Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Our Lady and St. Juan Diego

Friday, June 26, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Viewing My Spouse Through God's Eyes

Our parish started up a Marriage Ministry group, which includes Date Nights once a month.  For my husband and I, this is wonderful - planned date nights on the last Friday of the month, with babysitting included on the parish grounds.  After dropping off our kids into the capable and caring hands of an adult couple and multiple teens, we are greeted next door by other team members with a tray of red or white wine.  The tables are set with care - candles, candies, gourmet snacks, prayer intention cards for the prayer tree.  A spread of delicious appetizers are offered before the program begins:  a speaker, table discussions and individual couple private prayer together.

I bring this up because although my husband and I were familiar with much of the material, one of the points was to take a look at how our marriage, and marriage in general, is reflected in the world.  For example, are we affectionate?  Are we joyful?  Do we support our spouse - in public?  Can those around us see our relationship as one of hope and joy and prayer?  Do they see the positive aspects of marriage, the beauty amidst the struggle?  The speaker asked us to even take a look at how we were sitting next to our spouse at that very moment.  Did we reflect unity? Joy?  Friendship?  In some ways, married couples were to blame for the many younger couples cohabitating instead of trusting in the grace and beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage.  What kind of example are married couples providing to the younger generation?  Are we bitter?  Complaining?  Critical?  How easily do we forgive and reflect God’s mercy to one another?
My husband and I are close to 19 years of marriage.  I am amazed at how well God chose my spouse for me.  He knew I needed someone who was lighthearted, prayerful, and brutally honest.  God saw to it that I could discover His forgiveness and patience and affection through my husband.  He brought me someone who can calm me, refocus me, and see the positive – God’s very loving Presence – in difficult situations.  It has taken these years for me to appreciate how God is loving me through my spouse.  So many times I am tempted to call my husband to an impossible standard of perfection.  Even after all these years, I am unfairly disappointed with his weaknesses.  God allows these weaknesses, of course, so that I do not make an idol out of my husband and continue to seek a deeper union with Himself. However, God also, in His great humor, has allowed me to experience so much more of my own weakness in order to soften the lens through which I view my husband.  I’ll share a few light examples: 

First, I have prided myself on my great memory.  In the workplace, my co-workers used to even comment that my memory was like a steel trap.  Recently, my husband received a jury duty summons, which I scanned and filed and marked on our calendar.  The evening he was to call in, I pulled out the summons, only to find out that I had completely forgotten to fill out the online survey within 10 days of receiving the notice (yes, me, as we have agreed that I would be in charge of paperwork in our household).  He was not in the system and therefore didn’t know whether he was to report the next morning or not.  Of course, the fine print warned of fines or jail time if one was not to report to jury duty.  He shrugged it off, and said he would call in the morning.  Even though he trusted me to keep him informed, he reflected God’s great mercy.  If the roles had been reversed, I would have freaked out completely! The situation humbled me greatly. 

Second, my husband, in his great exhaustion from his workload at his jobsite and at home, has taken on a deeper level of snoring.  So many nights I lay awake, irritated beyond belief, and wake up cranky and resentful for my lack of a good night’s sleep.  I prayed about my frustration, and do you know how God answered my prayers?  He allowed my husband to be awakened in the middle of the night by my snoring!  What?!  I don’t snore, usually, but, gratefully my husband found it funny, not annoying.  If my husband can accept my weaknesses with a sense of humor, I am more humbled and inclined to accept his. 

The longer we are married, the more I see the need for God’s grace to sustain us, encourage us, and bring us back to joy.  I am grateful for my entrustment to our Blessed Mama, because so many times I have called upon her to soften my heart and my words and my tone.  She is the one who helps me stand in truth when working out a disagreement with my husband.  She is the one who helps me ask for his forgiveness when needed. She is the one who can beg for repair for the damage I do with my careless tongue.  She is the one I turn to when I don’t feel like being affectionate or kind or want to watch his choice of movie.  She is the one who helps me love my husband in the ways in which He needs to be loved.  Basically, she is the one who protects our marriage from my ego, which happens to get in the way most of the time!

God has called us to a profound vocation – to be an instrument of His Love to our spouse and to reflect that love in the world. He has allowed us, weak and helpless, to partake in creation and build up His Church through our family life.  He has entrusted souls to us, for heaven’s sake!  I cannot nor do I want to handle this on my own.  Thank you, God, for the graces of this Sacrament that you continue to pour upon us and make available each and every day.  Thank you for trusting us, that in discovering our weaknesses, we discover our need for You.  With a tad more humility, perhaps the world and the younger generations can get a glimpse of Your great Presence within the Sacrament, and seek the graces for themselves with great hope and joy.

…Quite often it will simply be impossible to look at our spouses through the eyes of God.  However, we have to remember that what counts most of all is that we attempt to do this, not that we always succeed.  We need to humbly turn to God and beg Him to grant us the grace of looking at our spouses as if through His eyes.  We have to ask ourselves these questions: Are we doing this?  Are we asking God for such grace? Are we begging for Him to dwell in us, live in us, and use us as instruments in His relationship to our spouses?  (S.C. Biela, God Alone Suffices, 3rd ed [Ft. Collins, CO:  IAMF, 2011], 32.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Entrustment to Mary = Not Being Fooled

The other night I was putting the Little One to bed when he started to work his way into an anxiety attack. It started off simply as a stall to going to bed, but then he remembered past days of scary dreams and convinced himself that he was going to have a scary dream that night and he couldn’t stop crying and whining about it. He was obviously overtired, but the emotions he was going through were real to him. I know this because I suffer anxiety and so I knew a simple “get a hold of yourself” wasn’t going to be effective!

The Little One’s trouble with anxiety began after he had some bad dreams. First it was fire in his bedroom, then it was bears in the back yard and other animals – all wanting to eat him. The dreams must have been very intense because they sparked such vivid thoughts in the day time that he hated to be in his own room for fear of a real fire. When he awoke from his dreams, he would beg me to lay with him, hold him and say prayers with him. He started to pray differently. He now begs Jesus and Mary every night to protect him from scary dreams and thoughts, and when he wakes up in the morning he is grateful that the prayers are answered. This trial of faith has produced many fruits in his relationship with Divine Love and Mercy to the point I am convinced this was a gift – a gift for deeper faith.

By the grace of God, I was in a very good place the other night when the Little One was too tired to go to sleep. My husband came into the room, concerned the whole episode was going to push me into a bad place, but I assured him I was okay. I was really in the grace of the moment. I had been praying, and started to pray aloud the Psalms that help the Little One when he is most afraid “The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack…I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (Ps 23:1, 4).  His response to my praying was to intensify his whining and crying. Why weren’t the prayers working that night? Could it be because he wasn’t living in the moment? Could he be focusing on feelings from the past only to be afraid of the future which is out of his control? Where was his confidence in Jesus and Mary to answer his night time prayer not to have scary dreams?

Wow. These questions were very eye-opening for me with my own anxieties. The very next day I found out my friend with cancer had made a turn for the worse. I started to remember the grief I had really experienced when my father died. Instead of staying in the current moment and wondering what my friend might need, I remembered how terrible I felt in the past, and projected this onto the future – this process put me in a stupor and anxiety pursued! Before it went too far, however, Blessed Mother helped me to remember my Little One’s struggle from the night before. Was I, too, creating undue stress? Was I focusing on my feelings from the past to the point I was more afraid of the future that is out of my control? Since I hadn’t immediately turned to prayer, I could see that the fear I had was more imagined than a real threat. Where was my confidence in Jesus and Mary to carry me, to carry my friend which I pray for incessantly? Immediately, I entrusted my thoughts to Blessed Mother to be immersed in Divine Mercy and Love. That day MOM kept me from being fooled into spending a lot of tears on an illusion--tears before their proper time.

“Anxieties that nag you about the past or the future are also trials of faith. God expects that you will offer Him all of these anxieties so that you can entrust yourself more fully to Him and totally abandon yourself to Him.” (Tadeusz Dajczer, The Gift of Faith3rd. ed. (Ft. Collins, CO: IAMF, 2012), p. 129)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Entrustment To Mary = The Beggar ~ The Beloved

"When we say the words 'Kyrie, eleison" (Lord, have mercy), during the Holy Mass, we relive what happened near Jericho when the blind beggar called upon God. With this plea, [Pope Benedict XVI] has written: '...we admit to who we truly are and who [God] is for us...' '...we say: Look on me God, I am nothingness, but You are everything. I am poor and in need, but You are all immeasurably rich and able to heal all the needs of the world. I am sinful and evil, but You are full of lavish love.' [1]

My first encounter with the ‘beggar’ here in Malaybalay were two little girls, about the same ages as Hannah and Grace (maybe 4 and 6 or 7 years old). All of us as a family were walking in the main ‘downtown’ part of the city when the two girls came up to us rubbing their stomachs and holding their hands out to us. One of the girls was wearing flip flops with soles almost two inches too short for her feet. We took off Hannah’s sandals and gave them to the little girl (they fit her perfectly), and then bought them some cookies and bread to eat. We felt good. The second time we had decided to get ice cream cones from inside the department type store ‘Gaisano’ on a hot Sunday afternoon, and as we walked outside to find a way home, a little boy came up to me (I had barely taken one lick of my ice cream) rubbing his tummy and with a pained look on his face, holding out his hand for the ice cream. Of course I gave it to him right away and felt good about it.. But, as the weeks went by my heart began to change with these ‘begging’ encounters. I learned quickly that we, as rich ‘white people’, were always going to be pursued as benefactors for these people who made their livings by begging, and I was becoming more and more annoyed by the way they were so ‘practiced’ in their methods - the pained looks, the persistence (one time a girl was so persistent even though I said I had nothing, she kept begging me as I walked all the way to the multi cab and even as the multi cab began driving away!). And, I was feeling more and more angry by the fact that many times the children were being used by their adults to beg and bring in money (sometimes to the point that the child would refuse bread and insist that they only wanted money). I began to dread going downtown and began to feel angry when someone came up and begged me for something. Yet somehow I knew in my heart that there was something wrong with my attitude.. I asked God to show me how He sees these people. The way He answered me was by showing me how He sees me as His beloved beggar.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “man is a beggar before God”. And it is true, as St. Paul writes “What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Everything I have - from the food I eat to the ability to think about God and pray, are God’s alms to me. I truly have nothing on my own.. on my own I am only dust. But why is it so hard for me to accept that I am truly a beggar before God - meaning someone who has nothing to give in return but who receives everything freely from the One who is rich? God began to show me something shocking - that is, how in many ways I must learn from these beggars who I was despising more and more. I began to realize that actually these beggars may have a much easier time to embrace God then me. I feel like God was even showing me how He admires their humility and even their attitudes to some degree.. not that God wants them to beg and to use their children to beg (only He knows their situations and stories), but that when they beg, they give a beautiful example of how to live the spiritual life. The beggar is so so persistent! She will not stop asking and following until she receives even a peso in return. Jesus praises persistence even in the Gospels when He is speaking about prayer ( “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs’ - Luke 11:8). The humility of the beggar is amazing. Even as they are rejected, they do not curse. Even if I put in their hand only one or two pesos, they are satisfied. They truly know that they are receiving something like crumbs falling from the table for the dogs.. and they are willing to accept being so low. Whether they are given a half eaten piece of food, a few pesos or a kilo of rice, it is obvious that the beggar is grateful for what he has received. I think that God looks upon these smallest children of His with so much tenderness and love. I think that truly they will be able to receive the Kingdom of God with ease when they stand before Him one day. 

For me I’m afraid it is not so easy. I often resemble a beggar who is so proud.. who does not want to receive ‘crumbs’ and who is ungrateful for the shower of alms I receive so freely from God’s hands every day. I am like the beggar who receives something but angrily throws it back at my benefactor because I wanted ‘more’. I am like a beggar who, though I have received everything for nothing, convince myself that I have earned it and deserve it by my own doing and am so often blind to the fact that I have not done anything good on my own. Even though I really have no choice but to receive God’s alms (because without them I would not survive physically or spiritually), I convince myself that I am entitled to receive them or that somehow I can deserve them. Unlike the beggars I have encountered who accept being the ‘lowest’, I am always so desperate to raise my ‘self’ up. But in doing this, I reject the truth and in rejecting that truth, I reject God Himself. This is the truth that will always be and will never change - that on my own I have nothing.. I am nothing, but He is everything. I am poor and in need, but He is all immeasurably rich and able to heal all the needs of the world. I am sinful and evil, but He is full of lavish love (from Joseph Ratzinger, Dogma und Verk√ľndigung). What a beautiful, patient and meek God we have. Alleluia!

Post offered from: http://inmarysarms.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-beggar-beloved.html?m=1
[1]S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), 34-35.