Archive for the ‘forgiveness’ 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?

 

Paul’s dilemma

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Reflection on the readings for Friday, May 5: Acts 13:26-33, Psalm 2:6-11; John 14:1-6

Radical conversion

Today’s reading from Acts struck me. Here was Paul, newly converted, preaching the very Gospel he had tried to snuff out. A zealous Pharisee, the once-named Saul made it his life’s mission to persecute Christians as a means of defending the Jewish faith.

Struck down on the road to Damascus by the One he truly persecuted, Paul’s heart was changed as well as his mission.

Hidden demons

Yet as I read his perfect preaching of the Gospel in a nutshell, I sense between the lines the dilemma he must have faced and the demons he had to put down to preach.

Paul’s regret over his past life must have tortured him at times, most especially when he preached. How many times must he had felt unworthy to even say the name of Jesus after the way he had treated His people!

Love conquers all

His love for Jesus had to be overpowering to overcome such regret. His faith in the Spirit to lead him away from his guilt which had been forgiven had to be very deep.

Paul’s thorn

While it is known that Paul had a thorn in his side (perhaps a medical issue), surely this guilt that haunted him again and again, was a thorn also. It was a thorn perhaps even more painful than the one he wrote about.

No excuses

Nobody had more reason to shrink away from preaching the Gospel than the man who had so cruelly persecuted the disciples of Jesus.  And yet, that memory of  and faith in the forgiveness graciously given to him by Jesus was the means by which he could preach.

What’s mine?

What excuse, therefore, do I have to shrink away from sharing Jesus with others? I am a sinner. I may not have persecuted Christians, but I have been ashamed of the Gospel, caring more for what people thought of me than sharing my love of Jesus with them. When I listen to Christian music at work, how often do I instinctively turn it down, or off, when a co-worker comes into the office? Why do I do that?

Eyes fixed on the prize

Paul was running a marathon on the strength of his love of Jesus. He would not stop until he reached the finish line. He had heaven fully in his sight and never took his eyes off of it. Being with the Lord overrode any leftover guilt or weakness.

My guilt is no less and therefore the forgiveness offered is no less powerful. St. Paul, run with me and remind me that if you were able to overcome your demons because of your love, I can too.

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 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Woman’s intuition is sometimes scoffed at, but as women, we know that we possess something akin to radar when it comes to sensing the moods and needs of others. In chapter 3 of  The Authentic Catholic Woman, Genevieve Kineke draws the connection between the sacrament of reconciliation and the unique ability of women to sense hurts and needs, and offer healing. Knowing how to build bridges that heal rifts in relationships brings others closer to our Lord, making us as women agents of reconciliation (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman).

Jesus as the supreme agent of reconciliation died on the cross to take on the sins of the world. Even as He was dying, He forgave those who crucified Him (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”) and offered salvation to the penitent thief through forgiveness. The prayer which He Himself taught the apostles says, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . . .” We are required to be such agents of reconciliation in order to receive the same from our Heavenly Father. In everything we do, we are to imitate Christ, and what better way than to offer healing through our abilities as peacemakers.

We all know that family life is full of conflict, both large and small (pg. 32, The Authentic Catholic Woman). Nothing hurts more than a falling out between a husband and wife, or a parent and child. Since we are the most vulnerable with regards to members of our family, we are open to being hurt emotionally and sometimes physically. The rifts in the family (the domestic Church) are a small reminder of the disunity in the universal Church, and the pain we feel is the pain Christ knew over these conflicts. Kineke reminds us to unite our own sufferings with Christ as the work of restoration is hard, involving much suffering (pg 33, Ibid).

In the end it comes down to love versus fear, and only love can offer reconciliation and renewal. Fears of getting involved or getting hurt serve only to block reconciliation from happening. We have to step out boldly to affect reconciliation.

I have to admire my two cousins, sons of my father’s brother. For some reason which we will never know (since my uncle has since passed on), my uncle became very angry with our family after my father passed away. At the time it seemed like a small slight with regards to funeral preparations, but it blew up into a feud. It was irrational (and perhaps based on the fact that we did not reach out enough when he lost his wife to cancer years ago), but because it was irrational, I immediately let it go. There was no point in holding on to it. I was sad that he no longer wanted anything to do with us, but reaching out was fruitless.

Or was it? When my aunt (his sister) passed away, we all went to the wake and funeral. During the wake, we spoke at length with my uncle’s oldest son who is truly an extraordinary man. He decided not to involve himself in his father’s feud with us and was very gracious to us (even through my uncle tried to perpetuate the feud even during the wake!). At the dinner after the funeral, I could see how the younger son was torn between loyalty to his father and the absurdity of the feud.

Unfortunately the feud was never reconciled as my uncle was not interested in resolving it or even discussing it. But his sons continued to reach out to us and we to them with Christmas cards and lovely sympathy cards from each of them after my mother’s passing. While it was not possible to reconcile with my uncle, the feud died with him because his sons were willing to take the chance and reach out. I am eternally grateful to the both of them, and their mother would have been proud. Perhaps she, in her spot in heaven, helped to act as the agent of reconciliation between the two families. We’ll find out when we all meet again.

Remembering my brave nephews reminds me that it is always worth it to stick your neck out and try to affect reconciliation. This is what Jesus’ mission was all about and it needs to be my personal mission as well.

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

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

 

“Loving God . . . Loving Neighbor: A Lenten Transformation” Retreat Wrap-up

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

This past weekend (March 11-13), my partner Ann Wagstaff and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of extraordinary women at the Vita Nova Women’s retreat at the Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH. The weekend exceeded our wildest expectations! The spirit of fraternity, affection and fellowship coupled with a real move of the Holy Spirit made it a weekend we all will remember for a long time to come.

Here are pictures from the weekend, and below the pictures, a description of what went on (including one of the talks that you can download).

Prayers for Detachment; time for reconciliation

After settling in on Friday, Ann and I led a prayer to help the women detach from their cares and focus solely on God. Music, prayers, candles and sweet scents lifted hearts to Heaven. Each woman wrote down their cares on a piece of paper – all the papers were put in a bag that was attached to mylar balloons that would lift the bag up to the ceiling!

After the prayer, everyone went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation with 3 wonderful priests, setting the tone for a Spirit-filled weekend.

Prayer

Prayer was a central part of the retreat – the Sung Rosary was done throughout the day using a Power Point presentation with images, scripture and the music of the Sung Rosary. Here’s a sample:

Loving God . . .

On Saturday morning, the presentations began. The theme of the retreat was the Two Great Commandments, based on Mark 12:28-34 – loving God, and loving neighbor.  A strong emphasis was placed upon priorities – how important it is to love God first and allowing that growing relationship to spill over into loving your neighbor. I shared teaching  on why loving God first was so important in my talk on Martha and Mary (read the text of the talk here), and Ann proceeded to share from her life about her struggles to balance between being a Martha and a Mary, and how she is becoming a “contemplative in action.”

I then spoke about how service happens through an outpouring of grace resulting from loving God, and how that grace can equip us for difficult service (in my case, helping to care for my dying mother).

The morning session concluded with an Emmaus walk, where the women, after hearing the scripture about the disciples’ encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, were instructed to take their own individual walk around the grounds as the disciples did, conversing and listening to Jesus.

Time of  Fellowship

Mealtimes at the dining hall were a highpoint as the food was so well prepared, and everyone was so warm and friendly. There was an extraordinary move of the Spirit through all the women which created a wonderful atmosphere of fellowship. It was a taste of Heaven.

Loving Neighbor . . .

The afternoon session focused on loving our neighbor by discovering and developing our natural talents and gifts, and then becoming aware of and praying for the spiritual gifts (based on scripture from 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4) . Ann and I gave a talk tracing our time lines to see what talents and gifts kept appearing throughout our lifetimes as a way of identifying what we do well (I also traced my husband’s interesting time line which led to his vocation as a deacon). I also spoke on what I termed “hidden gifts”  – those things such as being hospitable, being a good listener, or being a good caregiver – talents our society does not value but God does.  Each woman took a written survey to dig deeper into their own gifts and talents, and small group discussion followed sharing what they found out.

The scripture on the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 set the stage for a talk on the responsibilities we have to use our gifts to serve others. Blessed Mother Teresa was held up as the best modern example of a woman who used her immense gifts to help the poorest of the poor and that her ‘secret’ to her success what that it was all for Jesus. She had a unique talent for seeing Christ in every person she saw. I shared my song about Mother Teresa, “Teach Me to Love” (click here to listen).

Afterwards, the women gathered in small groups where they read sayings from Mother Teresa about service and applied them to their lives. The work they did produced some wonderful ideas – I took pictures of all the work they did so you can see for yourself and perhaps apply them to your life:

A beautiful meditation of the Stations of the Cross (a Power Point presentation with narration) was presented in the evening.

Blessing of the Hands

Sunday morning we were treated to a beautiful mass by Father Benedict of the Franciscans of the Primitive Order out of Lawrence, MA. Afterwards, we gathered back in the gym for our sending forth ceremony known as the Blessing of the Hands. Father blessed the water and the bowl was passed around from woman to woman; each woman dipped a finger in the water and did a sign of the cross in the hand of the woman next to her as a litany was read.  Eventually the litany was opened up and women shared their own blessings. It was a very moving ceremony with many tears shed. The ceremony strongly demonstrated the spirit of love and fellowship that bound together these new friends.

More information on Vita Nova

Ann and I were delighted and honored to have been a part of this event. The Vita Nova team (all volunteer), led by Rose Marie Cussom and Shannon Best were extraordinary in their efforts; their support made it possible for Ann and I to focus solely on the content and presentation of the material. I can’t rave about the team enough! Vita Nova is holding other events – be sure and check out their website for more information.

Prayer leads to insight, even on the little things

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Readings for February 25, 2011
Sirach 6:5-17; Psalm 119:12,16,18,27,34-35, Mark 10:1-12

Couples who have been married for a long time will relate to this. My husband and I were quarreling over an issue that has dogged us throughout our entire relationship. We’ve known each other since we were 16 and have been married 32 years. That’s a long time to be habitually quarreling over one issue!

Because of the long history, we were  tired of talking about it. We had both long ago hit brick walls trying to understand each other. What used to be hot and noisy fights has now turned into silence and getting the cold shoulder. And then stewing and steaming . . . It wasn’t a quarrel that would cause a split, but it did cause misery.

One tactic that my husband and I have adopted when we need to have one of those “difficult discussions” is to use email. Email has a way of creating some emotional distance thus creating a more objective view; it also allows each of us to express ourselves fully and thoughtfully without interruption. We used this tactic today.

At first it didn’t go well. I started out feeling very conflicted and despaired of an honest discussion – that grew into open anger. Praying was extremely difficult with that wall of anger separating me from my husband, and ultimately from God.

At noontime, my iTouch alerted me that it was time to pray the Angelus. I sighed and prayed it, admitting to God that my heart was not in it, and asking for direction, insight and guidance. Within the hour, He answered my prayer.

Through our discussion, my husband revealed the true nature of the problem. He had actually told me many times before what the nature of the problem was, but I never could see it. I started a prayer journal a few weeks ago (on my iTouch using the Pauline Media app called Healing Prayers) and added that intention on my list, asking for understanding and insight. Today, because of those prayers and by praying the Angelus, I received the insight I was looking for.

After a frank discussion with my husband, I was able to offer a solution that made him very happy. The language softened right up and we started discussing happier things, such as going to Boston tomorrow night to see the Beatles tribute band, Rain (a last minute decision :-) ).

Not that I needed direct proof, but I received it anyway that prayer leads to insight, even on the smallest issues, and even on those stubborn ones that occur again and again. Truly, nothing is impossible withe God!

So what does this have to do with today’s readings? At first I didn’t think there was a link, but my deacon friend pointed it out while we chatted online by quoting today’s responsorial psalm – Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

How true! It also affirmed something. I recently took up the habit of listening to the Invitatory Psalm of the Divine Office on DivineOffice.org, the daily readings from the iMissal app, and the podcast of the day from the Pray As You Go podcast. I’m half asleep when I listen to these things and wondered if they were having any impact at all. This morning I was convinced it was a useless exercise. The things that happened today tell me otherwise. It’s possible that subconsciously I did absorb the readings. After all, I did ask the Lord to guide me in the way of His commands.

