“The-Saint-Who-Stocks-Me”

Remain in Me. It is the Word of God who gives this order, expresses this wish. Remain in Me, not for a few minutes, a few hours which must pass away, but remain… permanently, habitually, Remain in Me, pray in Me adore in Me, love in Me, suffer in Me, work and act in Me. Remain in Me so that you may be able to encounter anyone and anything; penetrating further still into these depths. This is truly the ‘solitude into which God wants to allure the soul that He may speak to it,” the prophet sang.‘”

–St. Elizabeth of the Trinity

I was visiting a friend recently, and I noticed a new picture on her wall of one of the Saints of the Church. I commented on it and asked if the saint was her patron saint. She replied, “No, it’s The Saint-Who-Stocks-Me!” She went on to explain how the writings and prayers of the saint had compelled her so many times in her walk with the LORD. I knew what she was getting at because I had had the same experience with St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. I had talked with my spiritual director about how the timeliness of St. Elizabeth’s prayers and letter at a point in my life was a surprise blessing for me. She said that St. Elizabeth had chosen me. My experience confirmed what she said. And now, since hearing my friend’s title for the saint on her wall, I refer to St. Elizabeth as The-Saint-Who-Stocks-Me. Her prayers have so melted into my prayers that, at times, I’m not sure who’s voicing my prayer, me or St. Elizabeth through the power of the Holy Spirit praying through me!

It’s been three years since St. Elizabeth began stocking me. You see I had reached a point in my life where after three surgeries to give me relief from a genetic disease failed to stay the deterioration of my physical abilities. I was in a dark place, unable to see any good coming out of the physical suffering. I was more focused on what I had lost than what I might find. And then came St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, offering me insight and wisdom from her physical suffering with Addison’s disease that eventually took her life at age 26 in 1906. Me, I suffer because of loss of ability and chronic pain, but it is unlikely I will end in a physical death because of it. I had so much to learn and so much joy and hope yet to discover! St. Elizabeth stocks me as a persistent companion along the path of holiness.

The first words recorded from her final days begin with the Latin word, Nescivi–“I no longer know anything.” That’s quite a declaration coming from a nun who consumed the Word of God as breath itself! I think, though, I know what she was getting at. We come to the place in life where we realize all that we thought was sure, dependable, and controllable illudes us. I echo her thoughts, for I no longer know anything that I thought I knew before permanent deterioration set in. Have you been in a place where your spirit screams Nescivi? We can say with St. Elizabeth in response to an altered reality, “I no longer know anything. I do not want to know anything except ‘to know Him, to share in His sufferings, to become like Him in his death.'”

The LORD’s ultimate goal for us is to conform us into the image of Jesus, our LORD with skin on. How he allows life to unfold to accomplish that perfection in us varies, but it will always include suffering in some form or another. According to the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, God redeems suffering: “It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” As uncomfortable it is to take in this truth, it does offer hope. My physical suffering isn’t unique when I consider this truth, and learning from St. Elizabeth’s short life is how the LORD opened my spirit to acceptance of life as it is and freedom from the futile doubting that delays spiritual transformation.

St. Elizabeth prayed, “O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely so as to be established in you as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to disturb my peace…” She desired that every moment of suffering from Addison’s disease carry her into the depths of God. She asked Him to pacify her soul and make it His heaven. When I read that, I regretted the time I had wasted being agitated by what God had allowed in my life. I began to recognize that He chose me as his beloved daughter, and nothing escaped his divine plan for me. I began praying with St. Elizabeth in her prayer, “Come into me as Adorer, as Healer, as Savior. O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life listening to you; I want to be completely docile, ready to learn everything from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all weakness, I want to fixate on you always and to remain under your great light.” 

What about you, friend? Is your spirit bogged down in the miry clay of disappointment and regret? Do you wonder if God is a loving God intimately acquainted with your existence? The Saints of the ages have suffered and questioned God’s love, too. They stand as witnesses to us, sometimes weeping with us, sometimes instructing us, always cheering us on in the good fight of Faith in God. The Saints do stock us because they have eternity’s perspective to offer us if we will but seek the LORD in the Communion of Saints.

Dear loving Father, into your hands we commit our spirits.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

“And who is my neighbor?”

The Mass readings for today draw our attention to two men who lived hundreds of years apart but had the same trouble with their vision. They could see alright; it just wasn’t past the end of their noses. They suffered from self-preoccupation that caused a spiritual myopia. Let’s examine the problem these two men had and examine what led to their problem and what we can learn from them about our own spiritual myopia.

Firstly, let us examine Jonah, who was a prophet of Israel in the 8th century B.C. His vocation was to keep the Israelites eyes and ears open to the word of the LORD. He did such a fine job with it that the LORD told him to go to Nineveh (modern-day Iraq). And what did the LORD want Jonah to proclaim to the pagan Ninevites? He was to teach that the LORD’s compassion is boundless, not limited just to us (Israelites) but also available to them (Ninevites). Jonah was offended by God’s assignment, so much so that he allowed pride to rule in his heart. He hopped a boat and traveled away from the LORD’s presence in the opposite direction to Tarshish (modern-day southern Spain). Jonah did not seem to mind Spaniard pagans as much as he did Ninevite pagans.

The Scriptures mention two times that Jonah went away from the presence of the LORD. That choice was Jonah’s first indication of his pride; in effect, Jonah was telling God that the Ninevites don’t deserve his compassion. Another indication of Jonah’s pride was his anger that the LORD showed compassion to the people of Ninevah despite Jonah’s half-hearted message to them. They repented, and together as a city, they chose to worship the LORD. Ninevah was spared! Jonah should have been celebrating God’s great mercy toward them; instead, his pride consumed him. He argued with God about it.  We don’t hear anything more of Jonah in the Sacred Scriptures. But perhaps Jonah’s spiritual myopia was cured once he examined his motivations behind his prejudice and anger.

Let’s turn our attention to a lawyer who lived in 1st Century A.D. His spiritual myopia wasn’t manifest in his anger toward God. No, he was a good and faithful Jew who lived by the Law of God. His disordered pride was indicated by a question he asked Jesus. St. Luke writes, “…but wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?‘” The need to justify one’s self quite often belies the doubt about one’s actions. Jesus, in his beautiful way, answers the lawyer with the timeless parable of The Good Samaritan.

The lawyer’s first indication of his disordered pride was his pressing question about what he could DO to inherit eternal life, as if he could control God’s acceptance of him. The narrative portrays the lawyer as a man of fervent attention to the black and white understanding of the Law of God. I can imagine he was a man that “crossed every t and dotted every i”; meticulous and precise in his adherence to the particulars, but sloppy in his attention to others. Jesus knew the lawyer’s lack of mercy, he would have disregarded the Samaritans (who didn’t follow the Law of God exactly like the Jews). Jesus’ description of the priest and Levite, who ignored the wounded man’s plight, staying as far away from that side of the road as possible must have stung the ears of the lawyer. His sense of the Law of God would have been blown out of the water by the Samaritan’s mercy and compassion to the wounded man.

The narrative ends with Jesus examination question for the lawyer: “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” I would like to believe that once the lawyer examined his own disordered pride, he would have been cured of his spiritual myopia.

Friend, do you find yourself in these men? I do. Take heart, for the Church remembers another man today who was cured of his spiritual myopia. He lived in the 13th century A.D., yet the culture of his day was suffering from the same epidemic of spiritual myopia as the men who preceded him. St. Francis of Assisi was immersed in the wealth and hubris of his society until the LORD got his attention in an encounter with a leper. St. Francis was instantly cured of his spiritual myopia when he repented of his disregard for the spirit of the Law of God. Before that vision, he loved himself and all the pleasure he was surrounded by; after that vision, he loved God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength; and he died in his love and compassion for the marginalized and forgotten people of his day. St. Francis left us with a treasury of beautiful prayers that revealed his complete love for the LORD. One particular prayer comes to mind as we close.

Most High, Glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,
so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.

