O Lord, I am Your Servant

hands people woman girl
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Today, as the first day of ordinary time after the close of the Christmas season, we hear the call of the disciples. The words of the responsorial psalm speak to me deeply: “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the [son/daughter] of your handmaid…” And “My vows to the Lord I will pay…”

What are my vows to the Lord? As a baptized lay woman, my vows are my baptismal vows:

I reject Satan.
And all his works.
And all his empty promises.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
Amen.

Today is a good day to ponder and renew these vows.

O Lord, I am Your servant. What would you have me do today? Lord, grant that I will hear your call and respond to it, with love and generosity.

Ask, Seek, Knock

doorway

I’m so sorry it’s been so long since I posted. I was not able to post for quite a while due to technical difficulties but finally realized if I use a browser other than Chrome, it works. Then I was just trying to find time and inspiration to post. So, I’m somewhat making a fresh start here.

Making a fresh start is in line with my spiritual and prayer life. Life has become busy. I have found my prayer life slipping. At the same time, I often feel overwhelmed and burdened by all my responsibilities (work, household responsibilities, parenting, caring for an elderly parent). The other day, I really cried out to Jesus in prayer for peace, strength and help, that everything wouldn’t become too much for me.

I feel that today’s Gospel was His response (Lk 11:9-13). There were 4 words that stood out to me: Father, ask, seek, knock. I sat and pondered these words, and let them seep into my spirit, with the Lord. I felt Him calling me back to be more disciplined in prayer, to more regularly and often come to the Father asking, seeking, knocking. What am I asking for? Simply for Him. For His Spirit, His presence, His life within me — grace. What else do I need? Nothing. From there, all will become clear, all will be ordered and fall into place. He Himself is the gift that gives strength and courage, that makes all burdens light, that helps us discern and make decisions. He alone is the Gift that encompasses all gifts. He alone is all that is needed. And all we have to do is show up, open ourselves to the Father, ask, seek, knock, and we are promised Everything.

I do realize this doesn’t mean all problems will simply go away. No, I have been at this discipleship business long enough to know better than that! But God’s Spirit gives us all the gifts needed and his help and guidance as we fight our battles in this world.

So, yes, Lord, I will pray. Help me, help me to respond generously to Your invitation to pray more often and more faithfully. Father, I will ask, seek, and knock.

Does your prayer life perhaps need a fresh start, a renewed commitment? Or perhaps you need to begin a prayer life, to embark on this journey with the Lord. Is He calling to you also at this very moment to ask, seek, knock? Of course He is! This Gospel is for all! Answer the call, with me. Let’s all respond generously to His call and set the world on fire with His love.

God bless all with His peace.

I Will Not Leave You Orphans

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I am remembering and praying for my own mother, for my husband’s mother, for my sisters-in-law, and for all mothers. I also know that this is a hard time for many women, whether they are grieving over lost motherhood, a lost child, longing for motherhood, missing their own mother, grieving that they did not have a loving mother, or some combination of the above. All will be in my prayers in a special way.

I will particularly be thinking of, honoring, and praying to and with our most beloved Blessed Mother tomorrow, on Mother’s Day. I have long been deeply devoted to our Blessed Mother. I have many, many memories of her faithfulness to me and signs of her presence and care in my life. I will share just one of these small but concrete signs here.

Once when my children were very young (they are 19, 17, and 14 now), my husband had to go out of town for several days, so my mother came to stay with me and help me. One of these mornings, I was out walking our dog; she was at home with them. I was at a nearby park, enjoying the morning quiet and the dew on the grass, but also greatly appreciating how beautiful it was that my mother so generously came to help me in my time of need. If she wasn’t here, it certainly would not be easy to care for the children and the dog early each morning by myself. I was praying the rosary, the 2nd joyful mystery, which is the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. I pondered my mother visiting me in my time of need, likening it to Mary visiting Elizabeth in her time of need, and I was praying for our heavenly Father’s blessing on my mother and all our family. While praying and walking, I suddenly profoundly sensed Blessed Mother’s beautiful presence. It was amazingly peaceful, joyful, and so close to me. And then, I happened to look down in the grass, and I saw a small, plastic heart that said, “Holy Mother” on it. I was astounded, and joyfully picked it up, held onto it like the greatest treasure I had ever found, and I have kept it in a keepsake box ever since.

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And here it is. As you can see, it’s not much to speak of, just a cheap piece of plastic. However, for me, and I hope for you, it is a sign of our Blessed Mother’s true and real presence in our lives — because Jesus made it so out of His unfathomable love for us. “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18). To me, this confirms that I did not imagine that feeling of her presence; she was there, and she IS here with each one of us–always. She is a mother that is ever loving, ever present, not limited by time or space, not judgmental, always accepting of her children. It is us that simply need to learn to tune into her presence. We do that through prayer, calling on her for her intercession, trusting in her care, just as any child would with his or her loving, wise, mother.

Entrust yourself to this mother. You simply cannot go wrong. She will lead you to her Son, to greater holiness, all while helping with all your needs, temporal and spiritual. Jesus wanted it so.

All glory be to God.

Divine Healer

healing

 

I drop the cloak,

exposing self-inflicted wounds,

my faults laid bare.

Head bowed, laying-on of hands.

His tender forgiveness–received.

In a wordless, breathless deep

the Spirit settles in.

To heal,

to infuse Love,

to unroll a sky of all new stars,

Wisdom for me alone.

So much, so much!

All through the night,

heart adoring, eyes damp with joy.

He has come.

Unseen. Powerful.

I long to capture All.

But I can’t find the Beginning,

or the End.

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Do You Not Yet Understand or Comprehend?

bread

Yesterday, on the day before the opening of Lent, the words in the Gospel of Mark 8:14-21 cut me to the heart, and I at last felt Christ had given me my spiritual focus for Lent.

To set the scene here, we are early into Jesus’s ministry. The disciples are in a boat with him, having just witnessed unfathomable, heart stopping miracles. The feeding of 5,000 people from five loaves of bread, the feeding of 4,000 from seven loaves of bread, the walking on water, countless healings, demons cast out, and Jesus had also already sent the disciples themselves out and empowered them to heal and exorcise demons in his name.

After all this, Jesus now tries to warn them against what he refers to as the leaven of Herod and of the Pharisees. This image contains much wisdom; however, it’s completely lost on the disciples because, as the Gospel says, they conclude he’s talking about the fact that they forgot to pack enough bread.

Jesus somehow becomes aware of this. And his response is described in this passage as a series of questions. These questions are heartbreaking. They are profound. They reveal so much about the human condition. They tell us so much about how blind we are to the fact of God’s love for us, and how much abundant life we are missing out on. How difficult it is for God to get this through to humanity–his immense love and care for us!

Here are the questions:

  • Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
  • Are your hearts hardened?
  • Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
  • And do you remember…
  • Do you still not understand?

I enter into Lent pondering these questions.

The first one first, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend?” What is Jesus saying here? “Do you not yet understand that there is nothing you need besides me? That all you need is to have me with you? All your needs, all your desires, everything will be fulfilled for you. All you need is to put me, following my will, advancing my Kingdom, listening to me, bringing my love to those around you, as the number one and primary concern of your entire existence, and everything will be taken care of for you.” Doesn’t Jesus say this essentially when he says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you”?

Notice how the disciples missed out on the teaching that Jesus was trying to give them about Herod and the Pharisees and their toxic way of thinking. They completely missed it because they were so concerned about the bread. I imagine that poor Jesus’s jaw was on the floorboards of the boat when he realized this. I also believe it was a moment of deep disappointment and a smack of reality as to just how pathetic we all really are. All of these moments that they had spent with him witnessing and even themselves facilitating the miraculous, they simply forgot in the face of such a minor detail as forgetting to pack a picnic. Alas, I am not under any delusions that I’m different at all from the disciples in that boat worried about their one loaf of bread.

What wisdom am I missing from Jesus because of my hangups and anxieties that should be trustfully handed over to Him? What would I do today if I fully understood, knew, realized, experienced, and remembered God’s deep love and care for me? What would be different about my day–today? How would my interactions with people be different? What decisions would I make differently? What words would I say, or not say? How would my thoughts differ? My outlook? My worldview?

