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Tears from a heart of stone

I read a wonderful blog this morning by Msgr. Charles Pope* about true sorrow for our sins.

In part, he wrote:

“In times like these, when self-esteem is overemphasized, personal responsibility is minimized, and excuses abound, we do well to ask for the gift of tears. We do well to ask for a profound and healthy grief for our sins.

… Note that these tears are not meant to be tears of depression, discouragement, or self-loathing. The tears to be sought here are tears of what St. Paul calls “godly sorrow.” Godly sorrow causes us to have sorrow for our sins but in a such a way that it draws us to God and to great love, gratitude, and appreciation for His mercy. (2 Cor 7:8-11)”

I think one of the biggest lessons I learned during my dark time was how easily I can deceive myself and rationalize my sins, and how greatly that separates me from God. Like a stubborn child I hid in a dark corner while He waited patiently for me. In retrospect I can see that He even stood guard, protecting me from sliding further away into a deeper harm’s way.

God brought forth water from the rock for the Israelites in the desert.

I pray God draws water from the rock of my hardened heart … that He softens my heart, shows me what He will, and draws forth tears of godly sorrow both for myself and for those around me.

*Msgr. Pope’s post can be read in full here

 

 

 

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This is your family …

At mass last night a young family took up the gifts before communion … a beaming mother and father and three children.

For a moment I thought, “I wish those were my kids and grandchildren, part of my family.”

And immediately I heard … “This IS your family.”

I looked around the church. I don’t know many names and Mark & I don’t go to the social functions. But I know so many of the faces; we sit next to them at mass or greet them at the door or pray for them silently when they seem to be struggling. I often weep as I watch people returning from communion, each one unique and beautiful in his or her own way – young, old, healthy & robust, stooped & fragile; all races and sizes … the body of Christ.

THIS is your family.

Love your family by blood; enjoy them and be blessed when you are together.
But THIS is where you are, now.
These are the people close to you, now.
This is your family.
Love them, too.

Yes, LORD. Speak more … your servant is listening.

Reciprocating

In the first chapter of the book of Job, we read that Job’s children would hold feasts and invite their friends. Afterwards, Job would offer sacrifices for his children in case they had sinned, and he did this habitually.

That really struck me one day and I thought about how great it would be if I could offer sacrifices today for my children’s actions, for the forgiveness of their sins. And I thought about sacrifices … what would be considered a good sacrifice today?

THE perfect sacrifice has already been made … Jesus Christ gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.

And the words of the chaplet of Divine Mercy leapt to mind … “I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and for those of all the world.”

Praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy quickly became one of my favorite prayers – I pray it several times a week inserting names on each bead: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Tom and on the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on Julie and on the whole world … ”

And I ponder this reciprocating process … Jesus gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and I offer His sacrifice to our Father.

We love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

God provides material goods for us … we tithe back 10% to Him.

Long ago I realized “I” couldn’t do anything for anyone else … the best thing I can do for my loved ones, whom God gave into my care, is to give them back and entrust them into His care.

God’s design is so beautiful; I love the way it draws us deeper into relationship with Him, receiving and giving in a reciprocating cycle of tenderness and love.

Routines

I have many routines that turn me toward God. Some are daily such as arising early to read and pray; reflecting on the daily mass readings over my lunch half-hour; prayer at bedtime. Others are weekly – Adoration and morning mass during the week.

When I travel I am thrown out of my routines, and it used to trouble me that I could so easily be distracted from prayer and time with God.  But I’ve learned that those times, too, can be used by God to refresh and bring new life into our relationship.

How beautiful is His creation and what a blessing to be able to see some of it anew when traveling, from mountains to oceans to countryside; plants and animals and starry skies.

And when surrounded by the people I most treasure in the world, isn’t their presence and their love an expression of God’s own presence and love?

I miss my routines and set times spent spiritually with Him and am glad to return to them. And I also treasure the times when His presence is tangibly expressed through others.

I am so very blessed.

Love 1 John 4 12

Stages

My mom used to say she wished teenagers could understand that high school isn’t the whole world. She wished that they really grasped that whatever happened in those brief years isn’t their entire life.

I wish more people understood that this life, too, is only a stage … a stepping stone into the next life.

We all begin in our mother’s womb; nine months of specific types of growth and formation. Just so is the time we spend on this earth. However long we have, it is just a stepping stone – time spent growing and being formed.

