My prayer for 2015

During my lectio divina time I am working through Ephesians. It’s a rich book, thought-provoking. And I’m only on chapter 2. One section has particularly stuck with me for a few days, however, and that is the prayer that St. Paul says he prays for the Ephesians. He says,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe…” (1. 16-19).

This will be my guiding text and prayer for 2015.

I pray, O my God, that you will give me a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of You. Enlighten the eyes of my heart. Grant that I may know the hope to which You have called me (eternal life, a place in the communion of saints, sanctification); the riches of Your glorious inheritance with the saints (the beauties of heaven, the joy of seeing you face to face); and the immeasurable greatness of Your power in me. Your grace is sufficient for me, for I know that Your power is made perfect in my weakness (2. Cor. 12.9). Thank you for my weaknesses. Use them to Your glory. Amen.

 

A parent’s prayer

“…teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born” (Judges 13.8).

Many people know the story of Samson, God’s strong man and one of Israel’s judges before the time of the kings. He had such great strength that he killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. What I didn’t know before reading his whole story, is that his barren mother was visited by an angel and told that she would bear a son. She was warned against strong drink and unclean foods during her pregnancy and told never to touch the boy’s head with a  razor. The woman told her husband, Manoah, about the angel’s visit and instructions. He entreated God to send the angel again, to “teach us what we are to do with the boy that will be born.”

What if all parents were to ask this of God? What if I had during my pregnancies? You know, though, it’s not too late. Even with Stepford Son nearly 14, and perhaps even especially now, I can beg God to teach me what I am to do with the boy. And with each of my other children, too. It’s never too late to pray for your children, to ask God what you should do to help them grow to be the men and women He created them to be.

I’m sure Mary and St. Joseph prayed this often. They may have had a perfect Son, but they wanted to raise Him properly, to do God’s Will in every instance. They were not passive in their child-rearing; I’m sure they still had to make the hard decisions. God did not want automatons for parents–He wanted living, breathing, loving people to raise His Son. While Mary and St. Joseph may not have had the struggles I do with my children, still, they experienced joy, sorrow, pain, disappointment, uncertainty. And so they prayed. And so must I. I love them, I serve them, I teach them, but most importantly, I pray to God for them. That He will show me how to raise them to His glory.

Christ’s letter to the world

“…you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Cor. 3.3

I am God’s letter to the world, bearing His Word, His Beauty, His Truth, His Goodness, His Mercy. What a responsibility! How then should I act? Sure, I should be kind to those I meet–the cashier at the grocery, other drivers, fellow shoppers, etc. But what about those in my own home? Am I not Christ’s letter to them as well? Aren’t they the first to whom I should bring His Word, Beauty, Truth? How often, though, are they the ones who bear the brunt of my bad mood, my irritation? For me, it’s easy to put on a happy face for the few moments of interaction with the gate guard on base but much harder to be pleasant with my husband when I’m tired or stressed out. It’s easy to chit chat with the mail clerk but tortuous to listen to my children’s silliness when I am irritated.

Yes, I have a responsibility to bring Christ to the world, but it starts with the people He has put intimately into my life.

 

The Four Words of Advent

On the First Friday of this month, the children and I attended a local parish that has a school attached to it. Now, I typically avoid “school masses” like the plague. I’m pretty sure I’d rather go to the dentist (yes, it’s pride. God’s working on it). Anyway, this school mass was not the horror that I anticipated. It was, in fact, the best school mass I have ever attended. Firstly, because of the priest’s homily and secondly, because it was followed by a period of adoration in which the entire school participated. Wow!

The priest in his homily spoke of the four words of Advent. Four weeks, four words. Do you know them? I didn’t. Well, I knew one.

The first week’s word is watch.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
[Gospel reading from first Sunday in Advent: Mark 13.33-37]

Help me, O Lord, to watch, to prepare myself for your coming, your adventus. 

The second word is repent.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

[Gospel reading from second Sunday in Advent: Mark 1.1-8]

Grant me light, O Lord, to know myself, that I may see my failings, repent of them and confess. Cleanse me and heal me, O Lord. Prepare me for your coming.

The third word is rejoice! Unlike the other three words, this one is taken from the first two readings and the psalm.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.
[Is. 61. 10-11]

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
[Lk. 1 46-49]

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.
[1 Thess. 5.16-22]

Even in this time of watching and repentance, grant, O Lord, that I may rejoice in the anticipation and fulfillment of your coming.

The fourth and final word is fiat. To find this word, you have to go back to Latin. Mary’s response to God’s request is “Fiat voluntas tua.”  In English, “May it be done according to your Will.”

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
[Lk. 1. 26-38]

May I, like Mary, O Lord, say always and to everything, Fiat voluntas tua. 

Reflections on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries

I’ve been re-reading A Western Way of Meditation: The Rosary Revisited. In it, the author helps westerners discover meditation through means of the Rosary. Meditation is somewhat foreign to us here in the US and can carry a negative connotation. Since I’ve begun trying to meditate the Rosary though, instead of merely repeating words, I’ve seen my love for this devotion grow. It’s taken on a greater importance in my daily life. That’s because meditation while I’m “telling my beads” brings me closer to my God and His Mother. I meet them in the words, in the events, in the movement of the beads through my fingers.

One night, while praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, I thought of how God’s Will sometimes brings us pain and sorrow. How “no servant is greater than his master” (Jn. 15.20).  And we pray that His Will be done before each of the mysteries. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s Will  is then played out for us in the scene of the mystery.

