Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Post of the Year

What a year - disappointment on a personal level, yet the opening of unexpected doors for sharing the Faith (and the grace to take it as it comes). At the end of the year I have to thank the Lord for His Love - faithful, long-suffering, thoughtful, words can't do justice. And I have to thank the Lord for ministering to me through His Mother Mary, for giving me to her and her to me. In 2010, I want to look more like Mary and Joseph, so that I can ultimately look more like Jesus. And may Brennan and Lily have a ton of fun on this journey.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Holy" Obedience?

I am a big, big fan of The Daily Gospel apostolate out of New Hope, Kentucky. Every morning they greet me with the day's readings as well as Gospel commentary from one of the saints or a successor of Peter, and I tip my hat to them for the commentary they selected for the Feast of the Holy Family. They allowed St. Anthony of Padua to give me some much needed illumination.

You see, about a year ago one of my closest friends started reading Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. My friend, who is Lutheran, soon asked me if I could explain something to her: it seemed very strange that Mother Teresa, who God was clearly speaking to and giving a mission, would have to go and receive permission to undertake the work from her religious superiors. At first her superiors made her delay. Why would Teresa submit to that, when she knew God was speaking to her?

What a fantastic question! Looking back, my response was alright. I talked about how it was a mark of humility, and a safeguard against being deceived, to submit inspirations and private revelations to those God has allowed to assume roles of authority within a religious body. I also shared how, in private revelations to nuns and religious brothers, Jesus often instructs the recipients that they must always submit themselves to their religious superiors, even when it means delaying His requested action. These nuns and brothers took a vow of obedience when they entered their respective orders, and the Lord insists that it be adhered to. But what I failed to point out, the very heart of the matter, was what St. Anthony of Padua saw in the Gospel read for the Feast of the Holy Family! Jesus was twelve years old and stayed behind in Jerusalem following a family trip there, without notifying his parents. After three days of frantic searching Mary and Joseph finally found Him in the Temple:
"Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:48-52)

St. Anthony's commentary here is just gorgeous:
«He was subject to them.» With these words let all pride dissolve, all rigidness crumble, all disobedience submit. «He was subject to them.» Who? In brief, he who created all things from nothing; he who, as Isaiah says, «has cupped in his hand the waters of the sea and marked off the heavens with a span; who has held in a measure the dust of the earth, weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance» (40,12)...This is he who, great and powerful though he be, was subject. And subject to whom? To a workman and a poor young maid ... So no longer hesitate to obey or be submissive ...
There are people of wisdom within religious orders but it is by means of simple men that God brought them there. God chose the foolish and weak, the lowly and ignorant to bring together those who were wise, powerful and of noble birth through them, «so that no human being might boast in itself» (cf. 1 Cor. 1,26-29) but in him who came down, who came to Nazareth, and who was subject.

Our obedience is a participation in the very obedience of Jesus! The Father's Revelation in Person, made His plans subject to "a workman and a poor young maid." So whenever one of us submits ourselves to the decisions of our bishop or the disciplines (traditions) of the Church as opposed to our own personal "inspirations," it is Jesus' obedience that we are tapping into; and that is life's very goal! We've heard time and again that the Church is the Family of God. In truth, it is the Family of Nazareth thrown open to the entire world. And those God places in leadership may not be the smartest, or the most "charismatic," or the most plugged-in as to what He wants to accomplish in the moment; but they are to be obeyed, because doing so places us firmly in the One Who obeyed "a workman and a poor young maid."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Eucharist, Mary, and Redemptive Suffering

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

Redemptive suffering. It is that mysterious but incredible reality that the suffering God allows into our lives, when accepted and lived with trust in His Love for us, become an actual participation in the sufferings of the Crucified, allowing us to be formed more truly His image - the very goal of our Faith! And, as Paul said above, because we are “members of one another” (Rom.12:5; Eph.5:25), this grace is of benefit not just to us, but to the entire Body. This teaching, far from casting aspersions on the efficacy of Jesus’sacrifice, proclaims its superabundance. We believe that His sacrifice redeems us so profoundly that it transforms us from mere creatures of God into sons and daughters. It transforms us into cells of Jesus’ Mystical Body, inserting us into the Life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the only Son! This reality is there in the theology of Paul, and unpacked for us in the teaching of the saints and doctors. What I’d never recognized before though, was how it was contained in Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist.

When we start to meditate on that Fifth Luminous Mystery, we naturally hear His words, “This is My Body …This is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” And in a moment of grace, we’re reminded where Jesus took His Body and Blood from – His Mother Mary. Jesus clothed Himself with her flesh, her blood, and offered Himself to the Father “in” them. That is the mystery of redemptive suffering that the Lord wants to continue in you and me - to clothe Himself with our very persons and lift our sufferings up into His own, making them part of His eternal offering to the Father (Heb.9:14). As with Mary, He requires our consent to bring about this supernatural reality, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

We see Mary, fully engaged in this Mystery, there at the foot of her Son’s Cross. Which of us parents haven’t imagined looking up and seeing our own children hanging there in the sun - their bodies ripped, blood flowing down their limbs, suffocating under their own weight. It is the most monstrous suffering imaginable, but God allowed it into the life of His beloved Mary. Her Son was dying to redeem the world, and her heart was pierced right along with His (Jn.19:34; Lk.2:35). Jesus was suffering there before her eyes, in the flesh He took from her; but through the chords of grace He was suffering in and through her person, gazing up at Him, as well. Through it all, the Holy Spirit maintained Mary in her fiat. The mystery of redemptive suffering spoken of by Paul in Colossians 1:24 is graphically manifested by Mary at the Cross.

