Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Let Him Kiss Me With the Kisses of His Mouth..."

God is so great! Just when we think He is already awesome, He shows us even MORE of His love! We are always left in awe of His Greatness!

We are all the brides of Christ, holding the hand of a groom unknown to us as we walk down the aisle of a magnificent, empty Church. It is just us and this unknown man, in full wedding attire. We make sure to hold the hand of this man, so that it becomes not us who act anymore (our hands are tied! hah!), but this man whose right hand acts for us, and whose left hand guides us around. We cranes our necks to look around the Church with gaping mouths, in awe of the beauty that surrounds us, still unaware of the unknown groom beside us, who guides us, and even carries us at times. And we find no reason to look at him, fascinated rather by the beautiful stucco, the magnificent sculptures and paintings, the glorious altar! Meanwhile, we trust in this man beside us without even looking at him.

Cut to the wedding. The priest says, "you may kiss the bride," and BAM reality hits - and you are now the WIFE of the unknown man beside you. And you turn to him, and realize that He is JESUS! And, all of a sudden, you not only come to see His Face, but you come to know it, and enter into it through the kiss. And, in the moment of that kiss, you focus fully and completely on Your Husband, the Love of your life!!! And the paintings recede into the background, the sculpture falls away as you REALIZE the very source of that beauty in the man whose works you were admiring!! What joy, awe, and gratitude! What an apt analogy for how we all live!

We tend to live our day to day lives so focused at the WORKS of God - the beautiful buildings, beautiful forests, the beauty of nature - and these are all PRAISEWORTHY things!! And we can know these things and come to know God better through these things. But at that moment when we receive God in the Eucharist, when He becomes a PART of us, and we are reminded that we ARE Christ's hands and feet on earth... WHOAH. The only Being that we focus on is CHRIST in our soul, and we receive Him lovingly and contemplatively - He fills us in all the moments of our life with His Soul and Divinity, His Body and Blood. "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth" takes on a WHOLE new meaning in Christ!!! We must ALLOW and PERMIT Christ Himself to kiss us, and remain vulnerable to Him, to kiss BACK with all of our being, to let our knees go weak, our head spin around and get caught up hopelessly (I see it more positively - hopeFULLY :P) in love with Our Lord and Savior, Our Beloved Husband who not only WOULD die for us, but HAS died for us!!! A kiss is a VERY different sign of love than simple happiness at the appearance of beauty - a kiss has a depth that goes far beyond sight. It does not require seeing because it KNOWS. It does not require hearing because it UNDERSTANDS. It has feeling and drive and breath and life!!!! A kiss is alive with the Holy Spirit!

It may be true that a rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but a kiss will never simply be JUST the physical action of kissing. It is the unity of two individuals, a sign of a complete focus on another person, living and breathing with them in that moment. It is a moment of ecstasy and joy at the beauty of God, a moment of complete and utter vulnerability and trust, placing one's whole self at the feet of the beloved. How much more so the "Kiss of Christ" in the Eucharist?? For, if His Church is His Bride, and Mary Our Mother is Christ's new Eve, then we are certainly heirs to the title of "bride of Christ"!!!

And if the kiss is such a powerful metaphor for our relationship with Christ, imagine how much more so it is important to our relationships with other children of Christ! It is not something to be quickly bastardized, but rather something to be held sacred! It looks for the Christ in someone, brings out the Christ in someone, when a kiss is received and given passionately and in His Love. It turns something that may be just a fun fling of a thing into a deeply connecting act that brings us closer to God. And when we don't find God in the kiss, it troubles us deeply, because even if we don't realize it at first, we are looking for LOVE when we kiss. And God is love!!! :) (There is a reason why people - women AND men - are endlessly fascinated by sappy romantic movies in which the main characters finally kiss at the end. Women, take this as license to feel free to be sentimental, girly, and romantic, and expect to be treated like a princess by a man you will love and forgive endlessly.) ;) Our God loves us and wishes us to want Him in the same way that He wants us - fully and completely, no reservations. So our kiss is the love shared back to a God who watches us always with longing and love, with heartfelt patience for our simple "I do," waiting for a glance from our wandering eyes, waiting for the action to prove the steel resolve of our words.

May this day we realize that the entire mystery of the universe, of the Trinity, of our lives and of our God, is summarized in the simplicity of a three letter sentence: God is love, or I love you (take your pick - both represent the Father (God/I), Son (love/you), and Holy Spirit (is/love)). May today our hearts open up to the presence of God, and not only rejoice in the love of the Savior, but return that love back to Him! May we love our God so passionately that our lives become eclipsed by focus on Him! May our hearts speak through our actions, and our actions reflect our hearts full of the love of Christ!!! May our eyes never wander from the source of all Goodness, Glory, Honor, and Praise, Our Lord, Jesus Christ!!!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Laughter really is the best medicine!!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

As if there was any doubt of the joy-filled, gracious life God intends for us, this passage exemplifies His ability to provide! We are to rejoice at all times, because God has sent His Only Son to die and be raised for us to bring us to new life. What is there to be sad about?? We have already been saved, and are loved through death!

Sometimes life feels so complicated, our world's problems seem so complicated and insurmountable - and yet, God has already conquered sin and death - what else is there to fear?! We have only to offer up the rubber-band-ball of problems to God, and He will make for us out of that complicated mess a shining robe of glory!! For, "[we] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us]" (Philippians 4:13).

I had a dream last night in which two monsters that were chasing this group of girls were turned into comical caricatures of themselves when the girls started laughing at them and taking pictures of them. All I could think about when I woke up is how true this is of Satan! We can take two approaches to the evil that surrounds us in our lives: we can either take it to heart, agonize over it, and not allow ourselves to know that God to deal with it in His time; or, we can LAUGH at it, knowing that good has already won the battle over evil, that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," to quote FDR.

Have you ever heard the expression, "if I didn't laugh about it, I would be crying?" It contains more than a small grain of truth. When we trip over something in public or say something embarrassing, we laugh to cover up the awkwardness of the moment. And all of a sudden, the GREAT PUBLIC SHAME of tripping becomes something comical, something that we laugh about and can relate to friends afterward as a FUNNY story. We are blessed in that we do not have to worry about anything with God, because our lives have already been spoken for, and God's heart has already opened itself up in Divine Mercy to all of us!! There is no shame, no embarrassment in Him!

Satan's power in this world comes completely from his own pride. Most people most often sin not because of an intention to fight against God, but rather because it is easier than giving up one's own self-pride, or easier than doing what God wants us to do. But, laughter at oneself is the ultimate sign of humility; that we don't even take ourselves seriously enough to think that anything we do, any sin we commit could be completely harmful in creating the Kingdom of God. God's Love is SO much greater than ourselves that we are offered all the good parts of building the Kingdom of God, without any of the blame for mistakes we make. It's like our entire lives are the bonus section on a test, and all the points we amass are extra from the "100%" God has already given our tests!

If we laugh at the evil around us that tries to draw us into sin, we show confidence in our loving God who has conquered sin and death. We show that sin has no power over us anymore, and that it is laughable, like our own sinful natures. The true people we are shines through in our love of Christ and devotion to Him. Like the Bible says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). We are never far removed from God; we are kept close to Him through the Sacraments - especially with frequent reception of the Eucharist and Confession. We are given every opportunity to draw near to Him - through hardships, through confusion and pain, through happy and joyful times. He is always with us, and we are in Him as His Church.

This is why it is comical to think of a being who is shadow, a being who cannot even touch us, as having power over us. Satan is no more than a fleeting temptation, a vague emptiness and a dangerously evil enemy. But, God has already won the fight. And laughter is the cry of victory over an enemy who would have us become paralyzed with fear. Satan would LOVE to convince us of some bigger, better situation or concept - anything to draw our focus off of God! Do not let him fool you - there is nothing that Satan could ever do to a child of God that God could not forgive! Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus, would have been forgiven had he turned to God and asked forgiveness of Him. Instead, Judas gave into temptation and turned away from God. This is not to say that he should have taken his sin of betrayal lightly and laughed at it, but rather that he could have sought forgiveness had he been humbled enough to realize God's power and greatness.

Now, we should not all go out and think that Satan is comical. He is pure and complete evil, with not even a drop of good, so nobody should ever let their guard down against temptation. But the beauty and light of God shining into the dark corners of our world illuminates all that would otherwise be scary and unknown, and makes it known to us. God's light touches all corners of the earth, and Satan has nowhere to hide. In that vein of thought, it is laughable imagining such a sinister being forced into the light and STILL being DELUDED ENOUGH to pretend to remain in darkness. Because nothing escapes the light of God's Truth.

May today be a time for rejoicing in God and in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, confident in the Word and Truth of God's light! May we always draw nearer and nearer to God through prayer and sacrifice, being molded and shaped into the people we truly are by the constant process of shearing off our sinful nature! May we react to God's sometimes painful working in our lives not with the agony of pain, but rather with the laughter of being relieved of our sins, and of gratitude for God's Goodness and hope in His Glory! May we offer up the tangled web of the problems of the world to our God, with the confidence of knowing that He will fix them in His time! May our hearts always rejoice by focusing on the Goodness of God rather than the absence of good (evil), and may we, like the Virgin Mary, allow Christ into our hearts and souls, where He will reside with us until the end of time!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Parable of the Seed and the Sower!

I read a reflection by St. John Chrysostom today that was GREAT and such a new twist for me on the parable of the seed and the sower:

"Our Lord speaks this parable to encourage his disciples and teach them not to let themselves become demoralized, even if those who welcome the word are fewer than those who waste it. This is how it was for the Master himself who, in spite of knowing the future, never ceased to scatter his seed.

But, you may say, what is the use of scattering it among thorns or on rocks or on the path? If it were a question of a material seed and a material ground then there would be no point. But when it concerns souls and the Word, then it is a wholly praiseworthy act. One would rightly blame a laborer from acting like this: rock cannot become earth, a path cannot but be a path or thorns be thorns. But it is not so in the spiritual domain: rock can become a fertile land; the path can no longer be trampled by the passers-by but turn into a fertile field, the thorns be pulled up to allow the seed to ripen freely. If this were not so, the sower would not have scattered his seed as he did."

We can catch a glimpse then of how important it is to sow seed in areas where we tend to think it will die, because God works miracles in hearts of stone, in hearts whose interior is blocked by thorns! I had always struggled with this parable, because I understood playing the role of the sower - we are always to sow seeds - but, I was terrified of being rocky or thorny or scorched soil!!! I always used to do a self-check and realize that at some point I had been all of these - what if I still was and the Word of God was not reaching deep enough?!?!!

But, thank God for St. John Chrysostom!!! He notes that the Master Gardener cares for His garden well, and tends to every last plant. God patiently weeds the garden of our hearts, builds greenhouses for those plants who cannot survive in the cold, leaves the more hardy plants outside to weather the storms and protect the smaller plants. Every plant has a place designated by God, such that the entire garden is filled! And no two plants are the same!!

God truly knows us to the very core, and can see into the depths of the soil to know how our roots are growing. This parable does not exclude the option of sowing the seed among the thorny or rocky soil - in fact, it requires that this is what we do!! It simply gives us the hope that rocky soil can be turned into good, rich soil, just like water can be changed into wine - all we have to do is say the Word.

And the second that we ask to receive the Word, we will see and understand that God has planted the Word within us all along. The seed has already been planted in our soil - all we have to do is ask God to remove the barriers that make our plot of land unplantable. The seeds will grow by God's care, and all we need to do is give our fiat to allow God to work in us!!!

I was in a class on the "Illuminated Manuscript" the other day, and we were analyzing a two-page illustration of Heaven and Hell. Our professor pointed out that Heaven was a place filled with buildings and taken up by all that God is, whereas Hell was represented as an empty page on which a comical Satan had been drawn. The idea was that Hell represented the absence of all good, whereas Heaven represented the fullness of everything good (God!)!

It is with this analogy that we realize that we are already full to the brim with God's grace, but we can only rejoice inasmuch as we are made aware to the presence of this enormous grace!!! We exist fully and completely as perfect children of God in this moment (nunc coepi - now I begin!); we are completely in union with God (at reception of the Eucharist, we are reminded that we are UNITED TO CHRIST and are graced with the realization - His gift to us - that we ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST on earth!!!). Every day, new weeds may grow in us, new sins may take form, but ultimately, God our Gardener is always watching His plants and caring for us, and if we but say the word, the weeds are removed, leaving even more room for good soil. And if we yield fruit, then we take up bigger plots of land, until we grow a tree big enough to provide shade for smaller plants. God uses everything in the garden. :)

May our today and our every day be a "yes" to God, seeing Him in all that we do! May we realize that God is never in the absence of something, but rather in the fulfillment of something! May we pray not that we receive something, but rather that we gain appreciation for the things we already receive!!! May the only, deepest prayer of our hearts be, like the Blessed Mother, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy Word." May the Word take flesh in us, and may our hearts grow so that we can hold more of the grace that is offered to us at every moment of our lives! And may we live forever in this realization that God is truly good and loves us ALL THE TIME!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Power of Silence...

"Then the LORD said, 'Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.' A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.   When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, 'Elijah, why are you here?'" - 1 Kings 19:11-13

Wow, what a new Elijah we see here - not the prophet of great movements, of lofty thoughts or extensive prophesying, but rather an Elijah of simplicity and littleness.  He is not moved by the majesty of the strong and heavy winds, the destructive capability of the earthquake, or the captivating flames of the fire.  No.  For Elijah, God appears as a tiny little voice, a tiny little question like a mosquito buzzing near his ear: "Elijah, why are you here?"

I mean, I would have been pretty confused.  "I don't really know why I'm here, Lord, isn't that what You're supposed to tell me?!"  But, God only asks us questions to which we already know the answers, which have been imprinted on our hearts.  And that answer is always, "I love you."

Even when we feel numb or unworthy, even when we are in bad moods and treating others badly, even when we ourselves are treated badly, the message written on every heart and soul around the world is "I love you."  It is this message that keeps our world from falling apart in the society that we live in today, that which forms the only thing that matters to us as human beings.  We seek God, we search for Him in lofty emotions, in great thoughts, in powerful and overwhelming senses of love, of charity for others, of happiness.  And yet, the greatness of God is contained in the simple phrase, "I love you."  The greatness of God is contained in a simple piece of bread, and a few drops of wine.  Surely the greatness of God remains with us, even when we do not have the large emotions, the great thoughts, the incredible miracles.  Everything is a miracle with God.

God is not in the earthquakes in Haiti, nor the aftershock - He is in the quiet hope for medicine, food, and clean water, in the quiet and unnoticed click of a mouse when you donate to an aid organization, in the quiet prayers of thousands of the faithful for the lives of their brothers in Christ across the water.  God is not in the overwhelming sense of despair associated with viewing gritty scenes of war, or contemplating the huge extent of social ills in modern American society, or feeling empowered to change the world.  God is in the simple "yes" to waking up to greet the day, to handing over the little that we have to offer Him, such that He can make us great in our littleness, through Christ!  Great things are not born of great people, but rather of a great God who deigned to give great honor to little people. 

We are here on earth not to feel the greatness of despair, but rather to see the greatness of God in the tiniest grain of sand, on a beach filled with grains of sand.  God is here, and God is now, as He will be forevermore!  We don't have to do something great to change the world - all the greatness in the world is contained in a single piece of bread!!!  What a comfort it is, then, knowing that we, too, can contain all the greatness of the world in the simple hope and love that Christ has already written onto our hearts!  That, even when we do not feel it, even when we're in a "funk," or a bad mood, we're still His children, and that there is ALWAYS something to rejoice about: Christ crucified and risen from the dead, and hope everlasting in His promise to love us forever and be with us always!

Like Elijah, we find ourselves on the mountains which God has called us to climb, and we get scared.  Here God is not in the blowing winds, or the sunlit paths, and indeed sometimes the road is very dark, and there is no easy way to the top in sight.  The road remains covered in snow and ice, there is a sheer drop off the side, and we cannot know what lies ahead, but we can most likely assume that it will get more difficult the closer we get to the top.  The climb is treacherous, the road unpaved, our bodies aching from hunger.  But we know that God lies not only just ahead, but with us, and that His voice is a tiny piece of bread in the depths of our hunger, a tiny whisper in the depths of the emptiness inside our souls, a gentle breeze to cool our tired, sweaty, aching bodies.

And this little voice is our manna in the desert, our calm in the storm.  We have no other refuge other than the rock that is Our God, and what a great God He is, that He can not only fit into a tiny child, but also into a tiny piece of bread, a tiny breeze, and the gentlest whisperings of our otherwise empty soul!!!

In Christ through Mary,
Christina :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Patient Trust in the Slow Work of God

Found this prayer online after it was recommended to me that I read it - it's SO GOOD! :)

"Patient Trust in the Slow Work of God"

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is a lot of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas and mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Discernment of spirits and the grace of God

Have there ever been times in your life when you have felt a little off-kilter?  As though there was something just not right?  Where you knew something was wrong, but you couldn't place your finger on it?  Welcome to the need for discernment of spirits in everyday life.

Life is very confusing.  Things come and go constantly, emotions change, people move into and out of our lives, but the ONE constant that we have is God.  He is always there, loving and guiding us.  So, He is a GREAT Ruler (in more than one sense of the word!) by which to judge what is revealed to us during the course of our walks in Faith!

God is a gentleman.  He reveals things gradually and with purpose, without any rush whatsoever.  Our society is always pushing the idea of efficiency, the idea that we need to get everything done TODAY, THIS HOUR, THIS SECOND!  What a hectic way to live!  God's Will for us is so great, that He cannot allow it to be built in a second!  We need longer to grow in Faith, to grow accustomed to God's Love for us, and we can spend a lifetime attempting to understand His Love, and never even getting close to understanding It.

But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  The Love we are given and offered freely on a daily basis IS our discernment of spirits - it is what causes this world to function, what causes grace to be offered to each one of us every day, what heals us, what defends us, what sustains us.  And yet, we often choose to ignore this Love!!!  How are we to know what is truly right and wrong unless we think about it, "keeping all these things in our heart" as Mary did?  How are we to know what path in life to take unless we shy away from impulsive action and take the time to truly dissect our own motives for all that we do, and God's Divine Providence?  How are we to know that things that do not have DIRECTLY bad consequences may very well be sinful actions?  Through PRAYER and DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS.

And this prayer cannot ever cease.  Our lives are filled with stimuli - it exists in the world all around us.  We hear things that strike us, see things that are markedly profound somehow, understand things that are meant only for us to understand at that moment; all little signs to us that God loves us.  But, it is SO important to always be thinking about these little things, never ceasing in our meditation, prayer, and praise of God!  These are the things that will confirm and direct our decisions, answer our prayers!  These are the things that God has sent us because we NEED them, not because we WANT them.  Sometimes the discrepancy between the two types of items (NEEDS vs. WANTS) requires a lot of thought in order to bridge the gap.  And bridge the gap we must, because if we don't, we will leave God's answer to our prayers unacknowledged and unloved - and God is SO worthy of all our love!!!

Just think: if I prayed today that I wanted to see my Mom, and received a letter from my close aunt who lives on Main Street, USA telling me that she was coming to visit and needed a place to stay, I might be upset that God hadn't answered my prayers.  I might be so busy focused on the thought that I NEED to see my MOTHER in PARTICULAR in order for my prayers to be answered, that I miss the opportunity God is giving me to receive a loving relative into my home!  And perhaps all I was seeking all along, the truest and deepest desire of my heart at that moment, in wanting to see my Mom, was simply to want to love and be loved in return by someone that I knew would love me with the love of a mother.  Perhaps my aunt had been childless for a really long time, and was looking to love in the same way that I sought to be loved.  Wouldn't her visit simply be perfection in the light of God's understanding of the situation?  It fits SO well, but this understanding would not be possible without prayer and thought, and the acceptance of the Grace and Love of God!  And isn't that exactly what we all desire?  So, how can we go wrong with God's Will for us?!?!

So many people have been quoted talking about how happiness is not wanting much and having little, but rather wanting little, and therefore having much.  How much more so true is this with God!  Life is not about gaining all the things we think that WE want, but rather giving up all that we think we want to God's discernment, trusting that His Judgment will provide for us much better than we ourselves can!  After all, He's already got us beat on knowing the deepest desires of our hearts and souls, which is something that I don't think many people can say they know about themselves!  He knows who we are better than we do.  Our lives are to be spent conforming our temporary wills to His Eternal Will for us - and how blessed with grace we will be when our hearts shine with the understanding of how He is working in our lives!!!

Dearest, closest Lord, the one who comes to us as a Tiny Child so that we might understand your love for us and desire to be among us, please teach us in your ways!  Do not allow us to remain secluded in our own understanding of life, of You, of what you are capable of!  Allow us to see by the light of Faith, to know in the depths of our hearts lit only by trust in you!  This is all we need!  Our hearts are hungry to know, and to understand!  Help us to seek understanding only by Your Grace, and grant us the wisdom of discernment of spirits, that we may know Your Will!  Grant this Grace to all around us, that the hearts and souls of the community might be ignited by the passion of your Spirit, and be ready to do Your Will joyfully and with all the self-giving that you created them for!  May our hearts serve as the altar on which the Eucharist may shine, and may the light of Christ permeate our existence fully, so we can be assured that, like John the Baptist, "He must increase," and "we must decrease."  May we live in the joyful hope of the completion of Your Will every day, and may we keep our eyes ever focused on you as we patiently wait, that Your Will may be done in the perfection of Your Time!

Love in Christ through Mary,
Christina :)