Where can I find them?
Those whom I can follow.
Those whom I will love.
The one who will be my lifetime love?
Searching in the google of my mind builds billions of options,
But I cannot boil the ocean;
Or find the perfect leader.
But now, let me rest a while.
And snuggle up to you, my God,
Like the child I was,
Safe and sound. (Pause for a few moments)
I see now I do not need to find others to follow.
And discover I am the leader for your message,
Which you will reveal,
Once I start out,
And leave this place of compromise.
To do the work you want of me;
Trusting others will follow.
For I am your leader,
Your complete companion.
And will go into the divine darkness;
Holding your hand.
To do your Will.
Sometimes life creates s a lot of pressure on us. This might be a new trial, the illness of a loved one, where we feel the pain through our hearts, or something unexpected in our lives. Learning to accept these trials with fortitude and courage is one way of dealing with them. Putting on a brave face, sometimes not even communicating the problem to others, as if there is some shame associated with whatever is happening.
At times such as this, we can react in many ways; sharing with a close number of friends who provide the love and support we need, shutting down, and trying to keep this pain a secret. Sometimes a mixture of all three. One reaction is to turn to God. Turn to God and ask for help in the matter, to cure the illness, fix the pain, save the day. We get out our ATM Prayer card and request results for either ourselves or others. Such is the power and tradition of intercessory and petitionary prayer in our faith. There is nothing wrong with this approach.
However, have to notice those in the world who never seem to be shaken no matter what happens to them. I continue to be amazed in my ministry at the resilience of those who can deal with terrible situations and still “go on.” They have something which the saints have, and that something is unshakable inner peace.
The peace which only emanates from a deep, intimate and incredibly close relationship with God.
We live in a society which expects results and wants them quickly. From the doctor, the mechanic, our investments, the plumber. Everyone seems to be on call for us, mainly when we are in need. Yet, we know, in our hearts, we cannot have such demands in our relationship with God. We cannot control God, yet we request these results immediately. We all know what “friends” are like who only call us when they need something, I certainly have family members who I know need something when they make contact. It is not a good feeling to be used or called just for this purpose.
So this week, let us make some visits to God without the requests, the demands, the needs. And just be present with Him for the sake of our own loving relationship with him. Let us deepen our feelings towards God, surrendering as St. Theresa of Avila invites us. To leave love to the master of love, and let His love flow into us, unimpeded by a cluster of requests. Then, perhaps one day, we will savor that same unshakable inner peace for which we all yearn.
Sometimes it’s better just to run,
When the pain is too great,
And we need to return to the source,
The Womb, from whence we came.
And take a rest for a while,
Enjoying the place we momentarily forgot,
Painting “The Annunciation” by Oswald Tanner
If my mother was alive today, it would be her 86th Birthday. It is not just because of her birthday that I am reminded of her today, but her first names were Norah Annunicata.
She was given the name Annunicata, as she was born on the feast day of the Annunciation. Today.
My mother was taken home to God 24 years ago. She was a simple and prayerful woman, born in Limerick and like many others had to leave the country to find work.
Annunicata is an Italian name that means announcement.
While that date represents a lot to me personally, the date means even more to us collectively as Christians. The date today is exactly nine months before Christmas Day, the birthday of our Lord. Mary is given explicit instructions by the Angel Gabriel during this momentous event.
Imagine an angel coming to visit a young Jewish girl and announcing” Hail, full of Grace! The Lord is with you.”
When Gabriel said this, he did not just mean, the Lord is with you, he meant, the Lord IS with you! She now is carrying the most precious cargo of all time.
Gabriel goes on to ensure that Mary understands that this will be no ordinary child and she has been selected for no ordinary mission. He tells Mary to name him Jesus, which in Hebrew means “God saves”.
Jesus is the savior promised in the Old Testament reading this morning from Isiah, and Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, there to carry and care for Him right to the end of his mission.
Even His name tells us how important this is, with his identity revealed as God, and his mission to save mankind from sin.
The name of Jesus is at the heart of our Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, says: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one word “Jesus” on their lips.
My personal centering prayer consists only of the words “I love you Lord Jesus”. We cannot say it enough in our lives, as each time we remind ourselves in our heart of his love, his mission, his name. Like a little signature on our heart each time it is repeated.
Gabriel then continued to describe in detail what was going to happen to Mary.
Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,”
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.”
Can you imagine being there when Mary heard these words? While she knew she did not have relations with a man, she didn’t understand how she was going to be bearing a child.
Then, as she is told the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will be with child.
What is so amazing in these few lines of the Gospel, describing how Mary is being selected amongst all women for this role, that the whole of salvation history is unfolding before her eyes.
The promised of the Old Testament are being fulfilled.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”
What more perfect love could be given us, than God coming among us himself. Not only to redeem, but to instruct, to teach, to love in a new way, the way of forgiveness, the way of compassion, the way of enduring and everlasting love.
Here Mary listens, asks a simple question and then accepts fully the task given her.
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.
Could there not be a more perfect model for us to follow than Mary herself. Selfless in nature, ready to do God’s will, without further question, just following the instructions of God with a totally pure and ready heart.
God could have redeemed us in any way he wanted, but what could have been more purposeful, meaningful, loving than the path he took and presented Mary to us as a model to follow in our own lives.
Let us hope that we grow in nature more like her each day, to accept whatever is asked of us, and to do His will.
Last week we talked a little about Understanding and Lent. This week I want to dig into this a little more. When we consider the word “understanding” we can think of it in two ways, the secular psychological definition or a spiritual one. The psychological one focuses on our “mind-view” of the word, as illustrated below from Wikipedia:
Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object. Understanding is a relation between the knower and an object of understanding. Understanding implies abilities and dispositions with respect to an object of knowledge that are sufficient to support intelligent behavior.
However, our spiritual definition is rooted in the heart. The second of our Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Understanding is clearly defined in Daniel 2:22-22
“It is he who controls the procession of times and seasons, who makes and unmakes kings, who confers wisdom on the wise, and knowledge on those with discernment, who uncovers depths and mysteries, who knows what lies in darkness; and light dwells with him.”
Understanding, therefore, is the pure gift of God and touches our hearts so we can better integrate our personal closeness to Christ, as the Word Becomes Flesh (Jn 1:14). This closeness is a mysterious gift which allows us to bring Christ into our decision-making process, as the spirit of the Lord rests on us. Pope Francis notes “understanding dwells in the heart and enlightens the mind”, reminding us that the gift emanates from our heart, which God resides and illumines our thinking, behavior and decision making.
The Holy Spirit gives us this gift where God sits centrally in our hearts and minds, and should be the core of our thoughts and actions. This allows the understanding of our heart to meet the observations of the mind. In an ideal world, we can use some guidelines to mine this gift of the Holy Spirit. I try and use the following to help remind me when I get off course on this front.
• Involve God in the decision-making process.
• Reflect on our decisions and reactions
• Select a loving response as the output channel for our response to others
Perhaps this week you can explore this gift and how it plays out in your life? Do we really involve God in our reactions to others? Or do we judge too quickly in our responses?
I wrote the reflection below some time ago to remind myself of how useful a short reflection can be in increasing the potential for God to be involved in my decisions. Happy Lent everyone!
ADD TEN SECONDS
Add ten seconds to each moment,
And my response would be better,
kinder, warmer, more forgiving,
than my first.
But can I ever be as loving as He is to me?