Posted tagged ‘power’

Persecution’s Coming–Get Vulnerable!

May 21, 2013

Say what?!

From today’s readings:

My son, when you come to serve the Lord…
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
undisturbed in time of adversity…
Accept whatever befalls you,
in crushing misfortune be patient…
Trust God
~Sirach 2:1,2,4,6

The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill Him…
If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all…
whoever receives one such child as this in My Name,
receives Me
~Mark 9:31,37

First of all, we want to think that coming to serve the Lord
is going to eliminate our problems–not add to them!

And secondly, we want to prepare for problems
by gathering weapons, installing defenses,
learning to be assertive!

Sirach tells us, rather,
to be sincere and steadfast, patient,
accepting and trusting–positions of vulnerability.

Jesus only adds to the effect
by telling us to be the least and last,
like helpless little children!

The thing is, earthly strength is spiritual weakness, and vice versa.

Our battle is not against flesh and blood (cf. Ephesians 6:12)
Mortal strategies will yield mortal results.
We need the supernatural–
which is exactly what Sirach is proposing.

If we are to win supernaturally,
we must arm our souls with virtue
–the very word means “power”–
not with hostility.

Virtue wins by losing.
It wins by being what it is
–at the expense of earthly vulnerability–
in every circumstance.

The malice of men cannot shake it
from the practise of divine self-sacrifice,
from the love that sees, with God’s eyes,
the treasure in every soul–
even in the souls of those who hate it.

the power that has conquered the world
is this faith of ours
~I John 5:4

This is the man who was thrown into boiling oil
and emerged unscathed,
the man who was exiled on the bleak Isle of Patmos
for proclaiming the Gospel.
He conquered the world…
by sincerity, steadfastness, patience, acceptance
and trust in God.

We can too.

Yes, persecution is coming.
Get ready!
Get vulnerable!

Friends Help Friends Get to Confession

November 26, 2012

I’m one of those who leaves skid marks
all the way up to the confessional door…
every time.

It’s just a tough sacrament.

But we need it today like never before.

We’re in the midst of spiritual warfare.
This is our most potent weapon.

When you have made a good confession,
you have chained up the devil.
-St. John Marie Vianney, Cure of Ars

Confession fulfills the first words of Jesus’ public ministry:

Repent and believe in the Gospel!
-Mark 1:15

And makes the angels rejoice.

I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven
over one repentant sinner
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need to repent
-Luke 15:7

I wondered–
where does God expect to find 99 righteous people
who have no need to repent
when He says, “There is none righteous” -Romans 3:10.
Then it dawned on me that the people who are already in Heaven
are righteous & can’t sin anymore!
“Nothing unclean shall enter it” -Revelation 21:2

Growing up, it never occurred to me to go to Confession.
I didn’t know anyone who did.
Oh, I made my First Confession–about 2 years after First Communion
(so I never associated the two),
and the general message was that it’s practically impossible to sin.
We’re good people!
There were penance services the two years I was in a Catholic grade school, but all I remember about those was darkness, guilt and fear.
Somehow I missed the forgiveness part.

It was only in college that I went again–
when they had Advent & Lent penance services.
I was at the church every time they had an event,
so I went, shaking all the way.

I still didn’t get the forgiveness part…
but it finally occurred to me (thank you, guardian angel!)
to confess something that had a stranglehold on me.
That broke the neck of the compulsion.
Oh, it still managed to flail a few times.
Further Confessions put another bullet in its head.
I daren’t toy with it–it is still a weak spot–
but I’m not in bondage to it anymore.

There’s power in Confession.

From then on, I tended to go twice a year–
at the Advent & Lent penance services
(although there were still years when I didn’t go at all).
And every time it was like pulling teeth.

I didn’t know what to say…
(or if I did–well, if you’ve gone, you know!)

In every other sacrament, the words are given to you.
In Confession, you have to come up with your own.

Take with you words and return to the Lord
-Hosea 14:3

I read through every examination of conscience I could get my hands on.
I read books on Confession.
I asked priests for help.

One finally said, “try coming more often.”
I gaped like a goldfish.
If I don’t know what to say twice a year
how on earth am I going to know what to say more often!

But it was something I hadn’t tried yet…(!)

And when I learned about indulgences
& that the Confession requirement for a plenary (souls out of purgatory!)
is covered if you go to Confession every two weeks,
I set that as a goal.
If I can’t get up the nerve for my own sake,
at least I can help somebody else!
(‘course, going to Confession helps everybody who has to deal with you! ;))

I don’t always make it.
Some weeks there are too many other people waiting to go
(wouldn’t want to compete, or anything!)
but usually it’s just a lack of words.
And I still leave skid marks every time.
Nor do I feel the euphoria most people report afterward.

I just go anyway.

This is definitely a work in progress,
and I expect it will be for the rest of my life.

But my life is changing, one wrestled-through Confession at a time.
Every time I go, I’m exposing my soul to the very graces I need
to overcome the sins I just confessed.
Asking every two weeks,
“so, where did I go wrong this time?”
motivates me to steer clear of “slippery slopes”
that put me at risk.
And just knowing Confession is coming up
gives me another weapon against temptation–
“oh no you don’t! I don’t want to have to confess that again!”

It’s a good thing.
It’s something I want for my friends, as hard as it is.
Let’s help each other.

Overdose of Glory?

July 12, 2011

I built a model of the Old Testament Tabernacle recently. Every time I give the RCIA presentation on the Exodus I wish I had one & this year I found a printable that made it feasible.

(The covering needs help, but there’s only so much I can do with printer paper)


I tweaked a few things & made my own version of the ark of the covenant (complete with flowers, leaves & ripe almonds on Aaron’s rod!).

Passages I usually skim came to life before my eyes. It was striking just how many things lined up with the way we worship today, with special vestments for priests, water for purification before worship (holy water fonts, Father washing his hands before consecrating the Eucharist), the veiled Tabernacle where God was present to His people with the lamp burning constantly before it–and the showbread, most holy to the Lord (another foreshadowing of the Eucharist), etc.

That experience was on my mind as we prayed before the Tabernacle after Mass. It made me appreciate just what a privilege it is to be so close to the Holy of Holies, unveiled (and that’s not even touching Holy Communion!!!). It brought to mind what happened when people in the Old Testament didn’t honor that separation, especially Uzziah touching the ark (2 Samuel 6). That juxtaposed with a bit I’ve been reading out of Mystical Body, Mystical Voice: Encountering Christ in the Words of the Mass, by Christopher Carstens & Douglas Martis (on the new translation of the Mass) about our need to learn the language of Heaven through the liturgy in order to be happy in Heaven. They quote John Henry Cardinal Newman:

Now is it not plain that those who are tired, and wearied, and made impatient by our sacred services below,
would most certainly get tired and wearied
with Heaven above?
Because there the Cherubim ‘rest not day and night,’
saying,’Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’
Such as this, too, will be the way of the Saints in glory,
for we are told that there will be
a great voice of much people saying,
Alleluia; and again they said, Alleluia;
and the four-and-twenty elders said Alleluia.
Such, too, was our Lord’s way,
when in His agony
He three times repeated the same words,
‘Thy will, not Mine, be done.’
It is the delight of all holy beings,
who stand around the Throne,
to use one and the same form of worship;
they are not tired,
it is ever new pleasure to them to say the words anew.
They are never tired;
but surely all those persons
would soon be tired of hearing them,
instead of taking part in their glorious chant,
who are wearied of Church now,
and seek for something more attractive and rousing.
(Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 8, Sermon 1).

Mystical Body, Mystical Voice also references C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, in which people from hell travel to the outskirts of Heaven, only to find that they’re not real enough to walk on the grass or to endure the drops of rain–the grass is like swords that go right through their ghostly feet & the raindrops like bullets that wound them.

Heaven is overwhelmingly glorious for those who are prepared for it–but not for those who aren’t (which is why God mercifully provided a place for those who don’t like Heaven).

The upshot was a question: what if the reason Uzziah died by touching the ark wasn’t because “God went after him,” but rather because he connected with Power beyond his ability to bear–like touching a downed power line? What if he died of an overdose of divine glory? And what if he ultimately went to Heaven?

Saints who’ve had ecstasies have said they would’ve died from such proximity to God if He hadn’t sustained them, and I’m reminded of
Bl. Imelda Lambertini who kept asking how anyone could receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and not die of happiness (and then she did–both–in a miraculous First Communion).

God is all-powerful. He makes an atomic bomb look like a lightning bug. People fell down terrified at encountering an angel, never mind God Almighty Himself. There are constructive ways to approach such power, but there are destructive ways too (I shudder to think of all the sacrilegious and careless Communions!). But since the God doesn’t often reveal the spiritual destruction in a physical way, we don’t notice–this side of the veil. He makes Himself SO available to us here!

Life here is our training for Heaven–not just to see if we can be “good enough” to squeak into a celestial amusement park, but rather a program of discipline in humility and caritas that will enable us to do the spiritual equivalent of running a triathelon with exhilaration instead of agony–to be radiant with the power of the Almighty instead of being fried by it–forever.

It gives a whole new dimension to the necessity of Purgatory!

God’s purpose is to build us up, to ennoble us, to make us real. He wants to empower us to stand before His glory in overflowing exuberance. Some things fulfill that purpose and some detract from it–and He knows better than we do which is which!

I want to be in on this training!

Good and Faithful Servant

May 21, 2010

History is full of unfaithful servants, full of power-hungry tyrants who clawed their way to the top (or died trying).  They’re a brutal bunch, a sad lot, always at odds with like-minded servants who are trying to accomplish the same hostile takeover.  The sheep suffer.  There is no peace.

But what nobility we see in holy submission!  What dignity!  What peace…

I got a good look at that today in Genesis 24.  Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, had been in line for a sizable inheritance while Abraham was childless (Genesis 15: 2-3).  Yet here he is, humble, obedient, devout (circumcised!, see Genesis 17:23 ), undertaking an arduous journey to establish the heir in an honorable marriage.  There’s no sign of jealousy or of a desire to “get back at” the one who now has the right to what Eliezer might have dreamed of possessing.  He serves his master faithfully and well, seeking the best for him, putting himself out to procure it, counting on God. No wonder Abraham made him the head of his household!

It struck me…Jesus had an “Eliezer” too.  “Then Peter said, ‘Lord, is this parable [of faithful servants awaiting their master’s return from a wedding!] meant for us or for everyone?  And the Lord replied, ‘Who, then is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.'” (Luke 12:41-44).

This is the same Peter to whom Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.  And whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 16:18) and “Feed My lambs…Tend My sheep…Feed My sheep” (John 21:15, 16, 17).  Saint Peter is that faithful servant, set in charge of God’s household to give us our food at the proper time, procuring a bride (the Church) for Christ!

Only in God’s hands are the reins of power properly held.  The ruler (like St. Peter) then follows Him, and the sheep can profitably follow the ruler.  This, too, is the Holy Spirit’s order.

Lord, may I be as humble, devout, poised and faithful as these holy servants!


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