Made Ready for His Use

March 31, 2008

Annunciation by da Vinci

Just as infants (and some adults) live as if the world revolves around them, you must live as if heaven revolves around you … because it does. God loves each person as if that person is the only person who exists. David was told he was a man after God’s own heart, and that he was the apple of His eye.  Throughout the Old Testament the goal was to find “favor in the eyes of God.” And today, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we read how Mary is told that she has “found favor with God.”

God is omnipotent, so he need not have “favorites” at the exclusion of others. God can, and does, treat us as though each one of us is His favorite child. This is no “one among many” kind of love for us. No, it is a “one on one” kind of love. When we understand this, everything changes. He is our everything because we are His everything. We love Him because He first loved us. We move from “pew potato” (just another member) to His chosen one; His special project; His precious, obedient child.

Consider this little God-incident … The Solemnity of the Annunciation was moved from March 25 to March 31 this year and, as well, Pentecost happens to be at nearly the earliest date it could possibly be.  What does this add up to? This is a very rare year in which there are exactly 40 days between the Annunciation and Pentecost. 40 days has always been God’s time to prepare us or “make us ready” for something.  So, what could it be here?

The Annunciation was Mary saying “Yes” to the supernatural — the power of God … “How can this be since I have no relations with a man? … the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:34-35). Then the very life of God would well-up inside of her, and she would dispense that life to a waiting world on Christmas day.

Fast forward through Christ’s life, death and resurrection and just prior to Jesus ascending to the Father … he promised to send another — a Comforter — the Holy Spirit — who will be with us for ever. And so it was for 9 days (the first novena) that the disciples prayed with Mary after the Ascension. And you can almost hear what could have been Mary’s prayer: “Whatever you did for me, do for them!”

That prayer would be answered, and the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as he did when Mary first gave her fiat (yes) to the supernatural reality that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Here is my advice … take these 40 days, starting this Tuesday, April Fool’s Day, to prepare yourself to be foolish by the world’s standards. Let go of your desire to need everything scientifically proven — which was Thomas the Apostle’s need with his experiments of probing with his fingers and hands — and take this time to become as naive as a teenage Jewish girl that God wants to use with His supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

This is a time to reconsider your approach to the Holy Eucharist. Ask yourself, “does such things as my attire, my preparation, my reverent gestures, and the way I approach and receive our Lord reflect my belief that this truly is God?” Spend these 40 days surrendering more and more deeply to the reality of the supernatural. Let God speak to your heart about how He wants you to do that.

Be made ready enough on this Pentecost so you can say, “Behold I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me according to thy word.” If you can, God may infuse you, and then He can use you.


Resurrecting the Sacred

March 22, 2008

In an article entitled, The Secular War on the Supernatural, Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand writes: “In 1965 my husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand and I had a private audience with Pope Paul VI, in which my husband ‘shot from the hip’ as usual, saying ‘Your Holiness, you realize that the Church is going through the worst crisis in history, worse than the Protestant Reformation’ … The Pope seemed to be surprised and my husband continued: ‘What has taken place is that people have lost sight of the supernatural.'”

Dr. Von Hildebrand goes on to say, “Now let us abolish the terms ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal,’ the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ which are secularistic. I suggest that we say from now on ‘those who have kept the sense of the supernatural and those who have lost it.’ That is the great divide, that is the essence … Do you look at the Church and her teaching, whether dogmatic or moral, with a supernatural eye, or do you look at it with secular lenses? That is the divide. Left and right confuses the issue.”

The dangers of living ‘etsi Deus non daretur’ [as if there were no God] as a way of life, warns Pope Benedict XVI,  are “the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart. Without God at the centre, human life and intellectual endeavour gives way to a sterile worship of the individual … In this cultural context, there is the risk of falling into spiritual atrophy and into an emptiness of heart, sometimes characterized by surrogate forms of religious membership and vague spiritualism … Secularization is not just an external threat to believers, but has for some time been evident in the bosom of the Church herself. It invades all aspects of daily life and causes the development of a mentality in which God is effectively absent, entirely or in part, from human life and conscience.”

Resurrecting the sacred — the sense of the supernatural — will begin when a sense of the sacred (supernatural) is restored to our worship of our Eucharistic Lord.  What do I mean by this? The Catechism of the Catholic Church, following historic Christian theology since the time of the early Church Fathers, refers to the Catholic Church as “the universal sacrament of salvation” (CCC 774–776), and states: “The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men” (CCC 780).

Now, as the sign and instrument of the communion of God and men, we hold that the Holy Eucharist, Vatican II tells us, is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen gentium, no. 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). The Eucharist is the source of grace in a number of ways. First, the Eucharist is Christ Himself, the Author of grace. Other sacraments are actions of Christ, to be sure, but only the Eucharist is Christ Himself, under the “appearances” of bread and wine (CCC, nos. 1324, 1373-1381).

