Feet for the Journey…

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

Do you ever think about feet? Maybe only when they’re hurting. Our feet serve us so humbly and faithfully, we do miss them when they are out of commission. A year or so ago, I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in one foot and Achilles tendinopathy in the other. At the same time had a frozen hip joint. It was a perfect storm—I was quite out of commission. I remember watching people walk and marveling at the beauty of it, at God’s stunning design of our bodies that, when they are functioning normally, can travel long distances on foot. We have gotten away from that in modern times, and that’s a pity. God be praised in the glory of the human body!

The Scripture passage above gives precious little insight into the actual journey the Holy Couple undertook to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. But Mary and Joseph’s 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was no doubt filled with great hardship. Having been to the Holy Land in the past year, I have a new appreciation, not just for the sheer length of the journey, but also the punishing terrain along the way. Winter in the Holy Land can be cold and rainy, and the trip would have been slow, likely taking a week or more. Whether they traveled on foot or rode a donkey, it would have been grueling, especially as Mary was heavy with child.

Perhaps it seems strange to consider their feet at this holy time of year. But Advent is a journey—a mission really. And as soldiers know, if you don’t look after your feet, your mission may become compromised over something as seemingly inconsequential as a blister.

The feet of Mary and Joseph would have been cold and sore. No hot bath at the end of each day either! This too was the hidden life of Nazareth. How fascinating it will be in heaven to know much was won for us through daily trials such as these.

Some years ago, I felt led to see how many passages in Scripture mentioned the feet of Jesus, either directly or indirectly. There were more than I had considered, so I put together some little prayer meditations, which I have adapted here.

Luke 2: 16 So (the shepherds) went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

Mary and Joseph were specially chosen to care for Jesus in his infancy and childhood. As parents, would they not have kissed his pure little feet in homage, and would not the Holy Child whose feet would one day be nailed to the cross, have been consoled by it? Beloved Jesus, your infant feet, cared for and adored by Mary and Joseph, were a visible sign of your innocence and purity. May we strive always to imitate your innocence and purity. As we kiss your holy feet in the Christmas manger, may you feel once more the comforting kisses of Mary and Joseph. May your kingdom come!

John 1: 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

When the Word became flesh, his holy feet served as a living bridge between heaven and earth. Each step he took on earth sanctified and cleansed the world he came to save. Living Word of the Father, use our prayers and sacrifices as you wish to once again bridge heaven and earth. Walk in our walking, pray in our praying, love in our loving. May your kingdom come!

Romans 10:15 As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”

Matthew 11: 4-5 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

How our Lord’s holy feet must have suffered as they trod the hot and dusty roads of the Holy Land to bring the Good News to the poor! Humble Savior, for the sake of your holy feet so battered on account of our sin, grant us the grace to imitate your long-suffering perseverance in spreading the Gospel message to those you send us, for the glory of God the Father. May your kingdom come!

Mark 5: 22-24 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him.

The Divine Physician had mercy on Jairus who fell at his holy feet to make supplication for the life and health of his daughter. In his mercy he rewarded the man’s faith and answered his prayer. Glorious Savior, to whom nothing is impossible, grant us the humility and faith we need to work and pray for the conversion of sinners, so that all who are dead in their sins will be brought, in you, to newness of life. May your kingdom come!

Luke 10: 38-39 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

The Divine Teacher told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the “better part” in choosing to sit at his feet and listen to him. Beloved Lord, may we, like Mary, always choose the better part. May we sit at your holy feet and learn from you new ways to worship you and contemplate your glory. May your kingdom come!

Luke 7: 44-47 Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.”

The love and gratitude this woman felt for Jesus gave her a holy audacity. She did not let human approval stop her from showing her love for her Beloved, bathing his holy feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair, from covering his feet with kisses and anointing them with costly oil. Lord of compassion, as we sinners contemplate your mercy, may all that we have been given and forgiven fill us with unending gratitude, holy audacity, great confidence, and unending trust in your great love. May your kingdom come!

John 19:16 Then (Pilate) handed (Jesus) over to them to be crucified.

Our loving Savior allowed his holy feet to be nailed to the cross out of love for us, allowing every drop of his precious blood to spill to earth. Founts of mercy gushed forth from him, top to bottom. O Lord, what love! Give us the courage we need to stand at the foot of your cross with our Blessed Mother and St. John, that we too may kiss your holy, crucified feet. May your kingdom come!

Matthew 28: 8-9 So (the women) left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him.

Jesus, the God of surprise and delight, met the women on the road after the angels had told them that their Lord had risen from the dead. In love and unimaginable joy, they embraced his holy feet and paid him homage. Risen Savior, may we also worship you passionately as Lord and Savior, embracing your holy feet with delight, as we wait in joyful hope for the fulfilment of your promise to come again in glory. May your kingdom come!

1 Corinthians 15: 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

The King of Kings must reign until he has placed all his enemies under his holy feet. All-powerful Savior, may our humble prayers and sacrifices, perfected in the power of the Divine Will, hasten the day of your coming in glory. May your kingdom come! Fiat!

Ephesians 6:14-15 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.

As FOOTsoldiers in the Lord’s army, we aim to be lowly and useful, fulfilling our duties whether we are appreciated or not. Perhaps we are best represented as being the feet in the body of Christ. Glorious Commander, train us to become more humble, faithful, and steadfast in your service. Protect us against the tiniest blister of sin, or the most putrid fungus of pride. Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven! Fiat!

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Providence…

Dear friends, as providence would have it, less than a week after my blog post on praying for those who may die suddenly or unprepared, Jim, my own dear husband of 42 years passed away after a chronic illness. The fingerprints of God, his graces and blessings, are all over this event. I am so grateful for those graces, most especially, the following…

+ That I had time to pray a Divine Mercy chaplet in his presence at the hospital unaware that he would not be coming home the next day.

+ That even thought he was not Catholic, in the months leading up to his death, we prayed almost daily together the prayer to St. Joseph and anointed our foreheads with St. Joseph oil from Montreal.

+ That I woke early that morning and, as I often do when I wake early, repeated this prayer several times: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, spread the effect of grace of Thy Flame of Love over Jim and over all of humanity, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” As it turned out I was praying this prayer in the final hour of his life. Blessed Mother! Oh Mama! What a gift and sign!

+ Not least of the graces was the grace of those of you who prayed for the souls who would die suddenly or unprepared. You helped my husband in the hour of his death. God bless you!

God is with us, little children! Let us place all our trust in him. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, we love you. Save souls!

Lessons…

Luke 15:11-32 “…(The prodigal son) would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ”

Like the prodigal son in the Gospel reading above, we all have lessons to learn, and they may indeed be just as hard-won for us as they were for the prodigal! Usually there is pride involved on some level. Lately I have felt the Lord revealing to me some of my defects of character, some of which I counted as strengths! Ouch! It has meant a series of trials, big and small, in which I had to assiduously inspect my own motives and actions, until finally, when the lesson was ready to be learned, a light went on.

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On being deliberate…

John 15:4-5 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

One word keeps popping up for me lately, and when that happens, I know I have some pondering to do. The word is “deliberate” in the context of being more deliberate in my actions, more mindful and intentional. So often our actions throughout the day are automatic. We are not present to our actions, but like horses bolting for the barn door, our minds race on to other things. We do things impulsively or rashly, we fail to ponder. We neglect to live in the sacrament of the present moment, and in so doing, we lose the joy and grace unique to each moment.

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Opening God’s Gifts…

Isaiah 60:5-6 …the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

One of the enduring Christmas traditions is the exchange of gifts. This lovely tradition, when celebrated rightly, brings joy—often more joy to the giver even than the receiver. I think the closer we get to Christ, the more pleasure we derive from giving. This is a sign that we are becoming more like him. God’s generosity knows no limits. At times, we are permitted to participate in his generosity and it fills us with holy joy.

God’s gifts are manifold, simple, and free. So much so that we often take them for granted. Once, right before Christmas Eve Mass, I thought to ask the Lord for a gift I was very much in need of—the gift of self-control. As I asked the Lord for this gift after Communion on that holy night, an infused knowledge came to me, as if God were saying, “I gave you that gift years ago…you just haven’t opened it yet.” It was one of those moments when the scales fall from your eyes and the truth can no longer be denied. Of course, I received that gift years ago—on the day of my confirmation. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Have I really left it unopened for over 40 years? Shame on me!

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Gratitude before sacrifice…

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten (lepers) made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)

Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I once heard a priest say something very challenging in his Thanksgiving homily. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act—including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Many of us have come to the BSP in response to a felt call to increased prayer and fasting. Sometimes it is easy to feel that if we live the rule to the best of our ability, we have done what we should. But if our practice does not flow from a grateful heart, even if we manage to live the Rule perfectly, our sacrificial gifts will carry the stench of ingratitude. How can God be pleased?

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Walking the Wire…

(The woman with the hemorrhage) came up behind (Jesus) in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she had said “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. (Mark 5:28)

On the night of June 1, 2011, Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The event was televised. It didn’t watch it live myself, but I did watch the video on the internet a day or so later. It was a spectacular stunt. Nik Wallenda walked that rope at night, in the mist and fog with nothing but the dizzying thunder of raging water below him.

I must say that what surprised me most was that the whole way across, with almost every step, Wallenda thanked Jesus and praised God. The video showed him in a prayer huddle before his walk and, as he had a microphone on while on the wire, you can hear him praying frequently all the way across.

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Saints and Angels…

The Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)

A few years back, a website came to my attention whose mission it is to match people with a patron saint for the year. The website is http://yourpatronsaint.blogspot.com/. The claim on the website is that your patron saint actually chooses you. The concept is based on this excerpt from the Diary of St. Faustina:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

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Entitlement…

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40)

Who of us, when reading the story of Mary and Martha, can not sympathize with poor Martha, left to do all the work while her sister sat at the feet of the Lord? Having come from a large family I can tell you that those who sat around while the others worked were not easily excused or forgiven. They had better have a cast on a major limb if they wanted to get out of the dishes!

Family dynamics aside, and with all due respect to holy St. Martha, there is an attitude in the above excerpt that bears pondering. It is an attitude that is prevalent in our society today and I’m sure you have noticed it, perhaps even—during a thorough examination of conscience—in yourself. I am speaking of the epidemic of entitlement, the attitude that we somehow deserve more than we are being given, that our rights have been trampled, and that it’s just not fair! Certainly, one of the Baals of this age is the Baal of entitlement.

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Gratitude before sacrifice…

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:28-30)

Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Some time ago in his Thanksgiving homily, our priest said something that really gave me pause. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act—including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

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