Mountains laid low…

Friends I have re-posted this message from 2014 a few times now, but let it give us all hope. Jesus is near and he waits to be born into our hearts, on Christmas Eve more than any other night. In the Divine Will, through the Flame of Love I pray that Jesus will be born in all hearts. Blessed Christmas to all!

November 12, 2014

(John the Baptist) went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’ (Luke 3:3-6)

For some reason I have found myself doing a lot of apologizing lately. So much so, that I have felt compelled to reflect on the phenomena. Two possibilities emerge: either I have been acting more rashly than usual lately, or else the Lord is giving me some new illumination on the effects my words and actions are having on others. If it is the latter, then comes the horrifying thought that I have habitually acted in ways that are arbitrarily hurtful to others. Mercy!

“Every mountain and hill shall be made low.” As I read the above gospel reading, I begin to realize that these humiliations may be meant to form part of my “fast of St. Martin”**. The mountains of my pride and the hills of my arrogance are being laid low, one at a time. Gee, I wonder how many there are?

As painful and humiliating as the process is, I must be grateful to God for the grace of it. The more the rough ways of my selfishness are made smooth, the more comfortable a resting-place will my heart be for the Prince of Peace when he comes. I suppose it is Mary’s doing. As I prepare to renew my consecration to her on December 12, I can imagine her making ready the poor and lowly manger of my heart to receive the Infant King. Her loving care for my miserable soul dazzles like the star of Bethlehem. Who can fathom her love for us and for all she does to make us ready to receive her Son?

I am reminded of an Advent experience a few years ago. It was a time of great personal trial for me. Our business was failing and the future seemed far from certain. It was at this very low point of my life, during Advent, that God withdrew from me any smidgen of evidence that he was there. I had no comfort. Prayer was a chore. I felt heavy. It was a feeling that went beyond the circumstances of my life. Spiritually speaking, it was a dark night.

There was one prayer I prayed over and over, but even that I prayed without feeling. It was from Psalm 116, vs 10: “I trusted, even when I said, ‘I am sorely afflicted.’” It was a prayer of the will, not the heart. But it was all I could muster, and I clung to it.

It was a long, dry Advent for me. I could not look forward to Christmas in any way. When I went to confession, even though I had not told the priest about my darkness, he made this comment out of the blue, “I see a baby. Why don’t you invite the Infant Jesus into your heart this Christmas.”

I did not give his words much thought. They were far too simplistic for what I was going through. Then, the BSP newsletter came out. In Bruce’s column, lo! and behold, he also encouraged us to invite the Infant Jesus into our hearts at Christmas.

Okay,okay, I’ll do it, I thought. Something simple can always be tried, I suppose. But, like Naaman*, I didn’t hold out much hope.

I dragged myself to Christmas Eve Mass even though I had no heart for it. After communion I decided to try the “simple thing”. I invited the Infant Jesus into my heart. At that very moment, the darkness lifted. The Light was back! I could not believe or understand it, but there it was! My life circumstances had not changed, but my Jesus was back in my heart! With unprecedented joy my heart sang, “Glory to God in the highest! And peace to his people on earth!” My prayer of trust had been answered most spectacularly in my very own Christmas miracle!

If I were to draw a single lesson for penitents from these Advent experiences it would be to encourage all of us to remain docile to whatever the Lord or his Mother ask of us during Advent. As penitents we have a special role to play in making straight the way of the Lord. Let us not begrudge Our Lord and Our Lady anything they ask, but offer it all up for the forgiveness of sins and for the conversion of sinners.

May our Advent sacrifices make straight the way of the Lord, so that all flesh may see the salvation of God this Christmas. May the Infant Jesus dwell in every heart.

(* Naaman – see 2 Kings 5:1-14)

(**Fast of St. Martin – in the BSP we have a 40 day pre-Christmas fasting period that begins after the Feast of St. Martin of Tours.)

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Increasing penance…

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.’” (Matthew 23:1-4)

Do you notice how much more you have to pay for torn blue jeans these days? What used to be seen as a sign of abject poverty is now elevated to a status symbol, a fashion statement. I think this can be seen as a metaphor for the spiritual poverty of our age, a sign of the times. It seems many are no longer ashamed of their spiritual poverty, but wear their spiritual dysfunction as a status symbol, a fashion statement. Their spirit may be in tatters, but they’re too cool to care.

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Do not hold this sin against them…

John 12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The power of forgiveness. We hear about it, we know about it, and most of us have experienced it. Those of us who take advantage of frequent confession—especially if we are prodigal children returned to the embrace of our Father—know very well the power of forgiveness and what it has meant in our own lives. But have we reciprocated that gratuitous gift to others? This is something we must examine ourselves thoroughly on, for it is one of the criteria we will be judged on and it is the true sign of a humble, contrite, and grateful heart.

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Humility…

John 14:10, 12 “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works….Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

Every Christian, indeed every human creature, is called to humility. Certainly as Christians, we should be always aware that we are mere creatures, miniscule fragments in the Divine imagination. Pondering on our own smallness must always lead us farther down the path of humility. Christ must increase, and we must decrease. We all know that, but implementing it is often a tricky business.

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Pray with confidence…

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!

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Crosses in the Year of Mercy…

…Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-4)

As each day passes I hear of more and more people of faith being asked to carry heavy crosses. I believe this cross-ifying will intensify as the Year of Mercy draws to a close. What is the connection?

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Audacity and other graces…

John 21:17 [Jesus] said to [Peter] the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’”

What a Lent! What an Easter! We mourn with the world the death of Mother Angelica, and at the same time we rejoice in the glorious sign of her passing on the Day of Resurrection. All glory and praise to our risen Lord!

I felt this Lent and Easter were significant in ways we cannot understand. I was given some little hints to that effect, which I would like to share here.

First of all, Lent was a time of severe trial for so many—in the world, in the Church, and likely in each of our circles of acquaintance, including mine. One of my sisters has a saying when one of us has a trial during Lent, as often happens: “Aahh…Lent!” Faithful Christians in general, and penitents in particular, must not shy away from the cross during Lent. Our time on the cross with Christ is a treasure whose value we will only appreciate in the next life. When you hang with Jesus, you hang on the cross. Just ask Mother Angelica.

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Rapid Succession…

“But [the widow] said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.’” (1 Kings 17:12)

These days, there seems to be a crisis around every corner—everywhere. Persecutions, perversions, inversions of truth, untimely deaths—in a word—chaos. I can’t help but think of something that happened a few years ago. Once, during the night I felt the Lord’s presence and saw an image. It was like multi-colored pieces shifting and overlapping. The image seemed to have no order to it. It was very chaotic and hard to figure out. These words came to me: “Things will happen in rapid succession.” In the image it seemed like things were happening all over the place that were seemingly unconnected, but really, they were all connected in the big picture. Still, I could not make sense of it. Kind of like a living, moving, “crazy quilt”. I felt a strong urge to tell people to prepare, both practically with emergency kits and contact plans, as well as spiritually with prayer and fasting.

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Penance and prayer…

“Thus says the Lord: Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

What a sublime passage from Isaiah about the fasting that God desires! Certainly its message is echoed in much of what Pope Francis has taught since becoming Pope. Those of us who are living a penitential lifestyle have much to ponder here. We fast regularly. Does this passage negate the fasts we observe as part of our Rule? Not at all, but it does warn us that without charity, our fasting cannot please God. The fact that our Rule also requires that we give to the poor, testifies to the Scriptural solidity of our Rule. Thanks be to God for the great gift he has given us through St. Francis.

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The gift of your faith…

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

There are two things I often hear from people. The first is that they feel isolated in their faith walk, that in their family, workplace, peer group, or sometimes even their parish there are few people with whom they can openly share their faith. The second thing I hear a lot is that so many people are worried about family members who are far from God. They try everything to bring them to faith, but their words fall on deaf ears. They fear for the souls of these loved ones if they do not repent.

In fact, these two issues are closely related and the good news is that God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, has got it all under control. Yes, dear child of the Father, God has a plan to bring those souls he loves more than you do, back to him. The enemy thinks he has won those souls, but God has a secret weapon. He has strategically placed his agents behind enemy lines. Those agents are none other than his faithful remnant–you and me. Continue reading