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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Sheep Hear My Voice.

A reflection on the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2013

Thereadings this Sunday call us to martyrdom; to witness in strength and love to the Lamb who shepherds us and fills us with His joy.  How do we gain the confidence of Paul and Barnabas to be a witness to the truth of the Gospel?
John: 10:27-30
Jesus said:  “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”

By, Luke Knofczynski
 Luke's drawing of him listening to Jesus
Do you know His voice?  How do you learn to hear his voice?  These were questions that came up in our recent Kyrion meeting.  Kyrion is a prayer group for children that we have at our parish.   We are a small group under the umbrella of One Heart~One Fire.  The format for our small but faithful group starts with praise of God in song, an opening prayer, then we read, discuss, act out, meditate and journal on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday.  We end with prayer.  We are trying to ignite a love for the Father in the hearts of the children, and to lead their hearts to know His voice.  And we are faithful and obedient to the teachings of our Church.  She is our guide into the heart of Christ.  Yet, it is a tall order.  There is an initial discomfort among all the children.  Jesus sometimes says strange things, challenging things.  It may be easier to keep a safe distance.   Even the children perceive this and our culture encourages it.

And this stirs up a bit of nervousness.  Truly, If you were to walk into our room in the middle of one of our meetings you would see what may look like chaos, in fact, it often feels like chaos to me (especially if I happened to have my toddler, Max, along).  To our eyes the rambunctious children do not seem to be ready or able listen and hear the Word of the Lord.  But our eyes miss a lot.   It is hard to perceive the very small movements of God in the ordinary messiness of our daily lives.

After my first few, very, very, VERY noisy and rowdy Kyrion meetings this year, I was tempted to give in to the feeling that it really was not worth the effort on a Friday afternoon, when I would much rather go home and relax with my family after a long week.  After all, we went to Mass that day, we will pray our nightly decade of the Rosary with the children before they go to bed…what more do we need to do?  Yes, Mass and devotion to our Blessed Mother are foundational to this ministry, but God has shown me, through many different means, how dangerous the attitude of "I have done enough" can be.  It can seduce you to compartmentalize faith.  It can induce a complacency in our soul and - I think we can see this in our culture - this complacency reduces our ability to love others with the passionate and fiery love of Christ; with a love that witnesses His love.  We will become lukewarm.  We will not be able to perceive evil, we will be easily deceived and truth will be inverted.  Thus I persevere with our other families. I have learned, over the course of the years how much He can do with a little perseverance on my part.  I am learning to notice the still,  small movements of His Spirit which reveal that the sheep are listening.

By: Sophia Knofczynski
Sophia's drawing of Jesus
In fact, on many Sundays, when the Gospel is read at Mass (or during the children’s liturgy he sometimes attends) my son Luke will comment on how we read that in Kyrion, or how he got to play the part of Jesus in that Gospel during Kyrion, or how he drew a picture of Jesus when we journaled on the Gospel.  He is engaged in the readings at Mass in a way that he would not otherwise be.  He is given permission to understand that the Word of God is written for him.  This is not selfish, it is learning to recognize the voice of the Lamb, the shepherd of His people.  In fact, it is giving him the courage to respond to His word in a way that will witness to others.   And he will need the courage; our children will need to know the voice of Jesus.  For some form of martyrdom awaits all of us who listen to and obey the shepherd’s voice, but we are assured that even if we suffer for His sake in this world the Father will not allow you to be lost.

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  Then one of the elders said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.  “For this reason they stand before God’s temple.  The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.  For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Rev 7:9, 14 B-17

So it is imperative that we learn to hear His voice!  We need to teach our children that He is always speaking to us.  In our meeting, we ran a simple game with our children.  They were each blindfolded, and we (their mothers) scattered around the room and all called to them.  They had to listen and discern where their parent was.  They all succeeded.  Why?  Because they live with us, because they communicate with us.  They have learned to know our voices for their own safety, and for their individual needs for nurturing and love.  We learn to hear His voice by living with Him every day, in His Word, in prayer, by frequently coming to Him in adoration, in the Sacraments, in repentance.   Do you know His voice?  You must or you will be lead astray. You must know His voice and be prepared;  because sometimes He asks His followers to do hard things.  To love impossible people.  To forgive unspeakable crimes.  To proclaim Him in terrifying situations.  But in Him you can endure times of great distress, and confidently rejoice that your will be worthy of everlasting life where God Himself will wipe away every tear.

