Wednesday, January 30, 2013

God's Mercy Being Lived Behind Stone Walls


I have been a follower of Fr. Gordon MacRae's blog, These Stone Walls since its beginning. After reading much of his case, I have also been a sort of sideline champion of his cause, posting about his case and his blog here every now and again.
Over the course of Father's posts, he has introduced us to his cellmate Pornchai Moontri. Several stories have been written about this young man, and for good reason. His story is one of conversion, faith, hope and love despite the toughest of circumstances~before and during prison.
The latest story is from Felix Carroll of the Divine Mercy site. His article titled Mercy~Inside Those Stone Walls tells the story of this young man and the beautiful influence his friendship with Fr. Gordon has been in his life.
If you have never visited These Stone Walls, I invite you to do so. Even if all you do is leave a comment offering a prayer for Father and the men there. That means more than you know. We may not all be able to visit Father in person, but visiting his blog definitely counts as a prison visit.
Fr. Gordon also celebrates Mass in his cell every Sunday between 11 pm and midnight. You can offer and unite your prayers with his during this time.

I am not leaving a link for this post on The Front Porch. Go spend the time you would have spent leaving me a comment reading Felix Carroll's article and Fr. Gordon's latest post.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

If Thou Will It

I love the leper in today's Gospel. He basically prays the prayer: "Thy will be done." When he comes to Jesus for healing. He doesn't just ask Jesus to heal him, but says: :If Thou will it..." and of course Jesus does will it.
I offer you today a reprint of a post I wrote back in 2009 on this Gospel passage. In that post I talk about how we can suffer from spiritual leprosy due to our sins. Jesus wants to heal us, but we have to approach him with the humility and trust of the leper from the Gospel. We should also never assume God's will, but always pray Thy will be done or in the words of the leper, If Thou will it.
My post, as well as the message of this Gospel passage, also go well with a series Mary at The Beautiful Gate(see link at end of post) has written on dealing with our emotions in physical and spiritual healing. If you have not read her posts on this, I urge you to do so.
God does want to heal us, but we have to meet Him half way. As the Psalm says: When we hear His voice, we should not harden our hearts (see Psalm 95). We should open them, and be ready to do the work He requires of us.
There are links to Mary's  posts on dealing with our emotions at the end of this post. Here is the reprint of my 2009 post...

The Leper~ A Self~Reflection

If thou wilt, thou can make me clean."
Mark 1: 40
Hearing and rereading today's Gospel passage about the leper who approached Jesus reminds me of myself before my return to Christ and his Church.
There is physical leprosy, but there is also spiritual leprosy. In the physical form, a virus infects the body and parts begin to die and fall off. People with this disease are usually outcasts sent far away into isolation so as not to infect anyone else. In spiritual leprosy, sin infects the soul and it begins to die. Through sin the soul isolates itself from God's grace and the Church. The cure for the spiritual type (and probably to some extent the physical type as well) is faith in Jesus Christ.
Six years ago, after allowing my soul to die over the course of many years from countless sins- some very serious, I found my way back home. This did not come without God's grace and some human help as well. I found the courage to approach Jesus in faith and with as much humility as I could muster and asked him for healing. He responded to me immediately as he did the leper in today's Gospel. This man was able to approach Jesus in his humanity while he walked this earth. I was able to approach him through his priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I was made clean; our Lord willed it.
Our modern society has lost its sense of sin and the damage it does to us. Even at times our own parish priests don't seem to preach on it for fear of emptying the pews. We need to hear it. I needed to hear it. Not that I or any of us want to; it's never pretty. Speaking for myself, I needed to hear that I was sick and face what got me that way.
The leper knew he was unclean and he didn't want to be isolated anymore. It must have taken a lot of courage, not to mention faith, for him to approach Jesus. He did so with faith and humility; "if thou wilt it..." That simple phrase is an act of faith and humility. He didn't demand that Jesus heal him and he didn't say, "if you can"He believed that if our Lord willed it, he would be healed.
After much self-examination, I realized I was unclean and like the leper, I didn't want to be isolated anymore- not from God's grace or from his Church. After I approached Jesus through his priest in confession, I did what the leper did- I went and told everyone! Although I really didn't have to; most people could see my healing in how I began to live my life from that point on.
Every now and then the leprosy tries to return, but I do my best not to let it. I know where to find my "Divine Primary Care Physician". (He's a lot easier to find than any in my earthly health plan!) The words of absolution are probably the sweetest and most beautiful words we can hear.
The moral of the story? We need to form our consciences so that we know when we are sick through sin. Then we need to approach the Divine Physician in the sacraments. Making a good confession will make us clean and receiving our Lord in the Eucharist will give us the strength to stay that way.
If you are reading this and are in need of a "spiritual bath", don't be afraid to approach Jesus. As long as you do so with humility and faith, he is there waiting to stretch out his hand to give you his healing grace just as he did for the leper- just as he did for me.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch

Related Links from The Beautiful Gate

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Spirit's Groanings

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. ~Romans 8:26

My last post talked about the workings of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. I would like to continue along these lines with some thoughts on the Holy Spirit and our prayer lives.
In my conversations with people on the topic of prayer, I find that most people seem to pray to one particular Person of the Holy Trinity. Some feel drawn to pray to the Father, others to Jesus, and a rare few to the Holy Spirit. There is nothing wrong with going to one Person, but I think we limit our prayer a bit when we do. 
Now if you remember your catechism days, you were probably taught that we should pray to the Father, through Jesus, His Son with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is good reason for this because the three Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity are inseparable; where One is, so are the other Two. This is true whether we are at Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament or at home praying.
That being said, we are also taught to invoke the Holy Spirit's aid before beginning any prayer. I find this especially essential before praying with Sacred Scripture. The Holy Spirit does what Jesus did for those disciples on the road to Emmaus~ He opens them up. As is quoted above: St Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that we do not know how to pray as we should, but that the Spirit intercedes and prays with unspeakable groanings within us. So we definitely need His help!
So while most of us may feel drawn to pray to one particular Person of the Trinity, we should always begin that prayer by asking the Holy Spirit to help us in our prayer. 
As for myself, I usually go straight to Jesus. In my informal conversational type prayer I may not directly ask for the Spirit's help. However before Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament, or before praying the Liturgy of the Hours (or any kind of Scripture based prayer), I always invoke the Holy Spirit first. I notice a difference if I forget to do so.
The Holy Spirit has been referred to as the most neglected of the Three Persons. I believe this is sad, but true. 
Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit because He knew we would need His help. We receive the Holy Spirit first in Baptism and then again in Confirmation. With Him come His seven amazing gifts, all of which bear specific fruits if we allow Him to work in us. And this begins with our prayer lives. We can not bear fruit that will last in our day to day lives without prayer, and our prayer does not bear fruit without the Spirit's unspeakable groanings within us.
So if you have been leaving the Third Person out of your prayer lately, invite Him back in~you will be glad you did. 

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. 

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Comments welcome at The Front Porch

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In The Power of the Spirit

"Jesus returned to Galillee in the power of the spirit..." These words that begin the 14th verse of Chapter 4 in Luke's Gospel, to me, are quite compelling. In fact, this entire passage is one I find to be one of the most powerful in the Gospels.
In a homily given by one of my parish priests, Father went on to tell us that it wasn't or isn't just Jesus that lives in the power of the Spirit, but that we each do. This same Holy Spirit was given to us at our Baptism and at Confirmation. This Holy Spirit manifests itself in us, in our daily lives, and goes out to touch those we encounter each day if we cooperate with the power from the Spirit.
Father gave the example of a sort of homework assignment he had given to someone he was ministering to. He told the person to buy a single rose on his way home. The person went and did what Father asked him to do, but the florist would not sell him a single rose. So he went off to the supermarket and found that for less money than he would have spent at the florist, he could buy a dozen roses. This person kept one and gave the rest away. Father told us that he really did not know where the idea of telling this person to buy the rose came from, and that this person wasn't really sure why he was buying the dozen roses. This, Father said was evidence of the Spirit at work in both their lives~not to mention the eleven people who received a rose.
Jesus lived the power of the Spirit every day of His life; it was part of His Divine Nature after all, but we have been blessed with this same gift. We are not divine by nature, so it takes some extra attention to the Spirit's promptings on our part, but it is possible.
So where is the Holy Spirit leading you today? How is He working in your every day life?
Remember, the Spirit is upon all of us~let's cooperate!

Comments welcome at The Front Porch.

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.