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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Lynette Offering your suffering Prayer

Memories on the Other Side of Our Humanity

memories, humanity

Of all the memories I have, I ran from one memory in particular for decades, its wreckage surfacing periodically in the waters of my soul – ugly pieces covered in sharp barnacles, full of wormholes, severely waterlogged. Over the years, I tried to remove the pieces on my own, struggling under their weight, injured in the process by their rough surface. One day, almost drowning in the wreckage around me, I gathered the pieces in desperation and flung them far into other waters – the waters of God’s limitless ocean of Mercy, the very ocean that flowed as blood and water from Jesus’s pierced side as He hung on the cross. It was only then He revealed to me the divine hidden amid the wreckage.

There is another I cling to, its embers stirring periodically in the fire of my soul – tiny pieces glowing with hot intensity, waiting to be rekindled, flame ablaze. Like a pouting, spoiled brat who doesn’t want to hand over the cookie jar, I hold fast.  Tucked safely in the depths of my heart, it mustn’t consume, yet it must be remembered. I fight to keep it balanced there, fearing the treasured details will fade, never to be felt again. Jesus, knowing my stubbornness, waits patiently, but His questioning is persistent. “What will you choose?” “Not yet,” I beg, knowing full well that until I do, He cannot reveal the divine hidden amid the beauty.

In all of God’s extraordinary creation, only humanity has the ability to reminiscence or recollect. “To be human is to have a collection of memories that tells you who you are and how you got there.” (Rosecrans Baldwin) In our weakened humanity, we are sometimes unwillingly bound to memories that are forced upon us. As an event unfolds and rushes into our minds like an avalanche, we feel helpless against the onslaught of each vivid detail. Those are the memories we run from, pushing them deep into the dark recesses of our minds the moment they try to surface. “Memories have huge staying power, but like dreams, they thrive in the dark, surviving for decades in the deep waters of our minds like shipwrecks on the sea bed.” (J. G. Ballard) Diving deep into the waters of that sea creates memories of its own, ones with perhaps too great a price tag. So, we flounder about on the surface, avoiding the wreckage that floats around us. “For people like me, who have blocked out a chunk of their past, you wonder – if you open that door, if you walk into that room of your memories, what will happen? Will it destroy you or will it make you stronger?” (Tim Daly)

The other side of our humanity cherishes the memories that make life meaningful.  We strive to capture moments in photographs, even though the images will never match our experience. Entries are written in diaries and journals, the writer hoping to memorialize the event despite the limitations of written language. Mementos are placed with love in carefully chosen boxes or containers, their existence a tangible reminder of what we fear we will forget. And those definable moments that are incapable of being captured are etched into the very fibers of our hearts and minds. Frozen in time, we visit the memory again and again, hoping to relive the experience in its completeness.

All memories, from the most horrifying to the most beautiful, have one defining characteristic. Trapped within the boundaries of time, those moments can neither be erased nor can they be duplicated. It is then we realize there is a letting go, a sacrifice, hidden deep within those memories. It is a letting go of our ability to change or remove that which we wish could be forgotten for all eternity. It is a letting go of our ability to transcend time and space to embrace and relive that which we hold dear. Limited by our humanness, we must accept the sacrifice of letting go, lest it crush us under its weight or eat us alive with desire.

There is One, however, whose memories will never be limited by the confines of time. Sharing in our humanity, His mortal life was subject to time, but His divine life is as present to us as when He walked this earth. The events of His life – from the horror of His crucifixion to the beauty in His miracles – are living, tangible events, not mere memories passed on through the ages. Through the grace of His divinity, we can enter into those events and experience them today just as if we were present 2000 years ago. “…and all that Christ is – all that He did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being present in them all.” (Catechism, 1085) Seem impossible? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) Knowing our need for His presence and as living proof, He left us with tangible signs where we can encounter Him not only through our intellect, but also touch Him through our senses: the washing waters of Baptism, the sanctifying oil of Confirmation, the transforming bread and wine of the Eucharist. He gave us signs tested by science: the Shroud of Turin and the numerous miracles of the Eucharist. What lengths He has gone to prove His presence to us, even commanding us to do likewise. “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19)

