“I Have Seen the Lord!”

Magdalene.jpgToday, July 22nd, is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, who is often referred to as the Apostle to the apostles because, as we read in John 20:11-18, she was the first to encounter the risen Christ after His crucifixion and announce it to the apostles.

Mary Magdalene is very often referred to as a reformed prostitute, but there is no Scriptural basis for this. What the Scriptures do say is that Jesus had exorcised her of seven demons. We may gloss over this as we read Scripture, or may not be aware of it, but consider it now.

Many people today do not even believe the devil is real, much less that Satan can influence human events, threaten us, harass, or possess us. For example, Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, who is the superior general of the Jesuits, recently said in interview, “We have formed symbolic figures such as the devil to express evil.” His intent and meaning was clearly that the devil is not a person, and is merely a personification by people of faith to express the reality of our own bad choices, whether individually or as cultures.

However, the Gospels and the Catechism could not be more clear that Satan is real. He is a fallen angel; other angels followed him, and we should not be afraid, but we do need to be prudent and take up our spiritual weapons in battling and defeating these enemies. As angels, they are superior in intellect to humans, and we cannot rely on our own cleverness or resourcefulness. There are so many accounts of Jesus exorcising demons and referring to Satan (the Father of Lies) in the Gospels, that I cannot even fathom how Fr. Abascal can defend his statement or stance. Indeed, it is why Jesus came — “Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). I also know from experience that anyone who determines to seriously embark on the path of prayer will very soon encounter this enemy, and do battle with him and his minions.

I have a book, Unbound by Neal Lozano, about deliverance. The title of chapter 2 is, “Satan has a plan for your life.” This is powerful, and it’s a flip of the typical statement of faith, “God has a plan for your life.” Both are true. Whose plan will we live? His book is excellent, and it speaks of how our choices, both conscious and unconscious, knowingly and unknowingly, either open us to God’s plan, or to Satan’s plan. I would argue that most of us have both at work in our lives, but hopefully the believer increasingly is freed from the binds of Satan and living in the freedom of Christ. The world often thinks of God’s laws as restricting, oppressive, and no fun, but it is just the opposite. Be sure — we want God’s plan to unfold in our lives, not the evil one’s. Living in the freedom that Christ offers us — free from the oppression of sin, free to choose the love of God, free to trust in His goodness and providence always — gives us tremendous love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — all the fruits of His Spirit. I would argue that someone who lives these qualities is truly happy and living in great peace and trust in God, rather than someone who is bound by compulsions (such as drinking, drugs), anxieties (excessive worry, lack of trust in God), desire for instant gratification (being impatient), who can’t control their appetites (greed, intemperance, lust), etc.

Consider someone at the extreme end of this spectrum of being not only bound, but actually possessed by seven demons, which is what the Gospel of Luke says Jesus saved Mary Magdalene from. Possession is occupation of the body by unholy spirit(s), and it cannot happen by accident but the victim must acquiesce knowingly to the unholy in some manner. Manifestations of demonic possession vary but the Gospel of Luke, for example, describes the Gerasene demoniac as living among the tombs and not in a house, not wearing any clothes, not able to be restrained even by shackles or chains, and being driven into deserted places by the demons (Luke 8:27-29). This is a pathetic, lonely, and dangerous state of being, and it said the demoniac had been that way “for a long time.”

We have no information about how Mary Magdalene became possessed or what her life was like during that horrible time, but we do know that Jesus saved her — because that’s what He does, and that she was eternally grateful. She knew what hell on earth was like, and she knew His power, and His alone, to vanquish the evil presences from her body and soul, and she knew that she needed Him to remain free from their influence. Most importantly, we simply see in the Gospels how much Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. That’s what strikes me about her, and this is something we all can model from her. She lived a very close, personal, loving relationship with Jesus. I think this is why stories and modern myths, if you will, such as those from Dan Brown’s novel gain popularity claiming that Jesus was married to her — because unless you have lived and experienced this love for Christ, it’s just not possible to understand other than in the context of a human, intimate, sexual relationship. And, this is really not such a bad comparison, because her love for and relationship with Jesus was and is passionate, loving, deep, extremely personal, and on fire. However, no — it was not sexual. It was so beyond that. This is what’s confusing to our modern sensibilities, so consumed with everything sexual. But, I digress. The good news is that we are all invited to this relationship with Jesus! It’s open to all, and there are many who have lived it (I refer you to the Saints)!

