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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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ our King

I discovered a wonderful song reading the Divine Office in Advent 2011 (sorry it took so long to post but it also seems appropriate to the feast of Christ the King, 2012! As I recall I was struck by the Old Testament reading about Hannah at the time....) The song "Lift up your heads ye mighty gates" was written in 1642, by George Weiszel, sings the praise of Jesus, King of Kings:
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates;
Behold the King of glory waits;
The King of kings is drawing near;
The Savior of the world is here!
A Helper just He comes to thee,
His chariot is humility,
His kingly crown is holiness,
His scepter, pity in distress.
O blest the land, the city blest,
Where Christ the Ruler is confessed!
O happy hearts and happy homes
To whom this King in triumph comes!
Fling wide the portals of your heart;
Make it a temple, set apart
From earthly use for heaven's employ,
Adorned with prayer and love and joy.

Redeemer, come with us abide;
Our hearts to Thee we open wide;
Let us Thy inner presence feel;
Thy grace an love in us reveal.
Thy Holy Spirit lead us on
Until our glorious goal is won;
Eternal praise, eternal fame
Be offered, Savior, to Thy Name!
I suppose the poet in me loves the way it all rhymes from line to line, yet the serious side sees the truth of the words.  As I read and pondered for this blog, given the current state of affairs here in the U. S., I realize the deeper truth of proclaiming Christ the King lies in each of us.  Will we be willing to open the portals of our heart; and make it a temple, set apart; from the earthly use for heaven's employ?  Last year in advent, I pondered readings on Hannah and how she came to open her portals for the Lord.
The first line is interesting:   Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates....not sure if gates have heads on them but my head (or thoughts) can sure act like a barrier to recognizing the presence of God and acting as his servant here on earth.  I find that too much self centered thinking closes the gate to thoughts of God.  At times it seems my mind is full of endless negative possibilities, my prayer life dries up and my whole being droops with the weight of what ifs and how comes.  Next comes the tears of anger and regret.  To me the story of Hannah exemplifies this fed up state.  In 1 Sam 1:10-11, Hannah bitterly prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously, then she made a vow, promising:  Ok, Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do no forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child....(I fill in the blank here with my latest petition!)  Sometimes I'm at the bottom of the pit and I'm just wailing out my frustration, lack of confidence, loss of patience and hope (or whatever!) from that seemingly endless pit of worry.
Why is it that we must reach rock bottom in order to call out to God for help? I suppose there's only one way to turn in the dark and that's toward the light.  Yes, contemplating the King of Kings helps me as I remember His promise to always be with us, to always love us despite our miserable condition.  He is always waiting for us to just gaze in His directtion, to reach out and make that agonziing effort to turn from the darkness and realize, the Savior of the world is here!
Once my eyes focus on the Savior I begin to recognize my Helper, the one who humbly enters our world; whose gentleness and love draws me up from the deep pit of self pity and despair.  His promise of presence halts my downward plunge.  He is waiting for us in the tabernacle at adoration. His healing touch comes through my child's laugh or a hug from those wise, older ladies at daily mass.  His presence heals us through reading scripture, praying and listening to homilies.  The ulitimate touch of the Eucharist provides the sweet balm of healing and love.  God loves us so much, if only we would gaze frequently on His most loving form on the cross, with his wounds of healing and sacrifice, we can be renewed.
In fact, I'd really like to know what's behind the saying, by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), because this works.  God first revealed such healing to Moses while on the desert exodus from Egypt.  The people grumbled on the Exodus as their patience worn thin by lack of the basic neccessities.  They didn't like the food, the water or the situation.  Then the Lord sent serpents which bit the people and many died.  What a forsaken position they were in, but within their horrible state they realized their sin in complaining, so they asked Moses to intercede with God.  The Lord instruct Moses to fashion a serpent on a pole, then everyone who had been bitten would look upon the lifted up serpent and recover.  (Number 21:8-9)  Similarly in John 3:14-16, Jesus tried explaining himself to Nicodemus:  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life....So simple an act of faith can heal if we only we look to him with belief and trust!
When the bitterness of life has bitten us and we have nowhere to turn, we finally look to the Lord.  Hannah, in her shameful childless state, cried with deep sorrow and misery (1 Sam 1:15-16) pouring out her heart to the Lord.  Here Hannah flung open the portals of her heart, as she brought her unhappy state to the Lord for healing.  Pain and suffering bring us low, to the realization we just can't do it alone; that we can do nothing without Christ.  It would appear our willingness to offer these unsolvable problems to the Lord is the first step in being made anew.  Old Testament writings confirm this:  For God searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart; their secrets he understands (Sirach 42:18).  He creates a new heart and renews our steadfast spirit.  He restores the gladness of salvation and upholds our willing spirit (Psalm 51: 12, 14)  A renewed Hannah, can then set her temple apart for heaven's employ, promising her child would be given to the Lord for all of his days.  She leaves the temple refreshed and regenerated, and so adorned with prayer and love and joy, fulfills her promises when the Lord answered her prayer.  St Paul summarizes it well in Philippians 4:6-7, Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make you requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Just Give It Up to Jesus!!!
I love the thought of being "in Christ Jesus!"  This must be the abiding in Him part of the poem:  Redeemer, come, with us abide; Our hearts to Thee we open wide; Let us Thy inner presence feel; Thy grace and love in us reveal.  Certainly, the abiding in Christ is a key element in a keeping an even keel in life, and I'm just now investigating its truth.  At first thought, I'd resented the fact that God had control over everything, like goodness--why does God have all the stock in that?  The only thing I had was my sin and my will to choose.  It appears that God offers us so much more when He is in control, when he is King of our lives.  We have that share of His life and love, given through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can experience true peace, love and hope not just for ourselves but within the greater community.  This must be the part of the poem where, O blest the land, the city blest, where Christ the Ruler is confessed!  O happy hearts and happy homes to whom this King in triumph comes!  To ponder God is like looking out at the ocean--a beautiful, deep and unending mystery, yet living His life within His domain brings benefits most people seek with great passion.
In summary, this quaint old fashioned song is the answer to story of our life!  The poem reveals our  Redeemer who is just waiting around for us, knocking at our gate.  We need to lift up our head, shake open our mighty barriers to recognize Him.  He's humble, holy and will show up in our time of need, but we have to be willing.  The promise of blessing, happy hearts and homes comes to those who confess his Lordship in life.  With our repentance and turn to our Lord for leadership, we can confidently open the portals of our heart, so he can remove the junk and replace it with grace and love.  In turn, we adorn our temple with prayer, love and joy, setting worldly cares aside and let heaven set up residence inside. (oops I'm starting to rhyme!)  The Holy Spirit leads the effort, where we journey with patient endurance doing heaven's work of love.  Finally, when we (the abiding parties and I or you) get to the goal, we'll be singing eternally, praising and worshiping our Lord for eternity!  Sounds like a wonderful plan to me!  I think this is the whole concept of Christ the King in a nutshell (or a song!)
Many blessings for a rich Feast of Christ the King
and a wish for you to open the gates of your heart
so the love and peace of Christ may be yours forever! 
Janet Goodwin         


