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Lazarus, come out!


 

I invite you, while considering the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, to reflect on this image. And meditate on how Christ (1) is inviting each of us to healing; (2) can raise us each from our little deaths; and (3) wants to enlist us in bringing others to His healing love.

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The Gospel According To Carl (Heinrich Bloch)


This Lent I was introduced to the beautiful art of Carl Heinrich Bloch.  He was influenced by Rembrandt. “The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.” Enjoy!

“Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Annunciation

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Mary and Elizabeth

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

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Second Sunday of Lent: the Transfiguration


Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Spring is supposed to be here in three days.  I don’t know if this was one of the darkest winters in history, but it sure has been one of the coldest on record!  We might have even set some records for snowfall.  The snow is beautiful when it first comes down, covering the earth in a pure blanket of white.  But after months of cold, when the snow has turned to a dirty, slushy and crusty consistency, it’s easy to get sick of it all.  When I was in college, we called February the Dark Ages.  By this time each year, we were sick of the cold, the dark, and the overcast skies.

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Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice in the Desert!


Today is Gaudete Sunday, which means Rejoice!  If you have an advent wreath, you’ll notice that while the other three Sundays of Advent have purple candles, today’s candle is rose pink.  This is the color of joy!  Of Rejoicing!

EC09 4

Today’s first reading tells why we should rejoice.  We begin in the desert.  I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the desert of Southern California in July 2009.  As the picture reflects, it is barren.  The plant life is sparse and looks nearly dead.  And the desert is full of hazards.  Be carefully lifting anything.  There might be a snake hiding underneath!  Or black widows!

When I was there, it got up to 119°! It was HOT with no shade.  But I understand that, on the very rare times when it does rain, the desert just explodes with blossoms!  Like here!

Judean Desert in bloom

This is the promise of the first reading from Isaiah:

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.

Today, you may feel like you’re in a desert.  Like everything around you is dying and the sun itself is beating down on you, draining you of energy.  Rejoice!  God promises better!  This desert will bloom with abundant flowers!

When I was in the desert of California, I learned of one of its denizens, the desert tortoise.  The desert tortoise is a protected species.  We had to be sure to stay on the marked roads and not drive into the desert for fear of driving over one of their burrows and killing them or destroying their nests.  In fact, if we saw one on the road, we were to leave it alone.  I am told that if you sneak up on one and startle it, the desert tortoise will evacuate its bladder.  This is a deadly condition for the tortoise because they recycle their urine.  They go months or years between drinks of water.  Because of this, they have to conserve what fluids they have.

This is an example of how the life in the desert has adapted to the harsh environment.

Although most of us do not live in a desert, many of us experience a spiritual dryness.  Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta describes the spiritual desert she experienced throughout her life.  These were times when Mother Theresa didn’t feel God’s presence.  She couldn’t sense Him.  And I know that there are times when I sometimes don’t feel the fruits of praying, when it doesn’t seem to pay off.

What did Mother Theresa do in those times?  She continued to pray.  She continued to love.  She continued to serve.  She persevered.

This desert often appears in my personal life and my relationship.  Sometimes I don’t feel like being nice to people who snap at me.  I don’t feel the spiritual strength to smile, or help.

Mother Theresa had a wonderful saying that addresses those times when you might not feel the presence of God, when you might not feel like being nice, or helpful.  It goes like this:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

So when you find yourself in a spiritual desert, think of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta.  If you don’t feel like praying, just do it.

Also, remember the desert tortoise, who stores its water because it never knows when it will take its next drink.  Like the tortoise, store up memories of when God’s love was obvious to you, when things went well, when you recognized your blessings.

And finally, remember God’s promise.  While your soul may feel dry as the parched desert, God promises that it will “bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.”

Think pink.  Think rejoice!

Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival


Easter Sunday.  The Liturgy of Creation.  John’s vision in Revelation describes heavenly worship.  How can I reflect that worship in my actions?

Easter Monday.  Faith in Invisible Realities.  We renewed our Baptismal promises yesterday at Mass.  How do I live this shared faith?

Tuesday of Easter Week.  With Our Whole Being.  With a Creator who loves us so completely, how can I do love Him with any less than my whole being?

Wednesday of Easter Week.  A Lamb Who Was Slain—A Lion Who Reigns.  The Mass is a universal celebration that unites us with Christ at the Last Supper and with the angels and saints in Heaven.  Do I appreciate the privilege of participating in Mass?

Thursday of Easter Week.  The Beautiful Bride of Christ.  If Christ is the bridegroom of the Church, I am part of that intimate relationship.  How do I allow myself to draw closer to Christ?

