Monday, April 24, 2017

Litany of Trust



The following prayer originally appeared in Imprint (Fall 2016), a publication of the Sisters of Life; it seems particularly appropriate as we continue to celebrate the gift of Divine Mercy:

Litany of Trust

From the belief that I have to earn Your love,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting you will leave me more destitute,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on you,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment, or excessive preocccupation with the past,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking of the present moment,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence in the midst of suffering and trial,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That you are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me,
Jesus, I trust in you.
 That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That you are with me in my suffering,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that you are present in Your Church,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me and, in Your goodness, always respond to me,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You provide the grace to forgive myself and others,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked, 
Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God,
Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one,
Jesus, I trust in you.

by Sister Faustina Maria Pia, SV  
 

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Then the other disciple also went in..."

"and he saw and believed." (Jn 20:8)

 


Christ is risen; truly he is risen!

Can you name how and when you really knew that Christ is risen? Was it a gradual process, a flash of insight, or a quiet confidence that welled up in your soul--slowly and then all of a sudden?

It is a helpful Easter exercise to identify some of the most memorable times that we have encountered the Risen Lord throughout our earthly pilgrimages. Has he spoken deep into your heart through a favorite Scripture passage, or filled you with love through his Holy Eucharist?  Have you glimpsed his face in the disturbing disguise of the poor, or heard his voice through someone when you least expected it?

Here's a true story of one of my flashes of awareness that Jesus Christ continues to make all things new...

+++

Seven years ago this June, my father lay on a hospital bed in the family room of my parents' home. His ten-year battle with cancer was coming to a close, and our family had rallied around my mom for the journey through his final days.

There had been many false bottoms along the way--dramatic declines followed by small rebounds--but the hospice aides had reassured us that death was near.  Still, it seemed like the final days moved by very slowly.

June 18, 2010 was a beautiful summer day. Most of my parents' eighteen grandchildren were at the house, and the gang decided to take a break from the bed-side vigil for a quick swim at a friend's nearby pool. My oldest son and I decided to shoot home, take care of some chores and get cleaned up.

A strange cloudburst blew out of nowhere and chased the swimmers back to the house. After everyone dried off, my sister suggested that the bundled energy of the group be directed toward a family Rosary. As they gathered around my dad in his hospital bed and prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, someone noticed Papa Doug open his eyes. He whispered, "Ok"--after days of not having spoken--and then breathed his last breath.

Meanwhile, my son and I got the call back at our house.  I was not happy, to say the least; angry not to have been there, to be sure.  Questions of regret and self-reproach welled up: Why had I left the house?  How did I manage not to be there, after so many days and weeks of waiting?

At least they were praying the Rosary when he died, I thought to myself as we sped across town. When we walked through the front door into the family room, it was bedlam. Everyone was sobbing; kids were hugging each other, consoling my mother, and laying their hands and heads upon my father's forehead and chest.

My sister later told me that, as I walked through the room hugging everyone, the smile on my face was stunning. I knew I was smiling, and I couldn't make myself stop. It welled up from deep within.

It was shocking and disturbing: Why was I walking around smiling? Why wasn't I crying like everyone else?  I cried later, of course. But in that moment I was not feeling happy, and yet I was definitely joyful. Filled with joy, and surprised by joy.

Later, after much prayer and reflection, a helpful passage from Pope Francis put me on a path toward understanding this experience:

"I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life,
especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes,
but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that,
when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved." (EG, n. 6)

In retrospect, I realized that I had been filled with joy not just because I believed in the resurrection of the dead and knew my father was going home to God, but because I knew that Christ is risen. Indeed, when I walked into the room, I was overcome by the outpouring of love and I knew Christ was present among us.

I saw and believed.
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This Easter, let's train our eyes to really see--and believe--such moments of pure love for what they are.  Let's look back at the times we have encountered the gift of unconditional love at various points of our lives, and let's appreciate anew the mysterious presence of Christ who is risen.

Jesus the Christ has trampled on death and continues to deliver the fullness of love which we all desire--here, now and forever.  Alleluia, indeed :)

Monday, April 10, 2017

One Week, One Hour, One Cup, One Drop at a Time...



Each year we return to Holy Week, in the hopes of opening our hearts to a more personal appropriation of the mystery of God's saving love.  What if we dared to ask the for one special grace this Holy Week, namely, a deeper appreciation of Christ's passion and death?

If we ask for eyes to see and ears to hear, as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, we will become more active participants in the Week that changed the world. At the center of this Week is the Hour for which Jesus was born--the Hour He patiently awaited and humbly embraced as the will of the Father. And at the heart of this Hour is His Cup of suffering, the "blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28).

What if we received this Cup anew, as if for the first time? What if we let our daily sufferings be joined to and transformed by Jesus' self-emptying gift?

If we dare to celebrate the fact that the Lord freely laid down his life once for all, we should confidently ask for the grace to walk with Jesus as He personally fills the Cup for each of us.  Let's pray that the Lord will open our hearts to follow the flow of Jesus' blood, which defines the Hour, determines the Week and redeems the World:
  • A Newly Consecrated Garden: "He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground" (Lk 22:44).  How is it possible that Jesus' blood should flow so soon after the intimate sharing of the Last Supper? Was the Garden of Gethsemane ever the same again, as the Lord's blood cried out from the ground?
  • A Striking Arrest: "...one of the temple guards standing there stuck Jesus and said, 'Is this the way you answer the high priest'?" (Jn 18:22). Is this guard the first person to have Jesus' blood on his hands?  Did he ever look at that hand the same way again? Would I?
  • A Condemned yet Absolving Innocence: Pilate exclaims, "I am innocent of this man's blood," while the crowd cries out, "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (Mt 27:24-25). Can we really sidestep the issue of the death of the Innocent One, or claim authority over the life one condemned? Whenever we have failed to defend the innocent or championed the destruction of our enemies, aren't we already unknowingly crying out for the Blood of the Lamb to save us?
  • A Scourged and Stripped Testimony: "They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head...and kept striking him on the head" (Mt 27:28-31). Bloodlust drives each step toward the Crucifixion. But what happened to Jesus' clothes or to the military cloak which absorbed the coagulated blood from his wounds? After Easter, did the disciples try to gather these up as relics of the Sacrifice, or did the faithful women who walked with the Blessed Mother already know their infinite value? Will I let any of the Lord's blood be shed and then wasted?
  • A Pierced Second Person and Lanced Lord: The blood dripped off the three nails, with Mary and John standing below and a heavenly host of Angels alongside.  After Jesus was already dead, "...one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out" (Jn 19:34). Blood and water have been showered on Jesus followers ever since. Can I accept a God who laid down his life for me not because I was righteous, but precisely because I am a sinner?

The Week and the Hour and the Cup contain all the healing and forgiveness we need, all the peace and love for which we long, as well as all the confidence we lack in the face of so much death and dying. One Drop at a time.

O Blood and Water,
which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
as a fountain of Mercy for us,
I trust in You!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Confession? Here are Five Good Reasons in One


One of my mother's great phrases is, "A child with many names is much loved."

Whether Catholics call it Confession, Penance or Reconciliation, this great font of grace and healing is certainly much-loved by Pope Francis, who also refers to it as the Sacrament of the New Evangelization.

Faithful young people have caught on to Holy Father Francis's appreciation of this gift of divine mercy.  They seem not to have the hang-ups that keep so many older Catholics away from this unique place of encounter with Jesus Christ, the Face of the Father's Mercy.  If you are in the camp of the hesitant, the reluctant, the infrequent, or the resistant--or if you know anyone who is--here are five reasons why it's time to reconsider this ultimate resource of the spiritual life:
  1. Jesus knows that God alone can forgive sins. Jesus also knows that the Father sent him into the world on the ultimate Reconciliation mission, which is why He went around forgiving people's sins and granting his disciples the authority to do so in His Name. Why did the Lord have to suffer and die on a cross if all we needed to do was tell God we were sorry for our sins?
  2. Jesus knows that naming our sins out loud is the first step to healing and wholeness. His grace is more than sufficient for any sin imaginable, but our openness to admitting that we need it is the necessary condition for the possibility of being forgiven. Why does the Enemy always slither into our lives silently, trying to get us to keep secret what should be brought into the Light?
  3. Jesus knows that his ministers are themselves not perfect. In fact, He knows that no one is perfect (save his holy Mother, but that's another topic), and this is the very reason he instituted the Sacrament!  Moreover, Jesus also knows that this is why He has promised never to leave us alone. Why did the Risen Lord first say, "Peace be with you" and "Receive the Holy Spirit" before saying "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them" (Jn 20:21-22), if not to help his Church understand that the ministers forgive sins and bring peace to penitents through the power of the Spirit?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ready to Re-Lent?

It may be time to "evangelize the problem."

 



If your journey into the 40 days of wilderness known as Lent has not gone as planned this year, there's still time to re-boot.

Lent can be a rough season, an extended experience of bumping up against what seem like intractable issues. It may be a bad habit I still can't crowd out of my daily life, or an elusive good habit that just won't stick.  It may be a deeply disordered situation which has resisted resolution after weeks of prayer.  Or it could be worries about the suffering of loved ones.

Pope Francis provocatively challenges us to try a new tact when we encounter such obstacles: He invites us to "evangelize the problem." The idea is to look at the issue, the situation, or the condition and then courageously speak the kerygma to it. That is, the Holy Father advises that we announce the basic proclamation of the Gospel to the problem and thereby put the problem in its proper place--into the context of God's saving action in Jesus.

I imagine the conversation going something like this [fill in the blank with the name of your specific problem]:
  • "______, you have had a hold on my heart for too long. I cannot hang on to you and drag you through my daily life any longer. Therefore, I now hand you over to the Lord Jesus."
     
  • "It is Jesus Christ who now has a hold of you, ________. He will hang you onto his Holy Cross and drag you up the hill of Calvary with him.  He will take you into the tomb with him, where you will be unable to haunt me."

  • "And when Jesus rises on the third day, ______, you will be a figment of the phantom you are today.  The light of Eternal Life welling up from the empty tomb will transform the pain and shame and fear you have caused me.  The victory of Christ's Infinite Love will swallow up the sting of your previous victories."
This is the basic proclamation we need to announce to each of our problems: Christ has made--and continues to make--all things new.  Here and now, now and forever.

So spread the word: It's time to give up whatever has threatened to derail our Lenten journeys. It's time to "Re-Lent," to reclaim a fresh start, and to resume our journey to Jerusalem by speaking truth to that which most vexes us.

Keep hope alive and remember: God himself is literally dying to take up our daily Crosses....