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Let Your Joy Shine!

 The readings for this Sunday, the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary time, are pretty dramatic.  They are leading us to the end of the liturgical year, and so we look the the end of time, and to the return of Christ the King, which is next Sunday's celebration.
In those days, I Daniel, heard this work of the Lord: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people;  it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time.  At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book .
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.
"But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."  Daniel 12;1-3
Are you prepared for times of great distress and upheaval?  No..... in spite of a my disappointment in the election and the Mayan 2012 prediction of the end of the time, I am not prophesying the end of the world.  I keep in mind always the final words of today's Gospel:  "But of that day or hour, no one knows."  However,  since we do not know the day and hour, or even our individual day and hour, we must always have our faith and hope fixed on Jesus, who shows up the path of life through the dark valleys we will encounter.  Because He has forged the way through death.  In fact, though these readings bring to mind the ultimate futility of this world, reminding us of our present darkness and our looming doom, the Church is calling us to rejoice!  When that time does come our King is coming to gather us to Himself!
Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwell secure, for you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your devout one see the pit.  You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence.  Psalm 16: 9-11
As I read, prayed and re-read these readings a person kept emerging in my mind.  The saint Maximilian Kolbe.  I think of him because he died in Auschwitz with a group of others chosen to be starved to death in a horrible underground bunker.  It was a punishment inflicted on prisoners of Auschwitz whenever one of them escaped.  Designed to be produce a distress unsurpassed so that prisoners would be very motivated to prevent any other escape attempts.  But with Maximilian Kolbe in that  bunker, instead of the usual loud and horrifying suffering and pleas for help, they were led in singing hymns and prayers.  Maximilian encouraged them by giving them hope in the eternal inheritance of Christ our Lord, and in the everlasting beauty of their heavenly mother Mary.  He brought the joy of heaven into that awful place, and like a star shining brightly he lead those poor souls to justice.  That is what the Lord will do for each of us if we pray for the faith to hold fast to Him. 

It takes a profound joy, rooted in faith to be a light in the dark.  We need to be realistic about our passing  world, and we need to transmit the joy of our confidence in our Savior, who through His sacrifice leads the way through desolation and despair.  In His presence there is abounding joy, contagious and overflowing to those who wish to receive it. This joy does not mean you will be immune to suffering; I am not suggesting for one minute that the pain and suffering of Maximilian and the others was any less horrible than it had been for others, but faith in the eternal joy of heaven allowed them to endure in their suffering with a abiding hope and an inspiring courage.  This faith means that in suffering, and times of distress you can be a light to others.  Pray always for an increase of faith in Him, and love for all you meet, so that your joy can shine like the stars.

Oh, and here is another person that radiated the joy of the Lord, this is an admittedly light-hearted video that I found while reading Simcha Fisher's blog over at National Catholic Register. All of my friends have agreed, that like Simcha, first they hated it, thinking it a flippant video of our beloved Pope, then they loved it, because it overflows with the love of Christ and the joy of Blessed John Paul II!  

Peace and grace to all of you!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day is Here!

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord; All the families of nations will bow low before him. For kingship belongs to the Lord, the ruler over nations. All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God; All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage. And I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you. The generation to will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.Psalm 22:28-32
Election day is here!  Don't forget to bring you faith with you to the polls! Please remember the vital importance of religious liberty which is seriously threatened!  I have included some links in this post that may be of interest to you as we prepare to go to the polls tomorrow.

A message from Archbishop Lucas

Public Witness and Catholic Citizenship, by Archbishop Chaput

Video of Religious Liberty by Archbishop Lori (there are many good videos in this link, so check them out!)

USCCB page on religious freedom

USCCB's First American Freedom

Democracy and the Gospel of Christ  by, William Doino Jr. First Things blog: On The Square

And finally a YouTube link to an short video on what is at stake in this election:

Jesus is our Lord and our King!  Above all else, it is in Him alone in whom we place our trust for our final hope, there is no elected official who can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven; that can only be accomplished through Him!

May God's grace and peace accompany you to the polling places today!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bastions of Faith

To daily mass, to worship the Lord they come, the elderly, some with gnarly hands, clicking canes, rattling walkers, shuffling feet, swaying unnaturally because of worn out hips and knees. 

To daily mass they come, to worship the Lord, an occasional young mother with her shiny faced, bright eyed little ones. 

Nothing will come between them and their Lord. 

First they worship God at daily mass, then in spiritual love they greet each other with smiles talking about aches and pains, or the weather, or seeking prayers for those in need. In the same spirit those who can no longer drive are sometimes given rides to church by those who can, and after the worship service some will gather at the nearest coffee house for more fellowship. Overlooked, but by God and possibly their pastor, these bastions of faith are ideal examples of this Sunday’s gospel reading. 

28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12:28b-34 (NAB)

The Pharisees, Herodians, and scribes had been asking Jesus trick questions in the hope of getting Him to respond with something they could officially charge Him with, but at this point the score was Jesus – 4, Pharisees and Herodians – 0. The scribe in verse 28 seeing how well Jesus had answered them, and decided on a different approach – test Jesus’ knowledge and understanding of scripture.

What began as something of a test concluded in verse 32 and 33 with the scribe’s observation of, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”,
and in verse 34 with Jesus responding, You are not far from the kingdom of God.

The scribe acknowledged the wisdom of Jesus’ answer, and Jesus acknowledged the scribe’s true grasp of the commandments. Imagine the great joy of our God when His people worship Him with all their heart, understanding, and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves, and do not simply offer burnt offerings and sacrifices as obligated by Church law.