Amen

Childlike

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

–St. Matthew 18

The Liturgy of the Word has been drawing our minds to consider the innocence of children. Several times in the Gospels, Jesus draws a child to him to illustrate the relationship between God and humanity: his fatherly love for us his beloved children. He desires for us to childlike, living in our home which is the kingdom of heaven; he never planned that we would leave home so he shows us how to return home by becoming childlike in our faith. Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Jesus was teaching that childlike trust is a requisite to a spirit of gratitude. Can you imagine a young child saying to her father, “I’m better off fending for myself–I don’t need you to provide food, shelter, or protection for me. I’ll figure things out for myself.” No, children trust their needs will be met by their parents–they don’t even give it a second thought. A child will come to the dinner table without a thought to how the food was grown or from where the food came. A child doesn’t examine her plate, wondering if she can trust that the food is good for her. She just eats! When we aren’t childlike, we make life so complicated because we mistrust our Heavenly Father; therefore, we take on motivations, doubts, and behaviors that lead us away from home with our Heavenly Father. Do you find yourself doing that, friend? Running helter-skelter after whatever we think we need. Our Heavenly Father stands at the threshold of our home with his arms laden with every provision we could ever need.

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms….

I’ve folded my arms around my children and grandchildren many times, embracing them with all the love I had for them. If a threat were to come at them, you bet I held them close to me while I used my other arm to protect and defend them. The threat may have been as simple as a sibling wanting to tickle them, or the threat may have been a real and present danger. The posture of Jesus here as he takes the child in his arms is an icon of our Heavenly Father’s love for us–his everlasting arms enfolding us and drawing us into his protection. We read of the LORD’s right arm protecting his children in the Old Testament; protection from others as well as circumstances. What’s his other arm doing? He is holding us to him as our Protector and Defender! Our Heavenly Father is the perfect father; his arms do not grow weary. Consider Isaiah’s words:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

A child trusts in her parents’ attention to her; the idea that she has to earn their love or she’ll be thrown out of the house and forgotten by her parent never enters her mind. Her parents are biased toward her; she is flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone; they will move heaven and earth for her. Likewise, our Heavenly Father doesn’t love us for what is in us, what we do and don’t do. No, he loves us for what is in him because we are his flesh and bone, the image of himself. He did move heaven and earth for us! His love is extravagant, without limit.

Do you know that the word extravagant is another word for prodigal? With this in mind, let’s consider the parable of the Prodigal Father and Sons. The extravagant rebellion of the younger son didn’t decrease the extravagant love his father had for him. As St. Luke puts it,

…while he (the prodigal son) was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” 

Consider the older brother who didn’t rebel against his father, but he was extravagant in his hard effort to impress his father. All the son’s effort couldn’t increase the extravagant love his father had for him. The father says to him,

Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” 

Friends, we are the beloved children of the Everlasting Father! He has called us by name, and as Isaiah puts it, our name is written on the palm of his hand. This image comes from an ancient tradition; people would have the name of their tribe tattooed on their hands. People lifted their arms in greeting so that they could reveal who they belonged to; they, in turn, could identify the other as friend or foe, which could mean life or death if you were alone on the backside of a desert. Isaiah used this tradition to remind the children of God that they were protected by God, no matter where they were. It is the same for us today–all we need to do is be childlike and remember to whom we belong.

Pray with me a portion of The Litany of the Childlike.

Jesus, grant me…
…Trust in Your Father’s providential care for me.
…Trust in Your desire and ability to heal me
…Trust that your Holy Spirit is constantly guiding me
…Simplicity of heart.
…Tranquility, confidence, and the peace that only You can give.
…A heart full of gratitude.
…The conviction that my worth comes from being the Father’s child and not from what I do.
…The conviction that I am known and I am loved.
…The conviction that You have a plan that is just for me.
…The conviction that you delight in me.
…The humility to see myself as You see me.
…The freedom to try and fail.
…The grace to run to you in times of temptation.
…The grace to immediately turn back to You when I sin.
…The grace to share with You everything that is on my heart.
…The grace to rest in Your loving arms.

Jesus, make me so childlike so that I can receive everything from you.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be.

Amen

Labor Day

“I will give each of you what your work deserves.”

–Revelation 2:23

We celebrate Labor Day here in the United States today. Did you know that the words liturgy and labor are akin to each other? Liturgy is multi-layered in its definition; the Greeks defined it as “the work of the people.” As Christians, we understand that the work we do is meant to be sanctified labor in our worship of the Creator in the daily round of our lives. Practicing Catholics understand another sense of liturgy; celebrating the Mass is our collected worship of the LORD through the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We give God correct worship in assigning worth (worth-ship) to the celebration of the Mass. The Early Church Fathers understood and emphasized that the continuity of both senses of the word, liturgy, must be retained in our hearts and minds if we are to live the good life of our Faith. Somewhere along the way, humanity lost its sense of labor as worship of Almighty God. The Liturgy of the Church continually helps us recognize the Sacred Scripture’s emphasis of this in the last act of our worship in the celebration of the Mass, as a reminder to continue our worship of God in the labor we do.

The very last action in the celebration of the Mass is the blessing we receive from our priest. Do you remember how the liturgy unfolds in this final action? We bow our heads as we trace the sign of the cross over our mind, soul, and body while the priest asks God to pour out His blessing on us. This Sacred Tradition harkens back to the blessings that are found throughout the Scriptures. Usually, the blessing is given when someone is taking leave of another. In the liturgy of the Mass, we remember Christ’s blessing of his disciples.

“Then he [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” –Luke 24:50-51

This is the intentional communication of this last action in our worship: The Lord has come into our lives, and in the same way that the Lord sent out His disciples, He is sending us out, too. The Mass ends with the Latin phrase that means “Go, you are sent.” We hear it as, “Go forth, the Mass has ended.” to which we respond, “Thanks be to God.”

Sent to do what? We are sent on the mission of all ages; we are sent in peace to bring peace into our corners of the world. We cooperate with the LORD to redeem our corner of the world through our labor. Our question today is, how will we take the good news of Christ into the quotidian labor of our lives? How can the labor of our lives bring worship to our LORD and Creator, and salvation to our corner of the world? The Daily readings this week have been drawing our minds to consider labor as worship; this is how St. Paul puts it in the letter to Colossians chapter 3:17:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then we will look at everything we do, doing it in the name of Jesus. How is your offering looking these days? Consider the most mundane and boorish part of your labor; how would it change if our mind ascended to the LORD in worship every moment of that labor?

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then what do our words sound like to him and to others? Do our words assign Beauty, Goodness, and Truth to the Name of Jesus? Do our words reflect his beauty, goodness, and truth to those who labor beside us?

Here’s a thought, what about those who labor before us? Do we speak our gratitude to others for their labor, as we do to our Creator? Let’s get down and dirty with this one? In your workplace, who takes care of your lawn? Who serves you in the IT department? Who serves you by keeping the bathroom clean? Who supplies the kitchen? Who serves you in making your workplace an enjoyable place? Who serves you at the window or table when you dine out? We can give thanksgiving to them through our words of gratitude thereby, we give thanks to God.

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then what should our deeds look like to him and others? Do we join in on gossip and backbiting? Or do we elevate conversations by stopping gossip and backbiting in its track by finding the good in others? Staying silent can be an act of worship to our LORD, but acting on that silence by walking away from those conversations is an act of worship that may leave a greater impact on working out salvation in our corner of the world. Someone wisely advised me to use the “3-strikes and your out” approach to circumstances like this? If after you try three times to elevate the conversation by deflection with your words, walk away. The workplace could do with a little more exercise of the “3-strikes and your out” approach, don’t you think?

If we worship the Lord through our labor, then we take our cues from the actions of Jesus. Today’s gospel account reveals his labor in healing! That is, at the very heart, what salvation is; the salve of God’s grace and mercy pours over our lives, healing us, and that healing is also for all the people we encounter; it’s intended so. Do our words pour healing salve over another’s life? Do our deeds pour healing salve into another’s brokenness?

Jesus, we offer you worship through how we labor when we reveal your goodness in our work, help us to see our labor with the eyes of worship.

Jesus, we offer our words in our labor as offerings of your beauty to others, tame our tongues, help us as we offer our worship to you in the way we speak.

Jesus, we offer the deeds of our labor in sacrifice of worship, thanking you for the ability and privilege we have to use our bodies to glorify you, sanctify every deed we do. May our every action worship you our Creator God.

May the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart be acceptable to you, our LORD, our Rock, and Redeemer.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Hunger Seeking Bread

“One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

The timing of my weekly bread baking and the reading of the Gospel for today couldn’t be more apropos. While I’m writing these thoughts, the aroma of the loaf of sourdough bread baking in my oven has awakened my appetite; I wasn’t hungry before the bread started baking, but now….now I am anticipating the taste of butter on freshly baked bread. I’m counting the minutes until I can remove the bread from the oven, then I’ll count the minutes until the bread will cool enough for me to slice into it. My mouth waters at the thought of it! I’m consumed with a yearning for that bread in my oven, and no slice of store-bought bread is going to satisfy that need!

I wonder if the people who listened to Christ’s teachings on hunger and thirst for bread and water knew something of what I am feeling just now as my bread is baking? I wonder if they allowed their minds to go beyond their physical hunger and thirst into the appetite of the soul Jesus was awakening in them? They were familiar with the Old Testament’s scriptures that foreshadowed The Bread of Life that would be fulfilled in the New Covenant. They would have known the psalms and oracles from the Old Testament that we are reminded of in today’s readings. Let’s consider how from the beginning the LORD has whetted humanity’s appetite for the fulfillment of His promise in the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.

The psalmist describes the faithfulness of the LORD in psalm 145 by saying, “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” The LORD prepared his people for the ultimate Bread from Heaven that would satisfy the hunger and thirst of their souls. The writer recalls what the ancient Israelites had learned about this heavenly food through the physical hunger they had in the dessert after escaping slavery in Egypt. The LORD poured forth manna from the heavens to satisfy their desires. He brought forth springs of fresh water from the rock to slake their thirst. In delivering them from slavery, He blessed them with the created bounty of bread and water to draw their minds beyond reality to the freedom that comes from the LORD alone.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
    and you give them their food in due season;
you open your hand
    and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 145

Then through his holy prophet Isaiah, he beckoned His people to himself as their Source of Life. A life lived in covenant with Him. The covenant that made satisfaction between God and humanity for all of time. He drew them through their physical hunger to consider the everlasting covenant that would be fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. This God/Man would be THE Bread of Life, and the grace would be that we would recognize that our soul’s deepest hunger is satiated in Him.


Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.

Isaiah 55:13

Something our priest said to my husband and me near the completion of our journey to The Roman Catholic Church has come to mind as I have meditated upon the Gospel readings during these days that surround the Bread of Life Discourse that we read yesterday at Sunday’s Mass. Father Fitzpatrick said to us, “You have been hunger seeking bread and now you have found The Bread who has sought your hunger for all these years.” You see we had never been fully-satisfied with the “store-bought bread,” so to speak, that we had hoped would satisfy our deepest longings. We were left weary and malnourished, our hunger drove us to the transcendent Mystery (“to shut the mouth”) of the Triune God present in the holy sacrifice of The Mass and the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of The Faith.

Has it been that way for you, friend? Have you been trying and trying to feast on the created goods of God’s creation and the distractions of this life but still find yourself hungry? I like how Bishop Barron describes how the satisfaction in things and experiences fades away. It is like a fireworks show, bursting before us as we ooh and ahh, but fading away, leaving the sky empty. Leaving us wanting more. We are created for perfect happiness with God and that is ultimately given through the receiving of Christ’s body and blood in The Eucharist. Why settle for eating the stale bread of this life? In the celebration of The Mass the heavens open with God’s bounty of grace through the memorial of Christ Jesus sacrifice for us–pouring into our hunger, filling us with the food that lasts forever.

We still eagerly anticipate the celebration of the Mass? Do you? Do you recognize it as the source and summit of your life? Do you believe it is the only feast that will heal your malnourished soul? Do you prioritize celebrating the Mass above all the things and distractions you enjoy?

Does your spiritual appetite make your mouth water when you hear the priest pray over us the words of Christ,

“Take, eat: this is my body…Drink [from my cup] this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:27, 28

We are hunger seeking Bread, Jesus Christ is the Bread seeking our hunger!

Oh, LORD Jesus Christ you are our salvation, the source and sustenance of our lives. In consuming you we receive the peace that passes all our understanding.

We are infused with your love, mercy and faithfulness and you feed us with the fruit of your Spirit.

May we hunger and thirst for you in the holy sacrifice of the Mass!

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

To my Grandchildren, Chapter II

Don’t

Forget

to

Remember

Do you remember from the first chapter why God created the first man and woman?You are right, God created them to enjoy being with him, to look at Him the way He looked at them. We talked about how everything was perfect, God, man and woman joined together as best friends. What happened that changed the perfect garden that God, the man, and the woman lived in? You are right, the man and the woman decided to look into a creature’s eyes, a serpent who hated God. After that time, when they stopped looking into God’s eyes bad stuff started to happen. They had ugly thoughts about each other, they spoke ugly words to each other. God still loved them very much, he never stopped gazing at them. God knew ugly things would happen because they stopped gazing into His eyes. The first terrible thing, probably the most terrible thing, happened after the man and the woman had their first two sons. What do you imagine is the most terrible thing that can happen? Let me tell you about it.

The man and the woman started a family, their oldest son was named Cain and he liked to play with the dirt; planting seeds and growing vegetables. He was really good at it, God had created him to enjoy taking care of the earth’s dirt. The second son was named Abel and the Sacred Scripture tells us he was a keeper of sheep, do you know what that means? He enjoyed taking care of sheep, we call that shepherding so we could say Abel was a shepherd. God had created Abel to enjoy taking care of animals. From as long as they could remember the sons regularly prepared an offering with their parents to give to God. What do you suppose their offerings looked like? We can’t be sure but we can guess. Sometimes they would give God an offering of the grains grown from the ground and sometimes they would offer God a young animal they had shepherded. It was their way of saying thank you to God for creating them and loving them in spite of their decision to look into the serpent’s eyes and think he loved them. We still do what they did today, our offerings of thanksgiving look a little different than they did then, but it still means the same thing.

As the boys grew older, God began asking Cain and Abel to bring offerings of their own to Him to show Him how much they loved Him. The Sacred Scripture tells us Cain would bring the fruit of the ground he enjoying taking care of and Abel brought the first born of the flocks of animals that he enjoyed taking care of. Somewhere along the way Cain’s attitude changed about giving a offering of thanks to the LORD. We are given clues in Sacred Scripture about how that might have happened. I know you like to play the game Clue when we are together so I know you like clues, too. Professor Mustard will find a clue that could help him solve a mystery. It works the same way in Sacred Scripture, but Sacred Scripture is not a game, it is the Truth. It seems to me that if God wants to give me hints when I read His Sacred Scripture, I better pay attention because it is going to lead me to something important I need to know.

It happened one day that when Cain and Abel offered their gifts to God as a thank you, the LORD had regard for Abel’s offering. Do you know what that means? It’s a word you heard in the first chapter. The other word you can use for regard is gaze! Remember how much God loves to gaze at us, he also likes to gaze at what we enjoy giving to Him. Abel’s offering of a new lamb must have been beautiful to look at. You know what? The Sacred Scripture tells us that God did not regard Cain’s gift to Him. I wonder why? Do you think there was something wrong with the fruit of the ground that Cain brought to give God? Remember about clues. Here’s a clue about why God didn’t gaze on Cain’s offering very long. “Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.” Hmm? That’s a curious clue. Cain probably was jealous of Abel and when he realized God gazed at Abel’s offering longer than He did at Cain’s, he got angry. Not only did Cain feel angry, his face; his countenance fell. That means his look changed. I bet you know what this means because I know sometimes you get jealous of your sister or brother, you may even think that your parents love them more than they love you. I remember feeling that way!

You know what I think? God knows everything, even our thoughts, even when we don’t say our thoughts. God looks into our eyes and knows what we are feeling because He created feelings, too! So this clue about Cain’s feelings tells us something God knows that we don’t know because we aren’t God. Here’s what God did when Cain’s anger and jealousy showed on his face. He asked him some questions. The questions gives us another clue about how the story may end. God asked Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” God looked into Cain’s eyes and saw what He already knew. We use a big word to describe what only God can know, it is omniscience. Omni means “all” and science means, “knowledge”–God alone has all knowledge, or we can put it this way, God is all-knowing. He knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE at ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. That makes my brain sweat to even think about, doesn’t it do that to you? God is so spectacular that He keeps track of everything and everyone! Would you like to be omniscient? What are some of the things you would like to know?

There are so many words that describe God, but the most important is LOVE. When God saw that Cain was angry and jealous and that Cain assumed that God had rejected his offering, he still loved Cain. Cain was still learning how to love God. We do that sometimes, don’t we? Remember that God is omniscient so He knows what we are thinking and why we are thinking it. And He still loves us! This is a good thing to remember when we read the rest of the story about Cain because he makes the worse choice ever. Can you guess what the worse choice is?

A little while later, Cain tricked his brother. He told Able, “let’s go out to the field.” Cain didn’t want to go to the field just to play soccer. What happens next is the terrible choice–Cain killed Abel! He killed him because he was jealous of him so he thought the solution to his feelings of jealousy was to get rid of Abel. Does that make sense to you? God had a curious way of handling Cain’s terrible choice, instead of yelling and screaming at him, he asked Cain two questions! “Where is you brother?” and “What have you done?” Remember that God knows everything? So, why do you think he asked Cain that question? This question gives us another clue, and it’s about the way God loves us.

God loves you more than your parents and He loves you more than I love you. That’s almost impossible to believe that anyone could love you more than your parents of me. God wants you to choose to love Him just like he wanted Cain to love Him and so would remind Cain about the most important choices he would need to make in order to have the happy life God had planned for Him. And even though Cain ignored God and got mad at God, God still loved Him. Even though Cain did the worst thing ever, God still wanted to Cain to gaze into His eyes and tell him the truth about what he had done.

Do you remember a time you did something wrong and Dad has you a question about what you had been doing? Then you figured out he already knew what you were doing, but he wanted you to admit you did it. The word we use for that is “confess”. The Sacred Scripture is full of stories like Cain’s where God shows His love in the same way as He did with Cain and as Dad shows his love to you. God knows that if you will confess what you did was wrong, then He can help you fix your gaze back on Him. If you don’t confess what you’ve done wrong, then it will be very hard for you to gaze into His eyes. Another thing it will do is it will make it easier for you to keep ignoring God and to keep choosing to do things will eventually cause you to forget how much God loves you.

This leads us to conversation God had with a man named Abram. Abram was scared of a lot of things, but God taught him how to trust Him and quit being scared. We’ll read about that in the next chapter.

What’s in a Word?

Throughout my life my father consistently recalled to me that I was named Lois, the Maiden Warrior, which is a loose definition of my name. His consistent influence over my life included being reminded from time to time of how the LORD desires to use that innate tenacity still whispers to me to this day. He and my mother also instilled in me through our family habits a desire for prayer and reading of Sacred Scripture. I’m grateful for their influence in my life, their words are gifts!

My father had a nickname for me–“Snowflake”. He had been raised in Swaziland, South Africa as a son of missionaries. Snow had never been a gift he enjoyed, but on a certain furlough to the United States I happened to be born to my mother and him on a snowy day. Six weeks later our family returned to snowless South Africa where he and mother served as missionaries. Years later on my birthday he gave me my first Bible. The words he penned to me have served as a lintel over my life. “To my dear Snowflake, may your life leave a mark but never a stain.” I’m a better person for those words my father spoke over me. Words are life changing!

Most importantly I am being transformed by the words my Heavenly Father offers me each day as I live my The Faith. The reading of Sacred Scripture, the treasure of Sacred Tradition, and the security of Sacred Authority present in The Roman Catholic Church speak God’s Word to me just as a loving father speaks to his daughter. Through living the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of our Sacramental Faith the LORD’S voice is leading me in the “long obedience in the same direction [towards] something which has made life worth living.”* Words give direction!

My day always begins with a prayer to our LORD from Psalm 19:15, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Those words were written to me by a godly women who taught one of my high school English classes. She was affirming my writing skills by offering the scripture as a template for all I put to paper. Words are life-changing!

What’s in a word? Everything! “Thus says the LORD, your Creator, O [Child], and he who formed you, O [Friend]: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1

*Friedrich Nietzsche