Road to Emmaus: Hope Almost Lost

Such strange days these have been! My companion and I returning home from Jerusalem, and each step feeling heavier than the last. 
 
We had hoped … 
 
Yes, this mantra – we had hoped – played again and again in our hearts and conversation along the way. It just seemed impossible that we had to admit we were terribly mistaken and lost all. Everything this man Jesus did was ethereal, anointed. The healings, the multiplication of loaves, the teachings on justice, how he mingled with people of every social strata, and even raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. All the signs pointed that he was the one the forefathers had written about, and so 
 
We had hoped …
 
We were discussing our devastation of smashed expectations along the way to Emmaus when a stranger joined us, asking what we were talking about. How could he not know! News of the events have spread for miles … is it possible he could not have heard of Jesus, the man who rode triumphantly into Jerusalem just a week ago to shouts of Hosanas? How he entered the temple and turned over the money changing tables?  Who confronted the Pharisees and Scribes of their hypocrisy, and taught so powerfully in the temple? 
 
We had hoped … 
 
So here we were with Jerusalem behind us and another few miles before reaching our destination, and my friend and I spilling out the events these days to a stranger on the way. Especially of the last three days. Yes, things seemed to escalate over the week leading up to the first night of Passover. This was the greatest puzzle; how Jesus led the Pesach prayers and inserted himself into the ancient ritual.  “Take and eat,” he said, “this is my body.” He did the same with  cup. After the typical prayers of thanksgiving he said, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins…” All of us at table that night were stunned into silence and didn’t dare ask what he meant. We ate and we drank. 
 
We had hoped. 
 
We continued to pour out our story to the stranger of how we accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Olives. He seemed a little agitated and spent a long time in solitude and prayer. The air felt heavy to us then; did Jesus know what was going to happen? That one of his chosen disciples would lead guards and single him out with a kiss? How fear grabbed hold of us and we fled in the night. All courage was gone from our hearts. And the one we had hoped in was left alone to face a tragic end. After being brutally beaten and scorned like no man has ever endured before, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Like a notorious criminal he was forced to carry his cross to a hill just outside the city where he was hung upon it to die. And, he did die. His lifeless body was taken down and hastily prepared for burial and put into a tomb, a large stoned rolled across the entrance. 
 
Our hope died with him in utter defeat.
 
What did he say while he hung on the cross? “It is finished.” Yes. All is finished and gone. But one curious detail is left unexplained. His body is missing and women from our company said it was no where to be found. What could we do? There was nothing left for us to stay for, so we are here on the road to Emmaus accompanied by a compassionate stranger listening to our disappointing story of bitter defeat and despair. Oddly enough, the stranger seemed to think it all made sense, that it all fit together according to the prophetic texts. He said we were slow of heart and understanding.
 
“Don’t you get it? This was all necessary to fulfill the Scriptures”, the stranger said. And so he became teacher on the road to Emmaus, revealing all that Jesus had done was to bring to fulfillment God’s saving plan for humanity. Little by little, listening to the stranger speak, our hearts began to swell with rekindled hope, that maybe, just perhaps, the empty tomb was not the end but a beginning. 
 
We reached Emmaus, and since the stranger had further to go, we parted ways, left to ponder if maybe all our hopes were not buried in the tomb after all. But without our welcoming in the stranger, we will never know. 
What if the story from Luke 24:13-35 ended this way, with the disciples on the way to Emmaus letting Jesus pass by rather than welcome him in? 
He wants to converse with each of us in our moments of confusion, doubt, worry, just as he did with the disciples on the way. He wants us to have our hearts burning with the promises only he can ignite and sustain. 
 
Oh, the real ending of the story? 

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Will you invite him into your heart today so he can break bread with you? Jesus is a gentleman. He will not barge in; he waits patiently for your invitation. 
emmaus
This story was first published at Cathedral Young Adults blog. Go check it out!

Let Your Stone Fall

There she was, scrawled on the ground before Jesus where she shoved down by her accusers. A crowd had formed, with some of the religious leaders asking whether she should be stoned or not.  Jesus, seeing their hearts, is saddened by their absence of love. Cold. Self-appreciating. Arrogant. No Mercy. No understanding. Only judgment. He looks around and finds each one, stone in hand, ready to commit violence and sentence death.

