Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Let us love one another during Holy Week"

Let us resolve to make this week holy by claiming Christ's redemptive grace and by living holy lives. The Word became flesh and redeemed us by his holy life and holy death. This week especially, let us accept redemption by living grateful, faithful, prayerful, generous, just and holy lives.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by reading and meditating (on) holy Scripture. So often, we get caught up in the hurry of daily living. As individuals and as families, reserve prime time to be with Jesus, to hear the cries of the children waving palm branches, to see the Son of Man riding on an ass' colt, to feel the press of the crowd, to be caught up in the "Hosannas" and to realize how the cries of acclamation will yield to the garden of suffering, to be there and watch as Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to Calvary, to see him rejected, mocked, spat upon, beaten and forced to carry a heavy cross, to hear the echo of the hammer, to feel the agony of the torn flesh and strained muscles, to know Mary's anguish as he hung three hours before he died.

We recoil before the atrocities of war, gang crime, domestic violence and catastrophic illness. Unless we personally and immediately are touched by suffering, it is easy to read Scripture and to walk away without contacting the redemptive suffering that makes us holy. The reality of the Word falls on deaf ears.

Let us take time this week to be present to someone who suffers. Sharing the pain of a fellow human will enliven Scripture and help us enter into the holy mystery of the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by participating in the Holy Week services of the church, not just by attending, but also by preparing, by studying the readings, entering into the spirit, offering our services as ministers of the Word or Eucharist, decorating the church or preparing the environment for worship.

Let us sing, "Lord, have mercy," and "Hosanna." Let us praise the Lord with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength, uniting with the suffering church throughout the world -- in Rome and Northern Ireland, in Syria and Lebanon, in South Africa and Angola, India and China, Nicaragua and El Salvador, in Washington and Jackson.

Let us break bread together; let us relive the holy and redemptive mystery. Let us do it in memory of him, acknowledging in faith his real presence upon our altars.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy within our families, sharing family prayer on a regular basis, making every meal a holy meal where loving conversations bond family members in unity, sharing family work without grumbling, making love not war, asking forgiveness for past hurts and forgiving one another from the heart, seeking to go all the way for love as Jesus went all the way for love.

Let us resolve to make this week holy by sharing holy peace and joy with the needy, the alienated, the lonely, the sick and afflicted, the untouchable.

Let us unite our sufferings, inconveniences and annoyances with the suffering of Jesus. Let us stretch ourselves, going beyond our comfort zones to unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work.

We unite ourselves with Christ's redemptive work when we reconcile, when we make peace, when we share the good news that God is in our lives, when we reflect to our brothers and sisters God's healing, God's forgiveness, God's unconditional love.

Let us be practical, reaching out across the boundaries of race and class and status to help somebody, to encourage and affirm somebody, offering to the young an incentive to learn and grow, offering to the downtrodden resources to help themselves.

May our fasting be the kind that saves and shares with the poor, that actually contacts the needy, that gives heart to heart, that touches and nourishes and heals.

During this Holy Week when Jesus gave his life for love, let us truly love one another.

~"Let us love one another during Holy Week" by Sister Thea Bowman, published by Catholic News Service
Dear Lord, there are so many ways that I can love You. Let me not miss out on a single one, especially during this holiest week of the year. Amen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. ~Isaiah 49:6

Lately I've been thinking about what broken creatures we human beings are. Life wounds us. We suffer, and we cause suffering for others. We don't mean to hurt people, but, in our woundedness, which we cannot bear to face, we inflict pain upon others. I do this sometimes, though I try hard to tend to my own brokenness so that it will not be a burden for someone else. God wants to heal me of all my ills, but I must give them to Him. I must empty myself, over and over again, and I must let God empty me of that to which I still cling. Only then can the healing waters of His love and truth flood my entire being and transform me into a new creation. Only then I will be able to bring His light and salvation to the whole world.

Thank you, dear Lord, for continually binding up my wounds and healing me in my broken places. May I never fail to become all that You are calling me to be. Amen.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Going Up to Jerusalem

"Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem." Luke 19:28

Being Christian means seeing the way of Jesus Christ as the right way of being human -- as that way that leads to the goal, to a humanity that is fully realized and authentic...being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ. A going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us.

