Sunday, November 29, 2020

Advent --- Prepare for a Friend

 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.  I think it snuck up on me, being so close to Thanksgiving.  At the EWTN mass this morning I saw the priest’s purple robes, a sign of preparation and of mourning:  Jesus is not here yet, but He is coming.  At a point in the mass I reached for my prayer book to say the Gloria Prayer, but that is not said during Advent.  We pray that prayer and give glory and praise to God when He is here, not in anticipation.  Advent is a time of preparation, anticipation.

After mass, I plugged my Christmas tree lights into the timer; they will be on tonight, visible to my neighbors, and me, reminders of His coming.  I put the Christmas wreath on my table, along with its 4 candles.  Tonight, I will light the first as I say my night prayers, reminding me to be prepared.  I found a glass Christmas tree in the cabinet, full of small red and green mint candies, shaped like hearts; it smelled very nice.  Christmas is a wonderful day.

The priest at mass, speaking about preparation, said we sometimes say “The grass is greener over there --- but that often means you need to water your own lawn.”  We seldom think that way, that we have to change.  The recent Scripture readings all spoke of always being ready, being prepared, for He comes at a time we do not know.  The Jews thought they were prepared for the Messiah’s coming; but Scripture tells how unprepared they were.  Christmas was His first coming and we celebrate it, but we need to be prepared NOW for when He comes again, whenever that might be.  Whether He comes to us, or we die and go to Him, we need to be prepared to meet Him.

In families, we often act in selfish ways because --- “we want to have our own space”.  In our world right now, we are forced to keep our own space, to keep our distance.  Are we happy now?  The same “having our own way” yearning infects our relations with our friends or co-workers, or strangers.  We act in ways to keep us apart, but humble prayer is absolutely necessary for true conversion; it is the start and end of growing closer to God.  Advent is a time beginning that humble prayer, to grow closer to Him; He is coming.

A fire does not burn long if it is a single stick of wood, but a large, close bundle burns brightly and long.  It ensures the fire does not go out in any single stick of wood, but burns to the end.  We are here for each other, family, Church, country.  We need to grow close together.  We need to let Him light the fire.

Love one another.  This is the focus of Advent.  Prepare to start a fire in new hearts, for a spark will soon come with His birth.  Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, His Love.  The Christmas tree is a reminder of when He came, but also a reminder that He will come again.  We need to grow in prayer and love, as He taught us, to prepare.  Advent is a time of preparation.

“Let us remember that love grows through sacrifice.  Without sacrifice there is no love.” --- St. Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his life for another at the Nazi concentration camp.  I pray to him each morning.

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When I found the Advent wreath in a cabinet, I also found a small plaque, given to me by a woman in 1998 who I no longer remember.  But the words are worth remembering:

Dear Friend

How are you?  I had to send you this letter to tell you how much I love and care for you.  I saw you yesterday; you were walking with your friends.  I waited all day hoping you would talk to me.  As evening drew near, I gave you a sunset to close your day; a cool breeze to rest you, and I waited.  You never came.  Oh, yes, it hurt me, but still I love you because I am your friend.  I saw you fall asleep last night, and I longed to touch your brow, so I spilled moonlight upon your pillow and face.  Again, I waited, wanting to rush down so we could talk.  You awakened late and rushed off for the day.  My tears were in the rain.  Today you looked so sad, so alone.  It makes my heart ache because I understand.  My friends let me down many times, but I love YOU.  I try to tell you in the quiet grass.  I whisper it in the leaves and trees.  I clothe you with warm sunshine, with love.  Just call me --- talk to me --- it is your decision.  I have chosen you and because of this, I will wait ------------- because I love YOU!

Your friend,

                                        JESUS CHRIST

Saturday, November 21, 2020

We Are Family

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, the Mother of God.  As a child Mary’s parents followed the Jewish law and presented her to God in the Temple.  Her parents, Elizabeth and Joachim raised Mary in a family with God as its heavenly Father.  And Mary, and the world, were greatly blessed for this family.

The December edition of First Things Magazine has an article titled: The Fury of the Fatherless (you can read it here:  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2020/12/the-fury-of-the-fatherless).  It gives facts about the many children raised fatherless in our country, especially in large cities, and how they search for that missing father figure in their lives --- in gangs or other groups.  Often, they totally reject any father figure --- God, government, or others’ fathers; although United States citizens, they would never fight for this country.  The article cited Portland’s supportive treatment of teen runaways for over 30 years.  Often called teen hobos, they are leaders in the Portland riots, tearing down everything, including statues of our country’s father figures, not to build something better but only out of hate and frustration.  The article also notes that almost all historical socialist leaders and atheists lacked a safe father figure in their youth.  So, they abhor the concept of family or marriage.

Late last night I watched an old episode of Law and Order, SVU.  The episode opens with a masked man knocking on a door.  When opened, he shoots the mother and father and teen-aged daughter there --- or so it seemed.  It turns out the young girl was hit by a bullet which went through her father; she was not a target.  The girl survives.  We find out that her mother was involved in a gay relationship and planning to leave her father to get married to the woman who was advocating gay marriage.  The young girl’s father was a drinker and gambler, and had the girl place his bets, and be sexually abused.  And in the end, we find out it was the teen age girl who convinced a preacher to kill her parents.  It was an old SVU episode with huge echoes of today.  I think if they re-id the episode today, however, they would emphasize that the mother was a good person and the gay relationship was wonderful in light of the evil father --- and of course, only the father would be killed.

And also, yesterday I heard news of a local parish priest be dismissed from his large parish.  The bishop emphasized there were no sexual issues, but it was unclear beyond that.  I already hear of sides being formed, and the priest hiring a canon lawyer and issuing a press release.  And another beloved father figure is cast aside, and more hate fomented.

The traditional family is broken.  The Church family is broken.  The country family is broken. But, the Church is an image of The Trinity, an unbreakable family.  The country is/was one nation under God, (although many now remove the “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, in the rare instances it is recited).  All these things are beyond my control, even as the Covid is, but I WILL to love my family, friends and country even if they are not perfect.  I resolve to act as a father figure, with love, to all I meet.  It’s example Jesus gave to me and all people, His Family.  He showed us how to love, as a family does. Family is a good thing; we were made to be in a family.

I will pray.  I will trust.  “O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!”  (The Surrender Novena)

And I will love all people as His family, and as mine.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Accepting Suffering

Recently, a prayer I’ve prayed for years was answered.  Someone was seeking to change their life as I had prayed they should.  But I’ve come to know this person better over the years, and I suddenly realized: They may try to do what I prayed for, but they are unlikely to succeed.  They do not have within them the fortitude (nor faith) to succeed in those efforts.  And likely, their failure will leave them that much more depressed at their life’s situation.  God could see the result of what I prayed for, but I continued to nag Him.  And, finally, He gave me what I prayed for --- which He may still make good out of, because He is God and can do all things, but my prayer for this person has now changed:  I now pray he comes to know God more, and be who God would will him to be.

That is a prayer for God’s will, not mine.

I was praying The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary this morning.  From the Prophecy of Simeon to the Flight to Egypt, and to the Passion, death and burial of her Son, Mary was there and in great sorrow.  I read meditations about her sorrows, and about what she was thinking, and it suddenly struck me:  Not once does she cry out “God, don’t let this happen; stop this suffering!”  Never does she plead for God to do something else.  She accepts her suffering, and that of her Son.  She trusts there is a reason God would allow this.  She trusts.  When the angel says to flee to Egypt because Herod wants to kill Jesus she says: “Even though God has power over everything, He wants us to flee with Jesus, His Son.  God will show us the way, and we shall arrive without being caught by the enemy.”  She could have thought or said many things, but she trusted.

How many of my prayers are for specific things?  God do this or give me that or heal this person.  How many of my prayers are even contrary to Scripture, like Romans Chapter 1, because that is not how I want things to be.  Believing and living many of the words of Scripture means I or others have to suffer in some way, and I don’t want that, so I pray for the suffering to end.  I pray for God to deny Himself and His Word, for what I want, because I think is a loving thing to do.  I make up reasons why Scripture must be wrong, to be against what I want.  Scripture also has words about God saying on Judgement Day: “I don’t know you,” no matter how much I followed the Commandments or Scripture --- in my way.

We have many friends on earth, but in eternity even marriage won’t exist.  We can’t let our priorities for earthly happiness, friendships, prevent us from the eternal life Jesus died to offer us.  We need to pray, to grow in intimate prayer with Jesus, to tell Him our concerns, even with His words in Scripture.  We need to trust He can make good out of all suffering, things that aren’t as we’d like, and ask for His love and mercy, on us, our friends, and our country.  And follow The Way, as Mary did.

And along the way, we need to accept the suffering that accompanies the path to His Eternal Happiness, where there will never be suffering again.

These are difficult times, in the world, in our country, in our families, among our friends.  Jesus, I trust in You.  Have mercy on our country, those you bring into our lives, and us.  My Jesus, I trust I You.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Pray The Rosary

 Our Bible Study group reflected on MT 22:1-14, the parable which compares the kingdom of heaven to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding, only all who had been invited were “not interested,” and mistreated the king’s servants.  So, the king destroyed those ungrateful people.  Then he invited all he found on the street corners, “bad and good alike” to the feast.

Our study group reflected on why people today aren’t interested in heaven, or they assume they don’t have to prepare for it.  We talked about what we could do to get more people interested in heaven.  I think witness by our actions, and then trust in God’s work, was where we ended up.

After that Zoom-meeting, I went to my parish in Ann Arbor.  After the noon mass, they distribute communion outside the church to those at risk, reluctant to enter due to the Covid crisis.  I received communion and took hosts for friends who are homebound.  The deacon walks right up to the car and places the hosts in the pyx I brought, to minimize contact.  I then drove to the back of the church lot, received communion – the Body and Blood of Christ, and prayed.

But when I was ready to leave, I glanced back at the church entrance.  There, standing alone by the road, was the deacon, waiting for more cars to come.  And then it hit me:  This is just like the parable.  God is here, inviting, waiting.  There should be a line of cars miles long to come and receive Him, to come to His feast, but few came.  And I felt the sadness, and anger, of the king in the parable.

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Today was the anniversary date of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917.  Mary told the children she was appearing to, that the miracle would happen on that date, and the word spread far and wide. Over 50,000 people came from all over Portugal.  Many came to mock; they expected no miracle.  But they all saw the sun change, and the ground dry up instantly from the storm.  Most people, however, don’t know the rest of the Fatima story.

In 1910, the government of Portugal outlawed all religion.  Thousands of priests were executed.  Churches were destroyed.  Public worship was forbidden.  The government declared: “There is no God”

I wonder how different Portugal then was from our country now.  No one cares about heaven.  No one comes to receive the God who waits for them.  And God is struck from the Pledge of Allegiance --- we won’t  profess that we are a country under Him. 

When Mary spoke to the children at Fatima on the day of the huge miracle, she told them to pray the rosary every day, for God’s mercy.

I’m sure she’d give the same advice today.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Who Prays For Me?

 I received a card from a local parish yesterday, and opened it in shock.  A mass was being offered for me --- and I am not dead, yet.  I have had people pray for me, and been included in group intentions or masses, like: ”for all our sponsors and donors”, but never a mass specifically offered for me.  Besides the shock, there was a sadness, for I have been avoiding indoor Sunday masses due to the Covid risk.  I probably wouldn’t attend that mass being offered for me, but then I remembered that this particular parish is having parking lot masses on Sundays through the end of October, and the mass will be offered on the last Sunday of October.  So, I can attend!!

God is so good.

I titled this blog posting “Who Prays For Me?” because I wanted YOU to know YOU are prayed for, even as I will be prayed for in a couple of weeks.  Every day, many times a day, I offer my prayers, my sufferings, for you, often naming you.  I always pray for God’s Mercy on this country and this election, but I also pray for all those people who God has put in my life, who cross my path, like YOU.  There is a reason our paths have crossed.  I pray His Will, His Mercy, be done for you.

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I attended a retreat these last three days, virtually, on-line.  It was put on at my parish in Ann Arbor by the JPII Healing Center.  The four talks were very different, in that much was acted out, and many personal examples used to stress a point.  Inner brokenness was the healing sought, starting with establishing a relationship with God the Father.  He started everything, for a reason.  I don’t think anyone could listen to those talks and not be personally touched by the personal sufferings of the speakers, and/or God’s personal reaching out to them.  Listening in the audience, I am sure God touched many of their sufferings.

We are going through many sufferings as a country, and world, but how we react to those sufferings is unique to our personal sufferings, which made us who we are.  Whether inflected in our childhood or adult life, by a parent, sibling or acquaintance, --- or ourselves --- we have had sufferings we can never forget, or never bring to the surface to remember.  They affect us and those around us.

The retreat talks noted that “Forgiveness is the foundation of all healing”.  The talks focused on encountering God the Father, whose love is within us.  We are made in His Image.  His love is exhibited in mercy.  His Son died to forgive us.  We need to find that mercy, so we too can forgive.

It was a very good retreat.  I hope they will make those talks available for purchase by others.  It is worth the money, to find ways to know God better.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Just Love Them

 Quotes below are from The Better Part, Meditation 187 on today’s Gospel (Lk 10:25-37).

The Gospel today included the story of a man robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho.  Left in the ditch, the priest and the Levite passed him by, but the Samaritan had pity on him, and took him to the inn to be cared for.  Jesus is the Good Samaritan to us, taking pity on our situations, “entrusting us to the innkeeper of the Church, who watches over our convalescence until He comes again.”

Jesus:  Life is short.  It is so easy to forget that.  It is so easy for you to get caught up in the stream of activities that seem so urgent but in fact are secondary.  Your primary task, the mission I have given you, is to follow in my footsteps.  Open your eyes and your heart to the people around you.  See their needs and reach out to them as I have seen yours and reached out to you.  If this is hard for you, if the stream of urgencies keeps sweeping you away, don’t worry.  Keep contemplating my example, keep thinking of the love I have for you and all that I have done and still do for you.  Little by little the weight of my love will give your stability, strength, and peace.  My wisdom will be the balm that heals your anxiety.”

Today is the feast day of St. Faustina, whom Jesus appeared to and asked that she act to create a day dedicated to His Divine Mercy.  Yesterday was the feast day of St. Francis.  Both saints acted as the Good Samaritan, living simple lives, helping those in need.  Sometimes that seems so hard for us, in part because we want to judge others: Why don’t they try harder to get out of their situation?  Why should I help?  “Don’t you have some friends or relatives who could help you?”  But the Good Samaritan never asked those questions of ones in need.  I was reminded this week that Mother Teresa of Calcutta also didn’t ask those questions either, to the ones she found in the gutter.  She just loved them.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Repent

Today’s Gospel tells about a son who refuses to do his father’s will, but eventually repents and does so.  It is a parable about a man who now is doing God’s will, even if he has been a sinner.  He repented.  God is pleased with repentance and forgives our sins.

I recall my rosary reflections on the Wedding Feast at Cana.  The water changed to wine is there described as being the best wine, the one which changed at the end.  It was the last wine served; it is a reminder that it is never too late to change.  We prayed last Thursday a National Day of Prayer for God’s mercy on our country.  We are so sinful in many ways that some can’t imagine what our country would look like, if it repented of its many sins.  But we prayed for God’s mercy.  We asked Him to convert us, help us to repent.  In His mercy, He died for our sins.  He can change us and our country, and the last can be the best.

Repent and pray for His mercy.  Trust in Him.  The image St. Faustina said Jesus asked her to create was a picture of the risen Lord, with rays of Divine Life emerging from His heart, which was pierced on the cross.  Rays of Mercy were emitting from His very Being.  Yet, at the bottom of the picture Jesus asked her to print the words:  Jesus, I trust in You.  We are trusting in His Mercy. 

We need to pray those words from our heart, for His Mercy on us, our family, and our country.