Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hail Holy Queen

I just finished reading Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn. Since most of the books I read are about Jesus and his Apostles, or the Biblical Evangelists, I wanted to make sure I gave the Virgin Mary her due.

I certainly don't want to ruin the book in case you want to read it, but I do want to highlight two learnings.

Hahn spends part of the book defending Mary's place in our Faith to naysayers.

The first question he answers is one of the most popular - "how can we prove the Assumption, especially since it wasn't made popular until centuries after Mary's death"?

Hahn gives a few answers, but the one that stood out to me was that there are no relics of her bones. Given her status as Christ's mother, her bones would have certainly been kept and her burial place marked and frequented. Back in those days, and the ones to follow, Crusaders would have gone after those bones as a "trophy" to bring back to their lands. And yet, there is no record of that anywhere.

The second question he answers is "how do we know Mary was sinless"?

His answer is so obvious that I'm upset I did not come up with it myself. Hahn asks - if you were God, and you had to create your own mother, would you make her (a) full of sin, or (b) sinless? I thought that was just brilliant. Instead of looking for written evidence, his response is simple and irrefutable.

Hail Holy Queen isn't the easiest book to read, but I enjoyed spending the time with it and reflecting on our Blessed Mother.

God Bless.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lenten Perspective #3

I thought I would change it up a little for my third Lenten Perspective.

This song, "This Man" by Jeremy Camp, has a similar theme to my first Lenten Perspective (but with a much better soundtrack of course).

So the only question is ... would you take Jesus' place?

(YouTube video should load above)

God Bless.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Be Not Afraid

I attended mass at St. Patrick's (in New York City) this weekend. For those of you that have never been there, it is beautiful. It is large, ornate, and in my opinion, is one of the few churches here in the U.S. that can stand up to its European brethren.

Because of its sheer size, music tends to echo and bounce around its cavernous interior - which makes every song seem even more beautiful. But when they sing "Be Not Afraid", like they did this weekend during Communion, it is simply ethereal.

Aside from being one of the most moving songs in our faith (my humble opinion of course), that hymn struck me as very relevant as we get closer to the Easter Triduum.

"Be not afraid ... I go before you always"

I've always interpreted this line as God leading the way for us in our everyday life. But viewed through the lens of Lent, it takes on even more meaning.

Jesus went before us - through a horrific death - so that we would be saved. Our death could have been much worse. But He went out ahead. He took the pain. He paved the way for us so that we could have Eternal Life with Him. And He continues to lead the way for us ... as long as we let Him.

It is so moving to play back that line in my head while thinking of what Jesus did for us.

"Come follow me ..."

I will Jesus. Just hold my hand!

God Bless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Transfiguration of Jesus

I was so moved by last week's first reading about Abraham, I didn't get to post my thoughts on the Gospel reading (Mark 9:2-10) - otherwise known as the transfiguration of Jesus.

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain (believed to be Mt. Tabor, pictured to the right), where they witness him transfigured and "chatting" with Moses and Elijah.

I had always wondered why Jesus did this, and our priest actually gave me the answer in his sermon. At this time, it is believed that His apostles still did not understand who Jesus was. They thought He might be Moses or Elijah, or another prophet.
By having them see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, God was making it clear that Jesus was neither. And by transfiguring Him, Jesus is shown to be elevated in stature. (And, just in case they missed all of those hints, God flat out told them "This is my beloved Son".)

I can't help but wonder what Peter, James and John thought after that. Mark notes that they "were terrified," and one can certainly understand that! What a startling event that must have been!

But I am also guilty of wondering "Why didn't they 'get it'? Why did they need so many signs?" After all they were with Jesus! They saw Him perform miracles and talk about God and Heaven. But I know that isn't fair. We have history, including
their accounts of the Resurrection to make it crystal clear for us. They did not have that at this point so its hard to look at it through the same lens.

So I am thankful for the Apostles' accounts of what they saw, and thankful that the Gospel writers captured them. And I am even more thankful that God has given me the faith to believe 2000 years later without such overt signs. To quote John 20:29, "blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."

Thank you God, for my faith in you.

God Bless.

Friday, March 13, 2009

God's Plan for Us

Carol has a wonderful post today over at Charli and Me.

She quoted a reflection from Bishop Ken Untener that offers an excellent view of our role in God's plan. The ending, in particular, was an eye opener:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end result, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not Master Builders, ministers, not Messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen

I often wonder if what I am doing for God is "enough" or "the right thing", mainly because the results are often unseen. But Bishop Untener puts things in the proper perspective. We should stop worrying about the "how much" and keep doing what we do best. God has given us all a role in His master plan and our goal should be to execute that role as best we can.

