Watch

“My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus said this to Pontius Pilate during his Passion, but Jesus is King and Lord of the universe. He will come, so be awake. He will come to destroy the creation that God willed into existence. But he won’t destroy us. We were made in God’s image, and our souls are eternal. When Creation is destroyed, we won’t be. It doesn’t end in nothingness for us. We will survive. Somewhere. Either in the bliss of God’s presence or the suffering agony of his absence. If you have been paying attention to the theme of the readings for the past eight or nine Sundays, you might be getting a little down, for we have had two solid months of “judgement Day is coming.”

As Advent begins, we are getting ready for the coming of Christ in the manger on Christmas night, but the lectionary is still talking about his second coming. In today’s Gospel we are warned to watch. I think why the Church spends so much of the year reminding us of the second coming is because the Devil spends all his time distracting us from thinking about it. Who spent this weekend shopping? Did Judgment Day pop into your head while you were online or at the mall? Probably not. If I hadn’t been preparing this homily, it probably would not have popped in mine.

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Vainglory or the Shema

The theme of the Gospel readings over the past few weeks has been a long and sometimes sharp reminder that there will be a final judgment, and the Lord our God is the judge.

We had the two sons, one told his father he would do the work but did not and the other said he wouldn’t but he did. Jesus invited us to think about how words are cheap and how we live is how we will be measured.

We had the landowner whose tenants abused and killed his servants when they came to collect the rent. Jesus invited us to think about stewardship versus ownership and how easy it is for the steward to take what is not really his.

We had the wedding feast when the people invited spurned the invitation. Jesus asked us to think about being serious when we are invited to something truly important.

We had last week the Pharisees and Herodians getting together to trap Jesus with the question about the census tax. Jesus invited us to think less like scholars who think a snappy line will win the debate, and more about the fundamental purpose of our lives, why we were born and what we will die for. 

And today we have the Pharisees step up with a scholar of the law asking Jesus which of the commandments in the Law is the greatest. And today Jesus is inviting us to consider the sin of vanity, or as it is sometimes called, vainglory.

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Jesus, Tamar, and Grandma

sylvestergilliland
Sylvester

Psalm 25, says, “Make known to me, Oh Lord, your ways, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.”

The Letter to the Philippians includes the great hymn of Christ, which says, “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and coming in human likeness.”

This bit of Scripture speaks to the Incarnation, that God became Man and dwelt among us. The incarnation and the resurrection are critical to our faith, and they are the two greatest feast seasons on the Church calendar. It’s why we bow during the Creed. It’s why we are pro-life. God became Man. Today, I would like us to consider the great question of when did Jesus become human?

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Radical Trust

In last week’s gospel, we saw Peter blurt out the truth. When Jesus asked,  “Who do people say that I am?” he got logical and worldly responses, like “some say you are Isaiah and others a prophet.” He then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter blurted out the truth: You are the Christ, the anointed one, the one that everyone’s been waiting for. And the next thing Jesus says to him is, “You are the Rock and upon this Rock I will build my church.”

In this week’s gospel, we see that Peter can’t maintain for very long. This is the second part of the story we began last week. Jesus tells his disciples what the rest of his Earthly ministry will look like. He will go to Jerusalem, and he will be killed, and on the third day he will rise from the dead. But Peter cannot handle that. He says “no such thing shall ever happen to you.” And Jesus rebukes Peter, because Peter has fallen into the trap of thinking as the world thinks. He says, “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

In the first half of our story which we heard last week, we see what Peter says when he is open to supernatural truth. And in the second half of our story, which we hear today, we see what happens when we remain limited to natural, or human, truth. Last week, Peter blurted out the truth, and perhaps he felt what Jeremiah said in today’s Old Testament reading. That it becomes like a fire burning in our heart, imprisoned in our bones; we grow weary holding it in and we cannot endure it. A supernatural truth is something that is true but beyond our human, or natural, ability to comprehend. That doesn’t make it less true; rather, it opens us to deeper truths that we cannot work to by our own power. It’s a gift of truth. Peter was given the gift of recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah. That’s a radical truth.

