Tag Archives: Passion

In Thanksgiving for Diabetes

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.”
— Luke 6: 20-26

When I was first diagnosed with type one diabetes this passage really resonated with me. The three months I lived with diabetes and didn’t know it were the most difficult times of my life, or so I thought. Upon reflection on those times, I felt blessed and honored that the Lord knew that I could handle such hardship. My body, soul and spirit were abused and battered. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the turmoil I went through… until now.

Getting diagnosed with diabetes was only the tip of the iceberg; enduring the reality of living with a chronic illness was nothing compared to what I have gone through in New York. Yesterday marked my one year anniversary of living in New York. It is hard to believe I made it to a year, it does not feel like a year but at the same time it feels like a lifetime. I am not the person I was when I boarded that plane to New York a year ago. The person I was a year ago was truly a hollow shell, surviving life without any idea of who she was, with no purpose and no passion for anything and most of all no hope.

Throughout this year I became poor, hungry, and I wept almost every day but through these pains the Lord blessed me and restored my life. “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven” (Luke 6: 20-26). I have found new meaning in the Beatitudes. When I read them while struggling with diabetes, I read them without hope or joy and believed in them as a promise of happiness after death in Heaven. Today, I read them with new eyes and I can see that the Lord has blessed me with His Kingdom already. I was stripped of everything, all the comforts of home and what did I have left? I had Jesus Christ. All I have and all I want is Him. I can see the Kingdom of Heaven through the sorrows of this world. With a renewed spirit, I praise God for giving me diabetes, because that pain prepared me for the pure agony I would have to go through in New York. I can see the mastery of the Lord’s divine plan for without, lessons I learned managing diabetes I would never have survived in New York.

Originally posted at Kitty in the City.
Image: PD-US

The Look

Peter’s Denial by Carl Bloch

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. (Luke 22: 54-62)

How did Jesus look at Peter? What was on his face that made Peter remember that he had denied Christ, just as Jesus had predicted? What did Jesus’ expression say that made Peter go out and weep bitterly?

Jesus could have looked at Peter with a smug face that said, “I told you so!” How many of us would give someone a smug expression after being proved right?

He could have looked at Peter with anger. “How could you deny me, after everything I’ve taught you, everything I’ve done for you!?!?” How many of us would respond in anger, upon discovering that someone we loved denied even knowing us?

Christ could have looked at Peter with hurt and sadness, where his eyes said it all: “All I ever asked from you was to follow me, and you can’t even do that when I need you the most…” How many of us would respond to being betrayed with tears in our eyes?

Jesus could have looked at Peter in any of those ways – they are all certainly human responses – and any of these responses could certainly lead Peter to weep.

But these looks don’t belong on the face of Jesus that Peter knew; the Jesus that we all know.

I believe that Jesus looked at Peter with love. When I read and reflect on this passage, I picture Jesus’ eyes saying, “I forgive you. I am with you to the end. I still love you, no matter what you do.

And that kind of expression – that look of love, even when we feel unworthy of being loved – is what made Peter weep.

Wouldn’t you?

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

Walk In Her Sandals: A Book Review

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Plan now to get some of your favorite girlfriends together this Lent to read this book!

Walk in Her Sandals is a deep and unique look at Christ’s Passion and the events after His death from a woman’s perspective. Each chapter contains numerous reflections on various aspects of Holy Week and beyond. There is something for everyone in this book. There is a fictional retelling of the events of the Passion told from the perspective of a woman who watched it all unfold. There are reflections connecting these foundational events to aspects of our feminine genius. There is a guide to pray through important scripture passages using the ancient practice of lectio divina. There are good reflection questions to discuss as a group. The book features authors that most Catholic nerds are familiar with, like Teresa Tomeo, Lisa Hendey and Pat Gohn, as well as many more authors whom you will want to learn more about.

I was a little surprised to find that one of my favorite parts was the fictional retelling of the Passion. I’m usually not a fan of that kind of thing (funny, because I do enjoy writing it, but that’s another story). Stephanie Landsem clearly did her research bringing stories such as the Last Supper and Pentecost alive. You could really sense that these women could have actually been there, were actually the kind of people you would have expected to see there. I had never heard of her before and I’ll have to look her up and try some of her other books.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to pick this book up again as part of a book club. That would be awesome! I’ll have to tell you about it when I do. Not to say that the book isn’t good to read on your own. I certainly enjoyed it.

I got the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review through my membership in NetGalley. Thank you Ave Maria Press! This book just came out yesterday and is available from your favorite bookseller now.

NOTE: I have been informed by the wonderful people at Ave Maria Press that there will be at least two online book clubs this Spring (just in time for Lent!). One will be held at CatholicMom.com and the other will be at WomenInTheNewEvangelization.com. Join me there!

This blog post originally appeared at True Dignity of Women.

2 Sides of the Same Coin: The Annunciation & The Agony

A while back, I published a meditation on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. In revisiting that piece recently, having just prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, I was struck by the parallels of many of the mysteries. The approach of God to ask for something important, the “fiat” of both Jesus and Mary, the journeys they both undertake immediately afterward, and the birth of Christ into life – Earthly, and later, Heavenly.

However, today I want to focus specifically on the Agony in the Garden and the Annunciation. It seems fitting to me that the Agony would be the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries not solely because it marks the beginning of Our Lord’s passion. The Agony in the Garden perfectly mirrors, or parallels, the Annunciation in the joyful mysteries.

In the Agony, Christ is faced with God asking to use Christ’s body to accomplish His salvific work. Christ must decide to say yes or no, just as Mary was asked by God to use her body and had to say yes or no. Just as Mary, conceived without sin, would of course say yes, so too we know that Christ will of course submit Himself to the will of the Father.

Yet this almost makes the experience worse. In meditating on Agony, we are the audience observing a Greek Drama. We see the end, we are helpless to stop it, and we know it must happen. (We are blessed in a way that Greek Dramas aren’t in that we know that the end is really the most wonderful end there could be, but the process of getting there is pretty hard to take in. Go re-watch The Passion if you need a reminder!). By meditating on the Agony, we begin to see those places where the Lord is asking something painful and necessary of us. In reflecting on Christ’s words: “let this cup pass from me” we all feel vindicated in not wanting to assent to the Lord’s will. In the next breath, however, we learn to assent to God as Christ said “yet not my will, but yours.”

Now, the Annunciation was a joyful and heartfelt yes that resulted in a physical experience of God in our lives. Christ was made incarnate in Mary’s womb. When we say “yes” to God the first time it is often a very physical experience. We feel joyful and excited to get to know God!

However, in the “yes” of the Agony, we experience a loss of God. While the Lord is still with us, He removes Himself so drastically that all we experience is the strength to continue, something we are often unaware of. Christ suffered the extreme separation of Himself from His Heavenly Father, which we see in His cry on the cross – “My God, why have you forsaken me?” – yet we know that the Lord provided Him the physical strength to continue through the Passion.

Indeed, the Lord was so close to Christ throughout the Passion, providing heavenly strength to continue, that Christ could not see Him! So the same may be true of us. When we accept the Lord’s plan and feel abandoned in the process, we are closer to Him than ever before. Even when we feel the most abandoned, or the most confused (“I said yes and now everything is terrible”), we can know that it is not the feelings of closeness that bring us close to God, but the faith that He will not abandon us even in times when we are alone with our cross.

We also see in the Agony in the Garden the maturation of the spiritual life. The Joyful mysteries take place before the Sorrowful mysteries.

Annunciation before Agony.passion

Joy before pain.

So too, the annunciation of our own lives often occurs before an agony experience. When we first encounter the Lord, it is a joyful and exciting occurrence, if a little scary. Only when our spiritual life has matured and we are intimate with the Lord, does He ask for “everything” in our own Agony in the Garden.

Yet, the two are not separate experiences. Every Annunciation comes with an Agony. The Agony in the Garden is simply the other side of the “Annunciation coin.” Just as God eternally presents Himself to us in an on-going annunciation, continually asking to be made present in our lives, so too He is eternally asking us to sacrifice everything for love of Him and His people.

Mary knew what she was getting into when she said “yes” in her garden. She knew her child was coming to save His people, and that meant a pretty painful end. Yet there was joy in embracing the Lord’s plan, a joy so great that there is a whole set of mysteries devoted solely to that virtue. So too, when the Agony in the Garden is presented to us, and we meditate on our own “Agony experience,” we can trust that the other side of that painful, lonely, agonizing, torturous decision is the hidden joy of the Annunciation and the promise of God made manifest in our lives.

The Three Falls of Christ

Like Christ, we are condemned to suffer and to die because of sin. He suffers willingly and innocently; we suffer, in the beginning at least, unwillingly and guilty.

If we suffer as unwilling criminals to the end, we will die a criminal’s death. If we learn to suffer willingly as Christ did, and take encouragement from His way, we will suffer and die as He did, with merit and victory, a redeeming death that brings life to ourselves and to others.

If the death of Christ is our victory and example, if His moment of ultimate defeat is our supreme triumph, then His falls, the moments of greatest discouragement on His holy way, should be our encouragement in the face of obstacles.

Christ did not have to fall on the way to Golgotha. He willed to fall in order to teach us. Some mystics number the falls of Christ at seven, each one a reparation for the seven capital vices. The traditional fourteen Stations of the Cross number his falls at three, and it is upon these three falls that I wish to devote this brief meditation.

Consider before we begin the parable of the sower. If we confront the place sin still has in many of our lives, it is easy to look at the parable of the sower and become discouraged, or even to despair. For some of us, we see how from the earliest years of our free choice, in spite of the grace of holy Baptism in our infancy, we have chosen against God. Surely we are the path on which the Word falls and is devoured at once.

Others see their pristine fervor diminished, perhaps after a significant life change or trauma, and have fallen into sinful habits. Are these not the rocky ground?

Still others see how they were led from the path by sinful companions, and have had the grace of God choked out of their souls by bad companions. How can these friends be anything but the thorns that choke the Word?

Few indeed are those souls who can look honestly at their own lives in Christ and find no reason to doubt that they are the good soil.

But the Way of the Cross is our way, as well, and the falls of Christ, if we let them image for us our spiritual stumblings and failures, illuminate this parable and impart unquenchable hope amidst the darkest moments of self-doubt and despair.

Christ falls the first time immediately after He has taken up His Cross. He has barely touched the wood or begun the long walk up the hill when He collapses under its weight. Many of us fall so soon after we commit to taking up our own crosses. Perhaps we fall into the same sin we have just confessed, or fail to persevere in a regimen of prayer just a week or two after we have begun. It is perhaps for us, when we are surprised by the weight of our new crosses, that Christ fell this first time. Christ, on His way to rise from the dead, rises from this initial fall. We, too, are invited to rise with Him once more and follow Him more earnestly, and more cannily, to our resurrection.

It is after this fall that Christ is afforded three comforts on the way to the Cross. First, He meets His Mother. While she is herself immediately our help and our refuge, she also depicts for us those whom we love that God has placed in our lives to help us bear our sufferings. And since Christ could not help Himself carry His Cross, Simon was compelled to carry the Cross with Jesus, so that we might know that crosses were not meant to be carried alone, and so that we would always seek the help of Christ Himself, who is to us as Simon was to Him.

Then, as he walks, Veronica removes her own veil and wipes the sweat and blood from His face. She unveiled a heart overflowing with love and compassion for Christ, and willing to give whatever she could to assist Him.

And yet, immediately after these three comforts and helps, Christ falls once more. How often do we set off eagerly and over-confidently after some moment of great consolation and religious enthusiasm, the seed apparently springing up at once, only to find ourselves so soon in perhaps a worse place than before, its roots not penetrating very deep? How often do we ask for and trust in the help of Christ, only to fall again? Lest we doubt that He does help us, or let our moments of encouragement become occasions for despair, Christ allowed Himself to fall at this point, so that He, rising once more from this fall, might invite all of those who have fallen in their moment of greatest consolation to rise with Him and once more to follow His way.

Finally, Christ meets the weeping women, who do not perceive that He carries this Cross for them. Seeing them, Jesus is saddened. Immediately He falls. But His resolve was not choked off by this pitiful sight. He rises again amidst the thorns and carries on. We too, though we are discouraged by those around us, who cannot understand our sufferings or lend us any aid, are invited to rise.

In the face of these consoling falls of Christ, who, then, is condemned in the parable?

No one but those who refuse to rise again with him, who let themselves become the barren path, the rocky ground, or surrounded by choking weeds.

Any sin can be forgiven except the sin against the Spirit; the sin that denies the power of God to forgive, to quicken, and to restore what has been lost. Christ rises from His falls, just as He rises from death, that we might have hope and faith enough to rise from ours.

Mary: Pro-Life Mother

ThePassion.Jesus.Mary.at.Foot.of.the.Cross    Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. I have probably repeated those words, situated in the middle of the Hail Mary, over 10,000 times. Flying by them like empty cans along a highway, I’ve barely ever noticed them. But, one day in mass during my junior year of college, I did notice them. We recited the Hail Mary after intentions and I was suddenly confronted, face-to-face, with words I’d always known but never recognized. “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus” (emphasis mine).

Perhaps it was the fact that I was in the middle of starting a sidewalk counseling ministry with our pro-life club. Maybe it was that I was suddenly attune to the vast tragedy of abortion, perhaps it was because around every corner, across every intersection, I was suddenly seeing individuals wounded by the culture of death. But that line, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized something.

Mary had an unexpected pregnancy.

You could even say “Mary had a crisis pregnancy.” Unwed in a culture that would kill her for such actions, Mary found herself the unsuspecting mother of a child.

What’s more, Mary fully understands what it is to have an unexpected pregnancy, and, coupled with her heavenly position and holiness, she is thus the perfect guide for the pro-life movement. How much more unexpected can it get than having God pop in on you while you’re picking berries in the garden? Mary knows what it’s like to face the turmoil of such a pregnancy. She knows the unknowns: not knowing how she will care for this child, not knowing what will happen to her when society and her family finds out, not knowing what to expect from her husband-to-be. And yet, where all these modern day mothers say “no,” Mary was able to say “yes.”

I’ve spent 2 years soaking up this relationship of Mary to the pro-life movement. But I only recently learned what Mary has been trying to demonstrate to me in the past 2 years. I’ve been so busy watching Mary shower love on pro-“choicers,” too busy seeing Mary as “on our side,” as “one of us,” that I have completely missed what I could learn from her. What she has to offer us as a movement. Yes, she is on our side, but she is not merely a weapon to be used against the acts of the Evil One. She is a honing stone, a weapon to be used on us to make us better examples of Christ’s love in the world.

We must avoid the great temptation to see ourselves as Mary, present to the crucified Christ of aborted children. While “whatever you did to the least of these you did to me” is a main message of the pro-life movement, equating the killing of children with the persecution of Christ, pro-lifers must be careful not to see themselves solely as those who don’t “do to the least of these.” We must learn to be Mary in the pro-life movement, and not just to children. We must learn to emulate her inner as well as outer disposition whenever we face the daunting task of being witnesses at the modern day Golgotha of Planned Parenthood.

When the guards arrested Jesus, what did Mary do? When the soldiers scourged him at the pillar, when the crowds jeered at Jesus on the cross, when they spit on Him on His way to Golgotha, when they laughed at His pain, what did Mary do? I don’t mean “what did Mary do for Jesus?” How did she respond to those horribly wronging her son? In the Bible and extra-Biblical texts we see no account of Mary’s actions other than those directed towards Christ. We know that she stood by, that she was at the foot of the Cross, and that she gave all of her suffering up to Christ.

We have no account of how Mary responded to the mob. Perhaps this is why pro-lifers struggle with an appropriate response to the mob in our day. We always end up doing 1 of 2 things, if not both.

We either become self-important, aware of our humble and stalwart witness to the faith, becoming prideful of our own humility. If others mention it we rejoice inwardly at the good we are doing, denying that any and all good works we do are good works of the Father. Any good witness is a witness to Him, and in the end we are only messengers of His divine plan of life and love. We are miniscule partakers in the greater battle of good and evil that Christ has already won. We forget that the Lord has already decided the battle that we are fighting now. Any witness we bear is only a speck of His almighty greatness and goodness, we have no place to say that any of it was our doing.

Or, we harden our hearts against those committing these acts. We loathe the deeds and allow this hatred of evil action to make us see them as evil people. We allow the Devil to poison our minds against them. The hatred of their acts is no doubt from God, the hatred of the person is no doubt from the Devil. The Evil One cannot create his own wickedness and so must pervert goodness to his ends, which he does ever so successfully in the heart of the pro-lifer, whom he turns against goodness in the very act the pro-lifer is rejoicing in as good.

I doubt that Mary hated the mob the way that pro-lifers tend to hate abortionists or even the post-abortive. I think Mel Gibson was on to something when in The Passion of the Christ he depicted Mary’s role in Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus after his denial of the Christ. When Peter runs out of the square and runs into Mary, he tells her of his denial and she does not loathe him. Rather, she attempts to touch him and bring peace to his anguished face. She is only wholly open to him and it is obvious in the gentle nature of her touch and the quiet expression on her face that all she feels is pity and love towards him.

If she can so wholly love and forgive Peter, who knew and loved Christ, ate from the same table as Him, was privy to His most intimate moments, how much more must she have love and pity for the mob crucifying her son. The mob did not know Him personally, had not eaten at table with Him, and were acting out of fear. Indeed, her total peace and love through Christ’s passion only serves as a reflection of the total love Christ has for His people, as summarized in His plea for mercy “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!”

Mary’s silence reflects this plea for mercy from her son. She needn’t say anything, as Christ has said it all, she has only to love those crucifying her son. Indeed, hating the mob will only add to her son’s burden and pain. Thus, she allows Christ to call to the Father in anguish for mercy and she bears witness only to these events.

So also should all pro-lifers stand as silent witness to the cry of Christ, “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” Let us not harden our hearts, but in gentleness and patience bring peace to their anguish and bear witness to Christ’s suffering while we offer up our silent witness as a plea of mercy to the Lord – “forgive them, Father, they know not what they do!” May we learn to be Mary, not only to Jesus on the Cross of the abortion clinic, but to the crowd as well, who in fear and pain unknowingly attacks the one it longs for.

Sins, Despair, and the Love of God

Sacred Heart_stained glass2“For love of souls, I instituted the Sacrament of Penance, that I might forgive them, not once or twice, but as often as they need it to recover grace. There I wait for them, longing to wash away their sins, not in water, but in My Blood. How often in the course of the ages have I, in one way or another, made known My love for men: I have shown them how ardently I desire their salvation. I have revealed My Heart to them. This devotion has been as light cast over the whole earth, and today by its means those who labour to gain souls to My service have been enabled to do so.” – Our Lord’s words to Sister Josepha Menéndez.

If our heart isn’t in the right place in the 21st century, the world can suck us in an instant, causing us to commit innumerable sins that add up, and in this pressured society, this can lead to the sin of despair.

But there is always hope in the darkest of situations. No matter what you did Our Lord still died for you, is still thinking of you, and will always be on fire for love of you. Let us then speak of His love for sinners, since this is the best way to increase our hope.
1) His love for individuals. Although Our Lord died for the whole human race, and loves the human race as a whole, He loves you singularly. As St. Augustine said, If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you.” When He was in Agony in the Garden of Olives, He was thinking of you, when He was being whipped, He persevered for love of you, when He was nailed to the Cross, He asked His Father to forgive you! Not only that, but He thinks of you every moment of every day, making sure you have everything you need, protecting you and strengthening you against the devil. Look at His Sacred Heart! There’s a reason it’s on fire, it burns for YOU.

2) His tenderness towards sinners. “But my sins are too horrible…” Guess what, He knew you were going to say that, so He was thinking of you when He spoke of the Prodigal Son. He didn’t say the father of the sinful son cast him away, rather He threw a party because he was so happy! Yes you made a mistake, just go and confess it! There’s a reason there’s a confessional waiting for you, just go do it. Ashamed? Mary Magdalene was too – did Jesus not forgive her? Our Lord is especially tender to the repentant sinner, just like the sheep that went astray. He said it Himself that the good shepherd looks for his one sheep out of ninety nine – He was saying that for a reason…. He was thinking of you!

3) His never ending hope. Not only is His love infinite, but He waits every second of every day for you to think of Him once more so he can inspire you to turn back. Although humans change, God never changes, Truth never changes, and His mercy never changes. He said in the Bible that He didn’t come for the just, but the sinner! Do you think he wouldn’t forgive you because of what you’ve done? Don’t forget His Blood was poured out for you in hope that one day you would return.

Therefore fight the temptation to give up and fall into the easy world. Just imagine on your deathbed – would you be happy with giving up, or would you regret not turning back when you had the chance? So turn back! He’s waiting for you! Peace be to all of you, and may Our Lord’s guiding light find you from the dark tunnels of the world.