Friday of Easter Week.  Union With God.  Christ’s love for the Church is the model for a husband love for his wife.  How does my marriage reflect this?  How do I strive for this perfection?

Saturday of Easter Week.  The Dwelling of God.  How real is Heaven to me?

Divine Mercy Sunday.  Becoming Saints.  Today, I am reminded of the inexhaustible Mercy God offers me as He calls me to sainthood.

Becoming Saints


Happy Easter!  This Divine Mercy Sunday I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.  This is the last day of this series.

Today is the Feast of Divine Mercy, which we celebrate because Christ Himself requested this in His appearances to St. Faustina Kowalska.   During His visits, Christ instructed St. Faustina on His Divine Mercy and introduced the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which He asks that we pray for for three purposes:  to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy, and to show mercy to others.

The Chaplet—a series of prayers much like the Rosary—calls for the use of Rosary beads.  On the decades used to pray the ten Hail Marys, the Chaplet has us pray:  “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

I can’t say that I fully understand the Chaplet.  I don’t know the reason behind the prayers or their efficacy.  When I pray the Rosary, at least I have some concept of the Mysteries I am meditating on and I am familiar with the component prayers.  But the Chaplet is more difficult for me.  So I am reminded by Christ’s statement to St. Faustina:

“My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.”

This helps me understand that I am human, of limited comprehension skills, and may not always understand.  Even when I don’t understand, I pray that I am doing His will.  I am reminded of my favorite Psalm:  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Ps. 46:11.

The Psalm helps me to trust that He is God and will sustain me if I but trust in Him and His mercy.  And then, with this trust in my heart, I will strive to “walk by faith and not by sight.”  2 Cor. 5:7.

Thomas Merton expressed this surrender succinctly in prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I am comforted knowing that, as long as I try to please Him and seek to live a life in humble submission to His will as He expresses it in His Church, I’m golden!

It is worth noting, as Scott Hahn does, that at times the earthly Church seems to work against the values it purports to espouse.  “We see scandal and hypocrisy, bland liturgies, false teaching, broken families, sin and sinners everywhere.”  But Scott also reminds us that the Church is the chosen bride of Christ.  He tells us that when we focus on these shortfalls of human members of the Church and use them as an excuse for leaving the Church, we are spurning the Bride of Christ.

Instead, I need to remember that I am called to be a saint for the Church.  And, knowing I can’t do it of my own, I lean on Him who sustains me.  “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”.  Phil 4:13.

And so, while I am called to sainthood, as we all are, I know that I cannot do this on my own.

Day 54-1 There are times—more often than I care to admit—that I would rather NOT be a saint, when I would rather enjoy the immediate pleasures of this world instead of sacrificing for the long term gain He offers.  In those moments I need to “immerse [myself] in the ocean of [His] Mercy.Day 54-2

 This was the last day of the reflections on Scott Hahn’s book, but not my last blog entry.  Although I will not be blogging as regularly, I hope to continue to grow in faith and share in my journey.  And, as always, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

The Dwelling of God


Happy Easter!  This Saturday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

In 23 years of wedded bliss, my wife and I have lived in four different houses that we owned, five different apartments we rented and various other transient housing arrangements.  By far the tensest transitions involved the more recent moves from one house to another.  I think a number of factors contributed to the tension in the last couple of moves.  Each one involved many changes:  new communities, new schools, new parish, new jobs.  Each move required significant adjustments.

In a sense, death is the ultimate household move.  It is the most significant transition, and is irreversible.  Maybe this is why many have great anxiety when contemplating death.  There is much uncertainty.  We will be “moving” to unfamiliar territories.  There is so much we do not now know about our ultimate destination.

Jesus gives us some comforting words to ease our minds:

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  John 4:2-3.

Not only is He telling us that He is preparing our homes, but He will be our escort, taking us to our new abodes to live with us.

When we were house-hunting, it was easy to imagine the home we would end up in.  But my imagination was never accurate because, until we actually identified the house, put in a bid and came to an agreement with the homeowner, it was only imaginary—it was not real.

Some notions of Heaven are not all that appealing.  Angels playing harps, floating on clouds.  For eternity.  Ugh!  Maybe that’s because the idea of Heaven does not seem very real and we each have to comprehend it in our imperfect ways.

The concept of Heaven is not easy for me to grasp.  But when I think of all the people I will get to see again in the afterlife—my Mom, grandparents, old friends—it makes the concept seem more real. Day 53-1If my relationships with my Mom, friends and loved ones pale in comparison with the love Christ has for me, how much more does that magnify the promises of Heaven? Day 53-2

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