Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter Friday

Alleluia! Praise the Lord. The Lord has done great things for us. I would like to make some very simple remarks about the Resurrection. This is at the centre of our faith: without resurrection, our faith is vain. If we have believed for this life only, we are the most wretched of men. But what is the Resurrection for me?

The Resurrection is repose after the painful tension of the Passion, it is the stone rolled away from the tomb, it is the joyful cry of Mary Magdalene, it is the other side of death, become luminous. It is the certainty that life is already triumphant and that it will triumph in the end: the fundamental force that sustains the world and history is love, and love is stronger than death. It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I understand what life is.

From “Alleluia!” in From Advent to Pentecost: Carthusian Novice Conferences by a Carthusian

The Lord has done great things for us!
We are glad indeed!  ~Psalm 126:3
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Thursday

Behold, I make all things new.
~Revelation 21:5

In these first days of Easter the Church rejoices in Christ’s resurrection from the dead, which has brought new life to us and to our world. Saint Paul exhorts us to make this new life evident by putting to death the things of this earth and setting our hearts on the things that are on high, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (cf. Col 3:1-2). Having put on Christ in Baptism, we are called to be renewed daily in the virtues which he taught us, especially charity which binds all the rest together in perfect harmony. By living this new life we are not only interiorly transformed, but we also change the world around us. Charity in fact brings that spiritual freedom which can break down any wall, and build a new world of solidarity, goodness and respect for the dignity of all. Easter, then, is a gift to be received ever anew in faith, so that we may become a constant leaven of life, justice and reconciliation in our world. As believers in the risen Lord, this is our mission: to awaken hope in place of despair, joy in place of sadness, and life in place of death. With Christ, through him and in him, let us strive to make all things new!

~Pope Benedict, General Audience of 4/27/11

O my Jesus, risen now in glory, how beautifully you renew the whole world for the praise of our Father's glory!  Grant us Your Easter grace to sing with You forever the resurrection song.  Amen!  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Wednesday

And he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" ~Luke 24:25-26

To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend.  We have to accept what God reveals to us about himself, about ourselves, about everything around us, including things that are invisible, inexpressible and beyond our imagination.  This act of accepting revealed truth broadens the horizon of our knowledge and draws us to the mystery in which our lives are immersed.  Letting our reason be limited in this way is not something easy to do.  Here we see the second aspect of faith:  it is trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ himself.  What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.

~Pope Benedict XVI

O my Jesus, risen now in glory, I beg You,
grant me resurrection faith to trust in You.
Amen!  Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Tuesday

May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.  ~from the Easter Vigil

Lord, show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger than death. Descend into the darkness and the abyss of our modern age, and take by the hand those who await you. Bring them to the light! In my own dark nights, be with me to bring me forth! Help me, help all of us, to descend with you into the darkness of all those people who are still waiting for you, who out of the depths cry unto you! Help us to bring them your light! Help us to say the "yes" of love, the love that makes us descend with you and, in so doing, also to rise with you. Amen!

~Pope Benedict XVI, prayer for the Pascal Vigil, 4/7/07

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday

Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's "Urbi et Orbi" Message for Easter Sunday 2011

Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new: Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalem twenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heart lives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdalene and the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peter and the other Apostles….

Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on the branches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forth from Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, to every expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today, caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silent hymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes her pilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universe and above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God, giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth…..

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Dear Lord, through Your glorious resurrection, "joy cometh in the morning....  To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever."  (Psalm 30)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven:  I am the Christ.
Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that define you.  I am your forgiveness.  I am the Passover that brings salvation.  I am the lamb who was immolated for you.  I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king.  I will bring you to the heights of heaven.  With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I will show you the eternal Father.

~from an Easter homily by Melito of Sardis, bishop

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday the Church, spiritually united with Mary, remains in prayer at the tomb, where the Body of the Son of God is lying inert as it were in a condition of repose after the creative work of redemption brought about with His death (cf. Hebrews 4:1-13).  ~Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Mary, how good it is to keep company with you at the tomb of your Beloved Son Jesus! We await with you in peace His Resurrection, "the supreme Revelation of God's love" and our hope of everlasting glory. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Indeed this was the Son of God.  ~Mt 27:54

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday -- Morning Prayer

Ave Maria!  In my parish here in Houston, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, we always have Morning Prayer in our chapel on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We gather at 9am, which is when we have our daily morning Mass throughout the rest of the year.  I am always moved by our simple but heartfelt celebration of this hour from the Divine Office, and this morning was no exception.  Our little chapel was almost full of parishioners, from the very young at 2 years of age to the oldest at 88 years.  One of our acolytes, Ola Branche, who is studying to become a permanent deacon, did a fine job leading us in prayer.  Everyone participated loudly and enthusiastically, especially in singing the much-loved hymn "Here I Am, Lord" by Rev. Dan Schutte, S.J.  Even while my heart throbbed with joy, in the context of Holy Week, some of the lines brought tears to my eyes:
I have heard my people cry; all who dwell in dark and sin, my hand will save....
I have borne my people's pain.  I have wept for love of them.  They turn away.... 

