The Spiritual Bouquet of Christ

Easter has begun. And not just in the source life of the Church, but in the hearts of many believers. Easter is the promise of hope, the resurrection of our forgotten dreams, the time when our bodies are so badly beleagured by Lent, that the only place to go is up. Our hands are outstretched, we are on our knees, we have barely crossed the finish line. We are tired, hungry and ready to surrender.

This is exactly where God wants us to be

My ego is surrendered to my Maker. I have been humbled and afraid. I have cried and crawled and begged for water. I have sustained myself by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. I have hung on to Him when there was nothing else to sustain me, the imprint of His mother’s rosary beads in the palm of my hands. I came out of Lent covered in dirt, barely breathing. I came out exhausted and longing for change. I was beaten, battered and often times alone. And only my God could save my wretched soul.

I was exasperated when Easter did not produce the type of fruit I imagined. I felt desperate and disappointed and heard the words this-was-all-for- not repeat in my head. I was walking around in a daze.

Where are you God?

Until I met up with a friend. I prayed earlier that day for Jesus to show up, and He did. Her words changed me forever. It was an explosion of flowers. It was spring. She reminded me that Easter was not a day, it was in fact a season.

What a game changer! I had been living liturgically for so long, but realized that I still fashioned a bit of secular living. Have you ever felt like that? Been reminded that God’s calendar is not the world’s calendar? That the Church, like the world teaches us to live in “seasons.” As the globe spins in winter, spring, summer and fall, the Church lives in the glory of Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, then back to Ordinary Time.

If we learned to live liturgically, our joy would blossom into the most beautiful bouquets.

We would align with the will of our Creator. Live in joy with Him, cry with Him, be reborn with Him and be still with Him.

Our spirits would soar!

Why do we fight against the current of our spiritual ocean? We are swimming upstream while Jesus is calling us to flow with the current. We are climbing when we should be descending. We are trying to knock down doors when we should be sitting in the waiting room. And isn’t it a great relief to know that we are not crazy, but rather we have an answer in Mother Church! That as our souls ebb and flow and yearn to be closer to Christ that Mother Church with her open arms takes us in, makes us clean and says

Yes my child! Live with Jesus! Die with Jesus! Rise again with Jesus!

Isn’t this such a glorious notion. I can run like the prodigal son into the arms of my loving Father!

So if you are feeling out of sorts, your Easter wasn’t what you thought it would be, you are feeling confused, perplexed and unsure, open the Church’s liturgical calendar and find hope in the SEASON. It is Easter and Jesus Christ has Risen! Rejoice with Him and anticipate his heavenly departure. Remember all those Lenten seeds you planted and find hope in it’s Easter fruit.

He has Risen Indeed!

The Tomb of Silence

Thirty seconds in and I am terrified. I cannot control the racing of my thoughts. I am afraid to ask the question, God, what do you want me to do?

The question stands alone and cold. I don’t want to move from it. In fact I want to hide behind it. It is a shield, a fence that I am on the other side of. .

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

I finally settle in. He’s only asked me for five minutes. But I am scared to go here, scared of what He will ask of me. It may be spring, but it is winter in my soul.

I cannot resist any longer. I sit beside my Lord and find myself beside the tomb. I cannot see Him. I cannot hear Him. But I know that He is there. How so? I have finally visited the grave.

Even in the silence I am working, He tells me. I am bringing souls to heaven. You can’t see it behind the tomb. It is only in the silence that you can understand it. Stay beside my tomb and you will see. Beside my tomb of silence there are great treasures to behold. See all that is going on! When in doubt, go sit beside my tomb. It is busy with activity. It is silence that comes before my resurrection. Learn to sit with me in silence, I have much to say here. There is great joy here. Silence before meditating on my Word. 

I settled in. I wasn’t so afraid anymore. The time had passed quickly and now I didn’t want to leave. But I knew I couldn’t spend too much time before the tomb, there was a resurrection to prepare for. So I opened God’s word and heard His voice. The words were alive because of my time beside the tomb.

He spoke to me about the seriousness of sin. That monster that waits to devour us. But this time I heard it differently. This time He opened the door to even deeper treasures.

Sin begins in the first thought. How will we respond? It lies in wait at the door in order to devour us. The devil tricks us into believing in an outward looking world, focusing on the sin of others and what others may or may not be doing. This then produces the ugliness and allows us to lose focus on our own personal holiness. But if we pause before we act, correct our thinking in our minds, turn inward instead of outward, we will remember our Lord’s beating. We will remember our Lord’s scourging. We will remember our Lord’s silence.

Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7 (b))

It is in that moment that we can pause too. Sins urge is for us, but we can rule over it (Genesis 4:7). We can sin no more if we are repentant (Psalm 4:5). We can prepare the way of the Lord.

