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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Veronica's Veil

This morning during my daily walk I was meditating on the Sorrowful mysteries, one that struck
particularly powerfully this morning was the Carrying of the Cross. I began to visualize as I walked and my mind was drawn to one scene in particular, that of Veronica and her veil.  Now not everyone knows the story of Veronica, but here is the legend:

The story of Veronica is not told in the gospels, but in early apocryphal writings. An early 2nd century version of The Acts of Pilate reports that a woman named Veronica (Bernice, in the Greek version) was the same woman Jesus cured of a blood disorder (Matthew 9,20-22), and that she came to his trial before Pilate to claim his innocence.

Later versions of the story from the 4th or 5th century say that Veronica possessed a cloth imprinted with the face of Jesus. Western pilgrims returning to Europe passed her story on. As the Stations of the Cross developed in late medieval times, Veronica was remembered at the 6th Station: she wipes the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary and he leaves an image of his face on her veil. A healing relic, impressed with the image of Jesus' face, which came to be known as "Veronica's Veil," was honored in St. Peter's Church in Rome as early as the 8th century.  - Stations of the Cross

As I went through the day I kept being reminded of this early morning meditation of mine, and wondering how it all tied together.  Then as I began to read and meditate on a chapter of "My Other Self" it all begin to fall into place.  So let me guide you through the thoughts I've been having today.

Veronica approached the Lord as he walked silently on the path to Calvary.  Simon the Cyrenien was carrying his cross and our Lord was the point where mortal flesh was ready to give way, and death seemed a welcome sight.  His body ripped and torn, beaten and bruised.  Spit from those who teased him ran down his face and his beard was hanging in tattered strips where they had plucked and berated him.  The thorns had worked their way deeper into his flesh, and by carrying the cross the agony of the flayed skin on his back had him wracked him pain beyond all measure. She walked up gently, bravely.   She reached out to him with a beautiful cloth and began to lovingly cleans his face.

Oh the gesture of love from this woman to her Savior, as she cleansed away the blood, sweat and tears.  As she removed the dirt and grim from his face from where he had fallen into the street.  She carefully wiped so as not to cause more pain, wincing herself as she crossed the wounds to his cheeks and forehead.  Tears filled her eyes as she saw how much he suffered for her.  The guards began to beat Jesus and she backed away with tears in her eyes, her breath catching.  She clutched this veil to her chest and fell to her knees flooded with grief and agony to see the King of the Universe, brought to such a pitiable state.

What does this tell us about our lives?  How do we apply this revelation to our walk with Christ?  Jesus told us "Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me."  If we look at this as a spiritual truth, and we look at the cross to Calvary in the light of the Sin which Jesus bore for us, it begins to show us a tender reality of how we are to deal with sin in our community, and how far we've fallen from that ideal.

When someone sins they begin to get covered in the grime of the world.  The dirt covers their face and mixes with the blood, sweat, and tears caused by and gained through that Sin.  It begins to sting their eyes and their face, making it hard to see the path ahead of them.  They may not even be able to carry their cross at this point, too weak to go on.  They can't see where they are going, or even think of where they've been.  All they know is pain.

If we truly are to be to that person as if they were Christ, it's our job to gently and lovingly caress their face with a cloth of cleansing.  How gently and lovingly would you touch the face of Jesus if he were before you in such a state?  Would you push into his wounds gratingly, demeaning him even further?  Or would you look on with understanding, with sorrow, with your breath catching and your eyes full of tears?  Would you fall to your knees in grief and agony and cry with them, as others in the community help them pick up their cross and continue on their walk towards God's will? Would you watch as they journey on clutching the cloth of the experience of having known them to your chest as a treasured possession?

Ah how short we fall.  Not only do we often not want to carry the cross of someone else, we don't even want to see them in a pitiable state.   We treat them as some outsider, the other, THEM.   We ostracize them and verbally berate them.   We talk about them behind their backs and instead of cleansing their face with a refreshing touch of love, we throw more dirt in their eyes and make them stumble away under their cross to try to get away from your glare.  We close our doors and hearts, barricading ourselves away, afraid we might get a bit of their stain on ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be.  Today, and the rest of our lives, let us try to see Jesus in every person we meet.. and if we must address their sins (and sometimes it's absolutely necessary), let us do it as gently as we would wipe the face of Christ, let us lovingly remove the dirt, blood, sweat and tears from their eyes so that they can see clearly the path before them.. and let us cherish every moment of those encounters, as we help carry the cross of someone who has fallen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Carrying the cross?

As I was walking back from the bus stop this morning, instead of praying the office of readings I decided I would do the Rosary.  This mornings mysteries were the Sorrowful Mysteries.  I began to walk along watching the squirrels running around preparing for winter, watching the parents running to school, the workers to work, the buses to their stops.  I watched as the geese flew over honking and as the leaves fell from the trees.

I began to meditate on the Carrying of the Cross.   Such a long walk it must have been to carry that cross.  As I began the mystery I did as always and said a prayer, one for the particular intent of my heart but in some way related to the mystery itself.  Then I began to pray.  As I did I began to think about the different ways we carry our crosses. But there was this notion that struck me, the cross wasn't carried in private.. it was a very public event.  So public indeed that even Simon of Cyrene was compelled into helping Jesus carry the cross.

All too often we tell people who have serious sins in their lives, oh that's your cross to bear.  We treat it as if those sins, performed in the dark away from us are not our concern, but something that they must learn to live with.  Yet, sin is not a private affair.  If you're hiding a sin from others, then it compounds the problem.  When you commit those sins in private willingly, you aren't carrying your cross.. no.. you're laying it down and walking away from it.


I'm not suggesting that every person out there should come out and begin to say to every person they meet "this is my sin."   I am suggesting though that we as Christians need other men (or women) to talk to. We need a support group to hold us accountable, and with that group we need to be 100% honest.  We need to let someone, a trusted friend, who isn't just going to be complacent and say "that's ok," know what we are struggling with.   We need to carry our cross together, and even at other times to get someone to help us bear that load, because sometimes we can't do it on our own. (I firmly believe that is the true power of the Cursillo movement, in the grouping.)

The Sacred Scriptures tell us that we are one body.  Now a body could function decently without one kidney.. but it isn't working at 100%.  Even more so, if it loses both one might still live, but how difficult does life become?  When one organ has cancer, it often doesn't stay just there.. no it spreads. We are less without you.  Period.  When you are sick? Infected with sin as it were... it makes the rest of the body suffer.  Together though, we can heal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What does it mean to be Sacramental?

 To be a sacramental person is so far beyond anything that I think we can convey in words.   It is to be Christ himself present to the world, as his hands, eyes, feet and mouth.

As a convert, the very nature of our faith is so much beyond what I felt and knew growing up.  Though my basic beliefs have not changed much, many of them have been further defined in ways that I could hardly have imagined.  Fleshed out if you will.  Baptism for instance in the church I grew up in was not a sacrament, but a symbol of an inward change.  It was something we did, not something that “did” something to us.  Seeing baptism for what it truly is makes a great deal of difference in how we react to the world.

As in baptism we are buried to the world in the tomb with Christ, and we arise a new man; so too must we think of our daily life.  When approaching others we are to be priest, prophet and king; representatives of a holy Kingdom, of Christ himself.   Our priestly role is to be liturgically present to the church and participate fully in the Mass.  We are a part of the liturgy and with the Bishop, Priests, and Deacons; we the body of Christ offer ourselves up sacramentally as a living sacrifice to be united with Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  As prophet(s) we are to be ever willing and ready to speak the word of God, by internalizing it and living the spirit of the Gospels in front of and TO every person we meet. The true King, Christ himself came as a servant, so too must we as king be servants to other, ready to pour ourselves out as a living libation in the world.

Through the sacrament of Reconciliation we are able to heal the damage we have done to our relationship with God, but also we are able to restore ourselves to right community with the body of Christ.   The grace of Christ pours out into our hearts and through the actions of our penance we are able to make 'right', what we have put wrong.  When we live this sacrament out in the world we too should be channels of grace that pour out our forgiveness to others and want to draw them closer to Christ and his church.

