Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quotes from Rabbi Jesus

Some meditations are watersheds of clear teaching.  Had one of those yesterday from Luke 6:27-38.  In this passage Jesus tells us:
  • Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man that robs you. (This one gives me the most trouble . . . I don't like giving without checking the legitimacy of the charity, and that 15% or less is going to "administrative".  The second part seems to indicate that one's house would be repeatedly burglarized.  Although my 10 year old daughter tells me someone was robbed recently and helped the crooks carry out their stuff and even asked them if they wanted their TV.  Either they were living out Jesus teaching very well, or maybe they had excellent insurance and wanted a better TV.  Sorry for the cynicism.)
  • Treat others as you would like them to treat you.
  • Love your enemies and do good . . . for he, himself, (the Most High) is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
  • Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.
  • Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves . . . . Grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.
  • Give and there will be gifts for you.
Meditiation Thoughts, some direct quotes, some paraphrased from Fr. John Bartunek in The Better Part (I am thankful blogs are not MLA):
  • The more we know our lavish, generous, Lord, the more we will delight in serving such a Lord.
  • The more generous we are to others, the better we learn the art of self-giving, of self-forgetful love, the more intensely we will experience the fulfilled and fulfilling life we long for.  (I have been experiencing this the past couple of years.  Still just over the starting line of a more generous life, but it is definitely more intense and more fulfilling.)
  • We are created in God's image, and God is love; his very divine nature is all about self-giving.  The more we develop our capacity for love--authentic, self-forgetful love - the more we mature into what God created us to be.
  • As a mature apple tree bears abundant fruit, so a mature, healthy soul overflows with the spiritual fruits of profound joy (yes), peace (sometimes. . . for me this requires more growth in virtue to be lasting), and enthusiasm (yes!).
  • The devil wants us to think heaven is boring --but there is just too much overflowing life and love to leave even a tiny nook or cranny of boredom to creep in! (This I think is really believable.  Reminds me of times I have been laughing with my kids--who are very full of life and love, or having great conversations with friends.  There is nothing boring about it.  It is the best!)
  • The identifying mark of a Christian is treating others - ALL OTHERS - the way God does, the way God treats us.
  • God is kind and merciful "even to the ungrateful and the wicked".  If we are his children, his followers, we will be kind and merciful too.  (This reminds me of when my daughter, then in 3rd grade was practicing to cantor the responsorial psalm at the school Mass.  My son, then in Kindergarten thought she was singing, "The Lord is kinda merciful . . . .The Lord is kinda merciful . . . "  He has a better understanding now that he is in 7th grade.)
  • We will be quick to forgive, quick to make excuses for others, quick to avoid judging and condemning them.  We will think well of others, speak well of them, and treat them like the children of God, and thus our brothers and sisters, that they truly are.
  • God never holds back his love, and neither should we.
  • When we were baptized, he came to dwell within us, so that he could emanate his goodness to the world through us.  Unfortunately, our pettiness, selfishness, and partiality, often obscure his light instead of transmitting it.  Learning to let his love and light shine more and more, in every moment and in every relationship is the only task that really matters -- the only lesson that Christ is hoping we will learn (with plenty of his help) perfectly.
  • The desire for happiness is a gift from God, a homing device that impels us towards God, the only source of true and lasting happiness. (Really?  Because I thought our crosses were gifts too?)
  • If Christ demands sacrifice and generosity, if his way of life seems hard, if the cross is painful, it's only a temporary pain, like that of someone recovering from reconstructive surgery.  Christ is the doctor of our fallen, selfish souls, and he eagerly looks forward to the day when we will join him in heaven. (oh . . . that explains my question from the preceding point)
Lord, Send your Holy Spirit into my soul, and into the souls of all the members of your Church.  Teach us to live lives of authentic Christian charity.  Come Holy Spirit, enkindle within us the fire of your love . . . the love for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the love you will us to show to our brothers and sisters, the other members of your mystical body.

Thank you Jesus for coming to earth to show us the path to true human fulfillment both here on earth and forever in eternity.  I trust you, Lord, teach me to spread your love, and your truth and so to draw others closer to you.  Thank you that you love each of us so much more than we can begin to comprehend.  Thank you that you are patient with us and long-suffering through our ingratitude, inconstancy, and give us grace, mercy and strength to get back up, even after we do things that injure the others you love.  Please forgive us.  Please pour out your grace of conversion and true repentance into our hearts.  

Thank you for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.  Please cleanse our hearts from all desires except the desire to love you better and to follow wherever you lead.  Thank you that you are so eager to come into our lives, that you stand knocking at the doors of our hearts.  Thank you for giving us the words that lead to fullness of human happiness here on earth and forever in heaven.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Isaiah 51:10)

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wow -- I LOVE Our Pope!

From Pope Benedict XVI’s homily in Havana

“Blessed are you, Lord God…, and blessed is your holy and glorious name” (Dan 3:52). This hymn of blessing from the Book of Daniel resounds today in our liturgy, inviting us repeatedly to bless and thank God. We are a part of that great chorus which praises the Lord without ceasing. We join in this concert of thanksgiving, and we offer our joyful and confident voice, which seeks to consolidate the journey of faith in love and truth.
“Blessed be God” who gathers us in this historic square so that we may more profoundly enter into his life. I feel great joy in being here with you today to celebrate Holy Mass during this Jubilee Year devoted to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. . . .

In today’s first reading, the three young men persecuted by the Babylonian king preferred to face death by fire rather than betray their conscience and their faith. They experienced the strength to “give thanks, glorify and praise God” in the conviction that the Lord of the universe and of history would not abandon them to death and annihilation. Truly, God never abandons his children, he never forgets them. He is above us and is able to save us by his power. At the same time, he is near to his people, and through his Son Jesus Christ he has wished to make his dwelling place among us.

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”
(Jn 8:31). 

In this text from today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God the Father, the Savior, the one who alone can show us the truth and give genuine freedom. His teaching provokes resistance and disquiet among his hearers, and he accuses them of seeking to kill him, alluding to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross, already imminent. Even so, he exhorts them to believe, to keep his word, so as to know the truth which redeems and dignifies.

The truth is a desire of the human person, the search for which always supposes the exercise of authentic freedom. Many, however, prefer shortcuts, trying to avoid this task. Some, like Pontius Pilate, ironically question the possibility of even knowing what truth is (cf. Jn 18:38), proclaiming that man is incapable of knowing it or denying that there exists a truth valid for all. This attitude, as in the case of skepticism and relativism, changes hearts, making them cold, wavering, distant from others and closed. They, like the Roman governor, wash their hands and let the water of history drain away without taking a stand.

On the other hand, there are those who wrongly interpret this search for the truth, leading them to irrationality and fanaticism; they close themselves up in “their truth”, and try to impose it on others. These are like the blind scribes who, upon seeing Jesus beaten and bloody, cry out furiously, “Crucify him!” (cf. Jn 19:6). Anyone who acts irrationally cannot become a disciple of Jesus. Faith and reason are necessary and complementary in the pursuit of truth. God created man with an innate vocation to the truth and he gave him reason for this purpose. Certainly, it is not irrationality but rather the yearning for truth which the Christian faith promotes. Each human being has to seek the truth and to choose it when he or she finds it, even at the risk of embracing sacrifices.

Furthermore, the truth which stands above humanity is an unavoidable condition for attaining freedom, since in it we discover the foundation of an ethics on which all can converge and which contains clear and precise indications concerning life and death, duties and rights, marriage, family and society, in short, regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person. This ethical patrimony can bring together different cultures, peoples and religions, authorities and citizens, citizens among themselves, and believers in Christ and non-believers.

Christianity, in highlighting those values which sustain ethics, does not impose, but rather proposes Christ’s invitation to know the truth which sets us free. The believer is called to offer that truth to his contemporaries, as did the Lord, even before the dark omen of rejection and the Cross. The personal encounter with the one who is Truth in person compels us to share this treasure with others, especially by our witness.

Dear friends, do not hesitate to follow Jesus Christ. In him we find the truth about God and about mankind. He helps us to overcome our selfishness, to rise above our ambitions and to conquer all that oppresses us. The one who does evil, who sins, becomes a slave of sin and will never attain freedom (cf. Jn 8:34). Only by renouncing hatred and our hard and blind hearts will we be free and a new life will well up in us.

Convinced that it is Christ who is the true measure of man, and knowing that in him we find the strength needed to face every trial, I wish to proclaim openly Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life. In him everyone will find complete freedom, the light to understand reality more deeply and to transform it by the renewing power of love.

