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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, September 23, 2012

"Feed Me, O Lord!"

- a reflection on Psalm 81:11b (NABRE)
- by Deacon Paul Rooney

In one of her reflections (“What Were You Arguing About?”), Heidi so wonderfully pinpointed the key to every single relationship of intimacy—that of taking time to “be with” and to “listen to” the Other.  It triggered many thoughts for me (thank you, Heidi!), especially as they related to the writings of St. John of the Cross (1542-1591).
I would like to share a short meditation with you on Psalm 81:11b, “Open wide your mouth that I may fill it” (NABRE).  Observe this picture of a tiny bit of God’s creation: can you identify yourself on a spiritual level?

It may sound a bit crude, but isn’t it true that sometimes I have to “shut my mouth” so that I can “open my mouth” to be fed?
          St. John of the Cross speaks of the “mouth of the will.”  Perhaps drawing upon St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), St. John teaches that loving God is an operation or action of the will.  If we are dependent upon “good feelings” or consolations that God sometimes sends our way, then our appetites are still controlling us.  We would no longer have a pure love for God, because it is really the “good feelings” we are looking for, rather than God himself.
          The appetite, St. John teaches, is the mouth of the will.  If our appetite is on pleasure or things, then it becomes “narrow.”  On the other hand, if the mouth of our will is “opened only to God Himself, empty and dispossessed of every morsel of appetite,” then God will be able to fill it with His love and sweetness.
          Thus we come full circle.  How can one be “fed” unless he opens the mouth of his heart to the Word of God?  This is an obvious metaphor for taking time to quiet down, and listen to the inspired Holy Scriptures, especially the gospels.  We have God’s promise: if we open wide our mouths, we will indeed be filled! [I am not overlooking other ways that God can "feed" us, such as simply resting in his loving presence.  Those ways are for another day.]
          I pray the Lord to bless you with daily quiet time, a time of holy feeding!
- Deacon Paul Rooney

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Were You Arguing About?

What is the antidote to the blinding whirlwinds of selfish ambition and jealous envy? It is not simply to  reject our ambitions, passions or desires, we must daily submit these desires to the reality that the earthly fulfillment of them is not necessarily the goal.  As C.S.Lewis says in his essay The Weight of Glory  "We are far too easily pleased",  however, we are never deeply satisfied. This Sunday's readings are filled with the consequences of selfish ambition, which may temporarily please us, but in reality will blind us to our real needs.  Which explains Saint James in the second reading where he explains why we do not receive from the Lord what we ask for.  We do not know what we really need.  As I read over the Gospel for this Sunday I was thinking of another C.S. Lewis quote from the same essay. "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us..."   But how do we strengthen and hone our ambition for this eternal joy, how do we catch sight of our hearts desire?

Mk 9:30-37

"Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  He was teaching his disciples and telling them, 'The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.'  But they did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, 'What were you arguing about on the way?'  But they remained silent.  They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.'  Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them 'whoever receives on child such as this in my name receives me;  and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."

Jesus instructs his disciples, they perceive in His words deep mysteries, and profound destinies, but they are afraid to go deeper with Him.  Maybe they are afraid of what Jesus is predicting:  Suffering?  Death?  They do not seem to quite understand what He means by resurrection.  Even so, great ambitions and passions are stirred up.  And, as often happens in our human weakness, these passions are misunderstood, and  misdirected.  Their half-hearted understanding of the unlimited love of God leads them to apply the energy of these great stirrings in their soul to arguing about gaining earthly glory for themselves.  They have missed the higher calling of their Lord. They are following the ambitions in their hearts along a very horizontal trajectory, but Jesus is leading them to the heights of glory, and you cannot get attain that through egotism.  Then, later on in the day when they had come to a place of rest, Jesus asks them "What were you arguing about on the way?"

Right here is the opportunity to depart from the earthbound path.  Do you take a moment each day to allow the Lord to speak to you, convict you and redirect you?   Do you take at least a quiet minute or two for a daily Examen? In the Gospel there is a silence that follows the Lord's question.  This feels to me like an Examen prayer;  the twelve disciples, are not perfect, not always doing things with a deep understanding of themselves or of Christ (they sound a bit like me actually)...but, unlike the wicked men in the first reading, they have the humility stop and listen to Jesus, they have opened their hearts to Him enough to allow the Lord to show them where they are transgressing and where they are violating their training.  

And there is no need to be afraid to deeply examine your motives and your desires with His help, as the disciples originally were.  The Lord will not harshly condemn all of your misdirected passions and desires; He will show you what they are for.  He will purify your vision for things that are eternal, and this will reorder your desires.  He will help you to take your focus off of yourself so you can see the least and the weakest around you and you will bear upon yourself a bit of the weight of their salvation, to weaken your selfish motives - for you can never expect any earthly compensation for this service. And with a purer vision you will see that the initial desire for greatness and glory is an inborn desire to catch the eye of the Beloved and have him smile upon you.  It sounds like such a little thing, so easily overlooked for what appears to be  glitzier and grander achievements in the here and now, and yet it is everything.  But it takes time and a willingness to listen in prayer and attune yourself to the deep stirrings of His Spirit in your soul.

