OBEDIENCE

In 1 Samuel 15:22 it says:  Obedience is better than sacrifice.  In this Lenten season of sacrifice, how can simple obedience be better?   We are called to obey the laws set down for us.  If we do not, then what good is our sacrifice?  Obedience is not a popular word in our present day culture.  People recoil from the word as from a hot flame.  Yet what sacrifice can bless the disobedient?

In Isaiah 58 we read: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:  releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”  

Who are bound unjustly?  Anyone I hold in contempt or have a resentment against…especially those bound unjustly by me who doesn’t know all the details of their action.   We are here to add to the world.   We are not here to simply say “too bad for them” and then to do nothing.  In our haste in getting from here to there are we racing by those who need our assistance.   Mother Theresa said when we share our lunch a thousand are fed.  Can we share our lunch with coworkers who may secretly be hungry?   The immigrant “situation” does not call for us to turn our backs to their plight.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Let us not forget their quest for a new land and the opportunities here.

This is quite a tall order.  One in which I fail on most days.  But, the reward is said to be:  “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am!”

Lord, let me find ways to obey your commandment to love our neighbors!

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ASHES TO ASHES

God longs for us to return to Him with our whole heart.  Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season where we strive to prepare for our own death and resurrection in a similar humble way that Jesus prepared for His death and resurrection.  He asks us to “rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.” 

Sometimes I am far from God even though I go to Mass often during the week.  I am far away because my heart is not open to the lessons of the encounters I have during the day.  For some reason, I find the conversations and the meetings with people to be in a realm without my God.  But, he calls us to rend our hearts and not to just go through the motions of rending our garments, like the Jewish leaders of old.  He desires us to become the righteousness of God.  He says the Father “who is hidden” waits for us to pray. 

Let us begin this solemn season with the right heart…the whole heart.  Let us blow the trumpets, call an assembly and proclaim a fast!  Let us live this Ash Wednesday mindful of the end of our lives by beginning to offer God our whole heart.

PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU

In Matthew 5:34-48, we read:  Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense willyou have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are urged to be perfectly loving.  It is difficult to be loving to all and especially to those who don’t like us or put us down.  What could Jesus have meant by that verse in Matthew?  I think He meant just what he said.  He doesn’t say “like” those who persecute you.  He says “love.”  That’s a much different action. 

To love is to want the best for that person, to care about their well being in spite of their behavior.  We are called to model Jesus.  As He hung from His cross in adject pain, he promised one thief that he would be with Him in paradise and he asked the Father to forgive his persecutors for “they know not what they do.”  I don’t know that I could have done that under the same circumstances.  That’s why Jesus is God and I’m not.  But what we are asked to do is to try – to shoot for perfection and be accepting of  just making progress.

In today’s world there are examples of people loving those who persecute them.  It came from the people who lived in the Amish village  in Pennsylvania who, after their young girls were murdered, they went to the home of the perpetrator’s widow and not only offered their sympathy but brought food and comforted her.  And, when the news media made a circus out of the event and came in droves to the school house, they tore the building down and planted grass where it had been.  Normally the news would never publicize the good that men do, but the murders were so horrific that they forgot themselves and broadcast their visit to the widow’s house.  The message left by the Amish still makes me inwardly stand up and take notice.  Their love of neighbor is exemplary. 

In attempting to be loving to all, I find my battle between my will and God’s to be tremendous.   I can come up with a few reasons I find it difficult to love certain people in the blink of an eye.  I have a strong sense of fairness when it comes to me.  But, Jesus calls us to love anyway.  If He could love from His cross, we can certainly try from our little crosses.  His commandments – to love God and love our neighbor could not be plainer.  

Lord, give me the grace to love!

…AND MARY KEPT ALL THESE THINGS, REFLECTING ON THEM IN HER HEART.

Mary kept the word of God in two ways:  by reflecting on it often and by living it with utmost fidelity.  Imagine being the mother of Jesus the Christ.  Imagine the push and pull she suffered during His lifetime.  Imagine the pain she suffered throughout His life when He was growing up, when she found Him teaching in the Temple (and knew He was beginning his mission) and when she watched Him suffer humiliation, public ridicule, severe pain, and many other forms of torture.  Imagine watching and listening to the accolades and the put downs of the people as they came to know Jesus.   Imagine when the high priests of their Jewish religion called him a blasphemer when He said He called God His Father.

Often times when I see someone in the news after being found guilty of a crime and I see the face of their mother standing behind them, I begin to imagine the pain Mary must have suffered.  When my children were growing up, I remember their joys and sorrows of daily life and I felt it all with them and for them.   I remember when my daughter told me she was pregnant.  I worried about how she would deal with the pain of childbirth at the same time I was happy at the thought of a grandchild.  I remember when my son had his heart broken by a young woman and I had to find words to assure him that life would go on (and I never really did find the words!).  The pain and the joy of life as visited on your children is something every mother has known.  As an intercessor, who could be better for us mothers than the Mother of Jesus?

Mary received the Word of God in humility and love.  She spent the remainder of her earthly life growing in obedience as every day brought another joy and another sorrow.  She will hear the cry of all of us.   Let us ask her to intercede for us before Our Lord.

SAUL, SAUL, WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?

St. Paul said “On the journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’  I replied, “Who are you, sir?”  And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ 

In this year of St. Paul, I often think about this exchange.  The voice calling his name changed Saul’s life forever.  In all his writings, he glorifies Jesus Christ and Him crucified with such devotion, it is hard to imagine his previous life where he sought out “people of The Way” to torture and kill.  It is difficult to realize that he was present at the first martyr’s assassination. 

I’ve had my own conversion of heart.  It makes no sense to those who know me and it is a glorious gift to me.  I sought God for years and felt that perhaps the story of Christ might be a myth that people wanted to believe in.  The sheer number of Christians made me wonder if it was something the world needed to make sense of their existence.  I certainly could make no sense of mine. 

Today I am a believer.  I love my religion.  My mediocre world has been colored in the brilliant rays of faith.  I have received the gift!  Me!  Of all people!  I am gifted every day of seeing the people I meet and the conversations I have as an illustration of God’s love.  I feel I walk with God’s love and the Blessed Mother’s care.  The fact that I am nobody makes the truth that much more wondrous.

My God, my God, Why did I persecute you?

CONSECRATION OF ONESELF TO JESUS CHRIST

Eternal and incarnate Wisdom, most lovable and adorable Jesus, true God and true man, only Son of the eternal Father and of Mary, always Virgin, I adore you profoundly, dwelling in the splendor of your Father from all eternity, and in the virginal womb of Mary, your most worth Mother, at the time of your Incarnation.

I thank you for having emptied yourself in assuming the condition of a slave to set me free from the cruel slavery of the evil one.

I praise and glorify you for having willingly chosen to obey Mary, your holy Mother, in all things, so that through her I may be your faithful slave of love.

But I must confess that I have not kept the vows and promises which I made to you so solemnly at my baptism.  I have not fulfilled my obligations, and I do not deserve to be called your child or even your slave.

Since I cannot lay claim to anything except what merits your rejection and displeasure, I dare no longer approach the holiness of your majesty on my own.  That is why I turn to the intercession and the mercy of your holy Mother, whom you yourself have given me to mediate with you.  Through her I hope to obtain from you contrition and pardon for my sins, and that Wisdom whom I desire to dwell in me always.

I turn to you, then, Mary immaculate, living tabernacle of God, in whom Eternal Wisdom will to receive the adoration of both men and angels.

I greet you as Queenof heaven and earth, for all that is under God has been made subject to your sovereignty.

I call upon you, the unfailing refuge of sinners, confident in your mercy that has never forsaken anyone.

Grant my desire for divine Wisdom and, in support of my petition, accept the promises and the offering of myself which I now make, conscious of my unworthiness.

I, an unfaithful sinner, renew and ratify today through you my baptismal promises.  I renounce forever Satan, his empty promises, and his evil designs, and I give myself completely to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Wisdom, to carry my cross after him for the rest of my life, and to be more faithful to him than I have been till now.

This day, with the whole court of heaven as witness, I choose you, Mary, as my Mother and Queen.  I surrender and consecrate myself to you, body and soul, as your slave, with all that I possess, both spiritual and material, even including the value of all my good actions, past, present, and to come.  I give you the full right to dispose of me and all that belongs to me, without any reservations, in whatever way you please for the greater glory of God in time and throughout eternity.

Accept, gracious Virgin, this little offering of my slavery to honor and imitate the obedience which Eternal Wisdom willingly chose to have towards you, his Mother.  I wish to acknowledge the authority which both of you have over this pitiful sinner.  By it, I wish also to thank God for the privileges bestowed on you by the Blessed Trinity.  I declare that, for the future, I will try to honor and obey you in all things, as your true slave of love.

O admirable Mother, present me to your dear Son as his slave, now and for always, so that he who redeemed me through you, will now receive me through you.

Mother of mercy, grant me the favor of obtaining the true Wisdom of God, and so make me one of those whom you love, teach and guide, whom you nourish and protect as your children and slaves.

Virgin most faithful, make me in everything so committed a disciple, imitator, and slave of Jesus, your Son, incarnate Wisdom, that I may become, through your intercession and example, fully mature with the fullness which Jesus possessed on earth, and with the fullness of his glory in heaven.  Amen.

Signed:  The Happy Catholic

GO INTO THE WHOLE WORLD AND PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL

This little blog is my way of going “into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”   I heard of a shirt that read “More people have read this shirt than have read your blog.”   I’m not responsible for the outcome.  Right?  I am only responsible for the effort. 

I walk around in a world unconscious of God.  I don’t know what happened to the world.  When I was growing up everyone seemed to have a consciousness of God and heaven and hell.   Today it is not cool to mention God, any formal religion, and even more so, the dreaded word “sin.”    Back in the days of Christ,  people memorized the psalms.  Today many wouldn’t know a psalm from a fried egg.   The only time we hear God mentioned in the public domain is during political elections.   “God bless the United States of America” each candidate said at the end of their rhetoric.   After a candidate wins, the idea of God seems to be the furthest from their mind. 

Even though this blog is about proclaiming to the world, probably no one will read these words.  I am writing to the thin air.  The message is going out and then over and then out…well on its way to nowhere. 

Enough rambling, you say.  Get to the point.  Well, the point is this.  The Gospel (or the “good news”) is preached much better in a House of God.  I’m certainly not qualified to lead anyone.  What I am qualified to do is to write comment to the whole world and let it’s lack of message go out and then over and then out.

My message is this.  God is good all the time.  I am blessed to know that.  I will be filled with the Holy Spirit in the next blog.  Not this one.  The next…the one that will be about consecrating ourselves to Jesus.  See you then!