Monday, April 30, 2007
In today's Gospel Jesus continues to tell us that he is the Shepherd of the sheep.
The sheep hear his voice, "as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
How do I feel when Jesus calls me by name? How do I respond?
Jesus tells us, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly."I feel both gratitude and joy knowing that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He cares for us, loves us, calls us by name, and leads us so that we may have life and have it abundantly.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The 2nd reading is from Revelation and speaks three times of the Lamb:
1- the multitude "stood before the throne and before the Lamb...
2- then one of the elders said, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them in the blood of the Lamb.
3- "For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
So, the Lamb shepherds us and Jesus is both the Paschal Lamb and the Good Shepherd "who laid down his life for his sheep, who died for his flock, he is risen, alleluia!" (Communion antiphon)
One summer after a serious bout of anemia when I had not strength to walk a block, I went into retreat. Those eight days are remembered vividly because I actually felt the presence of the Good Shepherd carrying me in His arms. The image and the feeling of being carried with love is all that I remember from that retreat but it still gives me great consolation. "Shepherd me, O God, from all my wants, from all my fears, from death into life."We are indeed his people, "the sheep of the flock."
Saturday, April 28, 2007
The fourth Sunday after Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Psalm 100 reminds us: "We are his people, the sheep of his flock." I love the Gospel of John where Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me."
Years ago, when I lived in Chile, one of our community houses was surrounded by a yard with a flock of sheep who all had biblical names and came when they were called. They are not very bright and almost had to be led to the food put out for them. They did follow when called by name.
I love Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want ..." I read this quote about not fearing: "God, as shepherd, so protects his sheep that they need not fear their enemies (v. 4). He leads them in safety through dangerous situations. Defenseless sheep can, without fear, entrust their shepherd to direct their way, even “through the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4). There is a ravine south of the Jericho Road that leads from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea that shepherds call the Valley of the Shadow of Death. This narrow defile, four and a half miles long, runs through a mountainous range where overhanging cliffs may be as much as 1500 feet high. There sheep traverse the valley floor which may be very dangerous because it is subject to erosion by cloud bursts. At times there are gullies seven or eight feet deep where wild dogs may lurk to prey on the sheep. The psalmist affirms his faith in God, his shepherd, by promising not to be afraid, even in the most dreadful circumstances likened to that of sheep passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death." I shall try to find where I am quoting this from and let you know as I think it was a homily. More about the Good Shepherd tomorrow.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Here is a good place to find all the books that Benedict XVI wrote before he was Pope.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I am still with the Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter. I think that we often just want to move on before we are finished praying with a passage. Jesus seems to be on the shore and calling to me. I can identify with the apostles who went fishing with Peter. Peter went back to his first call, his ordinary work. He toiled all night and with the dawn found Jesus waiting for him. He was willing to trust the one who called out from the shore, even though he did not yet know that it was Jesus. He obeyed, cast his net as directed, and found that there were now so many fish that they could not pull in the net. Sometimes it is that act of trust that makes all fruitful.
I love Peter jumping into the water to arrive more quickly to be with Jesus. And I never tire of contemplating that scene where Jesus has prepared breakfast for his friends. There is something so tender and human about building a fire to have fish cooked for these hungry men who have toiled all night without any success. Without Jesus, their nets would still be empty. When the disciple whom Jesus loved cried out, "It is the Lord" no one doubted as they immediately remembered the first, unexpected and immense catch when Jesus called them to leave all and follow Him. I think this Gospel reminds me of my first call and then the fact that Jesus is still calling me. He may wait until dawn to appear on the shore, but He is there and all is well. No matter what happens, especially success, I need to remember, "It is the Lord" and He is still calling me.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Some time ago, a friend sent me a card with this quote from St. Vincent de Paul"
"If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary.
Your mere presence will touch hearts."
I keep this on my prayer shelf as it speaks to me of what is essential-- keep God at the center. This means that I live my life around God, not self! It means that I am not only conscious of His presence in my daily life, moment by moment, but that I have a firm and honest commitment to lead a life that allows God to be at the center. It means living a discerning life to choose always what pleases Him. This is a strong desire and may it become a lived reality.
I was glad to see that we celebrate the feast of St. George today. He was an early martyr who lived in the late 3rd century and is supposed to have killed a dragon. He was made the patron saint of England in 1415. My family had so many males named George that we called them "big" George, "little George", "old George" and "young" George. May all the George's be with us today and give us courage as we celebrate their feasts.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
And Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Then Jesus asks him the same question and Peter replies the same, but now Jesus says, "Tend my sheep." And then a third time Jesus asks the same question, "Do you love me?" and Peter is distressed and replies: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Then Jesus says to him, "Feed my sheep."
Peter had denied Jesus three times. Now Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to affirm three times that he loves him. Peter's answer is one of my favorite lines from the Gospels that I often find myself repeating: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." I like it better in Spanish and had it written across a blackboard in my office in Chile until the earthquake of 1965 destroyed office, school, and convent. "Senor, tu sabes todo; tu sabes que te quiero." Sorry but this is without the accents.
Jesus also says to Peter, "Amen, amen I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Something for me to reflect on as I grow old.
Then Jesus says: "Follow me."
He continues to call us and asks only that we love him!
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Jesus reveals himself again to his disciples. Peter had said that he was going fishing and the six other disciples who were with him said they would go, too. They got into the boat and fished all night but caught nothing. When it was dawn, Jesus comes and calls from the shore: "Children, have you caught anything?" When they respond with an emphatic "no", Jesus tells them to cast the net to the right side of the boat. They do it and cannot pull the net in because of the huge amount of fish. John says to Peter, "It is the Lord" and Peter jumps into the sea to swim ashore to reach Jesus. Jesus has prepared breakfast for them with a fire that has fish on it and bread, but he tells them to bring more fish. Then he says, "Come, have breakfast." And he took bread and gave it to them and then the fish. This was the third time they had seen the risen Jesus.
There is more, but the Liturgy offers the option of stopping here as this scene has so much to think about and it is one of the most intimate scenes of Jesus with his disciples for he not only has prepared breakfast for them but given them another catch of fish after they had toiled all night and caught nothing. He uses some of the fresh fish and serves them himself.
It was Peter who suggested going fishing; as a true leader, he announced that he was going and they followed, but the fish did not bite. When Jesus appears on the shore, they do not recognize him, but as soon as Peter hears that it is the Lord, he jumps into the water to go to Jesus the quickest way. I suspect that when he arrived, he did not really know what to say and maybe that is why they took time to count the fish! The point was that they were with Jesus. In prayer, words are not important. Just be there with Jesus.
St. Gregory believes that "holy desires grow by delays."
I feel that the longing for God increases; desire intensifies and does not cease. Desire is eternal. I desire to go beyond all the gifts given to desire only the Giver.
Yesterday the computer was off probably because of an electric power failure we had. I was frustrated but had many other things to do so maybe being away from the computer was a gift.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
This morning I read over Psalm 119 (a long psalm and not a favorite) and found some verses jumped out at me and so I am sharing them with you, my readers, who seem to be in various parts of the world but seldom send comments. (I am grateful for feedback and do get some from Scotland which warms my heart.)
"With my whole heart I seek you" - that expresses my desire.
"My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word."
The tragic deaths of so many at Virginia Tech has united all of us at all universities in grief; the image of my soul melting away for sorrow seems to fit.
"Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord...I am yours; save me...
"You are my hiding place and my shield."
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
The Psalms make prayer easy!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I read that the Easter season of 50 days (ends on Pentecost) is the longest of the special seasons in the Church year and while Advent and Lent are seasons of preparation, the Easter season prolongs the celebration of Easter. Before Vatican II, the Sundays after Easter were called just that, "after Easter" but now they are called the "Second Sunday of Easter, the Third Sunday of Easter, etc.
What can I share of my retreat? The importance of silence. It was a time to stop whatever I had been doing and just be with the Lord. I tried to listen and be silent. I came home relaxed and renewed and found that a former student of mine in Maylasia, Dr. Alex Tang, had sent me his monthly reflection entitled: "Come Apart Before You Come Apart." Here are a few of his thoughts:
We need to take time out for silence and solitude because our bodies are not built for constant stress. What are the benefits? First, we will develop a discerning spirit. We get to know the Holy Spirit better when we are silent and when we are alone.
A time of silence and solitude can help us to become more sensitive to people.
His reflection ends with some questions and this prayer:
O Lord, help us to find time in our busy schedule for some silence and solitude. Teach us to speak the language of silence, and help us to be at peace in solitude. Show us that solitude is not loneliness but is being fully in your presence. In silence and with a grateful heart we pray." Amen.
How will I make time for some silence and solitude?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Please pray for my mini-retreat and I will be back blogging as soon as I have access, but think I will be taking a three-day break.
Friday, April 13, 2007
"My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone." (From Thoughts in Solitude)
I believe that the desire to please God does please Him and that is consoling.
He asks us to desire Him, to trust Him, and to love Him in all that we do.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
In the noviceship I remember thinking that "God is all and everything else is nothing" would allow me to live in His joy. I thought that it was going to be easy. Little did I know how often I would find myself seeking something less than God. But joy comes for me in this desire to find God in all and to be able to say with St. Paul that everything else counts for nothing. In Spanish, one translation has "basura" which is garbage and a strong image.
The Lord said to Julian of Norwich: "I am he who makes you to long; I am he, the endless fulfilling of all true desires." God places desire in our hearts and wants us to find him and live in his joy!
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
My own experience with desire for God is that it becomes so intense that it hurts. In retreats, especially, I have felt such strong desire that I know it is creating a greater capacity in me to receive God's love. One of my favorite quotes is from St. Gregory the Great:
"The bridegroom hides when he is sought, so that, not finding Him, the bride may seek Him with a renewed ardor; and the bride is hampered in her search so that this delay may increase the capacity for God. and that she may find one day more fully what she was seeking."
The point is to desire to seek, to seek to find, and finding, to love and that will again increase desire. Try it and see!
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Desires are guides to what we are called to become, to live and to do. If our desires reveal who we are, then they help us to see our true self behind the masks we wear. At the same time our deepest desires reflect God's own desires, God's longing for the world as well as each of us.
Desires are God-given. Thomas Traherne, the 17th century Anglican priest and mystic wrote:
Monday, April 9, 2007
"As a deer yearns for running water,
so I yearn for you, my God."
As I begin Easter reflections for this blog, I am torn between joy and desire as the first theme to take up. On Easter Monday one is full of desire to live in joy, to rejoice with Jesus who is risen from the dead. But our desire to do this is important and makes me want to reflect on the role of desire in spirituality.
One of my favorite books is "Befriending Our Desires" by Philip Sheldrake who says that it is only by attending to our desires that we are able to encounter our deepest self--the image of God within us.
Desires are best understood as "our most honest experiences of ourselves" as we relate to others and our world around us. Catherine of Siena said that one of the few ways of touching God is by desire: "you have nothing infinite except your soul's love and desire."
Spirituality is associated with desire--our own and God's. God also desires us and gives us the desire for Him and that is a source of joy!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
(Janet Erskine Stuart)
Jesus began to spread joy on Easter morning. I firmly believe with St. Ignatius that Jesus went first to visit his mother. She was not with the women who ran to the tomb. Was it her faith that allowed her to wait or had Jesus come to her?
Jesus, knowing that Mary Magdalene had returned to the tomb weeping, appears to her and calls her by name. He sends her to give the good news that He is risen. Jesus later will appear to Peter and to the two discouraged disciples who have left Jerusalem. Like the disciples, they refused to believe the women and went away sad. Jesus comes and walks with them and their "hearts were burning within them" but they only recognized him in the breaking of the bread when they had begged him to sup with them.
Then Jesus appears to his apostles gathered together that Easter night. Instead of reproaching them, he gives the gift of forgiveness to all in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He wants us to share his joy and to give joy to others.
Friday, April 6, 2007
The vigil begins with the blessing of the new fire and then the Easter candle is prepared. The celebrant cuts a cross and traces the Greek letters for Alpha and Omega and 2007 while praying:
"Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega; all time belongs to him and all the ages;
to him be glory and power through every age and for ever." Amen
Then the five grains of incense are inserted saying, "By his holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard us and keep us." Amen
The candle is lit from the new fire:
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Psalm 69 in today's Liturgy says:
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Jesus does not stop Judas from betraying him. He has made us free. Peter will deny him three times the same night. And I? How many times have I betrayed Jesus?
These words of Teresa of Avila echo in my heart as they resonate with my own experience: "Although I have often abandoned you, O Lord, you have never abandoned me. Your hand of love is always outstretched towards me, even when I stubbornly look the other way. And your gentle voice constantly calls me, even when I obstinately refuse to listen."
Jesus told Sister Josefa that it was his chosen ones who wound his Heart!
Monday, April 2, 2007
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Today, the people shout, "Blessed in the king who comes in the name of the Lord."
Five days later the people will shout, "Crucify him, crucify him."
The first reading is one of the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah 53: