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Ink Slingers

Life Goals

It happens to me every time I attend a funeral, especially a Catholic funeral Mass. I cry, I mourn and I thank God for the Catholic Church. A Requiem Mass is not just a ceremony but a prayer filled, beautiful sending home. While the loss of a loved one is always sorrowful, this goodbye always leaves me filled with hope. And, without exception, I find myself thinking on the spoken remembrances of the deceased. I am always moved to hear the story of their life and how they touched the lives of others. I enter into a reflection of my own life; am I living the best life I am capable of? Am I fulfilling what I was created for? Or, am I so busy living for today that I have forgotten I am not meant for this world?

Who do I say I am?

Would I be recognized as being a woman who knows who I am and whose I am? My identity is to be found in Christ.  I am a child of God. I am a wife, a mother, sister and friend loved into being by God. My faith in God is the core of who I am. I have finally come to understand, that my strength as a woman, wife and mother originates and stands firm in the knowledge that I am first a daughter of our heavenly Father. The deeper I trust in this, the better equipped I am to completely let go of the unrealistic worldly expectations placed on me as a woman. I can abandon myself to Him. I have nothing to fear knowing He will never leave me.  I am certain that if God is not the center of my life, it’s not a fruitful life.   I have tried doing life without keeping my gaze on Christ and found little success in living joyfully or peacefully.  Without God as my anchor, my spiritual and mental well-being is so easily disturbed. When I rely solely on my own power, I close myself off to allowing the Spirit to move in me and through me. I become so easily distracted by the unnecessary flighty things of today. Disappointments and frustrations follow me when I am solely focused on seeking worldly approval and accolades. As Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen, reminds me “we must daily claim the love of God” by cooperating with His desire to draw me in closer and closer to Himself, the source of Truth and Love. I am beloved.

We are all saints in training.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:21)  I am thankful for a great many things in my life, next to faith; motherhood has been the greatest gift I have received.  Becoming a wife and a mother has both ruined and transformed me. I can think of nothing that compares to the joy of embracing my babies, growing with them as my heart stretches near to breaking and overflows with all that is bittersweet on the journey of motherhood. Sharing in this blessing with my husband has magnified the wonder of it all.  I have always wanted to be a mother and to have a family; this vocation has fulfilled the desire of my heart. Marriage and motherhood are intensely beautiful, although neither is easy nor perfect. Ever. But, the beauty is, I am being refined and perfected in these roles. God is using the people and the relationships I cherish to teach me to love better, to forgive more and to grow in mercy. It is in persevering in this tiring and trying work of caring for and loving my family well that I am growing in holiness. They are my treasures on this journey. And, every instance that I am able to be generous in self-giving it is as my grandmother would often say, “another jewel in my crown”.  Family life and relationships are the place we learn to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). God’s will is that all of His children become holy. We are called to live courageously as saints in training, that we may receive our crown of glory.

It is good to keep the end in mind.

Do I acknowledge and share with others that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Am I living as if He is my only hope? Am I greeting each new day with the end of this life in mind? I know, who wants to think of their death? It is not pleasant, demanding really. But, I hope that as my life is running its course towards its eventual unknown end, I am clinging hard to my faith while keeping my heart wide open. The example of my life is certainly not always pretty; I can be hard of heart, stubborn and judgmental. That friend I have been giving the silent treatment, the child I exasperatedly snapped at, the disrespect I threw at my husband,… these are the moments I need the Holy Spirit to remind me I have taken my eyes off Jesus and it is time to turn and plead forgiveness. The gate is narrow. The way is strenuous. I have found great help in leaning on Mary, our Blessed Mother, who proclaimed do whatever He tells you. Our Lady is a constant, gentle guide along the way, leading her children to her Son. In the end, when I arrive at my eternal destination, I pray I am bruised and exhausted from persevering in the loving and serving that has been asked of me, so that it is in the glorious beatific vision I find myself resting.

Heaven “is neither an abstraction not a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.
It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.”
-Pope St. John Paul II 

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (2016)

thirty-second-sunday-in-ordinary-timeLectio divina is a truly powerful prayer. It’s a prayer with a formula to follow rather than specific words to say and meditate on. In these lectio divina posts I have been using the upcoming Sunday Gospel readings. However, you can use this anytime you are reading your Bible (just stop when a word or phrase catches your attention and go from there). Remember that this is a prayer and thus you want to find a quiet place and set aside some time in which to devote to it.

Definitely read Scripture whenever you can and however you are able. That is most important. In addition to this, a great goal is to set aside 15-20 minutes at least once a week to pray in the manner of lectio divina. Once a day would be great, but start with once a week and see how it goes.

To follow along with me on this lectio divina prayer time, you will want to have the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, November 6, ready. 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:

“deny that there is a resurrection”

“can no longer die”

“all are alive”

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

As a child, the thought of death scared me beyond anything I could imagine. I used to lay in bed wondering whether death would be nothing but emptiness where we cease to exist or if there was something beyond this world. As I have grown in my faith I definitely believe in God and heaven and that we will all be resurrected one day.

Reading Sunday’s Gospel passage I noticed something I had never noticed before. At the very beginning Luke tells us that these Sadducees deny there there will be a resurrection. I had always looked at this passage as being about marriage (yea, I know, I’m clueless sometimes!). While marriage is part of it, the main point is that the resurrection is real.

God didn’t intend for humans to die, he wanted us to live with him forever like the angels. With original sin that relationship was broken, but Jesus offers a way to repair it. If we live faithful, worthy lives we will rise again, body and soul, and join God and the angels and saints in heaven.

I can’t imagine how the Sadducees reacted to Jesus response. Did it satisfy them? Did it give them hope? Did it make them reconsider their position? Or did they just walk away mumbling about that crazy Jesus and his far out ideas?

For me, reflecting on this, God is telling me to have hope, to be a good steward of all the blessings I have been given, to take care of my body as well as my soul, and to not fear death for the resurrection will be a reality one day. For as Jesus tells us, “he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

My Lord God, help me to never forget your infinite love for me. Because you love me, I know you want me to live with you forever. So often it is hard to imagine that you can care so much for me, just one very insignificant human among billions. But time and again you remind me that I am one of your children and a loving father never forgets his children. For this reason I know you have plans for me to be with you in heaven one day. I pray that I can be worthy of that special gift when my time comes. Unlike the Sadducees, I do believe and, as we say in our Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

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? You can also join the conversation on the Catholic Sistas’ Instagram account, but I’d love to hear your thoughts here too.

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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Series You Did It To Me

You Did it to Me: To Bury the Dead

Welcome to the series “You did it to me” where we will be discussing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This will be a twice a month series from March to September 2015. We hope you enjoy!

Bury dead

 

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. (1 Corinthians 15:42-43)

Think about the basic needs your body has. Food and water are basic needs to survive. We also need shelter and clothing. This is the very basics of what we as human needs. It makes sense that four of the Corporal Works of Mercy all have to do with providing these basic needs to those who lack them. Two others, visiting the sick and visiting the imprisoned, bring relief to a body that is under undue stress of one form or another. The last one seemed a bit out of place to me at first.

How is burial of the dead a corporal work of mercy? How does burial of the dead help the body in any way once the soul has left it? I believe that these questions came to my mind because I take it for granted that we do bury our dead. Essentially, I had just never thought about the why.

So why do we bury our dead? I’ve always taken it for granted that when a loved one dies there would be a funeral and the body would be buried properly. That’s the culture I have grown up in and I imagine most of us have similar expectations.

The basic answer is that we believe in the Resurrection of Christ and His Resurrection brings us hope for the resurrection of our own the body one day. Whenever you proclaim the Nicene Creed you say, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead.” In the Apostles Creed we declare, “I believe … in the resurrection of the body.” We are an Easter people, we believe in the resurrection of the body and we anticipate it. We must prepare ourselves not just spiritually for final judgement but also corporally for the resurrection of our body.

In contemplating this work of mercy it occurred to me that to bury the dead also fits in with the Theology of the Body that was given to us by Pope St. John Paul the Great. The Catechism tells us, “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection. The burial of the dead is a corporal work of mercy; it honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2300).

Respect for the body. The body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. It all fits perfectly with the Theology of the Body. Our bodies are due the same respect and care in death as in life.

But what is really special about this? For most of us, this is pretty routine. We have funeral homes that care for the body, we have carefully crafted funeral rites to give honor to the person’s life, we participate in wakes, comforting the family members and bring them meals, helping with their needs during their time of mourning. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the simple act of the burial as a work of mercy because it is commonplace in our first-world culture. But this isn’t the case in other parts of our world and it certainly was not the case in early Christianity.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters also have a deep respect for the body and have very careful laws and commandments on care for the dead and their burial. We see this in the Old Testament in Tobit 1:16-19, Sirach 38:16, and 2 Maccabees 12:39. In addition, some of the Jewish customs of burial are also detailed in the burial of Jesus (see Luke 23:50-56 as one example; for more on Jewish burial traditions, see Judaism 101). In many ways, as Christians, we inherited this respect for the body from our Jewish predecessors. So imagine the early Christians being martyred and their surviving relatives and friends wanting to bury them in the proper way.

Until I was doing my preparatory reading I hadn’t considered what actually happened to the bodies of the early martyrs or how they were able to receive a proper burial (when they did). Those who persecuted the Christians would have known that the survivors would want to bury the dead. In my imagination I can see the persecutors getting rid of the bodies in ways that would have horrified the early Christians, blaspheming the body or cremating it. The body could also have been left out like “bait” to capture other Christians who tried to retrieve the body for proper burial. It was dangerous work and Christians risked their own lives in an attempt to bury the martyrs. (Reference HERE.)

Looking at modern current events, I wonder about the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Syria, Iraq, other parts of the Middle East, and parts of Africa, plus in many other parts of the world. Are those that are killed able to be given proper burial? Back home here in the States, we have many dead who also do not receive proper burial. Aborted children are considered medical waste and are tossed out. The homeless who die on the streets, are their bodies treated with respect? In some places, maybe yes, but in others, maybe not.

All of this put together tells me one thing: we must care for the body in death with as much respect and consideration as we do in life. Thus, all persons deserve a proper burial: the elderly who die in bed, the soldier who dies in battle, the sick who dies of illness, the baby who dies in the womb.

My son, shed tears for one who is dead
with wailing and bitter lament;
As is only proper, prepare the body,
absent not yourself from his burial.

(Sirach 38:16)

N.B. For anyone who might want to jump on the mention of cremation a few paragraphs back in reference to persecutors of the early Christians cremating the bodies of martyrs. The pagans thought that cremation would make the resurrection of the body impossible, although we believe that God is not limited by such things. However, cremation was at one time banned, primarily as a way of combating the Gnostic heresy that all matter is evil. Currently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of the faith in the resurrection of the body” (CCC 2301).