Luke 23:34

His arms outstretched on the wooden beam;

The Father's will to see it through.

In the soldiers' eyes an evil gleam,

Driving the nails into his hands - one, then two.

__________________

No sooner the third nail pierced his feet,

Then lifted up towards the sky.

The malice of man He did there meet,

But forgiveness was his cry.

______________________

"They know not what they do," He said,

As taunts and curses increased.

Though most of the crowd wished him dead,

He showed mercy to the least.

________________________

A model of love He gave that day

to all men on the earth.

Forgivness and hope - a better way,

Abundant life; full of mirth.

_______________________

Too little we hear His cry today

in this age of blame and scorn.

"Remove that speck!" is easier to say

Than confronting the evil I've born.

_________________________

Though I cannot read another's heart,

My own faults I know deep within.

So I'll echo His cry and seek a new start;

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned."

God love you.

Chaos seems to reign

Life nothing but pain

Existence without meaning

Happiness always fleeting

No hope or point at all

Eat and drink today, then wait for death to call.

__________

Order created by gift

A universe He did uplift 

Made man in His image and likeness

So that all might return to His highness 

Reason and intellect instilled

But the greatest gift was free will.

__________

Pride, anger, lust and envy

All the evil deep within me

Demons call with tempting lies:

"He doesn't love you, why even try?"

"Don't let Him rule you with an iron rod

Give into your passions; be your own god."

__________

But from a land called Galilee

Came the Son born to hang on a tree

To repair the rupture caused by sin

Reconciling the Father to all men

Gave His body and blood to pay an infinite debt

The victory is won; the table set.

__________

Still the darkness remains deep within our hearts

Since the Garden of Eden, the devil plays his part

A sickness in the soul; gains met with loss

Symptoms always worsen when eyes are off the Cross

The cares of this world blot out the rays of light

Many turn their backs; lose the will to fight.

__________

So "come to me" He says, "and I will give you rest"

"Pick up your cross and follow me towards that rocky crest"

"I cannot promise you leisure, or a life absent pain"

"But the suffering I endured merits your eternal gain"

"Have no fear my child, I'm present here and now"

"Upon the altar; a tiny Host; My love cannot be bound."

 

 

God love you.

 

 

 

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  (Matthew 10:2-4)

Tomorrow begins the Holy Triduum with the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper.  Certainly, our focus remains on the Lord and his institution of the Eucharist, the Mass, and Holy Orders.  But let us not forget those twelve men who sat down with Him that night to eat the Passover.  Over the past three years, they had seen the blind given sight, the lame made to walk, even the dead rise again.  Some had seen Jesus transfigured in glory.  All had seen him walk on water.  Most, if not all, from the very first moment they saw Jesus and heard his voice, gave up everything they had known in order to follow Him.  Yet despite all they had seen and experienced as the closest friends of the Christ, they still were not prepared for the horrific events to begin later that night when one of their own would betray their Master.

And, in some respects, that does not surprise us.  For while the Gospels give us more information and about some apostles and much less, if anything, about others, we see how, collectively, they often failed to understand everything Jesus was telling and teaching them.  In this regard, it can be easy for us to view them through a critical lens, wanting to hold them to a somewhat higher standard than ourselves because they walked and talked with our Lord--in the flesh--every day.  But doing so forgets that these were ordinary human beings like you and me.  More importantly, it overlooks that they were sinners in need of a savior, just like us.

In fact, if we look closely, I think we can see ourselves in them--through their very own words.  I choose here Peter, the impetuous "leader" of the apostles (always named first in the Gospels) upon whom Jesus founded His Church and gave the keys of the Kingdom; Thomas, often called "doubting"; and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved" and author of the fourth Gospel.  For the purpose of this exercise, certainly other apostles could be chosen, but the Gospels put more words on the lips of these three (together with more information about them) than most others.

So, as we prepare for the Triduum and the glorious coming of Easter, let us put the words of these three apostles into own mouths and place their actions into our own lives.  Perhaps we are not so very different from them after all:

  • Have you ever cried out, like Peter, "Lord, save me!" as you began to sink in the tumultuous waters of this life, asking Jesus to reach out catch you after you tried walking out toward Him?   (Matthew 14:28-32)
  • Or maybe, during times of stress and confusion in your life, you've said to Jesus "Lord, [I] do not know where you are going; how can [I] know the way?"  (John 14:5-7)
  • Nevertheless, during times of great spiritual consolation, or simply after Jesus is made present on the altar during Mass, you've no doubt cried out like John, "It is the Lord!" (John 21:7)
  • And during those mountaintop moments, I bet, like Peter, you've said "Lord, it is well that we are here," wanting to pitch your tent on that mountain and stay there with Jesus forever.  (Matthew 17:4)  During those times, you confidently declare with Peter, "I will never fall away." (Matthew 26:33)
  • But such highs sometimes seem all too brief, and in darker moments of despair, perhaps related to the death of a loved one, maybe you've said, like Thomas, "let us go also, that we may die with him."  (John 11:16)
  • Or instead of humbly asking for God's will to be done, have you demanded of Jesus, like John (and his brother James), "Teacher, [I] want you to do for [me] whatever [I] ask of you," seeking some type of material comfort, power or prestige?  (Mark 10:35-37)
  • Perhaps, during severe times of doubt and testing, you longed for--if not demanded--physical proof of faith in Christ, saying, like Thomas, "unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."  (John 20:25)
  • Or, even worse, in order to avoid the ridicule of others, or just to get along with the world, maybe you've denied Jesus in words or actions, saying multiple times like Peter "I do not know the man!" (Matthew 26:72-74)
  • But, also like Peter, you know of our Lord's unfathomable mercy, and after weeping bitterly over your sins, you've approached the great sacrament of reconciliation, saying with Peter "I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8); wash "not my feet only, but also my hands and my head."  (John 13:9)
  • And then, washed clean by the blood of Christ, you see things anew, and cry out with Thomas "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28-29)
  • Restored to a state of grace, you've no doubt stood beneath the Cross on Good Friday like John, your arms wrapped around the Blessed Virgin Mary, taking her into the home of your heart, as you hear Jesus exclaim "Behold, your mother!"  (John 19:27)
  • And having seen Christ's love poured out on the Cross, you say Him, like Peter, over and over again, Lord, "you know that I love you."  (John 21:15-17)
  • Finally, when all is said and done, when you've come to that realization that nothing in this world can fill that hole in your heart, you've fallen on your knees and said "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God!"  (John 6:68-69)

Yes, I think there's some Peter, Thomas and John in all of us.  At least I know there is in me.

Saints Peter, Thomas and John, pray for us!

God love you.

We all experience darkness at some point in our lives.  But what comes after that darkness--how we choose to respond to it--usually determines the course of our earthly lives and beyond.  Just as God gives us small foretastes of heaven from time to time in order to remind us that this world is not our true home, so He allows us to suffer desolation when we separate ourselves from him through sin: the darkness of Hell.

I've been reading the book of Exodus as part of my Lenten journey this year.  As is often the case with Sacred Scripture, the typology, symbolism and foreshadowing of Christ and the New Covenant contained within the Exodus story has been truly eye-opening.  Christ as the new Moses, the slavery of the Israelites v. the slavery of sin, and the parting of the Red Sea as a type of Baptism are just a few examples that come to mind.  Yet one short passage in Chapter 10 has spoken to me more than any other so far: the plague of darkness.  Recall that God--working through Moses and Aaron--had sent eight plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians--none of which had yet convinced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.  Pharaoh's heart remained hardened.  For the ninth plague, "the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch our your hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.'"  (Exodus 10:21)  Then "there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days."  (10:22-23)

A darkness to be felt - the words literally jumped off the page at me the first time I read them.  As I prayed and meditated on the passage, it struck me how well these words described all those times in my life when I've been away from God.  I can vividly recall occasions where this "thick darkness" consumed me; a darkness felt in the very depths of the soul.  Even more, this darkness can be so pervasive that it causes us to lose sight of God and prevents us from seeing the needs of others in our life.  It can be so all-consuming that we lose the desire and ability to "rise from [our] place," pick up our cross, and follow Christ once more.

Yet even in the darkness, God never abandons us.  Because His light--the light of Christ--"shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:5) No matter how thick the darkness may be or how deeply it is felt, the Light will always break through if we but open our eyes a little to see it.  The Light may seem distant; the rays may be tiny at first.  But inevitably, at some point, God opens the curtains to the darkened intellect of our minds, calling us to Himself,  reminding us of His love, mercy and forgiveness.

Of course, how we choose to respond to the darkness--and the eventual cracks of Light--remains totally up to us.  Although the plague of darkness initially caused Pharaoh to relent and let the Israelites go, he quickly changed his mind; his heart hardening when he learned that the Lord also demanded that he let the Israelites take their "flocks and herds" with them.  (Exodus 10:24-28)  "Get away from me," he said to Moses (10:28), but really he was saying this to God.  For as miserable as the darkness was, Pharaoh preferred it over the will of God.  "[T]he light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."  (John 3:19-20)  And so it is with  us sometimes.  Perhaps we've lived in darkness so long that our eyes have become used to it, fooling us into to believing that we can actually see reality.  In that condition, the Light is a shock to the senses, and--like coming out of a darkened theater into the sunlight--we cover our eyes and curse the illumination.  Or, sometimes, as appealing as the Light may be initially, there is something we are unwilling to give up--the "flocks and herds" representing the pet sins in our lives that the Evil One has convinced us we cannot live without.  So we retreat back into the familiarity and false comfort of the darkness.

It does not have to be so.  Jesus tell us: "I am the light o the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 8:12) As much as we yearn for this light of life--for deliverance from the darkness--Jesus desires to give it to us even more.  And no matter how many times we turn him away, shutting our eyes to the Light and returning to the darkness, he will never stop seeking to shine His Light upon us.  The painting above illustrates this truth as well as anything I've ever seen.  It sits on my desk at work, and sometimes I feel like I could gaze upon it for hours.  Notice how Jesus appears to be in a darkened forest (or perhaps a garden) as he approaches a wooden door, carrying the Light he seeks to give all men.  The door has not been opened for some time, evidenced by the growth of brush and brambles over and about it.  Gently, he knocks on the door.  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him . . ."  (Revelation 3:20) "Open the door or your heart to me," He says, "you have been in darkness long enough.  Don't you realize that I too suffered the darkness when I walked this earth?"  Indeed, though He was without sin, Jesus experienced the agony of the effects it, taking on the sins (past, present and future) of the entire world into his very being--a darkness felt so much that he sweated drops of blood.  (Luke 22:44) We have a Savior who knows what true darkness is; a Savior who conquered that same darkness of sin and death the Cross.

St. Augustine wrote: "[O]nce a man cries out from the depths, he rises because his very cry will not suffer him to be at the bottom for long."  So as we approach the end of Lent and the start of Holy Week, let us cry out to God and allow Him to raise us out of the depths of darkness.  For He intended from the beginning of creation for us all to be "sons of light and sons of day . . . not of the night or of darkness."  (1 Thessalonians 5:5)  And then, on that glorious Easter morning, may we all bathe anew in the Light of His Resurrection.

God love you.

Happy Lent!  Here is a short poem I composed, reflecting on the purpose for which God made us, and the means he gives us to get there--Himself!  I pray it speaks to you in some small way.

Why, O God?  Why am I here?

I need not exist; I know that for sure

Yet I never seem to have a heart that is pure

I fall short of your glory, succumb to my fear.


Before you created me, this world spun around

Men came and went--some lost, others found

And so it will be, long after I am gone

Memories will fade, dawn after dawn.


But for now I am a pilgrim on this journey called life

None of the stops on the way fully satisfy my heart

As if a small piece has been cut out with a knife

And the hole left behind slowly tears me apart.


Many long years, this hole have I tried to fill

For that purpose, the world offers no shortage of dirt

Yet the more shoveled in only increases the hurt

My heart was meant for more than vain glory and a cheap thrill


But lo, in the darkness, I saw a great light

And heard a small voice, as I trembled with fright

What was said is quite ancient, yet made present again and again:

"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."


O Jesus, my Dear Savior, fill my heart with a small piece of Yours 

At last I know what makes my heart full

The love from this Sacrament, Your divine life it outpours

Until I am home at the heavenly banquet, to which all men You pull.

God love you.

 

Readings for Saturday (morning) of the Fourth Week in Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalms 89; Luke 1:67-79

" . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness . . . " Luke 1:79

Today is the last day of Advent before we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity tonight and tomorrow.  We end the Advent season with Zechariah's prophecy after the birth of John the Baptist and the coming birth of Christ.  Last Christmas Eve, I wrote a reflection on Zechariah's beautiful words that I thought I would share here again.  I hope and pray that in some small way, my reflections over the past four weeks have brought you closer to our Lord and Savior.  May His light shine on you and your family this Christmas.  Merry Christmas Eve, and God love you.

Let His Light Shine Upon You 3 Comments

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I'm often amazed how Sacred Scripture speaks to us in new and different ways each time we read it, even if it is a passage we are familiar with or have read countless times before.  I had this experience recently when reading St. Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist. (Luke 1:57-80)  Recall that the angel Gabriel had visited John's father, Zechariah, to announce to him that his wife, Elizabeth--advanced in years and no longer able to have children--would bear a son "filled with the Holy Spirit" to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord."  (Luke 1:5-17)  But Zechariah did not believe the angel's words, and therefore was struck mute until John's birth. (Luke 1:18-20)

Eight days after Elizabeth gave birth to John, they took him to the temple to be circumcised.  (Luke 1:59)  After writing on a tablet that the baby would be named John, immediately Zechariah's "mouth was opened and his tongue loosened."  (Luke 1:64)  He then speaks what we now call the "canticle of Zechariah," prophesying about the coming Messiah and John's role in preparing His way.  The following passage repeatedly jumps off the page at me:

""[T]hrough the merciful compassion of our God . . . a dawning from on high will visit us, to shine light on those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet onto the path of peace." (Luke 1:78-79)

More beautiful or poignant words have never been spoken to foretell the ultimate event in all of human history--God becoming man and entering the world so as to die for our salvation.  Only a God with unfathomable "merciful compassion" would humble himself to the point of taking human flesh and "become[] obedient to death, even death on a cross."  (Philippians 2:8) But come He did on a cold December night almost 2015 years ago, splitting time into.  Though He came as a helpless babe born in a cave,  the dawning light he would shine on the world sitting in darkness could not be contained, allowing each of us the chance to become partaker's in God's divine nature.  "God became a man so that following a man--something you are able to do--you might reach God, which was formerly impossible to you."  (St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 134, 5)

As the song we often sing at Mass during Advent proclaims: "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee O Israel."  And rejoice we should, for He comes to each one of us to "guide our feet on the path of peace." The path that leads to true joy on this earth, and the path that leads us to everlasting life with Him.  But we first must be willing to stand in His light and accept this great gift--bright and painful to our senses as it may at first be.   The Son provides no illumination to those who prefer to remain in the darkness.    Although standing in His light exposes our weakness, our sin, our humanity, it allows us to step out of the "shadow of death."  Indeed, through Jesus, "[d]eath is swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

If you are a parent, you know the indescribable joy you experience in watching your children open their gifts on Christmas morning.  Consider then, for a moment, the joy God feels when one of his children opens, and accepts, the gift of His Son, and he or she allows His light to shine upon them.  So, as Advent draws to a close, and we anxiously await the birth of our Lord tomorrow night, I pray that you will step out and fully bask in Jesus's shining light, and in so doing, become "the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)  I leave you with these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

"God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him."

Readings for Friday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalms 25; Luke 1:57-66

"Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long."  Psalms 25:4-5

This portion of today's responsorial Psalm perfectly summarizes where I hope we all are on this last full day of Advent. We know the God of our salvation becomes man tomorrow night.  While waiting for His glorious coming, we have sought to better know His ways and His paths, for they are very different from ours.  We have sought His truth and for Him to teach us.  We wait for Him only one more long day.  Let us pray this prayer of the Psalmist together with joyous anticipation.  O come, O come Emmanuel.

God love you.

 

Readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week in Advent: 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-8; Luke 46-56

" . . . he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts . . . " Luke 1:51

Today we hear the beautiful words of Mary's Magnificat, spoken when she visited Elizabeth after the Annunciation.  So much can--and has--been written over the centuries about Mary's prayerful proclamation.  For some reason, as a I read and reflected on the Magnificat this morning, her statement about God scattering the proud "in the imagination of their hearts" stood out to me more than it has in the past.

As Christians, most of us realize that pride is a capital sin; that it can cut us off from divine truth; and that it is the opposite of humility--the disposition of heart God call us all to have.  Mary's words certainly encapsulate all of these realities.  But pride can manifest itself in many ways, including despair.  For when we despair, we fail to trust in God and His promises, pridefully losing hope in our personal salvation from God.  (CCC ¶ 2091)  And sadly, for some, these feelings of despair can become more focused or exacerbated during this time of year; the struggles of everyday life reminding us that things aren't quite what they should be.

As Mary tells us, however, this prideful despair reigns only in the "imagination of our hearts," having no basis in reality.  Although our problems may be real, they should never cause us to despair and lose hope, for God fills "the hungry--[us]--with good things."  More importantly, "neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39)  So as Advent comes to a close, cling to this promise and never despair.  And with Mary, proclaim "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"

God love you.

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Readings for Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Song of Solomon 2:8-14; Psalms 33; Luke 1:39-45

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage." Psalms 33:12

Out of all the peoples and nations on earth, God chose Israel through whom he would reveal Himself and begin the arc of salvation history.  Yet, as we read in the Old Testament, time and time again--and despite the wondrous things He had done for them--the Israelites turned their back on God and lost their way. Still, God remained faithful to his promises, always welcoming them back with mercy and compassion, blessing the nation He had chosen.

Our nation is in great need of blessing today.  Like the Israelites of old, this country has turned its back on God and lost its way in so many respects.  Sin, hatred and division seem to rule the day.  But it wasn't so different a little over two thousand years ago.  Despite everything Israel had done wrong over the centuries, God still brought forth his Son not only to redeem Israel, but the entire human race.  That hope and chance for redemption remains today for this nation and every single one of us.  As Advent winds down, pray that God will bless our nation, and that as a whole, we will return to Him, falling down on our knees to worship the King of Kings.

God love you.

 

 

Readings for Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Luke 1:26-38

"And the angel departed from her."  Luke 1:38

Today we once again hear the Annunciation as recounted in St. Luke's gospel.  It strikes me how abruptly the story ends.  Mary proclaims her fiat--be it done to me according to your word--and then, almost as soon as he appeared, the angel Gabriel is gone.  He doesn't tell her exactly what's going to happen next, or even when she will conceive.  He doesn't leave Mary with any instructions.  Having just been told the best news ever given to humanity, Mary is left to wonder, "What next?  Now what do I do?"

And so it is with us, when we say "yes" to God, when we agree to pick up our cross and follow Him, we wonder, "What next?  What exactly am I supposed do to now?"  Fortunately, as she always does, Mary provides us the answer.  For we know that no matter what else Mary did after Gabriel's visit, she remained patiently obedient to God.  More specifically, she remained obedient through prayer and the following of God's commandments.  So, as the birth of our Lord gets ever closer, let us imitate Mary's obedience through prayer, love of God, and love of neighbor.  Like He did for Mary, Jesus will take care of everything else.

God love you.