Saturday, June 10, 2017

To Wonder at the Woman

"When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple who He loved standing near, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciples took her into his own home."

- John 19: 26-27

These two verses of Sacred Scripture reveal two sacred truths (at least, two which I'd like to discuss; there are more than that):

1.) Jesus saved the best for last
2.) His best belongs to you; and you to her.

Consider that Jesus saved the best for last. Among His final gifts we find our Lord offering immense graces; the Holy Eucharist, the Sacred Priesthood, His holy example of faithful and long-suffering love, and His filial "Yes" to the Father in the "Garden of Crushing" Gethsemane is translated most commonly as "Oil press". This is the garden where olives were pressed to make oil. Spiritually this indicates the "oil of gladness" (which is our salvation) was pressed from the agony of the One "acquainted with suffering and crushed for our iniquity." (See Isaiah's suffering servant.) The pressure of mankind's sin and of God's justice began to press down upon the body and soul of the God-man. Here is where mankind's sin and God's love began to crush the body of the the Messiah and where His Heart began to be pierced. (Remember, too, that this is when a sword also began to pierce the heart of His Mother.)

But these gifts were not enough. Jesus, our King, had yet to crown His Queen-Mother over His Kingdom. Before He expired and "breathed forth His last" (i.e. His last breath being His last gift, the Holy Spirit, Whose reception was Providentially held in the Father's Heart until Pentecost after Our Lady finished preparing the Bride in the Cenacle for the Spirit's coming.) Jesus breathed forth the words of His penultimate gift - His Queen and Mother - "Woman, behold your son! ... Behold, your mother." We must wonder at this Woman; this New Eve. He gave this New Eve to His bride, the Church, to show His bride how to be "holy and immaculate" (Ephesians 5:27) He gives to the "disciple whom He loved" (i.e. you for you are His beloved disciple) a Mother. This Mother of Jesus is now our mother because we are "in Christ" and a "new creation." Our new creation came about through the spiritual and very real maternity of the Mother of Christ; the Mother of the Church (i.e. the Mother of the Body as well as the Head). The pangs of spiritual childbirth which Mary experienced at the Cross brought forth the New Creation which was told to "Behold your mother!" Will we look upon the one perfectly redeemed to see how we ought to be?

We can't forget, too, that we belong to her. We are her children; her responsibility. If we entrust ourselves to her Immaculate Heart as Jesus entrusted Himself to her immaculate womb then we will come to "full stature" in Christ. The more you love her the more you will be imitating Christ who gave all for her preservation from sin. He merited her Immaculate Conception by His suffering and death and, God Who is outside of time and space, applied them ahead of time to prepare the way for The Way to enter time and space. This is the grace of the Immaculate Conception. Jesus bound Himself by the Immaculate Conception to win for us an Immaculate Salvation in the Church. We are called to "Be Holy, for I am Holy." God spoke those words to Mary at the moment of her conception. "Let there be light!" And there was light. "Be holy and immaculate!" And the Immaculate Conception was brought forth whom we call Mother Mary.

Be hers and you will be safe. The God-man was safe in her arms and under her care. She is a gift to you. Be a gift to her. She is called "Mother" and "Queen" and you are called "My child." Be everything she deserves as your mother and which God your Father calls you to - your mother deserves your best; even to your last breath.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

If You but knew the Grace of God

St. Thomas Moore taught that one grows in wisdom by meditating on one or more of the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  Whether this meditation is constant or sporadically intentional isn't nearly as important as simply doing it.  Of these four which do you find more drawn to for the purposes of your own spiritual considerations?

Wisdom is knowing what things are for; knowing their final cause or ultimate purpose.  Wisdom allows one to see the true value of something and does not add nor subtract from that precise value.  It sees reality and the things contained in reality as God does.  God is Wisdom and our destiny - should we choose to accept it - is to be caught up in His Divine Wisdom forever catching His eternal perspective.

What will allow you to focus on the true value of things?  Would the fact of your impending, inescapable death do that? How about the intervention of judgment over your life after you die; will imagining that experience cause you to change your ways?  What about the excitement of Heaven? The horrors of final and irrevocable loss in Hell? What will shock you into clairvoyant attention to what matters most and what doesn't matter after all? 

