Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, December 28, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Jesus Came To Rescue Me

I grew up in a family that put up Christmas decorations during Advent, listened to Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving and turned it off the day after Christmas. I continued this tradition with my own family. I usually spend most of Advent worrying about what I haven’t done, instead of contemplating “Who” is to come. During the Christmas Mass I end up looking at the nativity scene realizing I did not think much about baby Jesus during the 4 weeks prior to His birth. I allow the world’s spin on what the holy day should be trump the suggestions of the Church. I get nostalgic listening to the carols with sadness deep inside me due to unfulfilled expectations of how I believe the Christmas season should have played out. Taking down the decorations usually has me mourning the season, believing it is over - when in actuality it is just beginning.

This year I finally visited with my spiritual director about the melancholy that arises inside every time I hear a Christmas song play. He helped me see that my inability to focus on Jesus during Advent is exactly why Jesus came for me - to rescue me from my skewed faith and my temptations to seek the world’s way. Jesus came for ME. This was something new to my ears. I had never personalized Jesus’ birth like this before. To think that God loves me so much as to send His Son to rescue me. WOW! All of a sudden Advent seemed more hopeful. It became a time of awaiting the Christmas Mass when Jesus would arrive for me.

My entrustment to Mary helped me in this awaiting. Reflecting on her life during Advent, helped me see how she trusted in God’s plan - keeping her focus on the Son to be born - while not contesting the awful conditions and trials that came her way. When I wanted to complain that I had too much to do in preparing for Christmas – her life brought to light that Jesus - not gifts/cookies/cards/decorations/etc. - is the reason for the season. I found comfort imagining how she carries me in her arms, just as she carried the infant Jesus.

It was a special Christmas this year. Every time I started to succumb to the sadness I would remember that Jesus was coming to rescue me and my spirits were lifted. Maybe some readers have felt the same, and can also join in this good news – that God has sent His Son to rescue you, too! Knowing this truth certainly brings peace and joy, and a blessed hope for the New Year to come!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Finding Hope in God's Will

My son, 11 years old, loves to linger at bedtime.  Even after a shower, prayer time, and some reading, he will usually find a reason to come out of his room one last time to share an anecdote from the day, express a concern, ask a deep question, or fetch a glass of water.  It seems to me that he enjoys a bit of one on one time with his dad and me, and/or he is a naturally social person who enjoys social activity and conversation as opposed to sleep or quiet down time.  I am usually a bit frustrated as I am looking forward to the quiet and my own down time with my husband, but I try to remind myself that these days will be missed one day, and that I am given a valuable gift of my son’s openness and joy to be with his parents.  Still, I am “Control Freak” and it bothers me that he does not “obey” our instructions to go to bed in a timely manner.

Earlier today there was some discussion about the possibility of his being able to stay overnight with his cousin tomorrow.  After prayer time, he said his goodnights and we did not hear a peep out of him for the rest of the night.  My husband noticed this and asked what I thought about it.  We had been reprimanding our children about listening to our instructions the first time for weeks (well, years to be honest!).  And I have to admit that his obedience surprised me!  I wondered if his obedience had to do with wanting to please us so we would say yes to his outing with his cousin.  But maybe he was trying to make an effort to listen the first time.  Or maybe he was just plain old tired and ready for sleep!  My husband, as he himself drifted off to sleep, said, “Whatever the reason, we just need to love him.”

I started to wonder about my own motivations before my Heavenly Father.  How pure are my intentions?  I am starting to recognize that I am mostly motivated by whatever is convenient for myself.  I get upset with my children or my husband for their mistakes mostly because of how it affects me!  I get upset at my daughters’ bickering primarily because they might wake the baby and cause extra work for me!  Instead of living out my vocation as mother with humility and God’s grace, I am irritated at my children’s need for repeated guidance and discipline because it is inconvenient for me!

For what do we really live?  Do we live to eat, drink, and die?  Is life all about spending time in an increasingly more pleasant way while we are healthy, only to grow old and die in tremendous pain and suffering as the majority of people do in the end?  What is the purpose of our lives?  Is it to have a comfortable standard of living in this world?  The Lord God created us so that we would live according to His image and likeness.  Is it real when we please our own egos by professing the principle:  My will be done? 

…Christ says, “…my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt 11:30).  We can experience this when we follow the rule:  Your will be done.  If we follow this rule, then our lives will become much easier and simpler...  These words point out the path that leads to eternal happiness.  These words are our road signs toward the heavenly homeland…

…Even if we intellectually accept that God’s will is the best, we often strive to convince not only ourselves and others, but also God Himself, that our own wants coincide with His will…

…Is it possible for a person who is very weak and fragile to live by his own strength according to the words: fiat voluntas Tua?  If you see how being obedient to God’s will is difficult for you, then you can ask Mary to live in obedience to God’s will in you.  After all, she was the first to fully and perfectly utter fiat to God.  She alone repeatedly gave that fiat for her entire life.  Mary is our Mother.  God gives her to us as a special help…
(S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ (Fort Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005),102, 105, 106, 107).

I am that person who is very weak and fragile and who cannot, on my own, humbly and joyfully seek God’s will.  As Christmas approaches, I am ever more grateful for Mary’s fiat, her “yes” to God’s will. I see my own need for Christ the Savior.  I see Him as my true Hope. In His incomprehensible love, God brings me His Son.  And He brings Him through our Blessed Mama, who leads me back to Him again and again.

My husband’s reminder that we just need to love our children regardless of their motivation reminds me that God loves me as I am, too.  So much so that “a child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Isaiah 9:5). Merry Christmas.    

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Benefiting from My Misery

I was in a really bad mood on Monday. The mood just “was” and no logic was going to explain it or change it. I was presented with a choice – allow it to affect my whole day and the day of all those in my path, or beg for graces.

I started off allowing it to affect my day and the day of my 3 year old. I was quick to put the blame on her that we would be arriving late to Holy Mass. I was annoyed to go to Mass because it takes effort to get the Little One ready, in the car, fed and rested enough to go. She was her usual slow self.  But, it wasn’t her fault that we were getting in the car late – it was mine because of my priorities 1) email, 2) Facebook, and 3) vanity. All turned into “non-negotiables” when, in the light of faith, they had nothing to do with preparing my heart or my daughter in time for Mass.

On the way into the church, I knew I was going to have a battle with the Little One about where to sit. She likes to sit behind the glass looking into the church. I don’t usually want to sit there because I feel separated from the experience, as if I am watching a TV.  But, since we were late, I decided we would sit there, but I wanted the Little One to know it was MY decision, not hers, so I held her extra tight and fought her desire to get down. That wasn't practical, so I let her down due to the squirming. She then got herself situated and wanted back up into my arms. What was my response to her request of arms outstretched? “No! You wanted to get down so you stay there.” She was so persistent. But so was I. I even had the gall to put my two hands behind my back. She climbed onto my lap and whispered into my ear “I want you to wrap your arms around me!”

Oh bother! How obstinate I was being! I could see plainly that Blessed Mother was talking to me through the Little One.  What a scandal to not immediately respond to my Little One by quickly holding her tight! How will she believe in the spirituality of communion of life with Christ through Mary if I don’t love her immediately when she seeks that love?! It was a true battle in my soul. I was helpless. I begged Blessed Mother to soften my heart. I was looking at the Tabernacle at the front of the church and hearing Jesus asking me “Do you believe I can heal you?” I was responding “Help my unbelief! Oh Mary, be my belief!” And, truly, only by the grace of God and Mary’s faithfulness to me, I put my arms around the Little One and held her tight. She stayed there most of the Mass.

I believe that this whole situation was provided to me as a grace. Because of my communion of life with Christ though Mary, I am able to see who I am. The bad mood, the Little One’s persistence, the awareness of my horrible priorities, and the obstinate hardness of heart…these are all my miseries. Mary lets me see the truth of my misery so that I have a reason to await Jesus’ Coming. I have a reason to need Him – and that is going to make this Christmas all the more special.  

The Families of Nazareth Movement Charism/Spirituality: "By the grace of the Holy Spirit, through Our Blessed Mother, we aren't afraid to present to God our weaknesses and misery. In fact, we benefit from our weaknesses because they help us to more fully experience God's Redemptive Mercy, especially in and through the Eucharist and Confession. Surrendering to God's will through Mary, we entrust ourselves to her so that she will lead us to humility, trust, and total obedience to God. In her arms, we can become Eucharistic People in order to receive and spread His Mercy to others with childlike trust. We recognize that the graces received from spiritual direction and frequent participation in the sacraments and in retreats assist us in this."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Entrustment To Mary = Surrendering To God

I find it hard to surrender to God’s will, as I am still battling my will be done. [1]   For example, our daughter just delivered our first grandbaby. My husband and I took a 2 day car trip to be with them for the delivery. We arrived 5 days before her due date in hopes that she would deliver early. We wanted as much time with the baby as possible. Day after day went by with no grandbaby. We would take long walks hoping to start labor. As we walked we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet letting God know we trusted in His timing. But then afterward we would go straight into discussions on other ways we could try to put her into labor. We even scanned the internet for clues. We discovered that eggplant parmesan is a good meal for pregnant women to eat to induce labor.    
I saw how hard it was for me to be patient and allow God to be in charge and to await our grandbaby’s birth according to His plan not ours. Yet God’s ways are so much better than ours. Looking back I realize how special it was to be with our daughter and son-in-law during that time prior to the birth.  Also, God had her go into labor the night before her husband had to leave for a three day field training. So he was able to be with her during the whole labor/delivery process. And, we grandparents had a full week of good slumber before experiencing the wakeful nights of a newborn. 

