Saturday, February 28, 2009
"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert" This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. How much better our lives would be; how much more at peace we would be if only we could imitate Christ Jesus in the Gospel today and allow the Holy Spirit to drive us where He willed. If we would only let the Holy Spirit guide us in doing the Father's Will. But our wounds keep us from being driven. Our fears keep us from being driven. Our selfish wants and desires keep us from being driven. Our sins keep us from being driven. There is life in the desert. There is consolation in the desert. There strength is to be found and wisdom to overcome our temptations in the desert. But we will not be driven. We want life on our own terms. We want growth on our own terms. We want holiness on our own terms. We will not be driven! If only we would imitate Christ. Perhaps if we seriously fasted even just one day this Lent, we could be driven. Perhaps if we gave just one hour of serious prayer this Lent, we could be driven. Perhaps if we gave just one dollar more than we are comfortable with to charity this Lent, we could be driven. Only in imitating our Lord will we find peace, and strength to overcome our temptations. Driven by the Holy Spirit our lives will be sanctified and be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy. The choice is ours. Will we let selfishness and fear dictate what we do, or will we let the Holy Spirit?
Friday, February 27, 2009
"They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God;" If you abandon God's Law. If you do what is unjust. You will have a hard time finding God in your life. If you do find Him you will have a hard time listening to Him or even hearing Him. If you can in fact hear Him and are listening you will have a hard time doing what He asks of you. Why? Because you love yourself more than you love Him. You are selfish and self righteous. You think you know better than God and His Bride the Church. You believe that your judgments are sound and right so you ignore the deeper truths that the Holy Spirit has revealed to the Church. You are unjust and yet so blind that you believe you are acting justly. All under the guise that says "I am a good person. I love God." This is the way of the fool, and many are following it; just like the people of Israel to whom Isaiah was sent. Jesus never said in the Gospel Be Good, instead he said Be Holy as your Father in Heaven is Holy. Holiness requires Obedience just as Love requires Responsibility. We cannot abandon the teaching of the Church and feel justified. We cannot live according to our own morality and spirituality and pretend we are just, that we are doing what is right. In other words acting as if God approves of all that we do. During Lent we must have the courage to be humble and turn away from selfishness and self righteousness and come before the Lord seeking to do His will not our own. We are called to acknowledge His Love in giving us His Beloved Son to be our Savior; our responsibility is to be obedient, to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. Then we can be holy for we have accepted that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. Acceptance of this humble truth then will allow the Father to raise us up as He raised His Son Jesus our Savior on the Third Day.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." Loving, heeding, and holding are the components that allow us to recognize the blessings of Almighty God in our life. Clearly Moses tells the people of Israel this truth in the first reading today. The disciplines of Lent (prayer, fasting, alms giving) aid us during this holy time to do these three things: love the Lord, heed His voice, and hold fast to Him. Many who struggle in their spiritual life only rely upon the first point. They love God and do not understand why they struggle even as they ignore the next two points. Some in their spiritual lives do actually heed God's voice. They love God and heed His voice still they struggle and wonder why. Only in following all that Moses says can we find peace even in the midst of our struggles, our sins, our sufferings, and temptations. We must hold fast to the Lord. This is in reality the most important point in Moses' instruction for it is the point at which our decision for life or death must be made. When we are desperate, confused, hurt, and floundering is when we must hold fast to our Lord even if we do not feel His Presence. We cling to Him in Truth not in emotion. He Loves us and thus we love Him. This is the Truth of our life. In Loving us our Lord does not abandon us, and He speaks to us even when He is silent. This is the Truth of our relationship with Him. Therefore we cling to Him; we hold fast. In doing so we find peace even as we struggle in our spiritual lives. The disciplines of Lent are meant to strengthen our grip. In essence they bring comfort to us and to our struggle to turn away from sin and believe in the Good News.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Today God our Father brings us to the beginning of Lent. We pray that in this time of salvation He will fill us with the Holy Spirit, purify our hearts, and strengthen us in love. This prayer comes from the introduction to the intercessions at Morning Prayer in the Divine Office for today, Ash Wednesday. I invite anyone who reads this blog to place this prayer before you as you enter Lent. God the Father brings us this holy season so that we may enter deeply into the Mystery of His Merciful Love, by meditating upon the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus the Christ. Now is a time of salvation, not punishment. Our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and alms giving are not punishment. They are practices that open our hearts and our eyes to our Father's Loving Mercy, and the gift of His Son. Filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit we will be reminded of all that Jesus taught us. The disciplines and meditations of Lent will strengthen us in our Father's Love and our hearts will be purified. While Lent is a serious season that calls for our own examination of conscience while we meditate on our Lord's Passion, let us not forget it is the Loving Mercy of our Father that brings us here, and in that we can find comfort and consolation.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"His heart was grieved." Does this not say it all. Our Father Love Us. He is grieved by our sins. He is moved by our sins. While we hear of the destruction caused by the flood, do not forget that in the fullness of time our Father sends to us, the remedy for our sins. He gives us His only Son to be our Savior. Because He Loves us. In meditating on our Lord's Passion this Lent, do not forget the grief of our Father nor His Merciful Love.
