Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Immediately at once!

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. - Matthew 4:18-22

Today is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle who is the patron of my youngest son, and so I have included today's gospel reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What stands out to me the most about this passage are the phrase "at once" and the word "immediately" which refer to the course that Sts. Peter and Andrew and Sts. James and John took with regard to following the Lord. There is no mention of tying up loose ends like docking the boat or putting up the mended nets or saying goodbye to family and friends. No, these men dropped what they were doing and resolutely followed Jesus right away.

What exactly is the point that St. Matthew is making? I don't think it is simply that there was a sense of urgency which Jesus conveyed to them with regard to the coming of the Kingdom, although, that very well may be part of it. But perhaps more importantly, the wording used by St. Matthew expresses the commitment which is necessary to be a disciple of Christ. It must be total, unwavering, and focused. Christ must be at the center of our world which is to say that in our work, play, family, etc., Jesus is the key to bringing meaning to a world which quite often is chaotic and confusing. He is the key to unlocking the mystery which is life. Is it any wonder they followed Jesus at once?

With the season of Advent upon us, it is time once again to reflect on this truth: just as Jesus called his disciples and presented to them the opportunity of a lifetime, so he calls each one of us and presents the same opportunity to us. Jesus actively seeks us out, our response should be to actively seek him as well, hastening to do the will of God, resolutely following the master with our whole heart through service to him and to our neighbor. This is what he desires. Are we ready to follow him at once?

Lord, in your kindness hear our petitions. You called Andrew the apostle to preach the gospel and guide your Church in faith. May he always be our friend in your presence to help us with his prayers. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Holy Father Andrew, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The joy of the heart

You are the joy of every human heart,
King of all the nations.
Lord Jesus, come!

I am very fond of this verse which I sang at Mass last night between the alleluias which introduce the reading of the gospel. I have been contemplating for a day now as to why I am so fond of this particular verse, and the following is what I have come up with.

The path of our life will twist and turn and at times we will be very close to God while at other times we will turn away and end up wandering through life looking for happiness in a myriad of ways. Some people look for happiness in material wealth, others look for happiness in relationships with people which are doomed to fail, still others look for happiness in chemical substances like alcohol. But the truth is, true joy and therefore true freedom can only be found in the Creator and not in the created.

There is a place in each human heart that can only be filled by God. No matter how hard we try to fill that space with other things, nothing can take his place. Oh, we all try to rebel, something which is a result of original sin (a topic for another blog entry), and we seek our own path as though we know what is best for ourselves, as though the path to true freedom is charted by doing whatever we want and being accountable to no one but ourselves, and therefore we turn away from the One who knows us better than we know ourselves, and the next thing you know, we end up miserable. Often times when we get to the end of our rope, and there is nowhere else to turn, we return to God, and suprisingly to us (why it is a surprise I will never understand) we realize that true freedom and joy are only to be found by filling our hearts with the love that is God.

So, as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation, this verse reminds us that Jesus, the incarnate Word and King of all the nations, is indeed the joy of our hearts which cannot be replaced by any other thing. During this time of Advent, may we prepare our hearts for his second coming by filling them with the love that was his first.

Restless is the heart until it comes to rest in you.
All the earth shall remember and return to our God.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, nascetur pro te Israel!

It is no accident that Christmas is celebrated in December just after the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Of course, the Church was born in the northern hemisphere, so the symbolism is much more evident to those of use who live north of the equator. With the passing of the autumnal equinox, the days become shorter than night. The nights become longer and colder. All of this climaxes with the winter solstice, for on that day, the night ceases its lengthening and soon thereafter the days begin to grow longer until they reach their maximum at the summer solstice. My intent is not to meditate on the seasons, however to show just another way that we can experience our faith by being aware of the world around us.

As the days shorten after the autumnal equinox, we begin to prepare for the long nights of winter which will soon be upon us. We get wood for burning in fireplaces, we pull out the winter clothes, we store food from the previous summer's garden (if we grow one), we winterize our cars and homes, etc. And then we wait as the nights grow longer and colder until December when we get to the longest night of the year. A couple of days later, the nights become shorter and daylight grows longer. Although most of the earth still is dead to winter, it is the beginning of the promise of warmer weather to come and along with it a rebirth of the world around us.

In a like manner, Advent is the liturgical and spiritual equivalent of our preparation for winter. Christians wait and prepare for the coming of the Lord much the same as Israel and the whole world longed to be brought out of darkness into the light. We give thanks for Jesus who gives meaning to our world, we meditate on the mysteries surrounding the incarnation, we prepare the way of the Lord through prayer with our families around the Advent wreaths on our dinner tables. And then, on December 25, just a few days after the winter solstice, when daylight begins to overcome night, we celebrate the coming of the Light of the World in humble circumstances in a remote corner of Palestine; the day the long night of history came to an end.

O COME, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

Come, Lord Jesus! And do not delay!

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. - Isaiah 63:19b

At sundown today, the new ecclesiastical year began with the Vigil Mass of the First Sunday of Advent, and this verse taken from the prophet Isaiah, our first reading from the scriptures, caught my eye. In the Old Testament, Israel comes to believe in the Lord through signs and wonders: the parting of the Red Sea, the flow of a spring of water from a stone in the desert, the manna from heaven to feed them, etc. Isaiah speaks to an Israel whose hearts have hardened to the point that they do not fear the Lord. They have ceased to call upon Yahweh, their God, and instead have wandered on their own path away from God. Isaiah once again prays for God to deliver Israel and bring them back, to rip open the fabric of the skies and reveal himself through awesome deeds as of old. So are we in our current time no different from the ancient tribes of Israel. Many have strayed from the way of the Lord and have hardened their hearts seeking to follow their own ways, in other words setting themselves up as their own God. On the other hand, many others seek God in miraculous and wonderful apparitions in far away places. They are looking for God to "rip open the heavens" and come sliding down a sun beam and bring his reign to fruition on the earth. However, is this how God wants us to prepare for his coming, by being spiritually asleep or by being preoccupied with miraculous signs and wonders which herald the arrival of the Lord?

As Isaiah prophetically called Israel to be mindful of the coming of the Lord, so Jesus reminds us in today's gospel reading to "be watchful! Be alert!" We should prepare for the coming of Christ by being mindful of our call to holiness through service to one another. We should look for the coming of the Lord in the quiet moments of everyday life where we carry out our duty to serve the Lord as we ought, so that when he comes again, he will find us being good stewards bringing forth the kingdom to those around us. We should prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord in the Eucharistic Banquet by calling to mind our sin and our need for forgiveness through frequent examination of our consciences and reception of the healing which is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We should prepare for the coming of the Lord by taking time to slow down and take a few minutes out of our busy routines several times a day to reflect and order our lives to the good of the Savior. If we do this, when he does return, the Lord will find us tending the vineyard as he commanded, and we will be able to rejoice with him in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Come, Lord Jesus, and do not delay!

Thursday, November 24, 2005



Chapter 118

Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say: God's love endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say, God's love endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say, God's love endures forever.
In danger I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me?The LORD is with me as my helper; I shall look in triumph on my foes. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in mortals.
Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in princes.
All the nations surrounded me; in the LORD'S name I crushed them.
They surrounded me on every side; in the LORD'S name I crushed them.
They surrounded me like bees; they blazed like fire among thorns; in the LORD'S name I crushed them. I was hard pressed and falling, but the LORD came to my help. The LORD, my strength and might, came to me as savior. The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the victors: "The LORD'S right hand strikes with power; the LORD'S right hand is raised; the LORD'S right hand strikes with power." I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the LORD. The LORD chastised me harshly, but did not hand me over to death. Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the LORD. This is the LORD'S own gate, where the victors enter. I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.
LORD, grant salvation! LORD, grant good fortune!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the LORD'S house. The LORD is God and has given us light. Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, I give you thanks; my God, I offer you praise. Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever.

I give thanks to the Lord for his many blessings. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Abraham and me: thoughts from Mount Moriah.

Then God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you." - Genesis 22:2

For just a moment think of what must have been going through Abraham's mind when God spoke these words to him. I mean, what more did God want from him? He had already packed up his family, all his belongings and servants and left Ur to go who knows where for God, now God is asking him to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. Did he feel fear? Anxiety? Betrayal? Perhaps a mixture of all of them, but most importantly, I think we can guess as to what Abraham's strongest inclination was by seeing that he obeyed. Abraham trusted God, willing to go so far as to sacrifice the life of his beloved Isaac for love of God.

Why do I bring this up today? God's grace is a wonderful thing, and by God's grace I have come to realize through talking with a newfound brother that I experienced a kind of Abraham/Isaac event myself in the past few years. God has blessed me with so many things, but perhaps most importantly, about 3 years ago, my eyes were opened to God's truth, and he blessed me with a great gift of understanding. As part of this understanding, I went through a time of trial whereby God was asking me, "Ok, now that you have been blessed with understanding, how far are you willing to go for love of me?" On the surface, it would seem awful selfish of God to make me choose, but in reality, in being willing to sacrifice something special to me for love of God, I would be opening myself to blessings untold through being obedient to the Truth. In choosing God over my own wishes, everything else would fall into place, and through my suffering, I would be redeemed.

Now, think about God himself. He is the source of all that exists, Being itself. And because he is the source of all being, the fact that we exist at all is from him willing us to exist. God's very nature is one of giving. So, when Abraham was called to give his son Isaac's life to God on Mount Moriah, he was undergoing not merely a test of his faith, but a test on whether he understood God's true nature. What God was illustrating with Abraham was a foreshadowing of what he would do with his own Son, Jesus, thousands of years later. However, where God provided a ram for sacrifice at the last minute for Abraham, the lamb in the sacrifice of God's son was Jesus himself. God's giving is so complete that he would not even hold back by saving the life of his very own son. So through the suffering that I experienced in my life about 2 years ago, I was given an insight into the true nature of God, one of being willing to sacrifice everything, and through being faithful I was redeemed. I experienced to some degree the faith of Abraham.

"I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing--all this because you obeyed my command." - Genesis 22:16-18

Thanks Hockey Man.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Be not deceived!

Today's readings for Mass include the gospel reading taken from the gospel according to St. Luke. It begins simple enough, with people in the temple speaking, probably idle chit chat between pilgrims who were visiting Herod's Temple in Jerusalem. They were commenting on its ornate appearance. Jesus speaks up and directs their attention away from the outward appearance of the temple and tells them that all that they see there will eventually disappear, and the temple will be no more. This must have come as a surprise to the people gathered there, for Herod's Temple was enormous, and from what I have read must have been a sight to behold, so naturally they would have asked Jesus, "WHEN?! AND WHAT SIGNS WILL WARN US OF THE IMPENDING DOOM?!" Jesus' response is quite interesting: "See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying, 'I am he,' and 'The time has come.' Do not follow them!" So many people think they are privvy to secret knowledge of the time of the end, but Jesus himself admonishes us to beware of such people and to certainly not follow them. How many times have I heard people say, "It's a sign of the times," or "The Lord is coming in my lifetime." The truth is, Jesus answers those people in the next verses: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” In other words, the "signs of the times" are present in every generation and are not unique to the end. Life will be going on as is usual on planet earth.

What are we to make of all of this? The message I perceive is simple enough. First of all, the notion that Herod's Temple would come to an end is not especially prophetic, although in reality it was destroyed by the Romans in the sack of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. The truth is, we humans are caught up in the grandeur and majesty of the things that we create. This in and of itself is not a bad thing as long as we realize that they are not everlasting. Every building, road, bridge, tower, etc. made by human hands will fall prey to decay with time, so Christ admonishes us to keep this in mind. Next, when Jesus speaks of nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom, he is telling us that human empires will come to a similar end. We only have to look at Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome to see that every empire comes to an end. Not one of the empires that existed in the Mediterranean at the time Jesus lived is extant today. And yes, even the good old USA will one day be a relic in the history books.

So, what exactly is Jesus getting at? I think he is telling us that our focus should not be on the things around us that are here today and gone tomorrow. On the contrary, our focus should be on things eternal, i.e. God. We should not become focused on the grandeur of a gothic cathedral or the beauty of a religious icon, rather we should allow that grandeur and beauty to be a window to the eternal, something that lifts our focus away from the intricacies of the art itself to the awe of the Almighty. He even makes the point that we should not concern ourselves with the end times for even this will take our focus away from God, who is eternal and will lead us on the right path regardless of the events which lead to the end. All of this brings us fickle human beings back to the wise words of Christ, "See that you not be deceived" by the passing world, but keep your eye on the Lord.

On another note, today is the memorial of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, and since I am a musician active in service to the Church, I will close my blog with this invocation for her prayers:

St. Cecilia, pray for us that we make music in our hearts to God and manifest our love for Him in our daily deeds. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is the day that we recall the ancient tradition that Our Lady's parents, Sts. Joachim and Ann, presented her as an infant to God in the Temple. Of note, the gospel reading for Mass this evening was from St. Matthew's Gospel:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. (Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.") But he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."

The interesting (and somewhat ironic in my opinion) thing about these verses of scripture is that some would use them as proof that Jesus was downplaying Our Lady's role in salvation. I disagree.

The entire life of the Blessed Mother was a lesson for all of us when it comes to doing the will of our heavenly Father. Our Lady cooperated with God in his plan of salvation in a unique way by bearing the Son of God. We are quick to point out that Jesus is the Son of God, however, we must also realize that he is the Son of Mary as well. As such, Mary gives her all for her son so that her entire life was spent in reflecting his glory. She was with him from the beginning and remained faithful to him and his mission, and as such was the first disciple in the sense of following her Son, even to Golgotha. Unlike the twelve, Mary never sought glory for herself. She never bickered as to whom would be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. No, she humbly walked before God in quiet obedience to his will. Therefore, the Blessed Mother more than anyone fits the definition of his mother presented by St. Matthew's gospel. If we all could live as Our Lady lived, we would fully be brothers and sisters of Christ, for we would be doing the will of the Father. This is our call as Christians which the Blessed Virgin is exemplar.

When we delve more deeply into the role of the Mother of God, we come to interesting conclusions. At baptism, we are incorporated into Christ's mystical body, the Church, through new birth, and as members of his body, we become children not only of God the Father, but of Mary his mother. Interestingly, Mary has also been viewed since the earliest writings of the Church Fathers as an icon (or image) of the Church. She is the new ark of the Covenant, for from her womb came forth the salvation of the world. In a similar manner, the Church brings forth the salvation of the world as well, for we are the living members of his body called to proclaim the saving work of Christ. So therefore, through Mary Jesus comes to the world, and through the Church Jesus comes to the world and through each faithful Christian Jesus comes to the world. This is the will of the Father. This is why we are all the brothers and sisters and mother of Jesus just as Our Lady who was the first to be called to cooperate in God's great design.

Hail! Blessed Virgin Mary,
for so when he did meet thee,
spake mighty Gabriel,
and thus we greet thee.
Come weal, come woe
our hymn shall never vary.
Hail! Blessed Virgin Mary.

Archangels chant 'Hosanna!'
And 'Holy! holy! holy!'
Before the Infant born
Of thee, thou lowly
Aye-maiden child of
Joachim and Anna.
Archangels chant 'Hosanna!'

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The king of love, my shepherd is

It is interesting to me that on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the readings this year have shepherding as their theme. I was particularly struck with the reading from Ezekiel; the image of the Lord as a shepherd tending his sheep, seeking out the lost, bringing back the strayed, binding the injured, and healing the sick. The really interesting thing is the way that the Lord has accomplished it. He has done so through his Son, Jesus, but also through the mission of the Church, the body of Christ. As Jesus healed the sick, so the Church in the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick brings the healing power of God to those who are suffering. As Jesus brought back those who had strayed from the House of Israel (for example, the woman caught in adultery), so the Church brings back those who have strayed through the healing Sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus tended his flock by feeding thousands on the loaves and fish; the Church feeds us with the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic banquet. The Sacraments prove to us the faithfulness of God, prove to us that God is indeed with us, tending us with his love through the gifts of the Sacraments, and prove to us that the prophetic words of Ezekiel have indeed come to pass:

I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.

Blessed be God, forever!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

And the two shall become as one flesh...

Today is my seventeenth wedding anniversary, and a few days ago we were discussing marriage at my office. It would appear that some people do not understand the Catholic concept of annulment, and some people actually resent that it is even necessary at all. I will be the first to admit that there are way too many annulments granted, however, I have an interesting take on the whole marriage thing. It has largely been formed by Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and since today is my anniversary, I will talk about it some.

First, a definition of marriage: Marriage is the intimate, exclusive, indissoluble communion of life and love entered by man and woman at the design of the Creator for the purpose of their own good and the procreation and education of children; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. It is a covenant first and foremost, however, it is a legal contract as well. For a valid sacramental covenant of marriage to be entered into, several factors must be considered. First, both spouses must have entered into the covenant of their own free will. There must be no coercion of any kind. Second, the spouses must be faithful to the covenant forsaking all others for the beloved. And third, it must be fruitful, i.e. open to giving birth to children. For the sacrament to be valid, all of these criteria must be met.

So, why the need for annulment? Well, if a couple enters into a covenant of marriage and for some reason, the marriage falls apart, the church must make a decision as to whether the marriage was sacramental. Keep in mind, lots of people have issue with the church making a decision about much of anything, but the truth is that Christ left that authority to the church (who else are we going to rely on to decide if the marriage is lawful?). So, the Church has a tribunal which investigates what went wrong, and decides whether the couple involved actually entered into a valid sacramental covenant based on what I mentioned above. It is not that the church is saying that the marriage never occurred. Of course it occurred. An annulment says that grace necessary to sanctify the marriage was in some way incomplete and therefore a valid sacramental covenant was never entered into because something was ultimately lacking. Does this mean that any children born were illegitimate? No. Just because a marriage is not sacramental does not mean that it is not legal. It was a perfectly legal contract. It just was not a sacramental covenant. So an annulment does not erase the marriage. It simply declares that the marriage was lacking grace that would have sustained it. Until the Church makes this judgment, the marriage is considered valid, and therefore, the spouses are expected to uphold the covenant. For this reason, a person who is married in the Catholic Church may not simply remarry after a civil divorce because without an annulment, the Church still views the original covenant is intact.

So, what is my take? I agree, there are way too many annulments, but I have a corollary to this. I think that there are too many people entering marriage unprepared for the road ahead of them. In other words, the Church is kind of dropping the ball when it comes to the formation of married people. The Church must be certain that a couple is fully aware of their responsibilities to one another before blessing the union. If this is the case, you will see the number of annulments drop, and the number of happy marriages increase exponentially.

I am thankful for the great amount of grace that the Lord has bestowed on my family, especially for the bond that my wife and I share. Through thick and thin we have been faithful to our vows thus cooperating with God's grace. May God in his infinite mercy and wisdom continue to bless our family.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I am fond of Sarah McLachlan's music, and today as I was listening to Possession, the thought occurred to me that I have pondered "possession" in the last week several times. Oh, not possession in the sense of demon possession, although demon possession kind of fits into what I am talking about. No, the possession that I am thinking of is this idea of having something. I have come to realize that the concept of "possession" is what led to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Recall, in the poetry that is the creation narrative in the book of Genesis, God calls Adam to be steward of the entire created world, to tend the garden and protect it. He bestowed upon Adam a perfect mate in Eve and bade them be fruitful and multiply, and God provided everything that Adam and Eve needed for life and happiness. The one thing that was forbidden was for Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for if they did, they would "surely die." We all know what happened, but I think it is worth mentioning the words that the author of Genesis uses: "The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom." There are four words that stand out there: good, pleasing, desirable, and (most importantly) gaining. When Eve saw the fruit, she desired it so much that she would disobey God to obtain it, to possess it. By yielding to this desire, Eve turned inward on herself and became self-serving rather than self-giving. Instead of ordering her will to God, the source and summit of all wisdom, she ordered her will to herself in her desire and longing for wisdom. She attempted to take something that was not hers for the taking. Eve's desire for knowledge and wisdom obtained improperly (I will get it my way!) resulted in a disastrous chain of events from which the world has not recovered.

