Well, it’s that time again – Lent, my favorite time of the year – I know, that may sound a bit weird – Lent is supposed to be about sacrifice and detachment and surrender; but that’s what makes it so appealing – by doing these things it brings us so much closer to our God plus @ the end is the Resurrection
Though I have not written this blog since May, I have continued to study, pray, and to work out my “walk” – Lots has happened; not all good by the world’s terms but it is all good if it is the Will of the Father
As before, I will be “commenting” on the things I read and pray about – I will be using the book Divine Intimacy (DI) as well as the Divine Office and the Scripture for Masses. I have also read the book Finding True Happiness by Fulton Sheen and will be diving into the book Making Sense out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft. Of course, there will be some comments about the daily meditations from the Little Black Book and I have signed up for reflections from Father Robert Barron.
As always, the chapters in DI are pretty straight forward and quite heavy during this season. Yesterday’s reflection about Ash Wednesday was about our nothingness; “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Psalm 38 is quoted, “O Lord, my substance is as nothing before Thee” and Sirach “All is vanity, except to love the Lord and serve Him alone”. Of course, this is the complete opposite of what the “world” is espousing these days. All of this mess about ME –Me is important; accumulating things is the goal and Lord knows, don’t say anything negative about me or how I act, or what I do or don’t do!
There is also in these chapters that ever present reference to mortification; again the complete opposite of what we see on TV – does the world really think it is acceptable to center your life on hoarding, extreme couponing and the insane values projected in the Millionaire Matchmaker. Todays chapter is titled Death. It was an in your face reminder that it can “come like a thief in the middle of the night, when we least expect it.” Interesting since recently I have been “hit over the head” with all of the illness around me; family and friends struggling with cancer as well as one friend who was a “victim” of a mistake during back surgery that has completely changed his life. As I grow in my faith, I have learned to not fear death, but that being said, still struggle with embracing sickness and injury and loss. Here is part of the prayer at the end of the chapter, “O death, who will henceforth fear you…….I embrace you, I clasp you in my divine Savior’s heart; there, like a chick under the wind of the mother hen, I shall peacefully await your coming, secure in the knowledge that my most merciful Jesus will sweeten your bitterness and defend me against your rigors.” Imagine that, Jesus sweetening little Mike Olock’s death. Oh how He loves us all!!!!
The Little Black Book today reminded us about the importance of almsgiving. It challenged its readers to “take a large bite out of a week’s paycheck and give it to the poor.” I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and write a bigger check each week. I must trust!!! To elevate this challenge, the second reading in the Office of Readings was from Saint Leo the Great and it too reminded us all of the importance to give. “There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention.” Chew on that Housewives of Beverly Hills, Atlanta, New Jersey and whatever other city these people come from!
I suspect I may get some response from this but this line from the chapter: Waiting in Divine Intimacy caught my attention: Prayer alone will not suffice to draw down divine graces, nor will it acquire eternal life for us. Fraternal charity, the surest pledge of the sincerity of our love for God is an absolute requisite. The Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of charity, who is substantial love, cannot enter a heart which is narrow and mean in its relations with its neighbor; lack of charity is one of the greatest obstacles to His action, because it is directly opposed to His essence. Just as water paralyzes the action of fire, so does lack of charity paralyze the action of the Holy Spirit. The chapters from DI for Friday and Saturday talked about how Mary was given the grace of charity and how it helped her to avoid selfishness, self-interest, and egotism. She was always gracious and attentive to the needs of others. She began with her acts of charity when she visited Elizabeth and built on that charity until she stood at the foot of the cross of her Son and Savior. Here is part of the prayer at the end of the chapter – Yes, O Lord, grant me a true love, so that I may always be faithful to You in little things, since it is not given me to perform great ones. Grant especially that I may always give You the testimony of a sincere profession of faith, of behavior which is wholly conformed to Your law, no matter where or in what circumstance I may be, never letting myself deviate through human respect.
On another subject, yesterday was the first Mother’s Day since my Mother’s passing last July. I miss her very much and still reach for the phone to call her but yesterday I came to realize that she indeed is in a better place. When I miss her the most, I remind myself that she now has no pain, she now is truly at peace and happy, she now loves herself. My mother has made peace with her mother, has forgiven her father and has reconciled with my father. She now is the best version of herself and knows how much her children loved her.
