WAITING

I have learned to appreciate the posture of waiting over the last decade or so of my life. There are all kinds of waiting, but there is the silent waiting and yearning to see God come through for you. Sometimes our pain or desire is so private that we can’t bring ourselves to voice to the LORD what is so horrible or magnificent to contemplate. That is where I found myself about ten years ago during the Advent season-a tragedy in our family that turned our world upside down. We were robbed of hope and trust, and in exchange, grief so heavy to bear set into our lives for years. St. Paul reminds us that the Spirit of God knows the groanings of our hearts, good thing, for during that time in my life there were no words to form into prayer. Yet the LORD knew and he miraculously brought about healing and restoration, not instantly, but in his good time. Friend, do you ever let out a deep groan of pain over loss in your life? Or do you treasure some dream that you don’t dare put to words for fear of rejection or failure? I believe we’ve all been there from time to time.

I came across this quote a while back, “We can wait empty, or we can wait full. It all depends on what we do with the time. Those who wait empty get irritated or dissipated. Those who wait full get richer as time goes by. Those who wait empty; wait aimlessly. Those who wait full do something that changes them by the time they get what they are waiting for.” I like that! It is a constant reminder to me to take a deep breath, step back, and allow the LORD to reveal himself when he desires so. And he always does, not dramatically, but over time his recompense comes, steadily and surely out of ashes beauty emerges.

Have you noticed how much the Church turns our attention to Isaiah’s oracles during this season of Advent? The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to deliver the oracles about the coming of the long-expected Messiah with a familiar preamble of “On that day.” Isaiah’s words offered hope for the coming day that the LORD had ordained from the beginning. Isn’t that what we all need when we wait for God’s intervention in our circumstances? Isaiah wrote:

“It will be said on that day,
    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him so that he might save us.
    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:9

About 400 years of suffering in the darkness of the times ensued after the Old Testament period. The waiting was rife with the unremitting hopelessness of the human condition. For the Jews, they endured without a word from a prophet. Some waited empty–embittered by persecution and subjection but, there were a few, a remnant, that refused to lose the gift of expectancy, even when all signs pointed the other direction. They waited full of hope, HOPE in God, to reveal himself as the promised Messiah.

Then, one night in a forgotten town in a forsaken country, the Messiah made his humble entrance into the world in the most ordinary way–a birth. Six pounds of pure flesh filled the emptiness of the world! The scriptures say, “In the fullness of time…,” The Sovereign LORD knew what had to be fulfilled before he incarnated himself into our darkness. I also think he came because of those waiting full; the moment was according to plan, the right humans were in place. They saw hope revealed because they never lost sight of the truth that God is good! How they waited made all the difference for them and the rest of history.

I wonder, friend if during this particular Advent you are facing circumstances where the malignant enemy of despair has you in its clutches. You aren’t alone, many stand as witnesses before you to show that waiting was eventually satisfied and hope eventually fulfilled. Hope sometimes comes immediately, other times it unfolds as the years go by. What seems dreadful to us can come to life through the power of that 6 pounds of flesh incarnating himself into our humanity.

In these days of Advent, a season of waiting and penance, as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming, let’s remember that He waits to be invited into our flesh and into our weakness in, the second coming of sorts. Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for you!

Perhaps the garish display of unforgiveness in our lives hides the wisdom of our Wonderful Counselor as he waits for us to invite him into our relationships. Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for you!

Our Mighty King may be waiting for us to stand down from our pride and fear and fall to our knees in complete surrender to his sovereign will in our lives. You may have a desire that is voiced only to the LORD, he hears your heart. Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for you!

Could it be that the Prince of Peace sits with us ready with his oil of peace to anoint every nook and cranny of our spirits with the peace that surpasses all understanding? Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for you!

Our Mighty God is mighty to save us from ourselves, which can be our worst enemy. He waits for us to stop striving to be junior Holy Spirits for the circumstances and relationships of our life. Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for you!

Everlasting Father, your psalmists so often proclaim that in silence and rest we enter into your presence. You know just how hard it is for us to wait, worse yet, to trust you will come through for us. Why do we doubt what has already been given to us in your incarnation into our flesh? You suffer with us, you celebrate with us, you redeem us. Come, LORD Jesus, we wait for 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, world without end. Amen.

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.

Making Room for Christmas

I’m making room for Christmas in all sorts of ways. I’m finding more hours in my days to clean and scrub, deck the halls and trim the tree. My rooms will be clean and ready to welcome holiday guests.

I’ve cleared some room on my counters to hold all the sweet treats I plan to make in the room I make for Christmas. With my grocery list in hand, I’ll scan the market aisles and find all my ingredients and even some more along the way. I’ll slice, and I’ll dice. I’ll bake, and I’ll shake as I make room for Christmas.

With each treat and hors d’oeuvre that passes my lips, I’ll find room in my stomach and some on my hips. Then when I find there’s no more room in my clothes, I’ll find more room in my days to work out at the gym. I’ll jog ’til I faint, lift weights ’til I ache. I’ll dance ’til I’m trim or maybe go for a swim. If that all fails, I can always shop ’til I drop for clothes that will fit; I’m sure the credit card company will happily help me find more room for holiday excess. An increased line of credit is their promise–somehow, I think I might regret it come January when I’m no longer making room for Christmas.

Maybe I’ll remember to make room in my schedule to hold a quiet vigil on the night before Christmas. I’ll remember the Savior and ponder His birth. Why was there no room in the inn, I’ll wonder to myself? Who doesn’t have room for Jesus?! But I don’t have any room to consider that right now. I have gifts to purchase, parties to attend, and neighbors to impress. There are roomy stockings to stuff and cards to send. But what’s this feeling settling into my chest? I can’t seem to breathe.

What’s that I hear? Is it you, Savior in a cradle? Or is it your Blessed Mother that proved able to carry Christmas to the world from a stable? Ah, it’s Blessed Mary, Mother of God, adoring You, treasuring all that You gave on that first Christmas and pondering it in her heart. As you filled the empty room of this world with Your presence, she knew where to start, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Could it be that all my business is just crowding the room in my soul that only You can decorate? Could it be that all my indulging leaves no room for you to feed my deep hunger? All this clutter just makes me mutter, “Is this all there is?” And then I remember the words of the prophet,

…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

For a child has been born for us,
a son is given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
.

Isaiah 9:6

Savior of the World, you emptied yourself and came into a world crowded by agitation and discord, a world that chased after other shiny things to satisfy the ache in their soul. A world of useless endeavors for peace and contentment, joy and hope. Come into me.

Wonderful Counselor, guide me as I empty my life of futile endeavors.

Mighty God, reveal all the shiny things I strive after that are nothing more than just idols that twinkle and glimmer.

Eternal Father, fill the room of my heart with the everlasting gifts of Your Spirit.

Prince of Peace, teach me to ponder the gift of You to the world and treasure my salvation.

Immanuel, God with us, I magnify You and my spirit rejoices in you my Savior.

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.

“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.

Friends in High Places

The saints have always known that the power of good is something incalculable.

–Sigrid Undset

This month of November is, for Catholics, a month of remembering those individuals who have gone before us into eternity. We concentrate our intercession for their souls as they await judgment. But every day of the year offers moments to join our prayers with the Saints who have gone before us, who are before the Throne of God in worship, praise, and intercession for us. They are our mentors and guides as we make our way to Eternity; they surround us, interceding for us, the Church here on earth! (Book of Revelation 5-22).

There are saints among us, as well; saints-in-the-making. The ordinary people in our lives whom the Holy Spirit has placed there to spur us on and intercede for us. No doubt you can think of the names of the people who the LORD has sent at the right time in the right place to walk with you in our journey in sainthood. St. Paul lists a cadre of people in his letters who were nobodies by the world’s standard but were a part of the community of saints-in-the-making who assisted him.

I have benefited from the influence of a handful of individuals over these last few decades of desiring to know God more deeply. Let me tell you about one saint-in-the-making that came along beside me to introduce me to another completed Saint. I was a water fitness instructor for years, and in those years, I came to know Sister Margretta Doyle, who regularly came to swim during my early morning shift at a local health facility. Sister Margretta’s winsome spirit was contagious, and it wasn’t long before I positioned myself in the pool next to her so that I could learn from her life. The attractiveness of her life and her obvious love and devotion to Christ and His Church was a gift to me at a tumultuous time in my life. I desired stability, order, and purpose. The circumstance of my life had shown me that there are some things in life that simply cannot be easily manipulated. I was in a situation that wasn’t getting better, and the unpleasant realization of this wouldn’t go away. Have you ever felt that way, kind of painted into a corner that you did not choose? The common mentality that surrounded me focused on external solutions for that deep ache of my soul. You’ve been there, I am sure. When you realize that prized comforts no longer bring enough comfort. When you hear the emptiness of constant conversations and cultural noise does nothing but wear you out. When superficialities that once gave you a sense of false contentment now suck the life out of you. That’s where I was at, I was seeking depth and integrity. The Holy Spirit knew this, of course, and that’s why Sister Margretta was appointed to me, a guardian saint-in-the-making for the journey that was ahead.

One day, Sister Margretta wisely asked me if I had ever heard of St. Benedict. I had in the historical sense, but my knowledge of him was woefully limited (I didn’t grow up in a faith tradition that accepted the fullness of the truth of the Communion of Saints). What followed that conversation was the beginning of the fulfillment of a spiritual longing I had had for much of my life. I studied the life of St. Benedict with Sister Margretta and a group of men and women who were beautiful examples to me of how enlivening my life as a Catholic could be.

Through the witness of St. Benedict, I learned the LORD’s wisdom on how to live an ordinary life ordered according to God’s precepts. I witnessed how life-giving it could be if I allowed His Holy Spirit to order my life by the charism of St. Benedict’s life. St. Benedict faced the same challenges in the 6th century as in the 21st century–nothing new under the sun! The culture that is antichrist is perpetual and will be to the end of the age. The Rule of St. Benedict is based on the teachings of the Gospel and offered me hope for living in the mire of the antichrist milieu.

As I opened myself to St. Benedict’s example, I noticed a common thread among the men and women who have passed through the scrim of eternity. St. Benedict faced down the challenges of his day by choosing a way of life and an attitude of mind that mirrored Jesus. The dictum to listen as the foundation of spiritual growth threads through the entirety of the Rule of St. Benedict. His rule begins with, “Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” St. Benedict and all the Saints teach us not to base our judgments, goals, or sense of worth on what we see around us. We benefit from the story of their lives that live on in the Tradition of The Church.

When we are tempted to fix our gaze on what we can see, touch, hear and taste, we can study the lives of the Saints whose gaze was fixed on heaven in the midst of poverty, disease, persecution, and even death. Another practice we can do is pray with the Saints of the day. Our liturgical calendar cannot exhaust the many men and women who are, right now, praying before the throne of God for the salvation of the world.

When we find ourselves wringing our hands over the influence of the antichrist culture that we live in, we can recall that Saints lived in antichrist cultures, too. Just as St. Benedict stepped through eternity into my life to walk beside me, there is a Saint whom God desires to draw you to when you need them most. Ask the LORD to choose someone for you from the great cloud of witnesses that surround us.

We are all saints-in-the-making. Like Sister Margretta, whose life inspired my faith, we have observers of our life who the LORD wants us to inspire with our presence. They may be as close to you as a family member or as unknown to you as a grocery clerk. As saints-in-the-making, someone is always observing us. We are placed in their lives to spur them on in The Faith.

Father, you know who and what we need every moment. We thank you for the saints-in-the-making you have placed in our lives. We thank you for the gift of communion with the Saints who surround your throne!

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

Amen.

O Jesus, I Surrender Myself to You, Take Care of Everything!

The Surrender Novena* was written by Fr. Don Dolindo Rutolo and handed down to us in the praying tradition of The Church. I’m sure you are familiar with it as it seems to be the go-to novena for so many who struggle with surrender, I being among them. A few years ago, I learned that Fr. Rutolo was a contemporary of St. Padre Pio, this gave me pause as St. Padre Pio is another saint who stocked me. Through a fortuitous encounter during a long recovery from a surgery that went very wrong, my priest introduced me to St. Padre Pio. Since that time, I often pray the Surrender Novena with St. Padre Pio, for he lived a life that demanded surrender to the LORD’s purpose at great cost. Today I would simply like to share with you one of my journal entries during one of my many times I have prayed this heartening novena. Pray with me as I pray with you, friend.

“Jesus, I trust in you. I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.” It is the surrendering that is hard, there are some things I have a loose hold on, others things are in my death grip! I pray these words in so many moments of my day because I do trust in you–praying the words are like exercise for my soul and mind, little sprints of affirmation to loosen the tensions that can overwhelm my mind and steal my joy. Surrender is the hurdle to jump before the finish line. The problem seems to me, that the finish line seems to always move farther away from me the more that I allow your Holy Spirit to train my heart and mind in holiness and wholeness. St. Augustine rings in my ear, “I am restless until I find rest in you.”


Me, myself, and I, a dysfunctional trinity of a life lived with narrowed vision, clenched fists, and halting steps, walking the path toward oneness with you. You seem to allow me the pratfalls of hard lessons learned, but I’m still on the path. I, like the father of the convulsive son, say to you, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” I don’t know how you can make my life a life of complete trust in you, so I struggle in this place with doubt and fear, and not just a little bit of pride! I, like Jacob wrestling with you until you clear my vision, will step back on the path, limping from the struggle of surrender to your sovereign will, yet my feet will fall in step again. I will let go of the arguing spirit within me and trust you as a child held in your embrace. A child who trusts, not needing explanations from you about the how and why and when of my life. I don’t need to understand my past or control my present or see how it all ends. I am a beloved daughter in the arms of my Beloved Creator.


Jesus, I trust in you. You already know what the path of holiness holds in this day. I have no idea, nor would I want to know. I just want to walk peacefully on the path of surrender.


Jesus, I trust in you. You have created my body with a mangled spine, for what reason, I do not know. Help me to walk, quite literally, the path of healing. Like the paralytic, I answer your question of “Do you want to be healed?” with a resounding yes and a whisper in your ear, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”


Jesus, I trust in you. You are my portion, overflowing the banks of my doubts. Pouring out your blood into the newly discovered nooks and crannies of my soul that need to be emptied of pride! Right now, I suppose we are passing yet another fork in the path of holiness where I am forced to answer your question, “Do you love me more than this?”

Yes, LORD, you know that I love you!

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

*Below is a link to the pdf of the novena:

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.

Glory Be

My bet is if I say, “Glory be to the Father,” to you as a practicing Catholic, the remainder of the prayer would roll off your tongue back to me, “…and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was, in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be world without end.” To say that the Glory Be is embedded in our Catholic identity would be an accurate conclusion. We have prayed The Gloria, and extended Glory Be, in chant or song when we celebrate the Mass since about 380 A.D. I counted up how many times we pray the Glory Be each day as a response in the Liturgy of the Hours: we pray it at least 38 times starting with Morning Prayer and concluding with Night Prayer. So, why does the liturgy of the Church train our minds to weave this sacred tradition of prayer into our daily lives?

We, in our finite existence, recognize the LORD’s infinite existence, we bow our minds to that truth when we pray the Glory Be. It takes time and not just a little bit of effort, on our part, for our hearts to believe what we pray, doesn’t it? To entirely abandon our desire for control is no small undertaking so The Church, in her wisdom, inches our minds closer and closer to detachment from the world’s ways and means through a habit of prayer.

I kindle to something St. Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive”, we can stretch that truth a bit to read, “When I live fully alive to God I give him glory.” We can conclude that when we die to the world we are more fully alive to God’s glory. Praying the truth of the Glory Be with this understanding trains us in wisdom; it becomes a prayer of detachment from the sways of the culture. We may get to the place where we appreciate the beauty of God’s creation and the goods it provides for us without depending on them for our joy and peace of mind. I can imagine the LORD smiling as we pray the Glory Be because we ascend to him each time and with baby steps, we gain his Spirit’s wisdom. That gives him glory!

So how does praying, “As it was, in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, world without end.” train us in the Spirit’s wisdom? It anchors us. I don’t know your life; however, I know mine. I NEED anchoring. Elsewise, I’m tossed to and fro by what is happening around me in the world. I remind myself through this prayer that the constancy of God from the beginning remains because He never changes. His faithfulness is new every morning, as the prophet Jeremiah wrote. When I stop my runaway thoughts to pray instead of wallow in distress, I glorify this constancy of our Triune God, and his Spirit grants me understanding and wisdom. Do you ever get carried away with angst or despair at what you see happening around you? Then pray, “Glory to 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.”

Knowing and believing that the love of God that spoke this world into existence and remains faithful through all time, enfolding us here and now and into the future liberates us from counting on this life to give us a security that only comes from God alone. Praying the Glory Be is a clarifying prayer in that believing what we are praying moves our eyes off the tide of changing history. We learn to give glory to God when we enjoy his blessings, remembering that he is the Giver of all good things. And then when the tide changes and we feel unsettled, God faithfully clarifies for us the way through that tide until we gain our equilibrium once more.

Praying the Glory Be is a calming prayer in that the weight of God’s glory settles down on us, enfolding us in the secure knowledge that “All is well, and all manner of things will be well.”* Much like a weighted blanket calms anxiety for a body that is agitated, the LORD in his goodness rests down upon us the glorious weight of the splendor of his eternal presence. It is a Presence that endures through all times and events (Psalm 145). We aren’t created to be hand-wringers, tossed to and fro by every possible change that comes along. No, we are created for eternal life with God here and now, we are created for peace. When we fix our gaze on the Kingdom of God knowing that “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end,” the weight of this truth presses our disordered reactions into responses secured in the knowledge and understanding that “Eternal life is [knowing God].” (St. John 17:3)

Father, you are near to all who call upon you. The more we call upon you, the more we learn to know ourselves. Transform us as we give glory to you.

Jesus, your Word tells us, “Blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see God.” You wouldn’t promise that if you didn’t mean it! With every upward surge of our heart, we glorify you, enlighten our darkened understanding of who you are.

Holy Spirit, foster in us a spirit of indifference toward the world. Train our desires to always give glory to you, and you alone.

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

Home Improvement

By wisdom a house is built,
    and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
    with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

Today The Church honors the parents of Our Blessed Mother, Mary. The oral tradition of the early Church conveyed their names as Joachim and Anne and they are honored by The Church for their faith in the Covenant with God. They represent the entire quiet remnant that for generations faithfully lived their lives following the Shema. We know that they practiced their faith and established in their home an atmosphere for the coming of the Messiah.

The fruit of their faithfulness to God’s Covenant was Mary then ultimately the long-awaited Messiah Jesus. What we know of Mary is her humble and obedient spirit, her knowledge of God’s promises fulfilled in the Messiah, her charity toward others and most importantly the hope she put in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus. These I believe is what we desire for ourselves and for our families.

The Shema that Sts. Joachim and Anne surely lived by remains a map of life for us here and now as we raise our families in The Catholic Faith.

“Hear (Shema), O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The Shema is a sort of checklist for us as we live each day inclined to the LORD and listening to Him. The following quote by James Clear came to my mind as I was writing my thoughts down about the practice of the Shema. “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” So what is our goal as Christians that sets the direction of our lives? “To love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and might.” What is the system that will lead us to this goal? The Shema offers the atomic habits, so to say, that will compound our growth and progress in reaching our goal for ourselves and our families.

How do we then achieve our goal in our family life? The daily habit of reading the Sacred Scripture writes on our hearts the truth, goodness and, beauty of our Faith; it embeds in our mind who we are and what we are to be about. Mary knew the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah. She didn’t pick them up by accident. Her faithful parents’ practice of the daily reading of the Sacred Scripture and worship of the LORD in the synagogue formed in Mary wisdom, understanding and, knowledge.

Do we arrange the priorities of life below our priority to teach our children to love and honor God above all things? Stop and think about that. Do we consider building our family’s foundation of faith our ultimate purpose. The habit of daily prayer together and the reading of God’s Word must be the foundation of wisdom, understanding and, knowledge for our children to build their lives on.

It is our sacred responsibility and privilege to magnify the LORD before our children. Talking about our Faith when we “sit in our house” is a tall order. Fewer and fewer families have the habit of “family time” let alone “family worship”. The burden of responsibility relies on our parental stick-to-itivness. Remember the goal? It is up to us to practice atomic habits to achieve that goal. You may be thinking how can we do this? I’m glad you asked!

Incorporating our faith in God a little here and a little there as you “walk by the way…when you lie down….when you rise” wins the day. The habit of arrow prayers throughout the day can stay with a child for a lifetime. My mother would pray the psalm, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” over me when I struggled against melancholia. That prayer has come from my own lips many times for myself and as I parented our children. I now have opportunity with some of my melancholy grandchildren to pray that over them.

The priority of keeping Covenant with the LORD through the Sacraments of our Faith builds the foundation of faith in God for the next generation. Weekly worship at Mass isn’t just a duty, it’s a privilege; we, with our families, gather together to show our gratitude to God for becoming our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ. Foster an atmosphere of anticipation about worshipping at Mass. If we feel that way, our children will follow. Living our life of faith in the LORD is a frontlet before the eyes of our children, so to speak. Our habits imprint on the doorposts of our children’s lives. The consistency of our practice of The Faith is paramount and with the Holy Spirit’s leadership we are given the fortitude we need.

LORD, you promise us in your Word that if we raise our children up in the habits of our Faith they will not depart from them. Help us to Shema you; to hear and obey you as we strive toward the goal of our children and grandchildren knowing You and loving you with all their heart, mind, body and soul! Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us. Blessed Mother intercede for us.

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

Amen


Clean

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.” –Matthew 23:25-26

As I’ve meditated this week on the gospel reading from Matthew 23 for today, I’ve been more curious about the Pharisees that seem to lurk around every encounter Jesus has with the people. They had it out for Jesus, always looking for a way to trap him or discredit him. The strong language Jesus uses against them causes me to sit up and take notice since, I’m sorry to say, there are vestiges of the pharisaical attitude in me sometimes. I like to place myself in the gospel scenes in my imagination in an effort to learn from other’s mistakes. That’s not always comforting, praying today’s passage being one example.

The scribes and Pharisees were a zealous lot; their intentions were noble. Their concern for what the Roman occupation was doing to their culture and religious beliefs propelled them in driving everyone to follow the letter of God’s law as a national agenda. Enter God, with skin on, whose law is love, peace, grace, and mercy. This Jesus, who emphasizes the spirit of the law with unmatched zeal, is a threat to the rigid beliefs of the scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus speaks to us today.

Like the Pharisees, when we pretend to be someone or something we aren’t and become obsessed with how we appear to others, we crowd our minds and heart with thoughts of comparison and competition, and even resentment. You say to us: you’ve missed the simplicity of my love for you with your thousand qualifications. You trouble your soul at the expense of those from whom you seek approval. Be the beautiful human I’ve created you to be. Stand down from proving yourself, dear one, become as a servant whose only thought is to keep your eyes on your Master.

Like the Pharisees, when we hide our insecurities behind our hubris, more concerned with what don’t do, we lose focus on what matters. Jesus says to us, don’t block the road of holiness with the debris of your shoulds and musts. Take my hand and allow me to lead you with love and understanding, learn to walk my way.

Like the Pharisees, when we keep a tight grip on our possessions and time, parsimoniously extending ourselves for others by measuring out just enough to appear holy before others. Jesus says to us, don’t nickel and dime your way before others and stop nitpicking other’s acts of generosity. Do you remember how I generously gave my life up for you? It never occurred to me to keep score because it is not in me. I’m the Eternal Giver of all good things you do likewise.

Like the Pharisees, when we strive to appear squeaky clean to others yet practice secret vices and sins, Jesus says to us you forget that I’m more concerned about what you look like on the inside so let’s do some heart-cleaning. Unlock and open wide to me the closets you think I can’t see. Allow my Holy Spirit to light your darkness and sweep away those tattered rags you like to wear when you are alone.

Like the Pharisees, when we attempt to look good by making others look bad, it always comes back to bite us. When we shove our sense of what’s right and wrong with no regard for love, peace, mercy, and grace, we cut ourselves off from the LORD’s presence in our lives. Jesus says to us, come to me, lay down your arms, and allow me to enfold you in my goodness, you’ll start seeing others differently the closer to me you stay.

LORD Jesus Christ, your Law is love, and your gospel is peace. You created us to live and move and have our being in your reality, not the ones we conjure out of our pharisaical motivations. Holy Spirit, grant us the understanding we each need to reflect your love and peace in all we think, say, and do.

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

Amen

I’ll Be Happy When….

I chuckled this week when a podcaster described a “new” problem referred to as the “I’ll be Happy When…” syndrome. The podcaster must not realize that it’s the human condition that has been with us from the beginning: always striving after the world’s empty promises only to be left empty and wanting more. What began with Adam and Eve’s deceived assumption that they would be happy when they tasted the forbidden fruit continues to this day with our preoccupation with what we can acquire through our efforts. Just like our ancestors we discover that happiness eludes us because it is always moving according to the measure of our dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction with the present drives our striving after new ideas, new concepts, new things, new remedies. Granted it is within us to discover and innovate but when it is disordered it can consume us and suck the life out of us.

Consider today’s reading from Psalm 13 which begins with a question we may often find ourselves asking if we suffer from the “I’ll Be Happy When” syndrome. The psalmist pleads, “How long, O LORD?” and then proceeds to reveal his heart to the LORD, eventually concluding by remembering:

…I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The psalmist offers us a remedy for our discontent; when we recollect the LORD’s sufficiency, our minds shift our attention to our generous LORD. I, like the psalmist, sometimes find myself thinking about all the ifs and buts we are prone to place upon the LORD, ourselves, and those around us; it can take a lifetime to release our will to God. I grew up in an environment that inadvertently fostered a discontent with the present moment. The drive for the next thing to look forward to was consuming in those who influenced my life; it was an ill-fit for me. Happiness seemed to need to be scheduled with a whole lot of contingencies that drove contentment and peace into the future. The result was the restlessness that discontent fosters. Over the years I’ve witnessed up close the side-effects of the “I’ll Be Happy When” syndrome. Have you? Perhaps you even suffer from it yourself? Let’s consider today’s Gospel reading from Matthew and the other readings from Sacred Scripture and look for the remedy the LORD offers for this human condition we fight against.

The account of an altercation the temple tax collectors had with Christ’s disciples recorded in St. Matthew 17 is almost humorous to me. I kindle to the way Jesus flippantly instructs Peter to “go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and you.” There was a duty that needed attention, instead of Christ allowing the disciples to fret about it, he gave an off-handed instruction as if to say “Meh, it’s not a problem, I got this.” Those twelve men suffered in varying degrees from the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome just like we do.

What about you, friend? Do you wring your hands and murmur, “I will be happy when” I can get my taxes paid? I’ll be happy when life goes how I’ve scheduled it? I’ll be happy when this pandemic is over? I’ll be happy when all my social media friends press “like” on my posts? I’ll be happy when I make more money? Ohhh….there are so many ways that we undermine our peace in Christ by our thoughts and motivations, isn’t there? Mine is unique to me, yours are unique to you, but we both have the same problem. We do not trust God’s word to us just like Adam and Eve did not trust God’s word to them. We like to say we do, but when it comes down to it, do we? Can we release the death grip we have on our expectations? More often than not, I think we entrust ourselves to ourselves, pursuing ways to satisfy our own fearful and prideful pursuit of happiness.

Despite our disordered thinking, Jesus still says to us, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” (John 7:37) He is the definition of true happiness. As the Psalms declare in varying ways, God is the fulfillment of all our longings. He is what the prophets refer to when they say, “On that day….” Now, there’s the only contingency we should focus on because that day the prophets refer to is the beautiful realization that God is present here and now, in the only moment we are promised. How he must laugh at our striving! How he must grieve over our useless pursuits. Isaiah prophesies, I am paraphrasing a bit:

“I will lead those who are blinded by pride, fear, anger in a way that they do not know, in paths they have not known. I will guide them. I will turn the darkness of their “I’ll Be Happy When” thinking into light, I will make their rough paths that they think leads to happiness into level ground. These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”

–Isaiah 42

As for me, I find it helpful to prayerfully my disordered “I’ll be happy when…” drives. Sitting with the LORD and allowing him to light my darkened thinking always brings light. I ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for me as I unpack the motivations behind each statement. She is the perfect example of contentment. I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me with His wisdom and discernment.

Making a habit of reading through the anthologies of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, and Ben Sira in the Old Testament exposes us to all the human struggle to relinquish control to the LORD. What we discover are treasures that satisfy every longing of our hearts. They do not fade or become stale; in fact, they increase in satisfaction the more we pursue them. To get a foretaste of the books, I encourage you to read Proverbs 2.

LORD Jesus, You are our Alpha and Omega. You are our Sufficiency. You are our Happiness. Holy Spirit, help us to order our thoughts and actions as we pursue the treasures that give abundant life. Holy God, may we live and move and have our being in You!

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

Amen