Don't close your eyes to things yet unseen.  Wisdom goes beyond the immediate and incorporates into the present that which is inevitable: The Four Last Things.  We all will die, be judged, and end up in Heaven or Hell.   Lent is a good time to seek clarity of sight.  We need the lense of God's Wisdom to lift us above our petty pursuits in order that we might "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phillipians 3:14)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Lenten Check-In... Don't Give Up Early

Lent can be hard.  We make all sorts of commitments and resolutions for positive change.  And then we accidentally eat bacon on the first Friday of Lent and we think it's all over (I didn't do that btw... Not this Lent anyway..)

"Lent is a time when you really feel like a Christian" a Priest said to me recently.  I think he means that there is something intrinsic to being a Christian that involves sacrifice; giving up certain pleasures for the sake of a greater good.  What greater good are you going after this Lent?  If you've struggled in these first few days with your Lenten commitment that is ok.  Just start over and recommit.  That, too, is what Christianity is all about.  Fresh starts - whenever we need them.  A clean slate is available to you even now.

So visit confession this weekend.  Go often and grow.  Pray more and love better this Lent.  You can do this because you're not alone.  You're in this Lenten "training season" with hundreds of millions of other Catholics around the world.  God is with you.  Ask Him to encourage you and to help you make your commitments to Him.  He's worth the effort and He will help you in the fight.  

"The Lord is a warrior. LORD is His name." (Exodus 15:3)

Let Him fight with you this Lent.  Don't give up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The time has come. It is now.

When does God give His grace?

Right now.

Sometimes we shoot our own spiritual foot by staying stuck in the regrets of the past or or anticipating too much the future scenarios that may or may not ever come.  While God is eternal and is present in all space and time we are not.  We are not in eternity (not *yet* at least) but are confined to the prison sacrament of the present moment.

If you have ever felt frustrated by the limits imposed on you by being in time then you may be a fallen human being.  Not to worry though.  God comes to meet us fallen human beings in a particular meeting "place."  He entered time and space in the Incarnation of His Word made flesh.  That same God accompanies us every.single.moment.

Do you need to reread that last sentence?

Every single moment God pours out the abundance of His very self upon you.  He does this in every present moment and every present moment is precisely where you are.  

So don't miss out on what God is offering you right *now* just because it feels easier to let your mind wander away into the past or the future unnecessarily.  Don't miss out on the gift being offered right now for the sake of entertaining unhelpful thoughts or negative feelings which aren't helping you receive God's love where it's being offered (i.e. right now.)

The present moment is called by spiritual authors a "sacrament" because it, being a physical reality, conveys something spiritual.  Your present moment, located in time and space, mediates God to you.  He called Himself "I AM" to Moses and says the same to you.  "Be still and know that I am..."  

He Who Is is all you need and all you need is right here right now.  Open your heart to God and to what He is offering you (His own Son, Jesus, and His Holy Spirit.)  

Remain in the silence with Him.  Let Him speak His Word to you and fill you with His Spirit.  In the now He comes to meet you.  Will you meet Him there, too?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Prepare to Prepare

I read recently that Byzantine Catholics (fully Catholic like Roman Catholics except they have different liturgical traditions, spiritual expressions, and ways of explaining doctrine often times) have something that we could rightly call "Pre-Lent."  In fact, a bit back in our own Roman Catholic tradition there was this practice in the pre-Vatican II liturgy (today called the "extraordinary form of the Mass.)  It started on "Septuagesima Sunday."  Septuagesima is a Greek term which indicates 70 days before Easter.  So, even before the 40 days of Lent there is this notion of intentional preparation for the preparation that is Lent!

Phew! That's a lot.  So... what's the point?

Here is is.  Lent is sneaking up upon us very soon (March 1st is Ash Wednesday.)

Have you prayed about what your Lenten practices ought to look like?  Is God inviting you to fast from something like a particular social media feed or your favorite beverage?  Does God want you to incorporate daily Scripture reading or meditation on the daily Mass readings?  How about praying the Rosary more frequently?  Confession more often?  Have you started thinking about the type of preparation you ought to have during your Lenten preparation for Easter?

It's not too early to invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten you as to the next right moves.  Prepare to make this your best Lent ever.  Spend some time today with your prayer journal and ask God what He wants your Lent to look like.  Otherwise, it may just end up looking like nothing special.  Don't miss the opportunity!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A history of St Michael and the Devil

Here is the short version of how St Michael came to be the prince of all the angels and how the Devin rebelled against God. This is from the Church's ancient Tradition and is attested to by many of the Fathers of the Church and other Saints and is also biblically sound. This is the Catholic view.

