Archive for the ‘The Incarnation’ Category

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Throughout this series I have shared with you ideas that I had about becoming beautiful as God means for us to be. This has been a deeply personal journey as I have literally lived with this topic for the last 3 months, reading a little bit each day, outlining the chapters in  The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier and The Authentic Catholic Woman by Genevieve Kineke. As we know from gardening, a downpour is not going to be particularly beneficial to the flowers – it might beat them down and surely the bulk of the water will run off. It’s those gentle rains, even drizzle, that persist from day to day that bring the real benefit to the garden. This reading, bit by bit, day by day, has acted as a gentle rain on the garden of my soul. Where total surrender to God was once a lofty thought is now something I have embraced, and my journey has just begun in living it.

I find that I am more at peace with my life and can take the longer view down the road while still remaining in the present. Recently my husband, who is a contract worker, was between jobs and was becoming concerned that he would not find a new assignment soon enough to continue with the contracting company which gives him a salary and our health plan. He knew I was praying daily for the unemployed and asked me to remember him which I gladly did. As I prayed, I thought to myself that no matter what happened, even if he lost his job and we lost our health benefits, that everything in the long run would work out for our best. My trust in God was deeper because of this journey of surrender which I had embarked upon.

My love for Mary, our Mother, has truly grown. She truly is the most beautiful woman the world has ever known, and will ever know. She lays out a simple path to follow (simple to understand but not necessarily easy to follow), speaking it plainly at the Wedding at Cana when she instructs the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knew from the many deep experiences of her life that following the Lord wherever He led was the only way to lead an authentic life. She came to understand in the course of her life that this way was not free of pain or suffering; in fact it probably was more intense because she chose a more radical way of living. Her “yes”, however, transformed all of history, helping to open the road to Heaven to every human being going back to Adam and Eve, and going forward to the end of time. She held God incarnate in her arms – caressing and kissing, listening to and consoling Him, and laughing with Him. She witnessed Him risen, saw Him ascend to Heaven, and experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon her at Pentecost. Every moment of her life was a “yes” and every “yes” opened the door wider to God’s grace and mercy.

No wonder she was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known!

I earnestly pray, beg, that God’s light, His image, like those of the beautiful icons, will glow within me and will not be blocked by any shadow. I pray, I beg, that God will help me continue to remove the wall that blocks Him from me, stone by stone and eventually, boulder by boulder as I become stronger in Him.

I deeply desire to become a beautiful Godly woman that will be evident for all to see. I desire that people will look at me and see not me, but the Lord. I want to be that bold, that transparent. I want to be like those women I admire so much in my own life who to me epitomize holiness – my Noni, the master teacher of hospitality, the realtor in my office who positively glows with God’s light, and my dear spiritual mother whose mastery of sacrificial love in spite of her illness inspires me daily.

Dear Lord, make me like those women! Make me beautiful like Your Mother. Mary, mother to us all and my mother, pray for me.

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Thank you for following this series on becoming a beautiful Godly woman. Here are links to the other 10 posts in case you missed any:

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

Here are links to 2 other companion posts:

Praying in new places, in new ways – an example of a creative routine for daily prayer and scripture reading

Why does love chase away fear? – Total surrender to God chased away fear, allowing us to face anything in our lives

 

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Friday, April 15th, 2011

In the previous post I talked about why Mary was beautiful and how it was because she gave herself totally over to Christ with her consistent, lifelong “yes” to Him. I would like you to consider for a moment Mary’s role as a mother, raising the child Jesus during the hidden part of His life. How do you suppose Mary handled her day-to-day duties caring for Jesus, Joseph, other extended family members and her home?

Undoubtedly Mary, because of her knowledge that her child was the Son of God, went about her daily duties with a deepened sense of importance. I imagine that each task, no matter how mundane, took on a profound spiritual significance.

We don’t have the advantage of caring for Jesus incarnate, but Jesus IS present in all of us. If we remind ourselves of that, performing mundane tasks to care for others can take on a sacramental dimension, adding great worth.

In The Authentic Catholic Woman Genevieve Kineke suggests that Holy Mother Church is the best template for realizing our potential as authentic Catholic women (page 8, The Authentic Catholic Woman). It’s an image that applies to all women providing tangible means (the Sacraments) to help us. Born from the cross of Christ and containing over 2000 years of wisdom, the Church offers a unique opportunity to discern and use our God-given gifts.

