I like to consider myself a Catholic Christian. These are some of my stories and observations.
I like to consider myself a Catholic Christian. These are some of my stories and observations.
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” St. John Paul II
It was an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in response to various states creating laws banning abortion by certain gestational dates and written by a woman pleading her cause for abortion rights. Sadly, one the more desperate cases. She claimed her unborn baby was diagnosed with some genetic defect making the baby incompatible with life after birth. What genetic defect she did not say as if that fact were not important. She emotionally wrestled with the decision to abort. After all, wouldn’t it be more merciful to her two current children if they did not have to bear the death of a sibling? How could it more humane to allow a child to be born just to suffer and die? [She apparently did not count the pain the baby would feel being ripped to pieces by abortion and nor could she really say how much the baby would suffer at birth since it is only a guess of course.] How could her family face the mountain of medical bills and emotional distress caused by such a birth? Her final decision was to be both the hero and the martyr. She alone would bear the pain and sorrow and abort her child. The story might have seemed like a logical victory for abortion rights until the next paragraph as her story continued.
“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proverbs 14:1)
Now fast forward and she is pregnant again and heading to the hospital for an ultrasound to determine what if anything might be wrong with her baby’s heart. As she drove along, a terrible fear came over her that what if, what if there was something wrong with her baby’s heart and now that she was 24 weeks pregnant, it might not be legal for her to have an abortion. God forbid in her eyes that abortion even up to the day of birth would be illegal. No, she was not afraid for the life of her child whom she carried close to her heart for 24 weeks but that if the child was not perfect, she could not dispose of it.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
I have known a lot of mothers who when pregnant had to face incredible hardships and pain. I have known women who were terribly sick through the entire pregnancy. I have known mothers who had to be in bed rest for weeks on end and of mothers who had to face the choice of chemo or their child’s life. These are the real heroes. It seems unreal to me that there would be a mother who was not willing to fight heaven and hell for the life of her child even a disabled child. I have never met a woman who’s had to bury her child say, “Darn, I wish I had just aborted him/her before they were born.” I have never met a man or women who did not long for one more minute or one more day with their child who had passed.
“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12)
Women who demand abortion to be legal, might argue that life only begins at birth and even then, they want the choice to allow a baby to die after birth if they do not want the child for any reason. They have made the question of when does life begin, irrelevant. At 400wordsforwomen.com, the important question is asked, “When does love begin?” It is the selfless choice to love that makes sacrifice bearable even in the most difficult of situations. Without love, it is meaningless.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Jenna Gassew and Dan Haley were faced with a similar problem when they discovered the baby Jenna was pregnant with had the rare genetic condition, anencephaly. If even born alive, the baby named Shane, would die shortly after birth. Instead of aborting, they chose instead to make the most of the little time they would have with their baby. They made a bucket list for him, trying to give their baby every experience a baby in the womb could possible have. They traveled and took pictures and embraced the painful yet hopeful future that lay ahead because where there is life there is hope. Cutting short the already precipitously short life of their baby was not an option. Finally, the day arrived. Shane was born and died. He did not suffer. They would post to their Facebook page:
“Today at 6:15 a.m., after meeting his entire family and being baptized into the Catholic faith, baby Shane died peacefully in his mother’s arms. We are so grateful for the time that we were blessed to hold and hug our son. Shane spent his entire life in the arms of people that loved him unconditionally and I don’t think you could ask for a more beautiful life [than] that… he is home now with the Lord and will forever be our little miracle.”
‘Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”’ (Matthew 19:14)
I wish there was no such thing as children born with disabilities of any kind. I wish we lived in a world where there was no sickness or death. I would hope that all suffering of any kind was impossible. But I would be wishing for heaven on earth. There are no guarantees nor insurance for risks. Most of the time, there are no do-overs. Suffering and pain are part of the human condition and try as we might, the harder we fight to avoid the pain, the more it pursues us until our hearts become like stone that are no longer capable of passion and love. Sacrifice and love go hand and hand. If we are not willing to suffer for the lives of our children then we are doomed as a species and as children of God.
“These are born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 13)
Leaven for the Loaf, a Granite State Pro-life Blog by Ellen Kolb, Tag: 400 Words for Women
‘Facebook page- “Prayers for Shane”—hacked but company returns control to Jenna and Dan after several painful hours’, NRL News, Oct 14, 2014 Dave Andrusko.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – from St. Augustine’s Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5)
This story is a prayer. A prayer for a couple who were and are friends despite the fact they have never invited us back to their home nor made any effort to contact us again after that fateful night four years ago.
Jack and Mira* met my husband, Chuck nearly twenty some years ago. Jack came to St. Louis with the purpose of working for a popular local nondomination church which Chuck just happened to belong. He and his wife are delightful Christian people. Though you would not refer to us as close friends, there was a definite connection through the churches and faith.
Jack came to a point in his career that he could no longer support his church and continued in his job. Like all churches, sooner or later by what is truly the hand of Satan, scandal comes. Jack and Mira were disillusioned. We all want a church that is full of saints when truly we are all sinners seeking the mercy of Christ. When he and his wife could not find another church to call home, Jack called on a friend who was a minister to have ‘church’ in his home on Sunday night and he invited Chuck and me to come and worship with him.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” (Luke 22:31)
I have never felt that any group that comes together in the name of Jesus Christ was not worthy of my time, so I attended, the lone Catholic in the midst of ‘non-denominational’ believers. I was always treated with love and never had a reason to criticize anything said or done. Their lovely Sunday night services went on for several months.
“In all truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life.” (John 6:48)
After a time, they took a break from the service and simply invited us over for dinner. I am sure what happened was not planned. It just happened. The questions of Catholicism came up as their daughter was dating a Catholic. They could not understand how Catholics pray to Mary. I explained why we pray to Mary. We pray as children and ask her to pray for us which is no different than if I were to ask my own earthly mother to pray for me. Prayer meant as adoration and worship are only for speaking with God. He alone is the Holy One as all Catholics proclaim at Mass. I gave them enough bible verses and explanations that they asked me, “Why don’t other Catholics know this, because when we asked them, they couldn’t tell us this?”
“’Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus answered them: ‘In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread;’” (John 6:31-32 )
I know. So many Catholics are used to being bottle feed that they never grow up and seek solid food. They do not search or hunger for that which is beyond their basic understanding. Some Catholics may think they know all that is needed. If all they surround themselves are with other Catholics, they have no need to explain their faith. Some may be disinterested. They may only do what they perceive is the bare minimum to be saved. Some just do not care. They are Catholic in name only.
“Jesus answered them: ‘I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.'” (John 6:35)
I suppose if the conversation had stopped or the subject changed, we might still be friends. That is when they asked me one last question, “Why are you Catholic?”
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'” (John 6:49-51)
This was certainly not the first time I was asked that question and not as if I never asked myself the same question. I did, but the answer was so clear. Catholics almost entirely alone among Christians believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. My answer? “I find it interesting that fundamentalists believers will tell me they believe that everything in the bible should be taken literally until they come to John chapter six. Then suddenly the word of God is no longer literal but some symbolic message that Jesus never explains.” They were puzzled. John chapter six? I had to remind them, “My flesh is real flesh and my blood real drink. Catholics believe the words of Christ literally.” Jesus does not just state this in passing. He doubles down, even when his disciples are leaving him and says it again.
“Jesus replied to them: ‘In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.’” (John 6:53-56)
Now they looked stunned. Chuck explained, “They call it Transubstantiation.” He had to repeat it a few times till they took hold of the word. Transubstantiation, the transformation of the physical substance of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. An incredible mystery. A magnificent miracle. A reality so profound that our soul has no words to explain and our physical being no ability to worthily worship the physical presence of the living God. Only a merciful God could so long endure a flock that takes this gift so lightly.
“After hearing it, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’” (John 6:60)
I had a few examples of miracles around the Eucharist. One was the eight-century miracle where the bread and wine turned into flesh and blood before the eyes of the priest who was celebrating mass. The flesh and blood have never decayed and can still be seen in Lanciano, Italy. They stared at me in disbelief.
“After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.” (John 6:66)
We talked about a few other beliefs as well. At some point I mentioned something I thought about heaven, but prefaced my silly thought as certainly not biblical.
Jack quickly responded, “Yes, it is.”
Surprised, I asked him where in the bible it might be found.
He responded, “In the book of Mary.”
“Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52)
I sensed that it was time for us to go as I had offended them, not with lies or falsehoods of any kind but with the truth. Jesus emphatically said his flesh was ‘real food’ and I believe. It is hard to fight the truth when you are seeking it with all of your heart. Sometimes the truth comes not only from those you least expect it to come from but from those you least want to hear it from, the Catholic in your midst.
“Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.’“ (John 6:68-69)
It is also hard to lose friends. Friendships seem to have a natural ebb and flow. This was not the case. I truly believe in my heart that the reason they were offended was not because they did not believe what I was saying but rather were unable to fight the truth they sought and afraid that they too might come to believe the same things. It did not fit in their nondenominational prayer lives. It might just change everything they thought about the Catholic Church. It inspired fear that the Catholic they tried to convert may just have spoken some truth that might instead convert them.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19)
I pray that I have planted seeds. I pray the seeds have found fertile ground and I pray that others will be there to water the seeds and help them grow. I pray that as they seek the face of God, they will have the opportunity to seek him where ever the gentle Holy Spirit guides them, even if that is at a Catholic Mass. Many who sought God thinking the Church was the most impossible place to find Jesus, have their spirits transformed in the Mass. Those truly searching have their hearts ignited by Christ burning for love of the Savior who humbly gives his very real presence in the form of bread and wine. Impossible? Improbable? Inconceivable? Maybe, but to the unbeliever the story of Christ is just that. Why should his words in John chapter six be any less remarkable?
“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness;” (1 Corinthians 1:23)
*not real names
“The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.”
-St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)
With no thanks to the media and advertisers, I did manage to see the move, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.” I had to search for it by name since it was not listed in the paper nor in the, “Now showing in your area,” link, on the Fandango website. The movie was very well done. For those who do not know the story, this was the true case of an abortion doctor, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with murder. He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia for nearly 30 years. The movie is based on the book, “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer,” written by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. When the book ‘s sales figures revealed it should be placed on the New York Times best seller list, the Times refused to add it to the list admitting they adjusted the list based on an “editorial decision,” which basically means they refused to give it any mention because it placed the sacred white cow of the political left, abortion, in a bad light, proving once again that when the left cry for abortion to be safe for women and girls, they lie. If anything, they should have been decrying the horrible conditions of the clinic, instead they were working to keep it quiet and in effect became complicit in all of the killings done there. In this true story, there are a lot of different groups who were complicit and this was just one of may different things about the movie that were so disturbing on so many levels.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and
sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)
One of Gosnell’s first run in with the law happened in the May 1972, in what was called the “Mother’s Day Massacre.” Harvey Karman, a psychologist pretending to be a doctor, came up with a new abortion method using what was called, the super coil which he apparently tested on hundreds of Bangladesh women. It was ball that contained 97 sharp blades. The intent was to push the ball into the uterus and then the knives inside would eventually spring open to destroy the fetus growing inside. Gosnell and Karman convinced 15 impoverished women from Chicago in their second trimester, to take a bus to Philadelphia where they would record their new improved abortion method on Mother’s Day. The women were never warned they would become guinea pigs in a horrible experiment. The results were disastrous with women suffering lacerations, hemorrhaging, infections, pieces of their dead babies remaining inside them and one woman cut up so badly, she had to undergo a hysterectomy. What happened to Gosnell? Nothing. Nothing happened. Gosnell retained his medical license. He left the country for a short while then returned to Philadelphia to continue his abortion business. A joint federal state investigation did little to pursue the matter. The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine turned a blind eye to the whole incident. They hold a share of blame in this modern-day holocaust.
“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who turn a blind eye will be greatly cursed.” (Proverbs 28:27)
Returning to Philadelphia, Gosnell continued his abortion business. When he was finally charged with a crime 30 years later, it started as a drug bust. He was selling scripts written out to the names of his abortion patients and being filled by drug dealers. Search warrants for drug dealing revealed his abortion house of horrors where the most unsanitary conditions imaginable existed. Single use instruments were being reused over and over again without sterilization. When the bathrooms were unusable or full, women routinely had to urinate in the hallways. Bags with fetal remains were stuffed into the refrigerator and never disposed of. Medical waste was sitting in bags all about the clinic. The smell was said to be unbelievable. The horror would decend into obvious depravity as numerous see-through, carefully labeled containers were discovered in Gosnell’s office filled with the amputated feet of the babies he aborted like some sort of perverted collection. All of this would never have been brought to light and result in the murder charges against Gosnell, if it were not for the numerous illegal late term abortions he performed and the one recorded death of a woman who died in his care. [The movie was excellent in that it did not show the full extent of the horror. It only describes it, thereby avoiding the possibility of sickening the audience.]
“I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their guilt. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, the insolence of tyrants I will humble.” (Isaiah 14:11”)
In the grand jury, the women representing the health department was asked why she or the department never inspected the clinic when even nail salons were subjected to yearly inspections. Her response was that they do not inspect unless there were complaints. When shown a large stack of complaints, she simply said that this was abortion and a women’s right to abortion was to never be impeded thereby making the health department complicit in the serial killings.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Gosnell showed untrained employees with no medical background, how to administer drugs and anesthetize patients and allowed them to treat patients without him being present. They also witness Gosnell snipping the spine of babies born alive with scissors. They would become complicit as well in his murderous reign and their silence allowed the gruesome acts to continue unimpeded.
“They are odious; they have done abominable things, yet they are not at all ashamed, they know not how to blush.” (Jeremiah 9:12)
Baby A was the largest fetus found in Gosnell’s abortion clinic of horrors. Pediatric doctors estimated the baby boy to be no less than 32 weeks gestation, was born intact and alive and had his spine snipped with scissors. Gosnell was found guilty of murder for this little baby. Yet, I cannot help to wonder why a woman would go almost all the way through her pregnancy and then walk into an abortion clinic to have the baby killed when there are many women who cannot have babies and are desperate to adopt, raise and love that child? The only answer I can think of is that fear makes people do crazy insane things, even making them complicit in the death of their own babies. Like prey in the sight of the serpent, they freeze and allow themselves to be consumed by evil.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Abraham Lincoln once warned that the sin of slavery would only be expiated when every drop of blood caused by the slave master’s whip was paid for by blood drawn by the sword. And so, it was and ten-fold. War is not a punishment meted out by God but the direct result of our own un-repented actions. We have sown the winds of innocent deaths and we will reap even more. Let us not be complacent and become complicit. Let your voice be heard for those who cannot cry out.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
― George Bernard Shaw
I saw it coming for a long time. If I had not, by now, I would have been beyond living in denial, I would have been delusional. After all, every birthday is another candle and even my beloved grandson Henry did not recognize me in old family videos. The march of time brings changes on gradually but it still marches in tough old army boots with one hand on the trigger of the gun.
So, there I was, walking back from church to work. It was a nice crisp sunny morning and my path took me down the street next to the middle school where a group of six and seventh grade boys were playing some sort of game where they throw a tennis ball against the side of the brick school building and when the ball is in the main boys hand, they can run toward him but when it is in flight against the wall, they have to stop. The boy with the ball held up the game so I could get safely past. The other boys in an obvious attempt to exploit the good manners of the boy with the ball kept running. Just past them, I heard the boy with the ball say, “You can’t run.” They laughed. “No,” he continued, “I had to stop to let the nice old lady go by.”
And there you have it. “Out of the mouths of babes and innocents,” I thought as I smiled up the street. It’s undeniably official. I have become the nice old lady.
“Lord, let me know my end, the number of my days, that I may learn how frail I am.” (Psalm 39:5)
When I look in the mirror, I do notice that things are not like they used to be. I cannot say exactly when I went from mature women to old lady, but sometime when I was not exactly looking too closely, I crossed the line. I looked in the mirror again at a wrinkle around my mouth and think, “When did that happen?” I poke the small (OK I do have some denial) muffin top over my jeans and think, “Where in hell did that come from?” I realize things are not like they used to be and maybe I need a glass of wine to recover.
“You have given my days a very short span; my life is as nothing before you. All mortals are but a breath.” (Psalm 39:6)
I have come to realize that there is mercy in the aging process which is proof positive that my God lives. Maybe why our eyesight starts going is that it keeps us from scaring ourselves to death looking in the mirror in the morning. Maybe why our hearing starts to go is so we cannot hear our bones creaking. When I was younger, someone asked me, “Why do old ladies wear so much perfume?” Well, now I know the answer…. Its because old men stink. (Just kidding, guys.) God is indeed merciful in all of his ways.
“Mere phantoms, we go our way; mere vapor, our restless pursuits; (Psalm 39:7)
I now have a special appreciation for my Father in heaven. He promises to renew my youth like the eagle. That someday I will run again and not get tired. That He will restore my beauty from ashes. The goal is to one day see him face to face and He will not see the old lady I see in the mirror. The ultimate test is if He sees the face of Jesus instead of me.
“And now, Lord, what future do I have? You are my only hope.” (Psalm 39:8)
The key to passing the test is to empty myself of all that is me without Jesus and ask Jesus to replace it with his Holy Spirit. At my age now, it’s not too much to empty myself since I am becoming a lot less than I was. Yes, I have also shrunk an inch in height. But that being said, I am forgetting exactly who I thought I was so it’s much easier to give up myself for Jesus. God is good, of that I am sure. I am going the way of my parents, my grandparents and all those before me. Even in the midst of this aging process, I give thanks to God for every ache and pain, for every small loss of youth and all new adventures to being an old lady. Now if I could just retire.
“From all my sins deliver me; let me not be the taunt of fools.” (Psalm 39:9)
By the way, young man with the ball, thanks for saying I was nice. It would have been much worse if instead you had said, “The batty old lady.”
We need no wings to go in search of Him, but have only to look upon Him present within us.
-Saint Teresa of Avila
In her visions, Blessed Therese Neuman would describe the life of Jesus. In one account, she saw the visit of the wise men and described it as such:
“At first, they were disillusioned at seeing the simplicity and poverty which greets them, and they feel they must have made a mistake. Nonetheless, St. Joseph cautiously comes outside. Only the brown man can speak a language that St. Joseph understands. He brings them inside, where they bow low to the mother and speak with her. Then the child Jesus, who is already almost two years old, looks at them in the eye with a ‘divine look.’ Immediately they recognize that this child is the goal of their journey and they throw themselves to the floor.”
“Then he turned to his disciples and said privately “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)
How blest were the disciples to be able to look into the eyes of Jesus! For much of their time with him, it may have seemed that Jesus looked so very ordinary. After all, no one could look upon the face of God and live. But God made man changed that. The word became flesh so that those who saw Jesus saw the Father. Until they believed in who He truly was, they would be unable to see how the divine was among them. But when the veil was lifted, the disciples would be privileged to see the very divinity of Christ.
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2)
I have often wondered what that ‘divine look’ would be like. Was it like the blinding light that that Paul saw on his journey to Damascus? A look that would turn his path 180 degrees around. A look so deep he gave up everything for the sake of the name. Home, wife, family, he forsook having anything for Christ his Lord. There was nothing he would not suffer for the name. Beatings, being stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and deserted did not deter him from the race. St Catherine of Siena said of him, “Imitate that dear Paul, who was so in love, and be a vessel of affection that bears and proclaims the name of Jesus. It seems to me that Paul gazed into this eye [ sic of Christ] and lost himself in it.” I think St Catherine would know what captured St Paul as she herself would have the visions of our risen Lord and would give up all to follow him. And like Paul, would bear the marks of Christ on her body.
“The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire.” (Revelation 1:14)
The look of love from the savior’s eyes must have the power to crush us in sorrow over our sins as when Peter denied Jesus three times. “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61) The moment their eyes met must have been a memory that haunted Peter his entire life searing into his heart the depth of pain he caused his lord and savior. The look was not accusing or perturbed, but of deep sorrow at being betrayed again by the one who professed he would die with him. Each of us must cause that same look to be cast our way every time we choose to sin when we know full well the price for which our souls were ransomed.
“Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
In faith, we look into the mirror dimly at the face of Christ and like the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” I wonder what it will be like when I can see him face to face and look into his eyes and be forever lost in his love. If it only takes one look of love to place our feet firmly on the path of righteousness, then Lord, cast your look of love our way and open our eyes to see it.
Steiner, Johannes (1976). “The Visions of Therese Neuman”, Alba House, New York
“I Can Only Imagine.” By Bart Millard. The Worship Project. Mercy Me. 1999
“Christ acts like a loving mother. To induce us to follow Him, He gives us Himself as an example and promises us a reward in His kingdom.” – St. Anthony of Padua
Contemplating the crucifixion, one cannot help but be moved by the sacrifice Jesus made for us that one Holy Friday. I think over time, it is somewhat normal for us to start taking it for granted. As Catholics, we pray the Stations of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary to renew our remembrance and awe of the love shown us on that day and refresh in our hearts his sacrifice.
In these prayers, I am reminded of his sufferings at Gethsemane where the agony was so great, his sweat was filled with blood. It was as if He was shown the sins for which He would suffer and they were loaded upon him like the scapegoat so that He who was without sin would become sin.
“But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.” (Leviticus 16:10)
“But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
He endured the horrible scrounging so terrible that even Pilot would be shocked. And our Lord knew that as bad as the scourging was, the worst was yet to come.
“Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, Behold the man!” (John 19:5)
Then baring his cross, He struggled under the weight of the beam strapped across his shoulders so that He could not even wipe the sweat and blood off his face. Stripped of his clothes, laughed at and humiliated, He was nailed to the cross.
I am in complete humbled remembering his suffering and death on the cross, yet even this is not the most surprising to me. I am amazed in his capacity to be stay silent when questioned and not try to defend himself. What surprises me is that our Lord Jesus never reached that point where the spirit rises up and says, “NO MORE, these sinners are not worth it.” He would be right to have done so. We were not and are not worthy, yet his meek silence humbles me. I was taken aback on how much Christ suffered and did not utter one angry word.
“Like a lamb led to the slaughter or sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)
This is not like me. I have often reached the point in suffering with pain and sorrow so much so that I get angry and say, “NO MORE!” I reach my breaking point where I really believe I cannot go on. Too often, I have said to our Lord, “HEY, I didn’t sign up for this!” as I turn to walk away. Then giving me a little time, in his truly loving way, He reminds me of my promises I made in love to follow him where ever He leads. Oh, yes, now I remember too well, that I did indeed sign up for even this. And I humbly bow my head and return to the fold.
“Return to me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:7)
In his beautiful book, “Quo Vadis?” Henry Sienkiewicz, uses the story from apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts: XXXV), where Peter is fleeing from crucifixion in Rome, disgusted with the Roman persecution of his Christian brothers and sisters. As he walking away from Rome, he passes Jesus walking the other way. Peter asks Jesus, “Domine Quo vadis?” meaning, “Where are you going Lord?” to which Jesus replies, “Roman eo iterum crucifigi.” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again.”) Jesus explains that if Peter abandons the others in Rome, then Jesus will have to take his place. Peter cries out, that it must be him not his Lord, that it should be crucified and he turns quickly back to Rome where is he crucified upside down because he said he was not worthy to die as Jesus died.
“Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” (John 13:35-36)
I believe that the only place in the bible, where an angel of the Lord actually asks, where did you come from was when Hagar was fleeing the abuse of her mistress, Sarai.
“The Lord’s messenger found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur and he asked, ‘Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’” (Genesis 16:7)
Then the angel tells her to return to Sarai and submit to her abuse for the Lord intends to make her son the father of a great nation. And so, Hagar humbly returns.
The Lord has little need to ask where we came from. He knows where we have been. He knows what we have done and what has been done to us. The question we need to answer is, “Where are we going?” He does not need to tell us exactly where, we just have to follow and He will show us the way.
“I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” (John 16:5)
“Faith is to believe what you do not see. The reward of faith is to see what you believe.” – St. Augustine
I laughed until I cried watching them [Collin’s special needs baseball game] that late afternoon. Then I looked around me. While I was laughing everyone else was silent and stone faced. Some of the parents were watching the same thing I was seeing, but I seemed to be the only one around me who could see it all. Why eludes me. I wondered if this was like when Jesus was baptized and God’s voice pierced the silence saying that Jesus was his beloved son, and many of them thought it was merely thunder. It is as if, you have to believe in God to hear his voice and truly seek him to see him. Seeing in not believing so much as believing is seeing. It is not that I am more blest when watching the children to see them in that special way, it may be only because I know that God sees them in a special way and I am open to seeing them in that special way as well. While some parents may see their children as kids who cannot hit or catch a ball or barely run the bases, I was able to see them as beautiful innocent children at play.
“On coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:10-11)
When stories of the saints are told, some things sound almost too fantastic to believe but if we are to believe the words of Christ telling us that we would be able to greater things than this, the raising of the dead, walking on water, healing the leapers and multiplying the loaves and fishes, then why would it be too implausible for saints to levitate, carry the marks of Jesus on their body and live only on the consecrated bread and wine? Why would it be impossible for them in the name of Jesus to heal the sick and stop battles and natural disasters? Why should their visions of Christ’s life be dismissed as foolishness? Should their witness to Christ be treated with disbelief just because they are Catholic?
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
We have been given the gift of faith yet too many times, we live like we have no faith at all. Getting up each morning to the sound of the alarm clock, the one thing I want to do is close my eyes and go back to sleep. Yet if I live for something greater, then getting up and opening my eyes of faith to seek the Lord, should make me want to jump out of bed and begin to seek him with all of my heart and all of my mind and all of my soul. If we believe we will see him, we will see him. And we will see him in the land of the living.
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)
There are the times we complain to God about not being there and say, ‘Where are you God?’ In faith we should know, He is right there next to us, holding us in his arms and trying to comfort us. I think we miss his presence when we need it the most because we do not trust him. Our problem is not that God has abandoned us but that we did not exercise our faith. We reached out in blindness and came up empty when we should have stepped out in faith and received blessings and visions.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God may believe that He exists and the He rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
If today we were to hear his voice, would we say it was only thunder?