“Teacher, Moses said we should stone such people. What do you say?”

Jesus remains silent, squatting down to the ground, writing in the sand.

“Well? What should we do?”

Jesus stands up, looks at each person and their stones, and says, “The one among you who has no sin may cast the first stone.”

He went back to writing in the sand. The crowd paused. Some looking incredulously at Jesus. Others weighing the stone in their hand and weighing their hearts. One by one the stones fall to the ground with a dull thud and the crowd disperses leaving only the woman and Jesus.

Each of us at times are like those in the crowd, just as ready to cast our stones at others. Stones of judgment, criticism, bitter words, retribution and hate.

Today, let us stop and ponder the stones we hold in our hands ready to throw at others, and to recall the words of Jesus.

“The one among you who has no sin … ”

This is the day’s examine, to weigh the stones we carry, those we hold at the ready to cast at others, and be ready to drop them as soon as the moment rises in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, help me to drop the stone of _____________ (whatever attitude or thought you hold against another), and turn to You, the Just Judge. Help me to recall the words of the prayer you taught us, “… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us …” May I be able to let the stone I hold in my hand fall to the ground, and walk away in peace. Amen.

 

Reflection from the Gospel of John 8:1-11

SEEK 2019 – ask the BIG questions of life!

Do you have all the answers to life’s BIG questions?

Not many do. That’s why there is SEEK.

Today, Thursday, January 3rd is the kick-off of five days of fantastic Catholic speakers taking place in Indianapolis. In order for those of us who cannot manage to get to Indiana for five days, it will be available live stream to your media device.

Find below the schedule of each day, with a video link for the live stream.

WHO IS SEEK FOR? These talks are geared toward young adults, but can be great for older high school teens and their parents, as well as any other who is asking the BIG questions of life. Check out the introductory video below, and scroll further down for the great topics of this event! A great way to kick off your year! #LifesBigQuestions #Vocations

How to watch? Scroll below and see what you want to see. Tune in to that day’s video link, and enjoy! Times posted are for Mountain Standard Time!

DAY 1:  Thursday, January 3rd

Opening Mass — 5:00 p.m. MST (all below times are Mountain Time)

Keynote:
Curtis Martin — 6:44 p.m.
Leah Darrow — 7:08 p.m.


DAY 2:  Friday, January 4th


Mass — 6:30 a.m.

Lisa Cotter – 8:40 a.m.
Identity Rooted and Revealed in Jesus Christ (Women’s Session) 

Damon Owens – 9:25 a.m.
Identity Rooted and Revealed in Jesus Christ (Men’s Session) 

Jennifer Fulwiler – 11:45 a.m.
How I Found Truth as an Atheist 

Dr. Timothy Gray – 12:30 p.m.
Can You Trust God?

Damon Owens – 1:15
The Theology of the Body

Fr. Mike Schmitz – 2:00 p.m.
Pray the Mass Like Never Before

Fr. Agustino Torres: – 2:45 p.m.
Mi Cultura, Mi Fe | My Culture, My Faith

Deacon Larry Oney – 3:30 p.m.
Your Call is Irrevocable 

Keynotes: 
Scott Hahn — 5:38 p.m.
Sr. Miriam James Heidland — 6:03 p.m.


DAY 3: Saturday, January 5th


Mass — 6:30 a.m.

Sarah Swafford – 8:44 a.m.
Encounter Who Jesus Calls You to Be in Your Relationships (Women’s Session) 

Jason Evert – 9:25 a.m.
Encounter Who Jesus Calls You to Be in Your Relationships (Men’s Session) 

Stephanie Gray – 11:45 a.m.
Love Unleashes Life – Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth 

Paul J. Kim – 12:30 p.m.
A Catholic Millennial’s Guide to Adulting

Dr. Scott Hahn – 1:45 p.m.
The Fourth Cup – Unveiling the Mystery of the Last Supper and the Cross  

Emily Wilson – 2:30 p.m.
Go Bravely – The Life of St. Joan of Arc

Crystalina Evert – 3:15 p.m.
Conquering Your Demons With Love and Abandonment 

Keynotes: 
Sr. Bethany Madonna , S.V. — 5:39 p.m.
Jason Evert — 6:01 p.m.