In theory, I believe what Kineke is saying. The ideal model of the Church is a great model but the reality of the Church in our world is not so pretty. We are, after all, corrupted by our sinfulness and this corruption seeps into the Church as evidenced by the constant barrage of news stories. While some of what is reported could be regarded as slanted, some of it is sadly true. Ultimately, all of it contributes to one’s perception, and perception is what often wins out in the end.

We therefore need to divorce ourselves from those perceptions and remember the Ideal Church to understand why Kineke believes this is the best image for women to model themselves after.

The Church is called the bride of Christ since it brings Christ into the world, just as a mother bears a child. Again Mary is the perfect example. She received Christ through the Holy Spirit (becoming His bride), bore Him (becoming His mother), took care of Him and nurtured Him into manhood where He could then go out and complete His mission.

We are fortunate in having the Church as a model because of the concrete examples  it provides for our  lives – the Sacraments.

In my next post I will get into specifics on how mirroring the Sacraments can give us the life that Mary experienced as she cared for Jesus.

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Part Two: the beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

In continuing my series of what makes a beautiful Godly woman, I begin with Keith Fournier’s book, The Prayer of Mary (see previous post) and read that Christ’s work began in utero, in Mary’s womb, taking up residence there, making it a tabernacle of the flesh (Preface, The Prayer of Mary, page X).

Recently I’ve begun an exploration of contemplative prayer, using an app from the Daughters of Saint Paul called Beginning Contemplative Prayer based on a book by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP. Sister Kathryn speaks of going deeper into a place that is still, quiet and receptive to the presence of Jesus. The safest place I could think of was the womb – it’s quiet and warm, enclosed and nourished by someone who loves me and wants to take care of me. I retreat here now when I want to be closer to Jesus. I had already decided to do that when I read Fournier’s premise of Christ’s work beginning in utero. For me, it continues there.

“God incarnate made His first home in the womb of a woman who said yes to the invitation of grace.” (Ibid page XI). Mary was receptive to new life and to love, as pointed out in Genevieve Kineke’s book, The Authentic Catholic Woman (preface). She had to be completely open, completely vulnerable, in order for God’s grace, His own self, to make a home within her. Christ incarnate has made every part of human life holy. By allowing Himself to be born from the Virgin Mary, He lifted up every aspect of the life of a woman to holiness. Therefore, everything that Mary did, from suckling Jesus, to cleaning Him, providing clothing, guiding Him, consoling Him . . . everything, was raised to holiness. Christ elevated woman and made her beautiful through this most intimate act of love.

And what defines that beauty? Fournier lists several things (Ibid, pages XII-XIII):

  • living a life of surrendered love
  • encountering God relationally, personally, intimately
  • about receiving and giving: becoming a person for others by entering more fully in to the way of Christ and offering ourselves in Him, for others

In other words, offering our humble “yes” to God at all times. Mary’s “yes” ended up changing human history. How beautiful is that?

I will continue to explore this theme in my next post. Stay tuned . . .

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Links to all posts in this 11 part series

Part 1: Discovering the beauty of woman through the eyes of God – a multi-part series

Part 2: The beauty of a Godly woman – learning to say “Yes.”

Part 3: What makes a beautiful Godly woman – Holiness.

Part 4: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? The way of beauty

Part 5: What makes a beautiful Godly woman? Modeling ourselves after Holy Mother Church

Part 6: Beautiful Godly woman – living sacramentally

Part 7: Beautiful Godly woman – hospitality

Part 8: Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – how meal times can become a beautiful sacramental expression

Part 9: A beautiful Godly woman is an agent of reconciliation

Part 10: beautiful Godly woman – the gift of healing

Part 11: Conclusion – Becoming a beautiful Godly woman – the journey is just beginning

 

Why does love chase away fear?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

In praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary this morning, a thought struck me while praying the first mystery: The Agony in the Garden: why was Jesus afraid and what did it mean?

Jesus was the Christ, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit – how could he know fear? But Jesus was also man and we all know fear. As a man, Jesus knew fear and anxiety in that garden that was so intense that He sweated blood and begged the Father to allow what was coming to pass.

