Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Lord Teaches You!

17 Thus says the Lord,   your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:I am the Lord your God,   who teaches you for your own good,   who leads you in the way you should go. 18 O that you had paid attention to my commandments!   Then your prosperity would have been like a river,   and your success like the waves of the sea; (Isaiah 47:17-18)

This is from the first reading at Mass yesterday.  Don't you love that the Lord teaches us for our own good and leads us in the way we should go?

I was very surprised last week while talking to a sidewalk counselor outside of a Chicago abortion facility.  This woman is extremely faithful to her calling to be there before and after women visit the facility.  Our own group goes to this clinic one Saturday a month, and to another in the suburbs one Saturday a month.  This woman goes to this clinic every single Saturday morning.  Not just for an hour and a half, as our group does, but from 6:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m or later.  

Last Saturday was really super cold.  I could not feel my feet past the arch.  My toes were still there, but I could no longer feel them.  This woman dressed more intelligently than me.  She knew about "smart wool" socks that kept your toes from going numb.

St. John Cantius Church, Chicago
What surprised me was this faithful woman, who is putting the Psalms to music, was very scared of her personal judgment.  I told her about going to the Latin High Mass at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago.  The priest didn't make jokes, he actually gave a pretty scary homily covering the last things, death, personal judgment, the last judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory--with its cleansing fire.

He had said, "It isn't a teaching of the Church, but a doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, said the suffering of purgatory is greater than any suffering that can be endured on this earth."

That isn't actually a correct quote by the way.  I'll have that in a moment for you.  

But geez, that is scary isn't it?  I had come to think of purgatory along the lines of what St. Catherine of Genoa spoke of, that the real knowledge of the love of God and his holiness purified her with moans and groans and led her to do penances, but I no longer thought of it as "fire" after reading her account.  Still there is passage from The Way of Love by Sr. Josefa Menendez, a personal revelation--again not a teaching of the church that describe it more of a place.

I am not scared of my personal judgment.  Are you?  I know I am a sinner, I know that I do not resemble Jesus, meek and humble of heart, rich in compassion.  But for some reason, I trust that he has me, that he has grasped me, and he has made me his own. (see Philippians 3:12)

Do you pray when you read the Bible?  Do you believe that the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to "teach you for your own good"?

One of the objectives I feel is impressed on me most, by the Holy Spirit, while preparing and teaching my 1st and 2nd grade Religion School class, is to teach them that reading the Bible can be like reading a love letter from God to us.  I really try to get the kids hooked on reading the Bible, that they will learn things about God's Glory and Power and Love and Mercy in its words that are actually purposely hidden from them in the things they will hear in the world.  I teach them that there is a difference between a person that goes to church or tries to be a good person, and a person that faithfully turns to the Bible to be taught and loved by God in its words.  

There are people that go to church but don't understand the commandments to love and to forgive and to pray for our enemies.

There are people that go to church but don't understand that we are forbidden to indulge in horoscopes or fortune telling.

There are people that go to church and don't understand the clear warnings of St. Paul on drunkenness and fornication. (see Ephesians 5:3)  Of course it doesn't help when we get this reading at church and the priest squirms while it is proclaimed and then doesn't touch it with a 100 foot pole during the homily.

There are people that have been brought up Catholic or Protestant or Jewish and then personally use the Lord's name in vain, including the Lord Jesus Christ's name in vain repeatedly during the day.  You know what? I've never heard a priest mention why this is sinful, shameful and sad in a homily at Mass?  I've heard a priest speak powerfully on how powerful the name of Jesus is, but not to mention how horrific it is that someone "who has been given much" (see Luke 12:47-49) i.e. the gift of faith and knowledge of Christ's sacrifice, could then routinely use the name of Jesus Christ in place of a curse word when they are angry.  How many parents model this behavior for their children?

One of the first things that I think is impressed on someone that reads Scripture is that the holiness of God and his name are connected.  When I hear people say "Jesus Christ" like other people use the f-bomb, it hurts.  I pray for them.  I pray the Divine Praises after Communion in reparation for their blasphemy.  

There seems to be quite a bit of this at my current job.  During the third week we were doing a production conversion and a Chinese woman that probably knows very little about Jesus Christ, kept saying his name as a swear with a very think Chinese accent.  Then another project manager consultant was put in a room with me.  She seems to have gone to Catholic high school and she too was regularly saying Jesus Christ in anger throughout the day.  This seems to have dropped off since I let her know I get over to the Daily Mass at Old St. Patrick's a couple times a week.  

