Posts Tagged 'meditation'

Frailty and Temptation

During this frist week of Lent we are invited to meditate on two points: our human frailty weakened by original sin (Genesis 3), as well as to reflect on Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Matthew 4). Reflecting on these two points, Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message for 2011 states the following: “The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25).”

Recognizing our need for God’s grace implies a real struggle with the power of sin that has taken hold of our heart in manifold ways. One response that the Devil often wants to produce in us is an initial resistance to convert or change our lives. He uses fear to make us think we will loose something precious if we abandon our familiar ways of sin. However, in Christ’s temptations in the desert we are encouraged to recognize that the devil only promises distortions of what only belongs to God. In following Christ through these fourty days of penance and prayer we are strengthened in grace to turn away from sin and trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. Our frailty as human beings is not something bad in itself, since dependance on God is the way we were created to exist. However, the frailty we suffer because of the effects of original sin in our souls is a great reminder that we cannot save ourselves from sin. The latter frailty mentioned, which is caused by sin, is the clearest sign that we need to walk closely with the one who is our strength.

During this first week of the Lenten season, let’s renew our resolution to pray and fast with Christ, so that we too may overcome temptation and sinful frailty. St. Paul reminds us that “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)

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St. Teresa of Avila: Transverberation

In chapter 29, inThe Life of St. Teresa of Avila, we read the following description of St. Teresa’s mystical ecstasy, also known as “transverberation”. In this description we hear St. Teresa narrate her mystical experience, in which she was spiritually consumed by God’s love:

“In his hands I saw a long golden spear
and at the end of the iron tip
I seemed to see a point of fire.
With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times
so that it penetrated to my entrails.
When he drew it out,
I thought he was drawing them out with it
and he left me completely afire with a great love for God.
The pain was so sharp
that it made me utter several moans;
and so excessive was the sweetness
caused me by this intense pain
that one can never wish to lose it,
nor will one’s soul be content
with anything less than God.
It is not bodily pain, but spiritual,
though the body has a share in it–indeed, a great share.
So sweet are the colloquies of love
which pass between the soul and God
that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God,
in His goodness, to give him the same experience.”

Discernment- Like a pair of old boots

There was a romantic comedy film I watched a while back in which the male protagonist said to the female protagonist “you and I belong together like a pair of old boots.” In a sense, a vocation can be seen as the right paring off of the one who is called and the vocation they are called to live out to follow.

We don’t always know how the Lord is calling us to server Him, but what we are always discerning is how a vocation “fits” our particular life. Discernment is not about an ideal situation we want to live in, rather it concerns our life, seen with honesty and humility.

If we are called to the priesthood or the consecrated life, God usually provides some type of moment in which we find these lifestyles desirable, even if we had never found them attractive up until that moment. Some people feel very gravitated to the call to serve the Lord and follow Him immediately, like St. Matthew did (Mt. 9,9). For others, it is a slow process of recognition and prayerful reflection, along with insightful conversations with a priest, sister, brother, deacon or other consecrated person.

The Lord’s plan for us is perfect, so let’s prayerfully and actively search for the right “fit” for our lives so that one day we can say that “our vocations and us belong together like an old pair of boots.”

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In the past three to four hundred years, many Spiritual Directors have entrusted those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion, which is composed of eucharistic adoration, reparation and consecration, has led many closer to the Lord (regardless of where their discernment has led them).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has always been a foundational part of Catholic spirituality and devotion, as far as this particular devotion is understood to be based on Divine Revelation’s message that God is love and in the mystery of the incarnation God has loved us with a human heart (Gaudium et Spes #22). As Pope Benedict XVI stated, concerning the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: “Moreover, not only does this mystery of God’s love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.” (Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas)

To adore the Lord through this venerable image of his wounded and fiery heart calling us to communion with Him is a gateway to discern how exactly the Lord wants us to serve Him. Discernment requires a true “trust” in the one we are discerning with, namely the Lord. He must have free reign in our hearts and lives in order to lead us, without bypassing our freedom. Discernment is an act of freedom to transcend one’s circumstances, limitations and inadequacies to follow the Lord wherever He may lead us. Let us commend ourselves to the Heart of Jesus, whose wounded heart calls us to trust in the abundance of His sacrificial love. “It was only the experience that God first gave us his love that has enabled us to respond to his commandment of love” (cf. Deus Caritas Est, # 17).

We’ll close with the words of Pope Pius XII:

“Consequently, it is clear that the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary brought nothing new into Catholic doctrine. Their importance lay in this that Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times.”
(Encyclical Haurietis Aquas by Pope Pius XII, #97)

Silence

In the Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, he speaks about the importance of silence in relation to the word of God, “In their interventions, a good number of Synod Fathers insisted on the importance of silence in relation to the word of God and its reception in the lives of the faithful.[231] The word, in fact, can only be spoken and heard in silence, outward and inward. Ours is not an age which fosters recollection; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence. Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence.[232] Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. Our liturgies must facilitate this attitude of authentic listening: Verbo crescente, verba deficiunt.[233]”

The priesthood and consecrated life embrace the Word of God and give it particular attention through the Liturgy of Hours and through forms of meditation and contemplation, such as Lectio Divina. May you find the Person of Christ, the Word made Flesh, more fully through your prayer with Sacred Scripture!



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