Archives for posts with tag: Daily Readings

I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…

Eph 4:1

To live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…

As Paul read this passage aloud this morning, my heart stopped. Am I truly living in a manner worthy of the call that I have received? I knew the answer even before I gave it. No.

Every so often, a line in a daily reading echoes through my whole being and does in me the work it is meant to do… As the rain and the snow… do not return… till they have watered the earth… so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me… (Is 55:10-11).

Last night at mass I felt quite unworthy and somewhat ‘removed’. The sermon was wonderful (oh, to hear a priest talk about poverty, homelessness, gay equality…). The activities of the parish are inspiring. Still my attention was somewhere else.

This morning’s reading realigned my time, interests, dreams, hopes, and velleities… Suddenly, Godde feels back in my life again. Her love is there; this very special attention, as if her eyes were on me, looking at me with kindness. The longing to do better, more… Magis, our friend Luís would say.

In recent months, I have taken a vacation from life. j’étais aux abonnés absents, disconnected from much of what my life used to be. A new passion has entered my life, a disordered affection of sorts. A Korean drama on Netflix introduced me several months ago to another world, country, language, history, lifestyle — and I fell in love with it. It has opened up a new window in my mind. I love it so much that I have dropped most other things. Hence the rub.

This new love has triggered me into looking at the other loves Life has brought me over the years. It started with the English language when I was twelve and spent three weeks in England. I returned many times. I worked in English, fell in love with an American in Geneva, and discovered the Anglo-Saxon world. Then came Spanish (Peru) , Hinduism (India), Catholicism (Cursillo and RCIA), Ignatian spirituality (our Jesuit friend Louis, CVX/PR, Manresa), and now K-drama.

I do not know where this new love will take me, but I trust it will take me somewhere, as every other passion has. I am learning Korean very slowly, reading about Korean society, following the news, and enjoying Hallyu (Korean pop culture). I don’t think I have had that much fun in years. I have no friends and relatives with whom I can share this passion, but I have such a grand time with it that it does not really matter. The only impact I have had on my family is that now we exclaim ‘Fighting!’ when we want to encourage each other (one of the few Korean words I can understand).

The letter to the Ephesians this morning came attached to the reality check which I face every day as I come across so many homeless on the streets of Manhattan (where we now spend some of our time). I know that I cannot let my life be consumed with this love which has come to brighten my final years. The time to end my vacation from life is here. Like every vacation, I come home with new ideas, new projects, ready to go back to be more present to those extraordinary gifts which Godde showers upon me and to which I want to respond.

It is time to go back to living more in a manner worthy of the call I have received.

Photo: Gian Ehrenzeller/EPA, photojournalismus.tumblr.com

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For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Eph 3:14-19

I remember reading this passage one very early morning years ago. I felt the breath of the Spirit sweeping from St Paul to me, crossing two thousand years within a moment. I was flooded by a delight only experienced again a few times since then.

This morning, as Paul read the passage aloud, I felt my heart expanding way past my ribcage and taken by an enchantment that brought tears to my eyes.

to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge… How much I have longed for this connection with the love of Christ these past months! My distracted mind has lead me through a fog where, mesmerized, I followed the sirens’ call. Deep in my heart though, every night, I could feel a longing which wanted me somewhere else: To feel the gaze of Christ on my face once again. Otherwise, I spent the day sleep-walking.

This morning, as I heard the familiar lines and as I looked at them again on my own, the warm glow in my heart helped me understand that I had returned home and that all was, and is, well.

Each word in this excerpt tastes of honey to me. Christ’s presence infuses each one of them. St Paul’s grace is at it again: It fills my heart with gratitude for His love flowing over me, through me, in me, around me…

Thank you.

Photo: from artofprayer.tumblr.com

Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.

Is. 1:18

It is not easy to imagine my sins crimson red. I cannot be that bad, O Godde. I have a friend who refuses to look at sin in her life. Too much of it has been pushed down her throat over her many years by priests from the pulpit.

I find that in my life sin likes to go unnoticed. It makes itself small, harmless, innocuous. If I look at the span of my life, however, all the small, standard, and serious sins I have accumulated over time, I might as well face the crimson of my sins.

So here I am, Jesus, standing in the midst of my sins, sins that seep in every corner of my life, looking away so as not to face the pain they caused to many, but to You most of all. “Let us set things right,” You tell me. “If you are willing, and obey, they may become white as wool.”

You, Jesus, are on the cross, breathless, with no strength left. Your crimson blood shows the lashes of the whip; pearls of blood bead from your crown of thorns. You, the innocent one.

What have I done for You, Jesus?

What am I doing for You?

What will I do for You?

As I ponder the question, I walk with the Risen Christ on the beach. We talk of sin and love. I ask Him to change my heart, to help me obey, to become more willing. To follow you, O Risen One. Gently, He places his scarred hand on my heart and I feel His warmth, His life, a new life coming into me.

May the crimson of Your love beat in my own veins, Beloved.

Illustration: Autumn Lane, Kassel, Germany photo via fobsta, found on Pinterest.

And if the virtuous woman turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked woman does,
can she do this and still live?
None of her virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because she has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, she shall die.

Ez. 18:21-28

Today’s first reading starts with the promise that the evil woman who turns away from all the sins she committed… will live. I have always liked this part. I could relate to it. After all, had I not changed my ways?

This morning, however, when I looked at the passage, I recognized myself in the virtuous woman who turns from the path of virtue. Oh, turning from the path of virtue is an exaggeration. I am neither on the path of virtue nor off it. Life, this month, has become a river that goes too fast for me. I can hardly keep my head above water. I am fascinated by what I see going by. Every so often I catch a glimpse of Godde; I am reassured that She is still there, close by. But not close enough that I can hang on to Her.

I am not bad; but I am not good either. My heart is in one place; my head is somewhere else. My emotions err in-between.

One reassuring thought this morning: the path is there to go back on. The choice is always available, even though recently I did not even seem to have time to think of choice. I have been like a kid in wonderland, taking in as much as I could, wondering what Godde wants from me.

Find joy, Godde is there, my inner voice whispered. The thought stopped me. Godde hides in the deepest of my desires. I have embarked on a treasure hunt. Finding Godde in my crazy, bountiful life.

Everyone talks of desert these days. My life is a desert when I cannot feel Godde. So I can be standing in the middle of a crowded market, of a busy street: it feels like a desert if I cannot feel Godde’s heart beating in mine.

Oh, the faint call of the Beloved echoing in the depths of my being…

Illustration: here, riverawaken.tumblr.com

 

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…

Jn 15:9-17

I feel awed every time I read these lines. I can hear Jesus say this, to me. I feel commissioned, blessed, chosen. Godde creates me, Jesus chooses me, and His Spirit accompanies me.

Lectio Divina… Divine reading. Divine because words that were written long long ago take on a life of their own and reach me, touch me, inspire me, carry me.

The thrill of standing in front of the Risen One. This amused smile of his, amused by my emotion at being found acceptable, eligible, lovable, trustworthy. His hand stretches out to me; my hand goes toward his; his eyes embrace mine.

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…

You find me worthy? How can this be? 

His love opens a small crack in the jammed door to my uncertain heart. It awakens this heart, asleep for so long, unwilling to experience pain, so afraid to feel…

If you love me, then it’s OK for me to love myself. But how do I do that?

I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain

Bearing fruit. It is never too late, is it? To love those around me as you love me. To be present to them as you are to me. To share their joys and sorrows as you share mine.

Comes a point when words come in the way. It is so much nicer to stay here in your presence, in silence, and open my whole self to welcoming your love, in awe, gratitude, and reverence.

 

Art: Samaritan woman at Fayum

 

As they approached the village to which they were going,he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…

Luke 24:13-35

 

The experience of the gifts of the Spirit are nothing else but manifestations of the living presence of the Risen Jesus in our lives.
Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, 2013 Ignatian Immersion Course, 2013

 

The Easter Octave tastes and feels like a feast. Each day offers another divine treat. Today, Emmaus.

Many of the books I read explain that the two disciples walking to Emmaus were in fact a couple, a man, Cleopas, and his wife, forever nameless like so many women in the Bible. 

Paul and I, then, are forever returning home, discouraged and lost, now that we feel cheated by the death of our Master, ex-future King of the Jews, hung on a cross like a criminal. 

We pour our hearts out to this stranger who drew near and now walks with us. When we grow silent, emptied out of all thoughts and feeling numb, the stranger starts talking. And he talks and he talks. He fills us with a fire we have not felt since that last meal we shared with Jesus. 

As we reach home, we invite him to stay with us. Then, you know the story, the stranger takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to us. This is when we understand who has been with us all this time. And he disappears! Oh, Godde… 

In an instant, we are up again, grab our walking stick,s and walk back, our hearts filled with joy and wonder, the seven miles we have just finished with ‘Him’. All the way to Jerusalem, we repeat what he has told us going to Emmaus. Every so often, we stop to catch our breath and exclaim, ‘He is Risen’. He was not a hoax! Alleluiah!

We each have those Emmaus moments after we meet someone we know, or do not know. I can think of two different scenarios. When walking the Camino, every so often someone catches up with us and strikes up a conversation, and we engage in sharing our lives and our faith. It is an Emmanuel moment, Godde-with-Us. 

Or again, I can think of two or three women friends whom I meet for a coffee or a bite to eat. We always end up talking about Godde’s presence in our lives. Once back at home, I realize that my heart was burning as we were sharing stories of how Godde moves through our daily life. These moments, these friends, are Godde’s gifts to me, to us.

Can you think of specific friends with whom you have Emmaus moments?

Art: Arcabas, Emmaüs

 

 

 

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” …

… “Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas…

… Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

John 13:21-23, 36-38

Today’s gospel led me to reflect on both Judas and Peter in me, because in the sixty-plus years of my life, I have been, and still am, both. One is inconsolable and kills himself; the other accepts Jesus’ forgiveness and follows in His master’s footsteps.

Dwelling on my sins, once again, is not really what this week is about, however. This week is not about me, but about Jesus and how he goes through his last days as Jesus. It is about his dignity and his being true to himself, and what he has preached and done in the last three years of his life. Jesus is love and love is crucified; true love is found unbearable by those striving for power, riches, and fame. Love has little in common with ‘Realpolitik’. 

Jesus was killed two thousand years ago and is still being killed today. We see him crucified, at every generation, in the women and men who strive for goodness and challenge the darkness of our world.

What truly mesmerizes me this week, more than anything else, is the width and length and depth and height of Jesus’ trust in Godde and his love for us. It shakes me out of my self-satisfaction; it draws my mind to a blank; it has me come to a standstill. It questions me; it kneads my heart, spirit and soul.

Nothing in Jesus blocks life. He does not elude fear, pain, nakedness and humiliation. He is utterly open to Godde’s will, willing to show each one of us, disciples of then and now, what it means to announce and belong to the reign of Godde. No pettiness there, no petulance, no shirking, no false pretenses…

Following Jesus this week is entering the Mystery of Divine Love, a Mystery that my small human mind can only admire and revere in silence and awe. What a grace it would be if but one bit of it could rub on me.

Yes, Jesus is crushed by the structures of evil of all times. But he only seems crushed, because he goes through death and introduces us to a new age, a new age that is still so very difficult to comprehend, to absorb, to replicate, unless, like him, we can love fearlessly.

The reality of Jesus’ Passion is poignant, because it never goes away; it is still happening today. Simultaneously, though, He is risen and calls me to go through the pain to transcend it with Him, as if he wanted me to go through the throes of a new birth into something else. Going from the safety zone of darkness to the challenge of light and love.

 

Art: Leonardo da Vinci, heads of Judas and Peter

 

 

Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.

John 12:1-11

The last time I prayed this passage was during an eight-day retreat. Then, Mary had turned to me and had invited me to come forward and help her anoint Jesus’ feet. I still remember rubbing his feet, and then rubbing his hands as well. The color and texture of his skin, the feel of his bony feet and hands, our closeness and my reverence. Mary’s invitation had been such a gift! A day later, when time came to pray the Resurrection, my eyes fell again on the same hands and feet; this time they had a hole in them. I knew then that I was in presence of the Risen One.

This morning, I started reading the passage after having prayed for the grace of being filled with the wonder of Jesus’ presence. Imagine my surprise when going over Judas’ lines, I realized that they were meant for me. I could have made such an unpleasant remark. I would have had to feel jealous and envious, and irritated at being around someone who once again is so much better than I am… Yes, this is something which I could have said, the type of comment I have most certainly made several times over my lifetime.

This insight felt like a jug of freezing water thrown at my face. At the same time, what a relief to come upon this side of me, so naturally and so ‘un-judgmental-ly’ (if this is possible). While shocked by my own revealed pettiness, I felt grateful for the awareness. This was a grace received, a gift, a reflection from the mirror that the Gospel is meant to be. The Gospel is “a constant call to freedom,” writes Ilia Delio.

As I stand looking at the scene of Mary on her knees at Jesus’ feet, with the other disciples and friends around the table, Martha busying herself, and Judas’ nasty remark, Jesus’ eyes cross mine. I tear up. I tear up because I acknowledge the love in his eyes, the unconditional love which greets me; I recognize the gift of discovering a bit more of me; but more than anything else, I tear up for the connection between the scene and me, between Jesus and me.

For all this, O Godde, I feel infinitely grateful.

 

Art: Magdelene Anointing Jesus’ Feet, Frank Wesley (1923-2002) an Indian artist trained in India, Japan, and the U.S.  Best known for designing the urn for Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes. Found here.

 

 

Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”

Jn 9:1-41

 

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God’s life
to flow into us without limit.
David Fleming, SJ, Principle & Foundation

 

… This unfolding towards my fullness in God, takes place in, 

and through, the very realities that touch my life…

I can open myself to let this unfolding take place, and I can also block it.
… Every time I block life in me to unfold, 

I am blocking my movement towards God. 

(e.g. every time I give in to my fear I am blocking my movement to God).

Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, Retreat Notes, 2013

 

In this Sunday’s gospel John tells us the story of the blind man who saw and of all those around him who did not want to see. It brought back to my mind a recent moment of understanding.

In his Principle and Foundation, St Ignatius tells us that we come from Godde, belong to Godde, and are destined to Godde. All the while, there is a catch, however. I can choose to say yes or to say no to Godde in my life. If I say yes, David Fleming explains, I allow Godde’s life to flow into me without limit.

Why would I want to stop that flow into me? Well, through desires that do not fit with Godde’s desires for me. Any treasure which does not happen to be Godde may come in the way, whether my wish for power, money, or status. Or these unfreedoms which are scattered through my life: resentments, grudges, fears…

After having prayed David Fleming’s Principle & Foundation, I have come to want this unlimited flow of Godde into my life. I also realized that loving Godde is good (I assume), but allowing Godde to love me is much better. How do I let Godde love me? How do I open myself to Her love?

It is when I reread Cecil’s notes last week that an insight dawned on me: any time I act out of fear, i.e. any time I close myself to situations so that I will not be hurt again, or when I just do not quite forgive what happened in the past, I close myself to Godde’s life flow into me. And I have done this for most of my life.

Interestingly, fear which I saw as a way of protecting me has in fact prevented me to be open to life’s flow. What a pity.

I must have been four or five when I learned the Our Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us… Forgiveness has been an on-going struggle because I felt asked to be ‘nice’ to folks that had not been so with me. The minute, however, and this quite recently, that I understood that by not forgiving I was preventing Godde’s life to flow through me in an unlimited manner, any hesitation to forgive or desire to protect myself from pain was swept away.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

I saw. Godde’s grace helped me see what is obvious to me now. I laughed it suddenly looked so easy. If I want to experience Godde’s life and love, and I do, I have to let go of all that I have placed in my own life that prevents Godde from flowing through me.

I am not saying that I have found how to allow Godde to love me. I still instinctively want to love Godde, because I feel love for Godde. But I may well want to love Godde because then I feel in control of the times we meet. Or so I think. I do not invite Godde in my room at 5 pm for tea. I go in my room and make myself available for Godde, just in case…

This is a small step on my journey to Godde; but this small step brought quite a bit of joy and lightness in my life when I took it.

 

Art: Blind Spot, found here.

 

 

 

 

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;

listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate

and were very much afraid.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

“Rise, and do not be afraid.”

Mt 17:1-9

Listen to him…

The Transfiguration is announcing the Resurrection. Between now and then, there will be the descent into the valley of death and the very narrow gate of the Cross.

I like this drawing of two of the disciples (Peter and John?), awed and transfixed by what they are witnessing. Holy Companions of the One who is calling each one of us.

Lent this year seems to be all about listening to him. If I want to follow in his footsteps, I need to listen to what he says, verbally and non-verbally. I also want to follow the inner dialogue between the path he shows me and the feelings it triggers in me. The fear of the cost of discipleship, the letting go of my own will, the surrender of my ego, all this for the love of Him, first transfigured on the mountain, then with us always, robed in the luminous aura of his resurrection.

Listen to him…

Only after his death, resurrection, and ascension, did the disciples seem to understand the words Jesus had said. Why should I understand him any better than they did? Am I grasping what he is telling me? Or do I take in just the bits that fit me?

Listen to him…

I hear an urgency, nearly a plea. So much depends on our listening to him! Are we any closer to his Kingdom than were the first disciples? Have we learned anything in the past two thousand years? Have I?

My heart overflows with love for Him, but this is not enough. Climbing the mountain with him is a hard pull. Finishing at the Golgotha, harder still. The cross stands there, for Him, for me maybe. To say yes to all.

This morning in Moved to Greater Love, I came upon a moving prayer with which I would like to end this post:

“Perfect Resignation” by St. Joseph Pignatelli, SJ (1737-1811)

My God, I do not know what must come to me today. 


But I am certain that nothing can happen to me


that you have not foreseen, decreed, 


and ordained from eternity. 


That is sufficient for me. 


I adore your impenetrable and eternal designs, 


to which I submit with all my heart. 


I desire, I accept them all, and I unite my sacrifice 


to that of Jesus Christ, my divine Savior. 


I ask in his name and through his infinite merits, 


patience in my trials, and perfect and entire submission


to all that comes to me by your good pleasure. 


Amen.

 

Art: Raphael’s studies for his Transfiguration, 1500-1525. Found here.