Most of us see this life as our “one shot.” But how differently would we chose to live it, if we really considered the next life … eternal life? Would people ever fall into deep despair and commit suicide if they saw this life as temporary and had hope for what is yet to come? Would we focus so intently on money and power and careers and the “things” of this world? Would we hoard our goods and our time for ourselves … or would we be more generous, sharing and helping each other move from this life to the next?

There is such a bigger picture for us to see if only we pause and ponder it. There is something greater here – something worth struggling toward. I recently heard a reflection that noted God’s presence and love is much like the sunshine that completely encompasses a house. But we, inside the house, must freely choose to open the windows and let the sunshine stream in … or shutter them tightly, pretending that the sunshine does not exist.

Seek what is above, where Christ is seated
at the right hand of God. Think of what is above,
not of what is on earth.

Oh, how I wish my dearest loved ones would throw open the windows and seek. That is what, truly, is most important.

Tidbits

I think today I just feel like writing disconnected odds & ends.

  1. A few weekends ago I attended my second Christ Our Life conference in Des Moines. It is AMAZING to sit in Wells Fargo Arena, filled with Catholic brothers and sisters, and hear all those voices raised in the “Alleluia” at mass. I especially enjoyed hearing Cardinal Dolan and Father Larry Richards speak – they were wonderful!
  2. It’s a little strange though – in a way the conference filled me UP and re-energized me. In another way, as I sat there in that enormous crowd I felt very alone people-wise. I had traveled there alone and didn’t know anyone else attending.  I love the very personal way God walks with me and leads me and teaches me … but wow, I sure miss having one friend in my life with whom to talk about God and our faith, with whom to pray. Within my own family I have to take care to temper my enthusiasm, to tone it down so I don’t come off “preachy” or like the “church lady” because it sets off defensive reactions in others whom I love so dearly. I don’t ever want to push them away from God nor be a stumbling block. And so in some ways, I am very lonely in this earthly life.
  3. I’ve started through the Bible again … fourth time. The first time I read through it I was so full of “WOW!”s as I saw scripture unfold in order and in context. The second time was also filled with many “aha!” moments as new things stood out to me. By now, while the Holy Spirit still reveals new insights to me, it is less of a new, exciting, exploring love … and more of a comforting, familiar, mature love.
  4. I so treasure my time in the quiet reading scripture and praying, that I’ve decided to give a Bible to each of my nieces and nephews with their names on the front. I don’t think any of them will be particularly excited about it, but then again I was in my 40s before I started reading scripture on my own. It is my hope and prayer that they will receive it knowing it was given with great love and many prayers for them, and that some day it may be a blessing to them when they need it most.
  5. This morning in Genesis 9 I found it interesting that God told Noah, “Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants.” I’ve heard people say that man was vegetarian in the beginning … I see now where they get that and the footnotes in my Bible agree that is the case. Earlier, Abel was noted as a keeper of flocks; I guess the flocks were used for wool and milk, but not as food. There are no animals designated “clean” nor “unclean” at this time; that comes later with Moses.
  6. I’ve been reflecting a lot on “where I am” spiritually and I see clearly the things God has taught me, the trials He has brought me through, the great blessings He has poured out into my life. And I can see some of my path ahead – ways He is using me to help others and new things He is preparing me for. It’s all such an exciting, wonderful, hope-filled journey with Him.

I am so very blessed.

Attitude Adjustment

I’ve written before of the verse God gave to me the day before my dad died, and how close it has been to my heart ever since, even becoming my “life verse:”

16 Rejoice always.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5)

I’ve had many opportunities to share it with others undergoing trials and it does seem to be popping up more often lately as people face great struggles in their own lives.

This morning I read a passage that dovetailed beautifully with it; something more for me to ponder in harmony with that passage:

7 Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
8 If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.
9 Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?
10 They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness.
11 At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
12 So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
13 Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. (Hebrews 12)

I like how this tells me to view my trials not as punishment, but as discipline. Though painful, if I look at discipline as a sort of training for my own benefit, it helps me to endure it a little easier and to look for both the blessings and for the lessons I may glean while I am in the midst of trials.

This is important to me because as I reflect back in my life I see how I used to avoid trials as much as possible – lamenting when they came upon me and struggling against them – instead of looking to God within them. I can see how giving me the verse from Thessalonians on the eve of my father’s death, God has given me an attitude adjustment, and how He has given me a new way to look at what I am experiencing.

My God knows me so intimately; He knows this is effective with me. It may not be the most effective with others and I believe and trust that He is also drawing and teaching my loved ones in ways that they best hear and respond to our Shepherd’s voice.

I am so grateful for my attitude adjustment, and knowing that it is meant to help me someday share in His holiness. Wow!!!

 

 

 

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