Category Archives: Spiritual Life

One Touched Jesus

A large crowd followed Jesus and pressed upon him.  There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:25-35)

Imagine yourself as this woman in the gospel this morning. For the last 12 years you have a bleeding hemorrhage. It is literally draining the life out of you. You are tired and week all the time and are not sure how much longer you can go on. You are not sure how you have come this far. You have been to several doctors who have attempted painful and intrusive procedures that have done more harm than good. You are unclean. You are not allowed to touch anyone or be touched by anyone, not even your husband, if indeed he is still even in the picture. Whenever someone comes within arm’s reach of you, you must shout “Unclean” as if you were a leper. You can’t remember the last time you had so much as a conversation with another human being. You are an outcast. You are lonely. You are in pain. You are exhausted. You are dying.

Has anyone here ever felt that way before? Is there an area of your life in which you feel that way now?

You hear Jesus is in town. Somehow that name brings hope to the hopeless. You think, “If only I can touch the tassel of his prayer shawl. I believe I can be healed.” You sneak up behind him. People are pressing against him. They are pressing against you. You are breaking the law. You could be stoned. You don’t care. If this doesn’t work, you might as well be dead. You see a break in the crowd and slip forward. You bend down and touch a tassel of his prayer shawl. Suddenly, Jesus stops and stands erect. Immediately, you slip back in the crowd.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asks. The disciples think he’s joking. They laugh. “Everyone.” They answer. “The whole crowd is pressing against you.” “No.” Jesus smiles. “Someone touched me. I felt the power of God flow through me.” He is looking straight at you. There is no hiding now. You come forward and tell Jesus everything. He looks at you with loving eyes and calls you daughter. “Your faith has healed you. Go in peace. You are well.”

The point of this story is that there is a difference between pressing against Jesus and touching Jesus. The whole crowd was pressing against Jesus. One touched him. The difference was faith, but faith is not what you might think it is.

Faith is not believing that, it is believing in.

The whole crowd believed that Jesus was special. They believed that he was a prophet. They believed that was the messiah. They believed that he could heal. They believed that he could deliver from evil. But they only pressed against Jesus. Only one touched him.

Faith is not doing the right thing. The crowd was doing the right thing. They were following Jesus along. I’m sure some were reaching out and touching him so they could go home and say, “I touched Jesus.” But they hadn’t really touched Jesus. They just pressed their hand against him. Only one touched Jesus, and she was doing all the wrong things. Breaking the law. Pushing through the crowd even though she was unclean. But she knew in the depth of her spirit where God speaks to us, that if she touched the fringe of his garment, she would be healed. She followed that still small voice in simple trust and obedience at the risk of her life and she touched Jesus.

That is what faith is. Simple trust and obedience to the still, small voice of God deep in your spirit.

Mary Healy, professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminar in reflecting on this passage tells the story of a Sikh woman from Punjab who had an abusive husband. As he was beating her she leapt from their balcony to escape him, and broke her back. She had been paralyzed for 12 years. She heard from friend that someone had been healed at a Catholic Retreat Center in Malabar. She traveled there and met with a Catholic priest. She told him her story, and the priest encouraged her to forgive her husband. That was not what she came for. But she asked him, “If I forgive my husband, will your Jesus heal me?” The priest answered honestly, “I don’t know, but if you want any peace in this life at all, you must forgive your husband.” The next day, a retreat speaker invited everyone to stand up and thank God for his goodness. The woman later told the priest what happened: “I thought to myself, I have so much to thank God for. I am alive, I have two sons who take care of me. I must praise God!” She stood, raised her hands to God, and was instantly and completely healed of her paralysis. The woman stayed at the retreat center for several months to go through RCIA. She and her sons were baptized. Healy, Mary. Gospel of Mark, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (p. 108). Baker Book Group

This morning I will place the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in your hands. Will you press against Jesus, or will you touch Jesus? Will you take it because it is the right thing to do and move on? Or will you pause to listen to Christ’s voice of love and grace and be healed and transformed? Gaze in adoration upon the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in your hand. Listen to his still, small voice. Know deep in your spirit what he is calling you to do. Meekly follow his voice. Touch Jesus this morning.

Homily given at  Our Lady of Hope 7/1/18

Holiness

In today’s readings, God says to Moses, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” And Jesus reprises, “Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” So what does it mean to be holy?

Growing up in East Texas, I was exposed to the “holiness” tradition. These were mostly Pentecostals who sought to achieve holiness by what they didn’t do. They didn’t drink, smoke, cuss or speak to anyone who did, except to tell them they were going to hell. Women never wore pants or makeup and seldom cut their hair. While avoiding such extremes, most of us perceive holiness in various externals of speech, dress, or political correctness. There are Anglicans who devoutly believe Elizabethan English is more holy than modern English and Catholics who see holiness in women wearing chapel veils and men kneeling erectly, rather than resting on the pew. During the Jesus Movement in the sixties we perceived holiness in how worn and faded the jeans were we wore to church, differentiating ourselves from the hypocrites in the suits.

At its core, holiness has nothing to do with external acts or appearance, but the inner presence of the Spirit of God. God said to Moses at the burning bush, “Take off your shoes, for the ground you are standing on is holy ground.” Was the dirt Moses standing on externally different from any other dirt? No, it’s all the same dirt. God’s presence made it holy. The bread and wine we receive at Eucharist is externally still bread and wine, but God’s presence makes it the true body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

Our external body was formed from the earth. No matter how we clean and polish it, we are still just walking, talking mud people. But the spark of God’s Spirit lies within each of us. St. Paul refers to us as clay pots, but pots that contain heavenly treasure. If we just relax and let it out, God’ s light will shine. To embrace holiness we must walk in the words of John the Baptist, “Christ must increase; we must decrease.”

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A New Wave Is Coming

I was at Eucharistic Adoration this afternoon and sensed this reflection.

“There is a new wave of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming. When it breaks on the shore there will be a great division between those who are committed to following Jesus and those who are just going through the motions. Religiosity is the enemy of faith. Many live in religiosity, but few live by faith. The people of God need to speak the truth boldly. They must know the truth and not be afraid. Unafraid to offend. Unafraid to upset the status quo. Unafraid to suffer. The status quo is driving millions away from the Church. The people of God must know the truth and not be afraid.”

With so many voices in the Church, I fear many are confused by the Truth. Jesus is the Truth. Know Jesus. Know the Truth.

I wasn’t going to blog my reflection as I like to let these thing settle for awhile before sharing them. However, when I got home I read the following reflection by Pope Francis. He is speaking in the same vein, so I decided to share it.

Pope Francis: You can’t dialogue with the devil!

Satan is a specialist in deception, and a cheat who “doesn’t pay well.”

Diane Montagna, Aleteia.org. © Copyright 2017 Aleteia SAS all rights reserved.

VATICAN CITY — Prayer and humble reliance the Lord is the strongest weapon against temptation, Pope Francis said this morning, adding that when it comes to spiritual warfare, you can’t dialogue with the devil.

Addressing clergy and faithful in his homily at morning Mass, in the chapel of his residence at Santa Marta, the pope called the devil a specialist in deception, who “promises you everything and leaves you naked.”

In the weakness of temptation which we all experience, he said, the key is not to “hide ourselves” from the Lord, but to seek his grace when we are tested, and to seek his forgiveness should we fall.

The devil uses dialogue to deceive

Temptations lead us to hide ourselves from the Lord, so that we remain with our “fault,” our “sin,” our “corruption.” Commenting on the first Reading from the Book of Genesis, Pope Francis focused on the temptation of Adam and Eve, and then considered that of Jesus in the desert.

In the Genesis account, the devil appears in the form of a serpent: he is “attractive,” and with his cunning he seeks “to deceive.” In this he is a specialist, he is “the father of lies,” “a liar.” So he knows how to deceive and how to “cheat” people. This is what he did with Eve: he made her “feel good,” the Pope explained, and so he began to dialogue with her; and, step by step, Satan led her where he wanted.

With Jesus it is different; it ended badly for the devil, the Pope said. “He tries to dialogue” with Christ, because when the devil deceives a person he does so with dialogue.” He attempts to deceive Him, but Jesus does not give in. Then the devil is revealed for who he is. Jesus answers him, not with His own words, but with the Word of God, because “you can’t dialogue with the devil”; you’ll end up, like Adam and Eve, “naked”:

“The devil is a bad paymaster, he doesn’t pay well. He is a cheat! He promises you everything and leaves you naked. Jesus, too, ended up naked, but on the Cross, through obedience to the Father: this is a different path. The serpent, the devil is cunning: you can’t dialogue with the devil. We all know what temptations are, we all know, because we all have them. So many temptations! Of vanity, pride, greed, avarice… so many!”

