Renouncing All for the One Who Is Worth It- No not you

I’ll admit it, I stole the title of today’s post from my Magnificat Reflection from Monsignor Giussani, a priest from Milan, Italy. Today’s stolen title and gospel reflection can be found here. It’s more than worth the read.

None of us are worth it really, though are attentions seem to sway us to think otherwise. We turn to our husbands and friends and co-workers to provide what they cannot, the unconditional, unselfish, unyielding love of Christ. I am sure that is why so many relationships fail, because we fail, yet expect others not to do the same. In fact, we expect them to exceed our expectations. We are so unfair and selfish in that way. If we are imperfect producers of love how can we expect any different from the flesh and blood around us?

Renouncing all for the One who is worth it is just that, He is the only one that is worth it. Yet our hearts pour out in so many other directions, bleeding on the ground and we still ask why. Why did he/she hurt us? Why is there pain in the world? Why did they break our hearts? Why do we ask why? Why instead do we not yield our hearts to the one who created the heart? To the lover of our souls? To the Only one who knows, and is worth it?

The light of love flooded my heart this morning thinking of the lover of my soul. And I couldn’t help but think how my heart danced away from him, watching him standing in the background. It isn’t that I want to stray, in fact quite the opposite, but love and acceptance seem so enticing when the road gets hard. Sometimes you just want to be held by something real. And Jesus is hard to hold, because in order to hold Him, you have to renounce everything else, even oneself.

And it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to follow a path that leads to the unknown. And my cross is heavy, over- bearing at times. And I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. Why can’t I carry an ice cream cone or a puppy or something? The burden of the wood burns my back, It is sweaty, hard, laborious. And sometimes the gentleness of Jesus gives way to the pain of Jesus. But the way of the cross is the same every time- a painful death, silence and a resurrection. Yet we so often will not choose that path, even it be an unconscious choice of avoidance. And that’s where I was. The road is narrow and I don’t like it. But after much pain and trial, I am back on the road, carrying my cross, coming after Him to a known death, again and again and again. I have calculated the cost yet still run. I reason I am not strong enough or brave enough. I reason I am broken. I say that I am not the one. And that’s the moment I leave Jesus in the corner while I dance with someone else. But when I come back, the pain is sweet, the burden is light and the heart is heavy. This is the great mystery of the crucifixion.

The meditation from today goes, “As time passes, Jesus makes his request more demanding.” Oh how true this is! And our love for Him is tested, day in and day out. Oh Lord why do you bring me such difficult people. “Because, ” He says, “They need to know that they are loved by me.” Oh my Lord, such a tall order.

But this is what I was made for, to love Him and know Him and serve Him. To pour that love out so others may experience Him in a real and tangible way. No matter their belief or who they are. Everyone wants and needs to be loved, and it’s really that simple. And the closer I am married to the sacred heart of Jesus is the closer I am to heaven. And I want to be close to heaven because my heart is buried there, and so is His. There is no other reason to live. Just Him. And that love, that great love that pours out when we are hopelessly wrapped up in Him is the same love I give to you, and you, and you. I give His love regardless of the love that’s given to me from you. Because it is not my job to make them love me, it is my job to make me love them, like He loves them. Don’t they know He’s right here? And there are so many tears. Oh Lord, how foolish I have been. Of course I am not qualified, but I am when you hold me. Because when you hold me, I can hold them. Because it is ok. Because through His wounds I am healed. And the wounds in my heart, those invisible wounds that Christ has too, can heal the one who is wounded. How can we not see those wounds? They are the walking dead in high positions, they are noble kings, they are paupers and they are prisoners. Is there any man that can escape the pain of life?

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Marry your heart to Jesus and reflect the love that He has, no matter the cost.

Listen to: I shall Not Want

Silence has a Sound

Silence is a work of art. It is a choice. It is a canvass. It is a miracle of life.

Even the brush strokes have noise. Bristles to paper. The splashing of water. The insistence of color. Red is loud and blue has the hues of ice. Yellow demands its way. Green is the rustling of leaves. There is still SOUND.

The art of writing is even noisy. The tap of keys on a keyboard, strikes, movement. The sound of air or breath. Long sighs and even pauses. There is still SOUND.

We run away to find silence. It is an attraction. The insides of monasteries. The center of the Eucharist. It is deception. But not deception of the thing in and of itself. No, on the contrary that is the truth. The monastery, the Eucharist all reflect the silence we seek. It is not the world that is noisy but the inside of our souls. It is why we fall to our knees before the Blessed Sacrament praying for air and can hear the slamming of a car door, the buzzing bee, the murmurs of conversation. Silence makes us more attuned to noise and God does not want us to absolve ourselves from it but rather to sit in it and with it. How could heaven in all its splendor not include sound? The sounds of angels and trumpets, of the voice of God and of the saints. No, rather God is saying to us, let your souls cry for silence! Let your souls demand it! Let the face of the Blessed Sacrament reflect back on your face the gift of INTERIOR silence, so that I may teach you to have peace amidst the commotion of your busy world, the hustle and bustle and in ALL circumstances. I want you to carry with you that silence. In the pain of your wounded marriage, in the unexpected death of your loved one, in your screaming children. I want it to envelop you in my Holy light, so that when your soul is suffering it finds its place, right in the center of my heart. In the center of my Holy and uninterrupted silence.

No my child, do not run away from noise but run towards it and bring my silence with you in the inside cavern of your soul. You who everyday walk my streets, feed my children and bare my scars to the world. Rejoice in the noise! It is then that I test you. It is only then that your spiritual practices can be put to the test.

And all this in the Blessed Sacrament. In the thirty minutes, In the noise from the outside. In running away. This from seeking solace from Him, answers from Him as to why I cannot get quiet. A loving rebuke, a joyful discipline.

The world does not conform to your needs. The universe and all that is in it is mine, He says. You conform to its needs.

For the ones that he has left behind in the world, not in cloistered convents, or monasteries or hopelessly tucked away. For those whose vocation is marriage or motherhood or some other form of non-religious life. It is then that He tests us. Can you find the comfort of the cloister in the silence of your heart? Can you put on the habit despite the noise? Can you place yourself in the center of my will when it is loud?

The circumstances of life are what they are- and they will keep coming, as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. But will YOUR will finally give itself up to be fused into the Holy and Divine Will of God? And what if not for silence? Are we simply running INTO the burning sun rather than standing back to feel its rays? We cannot consume ourselves in Holiness without the acceptance of our own individual realities, our stages in this present life and each and every circumstance that presents itself.

When Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, the storm in our souls should have calmed. That is his Holy and Divine Will. To accept that this act he performed presented us all the silence we need.

You may still hear the pull of the waves and the rocking of the boat. But your soul. Your soul will be still…

Give up the time

Jennifer Fulwiler, a Catholic radio host on Sirius XM, has a segment on Fridays called Jen’s Jukebox, where callers share their favorite secular songs that have a spiritual meaning to them. The hard and fast rule: the song cannot be a Christian song. This provides insight on the caller’s behalf to attach spiritual meaning behind pop culture words.

When I finally sat down to watch the movie “A Star is Born, ” I was upset and dissapointed that after weeks of trial and tribulation, the Lord had allowed me to watch such a deeply painful movie. The songs were vibrant and way too real, and my heart came away so heavy,- even moreso than it had before. I looked at my husband in the midst of tears and heavy gasping breaths and refused to let go of his hand. I apologized for anything that I had ever done to him. I apologized for being so petty at times and told him that I valued him beyond comprehension. But the tears and the heaviness on my chest would not go away. And after this last song, “I’ll never love again,” I could not hold onto him tight enough. All of the memories between us passed in hyperspeed through my very human and remorseful mind.

Why do we hurt the ones we love the most?

And as he held me and  told me that I was being overly harsh on myself, I couldn’t help but think of the other marriages that have suffered and are suffering over human selfishness. In the core of my being I wanted to shout out to all of them that the devil is a liar, there is a hole of nothing on the other side. 

These deeply painful lessons that I have learned about the sacred gift of marriage came at a high cost, but forced me straight into the arms of Jesus, who held me tightly when I couldn’t hold my own self up.

