Hope

Lent 13 ~ Returning of Hopes

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          I read about the Holy Spirit Rosary on Susan Skinner’s blog, Veil of Veronica, and like her, I too was immediately drawn to it. The drawback was that it needed to be prayed as a group – to ensure we do not attribute to the Holy Spirit what is actually something out of our own heads. I didn’t have a group I could meet with to pray the Rosary together. Even with friends, no common time to come together as well.

          This afternoon, with the weather the way it was, sullen and sulking, I decided to go it alone. I prayed with all my heart that my mind, my will and my emotions be bound to the Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That nothing of me pierce through. It was incredibly difficult, to be honest. I viewed with suspicion everything that moved past the window of my consciousness. I felt as if I was all tightly bound up, stiff and rigid. Not the best way to pray, for sure, but there didn’t seem to be any other way.

          I decided to pray all 5 decades on the meditation of the Agony in Gethsemane. I imagined myself beside Jesus in the garden. Then, I wished I had done some research on this so as to better imagine the place. While I was dragging my scattered thoughts back to the garden, I somehow ended up in the desert with Jesus during His 40 days fast. I’m not sure how that happened. Nonetheless, somehow, that worked out a lot better than trying to imagine the Garden of Gethsemane.

          I believe I imagined Jesus sitting on a wide smooth slab of rock, facing straight ahead. And I settled myself beside Him. He didn’t seem to be aware of my presence. I likely imagined that too. I must have seen the time in the desert to be an intense time, of  deep, penetrating  silence. That would explain why I imagined or pictured Jesus in that still, unmoving, undistracted manner. I remember telling myself not to be a distraction to Him, not to squirm and wriggle trying to get comfortable on hard stone.

          Again, that was just probably my way of quelling my own distractedness.

          As I whispered my Hail Marys and tried to be as still and as unyielding towards travelling thoughts, I sank into a slight weary sadness. I saw hopes that were so long in coming true. I saw dreams that didn’t seem possible any more. Expectations being raised and then, dashed.

          As I struggled and struggled to meditate on His Agony all alone in Gethsemane/Desert, I felt a gentl-ing of my tightness. As I felt the ropes I had bound myself with earlier begin to loosen, I came face-to-face with an old shadow inside me:

The hopes within me were my own, not God’s.

          While He had given me signs and shown me glimpses into the future, I had taken them and embellished them with my own visons and expectations. I had sewed on my own buttons of desires, embroidering the garment with my ideas of how life should work out for me.

          And when what I had conjured in my head collided with God’s reality, hurt swelled  and soared like churning seas.

          Sitting by His side looking out at the expanse of sand and rock, I slowly returned to Him my tattered garments of hope, rent and stained by earthly wiles and wishes, by my own undoing of selfishness, pride and vanity. I gave back to Jesus,all the hope that was of me, born of my passions.

          He’d know what to do with it, I reasoned.

          I cannot be sure how I ended up here, at this point of returning. Was it the Holy Spirit Rosary? Was it just the way my thoughts were weaving through the haze of hours and events?

          I suspect it’s not me. Because despite the dulled spirit, when the Rosary ended, I rose and went to my chores with a lightness in my step.

          You don’t confront sadness and disappointment, and yet, leave in light – unless it was the Spirit’s doing.

 

 

 

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As The Robin Sings

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         My heart is deep in winter now. The sun mists the skies with rose, shyly and hesitantly, sometimes not showing itself at all. A winter silence has descended. Everything, everyone, is a little quieter. The white power of winter’s cold stays even the most garrulous and rebellious of spirits.

          Every day, I sit by my window of waiting, looking out as far as eyes can see, over the distant hills and expanse of skies, waiting for hope. Even as feet hurry and hands remain busy, the winter has filtered out so much of the usual distractions; thus my spirit remains more securely anchored to this still waiting.

May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.   ~  Ephesians 1: 17 – 18

          Where are You, Lord? I ask. Where is my hope?  Winter or not, troubles remain, dotting the hills and plains with their resolute darkness. When will the Promise come?

How much longer, Lord? How much longer?    

          Sometimes, I chide myself for this watching, like a mother to myself, afraid I’d fall hard and hurt myself if hopes are long in coming true. Yet, an unseen Hand continues to hold me to my perch on the watchman’s wall.

          This morning, rising early, looking out of the window, the thick white sky solemnly gazed back at me. Where is the hope that belongs to our call? I tiredly pressed into the watchful fleeces.

          Then, I remembered a visit I needed to make. Hurrying to it, Someone was already there.

I heard a chirrup in the trees and looked up to find a robin, her chest puffed proudly, indifferent to the weather. “And yet the birds persist,” I thought. The robin still perches upon the bare branch and sings out her song for the world to hear—praise to her Maker.   ~   Rebekah Durham, Praise in Winter

          Praise in winter. Praise as the robin does, even in the deep cold. 

          I winced slightly. Praise was a ring I hadn’t worn much of this week. Or the one before.