DAY 4: Sunday, January 6th

Mass — 6:30 a.m.

Lila Rose – 8:39 a.m.
Impact the World as a Disciple (Women’s Session) 

Dr. Jonathan Reyes – 9:20 a.m.
Impact the World as a Disciple (Men’s Session)

Lisa Brenninkmeyer – 11:45 a.m.’
Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts 

Fr. Mathias Thelen, S.T.L. – 12:30 p.m.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit 

George Weigel – 1:15 p.m.
St. John Paul II and the New Evangelization

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers – 2:00 p.m.
Vocation and Mission in the Lives of Catholic Men

Brian Greenfield – 2:45 p.m.
Call to Conversion – the Reckless Pursuit of More

Fr. Rafael Capó – 3:30 p.m.
Jóvenes Latinos: Hispanic Young People in the U.S. and the Call to Missionary Discipleship

Keynotes:
Dr. Edward Sri — 5:40 p.m.
Chris Stefanick — 6:05 p.m.


DAY 5: Monday, January 7th

Keynotes:

Jennifer Fulwiler — 7:06 a.m.

Fr. Mike Schmitz — 7:31 a.m.

Closing Mass — 8:30 a.m.

A Prayer

‪Dearest Lord Jesus,

Let me not think about the tomorrow that will never come,
nor for the yesterday that will never return.

May you always be before me, behind me, above me, below me,
encompassing me at every moment.

That I may walk always toward you, with Mary,
your mother and mine, to be my one companion.

Trust. Trust. Trust.‬

Amen

Holy Week in Rome

It is the eve of Holy Week, when our Lenten journey makes a serious plunge into the richness of tradition and prayer. What better way to unite ourselves with the Universal Church than to watch the events taking place in Rome.

You can find a schedule of the coming week’s schedule below the live cam from Saint Peter’s Square. Be sure to download the corresponding prayer guides for the various celebrations (rebroadcast links are below schedule):

Holy Week Schedule

Celebration Booklets will be added as they are made available below:

Booklet – Easter Vigil

Booklet – Good Friday

Booklet – Holy Thursday Chrism Mass   CHRISM MASS REPLAY

Booklet – Palm Sunday   PALM SUNDAY REPLAY

United in prayer in our final preparation for Easter!


Direct Links to Online Resources:

Vatican Timetable

EWTN Timetable

Salt & Light Timetable

Awake from Your Sleep

…you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light… (Romans 13:11-12, RSV).

These are the words proclaimed in the second reading this first Sunday of Advent. It can be broken down into six stand-alone statements:

  • Awake from your sleep! (Ready yourself – the time for resting is over)
  • Salvation is near. (The beginnings of salvation – at baptism – is behind you; it is closer at hand than when you began)
  • The night is gone. (The time for sleeping – the night, normally – is no more. The night is also traditionally a time for no-good-doers to come out to do their no-good-deeds. Without the night, their efforts are a lot more difficult)
  • The day is at hand. (The day is traditionally a time for hard work. Each day is new, and is like a new beginning)
  • Cast off the works of darkness. (In the Eastern Rites, the one to be baptized turns from the west (the setting sun) to the east (the rising sun – a symbol of Christ). This turning is a symbolic turning from evil/darkness to the goodness/light of Christ.
  • Put on the armor of light. (Get ready for battle)

For each of these statements, you may want to consider them as small admonitions from Saint Paul to you. We may hear him urging us, shaking us out of our complacency to an attitude of vigilance.

Are you vigilant in your prayer life? Advent is a time to take stock of our spiritual life, to move from our lethargy to actively engaging in conversation with God. It is human nature to think there is endless time. We put things off, and yet we are called in the reading of Saint Paul to the Romans to be ready.

Are you ready for the Day that Comes? Put on your armor of God’s light! The time is now.

For some wonderful insights:

A Recipe for Readiness, by Msgr. Charles Pope

Pope Francis calls us to ‘Enlarge our Horizons’

Bishop Barron discusses ‘The Mountain of the Lord’

May your Advent be blessed!

Called to be Joyful – Part I

What a joy and privilege it was for me to lead this retreat on how we are called to live JOYFULLY in a world that is hungry for happiness. If you like the conference, or insights on the topic, please leave a comment. Or, consider visiting our Lay Canossian blog. It’s going to be a great year with a challenge to live in the heart of the world with the joy of the Gospel to guide us.

Have a blessed day!

Lay Canossians

Our Lay Canossians in Albuquerque held their annual retreat, choosing for their theme, “Called to be Joyful in a Joyless World.” This year’s retreat was recorded so that it could be shared with our brother and sister Lay Canossians in other areas of our Province.

Here is a brief introduction. You will find the audio link below. Enjoy!

The purpose of choosing the theme, on joy, came about due to several things:

  • At the last General Chapter of the Canossian Sisters set their plan for the next six years to journey with the theme, “Joyful and Prophetic Witnesses, so that the World may Believe.”
  • At the time the Chapter Sisters were finishing their sessions, Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium was released. These themes truly appeared to be the work of the Holy Spirit in their timing, that the Sisters were able to tie into their post-chapter work some of the encyclical’s encouragement…

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Start the Day Off Right

We are Christians, yes? Yet we are human and we can often think, say or do things that, when we examine our conscience at the end of the day we may ask ourselves, “Why did I do/say/think that? I’m sorry Lord.” And that is good.

Just as necessary as ending our day resolving to do what is right, we must also resolve to start the day off right. Today’s short reading from Morning Prayer gives good insight for our daily living (Tobit 4:15a. 16a. 18a. 19):

Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. seek counsel from every wise man. At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.

Try reading this passage every morning before leaving home to begin your day. Be aware of how God will open your eyes to see the needs around you. And, when the day comes to a close, use the same passage for your examine of conscience at the end of the day.

Let us thank the Lord now, for he will make us new creations, according to his heart.

Have a blessed day!

The Path of Repentance

Many times in our rushed day-to-day existence we have the tendency to rush along, and in moments of grace we lift our eyes to heaven with desire to walk closer with God. It is these moments that our hearts are open to reform our lives.

For those of us who work in pastoral ministries, we encounter souls in these moments. When we do, we can point them on the right path with a little help from Saint John Chrysostom. In his homily, De Diabolo Tentatore (2,6: PG 49, 263-264), he writes:

Would you like me to list also the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied, and all lead to heaven.

A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified. For this reason, too, the prophet wrote: I said: I will accuse myself of my sins to the Lord, and you forgave the wickedness of my heart. Therefore, you too should condemn your own sins; that will be enough reason for the Lord to forgive you, for a man who condemns his own sins is slower to commit them again. Rouse your conscience to accuse you within your own house, lest it become your accuser before the judgment seat of the Lord.

That, then, is one very good path of repentance. Another and no less valuable one is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Do you want to know of a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart.

If you want to hear of a fourth, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins.

Thus I have shown you five paths of repentance: condemnation of your sins, forgiveness of our neighbor’s sins against us, prayer, almsgiving and humility.

Do not be idle, then, but walk daily in all these paths; they are easy, and you cannot plead your poverty. For, though you live out your life amid great need, you can always set aside your wrath, be humble, pray diligently and condemn your own sins; poverty is no hindrance. Poverty is not an obstacle to our carrying out the Lord’s bidding, even when it comes to that path of repentance which involves giving money (almsgiving, I mean). The widow proved that when she put her two mites into the box!

Now that we have learned how to heal these wounds of ours, let us apply the cures. Then, when we have regained genuine health, we can approach the holy table with confidence, go gloriously to meet Christ, the king of glory, and attain the eternal blessings through the grace, mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today, let us take courage then, and take up Chrysostom’s path of repentance. In our own walking of this path we may find others on the road who will take up the journey too because of our example.

Have a blessed day.

Related posts:

Confession
Miserere
Why Go to Confession
Stumbling Blocks

Do Everything in Christ

This Sunday’s Gospel (John 15:1-8), Jesus depicts himself as the true vine and God the Father as the vine grower. He calls us to ‘remain in him’ and if we do, he promises that we will ‘bear much fruit’.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906), a Carmelite in Dijon, France reflected on this Gospel:

“”Remain in Me.” It is the Word of God who gives this order, expresses this wish. Remain in Me, not for a few moments, a few hours which must pass away, but “remain…” permanently, habitually, Remain in Me, pray in Me, adore in Me so that you may be able to encounter anyone or anything; penetrate further still into these depths. This is truly the “solitude into which God wants to allure the soul that He may speak to it,” as the prophet sang [Hos 2:14/2:16].