It really goes to show in the end that faithfulness to the smallest things is the key to the spiritual life. Right now as I write this, I have a growing and profound sense of gratitude.

Thank you, Lord.

Contemporary Example of True Shepherds

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Reflections on the readings for February, 22, 2011
1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 23:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19

Yesterday I saw the most wonderful article in the Boston Globe about the archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He was sent to Ireland to represent the  Church and offer sincere apologies with regards to the sex abuse scandal there. The Church in Ireland has been deeply wounded by this scandal, even as we have felt it here in America and especially in the Boston area where the story broke and was extensively covered by the Boston Globe.

Therefore it was especially welcome to see coverage of this story in said Boston Globe, and on the front cover too, above the fold. It is the perfect reflection of what a true shepherd in Church ought to be as pointed out in today’s first reading from 1Peter:

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The article by Lisa Wangness begins as such:

DUBLIN — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lay prostrate before a bare altar as the packed cathedral watched in silence.

They listened as lectors read long sections of government reports detailing horrific abuse of children in Dublin parishes and church-run industrial schools.

Then O’Malley and Martin washed the feet of eight abuse victims. Several wept as Martin poured water from a large pitcher and O’Malley knelt and dried them with a white terry cloth towel.

Anyone familiar with the story of the Washing of the Feet, read on Holy Thursday liturgy, knows that Jesus was teaching his disciples true service and humility. He was putting the disciples in positions of authority and wanted to make sure they understood that being in authority meant to serve. Washing someone’s dirty feet (and in ancient times, they were especially dirty!), normally a slave’s job, was the perfect example of true service and humility.

Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Martin understood that. They knew that if the Church in Ireland, and around the world, was to begin to heal, that they would need to show the ultimate sign of humility towards the sex abuse victims. Thanks be to God that they were open to the Holy Spirit enough to show this sign.

This is what St. Peter meant in his writing to the Church; he knew firsthand because the Lord had shown him, even though he initially resisted.

May more shepherds be like these two men – not just clergy, but all shepherds, for we all tend our little flocks.

Here is a link to the entire story.

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!

Looking for a positive reason to go to confession regularly? Here it is

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I subscribe to a website called Catholic Spiritual Direction. All their articles are excellent but today’s really blew me away. It gave me pause regarding the idea of going to confession regularly.

In response to a question about discerning matters involving infused contemplation (click on the link to find out more about this form of prayer – St. Theresa of Avila wrote a lot on this), the first paragraph of the answer really nailed it for me:

You are certainly right to call infused contemplation a gift. It is, at base, an experiential knowledge of God. It is made possible by the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Infused contemplation requires one to have sanctifying grace, that is, to be in a state of grace. This kind of prayer brings an experience of the presence of God and of a hard-to-describe sense of the supernatural. None of this is conjured up by the soul on its own; in fact, the soul is more passive than active when involved in this type of contemplation.

I have underscored the part that really jumped out at me – the need for sanctifying grace, the state of grace that comes from having your sins forgiven. When you go to confession (also known as the sacrament of reconciliation) and receive absolution from the priest, your soul is flooded with sanctifying grace. Slow as I am, I never realized the doors that can be opened by remaining in that state of grace.

Like most of us, I find it hard to go to confession and I have to admit, I sometimes find it hard to think of sins, showing how dull my spiritual life really is. An active and deep spiritual life shines a spotlight on my sins. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to have that self-knowledge and be able to act upon it in the confessional.

The writer goes on to say other profound things:

A high level of charity is one of the surest signs that you are experiencing true contemplation. That’s because real prayer has an impact on the way we deal with others; it moves us to try to imitate Christ more and more in daily life. All of this is a reminder that genuine inspirations of God always nudge us to do something good.

This is something I’ve experienced a bit in my life. When my prayer life is going well, it does prompt me to be kinder and more thoughtful to others. My desire to be holy and to imitate Christ begins to burn in me, and my hunger for Him becomes palpable.

Here is the link to the entire post. This is something you will want to pick apart, line by line. And then perhaps, like myself, you will want to start visiting that confessional more often.