The Church lives to make others sharers in the one thing she possesses, which is none other than Christ, our hope of glory (cf. Col1:27). To carry out this duty, she must count on basic religious freedom, which consists in her being able to proclaim and to celebrate her faith also in public, bringing to others the message of love, reconciliation and peace which Jesus brought to the world. It must be said with joy that in Cuba steps have been taken to enable the Church to carry out her essential mission of expressing her faith openly and publicly. Nonetheless, this must continue forwards, and I wish to encourage the country’s Government authorities to strengthen what has already been achieved and advance along this path of genuine service to the true good of Cuban society as a whole.

The right to freedom of religion, both in its private and in its public dimension, manifests the unity of the human person, who is at once a citizen and a believer. It also legitimizes the fact that believers have a contribution to make to the building up of society. Strengthening religious freedom consolidates social bonds, nourishes the hope of a better world, creates favorable conditions for peace and harmonious development, while at the same time establishing solid foundations for securing the rights of future generations.

When the Church upholds this human right, she is not claiming any special privileges for herself. She wishes only to be faithful to the command of her divine founder, conscious that, where Christ is present, mankind becomes more human and founds its consistency. . . .

Invoking the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, let us ask that each time we participate in the Eucharist we will also become witnesses to that charity which responds to evil with good (cf. Rom 12:51), offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to the one who lovingly gave himself up for our sake. Let us walk in the light of Christ who alone can destroy the darkness of error. And let us beg him that, with the courage and strength of the saints, we may be able, without fear or rancor but freely, generously and consistently, to respond to God. Amen.

Read more here:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Contemplation of His Painful Wounds

Jesus to St. Faustina:

“There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My Sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole 
year of flagellation that draw blood; the CONTEMPLATION of MY PAINFUL WOUNDS is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy.” (#366)

“There are few souls who contemplate My Passion with true feeling; I give great graces to souls who 
meditate devoutly on My Passion.” (#73)

I just finished watching a 4 minute, 18 second video with the most horrific scenes from the Passion of the Christ.  I almost didn't make it past the 2 minute mark.  Yet Jesus said 1 hour to St. Faustina, and I was ready to push the little x on the window tab after 2 minutes.  If you don't want to lose whatever your current steady state is emotionally you may not want to hit any of the hyperlinks in this post.

I hate that Our Lord had to suffer like this for us.  I was saying that out loud with tears in my eyes while watching the video, "I HATE that this was necessary."  The women that played Mary Magdalene and Mary were very good in the movie.  Their reactions seem more real than the reaction of the man playing St. John.  He doesn't show the pain in his face or actions that I am sure St. John felt.

I've been praying over the past year that I would have a wound in my heart that would keep me from being unfaithful to Him.  A wound that would keep the most tender affections aflame for Jesus at all times rather than just in fleeting moments.  Not sure how that wound would get there if I don't spend more time meditating on his Sorrowful Passion.  Knowing now that I could barely take a 4 minute video . . . answers the question why Jesus hasn't answered that prayer request.

What do I mean by wound?  I don't think I mean an actual pain like an ulcer or something, I think I am asking for an ever present, deep love and tenderness for my God in my spirit, and my mind connected to my spirit.  

Maybe I already have part of what I am asking for, if it hurts to see my beloved in the pain he must have endured for our sake . . . my sake.

I went to Church for Adoration last night.  I did the Stations of the Cross while I was there.  It was a good meditation, but not near as intense as my internal reaction to the unsanitized visuals of Jesus's painful wounds.  When I look at the 10th station of the cross in this church, as in every other church where I have done this devotion, there is usually no blood showing on Jesus's body when they pull the garment from him before he is nailed to the cross.  How different it really was.  The Passion of the Christ shows that his garment had streaks all over it in the color of wine . . . drying blood.  
  When it was pulled from him it reopened all the wounds that had been closing up from the scourging.  I can't imagine the pain that he felt in that moment.

I found a
little website explaining how brutally the Roman soldiers would have beat someone arrested for treason.  How accurate Gibson's portrayal of that was!  The only question is how Jesus did not lose consciousness or go into shock resulting from that torture alone.

