Saturday, February 9, 2013

Smash into You

Happy New Year, folks!  I hope you have been enjoying what has been an incredible year so far!

I recently heard the song "Smash into You," which is a Beyonce cover of a Jon McLaughlin song.  The lyrics are breathtaking:

"And I'm soaked in your love / And love was right in my path, in my grasp / And me and you belong / Oh, I wanna run, smash into you / I'm willing to run, smash into you."

Talk about a pop song reflecting Christ's love!!!  Jesus's love, poured out for us literally in His Precious Blood, soaks us.  It has been held out to us for the entirety of our lives, from the moment of our formation by God.  He is forever in our paths, and He belongs to us.  His death is ours, and it was made for us, for our salvation.  And our hearts burn with the desire to be united with Him.

Ever feel that pang in your chest, that something feels like it is missing?  Like you are working your hardest, but not getting anything accomplished?  Like you are not enough, no matter what you do?  Like there is some void that work and family and rest and achievement cannot fill?  That is the space made by God, for God - because, simply, nothing else will do.

Our willingness to run into God has to come from us, but it is a product of grace.  If we ask for trust in Him, if we ask for His direction and purpose, He won't hesitate to give it to us.

But He doesn't want a weak press of ourselves against Him.  He doesn't want a simple feel-good hug.  No.  What does any lover desire?  TOTAL, COMPLETE, UTTER UNITY.  We do not satisfy the desire of our hearts to be completely unified with Him, if we do not freely run and SMASH into God, co-mingling our very existence with His own.  If we are at all hesitant, we do ourselves and Our God a disservice.

Today, SMASH into Christ.  Take all that He has to offer - sufferings, realization of our own failings, weakness, vulnerability, grace - and trust that, in being united with Him, His Glory will become your own.  His strength will clothe you in dignity, and your love will be pleasing to Him (Proverbs 31:25).  Only then can we realize the full potential of God's grace in our lives, and fall wholly and entirely in love with Him!

Monday, December 31, 2012

FOCUS Reflection on Perfectionism

Something to keep in mind when making all those New Year's Resolutions: we are human be-ings, not human do-ings.  God loves us just as we are, doing His Will doesn't make Him love us any more - it just allows us to thank HIM for His love, and show our love for Him!!!  Let's bask in the love of a Savior who cares not if we're perfect, and came to save us as sinners... He came to save SINNERS, after all!

Have a joyous and blessed New Year!,
Christina :)

Our Tiny Savior...

"It is a Little One that is given to us, yet in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead."
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Truly the smallest of things contain the most profound mysteries!!! God manages to fit all of Himself into a tiny baby. He confines Himself to the limitation of our bodies each Sunday at Mass when we receive Him through the Eucharist. God is not restricted by our apparent smallness and limitation, for with God all things are possible!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wisdom from Padre Pio about Christmas...

"All the feasts of the Church are beautiful.  Easter, yes, is glorification but Christmas has a tenderness, a child-like sweetness that completely captivates my heart." - St. Padre Pio

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Of Life and Men...

Merry Christmas to all!  Our Savior has come to us, a tiny infant, weak and helpless, and rests in a small manger in Bethlehem!  He will one day grow into a man who will save us all by conquering death.  He will give His life for us at Easter, and the Church will rejoice in what is our finest hour.  He will die for us to give us life.

But, what of His living for us to give us life?  What of those years of fidelity paid to humanity by His daily chores, His mother's and father's teaching, His hours of carpentry work and missionary work?  What of this Christ?

I often wondered growing up why I loved Christmas the most out of any Catholic holiday.  It was such a joyous time of year, when Santa would come, when the world felt somewhat of a more bearable and happy place, and people were more giving, more caring, more sharing of what little they had.  It was a magical time.  Now that I am older, my Christmas to-do list has gotten longer, my wintertime bank account has gotten smaller, and my heart has grown much bigger by the time Christmas rolls around.  The need for Christ is no longer buried among excited anticipation for gifts from Santa.  It is front and foremost in my mind - the gift of His life; the gift of His coming and sharing with us a humble existence like our own.

Far too often we focus on the ultimate passion of Christ - which, by no means, is to be underestimated in its importance and value!  But, what about the LIFE of Jesus?  Every day, He died a thousand deaths.  Crying out in screams for His mother when He was cold, or tired, or hungry, or wet.  Our GOD, an infinite being, crying out in the night for the most basic needs of His feeble human existence!  He was completely and utterly dependent, as a child, on our care for Him.  He was HUMAN.  This fact often escapes me so much!!  I have no problem imagining Christ's perfection and divinity, yet it is so puzzling to me that his HUMANITY is so ever-present!  It astounds me every time, that this God of ours would deign not only to rescue us from sin, but to become ONE of us; so DESPERATE was His desire for love freely given from us!

God LIVED for us, and He did this even before He died for us!  In a certain sense, living a thousand deaths each day is somewhat of a more astounding existence than simply dying in one's earthly life.  Think about marriage, and how every day a spouse dies to his or her own wishes.  It is difficult stuff.  A little part of that person's self dies each day, to become a new and better self - the self that God intended that person to be - without ever losing the essence of who he or she is.  The French use the phrase "le petit mort" ("the little death") to talk about those moments that stop our heart and even physically hurt and touch us, such as those that come after finishing a breathtaking piece of literature, during orgasm, or while listening to a heart- and soul-stirring symphony.  The small part of us inside that dies each time we encounter transcendent beauty and love, the melancholic yearning and reaching out for God, is the "petit mort" that makes life worth living.  When we are humbled, when we are shamed and ridiculed - in essence, any time we suffer - we are LIVING in little deaths to self.

This process of dying to self is like a statue being carved by Michelangelo - bit by bit, as he carves into the block of stone, more and more of the statue is revealed - the statue awaiting discovery inside the cold and shapeless form of marble - until David himself is practically living and breathing before you.  Michelangelo himself said that, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."  We are all constantly seeking to chip away at our imperfections, dying a thousand deaths to self each day, to discover who our true self is, already created by God.  Our God deigned to allow His own Self to be limited to the form of a human being, a human body.  As a human being, He prayed and worked and cried and laughed just like us, to discover His Father's Will in all around Him.  Truly magnificent, that He lived even as we do, except for sin!

This daily martyrdom, the kind that nobody knows enough to even speak about, is truly the beauty of Christ's coming at Christmas.  For He chose to live among us, that the Word might become FLESH.  This was Christ's victory over LIFE, even before His victory over death!  What does death matter, when Christ has already gained victory over LIFE?  The hope of generations, already born of woman by God?  He has already died a thousand times to Himself, even at the angel's very announcement of His conception to Mary.  "For nothing will be impossible for God."  (Luke 1:37).  Truly, we hail the Favored One, for the Lord IS with her, and shared with all of us, from the moment of his conception in her womb.  His greatness made small, His life made accessible to all of us throughout history.  Blessed be those whose eyes and ears and hearts and minds are open to the one who lives a divinely human life, completely unbeknownst to those around Him!  This is why Christ taught us to love the poor - He lives with them in their poverty and hiddenness.  His gift to us begins with His birth at Christmas, and ends with His death on the cross... but first, He teaches us to truly LIVE.  When we truly live, we see our earthly death as another small chip in the marble, revealing our true selves and preparing us for the perfect love that we shall be able to give in Heaven.

Already, we had been saved, for Christ came to do the Will of His Father... the hope of our generations rested on the "yes" of a young woman, whose reliance on the Holy Spirit gave life to Our Lord.  At that moment, we knew that humanity had been saved: a star ignited in the sky, Our Little Savior had been born.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gardening our Souls, Part 2145

I know what you're thinking.  We have all heard or read about man's fall in the Garden of Eden: this BEAUTIFUL paradise where every beautiful thing grew.  And then, Eve and Adam, lushes that they were, had to go mess it up.  Tragic.  Pitiful.  But it's OUR story.  We were left with a legacy of the garden - and the legacy of sin.

That is, until Christ came along, and went to another garden.  This one was called the Garden of Gethsemane, and here Christ laid His life down to redeem His Bride from sin.  He gave His life that He might pay for our sins, and give us eternal life.  He transformed what we previously associated with a lush set of tragic characters to a mystery of love that we have carried with us for over 2,000 years.  The Garden again became a place of purest beauty and peace, untainted by sin.

Given how much God loved the world (so much so that He sent his ONLY SON to die for us), it seems rather fitting that this garden is the perfect analogy for the human soul.  Gardens are things that we tend to, things that we plant beautiful flowers or delicious fruits and vegetables in.  They require care and nurturing, weeding and pruning, and a lot of attention.  Without attention, they quickly become overrun and underappreciated, and fill with plants that choke and kill all gently blossoming plants.

Christ Himself even used a garden analogy when referring to the human soul.  He said that God's Word would fall sometimes on rocky soil, sometimes on soil where weeds and thorns would grow, and sometimes on good soil.  We all must take care that we have prepared good soil for God's Word to take root and grow strong, and that often involves weeding out other words, other seeds, and other plants that threaten to strangle our fragile virtues.

The other day, as I was praying, I thought of how blackened and dead much of my heart must be due to sin. I lamented this to God, wondering why He would choose such an imperfect vessel to carry out His works and live out His love.  The response I received went back to the garden, where Christ is waiting all along.  God cuts out the bad parts of our hearts, the deadened parts, and works them into the soil of our souls, so that it fertilizes the growth of the new, good plants that are growing.  It is His beautiful way of taking our faults, doubts, sins, and pasts and casting them into the furnace of His love, where all things are made new.  Even the parts of us that are bad foster new life in Christ - when is there ever reason NOT to rejoice?

AND, that's not even the best part - no, far from it!  When we recognize and allow God to cut out the parts of our hearts that are blackened from sin, God can take those parts and use them to enrich the soil of OTHER gardens, as well!  The souls of our friends and family benefit from our pasts, our imperfections, and our struggles.  God truly makes all things new, even when our failings seem to get in the way!  It really is true that, "now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1.  In fact, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39.  Whoah - suddenly our sins don't seem so mountainous that they can block out God's mercy.  Far from it.  Rather, the mountain of manure that is our sin is spread out into our gardens by Christ, who cares for us and tends to our soul like a master gardener, with the utmost care.  The bigger the pile of manure, the more God wants to enrich the soil with it.  (For an example of this kind of super-enrichment, look to St. Augustine).

We are INSEPARABLE from Christ, just as roots stretch toward the ground, and leaves reach up to the sun, and flowers burst from buds.  We need only be sure to care for the plants that God has given us, to nurture the little garden which He watches over, that we might create a little beauty in our corner of the world.  The rest is up to God.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Beautiful Letdown

We have all felt the feeling before.  We end the day, tired, disappointed in ourselves, wishing we had done or could have done more (or perhaps both).  There is an emptiness that never seems filled, that hole we keep open for our unfulfilled expectations for our frail, human selves.  We are an impossibly hard to please bunch!

And yet, we are all a Beautiful Letdown.  Nothing that we ever do will be ENOUGH - and the fact that we are dissatisfied with ourselves is an indication of how much we need Christ.  We are always searching for something MORE.  And that MORE must always come from Christ's abilities, NOT our own abilities!

So often we find reasons to be disappointed in ourselves, because we don't meet our own expectations.  What about the expectations of Christ?  What about the things that He wishes us to accomplish with our days, and what about His knowledge of our weaknesses, our failings, the things that we hold onto and the things we so easily let slide?  We are children of God, and as children of God, we must sacrifice our own pride and expectations in order to accomplish the greatness He has planned for us.

To illustrate this point, I want to tell you the story of a young boy you might know.  He grew up in Poland during a time of political turmoil, and he loved Christ with all his heart.  He loved football, and he even dabbled briefly in the field of library science and theatre, working as a playwright.  But he loved Christ more than even all this, and felt a call to the priesthood.  This little boy could have become a football player, or a writer, or a librarian, but he followed God's call to something I'm sure he felt was much bigger than himself.  This little boy was Karol Jozef Wojtyla, and would later become Pope John Paul II.  How would the world be different if he had instead held onto the expectations he had for himself, and pursued a career as a football player, or a librarian?

We are all Beautiful Letdowns, at one point or another.  Rather than focusing on how we have failed to be what we expect ourselves to be, let us focus on how we are accomplishing what God intends for us to be.  It may very well be that the "Letdown" we see in the mirror is God's beloved child, accomplishing His will with an artful grace, even though we may not realize it.