If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who Will Tell Them?

Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30).

Rarely do I read this story of Sts. Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail that I don’t smile.

Of course, what the prison guard meant by his question is not really clear. Did he refer to his safety? If the prisoners escaped, he knew he would be executed -- which explains why he was about to commit suicide (v. 27). Or perhaps he had heard rumors about these two strangers who preached about an eternal salvation and the forgiveness of sins through a man called Jesus Christ.

Whatever his meaning, he was desperate. And St. Paul took advantage of the moment. "Believe in the Lord Jesus," he said, "and you and your household will be saved."

The opportunities we have to share Christ’s love and forgiveness are not usually as dramatic as this scene described in Acts 16. We do not often know what earthquakes jolt the lives of those around us. Nor do we often hear their cries for help.

But oh! That God would make us more sensitive to the needs of others and be ever ready to answer their sometimes unspoken plea, "What must I do to be saved?"

After all, if we don't tell them, who will?

And so the Church teaches: The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 850).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

God and Caesar

Jesus said to them,
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and to God the things that are God’s”
(Mark 12:17).

And I wondered
what things are God’s.

Love Him
with all your heart,
all your soul,
all your mind,
all your strength.
And your neighbor
as yourself.*

And I realized
it is easier
to give Caesar
what is his,

than God
what is His.

*Mark 12:30-31

Sunday, January 17, 2010

All They Need to Know

Though He slay me, I will trust in Him (Job 13:15)

There is something visceral, something I would call evil, about sciatic pain. It burns, twists and tears deep in my right buttock – so much so it sometimes nauseates me. And the pain is unrelenting. It hurts when I sit, when I stand, when I kneel, lie on my back, or stomach or either side. It overwhelms my thoughts during the day and taunts my sleep at night. It is the worst pain I have endured in nearly 60 years of life – worse than my two broken arms, two shoulder surgeries and a broken knee-cap. Narcotics don’t help. Anti-inflammatory meds are useless, as are sleep aids and other pills prescribed by my physician.

The other morning as I lay on the floor trying to pray, my mind drifted to Golgotha’s hill. I’ve been there many times in the past several months during my reflections on Scripture or on the crucifix across from my chair, or on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. I’ve been there so often, I can go there in my mind without much effort.

And so I saw myself kneeling before Him. His nailed feet were at my eye level. Each time He moved, a little more blood seeped from around the spike. I lifted my gaze. His body leaned forward from exhaustion. His hands held taut by the spikes. His eyes had rolled back into His head and all I could see were the whites. They were blood shot. From behind me I heard the voices. “There is no help for You in God.” “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross.”You saved others, can’t you save yourself?”

Then suddenly – so suddenly it startled me as I watched Him – Jesus arched His back. His feet pressed against the nail holding them to the wood. And from deep in His spirit He cried a mournful, frightened, confused: Eloi. Eloi. Lama Sabacthani. I’d never heard Him speak so agonizingly in my earlier meditations. He sounded desolate. Desperate. Despondent.

I knew what the words meant. I’d read the passage many times. “My God, my God. Why have You forsaken Me?”

As I lay on the floor trying to focus on what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard the crowd again: “There is no help for you in God.” “If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.” “You saved others, can’t you save yourself?”

But Jesus, having cried out, fell back to a near-limp position. If not for the nails holding Him, He’d have fallen headlong to the ground. I watched His breathing. It was labored. Almost painful. And I thought, The One who turned water to wine could have easily turned the spikes holding Him to straw. The One who healed Malchus’ ear could have easily healed His own wounds. The One who drove religious crowds from the Temple could have easily stepped from the cross and driven the mob from that hill.

Yet despite His searing pain, despite the mocking crowd, and despite even His tortured sense of abandonment by God – Jesus stayed on the cross.

Because He knew it was His Father’s will.

Many Christians endure unspeakable, devastating pain or loneliness – or both – and not just for two weeks as I have, but for decades. You probably know of some. Perhaps you yourself are among them. And they hear the whispers all the time, “There is no help for you in God.” “Why do you serve a God who treats you this way?” “Your cross is too heavy. Give it up.” And it is reasonable to ask ourselves why they continue doing the right thing.

They continue as they do – they even stay on their cross – because they know it is the Father’s will.

And in the midst of it all, that is all they need to know.