Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Even Less Time

We just returned from quick driving trip to Florida from Illinois.  This week I am coaching and my daughter is playing in a high school basketball tournament that plays 4 days in a row, 1.5 hours NW from our high school.  At same time I am trying to get into work before 7 a.m. each day to get some hours in at my client before my contract there ends.

Just babbling to let you know why I've dropped off, especially reading and commenting on your sites.  I missed some events in your lives, and I will catch up, and I will keep you in my prayers in the meantime.

I took this exhaustion I've felt the past three nights as clear sign that I should try to just renew the contract at 20 rather than 40 hours a week for the remainder of the basketball season!

That will give me time not just for the wonderful blogging community that I am blessed to be a part of, but also more family time, prayer and reading time, and just . . . . you know . . . the possibility of keeping my sanity.

Did I mention my daughter was lead scorer tonight and we are now the only undefeated team left in the Christmas tournament?  I get a kick out of the fact that the public school that bridges two farming towns in Illinois unabashedly calls it a Christmas rather than a Holiday tournament.

Or did I mention that I love coaching high school basketball and these wonderful girls more, I suspect, than Bobby Jones enjoyed playing golf?

Beyond the enjoyment there is a spiritual richness to coaching in a Christian school.  We pray before every bus trip, and our game ending cheer, win or lose is, "FOR HIM!!".  We also end in prayer, and often incorporate scripture verses into the practice ending prayers, with different girls volunteering for this as chance to practice their faith out loud.

There is also the fact that some of the team members and their families are going through hard times right now.  None of this is kept hidden--whether it is unfaithfulness in a marriage, "My Dad did some stupid things", or a father going into the ER, or need to raise money for a child's surgery.

Everything is mentioned and everything is raised up in prayer.  Our faith and love are part of our everyday experience and this is the richest part of the experience for me, and I think also the girls realize how wonderful it is too.

It is truly a blessing from God to have the privilege to do this.  It is also a miracle to reflect how He orchestrated it, and provided for me to have a client that used to keep me up nights and working weekends give me an assignment that is very easy to balance between 5-6 day a week practice and game commitments and 7 day a week family responsibilities . . .

Well, until this week where it is exhausting, but providentially so.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Made for Love, Made to Know You

The lyrics and music for this Brooke Fraser song are amazing.

If you liked this one you might also like the songs she composed and performed with Hillsong United especially:  Lead Me to the Cross, Hosanna, and Desert Song.

On her solo albums, beside this awesome C.S. Lewis Song, I also like Shadowfeet, Something in the Water, and Flags.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let Loving Hearts Enthrone Him

Far and away my favorite Christmas Carol is "What Child is This?" written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix at the age of 29 after suffering a sudden, near-fatal illness, that left him confined to bed-rest, and during which he suffered a deep depression.

There have been many interpretations of this beautiful carol over the years, but certainly the recently produced version by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is among the most awe inspiring.  What a combination they are.  Andrea Bocelli has the beautiful, disciplined, operatic voice that is only more beautiful by the reverence and love with which he sings the traditional melody.  Mary J. Blige, who many of us have seen on different reality shows, and (afraid to admit it) Oprah know her to be a woman of talent as well as kindness.

I don't often have songs on repeat, as I had post-college roommate once that did this with a certain 10,000 Maniacs single and I had to hide the CD, which was mine for the record, because I could not take it.

Today though I was listening to this song on repeat on the drive in.  Part of the reason for the repeat is if you immerse yourself in the flow and love for Jesus and his Mother, Mary, in the song, you cannot help but have your heart swept to God in thanksgiving and love.  I literally had a lightness and pleasant tingling sensation in the upper part of my head (stay with me) along with tears in my eyes when I listen to this.

What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant king to own Him,
The King of kings, salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just As I Am

"Just As I Am" is by Fernando Ortega off of his latest CD, "Come Down O Love Divine".  Fernando had performed this hymn as a young artist, but this was a new melody and arrangement for this his latest project.  The music and the lyrics are stunning and soul moving.  They also have a similarity to the words St. Therese chose in the longer version of her Offering to Merciful Love.

Fernando dedicated the song to Billy Graham and there is a section in the song when we hear briefly from Billy Graham.  Here are the lyrics:

I waited and waited for God

He turned and He heard me
He lifted me out of the mud
His own hand secured me
The Lord is my strength
I will not be confounded
So I have focused my face like a flint
I'll not be ashamed
Lord I come

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

Take the days that remain in my life

Lord, let me serve You
While there is breath on my lips
I would proclaim You
I long for Your return
I long to see You face to face
I long to join the eternal song
Communion of all the saints

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

St. Therese's Offering to Merciful Love (long version)
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love. . . . 

After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

We can only confess that Jesus is Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12:3) or call God, "Abba", Father (see Galatians 4:6) in the Holy Spirit.  Our faith itself, our confession of faith, our realization that Jesus is Lord, and through the shedding of his Precious Blood we have the Holy Spirit to teach us to call out Abba--Our Father, all of it is gift.  Lord, make us truly thankful!

