Archive for the ‘Sin’ Category

The beautiful heart of St. Paul

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Reflection on today’s readings (May 23, 2012) Acts 20:28-38; Psalm 68:29-30,33-36, John 17:11-19

Many women do not like St. Paul. I am not one of them.

Ever since I asked St. Paul to intercede for me for a special need (more on that in a moment), I have found myself reflecting on his life, his writings, and his enormous contribution to Christianity.

From Acts Chapter 20

Today’s reading from Acts moved me deeply. I found myself welling up as I imagined Paul’s impassioned plea to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus. Knowing they would never see them again, they wept openly, throwing their arms around him and kissing him.

Saying goodbye

Any mother knows the pain of an empty nest when the son or daughter leaves home for the last time. You struggle to hold it in so you won’t embarrass yourself and often times you just can’t help it. I had said what I thought was the final goodbye a few times to my son, first when he went off to college and lastly, when he moved to a neighboring town. That last time was especially hard. Now he is moving out of state at the end of the summer and I haven’t dared to begin thinking about that yet!

Paul’s attributes

What I love about St. Paul is his commitment, love and fortitude. This man emptied himself each and every day out of love for his Lord, but also for love of the people he was sent to minister to. There was never any hesitation. He never pulled back, never worried about what others would think of him. He was focused only on pleasing his Lord.

Knowing who you are

Paul was fully aware of what he had been. He had been forgiven of some pretty horrendous sins and he never forgot to be grateful for the privilege of carrying the Good News. That gratefulness acted like gasoline on the fire of his love.

A special intercessor

I especially love St. Paul’s focus and the example he uses of the marathon runner with the eye on the prize. About a year ago, for some reason, I asked  St. Paul to intercede for me for a very specific intention. I asked him to run beside me whenever I found myself stuck in traffic when I desperately needed to relieve myself. Because of a medical condition, this happens frequently. The pain is unlike any I’ve known and the emotional distress makes the pain more acute.

At the first sign of trouble, I call upon St. Paul to run beside me and we run together. Taking on his focus, my emotions are controlled and the pain is less acute. As a result of these encounters, I have developed an affection for St. Paul which has caused me to read more carefully the extraordinary writings which built on the foundation of our faith.

Empty, and beautiful

It is no wonder that the presbyters at Ephesus felt such a strong connection with Paul who, for 3 years, had spent his life for them. Each day, he was empty, and beautiful.

And I think of that man, that saint, running beside me, comforting me in my little trouble. How good our God is to provide these wonderful saints for us!

Matt Maher, a Christian singer and songwriter, recorded a wonderful song about St. Paul that he called Empty and Beautiful. As you watch the video below, think on today’s reading and the man who knew exactly who he was and what had been given to him. He knew too what to give back and why.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhaHB1Cad_4

Rising to new life

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lord Jesus, lift me from the death of sin to new life!
Christ is risen, He is truly risen!

Reflection on readings for May 5 – Acts 13:44-52, Psalm 98:1-4; John 14:7-14

Acts 13: 44-52: Paul and Barnabas had preached the Word of God to the people and many were receptive to the message. But the Jewish leaders were resistant and stirred up trouble, inciting prominent women and leaders to create an atmosphere of persecution. Scripture tells us the Jewish leaders were filled with jealousy when they saw the crowds, to the point of violence.

What was pushing their hot button?

Being Chosen

For generations the Israelites were known as the Chosen People. One could get accustomed to that, being chosen. It could be clung to as a title; one could take pride in it.

One could say that because they were chosen, others were not. A sense of superiority and entitlement could rise up as a result.

Leaders of the Chosen

The Jewish leaders were not only chosen, they were also appointed as leaders over the chosen, making their position even more important. Leadership mixed with pride created the perfect breeding ground for jealousy, and for a closed mind and heart.

Unmoved

Now these leaders were witnessing their people being swayed by the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. If the people came to believe in Jesus, the leaders could lose their power and position.

The leaders desperately clung to their power. Pride blinded them to something so much greater. For leaders, their vision was small indeed.

In danger of clinging

What am I clinging to that blocks my vision? Am I proud of my accomplishments and am I ambitious for more? Are there things in this world that I love so much that it competes with my love for God and His people?

Tug of war

In the last couple of years, the Lord has lead me into reading and writing. I had not read on a regular basis since I was a child and now suddenly I live to read. Reading has born its fruits in a new love for writing. I find myself hungering to immerse myself all the time in these pursuits. I take pride in all that I am learning.

