“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Prayer is such an important part of who we are and who we are called to be. It is how we communicate with God as Father, God as Brother and God as Friend. It is how we share with God. Prayer from the heart and from a mind that has been quieted enables us to deepen our knowledge of the One who has created us and to experience the One who has loved us and invited us into profound intimacy. After we had tarnished our sacred image through sin, it was God’s openness to communion and prayer that permitted us to restore what was lost. Through the One who suffered and died for us, we have been recreate into the beloved children of God we are and were meant to be. Faithfulness to prayer encourages and inspires us to go deeper into the scenes of the Bible and place ourselves into the scripture story in order to more clearly hear the voice of God speaking to our hearts and illuminating our souls. One of my favorite scenes to visit is the Annunciation. Imagine for a moment placing yourself into the scene. As you sit next to our Mother Mary, what might you be discussing with her or do you remain silent? What do you want to tell her, share with her, ask her to pray for? What might she be saying to you, teaching you, asking of you? What does the temperature outside feel like? Is it hot or cool, windy or breezeless, sunny or raining? Is the air fragrant with flowers, perfumes, fresh baked bread? Do you hear any sounds of nature? Can you hear any birds in the background? What does Gabriel’s wings sound like, what does he look like, did he startle you? Did you pray with him when he said “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Can you imagine being in Galilee where God decided to leave his throne in heaven to ask Mary to be his holy vessel and the Mother of his Beloved Son so that he might enter into our broken humanity, die to make reparation for our sins and bring all God’s children safely back home to heaven? What might God be saying to you right now? Does speaking to God frighten you? Say to Mary, “Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
Reflections from the Heart
“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.” To know the Lord, to love him and to serve him is at the heart of our Catholic faith and our Christian duty – it is our salvation. It’s simply who we are and what we must do to more fully realize our identity as beloved children of God and more fully live out our call to become faithful witnesses of God’s love, evangelizers of his Gospel and missionaries of his mercy and peace in the world and to our families. We are called and invited to deepen our knowledge of God by understanding his divine plan and living in his holy will now and always, today and every day, in every thought and every action, in every prayer and in every inaction. We are called and invited to deepen our love of God so as to love him intentionally and freely with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our body and with all our soul. We are called and invited to serve him in faith, in joy, in love and in ministry through random acts of kindness and intentional works of mercy. We can do this by spending more quality time with sacred scripture, by more fully entering into silent prayer, by more faithfully celebrating the Sacraments of God’s infinite love and divine mercy and by simply living every moment, every action, every thought, every situation, every conversation in accordance with God’s divine plan and his holy will. Mary is certainly our humble role model, our faithful example, our spiritual guide, our Beloved Mother. She abandoned herself, her thoughts, her will to live according to God’s Way, God’s Word, God’s Will. Mary loves us, intercedes for us, prays unceasingly for us. Perhaps this is a good time to ask Mary in prayer to assist you with your Advent preparation to more fully enter into the sacred mystery of God’s holy redeeming love on Christmas Day and throughout the Christmas Season. Ask Mary to spend some quiet time with you in silence and in prayer. Ask Mary for the grace to help you to more intimately and personally know God as Father, Brother, Friend. Ask Mary to help you to understand all the ways God has blessed you, your work, your family, your ministry. Ask Mary for the courage to know God’s plan for you and for the strength to surrender entirely to his holy will by saying from your heart like Mary did, “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the actual Word uttered by God made visible. The mere sound of his Sacred Name causes all creatures in Heaven and Earth and below the Earth to bow and worship him unceasingly. One would think since he is the Divine Majesty, his crown would be made out of the purest gold and covered with the most precious stones and adorned with the rarest gems. But this king is a shepherd king, a servant king, a poor, meek and humble king. His crown is a Crown of Thorns – The crown of the Messiah, the King of the Jews. When we contemplate the Crown of Thorns, in addition to seeing the pain suffered by Christ, one should also see our gracious Savior praying, loving, repairing for the sins of humanity. What an amazing grace to understand this. Not to look at the Cross in shame or as something shameful but to see love, God’s love. We needed Jesus to die. To die such a cruel death so as to melt the stubbornness of our hearts and dispel the wickedness from our minds in order to feel, see and experience the profundity of God’s love for humanity, his amazing patience, the intimate love he has for each one of us. Jesus had to die a horrible death for each one of us, to free each one of us. Our minds and hearts couldn’t possibly comprehend God’s love on their own. We need to understand that Jesus allowed himself to be mocked and humiliated and crowned with thorns to show us what unconditional love looks like. O Lord, our souls belong to you, long for you. Thank you for granting us pardon and peace. Our bodies give you thanks for not destroying us but preserving us as instruments of your peace, cups of salvation, temples of your holy glory. O Lord, our hearts love you for you cleansed them, washed them, kissed them and made them your own. Our spirits rejoice in you. We love being with you, ministering with you, helping others through you, remaining in silence and in prayer with you. But our minds can be far from you. At times heavy, at times tired, at times sluggish. Our minds are always analyzing, always questioning, always suspicious. May your Crown of Thorns pierce our minds with your marvelous light and saving grace. And may you crown us in your glory for truly you are our Lord and our King.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyal provide a great opportunity to seriously detach oneself from the world for thirty days and enter into sacred silence and into God’s presence to contemplate his love and pray for grace to intimately know Jesus, love him more freely and follow him more closely. In the first week of the Exercises, one has the opportunity to review life in light of God’s profound love. Openness to God’s holy love sheds light on how selfishly we respond to God’s gifts and identifies the ways, the excuses and the sins that have prevented us from loving Christ and following him without reservation. In the second week, one reflects on how to better follow Christ as a disciple by learning where he worshiped, when he prayed, how he served, who he ministered to. In the third week, one meditates on the Passion and death of Christ. In Christ’s suffering, we can experience God’s unconditional love for us and in the Eucharist we can share in it. On the last week of the Exercises, one experiences the Joy of the Resurrection and walks with the risen Christ as he dispels fear from the disciples hearts and shares the fulfillment of the Father’s peace. This new life inspires a disciple to make a total offering of self and encourages them to respond more generously to the call to love and serve Christ more faithfully. There is also an opportunity during the Exercises to learn different forms of prayer and different ways to experience God in prayer. One of those ways is using the imagination to experience God by placing ourselves into scripture scenes to hear what people are listening to, see what they are looking at, smell what they are cooking, taste what they are eating, feel what they are sensing. The object of this form of prayer is to use our spiritual senses to become more attentive to God’s voice, more open to his presence, and more responsive to his holy will. Try it. Disconnect and detached yourself from the world and from all the noise then enter into the silence. Imagine Jesus in the quiet, hidden years of his early life. Enter the scene. What might a school day with Jesus be like? What might a conversation with his friends sound like? How did Mary and Joseph feel living with God, caring for him, feeding him, bathing him? What must having God obedient to them feel like? What if God was obedient to you? How different would the world be? “Lord, grant that I may see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.” Fr Ivan
“She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” The word “behold” signifies an action whereby one draws all their energy, all their attention, to see, really see without distortion or distraction that which our undivided attention has been requested to gaze upon without judgement, without comment, without rush. Jesus asks us to behold his mother, to “behold, your mother.” What do you see when you set your gaze upon Mary? Do you, “behold, your mother” or do you only see the mother of Jesus? To behold Mary, is to have a personal, intimate relationship with her – that is, to understand that Mary is truly the Mother of Jesus and our beloved mother, the Mother of God. We must realize, accept and rejoice in the fact that we are beloved sons and daughters of God, our Father and beloved sons and daughters of Mary, our mother. Jesus loves his mother. He loves her with a great and perfect affection and Mary loves her son with her whole undivided heart, with her whole undivided body, with her whole undivided mind, with her whole undivided soul. Mary loves Jesus in her lowliness and in her joyfulness, in her poverty and in her holiness, with all her heart and with all her strength. She loves Jesus with her entire being. It is a mother’s perfect love for her God and for her child. Jesus loves Mary as he loves us. That is to the point of death, death on a cross. Jesus’ concern at the foot of the Cross is that his Mother would be loved and looked after in his absence as he returns to the right hand of the Father. Jesus wants you to behold, your mother, Mary. Will you spend sometime in prayer with her this week at the foot of the Cross to comfort her in her great sorrow? Imagine how Mary feels at the foot of the Cross – to see her poor child, innocent of the crimes he was accused of, rejected for believing in God, mocked with unspeakable blasphemies, beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, murdered by excruciating pain and torture, then dying on a cross. Mary could use some comfort. Mary could use your undivided attention, a commitment to prayer and your loving presence. It would bring great consolation to our Mother Mary. It would bring great comfort to our Beloved Savior. Know that when Mary is asked to behold her child, she draws all her attention to us, she draws all the attention of her Son to us. Mary loves us. We are her beloved children. So behold, your mother for she has already set her gaze upon you.