Oh Lord, I am so helpless. I am absolutely destitute before you. The disciples had you and all this right in front of them and they literally could not see it. I have you present in the Sacraments, plus 2,000 years of theology, and I also cannot understand the way that I should. Lord, please open my eyes and my ears. I pray for the grace to understand and comprehend your deep love for me. And then, to live that deep understanding and comprehension, to let it bear much good fruit in my life, and for your Kingdom.

Blessed Mother, pray with me, that I will have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a renewed heart that fully understands and comprehends your Son’s love for me.

Jesus, save us from not knowing your love! It is all we need to truly live!

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas Eve and the Parable of the Ten Virgins (2017)

image1I woke up this morning before dawn, so excited that it is both the 4th Sunday of Advent, and Christmas Eve! I joyfully spent time in prayer, pondering this Sunday’s readings, the magnificent ways in which God works to fulfill His promises for our salvation, and how short sighted and blind we are to all of it. All that is necessary for us is openness and good intentions, and His love, generosity, and providence will do the rest! May His name be blessed forever!

I also, however, prayed about an issue that I know many are struggling with today — that Catholics are “obligated” to go to Mass for the 4th Sunday of Advent, plus Mass for the Nativity of the Lord. For our family, this will mean Mass at 10am this morning, and then the 5pm vigil Mass tonight. I know it’s been discussed on social media over the past several weeks, as people try to figure out how to fit this into their holiday schedule — doesn’t it count to go to Mass once on Christmas Eve? Why twice? There are reports by the Catholic News Agency that explain it, but the language is all about obligation, and I honestly am not interested in obligations. Honestly, if it’s just about “obligations” — ugh. I don’t think any bridegroom would be happy with His bride meeting him out of obligation, do you? How sad, especially one as beautiful, noble, and worthy as our Lord.

In pondering all this, the parable of the 10 virgins came to me very strongly this morning. Obviously, not all of us are joyful about the prospect of 2 Masses today, as I am! And I understand this, I really do. There was a time when I definitely would not have been either. Obviously something in my life changed, drastically. What does it have to do with this parable?

The parable is in Mt 25:1-13, and in brief Jesus describes 10 virgins who went out to wait for the bridegroom to celebrate a wedding feast. Five were wise and brought extra oil in their lamps, and 5 were foolish and did not. (Remember, this was before telephones and modern communications, so they had no idea when he was arriving.) The bridegroom was delayed and they all fell asleep.  At midnight, there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here!” So they all woke up and trimmed their lamps; however, the 5 foolish ones saw that their lamps were going out. “Give us some of your oil,” they said to the 5 wise virgins. The 5 wise virgins said, “No, then we won’t have enough for us and for you. Go purchase your own.” Of course, when the 5 foolish virgins go off to purchase their oil, all the guests go into the banquet, the doors are locked, and they are left behind.

This story is often perplexing, but today it spoke to me deeply. The key to understanding this parable lies in identifying what is the “oil” in the lamps. I propose that the oil is faith, hope, love, and JOY. The theological virtues, which lead to a deep, abiding joy in all of life’s experiences because they are lived with the Lord.

What is faith? Faith is not just assenting or agreeing to a concept, such as that God exists or that Jesus was God, etc. No, even Satan assents to that, does he not? Faith is going way beyond that, faith is trust in God, giving our life to Him, putting all our eggs into that one basket, entering the Kingdom, banking all on Him alone, purchasing the pearl of great price. But, how can we have faith in, or trust in, someone that we do not know? We can’t.

What is hope? Hope is not optimism. Optimism is keeping your chin up, looking on the bright side of things, for the silver lining, putting a smile on your face. It is related to optimism, but faith provides a reason for it, and that reason alone is God. Because really, we have no reason to hope without God.  Without God, life has NO meaning. None. We live, we work and toil, and in the end, we die. Death wins in the end. But with Jesus, death has been conquered! So, because of Him, and because of Him alone, we can endure all things, and hope in all things. He is with us — Emmanuel. This is what we celebrate in the Incarnation (Christmas!). But, how can we hope if we do not know Him in whom our hope rests? We cannot.

What is love? Love is to will the good of the other. It is not the world’s definition of love, which is often fleeting, me-based, emotion based, or objectifies others. It is simply wanting what is truly for the eternal, long-term good of the other, and that may or may not have a benefit for us personally. It is seeing and acting with the eyes of Jesus Christ. But how can we truly love if we do not know His Word, and what is important to Him? We cannot.

What is Joy? Joy is not pleasure. Pleasure is fleeting. It comes and goes. Pleasure is often a diversion or entertainment, which is good and fun, but it is not the same as joy. Joy is knowing beyond doubt, because you have experienced it, that heaven has begun, eternal life with Jesus, has already started, and nothing can ever take that from you, no matter what comes. Joy is there through thick and thin, good times and bad, through every experience in life, for the believer. It is based in confidence in Jesus, and in knowing His constant presence. But, how can we have joy, if we have not experienced Him and His saving power in our lives? We cannot.

So this is why the wise virgins say, no, we cannot give you our oil. You must go purchase your own. We simply cannot give someone these gifts. They come from God, actually. BUT, but…we do need to take concrete steps to cultivate them and open ourselves to them. They do not just come on their own. It is fitting that it says the virgins have to “buy” the oil. It will be purchased at a great price for sure. This oil comes at the cost of our time, giving our time to God in prayer, on a regular basis. It comes at the cost of giving over our selfish ways — giving over to His mercy habits that we know are not according to His ways, because they are not good for us. It comes at the cost of humbling ourselves — going before Him in the Sacrament of confession, making a good confession and receiving His unfathomable, inexhaustible mercy and strength to do better, over and over again. It comes at the cost of picking up our cross, day after day, and following Him.

However, know this — what we are giving up, and we perceive to be great sacrifices, are really very small in relation to the immense gifts He wants to pour out on us, if only we will open up those channels of grace. We open the channels of grace through prayer, fasting, and the Sacraments — note, these do not make us holy, but they are the means by which we open ourselves to God, and He can complete His work in us, transforming us into His image, from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18).

And what are the rewards? First of all — the oil of faith, love, hope, and joy. Living the beatitudes (blessed are you ), taking on the yoke of Christ rather than the yoke of the world, because He gets under it with us, and it’s easy and light. The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit will flourish and grow within us (love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) and God’s life will increase in us more and more, and we will be astounded as we watch His plan for our lives unfold. Just as Mary our Blessed Mother was, and still is today, fulfilling her role as the Mother of all God’s children into eternity.

Don’t delay — the bridegroom is coming at an unknown hour! Look around at the world, is the hour perhaps approaching?

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent! Merry Christmas!

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Take Care to Guard

greed

Today’s Gospel comes from Luke 12:13-21. The words that have been with me all day are “Take care to guard against all greed.” “Greed,” according to Dictionary.com means “intense and selfish desire for something.”

These words, spoken by Jesus so long ago, have come to me at the perfect moment. I needed His gentle counsel with regards to a particular area of my life. I prayed for help with this. Here is His answer: His beautiful Word.

I have not been tempted towards money or material goods, as is the man described in this Gospel passage and parable, but in another way, also another powerful but deadly temptation. Truly, it’s one that surprises me, because I naively thought I would never have this particular temptation, and yet, here it is. I did not try to hide it from the Lord, but entrusted it to Him, and prayed about it, and tried not to become disturbed when my mind has returned to it often. When I become aware of it, I simply bring it back to Jesus in prayer. And then, today, He speaks to me gently about it. Take care to guard your heart. It is precious. Take care.

How do I take care? Through prayer. Through vigilance. Through the Word of God. Through having recourse to our Blessed Mother. Through fasting and self denial. Through avoiding tempting situations as much as possible. Take care. Store up riches that are important to God, which are the virtues.

I noticed the rich man in the parable does not seem to consider God at all. “He asked himself,” Jesus says, “He said to himself,” etc. When did he ask for God’s input? He didn’t. He was totally self centered, i.e., centered on himself, his own desires, his own agenda. This is greed, is it not? We all are tempted towards this. When we become aware of it, we need to mindfully and purposefully re-direct our thoughts, actions, and wills towards God. “Take care.” “Guard.”

We guard something that is precious. Our life with Jesus is precious. Our riches that we store up for God are precious. Let us take care to guard them, with the help of Jesus, our Savior, who does not leave us alone in our temptations.

Jesus, I trust in You!

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