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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jesus, Please . . .

This essay is adapted from an essay in my latest book, Learning to Lean. I hope you find it an encouragement for your own relationship with Christ.

Having bought a linen cloth, [Joseph of Arimathea] took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb (Mark 15:46).

My imagination took me to the tomb. I sat against a tree and looked at the massive stone covering the cave's entrance. Several yards in front of me four guards sat around a fire. They joked. Told stories. Passed the time as they waited for the sunrise, and with it another squad of soldiers who would take over the watch so they could get some sleep.

I glanced at the sky. Lots of stars. I pulled a blanket tighter around my shoulders and looked back at the stone.

Then -- all at once, like an explosion -- light burst from around the edges of the boulder and shattered the darkness. The guards scrambled to their feet. One quickly grabbed his sword and held it at the ready. The others grabbed theirs.

And then, with my mind's eye, I watched the stone slowly roll to the right. I felt the ground groan and shudder under its weight. And I stood up, in anticipation.

But as quickly as the light appeared, it vanished. And a man dressed in a robe -- its glow fading even as I watched --the man walked from within the cave and stood a few feet beyond the opening. He looked at the guards, and they fell back in terror. They tossed their weapons away and fled toward the trees.

When they were gone, Jesus looked at me. His expression hadn't changed. I could see His face. Still Calm. Gentle. His eyes soft. I wondered why the guards fled.

I watched myself hesitate, and then walk toward Him. As I drew near, I bowed on my knees. It was then I saw His feet beneath the robe. And the scars. I sat on the dirt and stared at them.

And that was when I realized the Lord was bending toward me. In a moment He sat in the dirt in front of me. He took me into His arms, and held me.

And He held me.

And He held me.

Squeezing me into His chest, He held me.

I rested my head on His shoulder, and looked down His back. I could see the scars from the whip that sliced His skin at the whipping post. They covered His neck, shoulders and back as far as I could see down His robe.

Scars that should have been mine.

And I whispered, Jesus, please. Help me love You always.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Arise My Darling . . .

This essay appears in my latest book, Learning to Lean. I hope you find this an encouragement:


Prefiguring Christ and His Church, Solomon wrote:

[My beloved groom] . . . . says to me,"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines in bloom give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! (Song of Songs 2:9b-13).

I'd read this passage dozens of times during the past 35 years of my journey with Christ. But only recently did its message nearly overwhelm my emotions as I connected it with others I'd memorized.

Jesus said, In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be (John 14:2-3).

St. Paul added, Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with a [shout], with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Sometimes, when I read promises like these -- and especially like that from the Song of Songs in which my Groom calls me His "beloved," His "beautiful one" -- I can almost hear the Lord shout. I can almost hear the trumpet. I can almost see myself in His presence, His arms drawing me to Himself as He whispers: Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come with Me. The vines in blossom are giving off their sweet fragrance. Winter is past. Come with Me to the place I've prepared for you. A place without tears, or fear, or sorrow. A place without separation, or death.

Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

No Turning Back

I published this in my latest book, Learning to Lean. I think the message is important enough to repost it here. I hope you find it a worthwhile read.

And to another [Jesus] said, “Follow me.” But he replied . . . “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-62).

In the years – decades, actually – I’ve been a Christian, I’ve often pondered what it really means to follow Jesus.

I’ve learned through those years that no one can follow Christ without God’s grace to enable a person to even desire to follow. That’s why Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44).

But I’ve also learned through those years that once drawn, following Christ means actively growing in our obedience to His commandments. After all, can I honestly say I follow Christ if I don’t steadily work at doing as He did and speaking as He spoke?

Following Jesus means living as separated to God as possible within the limitations of my sinful nature. Following Him means developing a habit and pattern of prayer, Scripture study and service to others.

But this past weekend our parochial vicar preached a homily that, I think, gets to the root of the question about following Jesus. That root centers around a heart-change brought about by a personal – and ongoing – decision to commit oneself to the journey of following Christ.

Our vicar said it this way: How can I follow? How must I follow? Before you know how or why, decide today to do it and not look back.

The uncommitted heart can know nothing.

The committed heart will find every door opened, every secret revealed, every grace supplied. For it is only by following the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with an undivided heart that you will find true and lasting peace in this life, and bliss beyond compare in the life to come.

Our priest’s words resonated with me, and remind me -- even as I write this – of Elijah’s challenge to the people on Mount Carmel: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). The vicar’s words also remind me of a worship chorus I've sung for many years: I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back.

Lists of how-tos and how-nots are good and necessary things to help people learn how to follow Christ. But without an underpinning, an undergirding . . . a foundation built upon a decision and growing commitment to follow Him, all our lists will eventually fade into lifeless routine.

Oh, Lord, grant us grace to fully commit to follow you.