We are His people the sheep of His flock!  Amen!  Alleluia!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Do You Love Me?

  A reflection on John 21:  15-19

Do you pray with the Scriptures?  When you read them, do you allow a word or a scene from the passage to speak to you in your heart and draw out from you a prayer?  It is essential for each of us enter into prayer in this way.  Yet, it is a direction that many "voices" - from the world, and from your own ego - will dissuade you from; because it will reveal your idols, your weaknesses.  The Lord seeks to lead us out of those "Egypts" in each one of our souls.  To do so demands much; it demands a love that endures all things, hopes all things and to be completely truthful, I do not have that love yet.  That is important for me to understand, not for me to despair but so that I can live in His truth, endure in His light and be drawn up into a more perfect love by following His voice.  

Picture by Heidi Knofczynski, taken during a lesson on John 21:1-19

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”  John 21: 1-19

Simon, son of John, do you love me?

I need to live in His truth, I need to know who I am and  who I am called to be in His truth.  I need it desperately, and our whole culture is dying for lack of this truth.  In this Gospel, through the questions of Jesus, Peter is taken back into the bitter, memory of his betrayal of the Lord, in order to receive the profound, unfathomable mercy of Jesus so that he can be drawn up into His perfect love. What courage this takes!  We, who are so easily offended, we, who so often confess our failings in a self-justifying context, are also taken through the drama of the Lord's threefold questioning of Peter.  Three times he questions Peter’s love for Him, mirroring the three times that Peter denied Him. The anguish of Peter by the third round is palpable. I can understand this, it can be agonizing to allow Christ to plumb the depths of our individual depravity.  Especially in this hyper-sentimentalized culture, where there is no incentive to grow in a deeper more perfect love,  to have cowardice and unwillingness to suffer in order to grow in love revealed in the unflinching light of His gaze is terrifying.  Who really wants to face their own spiritual impotency?  Yet, to grow in His perfect love is to drive out fear (1 Jn, 4:18), because above all we are afraid of our own ultimate futility - our own spiritual impotency.  Christ is the only possible answer to that fear.  Moreover, when Peter submitted to Our Lord’s probing and tending to the wounds of his darkest failure, we are shown that his little love was enough for Jesus, who would transform that little love into perfect love.  And then we see how much potency in the Spirit is released!  

We must obey God rather than men!

Perfect love does drive out fear!  Look at how Peter and the apostles rejoice at the sufferings and worldly dishonor they receive on account of the Lord! (Acts 5:41) How can I be released from the bonds of my spiritual impotency?  How can I be freed the dark hidden wounds in my soul?  These wounds may not always be obvious, but they have a subtle control over my love. Again, I am not speaking of the sentimental love of our time, but the passionate, agape love of God.  The love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:7)  This is the love that our fears would block us from entering into.  This is the love that Christ will so gently draw from you, if you, like Peter, allow His Spirit to enter into your darkest wounds and heal them.  And not just heal them, but as we see in Peter, transform them!  His cowardice, in the power of this love, is lifted up to courage.  The Fisherman from Galilee will endure humiliation and martyrdom for Christ and His Church.  “I will praise you Lord…You changed my mourning into dancing!” Psalm 30 2;12

Worthy is the Lamb!