You see my husband was the casualty of another man’s sin. And so that man’s sin did not only effect me, but in turn effected a  multitude of people.

When you are running inside of yourself to get away there is nowhere to go but out.

I have left many people this way- in the wake of my inability to deal with conflict and pain. It was too difficult to let them love me, and too difficult to explain the depths of my pain. But to the one that loved me the most, I was slipping away. I couldn’t love my husband because I couldn’t love myself. I hated myself. 

In my cries for help, he could not recognize or hear me. In those dreams that I had over and over where I was in grave danger and my phone refused to call 911 as many times as I tried to dial, something was preventing me from pressing down on those numbers. I tried many times but a force greater than me controlled my fingers. I was spiraling and nobody seemed to be able to help me. How could they not see, I thought. How could they not see I’m drowning?

But rather than an extended arm I had arms that pushed me farther down. My sin became greater. And once in, I could not get out- there was no way out, until the great Master came and rescued me.

Sharing the details of one’s own demise is deeply personal and greatly distressing. But my demise was not my end, it was my beginning. The great healer saved me, saved my marriage, told me it was ok to be completely broken, shattered in a million pieces. And rather than sweep those pieces up and toss them in the garbage, he used them and is using them to create HIS masterpiece. There are pieces still missing, but I am living them. They, like the others, will one day be part of God’s greater plan.

And although I have apologized to my husband one thousand times, I apologized again to him for not having the courage to get help sooner. I could have lost everything, we could have lost everything. How could I ever thank Christ? I can’t. There are limitations to my human self.

How can you thank me? He said this morning.

Write your words. Speak your truth.

So after two years of being away from this keyboard, in the painful turmoil of my soul, he has worked enough on me that he finds me worthy to type his words to the world.

Our work for the Lord is never in vain. Hold on for the ride.

Shlomi I love you.

Amplified

Acoustics contain the property of sound. Sound that bounces off walls and sends signals to our ears. Sound that reverberates, creates motion and sometimes creates a soothing peace. It is the action of sound that sends out waves that send signals back to us. But what is the sound that we are putting out?

When I preach, I listen- I comprehend. I hear. But this hearing is not natural, it is in the supernatural. The ears hear but the soul understands and converts the message. If the instrument of music sends out the sound, I am receiving the reverberation.

We hear by accepting the Word of God and putting it into action. It is a verb, a doing. It is not a stillness. But it is only in stillness that we hear. So the stillness comes before sound, comes before it all.

The Word of God is demanding and active, it is not passive. It requires us to be uncomfortable enough to change and to focus on ourselves, so that we become more like Him. As we turn our attention inward, this radiates outward. This is when we can turn the other cheek because then it doesn’t hurt.

It all started for me with a gospel passage I read one Sunday. It was God’s call within a call for me. That the sacrament of marriage is not just for me and my family but for all of you. That each of us are building blocks that form the foundation of the church. And as the stones are forming the very bottom, the sides, and  up to the top, the cracks in the foundation are forming. Our marriages are crumbling. And Christ is on his knees while we are asleep in the garden.

The verse that started my call within a call was this admonition, this cry from Christ, found in Luke 6:27:

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you

At first glance I had heard it all before. Yes Lord I know.

No, no you don’t. He said. Read it again.

But to you who hear…

I couldn’t go any further. You who hear. You…who…HEAR. The admonition Christ gave was not to everyone. It was to anyone who had ears to hear.

The day before, I had been to a lecture by Dr. Scott Hahn who spoke about the sacrament of marriage. I could hardly stay in my seat as I felt God nudge me several times during his presentation. This is the foundation of the church. This is the blood. This is the cross. This is everything.

Dr. Hahn’s words disappeared for me, but the Lord’s did not.

Feed my sheep, I heard… twice

Feed …my… sheep

And the call was deep and wide. And it was present. It was NOW.

As Dr. Hahn said, as we pray the rosary, as we pray the Hail Mary’s, the Blessed Virgin, our mother is present in the now and at the hour of our death. It wasn’t the hour of death that scared me, it was the present. It was coming to the realization that Mary was praying for me Now. That the time was Now. That time was happening now. And that is what was certainly running out…

I came back from Dr. Hahn’s talk with a deeply abiding conviction. My marriage has been saved by Christ. It was the reason that I was a Christian after all. But was this something that I only shared and talked about in the confines of my own home? In small circles? Was I really being honest in the ways in which God saved my marriage, the issues we faced and the rebuilding that we did and are still doing? I was fearful, ashamed and sitting with all of it. Until I heard the words from the gospel passage again :

But to you who hear…

The greek word for hear is akouo pronounced (ak-oo-o). I hear, I listen, I comprehend by hearing the word of God. But it is more than that. How God can I hear you? How can I be one of the ones who is sure to hear the next words out of your mouth?

The word akouo is the root of the english term acoustics. Acoustics are the property of sound. It is God audible. But how great is our hearing?

Acoustics is sound reproduced mechanically rather than electronically. It is not manufactured. It is of, relating to, or being a musical instrument whose sound is not electronically modified. It is sound that is pure and whole and not manufactured.

This was the hearing God was talking about. No enhancement. No enhancing of our own sound but instead allowing His sound to reverberate not off walls but instead the depths of our souls. That the word of God was not changed or altered or manufactured but instead pure and holy and true. And that sound, that sound in its purest form resonating in my ears, in your ears and down into the deepest darkest places. How can we read the rest of the gospel sentence if we cannot hear. We cannot.

And so with my newfound discovery I readied and steadied myself to HEAR the word of God. But not just to hear, but to HEAR. To listen to scripture as a an acoustic guitar with no amplifier, with its breaks and rhythms and strings and hard pauses. With the purity of finger to string and breath and pain in my fingers from producing rich sound. It is not manufactured but produced by the soul. And God’s Holy word became the acoustics, my soul the wall of sound and suddenly there was no need for an amplifier.

The next part of the gospel came like a rushing wind…

Love your enemies

And that’s when I heard it. That’s when I heard the call within a call.

And who is your enemy?

Your husband. 

What, what Lord are you talking about! These were not the next words I expected to hear and certainly not the call I was expecting.

This is the state of marriages, the Lord said. This is what they hear.

I was spinning. It was a great sadness. I was overcome with the crashing of the verse, the real truth, the lack of amplifier. It was rawer than I had ever expected and full of sorrow. What was breaking up the church? We were.

Let the one who among you is without sin be the first to throw a stone

The stone had been in my hand. I had felt its hard and abrasive outsides. It was impenetrable. And the world swallowed my marriage alive.

But I was no longer in the world, I was in God’s church. But the same monster, the same Satan who had deeply embedded his fingers into me was the same Satan who had managed to get through the church of Jesus Christ.

Who is my enemy?

And God showed me the thoughts of so many. Marriages in separation. Marriages on the verge of divorce. Divorce itself. Excuses. Abortion. Broken families. Children with multiple fathers and mothers. Fighting and chaos and the killing of each other. There are knives in our hands.

We talk about the atheist and secularist as the murderers of our faith, but we have named the wrong suspect.

Who is my enemy?

I look around and see that it is us. We are the enemies of our own church. We are the betrayers of Christ.

If we do not start rebuilding our marriages, being honest with each other, shouting out, “Crucify Him!” we will never get better. Because it is your marriage that effects my marriage that effects my children that effects my church. Our marriages are sacramental, they do not belong to us, they belong to God. And as Christ hangs on the tree at the center of every mass we celebrate, we spit on him, roll dice for his garments and crucify him all over again; all before accepting his body, blood, soul and divinity and pretending that we are ok to do so.

So this is a call to action. Are we ready to stand with Christ and fight the evil one, the dragon, the accuser and destroyer of our faith, or will we simply meld into the world, pointing to self and saying that our behavior is ok? Change only begins when we recognize our enemy. And this enemy is not our spouse.

Jesus’ demands and commands go far beyond what we think and feel. He requires greater. And the last part of the verse…

Here. Here is my other cheek!!!!!!!!!!!!!