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone....

I will tend the poor and lame.  I will set a feast for them.  My hand will save.... 

Here I am, Lord...I have heard you calling in the night...I will hold your people in my heart...
In the night of His agony in the garden, Jesus, our Beloved Lord and Master, heard His Father calling Him...calling Him to drink the chalice, to carry the cross, to lay down His life for us, and to hold us forever in His crucified heart, so overflowing with love and mercy.  O come, let us adore Him!

Holy Thursday -- Jesus Our Passover

Balkan Icon
Jesus knew that he was about to die.  He knew that he would not be able to eat the Passover again.  Fully aware of this, he invited his disciples to a Last Supper of a very special kind, one that followed no specific Jewish ritual but, rather, constituted his farewell; during the meal he gave them something new: he gave them himself as the true Lamb and thereby instituted his Passover.

...this farewell meal was not the old Passover, but the new one....  It was Jesus' Passover....  The sacrificial lamb is Christ...the death and resurrection have become the Passover that endures.

~from Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. II, Holy Week, by Pope Benedict XVI

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
You are the Passover that is our salvation!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday of Holy Week

Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He answered, "You have said so." ~Matthew 26:25

John does not offer any psychological interpretation of Judas' conduct. The only clue he gives is a hint that Judas has helped himself to the contents of the disciples' money box, of which he had charge (Jn 12:6). In the context of chapter 13, the evangelist merely says laconically: "Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him" (Jn 13:27).

For John, what happened to Judas is beyond psychological explanation. He has come under the dominion of another. Anyone who breaks off friendship with Jesus, casting off his "easy yoke", does not attain liberty, does not become free, but succumbs to other powers. To put it another way, he betrays this friendship because he is in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself.

True, the light shed by Jesus into Judas' soul was not completely extinguished. He does take a step toward conversion: "I have sinned", he says to those who commissioned him. He tries to save Jesus, and he gives the money back (Mt 27:3-5). Everything pure and great that he had received from Jesus remained inscribed on his soul -- he could not forget it.

His second tragedy -- after the betrayal -- is that he can no longer believe in forgiveness. His remorse turns into despair. Now he sees only himself and his darkness; he no longer sees the light of Jesus, which can illumine and overcome the darkness. He shows us the wrong type of remorse: the type that is unable to hope, that sees only its own darkness, the type that is destructive and in no way authentic. Genuine remorse is marked by the certainty of hope born of faith in the superior power of the light that was made flesh in Jesus.

John concludes the passage about Judas with these dramatic words: "After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night" (Jn 13:30). Judas goes out – in a deeper sense. He goes into the night, he moves out of light into darkness: the "power of darkness" has taken hold of him (cf. Jn 3:19; Lk 22:53).

~from Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. II, Holy Week, by Pope Benedict XVI

+    +    +

Ave Maria!  This Holy Week I am so blessed to be using the Holy Father's recently published second volume of Jesus of Nazareth for my spiritual reading, prayer and reflection.  As with everything Pope Benedict XVI writes, it is brilliant and profound.  Any comments I would make are certainly superfluous and trivial, yet I do want to share with you three things that struck me from the above excerpt.

One, the Holy Father says that Judas is "in the grip of another power to which he has opened himself."  This other power didn't suddenly overcome Judas, whom Christ called his friend, and turn him into a betrayer.  No, by his own free choice, Judas had long ago opened himself to this power.  He was already in its grip.  How did this happen?  Had he not kept careful watch over the thoughts of his mind and the desires of his heart?  Had he failed to make them subject to the will of God and His law of love?  Had he been betraying Christ all along in small but significant ways? 

Two, the Holy Father notes that Judas "does take a step toward conversion" when he tells his evil cohorts that he has sinned.  But that wasn't good enough.  He was telling the wrong people.  They had no power to forgive him -- only God can do that! -- and they were most likely to assuage his guilt because of their own wickedness.  Judas could not forget "everything pure and great" that Jesus had given him, but he was turning to those who would continue to cover it up with the filth of their own sinfulness.