Monday, February 16, 2009
So the LORD said to Cain:"Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master." These words which God speaks to Cain are so profound. Sin is very near to each of us, it is lurking at the door. Sin is drawn to us. Sin wants to dominate us. Yet we can master sin. Often times we actually believe the exact opposite and or live as if the exact opposite were true. That is that sin has great power over us and we cannot help ourselves. Often we claim that our sinful tendencies are simply human nature. This lie is destroyed in the light of the first reading today. God tells Cain that we have within ourselves the ability to Master sin. This then is a challenge to each and every one of us today. You can master your sinfulness. Yes you need God's Grace but you are capable of turning from your sins, and embracing the life that God wants to give you. Of course the Sacraments are the great means by which our Lord aids us in our struggle to master sin. However as we approach the beginning of Lent, it is good to once again turn to prayer, fasting, and alms giving. Frequent attendance at Mass and regular Confession grant us the grace to implement these Lenten practices in our lives. All prayer flows from the Eucharist, therefore we should take time this Lent to prepare for Mass, especially by reading Sacred Scripture. That is we could read the daily readings before Mass, or if we cannot attend Mass at least remain in union with the Church by praying with the same readings. We could also pray the Rosary more often and allow our Blessed Mother to teach us about the life of her Son, and Salvation History. We can also fast from things that we particularly enjoy one or more days a week, or fast from food at one meal time or for one whole day. Finally we could give time to serving the poor, or make a monetary donation to the Church or to a good organization that helps the poor. All these practices in truth are things that we should be doing all year long and we should only emphasize them during Lent. In reality many struggle throughout the year to do any of them consistently or at all. Perhaps meditating upon the words God speaks to Cain will help us to recognize that in fact we do these things not only as an offering to God but also in order to Master the sin in our life that is constantly with us, lurking at our door seeking to dominate us.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
In ten days the Church will once again celebrate Ash Wednesday and then enter into the Holy season of Lent. We commit ourselves to pray, fast and give alms during Lent. The penitential character of the season is in preparation for our encounter with the Risen Lord. This of course is after we have entered into deep reflection upon His Sorrowful Passion. The readings today can help us in our preparations for Lent. The Leper in the Gospel can be a particular challenge to us today. I would dare to say that none of us have the Courage of this man. In the first reading today we hear the Law of Moses with regard to those with leprosy. They are to call out to people "Unclean, Unclean!" as they traveled. In other words they are forbidden by the Law to come into contact with others, or even draw near to them. Yet in the Gospel we see that this man had the Courage to draw near to Jesus and ask Him if He wanted to heal him. He was expressly forbidden to do this by the Law of His religion. Yet He drew near to Jesus. His misery drove him to Jesus' feet. There is no law that prevents us from drawing near to Jesus. No one is telling us that we have to stay away from the Lord. It is just the opposite in fact; we are constantly being invited to draw near to Jesus, and to trust in His Divine Mercy. Still we have no Courage. The leper was told to stay away yet he drew near; we are told draw near and instead we stay away. There can only be two reasons for our cowardly and selfish behavior. The first is suffering and the second is sin. Both cause our souls to be isolated and alienated. Both cause us to feel far from God. We do not have leprosy but we certainly feel unclean, damaged, and ugly. How could the Lord possibly want us to draw near? Courage! Both also cause a distortion in the way we see ourselves; we express a much to inflated opinion of ourselves in order to hide the deeper truth that we often think very little of ourselves. Our surety masks our insecurity, and our actions betray the longing of our hearts. Courage! Come to the feet of Jesus in your misery. Be like the leper this Lent. Start today, do not be afraid. Stop listening to your wounds, whether self inflicted or suffered from another. Stop listening to you sins, whether you enjoy them or not. Follow the miserable leper's example today and come to the Lord. Courage! Ask Jesus if He wants to heal you. Do not be afraid. Draw near to the Foot of the Cross you will find that you are loved. You will recognise that our Lord's Love is Merciful, and you will come to see yourself for who you are, as beloved son or daughter of God.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