...It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.

He leads us to availability to bring help; to the goodness that does not let itself be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to love -- he leads us to God.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Palm Sunday
Dear Jesus, I want to go up to Jerusalem with You, but my selfishness and faintheartedness cause me to falter. Within Your wounds, hide me! There let me rejoice in Your mercy. There renew me in Your love. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hosanna or Crucify?

Let us turn our attention to those two exclamations issuing from people’s lips. There is today’s exclamation, "Hosanna," and the one we will hear during Passion Week on Great Thursday and Great Friday. Those exclamations are called out in our lives as well. When do we say "Hosanna?" When our soul opens up to God, when we recognize our sinfulness, when we see our sin, and we rush to bring true repentance to God and to change our life, adjusting and regulating it according to Christ’s Commandments, in order to set it on the path of the virtues. Then, truly, "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" sounds in our souls. Blessed is Christ, coming into my heart, into my soul, into my life. I am just as ready, O Lord, to come out to meet You, ready to spread out before You the garments of my virtues and the God-pleasing works I have done. When we act in that way, we are saying "Hosanna."

But let’s ask ourselves (and try to give an honest, unhypocritical answer) the question: Does that exclamation often sound in my life? Does not "Crucify Him, Crucify Him" sound out more often in my soul? That is precisely what my soul cries out to God when I continue to stagnate in my sins; when I continue to be indifferent to the state of my soul, and do not care whether it is healthy or sick, or perhaps, already dead; when what is happening around me doesn’t matter to me, when I am concerned only with my own visible success; when I don’t see the person who is right beside me; when I am blind to his needs and I remain callous, selfish, not wanting to even think that someone might be in need of my human warmth, my kind words, my sympathetic glance. In short, when I forget my Christian calling, I join the crowd of those Jews who in anger and hatred cried out to Pilate "Crucify Him, crucify Him."

Such are the vitally important questions the Feast of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem poses to us; it calls us to reflect on them on the eve of Passion Week and of our Lord’s passion, to comprehend His love, His enormous sacrifice. Just consider His limitless love for mankind! If was because of that love that He, our Lord and Creator, became like us, His creation. Not only does he become Man, but takes up His Cross and ascends Golgotha, there to be crucified together with our sins, to redeem the sins of each -- those who live, have lived, or are to live on earth. Through that crucifixion, through that sacrifice, we are liberated from slavery to sin and are graced with the possibility of being like unto God. The Lord loves us that much!

… As we enter into the days of Passion Week, into the Passion of our Lord, let us constantly be mindful of it, both at home and at work. To the extent possible, may the sufferings of Christ be our own as well. Let us remember that the Lord entered Jerusalem with tears in his eyes. He wept for the city and for the people who did not recognize His coming. May we not be like those irrational people! How wonderful it would be to see on the Lord’s face not tears, but a look of joy. Joy over the fact that we, His children, are striving towards him; of course children who are sometimes irrational, who commit sins and make mistakes, but his children, who love their Lord and cannot imagine life without Him. May Christ’s eyes be brimming not with tears but joy. That depends upon us alone. Let us strive and apply all of our efforts. "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!"

~from a homily by Father Victor Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Washington, DC

Dear Lord, at least this week, the holiest week of the year, may I sing "Hosanna!" more than I shout "Crucify!" I love You, my Jesus. Please help me love you more and more. Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the Crucifixion

But when the final hour of her Son came, His Mother stood by the cross of Jesus, not just occupied in seeing the dread spectacle, but actually rejoicing that her Only-Begotten was being offered for the salvation of the human race. ~ St. Pius X, Encyclical on the Immaculate Conception

But where in all this does Mary remain? We have not spoken of her because Scripture, in its account of the last days of Jesus, does not do so. She is mentioned only at the end, when we are told that "now there was standing by the Cross of Jesus His mother" (Jn 19:25). This sentence covers all the preceding events. She always stood "beneath the Cross," and never withdrew from the holy and terrible domain of Christ's Passion. It was natural for her to be present in whatever place it happened. And it was just as natural that she would come to know all that had occurred.

