Sunday, April 08, 2018

Saying "Yes" to God

Solemnity of the Annunciation

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is one of those beautiful feasts I love.   There are two events we are celebrating in this one Gospel passage: the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word made Flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and the maternity of Mary.  The Pro-life movement chose this feast for its Patronal feast day and the reason is I think pretty obvious.  I like this feast not because of the vision of angel or supernatural light.  In fact, there is nothing in the Gospel which explicitly tells us how the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary.  For all we know it may not have been a visual encounter but an internal locution or apprehension.  All we can be sure of is that "God had sent his angel to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the House of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."  I like to imagine Mary exactly as she is portrayed in the photo above- in the midst of the ordinary.  God comes to us in the ordinary events and circumstances of life.  Without fanfare and fireworks.  Just in the ordinary, right in the familiar and everyday.  It is in this cloak of the ordinary which makes us sometimes miss Him.  But Mary, who ponders all things in her heart, and in silence waits lovingly for the promise of the Messiah like all the women of Israel in her days, recognized the moment.   And when she recognized the presence of something special, she was afraid.  But only for a short moment because the one who is full of grace was open to all possibilities.  Her doubt was not the expression of unbelief but a sign of openness to what was being spoken by the angel.  What was announced to her was still an invitation, and she was free to choose.  

The lesson of the Annunciation is the "fiat" which Mary uttered.  "I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me as you have said."  These are the words we try to live by everyday of our lives.  This "Fiat" is the word we not only say once in the big moments of our life, but in the everyday, ordinary events of life.  It needs to be renewed at every moment because God makes His Will known to us at every moment and we are asked to respond.  According to Caryll Houselander in her book "The Reed of God" saying "yes" does not so much mean that we agree to do something for God.  It is more that we agree to have God do something in us.  Transform us, make us more like His Son, live His life again in us so that He can continue His mercy and works in the world.  It is complete abandon to the merciful designs of a loving God who knows what is best for us.  When I am faced with a choice, I think of the Annunciation, and try to work my way from fear, to doubts, to resignation.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Easter Blessings and Joy!

“A woman about to give birth has sorrow, because her hour has come.  But when she has brought forth the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for her joy that a man is born into the world ” (John 16:21).
This passage from the Gospel of John articulates for me the joy of Easter.  Our Lord endured many sufferings because of His great love for us.  Now in his glorious resurrection He has given birth to new sons and daughters of the Church.  We have now put aside the penance of Lent and are now basking in the Easter triumph our Lord gained for us.  Easter is not only a season in the calendar but a journey of faith, hope and love, lived in the everyday.  It is a prefiguration of the Christian reality that the sufferings and difficulties of this world are passing and a time of unending joy will come.  It is the calm after the storm.
It was the witness of the Resurrection that gave the apostles courage to proclaim boldly the Good News of Jesus.  It was the same Resurrection that gave the early Christians perseverance in their times of cruel persecutions.  This is the same Resurrection presented to us by the Church every year.  What do we do with this great treasure?  Our Christian vocation calls us to witness to this great event and the promise it brings.  For a Christian, the cross should not be experienced as oppressive but redemptive.  We are  people of the Resurrection.

Easter is a singular event second only to none.  St. Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead our faith is empty and in vain.  If the Resurrection did not happen we are the most pitiable of people because we are still in our sins and those who have died in Christ are the deadest of the dead.  For unbelievers or the mediocre, Easter is all about flowers, eggs and bunnies!  Cute but empty unless we recognize in these symbols a sign of new life and new beginnings.  We like to make New Year's resolutions to start off the year.  Easter resolutions are also appropriate.  Easter gives us great hope because it gives us the reassurance that darkness turns to light, sorrow to joy, and death to life.  How beautiful is our faith!! Despite the burdens and scandals in the Church, despite the disillusions and clamor for change, the Church will rise triumphant!  The Bride of Christ, the Church, is purified from its stains and imperfections.  Every year, newly baptized sons and daughters, bring new vigor of faith, new hopes and new zeal, creating something new from the old.  Yes, Jesus makes all things new!  HAPPY EASTER!



Friday, March 30, 2018

Holy Saturday

The silence of Holy Saturday speaks volumes.  In all appearances, all was lost, good was overcomed by evil.  The drama of the previous day was wrought with betrayal, confusion, fears, agony, pain, sorrow, and finally- dashed hopes.  "He saved others.  He cannot save himself" was a spectator's conclusion.  Jesus, who raised the dead and promised better days ahead, was silent.  His body was taken down from the infamous Cross and was wrapped in the arms of His Mother.  Mary, whose heart was pierced as she watched her Son suffer, wept in silence.  The woman wrapped in silence.  The whole world stood still waiting for God's next move.

"He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled Himself, accepting death, even death on the Cross. Therefore, God greatly exalted Him." said St. Paul to his Letter to the Ephesians.

For those who believe, silence is not an absence.  Silence is a cloak which hides something beautiful.  At the right time, at the right moment, this silence shall burst forth into something unheard of, something singular.  Out of darkness, a light shall shine forth.  From the darkness of the grave, life will make itself known.  Jesus Christ died to give us life.  He suffered so that we in turn could find meaning in our sufferings.  He endured the rejections so that we could approach the throne of grace, confident that we will be received.  This suffering servant died to show us the science of the Cross.  The silence of God will yield to something beautiful.  In the silence of death, the whole world waits.  And the waiting will not be in vain....



Where's the "Good" on Good Friday?

© srhelena2012

For Catholics this is not a new question.  As we celebrate the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, we are reminded once again  that Christ suffered and died for us.  It is hard enough for someone to die for a good person, but for a bad one,for sinners like us,  it is even more unfathomable.  This was St. Paul's insight.  When I listen to the reading of the Passion on Good Friday, I will surely ask myself as I have many times: "Jesus,couldn't you have saved me another way?  Why did you have to suffer and die?" If I was a theologian I would probably come up with some deep, intellectual explanations.  I would probably say that the measure of payment should be equal to the offense. It's perfect justice.  While that is true  I prefer to think that it was love and love alone which made Jesus do what he did. "No greater love one has than to lay down his life for his friends."  The Pharisees brought Jesus to his Cross but it was love that kept Him there.  Love for us and love for the Father.  It is really that simple.  And what do we do with that realization?  Saint John of the Cross had an insight: " Love is repaid by love alone."  St. Therese exclaimed "Love alone attracts me."  Saint  Elizabeth of the Trinity explains:
"A Carmelite (or any baptized person)  is a soul who has gazed on the Crucified One; who has seen Him offering Himself as a Victim to His Father for souls and, recollecting herself in this great vision of the charity of Christ, has understood the passionate love of His soul, and has wanted to give herself as he did!"  That is why Good Friday is good.  It makes us understand that sufferings taken or endured for God can become a source of so much good.  It also tells us that we are precious because we have been bought with a price more precious than any glittering gold- the life of God's only Son.  It is good because we have been brought back to God and we are once again heirs of the Kingdom.  So as we enter the drama of the Lord's suffering and death, we look with anticipation to the joys of a new life, a new beginning.  As the morning sun rises on  Easter Sunday, we can look forward with joyful anticipation to the promise made by the Risen Lord:  "See, I make all things new!"  We can always begin again...



Thursday, March 29, 2018

"Love One Another As I Have loved You"


Love is a precarious word. I love chocolate with nuts.. I love canoeing when somebody finds the time to take me.. I love silence and solitude.. I love nature, flowers and mountains..I love to sit outdoors and listen to the whispering breezes.. I love dogs though I don't have one..

We can love many things because they give us a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. We can choose to love people when we find them attractive, good and fun to be with. There is a golden rule: "Love others as you love yourself." But the message we hear on Holy Thursday goes much deeper: "Love one another as I have loved you."

Catholics celebrate Holy Thursday in commemoration of the Lord's Supper. There are three important events and realities conveyed on this single celebration: 1). The institution of the Holy Eucharist 2.) the Institution of Holy Priesthood and 3.) the mandate from Jesus of  love and service to one another. I love Holy Thursday. It is so rich in liturgy and layered with meaning from the Old Testament and New Testament.   I love the sight of priests participating in Chrism Mass with their Bishop. It conveys unity and oneness of purpose anticipating the fullness of the Communion of Saints in heaven.  It is proper that the Holy Priesthood be celebrated this day because the Eucharist is intimately linked with it. The priest, as "in persona Christi", takes us back to the sacrifice in Calvary where our salvation was won. The Holy Eucharist was instituted by Christ so that we are not left orphaned.  It is a gift of himself until he comes again in glory.

Because Jesus chose to give himself up for us freely, he has given us an example that as He had done, so also we should do. Many people think that the convent is a place where loving people automatically happens.  I'm sorry to burst your bubble.  Just like all our brothers and sisters in the world, religious men and women do struggle to follow this commandment of Jesus even in Religious life.  Community life is a daily dying to self, to one's ego and to one's will.  It is not the golden rule that is operational here. It is a much higher call- to love my Sister or Brother as Jesus himself loved him or her. It is his love that is the standard. God does not ask me to like my neighbors but to love them.  Love does not reside in feelings but in the will.  In the past, I was not able to understand this. How can you love someone without liking them? But now I understand. Jesus does not command the impossible.  It will take a long time before one can love as Jesus loved.   The Saints did it.  But it will take his grace and our complete surrender to him "who makes everything new." With God all things are possible.