We will show up empty handed just like St. Therese, Great Saint that she is!
We know we have nothing to boast of
that our hope of salvation came from God, Our Father, 
not sparing his only Son, 
and that Son in obedience and love
became incarnate of a woman, 
full of grace, conceived without sin because of God her Savior, 
and this Son, revealed his Father to us,
taught us to pray, Our Father, 
taught us how to love, how to show mercy and compassion, 
how to forgive, he suffered betrayal, humiliation, bodily and soul wrenching torment, 
and then laid his life down for us his friends, 
and every drop of his Precious Blood ran from his pierced side, His Sacred Heart.  Jesus, I do Trust in You.  Jesus I thank you that you thirst for me.  Increase my thirst, increase my love for you.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"  And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?"  I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  (Revelation 7:9-14)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Love Note from Sister to Brother

No, this isn't a post on the pros and cons of inclusive language.

Just wanted to share cute note and loving sentiment between my 10 year old daughter in 4th grade, Kathleen, and her 6 year old brother in 1st grade, Ray.

I go back and forth in my mind between Pope Benedict saying we should have "authentic" online presence and then holding on to partially hiding my identity for family safety and my kids', and poor husband's privacy.  I ended up not using their real names for this post.

Usually handwritten notes in lunch boxes are from Moms to their kids, and at least for me, they don't go on for couple pages--but just say something like Love Mom, have a good day, etc.

I found a hand written and decorated note on three tiny notebook pages, written in permanent red marker, in Ray's lunchbox from Kathleen.

Here is what it said:

Dear Ray,
I hope you are
having a good day.
When you are done
with your lunch come
by me.  After recess
remember your lunch
box.  I put lots of
candy in your lunch
box for you.  After
school remember to
go to After-School-
care.  Have a great, 
wonderful, awesome,
and fun day.
Love, you !! (with exclamations having a smile)

Of course with lots of hearts and the o in both "love"'s turned into a heart!

I don't remember exchanging notes like this with my brothers or sisters or my first two kids doing this.  So cute!  She just loves him for who he is, and even wants him to come visit her during lunch.

I continue to feel instant affection for anyone who shows their Christian faith in a secular setting to me.  When I was going for an interview yesterday at Motorola the security guard said to me, "Oh S_____ (my last name), My neighbor, May the Dear Lord Rest Her Soul, was an S____.  She made the best Irish Soda Bread."

I said to him, "Oh.  Well I make a mean Irish lasagna."

I am sure he didn't know what to make of that, but it did make him smile.  He apologized to me for the rain outside when I was on my way out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rich Exchange of Hearts: Example of True Love

Mark 14:1-11 tells the story of a woman anointing the head of Jesus with a whole jar of expensive perfumed ointment, at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany.  This account doesn't say this was Mary Magdalene, or Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, it just says woman, and immersing myself as a woman who loves Jesus is more attractive to me right now, than researching who commentators say this woman was.  As most of you who come here regularly are also on the path pursuing a deeper love relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, I wanted to post on this today.

While defending her action, Jesus says, "What she has done for me is one of the good works. . . . She has done what was in her power to do:  she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial." Mark 14:6b, 8

Fr. John Bartunek in The Better Part has powerful meditation on this passage, that I have to share with you, so it might touch you as I have been touched by it.

We can imagine the depth of understanding between them.  Jesus knows her heart, and she knows that he knows, and with utter simplicity and confidence she expresses what is in her heart and what she can no longer contain.  He looks into her eyes as she approaches him, and smiles.  She adores him, she performs this gesture of welcome and appreciation.  This rich exchange of hearts is inaccessible to the others. . . . 

  • The woman's gesture was generous, and true love is generous.  Love flows like a waterfall, like a rushing fountain . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was costly, and true love is costly.
  • Since love by definition is self-giving, when one loves one necessarily feels a certain loss, a certain self-sacrifice.  
  • The loss yields a profound joy, because the beloved benefits (and because we are created to love). . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was beautiful, and true love is the most beautiful reality of all.
Citing William Barclay's Daily Study Bible, Fr. Bartunek says that St. Mark's use of the Greek word kalos rather than agathos when Jesus describes her "good work" is significant, because Greek has two words for "good".  Agathos means strict moral goodness, "while kathos connotes moral goodness, with a winsome, elegant, charming twist. . . . True love goes beyond the cold exactitude of dry duty; true love gives with a smile, a flourish, and a delicacy that not only meets the beloved's needs but meets them in a lovely, pleasing way."

Jesus's own true love is shown in his passion.  He doesn't just pour out "a symbolic drop" of his blood.  "He generously pours out all of his blood . . . he suffers betrayal, rejection, humiliation, injustice, physical (emotional, and spiritual) torment, and mockery".

O Wisdom of God, thank you for leaving us this example of one woman's great love for you in the Bible.  Thank you for defending her.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, thank you for your most generous, costly, self-emptying, and beautiful love, being born in humility and poverty in a manager, in living a life of self-giving love, teaching, and healing, for laying down your life as the Lamb of God to bear our sins, and restore us as children of God.  Thank you for staying with us until the end of the world in the generous giving of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and mold us into your image.

