Faith

Lent 40 ~ Vigil Night

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The fasts are done; the Aves said;
The moon has filled her horn
And in the solemn night I watch
Before the Easter morn.
So pure, so still the starry heaven,
So hushed the brooding air,
I could hear the sweep of an angel’s wings
If one should earthward fare.   ~   Edna Dean Proctor, Easter Morning

Lent 34 ~ I will Fight for You

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But Moses answered the people, “Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the LORD will win for you today. For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still. ~  Exodus 14: 13 – 14

Lent 18 ~ He Will Give Strength

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          As I was about to receive Holy Communion, our Lord told me that He would come Himself to imprint on my heart the mystical life which He leads in the Holy Eucharist, a life entirely hidden and annihilated in the eyes of men, a life of sacrifice and seeming inactivity. He added that He would Himself give me the strength to do what He required of me.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Today comes this quote from a saint who has become my work and study companion. She comes just after I prayed for strength to make it through the mountains and deserts, the hills and the valleys, the ups and downs of life.

He will give me strength

          I ask this of heaven for all of us here, for those whom I love and hold in my heart, young and old. We all have our crosses and some days, they will weigh more than other days, perhaps asking more than we can give.

          May He Himself then come, and give us all the strength to do what He asks of us.

Lent 8 ~ Leave It With Him

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And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him.   St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Walk On Water

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          Skipping happily to my day at home this quiet November morn, I heard from within me the strains of a new song, Wherever You Lead by Kristene DiMarco. Leaning in, I tried to make out the words, seeking what God had willed for me. But the words, the lyrics, slipped out of my seeking reach.

          I was not in the least troubled. This morning, stopping by my altar, I had told Jesus I wished to offer up my days as a prayer of thanksgiving and also as a prayer for the Holy Souls, for this is November, when Catholics pray in a deeper way for those who have departed. I have three days off work. Linking up to the weekend, I have five glorious days and I am determined to live them right, in joy and thanksgiving, and may anything of worth from my days be gifted to my precious friends, the Holy Souls of Purgatory. How great their love for me has been and still is, this tender generosity of spirit of these saints-in-waiting. How many times they have warned me of danger, saved me from the rising creek. How many times, when the roads have been so dark, they have sung God’s leading to me, and with their voices in my ear, I have made my way from pain to joy.

          Everything of my November for them, I vowed.

          And then I busied myself with happy things. A small plot in my garden had been dug up and was now waiting for some new occupants. The original pot of dearly treasured Egyptian Starflowers which I had bought during one happy visit to the garden centre earlier in the year needed a new home. An attempt at a transplant some months before had initially disappointed me; I felt the new plant-babies didn’t take to their new dwellings and that I would soon lose them. Two other new plants I was trying out then, the Blue China and the Everlastings, had failed. Against the anguished backdrop of all that was going on in our lives, I had felt the sting of those garden failures deeply.

          But I refused to give up. I kept on watering and feeding the starflowers, coaxing them to fight to live on. In some ways, I think I saw our fates as intertwined; if they died, I did too. If they lived, so would I. For long weeks, it seemed a lost cause. Then, in a sudden turn of tides, the Egyptian Starflowers rallied back. Somehow, hope had reached their roots. With each passing week, they began to grow stronger and soon lushly flourished with grace, health and utter beauty. Every day, I visited them. The flowers would happily cluster together and gaze up at me, as if willing me to believe in miracles. That anything was possible.

          Today, it was time to build yet another home, a bigger home, for the starblooms. Then, I had some reading and writing to get done for the course I had enrolled in. Joy rose in delicious curls within me.

          Soon, into the quiet of that peace, God’s word gently slipped in. It was clear and precise.

Walk on water

          Everything stilled within me. Walk on water. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Do what seems impossible.

          Courage has never been an arrow in my quiver. I am easily scared and I am afraid of so many things. If I am ever emboldened, it is only by virtue of love; only love for someone can propel me forwards and out into the storm and into the darkness.

Walk on water

          What impossibility is God calling me to? Still battered and bleeding from the violence and abuse only dark hearts know how to inflict, all I wanted now was to curl up away from the eyes of the world. I wanted us, my family and I, to become unseen and unknown, to slip past human knowing invisibly, for to be seen was to ask to be hurt and harmed. Let down by family, by friends and even by Church authorities, the illumination of October has been shocking and brutal. It seems as if those who claim to love do not even know what it truly means and entails.

          Drained and exhausted, all I wanted was for us to be left alone. Yes, to remain in the cave of God’s holy mountain but beyond that, freed from even His call. Instead, last week, He sent His Word,

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Prepare

         I saw the word appear 4 times. I was alert. 4 was the sign of the times. First of Covid-19 and the pandemic; and now, the vaccines and the vaccine passports. What do I prepare for? How do I prepare? I had asked Him back in return. By His heart to wait, I then sent my angel, charging him to not return till God gives the word.

          My angel returned presently, bearing the reply,

Forgive

          So, in obedience, from my mind, I said the words, I forgive. Not from my heart, for so wounded was it that I felt no real forgiveness could be summoned from it. I forgive, I said mechanically, over and over, that old week of October.

          And then, a strange vine was laid upon my heart. I release you from my debt. It was an odd turn of phrase, unfamiliar, nothing I had ever prayed before. Nevertheless, I bound it to my own prayer.

I forgive you. From my debt, I release you.

          Name after name, person after person, I called to mind. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you.

