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.
Philippians 2:9-11 God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In her Fatima apparitions, Our Lady told the little visionaries: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” This was to follow a great chastisement in the world, including wars, sufferings, martyrdom. Our Lady also asked for the consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the requested consecration of Russia was done to Our Lady’s satisfaction. I personally try not to get drawn into such debates, feeling the issue is best left with the Holy Father and the Bishops. For my part, I have to examine whether or not I have done my part in fulfilling Our Lady’s Fatima requests.
If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
Some 20 years ago when my son was a teen, one of the things we used to do together was watch the TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation. One episode in particular keeps coming to me these days. In that episode, the Starship Enterprise had gone through a temporal rift that shifted them into an “alternate reality”, a much darker one. Some who were dead in the previous reality now were not dead. Friends were now enemies and enemies were now friends. No seemed aware of the shift, except for the intuitive bartender, Guinan, who somehow knew and kept repeating, “It’s not supposed to be this way.”
Acts 1:6-8 So when they had come together, (the disciples) asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
It is important to read the signs of the times, to watch and pray. Something is definitely afoot in our day. Anyone who follows the Church-approved apparitions of Our Lady beginning with those to Catherine Labouré in 1830 through to the present day, will comprehend that Our Lady is the new John the Baptist calling us all to repentance. She is warning us of the consequences of our sins and exhorting us to do penance for the salvation of souls. And we must not forget what Jesus told St. Faustina: we are living in the days of mercy that precede the Day of Judgment.
By faith Sarah herself, though barren, received power to conceive, even when she was too old, because she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
It seems to me we are too easily discouraged in prayer. When God does not answer in the way or the time we would prefer, our faith is weakened. We start to wonder if God is really listening. Does he really answer prayers? Then why doesn’t he answer mine?
Let us take the example of Abraham. When Abraham was 75 years old, God promised him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Isaac and Sarah had to wait another 25 years before Isaac was born! Their faith was certainly tested!
“Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” (James 3:16-17)
Have you noticed the confusion that permeates our culture these days? It’s pretty hard to miss. The evil one has sown the seeds of confusion in abundance. For those whose faith is weak, it is increasingly hard to distinguish the wheat from the weeds. In fact there are many who are plucking out the wheat and leaving the weeds. It’s all upside-down! And it’s hard to feel hopeful.
For this reason (Christ) is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
There is a lot of confusion in the Church today. It is popular to say that one is “spiritual” but not “religious”. So often we focus on ex-ternals, when we should be focusing on e-ternals. Too many are choosing to leave the Church without ever having delved into its depths. There is a deplorable lack of catechesis in the adult faithful. It is as if many are content to swim in a shallow pool and just lap up the dried flakes cast onto the surface by an unknown hand. The Church has so much more to offer! The Church is not incidental to the life of the Christian—it is absolutely necessary!
Acts 4:1-2 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
Several years ago, when my daughter went off to university in another city, I felt the loss very keenly. She, on the other hand, was off on an adventure and had new things to try and new friends to be with. It was a difficult transition for me. I said the word “should” a lot: she should call us more often. She should come home more often. She should think of us more often. She should miss us more. I had raised her to be independent, and now came the stark realization that she no longer needed me! I often found myself feeling disappointed, angry, frustrated, and annoyed.
So (the shepherds) went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:16)
So little is said about Mary in Scripture. She remained largely hidden in Scripture. In our day, the expectation of many is that the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart is near and will usher in the Kingdom of the Divine Will, the Sabbath rest, the Era of Peace. Oh Mother! How we long for peace! May God will it!
Providentially, a few Marian graces have lined up for me recently. December 12, feast of Our Lady of Tepeyac (Guadalupe) will mark the 10th anniversary of my total consecration to Mary. For the last nine years I have used St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration preparation to renew my consecration annually. This year, as I missed my regular start date, I decided to use the simpler format of “33 Days to Morning Glory”. This book had been recommended to me numerous times over the years, but I always went back to de Montfort. This year, am I ever glad I missed my start date! “33 Days” is a jewel that cites the superb teachings of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Mother Teresa, and St. John Paul II to lead us to Jesus through the bosom of our Mother.
(This article was originally written a few years ago in Advent. However, the message certainly has new relevance today.)
“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
Advent is given to us as a season of joyful hope. The Christian world anticipates the birth of the Incarnate Word along with Mary, Joseph, and the entire heavenly court. As Christians, we are called to clothe ourselves in the attitude of joyful hope. It is expected. However, the reality may be somewhat different.
Certainly, the daily news gives us little reason to hope, and if our life circumstances have taken a turn for the worse recently, the joyful anticipation of Christmas may seem a distinct impossibility. How can we celebrate when our hearts are broken, our homes are torn to pieces, or our lives are shattered? If we feel bogged in the miry clay in the lowest crevice of the valley of tears, just putting one foot in front of the other requires a miracle. Joy? It can seem as faint and fleeting as the morning mist.