I love you, Lord!

Mary, Masterpiece of the Holy Spirit

Part Three of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, begins with this title and picture:
El GrecoSaint John Contemplates the Immaculate Conception, Church of SainLeocadia and Saint Roman; Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo. 
I found the commentary on this picture illuminating, and hope you do too!

   Mary, the Panhagia (all holy), is the masterpiece of the Holy Spirit (Panhagion).  Her existence, from her immaculate conception to her glorious assumption into heaven, is completely sustained by the love of God. The Spirit of the Love of the Father and the Son makes of Mary a new creature, the new Eve. Her heart and mind are intent upon the adoration of and obedience to the heavenly Father. She is his beloved daughter and she is also dedicated to the acceptance and service of the Son whose mother and disciple she is. Her soul is likewise intent upon her surrender to and cooperation with the Holy Spirit for whom she is a treasured sanctuary.
   In this image Mary is surrounded by angels playing musical instruments and making merry, her head crowned with the divine love of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove. Mary is the mother and protector of the Church (at her feet there is a faint glimpse of a sacred edifice). Through her efficacious, motherly intercession with Jesus, she pours out upon the Church the abundance of heavenly graces (symbolized by the tuft of blooming roses).
   Below at the left, the Apostle John in contemplation of Immaculate Mary represents everyone of the faithful who sees in the Blessed Virgin the perfect model and likewise the teacher and guide for living in the Spirit.
   In his book Life in the Spirit and Mary Fr. Christopher O Donnell, O.Carm., writes:
   In her relationship to the Spirit, Mary is our model. If Jesus is to be born in us, we too need to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. We need to be receptive and open to his action. When we allow him to touch us and make of us a new creation (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), we are in the obedient state of Mary, eager to receive. This involves continuous docility to the Spirit. The great work that he does within us is to make us adopted children of the Father, so that we too with Christ can cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:14-15, 23).
  What is important is that our attitude be truly marian, for the Mother of God said a "yes" to a relatively unknown future. Afterward the Spirit guided her. But it is noteworthy that Mary is led to divine truth also by other persons who themselves received revelation. It was to the shepherds, not to Mary, that the angels announced the birth of one who was saviour, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10, 17). The old man Simeon was inspired by the Spirit and prophesied about the child and about Mary: her Son will be salvation, light, glory, a sign of contradiction, and Mary's own soul will be pierced (see Luke 2:30-35).
. . . (B)e alert to the danger of an illuminism-that is, any tendency to prefer direct revelation to other means at arriving at truth. Mary was once directly enlightened by God, at other times indirectly. So . . . though we know the power of the Spirit to guide us directly, we must also value his guidance through other persons, through the Scriptures, through the teaching of the church. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Translation Please?

Perhaps to ensure that sloth does not get the better of me, I subscribe to KLOVE's Encouraging Word daily scripture email.  I don't always hit the universalis site to see the Mass readings, or readings for the day, or the Office of Readings, even though every time I do I usually love them.  I also don't assist at Mass during the week, only on Sundays and Holy Days, and am thinking maybe I should change that for Advent.

This is the verse that showed up today, and I was sure I never heard or read it before.

Saturday 11/26/2011

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:17, NLT
NLT is New Living Translation.  

The Revised Standard Version and the New Jerusalem versions of the Bible strive for literal word for word translation.  The NLT follows a theory of trying to do thought for thought translation, or the closest natural equivalent for the message expressed in the original language text in both meaning and style.

"representative of the Lord Jesus" really touched me today.  

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17, RSV

For some reason doing or saying everything, keeping in mind that I am a representative of the Lord Jesus is more impacting to me than saying or doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.  I used the Blue Letter Bible reference to check the original Greek translation.  It does say in the name of, versus as a representative of.

My previous favorite and helpful verse for the past couple of months has been:

Do everything with love.  1 Corinthians 16:14, NLT

Let all that you do be done in love.
 1 Corinthians 16:14, RSV

Not a significant difference in the wording there, although the NLT is a little more direct by losing a few words.

It is significant to me that both of these verses jumped out at me, and both of them the Holy Spirit is using to convict me tonight as I write this--in a good way, not in a you've failed again way.  I failed to be a good representative of the Lord Jesus both outside and inside of my home this week, inclusive of this night.
These verses, whether in the more literally correct RSV that I didn't seem to be as touched by when I read them in the past, or in the NLT version, which are hitting me as a sort of sobering wake up are saying to me:
  • Are you doing everything with love?  
  • Are you conscious that you are a representative of the Lord Jesus in everything that you say or do?
  • Do you realize that everything that you say or do is an opportunity to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus?
While I often give credit to the Blessed Mother, for her intercession, that I think her spouse the Holy Spirit acts on to teach and guide me, I also think the Holy Spirit likes to confirm his teaching to me through the messages of the Immaculate Conception.  I highlighted in the below recent message those aspects that coincide with the teachings of the above two verses.