And yet, I feel the tug of competition between my new passion and my love for the Lord. I schedule time in the morning to read and reflect on the scriptures, and also to pursue my new passion. I feel that urge to “hurry up” with the scripture study so that I can get to what I “really” love.

And yet God gave me this new love! What sense does this make?

Worshipping the gift or the Giver?

Like the Jewish leaders being blinded by their love of power and position, denying themselves eternal life with Jesus, my passion for reading and writing can do the same. Even if the gift came from God, the gift can never become a god in and of itself; it must be lorded over by the only true God.

Lift me up

And so I pray for Jesus to offer his hand and lift me from this sin as He lifted Adam and Eve out of Hades and to new life  as shown in the above icon.

I ask Him to help me bring all the pieces of my life together into one whole, fully integrated so that there is no competition.

Nothing must compete with the only thing that truly matters – a growing, vibrant loving relationship with Jesus.

What’s blocking your vision?

 

Brief comments about the Corapi controversy

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Many of you may be familiar with Fr. John Corapi, a priest who had a very public speaking ministry. After a dramatic conversion, he traveled the world preaching the Gospel, inspiring many to come back to the Catholic Church with his orthodox teaching.

Recently however, a terrible scandal emerged. A woman accused him of sexual impropriety and he was suspended from his priestly duties. A few months after this suspension, Fr. Corapi took it upon himself to discontinue any public ministry as a priest, dropping “Father” from his name. He became his own entity,  known now as The Black Sheep Dog. On June 16, the following statement was released on his blog in written form and as a video.

This statement created much confusion among those who had supported him and many condemned him for leaving the priesthood. Others sympathized with his reasoning. A tidal wave of responses poured in, many frankly quite judgmental and vitriolic. Well-known Catholic bloggers such as Mark Shea and publications such as the National Catholic Register and Our Sunday Visitor published pretty harsh commentaries on the situation.

I used to enjoy watching Fr. Corapi on EWTN for he spoke with such authority. When the scandal broke, I shook my head in disbelief, not just over the charges and his actions, but also over the harshness of the response from fellow Catholics.

I chose to wait and see, preferring to discern from the fruits of his actions. I believe now that the fruit born of this scandal is confusion, and confusion is not of God. It leads me to back away from Fr. Corapi. It’s never good to attach oneself to a personality – it’s only safe to attach myself to Christ.

Recently SOLT, the order of which Fr. Corapi was a member, released a statement which, in effect, pronounced Corapi guilty. This was the final straw and I knew I had to back away.

These scandals just don’t seem to let up. I live in the Boston area, ground zero to the eruption of the sexual abuse scandal which began to rear its head in 2001. We’re talking about 10 years of relentless scandals. What really hurts is hearing Fr. Corapi himself talk about being spat upon by strangers in airports when he wore the collar. And all along, he may have been scandalized himself.

I have known many wonderful, dedicated  and holy priests. My own husband is a deacon. I still believe that most priests are faithful to their vows,  in their love of God and His people. Hero worship is akin to idolatry and that the only safe course is to keep my eyes fixed on Christ alone for He is where my hope lies.

In lieu of that, I wrote a song back in 2001 called “Still the Same” in which I remind the listener that our Lord never changes but always remains the same. You can listen to it on the player below (lyrics follow), along with a song I wrote about forgiveness. I find myself praying for Fr. Corapi and asking God for forgiveness.

 

My good friend Nick Alexander (who himself says that he is a “faulty vessel” as we all are) said it best: “Be grateful that the Truth of the Gospel came to you, even if it came from a faulty, hypocritical vessel. And don’t let that vessel take up any more of your time, if such becomes that enormous a distraction from that very Truth.” Amen.

Still the Same

CHORUS:
Jesus, He will never change
Ageless, everlasting, still the same

VERSE 1
Yes He died (yes He died)
But forever now He lives
We may sin and do wrong
But He always will forgive
If we turn to Him

VERSE 2
Though our world (though our world)
Is spinning out of our control
And it seems that our pain
Is getting harder to console
He is here for us, He is here for us
He is here for us

VERSE 3
Though your trust (though your trust)
May be broken and betrayed
And the ones that you counted on
You find have feet of clay
You can count on Him, you can count on Him

BRIDGE
The wounds will heal, His church grow strong
We are His Body, in His love we will go on
And every person we must embrace
The poor, the broken
And the fallen in His grace.