Three, the Holy Father says that after the betrayal, Judas "can no longer believe in forgiveness" and so his remorse turns into despair.  Had Judas not been asking God's forgiveness for his sins all along?  Could he not repent of his betrayal of his Lord and Master in the garden because he had not been seeking God's love and mercy throughout his life? 

Surely it is not I, Lord?  Surely, it is...

My guilt towers higher than my head; it is a weight too heavy to bear. My wounds are foul and festering, the result of my own folly. I am bowed and brought to my knees. I go mourning all the day long.  Spent and utterly crushed, I cry aloud in anguish of heart. I count on you, O Lord: it is you, Lord God, who will answer.  For I am on the point of falling and my pain is always before me. I confess that I am guilty and my sin fills me with dismay.  Make haste and come to my help, O Lord, my God, my savior!  ~from Psalm 38

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday of Holy Week

Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. ~John 13:1

The Passion marked the culminating point of the work He came to carry out here below. For Jesus, it was the hour when He consummated the sacrifice that was to give infinite glory to His Father, redeem humanity and re-open to mankind the wellsprings of eternal life. Therefore Our Lord, who was devoted wholly to doing the will of His Father, ardently desired from the first moment of his incarnation to see what He called "His" hour come: "His hour," (John 13:1), the hour par excellence. "I have a baptism" -- a baptism of blood -- "to be baptized with, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:50) Jesus longed for the hour to sound when He would be plunged in suffering and would undergo death in order to give us life.

He does not wish to bring that hour nearer, of course; Jesus is fully submissive to the will of His Father. St. John notes more than once that the Jews sought to take Him by surprise and put Him to death; but always our Lord escaped, even through a miracle, "because His Hour had not yet come." (John 7:30; 8:30).

But when the hour did sound, Christ delivered Himself up with the greatest ardor, though He knew in advance all the sufferings that were to overtake His body and His soul. "I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) It had come at last, the hour so long awaited.

Let us contemplate Jesus at that hour. This mystery of the Passion is ineffable, and everything about it is great, to the smallest detail; as moreover are all things in the life of the God-man. Here especially we are at the doors of a sanctuary we cannot enter except with living faith and deep reverence.

~from Christ in His Mysteries by Blessed Columba Marmion

Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.  ~John 13:31

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday of Holy Week

When the days drew near for Jesus to be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.  ~Luke 9:51

"After Peter's confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi, in the northernmost part of the Holy Land, Jesus set out as a pilgrim towards Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. He was journeying towards the Temple in the Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God's closeness to his people. He was making his way towards the common feast of Passover, the memorial of Israel's liberation from Egypt and the sign of its hope of definitive liberation. He knew that what awaited him was a new Passover and that he himself would take the place of the sacrificial lambs by offering himself on the cross. He knew that in the mysterious gifts of bread and wine he would give himself for ever to his own, and that he would open to them the door to a new path of liberation, to fellowship with the living God. He was making his way to the heights of the Cross, to the moment of self-giving love. The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being.

"...together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God. This is the ascent that matters. This is the journey which Jesus invites us to make... We are on pilgrimage with the Lord to the heights. We are striving for pure hearts and clean hands, we are seeking truth, we are seeking the face of God. Let us show the Lord that we desire to be righteous, and let us ask him: Draw us upwards! Make us pure! Grant that...we may be part of the generation which seeks God, 'which seeks your face, O God of Jacob' (cf. Ps 24:6). Amen."

~Pope Benedict XVI, Psalm Sunday Homily

Let us also go, that we may die with Him.  ~John 11:16

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

will I lay my cloak before you,
when they arrest you on olive mountain,
or pull it tighter around me,
fading into the ranks of the deserters;

will I shout
‘Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!’
when they parade you
before the authorities,
or will I tell any one – and every one – around me
I never met you in my life;

will I lay my palm branches at your feet,
as they march you to Calvary,
or use them to put more stripes
on your bloody back;

will I run behind you
when they carry you to the tomb,
or turn away
as the ashes of my hopes
are rubbed into the
wounds in my heart?

Bridgeport United Church of Christ

O my Jesus, I want to spend this Holy Week with You, in the company of Veronica, Simon, the women of Jerusalem, the good thief, Your beloved disciple John, Your Blessed Mother Mary, and all those who followed You in Your saving Passion.  I want to help You as they did, to comfort, love and adore You.  But my heart is fickle, dear Lord, and I am selfish and afraid.  I may very well falter and turn against you, as did Pilate, Peter, Judas, the blood-thirsty crowd, the bestial soldiers, and so many others who denied, betrayed, reviled and tormented You.  Then may I not despair but, with confidence and hope, run to You, my King and my God.  Blessed are You who have come to us so rich in love and mercy.  Hosanna in the highest!  Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mary Upon Calvary

Ave Maria! This morning I've been reading and reflecting upon a portion of Rev. Frederick Faber's book, At the Foot of the Cross, which I excerpt below. Speaking of Mary, the Mother of Christ, Fr. Faber ponders the absolute rightness of her presence upon Calvary.