November 02, 2011 Monthly Message to Mirjana Dragicevic-Soldo 
Our Lady of Medjugorje: 

"Dear children, the Father has not left you to yourselves. Immeasurable is His love, the love that is bringing me to you, to help you to come to know Him, so that, through my Son, all of you can call Him 'Father' with the fullness of heart; that you can be one people in God's family.
However, my children, do not forget that you are not in this world only for yourselves, and that I am not calling you here only for your sake. Those who follow my Son think of the brother in Christ as of their very selves and they do not know selfishness. That is why I desire that you be the light of my Son, that to all those who have not come to know the Father - to all those who wander in the darkness of sin, despair, pain and loneliness - you may illuminate the way and that, with your life, you may show them the love of God. I am with you. If you open your hearts, I will lead you. Again I am calling you: pray for your shepherds. Thank you."

Mary, my heart is open.  Please do lead me.  Thank you for your intercession.  Thank you for all those who join in this community of readers and writers seeking also to nurture each other, grow in our own faith, and also to be the light of your Son, and show those who walk in darkness the love of God.  Certainly we seek to do this not just in what we write in the peace of a few moments at our keyboards, but especially in our lives--in our families, in our workplaces, in our churches and communities.

Holy Spirit, I don't feel confident that I will live from this moment on as an unselfish, representative of Christ loving all as I love myself.  Still I am happy to know that this is your will for me, and that you are patient and teach me where I am failing, and why I am not using all moments as opportunity to love and thank God through Jesus, nor to show others the love of God.

Sometimes I fantasize that when I grow up, I will have that self-mastery that doesn't act on misplaced anger; that humility that doesn't get angry at a slight in the first place so as to have anger to misplace.

Please help me, my God.  Please cure me of the disease of self-absorption.  Let me let go of pettiness, by concentrating more on how great is your love, and your mercy, and how grateful I am for all that you have given me.

No my dear children, we need never fear that the Mass hinders us in the fulfillment of our temporal affairs; it is altogether the other way around. We may be sure that all will go better and that even our business will succeed better than if we have the misfortune not to assist at Mass.
-- St. John Vianney
I do love Mass, Lord.  Please help me and sustain me with the resolution to assist more frequently at Mass during the week.

I continue to prefer the New Jerusalem and Second RSV translations, but I am of course grateful that this NLV translation is out there since the Holy Spirit made good use of it to teach my mind and heart a needed lesson.

Monday, November 21, 2011

To Whom Much is Given Much is Required

"Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more." Luke 12:48b

Many attribute this teaching of Christ's to apply to our shepherds, our priests, our bishops, our cardinals, and our Pope.  
In fact the pastor who preached the homily at the Mass I participated in last night, said that verse scares him more than the Last Judgment passage that was the subject of yesterday's Gospel.  The parable of the steward precedes these statements, and the last part "to whom men commit much", seems to support that interpretation.
I am not going to debate that point, yet, I think it applies to all of us.  The "every one" part tells me that.

I think it is important to read the verse in context, after praying humbly in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to illuminate our understanding.

Here is the verse in context:

"And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating.  But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating.  Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.  I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled" Luke 12:47-49

Those of us who know we have received faith, knowledge of God, God's love, mercy, forgiveness, blessings, and some--even mystical experiences of his presence, do need to make ready and act according to his will.

As I wrote before, I think that God's will is summarized succinctly in Christ's response to the scribe that was seeking the truth about Jesus, and not to trip him up to improve his standing.  

"Jesus answered, 'The first is "Hear O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."  The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  There is no commandment greater than these.'" Mark 12:29-31
We know from the saints that those that love God, seek actively to cooperate with the grace of God to pray, and lead others through their prayers, sacrifices, words and deeds to Jesus.

Some see the way to do this by living a life of virtue, and speaking in uncompromising way the truths of the church in face of all opposition.  Sometimes we see this in the online discourse.  
I belong to a Catholic Professionals group on Linked In.  There was a post called "Is Catholicism an 'All or None' Proposition?"  The initial post and comments were answering in the affirmative.  Then it took a turn due to the comments by a woman who was "cafeteria catholic" at one point, until she was reached by Jesus, who she describes as finding his lost lamb, and she gives much credit to St. Therese and Our Lady.

I have been learning much lately that even if we find it easy to believe, and obey the teaching of the Church, there is a way of reaching out and supporting those still on the way that is more aligned with Christ's will, and more defeating of the schemes of the adversary to impede that path.  That is simply to follow Christ's commands above.

"Some people making cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing."  Proverbs 12:18

Quote from someone who converted to Catholicism, "Leftism was so ingrained into every element of my life, if you read, if you go to college, if you watch TV the messages are so pervasive and powerful and repetitive. They always say 'leftism is good and compassionate, conservatism is evil and repressive' and they say it in so many ways, under so many guises, telling so many versions of the same story in which the poor, innocent woman/person of colour/gay person/progressive thinker is victimized/oppressed/violated/ by the forces of conservatism. To believe otherwise is to risk crossing over to the evil side. They believe they have the monopoly on compassion and if you oppose them, you oppose compassion and goodness itself.

