Monday, April 11, 2016

The Food That Endures and Endurance of Belief By:C.C.

"Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life"(John 6:27)
To order our lives in a such a way that we live this finite reality mindful of the infinite is itself a great act of faith. To strive for virtue and obedience to God is a perpetual struggle and experience of wrestling with our own will. 
It is easy to work for what we can see. Our physical reality and accumulation of tangible things can give us a sense of presumed security. The unknown and unseen is unpredictable to us and can propose an immense challenge if we lack trust in the Lord. 
 To first seek understanding robs us of what can only be revealed to us by faith and will never satisfy our desire. Though our belief is often challenged, through faith we can be assured of seeing the works of the Lord and arriving at a point of increased awareness as to what this demands and implies for our lives.
Today's Gospel reading offers us some consolation in this regard. After feeding the five thousand, naturally many frantically set out to seek Jesus. The crowd was undoubtedly astonished at what had taken place. Jesus quickly identifies that their excitement and intrigue is based solely on the satisfaction of their physical hunger. He humbly reprimands them and in doing so affirms that He is the true "bread of life" and that only through Him can we truly understand what it is to " work for the food that endures for eternal life". 
We are exposed today to many things within our world that make this reality of eternal life difficult to imagine and pursue. Many prefer vice to virtue , and most times vice is seen as virtuous. 
Jesus reminds us today that "this is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent" (John 6:29). Everything essential for us flows from this imperative belief. The grace to live and order our lives for the food that endures is a natural consequence of our belief  and the primacy of Christ in our lives. 
This belief is not an isolated and single event, it is an ongoing living consensual experience. May we pray today for an increase of belief in the Lord, so that we may live out our call in the world with humble awareness and conviction of the eternal reality. (CC) 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Catching Fish With Jesus....Literally! by: C.C.

"..............”So they went out and got into the boat,but that night they caught nothing.When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”They answered him, “No.”So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,and jumped into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat,for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,dragging the net with the fish.When they climbed out on shore,they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”because they realized it was the Lord.Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,and in like manner the fish.This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead." (John 21:1-14) 
   By faith we learn to attune ourselves to the providence of God in most circumstances. There are however times when His hand seems to be immediately providential and consoling. The way in which our Lord revealed Himself while fishing some years ago is a moment that my now husband, and his family members still remember with much joy! Despite the seemingly humorous way that I "out-did" Carmen's fishing record that day, there was definitely a lesson to be learned by our Lord. Looking back the symbolism and grace is even more blatant, and challenging. 
My father in his own right is quite the avid fisher man. He however, does not waste time on the "little fish" and likes to catch big ones, primarily Musky. He takes his fishing seriously, and for such reason at a very young age I was eventually kicked off the boat and banned from fishing with him because apparently I "talk too much, and frighten the fish". I accepted this, and found joy during family holidays kicking soccer balls instead,(which proved to be beneficial),while my brother and father hunted for their "big fish". 
Fast-forward many years, and some years ago (summer 2011) I found myself in a relationship with a lovely young man (my now husband) who apparently loved to fish. An opportunity presented itself during a cottage weekend with his cousins. 
Carmen had brought all of his fishing gear, hopped into a canoe and off he went. He was gone for over two hours, returning to the dock with no fish, and not even one bite. Defeated, but not discouraged he asked if I'd like to come along in the canoe for a ride. I hesitantly agreed, but joined. I watched as he attempted to catch more fish, and then he invited me to try. My first cast provided nothing. Following this I quietly paused and cast my rod out into the water...a bite, a hook, and in the boat came fish number 1! I was so excited. In fact every cast following this one was a fish! I caught 9 fish in 10 casts, all under 1 hour! Looking back it was extremely miraculous, and blatantly providential. It was indeed God's work. 

Carmen was amazed, and as a good assistant he netted the fish and aided that process. The glory in all of this is the fact that prior to each cast I prayed for the intercession of St. Peter, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be. By no means was I attempting to make a mockery of prayer or ask God for something so seemingly trivial, I simply had faith that He would provide and perhaps shine in this moment and teach something very important to Carmen and I through this. He did. 
Together, with God's help, we made a fantastic fishing duo. In fact, our relationship up to this point had been quite turbulent as we were discerning vocation, and over discerning, and healing, and converting (which is undoubtedly ongoing). None the less, it was and remains a beautiful lesson today. 
The Lord provided. His providence in this moment was rather instantaneous, and it allowed me to recognize that by His grace and remaining in His will, like fishing, He will provide for us. Alone Carmen caught no fish, in coming together we were able to succeed. He supported me in my joy of fishing, despite his own bitterness of having caught nothing. I was his helper and this role continues in an even larger capacity today.
Having decided to remain home with our daughter is much like being in the boat and casting out a net in hope of fish. In quite a literal sense I have come to see how trusting in God's providence for the "bigger fish" in life is a calling for each of us. In working with Him and remaining in His will we will be provided for. Our Lord speaks to us today as His followers and invites us to be obedient to Him and provides abundantly. We must only be trusting and receive all that God sends and all that He wills with a spirit of acceptance and faith. May we learn to recognize in our lives where the Lord is calling us to cast our nets. (CC)


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Weeping Outside the Empty Tomb With the Fullness of Easter Hope. By: C.C.

Early this morning a dear sister in Christ told me of her Grandmother's passing. I read today's Gospel reading and was moved to reflect on it. Though it is written primarily for her, I pray it too will comfort those in similar situations.Please join me in prayer for her and her family. (Today's Gospel reading precedes my reflection).
"Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there,one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,and I don’t know where they laid him.”When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,but did not know it was Jesus.Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?Whom are you looking for?”She thought it was the gardener and said to him,“Sir, if you carried him away,tell me where you laid him,and I will take him.”Jesus said to her, “Mary!”She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,for I have not yet ascended to the Father.But go to my brothers and tell them,‘I am going to my Father and your Father,to my God and your God.’”Mary went and announced to the disciples,“I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he had told her." (John 20:11-18)

I often wonder what it would have been like to be there. To be standing beside Mary Magdalene,perhaps comforting her in her time of mourning. I would imagine trying to show through my presence and friendship that I could some how fathom the depth of her despair and sadness in thinking that Jesus, who saved her from herself and from her sins was gone. 
As if bearing the Crucifixion and knowing of His death wasn't enough, she now sat outside the empty tomb weeping for where her Lord could have gone. Unknown to her at that moment of course, is God's plan, already accomplished in the rising of His Son. She weeps outside the tomb, as we would also; arguably, as we do when a loved one has passed. We long to hold on to them, it is human to do so. Out of love we recall memories, we replay their presence in our lives, their words, their touch, that is to be no more. It brings us, and rightfully so, a degree of suffering,sadness and loss.

In some ways we can be so desperate to go where they have been taken, just so that we can be with them once again. And then, here in this Easter Octave, we read this Gospel message and see that the despair Mary felt in her heart, overcame her so much so that she did not see Jesus there before her, she did not see her risen Saviour. We are not told that she was kept from recognizing Jesus, as in the Scripture account of The road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)...It can be suggested that in the depth of her despair and loss she had blinded herself to the hope and joy of the risen Lord. Yet, in His goodness He again calls her name and she knows Him; grasping her attention with the intimate speaking of her name that only the Lord could possibly know. 

Like Mary, we wait and weep outside of the tomb, but we, an Easter people, now know the joy of the risen Lord. We know the promise of Eternal Life and the place that is promised to us if we are to be obedient followers of Christ. “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:2) We see an empty tomb out of despair, but we are called in our sadness to recognize Christ before us, within us, and beside us calmly calling our name, offering His consolation, through His Resurrection to the Heavenly Father.

To weep is natural. Jesus too wept for Lazarus. But let us not hold on to our loved ones so to keep ourselves in mourning and forget to pray for them, for the repose of their soul, for God's mercy on them so that they may be raised with our Lord to the joy of Eternal life. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?"
Whom we seek most has indeed risen, and for this reason, even in our time of loss we can rejoice, and can hope in knowing Jesus Christ. Amen (CC)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Humble Praise By: CC

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Where honour is due it must surely be given with motive for the glory of God. In this manner one maintains a sense of right ordered affection and praise to God for graces bestowed upon those seeking intimacy with Him. 

The risk of over an attentiveness to the person through whom God reveals Himself is the failure to acknowledge the shared lowliness of our humanity and the fruitful power belonging only to our Lord graciously shinning through surrendered souls. So often idolatry is fostered in this way. There is a fine line to walk, but it is set aright by keeping our gaze on things above. 

To make a god out of the vessels God uses is to miss the point of such witness entirely. There is nothing "great" about the persons through whom such graces are revealed, but rather it is the alarming opposite. It is through the humble recognition of human baseness and lowliness that the greatness of God is magnified. It is the greatness of their surrender we must admire most. Perhaps it is fitting that many remain unable to identify this point and fail to make the distinction. The proud will seek the man, the humble will seek and see the Lord more clearly.