God's ways, wisdom, love, omniscience, lovingkindness, and longsuffering are not for me to question.  I do wonder though if he was clear with Adam and Eve the horrible penalty selfishness and pride would be to repay.  I wondered briefly just now, maybe if Eve were shown in her mind's eye, the real pictures that some of the mystics saw, like Anne Catherine Emmerich, Therese Neumann, and St. Gemma Galgani
if maybe then to prevent that future she wouldn't have called on God when the serpent started talking to her, "Father, this serpent is talking and telling me what you said isn't true.  Is this what could lead to the bloody sacrifice and torture of your Son?"
Wait, maybe this isn't a foolish fantasy, but a helpful meditation that will sober and strengthen me.  St. Gemma Galgani had a horror of sin.  I think meditating on Christ's passion leads to this.  Horror of sin comes from seeing what sin caused our Lord, whom we love, to suffer.

I posted on Community of Catholic Bloggers another music video that uses pictures from the Passion of the Christ.  The song is better, but the picture sequence isn't as intense as the one I watched immediately before beginning this post.  There were no flashbacks to seeing Jesus at the Last Supper or with Mary.  It was just the torture and the suffering . . .  Most of you remember that the details acted out in the movie came from the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.     

Divine Word Mission Center 
I remember seeing a pieta statue of Mary holding Jesus on the grounds of the Divine Word campus in Northbrook, Illinois.  I found an image with a quick google search of this statue.  I remember a caption under it that I can't make out in this small photo but it read, "Greater than the ocean is my sorrow."

Mother Mary, please help us to finish Lent with Jesus remembering his passion.  We want to join you at the foot of the cross for love of Jesus, beloved Son to you and Our Heavenly Father.

Here is beautiful excerpt of prayer for The Seven Sorrows by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik:

Though worn with sorrow, you at once took your place at the foot of the cross. There you stood bravely, your eyes fastened on your Divine Son. How generously you offered Jesus, your dearest treasure, as a Victim to the justice of His offended Father! How courageously you united the oblation of your own suffering and grief with the offering of Jesus, thus proving yourself worthy not only to share but also to be one with Him in the redemption of souls.

Parting with your dying Son was the height of your sorrow. But with the same humility with which you had conceived Him, you consented to the supreme loss of your God. Jesus had delivered Himself in His Passion to the will of His Father, and before His sacrifice for sinners could be perfect, He had to be forsaken by that Father. In the same way you, who freely delivered your son to a cruel death, parted with your Son. Only thus could you become one with Your God in the salvation of souls.

Mary, My Mother, more courageous than the martyrs, you stood at the foot of the cross. The suffering of Jesus in His dereliction was the most difficult test of your faith. In union with Him you also did the will of God perfectly as He exclaimed "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."

When you heard Jesus utter these words and saw Him bow His head and die, you died a spiritual death. Gazing sorrowfully on His lifeless body, you watched the soldier drive the spear into His Heart. The words of Simeon were then fulfilled. "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce." Filled with grief, you saw how the disciples removed the nails from the Redeemer's hands and feet, extracted the thorns from His head, and took Him down from the cross. What a sight met your tear-dimmed eyes when you beheld the body of your Son, bruised and mangled and covered with open bloody wounds. Your soul filled with love and sorrow, you embraced your Son now pale in death, a victim for the sins of mankind.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Humbling Ourselves

This study guide comes from The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus.  My priest recently said in a homily that pride is the mother of all sins and there was no fiber of honesty in me that could disagree with him.  I stumbled on this while trying to prepare for my Religious School class this morning.  Teaching is often how I learn and thought you might enjoy this study guide as well as you make your way through Lent, and this pilgrimmage of life.  This isn't a lesson for 1st and 2nd graders so much, but possibly the Holy Spirit or my Guardian Angel may have led me to it?
From Amazon description for the book:  The Ladder of Divine Ascent was the most widely used handbook of the ascetic life in the ancient Greek Church. Popular among both lay and monastics, it was translated into Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Old Slavonic, and many modern languages. It was written while the author (who received his surname from this book) was abbot of the monastery of Catherine on Mount Sinai. As reflected in the title, the ascetical life is portrayed as a ladder which each aspirant must ascend, each step being a virtue to be acquired, or a vice to be surrendered. Its thirty steps reflect the hidden life of Christ himself. This work had a fundamental influence in the Hesychastic, Jesus Prayer, or Prayer of the Heart movement.