It was only from the intercession of the Holy Spirit, who skewered me right through the heart like St. Teresa, that I became willing to let go of all of that programming and accept Christ as He was, and the Church as it was. But it was a slow and painful process."

I don't want to be an obstacle to the work the Father is doing to draw these lambs to his Son. I want through my prayers, actions, and words to show sensitivity, love, and compassion that negates the leftist propaganda so I am not in conflict to what the Church, and its head, Our Lord Jesus, taught us about loving and showing compassion, using the Good Samaritan as our example.

As recently as a week ago I realized how insensitive and hurtful my words were when they were coming from understanding of the moral teaching of the church, but detached from the work of love in my heart.  I have been given much, and much is expected from one that has been loved and given as much as I have received.  I was not speaking from the love kindled in my heart from the flames of love emanating from Jesus's Sacred Heart.

What I didn't realize was that when I was speaking in that way, I was playing into the image that conservatism is close-minded, lacking in compassion, ignorant and uncaring of the suffering of others.  I also was speaking from pride rather than from love.  
I was not seeking to understand or to console as St. Francis prayed.

Here are some scriptures that the Holy Spirit directed across my path while I was learning this lesson.  I hope they will benefit you, and bring great glory to our King, as you seek to serve the Lord by loving as you have been loved.

Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them."  Luke 11:46

"So now I am giving you a new commandment, Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other."  John 13:34

No one has ever seen God.  But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

How can we show that God lives in us, and how can we bring his love to full expression so that we are used by God to love and lead others to his Son?  I think the answer is in these two verses among others:
  • He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.  Psalm 147:3
  • I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.  Isaiah 57:15
If we engage in debate from position of pride and desire to win with better logic, or emotional persuasion that isn't rooted in really loving the other we are missing the chance to let his healing reach the brokenhearted.  God wants to restore the crushed spirit and revive the courage of those who know that they are apart from him, and really want to have a restored and fulfilling personal relationship with him again.

Only if we act in faith and love, rather than pride and cold logic can we cooperate with God's will.  He wants what Paul prayed:

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  Ephesians 3:18

Sometimes we use words that are not abrasive to us that are on the comfortable, right side of church teaching.  We sometimes forget that if it were not for the work of grace, and the prayers of family, friends, and the saints, we might have some of the wounds borne by those we are to love with the love and mercy we have received.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone
 Romans 12:18

Don't use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.  Ephesians 4:29

We may use language, or act in a cold, "too bad for you" manner that shows we are not heeding these piercing (at least for me) words of St. John:

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.  Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.  He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling.
 1 John 7-10

In this upcoming election season, the liberals are going to be more vocal and more cooperative with the adversary in trying to portray things we know to be contrary to the teachings of the church as wrong, and that in our consciences formed by the light of the Holy Spirit and the gift of receiving true moral teaching, as sin, evil, and destructive.  How will we help draw our brother into the light.  By a cutting remark (see above Proverbs 12:18), or by praying to the Holy Spirit for help to understand and console, and bring them to his Word and to his Church for healing and strength from the great sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist.

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.
 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Don't just pretend to love others.  Really love them.  Hate what is wrong.  Hold tightly to what is good. 
 Romans 12:9
photo of friends hugging

There are 'friends' who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.  Proverbs 27:9

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Ephesians 5:1
Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.  Titus 3:14

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:7

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Scripture Leads Us to Eternal Life

Lord Jesus Christ, pierce my soul with your love so that I may always long for you alone, who are the bread of angels and the fulfillment of the soul's deepest desires.  May my heart always hunger and feed upon you, so that my soul may be filled with the sweetness of your presence.  May my soul thirst for you, who are the source of life, wisdom, knowledge, light and all the riches of God the Father.  May I always seek and find you, think upon you, speak to you and do all things for the honor and glory of your holy name.  Be always my only hope, my peace, my refuge and my help in whom my heart is rooted so that I may never be separated from you.  St. Bonaventure (1218 - 1274)

"Everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened." Matt. 7:8

"(S)eeking God is part of holy reading, just as worldly reading . . . leads to losing him. . . .  Always have a definite time each day for reading, just as you should have for prayer and contemplation." Blessed Alphonsus de Oroszco, 1500-1591

"As in prayer we speak with God, in reading (Scripture) our God speaks to us . . . " St. Lipsianus.

St. Bonaventure:
The end or fruit of Holy Scripture is not something restricted, but the fullness of eternal happiness.  These writings which contain "the message of eternal life" (Jn 6:63) were written, not only that we might believe in, but also that we might possess that everlasting life in which we shall see, and love, and be fulfilled of all we desire.  Then we shall really know that "love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge," and thus "be filled with the utter fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). . . . Such . . . must be our goal and our intent in studying and in teaching the Scriptures, and also in hearing them. . . . We must reach out in a spirit of pure faith to the Father of all light, and kneeling in our hearts, ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, the true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and together with knowledge, love for him.  By knowing and loving Christ, by being confirmed in faith and "planted in love" (Ephesians 3:17), we can know the breadth, length, and depth of Scripture, and, through such knowledge, attain unto the all-surpassing knowledge and measureless love which is the Blessed Trinity.

