Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simply Incredible - The Generosity of a Woman

Now you may think my post will be about the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ (especially since Christmas is right around the corner) as Scripture refers to her as "the" Woman.  But you'd only be half right.

I want to share with you what happened to me today.  I want to share how I became the recipient of an incredible Christmas gift from a woman (though I DO think the Woman, Mary the Mother of Christ was behind it anyway! For her own sake I'll keep THIS woman anonymous, though.)

I went to do buy some Christmas gifts today at the local Catholic bookstore *I just arrived back in the States the other day for Christmas!*  I used to work there so I know the owners and other workers pretty well.  Chatting with the owner I was told that he was going to give me a 40% "employee" discount.  Wow.  That was generous enough!

So I browsed and thought I'd take advantage of such a great gift and picked up several things for various family members.  I was given an extra Christmas stipend just for that reason.  I made my way up to the counter.

A woman I know took care of me.  An extremely kind and very charitable woman.  So charitable that she felt moved to purchase all of my items for me!  Every year she finds a creative way to pass on a particular rebate which she and her husband get annually - I was this year's grateful recipient!  I tried to insist that she couldn't do this! This was too much! But she insisted even more and truly wanted to buy the items for me.   I was, and remain, stunned.

Moreover, she wrote me a Christmas card during my time in the store  When I got home and opened it I saw a check for $200.  Shock.  I praise God for this woman's generosity towards me.  She wanted to help me out simply because I am a seminarian studying to become a Priest.  

So this woman did a tremendous thing for me today.

The first Christmas began with the generosity of a Woman.  This Christmas sees another generous act from another woman.  I pray that God may reward her.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Found Myself in a Cemetary Today

I found myself in a cemetary today.

Last year at Mundelein Seminary I could just have easily said: "I found myself in a seminary today."

- "...Not funny, boo!"

Thanks for keeping me honest, faithful blog reader.

But seriously there I was today sitting on a bench in a cemetary. I was in a place of hope.

Now, yes, cemtaries are places of sadness, grieving, and the like.  But I'm a Christian.  I don't believe death is the end.  If it is the end then everything that exists is absurd - even your reading of this blog.

But we know - if we're honest - that deep down our most intense aspirations for eternal life are not absurd.  What is absurd, I think, is how seldom we consider the fact that one day we will die.

One day you will die.

It could be tomorrow.  It could.  

Ask someone who works in an Emergency Room at a hospital how uncertain tomorrow is...they'll tell you.  They see it all the time.  They see life end all the time.

How often do you consider your eventual death? I don't mean to be morbid.

Considering the end of our lives on earth helps us grow in wisdom; helps us see things more as God sees them.  Suffering can do that, too.  Or one could become bitter through it.  That only happens if one has lost hope.

At the cemetary today I sat and listen to a soccer game going on a few hundred feet away just beyond the cemetary walls.  It was ironic to me that a place of such liveliness could be so close to a place where the dead are laid to rest.  Often, we seek to distract ourselves with some amusement.  But how often do we forsake our distractions for the sake of not becoming distracted from the most important things in life.

For example, I will die someday.

Does that thought make you smile?  If you have hope I think it should.  In hope we know that death is not the end.  It's a door.  In Jesus death, God entered through the door of death so that when we ourselves eventually enter through that door we would not be alone. In Jesus' resurrection and ascension, God linked death to eternal life so that when we die in   friendship with God we are able to follow the path traced out for us by Christ - all the way to Heaven.

So, I found myself in a cemetary today.  You, too, will someday find yourself in a cemetary.  

I hope that happens before you die.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Opening Up the Corridors and Letting in New Light - Advent Reflection Part II

Do you ear what I ear?

- "Eww, Matt! Is that a picture of your ear??"

Spot on, faithful blog reader! That is a picture of my ear.

You may be wondering why I took a picture of my ear but that's not the purpose of this post. The theme for today's reflection is listening. Listening to God speaking to our hearts.

- "But it's an ear!"

Look, that's not th..

- "Look?! Are you going to post a picture of your eyeball now and tell us to 'look' around or something??"

... *Sigh*...

Right. Moving on then.  In part I of the Advent reflection last week I discussed how we need to listen to the Lord knocking on the door of our lives, let Him in, and then not be afraid to give Him full access to every part of our heart..

- "Every part??"

Yes... every part.

- "Even.."

ESPECIALLY that part.

- "*gasp*"

You said it faithful blog reader: *gasp* is right.  God wants in - especially the places we're least excited about.

Advent is a time when we anticipate the coming of our "God-hero" as Scripture calls Him; our Savior.  We need to be saved from so much - sin, lies, fear, shame, difficulties of all kinds.  There is a lot down there in the depths of our hearts.  There are many rooms which remain locked, many rooms which have never seen the light of truth, many rooms with "Caution" tape blocking the entryways and "Danger: Do Not Enter" signs posted outside.  

Yes, these rooms ARE dangerous.  There is a reason that caution tape hangs outside those rooms.  We are weary about letting anyone enter them - even ourselves.  We often prefer to leave the doors of our past - the lies, the shame, our sins, the wounds which we've received from others' lack of love towards us in one way or another.  It is much too painful and causes too much turmoil and confusion when anyone gets too close to those areas.

But can you hear the sound of footsteps coming down those steps into your heart? "How beatuiful... are the feet of Him who brings good news!" (Isaiah 52:7, a common Advent Scripture) Do you know that He alone can redeem, heal, bless, and make whole again those parts of your life which are "off-limits?"  How will you react when Jesus reaches for the doorknob of that first room?

What IS the first room He wants entry to? Is it a memory of some past hurt? Is it a past sin you're terribly ashamed of? Is it some recurring sin of self-importance, lust, anger, greed? Is it a lie which you don't want to admit is a lie? 

Where does Christ want to go next in your heart?  How will you react when He asks your permission to enter in there?

If you won't let Christ in can you let the Holy Spirit in? He's more "neutral" to some people.  Or can you let in the child Jesus rather than the adult Lord?  Advent is about welcoming in this Divine Child - God's Son and the Son of Mary - into the dark cave we call our heart and letting His light shine through.  "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

But we have to let Him in first!  What is Jesus' next move in your life? What is the Savior wanting to save now?  

Listen... He's speaking to you. He comes for you.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Reflection: Part 1 1/2

Before doing part 2 of the Advent reflection I began last week I'd like to offer an "in between" thought.

A simple thought.

A question actually.


What do you need from the Lord?

We often ask God for what we want.


But have you taken time recently to reflect on what you need?

Those are the prayers that God answers swiftly.

They go something like this:

"Lord, I need to know your love more."
"Jesus, I need your help in gowing in humility."
"Heavenly Father, I'm too quick to judge other people.  Please show me the faults in myself which I think I'm seeing in others."
"Lord, I'm not nearly as grateful as I ought to be.  Please forgive me.  Give me a grateful heart!"
"Jesus, I need to love you more.  Help me to love you more!"

I'm reminded of the blind man sitting alongside the road calling out "Son of David, have pity on me!"  Jesus comes up to him and asks "What do you want me to do for you?" The man responds, "Lord, I want to see!"

His need became his want.  He desired what he needed.

Do you desire what you need? Or perhaps a better place to start is to ask do you need what you desire?

God provides for all our needs! God grant that our needs be the same things as our desires this Advent and Christmas.  There is a gift Christ wants to give to you; it is precisely what you need!

But do you want what you need?