Worth Revisiting: A Slippery Slope

 :

She was a bit surprised to see him there..standing among his homeless companions of many years. For several months he had found sobriety along with an apartment and a day job, maintaining his distance from a number of his former friends. The last time we had seen him he had appeared healthy and in much better spirits thankful for the care and concern shown. Not today though. Today, he was visibly agitated and the closer she got the more she realized his sobriety was no more. Greeting everyone present, one by one she checked in with them and handing them coffee as they spoke.

“I need 5 dollars and if you really cared about me you’d give it to me”. “Jim”, said one of the other men “now you know she doesn’t give money. Leave her alone.” Yet, he persisted getting more belligerent each time he spoke, till finally he said. “You know what I need it for, and if I don’t have a drink soon I will die”.  Sadness, filled her heart at that moment. She had seen him at this point before and it had nearly taken his life. There was no such thing as one small drink, or a stopping point for “Jim” it was all consuming. He had fallen into his addiction again, and all of the old habits that befriend it.

As any conversation with an AA or NA member will tell you..sobriety is not a sprint but a lifelong cross country journey. A constant attraction towards your own destruction, with the deceptive lure of rationalization and self reliance there at the ready. Those family members and friends that stay the course are well accustomed to the roller coaster of pain, joy, success and failure that are present along the way.

Yet this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of every battle with temptation, sin and desolation.  Do we recognize our own weaknesses and the slippery slope that we start down when we once again find ourselves facing our worst selves? Will we be pulled under, will we try to go it alone, or will we seek help?

Awareness and Accompaniment.

While each of us were made for more, we repeatedly find ourselves choosing less. Being aware of that which is lesser and our own inclinations to a particular temptation or sin is a good step towards being better prepared when we meet it again. Still, the beauty of our faith is that we are never alone in our journey towards God. Though sin usually carries with it guilt, shame, and insecurities- our faith bears mercy, love and hope.  Through reconciliation, and in community we find both strength and accompaniment, encountering not condemnation and an all loving and merciful Father. Only then are we truly able to accompany others- to offer love and mercy in the struggle, and compassion and hope where none were evident before.

“Lord, thank you for loving me- knowing all of my weaknesses and being there to catch me when I fall.  Help me to keep my eyes open to the pitfalls ahead, and my ears ready to hear your voice. Carry me through, Lord. And please I ask dear gracious Father, make my heart ready to respond to the needs of others.” 

Peace,

Signature

Advertisements

CatholicMom: Daily Gospel Reflection

 Daily Gospel Reflection for April 21, 2018

Today, I share both my reflection and the wonderful community of CatholicMom.com with each of you! Tune in daily for wonderful insights, reflections, recipes, book reviews and more!

John 10:1-10

What is it about the image of a lowly shepherd that instills in us a reminder of the love of our Father? A shepherd’s primary duty is to tend to the needs of his flock and vigilantly guard their protection. Throughout scripture, this is the picturesque scene that tells of the wandering in our lives, and the constant guiding hand and voice that leads us. It is our narrative- of a shepherd and gatekeeper who does not passively watch over, but continually seeks after each one of us.

Yet, allowing God to lead does not imply that we will not experience difficulties. Or that the path will be free of assailants along the way. Since, as this passage illustrates, there are “thieves and robbers” who will climb into our lives looking to steal our joy and lead us astray. These thieves are often the voices of shame, regret, fear and pride that desire not only the ruin of our earthly existence, but to detract us from our forever home with God.

For one day, our time spent grazing, wandering away and running from God will come to a rest. It is a time that we are to seek, pray and strive towards, and like a child joyfully anticipate.  In Christ, “I am convinced that neither death nor life… nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ”. He is both the Shepherd and the door.

Ponder:

Am I allowing God to truly shepherd my life today? What might be robbing me of knowing his love and hearing his voice?

Pray:

Father, forgive me when I fail to listen to the sound of your voice. Choosing instead, to follow my will or the voice of another.

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Bread of Life

 :

“John’s Jesus has a totally different outlook. He does supply earthly bread to a crowd that hungers; but that is not the real marvel, for they will hunger again and so are not permanently better. The real marvel is that Jesus can give a bread from heaven that obviates hunger: the true (alēthinos) bread of which the multiplied loaf was only a sign”

-Raymond E. Brown, “The Johannine World for Preachers,” Interpretation 43.1 (1989), 60-61.

This quote by Raymond Brown, as an invitation for reflection on the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-71), has once again completely captivated me! Here, we are presented with Jesus both as the revelation of the Word, the divine teaching that holds eternal life and as Eucharist, the living bread which “provides nourishment” when eaten (NAB, Jn 6:51; Brown, A Introduction to the New Testament, p.346). What was enlightening for me in appreciating John’s portrait of Jesus, were the parallelisms with the OT understanding of Wisdom as found in Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach. These texts, offer us a background in which to grasp our later Christian understandings of Jesus and continuity with the OT. In Sirach, Wisdom is described as Word emanating from the “mouth of God” (Sir.24:3), and that which when drunken in provides fulfillment (24:20). In comparison, John portrays the person of Jesus as divine word, (“I am the bread of life”) to be believed and which promises not only fulfillment but eternal life (Jn. 6:35,40,45,47-48).

Yet, there are also definite Eucharistic allusions present in John 6:51-58, and likewise throughout this discourse. Especially, if we begin just prior to the Bread of discourse with the Multiplication of the Loaves, and consider the discussion on perishable food and the food of eternal life (Jn 6:26-2; Brown p.345-346). In fact, these seem to introduce the proceeding discourse and provide “two interpretations on how this is to be done” (p.346). Once again there are OT references here, in the manna of the Exodus that came from heaven, and the water to drink that broke forth from the stone. This food sustained the Israelites in the desert, yet could not promise life eternal.

In Jesus, was the fulfillment of the Word, made “flesh for the life of the world” (NAB, John 6:51). Likewise, the blood of Jesus is the “true drink” of eternal life (Jn, 6:55). There is a bit of irony to be found here in that the fullness of this meaning could not be understood by the Jews around him, who assert their familiarity with the physical personage of Jesus (Brown, p. 336; Jn 6:42). For them, they will ‘hunger and thirst again’, working for “food that perishes” unable to look past the satisfaction of their earthly hunger or for signs in which to believe (Jn 6:27; 30-32; 58).

Therefore, I would affirm that both understandings of this discourse are present and that it need not be a decision between, but a mutual invitation to participation. The observation, by Brown, that at times churches have “been divided as to which deserves the most emphasis” speaks to my prior faith experience as a Southern Baptist. (Brown, p.378). While the “Lord’s Supper” did have a place of importance in the Baptist tradition, it most certainly did not indicate more than a symbolic remembrance. Not to mention, there was a clear priority on the word of God and in particular on the words printed in red.

Yet, one of the beautiful elements that I became aware of as a Catholic catechist is the liturgical fullness given when both Scripture and Eucharist are equally emphasized. In the Liturgy of the Word, we are called to listen and respond to the Word and prayer. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist we are called to offer our lives to God, receive communion in unity with one another and go forth to share (and be) the good news of Jesus with one another. Yet, I would add that “ideal” is most fully understood when that same balance is not only liturgically placed but felt within the hearts of the believers.

Reflect:

Do I participate fully in the Liturgy of the Word, giving my full attention to both the spoken word and the words God seeks to imprint upon my heart? Am I fully present for reception of the Eucharist, understanding that Christ is fully and intimately present to me in that very moment?

Peace,

Signature

With Hearts Afire

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

I first encountered Jesus at the age of 7. Not that he wasn’t there all the time, but I simply had not so clearly recognized him before. Sure, I knew my heavenly Father- marveling at his wondrous surprises each day and felt his guiding hand as I was at play. And yes, I experienced His profound love for me through the tender care of my family, but it truly was not until then that I began to understand the immensity of what that love entailed. A heart set ablaze by the love of Christ’s sacrifice for me and a unquenchable desire to seek him in all that I do.