          I had an errand to run. I drove out, had it done. Driving back home, the radio turned off, I tried to seal my heart to God’s. I looked up once more at the white gray skies. A cheery westerly wind was blowing, making languid boughs bend forwards in welcome.  Remembering the robin on the bare branch, I offered up the beauty of the day to my Lord in praise.

          And then again, my thoughts returned to the troubles our family is facing, and I wondered, How do I hope right, how do I hope without breaking?

          Suddenly, piercing the well-insulated car, came an unusually loud avian singing.

Robins!

           Stunned, I scanned the line of trees bordering the roads. How could it be? How could it be that I heard them?? I could not even hear the crunch of the car tyres on the road. If I were to have heard  anything, it should have been that!

          But instead it was the choir of little robins! Unseen yet strangely, so very close. In a way I cannot explain, they seemed to be flying alongside the moving car – which they weren’t!

          The choir stayed by my ears as I drove into our home and got out of the car. Again, I was startled – they were our very own robins – patriarchs of the trees in our backyard!

          None of this made sense to me. How could I have heard the serenade of my backyard robins, from more than 400 metres away, in a moving car, through completely raised up windows and secured doors?

          As the winds continued their joyful ruffling in accompaniment to the gentle sweetness of the lilting robin hymn, I knew that Mother Mary, Queen Immaculate of my Saturdays, had brought me this beautiful miracle. Speaking through the tongues of birds, Mother bade me know that She heard me, that She was watching over my search for hope.

          But more importantly, She asked that, as the robin sings, undeterred even in the deepest winter, awaiting the hope of spring sun upon the snow,

so must I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arise, My Beloved and Come!

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… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

Song of Hope

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Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!
Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!
Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the mother, Christ the mother’s Son
By all things blest while endless ages run.

Amen.

 

 

 

Choosing Jesus for Those Who Won’t

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          This year, Advent will open for us in a way I’d rather not have. A niece will be getting engaged to a young man who we fear sees her as a cash cow and is merely using her. He’s not Catholic, not even a Christian and shows no interest in the faith. But the worse sorrow is that my niece is, of her own will, moving away from the faith of her birth.

          In her choice of life partner, she is not choosing Jesus.

          In recent weeks, I’ve given my all in prayer. In addition to the prayer need above, I’ve also increasingly heard about distressing mental issues and sufferings and oppressions. Suicides – not just of individuals but of entire families – father, mother, children. It seemed like everywhere we looked, we saw the family and marriage under severe attack – just as Sr Lucia Dos Santos of Fatima had warned.

          With each troubling, I’ve loaded everyone and everything into my prayer cart and gone before the Miraculous Image. I have struggled and struggled to marshal every fibre of my being into prayer lines, for the weeks have been tough and I didn’t always feel like praying.

          Yesterday, I became aware of a word that has been coming up everywhere I turn:

HOPE

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a thing before. Every few hours, in the least likely circumstance, HOPE came before my eyes.

          I believe it is an exhortation to persevere and not give up. HOPE – because wishes may be long in coming true. HOPE – because spent and tired as I am, maybe there’s a lot more of the difficult road that needs to be journeyed down. HOPE – because

You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.   ~  Matthew 24: 6 – 8

          All these are the beginnings of the labour pains. I feel the sting of tears behind my eyes. There is much, much more to be endured. The journey is far from ended. And I have nothing left to give. Nothing at all.

          I think of the hymn the angels sang into my ear at daybreak – This is My Body, Broken for You ~

This is My body, broken for you,
bringing you wholeness, making you free,
take it and eat it, and when you do,
do it in love for Me.

Do it in love for Me. I am running on empty. I do not know how to feel hopeful because the bite of disappointment in a world unravelling even faster is deepening. Yet, Jesus says, Eat My body. Eat it in Love.

          To persevere, to hope, is to get up from the ground and continue my journey for the love of Jesus. If my niece chooses a self-absorbed, materialistic man over Jesus, if despairing parents choose suicide over perseverance and endurance, if bullies and tyrants and narcissists seem stronger and more powerful than ever, then, no matter how tired I am, no matter how broken I feel inside, I must love by choosing Jesus on their behalf.

          That is the meaning of receiving the Eucharist. To eat the Body of Christ is to say to my Jesus, I choose You. To become one with my Jesus. To feel His pain. To suffer with Him.

          And to say, I love You, I choose You – for those who do not.

 

 

 

 

 

The Harvest Has Begun

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The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.   ~   Matthew 13: 39

 

          This line from today’s Reading lingers before me while others move ahead. I see the words: Harvest. End of age. Harvesters. Angels. All of these marked the old July. A few short weeks before, such a line would have filled me with dread. And the way July this year shaped up for us, would have added shadows to the chill in me.

          But since the passing of my colleague’s husband, and the prayer journey we took as a family, and since a physical and financial difficulty we faced over the weekend, something has changed within me. I fleetingly sense something has taken root. A calm I never had before. A quietness to my strength. A gent~ling. It’s as if someone not me has come to live within me.

      The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  

          For the first time, I am filled with hope. Always one to fear the Cross despite my best attempts to love it, I cannot understand this reaction. I cannot explain it.

          Neither can I explain my conviction that the harvest has indeed begun.