us to take hold of the only One who can sustain us.

John XXIII, on the evening that he announced the convening of Vatican II, could not sleep. Finally, chiding and challenging himself, he asked: “Angelo, why aren’t you sleeping? Who’s running the church, you or the Holy Spirit? So sleep.” And therein is the cure for our exhausted, depleted, tired lives. When we hear the voice of God in our rest, we can be effective ministers of his grace and love.

What is the quality of your rest? Like Jesus, might we spend time listening to the voice of God sustaining, so we may respond to the voice of God calling us to our mission to transform our world…

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