” Do you really know the living Jesus—not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it.  Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person—not just the idea.” St. Teresa of Calcutta

Cooperation isn’t for cowards

Did I fully realize the lifelong commitment that I was undertaking? One that would not be easy, even arduous at times, and require both surrender and trust to the journey ahead?  That would carry me from a small Southern Baptist pew to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? While that might be the basis for a good made-for-tv movie, I can truly say my God is both the God of promise and surprise. Truth is, none of us have any idea what God has in store when we turn our lives over to him and choose to follow Christ. Yet, to accompany Christ is to align our will and our steps to his, to let go of the known to embrace the unknown gift ahead. We might be willing to settle, but the full screen cinematic blockbuster story is a much more convincing witness than anything we could have dreamt of.

Here, in this blessed state of bewilderment God awaits for us to ask for direction and here his presence and guidance becomes discernible. On beginning our walk to Emmaus we actually find it comforting to turn over the events of the day. In sharing these joys and sorrows we might feel lighter, comforted initially by the awareness that we are not alone. But in this journey with Christ, there is so much more!

Real Presence

If we left the story here, our hearts that burned would fizzle and the memory fade amidst our daily activities. Yet, we recognize the familiarity of his words and become accustomed to his stride longing to spend more time with him. This walk of fellowship ushers us to dine together, and in sharing our brokenness we finally partake in the full presentness of our  friend and savior. This is the Pascal mystery- this is Eucharist.

As a protestant, my heart too burned in anticipation of the Lord’s Supper and yet was left without its fulfillment. Mere remembrances of Christ’s gift simply could not satisfy the deeper longing I experienced. Now as a Catholic, the Eucharist is that tangible real presence, the full response to that hunger of our hearts that cannot be contained. For, with the swing of the doors of the church we are given the graced responsibility anew to share the joy of the Gospel with hearts afire!

And may that fire never be extinguished!

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Crave Peace

 : “Christians must lean on the Cross of Christ, just as travelers lean on a staff when they begin a long journey. They must have the Passion of Christ deeply embedded in their minds and hearts, because only from it, can they derive peace, grace, and truth.” St. Anthony of Padua

With every passing year, in every byline and relationship encountered,the awareness of the world and our place in it reveals one constant- humanity’s profound desire for happiness and need for love.  The difference in each life is just how we seek happiness and where we believe that we have found it. In my youth I relished in the art of winning a good debate, evidenced in the ground of gaining one more in support of a cause and perceiving each incidence as a battle won. What has become more clear is that the goal of our Christian life cannot consist only in these small victories, or simply out of  prideful motivation or righteous indignation but from a true desire for peace.

Not an easy path

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
–St. Teresa of Calcutta

Take a glimpse even at our daily interactions with our family or colleagues, to work for peace may at times place us at the front lines of  contentiousness and disagreement. Make no mistake, not everyone is readily interested in the real work of peace. Why on earth not? For a variety of reasons, there are many who either cannot see how their happiness is connected to a greater plan or to a community beyond themselves. And yet, this path isn’t about solely convincing the other the error of their ways, but walking with and slowly discerning how to lead and witness to a greater truth. It is often imperfect and messy, as we are imperfect in understanding and discerning how best to move ourselves. Yet, if we invite God to be the principal mover and seek to take the back seat to the Holy Spirit then we begin to see the hope in the way ahead.

“With firm purpose you maintain peace; in peace, because of our trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Not quickly achieved

Peace is not just the absence of war. Like a cathedral, peace must be constructed patiently and with unshakable faith.
–Pope John Paul II

For me, this is perhaps the most difficult realization of the day-to-day endeavor towards peace. Steps taken to find common ground, sincere overtures at reconciliation albeit concessions and acceptance of one another fall back into familiar patterns. There are honestly times we might wonder why we try at all. Yet, this isn’t anything new to humanity or even to the early Christian communities. Inclinations to division, personality preference and disagreements over direction has beset us since the beginning of time. Truth is we may not ever witness the efforts of our labors in our lifetime. And still,  each day presents a gifted opportunity to offer a smile, a touch of mercy, a word of kindness – an imparting of a moment of grace to someone who has a great need for peace.

“Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.”
–Diary of St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

May this moment be an invitation to discover peace and place within you a desire to cultivate and extend this peace to all that you encounter in your day.

Signature

Worth Revisiting: The Body and the Vine

 :

In looking at Paul’s understanding of the church as the body of Christ we see a set of relationships, that of the individual believer to Christ and the believer in community. It is through baptism that both the individual believer accepts salvation through the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, and is joined to the community, the body, of fellow believers. Likewise, through the Eucharist, the believer is drawn into a deeper relationship with Christ while also recognizing his or her reliance on and unity within the community. They are symbolically understood as the body of Christ in the world. Therefore the Christian Community has a responsibility to carry forth the message and mission of Christ through dependence on one another as Christ’s hands and feet.

This differs from John’s metaphor of church first, in that John emphasized the priority of one’s personal connection to the vine or Christ over that of the community. Without this connection to the vine, enabled by the Spirit, the believer can do nothing fruitful on its own. Secondly, this relationship leads the believer on the path of discipleship, as one of many disciples on similar paths, who are then gathered by the Spirit in community. For John, this is church, seen in a community whereby all are called upon individually but equally to love and service to one another. For Paul, the church collectively is called upon to use her gifts given by the Spirit, rather than a gathering of individual disciples.

However, I feel that both understandings of our relationships as disciples are so important! We must both be connected to Christ as is suggested by John as well as to be connected to each other in community as the body of Christ. We cannot grow fruitfully as a vine if we lose our connection to life in Christ. Likewise, we need the support of the community and understanding of mission to be the hands and feet of the body. There are also common challenges presented by both Paul and John, seen in the need for love, forgiveness, and renewal.

For Paul, this is exemplified in the reception of the Eucharist. We bring all that we are when we come to mass, our gifts and our faults, and receive love, forgiveness and reconciliation to God as well as to each other. Then ‘blessed and broken’ we are then to be Christ to others. For John, we understand that partaking in the Eucharist though word and sacrament to be spiritually renewing oneself to the Vine the source of salvation. Yet also in recommitting one’s call of discipleship to greater love, forgiveness and service. Finally both saw a need for believers to continue the mission of Christ and work towards the values and reality of a coming kingdom of God. These remain essential today, for while we witness inbreakings of the kingdom we are called as a church to recommit our lives to its completion.

Peace,

Signature

Witness the Resurrection

 

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

There is a moment at the Easter Vigil where the whole atmosphere seems to be transformed from tranquil, dim and somber to one of joyful euphonious illumination. It was here that this scripture found me and resonated the joy present for these women. The austere mournful mystery of the tomb revealed not as defeat but as Christ’s victory over death, and we as witnesses to that certainty. And in an instant, with feet set on the path and my heart filled joy I yearn to share the Good News to everyone I encounter. “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” As Archbishop Fulton Sheen would say,  our testimony is but

“to tell people about the life and death of Christ. Every other approach is a waste.”

And yet..why don’t we?

With dishes done, and our family dissipated we can so easily let our Easter promises rest at the close of the day. Yet, the fact should not escape us, as Catholics, that Easter comprises a entire season. A period of 50 days beginning with Easter and concluding with Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. Where, we are then sent forth to the ends of the earth to continue our witness to others of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives today.

For, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. St. Pope Paul VI

And what about when we experience opposition from others to our witness?

Should that be a reason for our idleness or should we through prayer and perseverance continue to run the race? St. Maximillian Kolbe knew where the real battle lay, and what was found in Christ that no one could take away or refute.

“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

So as each of us goes forward this Easter season we must as the disciples did, search our hearts and allow the presence of the risen Christ to comfort and strengthen us for reception of the Holy Spirit.

Pray:

Lord, we are overwhelmed at the depth of your love and mercy for us- all the way to the cross. We stand amazed as we gaze at the empty tomb and wonder what you would have us do in the days ahead.  Yet, you have not left us alone. Your victory you share with us as well as your cross. Please let our joyful encounter be our sincere prayer and sacrifice as we seek to witness the truth of your glorious resurrection. Amen.

Peace,

Signature