God’s plans are always the best – yet I easily forget this beautiful truth. This is where my entrustment to Mary helps me. Mary was always trusting God’s plans and surrendered her whole being to Him -  never taking back or desiring control of a situation.[2] By admitting my lack of abandonment to God and allowing Blessed Mom to guide me - WE can start trusting and surrendering together. I know growing in abandonment to God may be a long process for me, as I have lived most of my life fighting it. But with Blessed Mom leading me I know I can trudge along the right path, all the while being loved as I am. I anticipate God will soon give me conditions to practice this surrendering as currently Advent is speeding by and Christmas is approaching with the temptation to fall into worldly expectations for this holy season.

[1] "The essence of Christianity is the continual saying to God, Thy will be done. The Blessed Mother continually repeated these words to God." Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith, 3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), 122. Used with permission.

[2] "During our storms and our trials of faith, we must also never forget about the continuous presence of Mary who is close to us as the Mother of our abandonment to God. Let us ask her to allow us to share in her abandonment to God, so that we may stop trusting ourselves, things, and people, and that we may perceive the continuous presence of her son who is close to us and is our only security. We ask Mary that, following her example, we trust exclusively in the Lord: Mother of Great Abandonment, I offer myself to you without reservation to the end." Ibid, 125.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Entrustment to Mary = Not Avoiding the Confessional!

My daughter is preparing for her First Reconciliation this year.  A few weeks ago I went to the parent meeting in the church and I was so pleased to hear the emphasis they had on this Sacrament, like all Sacraments, being a celebration.  The director of religious education did not rush into sharing the details of the date, time, where, dress code, format..etc. of the special event, but rather provided time for us parents to understand this sacrament from a loving perspective.  She challenged us to reflect on our image of this sacrament, to better ensure we pass on a healthy and accurate image of this grace-filled reconciliation with our Heavenly Father to our children.  She encouraged the parents to not look at this Sacrament of Reconciliation as a requirement to receive the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, but to see the valuable gift it is in itself.  She encouraged us to use the materials provided to teach and educate and prepare the children ourselves, along with the classes, and take advantage of the retreat this winter to further enhance the experience for our children.

I was so relieved!  So many times this Sacrament has negative connotations and so many times the graces of this Sacrament are wasted in our Church today!  So many times this Sacrament is avoided out of fear of forgetting the formalities, or embarrassment of confessing our sinfulness.  Or because we simply don’t think we are sinners. 

I myself have some not-too-fond memories of this sacrament, i.e. being reprimanded as a child for not remembering how long it had been since I last went and so on.  Luckily I had been blessed by my dad, who went regularly and invited my sisters and me to go with him on Saturday afternoons.  I was able to move past my humiliation and continue to go.  But it wasn’t until about ten years ago that I was graced with a particularly wonderful confession that has changed things ever since.  My life has truly been transformed since that particular confession.  What made it different from other times is that I was completely open.  Completely honest.  No holding back.  I confessed my sin with all of its layers, all of its hidden motivations.  It was embarrassing and humiliating.  And yet – very freeing.  God knew all of it anyway.  Who had I been kidding?  The barriers I put up between God and myself started to tumble down.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable and to stand in truth, honest about my weakness.  And I heard the words of absolution.  Joyful words of absolution and an outpouring of mercy.  It was in that confessional that I was convinced that I was not loved because I was perfect, or that I earned love by being good.  God had loved me all the time.  The difference was that in sharing how very miserable I was, and God STILL forgave, and STILL loved me, I could see that God’s love is so very different from human love.  God’s love is pure.  And that showed me my place before Him.  He is God Almighty, all-loving, all-powerful, and I am His little child.  His Love became something so much more significant.  I understood that God loved me even though I didn’t deserve it.  And to me, I finally understood what mercy meant.  I had experienced it that very day.  My weaknesses reveal God’s mercy and His grace, and reveal to me more of Who He is.  And then my response can be one of LOVE!  Not of duty, or responsibility, or guilt.  The more I discover Who God is, the more my heart can respond out of Joy and out of Love.

This is my prayer for my daughter:  that she not be afraid of standing in truth.  That she can celebrate MERCY for what it truly is.  That she trusts that God loves her, just as she is (all in the arms of our Blessed Mama, of course!).