Every breath the Lord drew passed through Mary's breast; every throb of His heart was her own; and nothing happened to Him that had not also "penetrated her soul," as Simeon had foretold. So we must draw her into all of these events.

Mary connects us with all these happenings. It is she who causes us not only to look and meditate, but also makes us aware that all these happenings concern every one of us, you and me. She is the reason that I do not run away when my faintheartedness becomes unbearable, but that I remain. She herself remained, "until all was consummated" (cf. Mt 5:18; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32).

And so must I.

~from The Rosary of Our Lady by Msgr. Romano Guardini

Dear Mary, you forever rejoiced in God our Savior, even during His Passion and Death. May it always be my greatest joy to stand with you beneath the Cross of your Beloved Son, the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross

And they led him off to crucify him. Matthew 27:31

The reaction of others to the imminent death of Jesus was highly complicated by the fact that he wasn't just dying – he was being killed. An execution isn't the same as expiring from illness or old age or an accident. As traumatic as the loss of a loved one is under any circumstance, watching one murdered in a highly public spectacle is many times more paralyzing. The particulars of crucifixion made it that much worse. It was by design a humiliating end, intended for slaves and social villains. It was meant to shame, involving exposure of the body along an open road, so that all who passed by could view the infamy and hurl an insult or two. Death by crucifixion set an example for moral, upstanding folk. You might take the kids to Golgotha to learn a lesson. "See? This is what happens when you live a bad life."

No one could have guessed that crucifixion was about to be translated into a sign of ultimate goodness and gory. Christian parents would hereafter bring their children before the cross and say: "See? This is what God was willing to do for love of us."

~from The Rosary: Mysteries of Joy, Light, Sorrow and Glory by Alice Camille
Dear Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, You were no slave or social villain. Before all ages and forevermore, You are the King of Love and Mercy! We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Annunciation of the Lord

Everything is contained in a single word: obedience
Not that of the enslaved and heavy soul
The bovine effort, dead set, the eye swarming with flies
The yoke,
But the dazzling face-to-face
Of the one and same Yes.
Everything is contained in this woman's look upon Him
Who knows her.
Face open to ages upon ages
Magnificat for ages upon ages
Yes to everything.
The young woman
Dared to do this.
To be the mold, the crucible
In which the eternal misery of humans
In which the eternal misery that humans are
Becomes God.

~P. Emmanuel, quoted in Days of the Lord, Vol. 7
Dear Mary, Handmaid of the Lord, when you consented to give birth to Our Lord in the mystery of the Annunciation, you said yes to the salvation of the world. Today the flowers appear on the earth and the time of singing has come! Today is the first day of the rest of our lives! Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you! And blessed forever is the fruit of your womb, Jesus! Amen!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Little Crosses

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. ~Mark 8:34

It is a penance to work, to give oneself to others, to endure the pinpricks of community living. One would certainly say on many occasions: Give me a good, thorough, frank, outgoing war, rather than the sneak attacks, stabs in the back, sparring, detracting, defaming, hand-to-hand jockeying for position that go on in offices and "good works" of all kinds, another and miserably petty kind of war. Saint Paul said that he "died daily." This too is penance, to be taken cheerfully, joyfully... So let us rejoice in our own petty sufferings and thank God we have a little penance to offer, in this holy season. ~from By Little and By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day (quoted in "40 Days to a new you" at US Catholic)

Dear Lord, there they are again, those small crosses: "our own petty sufferings...a little penance to offer." Nothing grand or exciting here -- except for Your love, by which You have fashioned each one of my crosses just for me. Thank You, my Jesus, for all of them! Amen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Little Crosses

But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ~Gal. 6:14

May we always unite our little crosses to his great cross. ~St. Francis de Sales

Jesus, my Crucified Lord and King, Your great cross is the only one that matters, but my little crosses are of value, too, when I lovingly unite them with Yours. Let me never disdain my little crosses for they are Your gift to me. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Let us learn..."

Dear friends, let us learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbor. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin -- beginning with our own! -- and indulgent with people. May we be helped in this by the Holy Mother of God, who, free of every fault, is the mediatrix of grace for every contrite sinner. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message of 3/21/10

Dear Lord, help me to keep learning Your ways so that I may keep growing in Your love. Amen.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

God's Pardon and Mercy

See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

"Woman ... has no one condemned you? ... neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8:10-11). Jesus is newness of life for those who open their hearts and, after acknowledging their sins, receive his saving mercy. In today's Gospel text, the Lord offers this gift of his love to the adulteress, who is forgiven and restored to her full human and spiritual dignity. He also offers it to her accusers, but their spirit remains closed and impenetrable.

Here is an invitation to meditate on the paradoxical refusal of his merciful love. It is as though the trial against Jesus were already beginning, a trial that we will relive in a few days during the events of his Passion: it will result in his unjust sentence to death on the cross. On the one hand, the redeeming love of Christ, freely offered to everyone; on the other, the closure of those who, moved by envy, seek a motive to kill him. Accused even of opposing the Law, Jesus is "put to the test": if he absolves the woman caught in flagrant adultery, it will be said that he has transgressed the precepts of Moses; if he condemns her, it will be said that he is inconsistent with his message of mercy towards sinners.

But Jesus does not fall into the trap. By his silence he invites everyone to self-reflection. On the one hand, he invites the woman to acknowledge the wrong committed; on the other, he invites her accusers not to shrink from an examination of conscience: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8:7).

The woman's situation is certainly serious. But the message flows precisely from this situation: in whatever condition we find ourselves, we can always open ourselves to conversion and receive forgiveness for our sins. "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8:11). On Calvary, by the supreme sacrifice of his life, the Messiah will seal for every man and woman
the infinite gift of God's pardon and mercy.

~Pope John Paul II, Homily of 4/1/01

Dear Jesus, rich in kindness and mercy, thank you for giving me the desire and the grace to open myself to conversion and to receive Your forgiveness. Today and always, let me be glad and rejoice in Your wondrous love! Amen.

"Iced Tulip Sphere" by Ann L. Krumrein

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mary, the Great Believer

Mary is the great believer who humbly offered herself to God as an empty vessel for him to use in his mysterious plan. Without complaint she surrendered control of her life; she did not try to live according to human calculation but put herself completely at the disposal of God's mysterious, incomprehensible design. All she wanted was to be the handmaid of the Lord, the instrument and servant of the Word. Therein lies her true fame: that she remained a believer despite all the darkness and all the inexplicable demands God made on her. She believed even in the face of certain incomprehensible facts: that she should carry her Creator in her womb; that the child growing there should be the Lord; that he who was the source of Israel's salvation should be regarded by his fellows as deranged; that he should brush her aside, first as a twelve year-old and again at the beginning of his public life; that he who was to bring salvation and healing to Israel should be executed by that same Israel.

Today God is still mysterious; indeed he seems to have a special kind of obscurity in store for each person's life. But could he ever render any life as dark and incomprehensible as he did Mary's? "Blessed are you who have believed," even when this faith became a sword that pierced her heart. This is the real reason for her greatness and her being called blessed: she is the great believer.

~Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Mary, whose indomitable faith was deeply rooted in God's enduring love, I want to be a great believer like you. Please share your faith and your love with me. Amen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Where could we better witness to our fidelity than in the midst of things going wrong? ~St. Francis de Sales

When I think of someone who remains faithful "in the midst of things going wrong," St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today, comes to mind. Here was a quiet, unassuming man whose whole world was suddenly turned upside down! Mary, the woman to whom he was betrothed, had mysteriously become pregnant. How could this be? What should he do? An angel appeared to Joseph in his dreams and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home with him, which he did. Then, too close to her due date for comfort, Mary and Joseph were commanded by law to make a long journey by donkey to be counted for the census. Arriving at their destination, the only shelter Joseph could find was a stall of smelly, dirty animals, where Mary gave birth. After an odd parade of shepherds, wise men and other assorted visitors came to worship their child, yet another angel appeared to Joseph, telling him to quickly flee into Egypt with Mary and Jesus, their newborn son, because some megalomaniac king had ordered his soldiers to kill all babies under the age of two. Later, when they went to the temple to offer their son to God according to the law, an old prophet stunningly declared that their child was destined for the fall and rise of many and would be a sign that would be contradicted. Plus, the prophet added, Mary's heart would be pierced with a sword. And then there was that journey where they thought that they had lost their beloved son and spent three long days and nights anxiously searching for him. Astonished to find him in the temple, they were further bewildered to have him inform them that he had business with his Father. "And they did not understand..." (Lk 2:50)

Where did Joseph better witness his fidelity to God than in the midst of things going wrong? The Gospels do not say that Joseph wrung his hands in despair or that he bemoaned his fate or that he had a pity-party or that he rebelled against God. Perhaps he did, but, regardless, he had confidence in God and simply went about what St. Francis de Sales calls his "duties of state" as husband to Mary and foster-father to their son Jesus. He took Mary into his home. He went from Galilee to Bethlehem to be enrolled with his wife Mary, who was with child. He fled from danger, taking Jesus and Mary to Egypt. And after Joseph and Mary presented their son to God in the temple, he returned to their own humble home in of Nazareth.

Joseph was a carpenter. His was a homely trade, filled with detail and repetition. He was also a husband and a father, who cherished and protected the life with which he had been entrusted. He lived hidden in the shadow of Jesus and Mary, whom he greatly loved and to whom he was completely devoted. Joseph's life and ours are alike in many ways. Joseph's gift to us is that he is a "particularly energizing model of humble and generous fidelity to the daily and unexpected calls of God" (Days of the Lord, Vol. 7).

Dear St. Joseph, help us to be faithful to God and His will for us in all things, large or small. Show us how to trust Him always, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of things going wrong. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ah, spring!

What is spring?
Growth in everything!
~Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thank you, dear Lord, for "all this juice and all this joy"! Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Arise Today!

Today being St. Patrick's Day, and me being Irish on Daddy's side (Lithuanian on Mummie's) how could I not post his beautiful prayer known as his Breastplate? Supposedly he composed it in preparation for his victory over paganism. To me, it's such an invigorating and encouraging prayer, especially first thing in the morning as our Lord calls me to rise up and go forward into a new day. As I pray these words attributed to St. Patrick, I am reminded of my own Irish heritage and especially of my dear Irish father. Various translations of this prayer can be found on a multitude of Web sights, all of which affirm the primacy of Christ, always and everywhere.

St. Patrick Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Not to Carry Our Cross

How greatly we add to our crosses by being cross with them! ~Friedrich Von Hugel

Sometimes I consult the dictionary just to remind myself what a word means. Today the word is the adjective "cross." One dictionary defines it as showing ill humor or being annoyed. And they mean...
ill humor -- an irritable state of mind; surliness

annoyed -- aroused to impatience or anger

Oh dear! Is this how I am when I am cross with my crosses? Surly? Angry? I see pride lurking there -- or perhaps I should say lurking in my heart. Mea culpa...

It's not all about me. It's about the Lord, Jesus Crucified, walking with Him the road to Calvary, sharing in His Passion so as to enter more fully into His Resurrection, sharing also in the sufferings of my brothers and sisters and not making crosses for them by being so cross with my own.

One Lent, that was a question that arose in my reading, or maybe it was a workshop or talk I attended. Whatever, it's a good question for all seasons, not just for Lent. "Do I make crosses for other people?" Yes, sometimes I do. And one way is by being cross with my crosses, grumbling and complaining about them to anybody who will listen, which is almost always an invitation to them to join my pity party. Or maybe I don't say anything to anyone, but I think that enough is enough, I don't need this particular cross, I have enough to carry as it is, why me, and other such self-pitying things.

There it is again -- pride. ...mea culpa, mea maxima cupla!

"For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate... Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom 7:15, 24-25)

Dear Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, teach me how to carry my cross, with You and for You. "Put a steadfast spirit within me...give me again the joy of Your help" (Ps 50). And Lord, please deliver me from myself! Amen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

How To Carry Our Cross

But if, on the contrary, you suffer in the right way, the cross will become a yoke that is easy and light, since Christ himself will carry it with you. It will give you wings, as it were, to lift you to heaven; it will become your ship's mast, bringing you smoothly and easily to the harbor of salvation.

Carry your cross patiently, and it will be a light in your spiritual darkness, for the one who has never suffered trials is ignorant.

Carry your cross cheerfully, and you will be filled with divine love; for only in suffering can we dwell in the pure love of Christ.

Carry your cross cheerfully and you will draw from it an all-powerful strength which
none of your enemies will be able to resist, and you will find in it a delight beyond anything you have known. Indeed, brethren, the true earthly paradise is found in suffering for Christ.

~St. Louis de Montfort

Dear Lord, teach me how to carry my cross, with You and for You. Amen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Joy Break

This Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday. It's also known as Rejoice Sunday because the Latin word "laetare" means "rejoice!" Penance isn't meant to be a gloomy affair, and halfway through this penitential season of Lent, Mother Church wisely gives us this "joy break" to remind us of the happiness of God's love. The entrance antiphon for today's Mass is a clarion call to jubilation: "Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts." (see Isaiah 66:10-11)

The source of our joy is, of course, Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Easter is the great feast of boundless, exhilarating joy. Lent also is a time of joy, as we hear in the first Preface of the Mass for Lent: "Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed." Since I don't automatically think of Lent as a particularly joyful time, on Laetare Sunday I like to ponder anew the special joys of Lent, which include:

the joy of repentance -- "We must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."

the joy of conversion -- "I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees."

the joy of prayer -- "Watch and pray with Me."

the joy of fasting -- "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."

the joy of humility-- "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return."

the joy of taking up our cross to follow Christ – "For me to live is Christ."

the joy of purity -- "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God."

the joy of reconciliation -- "When we were lost and could not find the way to you, you loved us more than ever."

the joy of mortification -- "Christ will be magnified in my body"

the joy of mercy -- "With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you."

the joy of salvation -- "I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly."

the joy of LOVE -- "For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son."

"Look to God that you may be radiant with joy," Mother Church encourages us today. "Learn to savor how good the Lord is; happy are those who take refuge in him." (Responsorial Psalm, #34)

Indeed, let us be glad and rejoice!

Dear Lord, thank You for this joyful season of Lent. Help me to spend its remaining days well so that I may enter more fully into Your paschal joy. Amen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Rain

He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth. Hosea 6:3

The Old Testament is full of rich images of how God comes to us and works in our lives. Today's image of the spring rain always shows up in the first reading from Hosea (6:1-6) for the third Saturday of Lent, which appropriately enough comes during March, the time of spring rain. The Hebrew word is "malqôsh". In Biblical times, it preceded and promoted the harvest; without it, the crops would not mature. It was the third and last period of the rainy season which ran from November to April. This gentle rain was crucial for the harvest. Without it, crops and fruits would not survive the long, burning hot stretch of summer, during which there was no moisture except for the dew. If the malqôsh failed or was insufficient, drought or famine would result.

Thank you, dear Lord, for coming to me like the spring rain, for always providing for all my needs and especially for preparing me for the dry times lest I wither and die. Thank You for remembering how frail and weak I am, for being gentle but persistent with me. Only in You can I grow and mature; only in You can I bear fruit that will last. My God, how great is Your goodness to me! For ever will I sing Your praise! Amen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Like the Dew

I will be like the dew to Israel. --Hosea 14:5

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
~from “The Brewing of Soma” by John Greenleaf Whittier

Photography by Ann L. Krumrein

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tertullian on Prayer

All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look out to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer. What more need be said on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honour and power for ever and ever. Amen. ~from the treatise On Prayer by Tertullian

Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the Lord. Psalm 150:6

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift, the duty and the joy of prayer. Amen.

Note: The above painting is by Nicolaes Maes and is called "Old Woman Praying (Prayer without End)". The Art to Heart Web site has a lovely reflection on this work of art. I must confess, however, that what drew me to this image of prayer was not the woman herself, who exudes serenity and gratitude, but the kitten in the lower right-hand corner which is pulling on her tablecloth. All creatures, great and small, bless the Lord!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rest in the Lord

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. ~Mt 11:28-30

When one loves, there is no fatigue; or if there is, even that is loved. ~St. Peter Julian Eymard

Dear Lord, I am so tired today. Let me find my rest in You. Amen.