CHORUS
Jesus, He will never change (His love flows forever)
Ageless, everlasting, still the same (Through His wounded Body)
(Through His Body)

VERSE 4
You can find (you can find Him)
In the breaking of the bread
He in us, we in Him
And His healing love can spread
Spread forever

 

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Friday, April 15th, 2011

In the previous post I talked about why Mary was beautiful and how it was because she gave herself totally over to Christ with her consistent, lifelong “yes” to Him. I would like you to consider for a moment Mary’s role as a mother, raising the child Jesus during the hidden part of His life. How do you suppose Mary handled her day-to-day duties caring for Jesus, Joseph, other extended family members and her home?

Undoubtedly Mary, because of her knowledge that her child was the Son of God, went about her daily duties with a deepened sense of importance. I imagine that each task, no matter how mundane, took on a profound spiritual significance.

We don’t have the advantage of caring for Jesus incarnate, but Jesus IS present in all of us. If we remind ourselves of that, performing mundane tasks to care for others can take on a sacramental dimension, adding great worth.

In The Authentic Catholic Woman Genevieve Kineke suggests that Holy Mother Church is the best template for realizing our potential as authentic Catholic women (page 8, The Authentic Catholic Woman). It’s an image that applies to all women providing tangible means (the Sacraments) to help us. Born from the cross of Christ and containing over 2000 years of wisdom, the Church offers a unique opportunity to discern and use our God-given gifts.

In theory, I believe what Kineke is saying. The ideal model of the Church is a great model but the reality of the Church in our world is not so pretty. We are, after all, corrupted by our sinfulness and this corruption seeps into the Church as evidenced by the constant barrage of news stories. While some of what is reported could be regarded as slanted, some of it is sadly true. Ultimately, all of it contributes to one’s perception, and perception is what often wins out in the end.

We therefore need to divorce ourselves from those perceptions and remember the Ideal Church to understand why Kineke believes this is the best image for women to model themselves after.

The Church is called the bride of Christ since it brings Christ into the world, just as a mother bears a child. Again Mary is the perfect example. She received Christ through the Holy Spirit (becoming His bride), bore Him (becoming His mother), took care of Him and nurtured Him into manhood where He could then go out and complete His mission.

We are fortunate in having the Church as a model because of the concrete examples  it provides for our  lives – the Sacraments.

In my next post I will get into specifics on how mirroring the Sacraments can give us the life that Mary experienced as she cared for Jesus.

*******************************************************

Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

The value of self-control

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been told that I have no self-control. I’ve always had a temper, fueled oftentimes by my older brother’s relentless teasing. He’d know just what hot button to push that would send me into a tantrum, screaming at the top of my lungs out of frustration. I had quite a reputation in the neighborhood and I lost my voice so often my mother took me to the doctor for treatment.

In first grade, my teacher wrote on my report card that I had a problem with self-control.

As I got older, that temper that would flare out in tantrums turned inward, causing bouts of melancholy and depression.

Age does have its benefits, one of them being that my hot temper has cooled somewhat. But aggravation is the surest hot button that sets up off, such as trying to clean mold with a potent cleaner and a toothbrush from my bathroom ceiling. The temper flared and the ranting began, loud enough such that my own family complained!

I’m a very vocal person in that I talk to myself all the time. Yes, I’m one of those nuts you see driving down the highway, mouth yapping and arms flailing as I work out a thought or emotion. When I get angry, I especially work out my feelings in that way. I never thought it would do harm to myself or anyone else. After all, I was just letting off steam.

Then, a few months ago, I got a hold of the new Confession app. This app leads you through the preparation necessary to make a good confession by guiding you through the 10 Commandments. It also has a place where you can add a customized list of sins. It was here that God first began to speak to me about my lack of self-control (aka, Venting): He prompted me to add the following: “Do I lose my self-control and give in to angry venting?”

I wasn’t really sure why I added it to my list, I just knew I was prone to it. I figured maybe it wasn’t good for me to be doing it though I didn’t really know why. Today, I finally figured it out.

Remember that bathroom I told you about and the ranting that went on with trying to clean it? That was Saturday. Today (Wednesday) I found myself in a funk; in fact, I had been in one all week. And I was spoiling for a fight wherever I could find one. It was almost like I was inviting aggravation to come to me so I could rant about it!

I also felt very distant from Jesus, like a wall had been erected between us.

I already was feeling vulnerable because my mother’s anniversary of her passing is next Friday (April 22) and I’ve started reliving those terrible weeks up to the day she died. satan (not a typo, I will never initial cap his name) saw an opportunity and took advantage of it, deceiving me into thinking that it was perfectly alright to dig into my anger and let it all out.

I was hurting myself, flooding myself with negative thoughts and feelings. It caused me to be irritable with my husband, children and even the cats. And it finally overwhelmed me yesterday such that I called the home bound woman I take communion to and told her I couldn’t make it. I didn’t want to be seen feeling the way I felt and I had lost the desire to put on a happy face.

That’s when I realized that my lack of self-control was not okay. I not only hurt myself with a tidal wave of negativity, I hurt someone else, someone who needed me.

So this morning I turned to the Lord and told Him everything that I was feeling and begged forgiveness for allowing my selfish need to vent to hurt others. I could feel Him drawing me near, offering me forgiveness, and telling me just to “be.” He would remove all the ugliness that was my anger and frustration. And slowly, throughout the day, I have felt that “crud” lifting off of me.

Now I know how important it is to stop and think before losing my self-control. That sin that I added to my Confession app list was meant to be there and will now remind me every time I feel the temptation to vent.

I am grateful to God that He has revealed this truth to me for my anger has plagued me all my life. Indeed, nothing is impossible for God!

The Temple of the Lord

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Readings for Today, The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12; Psalm 46:2-3,5-6,8-9; 1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17; John 2:13-22

A very strong theme ran throughout the readings today about the temple of God. Originally the temple was a massive and glorious physical building in the heart of Jerusalem, first built by Solomon for the arc of the covenant. The building was destroyed about 70 years after Christ’s resurrection, but a new ‘temple’ had been established long before the building was destroyed. Christ became the new temple, and each of us, in turn, are temples ourselves, housing the Spirit of the Lord.

The first reading from Ezekiel describes a vision of the temple and how life-giving water flows in force from that building, bringing food, healing and abundance to the land.

The gospel talks about Christ clearing the temple of the money changers and the animals being sold for sacrifice. At the time it was because Jesus was infuriated that His Father’s house had become a “marketplace.” But in pondering that reading, it also occurred to me that it was too in preparation for the fact that the House of God was changing locations, from a physical building to the Body of Christ, first in Christ’s physical body, and then in those who followed him, the Church.

And in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of each of us individually as also being temples (just as Christ was Himself a temple):

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

In a podcast I listened to today, Pray As You Go, the speaker asked me, the listener, how I felt about being such a temple, housing the Holy Spirit. I felt gratitude that I would never be alone, sorrow that others that I love are not aware that they house the Spirit, and most of all, responsibility.

I thought of Ezekiel’s vision and that applied to me, as a temple of God. Living water must pour out of me. I must stay connected to the Spirit, nurture my relationship with the Triune God, and try to remain sinless, or at least, confess my sins quickly and with heartfelt sorrow. Perhaps I need to go to confession more often to help with this.

As I write this, I think about what I used to reflect upon as a child after receiving communion (this was during the era of the Latin Mass). Often I would picture the foyer of our house, swept clean with gleaming hardwood floors. The Eucharist makes me clean and helps me in nurturing my relationship with God.

Keeping up with daily prayer and reflection on the scriptures, plus spiritual reading, helps in that regard too. And as I fill myself with the good things that God provides, the river that Ezekiel foresaw overflows out of me, for how can I contain it?

And as Church, if we all pay attention to our own temples, the river will flow like flood waters out of the Body of Christ. Imagine how that would change our world!

The gift of stumbling blocks – reflection on daily readings for October 13

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Today’s readings
Galatians 5:18-25; Psalm 1:1-4,6; Luke 11:42-46

We all have them in our lives – people that push our hot buttons. They aggravate us, make us angry, even hurt us sometimes. When that hot button is pushed and the emotions surge to the surface, it’s very hard to resist giving into them and either being overcome with  negative thoughts or worse, acting out on those thoughts. It could begin as murmuring to oneself and build to talking behind that person’s back or a direct confrontation.

I have two people currently who do that to me. One is a family member and the other a colleague at work. Even when I step outside of myself and see myself reacting badly to them, I cannot stop the surge of emotion, and I sin. I confess the sin after the fact, right away sometimes if I am aware of what I have done, but I’m at a loss as to how to stop that tidal wave of emotion that leads to sin.

Today’s first reading from Galatians 5:18-25 states the following (verses 22-26):

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Living the Spirit, I’m finding, requires constant vigilance. Constant. Moment to moment. It’s impossible to do without calling on God’s grace all day long. This, most likely, is one of the main reasons why St. Paul urged us to pray constantly. That connection with God’s grace is meant to help me rise above such passions and circumvent them. It’s obvious to me that I will need to really pray a LOT during the day to avoid giving in my feelings.

And this is why these two people are a gift to me. They are the reminders I need to constantly seek God and His grace. I know they can cause me to stumble, so I must cling to God and remain Christlike in my love for them.

Live in the Spirit, following the Spirit . . . remain constantly close to God in order to be more like Him.

What healing requires (Luke 17:11-19)

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Yesterday’s Gospel reading told the story of ten lepers who called upon Jesus for a healing. All were healed, but only one realized he was truly healed and returned to give thanks to God. While the other nine were healed in body, the tenth was healed also in heart, mind and soul.

Leprosy was a terrible scourge, the AIDS of its time. Besides the physical toll it took, it also ravaged the inner life  like no other. Illnesses create emotional wounds because of the isolation and fear they cause. Despite the love and sympathy of family and friends, you still ultimately have to bear your illness alone. But an illness that is not ‘acceptable’ creates deeper wounds because of the shunning one receives as a result. Lepers were banished from all contact with family, friends and society. Because of the ease in which the disease was transmitted, and the physical ugliness that it created, people ran in horror from you if you were a leper. Who can forget those haunting scenes from the movie “Ben Hur,” where we find Ben Hur’s mother and sister in the leper colony, stripped of all hope. AIDS victims today often face the same treatment.

So for Jesus to even acknowledge lepers was radical. In many cases, He even touched them.

In the case of the ten, He surely meant to heal each totally of his wounds: heart, mind, body and soul. The body obviously was the easiest part to heal. The healing of the inner self requires a much deeper faith.

Perhaps this is why the tenth leper was able to come back and thank Jesus when the other nine could not. His faith was deep enough to accept a total healing.

That kind of faith requires an openness found in a childlike heart that has not been hardened by bitterness and pain, the kind of heart Jesus says we must have to find life in Him. When one has a heart like that, one sees plainly the blessings, and the healing, that come from the Lord.

I find that the more I am clinging to Jesus, moment to moment, as a child would cling to a parent, the more I can see Him, even down to the smallest blessing or the smallest sin that I commit. This is what it takes to ‘see’ a healing. It’s all too easy to forget about Jesus as He is not physically in plain view. But I have His Word to read, His Spirit living within me and His people around me, especially in His Church, and it’s up to me to claim these things each and every day.

“Remove from me the way of falsehood . . .” Reflection on daily readings for September 22

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Here are today’s readings
Proverbs 30:5-9; Psalm 119:29,72,89,101,104,163; Luke 9:1-6

The scripture from Proverbs and the psalm from today’s daily readings washed over me like a wave. Its strong themes regarding deception and falsehood were a firm affirmation of something the Lord had shown me throughout this week: I had been exposed as a deceiver.

Who was I deceiving? Myself. How? Through pride.

My prayer life has been growing. I’ve enjoyed wonderful spiritual nourishment from a dear older friend who is an example of holiness to me. I’ve felt more connected with the Lord and with others. And I took pride in all that. That pride was deceiving me into thinking I was holy, in fact, holier than thou, if you know what I mean. Recently I was with a group of friends and found myself judging them. As the evening progressed, God was making it very clear to me that I needed to look more deeply at myself instead. Later that night, the examination of conscience was pretty intense.

I read the readings this morning and it reinforced the issue. It was obvious the Lord meant to teach me more. Just before I started writing this post, I talked to my brother on the phone and realized I had been judging him too about something without even bothering to consider all the facts!

What was scary to me was how easily I was deceived. It happened in such a subtle way that it took a while to see it. It reminded me how skillful satan is at deception (and yes, I mean to make the “s” in satan lower case), and how easily he can take something holy and pervert it.

Jesus was so right – you have to be constantly on alert, awake and ready. I need Jesus beside me every minute because satan never stops trying to separate us by my sin. The fortunate thing is Jesus’ love never ends. He will always offer His forgiveness and grace if I just ask for it.

I echo the thoughts of the writer of this verse from Proverbs:

. . . I ask of you,
deny them not to me before I die:
Put falsehood and lying far from me . . .
Proverbs 30:8

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner . . .