A Gospel Reflection

bodyofchrist
Today’s Gospel: John 1:35-42
It is amazing, really, that John’s disciples simply hear their teacher announce that Jesus is “the Lamb of God” and they follow Him, without question, without speaking a word. They are on a journey, so they do not cling to John possessively but let go to continue their search for God. These men are hungry for God and they are open, recognizing the light when they see it.
These former followers of John cannot even answer Jesus when He asks them, “What do you seek?” They probably don’t have a clue what they are really seeking: they simply know in their deepest selves that He is who John says He is—the Lamb of God—and that is enough for them. They are seekers of the truth. Yet they cannot articulate that fact,  so instead they answer with another mundane question, “Where are you staying?” Even that question is not answered because Jesus basically says, “Well, if you trust me, if you want to follow me and learn from me as my disciple, come, and you will  see.”
Andrew, of the two former disciples of John, fetches his brother Simon, not to see the Lamb of God, as John calls Jesus, but to come and see the Messiah, the Christ. The man who will be called Cephas, Peter, the man who becomes the rock, the first pope, this man comes because his brother trusted his inner heart, saw, heard and  had the courage to act when he knew he had encountered the truth.

PONDER:

Have you ever had a defining moment when you knew, without a doubt, that it was God calling you to drop everything and step out to follow His leading?

PRAY:

Oh Lord, open my eyes and open my ears to hear and recognize each truth as You show it to me. Give me the humility to let go of former things and follow you without fear into the unknown, deeper into a more intimate union with You.
Copyright 2014 Melanie Jean Juneau

http://melaniejeanjuneau.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/a-gospel-reflection-for-sabbath-moments/

Forgiveness and the word "As"

Forgiveness and the Lord’s Prayer

Of course, I could have written the title of this post the other way, but forgiveness seems to be the main lesson God is trying to get through my thick, red-haired head these days.

Without any kind of a prayer life, how can we accomplish the least of the tasks in our daily lives, much less forgiveness of another.  Reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer, I am completely in awe at how perfectly the words are, I know, consider the author.  Jesus taught the apostles this prayer which covers all bases in a very short and simple way.  But it also puts us to task in a very blunt and severe way in the forgiveness department; He will forgive us, AS we forgive others around us…ouch!

“As”
Now, we all remember the Clinton days when he fought the infidelity accusations with an idiotic argument on the meaning of the word “is”.  He wanted to escape the reality of his marital sinfulness with a present/past tense wording.  How truly petty and evil could you get?  A lie is a lie and the truth is the truth…past, present, or in the future.  His intentions, responsibility, and actions were the true evidence of the sin he committed and continued to commit in his lies to his family, himself, and the entire world!  No single word, in his case, could ever clear him of his mortal sin.

OK, so on to the word “as” in the prayer of our Lord: “and forgive us our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Now, has a single word ever struck such a difficult…near impossible note?  Our God and Creator forgives us AS only He can in His inconceivable nature, but we must follow His lead with each other. Forgiving each other is the charitable thing to do in all cases of human interaction…AS our heavenly father offers the forgiveness to us.  In some cases, this is easy to offer and feel good about; has there been a time or a case that this is true?  It truly feels good to let these feelings go and clear the slate for a new beginning.  But there are those certain instances that forgiveness is much more trying.  Forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a gift and a decision made each and every day to forgive and let go of anger, disappointment, and resentment.  If extended, and received, it is a blessings AS we know it in God’s loving forgiveness.

Jesus intentionally made this little, tiny word carry a heavy responsibility to the world.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2842 talks about how it “is not unique in Jesus’ teaching:  “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”; “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Mt 5:48; Lk6:36;Jn13:34)

Love thy neighbor AS thyself, treat your brother AS you would be treated, we can’t ignore this word…really.  How can we ask for forgiveness if we are unable to forgive another?  How can we ask for something we are unwilling to give?  How can ignore our heavenly Father’s request?  It’s not a suggestion, it’s not a favor, it’s not something intended to be selective either.  God wants us to do as He asks all the time!

A new year a fast approaching, and though I am not a resolution maker, I am going to work on being a better forgiver-er in 2014 with lots of prayer and conversations with our Lord along the way.

How about you?

Top 10 tips for your spiritual life from 2013

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The Virgin Mary Reading by Walters. Here are the posts
from 2013 she might recommend to you.

‘Tis the season for reviewing the old year. How did you advance towards God this year? Do you remember those blog posts that really struck you at the time, or have you forgotten them? Here are some reminders of how you can grow closer to Christ, taken from my blog posts over the past year.

1. Read the Gospels
If you want to advance towards God, you must learn to love Him. Read what He revealed about Himself. Need more motivation to read Scripture?
Here are 10 Reasons Catholics should read the Bible.

2. Stop making excuses for missing prayer
You’re not going to grow closer to Christ if you aren’t willing to make sacrifices to spend time with Him.
Read 7 Ways to make time for prayer.

3. Ponder God’s Word in your heart
This follows from #s 1 and 2. It’s a particularly Carmelite way of honoring Mary.
See Mary pondered all these things–do you?

4. Choose to become a saint
St. Thomas Aquinas told his sister that the way to become a saint is to will it.
See the details: Can you become a saint by sheer will power?

Read the rest of the list at Contemplative Homeschool.

Give God your widow's mite

File:Brooklyn Museum - The Widow's Mite (Le denier de la veuve) - James Tissot.jpg

The Widow’s Mite by Tissot (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons).

I was thinking recently about St. Therese and Judgment Day. Therese wanted to stand before God with “empty hands.” As part of her plan to trust in God rather than in her merits, she chose to give away all her spiritual goods. She offered them to God, not for herself, but for others. She left herself spiritually poor and naked. Then she was able to focus, not on her acts of virtue and self-denial, but on the merits of Jesus. She believed that, seeing her with no works on which to be judged, God would apply Jesus’ works to her account. Thus, her confidence was in Jesus alone.

Following St. Therese, when I make a sacrifice, accept the trials and disappointments of my day, or act virtuously, I picture myself handing a plain brown box to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is my gift for the Infant Jesus. Mary takes the package and wraps it splendidly with her  love and virtues. Then she passes it on to her Son, and He distributes it as He sees fit.

How to pray throughout the day

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The Angelus by Millet. In past centuries, Church bells  rang three times day to signal
everyone should stop what they were doing and pray.

St. Paul urges us to “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But what does this mean? How can we practice it? When we reach a high state of the spiritual life, we will be in constant communion with God (see, I am assuming we are all going to make it that far). But in the meantime, we can form habits that help us pray throughout the day.

When two people fall in love, they want to spend as much time together as they can. Not only do they go out on a date very evening, they also contact each other during the day. When I was younger, we would call each other or send emails. Today, couples might text each other. Just to hear the other person’s voice or read his words of love would keep the smile on the loved-one’s face for hours.

We need the same kind of contact with God. Our “date” with God is our daily time set aside for nothing but prayer.  But we should also talk to God throughout the day. At first, this might be difficult. It might even seem strange until we have formed the habit. We should remember that our little ways of connecting with God are acts of love.

Continue reading at Contemplative Homeschool.

Are you living a contemplative life?

File:Munier, Emile - Two Girls Praying - 19th century.jpg 
Two Girls Praying By Emil Munier

Are you a contemplative? Some people, faced with this question, would answer an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Perhaps they are saints, at a high stage of union with God. Or perhaps they practice Eastern (as in Hindu or Buddhist) forms of meditation that they equate with contemplation. Some would call themselves contemplative because they are thoughtful and quiet. The rest of us might answer, “No.” Since we are not saints, we wouldn’t dare think of ourselves as contemplatives in the proper sense.

Nevertheless, everyone, no matter his stage in the spiritual journey or his vocation, can live a contemplative life.

A contemplative life is a life ordered toward union with GodIf you have read The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, you know Teresa divides the spiritual life into seven stages, which she called mansions.  (To be completely accurate, she says that a soul goes back and forth among these stages, rather than proceeding from one to the next in a straight line.) Supernatural contemplation begins in the third or fourth mansion. But contemplative living can begin at our first conversion, even in childhood. Contemplative living prepares us to receive God’s gift of supernatural contemplation.

Read the rest at  Contemplative Homeschool.

Appreciating Advent Through Art for the First Week on Advent

Detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (1512)

Today is the start of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. It also marks the first Sunday of Advent for the Latin Church (other Eastern Churches started a fortnight beforehand). In our secular society, we can be tricked into thinking that the Advent calendar is only a countdown for Christmas shopping.  But scripture during Advent reminds us of the dual nature of the season:  to prepare for the cyclical celebration of Our Lord’s birth as well as Parousia (the Second Coming). 

The Lectionary during Cycle A features Isaiah’s prophetic vision (IS 2:1-5) when God reigns Supreme and swords are hammered into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, a professor of liturgy at Loyola University in New Orleans, uses a detail of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to illustrate the scripture.  

The Gospel (MT 24:37-44) alludes to the Second Coming where Jesus exhorts the faithful to be prepared as Noah was for the Flood.  This is sobering “Good News” but it should help lead us with our walk with the Lord, especially in this period of preparation.  

The Isaiah panel on the Sistine Chapel prompts a ponderous thought. Zsupan-Jerome wondered if position of Noah’s Ark about Isaiah prompted the prophet to think  of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark landed, as he handed the vision of God’s Holy Mountain? This would lend the aspiration that man should seek God’s holy mountain to, borrowing a phrase from the Responsorial Psalm (PS 122), “dwell in the House of the Lord.”

The Noahide Covenant established that the Lord would not destroy humanity through a flood. The Messiah’s admonition to be prepared has some soothing subtexts rather than relying upon our own inadequate righteousness. The name Jesus can be translated to “Yahweh Saves”.  Moreover, the Lord so loved the world, He sent His only son to be born of this world in all things but sin and be an intregal part of our salvific history. 

As we come into this season of  devout and joyful expectation, it would behoove us to consider the nuances, hermaneutics and deeper meanings of Advent, as expressed through art, scripture and the easily overlooked holiday trappings.  

h/t:  Loyola Press 

Advent activites for your family

D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.

D lights the first Advent candle a few years ago.

Advent is here and with it our six-week break from homeschooling. Instead of doing school work, we do an activity each day preparing for Christmas. Some are distinctly religious. Others are not. Here are some ideas for activities you can do with your family.

Learn and sing Advent hymns 
Sunday at Mass, D was amazed that I knew many of the verses of O Come, O Come, Emanuel by heart. Well, that was the only Advent hymn I learned in Catholic school, and I don’t recall singing any other one at Mass in the 70s and 80s. It wasn’t until I started praying the Divine Office as an adult that I learned some of the beautiful hymns I had been missing. Here are some you will want to learn along with your kids, if you don’t know them already:
People, Look East. This song by poet Eleanor Farjeon helps you to see all the preparations for Christmas–including setting a merry  table–as preparations for Christ. This is a good one to start your Advent.Wake, Awake, the Night is DyingCome, Thou Long-Expected JesusO Come, O Come Emanuel.  Sing this one beginning December 17, when the Church prays the O Antiphons.Behold, a Rose of Judah. My personal favorite for Advent, save this one for the last week or two before Christmas.
Read the rest of the ideas at Contemplative Homeschool.

Meditation for kids: the thankful leper

File:CodexAureus Cleansing of the ten lepers.jpg  Instructions for Parents I recommend that you meditate on Luke 17:11-19 in your own prayer time before presenting it to your kids. If you’re not sure how to do this, look at last Thanksgiving’s meditation. Talk to the Lord about it from your heart. Ask Him to teach you to be truly grateful, and to lead your children towards thankfulness.

Next, read and discuss the passage with your children. Use your favorite children’s Bible. Define any words they may not know. (I have highlighted some words in the meditation you may want to define before praying with them.)

Choose one or two of the optional activities at the end of this post to help them dig deeper into the meaning of the passage.

Finally, read the meditation aloud to them, pausing for several seconds to a couple of minutes after each of the first two paragraphs. Ask them to repeat the final prayer after you, sentence by sentence.
This meditation works best with children ages seven to ten. For younger or older children, see the variations. It is especially appropriate for those making their First Confession this year.

 Read the meditation at Contemplative Homeschool.

USCCB Reaffirms Steadfast Commitment to Religious Liberty

As the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops concluded their semi-annual meeting in Baltimore, the USCCB issued a special message on the H.H.S. Mandate.  The Bishops have been steadfast and vocal in their opposition to having the government force Catholics and other believers to violate their religious precepts in the pursuit of universal coverage. 
During his tenure as President of the USCCB, New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan lead the faithful to conduct Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 and 2013 to celebrate, educate and advocate maintaining America’s Fundamental Freedom–the First Amendment freedom: the freedom of exercise of religion.
As Cardinal Dolan passed the helm of the USCCB to Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz,  Dolan urged his brother bishops to make the protection of religious liberty around the world a priority as he believes that it is a central social issue of our times. Dolan recalled the words of Pope Blessed John Paul II that we are living in a new age of martyrs.  Dolan stated:

We as bishops, as shepherds of one of the most richly blessed communities of faith on the planet, as pastors who have spoken with enthusiastic unity in defense of our own religious freedom, must become advocates and champions for these Christians whose lives literally hang in the balance, as we dare not allow our laudable battles over religious freedom at home to obscure the actual violence being inflicted on Christians elsewhere.

It seems incredible that the USCCB needs to again issue such a pronouncement, but useful idiots arguing for Obamacare are still convicted that Catholics just want to push their beliefs on non-Catholics, rather than protection that unalienable right.
The USCCB’s special message fleshed out this fidelity to religious freedom to practice one’s faith in America.