So, here is what the problem becomes: when we desire things, we ascribe to them a value, and quite often in our fallen state, we transfer that value on to the owner of the thing, and define a human being not by who they are, rather we define them by what they own or have, and in such a state, we begin to devalue human life if a person does not have enough stuff or the right kind of stuff. If we continue down the path of possession, we even go on to say that if a person does not have the ability to get stuff, then they have lesser value as well. People no longer are identified as unique creations each with an inherent dignity and nobleness, rather, people have to earn their dignity and nobleness through possessing things which have been ascribed value by society. And if you cannot even attempt to possess those things, then you are even worse off. The end result? A society that is turned inward on itself. A society that sees the pursuit of things that will increase the value of a human being as more important than bringing forth new life (as it will intefere with the pursuit) and nurturing and cherishing the lives that are here. A society that will "surely die."

Into this night I wander,
it's morning that I dread,
Another day of knowing
of the path I fear to tread,
Oh into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride,
Nothing stands between us here
and I won't be denied....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

For some reason, Psalm 22 has been on my mind today. This is the lament which is proclaimed every year during the Palm Sunday liturgy and begins, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Not that anything particularly bad has happened today, and I certainly do not feel that I have been abandoned by the Lord, but still Psalm 22 has been on my mind. When I recite or chant this psalm, I can sense the underlying fear and torment which this troubled soul is experiencing; the bulls of Bashan which fiercely encircle him, the lions roaring, the evildoers which surround him such that his life is drained to the point that there is little hope. It appears to the reader that evil will prevail. And yet, the troubled soul hopes against all hope and trusts in his God. The early Christians easily identified this suffering servant as Jesus...surrounded by people who would do him in, hoping against all hope that he would prevail against an evil so fierce that it threatened his life, and as he is dying on the cross, he laments, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Here is the very same cry of the author of the psalm. Yet, is this not how we all are? In times of suffering and persecution do we not cry out to God to rescue us from forces beyond our control or comprehension? Can we not identify in the circling bulls of Bashan people who slander us? Is it possible that the evildoers who surround us and drain life from us are the very people who take advantage of our good intentions for personal gain and then leave us in the "dust of death" once our usefulness has run out? Is this the cry of a soul in despair? Hardly. This psalm is a cry of a man of great faith who trusts in the Lord despite unbelievable obstacles which face him. Jesus, in shouting this as he was dying on the cross, does not show us the face of a despairing man, rather one of faith and trust, for he points us to the message of hope that is Psalm 22; that God will deliver those who put their trust in him. Perhaps this Psalm was composed at a time when David was reflecting on his past experiences of suffering from which God delivered him. Perhaps God is nudging me to reflect as well.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you: "You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

Love. It is at the heart of the Most Blessed Trinity. Have you really contemplated what the phrase "God is love" really means? For years I pondered these words and would think to myself, "How on earth can God be an emotion?" When I used to think of love, I would think of a strong desire to be with another person because it made me happy. But as I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have come to the realization that love is not really an emotion after all. As a matter of fact, true love often will not elicit those happy feelings either. And true love is not about serving my needs. True love is sacrificial in nature. It means giving of the self at all cost for the benefit of the beloved. It has been said that marriage is a 50-50 arrangement, but in reality, if it is based in love it is a 100-100 arrangement because two spouses who truly love one another will hold nothing back and will completely give of themselves to the other. This is as it should be. Why? Because the source of all love is the Most Blessed Trinity. The Most Blessed Trinity, God in His deepest mystery, is a divine family of persons united through self-giving. Eternally. Never holding back. Our human families are but icons or images of the true family which is God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May God through His grace show us the way of true love.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum, Amen.