Thursday, July 29, 2004

Don't pay the ransom

I haven't been kidnapped. I think my sister blogger is in the same boat, but work has overwhelmed my life right now. I am trying to keep my prayer life from becoming the shambles my personal life is at the moment. Just because my refrigerator only contains a lemon, one raw egg and some very old milk doesn't mean that my spiritual life should, too, and Mass nearly every day has helped.

I'm trying to discern a lesson in this overload of work, some just a part of life, some unfairly imposed by a panicky boss. It's pretty easy to see how I can walk more closely with Christ when I am emotionally neglected or attacked or misunderstood or rejected. But how can I find the Cross in a big old pile of paperwork on my desk, a work pace that threatens to cause a mistake with someone else's (major) money, and deadlines running up and smacking me in the face? I have to look at people who distract and hurt me with the love that the Lord gives to me and to them, but work?  You can't love work, so how can you grow in this challenge?


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Body and soul

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene (this blog product links differently, so, sorry, no links, look her up yourself). To all those sillies who say the Church has suppressed her "true" story (such as the Dumb-Vinci idea that she married Jesus, or at least shacked up with him), I say pfeh.

What I especially love about this saint is that, no matter what the actual facts of her sinful life before she met Jesus, her few recorded words and actions in Scripture are those of a woman passionately in love. The sensualists of today presume that therefore she must have acted sexually in response, but we know as Christians that she loved Jesus with all her soul. Interestingly, another place I hear such passionate love glowing in Scripture is in many of the psalms of David.

The transforming power of God didn't rob her of her passion! Her former life may have been all about the passions of the body, but after she met Him, she didn't have to change; she was still passionate, but it was the passion of the soul, the Bride, for its Bridegroom. 

One of the choices of the first Mass reading for the day is this

Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
"I will rise now and go about the city,in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves. "
I sought him, but found him not.
The watchmen found me,as they went about in the city.
"Have you seen him whom my soul loves?"
 Scarcely had I passed them,when I found him whom my soul loves.
Canticle of Canticles 3:1-4 

Lucky me, I'm the lecter. I hope I don't cry.

UPDATE: Now my brain insists on singing the 1940's standard "Body and Soul." I grew up hearing relatives with a couple of Manhattans in them choosing this number to sing around the piano (only because our piano was too small to climb up on, or they would have done a Helen Morgan). Here're the lyrics. Some of them work kind of well as prayer, don't they?

My heart is sad and lonely
For you I sigh, for you dear only
Why haven't you seen it
I'm all for you body and soul
I spend my days in longin'
And wondering why it's me you're wronging
I tell you I mean it
I'm all for you body and soul
I can't believe it
It's hard to conceive it
That you turn away romance
Are you pretending
It looks like the ending
Unless I could have one more chance to prove, dear
My life a wreck you're making
You know I'm yours for just the taking
I'd gladly surrender myself to you body and soul
My life a wreck you're making
You know I'm yours for just the taking
I would gladly surrender myself to you body and soul

(composed by Paul Whiteman, Johnny Green et al)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Will and sin

I kept running across EWTN Live while watching TV last week. It featured Fr. Thomas Dubay as the guest talking about a new series he filmed called "Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer." During his conversation with Fr. Pacwa, they discussed, in response to audience questions, the difference between emotions and will in reference to sin.
In summary, a felt emotion is not a sin. A willed dwelling on it can become sin, as well as the acting-out of the emotion. So, I can feel impatient, and snap at someone. Sin. I can feel impatient, and think murderous thoughts about the person, reviewing the "shoulda woulda coulda's" of how I think the conversation should have gone. Sin. Or I can feel impatient and set it aside or offer it up or blow it off. No sin.
I realized a mistake I've been making lately. While I'm at least mature enough not to ask God to make the other person not so thoroughly irritating (!), I have not asked God for help to recognize the emotion and deal with it internally, instantly and in charity. Instead, I have been asking Him to make me not impatient. It's as though I feel unable to control the progression of emotion-to-will-to-action.
Better it would be if I would recognize that I will be impatient, and to see it, smile at it (internally, or I'd be smiling like a loon all day) and set it aside in gratitude for the Peace that passeth all understanding. 

How do you short-circuit that path in yourself?


Friday, July 16, 2004

Coals of Kindness

Here's a puzzle in Christian charity for you:
Somebody has been unfairly short, sharp and crabby to me. Trying to emulate my patron saint, I've tried to speak mildly and kindly in return, with some success. 
At the same time, I have piles of kind things I have done for this person, that I think they've forgotten were coming,  ready to unload over the weekend. That will chap their hide big time and will probably make them even sharper and crabbier in guilt and retaliation.  Humanly speaking, it also won't hurt my ego any to be the giver of so many good deeds, but since I didn't set up the situation, I can give them freely and cheerfully and step back and watch the effect. Right? Wrong?
Somewhere in there is sin.
I don't know how to change this pattern. I am tempted to hold back the good deeds, so that the bad behavior can be ignored, passed by without my giving in to returning bite for bite. But shouldn't I be able to give what I already had ready to give? How can I avoid the smugness that will come with the giving?
Solve that, my friends!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Which yoke was that, again?

Today's gospel reading is a doozy --
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Well, I'm surrounded by yokes. Which yoke is Jesus' yoke? There are a couple of good ways to answer that question:

1) It's the yoke he tells me about, revealing it either through direct revelation or through Scripture.
2) Even better, it's the yoke that I see him already shouldering. It's like trying to deduce which is my friend's car -- it's the car where I see him sitting behind the wheel.

But how do I avoid the seduction of taking on yokes that aren't His? There are lots of good yokes out there, things that are good and beneficial to do. But it's important for me to stay away from yokes that are assigned to someone else (ah, the pride of supposing that everything is up to me). It's also important to steer clear of yokes that God wants to shoulder on His own. Again, I fall into believing that if I see a need, it's up to me to fill it, even if it's something that only God can do.

Easy to say. How do I know, in this "more is better" culture, what to stay away from so I have the resources to do what God is really sending my way?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Happy Mass faces

I have nothing very original to say this early morning, but to record the joy I see in the faces of those around me as we come out of morning Mass together. Old wrinkly people, young (touchingly young) people, solemn and pious people, jolly and reverent people, it makes no difference. There's a special glow resting on the ordinary faces of ordinary people after they've deeply participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I could have kissed every one of them, probably causing several deaths from astonishment......

Thursday, July 08, 2004

St. Maria Goretti: my tastes must be changing

Tuesday was the feast day of St. Maria Goretti, the teenager who resisted rape to the point of being stabbed to death.

We've all seen the pious pictures and holy cards and I find them kind of ickily done. Eyes are always rolled up to Heaven, no muscle, no pores in the skin. Too pastel and perfect.

But her story is starting to grab me big time. Not that I have any purity left to protect, but I am moved by the report that she is said to have cried out to her attacker, "No, don't do it, it's a sin!" She was actually concerned about him committing a sin, possibly more than the danger to herself.

The heroic bravery of our saints and martyrs, facing ridicule, harassment, persecution, danger, pain, terror and death! Stop a moment and consider what they did, for the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

How good and pleasant it is . . .

Well, in one of those sequences that only happen in a wired world, the two authors of this blog finally made one anothers' acquaintance face to face during the July 4 weekend.

After much anticipation and many phone calls, Therese and I (and Henry of A Plumbline in the Wind) got together in the Chicago suburbs. In fact, we managed to show our faces in several of them, since we gabbed and experienced the Communion of the several Saints together in one town; and went to Therese's parish for Sunday Mass in another one (intersecting more Saints, come to think of it).

There's nothing like getting together with people with whom you share faith. I highly recommend it, even for reserved and retiring types. (I'm told that it was great for our reserved participant, but I certainly can't speak as a representative of that group.) There was plenty of regular getting-to-know-you conversation, but the refreshing bulk of the time consisted of recounting the goodness of God in our lives. Thank you, Therese, for sharing and listening. It was worthy of having a stone erected as at the Jordan; we have been here, and we will remember what God has done.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

What was that, again?

Sometimes I wonder if I really listen to God's perspective on how to live. It is astounding.

* It is better for us that Jesus went away, because he was then able to send the Holy Spirit to be our guide and consolation.

* We don't have to worry about having enough to eat or the things we need to live, because God loves us like a father, and will see to it that we are cared for.

* We his people will do greater works than we saw Jesus do.

* It's a waste of effort to try to protect my own life, because the one who loses his life is the one who saves it. It's not up to me.

* If we throw our cares and worries on God, we will see first hand how He cares for us, really and personally.

* There is forgiveness. That deserves to be capitalized - Forgiveness. Bad things get made new. God plucks them out of our backpacks. He kneads them into diamonds, then He puts them back in. What did we do to deserve such generosity? Exactly nothing. In fact, all our efforts to earn it just get in the way. It's a very non-capitalist economy, isn't it?

* * * * * * *

I don't have any profound reflections on these snippets. It just strikes me that I should be astounded every day when I wake up to this reality.

Amazing. Grace.


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