It made me wonder: did Jesus as a man know the separation from the Father that all humanity knows, brought on by the fall of Adam and Eve? And because of that separation, did He then turn into Himself, thus coming face to face with the terrors that awaited Him? And by turning everything over to God (“not my will but Yours”) and thus turning away from Himself, is that what opened Jesus to the grace needed to face His most terrible hours with such courage?

Is fear then, self-centered, while love and trust is other-centered?

In remembering the many times I used to wake up at 4 in the morning, worrying endlessly about so many things, it certainly was all about me! I felt trapped inside of myself when that type of anxiety would grip me. Only when the sun came up and I got out of bed was I able to put a little distance between myself and my fear. When that happened, the fear would shrink and fade. The monster in the closet would disappear when a little perspective came into view.

I remember many years ago I read a book about a fire in a Boston nightclub that scared me so much I didn’t close my eyes the entire night. I broke out in a sweat and my stomach hurt. This fear was so deep that I refused to go out to restaurants. I wouldn’t go to our town library or work there for fear I would see that book. Sometimes I would see local news coverage of the event, citing some anniversary, and it would ruin my whole day. The fear was palpable, and it kept growing.

Finally I confessed my fear to my then-boyfriend-now husband. I had to pray on it for a long time, rocking back and forth in the bathroom crying until I got up the nerve to name it to someone else. After I confessed it, the fear went away – the monster in the closet was gone. I stepped away from myself, trusted God, and let it go.

I knew years later I had been successful because another terrible nightclub fire occurred in 2003 in Warwick, RI. This time, instead of running away from it, I faced it head on. It was hard, but it prevented the monster from rising up again.

Jesus faced His fear and turned it over to His loving Father. He turned away from himself and towards the Father. He could only do that because of his love and trust for the Father. And he was able to face his own monster, a real monster, and do it with grace.

Love chases away fear because love focuses on the other, not on the self. That turning away from self allows trust to happen.

Jesus tells us that fear is useless and to replace it with trust. Trust becomes easier as I come to know Jesus more intimately and fall more deeply in love with Him. Love is perfected over a lifetime and perfect love drives out all fear.

Learning true humility (part one)

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am extremely blessed to have 2 wonderful people in my life who act as friends and spiritual advisers – Deacon Dave from Delaware and my spiritual mother. The other day, they both gave me a powerful affirmation on the need and meaning of true humility.

It had occurred to me at the last confirmation retreat that I assisted on that I was very rigid in my routines. As God is prone to do on occasion, He shone a bright spotlight on this issue, but this was not what He was trying to show me as this was just a symptom. What became clear to me as I observed others on the retreat who lived their faith so openly and radically (and who loved so well), I was containing the Holy Spirit through micro management. I knew I was into control but I had no idea how much!

I began to deeply desire letting go of this tendency to micro manage but had no idea how to do it. This past Tuesday, God showed me how and it was a very obvious answer – prayer.

Prayer. Duh. But as my deacon friend pointed out, it could not be prayer that I dictated (which was one of my rituals). God had to direct the prayer. This meant I had to face up to a fear I had of being alone with God and quiet.

I have felt the pull to do this for quite a while. I am very dependent on technology as a tool for prayer and scripture reflection, using my iTouch extensively for everything from listening to podcasts and music, to using the new Confession app (an excellent app by the way, I highly recommend it) and various rosary and prayer apps I had downloaded. These tools work well but I was using them to avoid letting God direct my prayer.

This pull from God began to reveal a more root problem – fear of failure and a relationship based on trying to please God rather than just learning how to BE with God. This was tough stuff!

Because of all the times I have tried to be quiet with God and failed (either the mind races or I fall asleep – happens every time I go to adoration), I was afraid to try again.

Deacon Dave exhorted me to try and laid out a basic formula for it. I avoided it. My spiritual mother described how she did it which so affirmed Deacon Dave’s exhortation, and that helped. And she gave me a very wise piece of counsel – you can’t fail if you are with God. You simply do the best you can – He accepts you exactly as you are.

Yesterday was the first time I tried it but it was certainly not in a place I would expect it to work! I had spent much of yesterday putting together a PowerPoint presentation for the Sung Rosary using the Sorrowful Mysteries. Over the course of many hours I poured over images of my dear Jesus, tortured and crucified for all of us, for me. It was work at the time and I wondered why I was not moved more by the images. Later on in the day, that would all come flooding back.

I went to the gym to work out on the elliptical and proceeded to read as I always do. I was very distracted by the noise around me and realized that would not work. I plugged in my iTouch and began listening to one of my favorite classical pieces, Bach’s Cantata 140. The power of the music immediately triggered an intense period of prayer like I have never experienced before. All the images I had poured over earlier in the day flooded my mind and 2 in particular haunted me. I found myself attracted to a very physical and human Jesus as well as a powerful and divine Christ and I longed to be with Him, to touch Him. I kissed His feet and re-enacted Mary’s public devotion of washing His feet with precious perfume and drying them with her hair. I begged for Him to lift the veil and let me see His face, all while working the elliptical harder than I ever had before. There was something about the physical sensation of the running, the grunting, the panting, the sweating . . . I imagined myself like St. Paul, running the race with Jesus right beside me, just as Deacon Dave and my spiritual mother had said. For true humility is having Jesus right beside you, not behind or in front of you. Beside you, as He was with the disciples at Emmaus, opening their hearts to the scriptures and the truth.

There is more I want to write about this discovery of humility that I will share in future posts. But needless to say, this first true experience of prayer that was controlled by God left haunting memories and a deep desire to go there again. My spiritual mother was right – you can’t fail, and especially if you let God lead the way.

Jesus: fully God AND fully human – reflections on the readings for January 12, 2011

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Today’s readings
Hebrews 2:14-18; Psalm 105:1-4,6-9; Mark 1:29-39

Jesus, incarnate, is Jesus fully human

The title of this post might seem obvious, but for some reason all during Christmas the whole idea of the incarnation of Jesus really hit home. He became more real to me as a man. It reminds me of something that happened over the Christmas vacation.

I blog regularly about my favorite author, Louisa May Alcott, and I happen to live near Concord, MA where her family homestead is located (and it is a year-round museum). The public library in Concord has many of her handwritten letters and I went to look at them. One letter in particular about the death of her sister really moved me so I hand copied it. In the process of doing that, I thought about the letters I had seen from my mother’s relatives who had lived during the time of Louisa May Alcott (which was throughout the 19th century) and Louisa suddenly became like one of those relatives rather than the far away (and dead) author whom I so esteemed. She became more real to me and I felt closer to her.

This is how meditating upon the incarnation of Christ has made me feel closer to Jesus. He is no less God to me, but his humanity is more real.

Hebrews 2:14-18 illustrates the meaning of a human Jesus

As a result, today’s readings really spoke to me. Do you ever have times when you’re reading the scriptures and it’s like God is chattering at you with all these insights? That’s what today was like.

The first reading from Hebrews spoke of how we as humans “share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them . . .” Jesus shares our flesh and blood. He felt the cold and heat, like we do. He felt the rain against his skin, like we do. He probably got sun burn living in the desert – many of us have experienced that. The body of Jesus embodies God, who cannot be contained, but He never shied away from experiencing even the most mundane things.

Hebrews goes on to say that in order to defeat the Devil, He had to defeat the power of death by dying Himself. He had to experience everything we experience to unite us to Himself and to triumph over the thing we can’t – death.

This reading ends by saying the following: “Because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.” Jesus suffered real wounds, real tears, real mental anguish, and He triumphed ultimately over it all. To me this says that as long as I cling to Jesus, there is always hope, even when life tempts me to despair. The incarnation of Jesus is one of the most profound mysteries that we can focus on.

How does the humanity of Jesus relate to the Eucharist?

The beauty of meditating upon the humanity of Jesus is that it is helping me to appreciate the Eucharist all the more. The Eucharist is a piece of bread that I can eat, that I can totally consume. And Jesus is that bread; He allows me to totally consume Him – He WANTS me to consume Him. When I think of that piece of bread being digested and flowing through my own blood . . . it’s an amazing experience of intimacy.

Jesus’ healing touch

Moving on to the Gospel reading, we read of Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law of her fever. What struck me here is that same theme of humanity and intimacy – Jesus only needed to say the word and she would be healed. But instead, He grasped her by the hand and helped her up, and the fever left her. He knew the power of human touch. He so totally understands our need for touch to impart intimacy. I believe this is one reason why we are asked to physically consume the Eucharist for it makes the experience of receiving Jesus more real, if we able to see Him in the bread.

Final thoughts

This weekend, while on retreat with confirmation students from our parish, I saw our pastor in a new and wonderful light. I realized through listening to him talk that every moment of his life is prayer. The Gospel tells us that Jesus got up before dawn to go to a deserted place to pray. I thought immediately of our pastor, who gets up every morning at 4am and walks 4 miles through the town. When I asked him how he was able to do that, he smiled and said it’s because he has such a rich inner life. And I knew that was true. Just like Jesus, Fr. Mike rises before dawn, walks through the deserted streets and prays to his Heavenly Father, just like Jesus did.

The spiritual life is so rich, and it becomes even richer when I connect the spiritual world with the physical one, the one that God so lovingly made.

How we can see with the eyes of God

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
1 John 2:3-11; Psalm 96:1-6; Luke 2:22-35

I received an iTouch for Christmas from my wonderful husband. At the time that I received it, I was very ungracious about it. I had made up my mind that I didn’t want touch screen technology but rather preferred an older model of the iPod and I was a little annoyed that he got me the iTouch anyway. Even my two grown children remarked about how I reacted with such ingratitude. Ouch!

Now that I have gotten acquainted with it, I am finding that it has many rich possibilities and I’m getting excited about it. My eyes have been opened, my stubbornness has fallen away. I apologized to my husband, told him he was right (not easy to do! :-) ) and asked his forgiveness.

I had made up my mind beforehand that I was not going to like it. I was stubborn, and it caused me to offend someone I love. That certainly is not seeing with the eyes of God!

In today’s Gospel reading, baby Jesus is brought to the temple by his parents to be presented to the Lord. An old man was there, Simeon. He had been patiently waiting for the Messiah to come and trusted in God’s word that he would indeed see the Christ. What if Simeon had been like me, mind made up, stubborn in his perception? What if he had set in his mind that the Messiah should come like a great king, or on a cloud, or in some other spectacular fashion? If he had done that, he would have missed everything! Instead, he was open and trusting, ready in love to receive the vision of the Messiah in the form of a helpless infant. By being open and loving, Simeon saw so much more than a great king. He saw God fully divine and fully human. He saw the unfathomable, uncontainable God incarnate as a little helpless, humble infant. Imagine what he learned about the love of God simply by beholding Jesus in this fashion! Imagine the incredible, uncontainable joy he must have felt as he held this wonder in his arms; the peace and gratitude in knowing that God had kept His promise, not only to Simeon personally, but to the whole human race!

So how do we keep our eyes open and keep our hearts trusting, as Simeon did? John tells us in the first reading: if we keep His commandments, we are in union with Him. If we love our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light, and the light allows us to see with God’s eyes.

How easy it is to be blinded by our pride! My know-it-all attitude regarding my husband’s wonderful gift blinded me to its possibilities, and worse, made me act unkindly towards my husband. I walked in darkness. This may be a small thing to be in the dark about, but it’s the totality of all these ‘small things’ that creates a larger darkness in our lives, a darkness that prevents us from seeing what God wants us to see.

Mother Teresa always said to do “small things with great love.” St. Therese the Little Flower served God with a smile for everyone she met, whether she liked them or not. These small things add up to a loving and trusting heart, able to see what Simeon saw. This is what I will strive for today and always.

p.s. It’s really cool to be able to read the Daily Readings on my iTouch! And I haven’t even begun to explore  Apps yet . . . :-)

Spiritual Prosperity – reflections on readings for December 10, 2010

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Here are today’s readings
Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalm 1:1-4,6; Matthew 11:16-19

Today’s responsorial psalm struck me today (bold italics are my emphasis):

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.

He is like a tree
planted near running water,

That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.

I stopped when I read it because it rang so true. Being on the same page with Jesus guarantees prosperity. Not prosperity such as the world understands it (money, power, fame, etc.), but a different kind of prosperity – peace, joy, love:  the fruits of the Spirit, which cannot be contained within and shine out as a beacon of light, the light of Christ.

Lately I have found people asking me for prayer. And I’ve had people tell me that I have blessed them. I know it’s not anything I am deliberately doing, except perhaps the act of trying to remain in God’s presence at all times. That constant clinging to God, running to His side, keeping an ear open for His soft voice, feeling that longing in my heart for Him – these things drive me to Him and I’m guessing that because of that, the light of Christ is somehow getting past me and getting out for the world to see. It’s certainly not because of any good that I purport to do.

My thoughts again drift to Mary who because of her oneness with God, produced the greatest fruit of all – the baby Jesus. Talk about prosperity!

I saw this cool section in a book I am reading (again) called The Prayer of Mary by Keith Fournier. In the preface he writes:

” . . . He [Christ] took up residence in a womb [Mary's], making it a tabernacle of flesh. The work of redemption began in utero . . . Mary was the first evangelist, bearing witness of Christ’s incarnation to her cousin Elizabeth. She won the first convert in utero, in the person of John the Baptist . . .”

Remember the votive candle post from a few days ago and how the light of Christ was within the womb of Mary? Mary was following today’s responsorial psalm, delighting in the Lord and staying close to Him and because of that, she prospered. And because she prospered, the light of Christ within her could not be contained and the babe in Elizabeth’s womb sensed it and leapt for joy!

This kind of prosperity is the one kind we can take with us when we depart this earth. As long as we work for it and deeply desire it, we can never lose the treasure of Christ’s light within us. And because we prosper, we light the way for others to follow along with us.

And believe me when I say that the world’s prosperity (money, fame, power, etc.) cannot even begin to match the benefits of spiritual prosperity. Having experienced both to a degree, I am so glad I am here now and would never go back.

Mary’s Silent Burden, and Her Solace

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Last night at Mass, Monsignor Mike preached about the true meaning of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception: that this feast celebrated Mary’s conception, not our Lord’s. While preaching about Mary being born without Original Sin, he made an important point: Mary was the first creature to be born since the creation of man without the veil that separates man from God. He went on to say that our true selves are meant to be in total union with God, to be one with Him, and the veil of Original Sin acts as a wall, impeding that relationship. Jesus came to lift that veil so that we could be one with God again, but His coming did not eradicate sin from our world. He opened the door to heaven for us so that one day, the veil could be completely lifted and sin could be wiped out of our lives.

Mary was one with our Lord, right from the first moments of her creation. She was born to be her true self, without any veil. She was singled out to be completely pure. Isn’t it ironic then that Mary, who was chosen to bear the unknowable, unfathomable God incarnate in her womb, had to bear the ‘sin’ of being pregnant without being ‘married’?

I realized that this ‘sin’ would not only cause her grief at the beginning (in trying to explain the situation to her betrothed, Joseph, and to her family), but it probably followed her for the rest of her life. She was able to tell Joseph and Elizabeth, her cousin, the truth and they either believed right away or came to believe through the help of God’s grace (Elizabeth by her pregnancy, Joseph by an angel in a dream). But what of her immediate and extended family? What of her neighbors? What must it have been like to tell them? Did she tell them the truth as well? Did the ‘stain’ of this ‘sin’ follow Mary for the rest of her life? I had never thought before of the silent burden she would have to bear as the people she knew and loved perhaps wanted to cause her shame. They would never understand the glorious union she had with God, not only as His pure vessel, but as His only spouse, and the mother of His Son. Surely that knowledge and the memory of Christ in her womb (as well as Him being in the world) was her solace. But her silent burden was a foretaste of what Jesus would know in His life on earth – knowing who He was but being so misunderstood by His own people, especially His own kin and neighbors!

Yet despite this burden, Mary, in a sense, had Jesus all to herself during those 9 months of pregnancy. Anytime the sting of her ‘shame’ would hit, she could meditate on the Son of God, warm and safe in her own womb. Containing the uncontainable – what solace that must have been!

While we may not have the privilege of housing the incarnate God in our bodies, we do house the Holy Spirit. And we too can share the intimacy that Mary shared with Jesus, especially by partaking the Eucharist. As her blood flowed to her baby, nourishing Him and helping Him to grow, so now we can have His precious body and blood flow throughout our blood, to every cell in our bodies. While it would have been extraordinary to meet Jesus in person as a man, we can meet Him at any time, in any place simply by calling out for Him. We can even receive the Eucharist virtually by meditating upon it. We indeed have an extraordinary opportunity!

Thanks be to God that Mary said yes and willingly went through her silent burden, and the other sufferings to come as the “sword pierced her heart” to work with God to bring Jesus to the world!