Corruption begins in small things

Today, the Pope said, there is a lot of talk of corruption; and for this, too, we should ask for the Lord’s help:

“There are so many corrupt people, corrupt ‘big fish’ in the world, whose lives we read about in the papers. Perhaps they began with a small thing, I don’t know, maybe not adjusting the scales well. What was a kilo… no, let’s make it 900 grams, but that will seem like a kilo. Corruption begins in small things like this, with dialogue: ‘No, it’s not true that this fruit will harm you. Eat it, it’s good! It’s a little thing, no one will notice. Do it! Do it!’ And little by little, little by little, you fall into sin, you fall into corruption.”

If you want to be a winner, never hide from the Lord

The Church teaches this, the Pope said, so that we will not be deceived – not to say foolish – so that when we are tempted we have our “eyes open” and know to ask the Lord for help, “because we can’t do it on our own.” Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord; on the contrary, it takes the grace of Jesus in order to “turn and seek forgiveness”:

“In temptation, you don’t dialogue, you pray: ‘Help me, Lord, I am weak. I don’t want to hide from you.’ This is courage, this is winning. When you start to dialogue, you end up overcome, defeated. May the Lord give us that grace, and accompany us in this courage. And if we are deceived because of our weakness in temptation, may He grant us the courage to get up and go forward. It’s for this that Jesus came, for this.”

The Lord’s Discipline

  Have you ever grown impatient waiting on God? Abraham did. He gave up on having the child of promise and had a child by Hagar. And his impatience caused multi-generational problems. God brings us to the brink before pouring out his provision to train us to trust him. This is called discipline. So discipline is not God punishing us when we do something wrong, but training us to trust him no matter what.

This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.  Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.  He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years.  Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you.  Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.  For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills,  a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.  You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.  Deuteronomy 8:1-10 NRSVCE

 Discipline is provision.

  If we fail to trust and fail to wait, we find ourselves outside of the flow of God in our lives. We miss what God has for us. We find ourselves frustrated and confused. God is always faithful, but we can remove ourselves from his blessing. We can repeat the story of Adam and Eve. We can refuse to live according to God’s plan. Or we can choose to follow God, to wait for him, to trust him, and to enjoy his presence and his provision.

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Realizing God’s Presence in the Mundane

The other day as I arrived at work, I was stressed from the traffic and the weather. Aware of my inner turmoil, as I turned off my car; I paused, took a deep breath, and brought my focus on God. Inwardly, I recited my life-verse, “Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1) Suddenly, I was keenly aware of Christ’s presence in the mundane reality of my daily commute.

Jesus promised to always be with us, and he is. We become too busy and distracted to notice, but he is there. It is simply a matter of focus. If we focus on the ‘busy-ness’, make that craziness, all around us, we can become anxious and confused. But if we focus on the eternal reality that lies beyond the immediate, like the bedrock that invisibly supports us beneath our feet, we find peace and confidence in his presence.

Live in the Light

Have you ever awakened in a dark room and, for whatever reason, began to move about without turning on the light? You are likely to stub some toes. It hurts. Choosing to walk around in darkness is risky business. Why do so many people choose to live in a spiritual darkness instead of light? Perhaps it is easier to simply reject God than deal with the moral and spiritual implications that come with believing in God.

I have heard people say they don’t believe in God, they believe in science. I will grant you that science may have disproven the concept of God many held when they were seven years old, but far from disprove God, science has again and again proven the necessity of God. Even atheist Manjit Kumar, in his book Quantum, stated that without God there can be no objective universe. So the problem is not the existence of God as much as the concept of God. Peter Kreeft recently commented that when he debates atheists, he often finds that he agrees with them. Their concept of god is so askew that the god they do not believe in does not exist.

In this day and age of so many religious voices vying for your assent, it takes study and prayer to come to a true understanding of God. But when you do, it is like turning on the light in a dark room. Everything becomes clear.

If you want to discover the true God, study the life of Jesus. He is the perfect revelation of God. And learn to pray in such a way that leads you into friendship with God. Prayer is not giving God your wish list. That will only lead to disappointment. Prayer is learning to listen to God and allowing him to transform you into the person he created you to be. Then you will know God and live in the light.

 

Holy Night

Have you ever been so awed by an event that you find yourself speechless? Such is Christmas.

Saint Bridget once had a vision of the nativity. Of course, a vision is not a news reel. It relates more the spiritual essence of an event rather than what an eyewitness might see. In reality, the spiritual impact of an event is truer than our sense perceptions could ever be. Our senses only see the surface. The spiritual reality expresses its eternal significance. With that in mind, I share her vision here.

“When I was present by the manger of the Lord in Bethlehem I beheld a Virgin of extreme beauty wrapped in a white mantle and a delicate tunic through which I perceived her virginal body. With her was an old man of great honesty and they had with them an ox and ass. These entered the cave and the man having tied them to the manger went out and brought in to the Virgin a lighted candle which having done he again went outside so as not to be present at the birth. Then the Virgin pulled off the shoes from her feet, drew off the white mantle that enveloped her, removed the veil from her head laying it beside her, thus remaining only in her tunic with her beautiful golden hair falling loosely over her shoulders. Then she produced two small linen cloths, and two woolen ones of exquisite purity and fineness which she had brought to wrap round the Child to be born, and two other small cloths to cover His head, and these too she put beside her. When all was thus prepared the Virgin knelt with great veneration in an attitude of prayer; her back was to the manger, her face uplifted to heaven and turned toward the East.

“Then, her hands extended and her eyes fixed on the sky she stood as in an ecstasy, lost in contemplation, in a rapture of divine sweetness. And while she stood thus in prayer I saw the Child in her womb move; suddenly in a moment she gave birth to her own Son from whom radiated such ineffable light and splendor that the sun was not comparable to it while the divine light totally annihilated the material light of St. Joseph’s candle. So sudden and instantaneous was this birth that I could neither discover nor discern by what means it had occurred. All of a sudden I saw the glorious infant lying on the ground naked and shining, His body pure from any soil or impurity. Then I heard the singing of the angels of miraculous sweetness and beauty. When the Virgin felt she had borne her Child immediately she worshipped Him, her hands clasped in honor and reverence saying: ‘Be welcome my God, my Lord, my Son.’

“Then, as the Child was whining and trembling from the cold and hardness of the floor where He was lying, He stretched out His arms imploring her to raise Him to the warmth of her maternal love. So His Mother took Him in her arms, pressed Him to her breast and cheek, and warmed Him with great joy and tender compassion. She then sat down on the ground laying the Child on her lap and at once began to bestow on Him much care tying up His small body, His legs and arms in long cloths, and enveloped His head in the linen garments, and when this was done the old man entered, and prostrating himself on the floor he wept for joy. And in no way was the Virgin changed by giving birth, the color of her face remained the same nor did her strength decline. She and Joseph put the Child in the manger, and worshipped Him on their knees with immense joy until the arrival of the Kings who recognized the Son from the likeness to His Mother.”

He Loved Us First

He Loved Us First

Truly you alone are the Lord. Your dominion is our salvation, for to serve you is nothing else but to be saved by you! O Lord, salvation is your gift and your blessing is upon your people; what else is your salvation but receiving from you the gift of loving you or being loved by you? That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son at your right hand, the One whom you made strong for yourself, should be called Jesus, that is to say, Savior, for he will save his people from their sins, and there is no other in whom there is salvation. He taught us to love him by first loving us, even to death on the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear, he stirred us to love him who had first loved us to the end.

 And this is clearly the reason: you first loved us so that we might love you not because you needed our love, but because we could not be what you created us to be, except by loving you.

 In many ways and on various occasions you spoke to our fathers through the prophets. Now in these last days you have spoken to us in the Son, your Word; by him the heavens were established and all their powers came to be by the breath of his mouth.

 For you to speak thus in your Son was to bring out in the light of day how much and in what way you loved us, for you did not spare your own Son but delivered him up for us all. He also loved us and gave himself up for us.

 This, Lord, is your Word to us, this is your all-powerful message: while all things were in midnight silence (that is, were in the depths of error), he came from his royal throne, the stern conqueror of error and the gentle apostle of love.

 Everything he did and everything he said on earth, even enduring the insults, the spitting, the buffeting the cross and the grave all of this was actually you speaking to us in your Son, appealing to us by your love and stirring up our love for you.

 You know that this disposition could not be forced on our hearts, my God, since you created us; it must rather be elicited. And this, for the further reason that there is no freedom where there is compulsion, and where freedom is lacking, so too is righteousness.

 You wanted us to love you, then, we who could not with justice have been saved had we not loved you, nor could we have loved you except by your gift. So, Lord, as the apostle of your love tells us, and as we have already said, you first loved us: you are first to love all those who love you.

 Thus we hold you dear by the affection you have implanted in us. You are the one supremely good and ultimate goodness. Your love is your goodness, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son! From the beginning of creation it was he who hovered over the waters that is, over the wavering minds of us all, offering himself to all, drawing all things to himself. By his inspiration and holy breath, by keeping us from harm and providing for our needs, he unites God to us and us to God.

~ William of Saint Thierry