In the end the ambition and desire to be the greatest is not necessarily an evil if you submit your motives to Christ's direction. It is our fallen response to the longing to be approved of and enfolded into the arms of the Father.  The fulfillment of our deepest desire is to be that child wrapped in the arms of Jesus. 


I don't know why, but I really think that this song is a great preparation for anyone who might feel just a little intimidated by allowing Jesus in to direct all the strength and potency of our passions to the fulfillment in the love that awaits you in the arms of Jesus.  Do not be afraid to allow Him to show you where your passions are directing you!  

Peace and Grace!  Heidi

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Mary: Teach Me About Lowliness

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary, whose immaculate conception was celebrated 9 months ago, was born on this September day.  And as is the way of the Lord, this monumental day, this wondrous birth went quietly by in time, and still goes quietly by in our lives, we could easily miss it. In fact, we often do miss it.  Yet, this feast day invites us to ponder the woman whose life modeled most fully how to allow the word of the Lord to be conceived in us and born through us, in our own words and deeds.  Insignificance and lowliness are not barriers to these wonders, they are requirements.

Which is good, because  I do not have much to offer. I am a Catholic who fails a lot in living my faith.  I am a wife who fails a lot at being a wife.  I am a mother, who fails a lot with her children (I have two crying, fighting and whining in my presence right now - thankfully they are only mildly annoying me, so I am ignoring them...).  And, in a culture that is pragmatic, cliquey and materialistic, I am a stay-at-home mother of 8 who writes for an insignificant blog because I perceived a call to do it from Him, no money in it, no huge following, no "career" to validate me - nothing.  I am nothing.  And oh, how I have caused myself and others around me much pain in fighting that truth for most of my life.

When I was in high school, it got back to me that an acquaintance of mine had described me as a "cipher"....a nobody.  In her world, I was a quiet and fairly shy girl, who was not friends with her friends and who did not leave a huge impression on her friends.  Since I was not terribly concerned with her opinion of me at that time, I was able to brush off the insult fairly easily...or so I thought.  Because every once in awhile the words would come back to me, whispering to me that I was a cipher, a nobody.  And I would fight that identity with much ferocity!  I would deny it, offer proofs against it, but mostly I would fear it. The label of cipher became heavier and heavier.

 But,  one day I finally heard the words of Our Blessed Mother.  My spiritual ears were opened.

Luke 1:46-56:The Canticle of Mary."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 prose to our father to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

Was I to accept that identity that was so thoughtlessly assigned to me? Instantly my spirit rebelled: "I am not a cipher! I am not a nobody, do not let that nasty girl be right!"  The arrogant and prideful aspirations of my heart, which fed upon my fear of nothingness, did not yield easily.  Yet a wave of grace washed over my heart as I thought of the words: "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."  My pride was dispersed, I was thrown down, and lifted up. In a moment I was confronted with all that I wanted to be, thought I should be and was failing at, and yet I was given an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I was nothing.  I was nothing so that I could be lifted up; there is no other way.

That thoughtless comment of so many years before was instantly transformed, and the weight of it lifted. The Lord needed to show me I am nothing so I can be filled with His love, His Spirit, His life.  So that he can lift me up, out of my mediocrity and into His heart, and I do not have to grasp at earthly honors, or rewards or recognition. Without Jesus I am nothing, without Him I will cling to false egos and identities, and be let down by them, or even worse, I will be blindly self-satisfied! The heavy burden of that word "cipher" gave way to tearful gratitude and awe. In a world where wealth, popularity and honors are seen as indicators of goodness and worthiness Mary has shown me that it is only lowliness, nothingness that can acquire the interior vision and wisdom to give Him our fiat, with complete trust in His compassionate love that will lift us up.

So Happy Birthday Mary, Queen of Heaven, who so gently taught me about lowliness. I still have to submit my fears and insecurities to God, I still have to have Him disperse pride and arrogance with His mighty arm.  But I do not fear the nothingness as I once did, and I have come to see a little how God's kingdom conquers and transforms this world of shallowness and ugliness .  I now look upon that dismissive description of me so long ago through Mary's eyes, without the shame and fear that the world attaches to it  In those words came the might of His arm and revealed the true and eternal beauty of His Mother.

Blessed Be God, and Blessed Be His Most Holy Mother!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend who attended Catholic Biblical Studies classes with me.  She had been too elderly to drive herself, so we often went together.  One of her daughters, the eldest, (she had nine children) came up to me after the services and said that her mother had read Scripture to them when they were young, back in the 60's.  I had been touched to be asked to read a passage at her wake, because as I read I felt my friend's love of Scripture speaking through me to her now-grown and grieving children.  Hearing Scripture read reverently can bring comfort and consolation to our spirits.