Sunday, August 12, 2012

Being Taught By God

James Tissot: Jesus Teaching at the Seashore

I love the readings for today, especially the first one from the Book of Kings. I had this comical vision of Elijah asleep and the angel coming to wake him. The angel just sort of hovering next to the prophet poking him with an angelic finger telling him to get up and eat. Poor Elijah had about had with himself and was basically saying to God: "Take me now!" Well God wasn't having any of that so the angel returns and pokes Elijah once again, but this time his command comes with an important reason: If you don't get up and eat the food God has left for you, the journey will be too long for you. This got our weary prophet's attention, and so he did as the angel said. He found that the angel was right, and that he had the strength to walk for forty days and nights to God's Mountain.
I learned a lot from Elijah today. I too at times find myself saying to God: I have had enough, I can't go on another step, I keep falling into the same sins, and the litany could go on. Well thanks be to God, He isn't having any of that from me either.
My whining is like that of the murmuring Jews in today's Gospel. Jesus stops them right then and there: "Stop murmuring among yourselves." He shows them, once they quieted down, that they were being taught by God. The reason they were there hearing Jesus was because the Father had taught them and led them to Jesus~even if they were not ready to accept Him or His message. Some would stay, and others would leave.
If we believe in Jesus, it is because the Father has led us to Him; it is pure grace. If we believe in Jesus in the Eucharist, it is because the Father has drawn us there and has given us this gift of faith.
The Father is pure spirit. He knew and knows that we would need a physical Presence as well. He gave us that in Jesus Christ. Through the teachings of Jesus, we hear the Father. After all, the Father tells us on two occasions in Scripture who Jesus is and that we should listen to Him. First at the Jordan where Jesus is baptized, and then again on Mount Tabor during Jesus' Transfiguration. This my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.
God sent His angel to Elijah to teach him; later the Father sends His Son to teach us, and to stay with us if we will have Him.
God does what any good teacher does~ He tells us what we need to know (in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition), gives us the tools to use the knowledge (grace through the Sacraments), and then allows us to go from there, but remaining close by should we need a refresher, and you know we will.
Jesus was teaching the people of His day and us that He is the Bread of Life~that food that we would need so that like Elijah, we would have the strength to make the journey(with less murmuring and whining) to God's Holy Mountain.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Facing Our Jerusalem

The Gospel for today is one that I have read and heard many times. Sometimes familiarity, especially where Scripture is concerned, is not necessarily a good thing. It can be easy to simply glance over the words, thinking that we know what it says, no need for careful reading, or if we are hearing a familiar passage read at Mass, we listen with only half an ear.
But sometimes God prevents the familiar from becoming too familiar by drawing our attention to a particular phrase. Such was my experience this morning. While hearing the Gospel where Jesus asks the Apostles who the crowds, and more importantly, who they say He is, I was drawn to the second part of the passage where Jesus tells His Apostles that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. You know what happens next~ Peter acts as Peter does most often, but maybe even more so this time. He dares to tell His Master that this could never be.
Jesus didn't say He should go to Jerusalem, or maybe I might end up in Jerusalem; He said I must go to Jerusalem. Jesus, being in total conformity with His Father's will, was able to face Jerusalem and all that awaited Him there.
This got me thinking about our own lives. Each of us in the course of our lifetimes may have small Jerusalems to face~those difficult, but in the grand scheme of things, rather small trials that we need to deal with. We may also have bigger Jerusalems to face~ a terminal illness, or the death of someone close to us. Eventually we will all face the final Jerusalem that will lead us to our heavenly home.
My thoughts in all of this led me to the question: How was Jesus able to face Jerusalem and all that would happen to Him there? The answer came quite immediately~ He saw beyond it. His Apostles could not, which is why Jesus told Peter that He was thinking as man does, not as God does.
As difficult as the trials of life are, and as difficult as our own death is to think about, if we look beyond to what awaits us if we conform our wills to God's just as Jesus did, if we think as God does and not as human beings do, we too can face our Jerusalem.
I believe this is the grace given to the martyrs. Their faith in God's promises helped them to see beyond what awaited them at the guillotine, the gas chamber, the rack or any other instrument of torture and death.
The Church celebrates today, the memorial of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). She died a martyr's death in Auschwitz during World War II. She saw Jerusalem clearly in front of her, but saw beyond it to the glorious life that awaited her in heaven.
Jesus did this, the martyrs did this, and so must we.
The things of this earth, the good and the bad, are fleeting compared to what God has prepared for those who love Him.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Glory Revealed

Mt. Tabor at Dusk

I could take you back in time over 2000 years to that day with Jesus, Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor. I could ask you to imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus manifest His glory to His Apostles that day.
Yes, I could ask you to imagine that ancient day, but I won't. Instead I ask you to recall the last time you came before Jesus in His Eucharistic Presence either in an adoration chapel, or in church before the tabernacle, or the last time you received Him in Holy Communion. You may not have realized it, but you, in those precious moments were on Mount Tabor with Our Lord. His glory veiled to your bodily eyes, but revealed to the eyes of your heart and soul through faith.
Jesus took Peter, James and John up that mountain that day to strengthen them for His fast approaching Passion and Death.
Those three Apostles must have been changed in some way that day~even strengthened.
So are we every time we come before or receive His Eucharistic Presence. Like the Apostles, and Moses before them, may we not come down from the mountain the same way we went up. Allow the glory of the Risen Lord to change you from the inside out.

A Transfiguration Prayer
Heavenly Father,
You spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and to the Apostles on Mount Tabor where You revealed the splendor of Your glory in Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Moses came down from Sinai with his face aglow from being in Your Presence, the Apostles saw Jesus radiant and never wanted to leave Tabor.
As we come before the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist may we be transformed; may we not leave Your Presence the same way we entered, but aglow with Your grace. May we become luminaries of Your splendor and glory in this world, for in Your light we see light.

May we become what we behold and what we receive.

All of this we pray in Jesus' name.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Obligation To Love Jesus

This phrase in my title came up twice within the span of a few hours in two different places in my reading and meditation. The first was on Saturday night as I was reading and praying the meditation for the day from a book of meditations on the Passion of Jesus. The second came a few short hours later just after midnight as I was keeping my hour with Jesus in my parish adoration chapel. I picked up my Magnificat and was reading the meditation for the day written by Fr, Jean Baptiste Saint~Jure, a seventeenth century French Jesuit priest, and there the phrase appeared again.
When things like this happen, I tend to pay attention since I get the feeling God is trying to tell me something.
Viewed with the eyes and ears of the world, this phrase using the word obligation, can seem to have a very negative connotation. The world tells us we should not feel obligated to much, if anything at all. A sort of "if it feels right, do it" attitude. However, seen and heard with the eyes and ears of faith, this phrase, and especially the word obligation, take on a softer and gentler meaning.
In the face of all that Jesus endured and suffered for us, we as Christians do have an obligation to love Him, but at the same time Jesus never forces His love on anyone, nor does He force them to love Him in return. This spiritual obligation is one of acceptance. Once we accept Jesus, and His love for us, most dramatically demonstrated through His Passion and Death, we feel a natural and willing obligation to love Him.
This obligation to love Jesus is also seen in today's Gospel. Over the next four Sundays, we will hear from St John's Bread of Life Discourse in Chapter 6 of his Gospel. The passage for this Sunday comes soon after Jesus has fed the multitude. The crowd once again follows Jesus, and Jesus recognizes why they were seeking Him~not for the signs He manifested, but because they were fed, physically with the loaves and fishes.
As we read today's passage, we can see Jesus preparing the people to hear those words that they will find difficult, that His Flesh is the true food, and His Blood true drink. But for right now, He simply tells them that He is the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Him will never hunger, and whoever believes in Him, will never thirst. I imagine they felt He was speaking in symbols and parables. We know He was not. His Apostles back then knew He was not. If the people in that crowd truly believed Jesus was who He said He was, their hearts would have felt that natural obligation to love Him. I am sure some did, but many did not.
The same holds true for us today. Jesus' message about Himself has not changed. He still tells us that He is the Bread of Life. Those who believe the true and real meaning of His words know and are happy to fulfill their obligation to love Him. It is fulfilled every time we receive Him with love and devotion in Holy Communion, and in every visit we make to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
By the end of this discourse of St John we will see many walk away from Jesus because they felt they were being forced to believe something their hearts and minds could not accept or understand. Many have walked away from Jesus today for much the same reason.
When we believe like the Apostles did, that Jesus has the words of eternal life, then truly to who else would we want to go. With the eyes and ears of faith, this obligation to love Jesus becomes a gift~ His to us, and ours in return to Him.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

A Little Renovation to the Front Porch

Thanks to all my visitors, The Front Porch reached 100 comments today. Since it seems to be getting a bit crowded, I decided to build some additions so that we can move around a little. Visit The Front Porch for details. See you there!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Lady And the Battle For Souls

This battle for souls is something I have written about before. It is more than just a battle between good and evil; it is a battle over life and death, for the death of the soul is the ultimate death.
This death of the soul can occur long before the death of the body. Many are walking around today as "spiritual zombies". I should know because for a long time, I was one of them. The thing is though, if by God's grace a soul converts and turns to God before the body dies, life can return.
Jesus tells us not to fear those that can kill the body, but rather those that can kill the soul. (see Matt. 10:28) The death of an unconverted soul is a death that lasts for eternity. This is one reason devotion to Our Lady is a crucial element of our faith. We need her to intercede for poor sinners who have lost their faith and turned from God, and we need her to help us persevere in our own faith. Our faith is a gift, and if that gift is not nurtured, it can be lost.
I truly believe that Our Blessed Mother is instrumental in this battle for souls and obtaining the grace for conversion~ she certainly was in mine.
Satan hates Mary for this reason. He knows that she is a powerful force to be reckoned with because it is the power of Christ that works in and through her.
August is the month dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Much has been written about the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary~ a great deal of it deals with the appearances of Our Lady at Fatima.
Fatima's messages are for our times today. The things Mary told the children at Fatima are coming to fruition in our own day and time. One of Mary's strong instructions to the children was: Pray, pray, pray! It wasn't just for them, it is for us as well, and not enough of us are doing it. So many are turning away from Christ and His Church. Devotion to Our Lady is often seen as not necessary or old fashioned piety. If you really listen to the messages of Fatima, you see that we do need Our Lady and devotion to her is not only necessary, but critical.
In looking for something to post for my monthly devotions post, I came across a website for a fairly new religious order. The Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary was formed in 1990. Their spiritual charism is  to be offerings of love and consolation to the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary by choosing in all things the perfection and splendor of love in order to give way to its triumph.
I found an article written by their foundress Mother Adela titled In the End, My Heart Will Triumph. Here is a brief excerpt from the article on why the triumph of the Immaculate Heart is necessary:
In the apparition of Fatima on July 13, 1917, Mary said, “You saw hell where the souls of poor sinners go; to save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I say, many souls will be saved and you will have peace…There will be wars, hunger, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To impede this I come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and Eucharistic reparation on First Saturdays. If my desires are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors through all the world, promoting persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated …Suddenly the horizon will darken... Later, a brilliant ray of light and hope will arise…In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
In this message from Fatima, Our Lady wants to awaken our awareness to the fact that we are engaged in a battle that involves nations, societies and kingdoms, and every individual residing in them. “We cannot deny the existence in society of forces capable of great influence which act with a certain hostile spirit towards the Church. All of these things manifest the work of the ‘prince of this world’ and of the ‘mystery of iniquity’ even in our day” (Synod of Bishops, 1985, Final Report, 4).

So let us pray throughout this month dedicated to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, and always for the souls of poor sinners and for our own.
Prayers and writings on the Immaculate Heart can be found in the Pages drop down menu above~click on the August Devotions page.

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Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.