If I choose to sit beside the tomb in every moment that I am about to offend my Lord, I can remember all of these things. I can remember the silence in the face of accusation, I can remember the stillness in the face of a beating, I can remember His prolonged agony as he suffered for my sins.

Today, sit beside the tomb of silence

 

 

Let the Land Rest

but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie still, the Lord

Exodus 23:11 (a)

It is hard to lie still, to wait for your dreams to come to fruition. As I lie still, I shake in anticipation of what is to come. But I have always seen the waiting time as something to dread, not something to behold or cherish…that was until this Lent. It is only Day fourteen and God is showing me the fruit of the desert.

In letting land lie, we trust in God’s ultimate providence, seeing that our labor of love for Him can be just as fruitful in rest. In listening to that still small voice, I hear God calling me to put down the tiller, drop it in fact. Rest my child, He says, the harvest is coming soon.

I cry out to God in wonder. I cannot see the fruit of my labor, or His, but He does. I do not see trees or plants or corn stalks. I do not see anything at all. But He tells me it is there and I believe Him, because He is God and I am not.

I stare into the wide open empty field, it looks abandoned, but it radiates with divine light. I have prayed over this field many times without realizing it. I have prayed and leaned into trusting God’s will- the great- big- open -empty field. I saw it as abandoned, he saw the fruit. I can now see the underground, the roots, the soil, all of it. Grace is the water, the new growth. But God’s hand is no mystery. God’s hand created that field and I am only a tenant of His Will (great credit to Matthew Poole’s commentary).

“Thou shall let it rest and lie still. By this kind of quit-rent they might be admonished that God alone was the Lord and Proprietary of the land, and they were only tenants of his will.” Matthew Poole’s Bible Commentary

And if I see myself as a tenant and not as the owner, I am free to trust in the work of His hands, in His great providence, in the great I AM. I am free to float on the earth, above the earth. I am simply…free.

And I feel myself floating above and looking down on this abandoned, empty field- and I am flying. There are souls buried deep within the land that do not know it. But I am praying for them alongside the Blessed Mother- Mary who cries next to me from the skies imploring me to pray her precious rosary. There are people’s souls at stake, we are at war.

It is Lent, a time to attend to Holy rest, a time to let the land sit and lie still. But we are in active rest- contemplation. We are engaged in a war against the devil for souls. Jesus in fact went into the desert led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. There was great purpose in his preparation. This is the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Prepare me Lord, for I am weak. 

And as I hunger in each growing day of Lent, I see flowers in places where they shouldn’t be. They are not an imaginary oasis, they are faith buds that will bloom on the 41st day. God is preparing me for what is to come…

And so the land is not dormant, it is spiritually active. To the naked eye it is nothing, but to the one who sees with the divine eye it is an earthquake of activity. Can you see the dirt that has been cultivated beyond the surface?

Is that field the harvest of your soul?

In order to become great in God’s kingdom, you have to become a servant of the land. It is great divine work to cultivate that soil; denying self, forgiving those that don’t deserve it. Standing up for justice and righteousness; turning the other cheek. Shedding tears for the crown of thorns you sometimes must wear; knowing that blood must be shed for an undying. We rage for the unborn, for our marriages, for hungry children. We hate lawlessness. We are completely imperfect in our execution of it all. But this, this is our co-laboring in His majesty. This is our calling. This is His glory.

The land is untilled and fallow, but soon it will be rich and bountiful. The empty field is the face of God. The empty field is your destiny. The empty field is your down -on -your- knees -praying and feeling the soil.

Stay there and don’t move. The fruit will abound. Scream if you have to, but don’t move; and the angels will come to your side and minister to you. Child, this is just the beginning…

 

90 Seconds

How do you live one moment at a time? You cannot. This concept is wholly secular. Moments are increments of time that pass in movement from once frame to the next. They are snippets. They are still frames that can only be entered once the “moment” has passed. And, we move on to the next moment…

There is a lot of pressure to live “in” the moment. But moments are passing shadows. The movement of a shadow on a sundial covered 40 moments in a solar hour. On average, a moment corresponds to 90 seconds. And moments, (for all that they are not these days), were marked by a call to prayer at various intervals throughout the day. They were not a random “creation” of moments, they were an intentional calling on God, a movement towards Him. Even the earliest reference to the moment was defined by a Saint (St. Bede the Venerable).

When taken out of context, the moment becomes distorted, like other concepts extracted from out of their holy boxes. The world takes them and twists them to fit their own relativism, where one is in control of who and what they are. The God-man is lost in self-help books and do-it-yourselfers. And the moment? The moment fades away (how very cliche).

But if we return to mark our own moments, good and bad, can God change them? Can He use them? Or does the passage of 90 seconds define our whole lives? Each bead of the rosary marks a moment that I can change, a prayer, defining me. The now is the now I ask for Mary to pray for me, in this very moment, fifty times.