Mary, "the minister of the Incarnation," Fr. Faber insists, belongs on Calvary as much as she does at Bethlehem. The wood of the cradle has become the wood of the cross.  The Mother who laid her Divine Child in the crib now receives her Crucified Son from the gallows. Her Son! Her Beloved Jesus! The babe she bore in her womb with love beyond all telling!  Now it's a different sort of birth, but a birth it is, and she will lovingly suffer its pangs until rejoicing comes with the dawn.  "She had given Him His Precious Blood," Fr. Faber says, and "she must minister at the shedding of it." Yes, even unto the end, when, holding her Son's dead body in her lap, she bears Him up to the Father and becomes the throne of mercy for us and for the whole world.

"In a merely human point of view, we might be surprised at Mary's presence upon Calvary. It was not the fitting place for a mother, the scaffold of her Son; and her Son we might have expected would have spared her the agony. But she was the minister of the Incarnation... [and she]represented in herself the human obedience under which the Incarnate Word had lived, and which characterize His death as perfectly as it had modelled His life.

"From the first, Jesus and Mary had never been separated. It seems to have been a sort of law of the Incarnation that they should be together. Her Assumption, Coronation, and Mediatorial Throne would be but the final instances of the operation of this law. No, that God has let us see the Thirty-Three Years in their perfection as a whole, we perceive that the absence of Mary from Calvary would have offended our Christian instincts as much as her absence from Bethlehem or Nazareth. She was the minister of the Incarnation: it all lies in that.

"She had no more right to come down from Calvary than a priest would have to leave the altar in the midst of the Sacrifice of the Mass. There would have been an incongruity in it. ...she had given Him His Precious Blood... {and}she must minister at the shedding of it. She must swathe the Man as she had swathed the Child. She must lay Him in the tomb who had already laid Him in the manger. She must preside at the end as she had presided at the beginning. There must be an overshadowing of the Holy Ghost at the last, as there had been one at the first... Her priesthood consisted in this continuity of ministry to Him. Her Maternity was not to Him a mere means, occasion, instrument, or access, but an enduring ministry under which His obedience was consummated. Mary's Maternity was her Compassion at Bethlehem; Mary's Compassion was her Maternity at Calvary."
~from At the Foot of the Cross by Rev. Frederick Faber

Mary, Mother of Christ!  Joyful Mother, Sorrowful Mother, Compassionate Mother, Faithful Mother, Minister of the Incarnation!  With you, may I always be giving birth to your Beloved Son, Jesus, for the life of the world.  Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A piece of wood...

But his power is regulated by his love. He wishes to become incarnate in order to convince men of his friendship; he wishes to come down upon earth to help men to go up to heaven. So be it! It would be expected then that this Wisdom incarnate would appear glorious and triumphant, accompanied by millions and millions of angels, or at least by millions of chosen men and women. With these armies, majestic in his splendour and untouched by poverty, dishonour, humiliations and weaknesses, he will crush all his enemies and win the hearts of men by his attractiveness, his delights, his magnificence and his riches. Surely nothing less than that. But O wonder! He perceives something which is a source of scandal and horror to Jews and an object of foolishness to pagans. (cf. 1 Cor 1.23)  He sees a piece of vile and contemptible wood which is used to humiliate and torture the most wicked and the most wretched of men, called a gibbet, a gallows, a cross. It is upon this cross that he casts his eyes; he takes his delight in it; he cherishes it more than all that is great and resplendent in heaven and on earth. He decides that that will be the instrument of his conquests, the adornment of his royal state. He will make it the wealth and joy of his empire, the friend and spouse of his heart. O the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Rom 11.33)  How amazing is his choice and how sublime and incomprehensible are his ways! But how inexpressible his love for that cross! 

