Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: Lectio Divina: The Sacraments in Scripture

Lectio Divina has been a desire of my heart for several years now, but with kids and a busy household, I've found it trying to say the least.  Knowing that Stephen J. Binz has written wonderful books about our Catholic faith with endorsements from the likes of newly promoted Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Wuerl of DC, and Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, also the Chair of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship, I found his book "Lectio Divina Bible Study: Sacraments" unavoidable.

Lectio Divina is the form of prayer that consists of reading scripture slowly and meditating upon the Words grasping the meaning personal to the reader. Listening and understanding God's message during a time spent with Him reading the scriptures is a beautiful way of bonding with God.  It takes some dedication and direction for those of us in whirlwind busy households, but under Mr. Binz's guidance, it's easy!  I personally enjoyed and gleaned much from his reflections

The book is broken down into six sections from the Sacramental work of Christ in His Church, the Initiation Sacraments, Eucharist, the sacraments of healing and the sacraments at the Service of Communion.  In each section, Mr. Binz  selects biblical reading pertinent to the topic, then breaks down the scripture into these five sections of contemplation: Listening, Understanding, Reflecting, praying, and acting.  I'm so glad he encourages the reader to mark up the pages as much as we need; going through this book, I used 2 highlighters!

Lectio Divina Bible Study: The Sacraments in Scripture" is a great addition to one's library and it is geared toward individual AND group study, so you can bring this to your parish and study it as a group!  I fully endorse and encourage my readers to get this book and use it, it will be a treasure for your spiritual life.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Lectio Divina Bible Study: Sacraments. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Triduum and some Stations of the Cross thoughts

Stations of the Cross meditation
It’s Good Friday, we read the Stations of the Cross together as a family, except our middle child whom I discovered asleep.  I was disappointed, but didn’t disturb her.  We read from the Lent 2012 edition from The Magnificat, what a beautiful interpretation, with Genesis references.   We read it at 3:00pm this afternoon with everything off and we traded off reading each station.  Then my knight read the Passion account from John and we discussed how the gospels differ.  I still like Luke’s version for the story of the two thieves and the forgiveness at the last minute.  Forgiveness at the last possible moment of life on this side of eternity is mercy to an amazingly inconceivable degree; only divinely instituted, taught, and expected from us.  It touches me completely and gives me, this lowly sinner, hope. 

As Jesus sets out on His Passion, He is not alone; he is together with His Father.  Christ prays constantly, looking to His father throughout His short life, never alone.   As he meets His mother, Mary, He sees the complete sorrow and helpless she is.  Our sins may have been done in the darkness of our hearts, but they are revealed in the light and effects other all around us.  Christ is the sacrificial lamb, pure and without sin, but for us we are not, we are as black as night and stand guilty for sins we cannot even recognize at times.  When will that knowledge be widespread?  When will we realize that our sins are relational, that they may be done in secret, but they hurt so many…some we do not even know?  We are never alone, never.

Simon, walking along the road in the city, minding his own business, gets caught up in the passion scene for a cameo role.  He accepts Christ’s cross and helps Him along his treatous journey to Golgotha.  We don’t hear how long he carries Christ’s cross, but we know that he does.  Who is Simon?  Why was he chosen to do this task that goes down in salvation history?  An interesting spin on this is that Simon doesn’t carry a basket of fruit for an old lady across the street, he isn’t asked to run a message to another, it’s not too plain a thing at all.  Simon is asked to help Christ…..THE Christ.  Does he know this and still he says yes.  He stops his own daily life for another, for Christ!  So this small effort, this small deed put upon his becomes a forever incident. Not to ever be an insignificant moment.

Oh Veronica!  I have longed to write about her!  Her moment in salvation history touches me to the core!  Where did she come from? She knew him and she loved him and wanted to care for him.  I feel for her and feel the energy of her story.  I don’t know if she really existed or whether this instance really happened, but if I were there, it would have happened!  I would have been so overwhelmed that I would push through the crowds and shove soldiers aside to tend to Him. There are injustices everywhere, many that cannot be prevented, and some we dare not approach, we have a complacent nature, don’t we?  Only a precious few dare take a stand and be noticed.  This is the story of Veronica, she dared.   She dared to love, show faith, and allegiance in the name of truth and justice!  

Speaking of love, what kind of emotion are we talking about here?  Love, God’s gift to man apart from all other creation, is not conditional, and here is the perfect and inconceivable example of it.  There is no other way to explain or demonstrate perfect unconditional love that sacrificing the God-man, son of God the creator.  If it is conditional, it isn’t really love.  Love knows no set of conditions, no set of rules, no set of demands of another, does it?  Did God make Jesus become human, suffer and die, to make us Love Him?  Everything He did, he did out of perfect love for His children.  Love for us and mercy towards us.  As the creator of the universe, I find it tremendously difficult to think God needs us…he doesn’t.  But he wants us, that is the difference.  Praise God, He WANTS us and not needs us.  Think about this for a moment, we are wanted!

When I think of this, I can’t help but think about those that have turned their backs to Him.  Knowing Him and all that he has done for us throughout the history of the world, backs are turned away for Him.  I find this so hard to believe.  Yes, I have felt His presence in my life, heard His answers as plain as day to questions I have asked.  But still, I pine for Him and His reassurance that I’m ok in His book.  I truly believe in God, I believe in Christ’s passion and death, and resurrection.  I firmly believe in what He did for us and why.
God WANTS us; no He doesn’t need us at all.  He loves us and wants us to be with him forever.  He has proven that by sending Jesus, his only begotten son, to become one of us, be persecuted by us and die. Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught lessons so perfectly, knew how to speak to us that we would have to study His words and understand them on our own terms.  Only a perfection, a creator larger and out of our conception would demonstrate these things.  I am in awe when I read the Bible, when I see the correlation between the old and the new testaments. It’s amazing that we have a God that loves us so much as to demonstrate it in such a way that brings us to our knees.

Tonight, I am on my knees, in prayer, in awe, in complete useless, sinful me.   Thank you dear amazing Jesus, thank you God for wanting us!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week 2012, how are you going to die to self?

This is Holy Week; the last lap of the Lenten marathon in our effort to go deeper in our faith,  grow stronger in our spirituality, and to get closer to God; now Christ’s passion is upon us.  We have been talking about death, an aspect of our lives that we tend to avoid at all costs for the most part.  If you have been attending the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during these weeks, you relive the passion of Christ and if you have gone more than once, you relive it over and over.  Does it get any better, easier to hear?  Do you picture this event as a bystander in the crowd?  Have you ever tried to put yourself in the place of Mary, watching her son in the midst of His passion?  Could you bare it any better than she?  How about Veronica, have you ever thought about her role?  I totally admire her!  Here on the road to Christ’s crucifixion, she fights through the angry crowd, probably shoves a guard or two getting to Jesus to wipe His face.  Her love and devotion, mourning and terror overwhelm her to the point of action!  How many of us have had a surge of emotion overwhelm us to the point of action?  In the middle of Wal-Mart 17 years ago, my knight, son and I were shopping; I left them with our infant daughter to go across the store for diapers.  From a good distance as I was returning to them, I saw our infant in her carrier in the middle of the aisle with no one guarding her, instantly I began running towards her.  I know I bumped several people and moved a few carts (shoved??) aside to get to my helpless, unguarded infant.  When I got there, both my knight and son were down the other end of the aisle immersed in a toy or something and totally not watching (guarding) the baby!!  I was not to be argued with at that moment and they knew it.  I took control of the situation immediately and from that point on, believe me!

Not so for our beloved Mary, she had no control over this situation; she had to let it happen…”Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me (or for this instance Jesus) according to thy word.”  She was given the heads up long ago about this day by Simone in the temple, but could this day be given to someone else?  Could she have another day with him?  God’s plan must be carried out and Jesus knew that and would have fought her about it anyhow.  The Incarnate knew His purpose, knew His role, and knew that this day was coming and was preparing for it.  Mary was totally helpless at that moment of time as she basically was her entire life; her faith was strong enough to carry out the plans of God for her.  As a human, though, it could not have been any easier, however.  Oh no!  Jesus was her life; He was her child for 33 years, which is a very long time to be so bonded to have it taken away.  Yes, he was in ministry for three years and she probably didn’t see Him much, but she knew He was still her son near or far away.  I am the mother of a son who lives over two hours away, I don’t get to see him but a few times a year now, but I know he is there and still my son.

During this week, we will be talking more and more about the Passion of Christ, how he died so cruelly at the hands of an angry, zealous crowd.  There will be no happy talk, just death which is way too hard to talk about much less contemplate it for an entire week, don’t you think?  But let’s put another spin on it for a moment.  When we talk about fasting, almsgiving, and prayer; basically we are talking about dying to ourselves.  Giving up things that we take for granted and enjoy like giving up chocolate, TV, or the computer.  Fasting from meat on Fridays, abstaining from eating an hour before and after Mass each day we attend Mass, donating to the poor, giving to the rice bowl, or just making an extra offering to the basket each week during Lent, praying more, finding a devotional to follow during Lent; which is a popular activity here at the Pillar household.  All these activities are about dying to self.  Dying to our own selfish desires may take some thought, but we can do it.  Just think about some of the favorite things that you enjoy; a hot shower, that beloved morning cup of coffee, dessert after a good meal, going to the mall, spending an hour or more on Facebook, playing games on your smartphone or online; how about letting others in line first, not taking the last cookie in the jar, saving the last swig of milk in the frig for the next person , purchasing something new for someone else instead of yourself are all small things, but enough to make a difference for this week.

Take the challenge to die to selfish things this week, think before you do something and see if possibly this could be done for someone else instead.  Possibly attend Mass for someone else, offering the needs and concerns of another for that hour before our Lord?  There is a beauty in giving, giving it up, and offering an activity for others.  Mary gave her entire life to God and His plan.  In studying the lives of the saints, they too gave so much of their lives to the service of others and especially to God.  They returned their sufferings and trials to God knowing that in this dying to themselves they were blessing God and others around them.  In our dying to ourselves, we are not working solely or in a solitary moment, but with and for those around us.  Nothing we do is a solitary act, we are never alone, we affect others in one way or another…always.

Some say it’s too late to get it right since they failed to accomplish what they planned to do during these 40 days; but they are wrong!   Many families will make this week as quiet and solemn as possible to allow contemplation and prayer.  We can all make a difference one day at a time, one act at a time, one moment at a time.   

This is my prayer for my family and for you as well.