          Nothing changed in my heart and I wondered what good was such a prayer prayed from a heart hardened by hurt and sorrow. But something within me remained undefeated. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you. Slowly, veiled by mists, my heart turned. I forgive you. From my debt, I release you. Slowly, softly at first, the prayer took gentle root in my heart. Then, it began to come forth with a new vigour.

          Just like my starflowers. And then, each time I prayed the prayer, it yielded with nary a trace of reluctance.

          Now, today, 4 days since joy began to unfurl anew in my heart comes the new call,

Walk on water

          Do the impossible.

Let Go

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God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Thus, we do not fear, though earth be shaken
and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,
Though its waters rage and foam
and mountains totter at its surging.
Streams of the river gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High
God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken;
God will help it at break of day.
Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,
he utters his voice and the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come and see the works of the LORD,
who has done fearsome deeds on earth;
Who stops wars to the ends of the earth,
breaks the bow, splinters the spear,
and burns the shields with fire;
“Be still and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
exalted on the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.    Psalm 46

          Last night, deeply troubled again, I sought the voice of my God. I told Him my family and I had sealed our hearts to this Calvary which He has asked of us. But since the path is hard and rutted, and we are often frightened and exhausted, we needed to hear His voice. And not just metaphorically.

         I asked God to lay His voice directly inside my ears. Then, the waters still in a churn within me, I fell into troubled sleep.

          This morning, the second I opened my eyes, I heard a single line from a Jeremy Riddle song play gently in my ears,

Be still and know I am the Lord

          Returning to the source of that line, Psalm 46, I recalled anew how many times God had given me hope through the verse God will help it at the break of dawn (Psalm 46:6). Each and every time, at breaking point, He reached out and showed me a new path, and fed me for the journey.

          I am tired, Lord, I whisper. Tired of fighting, tired of being frightened. Tired of the endless days of nights.

          Psalm 46 tells me to continue trusting – but today, I just cannot. I do not mistrust God –  I am still holding on to the Cross – but in a way I cannot explain, I am also so very tired and worn out. The secret, inner bubbling of joy I felt a few days back is gone. In its place, a cache of grit and sand and tears.

          Idly, I seek out the lyrics to the Jeremy Riddle song. And there I see the line,

And let go, let go of your worries

          As my heart took in the words, I remembered something else. 22 years ago, on a severely dark night, I gave up hope on life and begged God to take me. That night, Jesus appeared to meAnd He told me,

Let go, relax

Let go, relax

Let go, relax

          They were simple words – and certainly not what I thought I’d hear directly from Jesus. But as it turned out, they were exactly what I needed 22 years ago. And in a little weave of a way, they were brought back to me today, 22 years later, this still Sunday morn where the happy winds of past days no longer dance and hardly a note of birdsong is to be heard.

Let go, relax

          I knew what Jesus was telling me. Given the hard days here, worries and fears had accumulated, as they would, naturally, causing a churning within me. My worries and fears were standing between me and the stillness I sought and which God wanted for me as well. Jesus now wanted me to let go of my burdens to Him so that nothing remained between Him and me.

Let go, relax

          And so I begin.

The Prisoner’s Freedom

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I trust in the LORD;
    my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the LORD
    more than sentinels wait for the dawn.   ~  Psalm 130: 6

          This past week, I have been learning an old, old lesson anew: that if God wills us to walk a path away from the multitudes, even if we be persecuted for it by everyone else, true peace is to be found only in that solitary, lonely path.

          No where else.

          When people spit on us for daring to be different, I can’t help but think of Jesus. Falling under the weight of His Cross, flogged and bleeding, He continued on despite the curses and vitriol flung at Him by those He had been sent to love. True, there were those who wept for Him and who loved Him and more who hid this compassion and love in their hearts for fear of reprisals, but all their numbers were pitiably small in the face of what Christ had to endure.

          Yet Jesus told Veronica, Weep not for me but for your children. Despite His immense suffering, He did not choose this solitary path to be pitied; He accepted this path for it was His Father’s will for Him that He be a Sign for others. A sign of complete and perfect obedience to what God has willed, not what man demands.

          Through the many developments in the recent months, we are learning yet again that when we stand up for what is right, it is never a comfortable place to be in. There might be a few, deeply faithful friends who will stay with us through thick and thin, more who might support us as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them, but in the end, it can still be painfully lonely. It is a seat of thorns for sure, it will draw blood from us.

          And yet I have found, only here among the thorns, lives true peace. And freedom. In these past days, I have revisited our decision – the decision that pits us against others and for which we are paying dearly. I have allowed myself to imagine doing things differently, choosing to leave this lonely point by the wall of vigil and instead going where the crowds claim is freedom.

          Immediately, the peace flees. Immediately, the waters are troubled. Although the roads the crowds have chosen promise freedom, even imagining I am there, I do not feel free anymore.

          In a strange, unlikely way, I seem to be free only in this lonely place by the water’s edge, where the travelers are few. It is certainly a strange sort of freedom, unseen by anyone else, felt only by the spirit. I am beginning to realise that this is what Jesus meant when He proclaimed, I have come to set prisoners free.

The freedom of the spirit

          We can be sad. There will be days when we will cry when our cross bites deep. We will not shift our gaze from the horizon afar, continually seeking the break of dawn and release from this pain and suffering.

          But through it all, even as we wait for daybreak as prisoners, something inside us will be, paradoxically, free.

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