In order to understand this very mysterious saying, we must not, so to speak, stop at the surface, but enter ever deeper into the divine Being through recollection. “I pursue my course,” exclaimed St Paul [Phil. 3:12]; so must we descend daily this pathway of the Abyss which is God; let us slide down this slope in wholly loving confidence. “Abyss calls to abyss” [Ps 42:8/42:7]. It is there in the very depths that the divine impact takes place, where the abyss of our nothingness encounters the Abyss of mercy, the immensity of the all of God. There we will find the strength to die to ourselves and, losing all vestige of self, we will be changed into love.”

–  Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, I Have Found God

I am the Vine you are the Branches
I am the Vine you are the Branches

Remain. In Latin, manere means “to stay”. re means “again”, or “revert back to”. Therefore Re-manere can signify “to stay again”. Or, to return to where you are.

We live in a society that encourages movement, of going somewhere, of doing something. But Jesus points not to going “out there”, but rather – and how Blessed Elizabeth understood – to be in Christ. “To be” is a state of existence. How that compares with what our culture often values – “to do”, which is merely an action of the agent who is (be).

Jesus calls us to remain in Him. To ‘be’ in Him. Today, let us rest (remain) in Him, fully aware of the presence of Jesus in all that we ‘do’. That with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, we may habitually ‘stay’ again in Christ:

  • remain in Christ
  • pray in Christ
  • adore in Christ
  • love in Christ
  • suffer in Christ
  • work in Christ
  • act in Christ
  • (you fill in the blank) in Christ

This gives a broader understanding to this Gospel admonition “Remain in me”. Let all that we do be in Christ, and find our lives prolific and fruitful, as God desires.

Unity With Christ will Transform Your Life – Pope Francis’ Regina Coeli address, 5th Sunday of Easter

Be Not Afraid

Today the Church remembers Saint John Paul II, Pope as an optional memorial in the calendar. It allows us to recall some of our favorite memories of a Pope that travelled the globe several times over during the years of his Pontificate (1978-2005).

Meeting P. JPIIThe memorable moment for me was actually getting to meet him in one of the Wednesday audiences in Pope Paul VI Hall. Somehow, our community ended up with two tickets to the audience with a group of pilgrims from Poland, and my name was drawn to go. I cannot tell you how jumbled up my mind was, there was so much i wanted to say, yet this was in December of 2004, and it was just months before his passing. His age is telling, and he was noticeably tired. Yet, when I was introduced as an American studying at the Angelicum, he acknowledged me, and pointed out that I was at his Alma Mater. I was grateful to receive his blessing and to have met him. He taught me the meaning of the Gospel he quoted in the homily of his inauguration:

“…when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go” (Jn 21:18).
 

I could see how tired he was, and yet he made a great effort to be present to me and the other pilgrims. I want to remember this in my own days of feeling run down and tired, that I am called to mission, and to serve with all my heart.

What is your favorite memory of Pope John Paul II? Whether in meeting him, hearing him speak, or maybe a quote that struck you.

Let us ask today on his memorial to pray for us, and for the Universal Church, that it may always be a beacon of light and love for a world that is thirsty for truth and does not know it.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us!

Placing our Souls before the Lord

 

PalmSunday2We begin our Passion (Palm) Sunday liturgy with the proclamation of Matthew 21:1-11, of Jesus’ triumphant procession into Jerusalem upon a colt, while:

a “very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others, cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds proceeding him and those following kept crying out and saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”

It is quite a scene. Imagine being one of Jesus’ followers, seeing your teacher and friend being hailed like a king.