Source:  The New Jerusalem Bible Saints Devotional Edition  The New Jerusalem Bible: Saints Devotional Edition

God bless you and speak to you as you study the Scriptures to grow in knowledge and love of Blessed Trinity, and at the same time receive those graces you most need to know and follow his holy will.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Throwing Off Self-Sufficiency

Do you believe Jesus healed the blind, the lame, that he cast demons out of those who were possessed, or do you believe these are Gospel stories and are part of the genre of mythology the same as Homer's Odyssey?
Of course if you are reading this blog you most likely do believe those as eye witness accounts to what occurred when Jesus was on earth during his three year ministry before his sacrifice that opened the gates of heaven, and gave us the hope of eternal communion with God.

Peter Kreeft in You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible explains that writing off the Gospel miracle stories as myth is not a valid way of interpretting the Gospel accounts.  The evangelists were writing to pass on what they had seen.  They were not writing as Homer was, a work of mythology.  The choice is to believe they were writing what they saw, and heard, or to believe that they are liars.

It is hard to go the liar option because then you have to think why would these men leave their way of life to preach a faith that was in opposition to the state Religion and would bring them, all their loved ones, and all those that believed into criminal status with the Roman government.  If you ever get a chance to listen or read about the persecutions of the early Christians, it tends to reinforce, and clarify why martyr is another word for witness.

This has been a week where my faith has been challenged, but also affirmed.  Prior to visiting the Blessed Sacrament yesterday I was driving in my car feeling like crying, but not able to.  Instead I was just kind of groaning.

In Mark 10:46-52, we read about Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus, who he somehow knows and proclaims as the Messiah, when he calls out "Son of David, have pity on me."

Jesus does have pity on him.  He wants his disciples to bring Bartimaeus to him.  It says that Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, jumped up, and went to Jesus.

Fr. John Bartunek in the The Better Part had some good food for mediation on what might seem a straightforward healing of a blind man.

  • Persistent prayer has its reward.  
  • Bartimaeus is blind with his sight, but not with the eyes of his heart has belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and more important for his near-term suffering, that Jesus will have compassion on him if he asks him

    Do we remember this at all times?  Fr. Bartunek reminds us, "The heart of Christ is open to all and full of compassion."
  • "When we trust in God, we detect his presence, power, and love; when we trust ourselves, he often seems far away."

    That resonates with you doesn't it?  After I return from spending time with the Blessed Sacrament when I am upset, I wonder why didn't I just go there sooner?  Jesus is the Divine Physician so I guess it would not be lying if I sneak out of work and call it a doctor appointment.  I know he is here with me always, but darn if my own defenses while praying alone are too weak for me to receive what Christ is so ready to give.
  • Fr. Bartunek mentions that the Fathers of the Church wrote that the cloak that Bartimaeus threw is a symbol of self-sufficiency.  I did some googling to try to find the specific Church Father who said this.  If someone finds the primary reference, please leave it in the comments and I'll send you a prize as a token of my appreciation, provided you have an email as part of your profile.  While looking for the reference I found greater than 10 non-Catholic Christian blogs that also mentioned this, but didn't give any credit to Church Fathers specifically or generally.  I thought that was cool in a way--either if they might have come to it on their own through the counsel of the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Church Fathers, or if the teaching from before the Reformation has carried over into their scripture exegisis, despite it being part of "Tradition".
  • The cloak, which was protection against the rapid and frequent temperature changes in the Palestine climate, also doubled as a blanket at night, "a symbol of self-sufficiency, of those things in our lives that we depend on - things that can hold us back when we hear God calling."
  • When he left the cloak behind, Bartimaeus becomes an example of the faith that leaves that self-sufficiency behind, confidently trusting in the compassion of Jesus Christ.
  • "(Bartimaeus) couldn't see the warmth and gentleness and sincerity of Christ's eyes, so the Lord chose to communicate those things with his voice."
    I wonder if there wasn't something even stronger than the audible voice touching Bartimaeus.  I wonder if it was Jesus's heart and divine power reaching out and touching Bartimaeus's heart.
  • "Bartmaeus knew immediately that Jesus cared, that Jesus wanted to listen, to help.  The brief exchange draws these two hearts together . . . the beggar is . . . given a chance to bare his deepest longings to the Lord. . . . (T)he Lord welcomes them, takes them into his own soul, and grants them."

    I don't think this was just the blindness.  Bartimaeus was a beggar, without the dignity that comes from providing for oneself.  Unlike the paralytic, we don't hear mention of friends or family with him.  He is coming to the Lord alone.  The loneliness is probably something else that Jesus heals.  After the healing, Jesus doesn't send him away.  He lets him follow him down the road.
Bartimaeus was already free of the delusion I sometimes have that I can turn inward, maybe journal a bit, and heal myself.  I can't.  I need my Savior, I need the Father, I need the Holy Spirit that He has given me.  I also need the Holy Eucharist.  Just as Christ's physical presence was necessary for Bartimaeus's healing, I find it necessary for my inner healing, and I found that as recently as yesterday.

