Welcome !

Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unrestrained Love or Coffee Spoons? A Meditation on the Feast of the Visitation

Picture taken by Miranda Knofczynski

 Today is the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  This feast is a wonderful opportunity to ponder how we encounter and respond to the movements of the Lord.  Mary hears the words of the Angel Gabriel, and she believes.  She believes and she responds, not only with her great fiat -"be it done to me according to thy word" - but also with an immediate act of charity and generosity, anticipating the needs of her cousin.  In haste Mary goes to Elizabeth, who is expecting to give birth "in her old age" to the prophet John the Baptist.  Mary holds nothing back, she responds to God immediately, and He in turn holds nothing back from her. God responds to Mary's unrestrained giving of herself with a joyous affirmation, by Elizabeth, of the unbelievable events that are occurring. Elizabeth's prophetic response to the Holy Spirit was:
"Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy,  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." 
Both she and Elizabeth believed and responded with the whole of their hearts!  What would happen if you and I responded to God with such generosity?  What would happen if all the passion and desire that we so easily allow to misdirect us, or, even worse, through fear we suppress, were given over to the Lord with a daily fiat? What could happen if we accepted our lowliness, our nothingness without fear and allowed the Mighty One to sweep us away in His divine love?  What could happen if we did not avoid the deep emptiness that reveals our spiritually starved souls, but feared comfort that dulls and obscures our longings until it was too late and we are too lost?  Time is running out for you and for me.  Can we respond with Mary's beautiful canticle, rejoicing in our nothingness, because it is that humility which allows the unfathomable love of God to direct our paths through this valley of tears?

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones; but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant remembering his mercy according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Maybe this seem like an odd diversion, but I have just re-read T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  There are various analyses of the poem, but just today I watched a YouTube video on the Holy Spirit by Father Robert Barron in which he used a quote from the poem, " I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" as an example of a life lived withholding generous love.  A life lived afraid and unresponsive to passion and desire, and Prufrock is aware that time is running out. It struck me that the frustrated sense of decay, unfulfilled longings and desires that  permeates the poem speaks of a lack of the overflowing love of the Spirit of God.  A withholding of love indicates a lack of love. The stanza before has Prufrock wondering "Do I dare disturb the universe?"  Well, with the Spirit of God directing those longings, desires and passions they will not only not be suppressed, they will fearlessly pour out with love unending and disturb the universe, but in a way according to the word of God. 

Brothers and sisters:  Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; anticipate one another in showing honor.  Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you, do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  Romans 12: 9-16
 Respond to God as Mary did; disturb the universe! Not by grasping at power or by fantasizing about mighty deeds, but by the transformation of your heart and soul through the humble reception of the Word! Let the Spirit flow through you with courage and joy, anticipating the needs of others and pouring out with unrestrained love.  Do you dare disturb the universe?  Do I?  Let us pray with Mary and Elizabeth today for an unrestrained and passionate response to the Spirit!

Peace and Grace!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Relections on John 17: High Priestly Prayer

A Morning Mom’s Reflection on Words of the Risen Christ bible study by Rich Cleveland—16 May 2012   Chapter 1:  John 17:1-26:

Jesus High Priestly prayer

(in other words) Jesus’ pep talk to Disciples at the Last Supper

In the beginning verses (vs 1-5), Jesus summarizes his mission as follows:  to give God glory through obedience and doing the work God gave Jesus to do, to give eternal life to all God has chosen, to show God’s life and love, to make God known.  Jesus gives us an amazingly simple definition of eternal life:  to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, his son.  Yet to know is more than just a simple head knowledge, but involves accepting, understanding and following a way of love, shown to us by Jesus.   As Christians we are called to listen and ponder God’s word, to keep God’s word by living a life of love and self-sacrifice, walking the same path as Jesus, our “personal Lord and Savior.” 

For all of us moms, teaching our children about the faith and that “personal” relationship can be challenging.  For the most part, we set examples within the home and daily life on living life with respect and love for our God, family members and neighbors.   We bring them to our non-entertaining Mass each week, knowing they really don’t comprehend the significance, can barely sit still and poke at each other.  Yet with the passage of many years the ritual and routine of it all sinks in deep, so we might begin to contemplate God during mass and let Him in.  In fact, we have all seen or heard stories of our elderly family members recite those “repetitious” prayers (Hail Mary, Our Father) at the moment of extreme illness and death, with great serenity.  As for us who witness these struggles with illness or the passage to the next life, the ill person brings us great peace and joy as we see their deep faith as they whisper the name of the Lord.  We know the Lord is truly present and our loved one is in the hands of God. 

In contrast, some of us have seen great struggles and anxiety individuals go through when they lack a personal knowledge and faith in God, and they are now confronted with a personal or family tragedy.  Even we, who believe, have struggled to fully surrender all our lives and problems to God.  In our usual human fashion we try to be in control at all times, and sometimes feel a heavy burden to keep peace going in our hectic motherly lives.  Besides the methods of time out, play in room by self, and go outside and play, a few in the Morning Moms group have tried reciting a daily recommitment to God (Morning Offering prayer).  Some of us find surrendering minute by minute, situation to situation, is also helpful.  One American Idol star had her wrist tattooed with a feather, symbolizing the lightness of all her problems when given to and managed by God.  I think our group is thinking about renaming our group the “Feather Moms,” but we didn’t decide on what kind of feathers we were getting (tattoo, hair accessory, bracelet…)

Continuing on…We discussed our thoughts on the “personal relationship” with Jesus, a very protestant sounding term which we’ve heard more about during homilies at mass.   As Catholics, we live a life of unity with the Body of Christ, his Church, so that personal relationship concept can seem a bit foreign.   From the verses 6-19, we see Jesus praying for his disciples and find out what the personal connection to the Savior entails:   Keep them in your Name, Unity with the Father and Son, a complete share in Christ’s joy, protection from the evil one, consecration in truth.

Keep them in your Name:  The revelation of God’s name has several meanings for us.  It lets Him be known and be called upon for protection and guidance.  It creates intimacy between us and God.  It engenders respect, for as we respect His name, we respect the God of all creation.  Teaching respect of God’s name is particularly difficult with the children as they are exposed to careless uses of God and Jesus Christ in the school environment.  Actually my own children helped me stop with their gentle and never-failing reminders.  Another mom found the sacrament of reconciliation brought powerful grace to help her stop misuses of God’s name.  A short booklet by Tan Publishing, The Wonders of the Holy Name, by Fr Paul O’Sullivan, goes into more details about this topic.  Finally, Pope Benedict wrote in Jesus of Nazareth, II, “The revelation of God’s name is a new mode of God’s presence among men, a radically new way in which God makes his home with them.” Pg 91  How awesome to have God-with-Us always present, never far away!

The prayer for unity occurs four times in this middle section of chapter 17, so it must be important.  The goal of unity is so that the world may know Jesus has been sent by God.  Pope Benedict writes in Jesus of Nazareth II, (paraphrased) through the unity of the disciples, the truth of his mission is made visible for men and makes visible the workings of a higher power (pg96).  We didn’t discuss this too much in our group but this makes an interesting topic for discussion.

On joy:  verse 13, “…I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely.”  I’m still a little fuzzy just what Jesus meant about this joy stuff.  Sometimes life just brings you down and you feel the weight of the world.   For the sake of sanity and happiness within your family, we moms sometimes keep it all in so as not to ruin everyone’s day, keep peace and not have the whole home situation blow up.  Yet in some respects, showing love and giving peace in difficult circumstances can be a gift of God, a fruit of our communion with him.  Jesus, faced with an apparently failed mission, nearing arrest and certain death, continued to trust in God.  Jesus is rooted in the… “divine “we” of Father and Son through the Holy Ghost controls all things.  Here are Jesus roots; here is his peace, source of his invulnerable strength and union.  (pg 18, Romano Guardini writings in the book, Words of the Risen Christ).  One insightful mom stated, “Joy follows peace.”  AHHHH (light bulb going off!).  So Jesus in his desperate hours reveals the truth of his mission, but that the world will not accept it and hate it (disciples becoming downhearted), and the world will continue to hate the disciples, as they believe in Jesus word and mission (disciples more bummed).  Yet Jesus reveals union with God, leads to all kinds of good:  protection from evil, oneness that is brought to perfection, knowledge of and sharing in God’s love, everlasting life and seeing God’s glory:   the true joy that God offers after unity with Him (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Keep them from the evil one, vs15:  Much discussion on current topics affecting our nation and church.  Secular society views life differently than a Catholic Christian which can lead to bad feelings between family members, friends, classmates, people.   Jesus says to expect that the world will hate God’s view on life, so this is something to expect, not be surprised about.  Despite the world’s hatred, Jesus calls us to teach, love, listen and ponder God’s word, and spread the message of God’s love.  Make sure we teach our children the faith.  Be in the world but don’t be a part of the culture of hate and hostility to God.  Our church teaches prayer and fasting to overcome difficulties.  Be a good citizen and vote for change.  Definitely take up Jesus’ advice not to worry or fear!  Luke 12:22-34 can be a useful meditation on useless worry.

Finally, consecrate them in the truth, vs 17: Jesus asks that his disciples be completely dedicated to God’s service, which is a mission of love to the world. (Collegeville Bible Commentary, The Gospel According to John, pg72).   Ending of the chapter (vs 26) summarizes all that Jesus came to do for us:   “I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them. “   What an incredible promise!  To fully know God and his love, to really take hold of it, within ourselves! Just what are the possibilities for us, knowing that we are joined to the Creator of the universe!  Filled with all that He is, how can we not go out to spread that good news?

In the final analysis, Jesus is awesome!  He offers us so much if we only open our hearts to believe and trust in Him. 

Peace!  Janet

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Garden Canticle

Spring is here, and in this Marian month of May, with yard work and spring cleaning in progress (okay, I have not started spring cleaning) my two youngest and I spent a morning playing under the watchful and peaceful gaze of Mary. I tried to say a Rosary while the kids were running and climbing, but alas!  Motherhood means praying on the run, so instead I let my spirit lead me:  How can you resist praying her beautiful canticle from Luke 1: 46-55?

My soul does magnify the Lord.  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.  Because He has regarded the humility of His handmaid:  for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  Because He that is mighty has done great things for me:  and holy is His name.

photo by Heidi Knofczynski

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.  He has shown the might of His arm:  He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.  He has put down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble.  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

He has filled the hungry with good things:  and the rich He has sent empty away.  He has received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.  And He spoke to our fathers:  to Abraham and to his seed forever.

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski
Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

We had only one mishap, Max pulled a wheel barrow full of soil on top of himself!  Nothing that a hug and a bath did not fix! And it gave me pause to reflect that even when we have muddied ourselves in our sin, we know that Our Lady will gently guide us into reconciliation and repentance so that we can be cleansed in His loving mercy!  

Photo by Heidi Knofczynski

May the prayers of the Mother of God be with all who read this blog. May her praise of our Lord ring joyfully in our hearts!  And may we respond to her request to "do whatever He asks of you."

Peace and Grace,