Here’s the point … once we began treating the source and summit (Eucharist – Christ Himself) of the sign and instrument [in the world] of the communion of God and man (Catholic Church) in a profane way we, effectively, blocked THE primary source of the sacred and supernatural from the world — a source that would permeate the world in the natural, by Catholic example, and in the supernatural, by the power of grace. In other words, if the once sacred Catholic Church with the once sacred Holy Eucharist no longer worshipped as if this truly was the Real Presence of Christ, where else were we to find sources of sacred anywhere in the world? Vague spiritualism?

If we hope to see the sacred return to such things as marriage, family, neighbor and all life from conception to natural death, we must begin with THE “primary source” and make every effort to approach our Eucharistic Lord in the MOST reverent and awe-inspiring way. This means that everything must come back onto the table for prayer and discernment — church architecture and environment, sacred vs. profane music, vestments and vessels, Latin, Communion in the hand, appropriate attire, silences, chant, etc.

There are many hopeful signs that the sacred is being resurrected in the world today. On the first day of the new millennium, Prince Charles of England said, “In an age of secularism, I hope, with all my heart, in a new millennium we will rediscover a sense of the sacred in all that surrounds us.” We are all feeling the effects of a loss of the sense of the sacred. That is why I believe we are witnessing a growth in such things as Eucharistic Adoration and reverent celebrations of the Most Holy Eucharist.

The sacred is being resurrected. No longer will they say, “Where is your God?” “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11b).


A Day Without Jesus? “Where is Your God?”

March 22, 2008

As Jesus was laid in the tomb, the temptation to surrender to defeat was weighing heavy on the hearts and minds of the disciples. As the Psalmist writes: “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where  is your God?'” (Psalm 42:3) It was, in their minds, “A Day Without Jesus.”

 

Tonight, our darkness is turned to light, and the joy of salvation rings throughout every Catholic Church in the world! The mesaage? We must follow Jesus through the difficult and challenging cross to this resurrection.

When we look around at our world and see the growing unbelief (even within our Church) we may, like the disciples, be tempted to despair. “The secularization that so characterizes many western societies has also found its way into the Church,” Pope Benedict has warned. At a meeting March 8th with the Pontifical Council for Culture, the pope said that “the lofty values of existence” must be reintroduced to contemporary cultures. The media has spread a “hedonistic” and consumerist mentality that promotes the idea that “there is no longer any need for God, to think of Him or to return to Him.”

As Mary’s Anawim, we must stay alert. Meek in humility, we become strong in grace. Without God’s grace, we are like that weakened next victim of whom the predator is prowling to destroy. In this context we are referring to those whose beliefs and character are swayed by every media soundbite thrown at them. As Pope Benedict says, it is “the worrying phenomenon of secularization which weakens man and hinders his innate longing for the entire Truth.”

 

And our first pope writes: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish those who have suffered a little while.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5b-11).

 

And so, let us be alert to the prowling forces influencing and devouring the faith of our loved ones today …

 

I’ll leave it to the sociologists and even the historians to work out “how” we got into the present state of affairs, but the reality is that we are here.  Of what reality am I referring?  It is the disturbing shift which has occurred in the past 40+ years from an advancing civilized culture to a 180 degree turn towards a deteriorating barbarism, which is accelerating a decline in values and standards, all in the name of “progress.”

 

There … I said it.  Now all of the protectors of the status quo (Latin for, existing state of affairs) can begin formulating their eloquent rhetoric (oh, and it has been convincing over the past 40+ years) in defense of our current societal path.

 

No matter what the compelling arguments are for the defense of this path (civil rights accomplishments, etc.), there remains the reality that this secular (godless) path has left our freedom seeking (from God) Western societies wandering in the proverbial “Land of Nod” in a confused state of chaos and insecurity (and much depression), rather than embracing the Divine offer of a “Garden of Eden” state of freedom of purpose and security in His Presence.

 

It will, no doubt, be the historians who will later expose the hidden driving forces behind this misguided campaign to help us all “progress” into the future.  Even now many of the funding multi-billionaires and other parties of influence (celebrities, tenured university professors, media elites, well-funded special interest groups, etc.) are being revealed through various articles and books springing up more and more.

 

However, you will be hard-pressed to see these hidden driving forces exposed through the mainstream media.  That industry has long since betrayed the Truth for their 30 pieces of silver (the influence of the almighty dollar).  In fact, as is seen, a type of “clan mentality” has developed in the mainstream media around the protection and advancement of this godless liberal (mistakenly referred to as, secular progressive) ideology.  And, speaking of advancement, it is common knowledge that in order to advance one’s career within the media industry, one needs to be on board with and, in many cases, aggressively promote the godless liberal agenda — kudos, props and promotions for those who toe the company line.

 

While we spend today identifying with the temptation to despair of the disciples — “My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (Psalm 42:10) — we look forward to the rest of the story, which comes in the psalmist’s next line,  “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

 

This Holy Saturday post looks forward to the Easter post … we look to where our help comes (Psalm 121).


Thank You, Lord, For More To Do For You

March 22, 2008

Here we are at the conclusion of Lent and “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” My good intentions of utilizing this blog to walk through Lent with Fr. Dubay’s book, “Happy Are You Poor,” was put on hold as I attended to a very demanding, but fulfilling, Lenten schedule.  My hope is that you were able to enjoy this book (on your own) every bit as much as I did.