But in the second half of the story, which we read today, Peter seems to have lost his grip on that radical truth, and he descends to the human realm which cannot accept that God must die on the Cross. The supernatural gift of radical truth comes to us from God, and our responsibility is to hold on to that truth and to hold on to that openness. We must have that openness if we are to hear and to follow the instructions that Jesus gives his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Since he just told his disciples where he was going – to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed – then those of us who choose to follow him must understand the cost of this radical truth and radical obedience.

Saint Paul urges the Romans in his letter today not to conform themselves to this age but to be transformed by the renewal of their minds so that they may discern what is the will of God. That was the call in the first century, and it is our call today in the 21st century.

Our age has turned its back on the truths of God. Our age says that we should seek pleasure and avoid pain. Our age says that this life is all there is. Our age says that will and power are the way to get ahead. Our age says win at all cost.

But as the readings today make clear, we must obey Jesus and stop thinking as the world thinks. In faith, we must see through the lies of the world and obey the truths of God. The truth is that this life is a brief moment in our eternal lives. One of the most powerful sentences given by Sister Dee Dee who spoke last week at the convention was that she was not just pro-life but pro eternal life. As Christians we are pro-life and pro eternal life. We know that spiritual death is much worse than physical death. That’s a radical truth that the world rejects. That’s a radical truth that we can’t hold in any more than Jeremiah could hold in his message. That’s a radical truth that means suffering for those who dare to express it in public.

The truth is that power and will are the opposite of what God wants. Just be reminded of the Beatitudes: the meek shall inherit the earth. Jesus describes himself as meek and humble of heart. Our Lady describes herself as the handmaid of the Lord. St. John the Baptist tells his disciples that he must decrease so that Jesus may increase. As Christians, we know that all power comes from God and must be used according to His justice. As Christians we know that the ends do not justify the means. As Christians we know that Justice will be done at the End of the Age when Jesus comes with his angels. That’s a radical truth that the world rejects.

But our lives should conform to the radical truth of God, not the rationalized and compromised truths of the present age. So what can we do? As Father mentioned in his stewardship talk last week, we can commit to prayer. It’s hard to read three pages of the gospels without finding that Jesus went off to pray by himself. We can follow that radical example in our own lives today.

We can spend time in spiritual reading. We have great models and teachers of the faith in the Saints and Doctors of the church.

We can spend time in community. Here we are fighting heat and rain to come to Mass in person. Fighting the fear of the Coronavirus, we might even dare shake hands or even give a hug. That is radical trust, which the world has temporarily lost.

We can share that faith that is bursting out of us. Do our spouses, children, our friends see how much we love our Lord? What can I do that’s radical to show them and everyone what the good news looks like?

Because we should be bold enough to blurt out the truth as Peter did. When God gives us the fullness of Truth, we should not try to manage it so that it conforms to the world, we should share it boldly like Peter.

When we are filled with the love and truth of Our Lord, it should be too strong for us, it was for the Prophet Jeremiah. It should be like a fire burning in our hearts. We should be unable to keep it in.

And we should do our part to cultivate that courage and that openness to what God wants to say to us and what he wants us to say. And we do that through our commitment to prayer, to spiritual reading, and to participation in the church’s liturgical life and our church family community.

Let us, in the words of Saint Paul, offer our bodies, our very selves, as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

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Seeking Pearls of Great Price

PearlIn last week’s Gospel reading we had the parable of the wheat and the weeds, with the message being that judgment comes at the time of harvest. And the judgment was between wheat and weeds, between the good and the bad. In today’s parables about the kingdom of heaven we get another example of the idea that all will be gathered up – in this case it is fish being caught up in a net – and then at the time of judgment, there will be a process of deciding that this is a good fish and that is a bad fish. And the good fish will be kept and the bad fish will be tossed aside.

Last week, it was fairly easy. A weed is clearly not a grain of wheat. So the process of distinguishing between the one and the other is a little bit like the fact that a coin is either heads or tails. It’s good or it’s bad. A simple, binary, evaluation or judgment.

Now a net full of fish is a little bit harder, but it still ultimately comes down to the judgment that it’s a good fish or it’s a bad fish. And so perhaps we can imagine there is a list. And if a fish is on the good fish list, it’s a keeper. And if it’s not, we throw it out. It seems fairly easy.

Today, one of the examples of the kingdom of heaven that is given to us is that it is like a pearl of great price. I would ask us to take a look at this because I think this parable on the kingdom of heaven has us looking more at the front end of things. Not just everybody’s in until judgment day, but there is a process that Jesus is calling us to while we’re still here. The pearl of great price is more challenging to us because it is no longer binary. It’s not just pearl or no pearl. It’s a pearl of great price.

And that brings up a few items I’d like to just touch on today.

The first is the nature of beauty. The pearl is a beautiful thing. The pearl of great price is a pearl of great beauty. And for most of us when we come to the idea of beauty we tend to seek cover in bromides like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or that “there is no argument when it comes to matters of taste”.

And that is certainly true. I have a friend who really loves classical music, and he’s spent a great deal of time studying it. And when he’s talking about a piece by Rachmaninoff, he can speak at great length and with great passion about the beauty of that music. And I’m not as much a lover of classical music as he is. If we were to turn to some musical artist that is more my taste, I think I could make similar arguments about the crafting of the lyrics and the way that the melody moves around and then perhaps the way the other musicians bring in their instrumentals or harmonies to produce a rich and nuanced sound that is simply beautiful. Even if it’s a country music singer. If it’s done well.

And I think in both cases, each of us would say that this is really beautiful and I don’t see it quite the way you see it but both of us are open to and acknowledge that there is an objective definition of beauty. I can see the beauty in the classical music even if it’s not my preferred taste and he can see the beauty in the country music song even if it’s not his taste.

That objective reality about something like beauty is a concept that all of us as Christians need to embrace. As Christians, we know the source from which true beauty comes. It is the same place that the source of true truth comes from and where true goodness comes from. Like those, true beauty comes from God.

When we understand that true beauty is God’s beauty, then we can all seek with confidence to pursue and search for the pearl of great price because we know it is not just a matter of taste.

So we have to develop a greater sensitivity to what is truly good. That’s part of what we should do as Christians. It’s part of our call: to grow in our understanding and appreciation of what is truly beautiful, what is truly good, and what is truly true.

And we can grow in that as we grow closer to God’s definition of those things because he is in fact the author of all of those good things.

You’ll notice from the Old Testament reading that Solomon asks for wisdom so as to be a better king and judge. Solomon as king will have to figure out which of the two parties in front of him – both of which can make a good case – is actually closer to the objective source of truth and justice, which is God. So Solomon prays for the gift of wisdom. And the gift of wisdom is that received understanding of what is really in conformance with God’s plan. It’s not the same thing as being intellectual, or being clever, or being smart. And that is why wisdom is a gift that we all can grow in, because it’s that gut knowledge, not that head knowledge, that gut knowledge that this is what’s correct, this is what’s right.

And so we have to grow in our pursuit of wisdom, our appreciation of wisdom, and we need  to pray for an increase in wisdom so we can more quickly recognize what it is that God is calling us to do, to be better able to see the pearl of great price amid all the many good pearls.

And then finally, if you think about how we get pearls, and maybe this is just from a James Bond movie, but we have to be willing to go down into the dark water and bring up an oyster, and open it up, and find that there’s no pearl at all, not even a decent pearl, certainly not a pearl of great price but no pearl at all, and to not lose heart but to set it aside and dive back down and bring up another oyster and see what’s in it. Figure out whether that’s a pearl or maybe that’s a pearl of great price, and we have to be willing to repeat that process.

And that is the gift of patience and perseverance. To be willing to go through a repetitive action always seeking through wisdom to know what is truly good and to not lose heart. That patient and persevering pursuit of God’s wisdom should be at the heart of our prayer lives. It should be the central activity of our Christian lives.

And so as we prepare for the liturgy of the eucharist, let us thank God for the spiritual gifts he has already given us, and let us beg him for more wisdom, more patience, and more perseverance.