Ascending the Heights
Study Guide
Step 22-23,
Vainglory & Pride

Vainglory seeks recognition and adulation from other human beings;
Pride refuses to acknowledge the truth of one's relationship with God. 

Pride twists our world view to a point where both other people and God come to be seen as unimportant and, irrelevant.

“That which we need to reconnect to, in order to cure Pride and Vainglory is:
  1. Community (koinonia), where gifts can be experienced as the expression and result of our interactions with one another;
  2. Humility (tapeinophrosune), understood especially as truthful, honest acknowledgement of our indebtedness to one another and above all to the grace (charis) of God.”
St. John lists several signs that we have fallen victim to vainglory
  1. Vainglory enters our lives when we grow concerned about what other people think of us.
  2. It captures our hearts when we enjoy their words of praise.
  3. It takes over our hearts when we begin to work for these words of praise which bring us such joy.
How can we conquer vainglory? St. John is very clear in his instructions.
  1. The first step is to remain silent and to accept dishonor gladly.
  2. The middle stage is to check every act of vainglory while it is still in thought.
  3. The end-insofar as one may talk of an end to an abyss-is to be able to accept humiliation before others without actually feeling it.
We have to ask ourselves the following questions:
  1. Does my behavior change when no one else is around?
  2. Do I find myself telling others about all of my spiritual efforts and blessings?
  3. Do I believe my "press clippings"?
  4. Do I find myself replaying what others have said to me or what I have said to them over and over again in my mind?
  5. Do I act and talk as if I have experientially known spiritual truths that I have only read about?
  6. Do I become discouraged and quit when no one notices what I do or I do not receive the praise and thanksgiving I think I deserve?
  7. Do I hide my sins and failings from others, even to the point of lying or shading the truth so that my true faults are not discovered by others?
  8. Do I become defensive when I am criticized?
  9. Do I feel the need always to make sure that everyone knows why I did something?
If we answer "yes" to any of these, then the spirit of vainglory lives within us.

Developing humility: Here are some daily exercises for controlling pride and developing humility.

1. Do something good or help someone— and make sure no-one else ever finds out.
    Matthew 6:3–4

2. Tell someone about something in your life you regret or are ashamed of—they can help you improve.
    James 5:16

3. Compare your achievements in serving God with those of Jesus or Paul.
    Hebrews 3:1–2; Philippians 4:9

4. Do not praise yourself or talk about the things you have done to serve God.
    Proverbs 27:2

5. Do everything to give glory to God and not yourself.
    1 Corinthians 10:31

6. If you feel like boasting, boast about God and His power.
    Jeremiah 9:23–24

7. Praise others every day and consider them better than yourself.
Explanation on the icon from the Byzantine Catholic Church of USA Website:  The icon is of the Ladder of Divine Ascent. In his spiritual classic book of the same name St. John Climacus compares the stages of spiritual growth to the steps upward to heaven on a ladder. At the top of the ladder is Christ, coming from heaven. The goal of the spiritual life is theosis (growing towards God). We are reminded that the meaning of the Fast is so that "you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Inscribing an iPad3

Which very short Bible verse or portion of a Bible verse would you inscribe on an iPad 3?  Yesterday it took me over an hour to pick one -  I think it was an hour and 15 minutes.  It was much easier to pick the color, memory, wi-fi over network, leather vs. vinyl, and the color of the cover.  I am a techie, but I am a frugal techie.  This is my first iPad. Yes I know it is a blessing to be able to buy one, and yes, I am thankful to God that I was able to buy one.

When I got to the inscription part, it was fairly quick jump to include a Bible verse.  It was easy to fit my name and phone number on the first line.  Using the second line to put my business name (LLC with one employee--me), which is very similar to my given name seemed redundant. Why not a verse?

First verse that entered my mind:

It was the perfect size.  The notation would not fit of course, but it was the right size.  Then I started thinking, it isn't enough.  It doesn't say why to do everything with love.  

So I started hitting the search prompts.  My searches included:
  • Best Bible verses
  • Bible verse to inscribe on iPad
  • Jesus's favorite Bible verses
  • Praise Jesus Bible verses
I was praying when I did this, "Holy Spirit, which verse do you want?  Jesus which verse do you want me to use?"  