Just as we can enter each moment of His life, He is present in each moment of our lives, whether we believe it or not.  Every moment and every memory of every moment is a chance to meet Him. That memory that hides in the darkness, afraid of being discovered, afraid of being struggled with, afraid of being brought into the light, can be brought into His Passion and Crucifixion. He has already agonized over it in the Garden. He has already conquered it on the Cross. That memory that hides in the heart, afraid it will never be felt again, afraid it will consume, afraid it will fade, can be brought into His Glorious Resurrection. He has already seen its beauty and promise. He has already felt its strength and power.

Whether we are frantically running away from our memories or desperately clinging to them, it is only when we are ready to make the sacrifice of letting go, of choosing to live in the present moment fully, that we can see the marvelous new beginning He is calling us to, birthed from the memories of our lives.

As we journey through Lent, what memories are you running from?

Can you kneel with Our Lord in the Garden and let go?

Can you place them at His feet and surrender while He looks at you with love from the Cross?

As we anticipate and celebrate Easter, what memories do you cling to?

Can you relinquish them to the power of His resurrection and believe He can raise them up to reveal their beauty?

Can you trust His promise to make all things new?

Categories
Ink Slingers Lent Michelle Spiritual Growth

A Reflection Revisited: I am Barabbas

As I sat in Mass this past Sunday I struggled to participate in the Gospel reading. Each year I am choked up by the words that we are asked to say when we call for the release of the prisoner Barabbas over Jesus. Even more difficult is to participate in the demanding Christ’s crucifixion. There have been years that I simply can’t say the words and other years, like this year, that I force myself to participate.

The experience made me think about an article I wrote in 2013 called I am Barabbas. I decided that today, the day before Barabbas is released, would be a good day to ponder the reflection once again. And so my friends, I present to you I am Barabbas. I pray that it will move you and will bring you closer to Christ in your Lenten journey.

 

I remember the day as if it was yesterday and yet it was many, many years ago.  I stood with the rest of the congregation for the reading of the Gospel on Palm Sunday.  This had always been one of my favorite times of the year… receiving our palms, being able to be interactive with the Gospel as the lay people said their parts, and knowing that Easter, our most sacred day of the year, was only a week away.   As we began the Gospel reading I listened and read along with everyone else.  I was ready to speak my part when Pilate would ask us who we wished to be released… “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”  I said the words loud and clear with all those around me.

Pilate again addresses us and tells us he can find no fault in this man Jesus.  Again he asks what we want done with Him… “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  Everyone around me shouted but the words caught in my throat.  I couldn’t utter them at all.  I felt tears welling up in my eyes.  They threatened to spill over and I fought to keep them from doing so.  My mind raced and I suddenly had a vision.  I was up front, standing next to Jesus, facing the crowd.  I wasn’t just a person in the crowd wanting to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified, it was so much more than that.  What I had come to understand in that split second was that I was Barabbas and that the crowd was shouting for Christ to be crucified in my place.  I knew that while I deserved to be crucified, Jesus did not.  I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer.  They quietly slipped down my cheeks and dropped to the ground.  It was because of my sins that someone so perfect, so loving, so kind would be tortured and killed.  I hung my head in shame.   I don’t think I heard another word of the Gospel that morning.  I prayed instead that God would forgive me of all my sins that insured His son’s place on the cross.  I prayed in thanksgiving that Christ loved me so much that He would take my place.  I prayed that God would help me deserve this second chance.

We hear all the time that Christ died for our sins but how often do we truly contemplate what this really means?  When we read through the Gospel this coming Sunday I challenge you to put yourself not just in the crowd but up in front of the crowd.  Become Barabbas.  Stand next to Christ as a liar, a cheat, a thief, a murderer, and let the crowd choose you over someone who has no sin.  When you do this Christ’s offering becomes something so much more.  It becomes real.  Christ chose to stand in our place.  He suffered tremendously for us.  He died for us.  He knew our sins, our shortcomings, and our failures and yet He still stood before the crowd and let them choose to release us instead of Him.

Our lives were changed in a way we could never understand on that fateful day.  We were given a second chance at life… a chance to live our lives in a way that personifies Christ’s life and teachings.  We are called to a holiness that encompasses all that we say and do.  With this second chance we are asked to lay down our life of sin and pick up our cross as Jesus did.  We will suffer and we will die but we will be forever changed and will rise with Christ as He did that glorious Easter Sunday.

The question remains- will you stand as Barabbas, sinful and proud or will you take your place beside Christ on the cross, acknowledging your sinfulness and begging as the criminal did “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”?

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: The Feast of Christ the King (2016)

christ-the-king-2016I have never mentioned it in these posts, but most of the time I do my lectio divina prayer time in preparation for this article in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I have a regular hour on Monday nights and it is the perfect time to sit in quiet contemplation with the Word.

My parish’s Adoration Chapel is beautiful, and the architecture of it is very inviting for prayer and time with our Lord. Above our gorgeous monstrance hangs a large crucifix. This past Monday while I was reading the upcoming Sunday Gospel and writing out my thoughts, my eyes kept gazing upon the crucifix. It was pretty powerful to be contemplating both the crucifix in front of me as well as the Blessed Sacrament while reading a short account of the crucifixion. It was a great reminder of the pain and suffering Jesus went through for us.

This coming Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King. It is also my parish’s patronal feast day, so it is a big deal in my parish. I will be on retreat this weekend so will not be at my home parish for Mass, I will miss the extra musical instruments and the regal sound they bring to the music. The next time I share a lectio divina article it will be the liturgical new year. So I wish you a happy Feast of Christ the King and a good start to your Advent.

To follow along with me on this lectio divina prayer time, you will want to have the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading for November 20 handy. If you need to review the steps of lectio divina you can find a quick outline from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Remember to read the Gospel passage at the start of each of the four sections below (the ones that start with an “R” word).

READ

What caught my attention:

“Jeered at him.”

“Remember me”

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

Like I said in my introduction, I found myself continually contemplating the crucifix while I was working on this in the adoration chapel. It was hard not to do. At the same time the hymn “Jesus, remember me” kept going through my head.* It’s such a simple tune, the words are taken directly from this Gospel passage and they are the only words. As a musician I played/sang this tune many times; I find it mesmerizing. The saying, “When you sing, you pray twice” is definitely true with that hymn.

But what I found particularly fascinating about this passage was the words of the Good Thief (traditionally known as St. Dismas) that are so incredibly insightful. How is it that when everyone else thinks that this is the end, that Jesus’ death means that everything is over, this man being crucified for his criminal acts has the wisdom to know that Jesus has done nothing criminal and that he will come into his kingdom. He knows that Jesus is King!! I pray that I can have that much trust and faith.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Dear Jesus, you are my Lord and my King. Thank you for suffering for me and my sins. I pray that my trust and faith in you is enough. Please help me to increase my faith. Jesus, remember me.

REST

Spend some time in silence after your fourth reading of the passage.

YOUR TURN

Share in the comments, what do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? If you use Instagram, be sure to follow Catholic Sistas there and participate in the lectio divina discussion every Friday.

*If you are unfamiliar with the hymn “Jesus, remember me” here is a beautiful version of it on YouTube.

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Ink Slingers Karen

July: Devotion to the Precious Blood of Our Lord

Last month we explored the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This month, we explore the devotion the Precious Blood of our Lord.

July: Devotion to the Precious Blood of Our Lord

 

The Precious Blood, given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ during the Last Supper, grants us an opportunity to get closer to Jesus. It is wine that takes on the real presence of Jesus, giving us valuable graces.  

 

But even more than that, the Precious Blood refers to the blood Jesus shed for us in His sacrifice on the cross and at his circumcision after his birth. His divine blood shed for humanity is powerful! Pope John XXIII wrote a beautiful apostolic letter on the topic that can be found here

 

 

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Prayer

Please join me in praying this lovely prayer to the Precious Blood:

 

O Precious Blood of Jesus, infinite price of sinful man’s redemption, both drink and laver of our souls,

Thou who dost plead continually the cause of man before the throne of infinite mercy;

from the depths of my heart, I adore Thee, and so far as I am able,

I would requite Thee for the insults and outrages which Thou dost continually receive from human beings,

and especially from those who rashly dare to blaspheme Thee.

Who would not bless this Blood of infinite value?

July: Devotion to the Precious Blood of Our LordWho doth not feel within himself the fire of the love of Jesus who shed it all for us?

What would be my fate, had I not been redeemed by this Divine Blood?

Who hath drawn it from the veins of my Savior, even to the last drop?

Ah, this surely was the work of love. O infinite love, which has given us this saving balm!

O balm beyond all price, welling up fr

om the fountain of infinite love,

grant that every heart and every tongue may be enabled to praise Thee,

magnify Thee and give Thee thanks both now and for evermore.

Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Craft

For a nice craft to help your children understand the Precious Blood and how it ties into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, head on over to Starry Mantle for a Precious Blood craft.

Next Month: August will be the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament!

Categories
Easter Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year

The Final Days of Lent: Questions to Facilitate Lenten Reflection

Lenten reflectionToday is the 5th Friday of Lent and in just two days we’ll be celebrating Palm Sunday and ushering in Holy Week. Can you believe we’re already at the end of Lent? I feel like it has gone by really quickly this time around. But I’m glad I caught that we were near the end before we actually got to the end.

With just a few days left, I think it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned this Lent before entering into the Sacred Triduum. It’s the best time to reflect on how I fulfilled (or not fulfilled) my Lenten promises and ask myself, “Did I take on too much or not enough and did this Lent truly prepared me for the upcoming Easter season?”

I’d like to invite you to reflect on your own Lent as well. I came up with a list of questions for myself, and I hope to spend some time reflecting on each of these this weekend. I hope these questions can help all of us to reflect more deeply on our Lenten experiences.

SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:

On days when I broke my Lenten promises, was it due to forgetfulness, laziness, or weakness?

If forgetfulness, how can I help myself in the future to better remember my promised sacrifices each day?

If laziness, I should take some serious time to reflect on the root causes of my laziness. Is it due to ignorance or selfishness? Maybe it’s the result of bad habits that go back years (laziness begets laziness). Reflect on the crucifix and the wounds of Christ and pray for inspiration to help forge ahead and out of this state.

If weakness, is it because I took on too much for Lent? Lent should be hard, in a challenging way, not an impossible way. Or is it due to a lack of spiritual maturity?


Did I grow closer to Jesus Christ this Lent?

What have I done to grow my relationship with my Lord?

What could I have done better to deepen that relationship?

How might I do things differently in the future to help that relationship deepen?


D
id Lent adequately prepare my heart with a sense of anticipation for the upcoming Easter celebration?

Although I know the ultimate outcome of the Crucifixion is the Resurrection (something the Apostles did not know would happen), do I have a sense of the hopelessness and fear the Apostles had when Jesus was arrested and subsequently crucified?

Did my sacrifices this Lent draw me to a point where the celebration of Easter will be truly joyous and filled with the same kind of wonderment that the Apostles must have experienced when they discovered the empty tomb?

 

What have I learned about my faith, myself, and suffering over this Lent?

Is my faith life stronger?

Have I progressed in my spiritual life since Ash Wednesday?

Do I have a greater appreciation for suffering and the benefits suffering can bear?


What lessons from Lent do I plan to carry forward into the Easter season and beyond?

I hope you will join me this weekend in reflecting on your Lenten experiences, whether you use my questions or come up with your own. This is a perfect time to do this as we make our final preparations for Holy Week and Easter.

Are there questions you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to see them!

I wish all our dear readers a beautiful Holy Week and a joyous Easter celebration!!