Veneration is defined as "Honour paid to the saints who, by their intercession and example and in their possession of God, minister to human sanctification, helping the faithful grow in Christian virtue. Venerating the saints does not detract from the glory given to God, since whatever good they possess is a gift from his bounty. They reflect the divine perfections, and their supernatural qualities result from the graces Christ merited for them by the Cross. " (Catholic Culture

Though this definition speaks of venerating the saints, it is also important to consider these words as we encounter those touched by grace, or even for our own correction when we receive divine favour and consolation. If anything done, said, or thought of in the private of our minds for a moment detracts from the glory of God, or is seen to be merited, it should be dismissed at once. We must continually pray for a purity of intention in all of our labour done for the Lord. 

This concept becomes even more important in today's society with the prominence of social media and the various "New Evangelization" movements that place man before all in some regard to share the grace of God. If the following fostered is not for following the way of Christ's Cross then it is indeed misguided.

There are many people who fit under this umbrella of being dedicated to God's work. In our modern day the laity in a much larger capacity than ever, in my opinion, seem to hold many positions at the forefront of it authors, speakers, youth ministers, faith formative councils etc. This has over time proven to be a great blessing and at others a horrifying curse within the Church. These roles, if not employed by people with humble reverence and hiddenness in Christ can promote misguided devotion and bring about great scandal. We must guard reverently the right ordered devotion to The Divine person, sitting at the Right hand of the Father giving thanks and praise to Him always as we know it to be right and Just. 

My original thought for this writing came from my own personal experience. Some years ago, during a time of great conversion in my life, simultaneously one of great turbulence and interior agony. I ventured to a monastery to seek silence and solitude with our Lord and ultimately to be corrected. I knew nothing of this place, very little of monastic life, and much less about the workings of the Holy Spirit to the magnitude and depth that has since been revealed. 

In the Confessional I met a very wise, reverent, and elderly monk. This man was quite serious in his nature and was not at all amused by my attempt at pleasant small talk. Omitting many details , that confession was one of the most monumental confessions I had ever experienced. I left from there changed, and albeit due to God's grace, there was undoubtedly something about this monk. I returned to the retreat house to then begin reading some random books upon the shelf. In what I read, I found this monk's name, and much more about him and his wisdom. Unbeknownst to me; both the immense influence of the one who wrote about this monk priest, and the divine graces clearly at work in his life. From that point forward encounters and conversations continued and in this exchange I saw before me the light of Christ and a humble vessel. 

Throughout time, I came to learn of another well known monk and author to whom this elderly monk I encountered had called a friend. I found myself much less intrigued about the man he knew and more about the Lord he knows, more about the primacy of Christ's presence in our midst and how the living out of obedient service to Him is life giving and fruitful. In no way am I trying to reduce  the immensity of influence this prominent man has had  to many conversions and positive occurrences, this influence  has simultaneously been employed and hijacked by those, often spiritually irresponsible, to foster division, and in turn reduces the immensity of surrender and the devotion of one in pursuit of life hidden in Christ.  The will that seeks only to know about one's humanity, their motives, and all things tangible is perhaps seemingly  easier to digest at times, but beyond this, it can be pursued in some ways to exploit God's grace and defend personal theologies and ideologies. It is a limited and finite approach towards pursuing the infinite. 

The vessels that Christ uses are not concrete passageways in themselves, they are but a ladder on our journey to ascend toward truth. A ladder that is undoubtedly broken, imperfect, and appropriately so, for this witness calls us away from them, calls us out of ourselves so to pursue the Divine Person, Jesus. Blessed are we when we see beyond man and recognize the light of Christ through them. If our gaze remains limited to our limitations we surely miss Christ among us, Christ walking with us as on the road to Emmaus.  

We rightly venerate the Saints in Heaven, as we seek on earth to become humble lowly servants of the Lord until we are Home with Him. Let our eyes be opened and our hearts be pure so that we may clearly see Christ among us reflected in those authentically possessed by God. (CC)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mercy. By: C.C

"For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you." (Psalm 86:5)
   The proclamation of God's mercy does not reduce the reality of sin and disobedience to God. Mercy does not entitle us to live by our own esteem and do as we wish. To be mindful of God's mercy is to be aware of the reality of our imperfections and our failings. God's mercy towards us illuminates the unconditional love of God for us, despite us. In the understanding of our unworthiness and shortcomings we are met with the radical love and all encompassing embrace of our Father. It is because of the grace of God's mercy that we know to ask for it. 
   Those who have an experience and deep encounter with God who strive to live in a state of obedient grace are perhaps more attuned to recognizing God's mercy and love in their lives. It is this reality that can keep them from straying on the path toward sanctity and the eternal end for which we as Christians should strive for. 
   To forget God's mercy is to dismiss the fundamental aspect of our faith; Love. This love is not about sentimental fluffiness, but a love that nurtures and demands us to reconcile ourselves to the 'image and likeness of God' in which we are created. To the world it shines and proposes a difficult love. 
   To be children of the Heavenly Father, as scripture reminds us, is to remember that ..."He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:43-48-). This is important for us to reflect upon so we can be certain that no one is outside of the mercy of God, it is only one's ignorance to Him and the gift of generous grace that can leave them at a distance from being receptive to this mercy. It is thus through the witness of one touched by mercy and with eyes open to grace that many can be led back toward the foundational Love at their beginning, in order to arrive most fully at the end seeking reconciliation with God. 
   An authentic experience of God's mercy will lead us to proclaim the love of God in the very way that we live our lives with others. So often we can observe those who claim to be obedient followers of Christ condemning their bothers and sisters. Many rush to take a seat on the throne of judgement, but have no regard for the proclamation of God's mercy. It is as if to determine that people are in fact beyond the mercy of God, and that is not so. To adopt the idea that another's imperfections and sinful inclinations automatically dooms them to hell is to also condemn oneself and render the working out of salvation, through ongoing conversion, by God's grace filled mercy, not a reality of our faith. Where there is still life on earth, there is time to work out life for eternity, those with the grace to know this must make haste to see this through. "Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful"(Luke 6:36).
   The mercy of God is a light of hope that Christ shines in front of us so that we look back with holy trembling at our sins and with a holy fear at our present state. This holy fear is infused by love and not condemnation. It is a gentle embrace that surrounds us as we shed what has become hardened by the world and sin in order to renew ourselves in faith, in trust, and in obedient surrender to God.
   The further we as a society have grown from the Lord, the more radically we must proclaim the mercy of God. To preach justice without mercy, to condemn without first seeking to rid of ignorance is to foster sin and not sanctity. 
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need(Hebrews 4:16).
   Nothing is beyond the grace of our Lord, and nothing within our human power can attain an understanding of it's depths. Let us pray, not for the gift of understanding God's mercy, but for the grace to continually seek the mercy of God in our lives. (CC)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Joy of Yes Forever vs Settling for Being Happy. By: C.C.

"Joy suggests a more complete, ecstatic, consuming passion than mere happiness. In short, “happiness” can be described as an emotion, while “joy” is more properly related to a state of one’s being. By definition, happiness is a response to happenstance, contentment, good luck, prosperity, or good fortune.(Catholic Exchange)

This particular time of year is very special for me. While our secular world is preaching love, happiness, and all the other sentimental ideals that come with the arrival of Valentine's Day, I am pausing to reflect upon the journey Carmen and I made to Rome two years ago to participate in the Joy of Yes Forever event held in St. Peter's Square. The symbolism of this day in our lives is one that isn't isolated to February 14th, 2014, it is one that continually confronts me as I strive to truly live out the promises of my "YES" to God and to Carmen through the Sacrament of Marriage.

Awaiting Pope Francis...
   The Joy of Yes Forever in a world that is all about happiness for the moment is truly a difficult task. To understand what joy means is to fully immerse ourselves in the will of God and the path of virtue. It is indeed a battle at best to persevere. I have never been more challenged or more faced with the reality of my own brokenness and shortcomings. I have never known the importance of true love and acceptance in regards to another until faced with the reality of married love. I am humbled time and time again when the cross appears within my marriage, it reminds me of the reality and foundation of our union. It reminds me that alone we can not attain the Joy of Yes Forever. Only with God's grace, the Sacramental Grace belonging to us as husband and wife can we strive, (even if ever so slowly) toward eternal joy. 

   Sacramental grace does not mean that we are "super-human" , it does not take our humanity away, our faults, our imperfections, or our difficulties. But as the Rite of Marriage reminds us we are "Sealed and Strengthened by God" It takes great virtue to maintain this perspective and I have such a long way to go until this is achieved....therein lies the beauty of journeying with another along this path toward sanctity. I have learned in my brief years of being married that the Sacramental Grace is present in accordance to our remaining true to our "YES". By acting in the favour of our union, by welcoming God into every area, especially when most seemingly difficult the grace of God does sustain us and provide for us. God labors with us to uphold our union when we strive to live our union seeking union with Him above is here we can begin to have an experience of the Joy of Yes that God so willingly desires us to have.

"Let not, then, those who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in them; for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more effectual as time goes on. " (Pope Pius xi)

Our joy is often limited because our gaze is set upon our desire for the fleeting reality of happiness. By keeping our eyes upon the visible and not entrusting ourselves entirely to Him we can not attain a true sense of joy in our lives. To be joyful is to go beyond what is mere 'happenstance' and toward the Source of our true joy found in God alone. It takes perpetual work and constant renewal of our desire to understand married love and to forfeit the desire to be temporarily happy. We must return to God time and time again renewing our reliance and need for Him in our midst. He fills us with the grace to endure, He alone provides the joy and grace to sustain us all our days. 

In times when I fail, in times when my wounds and my faults become bigger than my surrender and sacrifice in my marriage, I meet God's mercy by kneeling before Him and commit again to the joy that He provides. 

In order that our joy may be full we must first become empty and make ourselves humble before God. Our Lord's commands to us are designed for the purpose of our joy. If our gaze is limited to the things of this world and our perception of fulfilment rooted in our emotions, then we keep ourselves away from knowing true joy in this life. When we dismiss the path of virtue as one of destruction and embrace the inauthentic sensory pursuit of happiness, we deny ourselves the genuine experience of joy as God wills for us. 

The enduring presence of joy in life and in married love depends upon the endurance of our hope, trust, and love of God in all things. As our faith teaches us, “... true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or any human achievement…or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love.” In other words, temporal happiness is not enough to satisfy us; we long for the “joy of the Lord” (CCC 1720). Recognizing that God is our Creator and that we rely totally on Him is a “source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence” (CCC 301)

I am joyful to not have settled for being happy. Most days of married life are not happy, and for that I am joyful! I can have the potential to know the truth of love only because I seek to know God and his design for love. In a world that tempts us with the allurement of happiness, let us be reminded that the Joy of Yes Forever, is built up of many small moments of surrender and sacrifice. The reward is beyond our understanding. (CC) 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Carrying Our Cross. By: C.C.

Wedding Day March 8th, 2014
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)

   The richness of letting go and an experience of fruitful surrender is found in our ability to recognize our inner poverty. The discomfort with suffering and our human reaction  to "fix things" inhibits the ability for us to see God's unwavering providence, especially amidst the difficult moments of our lives. Today's Gospel reminds us to deny ourselves and to accept our Cross. Ultimately, we are reminded to accept suffering. Nobody likes to suffer. Our discomfort with the suffering causes us to close our eyes at the foot of the Cross. To imagine only a resurrected Lord. To solely proclaim Easter joy, and not reflect on the sacrifice and pain that paved way for our eternal joy blinds us from the very reason for our faith.

   As Christians we must embrace the Cross of Christ, and thus we can better encounter our own with Divine help. We are much too weak and limited to endure what comes alone. Our Lord does not invite us to deny ourselves so that we lose ourself in a harmful way, but so that we recover and become our most authentic self in the way that God intended.  Lent is a fitting time to ask ourselves some important questions.....Do we become obsessed with the joy of Jesus, with the love, with the compassion, with his unconditional care, so much so that may we forget the suffering; forget His message to us in these times? The joy of the Gospel is most evident in the Cross, this choice of love to provide such joy and freedom for us. Jesus chose the Cross so we could make sense of the crosses in our lives. To be 'sons in the Son' is to be bound to the Lord, to belong to Him, and thus to face the Cross within our own lives. Because of the love, compassion, and unconditional love and mercy of our Lord, we do not face our cross alone. 

   Pope Francis often reminds us of the difficulty in following Jesus closely, because eventually, and unavoidably we encounter struggle. Granted these challenges and Crosses in life are presented to all of us. It is part of the human condition to suffer. Many look upon this truth and see no reason for following such a God. No purpose for embracing Him and His Cross if we are 'doomed' to have our own. This thinking leads to imprisonment and further disillusion in regards to what it means to be free. Faith shows to us that we are free because we have first been created and found by a God who loves us despite of ourselves and our brokenness. He meets us within our struggles and teaches us the way to be free.

    Belief in our Lord and trust in His mercy and love leads us to trust that He too bears our Crosses with us. It is not a means for us to escape the reality of our human condition, but to live our condition well and to dwell within this world with great purpose, with hope, and with an understanding of our suffering. To set our gaze upon the Divine reveals to us the reason and purpose for our humanity. Our Lenten journey especially welcomes our sacrifice and acceptance of going without. We choose to suffer, in a very minute way so that we may draw closer to Christ and further from worldly allurements. Let us strive to deny ourselves daily as to affirm our walk with Christ. (CC)