So Michael was the Angel that opposed Lucifer when he rebelled. Michael defensed God's honor by glorifying God hence Michael means "Who is like God?" Since Lucifer wanted to be like God and take His throne. "I will ascend to the throne of the almighty."  (Isaiah 14:14) This was before the creation of the material universe. The Angels were the first creations of God and are purely spiritual beings (not material in nature; personal beings with an intellect and will.) When they were created God offered them a choice (since they have a will able to choose) to accept or reject Him. Lucifer, one of the most intelligent of the angels, chose to reject God and in his pride and vanity actually thought himself to be able to overcome the Almighty. Lucifer means Bearer of Light which highlights his intellect. Michael chose the path of true freedom and chose to love His Creator and stood up for His honor. He and the angels who chose to love God were awarded with the eternal vision of seeing God face to face. Hence, Michael led the Angels in a victory of intellect and will against the rebellious Angels (whom we now call demons because of their twisted nature though still highly intelligent and powerful in will) for God's honor. Michael was then given the particular grace/blessing of being raised as the highest of the angels because of his haste in choosing to love God and defend Him glory against the insult of Lucifer and the rebellious Angels.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Speaking Words of Wisdom Let it Be

It's one of the most iconic Beatles songs; Let it Be.

Whisper words of wisdom... let it be...

You know, in the beginning there wasn't anything *to* be. There was not dirt, no birds, no water, not even space for those things to exist in and not even time for those to exist when.  No matter.  There was He Who Is.  

Praise God that God didn't decide to simply let things be only as He.  He did not desire to be the only one to exist (though He was perfectly happy being Who He Was and Is and Always Will Be.)  God made a choice.  He chose to create things - He created beings who specialize in be-ing.  All of the universe - visible and invisible (angels be real ya know) - is being in He Who Is.  All of creation is held in existence by the One Who exists for all eternity; the One Whose very nature it is *to be.*  

God is really good at being.

He is also good at letting things be.

You see, God has a hand in all things even if some of His creation (namely us) don't want to take Him by the hand.  We fallen (by choice) humans are good at *not* being because we're experts at sinning - making choices away from He Who Is.  We choose evil (an absence of good) and each time we move one step closer to the edge (and I'm about to break!... Linkin' Park anyone? Ok moving on...)

True.  Our sinful choices can never annihilate us out of existence; out be-ing.  Even Satan himself, as radically evil as he is, is still good insofar as he exists; he cannot stop existing because God continues to say "Let it be."  

God created beings who could choose to *be* at rest or *be* in a state of unrest.  Our choices bring us peace (i.e. closer to God in Christ) or greater and greater turmoil.  God honors our choices.

So what will you choose?  The secret to reaching eternal happiness is to say to God's plan and love (with all of our heart intact) "Let it be! Your Will be done because Your Will is the best way to *be*."

May Heaven forbid that we reject God and, in the end, hear Him ratify our rejection, "Let it be... your will be done, My child."  

May we imitate Mary, the greatest receiver of God's Being in all of history, "Let it be done to me according to Your Word." (Luke 1:38)

Friday, January 20, 2017

He Waits

*Ignore the background music from the event going on downstairs in the hall.* 
Here are some thoughts on prayer and "keeping Jesus waiting" for your consideration.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Wine Needs New Wineskins.. What's a Wineskin??

Today's Gospel ends with one of my favorite verses (which, coincidentally, sums up the whole Bible),

"New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" - Jesus (in Mark 2:22)

In biblical times people drank a lot of wine.  Not because they were running away from their problems but because they were trying to prevent digestive ones.  Wine was generally made to be much weaker than we are familiar with today however the alcohol kept the beverage safe to drink.  Water wasn't always safe to drink.  People died a lot more back then than they do today.


I mean, death came earlier in ancient times for many reasons but, to sum it up, the modern world has advanced medicine and knowledge of all the things.  So, today we know how to survive better because we know of the existence of things like bacteria.  

So, people in Jesus' day drank wine and they stored it in things called "wineskins" which was usually made of animal skins.  Newly made wine would need to be stored in a big ol' jar or a wineskin and it would begin fermenting which would stretch the wineskin.  If the wineskin was used before then that means it would have been stretched already by the previous fermentation of wine.  HENCE, the need for NEW wine to be poured into a NEW wineskin.  The new wine expanded the new wineskin, it didn't burst, and everyone was happy.