It seems a little unbelievable.  In this age of stunted, materialistic love, we may be a bit jaded in our hope that we could encounter Christ as intimately as Peter did merely from reading the words of Scripture.  We may be afraid to enter into the contemplative prayer that will bring us to Christ in this profound and personal way.  Do it anyway.  Put aside your fears, suspend you disbelief.   When you read the Gospel, when you hear it proclaimed at Mass, place yourself in the readings in your imagination.  Yes, there may be detracting voices -inner voices, worldly voices- that will hurl all sorts of accusations and distractions at you.  Yes, it may take time to build up an ability to endure in this type of prayer.  Yes, you may have to let go of the insipid, sentimentalized one-dimensional Jesus that is too often presented to us;  this Jesus inoculates us against the One who is the worthy Lamb of God, in whose presence all creation trembles and cries out to in adoration. (Rev 5: 11-14)  Persist!  And be ready, because He will surprise you.  Like He did for Peter, Jesus will ever so gently direct you to true repentance and deep healing. He will take your breath away and you will begin to let the Spirit breath through you. 

You brought my soul up from Sheol

My own experience in this type of prayer is an example of how important it is to persist through those false voices.  For many years in prayer I have entered into the scene of the sinful woman we read of in Luke.  In this prayer I am the women attempting to approach the Lord, but the Pharisees are standing in my way.  They present every objection imaginable to discourage me from persisting to see the Lord.  They accuse me of my own unworthiness and some of their accusations are devastatingly accurate.  The worst one is:  “Just who do you think you are!”  They go on:  “You do not belong here, you never will!"  "You do not need Him as much as others, how presumptuous of you!"  You ought to be content to just look at Him from afar, He will just send you away!”   It has really taken me years to get through that gauntlet in any meaningful way.  Even when I did persist and I fell at His feet, I could not look at Him - I was too afraid.  And in my day to day life as well, I can tell you that this fear, fundamentally a fear of rejection, has stopped me from doing many, many things that I ought to have done.   But, one day I did look up at Him.  And He looked at me with eyes that were strong and serious, and unfathomably loving and said:  “ Well, who do you think you are?”  Wow!  Those words from Him seemed to be my worst fear coming true, but the Lord’s eyes never wavered, and drew from me the answer “I am yours.”   And He responds, “ You did not choose Me, I choose you:   Follow me.


 Take a moment to enter into this Gospel in prayer (or whatever Biblical scene you are drawn to). What would He ask you?  In those moments of prayer, much like Saint Peter encounter with the Lord, Jesus will draw you to look at yourself with unflinching honesty, but bathed in His light you begin to receive the courage, the power to be so much more than forgiven:  to be transformed, to be potent and fruitful in His Spirit.  Follow Him!

Christ is Risen!  Alleluia!

This post is featured on Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network, a great site to find Catholic blogs!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Eternal Key

The second reading for this Sunday (April 7, 2013) is from the Book of Revelation. In verse 18 we read that the Lord Jesus has conquered death forever and offers us the gift of eternal life. 

9 I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus.
10 I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet,
11 which said, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands
13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.
17 When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last,
18 the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.
19 Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards. – Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-9 N.A.B. 

In reflecting on this reading I am reminded of a story about Shelly, a young professional woman, who was having car trouble. 

Briefcase in hand, Shelly aimed a frustrated kick at the front tire of her shiny red BMW. She turned away from her car, glared angrily at rush hour traffic and wondered how long it would take AAA to arrive. She felt her face flush at the thought of being late for another board meeting. 

Within minutes the AAA Roadside Assistance van arrived. The driver said, “Miss, did you call for assistance?” 

“This stupid key fob isn’t working. I can’t get into my car and I’m going to be late for an important meeting!” 

“Can I see your key fob?” 

Wiping beads of perspiration from her forehead, she handed him the key fob and watched him insert the key into the door lock and open the door. She smiled sheepishly and thanked him profusely. Now thoroughly embarrassed Shelly sped away thinking, I’m never going to tell anyone about this incident! 

What was her real obstacle? Shelly lost sight of her goal. She needed to get to the board meeting, but the key fob battery was dead. When the dime sized fob battery failed she became distracted and forgot that the key fob had a built-in key – a key to be used in the event of battery failure. The means to open the car door and get to the board meeting on time was in her hand all along. 

I wonder how many times I have kicked the front tire of my life’s vehicle in frustration at my own inadequacies, or because things weren’t going according to my plan? How many times have I become sidetracked and lost sight of the objective – that of spending eternity with our Lord? It’s deceptively easy to get off target in a society that is fixed on worldly possessions; in a technology driven culture; in a country with a warped sense of values; in a world that seems to be in apostasy.
On this second Sunday of Easter I am reminded that through the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, his struggle under the weight of the crossbeam, the crucifixion, and resurrection Jesus placed the key to spending eternity with him in my hand; I simply have to use it, and I never have to be concerned about a dead battery.

Larry T

Monday, April 1, 2013

"...Whom are you looking for?"

But Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, " Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" She thought it was the gardener and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord, " and what he told her. (John 20:11-18)

          Mary had been at the tomb earlier, "...while it was still dark." (John 20:1) When she first came, she saw that the stone had been rolled away from the front of the tomb. Frightened, and without looking inside, she ran to tell Peter and John. When they returned, Peter entered first, then John followed. Although the account does not say so, they must have told Mary that Jesus's body was gone. Then the story concludes, "For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home." (vs.9-10)

                               You do not have to sit outside in the dark,

                               If, however, you want to look at the stars,

                               you will find that darkness is required

                               The stars neither require it nor demand it.

                                                                                               -----Annie Dillard

               Can we imagine the heartache and the pain Mary was feeling? Over the past three days, the one who she loved more than life itself had been betrayed by one of his friends and deserted by the others. Then, falsely accused and convicted, Jesus was humiliated and tortured beyond human endurance, and nailed upon a cross, abandoned and forsaken by the very people who had cheered and placed palms upon his path as he entered Jerusalem, proclaiming,

                           "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11:9)

                 And now, someone had taken away his body. Would there be no end to the indignities Jesus would have to suffer? Even in death, he cannot rest. Still weeping, she moves closer to the tomb...she looks inside. [she] saw two angels in white sitting there..."  (v.12) I find it interesting that the angels appear to Mary, but were not there, or were not seen, by Peter or John. I believe that this is because of the great love and faithfulness Mary had for Jesus. I think Mary knew, more than the other disciples, of her need for Jesus; that her strength was in Jesus and she could not, and would not leave him, neither in his suffering nor in his death. Peter and John came out of the tomb and went home; Mary went into the tomb, still looking for Jesus.

                  Appearing in a form that did not frighten her, the angels asked Mary why she was weeping. Mary answered that someone had taken Jesus, and that she could not find him. Then, "...she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" (v.14-15)  Yes, initially, Mary did not know that she had found Jesus, the one she was looking for. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that Jesus had found Mary.

                   Jesus asked Mary who she was looking for. Isn't Jesus also asking me the same question? Or maybe in my life, it's better said, "What am I looking for?" And if I'm looking for some thing, then I'm a dead man. Because, from what source will I draw my life? From success? Praise from others? Power? Wealth? Self-esteem? Popularity? Can I, in all honesty convince myself that it is for one of these things that God created me? If I am made in his image and likeness, where in Jesus's life and teachings do I read of how important success, popularity, power and wealth is?  So if it's not a what I should be looking for, then it has to be a who! And I know that there is only one, who gives me life.

                   And the great news is that not only do I know that it's God who I must look for, but that God is always looking for me! And He is everywhere to be found; in all of His creation, and in the depths of my soul. But the Mystery of Calvary tells us that we must first die, before we can really live in Christ. We need to die of our earthly attachments and desires, and give ourselves over to His will, knowing that death is never the end, but a new beginning. This is beautifully said in this piece from an ancient homily from Holy Saturday:

                       "Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.

              Rise up, work of my hands, you were created in my image

                              Rise, let us leave this place

                              for you are in me, and I am in you

                             Together we form only one person 

                              and we cannot be separated."