Photography by Ann L. Krumrein ~ Bench in Bishop's Garden, Washington National Cathedral

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Prayer of Azariah

Today's first reading from the book of Daniel (Dn 3:25, 34-43) is the prayer of Azariah in the fiery furnace. We all know the story. The megalomaniacal king Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden idol and had commanded each nation to send three envoys to do homage to the statue. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- whose Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah -- were the men chosen as the Jewish delegates. Because they refused to worship the idol, the king became consumed with fury and sentenced to death and had thrown into a white-hot furnace.

The rest is history, as the saying goes. "They walked about in the
flames, singing to God and blessing the Lord. In the fire Azariah stood up and prayed aloud." (Dn 3:24-25)

Two things worth noting…

First, beforehand, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had sought the advice of Daniel. The Jewish Encyclopedia notes that "he sent them to the prophet Ezekiel, who advised them not to risk their lives, but rather to try to evade the command by flight. Although the prophet based his advice on the authority of Isaiah (see Is. 26:20), they determined openly to insult the king's statue so that all the nations should say, 'All peoples did homage to the image, Israel alone refused!'

Second, these young men knew what they were getting into, literally. At the beginning of this idol worship, a herald of the king had loudly informed the crowd that had gathered: "Whoever does not fall down and worship shall be instantly cast into a white-hot furnace" (Dn 3:6)

And yet, these three brave men made "a public and difficult decision to stand by their faith… This was not an easy choice. Nevertheless, the character of these three men, as defined and honed by their life long choices, allowed them to follow God in faith, rather than yield to the pressures of secular intolerance" (unidentified source from the Web).

Dear Lord Jesus, the one true and holy God, You call us to worship You alone. Enkindle within us the great and steadfast spirit of Azariah, that we may always say with him: "And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you." Especially in the fiery furnace of secular intolerance that rages rampantly today, keep us faithful in following You and courageous in proclaiming Your Gospel of Life. "Deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.” Amen!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Penance and Self-Denial

Lent is a time when we are asked to share in a particular way in the Passion of our Lord – to share in it through penance, because penance, self-denial, is a way of training ourselves to choose love instead of selfishness. And behind all the particular forms of self-denial that we may choose for ourselves, behind and far deeper than these, there is precisely the self-denial of taking fully and wholeheartedly what the moment brings to us of vexation or labor – the people who put heavy demands on our patience, the work that is hard and unrewarding, the duty that has no appeal for us – of taking all these things as they come to us and accepting them fully and turning them fully into the acts of love which they ought to be.

There is one thing more. Where troubles and hardships are concerned we do well to think of our own as little as possible, and then only in comparison with his. We are very wrong if we despise small things because they are small; but at the same time we are very wrong if, when they are painful, we forget that they are small, a tiny drop that can be of value at all only when it is poured into the brimming cup of his Passion like the drop of water poured into the wine at Mass.

from The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God by Gerald Vann, O.P.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the opportunities for penance and self-denial that You give me each day. Help me to make the most of them, to not waste a single one. May they truly be a sharing in Your Passion, transformed by Your love into a living sacrifice of praise. Amen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Living Water

Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. ~Jn 4:14

The wells of our souls need a well digger; they must be cleaned, freed from everything earthly so that the water tables of rational thoughts that God has placed there may produce streams of pure and sincere water. As long as dirt blocks the water tables and obstructs them, the secret current, the pure water cannot flow. ~Origen, quoted in Days of the Lord, Vol. 2, Lent

Dear Lord, make me a diligent well digger so that Your living water may always spring up within me as a fountain of everlasting life. Amen.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Going Back

"I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you." ~Luke 15:18

The Word repentance is often misunderstood. This word, as we know it in the English language, does not fully convey the idea that God wants us to understand. Repentance does not simply mean sorrow for sin. No! The prodigal son had remorse and sorrow while he fed pigs. In despair, he said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Lk 15:17) But was that repentance? Obviously not. The prodigal left the pigs and husks, and went back to his father. He said, “I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants” (Lk 15:18-19). Almost before he realized it, two strong arms of love embraced him, and the father clasped him to his bosom. That is repentance! The New Testament meaning of repentance is “going back.”