The devil’s first goal is to make us think he doesn’t exist, and to a large extent he has accomplished this in today’s rational mind. However, as Christians, we neither want to be fearful and looking for him behind everything, nor naive and oblivious to his operations and machinations in our world, or his temptations in our lives. We need to be prudent and on guard but also at peace with great trust in our Savior. Our Lady in Medjugorje speaks of five stones to wield as weapons against him. This alludes to the stones that David had in his bag when he defeated Goliath. Therefore, the five stones or spiritual weapons through which we open oursleves to Jesus to overcome not only the devil, but also our own inclinations to selfishness, and worldly temptations are:

  1. Prayer. Way more than you think. Honestly, everyone should have at least an hour each day of prayer time – half hour in the morning and half hour in the evening. Include the rosary because it is prayer with Blessed Mother that crushes the head of the serpent.
  2. Eucharist. We should both receive the Lord (in proper disposition; please see here) as often as possible (daily Mass if possible), and spend time, preferably at least once a week for an hour, in adoration.
  3. Monthly Confession, at least. More if grave sin is committed.
  4. Fasting. This can be corporal or non-corporal, but the best fast is on bread and water, twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays). This should be modified if you are unable. Don’t be prideful; rather, do something that you can without risking your health. Fast from complaining. Fast from excessive speech. Fast from social media and use the time for prayer instead; ask God what he desires and follow His grace.
  5. Scripture reading/praying with Scripture. Lectio divina or Ignatian methods of praying with Scripture, Bible study, etc.

Obviously these are goals to work up to. One doesn’t begin doing all this in one day! Above all, pray for the gift of God’s love to give to others, and entrust everything to our Blessed Mother, all cares, worries, and problems. She WILL help you! You, worry only about being holy, pleasing Jesus, and loving His people.

In today’s Gospel, we see Mary Magdalene encounter the risen Jesus, and then run to tell his apostles the amazing news, “I have seen the Lord!” She is so traumatized by the events of the previous days that she almost doesn’t recognize what has happened, but Jesus calls her name, and her heart melts with love, awe, joy, amazement, and devotion. Something too good to even be true has just occurred. The love of her heart, the fulfillment of all desire, is not dead. He is alive! She MUST tell the brothers!

This passage shows us the model of the two great missions of the Church: encounter, and evangelization. We ARE the church, that is us! Therefore, we must strive to constantly encounter Jesus, and then tell others, by our lives and our words, the Good News. “I have seen the Lord!

St. Mary Magdalene, Pray for us!

+++

 

 

Advertisements

Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening

the sower vince van gogh
Sower with Setting Sun by Vincent van Gogh

See Today’s Mass Readings here.

In today’s first reading, we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaim that God’s word goes forth from His mouth and effects what it says, and it does not return to Him void. Just as when He created and said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, so it remains today. This is what is amazing about the Sacraments. In Reconciliation, God says we are forgiven, and so it is. In the Eucharist, God says, “This is my body; This is my blood,” and so it is, the bread and wine are transformed. His Word does not return to Him void. It achieves His will.

Think about Jesus as the Word of God. He goes forth from the Father, accomplishes His will, and does not return to Him void. His miracles, and especially His resurrection, give testimony to the fact that His word effects what He says. He says, “Be healed,” and those who received His word were healed. He said He would rise on the third day, and so it happened.

Now consider the Gospel reading, Matthew’s account of Jesus’s parable of the sower. The sower went out to sow, and scattered the seeds carelessly and liberally. Seed was not cheap! Yet, he did not seem to be calculating or hold back, but spread it around on all kinds of soil, hoping to yield fruit where, humanly speaking, this would not even be possible. This tells us about God, does it not? He sends rain and sun on the just and the unjust. His grace is undeserved, and freely given. He does not give it only to those who are thankful, or generous in sharing it. That’s how we are; that’s not how God thinks.

Now look at the soil. This is us. Let us truly examine whether we are that good soil, and do what is needed to prepare our hearts to be good soil for God’s word to take effect. God’s word indeed goes out, but if the soil is not prepared, it simply will not bear fruit in our lives. However, if it is, the results are incredible. At first, they are not perceivable, but then they grow exponentially.

How do we prepare the soil? We prepare the soil through prayer, through good works, and through avoiding sin. Then when we receive God’s Word, whether it be through Scripture reading/meditation, the Sacraments, through prayer, through encountering Him in nature — in whatever way He comes to us — that soil is rich and ready to receive the seed. And if we continue to prepare the soil, new seeds during new planting seasons will always produce new harvests.

When hearing the Word today, I prayed that I would be very rich soil, ready to receive the seed and produce good fruit for God’s kingdom. I feel the Lord even now at work in my life, and I pray that I will be faithful to that work, faithful in prayer, in listening, in responding with openness to Him first. It is so easy to become overwhelmed with fear, or to have cares, busyness and anxiety choke out His Word. When we don’t give time for prayer, this quickly happens. However, when we do, and respond in silence, reverence and awe, saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” we truly can only wonder at the ever increasing gifts and blessings the Lord unfolds in our lives. Our lives with God are like an upward spiral, continually coming back around to the same places, but at different levels, and we can see from different vantage points the same issues He wants to heal in us, and blessings He wants to impart. Yes, let us be open to receive everything He desires to give in His Word. Let us have awe and wonder at His marvels at work in our lives.

+++

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10