Through the sacrament of Confirmation we can say a resounding Yes, just as Mary, the mother of God, gave her fiat; so too must we say to Christ “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”  As living members sealed by this Sacrament, we must also go into the world renewed with energy and joy, allowing Christ to be created in us so that we can then in turn bring him into the world.  A spiritual rebirth that begins with the humbling of ourselves to do his will.

I think to sum up, as I have gone longer than a single page, the sacramental character of our lives means that we as Catholic Christians should live in the world in the exact same way we live at the Altar.  All too often we see church as an action we do on Sunday, living one way in front of the priest, and another in the parking lot on the way back into our lives.  Until we begin to not just internalize the Sacraments but to live them out fully in our lives, so that the person we are is starting to look like the person that God created us to be, can we truly begin to be the body of Christ in a world that so very much needs us!  It is only by allowing grace to flow through our lives and to restore us to the fullness of humanity that God bestowed upon our first father and mother, and restored to us through the second Adam and second Eve, Jesus and Mary, that we can begin to truly live out what we pray in the Our Father, “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Could have? Should have?

My wife and I were having a wonderfully deep conversation as I drove her in to work this morning
about the concepts of gluttony and sin, and how they could apply to diet cost and expenditure.  We then began to talk about the general judgement, what it might be like at the end of time when we all stand before Jesus and our lives are examined.  I've heard some say it might be like a big screen TV that all of the universe can see as our lives our played out, both good and bad.  While I think it will be beyond comprehension and beyond anything we can imagine or express in words, I began to wonder out loud in our conversation what it might be like indeed.

Imagine if not only your life played out, but superimposed over it was what could have been... no that's not the right word,not what could have been, but what SHOULD have been.  Those times when you did wrong and sinned, imagine if superimposed over that were what would have happened had you done what God was urging us to do instead.  The image of us stuffing our face in the middle of the night superimposed with the child that should have been fed instead.  The image of us stealing covered with the image of us giving generously of our time and talent.

All of this covered not with our emotions and thoughts at the time, but with the sorrow of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at our choices, and of the pain caused in the world by them.  How much different our lives might be if we were to think of each action as a prayer to God, thus "praying at all times without ceasing."

After my wife went into her work I began to play the divine office morning prayer as the sun was rising over the hills behind me, and this verse stuck out: Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.

How appropriate.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sept 11, 13 years later.


As I was doing my morning walk after getting my daughter on the bus, I began to listen to the office of readings. My mind began to wander as the Psalms were being read to me, and I began to meditate sincerely on this set of verses: 
O Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to the next.
Before the mountains were born
or the earth or the world brought forth,
you are God, without beginning or end.
You turn men back into dust
and say: “Go back, sons of men.”
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night.
You sweep men away like a dream,
like grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
by evening it withers and fades.

How fleeting mankind is, from moment to moment. The universe we believe to be billions of years old. Mankind itself thousands and thousands of years. The life of a tree in the multiple hundreds of years, the life of turtles and some reptiles beyond our capacity. Yet we have an inflated sense of ego. We believe we are so much more important than everything else, as if God saw something in us that deserved his love. Those who claim we cannot merit God's love, then seem to feel that somehow they earned it, by being man.

How little we truly are in comparison to the expanse of the universe, how fleeting we are. I pondered how that grass grows every year, but it's a new blade, the old having withered and died. The root is the same, but the blade is refreshed, new cells, new life. Much like humanity that continues on with or without us, blades that may or may not be remembered in the breath of time. Yet God loves us. What is man then that God is mindful of us? We don't deserve it. We are just grains of sand on a beach of time, being washed in and out of the shore. Will anyone remember me 10 years after I am gone? 20? 100? Or will I like the countless others be simply another leaf that has fallen from the tree of life, gone on into eternity but forgotten here. 


These are my thoughts on the memorial of 9/11... what are yours?