Advent day 5

It’s a good thing faith is not based on emotions. It’s a good thing most things in life aren’t (or shouldn’t be) based on emotions. Because I really don’t feel like trying today. I don’t feel like giving of myself. I don’t want to keep going. But it’s not about what I feel, it’s about what I will. And I will to keep trying, to keep giving, to keep going. What we do when the feeling is not there is important.

All the more important is it to “sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Ps. 96.1-3)

 

Advent day 4

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary
At midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe, I beseech thee, O my God,
To hear my prayer and grant my desires
Through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ
And of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Today starts the St. Andrew novena, prayed 15 times per day from his feast day of Nov. 30 to Christmas Eve. It’s a novena I try to make every year. Inevitably I miss some days, but I do my best.

My verse from Psalms yesterday spoke of consolations (Ps. 94.19). Today in my spiritual reading (Lead, Kindly Light) I read, “O my God, let me never forget that seasons of consolations are refreshments here and nothing more. They are only intended to prepare us for doing and suffering” (p. 112). With both the bad and the good we can say, “This, too, shall pass.”

I experienced a great consolation today: adoration in my super-liberal parish. With Latin and incense and everything. My God, an answer to a long-standing prayer. My God, prepare me for what you have prepared for me to do or to suffer. Maranatha.

Advent day 3

Oh boy. I’m definitely making time for Our Lord every day, but outside of those times of quiet, it’s like a raging hurricane. Very early mornings are peaceful. My husband and I wake before all the children and have coffee and breakfast together. It’s the calm before the storm. Then the children wake and the storm hits full gale. School, breakfast, mass, outside classes, laundry, cleaning, lunch. After lunch I have a reprieve–a few minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Then it’s off to track practice, swim practice, American Heritage Girls, cub scouts, boy scouts, CCD, dinner. The family rosary is another restful time.

Sometimes I wish there was less, that I was less busy with both home duties and outside activities. But this is my life. These minutiae are building my holiness day by day. I carve out times of rest and repose (be they ever so small) to commune with my Lord. He is the one who gives me the grace and the strength to keep going.

This verse from my daily lectio felt especially appropriate today: “When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul” (Ps. 94.19).

Come, Lord, I am waiting for You.

Advent Day 1

It’s advent, my second favorite liturgical season. This year, I’m not going to take on any extra religious practices; I’m going to give extra attention to my current practices and try to do them with greater devotion and attention, though I am going to try to spend at least 10 minutes before the Blessed Sacrament daily. It shouldn’t be difficult since I live about 100 yards from the church. My arrow prayer that I’m shooting up to heaven throughout the day is, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.”

In my lectio divina, I’m picking back up in the Psalms, starting with 92.  The verse that resonated with me is “They [the righteous] are planted in the house of the Lord…” (13). I pray, Lord, that You will plant me in Your house. Let me not be uprooted. Let me not wither but grow and bear fruit. I’m waiting for you, my Lord.

Many Gifts

Today’s responsorial psalm is from Psalm 66. In it is a verse that has always made me pause in consternation. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me” (v. 16). I should be telling others what God has done in my life. Probably partly because of our American mindset of religion and faith being a “personal” individualistic affair and partly because of my introverted nature, I don’t do this. At all.

So this is my opportunity to “tell what he has done for me.” He has given me a husband who adores/cherishes/protects me, children who are a delight to me, extended family who love me, a lovely home, plenty of food and material goods. He’s given me the Catholic Church to mother me and lead me on my path to heaven. He’s given me friends I can depend on to laugh and cry with me. He’s given me health and strength. He’s given me the opportunity to be home with my children and educate them. He’s given me his Word, his love letter that I can open any time I want. He’s given me His very Self in the Holy Eucharist. He’s given me a love for my vocation to marriage and family life, a love that took many years for me to accept. I have been given more than I deserve. My God, I thank you for all you have given me. It is yours, and should you decide to take away what you have given, may you give me the grace, like holy Job, to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1.21).

Guiding Light

Without You I am lost. I am in darkness. I think I know the way, but all my grasping for control only serves to entangle me more into the mire and muck. So send out your search party, Lord, I pray! Your little, stupid sheep thought she knew better. Again. Oh send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to Thy holy hill and to Thy dwelling. Ps. 43.3

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” It’s an English carol with origins in the 19th century, so probably Anglican, but I won’t hold that against it. The first verse is as follows:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day,
To save us all from Satan’s power
When were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

The idea of God and comfort has been running around in my mind for well over a month. When I had my conversion to the Catholic Church, I probably went overboard. I felt perhaps that I needed to prove myself to God, to show myself worthy, or something. And so I indulged in fasting, traditional observances of holy days, night watchings, etc. Not that any of these are bad, but if undertaken for the wrong reason, that is, not for love, they are.

And so God became, or maybe already was, an authority figure whose approval I had to gain through novenas, fasting, Little Office, rosaries, adherence to traditional practices…actions. My spiritual actions were a check-list, while what He desires is relationship. Fasting out of love. Rosaries because I wanted to spend time with Him. But I didn’t get that (nor have I yet completely). God was demanding, exacting, just. How could I ever measure up?

What I’m beginning to learn is that He is Love. Sure, He’s just. Saying God is Love doesn’t mean it’s okay to go on sinning, to go on doing what we want to because God will love us anyway. He loves me when I sin, but if I choose to continue in my sin, to ignore His Love that calls me to Himself and perfection, He will, in His Love, give me what I have chosen–a life without Him.

Even in the Old Testament, when God seems to be a God of wrath and destruction (context, people) He exclaims through Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (40.1). And, “I, I am he that comforts you” (51.12). And in the passage that Jesus reads aloud in the Nazareth synagogue (Lk. 4.16-21), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….to comfort all who mourn” (Is. 61.1-2). In the last chapter of Isaiah, God compares himself to a mother who comforts her child, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66.13).

David says to God in the Psalms: “I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me” (23.4). And again: “Show me a sign of thy favor…because thou, Lord, hast helped me and comforted me” (86.17). And “Let they steadfast love be ready to comfort me (119.76).

The prophet Jeremiah, speaking of the fulfillment of God’s promise, prophesies, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (31.13). The minor prophet Zechariah also speaks of this future happiness, “Cry again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem” (1.17).

Jesus fulfilled these prophetic words when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5.4).

But what started all this thinking about God and the concept of comfort was my reading of 2 Corinthians. St. Paul calls God “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (1.3-4). Why does He comfort us? Well, because He is a Father to us and “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (1.4). He goes on to use “comfort” many more times in the letter, but the other examples are how we are to act as comforters to each other.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul again mentions God as a God of comfort when he says, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2.16-17).

So there it is. God is a Father who comforts us. From the Old Testament right through the early Church, it is repeated again and again. God comforts His people. That’s not to say He desires our lives to be easy! No, he knows that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5.3-5). Jesus did not promise His followers a life of ease and comfort in the modern sense–a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. He says, “Take my yoke upon you” (Matt. 11.29); “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16.24); “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16.33). But He also promises “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11.30);  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16.33).

I can take comfort in that.