It is a wonderful gift to be able to surrender to Christ's love.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Emotive Sunday

No, this isn't a new liturgical feast that you haven't heard of, it is because I twice tonight found myself crying in Church, and was straining to contain my tears.

My normal Sunday routine is to wake up early, not as early as I set my alarm, but as soon after that as my youngest makes his way into my room, I get up because I need to prepare to teach my 1st and 2nd graders Religion School.  I was so happy when I saw the computer clock and realized I had an extra hour due to the clock going back.  Yey!  I ended up preparing enough for 2 classes, but I didn't realize that until I had 5 minutes remaining and still had half of the first lesson and its questions remaining.

My youngest is in my class and he is one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the class since he has a late summer birthday.  He got up several times during the class.  He wanted to be my helper passing out things, because he is the teacher's son.  Only problem is three of the other 5 kids in class wanted to be a helper too.  If I were a real teacher I would have anticipated this on the first day and made a schedule of helpers, but I am not.

We start each class by praying the "O Heavenly King" which is a Catholic Eastern rite/Orthodox prayer invoking the Holy Spirit.

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of good things, and Giver of life: come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every sin, and save our souls, O Good One!

After this I added, "Holy Spirit, I entrust these children to your teaching.  I pray that you will take the task of teaching and touching each of them today according to your will, that you will lead each of them in knowledge, wisdom, and to holiness."  

I had to stop twice while praying this because my own son was doing sound effects something between a sheep and a train.

I am also rather clueless when I prepare at how the material is going to go over at the 6-9 year old level this class covers.  The 9 year old is brilliant and absolutely loves the Bible, and all things we talk about in class.  The girls seem to like crafts!  I prepared a handout on how to read scripture as the love letter from God that it is to each of us, but didn't realize the vocabulary was at a 10th grade level until a first grader stumbled on 4 words before making it through the first sentence in the second paragraph.  I suspected that the "Prayer Before Reading Scripture" from St. John Chrysostom was a little thick for their young minds, so I put the definitions for sojourner and perceive at the bottom of the page.  We didn't make it to the prayer though, because the first essay took a bit for me to paraphrase into 1st and 2nd grade ease on the fly. I'll save the prayer for next week. I think it is St. John Chrysostom's feast day so it will be perfect!

I did seem to get more of a clue while reading the Gospel passage about the healing of Jairus's daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage.  I explained to them that Jesus wasn't angry with the woman who sneaked up and touched him, with faith knowing that this would heal her, but he wanted her to fess up so that he could speak to her in love, and heal the hurt that was inside of her because of a disease that made her unclean, an outcast, and also unable to visit and pray in the synagogue or temple.  I spoke the words that he said to her to the girls first, telling them to think of Jesus calling them Daughter, and instead of "Your faith has healed you go in peace"; "Daughter, I love you.  Be filled with peace."  Then I looked at the boys, and said the same, but calling them "Sons."  I asked them, doesn't that make it different when instead of picturing Jesus looking on some woman from 2000 years ago with love and touching her soul in a way that no one else could see, that you instead picture him looking at you now as you are reading or hearing this with love, and calling you with a word that already means so much to you, "Daughter", "Son".  There were lots of big eyes, and it looked like some of them were starting to get it.

The homily today was on the same Gospel reading, I used in class.  I find my own kids actually listen to the Gospel later if I cover it during class.  My own sound effect producing child stopped, large eyes and was smiling when he heard the familiar words again this time being sung by our priest.

The priest stressed the importance of love, forgiveness, prayer, reading scripture, and understanding that it isn't what we do that will bring us to holiness, it is what the grace of God does inside of us.  That last part was precisely the message of the 2nd lesson I prepared for this morning, but we didn't have time to cover.  That God could do all things, including making us holy.

Sometimes that seems bigger than healing a hemorrhage or raising a 12 year old from the dead.  How does God bring us to holiness?  I wonder what the maze that he brought me through will look like when I view it after this life is over.  I wonder how many times I cooperated with him, and how many other times, even after an outpouring of his grace, I went back to being cold to the people around me, too preoccupied with my own schedule to be present to the ones I love most in my own family, or too undisciplined to get adequate rest to pray and meditate so I actually grow in knowledge and love of the one who loves me so much, so that I might serve Him better.

My oldest daughter, who is supposed to be my assistant for crafts, but didn't quite make it out the door in time for the latest possible moment that I could leave and be there at the start of class for the little ones.  So she also missed going to church.  Justin Fatica from 
Hard As Nails MInistry was speaking at a parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago tonight.  I happened to find this out, by chance, this week.  No one else from our parish wanted to go, but since my daughter missed church, and it would only be an extra hour and a half for her to hear the 2nd part of his talk and go to Mass, I thought it would be worth it.

There was a little ruckus as I was going.  This usually signals to me, as it has been a re-occurrence, that the evil one would like me to not go.  Since I recognize it now, I tend to dig in my heels, even if I was only half-way committed to going (I could have taken her to a local parish with a 5:30 Mass), and off we went.