The First Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden. Here Jesus knows He is to suffer and die. He is in torment thinking of it, and He is alone. He asks His friends to pray with Him, to keep Him company during this agonizing time, but they fail Him. Sometimes it is God’s Will that we suffer alone, that our friends let us down, that He is the only rock to which we can cling.
first sorrowful

The Second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus is tortured by the Roman guards. His flesh is stripped as He receives the lashes. His body is bloody and brutalized. This, too, is in God’s Will. Sometimes God Wills that we suffer, for it is in suffering that we learn love. And through pain we aid in the redemption of ourselves and of the world. As St. Paul states in his letter to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (1.24).
passion_scourge

The Third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning with Thorns. The guards hit Jesus. They spit at him, weave a crown of thorns, throw a dirty purple cloth around his shoulders and mockingly hail him as King. And they did this to the only one in the universe who deserves to be called king. Sometimes God Wills our humiliation, that others mock and abuse us. Not that we are supposed to be doormats for others to walk all over, but there are times when we should not defend ourselves against verbal attack, when we should imitate Our Lord, when “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before her shearers, and he opened not his mouth” (Is. 53.7).
784px-The_Crowning_with_Thorns-Caravaggio_(1602)

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is the Carrying of the Cross. After His torture, when He is near death, He is forced to carry a heavy wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha, the place of execution. In our sufferings, we are sometimes asked by God to carry more, to carry a burden we think is impossible. I’ve noticed that when I am incredibly tired, sick, whatever, that is the time when I’m often asked to go the extra mile. Not to rest, to comfort myself, to have others take care of me, but to take care of others, to give of myself more. God knows what we can carry, and sometimes He Wills us to carry just a little bit more.
kruisdraging_grt

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion. Once at the place of execution, Jesus is nailed to the wood of the cross and left to die. He dies amid jeers, naked, abandoned by all who once followed Him (except for St. John and some women). He dies a horrible death; none of the sufferings did He deserve. Takashi Nagai, in speaking of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, called those who suffered and died, hansai, burnt offerings. Offerings to God to stop the horrible war (A Song for Nagasaki 117). Jesus was hansai for us. And who knows but that God Wills that we be hansai for someone else. Even if we aren’t called to die a tortuous physical death, God does Will that we die to ourselves, a painful death that happens again and again, day after day.
Leon_Bonnat_-_The_Crucifixion

My Jesus, I unite my sorrowful heart with yours. May you deepen my love for you and for my neighbor.

My Jesus, I trust in Thee!

Taking the world upon my shoulders

For the past few days I have been finding out about friends’ and loved ones’ struggles, pains, heartbreaks. And my heart hurts. It hurts for the marriages that are close to breaking; the emotional, mental and physical pain that many are going through; the loneliness; the wrestling to find meaning in the midst of trials. I bring these people to the feet of my Lord, and I beg Him, “Help!” But I can’t seem to let go, to remember that He is the Savior and I am not. I hold on to the pain, taking it on as my own. Like I can save them.

Today, as often happens after loved ones’ pain is revealed to me, I had a horrible temptation to despair. The problems came rushing to my mind, I started to pray, and a little voice started whispering, “Why pray? What’s the point? If God knows all, allows all for the Good of the person’s soul, what’s the point in praying for relief of pain, for comfort, for mended marriages?” And then I couldn’t pray. I would start to say, “Lord, I pray for _______. Heal/comfort/etc….” And the little voice came back, “Why? What if it’s God’s Will? What if you are actively praying against God’s Will for this person?” I think, “Yes, what if I am praying against His Will? What should I pray? How should I pray? What’s the point?” I know I need to pray. Something about relationship. But the how and the what are escaping me right now. So I’ve got, “My Jesus, mercy” and the Rosary. I’m thankful for that much.

My reading today helped some. I am nearly finished with A Song for Nagasaki, a book about Japanese radiologist and Catholic convert, Takashi Nagai. Amazing story. I cannot wait until the Catholic Church recognizes his sainthood. In his later writings, as he lay dying from leukemia and radiation poisoning (he was a victim of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki), he writes about prayer: “…some prayer is ‘plain superstition’ or ‘no different from purchasing a lottery ticket.’ Real prayer does not make difficult demands…No, we can pray as soon as we can speak with the loving Person who is the source of all dynamism in the universe (133). Speaking to his children, whom he would soon leave as orphans, he says,

“Your Christian faith will be no drug that anesthetizes pain. But I can assure you of this: your…path is precisely what God in His Providence has chosen, specially for you! Accept it as such and often ask Him: How can I use this for Your glory? This is no popular psychology, no clever method for shaking off the blues. No, it’s the one authentic response to the mystery of life. Sickness and trouble are not a sign that we are far from God or that He has rejected us….we don’t believe in a God of small deeds who lets His favourites win lotteries and whimsically ignores the others. He is too big to act like that…the only life that interests me is one lived for Him….one day at a time, supported by prayer…Some get themselves into a knot over the ‘unfairness’ of God’s Providence…I can assure you of this: if each of us accepts ourselves as we are it is absolutely certain that a day will come when we can see how God’s plans have been accomplished, and precisely through our weakness…(149-150).

Yes, some comfort, but I guess I will continue to keep Thy steadfast love before my eyes and try to walk in faithfulness to Thee (Ps. 26.3) And keep repeating, “My Jesus, mercy. My Jesus, mercy.” My friends and loved ones, I’m still praying for you. Honestly, I don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for it. But I’m praying and I know He’s listening.