Thursday, March 27, 2008

Have it Your way!

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." ~ C.S. Lewis

Burger King is all about 'having it your way', I can still remember the jingle: "Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce..." (okay, I'm really dating myself). What's sad is that I have found myself doing this with God when I pray.

  • "God, I would like a large house with a pool, but I don't want to have to clean it, and two dogs, but not those yipper-yapper kinds."
  • "God, I know you ask us to suffer for others. I'll do it tomorrow. Today is kinda busy."
  • "God, today I'll take two doses of knowledge (physics test), some strength (softball practice after school), and a large portion of counsel (you know, for my friends)."
It's like God, 'ala carte.'
I only want the 'good parts' and want to dismiss all the rest.

About 10 years ago, I prayed hard that I would get a job in Arizona so I could be with the one I thought I loved. I even found a friend who would move out there with me! We had everything planned...well, except for the jobs that would get us out there. Looking back, if I was able to get everything I had prayed for, I'd be in Arizona having a lousy time with a man I do not love and wondering how I got into the whole mess. Yet at the time I thought that was what I wanted. I'm so glad God didn't listen! I think it's Garth Brooks who sang "I thank God for unanswered prayers."

Yet every time we continue to exert our will against God's will, we punish ourselves. The worst punishment we receive when we repeatedly sin is the attraction that the sin places upon us. Before long, we're hooked & dependent upon that sin to get us through. I was caught in this sin-loop for many years. The pleasure I experienced from it, even the smallest amount, gave me the desire to repeat it. If I couldn't find pleasure in it any longer, I would go to another type of sin...and it soon became a vicious cycle.

It started with a friend & I going to a psychic. After a few visits of reading my aura, she said that the guy in Arizona and I were meant to be together...his aura was attached to mine. This was all it took for me to get hooked. Before long, I was telling others about the experience and bringing them in to see her. But then these visits were not enough to sustain me and I had to find other avenues to get the information I wanted so deperately. My entire value system was in disarray...evil became the 'good' that I was constantly seeking.

It wasn't until I found myself in total chaos & despair that I was able to get a glimpse of what was happening. At the time, I was a financial & logistical analyst for a major corporation. The company went into one of the worst financial downfalls in the nation's history, because of which, I lost my job - around November 2001 (God's timing is perfect!). Trying to find a financial job in a market where most of the people unemployed were in finance, and the fact that the nation was trying to heal not only from September 11th, but also from financial fiascos in 4 major corporations, was a huge undertaking. I ended up moving across the state and in with family, where I lived on unemployment for the next 9 months.

I found myself being drawn to a local Catholic church for Mass on Sundays. Once I was hired (13 months after I lost my job), I started going to the Cathedral once in awhile. But then the big kicker came. (God's timing - perfect!) I bought a house that had FREE cable! (okay, okay, when I moved in, the cable was already hooked up & the cable company hadn't turned it off from the previous owner). I started watching EWTN. One Tuesday evening, I was watching Fr. Corapi talk about Confession & the 10 Commandments. The more I watched, the more I discovered how deep in sin and trouble I had become. I cried bitterly that night & went straight to Confession the next morning. I think I was in the confessional for 15 minutes that day...crying the entire time! Not only did I have to admit & confess the sins of my past, but also the fact that I went to Mass (yes, and received the Eucharist) with these mortal sins on my soul. Double whammy!

God's mercy is endless! I met God in the confessional that day. I was the prodigal daughter, and God was waiting for me to return to Him, with open arms and tears of joy. Then He brought me to His banquet - the Mass, where Jesus sups with sinners. "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, 'this man receives sinners and eats with them.' " Luke 15: 1-2.

It is only through God's divine mercy that I am where I am today. Sin had robbed me of my dignity, weakening my relationship with Him until there was no trace of life within me. It created a wound so deep that it festered within my entire being and took control over my life. I was living in darkness. But through God's grace and mercy, He sent His only Son to take these sins and put them on be sin. God knew that I could not atone for my sins alone. His plan for my life was put in place the moment He created Adam & Eve. Later in Luke's Gospel, Jesus answers the pharisees by saying, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentence." Luke 15: 30-32.

He still yearns for me to become holy, like He is be perfect, like He is perfect. I struggle, and fail, but my faith keeps me going, this time in His light.

Jesus died so that my sins would be wiped off, a clean slate, healing the infection of the sin on my soul, curing me, and breaking the bonds that sin had on me. New Advent states that "Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one's will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another's misfortune." Based on this definition, God's mercy is boundless! Knowing all of the sins that I have committed in my lifetime, thousands, yet I am just one person in a nation of billions, in a world of hundreds of billions; and this is just in one generation. There have been thousands of generations between when Jesus lived and now, yet, Jesus took on ALL our sins so that we have the chance to join Him in Heaven. Now that's Divine Mercy!

Taken from EWTN's website, "the message of mercy is that God loves us — all of us —no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. It is a message we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC."

"A — Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

B — Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.

C — Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive."