The readings from the OOR of the Liturgy of the Hours have gone from Revelations to the first letter of John. These “love lessons” are so pertinent to this world and to these days. When we are shocked by stories in the news about true evil and hatred, it lends to our sanity to hear about the opposite and to understand that for every evil there is much more love that grows from each wicked situation. In Boston, the acts of fellowship and caring balanced the sick act of the bombing. In Chicago, the three women have been received with prayers, gifts, and acts of kindness. Closer to me, an ugly, ugly divorce of a dear friend has had the reaction of her loving God more, the children more, and loving and appreciating family more. It is simple and John puts it quite clearly – “Yet if we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us…God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him…Love has no room for fear; rather, perfect love cast out all fear. And since fear has to do with punishment, love is not yet perfect in one who is afraid. We, for our part, love because He first loved us. But then we are warned about how our love for God must first extend to our “brothers”. If anyone says, “My love is fixed on God,” yet hates his brother, he is a LIAR. One who has no love for the brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. The commandment we have from Him is this: whoever loves God must also love his brother. Our reaction to hurt must incline us to heal. Our pains must morph into joys and our sadness must blossom into joy.
Today’s Gospel from John 14: has always puzzled me when it comes to Mike Olock and his calling to do the Will of the Father - Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” I don’t have an issue with and understand that if I ask my Lord in the name of Jesus and if that request comes from my love of God; yes, He will grant it. Where I really struggle is the part that says that we (I???) will do greater works than Jesus – please, we are talking about Mike Olock – my faith is strong, I believe without a doubt in the power of our Lord, but me doing works greater than He!!??!! Maybe it’s just that I did learn something from all those lessons in humility but I must pray more about this for the confidence I need.
A reflection in the Little White Book this week made me think a bit as well as to how serious we must be about our full commitment to this life of faith. It is beautiful to behold…But one thing is clear: The things Jesus is saying this week about love are meant to be a commandment, not a frill. His commandment is meant to be our trademark, not just one of many interesting features.
Then there are the lessons from Divine Intimacy on Mary – She, without argument is the Mother of God; she without dispute is the spouse of the Holy Spirit; she without too much stretch of the imagination is also our Mother, the new Eve. It then goes to say that all of us should treat her as if we would treat our mothers. We should pay attention to her; listen to what she says; accept her correction, and spend quality time with her. Check out what St. Alphonsus says about her – “If Jesus is the Father of our souls, Mary is their Mother, for, in giving us Jesus, she gave us true life; and later, by offering on Calvary the life of her Son for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of divine grace.” As one woman, Eve, had cooperated in the losing of grace, so by a harmonious disposition of divine Providence, another woman, Mary, would cooperate in the restoration of grace. It goes on to say – It is true that all grace comes from Jesus, who is the only source of grace and the one and only Savior; but inasmuch as Mary gave Jesus to the world, and was intimately associated with His whole life and work, we can truly say that grace also comes from Mary. “If Jesus is its source, Mary is its channel, the aqueduct which carries it to us”. – St. Bernard
As I read these chapters on Mary, I couldn’t help but think of the moment when Mary went to heaven and met Eve. What a joyful and incredibly special moment that would have been as Eve met Mary and thanked her for her fiat. WOW!!!!!
I will leave you with a part of the prayer at the end of one of the Marian chapters in DI – O Mary, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit, look upon my wretchedness and my weakness, You see how hard my heart is, how dull my mind; (boy, that is me) help me, therefore, O faithful Virgin, to overcome the resistance of my pride, my selfishness and my cowardice, so that my soul may open itself fully to the invasion of grace, abandoning itself with docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, promptly following His impulses, inspirations, and invitations. I especially like the image of “invasion of grace”!!!!!!
John 13:34-35 My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Today’s Gospel says it all – there is so much in these four sentences (not surprising, since they were one of the last things said by Jesus before he returned to sit at the right hand of the Father)
My pastor gave an incredible homily on this. He went in the direction of marriage and how this type of love is the only type of love that will result in a true, covenant, sharing union. He pointed to the cross, as he often does, and “challenged” the couples to love each other that much. Love that includes sacrifice; love that is about total giving and not “what’s in it for me”. This love; the love that our God has for us is all about us. Simply put, the Father loved us so much that He gave us His only Son and the Son loved the Father and us so much that He obediently stretched out His hands to embrace death so that we can have life. Then he rose from the dead and stayed for a while with us to give us this new commandment and then to top it all off, sent the love of the Son and the Father, the Holy Spirit, to be our guide and our inspiration.
When I spoke about this Gospel at the assisted living home, I extended that invitation to love as God loved us to include the love we are all called to give to siblings, parents, children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. I spoke of loving someone enough to say NO. I spoke of loving someone enough to become unpopular. I spoke of loving someone enough to not enable wrongful behavior.
Just the fact that Jesus called them “my children” is a great lesson – though they had not received the Holy Spirit, they were starting to truly get what really happened – they begun to see the depth of the sacrifice of not just the man they knew as Jesus but the Jesus they came to know as the Son of the Father. I also spoke of how their culture was steeped in a love that was very conditional. The Jewish people did not understand the concept of ”agape” love – it was not part of their culture – but now Jesus was telling them that they must love each other in a very different way. Now they would be known as followers of the Christ by how they acted, how they treated each other and not by what they said.
This “awakening” I have experienced during this Lent and Easter season has helped me to better understand the meaning of true love; the love that Jesus speaks of here. I have recently experienced an occasion to love in ways I could never do before. I have loved unconditionally, but now it is different. I see my friends differently. My love no longer includes anxiety about that level of love not being returned. I have begun to understand that the more I love my God, the more I can love without expecting anything from those I open my heart to. I no longer am “agitated” by repeated phone calls from a mentally challenged person God has put in my life. I am now at peace with friends who do not acknowledge and even make fun of my faith life. I am becoming more accepting of the challenges God puts in my life. I am learning to deal with rejection; hopefully like Jesus dealt with rejection. It’s all Okay – as long as it is the will of the Father.
This week’s lessons in Divine Intimacy were about how to love God while going to and participating in Mass. They continued to remind me of how I must have the love of God as the center of my prayer life. As I have stated earlier, it is never to be about me; even not to be about others; but always to be about God. (Thanks again to Father Brian for that truth) God knows that this is what is best for me – He does not need it; He’s God – but knows if I focus completely on Him, then I will know true joy.
Back to today’s Gospel - I mentioned again to the people at the Communion service that I had always told my children that my job as a parent had nothing to do with making them happy. I noted that my job was about teaching them the right way to God; as is the task of husband and wife as mentioned by Father Kevin this morning. Our job as a husband or wife is to help each other to our salvation – the same job we have as a parent, friend, or sibling. That is what Jesus was saying to the disciples – unconditionally love though suffering, pain and heartache so that those you love will one day join our Lord in the eternity of heaven.
How can something that seems this logical be so hard to do? Thank the Lord for the gift of grace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
O my God, Blessed Trinity, be my dwelling, my rest, my Father’s house which I shall never leave. Let me abide in You, not for a few fleeting minutes or hours, but permanently, habitually. May I pray in You, adore in You, love in You suffer in You work and act in You alone.
This is part of the prayer from Monday’s chapter in Divine Intimacy; Practice of the Presence of God. The chapters on the different ways to pray have logically been leading up to this. This chapter explains how we truly can “be constant in prayer”. The practice of the presence of God really consists in making strong efforts to keep God always present in our mind and heart, even when we are engaged in our daily tasks…I can make it a practice to view all the circumstance of my life in the light of faith, and therefore, arranged by divine Providence for my good. This will incline me to accept them and to repeat continually to my heavenly Father: “I am content with everything You do.” This is what St. Teresa of Jesus says of this critical step to intimacy with God – Thus a teacher can always consider god present in his pupils, a doctor or a nurse, in their patients; a merchant or a dressmaker, in their customers, and so on. This is what I have been trying to do since the beginning of Lent. I have tried to always have God on my mind as I make decisions, converse with friends, and do my job. My hope is that I will one day, as St. Teresa notes, “become accustomed to having Him at my side, and if he sees that I love to have Him there and are always trying to please Him, I will never be able, as we put it, to send Him away.”
The second reading in the OOR in today’s Liturgy of the Hours was about how “Each one of us called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest” – Listen to the Lord’s appeal: In me, I want you to see your won body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your Father? (& I will add, run with your eyes closed and at full speed) Then he goes on to console us – Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. How beautiful is that? How awesome is our God. Then St. Peter Chrysologus goes on to say, Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. That is why the T in our ACTS acronym I so important. We all must read and study our Theology. I must continue on this quest to become the best version of myself. I must keep burning the continually the sweet-smelling incense of prayer. I must continue to offer up my free will and always strive to do the Will of the Father.
Today is Protestant Day. Today, we of the Catholic faith must pray for all of our Christian, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Protestant brothers and sisters who do not accept the Scripture from today’s Gospel at Mass. From the Bread of Life Discourse, today we heard Jesus say emphatically, “Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood; you do not have life within you.” To me, pretty cut and dry. To me, there isn’t much to “interpret”. Soon after that, Jesus at the Passover meal took bread, broke it, gave it to His apostles and said, Take this all of you and eat of it, this is my Body… - not much of a stretch to little old me that Jesus intended for the sacrament of the Eucharist to be what we as Catholics know as Holy Communion; the grace He intended for us to become the best version of ourselves, the grace our Lord gives us to fight through the times of aridity, the grace the Christ left us to walk the path to eternal life. Pray for your Congregational, and Methodist, and Baptist siblings. Pray that they one day possess the entire truth!
The chapter From Divine Intimacy I read today was titled, Loving Attention to God. Somehow I got a bit messed up and read Friday’s chapter on Thursday, but for you that read yesterday’s blog, you might see why I did this. Of course, it was a mistake by humble me but maybe one that was meant to be. Today the chapter crosses into supernatural love of charity; what it refers to as a love of the will, which does not have to be felt. It consists solely in a decision of the will by which the soul gives itself entirely to His service. This is the real love, which leads to the “sense of God.” St. John of the Cross calls this infused passive love, that is, love by which the soul goes to God, no longer by a decision of the will, but also by a secret drawing to God Himself. This explains why this love, although not felt at all, is in reality stronger than before; it urges the soul to give itself to God with increasingly strong resolve. It is God Himself who, drawing, it secretly to Himself, awakens love in it. This might explain how “avoiding the near occasion to sin” and daily prayer do not take the effort it did in the past. This might be the explanation why this new faith and prayer life I am experiencing is so much easier than it seemed before. Later in the chapter it warns that the soul will want to return to meditation. Again, St. john of the Cross warns that a return to reliance on a simpler prayer life would only succeed in disturbing God’s action within it. He goes on to warn that this is not a call to abandon the other forms of prayer; only it is the preferred way out of bouts with aridity and dryness.
This is an interesting part of the closing prayer for this chapter: O Lord, when I feel nothing, when I am incapable of praying or practicing virtue, then is the moment to look for small occasions, nothings, to give You pleasure. For example, a smile, a friendly word, when I should much prefer to say nothing at all or look bored…When I find no occasions, at least I want to keep telling You that I love You; it is not difficult and it keeps the fire of love going even if that fire were to seem, wholly out, I should throw little bits of straw on ashes, little acts of virtue and of charity; and I am sure that, with Your help, the fire would be enkindled again.
Reminds me of another verse in Scripture about His burden being easy, His yoke is light.
The last two chapters of Divine Intimacy, at first, don’t make sense – but on further thought are the most logical thoughts that could be – the reason – they are the biography of my faith life over the last two years
Yesterday’s chapter was Aridity & Contemplation – The aridity which comes from God not only has the advantage of making us go forward in virtue, but I also brings us to a higher form of prayer - & here is why – the first sign is: the soul finds no pleasure or consolation in the things of God, it also fails to find pleasure in anything created – This is exactly how I have felt – the world around me seemed lifeless; lots of excess, lots of neglect, no effort to make things better & a general vision of a world turning to shit. In regards to consolation in the things of God; again a feeling that nothing seemed to be going in what I thought would be how the Father would have willed His creation to be – now, there were some exceptions with the lives of my children but even then, there was something missing, some lack depth that was disturbing to my soul and as written in the chapter, I turned to seeking human satisfactions – I fell into the trap of endless hours watching endless crap on TV; spent lots of time doing lots of nothing along with a return to seeking earthly pleasures, numbing my mind and remained firm in my decision to keep my heart detached from the joy of being with God.. The second sign is that, in spite of aridity, “the memory is ordinarily centered upon God with painful care and solicitude, fearing that it does not love God and is not serving Him; and at the same time, it continues to seek Him with the anxiety of one who does not succeed in finding its treasure. I had stopped my prayer routine, I did not post any of these blogs, I did not make any extra effort to attend daily Mass but was completely conscious and aware that I was doing something I did not wish to do while having a weird aching to return to the path, yet still digging in my footsteps outside the Way. As the chapter said – The soul remains then always as if suffering because of the absence of a loved one – and truthfully, as noted in the chapter, my soul was not at all grieved about not loving God; it became indifferent. The last sign consists in the fact that “the soul can no longer meditate or reflect in the imaginative sphere of sense as it was wont, however much it may of itself endeavor to do so”. That was me, which is exactly where I was – but the beginning of the next paragraph explained why: By plunging the soul into aridity, God wishes to elevate it, to make it pass from a too human and low way of treating with Him, to a higher and more supernatural way. In mediation the soul went to God thought intellectual effort-an excellent method, but one that is necessarily limited and inadequate in brining us to know God who, being infinite, immensely exceeds the capacity of our mind. Now when God puts aridity into the soul, He makes meditation impossible for her, and forces her, so to speak, to go to Him by another way; and that is where I hope I am now – as the chapter says, I now seek the experience of love, the “sense” of His greatness.
Now on to today’s chapter, Practical Conduct. We now receive instruction that the soul must learn to pray aided by the secret, delicate influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit… and the soul finds itself in the attitude of loving attention to God. Far from being idle, the soul fixes its gaze on God precisely by means of this prolonged act of faith and love….and because it is helped by the Holy Spirit it “will take pleasure in being alone and waiting with loving attentiveness upon God, in interior peace, quietness and rest, without making any particular meditations. I get it!!!!!!! – this is the meaning of being constantly in prayer – Ephesians 6:18, my mantra. The chapter goes on to warn that this level of prayer takes effort – The soul should involve itself in “personal activity”. As I have done (without realizing it), I have returned to reading books and academic study. I am preparing to present the Robert Barron Series: Catholicism and this has me watching amazing videos and reading his incredible book on the series. I need to reread The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation by St. Alphonsus Ligouri and I have done simple things like reading the Little White Book of daily meditations. Here is part of the prayer at the end of the DI chapter from St. Augustine – “O Father, I do not know the road that will bring me to You. Show it to me; teach me the way. Give me whatever I need. If those who take refuge in You find You by faith, the give me faith; if they find You by virtue, give me virtue, and increase my faith and charity. Give me an immovable faith, O Lord, and an ardent charity! Grant that I may walk in faith and lover, and await in faith and love Your visit to my soul….instruct me, be my teacher, help me to know God. You who are Spirit of Love, give me a loving knowledge of Him, so that I may always tend toward Him and be entirely captivated by love of Him."
Yesterday’s Gospel holds a special significance for me. In April 2007 I was Director for the ACTS retreat with the theme “Follow Me” from John’s 21st chapter. Twenty four men attended and were served by a team of twenty eight special brothers of mine who will always hold a special place in my heart and prayers. When I gave my talk at the Communion Service @ the Assisted Living facility that I minister at, I talked about how this was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles, who had now returned to their pre-Jesus life, fishing. I told those gathered the story about Thomas I posted in the last blog and made the parallel as to how Thomas was on the other side of the doubting as well as how Peter in this Gospel was able to annul his three denials with the three proclamations that he loved Jesus. Then I told the story of the significance of the 153 fish. That very specific number, it is said, represented the number of species of fish in sea. It represented the entire population, which Jesus was about to send out the twelve to preach the Good News. Its significance was that the Gospel would now be preached to all. Thomas went to India, Nathanael went to Persia and Ethiopia, Paul to Italy, Sicily, Macedonia & many other places, and Mark & Barnabas traveled to Syria. I wander where God may send me if it is His will that I get to do the same. I asked those gathered yesterday to pray for me in regards to my reaching out to do the Will of the Father and ask you to do the same.
Today’s chapter in Divine Intimacy is titled Aridity and Progress. It gave hope for those experiencing aridity by offering this antidote: Then the poor soul worries and is afraid, thinking that the Lord has abandoned it because of some fault or other. What the soul does not realize is that this kind of aridity conceals a great grace-the grace of purification and progress in the ways of prayer. In fact, by means of aridity, the Lord intends to free it from childish feelings and to raise it to the purer, firmer level of the will. When it was experiencing so much comfort in prayer, the soul, unknown to itself, was becoming somewhat attached to these sensible consolations. Hence it loved and sought prayer not purely for God, but also a little for itself. Now, deprived of all attraction for prayer, the soul will henceforth learn to apply itself to it solely to give pleasure to the Lord. So, maybe that is what happened to me during the times of dryness I experienced since the Dark Night of the Soul I experienced two years ago. My soul needed progress towards humility. So, I must remember this the next time it happens: If, therefore, during the time of prayer we can do nothing but humble ourselves before God, by recognizing our own nothingness and showing Him our impotence, our incapacity, yes, even offering God this very nothingness in adoration of His infinite majesty, we will have made very good use of our time. That is where I went wrong. I simply drifted back into a time of waste and let the nothingness engulf me and led me to not avoid the near occasion to sin. If this happens again, and I am sure it will, I should offer up this from the prayer at the end of the chapter: “O my Jesus, nothing from You but dryness, But I am very happy to suffer that which You want me to suffer. I am happy to see that You show me that I am not a stranger by treating me like this. O Lord, make my darkness serve to enlighten souls. I consent, if such is Your will, to continue walking all my life in the darkness of faith, provided that one day I arrive at the goal of the mountain of love. That’s it, keep my eyes on the goal and don’t be afraid of the dark.
This was at the end of the reflection in the Little White book: With the Spirit of God in my life, I am somebody. I am connected to the Lord. Because of that connection, every moment that I live, no matter how painful it may be at times or how empty it feels, is filled with value and with meaning. That’s not nothing. That’s everything.
Follow Me - John 21:19
Who was this man, Thomas the Apostle; forever known as the Doubter – but as noted in the Little White Book, he was also called Didymus, “the Twin”. This nickname was given to him because it is said that he may have looked very much like Jesus. He was the one, who when the apostles wanted to flee after the Jews wanted to stone Jesus, wanted to “also go, that we may die with him.”
So who was this bold man – why was he missing the first time that Jesus appeared to the apostles. Why was it that he saw Jesus a week after the rest? One account is that he may have been on a “bender” and had taken to wine to escape the idea that his “twin” had been crucified while he was hiding from the Romans.
Are any of us any different? Could we be accused of doubting? What is different about any of us who have not boldly avoided the near occasion to sin and used drugs or alcohol or any of the countless other addictions while we doubted our worth or “hid” our weaknesses? I myself have asked the question, “How could the apostles not see who Jesus was and understood what he was trying to show them? How did they not boldly defend their friend? How was it that Peter denied the Lord who He proclaimed was the Messiah? Of course, we all are guilty of the same if we profess that we are Christians and are not living a holy and righteous life. We are no different than Thomas, Peter, or even Judas.
The crux of the story of Thomas was the joy he must have had when He did place his hand in the side of Jesus. He was the one who proclaimed Jesus to be God as He realized that this was truly his dear friend and twin Jesus.
Thomas was also included in another story of doubt. It was said that he was the only apostle to witness the Assumption of Mary into heaven. As the story goes, the rest of the 12 were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to witness Mary’s death while Thomas was left in India where he was spreading the Good News; but after her first burial he was transported to her tomb, where he witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven, from which she dropped her girdle. In an inversion of the story of Thomas' doubts, the other apostles are skeptical of Thomas' story until they see the empty tomb and the girdle. Oh the wisdom of God and how he weaves all things so that we may believe and not doubt the Risen One.
The readings from the Divine Office this week offered much wisdom. This was from a sermon by St. Theodore the Studite – How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return. – Great stuff
Then on Wednesday we read this gem from Romans 6:8-11 If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus
The Easter season can be a busy time; especially if one absorbs themselves in study and prayer – For instance, I have continued with four things as part of my day. I pray the Divine Office as well as read a very short six-minute reflection from the Little White Book as well as a daily chapter from the book Divine Intimacy. I also have attended daily Mass where I have heard readings from the Acts of the Apostles as well as Gospels like today’s feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. In many ways, four simple things going on theologically; but in many ways there is a myriad of complex concepts that, back to the simple, lead back to one thing, our God. This takes up only about two hours a day but is much, much more fulfilling than watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory and the latest installment of Dancing with the Stars. J
The Divine Intimacy chapters this week were on prayer; how to and the different types of prayer. It begins with Vocal Prayer or the recitation of rote prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It, as one can imagine talks about how these prayers begin to connect us to God; how they allow us to visualize who our God is. From the prayer at the end of the chapter – “When we approach You, then, let us try to realize who You are with whom we are about to speak. If we had a thousand lives we should never fully understand what are Your merits, Lord, and how we should behave before You, before whom the angles tremble…We cannot approach a prince and address him in a careless way. Shall less respect be paid to You, my Spouse, than to men? Then on Tuesday Meditative Reading is introduced; the next step. This “leap” is one that is intimate; and so turns towards mental prayer. Now we in prayer allow the words of the prayer, the story, to allow our minds to drift to God, to be directed towards contemplating God. The chapter gives the analogy of birds taking a few drops of water then raising their beaks toward heaven to swallow them. Such is our way when we pray in the form of Meditative Reading. The next day is a bigger leap to Meditation, where now we begin to bring our souls to divine intimacy through obtaining a “loving knowledge of God”. It says in the chapter – Thus meditation, the discourse of the intellect, will bring us spontaneously to the exercise of love. For this reason we do not give the principal place in our prayer to reflection and reasoning, however lofty and sublime they may be; but we make use of them only insofar as is necessary to awaken love within us, to place us and maintain us in the actual exercise of love. Yesterday the chapter was Intimate Converse with God. Check this out – We must not believe that in order to treat intimately with God and to sow Him our love, it is always necessary to do so by means of words. On the contrary-and this happens spontaneously with progress in the spiritual life-we will often prefer to be silent in order to fix our gaze calmly on our Lord, to listen to Him, the interior Master, and to return Him love in silence. At the end of the chapter it warns that even though one will drift back into reflection and to thoughts, this form of intimate communication with God Nevertheless, must be remembered that more is gained in these silent pauses at the feet of our Lord than in a thousand reasonings and discourse. Cool stuff, heavy but cool stuff. Then when my wee brain is truly pushed to the limit the book introduces Prayer of Recollection- the divine presence of God in our souls. The prayer of recollection consists in the realization of this great truth: God is in me, my soul is His temple; I recollect (rest) myself in the intimacy of this temple to adore Him, love Him, and unite myself in Him. WOW
This is where I continue to beg forgiveness for my “previous life”, one of sin and imperfections. To now begin to understand these concepts, I am more motivated than ever to change my life from waste and aridity (which by the way is tomorrows chapter) to one of an attempt to become intimate with my God by reading, prayer, and attendance at daily Mass (if I only did not have to work and could dedicate myself more to a life in God). This is from the prayer at the end of the chapter – O Lord, You say to my soul, ‘My kingdom is within you.’ It is very comforting to know that You never leave me, and that I cannot exist without You. What more do you want, O my soul, and what do you seek elsewhere, since you possess within yourself your wealth, your love, your peace, your plentitude, and your kingdom, that is, the Beloved whom you desire and for whom you sigh?”
Tomorrow I will post my musings on the Gospel about Thomas in the Little White book along with the lessons in the breviary and Sunday will write what God puts in my mind about the readings and Gospels from Mass.
p.s. – I was also given the amazing gift of joy and hope this week from three very, very special ladies in my life as well as a chance to rise above some anger and disappointment. It seems like the closer I get to God, the more the challenges come as well!!!???!!!