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The cost of the Promised Land

juniperofalling

St. Junipero of Serra statue toppled

We’ve officially started summer, as the Summer Solstice was yesterday afternoon. When I was a child, summers always seemed to involve long car trips to whatever great destination lay at the end of the journey. I was one of five kids, so it was seven of us and sometimes the dog on 12-hour drive to a family lake house. With luggage for seven for a week or two, even the huge station wagons of the 1970s were crowded, and so the drive was basically an endurance test and a test of faith. We had to trust that the lake at the end of the trip would still be there, that it would be clean and clear and cool, and there would be no garden to weed, and no barn to clean, just water to swim in and canoes to paddle.

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Freedom Rider

My father would have been 90 today. He was an idealist, but also a depressive, so he rarely followed through with the actions implied by his strongly held beliefs.

He was a Platonist rather than an Aristotelean. But at least once in his life, he took great risk and really made a stand for his principles.

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In September 1961, he was one of 14 Episcopalian clergymen who broke the segregation laws of Jackson, MS, by eating at a lunch counter with a black man. They were held in jail about a week before the judge dismissed the case. Kabuki theater in the end, but at the time he was preparing to be sent to the kind of work farm depicted in the movie Cool Hand Luke.

We are all made in the image and likeness of God, as we read in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. We are also all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, who turned away from God in the Original Sin, as we read just a couple of chapters later in the same book.

Every person, every human life, is precious, and we must never lose sight of that fundamental truth. Likewise, every person is a sinner, imperfect in his behavior despite his profound dignity and importance to God. When Jesus invited the righteous to throw a stone at the sinful girl, nobody did because all recognized their own unrighteousness. Let us love each other as God loves us: through thick and thin, without judgment, risking our own lives.

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Serenity

Serenity

These are some strange and unsettling times we are living in.

Are we open, closed or somewhere in the middle?

Do we wear a mask and or gloves or not?

We could not go to Mass (even enter Churches!) for 2 months, now we have Mass back in five days, but it will not look like what we are used to…

We keep our distance from other people, to “stay safe,” but inside we are slowly withering without enough human connection.

We wonder, when will things return to what they used to be?

When will churches and airports and schools and office buildings be full again?  When will we hear the laughter and pure joy of children on playgrounds? When will we celebrate weddings with more than 10 people? When will we rush up to hug a good friend without asking “are you ok with hugging?”

Social distance, masks, plexiglass dividers, gloves, temperature readers…when will these words not be the dominant topic of conversation?

I have personal answers to these questions, but this is not the forum for that.

 

What has been running through my head a lot recently, and what helps me tremendously, is the Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

I first learned this prayer in Alcoholics Anonymous almost 33 years ago, and it is one of the most beautiful and at the same time practical prayers I have ever learned.  Many times, this prayer has kept me from making rash decisions, impulsive mistakes, and doing things I would later regret.

Let’s take a look at the meaning of each part of the prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

In this first part of the prayer, we acknowledge who is in control and has things under control – God. Then we ask for His help in asking for serenity.  What is serenity? Serenity is peace, restfulness, stillness.  It is knowing that as Julian of Norwich said: “All will be well” and meaning it.   Knowing that Divine Providence has everything worked out and we don’t have to fix everything.  Yes, we have a role to play, we are not jellyfish to be blown about by the stormy waters, we are called to be active and engaged, but at the same time to trust and know that He is God and we are not.  God said to St Catherine of Siena “I am He who Is, and you are she who is not.”

How do we attain this serenity?  Prayer.  The Christian life without daily prayer, daily conversation with God, is dry and brittle and easily breaks apart.  A life lived with each day beginning with conversation and silent time with Our Lord is the way to serenity.  So, begin a prayer life.  (previous blog posts have talked about this and the book to read is Into the Deep by Dan Burke).  Once our relationship with God deepens in prayer, we are able to trust Him because we Know Him.  We know His ways, His teachings, His Love.  Trust comes from knowing, trust leads to serenity, where we rest in the reality that God loves us, takes care of us, and has EVERYTHING under control.  We don’t always understand His ways, because we are human and He is God, but we trust that He is holding everything in His Hands. Serenity is knowing that I don’t need to change everything, I just need to change myself – to be more like Jesus.

The Courage to change the things I can

So, what can I change?  Me.  The thing I can change is myself. How do I do that?  Pray, get to know God, ask Him to show me what I need to work on, and what his mission is for me in this life. When we can live with this posture, we will experience serenity. The Church teaches that we are all called to Holiness, it’s a Universal Call.  We are all called to Union with God – to be Saints.  This call is beautiful, yet difficult.  What does the path to Holiness look like?  The apostolate group of which I am a member, Apostoli Viae, calls this the Paradigm of Ascent. Very briefly, the path begins with three things:

  1. Regular participation in the Sacramental life – Mass and Confession
  2. Daily Mental Prayer
  3. Ascesis

To listen to podcasts where Dan Burke, author and founder of Apostoli Viae, explains the Paradigm of Ascent – click here. (https://spiritualdirection.com/donate/sunday-evening-reflections-series-link

Get started today on improving and deepening your relationship with God.  This takes courage and perseverance.  It takes courage to look honestly at our lives, see what we need to change, and take the steps to change.  Ask God to give you the courage to assess where you are and if necessary make changes- to pray daily, to make the sacraments a priority in your life, to learn what it is to live mastering our passions and living a disciplined life – ascesis.

The cardinal virtue of courage, also called Fortitude, is doing the right thing, even when it’s hard, and it helps us overcome dangers, obstacles, and fear.

“To have courage, it is absolutely essential to first have your priorities straight. A man who pursues a lesser good at the expense of a greater good is not brave, but stupid. It is stupid to exchange a dollar for a penny, and it is of no profit to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul. Courage is about ordering your loves and fears so that you fear most the loss of what is truly most valuable. Only then will you be able to overcome lesser fears in carrying out what is right. Pray then to the Holy Spirit for His gift of the “Fear of the Lord,” which allows us to fear the loss of His love before all else.” (Holy Family School of Faith – www.schooloffaith.com)

The courage to change the things I can, means to ask God for the grace to amend my life and my actions to place Him first, to love Him more, and then take that love out into the world.  I can change things within my sphere, with the people I know and interact with, and in the broader world, by the way I live.  But I cannot change you, or other people, or Church leaders, or government officials.  I can be the Light in the world, and the Light changes everything.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

Learning the difference between what I can change and what I cannot change takes time and practice and turning our minds to God more often.  If we ask Him for direction and try to discern His Will in the decisions we make each day, we will acquire over time, the wisdom to know what is ours to take on, or what to leave to God. When we rest in the sure knowledge of God’s love for us and in His Divine Providence and we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our daily lives as we make decisions and plan, then we will be granted the wisdom to know what we can do and we cannot do, what we are called to do and what we are not called to do, what we can change and what we cannot change.  And as our relationship with God deepens and interior lives grow, the peace, the serenity that comes from God alone, will help us to navigate storms of all shapes and sizes, from daily dilemmas to pandemics, with a “settledness,” a resting in the surety of Divine Love and hope for Eternal Life with the love of our lives – Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

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Practice of the Present Moment

The Practice of the Present Moment

By Helen Young

 

A Morning Offering

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!

It is tempting in difficult times to fret about the past and to worry about the future.  In pandemic times it is also tempting to be wary of the unknown in the present.   All of these are natural reactions to situations when we feel uncertain and fearful, when it feels like the sand beneath our feet won’t stop shifting and may in fact turn into quicksand. But what if the sand is not that on which we are to focus?  Perhaps the focus is to be on the beautiful sunrise or the sparkling water?  Both the sunrise and sparking water will be gone in an instant, and we will have missed the beauty of the moment if we only see the sand at our feet.   In order to see the colors of the sky or the dancing sun on the water we must be paying attention in the moment.  If we are distracted by the past or worrying about what comes next, we will miss the beauty.

Our Heavenly Father created the beautiful world in which we live as our temporary home, our eternal home is with Him forever in Heaven.  And Heaven will be ever so much more beautiful, brilliant, enveloping, full of so much more love than we can comprehend.  The feeling of being pierced in the heart with love of God that we experience when prayer is fruitful, or when we are fully engaged in Mass, or when having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend or spouse, or when we do something we love like painting or writing or another creative hobby, these are but a tiny glimpse of the Immense Love that will be the reality of Heaven.