The more I receive God's graces through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion, the holier I become and the more I need God's mercy. I need to dine with Jesus at Mass so I can continue to live the life He wanted for me. Scott Hahn states in Lord, Have Mercy, "Jesus and the pharisees were alike in one sense: Both considered table fellowship to be extremely important. For all pious Jews, ordinary meals held religious significance and were governed by certain liturgical rubrics. These were blessings along with the ritual breaking of bread and perhaps the sharing of a cup of wine. The very idea of 'fast food' would seem blasphemous to them." The 'Burger King' type of prayers are now out.

'Thy Will Be Done!'

Monday, March 24, 2008

A New Easter

It had been too long between visits. Tears filled his eyes as he walked, slowly, toward the front. Why did he wait so long?

The bitterness, grief he once felt was now gone. He wasn't sure how it started, he just remembers the angry words, the slamming of the door, then the silence...painful silence. The scene played back in his mind like a broken record. The anger had filled his very being - how it consumed him. But now all that has changed.

He takes another step, his arm shaking as he leans on the wooden cane preparing to take another.

These last few days transformed him, freeing him from the slavery of the anger and bitterness. The hour spent with his nephew was difficult yet consoling and encouraging. So many tears, so much resentment. He admitted everything, leaving nothing behind. Too many years to review, so much lost time.

Another step closer.

Hearing the words 'I'm sorry' resonated through his mind, then he realized he said those words. Everything was gone. All the anger...dissipated.

He leaned forward, ever so slowly. A tear ran down his wrinkled cheek.

He remembered the hug that seemed never ending. So tight, so long awaited. Too many years away, yet here he was with his family. He looked up, his nephew had tears in his eyes.

He watched as his daughter turns to walk back to their seats. He looked into his nephew's joyful eyes.

Another tear of joy. Remembering the prophetic words..."I absolve you." Rejoicing. Freedom! Such immense love. Unending mercy.

Trying to uncurl his arthritic fingers. Once so active and skillful, now found it difficult to hold a fork. His hands reaching, extending, yearning. They formed a small cradle as if to hold a precious jewel. He finally understood - "The Body of Christ."

His soul leaped for joy. Lord, I'm here...I came. We're all finally together again.

Another tear. His whole being rang out in his 'Amen.'

I'm finally home!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Defend our Priests

March 21, 2008

There's one part of the movie "Dave," after Dave has semi-adjusted to the role of President of the United States, where he and Darryl, a secret service agent, are in the kitchen making the 'best' sandwich / snack. Dave asks Darryl if it was true that he, as a secret service agent, would actually take a bullet for the President. Darryl immediately answers 'yeah.' Then Dave thinks about that and asks if that also means that Darryl would take a bullet for him (Dave). Darryl doesn't answer but rather ponders on the idea.

For some reason this scene came to mind today after attending the Good Friday service and Adoration of the Cross at the Cathedral, celebrated by the Bishop. The service was beautiful yet solemn, with the help of Fr. E. and several acolytes, who made sure that everything ran smoothly so we, the faithful, could get the most out of the service. The part that struck me the most was after they walked the Cross down to the middle of the Cathedral, they slowly raised it up into the platform. A big 'thud' reverberated throughout the Cathedral when they lowered the Cross in place. The heaviness of the Cross was seen and heard; oh, how Jesus suffered for us! Confessions were heard after the service ended, with long lines at each of the six assigned stations.

Thank you, Jesus! Thank You for saving us -- saving
our souls--freely, willingly.

Then the thought occurred to me: would I give up my life for these priests? Fr. E., Fr. V., Fr. B., Fr. P., our Bishops - no brainer - of course! No, this is not what the thought was asking, but rather, would I willingly, freely, give up my life for ANY priest? Not necessarily the ones whom everyone likes and gets along with, but any who have made my life & faith challenging. The one whose homily drags on and on and on; the one who was accused of a heinous crime; the one who has had difficulty living the faith; the one who ___________ (you fill in the blank).

Would I fight for these priests? Would I willingly, freely,
defend my faith and defend these priests?

Wow! For those who have offered their very lives for my soul - how much would I defend them?

Mary, in her messages for her priests, asks us to love them. Love the ones whose homilies are endless, love the priest whose life is not as faithful as I think it should be; love the ones who have had difficulties in life and who are tempted by the evil one. Love them. Pray for them.

At the end of the movie, Darryl and Dave shake hands before parting. Darryl looks Dave squarely in the eye and says, 'Dave, I would have taken a bullet for you.'

On the train-ride back to my car, I seriously thought about this. Christ asks us to lay down our lives for our neighbor...would I do this for our priests? A resounding YES came out. Yes! By defending my priests, I could save a life. But our priests... they save souls! Pray for them! Defend them!

What is the worth of one life? Just look at the Cross.

My Lenten Road

March 16, 2008

Jesus, so much anguish I have caused You these last few days, weeks, months, years because of my sins. Every time I lost my temper, I drove the nail into Your hand. Every time I refused to listen, I gave You another blow with the whip. Every time I ignored my neighbor, I added more weight to the cross You carried. How selfish I have been!

Through Your words, kindness, and love, You showed me my neighbor. Yet in my sinfulness, I ignored them, moved on, said ‘no’. My sins put You on that cross – my sins yelled out ‘crucify Him.’
Lord, You saw all of my failures and sinfulness during Your passion, yet You chose to die for me. You saw every sin that I committed and every sin that I will ever commit, and yet, You freely extended Your arms and legs. You loved me so much that You took my sins and bore them to Yourself. You loved me as a sinner so you could free me from that sin. Saint Paul stated that You, Jesus, took on so much sin into Your pure, innocent, perfect body that it was like God made You to be sin.

Yet, You wait for me in spite of my sin; ready to forgive me with the love only a Father could give. God, You are the merciful Father in the Parable of the Lost Son. You are waiting anxiously for my return; standing at the doorway, watching for me to walk humbly down the filthy, rocky road back to You. As my Heavenly Father, You never stopped, nor could stop, loving me. There is nothing that I could ever do to make You stop being my Father.

As I stumble back to you and humbly confess my sins, You embrace me tightly, joyous of my return, forgiving me of all of my sins. You know that I could never completely atone for my sins, so You sent Your only Son to take these sins from me. You order the banquet of Your divine Son, the Mass, so I can share in Your holiness that I too can become holy. You know that I am weak and can not remain holy, so You give me many opportunities to repent. The Sacrament of Confession, the Confiteor, Kyrie, Gloria, Eucharistic Prayer I, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Invitation to Communion are some of Your ways of keeping me holy at Mass, when I receive You, when I am in a common union with You and the Church.

My Lord, help me to remember Your mercy and Your love as I walk with You in Your Passion and Resurrection.

Dream of Reparation

March 10, 2008

I recently became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for my church (very recently - within the last few months). At first, I was only going to minister to the homebound and sick, but I decided to also attend the orientation for my parish, just in case they needed a substitute.

God has been calling me out of my 'comfort zone' lately and challenging me to defend my faith. This past week I had a dream that greatly disturbed me and shook my faith...

I was distributing the Body of Christ at Mass, standing next to the priest. A man came up to receive and then, opening his hands as to receive, asked for another Host to give to his mother who could not easily walk. I refused to give another to him, but I told him that I would walk back after everyone had received and give her the Body of Christ myself, and he agreed.

When everyone had received, I walked back to the woman and gave her Holy Communion. This made me late for putting the remaining Body in the Tabernacle, now fearing that I would have to do it myself. (In real life, I adamantly refuse to touch or open the Tabernacle. I do not believe that any lay person should touch this Sacred space). As I was walking back toward the Tabernacle, I noticed the floor was wet near the Altar. I realized it was the Precious Blood - on the Altar steps and down on the main floor. I also noticed that people had stepped in it by the footprints and marks on the floor.

I went back into the Sacristy, handed another EMHC my paten, and told the head of the EMHCs about the Precious Blood on the Altar & floor. He immediately started questioning everyone trying to find out who was at fault, all the time referencing the Precious Blood as 'the cup'. I repeatedly told him that it didn't matter *who* did this - that it needed to be cleaned, purified, and the Altar purified. He ignored me and continued to yell, "Who spilt the cup?" (his words). I left him and went to the cabinet, grabbed a large handful of purificators and went back out to the Altar.

I unfolded the purificators, laid them down on the Precious Blood. I tried to cover all of it - then tried to wipe it up. All I could think and say (on my hands & knees) was, "I'm sorry, Jesus. I am so sorry," as tears were running down my cheeks. I said this over and over and over as I tried to clean the Precious Blood from the Altar and floor. The more I tried to clean it, the more that appeared on the purificators and the more that appeared on the floor & Altar - like it was multiplying. There was now so much Precious Blood on the Altar & floor ("I'm so sorry, Jesus" - repeatedly said) that no matter what I did it seemed like nothing much Blood!

I started moving toward the front of the Altar, opening and laying down purificators, trying to get all of Jesus' Blood. The Priest, who saw me, paid no attention to what I was doing and stood up to say the final blessing. I was then at the Priest's feet, wiping up the Precious Blood, all the while saying, "I'm sorry, Jesus. I am so sorry." I heard and saw the congregation laughing as I was trying to clean it all - I felt like the sinner (woman) who washed Jesus' feet with her hair - embarrassed - yet so saddened. They didn't get it! This was Jesus - and they are laughing? I wanted to plead with them, "Don't you see Him? Don't you realize Who this is?" No, they didn't...and when I woke up, my heart was pounding.

My heart has been so saddened these last few days. I am unable to get these images (dream) out of my mind. I question if we, the Church, have veered so far that even WE don't realize Who this is before us at each and every Mass. Do we really believe, deep down in the depth of our souls that this IS Jesus, the Son of God? Or are we so earth-bound in our ways that it is only the bread and cup - only symbols? If we are, how sad! We have, before us, The Son of God, the King of Kings, and through Him, our Father and the Holy Spirit since the three can not be divided.

We have the Heavenly Court with us at each and every Mass! How awesome is that??? And yet, this dream permeates my thoughts...saddens me for all of those who do not believe.