"But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile." Thus we see the importance of living a Sacramental life. These evils are still present in the heart of each person. Yet the grace that comes from the Sacraments can tame these evils and bring peace to our wearied souls. The graces that flow from the Sacraments allow us to enter into an intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus. In this intimacy we come to know who we are and can begin to act accordingly. That is we begin to act according to our dignity as the beloved sons and daughters of God. All prayer flows from the Sacraments. Our Rosary, the reading of Sacred Scripture, meditation and contemplation as well as all our private devotions flow from the Source of our life, that is the Eucharist. If you are struggling in your prayer life or your spiritual life, do not look for new techniques or greater discipline. Instead discipline your self in making use of the Sacraments. Attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass more often, that is go to Mass more than one day a week, not many times in one day. Go to Confession with greater frequency. Go to Exposition and Adoration. In doing so you will find peace in the midst of your trials and you will grow in wisdom and grace before God and men even if you yourself cannot perceive it.
Monday, February 9, 2009
"They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was." The people in the Gospel today are Evangelizing the countryside. They are sharing the Good News. They are telling people about Jesus and they are bringing people to Him. This could be a direct challenge to you and me if we let it. But rather than challenge you by asking you how well you are Evangelizing, sharing the Good News, telling people about our Lord Jesus the Christ, the Savior, I want to encourage you to meditate about something else. How deep must the faith of these people have been? They had not witnessed the Resurrection yet, still they chase after Jesus and bring others along as well. They had not received the Holy Spirit as of yet, still "they scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was." We have received the Holy Spirit, and we know and believe in the Resurrection of Jesus; how deep is our faith? In the first reading God says "Let there be Light" , well we have received the Light of Christ, how do we live in this light? Do we place all our hopes in Him? Do we show that we are children of the light by the way we live, or how we entertain ourselves, or how we work? How deep is our faith? We know about Jesus, but do we believe in Him? The people in the Gospel believed in Him so much that they constantly sought Him out, and brought many people to Him. They placed all their hope in Him, and taught others to do so as well. Perhaps today they can teach us to do the same.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"Is not man's life on earth a drudgery? He is a slave who longs for the shade..." Certainly Job would not express these words if they were not true, if they were not in some way part of the universal human experience. Yet there is cause for hope. Our longings have been heard by our Father in Heaven. We have been given shade in the Shadow of the Tree of Life. Not only that but we have been given a companion to accompany us as we take time to rest in this shade from the drudgery of life. That is we have been given the Blessed Virgin Mary who stands at the foot of the Cross. Blessed Mother stands in the shadow of death, but the Cross has been revealed as the Tree of Life, and thus our Mother stands in its shade and invites us to join her in our misery. In order to embrace the life that our Lord calls us to live, we must be prepared to return often with Blessed Mother to the Shade of the Tree of Life. The reason for this is at the foot of the Cross is where we come to know our true identity. In gazing upon Christ Crucified we can come to know our dignity, our goodness, our privilege because we come to know the Love of the Most Holy Trinity. Blessed Mother is there with us to teach us about the Love of God. Our Mother also helps us to understand the dignity that we have as children of the Most High God. Mary is the teacher extraordinaire because what flows from the foot of the Cross is Humility and she who is full of Grace is equally full of Humility. Humility is the first lesson that Blessed Mother wants to teach us, and it is found in simplicity. How then in a very concrete way do we begin to enjoy the Shade of the Tree of Life and our Mother's instruction? Pray the Rosary. Even better pray the Rosary simply before the Blessed Sacrament. Our lives certainly do seem a drudgery at times and we are filled with misery, but the Shade is always available. The Rosary is not a duty that we must pray. Instead it is a rest