Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mary's Fiat

Behold - In fashioning Mary a completely human but truly faithful creature, God the Father intended that she be the model for each of us down through the centuries. Jesus gave her to us anew on Calvary, and the Holy Spirit, through the Second Vatican Council, reminded us of this truth when it proclaimed her as Mother of the Church.
It is up to us to behold her, look at her intently, study her, and think deeply on all we know about her. We want to learn from her the values, motives and principles which inspired her life and conduct, and discern how these may be incorporated into the common everyday actions and choices of our life.
We can listen to the Lord saying to us, “I, your God, set Mary before you. Look at her. Go around the other side and look again from a different angle. Gaze on her at sunrise, at noon, at sunset. See how, like a jewel, her various qualities become evident in the different lights. Then change your hat and notice how she takes on other aspects when you look through different colored glasses. You can see her from the viewpoint of one in temptation, in pain, in sin, as one who is learning, or in confusion, or struggling, or receiving care, comfort and help from others. Another day you look at her from the stance of the care giver, the helper, the one forgiving, explaining, supporting. You will never exhaust the richness of her being.”
The Handmaid - A handmaid is one who is hovering nearby, ready and waiting to be called into the service of a Master whom she loves deeply. She is always available.
Someone who was telling us about Medjugorje said that when one of the children asked Our Blessed Mother why she had chosen to appear to them, she answered that they were available. This seems to be a commentary on Mary's own life.

What happened at the Annunciation was not the beginning, but the high point of what had been going on all along. God asked something of her as He had done many times before, and she was listening attentively, as she had always done, to know what His slightest wish might be. He had asked many things of her before this, most of them very little things, but she had been just as eager and happy to be of service in unimportant ways as she was when it came to this major issue of the Incarnation. And each time she had complied with His will, she became that much more prepared to be filled with God.
Of the Lord  - Mary belonged totally to her Lord and God, by right as His creature, and by the loving donation of her whole self to Him. But He wasn't an unknown, vague Other in her life. She knew Him. She had searched the Scriptures diligently to find out: Who is He? What is He like? How does He treat His people? What pleases Him? How is He dishonored or angered? What reflection of Himself has He given us in nature? How can His image be found in mankind?
The Scriptures in which Mary found the answers to these questions are the very same which we have for reference. We must go to her frequently, even daily, and ask her to teach us to know our Lord and God as she did. Mary will open to us the Scriptures just as Jesus did to His disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Until this moment of the Annunciation Mary knew Him by Faith just as we do. Then "The Word was made Flesh" - her own flesh - her Child - and she became the Mother of God - that same Lord and God she had come to know through the Scriptures. Then at long last she could see Him, but she saw only the Man. She still needed the same faith as we need to see the Godhead.
Mary's attention to what God wanted of her must have been focused not only on her Lord in His immediate person, but she also sought to serve Him in those around her, because she was able to see His image in them. She first lived what her Son would later preach, "Whatever you do to one of these, the least of my brethren, (the most undeserving, the least likable, the most irritating, the least likely to benefit) this you do to Me".
When Salome or Joanna asked her for help with some common task, we can't imagine her making use of any of our excuses for avoiding something. It is true that she had the duties of her state in life; she had her responsibilities to her parents & family, her civic duties and religious obligations. But when something needed to be done, we can picture her being willing to give what she had been saving, to go the extra mile.
We know that she noticed the supply of wine giving out at Cana and hastened to do something about it before her friends would have to suffer embarrassment.  And she knew not only what God wanted her to do, but also what He wanted her to be for Him and for His mystical Body - pure, loving, trusting, cheerful, supportive, encouraging, challenging, a shoulder to cry on.
Let it be done unto me – Let it be = allow it. God’s word is creative – it causes, brings about what it signifies – if we don’t put obstacles in his way. When He speaks in our life directly or through others, we can trust Him to supply the strength, wisdom, power and love to accomplish what He wants done in ourselves or in others. He will overcome the obstacles, we have only to surrender and be the obedient instrument in His hand.
The Annunciation was not the first time this phrase was used. It was the constant refrain running through the trials and joys in the life of our Blessed Mother both before and after this great event. It came to her lips when she felt happiness in her marriage to Joseph or sorrow at the death of her parents. If it is true that she was raised in the Temple, then there was the hour of separation from family and friends, and the having to live with the less-than-perfect priests and Levites, as well as the delights of the daily prayer and sacrifices of praise. Later there would be agony over Joseph's doubt, the orders to travel to Bethlehem at that critical time, and the terrors of the flight into Egypt, all of this just a preliminary to suffering with her Son. But there was also the ecstasy of the moment when she held in her arms her own Baby whose only Father was God, and that moment after the Resurrection when she saw Him standing before her and held Him again in a tender embrace.

"Let it be done". The it which Mary uttered meant "whatever". She was open, ready, available. Yes, there was the tremendous honor, but being very human, her nature must have recoiled from the pain before her. Mary may not have known the details, but had studied the Scripture enough to know that God was becoming Man in order to suffer. She was very familiar with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and it just had to be scary. But she trusted her Lord to give her grace and strength.
According to Thy word - If Mary was anything like us - she had plans for her life. She planned her wedding, she planned the home she would make for her husband and Son. She planned her year, her day and her hour. The difference is that she was willing to let go of those plans when it became evident that they were not "according to His word". The need for a change in plans was made clear to her through the Angel Gabriel, or through Joseph, or the edict of Caesar, or a friend at the village well. We see in her a peace which leaves no room for fuming and fussing when plans are changed or her arrangements are set aside. And we ask that she help us to acquire that same peace so that at all times we may be available to whatever unexpected item His word may insert into our life.

May the Word incarnate who gave Himself to us through Mary, continue to fill us more and more with His presence and peace through her prayers and example.
Deo Gratias!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

God Is Thirsty…You Can Help Quench His Thirst!


…I want to be merciful to the world…I put into my servants a hunger and longing for my honor and the salvation of souls so that I might be forced by their tears to soften the fury of my divine justice.
(God the Father, to St. Catherine of Siena, O.P., Dialogue, translated by Sr. Suzanne Noffke, O.P.)

Whenever we meditate on the marvelous work of creation, our life, our intellect, our talents, our freedom, our dignity, the people God has put into our lives, the love and care of our Holy Mother Church, and the many things and events that surround us in our daily life, we should know of God’s burning and boundless love for humankind.

God did not only give us our very existence, made in his own image and likeness, he also gives grace and gifts daily in abundance to sustain us. When corruption and death entered the world through the sin of our first parents, God did not hesitate even for a moment to give us his only begotten son who clothed himself in our sinful flesh and died for us so as to satisfy divine justice.  Yet, the human race continues to offend and insult God instead of giving him glory and praise.

Like our Holy Father Dominic who often cried out “Lord, what will become of sinners?” we the children of St. Dominic also cry out: “Yes, merciful Father, what will become of your beloved children whom you have made in your image, yet attack you with every sort of sin instead of giving you thanks?”  “What will become of our world in which so many have lost faith and hope in you, their Creator and Redeemer?”

To this cry of distress, we trust in the mercy of God, who “like one drunk with love for our good” revealed it to St. Catherine: “…I have one remedy to calm my wrath: my servants who care enough to press me with their tears and bind me with the chain of their desire.”
In every age and in every generation, we need more of these servants who thirst, hunger and long for God’s honor and for the salvation of souls, so that they too can use this chain to bind God for souls and the good of our world.
With this wonderful knowledge, we invite you to accompany our young people who thirst, hunger and long for God’s honor and glory and for the salvation of souls, and who wish to use this chain to bind God and to force his goodness and mercy on humankind.  There are many young men and women in formation who need our support such as our young friars in our Western Dominican Province and many more young men and women who desire to consecrate their lives to God in humble service, constant prayer, and contemplation to alleviate God’s thirst for souls, but who are unable to do so because of their financial obligations. Among these zealous young people is our own aspirant, Tara Clemens, who has been accepted into our monastery but still needs to resolve her education loans before she can freely give her ‘all’ to God. 
We encourage all the faithful to join them with our prayers and financial support, no matter how much or little for each drop of water will help fill the cup!  In helping these young men and women, we ourselves take an active part in quenching God’s thirst for souls.  It is also a way to show our love for God as the Father has told St. Catherine: love of God and love of others are inseparable…and that every good and every evil is done by means of our neighbors.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hear Ye Him!

In their undivided attention to the Father's word: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17), and in their loving acceptance of that word, cloistered nuns are always “with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Pt 1:17-18). Fixing their gaze upon Christ Jesus, shrouded in the cloud of God's presence, they wholly cleave to the Lord...
The solitary cells, the closed cloister, are the place where the nun, bride of the Incarnate Word, lives wholly concentrated with Christ in God. The mystery of this communion is revealed to her to the extent that, docile to the Holy Spirit and enlivened by his gifts, she listens to the Son (cf. Mt 17:5), fixes her gaze upon his face (cf. 2 Cor 3:18), and allows herself to be conformed to his life, to the point of the supreme self-offering to the Father (cf. Phil 2:5 ff.), for the praise of his glory. (Verbi Sponsa)
“Free for God alone,” we the Dominican nuns spend two hours each day in private prayers and Lectio Divina after the example of our Holy Father St. Dominic who spoke always either with God or about God. 
You too can hear the voice of God's Beloved Son speaking to you and be interiorly renewed and more closely conformed to Christ by spending half an hour each day praying the Scriptures through the practice of Lectio Divina.  Here is the link to the online Bible: http://usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm . You may wish to start out with meditating on the daily Mass readings where you will encounter the Living God and receive what He wants to give you.
 O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(From the Collect of the Second Sunday of Lent)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Being Pursued…By The “Mad Lover”

…O fiery abyss of charity!
…O mad lover!
And you have need of your creature?
It seems so to me, for you act as if you could not live without her,
in spite of the fact that you are Life itself,
and everything has life from you and nothing can have life without you.

Why then are you so mad?
Because you have fallen in love with what you have made!
You are pleased and delighted over her within yourself,
as if you were drunk with desire for her salvation.
She runs away from you and you go looking for her.
She strays and you draw closer to her.
You clothed yourself in our humanity,
and nearer than that you could not have come.

(Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, translated by Sr. Suzanne Noffke, O.P.)

God the Father, the Eternal Truth, revealed to St. Catherine of Siena in The Dialogue that “…you are she who is not, and I AM he who is.”  This means that God is the source of our very existence.  St. Luke also tells us pretty much the same thing when he says that "...it is in him that we live and move and have our being…" (Acts. 17:28)  Would we even last for a fraction of a millisecond if God forgets about us?  Obviously not! 

This thought, along with this Sunday’s Mass Readings provide us with a beautiful meditation as we prepare to enter into the grace-filled season of Lent.  In a few days, we will hear the priest prays as he places ashes on our forehead: “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”  How much weight can a speck of dust weigh on a scale, and how much value does it have?  Not much!  Yet, today we hear God’s reassurance that his loving care will always be present to us more than a mother’s tender love for the infant of her womb.

How can we be certain of God’s providential care for us?  Look at the world around us...such as the birds in the sky, Jesus says, they do not sow or reap or store up anything, yet your Father in heaven feeds and sustains them.  Look again at the grass in the field that withers and the wild flowers that fade away as quickly as they are bloomed, yet they are adorned with the most elegant and magnificent apparel that not even the wisest and richest King Solomon could compare with them.  And these are all non-rational creatures that could not come close to the dignity of the children of the Almighty God!  Nonetheless, God provides for them in an exceptional way, even to the smallest details.  Should we have any reason not to trust the One in whose image and likeness we were created?

For those of us who are weighed down by the burdens of life that forces us to cry out: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me!”... we need to make a U-turn back to the Living God who from the beginning of time has loved us into existence, and who continues to sustain us till this day.  Should we then, just sit around and do nothing?  Obviously not!  It just means that we should not make worries and anxieties the center of our being and spend all of our time and energy on getting rich to provide for a comfortable future, thus forget that our main duty and happiness in life is to seek God, his kingdom and his righteousness. 

What does this mean?  Listen to St. Paul…for you, servants of God, shun the desire to be rich; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  (1 Tim. 6:11)

Why?  Because…we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world…those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  (1 Tim. 6:7,9)

What about the people whom God has given more than their share of the daily bread?  They should not be haughty, nor set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God…they are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

In his Lenten message for this year, Pope Francis teaches us that God’s infinite mercy and love for us is more clearly manifested in Christ who took flesh and bore our weaknesses and sins for our freedom, true salvation and true happiness.  May we show the same love to our suffering brothers and sisters who are in need of our financial and spiritual assistance. 

Rest in God alone
Rest in God alone
O My soul...my soul...

Today’s Mass Readings: