Last Sunday was Palm Sunday or what I call “Deception Sunday” – In the beginning of the Mass we hear of Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna in the Highest – the Gospel acclamation was our first exposure for Holy Week to the Passion – thus lies the deception – the same people who shouted Hosanna, a very short time later shouted Crucify Him
I think that many of us are guilty of this deception as well. We go to receive Communion, and then before we even get home we are cursing at the driver who didn’t yield to us as we enter the highway on our way home to do everything except Honor the Lord’s Day!
The lessons in Divine Intimacy have returned to Humility and continue to challenge me to take up my daily Cross and embrace my sorrows. The chapter on Suffering and Abandonment again reminded me that I must “abandon myself to God”. This chapter mentions selfish tendencies as “the worm of Christian sorrow” and dares us to “forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the suffering of others and endeavor to alleviate them.” This is how we are to bear our own suffering – we must be mindful that we are never alone in our suffering and our troubles are “but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus. I am reminded that I must embrace my crosses, not just accept them. God knows what I need; but I continue to fret about things I want. I must be happy for those I love who have found love – I must feel hurt when those I love are struggling – I must love without expecting love in return – I must love as Jesus loves us as he triumphantly rode into Jerusalem to walk to His death - I must realize that my pain is not important for me but is important for God.
Before Jesus went to Jerusalem, He was “anointed” in Bethany by Mary, “the symbol of the soul in love with God.” Sacrifice of oneself to consecrate ourselves to God is the goal. Nothing is waste if it is for God.
This morning the DI chapter was the Meek Lamb – It was a reminder that Jesus knew all along what He was to do. His heart was constantly tortured by the “His hour” – “If the Passion, in its historical reality, took place in less than 24 hours, in its spiritual reality it spanned Jesus’ entire life.” This was something very powerful from St. Basil in this morning’s Office of Readings – “To attain holiness, the, we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate Him in His death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said he wanted to become like Jesus in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.” There it is again – we must look forward to suffering and not pray, as I had for so many years, that I would die peacefully in my sleep. I must be “born again” and that rebirth means that I must embrace my challenges and confront my fears.
Work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation. It is God who, in his good will toward you, begets in you any measure of desire or achievement. In everything you do, act without grumbling or arguing; prove yourselves innocent and straightforward, children of God without reproach.
This was tonight’s reading from Philippians. It calls us to do for God and do everything without complaining; while maintaining a guiltless attitude.
The title of today’s blog comes from the chapters in DI over the last week. The beginning lessons on humility calls us to not rely on ourselves but totally on God. St. Teresa of Jesus said, “the soul must sometimes emerge from self-knowledge and soar aloft in meditation upon the greatness and the majesty of its God. The chapter went on with this tidbit to chew on – True humility, however deep it may be, neither disquiets, nor troubles, nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy, and tranquility…It enlarges it and makes it fit to serve God better. This is where I continue to struggle. My soul is still too disturbed by my need to feel wanted or needed. I know I am to do everything for and with God but the self keeps creeping in.
Then the next chapter was on Humiliations. It logically states that it is impossible to gain humility without humiliations. As a sinner, we should simply expect humiliations. Again, this concept of nothingness sneaks in and reminds me that I should not seek to be important or “make a difference” but should be happy to simply “bear my humiliations patiently, for man is tried in this crucible as gold in the fire: (from Sirach) The prayer at the end of the chapter starts with this – “O Lord, how can a person like me, who deserves to be tortured by demons for eternity, be insulted? If I am badly treated in this world, is it not just? We should not be hurt when insulted or humiliated; we should do as Jesus did as He was humiliated on the way to Calvary; we should thank our God for sharing in the same insults as our Savior did.
Then when these lessons are completely contrary to what the world is teaching; last night’s chapter was The Hidden Life. To imitate Jesus’ humility perfectly, we must share in His hidden life, veiling, as He did, everything in us that might attract attention or praise from others, whatever might single us out or make us noticed, fleeing as far as we are able from every mark of distinction. We should disdain all praise and “do our good works in secret.” Then when this all seems to be too much, tonight's chapter is on being hidden from myself and it states, it is not enough to hide oneself from the attention of others; we must also hide from ourselves, that is forget ourselves, avoiding all excessive concern about ourselves. We must not even worry about the condition of our spiritual life. This truly is a call to doing everything for God. This total purity of intention makes the soul act for God alone and never for personal interest, even of a spiritual nature. We must look at ourselves as lowly and wretched. We must think of ourselves as weak and not deserving of any credit or merit. Then we will begin to please God for God’s sake and not ours.
This truly is the complete opposite of what the world is teaching. No winners or losers; everyone is great and everyone deserves all they can get; it’s okay to do whatever we want. This concept of humility is opposite of the move to ban words that may be offensive. These chapters offer to us the need to be called names that would offend. These chapters invite us to be “labeled”. And the most interesting part of it is this - & WE ARE TO LIKE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lessons have changed from Suffering to Humility – makes sense for we are called to embrace our suffering with meekness and humility. In the Morning Prayer, we are challenged in the words of Joel 2:12-13, Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is HE, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
Yesterday's chapter in DI was OUR PLACE and reminded us that we are only God’s little creature, entirely dependent upon Him for our existence, and for all our works. Then the chapter gives a wonderful correlation of our dependence on God as the author uses a lesson in physics to explain God’s hand in our life. God gave us existence by His creative action, maintains life in us by His conserving action. In addition we cannot perform the slightest act without God’s cooperation, in the same way that a machine – even a perfect one cannot make any motion until it is started by the one who made it. My brothers and sisters, we do believe in evolution; the difference is that we believe that God created the Big Bang! (of course, we don’t believe that we evolved from apes; but the rest of science is undeniable)
Paul in his letter to the Philippians clarified how important God is in our function; Without God we cannot think, or speak, or desire any good, for it is God who works in you both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will.
Today’s DI chapter was HUMILITY and CONFIDENCE and starts like this: Christian humility does not lower, it elevates; it does not cast down, but gives courage, for the more it reveals to the soul its nothingness and abjection, the more it moves it toward God with confidence and abandonment. The Evening Prayer reading was from Colossians and sets up the lesson of being confident in embracing our nothingness. Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord rather than for men, since you know full well you will receive an inheritance from Him as your reward. Be SLAVES of Christ the Lord. That's right it says be slaves! The DI chapter also reminds us of our complete free will and our choice to live for God or for ourselves. When a soul practically forgets its nothingness, and still relies on its own strength, knowledge, initiative, or virtues-be it ever so little-God leaves it to itself. The failures which follow, the falls, the fruitlessness of its works-all reveal its insufficiency; and the more a soul insists upon trusting in itself, so much the more will the Lord prolong this experience of its nothingness…Confidence in God increases in proportion to our mistrust of ourselves; it becomes total when the soul, having acquired a thorough comprehension of its nothingness, has lost all faith in its own resources.
My life has been a good example of this – For too many years I tried to do this; I tried to build myself up; to study; to work hard at becoming what I thought would assure that I would “make it in this world.” As you can imagine, and for some of you that know my life story; my efforts were in vain. I slipped and fell; I kept running into walls and tumbling off of cliffs. It was only after I gave up control; when I started to let go of controlling my fate did I begin to walk a smoother path. Yes, there was still tragedy, heartache, and challenges; but now it was God who led the way and provided the answers and the graces to stay firmly on the path and give me peace in my decisions and actions. The prayer in the end of the chapter says it all – O Lord, your light penetrates my soul and makes me understand how far from Your ways are mine! Instead of being disturbed on account of my miseries and discouraged by my falls and failures, instead of pretending to succeed in everything and to accomplish great things, I must humbly accept the fact that I am weak, needy, and absolutely unable to get along without Your help.
Real simple - LET GO AND LET GOD!!!!!!!!!!!
From the first chapter of Isaiah: Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.
Today’s theme for all the meditations is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Little Black Book there was a story that
went like this: Once upon a time,
confessing one’s sins to another lay person or to monks or to persons who were
not priests was quite common. That changed with the Council of
After I finished the Little Black Book meditation I opened up to read
today’s chapter in Divine Intimacy and the title was CONFESSION; go
figure. I really should duplicate the
entire chapter but here are some of the highlights: Penance is the sacrament of Christ’s Precious Blood in which God “has
bathed us in order to cleanse the face of our souls from the leprosy of sin.” Thank
you St. Catherine of
This is what the Catholic Church teaches about what happens when the priest says the words: “I absolve thee.” At that moment it is Jesus who is acting in the soul, either by remitting sin or by producing or increasing grace. It is well to remember that the value of the absolution is not limited merely to sins that have already been committed, but that it even extends into the future. By means of sacramental grace, the soul is strengthened beforehand against relapses and it is offered the fortitude to resist temptations and to carry out its good resolutions. The blood of Christ is , in this sense, not only a remedy for the past, but also a preservative and a strengthening help for the future…We see then the importance of frequent confession for a soul desirous of union with God, a soul which must necessarily aspire to total purification.
I venture that this is a new and maybe an entirely different concept to most Catholics. You read it correctly; we are not just to go to reconciliation to confess our sins but to GET STRENGTH NOT TO SIN AGAIN! It’s not about, “I swore three times and I lied seven times”; that’s confession for little kids. As adults we tell the priest about both the motives as well as the struggle. I will get a little personal here. When I go to confession, the first thing I usually say is that I need the grace to be more patient, the thing that I struggle with the most. I don’t list out all of the times I have been impatient, but ask for the grace to accept things in God’s time, not Mike Olock’s time.
I leave you with part of the prayer at the end of the chapter: O Jesus, if just one drop of Your Precious Blood has the power to wipe out all the crimes of the world, what will it not do in me when You pour it so abundantly over my faith and give me a complete understanding of the immense value of the sacrament of Your Blood. Only Your Blood can wash away my sins, purify the stains on my soul, and heal and vivify it. Oh! grant that this salutary bath may cleanse my whole being and restore it entirely to Your grace and love!
It is not just a question of my individual sins. It’s my sinfulness itself, the flaw in my system that only God’s grace can mend.
This morning in Divine Intimacy, I read a chapter that totally blew me away when I first read it four years ago & this is what I wrote back then: Well, the bar has been raised again. The DI chapter today was titled Imperfections and was about not acting on a word from the Holy Spirit (“omission of some good act to which we are not obliged by law, but one which charity invites us to do”). Now in addition to avoiding all and any possibility of sin, we are called to “perform the better act.” Father Gabriel reminded me that I have to watch for selfishness, laziness, meanness, or fondness for my own comfort taking priority over performing acts of charity. This truly is a call to perfection!!! Yesterday the chapter was Venial Sin. Let’s not kid ourselves; sin is sin and they all are “counter to God’s will and decrease the soul’s tendency toward God, and increase, on the other hand, its leaning toward self-satisfaction.” I think I should have started this journey much earlier in life. I hope I am not too old to get to the finish line before I kick the bucket. My bucket list is changing from worldly to heavenly. I think the worldly would have been easier – The Holy Spirit is always looking to “guide us” and because of this chapter, I, when asked last year by some students at UMass if I had a few extra dollars for gas, put in my credit card at their pump and let them fill their tank; I think it cost me $16.50. Three of the four had their hair in dreadlocks, the girls wore clothes from the 70's and they were in a “hippie van” and were trying to make a trip to see friends in Boston. One of the girls in the group expressed her surprise that I did this and asked why I did without question or hesitation. I simply said, “the Holy Spirit of God once taught me to help those when asked”. She smiled and said, “I figured that would be your answer – we are Christians too!”
Father Barron had some interesting “challenges”
in his reflections yesterday and today.
Yesterday he wrote, Why do we give alms? Because when
we share gifts or charity with those in need, we're acknowledging the fact that
we're not in this alone, that the things that we own are meant for others.
Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that we have the right to private ownership, but not the right to private use. The use of private property must
be for the sake of the common good.
How do we signal that public use? We give alms. Lent is the perfect time to survey our material possessions, which often results in realizing we have too many, and then give some away. There are many practical ways to do it. For example, during Lent, whenever you get a letter in the mail from some reputable organization asking for money, give them something. Now I know you're probably on every mailing list in the entire world, and maybe you only give $1 or $5 to each request. But decide that over the next six weeks, whenever a respected person or group asks you for money, you give them something. This is a tangible way to follow Jesus' command from the Gospel of Matthew: "Give to everyone who asks you" (Mt 5:42). Then today he challenged us to do the most dreaded thing for most people, CHANGE. The first words Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark set the tone for the entire Gospel and, one could say, for the whole of Christianity: "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the Good News." By noting "the time of fulfillment," Jesus is referring to something humans have been longing for, hoping to see arrive. It's as if he's saying, "The privileged time is here." These words provide a sort of wake-up call, a warning bell in the night. They're similar to what worshipers hear repeatedly in the Byzantine liturgy: "Be attentive! Let us be attentive!" But how should we be attentive? Jesus is eminently clear: "Reform your lives and believe in the Good News." The Greek word for "reform" is metanoiete, a term derived from two words, meta (beyond) and nous (mind). Thus in its most basic form it means something like "go beyond the mind that you have." Jesus is commanding a change that takes place at a an elemental and all-embracing level of one's being. He's telling his listeners to change the way they see, the way they think, the way they imagine.
Change your attitude. Change your perspective. Change your angle, your mode of vision.
I expect the readings in tonight’s evening prayer will follow suit. Lent is a time for a metanoiete. It is a time to do things that are “uncomfortable” to do something outside of the box. So, give someone something if they ask it of you. Be like Thomas Aquinas.
Yesterday and this morning, for me, was a spiritual perfect storm. It started by my going to confession after Mass. It had been too, too long since I have taken advantage of this sacrament after a good run of going on a regular basis (I try to go monthly; thanks again Dennis O’Connor for the inspiration). I felt really, really good after going and must try and keep up the commitment I made when I directed an ACTS retreat in 2008. A few hours later I taught the first session of the Confirmation class I do for my parish where I began the review of the Creed. The Holy Spirit gave me the words to keep the interest of 14 & 15 year olds for an hour, which is a miracle in itself. Then I left the class to attend the movie, Son of God, with friends and their daughter. The movie is well done. The actor who portrayed Jesus did an excellent job showing Jesus’ compassion, care, and love. It gave a very realistic view of what life was like for the Jewish nation and in my opinion was very close to what the Bible teaches us about the life of Jesus and the Apostles. But then came the Passion. You know, it’s difficult looking at the crucifix sometimes and I am overwhelmed during Stations but seeing the movies portrayal of the scourging, the crown of thorns, and then the Crucifixion hit me in the core of my being. As I watched Jesus being beaten, I felt my hand on the handle of that whip due to my sins. As they placed the crown of thorns on His head, I couldn’t help but think of all of the sins of thought I committed in my life. What really hit home to me last night was seeing Jesus kiss the cross as He embraced it for the journey to Calvary. The toughest thing for me to bear was when the soldier placed the nail in his hand and to hear Jesus cry out in excruciating pain. For me, the only thing that kept me from bursting into tears was the knowledge that in three days He rose from the dead. My heart hurt and felt joy at the same time.
Then, if that was not enough, the reading from the Morning prayer was from Joel 2:12-13; Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
Of course, as is this pattern, I prayed in day six of the Novena to the Holy Spirit I am doing for the gift of Understanding; Come O Spirit of Understanding and enlighten our minds that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Your light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of You and the father and the Son. Grant me the Spirit of Understanding-to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth.
Then, one more punch. Today’s Divine Intimacy chapter was titled SIN. Here is what the author wrote about grave sin. Serious sin is therefore the greatest enemy of the spiritual life, since it not only injures it, but destroys it in its constituent elements: charity and grace. This destruction, this spiritual death, is the inevitable result of sin, the act by which man voluntarily detaches himself from God, the one source of life, charity, and grace…If we wish to have a better understanding of the evil of mortal sin, we must consider its disastrous effects. One single sin instantly changed Lucifer, the angel of light, into an angel of darkness, into the eternal enemy of God. A single sin deprived Adam and Eve of the state of grace and friendship with God, taking away all their supernatural gifts and condemning them to death together with the rest of mankind. One single sin was enough to make an abyss between God and man, to deprive the whole human race of any possibility of union with God.
Stop and think about what you just read for a minute
My sin is no less serious. My sins put me in a position to court death. I, like many, have too long justified my weakness. We are called to eliminate sin. Not just reduce it; not just do the “best we can”; but to cut it out, sever it, and eradicate it from our lives. That must be the effort. If only for a day, or maybe a week, or maybe a life.
I leave you with last night’s Evening prayer from Romans: Brothers and sisters, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is god’s will, what is good, pleasing, and PERFECT.
Temptation is the bane of the human race! – or is it one of our greatest graces? Today’s gospel is the story of how the devil tempted Jesus after he spent 40 days in the desert fasting and in prayer. O that silly devil! Jesus went into the desert to gain strength; to prepare himself for his 3 year walk to his Passion and death. The devil caught Jesus at his strongest, not as he thought, at his weakest. I believe that the devil was a bit confused. He had watched Jesus for 30 years and may have been quite confused as to what He was up to. Sure, he saw that Jesus had resisted all kind of temptations as he grew up in Nazareth and Galilee. But otherwise, Jesus for all intents and purposes was just a hard working carpenter like his father Joseph. But now things had changed. I believe that John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus also was in the desert as well before he went out to preach the Good News. Satan had witnessed Jesus teaching John about the message John was to carry to the people to “prepare the Way”. But now things were getting a little scary for the devil and he did his best to “trip up” our Lord. But as my pastor noted in his wonderful homily this morning, Jesus did not blink an eye at the offerings of Satan. Sure, the man Jesus was hungry, the man Jesus was lonely, the man Jesus knew His power and was tempted by avarice and greed. A quote from Divine Intimacy – The temptation of Jesus was wholly exterior, for it found no echo within Him. And that’s where I and we must put ourselves as we wrestle with the temptations of our lives. Again, the Chapter in DI, The great Combat offers an answer to winning the battle with temptation – Primarily, He teaches us to have a great confidence in God…He had entrusted EVERYTHING to the Father’s care – His life ,His mission, and His glory; and therein lies the answer for us. We must know that only God can give true blessings and real happiness…If God permits us to be tempted, he does not permit us to be tempted beyond our strength, and accompanying every temptation, there is always a special actual grace sufficient to overcome it. There it is, the answer – GRACE. I want to insert something from today’s message from Father Tom Hoar, SSE of Enders Island here in Mystic - The World tells us that success comes from getting and controlling people and things; the Gospel tells us to surrender and let go. The promise of the World is transitory while the promise of the Gospel is eternal. Which path shall we take? One that leads to worldly glory or to eternal salvation?
The choices we make determine what path we shall travel. Therefore, this Lent is a great opportunity to reassess our choices and examine that path we are traveling. Through the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and works of charity we have the opportunity to ponder and redirect the choices we make and the path we are traveling.
Saint Augustine from a commentary that was the second reading in the Office of Readings (OOR) said this about temptation; Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations…He made us one with Him when he chose to be tempted by Satan…In Christ we are tempted, for Christ received His flesh from our nature, but by his own power gained salvation for us; He suffered death in our nature, but by His own power gained life for us; He suffered insults in our nature, but by his own power gained glory for us; therefore, He suffered temptation in our nature, but by His own power gained victory for us…If in Christ we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil. See yourself tempted in Him, AND SEE YOURSELF VICTORIOUS IN HIM.
Cardinal Dolan in his short reflection for EWTN made the correlation of how our charge to pray, fast, and extend charity are counters for the temptations of pride (God comes first not us), self willfulness & self satisfaction, and power.
Jimmy Akin in the Catholic Register wrote this about temptation: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father
How about our victory over temptation?
We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. Because, by Your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
I went to stations this evening and the prayer for the 6th Station (Veronica offer her veil to Jesus) was this (as composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori) – My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since then disfigured it with my sins. You alone, my Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your passion and then do with me as You will. This one has always got to me and tonight a bit more. I spent the afternoon with my 1 year old grandson whose soul is beautiful and clean. I pray that his soul stays cleaner than his sinful grandfathers’ was as he grew up. I pray that I may get mine “cleaned up” and looking beautiful again. I am going to confession tomorrow and recommit to going on a monthly basis. I also commit to trying harder to not need a total scrubbing and purging each month. He died for me; the least I can do is live for Him.
Today’s chapter in Divine Intimacy was The Spirit of Mortification; as I said before, I have got to get a handle on this grace. Here is how the chapter begins: the spirit of mortification has more than a purely physical aspect; it also includes renunciation of the ego, the will, and the understanding….Love of self and complacency in our own excellence are often so great that, even unconsciously, we tend to make “self” the center of the universe. How true that is about me and I’m guessing about many others. I must start to pray this prayer that was at the end of the chapter; Give me, O God, that supernatural sight which can judge events in Your light, and which can penetrate the true meaning of the sufferings which You place in my path. Intensify this light in proportion to the obstacles You prepare for me to strike my “ego”, my pride, my opinions, m rights, because it is then above all that I am terribly blind, and groping in the dark, I reject the medicine You offer….I confess, O Lord, that I have often strayed like a lamb which, leaving its shepherd, has taken a wrong path…Here I am Lord; I place myself in your hands. Mortify me, purify me as You wish, for whenever You afflict, it is to heal, and wherever You mortify, life increases.
And this is how things all piece together. Tonight’s Reading in the Divine Office evening prayer was from James 5:16, 19-20 – Declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may find healing. The fervent petition of a holy man is powerful indeed. My brothers and sisters, the case may arise among you of someone straying from the truth, and of another bringing him back. Remember this: the person who brings a sinner back from his way will save their soul from death and cancel a multitude of sins. That’s what I pray for all of us – that we have the occasion to bring ourselves and others back to the path.
To close, a change in direction and a bit of a rant. Today is the World Day of Prayer. How in our Lord’s name was this not reported in the news? I did not see or hear mention of this on any TV show or in any paper I saw today. You would think, with all of the disorder going on right now (the mess in the Ukraine, a mother driving her children into the ocean, sexual abuse in the military, and LSD tainted steak) this would be the lead story. I am sure Pope Francis celebrated this. Why didn’t the networks end their newscasts with this? It would have been a perfect end to a day of horrible news. The one thing this worlds needs, the one thing that can begin to fix the mess we’re in is prayer. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the other newscasts, WAKE UP; forget about the crap politics and do something good for once. Help the people instead of dragging them down.
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.