How do we experience these glimpses of Heaven but in the moment?  They are powerful because we are in the moment, present to reality of that exact spot in time.  If we are not paying attention, if we become distracted, the moment is lost and like the fleeting sunrise, we will miss it.  All this is to say that God, who is outside of time and space, is in the present moment.  In every single present moment we can be with Him while we walk here on earth.  But we must be paying attention to Him.

What if the present moment involves suffering?  God became man and entered into the physical world of time and space to save us.  In the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, God experienced everything we experience.  Every feeling, physical, mental and emotional.  There is nowhere we can walk that Jesus has not walked.  When we suffer, we can stop in that moment, and come into the Presence of Jesus, and offer our suffering joined to his, for the salvation of the whole world, or for a specific intention.  God is with us in every moment, in joy and in suffering, we just  to tune into His frequency.  And practice makes it easier to find Him.

What does this look like in our daily lives?  A great way to start is when you first wake up, pay attention to how you feel and what you sense.  Thank God for the sleep and for waking you up for a new day. Then begin your day with prayer time in the morning, and in the prayer time begin with a Morning Offering.  In the Morning Offering we acknowledge God as Divine Providence, and ask for and hope for the openness to turn our will over to His Divine Will and then ask for the guidance and ability to live out what God wills for us and those we encounter in our day.

As we journey through the day that the Lord has given us, we can frequently turn our hearts and minds to Him, to check in, to ask again what His will is in the moment, and to express our love and gratitude to Him for all that He has provided for us – everything! The air we breathe, the lungs to breathe the air, the earth we walk on, the brains to control the bodies we live in, our souls which can connect with other people in love and with our Majestic Triune God in love.

What to do when we forget about God and get caught up in the daily chores and routines of our lives?  When you realize you have not checked in with God, do just that.  Stop for a moment, and say thank you again and enjoy the Presence of God in the moment.  And again, ask for His guidance and protection. And so, our days become many moments of touching base with the One who loves us because He made us, He loves us unconditionally and eternally.  When we check in with God moment by moment we are picking Him before ourselves and our own selfish wills.  When we check in with God, we are able to avoid sin because we stop to see where God is before we act.  When we check in with God, we are able to love others like He does, because we can first experience His love for us, and that love is so abundant it flows out into others.

Staying in the present moment with God, keeping our eyes on Him, takes practice.  Over time, if we keep trying, we will spend more of our day paying attention to Him and His will and focus less on ourselves.  This is the daily path to Union with God.  In this way we are open to receive the abundant grace that God is pouring out all the time.  In order to receive the grace we must: be paying attention to Him, have open hearts to receive the grace, and have open minds to understand His will and what that looks like in the world.  God’s aim is always to bring all of us into His loving embrace.  He desires that each of us who know Him and love Him take the good news of the Gospel and the Light out into the world.  The daily way to light the fire within is the practice of the present moment – checking into the Eternal Flame all through out the day helps us to keep the fire bright and strong.  With our torches lit we can then bring the Light of Christ to our brothers and sisters.

“One of the essential conditions of interior freedom is the ability to live in the present moment. For one thing, it is only then that we can exercise freedom. We have no hold on the past—we can’t change the smallest bit of it. People sometimes try to relive past events considered failures (“I should have done this . . . I should have said that . . .”) but those imaginary scenarios are merely dreams: it is not possible to backtrack. The only free act we can make in regard to the past is to accept it just as it was and leave it trustingly in God’s hands.”
– Fr Jacques Phillipe,
Interior Freedom, p.81

“We may spend our whole lives waiting to live. Thus we risk not fully accepting the reality of our present lives. Yet, what guarantee is there that we won’t be disappointed when the long-awaited time arrives? Meanwhile we don’t put our hearts sufficiently into today, and so miss graces we should be receiving. Let us live each moment to the full, not worrying about whether time is going quickly or slowly but welcoming everything given us moment by moment.”
– 
Interior Freedom, pp.90-91

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We are an Easter People!