It reminds me of a comment I heard a few weeks ago. A visiting priest told us to remember that God puts everyone right where he wants them to help promote his Kingdom. Our role might not be to preach to the masses or lead a religious community. Instead, our role might be to just change one person's life, or one family members perspective. That might be God's calling for us, and He has chosen other folks to take care of other tasks.

Thanks again, Carol, for sharing that post. And keep up the great blog!

God Bless.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lenten Perspective #2

As I go through Lent this year, I'm really trying to get some perspective on how amazing God's love for us is. In my First Lenten Perspective, I spent time trying to come to grips with the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

This week, I'm trying to wrap my mind around God's sacrifice.

As I was listening to the first reading this Sunday (Genesis 22), I was moved by Abraham. This passage always redefines what faith means to me. Abraham was ready and willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, because God had asked him to.

I'm sure this was not an easy decision for Abraham, and I'm sure the writers of Genesis left out most of his agonizing and pain. But can you imagine the pit in Abraham's stomach when Issac looked up to him and asked where the lamb was for the offering? It's gut-wrenching.

Yet, Abraham was ready to do it because he loved God above all else.

But what about God?

If we are moved by Abraham, then surely we should be moved even more by God's sacrifice.

For starters, no one stopped the killing of Jesus. This was no test. It was the real thing.

Second, we are told Abraham took out his knife to kill his son. I'm not an expert here, but my guess is that that sacrifice would have been a lot quicker than the brutal one Jesus went through. Imagine watching your son, daughter, or even loved one go through what Jesus went through. God had to watch every painful moment.

Lastly - and this is a big one - while Abraham was going to sacrifice his son for God, God sacrificed His Son for all of us sinners. He sacrificed Him for those that love him and for those that defy him. In my first Lenten reflection I tried to imagine dying for someone I disliked. Trying to sacrifice a child or loved one for that same person is not any easier!

In any case, the point of my post is certainly not to criticize Abraham - his faith is unimaginable. My point is to try and understand how great God's love is.

Yet, as hard as I try, it is still beyond my comprehension.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much that you gave up your only Son.

God Bless.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What if Jesus Lived One More Year?

Last night at the Stations of the Cross, I read a phrase about Jesus' death that was new to me:

Station 11: Crucifixion
They killed Jesus and ended his earthly teachings.

I'm accustomed to the phrase "Jesus' death" being followed by a higher order of things. For example, "Jesus died so we can be saved" or "Jesus died and rose on the third day".

In other words, His death is always the predecessor to something very spiritual and positive.

But that phrase "ended his earthly teachings" brought out the very tangible result of Jesus' death. His daily lessons - the way his followers had come to know them - stopped.

Centuries later, its easy to make the leap from Jesus' death to confident Disciples proclaiming His Word. But the reality is, on that day, they lost their teacher and their leader. Aside from losing a loved one, they also lost their compass and their guide. There was no one there to give them all the answers anymore. Can you imagine the void they must have felt in their lives?

I also couldn't help but wonder ... what if "they" hadn't ended his teachings right then and there. What if Jesus lived another month, another year, or another 10 years. I wonder how many more lessons He could have left for us?

God Bless.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lenten Perspective #1

Lent, more than any other time, causes me to think long and hard about what Jesus did for us.

For example, all too often, I hear and say the phrase "Jesus died for our sins". And most of the time I accept that at face value - He died a horrible death on the cross so that we can enjoy peace with God.

But Lent gives me a reason to meditate on that more deeply ... to try and "feel" what that means.

Today's second reading - The First Letter of Peter 3:18-22 - gives us the following:

Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous

In other words, Christ, who had no sin, died for all of us sinners.

Sometimes I find that easy to accept because Jesus is God. His love far exceeds any love here on Earth. But in an attempt to really understand what that love is like, I came up with the following exercise.

Imagine the person you like least in this world. Maybe its someone you know or maybe its a criminal you saw on the news. (For this exercise it can even be a made-up "villain") Really think hard about how much you dislike them or the things they did.

Now imagine you are in a room with that person, and one of you has to die.

Would you give up your life for that person? After all the terrible things they did?

Imagine if you were perfect, and never did a single thing wrong here on Earth. Would you die for them?

To be honest, I don't think I would. (Ok lets face it, I know I wouldn't) But Jesus did. He died for me and for you and for all the other sinners out there until the end of time. He died for those that steal from the dollar store and for those that commit murders and abortions, so that one day, everyone has a chance to meet Him in Heaven.

I know that isn't a perfect comparison, but it's my attempt to really try and feel how awesome Jesus' gift to us is.

Thank you Jesus, for loving us that much.

God Bless.