All the searches pretty much gave the same few websites.  One link was to a Yahoo question "Which Bible Verse should I use in a tattoo?"  Of course that person ironically kept getting quoted Leviticus 19:28 to not get a tattoo, among other verses. Personally I prefer to inscribe my iPad over my arm, but I think if someone is going to get a tattoo, why not use that skin art to witness?  It isn't like the people quoting that verse to this person were also not eating bacon as prohibited in Leviticus 11:7-8 and several other places in Leviticus.  Of course Peter's dream in Acts 10:9-19 gives us license for the meat, but not sure about the tattoo.  It didn't come up in the dream . . . seems like really small, teeny, tiny, potatoes though.

John 3:16 is the most frequent hit, and of course I LOVE that verse.  As Fr. John Bartunek explains in this meditation that was sent to me twice by the Catholic Spiritual Direction website.  I am not sure if it was an intelligent emailing routine that sent another email because I didn't take the link, or if it was the Holy Spirit, or you know, a Holy Spirit inspired email campaign programmer?  My favorite quote from this meditation that I used when I shared it on Facebook,
 "In this conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus lays bare the heart of God."

It occurred to me, while John 3:16 is great, and used enough that I didn't need to pick it, the verse should be another one that was spoken by Jesus, a red-letter verse.  That narrowed it down to the Gospels and Revelation as the source books.

I ended up selecting "Seek first the Kingdom of God" a portion of Matthew 6:33:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. 

I took out the "ye" because I've been helping my oldest son much with his Grammar homework and the ye is implied.  

I would have liked to include his righteousness, because especially here in Lent I've heard that teaching of Jesus renewed in my mind.  I am hearing the wake-up to leave the lukewarmness, the tendencies to seek a remedy for my existential loneliness behind, and strive more to turn to God.  To wait on the Lord, to immerse myself in scripture to hear his words for me.

Wake-up reminds me that if my older two kids won't get up for Church this coming Sunday on my first attempt, there is going to be a little dousing of water without warning.  Well, maybe I will warn them.  Actually I've been warning them since I got home from Liturgy last week, the one that they didn't make because they didn't get out of bed and get ready!  So, they are just going to get a bit wet if they don't get up.

God is more gentle with me.  No dousing.  

I do need to turn more often to God, inside and outside of Lent, to seek his Kingship, his Lordship, his righteousness.  

To follow the example of Jesus, who rose up after each fall carrying the cross, to complete his mission to be the sacrificial Lamb of God.
Passion of the Christ:  Jesus getting up after a fall
I also thought that if someone did find the iPad somewhere, this would be a good verse for them to Google too.  It would mean more without the notation than "Do everything with love."

Even though I love the following verse, I didn't choose it, because this verse came up twice during basketball season--you know how verses come up, could be the Klove "Encouraging word of the day", it could be on the opposing coach's website as her favorite verse.  Anyway, both times this verse came up, my team lost the next big game we played.  So, it has now slipped from being my favorite verse.  Yes I do realize that losing a game is a very minuscule amount of suffering to learn a lesson that is a remedy for my pride, self-love, and inconstant dependence on God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Colossians 3:23)

You can find other good verses the same way I did with the Google searches above, or here are the best sites I found:

Have an awesome and blessed rest of Lent!  As of today, we are past the half-way point.  Hope the Lord will sustain you in the resolutions and help you retain the insights you have gained by fasting from the distractions that keep us from the healing power of His presence, His grace!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Friend I Love Most

"If the friend I love most treated me the way I treat Christ, would I be pleased or saddened?" - Fr. John Bartunek in the study group questions at the end of the mediation on Luke 3:21-38 in The Better Part.

This really got to me today.  I remember from Consoling the Heart of Jesus that the great insight from Jesus's revelation of his Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary is that he has a human heart like ours.  You remember this one too, right?

"Behold this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Through you My divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth." - Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary in a vision

Fr. Gaitley in
Consoling, taught me to identify with the unrequited love of our Savior and why our foundation can be to console him by devotion to Him, and relieving him of some of this sadness.

I pondered the question and thought it could be answered three ways:

1) Directly:  

  • How and how often do I give my love, gratitude and praise to Jesus?
  • How often do I witness . . . tell other people how good He is to me, show others how much I love Him?
  • How often and for what do I thank him?

2) Indirectly (considering Christ's Teaching in the Last Judgment):
  • How do I show him love, respect, kindness, generosity "to one of the least of these"

 What is it about the friend, or friends that has me loving them the most?
  • Thoughtful consideration and caring
  • Encouraging me, often when I need it most
  • Combining both--in consideration for when I might be down or struggling reaching out to me and encouraging me
  • Defending me, not just from others, but from my worst critic . . . myself
  • Kindness, especially the kindnesses of listening to me, sincerely asking me how I'm doing, and not changing the subject when it looks like I just took us both down the rabbit hole
  • Saying, "I'll pray for you"
  • Actually praying for me

My thinking, or rather the Holy Spirit's guidance, further led me to reflect more on the Last Judgment.  Just as we have through the Church the teaching of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, I think the Lord meant his teaching on both levels as well.

It is pretty clear the Lord does will us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and to visit those in prison and those who are sick.

Then I thought about how "prisons" isn't just for those in orange jumpsuits with walls, bars, alarms, and barbed wire.  Many of us, maybe all of us are in prisons of circumstance.  The situations we are in, sometimes very much due to our sins, the sins of others, unwise choices, or the miscarriage of justice all put us in positions we cannot easily escape.

Then I thought about how sick our souls, our hearts, our conscious minds are, not realizing the dignity God gave us, not treating others with the dignity and love they deserve as children whom our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirt loves so dearly.  There is the woundedness some of us are aware of, and others of us deny or are unaware exists.  We are all sick, all in need of healing.  When we do not receive the forgiveness we crave from those we love . . . when we don't have the love, encouragement, affection we need to warm our hearts . . . we are sick.  When we are mourning, grieving, we are sick.

  1. Jesus is the Savior I love most and most want to please.
  2. All of us are the least of these.  
  3. All of us are the mystical body of Christ.
  4. Besides cooperating with the Holy Spirit in my prayer and recollection training I can show love to Jesus by following his command.
  5. Learning from the friends I love most, I can show my love to Jesus by caring consideration, thoughtful support and encouragement, showing kindness:  including the kindness of "being present" and really listening, and by actually praying for someone.
  6. Just as I appreciate when someone comes to my defense, so I should also defend Christ and by extension his Church. 
This last one requires prudence and a careful meditation on St. Paul's words in Romans:
So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil . . . Romans 14:16

As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions.  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.  Why do you pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you despise your brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.  Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.  Romans 14:1,4,10,13
"A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you."  John 13:34

This is the quote that begins The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur.  I think it was also in one of my first blog posts back in May, 2010.  I have made copious notes since I began reading her book a few days ago.  So many of my quotes from her writing are right along the theme of this meditation.

  • Nothing so delicate and so sacred as the human soul; nothing so quickly bruised.
  • Let each of our words and deeds contain a principle of life that, penetrating to other spirits, will communicate light and strength, and will reveal God to them.
  • Above all we must ask God to fill us with an intense charity - the Love of God that renews and transforms the soul and life and becomes the secret cause of our acts . . . the powerful and living love of souls, the love of all that suffers and laments.
  • I believe much more in individual effort, and in the good that may be done by addressing oneself not to the masses but to particular souls . . . . Jesus, our model, did the same.  Following Him, let us turn with tenderness to every person, however poor or sinful.
  • (Let us remember) humanity is made up of human beings and that each one of them needs the light and strength that God gives, and it belongs to us to spread this light as far as we can.
  • To serve souls I must first have purified and strengthened my soul for many days.
Finally her prayer, which is my prayer too:

Help me see plainly, Father, what are my greatest duties and give me the resolute strength to fulfill them in ways that will please you and show your light and love to others.

Help me to do each day, humbly, so that God alone may see it, all the good that I can do; always to seek out all the misery and grief within reach in order to relieve them; to cultivate in myself a lively sympathy for everyone; and to do all of this for God alone.

God, you can transform my life, my soul to be in close union with you.

Around me are souls I love deeply that do not know God or know Him imperfectly.

It is not in arguing or lecturing that I can make them know what God is to the human soul.

But, in struggling with myself, in becoming with your help, Lord, more Christian . . . I will bear witness to Him whose humble disciple I am.

In Jesus Name, Amen!
Holy Spirit confirmation from Romans:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for (she) who loves (her) neighbor has fulfilled the law.  The commandments are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  Romans 13:8-10