The Gospel tells us that the people in the crowd spread their cloaks along the road. The spreading of one’s cloak was symbolic of laying one’s life down before the passerby. In today’s office of readings, Saint Andrew of Crete gives a another view:

Let us run to accompany Jesus as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then…let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.  (Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994)

Today, as we commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. How easy it is to get caught up in the joyous moment, celebrating the man who rose Lazarus from the dead. But in just a few days, the crowd will turn on Jesus and condemn him to be crucified. As we journey with Jesus this week, from Jerusalem to Golgatha, let us consciously consider what we place before Him in our prayer. As St. Andrew reminds us, “Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments…but…by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish.”

During this Holy Week, let us examine the souls that Jesus purchased with the price of His blood. May our reflection invite us turn our lives over to Jesus anew. Let us be holy as the Lord is holy.

Blessed Holy Week!

Other reflections:

Ed Morrissey: By the end of the week, not even all of His disciples stood by him as he was put to death.

Father Acervo: So as we head into Holy Week, let’s consider two things…

Matthew Higgins: Making Every Friday “Good”

Elizabeth Scalia: A Palm Sunday of Stark Decision

Sr Lisa Marie:  Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Trusting God in Suffering

It seems that of late the Lord has sent a lot more prayer requests my way for people suffering from serious illnesses and disease, particularly of advanced stages of cancer and lymphoma. I hold them in a particular place in my heart and in my daily prayer; perhaps because I have lost three loved ones to cancer. Perhaps because I also know the power of prayer in having members of my family who are cancer survivors. No matter what the illness, it places the family in the crucible of anguish and uncertainty; wanting to trust in God and hope in him, and at the same time, the waiting gives time for our fears and worries creep up to haunt our faith.

In these very moments where faith is attacked by the violent churning of doubt and questioning, our best defense is the simple utterance (perhaps it takes every drop of energy we have):

“Jesus, I trust in You!”

One of my go-to scripture passages when the siege of or worry waits outside my door:

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests by made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

That one’s a bit long for me to remember verbatim, but I have memorized this shorter one from the Prophet Isaiah 26:3:

“You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind rests on You, because he trusts in You.”

HEALING THE MAN BORN BLINDThe word of God in the Bible never promises that the faithful will not experience hardship and suffering. We can just open to the Book of Job and find the contrary to be true. Job in his faithfulness was allowed by God to be tested and tormented by Satan. In order to understand our own sufferings we need to ask why this was so. Jesus himself gives us the answer in this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of John 9:1-41, a narrative of Jesus healing a man blind from birth:

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.

It is only natural when one is has no choice but to deal with an infirmity to ask, “why me?” In itself, this is not a bad question, but it needs to be placed in a broader context, that of an invitation by God to be part of the revelation of His divine glory, so that the works of God might e made visible through him. This requires an attitude of abandonment to God; a reaffirmation that he truly knows every hair on our head, and our every ache and pain we feel.

There is no guarantee in our abandonment that God will heal us the way we wish, but his invitation is a great opportunity to do a couple of things:

  • A purification of our own fidelity. Affliction is a great lens for knowing how to prioritize our lives. It helps us to see where we need to heal broken relationships and where we need to spend our time and energy.
  • Our attitude in our affliction can be very inspiring for others. Look to the saints and see how they dealt with their affliction. They used it to glorify God, sing his praises, and point others to the hope of eternal salvation.

One example is the life of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, a vibrant teen fully living out her Catholic faith, was struck with an aggressive form of cancer. When diagnosed at the age of 17 with osteosarcoma, she spent hours in silence, only to emerge from her ‘garden of Gethsemane’ saying, “If you want it, Jesus,  so do I.” She lived the remainder of her short life as a sign of God’s love with radiant joy.

Her words, in a way, reflect the words of Job when he was stripped of everything he had:

Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all of this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-21

This prayer of Blessed Miguel Pro could be made our own, or at least inspire us in our own encounters with suffering:

Does our life become from day to day more painful, more oppressive, more replete with afflictions? Blessed be He a thousand times who desires it so. If life be harder, love makes it also stronger, and only this love, grounded on suffering, can carry the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ. Love without egotism, without relying on self, but enkindling in the depth of the heart an ardent thirst to love and suffer for all those around us: a thirst that neither misfortune nor contempt can extinguish … I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith … Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.

Related:

Sunday reflection: John 9:1-41, by Ed Morrissey, reflects how affliction can be a blessing.

 

Salvifici Doloris, by Blessed John Paul II