from our daily labors when our Mother holds our hand and tells us not to worry. When our Mother comforts us and refreshes us with firmer faith and greater hope in the Mercy of her Son Jesus. Mary teaches us to accept the Love that our Father has for us, and to open our hearts to her Spouse the Holy Spirit. Blessed Mother teaches us to Trust in our Merciful Triune God whose Love for us is revealed in the Cross. Mary teaches us the joy that comes from humble acceptance of God's Love. In praying the Rosary with Blessed Mother we find rest for our weary souls and strength to continue the journey. Often times people worry about how to say the Rosary and if they are saying it correctly or not. Do not worry. The Rosary has been given to us as a comfort not a task. Why would you be anxious if you are holding the Blessed Mother's hand. Don't Be! She will teach you how to pray, and some day you will learn the traditional way the Church prays the Rosary. But most importantly know that when you pray the Rosary, even if you are in great turmoil and suffering, Mary our Mother is with you to comfort you. Trust in her love and motherly protection. Come into the Shade and stand with your Blessed Mother and learn from her about the great Love God has for you. Blessed Mother will show you how your longings can be and in fact are satisfied in the Blood and Water (the Sacramental Life) that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus her Son our Savior. Blessed Mother will show you what great Joy our Father in Heaven takes in calling you His son or daughter. Blessed Mother will show you how to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit her Divine Spouse. Simply come into the Shade. Pick up your Rosary and pray. In doing so you will be amazed at how loved you truly are as you enter into a deep and profound intimacy with the Most Holy Trinity; there you will find rest.
Friday, February 6, 2009
"The Lord is my helper,and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?" How many of us would like to be able to pray this prayer with greater faith. However we are all very aware of what some can do to us. We have suffered in our lives. We have been hurt. Some have been abused, some neglected, some ignored. All bear their wounds, some well and others poorly, some hidden and some fully displayed for all to see. Many live in fear because of their wounds. Many do not trust anyone because of them. Yet today we are confronted with this prayer from Sacred Scripture. "The Lord is my helper,and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?" Is it a false prayer when we continue to be hurt and continue to suffer? Is it false because people continue to harm us? Is it false because those who continue to harm us are those who should love us the most? The trouble we have with this prayer is that we often read it backwards. That is to say we begin at the end, many have harmed us. Then we work backwards to the middle and say we have a right to be afraid. Finally we get to the beginning and doubt or disbelieve the Truth that the Lord is our helper. Instead we ought to begin at the beginning, The Lord is my helper. Grounded in this truth we can live our lives free from all fears. What can anyone do to me? Our response is that regardless of what happens in our lives including the sufferings we experience, the Lord is with us; He is our help even in our suffering. Therefore we do not have to be afraid. His Presence calms all our fears. His help allows us to persevere even in difficult circumstances. If we are to grow in our spiritual lives we must be grounded in the Truth of this prayer today and stop looking for ways to dispute it.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
"He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts." The Apostles in the Gospel today are required to depend upon God' Providence as they strive to be obedient to His Will. All too often we depend upon ourselves. We count the cost of doing God's Will rather than the benefits. We shy away from His Love in order to comfort ourselves with our own selfish self love. Often this selfish love is caught up with our many possessions and or our entertainment. The Apostles left with nothing but a stick and the cloak on their backs. They trusted in Jesus who sent them on their journey, and they trusted God the Father whom Jesus had revealed. It was with this faith that they went out to bring healing to the people. The authority to cast out demons was given them by Jesus, but they also converted the people by the example of the way they lived . We would do well to be reminded of their example of trusting in Jesus and in our Father to provide for all that we need: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically physically, and materially. Certainly we are called to use our talents to work for the benefit of ourselves and our families, and we have science and medicine to aid in our health care. This is all well and good. The Apostles poverty should remind us that the source of all that is good is our Heavenly Father. It should remind us that as we travel on this journey that Jesus has invited us to begin, we ought not become preoccupied with our possessions and entertainments but instead be living examples to the world of the Loving Providence of our Father. We trust in Him. He takes care of His Children. The more we live in this truth of our faith, the more at peace we will be, and we will see great things happen in our lives.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
"Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as his sons." So often people complain about the struggles they have in their spiritual lives. Usually they believe that if they were just more disciplined or had greater faith, if they tried harder things would be better, or they would be holier. Never have I heard them say: " I am struggling because God the Father is treating me like a beloved child." Indeed all to often we fall in with the accuser of our brothers. We believe the lies and judgments that the deceiver sows. We ignore the Truth of our lives; that we are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Instead we act as if we should be able to will ourselves out of every struggle and weakness. That since we know better we should never fall into temptation and sin. That we can discipline our way out of any trial. In essence we want to make ourselves pleasing to ourselves; then and only then do we consider ourselves pleasing to God. In other words we forget about God our Father and His Revelation to us in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord and Savior, and instead act as if the spiritual life boils down to a how to feel good about yourself self help best seller. In this we are not acting upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Lover of our souls. In fact we are embracing the opposite, that is the snare of the evil one, who always tries to get us to place ourselves and our feelings at the center of the Universe. The truth is that the spiritual life is a struggle. The truth is that our Father in Heaven wills it to be so because in our struggles He disciplines us. He disciplines us because He loves us as His beloved children. Enduring the trials of our life we can only be nourished by our Father's Merciful Love that is His Son Jesus. Think here of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. In enduring the trials of the spiritual life we must constantly be sustained by our Father's Loving Mercy that is the Holy Spirit, the Lover of our souls. We would do well to humbly accept and endure the trials of our spiritual life because in them our Father in Heaven draws us into communion with Him as His beloved children. In communion with Him we will be perfected, we will be made holy by His Loving Discipline. In our trials we can choose to live in the truth of this intimate relationship of Mercy with our Father, or we can embrace the self help best seller and remain in our misery as we try and fail to will ourselves to be better or happy for we will certainly not be holy.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The suffering of the synagogue official Jairus, and the woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years did not keep them from acting according to their faith. Jairus acted publicly while the woman acted in secret. Regardless, their faith moved them to action. It moved them to trust in the Lord Jesus. How often we wait for the Lord to explicitly act first according to our desire. In doing so we remain miserable, isolated, and subject to the perversions of the evil one. In other words we remain in fear. Both the woman and Jairus recognized the Truth of their life in Christ Jesus, in His Words and in His Actions, and thus they placed all their hope in Him. Their hope was fulfilled. They found peace. With so many worries and anxieties in our daily life, how often do we find true peace? At the frantic pace at which our daily life runs, when do we find time to come to Jesus in public or in secret in order to lay our suffering before Him? When or where do we encounter the Truth of our life? We must learn to allow our faith to move us to action. In other words we must allow our faith to move us to prayer and the Sacraments. In these we come before Jesus with the burdens of our sins, our fears, and our anxieties. It is in prayer and the Sacramental life that we will find true peace and the Truth of our lives. Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation. In that feast we are reminded once again the Christ Jesus is the Light of the World. It is time for us to let our Merciful Savior to be the Light of our lives as well; to let our faith in Him move us to action. In doing so we will not be afraid of the world in which we live, but instead will find true peace knowing in His tender Mercy He will always care for us in all our afflictions.