Sorry for the rant there.  Back to my point . . . the Lord does teach us and guide us on our path. Is he doing this for you?  He has undeniably been doing this for me in abundance since as long as I can remember.  Truly the cup of my understanding, my faith, my love for Him has been growing as a result of what he began teaching me through Holy Scripture, through the saints, through people pursuing holiness and greater love of God and neighbor, and  through prayer throughout my life. (see Psalm 23:5)

When you read passages like the following, you know he is telling you, "come closer.  I want to hold you close to my heart.  I love you more than you can understand.  Trust in me!  It hurts me when you don't trust in me!"

The Lord called me before I was born,   while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. (Isaiah 49:1)
14 But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,   my Lord has forgotten me.’ 15 Can a woman forget her nursing-child,   or show no compassion for the child of her womb?Even these may forget,   yet I will not forget you. 16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; (Isaiah 49:14-16)

Besides scripture, two saints in particular teach us what it means to trust God and to trust him wholeheartedly for our salvation because his mercy, his Divine Mercy, which gushed from his pierced side in the form of his Precious blood and water.  He is our mediator before the justice of God.  These two saints are St. Faustina and St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face.  

St. Therese's Offering to Merciful Love (long version) focuses on the fact that there is nothing we can do to merit heaven, instead we rely on the love of God who spared not his only beloved Son (John 3:16), and on the merits of Jesus, on his heart burning with Love.

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.  

We should all realize that God's condescension to save us, his Mercy is greater than we can imagine.

How quickly we in our humanity are to overlook a coldness or slight from a friend we love.  

How quickly I grab my own child in my arms when he looks at me with pleading eyes, and is yelling through tears, "Mom, I am sorry," looking for forgiveness and a hug.  

God is Pure Love.  God is Kindness.  God is Compassion.  God is Mercy.  Why would I fear him when he has already led me in the path I should go.  And what is that path?  It is to follow the Good Shepherd by reading, knowing, and following his teaching and example.  By asking him to hold us close to his heart that we might be transformed by his love and mercy.

I told this woman that I don't think it will be as fearful as she imagines.  I think she will experience different emotions than fear.  We have the hope and assurance that we will see Jesus Christ face to face when we die.  He will be shining in glory, brighter than the sun, his clothes brighter than the snow as was described in the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration.  

His eyes will be full of love and mercy toward us.  We may be filled with deep regret, that we may even experience viscerally like St. Catherine of Genoa writes, that we were anything less than adoring, loving and seeking after his will and following his commandments faithfully in life.

But how will we not be ecstatically happy, filled with joy beyond this life's comprehension, as one priest said, "take the happiest you've been in your life and multiply it by infinity", to have the privilege of being in front of him, and knowing that he has given us the gift of eternal life with him?

This is what St. Thomas Aquinas actually said about purgatory:
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, Two Notes on Purgatory
It seems that the pains of purgatory are greater than all pains of this life. The pain of loss (that is, the pain of delay in coming to the beatific vision) is the greater of the two types of pain in purgatory. The lesser is the pain of sense.


  1. Colleen, what a lovely post, and what beautiful insights from you loving and faithful soul. Like you, mostly, I am not afraid. I know that I have only empty hands to offer the Lord, but like Therese, I hope to rely on His Own Merits, and His Mercy and Love. I do try to love Him everyday. I do long to see His beautiful face. As you described, it is hard to believe that God would be less loving and forgiving than we are with our own children. As far as Purgatory goes, if we have beheld the beauty and love of Jesus at judgment, and then must be separated from Him for a time, surely that would be more painful than our little sufferings on earth. To see Him and how much He loves us, and not yet be able to be united to Him...well, I can imagine that it would be almost unbearable longing and burning. But, it seems to me that there would be a sweetness within it too, for we will know how much He loves us, and we know that we will be with Him forever. Such a thought should be most consoling. I think the flames of Purgatory are perhaps our burning desire fto be united with God.. I can't imagine God tossing us into a real fire to punish us. I think these metaphors are used to describe what cannot be described to those who have not experienced it. In the end, I guess we shall just have to wait and see. God is so good; I don't think it will be terrible or anything like hell as some believe. We will be able to sing His praises there, and to be among others who love Him, and imagine....being absolutely sure of your salvation....can all the happy moments on earth combined compare to knowing that?! xoxox

  2. Thank you Patricia for reading and writing such a thoughtful comment. I'm on my phone and can't write much more than that. Going to try to think on the beautiful face of Jesus today though!