Have you gone back? Have you returned to your heavenly Father? Remorse is not complete repentance. Returning to God is repentance!

~Oswald Chambers

Dear Father, You are waiting for me with Your outstretched arms of love and mercy. Let nothing ever prevent me from coming back to You! Amen!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Brothers of Joseph

Today's first reading about Joseph and his brothers who sold him into slavery reminds me of that prayer of St. Thomas More while he was in the Tower of London awaiting his execution. "Give me Your grace, good think my greatest enemies my best friends; for the brothers of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred." This prayer both comforts and challenges me whenever I remember with a stab of bitterness someone who has hurt and betrayed me.

Then comes the gospel from Matthew 21, setting me straight once again. Those "brothers of Joseph" are not my concern. God will take care of them, Jesus assures me. "He will miserably destroy those wicked men," one translation reads.

Indeed, as we pray in today's responsorial psalm, "Remember the marvels the Lord has done!" AMEN!

The Father's Love

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young... Psalm 84:3

Dear Lord, how lovingly You provide for us! "Each day You show us a Father's love!"* May I always be Your happy child, trusting and exulting in Your wonderful care for us. Amen.

*Sunday Ordinary Time, Preface VI

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Poverty of Christ

Christ's family, the house from which he sprang, was poor. Christ did not make any effort to restore its fortunes. He did not strive to win respect. He was poor – not in the manner of the great ascetics whose poverty reveals a mysterious greatness, but simply and naturally poor. His poverty was, rather, a lack of pretensions. He did not choose important people as his friends. He struggled, but basically it was not a struggle. He was a teacher, but he did not make himself understood (not even among his friends). What he did and suffered had the character of a singular failure. He was solitary, one might even say, deserted. He was misunderstood. His life lacked every element of "being understood". The Gospels give the impression of a bitter (but not embittered) sense of constriction, of a dumbness in the midst of speech: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1:5-11). His work was in vain. God's humility made desolate the existence of the man Jesus. It was a fearsome thing, to be the Son of God. Christ bore within himself a truth that came from God himself, in him there welled up immeasurable love and friendship. He could have set the whole world out of joint. But he chose otherwise. He accepted his pitiless destiny. Everywhere he met an impenetrable wall. This existential experience of not being accepted, and not being recognized, reached its absolute limit in his death when he died forsaken (it seemed) by God himself.

~from In Time of Temptation by Ladislaus Boros, S.J.

O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand. ~William Penn

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quietness and Trust

"Big, Blue and Snowy" by Ann L. Krumrein

Dear Lord,
help me to live this day quietly, easily;
To lean upon thy great strength trustfully, restfully;
To wait for the unfolding of thy will patiently, serenely;
To meet others peacefully, joyously;
To face tomorrow confidently, courageously.

In quietness and in trust shall be your strength. ~Isaiah 30:15

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For Our Brothers and Sisters in Chile

I am numb and utterly crushed; I wail with anguish of heart. ~Psalm 38:9
Dear Lord, make haste to help our brothers and sisters in Chile! Be their refuge and strength, their hope and salvation. You who give us so much, open our hearts to help them in whatever ways we can. Through our prayers and sacrifices, may they know that they are not alone, that You are with them and so are we. Heal their hearts and mend their bodies. Calm their minds and strengthen their spirits. Most of all, dear Jesus, give them the peace that the world cannot give, Your peace which passes all understanding. We ask this in confidence and faith, trusting always in Your love and Your will for each one of us. Amen.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Love By Loving

There are many souls who would like me to tell them of techniques and methods and secret ways of attaining perfection. Yet I can only tell them that the sole secret is a hearty love of God and the only method of acquiring that love is by loving. You learn to speak by speaking. You learn to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working. Just so, you learn to love God and your neighbor by the act of loving. All those who wish to learn in any other way deceive themselves. If you really want to love God, go and love Him more and more. Never look back, move forward constantly. ~St. Francis de Sales

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all... O make us love Thee more and more!

Dear Mary, it's so simple to love your Son. Why do I make it so complicated? Today may I "move forward constantly" with you, rejoicing that every step brings me closer to the secret of love, the heart of your Beloved Son and the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen.