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God’s Perspective

3 Jun

 

 

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Careful. Don’t rest easy with where you are in  prayer.

You can go deeper and ever deeper.

No one can enter into the height and breadth of God’s intelligence and wisdom—but he made us in his image and invites us into a full and intimate relationship with him, the One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I want to share an insight I received through concentrating on the mysteries of the Rosary.[i]

For example, the Annunciation: For years, I focused on myself and the fact of faith that the Angel Gabriel did indeed visit Mary and that the Holy Spirit did come upon her (See Lk 1:1-38}. I marveled at the faith of that young Virgin. I wondered about what Mary might have thought and felt. I wondered how I could live this mystery in my own life.

My meditation was good and helpful.

Then, I felt motivated to reflect on this mystery from God’s perspective.

For example, how was the Father personally involved in this historic moment? Did he observe it from his throne in heaven?

That can’t be. For he and the Holy Spirit are One God–along with the Son who was taking to himself a human nature—body, blood and soul—in Mary’s womb. So Jesus the Christ was at once that vulnerable human being who could be killed by sinful men, and the omnipotent God through whom the Father created all things (Jn 1:1-5).

And how did the Father “feel” about that saving mission of his only Son?

He knew, of course, that Jesus would be born and die the agonizing death of the Cross. Did the Father experience sadness or joy?

Of course, these are human emotions and are, therefore, a stumbling block to true understanding and wisdom.

Think rather of a God so pure and so full of love that he indeed would send his divine Son to assume a mortal body, live completely as a human being, and die a terrible death—all for the sake of men and women of all time, for the sake of those who denied him, ignored him, and who misused and abused the gift of life.

How to understand a love that is so pure and so complete?

Years ago, I told my spiritual director that I could not identify with the Father. He told me to focus on Jesus and I would eventually know the Father as well.

He was right.

I do have a relationship, in Jesus, with my Father, my Abba.

But, he was also wrong.

How can my finite mind sufficiently grasp that infinite Being who is perfect Unity? It is by faith that we know and believe there is only one God, one divine nature, equally possessed by three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Spirit.            

 

[i] The Rosary is a prayerful meditation on the life of Jesus Christ, his birth of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, his salvific mission through the Cross and Resurrection, and the commissioning of the Apostles to form the Church and spread the saving love of God and the Gospel of Christ throughout the world. 

There are five “decades’ in the “beads”—an Our Father and ten Hail Marys.

There are  twenty “mysteries” we pray as we pray the Rosary: 

  1. The Joyful Mysteries: the Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of the Son of God, the Presentation of the Infant in the temple, and the finding Jesus at twelve years of age, speaking with the learned of Israel.
  2. The Mysteries of Light: Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Wedding Feast at Cana, Jesus preaches the Good News and heals and forgives, the Transfiguration, and Jesus gives us himself in the Holy Eucharist.
  3. The Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, our Lord is Crowned with Thorns, Jesus carries his Cross, and Jesus is crucified and dies on the Cross.
  4. The Glorious Mysteries: the Resurrection, the Ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and lastly, Mary Queen of Creation.

 

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Commercials: Ugh!

19 Feb

For Blog 011

When you fast, put on a happy face!

Here are some disgruntled observations about TV commercials.

  • You see these memorial crosses on the side of city streets and freeways. They are there to say that a loved one died in a car accident—and perhaps as a reminder that driving a car can be fatal. Yet, auto dealers show their cars speeding, spinning, leaping and sliding. I think this is irresponsible.
  • Then, there are these soap opera commercials that run and run and run. At times, unless you mute them and take a bathroom break, you can almost forget the show you were supposed to be watching.
  • Don’t forget about those spots (all too long) that want you to call in to purchase almost anything. You know, “but wait” you get double the order “free.” I called in once and I’ll never do it again. I couldn’t talk to a real person. The automated message kept on talking and trying to sell me a bunch of stuff I’d never want. What’s happened to person to person, eyeball to eyeball shopping?
  • Oh, yes—and don’t forget the lead-ins to the “real message” about the product. Some of these have nothing to do with the product. They serve merely as attention getters. I’ve stopped watching these also.

Maybe it comes with age (wisdom, boredom, clogged arteries?) but it takes much more that cutesy ideas to capture my interest.

(NOTE: During Lent, I will not be posting as many blogs–time to recollect, refresh, renew and recommit.)

Cruise Retreat 14

10 Feb

For Blog 011

                                                                          A happy invitation  

DEACON HENRY’S RETREAT CRUISE 14

on RCCL’s Serenade of the Seas. 

Time flies! We’ll be setting sail before you know it.

November 13-23, 2015

Sailing from Fort Lauderdale, FL with stops at Tortola, BVI … Bassettere, St. Kitts …Roseau, Dominca …St. John … Antigua … Philipsburg, … St. Maarten

To sign up and for more information, please contact:

Vacations by Annette

http://www.AnnetteTravels@aol.com

Phone 407-971-1971

Starting at $1,087.00 per person.

You will need a valid passport.

Retreat Outline:

Moving into God … How to Live the Faith More Effectively

          Session One: Conversion, Moving from Darkness into Light

Wonderful and Wounded Humanity

      Finding the Light

Move into the Heart of God

Session Two: Move into God’s Embrace

Called into the Community of Faith

Why Belong to the Church

The Mass—Perfect Prayer

          Session Three: Prayer is Living the Mystery

               The Five ‘Words’ of Mary

      Adventures in Prayer—Getting Personal

           Session Four: Move into the Mission of Christ

                Called to Give What You Have Received

(Note: Each session will be held while we are at sea and will run from sixty to ninety minutes–plenty of time left to shop, tour the ship or, hopefully, win a bit at the Casino.)

A Key to a Fuller Life

27 Oct

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I must recognize his power to create and sustain all things…

A very helpful  insight came, over a period of several weeks, as I prayed the psalms and prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours.

I’m bad about underling both in my breviary and my Bible. I also had made marginal notes in both.

In the psalms and prayers of the “Hours” (breviary), on various pages I have underlined two phrases which struck me as important: “a sacrifice of praise” and “a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”

One day, I put these two together, and saw a little bit better what Jesus did on the Cross. He was indeed “a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.”

He was a sacrifice of praise: Jesus, in his humanity, knew and loved God the Father. He knew so well the omnipotence of the Father. Jesus, in his humanity, gave his Father all he could give—even to his death on the Cross.

He was a sacrifice of thanksgiving: At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us Eucharist (a word rooted in the Greek word for thanksgiving). He took bread and wine and changed them into his Body and Blood, offering the eternal gift as food, the gift of salvation which would be fulfilled the next day on the Cross.

Jesus commanded us to follow and to take up our own crosses, to join him in his mission of salvation of all peoples.

So, I must become a living sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

I must recognize and praise God for his very Being that has no beginning and no end. I must acknowledge his power to create all things and all peoples, including me, and to sustain us all in life. I must see him in all of creation—the blue of a fall sky, the glorious change of colors in forests, the smile of a baby, the wisdom of the aged.

And I must be grateful. After all, if I acknowledge that all the wonders of the world are created and sustained by God, I will want to thank him for his great goodness. I will want to thank him for the gift of Jesus and the salvation he won for us. Also, I must experience deep gratitude for the Church, the Gospel and the Sacraments, especially for the Eucharist, in and through which we experience in real time the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Then, another insight: When I thank God, am I not praising him? Are not praise and gratitude so closely connected that they actually become one movement of the faithful soul?

 

I Surrendered

20 Sep

 

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Embraced by God, Part 2

My surrender to God followed years of alcohol abuse and severity in my family relationships. I had lived with a degree of self-hatred. I was not what I pretended to be. I acted holy—but I was far from being holy. I claimed belief in God and the Gospel, but did not live a committed Christian life.

I knew who I was as a drunk and a fake, but I did not know who or what I would be if I gave up alcohol, if at last I truly surrendered to God.

I would pray earnestly, “Lord, heal me so I can be like other people and stop after a couple of drinks.” But I consistently heard my conscience echo, “Go to AA.” I refused, telling God that I was not like all those drunks.

But I was.

The Painful Decision

And finally, at five a.m. on September 2, 1977, I surrendered. I decided to go to AA. I was afraid and quite anxious: Will I really be able to quit? What will other people think of me?

I went to an AA meeting and went home feeling better than I had felt in many years. I lost all desire to drink—and I have never missed it at all. (However, God in his goodness invented nonalcoholic beer just for me and others like me.)

For all those years I never realized (or admitted?) that alcohol was making me less secure, more depressed and less capable of love.

I had been blindly searching for the peace and joy that comes from intimacy with God.

How Achieve Intimacy?

Seeking to grow in intimacy is very personal. Each person must find his or her own way. However, you don’t achieve intimacy as though it were some goal you frantically pursue.

If you are seeking to know God better, relax–because you are already experiencing God’s touch. He is giving you that growing desire to become one with him, to live a good and joy-filled life. You are already beginning to listen, to move forward. You may want to ask God to come closer, or rather, to be more open to him.

Here is a great example of how simple a prayer can be.

There was a young boy possessed by demon. The father told Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus responded, “If I can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.”

The father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

And Jesus healed the boy.

Cf Mk 9:20-29

So, you begin with prayer—from the heart. For example, you may pray something like this:

Lord, I don’t really know how to pray. But I want to know you as I never have before. Please help me, God.

That is a marvelous prayer. It confesses your weakness and states your desire. You place yourself into God’s hands—that’s trust.

Your search for God begins with a decision to know him better, to be open to his love, to try to understand what it means to love God in return.             Whatever your security blanket, give it up, surrender to God and be covered with his divine mercy.

Next, “Judy” discovers God as she “hangs by a thread.”

 

 

Prayer: Living the Mystery

30 Jun

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Father Francis Martin, Scripture scholar and preacher, has been a great inspiration over the years. I’ve heard him at Catholic Press conventions and at the Priests, Deacons and Seminarians retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.

We’ve shared breakfast many times during these retreats.

As often as I’ve heard him and chatted with him, one important bit of advice remains foremost in my mind.

Timely Advice

He was speaking about prayer and the difficulty to concentrate on prayers that we have prayed over and over again (for example, the Rosary and the Breviary).

His advice was, “Pray it slowly, out loud, and think about the words you are saying.”

That advice came in mighty handy recently when I realized I could pray the Hail Mary with attention, but not the Our Father. 

Why not?

Well, in the Hail Mary, it is so easy to become present to the mystery. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”—right from Scripture, the angel Gabriel addressing our Blessed Mother. And then, “Blessed are you among women”—again, right from familiar Scripture, as Elizabeth greets Mary at the visitation.

But for me, trying to pray the Our Father was difficult. The Father is pure spirit. How can I touch, come to know intimately that pure spirit who is the Father?

One day, I recalled what another priest, the late Father Roger Moag, told me. He was my spiritual director back in Louisiana. I had complained about not being able to draw near to the Father.

He said, “Don’t worry about it. Just concentrate on Jesus and you will come to know the Father.”

It’s Taken a Bit of Time

Well, it’s taken many years to bring those two priestly suggestions together, along with that wonderful request of the Apostles: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

That’s when Christ Jesus gave us this magnificent prayer.

So, one day not too long ago, I said to Jesus, “Lord, teach me to pray. Pray with me your prayer to the Father.”

So, putting myself in the presence of Jesus, and letting his grace guide me, I prayed the Lord’s Prayer—slowly, savoring each word and phrase, asking the Father to help me bridge the gap of my doubts or unbelief or whatever was my hang-up.

And,  as Scripture says, “it came to pass” that I was able to enter more deeply into this perfect prayer given us by Christ, the Son of God, who is God, co-equal with the Father and the Spirit.

Here are some of the “pearls” of grace I’ve received by praying the Lord’s Prayer, slowly and deliberately:

            Our Father who art in heaven: God is everywhere, so heaven is everywhere. I need only to let the Father into my heart and I have heaven in me. I am one with God, with all my loved ones here and hereafter.  I am his adopted child. With Jesus and in Jesus, I am one with the Father, one with our God.

            Thy will be done: What indeed does this mean? What is God’s essential will for you and for me? Think back. Think of how God created man and woman—pure, undefiled and able to know him and love him. That is God’s will for us now. That’s why he sent Jesus into the world, to close the chasm between himself and us, that terrible chasm created by the sin of our first parents.

            And lead us not into temptation: Surely God does not lead us into temptation. It happens and he permits it. He permits it because he wants us to love him freely, to choose him over self, to embrace him and his truth willingly.

It has been said that every occasion of sin is an occasion of grace. You may want to take the advice of Bert Ghezzi, my dear friend: When you are between a rock and a hard place, prayer fervently:  

“O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.”

Or, maybe something as simple as this:

Jesus, save me!