St. Louis de Montfort
The Love of Eternal Wisdom

O loving Jesus,
O Crucified Redeemer,
in the secret of my heart,
teach me Your Eternal Wisdom.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The love of Christ

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. ~Colossians 3:12-14

It requires far more of the constraining love of Christ to love our cousins and neighbors as members of the heavenly family than to feel the heart warm to our suffering brothers and sisters in Tuscany or Madeira.  To love the whole church is one thing.  To love, that is, to delight in the graces and veil the defects, of the person who misunderstood me and opposed my plans yesterday, whose particular infirmities grate on my most sensitive feelings, or whose natural faults are precisely those from which my natural character most revolts, is quite another.  ~Elizabeth Runkle Charles, English novelist, 1828-1896

Ave Maria!  I don't know anything about this Elizabeth Runkle Charles except that she had an excellent grasp of what it means to love in the nitty-gritty of the here and now.  Another time and place are but delusions of grandeur.  It is in the present moment, with all the particular people whom God has placed therein, that He calls me to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind.  I love God only as much as I love these individuals, whom He created in His image and likeness and for whom Jesus died on the Cross. 

Dear Lord, I draw near to Your Cross to put on the love that flows from Your sacred wounds.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Complaints about God continued

Ave Maria!  Later yesterday afternoon, after I had blogged on complaints about God, I picked up my Liturgy of the Hours and opened to Daytime Prayer.  The second psalm was the 13th one from the Psalter, an excellent example of how the writers of the psalms were confident of God's love for them because they were quite free in letting Him know when they were unhappy with Him.  As we see from this psalm...

...they yammered...
"How long, O Lord, will you forget me?  How long will you hide your face?  How long must I bear grief in my soul, this sorrow in my heart day and night? How long shall my enemy prevail?" (Psalm 13:2-3)
...and demanded...

"Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!  Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death, l lest my enemy say: 'I have overcome him'; lest my foes rejoice to see my fall." (Psalm 13:4-5)
...and then, amazingly, rounded off their grievances by proclaiming their faith in their loving God and singing His marvelous praises:
"As for me, I trust in your merciful love. Let my heart rejoice in your saving help: Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me, singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High." (Psalm 13:6-7)
Wow!  This is one of the reasons that I love the Psalms so much -- they frankly acknowledge our human condition, so full of evil and misery, yet they always remember the marvels God has worked and is working for them.  They realize the transitoriness of this world and are forever reaching beyond it to the Eternal, to our everlasting home where God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow (Rev 21:4).
Dear Lord, whatever my complaints about You, let me never forget and thank You for all Your blessings!  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Do you have any complaints about God?"

Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food! ~Numbers 21:5

Ave Maria!  One of the many spiritual resources in cyberspace is Creighton University Online Ministries.  Among the riches found there are reflections on the readings from daily Mass, written by Creighton faculty, staff and administrators.  Rev. John Schlegel, S.J., University president, has written  today's "Daily Reflection", which I excerpt below. 

"In day to day living we all complain about something -- some small and some significant. Our complaints are quiet and personal or quite loud and public. In today’s readings the complaints are the latter, loud and public. We complain about persons, places and things -- all quite human. Today’s readings focus on the peoples’ discontent with God and with the actions of God in the person of Jesus. This is a complaint of a different texture than our grumblings about the weather, a sports team, a meal, parking, politicians or even the in-laws!

"In this fifth week of Lent you might reflect a bit and then ask yourself the question: do you have any complaints about God? Any resentment towards God? Any old unhealed wounds in your relationship with God? Do you grumble under your breath about God’s fairness or God’s mercy or God’s forgiveness? Are you agitated by God’s apparent generosity to others? Are you unmoved by the plight of those in great need of God’s justice? Are you close to imitating the disposition of the Israelites in the desert -- unappreciative of what God is doing for you; doubting God’s care for His people? Or is your complaint more like the stubborn lack of understanding of the Pharisees in refusing to believe that Jesus was the son of God and on a mission from his father?

"The timing is right for this exercise because we are nearing the cusp of Holy Week when “the Son of Man will be lifted up.” As the Lord said to Moses in the first reading: “Make a seraph and mount it on a poll and whoever looks at it will live.” How much more life saving and life giving is the crucified Jesus when He is lifted up on Good Friday as our Savior and Lord!

"Surface your complaints about God, your resentments toward God and make the words of today’s psalm your words: 'O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you. Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; in the day when I call, answer me speedily.'"
Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint (Ps 64:2). I have more than one, but let me never be afraid or ashamed to tell them all to You, confiding them all to Your goodness and mercy, for You are abounding in love to all who call to you (Ps. 86:4), and only You can deliver me from myself. Lift me up with You, O Lord of Love, even unto Your cross, that I may be crucified with You and so live with You Your risen life to the glory of our Father. Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Let me sing the song of love."

Ave Maria!  Today's readings from Mass, Dn 13:41c-62 and John 8:1-11, remind us that we may never judge a person.  Never.  Ever.  That is reserved for God alone, and only his judgment is true.  Blessed Mother Teresa used to say, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."  She's so right!.  And I also have no energy to love because I've spent it all on myself.  Judging others is really all about me -- all about what I think, what I feel, what I want, what I expect.  I don't know what's in another person's heart, mind and soul.  I barely know what's in my own, and then I project that onto someone else.  The author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer observes that "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."  Passing judgment on another reveals to me the pettiness and hardness of my heart, which God created to be a vessel of His love.  And His love has been poured forth into our hearts, St. Paul tells us, through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom 5:5).  That is what Jesus did on the cross for us when He died, His blood gushing out in a never-ending stream of ineffable love. 

Deepen Your Love in me, O Lord, that I may learn in my inmost heart how sweet it is to love, to be dissolved, and to plunge myself into Your love.  Let Your love possess and raise me above myself, with a fervor and wonder beyond imagination.  Let me sing the song of love.  Let me follow You, my Beloved, into the heights.  Let my soul spend itself in Your praise, rejoicing for love.  ~Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"The voice of him whom I love!"

Lazarus by Anna Cuypers

by Lili Van Zanten

Four days in the cave – already
He was more fish than fisherman
Slimy  stinky  waiting for the worms
Having survived death
Decomposition was not –
Morsel by morsel  the soil swallowing
Memory and desire
Gauze wound round his face   his feet  his hands
He snuggled like a bulb in my winter garden.
“Lazarus arise!”
A voice in a dream
The voice of him whom he loved!
The soil splits alongside the bricks
In my front yard garden.
From frozen earth emerging
From cozy death cocoons
A dozen yellow crocus
Reluctant resurrections
For Christ’s sake
Leave me alone!  The sunlight
Hurts my eyes.  I have known
April brilliance but it doesn’t end there
More likely blight or drought
The clipper or the worm…
A voice in a dream
The voice of him whom I love!
God  how I’d love to pull up the covers
And go back to sleep
But he rolls away the boulder
And I try again
Stumbling blindly from the cave
My gauze wrapped feet
Hopping toward the light
Tripping   balancing   blooming
I reach for the sun

Resurrection and Life

I am the resurrection and the life. ~John 11:25

On his return from the underworld, Lazarus comes forth from the tomb like death confronting its conqueror, an image of the resurrection to come.

Before we can fathom the depths of meaning behind this miracle, we must consider the way in which our Lord raised Lazarus to life. This action appears to us as the greatest of all his signs; we see in it the supreme example of divine power, the most marvelous of all his wonderful works.

Our Lord had raised up the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue; but although he restored life to the dead girl, he left the law of death still in force. He also raised the widow’s only son. He halted the bier, forestalled the young man’s burial, arrested the onset of physical decay; but the life he restored had not completely fallen into the power of death.

The case of Lazarus was unique. His death and resurrection to life had nothing in common with the other two. Death had already exerted its full power over him, so that in him the sign of the resurrection shone out in all its fullness.

I think it is possible to say that if Lazarus had remained only three days in the tomb it would have deprived our Lord’s resurrection of its full significance, since Christ proved himself Lord by returning to life after three days, whereas Lazarus, as his servant, had to lie in the grave for four days before he was recalled. However, let us see if we can verify this suggestion by reading the gospel text further.

His sisters sent a message to Jesus saying, Lord, the friend whom you love is sick. By these words they appeal to his affection, they lay claim to his friendship, they call on his love, urging their familiar relationship with him to persuade him to relieve their distress.

But for Christ it was more important to conquer death than to cure disease. He showed his love for his friend not by healing him but by calling him back from the grave. Instead of a remedy for his illness, he offered him the glory of rising from the dead.

We are next told that when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained where he was for two days. You see how he gives full scope to death. He grants free reign to the grave; he allows corruption to set in. He prohibits neither putrefaction nor stench from taking their normal course; he allows the realm of darkness to seize his friend, drag him down to the underworld, and take possession of him.

He acts like this so that human hope may perish entirely and human despair reach its lowest depths. The deed he is about to accomplish may then clearly be seen to be the work of God, not of man.

He waited for Lazarus to die, staying in the same place until he could tell his disciples that he was dead; then he announced his intention of going to him. Lazarus is dead, he said, and I am glad.

Was this a sign of his love for his friend? Not so. Christ was glad because their sorrow over the death of Lazarus was soon to be changed into joy at his restoration to life. I am glad for your sake, he said.

Why for their sake? Because the death and raising of Lazarus were a perfect prefiguration of the death and resurrection of the Lord himself. What the Lord was soon to achieve in himself had already been achieved in his servant. This explains why he said to them: I am glad for your sake not to have been there, because now you will believe.

