The Cup of Sugar

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.

“And she cried out, ‘Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’ ” Luke 1:42.

Elizabeth sees Mary coming up the walk, runs out to greet her, and bubbles over joyfully with the above statement. Inspired by the Holy Spirit of course.

I remember being told about a monk, a Benedictine, and this is a factual story, who had been given the task of offering hospitality to any guests that might arrive at the monastery. But he had other things to do as well. As he was knee deep in alligators given all these other duties he wasn’t all that geared up for guests. Of course someone showed up. He heard the door and knew he had to stop what he was doing and go take care of this person. In exasperation he said: “!#@%! Now I’ve got to go do hospitality!” 🙂 Monks are human too.

With hospitality, Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary, and being human in mind …

Have you ever seen someone, maybe a next door neighbor, walking towards your door and muttered, “Oh great. What do they want now?” Hey, you’re knee deep in alligators and don’t have the time, or inclination, to dole out a cup of sugar. You’ve got enough to do all ready and now you have to stop and take care of someones needs. Just peachy, ain’t it?

When Elizabeth saw Mary coming down the path she had no way of knowing Mary was there to help her in her time of need. It could’ve been a logical assumption on Elizabeth’s part that Mary was there because she needed something from Elizabeth. But rather than say something like “Ratz! Now what?” Elizabeth went to meet Mary and was, lets just say, hospitable.

OK, whats the difference between Elizabeth and our monk? (We’ll leave ourselves alone and out of this for now. If we see ourselves in one example or the other, well, it’ll be food for thought on the individual level.) And the answer is really simple. When Elizabeth spoke she did so under the influence of the Holy Spirit. God had control because Elizabeth faithfully gave herself over to God. Now when the monk spoke what influence was he under?

Back to that neighbor walking up our walk. We see them and have an immediate reaction within ourselves. And …

“And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Abraham saw three strangers coming towards his tent and ran out to implore them to eat and rest at his camp. When the meal was ready he even served them himself. The above verse references his actions. You know, honestly, I’ve never seen anybody walk by my place and gone running up to them saying, “Here, let me give you a cup of sugar!” But, metaphorically speaking, that’s just what Elizabet did, isn’t it? Most of us can probably identify, if we’re honest about it, with the monk. The question is now: “What need’s to change so that I give hospitality to neighbors and strangers alike? What cuts me off from that right attitude?” Because whatever gets in our way in serving others also gets in the way of our relationship with God.

 

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“Be ye always ready”

A Rosary Meditation: The First Glorious Mystery, The Resurrection.

“At early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.” Luke 24:1.

“Be ye always ready” is the motto of the Knights of the Round Table. Its from this motto that the Boy Scouts got “Be prepared”. And then there was my Grandmother’s version of always being prepared that was based on the reality of the Great Depression rather than Camelot. “Its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”. And all of these have their time and place in life.

The folks coming to the tomb that first Easter Sunday morning were ready, weren’t they? They brought the things necessary to give Jesus a proper burial. With the fast approach of the Sabbath there hadn’t been time Friday. But now? They were ready. They didn’t know yet that these things weren’t needed. They were doing the next right thing, certainly. They were doing the best they could with what they had. But they were doing it without full knowledge. That was OK. The knowledge was coming.

Its important for us to always be ready. As ready as we can be given our own lack of perfect knowledge. We don’t always have all the details about any given situation, do we? But its still important to do the best we can with what we’ve got. Like Christ’s parable about the servants who were each given a talent of gold by their master before he went on a journey. Two did the best they could with what they had and were rewarded accordingly. The other servant, the one who didn’t do anything with his talent, well, he got anything but a reward.

What happened to those folks that Easter morning? Were they rewarded? Certainly. They were the first to have a part in the miracle of the resurrection weren’t they? They didn’t understand it all but they were prepared and they experienced a miracle as a result. A miracle that far outweighed their preparation. But there were a few others there that morning. There were the guards at the tomb. Were they ready, do you think? And their reward was? We’ve leave that. Its ultimately between them and God. Because we don’t have full knowledge and can’t say.

If we do the best we can with our talents and limited knowledge we can rest contentedly. We don’t need to know what’s in store for us. God’s got that covered.

“His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:23, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Its important to be ready in God’s service. Like those going to the tomb that Easter morning and like the servants in the parable were ready without knowing when their master would return. They didn’t know it all. We don’t either. But they were ready and rewarded. This is Lent. Its a time to get ready. In some ways our lives ought to be a perpetual Lent. And we’ll be surprised in the end by the generosity of God. Being ready can be the beginning of our miracle.

Praying in the right direction …

A Rosary Meditation: The First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden.

“And going forward a little, he fell on the ground, and began to pray.” Mark 14:35.

You know, if there was ever a human being who knew what he was doing it was Jesus. Being perfect, and he is, everything about him gives us an example to follow. Everything.

Many of the worlds religions have much in common. Despite time, geography, and culture people are people. Everyone, for example, laughs and cries. We may laugh or cry about different things but we still laugh and cry. Various things seem to be across the board. And that’s because they are. The worlds monotheistic religions for example. Take Judaism and Islam. If you’re a practicing Jew you turn towards Jerusalem when you pray. If you’re Muslim you face in the direction of Mecca. There are reasons for this. Respect, longing, simple devotion, and more. In Catholicism? Its a little different. If we pray rightly we face in a certain direction as well. Its just not a direction you’ll find laid out by Rand-Mcnally.

Look at what Jesus did. And remember that he’s the example. ” … going forward a little … ” This is a Sorrowful Mystery. Have you ever prayed while consumed with sorrow? Certainly, we all have. When we pray, sorrowfully or otherwise, in what direction do we turn? In what direction did Jesus turn? ” … and GOING FORWARD … ” And this is precisely what we need to do when we pray.

When we pray we need to have a forward view, one of hope and not despair. Jesus prayed in sorrow but I can’t believe he prayed without hope, faith, and confidence. He didn’t look behind, at the past, at the unbelieving crowds. And certainly he saw what was coming. He knew he was about to be crucified and prayed that he might be spared this cup of suffering. But if he saw his crucifixion coming don’t you think he saw Easter morning as well? And we need to learn this lesson in prayer. Things are what they are, and sometimes they’re just bad period. But that doesn’t mean God’s going to leave them that way. Otherwise why bother praying? And there’s the hope, the forward view.

Consider also how far forward Jesus went. ” … and going forward A LITTLE … ” Sometimes baby steps forward are all we can stand. The length of the stride isn’t whats important here. Again, its the direction. Look forward with hope, not backwards with despair or the wrong kind of longing.

“Remember Lot’s wife.” Luke 17:32, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Which direction was Lot’s wife looking in after she had been told to look straight ahead? What happened to her? And as we move from this world to the next, and that’s what we’re doing with every breath we take, just like Lot’s wife was moving away from Sodom and Gomorrah to a place of refuge, which way do we look?

Carry the Message

A Rosary Meditation: The First Joyful Mystery, The Annunciation.

“When she heard him … ” Luke 1:29a.

The Angel Gabriel carried a message, didn’t he? The angel announced Christ to Mary. ( “You will have a child … ” ) Latter Elizabeth did the same. ( ” …  mother of my Lord … ” ) John the Baptizer announced Christ as well. ( “Behold the Lamb of God!” ) And then there was the Samaritan woman at the well. ( ” Come see the man who told me everything I ever did. Couldn’t he be the Christ?” ) The people that Jesus healed, even when he told them to be quite about what had happened to them, announced him to others. The Twelve Apostles announced him, the people they converted announced him, the Church he founded with Peter as its head continues announcing him to this very day. And all of these, from Mary to the woman at the well and everybody else, have something in common.

Its not everyone that gets the privilege of announcing Jesus to others. There is one, and only one, class of people who get to do the announcing. Oh, God uses anybody he pleases, this is true. As an example, even Lucifer announces Christ. He does his announcing via the hatred he has for God and His children. When Satan vents his anger it gets to be pretty obvious who Jesus is. Otherwise why go to all that trouble if Jesus only, well, something other than the Messiah? So in a way all things announce Christ. But only one class of people announces him with an invitation attached. John said “Behold!” The Samaritan woman said “Come see!” was

The people doing the announcing with the invitation included are the people who have encountered Christ and accepted the invitation themselves. And when others hear the Good News and respond to it, accepting the invitation, there’s one sure way to recognize them. They start announcing.

“Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … If we want what Jesus offers in the above verse, if we want him to announce us to his Father, we need to do some announcing ourselves. There are a lot of ways to do this. Support missioners, bankroll good seminaries, pray, volunteer, and the list goes on. But there is one BEST way. Its something else those folks I mentioned above have in common. After they accepted the announcement, accepted the invitation, accepted Jesus, they all did one thing by the grace of God, each person in the way God gave them. They changed. And people saw the change. There are lots of ways to announce Jesus to others, but a good example? Works wonders.

 

We have been blessed …

Pope Pius XII was Pope at the time of my birth who, if the truth be known (and it is known by those who set Hollywood’s retelling of history aside), was a hero of World War II. Then came Pope John XXIII, who opened windows and doors for us all. Next was Pope Paul VI, who was Pope when I converted. He was instrumental in putting into practice those positive changes brought about by Vatican II. There was the short Papal reign of Pope John Paul I, 33 days if I recall correctly. Pope John Paul II was a hero of a different sort. A staunch defender of liberty he helped bring about the demise of communism by peaceful means such as the Rosary. And, this is all just my opinion of course, he allowed the world to see his physical decline rather than hide himself away, which would have made our Pope inaccessible. He showed the world that you’re still a viable, worthwhile human being loved by God even in illness. He’s followed by Pope Benedict XVI who made some very subtle changes behind the scenes, changes that have had and will have a greater impact on the Church than most would think. And now we have the gift of God we call Pope Francis, a very personal Pope, one that is personable, one that is one of us, announcing Christ to the world through word and deed.

For nearly a century we have been blessed. I’m sure the blessings stretch back much further but I don’t so I talk about the Popes of my lifetime. It won’t be long now that we will celebrate Life in a special way. Easter. In celebrating Life lets give thanks for the life of the Church and how God manifests that life to the world through the good Popes we’ve been so blessed with.

We have been blessed. We are blessed. We will be blessed. Thank God.

Walking Dead

Today’s Gospel reading is John 11:3-7, 20-27, 33b-45.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We’re all familiar with the above happenings. Over the years we’ve heard the story so many times its like we were there. You can almost see the crowd, hear the murmuring, feel the suns heat, and smell the dust in the air. We know God has unlimited power. There has never been a grave He couldn’t open and empty. I heard someone say once that if Jesus hadn’t prefaced the words “come out” with the name Lazarus all of the dead would have risen. Interesting thought. But there’s one thing in all of the above, more than any other aspect of the story, that I think stands out.

“And Jesus wept.” John 11:35.

Why? In this instance we usually think of Christ’s humanity and that he cried because his friend Lazarus had died. And that makes sense. But remember what he’d said earlier? “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” And he had told his disciples plainly that Lazarus wasn’t dead but only sleeping. Have you ever noticed that when a believer who has died is spoken of in the Bible they’re described as sleeping? And when someone dies away from God they’re spoken of as being dead? Lazarus was a real and faithful believer. Death can’t hold someone who dies in God’s grace because God is the Author of Life, not death. Real death is to be separated from God. So Lazarus wasn’t really dead, not even if his body was decaying. ” … everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And Jesus knew what it was that he was going to do before he did it. So, why the tears?

Remember what we’re told? … He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” … Some said he cried because his friend was dead. That’s generally what we say too, isn’t it? But what were the others saying? I mean, what were they saying really? They were wondering, asking “Why?”, and perhaps casting aspersions. We may feel like we were there, we’ve heard the story so often, but we weren’t. We didn’t hear the tone that went with these words, neither did we see the facial expressions. But Jesus did. And he became perturbed.

Christ proved himself over and over. Anyone willing to see could recognize him as the Messiah and his works spoke for themselves. And still they doubted. Personally I think their doubt was cause enough for Jesus’ tears. So what did he do? He proved himself once again. Lazarus came forth.

Over the millennia Jesus has proven himself so many times there’s no way to count it all. He said, “Do this as a remembrance of me.” And all over the world, daily, this happens. After all these centuries isn’t that a proof? For hundreds of years the walking dead have entered the confessional only to exit alive and well. Isn’t this a proof? We have a God given gift of nearly 2,000 years of unbroken Papal reign. Doesn’t that sound like a proof? We have a Bible that’s been maligned by many and butchered by some. But we’ve still got it, don’t we? And in a world so sick with sin that it makes the light almost impossible to see at times God still makes saints that shine like the Son. But people doubt anyway, regardless of the evidence, despite the proof. If you think about it its enough to make you cry.

Why did Jesus cry? If someone you loved was dead wouldn’t you cry? But we’ve already seen that Lazarus wasn’t really dead but only sleeping. You don’t cry over someone sleeping. But the people who’ve seen the proofs and still don’t believe, the ones murmuring sarcastically about Jesus, while turning a blind eye willingly, were they alive? How could they have been? They were without Christ while he was standing right there in front of them. Jesus saw all of those walking dead, those willingly blind, the people who refused the proofs, the people he loved enough to leave Heaven and die for, and Jesus wept.

Its up to each individual what we do with the poof of God’s Love and Truth. We can make sarcastic remarks about the priesthood because we didn’t like the homily, having had our toes stepped on, while forgetting that this same priesthood has been miraculously ongoing for 2,000 years. We can shun confession because we decide we’re OK without it. After all, don’t we know what’s best for our souls? We can forget all about the examples of Pius XII, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and the ongoing list of martyrs, all proofs of God’s power and love. We can center on Johnny Depp and the wrong Madonna instead. After all, its a popular thing to do, isn’t it? And we can, if we choose to, separate ourselves from the company of Lazarus, who lives, and live with the murmuring dead instead. Its up to us. Its up to us whether Jesus weeps again or not.

Loving Fear

A Rosary Meditation: The Fifth Glorious Mystery, The Coronation.

“I am the mother of fair love, and of fear … ” Sirach 24:24a.

Have you ever noticed just how many verses in the Old Testament fit the Blessed Virgin even though they aren’t a direct reference to her? Its a little hard for me to think this is all accidental or the product of wishful thinking. And I don’t think, even given eternity, we’ll ever really plumb the depths of God’s word. But then that’s no excuse for not trying, is it?

Mary is, and there can’t be any real debate about this, the Queen Mother. Her Son is King of Heaven and Earth, she’s his mother, there’s nothing else she logically could be. Every queen has her coronation, which means Mary’s Coronation is a given. So she IS Queen of Heaven and Earth. And that’s because she’s the Mother of Christ Jesus. So she reigns even now. That we haven’t yet seen this reality makes it no less real. I’ve never seen air molecules either but that doesn’t keep me from breathing.The Mother of Christ, THE Queen. As the Mother of our Lord the above verse from Sirach (I love Sirach) is very fitting. Jesus, being God, is Love. And in that He puts the fear of God in us, via the Holy Spirit, bringing us to conversion we might well think of Him as fear. Not the run and hide sort of fear. But that respectful kind of fear, fearing to offend our most Dearly Beloved. Which helps keep us on the straight and narrow. So its a wholesome fear. There are lots of “fears” or rather kinds of fears. Like the kind I felt the other night when, at the end of the old Vincent Price movie, “The House on Haunted Hill”, which I still watch with relish, Elisha Cook looks into the camera and says, “They’ll be coming for me next. And then … they’ll come for you.” I still get goosebumps at that point. Some fears are good, or fun, like the shiver I feel at the end of that movie. Some aren’t so good, like the unreasoning phobias some people suffer with. But then there’s the fear that’s best, and that’s the fear of God.

Think about the above verse as a message from our Queen Mother. Any good queen, and think here of the various queens down through history that have been rightly declared saints by Christ’s Church, would give her subjects a loving word, wouldn’t she? And that’s what Mary does for us by her example. A loving fear of God. We need to really listen to our Queen.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars … ” Revelation 12:1, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Maybe the sun spoken of here is the Son. And the loving word she shares with us? Is the Loving Word.

… and all that jazz

You know, God gives gifts. Some? Are just for fun. We need that. With fun in mind I share this. Watch the guy with the beard. Now, go buy a kazoo.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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From the Heart

A Rosary Meditation: The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, The Crucifixion.

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them … ‘ ” Luke 23:34a.

Have you ever been slighted? You know, the guy who never payed back that $10 you loaned him. Or the person who borrowed your best pair of sewing scissors and never brought them back. Is it hard to forgive things like that? Well, honestly, yes it can be. Should it be? No, of course not. But a lot of the time it is anyway, isn’t it?

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There have been times when I’d hear myself say those words and know I should cringe. Or I’d read that parable about the ungrateful servant and sadly feel a kinship. And I hate to say this but I don’t think I’m that much different from anyone else. So we all suffer, by whatever degree, from a problem with forgiveness. The good news is that we can learn and grow, which is a big part of our ongoing conversion. So just because we had a problem forgiving the last time? That’s got nothing to do with this time.

The individuals problem with forgiveness can be, and I believe generally is, two fold. It can be really hard to forgive, and it can be just as hard to accept forgiveness. On the one hand the other person isn’t worthy while on the other hand we feel unworthy. You know what? That’s right on both counts because none of us are worthy. And being worthy is about as far removed from the point as the east is from the west. No, its further.

Forgiveness is never about who’s worthy. If it was we’d all be doomed. When Jesus forgave all those involved in his crucifixion he didn’t say, “Father, forgive those that are worthy … ” When Jesus forgave from the cross he forgave the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the crowd that had screamed, “Crucify him!”, the High Priest, and … Everybody that had anything to do with his suffering. That includes you and me. You see, we can learn and grow and become forgiving. But God doesn’t learn or grow, He doesn’t need to. He already knows how to forgive from the Heart. We learn from Him.

So if its not about being worthy of forgiveness what is it about?

“Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just (Think: those who are worthy.), but sinners.” Matthew 9:13, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Forgiveness is always about mercy and never about being worthy. We work out our salvation, this is true. Faith without works is dead. But mercy isn’t earned. If you could earn it, well, it wouldn’t be mercy. It would be your rightful wage. Mercy is a gift that flows from Calvary. And we all know what it was that flowed there. Its mercy that gives us opportunity to work out our salvation. And its mercy that the other person needs from me just like I need it from them and we both need it from God.

P.S. My friend, the one I requested prayer for, came by and they seem to be doing much better. Please keep praying. And for those of you who read “The Saga of the Shrimp” a short while back? I’m waiting on my last two packages to arrive and then … The Saga Continues. 😉

Hide and Seek

A Rosary Meditation: The Fifth Joyful Mystery, The Finding in the Temple.

“And they did not understand the word he spoke to them.” Luke 2:50.

People all over the world are looking for something they think is hidden. They don’t seem to be able to find it. That’s because, well, that’s because …

Jesus was in the Temple taking care of his Father’s business. He was very much out in the open, he was not hidden, he was right where you’d think he would be if you took the time to give it real thought. But in the panic of searching people often don’t take the time to stop and think. They’re to busy looking. But its their vantage point, its where they are while searching, while looking, that’s the real problem. And I’m not talking about Mary and Joseph here. I’m talking about the rest of us, you and me and everybody else in this world. Because we’ve all been in this situation at some time, regardless where we may be now.

People run here and there, looking underneath piles of philosophies as though the truth were hidden there, searching through religions one after another as though the truth somehow got lost in the jumble, and looking inside them selves for answers when that’s where the problem is. Its that God-size hole in each of us that only God can fill. And we look in all the wrong places because He isn’t the one hidden. WE are.

When Adam and Eve sinned what was the first thing they did? They covered themselves with aprons made of leaves to HIDE their nakedness and then they went to HIDE in the bushes. Why can’t people find God? Its because we’re hiding behind bushes made of human philosophies and man made religions while we look rather than stop and think about the situation. Some honest thought would reveal to us that He isn’t hiding, WE are. And He is exactly where He’s ALWAYS been, exactly where He said He would be. But people don’t understand the word He spoke.

” … behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Matthew 28:20b, and, “And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.” Luke 22:19, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … If you’re looking for Jesus, or if you know someone who is, He is not the one in hiding. “God dwells in our midst, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” St. Maximilian Kolbe.