I don’t see any romance in pain, and I don’t desire it; but part of reality is recognizing that God allows me to pass through it. It is not an end in itself, but a potentially powerful means: “For Jesus’ sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil.3:8-11). So I need to call out for the grace to unite my sufferings to those of Jesus, to allow Him to lift me up toward His Father, “This is My Body…This is My Blood.” I need to pray each day for the grace to persevere through suffering; Jesus told us the stakes are high, “Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt.24:12-13).

“O Jesus living in Mary,
come and live in Thy servants,
In the Spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues
In the communion of Thy mysteries,
Subdue every hostile power
In Thy Spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Am I not here, who is your Mother?

I think those words of our Lady to St. Juan Diego, and through him to us, are some of the most beautiful in history. I just renewed my consecration to Jesus, through the heart of Mary, this past week and wanted to share a thought that struck me in that regard. Before I come to it though, I need to lay a bit of groundwork:

What does it mean to be consecrated to Jesus through Mary? St. Louis De Montfort wrote the book on the subject. It is popularly known as True Devotion to Mary. De Montfort himself though, spoke of the devotion to Mary he prescribed as being "a perfect consecration to Jesus Christ." As difficult as this may be for some Christian brothers and sisters to understand, that is Marian devotion's raison d'etre. What De Montfort espoused was entrusting ourselves to Jesus' Mother, our Mother, totally and completely. We ask the Holy Spirit to knit our souls together, so that the grace that was in her, will be participated in by us as well. Sounds heretical? It sounded very foreign to me too, but after years of looking at it and seeing its fruits in others, such as John Paul II, I espouse it as well.

The Apostles themselves gave us the doctrinal foundations! Listen to this beautiful image given us by the Apostle Peter, "Come to Jesus, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5). The Apostle Paul developed it further, teaching that "we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Romans 12:5). In being fused to Jesus, we find ourselves then, at the level of the soul, mysteriously joined to one another. As a result, Paul could teach that "If one member of the Body suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor.12:26); and could even claim, "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24).

And so, the grace that is in one member of the Body can be of benefit to all. And who received the grace to love Jesus with a perfectly pure heart from the moment of conception? Who was a disciple to Him like no one else in the cosmos? Our Mother Mary! As the angel Gabriel said, she is the "Kecharitomene," the one who is "completely filled" with God's grace. She is the Church's ultimate success story, God's greatest masterpiece of grace! Now that's the living stone that I want to be fitted to, the cell of the Body that I want to be functioning alongside. The grace that God gave her disposed her to overcome every difficulty and give herself to Him without reserve, so that the Holy Spirit could fashion Jesus within her. I want that grace that God poured into Mary, to yield to Him as she did! My soul, of itself, is still so underdeveloped, has so many impediments that prevent the Holy Spirit from moving it the way He wishes.

Do you remember your Old Testament? The great prophet Elijah told his pupil Elisha to ask a favor of him before he (Elijah) was assumed into heaven. Elisha's request? "I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit" (2 Kings 2:9). And that was exactly what Elisha got! Well, there's no way we can receive a "double" portion of the grace Mary did - since as Mother of the Incarnate Word she received more than all of the angles and saints put together! - but she and the Holy Spirit sure want us to participate in it! They want us to tap into it to accelerate our spiritual growth. Again, as Paul said, "we are members of one another." To share in the grace given to Mary's soul is to make ourselves ever more docile instruments of the Holy Spirit, more perfect disciples of Christ Jesus! And this brings me back to that thought I was struck by earlier this week:

I was meditating on the third Luminous Mystery, Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom. My mind turned to that episode when Jesus was preaching, and He was told that His Mother and family were outside. He looked at those sitting around Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt.12:49-50). I've always understood Jesus to be saying that we are to share in the mission of His Mother, the mission of doing God's will by giving Him our flesh and allowing Him to "enter the world" through us. And that's true. But for the first time, I recognized Jesus' words as having a deep fulfillment in this idea of being consecrated to Him through spiritual union with Mary. It is "common" to think of ourselves as Jesus' brothers and sisters, but mother strikes us a bit strange. Not when we conceive of it as our souls being knit to Mary's by the Holy Spirit though. Not when we understand it as being allowed to share in that beautiful grace that was hers - becoming completely fluid in the Hands of the Spirit, so that He can form Christ Jesus in our souls as He did within the womb of Mary.

We become completely Mary's (as Jesus did in the Incarnation), so that we may become more perfectly Jesus'. Our Lady stands before us today as she did Juan Diego, "Am I not here, who is your Mother?"

Quite an honor: This entry was re-printed by Catholic Exchange on Dec.17th.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Joanna - What the WHAT?

Alright - that's the only part of Joanna Krupa's new PETA ad that I can show here: She's using angel's wings to hover above a bunch of dogs, covering her naked body with a crucifix. Her reaction when told that the Catholic League is up-in-arms about the shot?
"As a practicing Catholic, I am shocked that the Catholic League is speaking out against my PETA ads, which I am very proud of ... I'm doing what the Catholic Church should be doing, working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of God's creation."
Well, so long as she's a practicing Catholic...this really doesn't require any further comment from me.