So the decades of the rosary are made up of moments, are marked by intentional prayer, are graces I give away after consecrating myself to our Holy Mother. And in those moments that have passed me without prayer, can I strive to make them holy by praying over them, especially the ones that stop me from enjoying life, the ones that rob me of my joy?

I say, contradict the world.

LET THE MOMENT PASS. DON’T HOLD ONTO IT. Jesus said as much to Mary Magdalene…

 

Submit to the Plan of God

Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good, Romans 12:21

Solitude, silence, scripture– this is how God speaks to us… how we fight against the devil. And while nobody likes talking about the devil, it must be done. Because evil cannot be combated by pretending it doesn’t exist. Evil, as the scripture, says can only be combated with good.

But what and who is good? Well, there is only one who is good. But it is often hard to imitate our good Jesus, our suffering Jesus as we wade our way across the scorching earth. As I picked up my crucifix today and held it tight while praying my rosary, I saw it for what it was- I saw Jesus resting His tired head on me. And my breath withdrew from inside of me.

It was a tender moment that I thought nobody else would ever see. But sometimes those moments are the very ones that you have to share with others. Because letting people into those holy moments is precisely what God wants, as He experiences intimacy with us.

And I thought, what if I gave away all my prayers to God? All my intentions? Prayed only as He instructs me to pray? This is a movement of soul towards Him with a rush of great joy!

I yield my soul to you Lord!

And the rosary became a ladder towards God, let it all happen organically; let it come in, put in what God asks. Every bead closer to God, to sacred ground, to the freedom of my soul.

Jesus did not fight back. The forward movement He attained was walked through good and bad, accepting everything as from the Father. These are invitations from heaven, this is surrender.

Without Jesus the world is dark. He rests His head in my hand because He wants me to know that He is suffering for the world, He wants me to take notice, He wants me to know that I have been created for a higher purpose, that I am not just taking up space…

And as I got down on my knees in thanksgiving and adoration, I noticed the Alpha and God’s words to me, This is just the beginning. 

Better is one day in His house than a thousand elsewhere

Time does not exist for the King of glory…

The Eucharist is the whole picture, most of which we cannot see. But even in seeing a small slice, I am humbled to my knees. For all the life I’ve lived and bad I’ve done is all the more God loves me and chooses me for things greater than myself.

The deep ridges of my hands were all imprinted by the Master, and He drew every one into the cells of my skin.

He has not forgotten you either…

See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you… (Isaiah 49:16)

 

 

 

 

The Time that I can’t change

I am feeling overwhelmed by the time that I can’t change. As the clocks move forward, I struggle to catch up. The hours and minutes and seconds are in a sprint before me, and I am breathless and desperately chasing… time. In a haze of exhaustion and sorrow, the words in my bible seem to run off the page. Esther’s desperate plea for protection against her enemy, the psalmist’s cry for help. Sometimes I feel as if the words are there but I just can’t seem to catch up… in the same way time is escaping the grasp of my hands. God am I enough?

It is very obviously winter in my soul. Lent does that to me. When I have strained and poured myself into the divine colander, making the Master  tear apart my imperfections, and there are many. God is not cruel, but the truth sometimes is. And I wonder how I ever thought these words in my head, Am I my own Master?

The hiddenness of God is the beauty of God. As I travel, grope ground and dirt along my way, I am drowning. This is the part where I start to get hungry. This is eight days in the desert with no food from the world. It is just me and God.

And the more I sink, I fail, I get dirt on my face is the more I want Him; the more I realize that there is nothing good in this world. And the more the world reaches out to me with all its false temptations, sorrow and madness is the deeper I run into the Lenten desert he has created for me. It is not a retreat or defeat, it is a crown of thorns. It is not fighting back. It is a wanting for holiness. The world has nothing to offer me.

The Kingdom of God will grow upon earth, will be brought to fulfillment, in the same way it was established; by the daily and seemingly hidden lives of those who do always the will of the Father.

Servant of God Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.

Run to the wilderness with me!

God is in my coffee

God was in the staircase today

In my steps

My up and down movement

The paper cup and sugar

God was in my coffee

He was in the room number

And my patterned quilt sitting

neatly on my bed

He was in the train that rolled by at

6 am

and

7

And at the bar sitting next to me

He was in the wandering beggar that asked for

twelve dollars

to get home

My hot shower

and

time

alone

He was in the waiter

And the host

And the horribly cooked steak

That I ate anyway

He was my daughter crying last night

That I was not there to hold her

These are the things that make Him

Him

tiny prayers

moments

the dying to self to see

outward

It is intimate connection that brings consecration

Sacredness

the entrance into His Kingdom

God

let me in