I am not sure yet what she got out of it, but at the close of his talk he had a 13, maybe 14 year old boy whose name started with A, to stand at the front of the church and asked anyone that had ever struggled with the challenge of death to come up and hug him.  About 40 or so different teenage kids from all over that church came up and gave that kid a hug.  I started thinking Justin must know that this kid is sick and might die.  He is letting this kid know he is loved, and also this kid, so filled with hope and love for God is hugging all those coming up to hug him.  He said that too, "A, you have no idea how much you are helping these others.  Thank you."  Then Justin said if there is anyone that is having challenges, and he enumerated some--been hurt, and can't forgive, acting unkindly to someone close to you, etc.  Soon there were another 40 or so that came up to hug him.

I was crying, hard.  I don't know if anyone noticed, but the spigots were open.  I didn't want to dwell on why I was feeling this way, it just was a bit overwhelming.  At the same time I was crying I was thanking the Holy Spirit for giving me a tender heart.  I don't think it is my temperament to be tenderhearted, which is why I so clearly see it as the work of God's grace within me.  

Prior to this final part of his talk, Justin had told the crowd that Mass wasn't boring, if it was boring to us, then we were boring.  He said we needed to 1) Bring our sins to the foot of the cross, 2) Bring our challenges, 3) Bring what we are thankful for, 4) Seek the inspiration and messages we can give to others, 5) Receive the strength of Christ that comes with receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist.  He also stressed need for Confession.  They had that available to them earlier in the day before we arrived.  He also encouraged them to pray the rosary and to make the Consecration to Jesus through Mary as St. Louis de Montefort taught.  He told them to Google that.  

The kids really loved Justin.  It was loud in the Church.  Lots of clapping and then a Mass with lots of Praise, "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" music.  I think it was piano and not guitars, and this would be enough to set the traditionalist in me back, if I weren't more of an eclectic, Roman Catholic practicing Byzantine Catholic lover of Christ than a traditionalist, and seemingly bitter Catholic.  I don't mind praise music, even drums. I do get a little off-put when rain sticks are used.  The only thing that really gets me hot is heresy from the pulpit, when a priest at one of our local parishes tried to sell us some concoction about the feeding of the 5000 really being about people sharing their lunches.  Yes, that did make me bitter.

The celebrant for Mass also did not disappoint me.  His homily was very close to that of my own pastor this morning.  "If you want to grow closer to Christ, you have to spend time talking with him, you have to spend time with him."  Then pointing at the altar he said, "This isn't just a symbol up here either.  Here on this altar (and he said altar not table) the host is going to become the real body and blood of Jesus.  And do you know who said that?"  He paused a moment so folks could think Pope so and so, or Mother Teresa or someone.  Then he says, "Jesus says it.  He said it in the Gospel when he told us to do this in memory of Him."  Perfect.  Good for you Father!

I forgot to mention that during this blessed moment of the homily, my 6 year old was drawing pictures on his mini-legal pad of John the Baptist with his head on a platter.  Multiple pictures of it.  This is because 7 hours earlier at our church he was asking about that icon, stained glass window.  Boys!  They always seem to dwell and draw the more violent images.  My oldest daughter 15 and I just looked at each other shaking our heads.

The priest had also said much about our need to put in the hard work, and I thought that was possibly overlooking the transforming of our souls through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, but the choir--which was open to whomever in the audience wanted to sing as part of the choir that night--righted the ship on this one fast.  Our closing song was Matt Maher's "Your Grace is Enough"!

My final tears of the night were during the second verse of that song, when a woman about 15 years my senior went to the four teenage boys behind us, and talking over the singing said, "I have never been more proud of you boys than I was tonight."  I don't know who she was, who they were relative to her, what she was proud of, or what, but I just started crying.  They did look like good kids, they were praying, and at least one of the four was singing.  I just know that her going over there to them to tell them she was proud of them made me cry.  I love to sing, but I was too choked up to sing the rest of it.  I was proud to be Catholic and to be there that night.  Here we were all "loving on the Lord and each other" (this is how the Protestants at my kids' school talk), and we were in a Catholic Church completing our worship at Holy Mass.

I brought my little St. John the Baptist cartoon artist to the table where they were selling some of Justin's books and videos.  He picked out a video on the rosary, and a rubber bracelet.  I tried to get my daughter to ask me to buy the book, but it seems I was more impacted by the talk and the Mass than she was.  I bought the book anyway, and I know she'll read it, because if it has a cover and words inside and is near her bed at night, she'll read it.

Guess who wanted to watch the video and prayed all 5 Glorious Mysteries tonight?  My 6 year old.  Oh man I love him for that!  I prayed them with him.  I have four children and I think I've only prayed the full 5 mysteries with one of them before, and he was 12 at the time.  The video only features Justin on one mystery, but it holds his attention because it has a different Catholic "star" praying each of the 20 mysteries. It really holds his attention.  It also has Religious art, and some still sketches that they put motion to that also helped with the attention issue.  He didn't make sheep/train noises once.