Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tempted to Judge? Humbly Remember by:C.C.

“Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:9-15)

If you have ever kept company with a person filled with intense zeal for the Gospel and blazing with faith it is perhaps difficult at first, to not deem the person absolutely insane, or to simultaneously desire an ounce of the faith that they proclaim. It can be extremely intimidating. It can also in fact be isolating for one on the “outside” or to one who is struggling with belief themselves. 

Granted, we of faith in Christ can struggle from time to time with believing that He has truly risen and fail to live out our lives witnessing the proclamation of this truth. This does not make us terrible people, nor does it render us void of faith, it rather exposes our shared human frailty and provides an opportunity for us to deepen our trust.

Struggling with faith is something our Lord well knew would happen. I have often heard the argument that having faith was “easier” in the times of the disciples.Today’s Gospel provides a reality much different than this point. I find it tremendously humbling that even those who ate with Jesus, walked with Him, knew the prophetic Scriptures of Isaiah, and heard Jesus Himself speak of His own fate and the glory of His rising, were slow to believe.

I can imagine the haste and zeal present in Mary Magdalene as she stormed in to bring forth the good news of Jesus’ rising, only to be met with the extreme doubt and continued mourning of those who had been with Him. I wonder if she pleaded with them to believe her, or if she continued to persuade them. I imagine, that after having had an authentic and genuine encounter with our Risen Lord and Savior her response was probably and appropriately much more humble and silently patient, trusting her Lord to make Himelf known to them. To do or say too much would only give rise to more doubt.

Jesus then appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus. They too went forth to share the incredible news and still they were met with doubt. And yet, so mercifully our Lord finally appeared to the eleven and revealed Himself to them. For whatever reason there was this struggle with doubt. The hardness of heart the disciples had was perhaps due to their own grief and mourning, when we wallow in our own despair or are too self-absorbed with feelings we can inadvertently block the blessings and miss our Lord in our midst. Like the disciples we can forget the message of hope that Jesus proclaimed.

As our modern times can give more reason to succumb to a hardness of heart, it can seem more trying to muster up true faith in the Risen Lord. We may often be guilty of judging others and become unsympathetic to their struggle with belief. 

Today’s Gospel offers us reason to meet this doubt with humility and perhaps understand and recognize how difficult it was to believe in the early days of Christ’s rising too. By placing judgement we do not demonstrate faith, we do not proclaim that we believe in the Risen Lord, or act out of the trust that He will reveal Himself and soften the hard hearted.

What I find most captivating in this Gospel for today is the tireless way our Lord makes Himself known. He does not stop, He does not give up on us, He continues to provide a means to reveal Himself. This is not for any self-glorification, or for any other reason but to reveal the immensity of God’s radical love for each of us. As believers in Christ we must also trust that His outreach today is no less significant or divine than it was in the time of St. Mark's revealing to us. Jesus is not victim to our limitations or our feeble hands, and though we are called to be vessels of His truth, we must also patiently trust God’s ability to exceed all of our expectations, all of our human reason and height of intellect.

Where are we within this Gospel? Do we believe and trust as Mary, or do we doubt?
Let us trust that despite where we and those around us are at, that we are equally loved and pursued by our Risen Lord. 

May those touched with faith truly "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” And may we all wake each day mindful of our feebleness and pray “I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) (CC)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Judas In Us and Christ's Redemption by: C.C.

Holy Week invites a sorrowful participation in the journey of Christ to the crucifixion. Though completely familiar to us the Scriptures seem to invoke a sense of newness and freshness as we revisit them again this week. As we strive to lead lives of holiness and renew our commitment to follow Christ each day these Gospel readings also renew in us a greater sense of what Christ truly endured. It unfolds to us as a movie that we've watched many times and well know the ending of, yet are still left trembling and deeply moved. 
To live under the shadow of the Cross is to live well in Christ. Without this essential remembering than our spiritual lives and faith are not anything more than a placebo. Perhaps over time we gravitate to certain moments leading up to Christ's Passion, we are lead to identify with certain "characters" more than others. We are roused to greater anger, or great is important to be attentive to these movements as they offer us a chance of humble examine and an opportunity to bring these findings to the foot of the Cross begging for mercy.
Today's Gospel particularly brought me to stand among the twelve, to stand as Judas. I am not proud standing here, but I am guilty as he is guilty. How many times in my life have I "handed over the Lord" for much less than "thirty pieces of silver"? Shamefully for nothing at all, but the emptiness of sin...and surely in retrospect and the gift of grace one begins to recognize that there is nothing worth this handing over of Christ. No amount of anything offered by man , nothing tangible, nothing here on earth, worth denying our Lord. Yet we continue to do. Perhaps it is unnoticed, unknown to others, but in the depth of our interior, in our thoughts, and in our hearts. How often have we stood as Judas? How often have we handed over our brothers and sisters , and not recognized that in this we too hand over our Lord? How often have we come to the table sinfully?  To grow in sanctity is also growing in the ability to see clearly the numerous sins we have. As long as we are living and breathing we are not white as snow. 
We know the full story though, we have the privilege of knowing of Jesus' rising and still we fall. Christ knows this, He knew it then as He took the Cross, and He knows it now. And He loves us in such an unfathomable way that He renews even His taking of the Cross for us each day, out of radical love for us.  His wounds bleed not only for us, but also because of us. It is a hard reality to swallow. Especially in our times when we dare not share the truth of the Cross, lest we offend , lest we drive away someone sitting in the pew looking for their "peaceful" Sunday Mass. But unless people are brought to the fullness of understanding the Passion, recognizing the immensity of what this means...then no peace, no minute understanding of Christ's love for them and His unimaginable mercy and peace as a result of this incredible love can be ever experienced. To dilute the the message of the Cross is reason why the Western Church has become so lukewarm.
As those imbued with the knowledge of what happened on the third day, then we too have access to the greatness of Christ's mercy now. He invites us to the foot of the Cross, and He renews us in the Resurrection , should we desire honestly to follow and to be renewed, and to be given new life, then there are many implications to live by. This is why the Sacrament of Confession is so vital. So many remain in shame, and in despair, never knowing the freedom of Christ's forgiveness , never knowing the fullness of life. Let us prayerfully continue to journey with Jesus, and to remember we are dust. (CC)
Christ, Have mercy on us.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Any Good MIssion Begins With Humble Submission by: C.C.

This entry was primarily written for a dear friend and missionary priest. Though, I think it is helpful to all of us as we strive to share the Gospel by the witness of our lives.
One of the greatest tragedies facing our lives as Christians today, especially in the Western world is a complete loss of sacrifice and love of God. It is difficult to understand the depth of sacrifice and the immensity of love that we are to have in our hearts for the Lord as we sit immersed a society that is profoundly unmoved to the things that matter most. 
We have grown to accept the sentimentality of things, to graze the surface of meanings only, and to turn away should anything demand any more than our light-hearted convenient investment. 
The priest stands alone, in many ways, and most times sadly doesn't appear to stand for anything at all. If one reads the Desert Father's it becomes quite evident that our faith life today is more like a luxurious walk on a Sunday afternoon. Lest I be accused of judgement, I want to further explain myself and use that imagery to solely convict those who have become lukewarm, indifferent, and even passive within their own spiritual lives. Perhaps they have truly never had the authentic encounter with the radiant love of God conceived from radical obedience and inner detachment. I am not suggesting that one parades around in a hair shirt or takes on some extreme form of bodily penance, I am speaking of a loving undisturbed inward disposition focused on Christ. For only through fastening ourselves so tightly to our Lord , and making this our primary focus can one ever succeed in any mission to others. 
The call of a missionary and the tragedy of passivity in the spiritual life does not match up, it does not balance accordingly and any fruit cultivated as a result of this will only wither at the first sight of any challenge. 
The missionary is to be perpetually mindful of the desert experience, an inner monk is a fitting way to describe how their disposition should be. In a way they are especially called to crucify their passions, those of pride primarily before going out into the peripheries and sharing the Truth to all they are called to serve. 
In a way like no other they are to be so hidden in Christ, primarily because they are called to be so publicly outward and consequently face much human glory as a result of their bringing the beauty of Christ to those around them.
 In this there is offered an experience of humility, but also the temptation to be incredibly proud. A good way of recognizing that we are running on our own esteem alone is exhaustion. Of course, it is human to be tired, but when we are appropriately invested in Christ and obedient in our prayer life we are truly supernaturally sustained and provided with a zest and the ability (thanks be to God) to go out and do good work. 
God uses our frailty and our moments of human weakness to call us more wholly toward him, not to discourage us. But it is fitting that he pops the balloon of pride every now and then so we don't lose ourselves completely floating off somewhere into the vastness and away from Him. The greater the mission, the greater the resistance against us. The greater the human glory given to us, the greater the grace of God's glory working through us. Gratitude to God is to precede any good work for Him.
As a mother, I can never completely understand the call to the priesthood, missionary life, or those fully invested in formal faith formation, but I can testify about the fragility of the life of a soul and it's shaping as a result in witnessing daily my special call as a mother to help form tiny minds and souls into great lovers of God. 
Though on a much smaller scale than that of a priest, we, as mother's in Christ are called to nurture the life of another's soul. This is a crucial responsibility. We are nurturers of the soul....essentially, your call is the same, although you are nurturers of the soul to everyone you encounter and especially the flock to which you are entrusted. This is tremendously important work. To recognize the grave responsibility of it all is to begin any mission well. This naturally demands obedience in you own prayer life. Sustenance that comes alone from Christ and time in solitude before Him and with Him. It is not enough to have had an isolated experience of Christ's love or some immense encounter that remains etched in the soul. 
Christ must be perpetually sought, even though we assume that we have been found, so that He meets us and remains with us as the life of our soul naturally grows and changes with the experiences that we face. 
A loss of zest or fire within us is often because the memory of our Lord and His work in us is so far from us, but He is ever present. If He wanted to remain some passing thought or memory then He wouldn't make Himself so apparently new to us throughout our Salvation history and in the modern day hearts of those converted souls we encounter. (CC)