It was necessary that Lazarus should die, so that the faith of the disciples might also rise with him from the dead.

~Peter Chrysologus, c.400-450 (Sermon 63: PL 52, 375-377)

Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.
~John 11:27

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our Mother of Sorrows

A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
he shall abide between my breasts.
~Song of Songs 1:13

Friday, April 8, 2011

Beloved, happy child of Jesus

For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me. ~Psalm 23:4

Beloved child of Jesus, you shall have the victory, and he the glory. To him be glory forever who has called you to so glorious a combat and so tenderly supports you through it. You will triumph, for it is Jesus who fights – not you my dear one – oh no. Young and timid, weak, and irresolute, the lamb could not stem a torrent, nor stand the beating storm. But the tender Shepherd takes it on his shoulder, casts his cloak about it, and the happy trembler finds itself at home before it knew its journey was half finished. And so, my dear one, it will be with you. He will not leave you one moment, nor suffer the least harm to approach you. Not one tear shall fall to the ground nor one sigh of love be lost, happy, happy child. And if you are not removed to the sheltering fold that awaits you, he will make you one in his own bosom until your task is done. Happy, happy child, how sweet must be your converse with that divine Spirit which puts in your heart, yet so inexperienced, so untutored, the science of the saints. How must those blessed beings rejoice over you while walking so steadfastly in their paths and their sufferings.

~written by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to her sister-in-law Cecilia, who converted to Catholicism at the age of 15

Thank you, dear Jesus, for being my good Shepherd.  May I always find a home in your loving arms. Amen.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crown of Thorns

Ave Maria!  This Hubble image from two years ago, called "Crown of Thorns Nebula" by some, is a beautiful symbol to me of the far-reaching, all-encompassing universal love of our Blessed Lord Jesus, who died for all so that all might live.  I'm always so thrilled when I see God's handwriting etched like this in His handiwork. It's a sort of memo from Him, a love letter reminding me that He is near, so very near that I can almost see Him.  I cannot, of course, but I can and do, in awe and love, bend the knee and adore.

Covered are the heavens with his glory,
and with his praise the earth is filled.
Habakkuk 3:3

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Growth and Change

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. ~Anatole France

Ave Maria!  The above quote appeared in my email box this morning from Catholic Digest.  It instantly brought to mind two other quotes, both from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman.
Growth is the only evidence of life.
In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.

When I was younger, I didn't care much for change.  I preferred the comfort of my routine and would even become annoyed when it was upset.  As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate the necessity of change, which has made me more flexible and even eager to embrace it.  I thank God for this!  A routine can so easily become a rut, and a rut is no good place for me to be.  One dictionary defines a rut as "a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc.; dreary or undeviating routine" and says that the word probably comes from the French "route" for road.  Huh!  What kind of a road is that?  It sounds like a rather restricted one leading inward, but I want to be on the wide road leading out of myself.  Oh yes, I do cherish my inner room where I happily commune with my Father in secret, but He always sends me out into the world that He has created with such wisdom and love.  "This is my Father's world," as the hymn goes -- and it's where I want to be, with all the ongoing growth and change of its vibrant, overflowing life.  And I want to be fully alive, wholly and holily, throbbing with the abundant life of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh yes, my King and my God, according to Your will, let there be change and growth, within and without, and through it all, may You be forever glorified, loved and adored!  Amen!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our refuge and our strength

Ave Maria!  Psalm 46, today's responsorial psalm, has a special place in my heart and my spiritual survival kit as it's one of the first I learned.  It was the early 60s, when we Catholics didn't read the Bible much, if at all.  I was just a youngster then, going through a burdensome time.  I felt so helpless and alone.  Through some mischief I got into with a playmate, which is another story for another time, the Word of the Lord came to me:  "God is our refuge and our strength...thus we do not fear...the Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob."  I was riveted!  And filled with such hope and courage!  I was not alone!  My troubles were great, but here was One who was even greater, and He was with me, my refuge and my strength.  The Lord was in my midst and would help me.  My fortress, my protector, my God in whom I trust!  My troubles did not go away, but neither did my Savior and my King, whose love always abides and whose mercy endures forever.  How can I keep from singing?

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
~Psalm 23:6

Monday, April 4, 2011

I am loved...

"God loved you first!"...  One should take this sentence as literally as can be, and I try to do that.  For it is truly the great power in our lives and the consolation that we need...  What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge that they are loved.  The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows Someone is waiting for me, Someone wants me, and needs me.   God is there first and loves me.  And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it.

~Pope Benedict XVI

Your love, O Lord, is eternal.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks!
~from the Psalter

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Let Christ wash you and you will then see

The blind man went off and washed himself and came away with his sight restored. ~John 9:7

You have heard that story in the gospel where we are told that the Lord Jesus, as he was passing by, caught sight of a man who had been blind from birth.

Since the Lord did not overlook him, neither ought we to overlook this story of a man whom the Lord considered worthy of his attention. In particular we should notice the fact that he had been blind from birth. This is an important point.

There is, indeed, a kind of blindness, usually brought on by serious illness, which obscures one’s vision, but which can be cured, given time; and there is another sort of blindness, caused by cataract, that can be remedied by a surgeon: he can remove the cause and so the blindness is dispelled. Draw your own conclusion: this man, who was actually born blind, was not cured by surgical skill, but by the power of God.

When nature is defective the Creator, who is the author of nature, has the power to restore it. This is why Jesus also said. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world, meaning: all who are blind are able to see, so long as I am the light they are looking for. Come, then, and receive the light, so that you may be able to see.

What is he trying to tell us, he who brought human beings back to life, who restored them to health by a word of command, who said to a corpse. Come out! and Lazarus came out from the tomb; who said to a paralytic. Arise and pick up your stretcher, and the sick man rose and picked up the very bed on which he used to be carried as a helpless cripple?

Again, I ask you, what is he trying to convey to us by spitting on the ground, mixing his spittle with clay and putting it on the eyes of a blind man, saying: Go and wash yourself in the pool of Siloam (a name that means “sent”)? What is the meaning of the Lord’s action in this? Surely one of great significance, since the person whom Jesus touches receives more than just his sight.

In one instant we see both the power of his divinity and the strength of his holiness. As the divine light, he touched this man and enlightened him; as priest, by an action symbolizing baptism he wrought in him his work of redemption.

The only reason for his mixing clay with the spittle and smearing it on the eyes of the blind man was to remind you that he who restored the man to health by anointing his eyes with clay is the very one who fashioned the first man out of clay, and that this clay that is our flesh can receive the light of eternal life through the sacrament of baptism.

You, too, should come to Siloam, that is, to him who was sent by the Father (as he says in the gospel. My teaching is not my own, it comes from him who sent me). Let Christ wash you and you will then see.

Come and be baptized, it is time; come quickly, and you too will be able to say, I went and washed; you will be able to say, I was blind, and now I can see, and as the blind man said when his eyes began to receive the light. The night is almost over and the day is at hand.

~St. Ambrose

Thank you, dear Lord, for healing my blindness and restoring my soul.  Truly, my cup is overflowing!  Amen!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother

"Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother"
by Gishlaine Howard for Liverpool Cathedral
The Mother. Mary meets her Son along the way of the Cross. His Cross becomes her Cross, his humiliation is her humiliation, the public scorn is on her shoulders. This is the way things are. So it must seem to the people around her, and this is how her own heart reacts: "And a sword will pierce through your soul also" (Luke 2:35). The words spoken when Jesus was forty days old are now fulfilled. They are now completely fulfilled. And so, pierced by that invisible sword, Mary sets out towards her Son's Calvary, her own Calvary. Christian devotion represents her with this sword penetrating her heart, in paintings and sculpture. Mother of sorrows!

"You who shared his suffering!", say the faithful, who know in their hearts that the mystery of this suffering can be expressed in no other way. Although this pain is hers, striking deep in her maternal heart, the full truth of this suffering can be expressed only in terms of a shared suffering -- 'com-passion'. That word is part of the mystery; it expresses in some way her unity with the suffering of her Son.
~Pope John Paul II, Good Friday, 2003
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it to me according to thy word.
~Luke 1:38

Friday, April 1, 2011

Take with you words

Ave Maria!  "Take with you words," the prophet Hosea tells us today in our first reading at Mass (Hosea 14:2-10).  What words shall I take with me on my journey throughout this new day?  What will they be like?  Will they build up or tear down?  Will they bring light or cause darkness?  Will they be sweet or bitter?  Will they be kind and loving or mean and sarcastic?  Will they be replete with hope and encouragement or full of dismal foreboding?  Will they be joyful and celebratory or mirthless and unfestive? 

What power there is in words!  And what power is mine in using them!  "Take with you words," the Lord says to me today through his prophet.  Let me first listen to His voice, so full of goodness and love, and then beg His wisdom that I might choose words like His, full of spirit and life. 

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favor in your sight, O Lord!
~Psalm 19:15