In the Old Testament God gave the wine of His grace through the Law and the Prophets.  The people's hearts became used to this wine.  Jesus came on the scene, though, and had a new wine for the Israelites and the world.  For the people to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit into their lives they would need new wineskins, new hearts, in order to stretch with the "fermentation" process of conversion which God calls us to.  Hence, "New wine is poured into fresh wineskins" is really a summary of the Bible because in Christ not only are we given something new but we are made new.  

So that's the general meaning of the verse.  But, God's Word doesn't just speak in general, informative, and interesting messages for us.  God's Word speaks directly to each heart.  The problem can happen, however, that even though God may be trying to communicate something intensely and uniquely personal to an individual that person may not be open or listening.  That person (i.e. you and me) needs to be open to what God wants to give.  We need to let go of our old wineskins and give God new hearts to which He can pour Himself into.

Life application?  God is laboring, trying to give you something new.  "Behold, I am doing something new.  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" - God (Isaiah 43:19)  You (and me) are very good at resisting His gifts.  For various reasons we as human beings struggled to let God love us while He struggles to love us.  Remember when Jacob wrestled with God (via His angel) in the Old Testament?  Yeah, that's all of us.  Our mission in the spiritual life (and in life in general) is to let God has His way; to let God win; to let God give us the new wine of His grace.  In every moment He has a new grace or blessing for you.  What is He trying to give you in this moment?  

In your prayer time try to come to God in a posture of receptivity and be intentional about it.  Read a Scripture passage (perhaps the one above about the wineskins) and ask God what it is He is trying to give to you.  He ALWAYS wants to give us His grace. Don't resist.  Otherwise, our hearts will remain pretty much as they are right now. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

When will you have your epiphany?

What is an epiphany?  A great awakening or realization? Some type of discovery of earth-shattering import? A new perspective on some previously known idea?

Well, if you're Catholic, the word "Epiphany" should conjure memories of Magi in motion towards the Messiah with Mary His mother.  Alliteration altogether aside, the feast of the Epiphany is a time when we rediscover the greatest discovery the world has ever known - Jesus the Christ.

And they probably found him by way of camel.

This weekend the Catholic Church around the world (and the Orthodox Churches, as well) recall the great feast of the Epiphany when the Magi traversed land and sand to meet the Lord Jesus.  The star in the east guided them and acted as God's messenger.  Perhaps it was an Angel.  Perhaps God's providential design of the universe anticipated these historic moments and planned for a particular star to guide their way even from the beginning of time.  Regardless, God guided the magi to His Son and "No one comes to [the Son] unless the Father draws him." (So says Jesus Himself in John 6:44)  

So where is the Father drawing you?  Of course, to His Son but let's ask a further question for reflection.  How is the Father drawing you to His Son?  

And are you following the way He has traced out?  Are you following the guiding star of His providence?  Are you even moving?

A wise man from the east once said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Wise men from the east made a long, arduous journey by taking one step after another (whether their own or their camels'.)  And you?  Will you allow your heart to be drawn by the Father towards His Risen Sun from the east?  We have much to discover.  We have an epiphany awaiting us!  Let's no longer stay comfortable in our own homes that we've made for ourselves but let's instead venture out onto the adventure traced out for us by the Father. 

I've always wondered if there were supposed to be more than just three wise men.  Perhaps some decided to stay home... What a terrible mistake that was now wasn't it?

Monday, January 2, 2017

He Makes All Things New...Including You

One of my favorite passages from Scripture comes from Revelation 21:5 And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He really does make things new.  In fact, everything Jesus touches becomes new.  Is there a part of your heart that you still need to allow the Lord to touch?  What part of your life is He reaching out towards?  His words are trustworthy and true.  He really does make all things new.

Where do you need renewal during this New Year?  In the wake of the calendar moving forward what needs to change in your life?  Have you resolved to let the Jesus make all things new in your life?  

Take 20 or 30 seconds (or more) of silence - right now.  As awkward as that may seem you really do have the freedom not to move on to the next bit of internet information just yet. You really can take a moment - whenever you like - to let the Lord approach you in peace.   What is He looking at in your life right now?  What is He wanting to give you?  What would an infinitely loving and powerful God have to offer you?  Where is your greatest need?  Be there with Christ and let Him make it new.