Easter reflection April 12, 2020

We are an Easter people, a people of Love!

By Helen Young

 

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Love and Obey.  My wise husband has always said we can sum up all of scripture in those two words.  He would remind me of this when we were in RCIA and were waiting for the time when we could be in full communion with the Church and thus receive Jesus, Body Blood, Soul and Divinity.  When were received into the Catholic Church at Easter 1996 I distinctly remember the longing I felt for eight long months as we waited to receive our first communion at the Easter Vigil.  This longing for the physical Presence of Jesus is something the whole Catholic world is now intensely aware of, as access to the Sacraments has been taken away from us.

We are an Easter people and the normal way we participate in the life of the Church is through the Sacraments.  Through the Sacraments God reaches out and touches us really and personally with sanctifying grace, which changes our souls and makes us more like our Savior Jesus Christ.  When we are deprived of sanctifying grace, we not only feel empty, lonely, and bereft but are also more prone to give into temptation from the enemy.  Our souls become parched without the Sacraments.

And so here we are – a parched people longing for the physical Presence of our Lord.  Our hearts cry out for the love of God that is poured into us through the Sacraments.  Is this not exactly how the disciples must have felt on Holy Saturday and in the days following Jesus’ death as the word of His Resurrection was beginning to spread though the Christian network, but not everyone knew the amazing news.  How must Mary have felt on the day after her son’s horrible torture and death, after watching him suffer and die the worst possible death on the Cross – empty, bereft, grief stricken.

And yet, Mary, so full of grace, must have known that her loving God would make something new out of something awful.  So she waited with love and with longing, but with hope. Mary knew that her God could make all things new.  One of my favorite scenes in The Passion of the Christ is when Mary meet Jesus after He falls and he says to her “See Mother I make all things new.”  Jesus makes all things new through his suffering, death and resurrection.  Even when we have to wait, we can remain strong in the knowledge that He will make all things new.   This must be our posture as we wait for the return of our Sacramental lives.  We wait with love and with longing for the return of Our Eucharistic Lord.  And He will return to us.  In God’s time.

So how do we celebrate this Easter, when we normally receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, but are not able to receive Him?  We celebrate by opening our hearts fully in prayer, by lifting our broken hearts to Our Lord and begging Him to forgive us for the many abuses of the liturgy and of the Eucharist.  We tell Him how much we love Him in prayer and by showing up to pray daily, and we are loved by Him in prayer.  We live the love received by pouring that love out into the world, which right now means loving the people closest to us and also by giving to those in need when we can.

While we are without the Sacraments the primary place we can draw close to Jesus is our interior lives – prayer.  We have time right now – busyness is no longer an excuse.  So while we still have time left in this pandemic shutdown, make daily prayer a priority.  It will change your life.  If you haven’t been praying daily, make time in the morning to pray.  If you already pray daily, lengthen your prayer time or add a devotional prayer time later in the day.  (Basic daily prayer is taught in previous blog posts and in the book Into the Deep by Dan Burke).

We have a Universal Call to Holiness and that call to become Saints is for all of us, not just a few!  Our Resurrected Lord, the second person of the Majestic Trinity, is reaching out to each of us every moment of every day to draw us close to His Father in the Love of the Holy Spirit.  The call to Holiness is the call to Union with God.   But we are closed off from Him.  We are distracted by the world and its fleshly delights, and also its burdens and worries.  But no matter what, Jesus’ love never stops, never fails, never leaves us, but we look away from the One Person who can save us.  Who by His suffering, death and resurrection, redeems us and saves us from ourselves and sin.

So while we have this time apart, this strange time of isolation, instead of focusing on what we don’t have and what we can’t do, let’s instead grow in friendship and relationship with Jesus.  No excuses.  Just do it.  Pray daily.  It will change your life!  Our Resurrected Lord, outside of time and space, is waiting for you to run to Him.  His arms are wide open and His Sacred Heart is longing for union with you. No excuses, pray daily, run to Jesus. Let His love pour into you and overflow into the world.  He is waiting.

 

John 14

Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

25“I have told you this while I am with you.26The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.r27Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

 

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