Hope

Crucial Moments

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The rulers sneered at Jesus and said,
“He saved others, let him save himself
if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.”
Even the soldiers jeered at him.
As they approached to offer him wine they called out,
“If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.”
Above him there was an inscription that read,
“This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the thieves hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,
“Are you not the Christ?
Save yourself and us.”
The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply,
“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal.”
Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise.”   Luke 23: 35 – 43

 

          No prizes for guessing which thief I was at Christ the King feast day Mass. The day had begun well enough and I thought I had it all under control. Yet, just before Mass, someone sneaked in and tweaked the script, and my participation at Mass evolved into a litany of anger, frustration and weakening hope, one bitter cup after another offered up to the King of the Universe.

          But God worked an almost immediate miracle. Within seconds of my offering, He healed me of my anger towards 2 members of my family. The storm in my spirit quietened considerably, I continued to offer up the rest of my struggles – with hope especially.

          Soon, I became aware of the words on the back of a top won by an unfamiliar young lady in the pew in front of me,

MY GOD, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee!
I ask pardon for those who do not believe,
do not adore, do not trust and do not love Thee.   ~   The Pardon Prayer, Fatima Angel

          My heart turned away from that prayer. I was having trust issues, so how on earth could I pray the line – I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love Thee – with any sincerity? Furthermore, I wasn’t in the mood to ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not trust and do not love GodNo, I had enough with obedient waiting and I wanted God to storm right in and work an earth-shaking miracle with the family members who had kept me in knots for much of the year.

          The day at church ended with my priest’s gentle advice to not borrow trouble from the unseen future, but to keep my eyes on the present, believing that Christ the King is already in every situation of my life.

          I wish the good priest’s counsel could have put out the last of the flames within me. It didn’t. Intent on not ruining the day for my family with my inner struggles, I sailed into the next act of disobedience: I chose to lie to myself.

          I pretended all was well. That the earlier storm had passed and the sun had come out.

          By lying to myself and pretending, I didn’t wait for God’s timing but went ahead of Him. There’s always a price for streaking ahead of Him, of course, and I paid it pretty soon. In a short amount of time, the flames within snaked to life again, and giving in to my frustrations, I spoke words the Almighty had not placed on my tongue.

          My words didn’t edify anyone in my family; they likely hardened hearts even further.

          Hours later, reading Rev. John Henry Hanson’s sermon for the Solemnity of Christ the King,

It is tempting for people, like the impenitent thief, to struggle, shout, and curse when they suffer. But it is in those crucial moments that we most need to believe, love, and hope in Christ as our King. Those are moments when the Lord can conquer us, because we see how weak and vulnerable we are, how incapable we are of saving ourselves.  

– I suddenly saw something.

But it is in those crucial moments that we most need to believe, love, and hope in Christ as our King

          It is easy to affirm trust in God when all is well, when our sight is opened to seeing the miracles which the Lord weaves into our days. But when the road of the present is rutted and broken and navigating it has taken almost everything out of us, when the bend ahead hides all hope in the coming – trust is very difficult indeed. When hopes are long in coming true, it is the first thief’s voice that rises high, because it comes from the depths of frustrations rooted in faltering faith.

But it is in those crucial moments that we most need to believe, love, and hope in Christ as our King.

          Fifteen years ago today, God blessed me with double rainbows as the sign of His abiding presence in my life. Today, as I remember that Christ is the Sinner’s King, God wills me to understand that the prayer He bequeathed us through the Fatima Angel – to believe, adore, trust and love – is not merely the prayer for when the spring breezes blow and flowers dot the fields – but especially when the walls around hearts remain unyielding and the sprawlers’ revelry unending.

          For those are the crucial moments when unseen to us, Light pierces through to illuminate the darkness.

Christ the King,

Christ the King,

Christ the King,

Make me love Thee more and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About to Unfold

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I will not abandon or forsake you. I am faithful. I have chosen you and you are Mine. My blessing is upon you and the designs of My heart are about to unfold for you. You have only to trust Me. Believe that I will keep you as the apple of My eye. You are safe under My Mother’s mantle. I will hold you close to My wounded Heart. Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you.   ~  In Sinu Jesu, page 42

 

          A week ago, in the happy silence of a still church, I felt Jesus speak those words to me. It was not my imagination, nor was it desperate hope. Just a quiet confidence that my Lord was addressing me.

          Work has been tremendous, the ante upped as it usually is towards the ending of a year. The only difference is that this year, we are being led by cruelty. Masked by the outward appearance of dedication and concern, cruelty is running the show at work. Stooped backs are being further bent by force of work. Weary minds in a chokehold, forced to remain in pursuit of someone else’s goals.

          And yet, a secret flame burns somewhere within the folds of my spirit. Most days, I am so tired that I think I cannot walk another step. But from its hiding place, a mysterious energy flows into the dry gullies of my being. Somehow, I can go on – and go on well!

          And I am quietly happy, mirth in easy bubbling at the slightest tickle.

          On this grey morning, as robins sweet~note from rain~pearled boughs, my mind returns to the recent days. Days of rainbow after unexpected rainbow, willing me to recall God’s Word to my heart,

The designs of My heart are about to unfold for you.

Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Comes Early

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          Looking out of my window very early today, I was taken aback to see the hidden sun already at work, quietly rose~ing the velvet skies. Never in my life have I known the dawn to come so early, defying even the science of forecast.

          And yet it had, this Rosary Sunday, eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

          Pink and gold spilling across the skies, I hurried outside to rest my soul among the smiling blooms in the garden, the zinnias growing impossible tall and luxuriantly, wet from the blessings of dew the night before, the roses sweetly unpearling their petals to greet the new day.

          Pondering the surprise of the early sunrise, I thought of God’s promise to me during Lent, 6 months ago,

God will help it at the break of dawn.   ~   Psalm 46: 6

          Is this it? Is this never before early hour of dawn the silent herald of help coming from heaven?

Then the LORD answered me and said:
 Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
 so that one can read it readily.
 For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.   ~  Habakkuk 2: 2 – 3

 

 

 

 

 

Proclaim on Distant Isles

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Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.   ~  Jeremiah 31: 10, 13

 

          It has been three very intense workdays, like a whole week crammed into them. Long hours, the feeling that you can’t do one thing more.

          And yet, amazing strength. Laughter and cheer. Calmness.

          As calm as a saint.

          From yesterday, her feast day of October 1st, my thoughts skip over ever so often to St Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus, because the St Thérèse roses, as I have named them, by my window, have put out gentle, pink blooms. Ever since the sign of some years back, when I see roses come forth from the plant, I think of her and I know that she’s thinking of me too. And this calmness since yesterday is not mine, I can assure you.

          Today, on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, the other rose plants clamour to rise their blooms too. Suddenly, the garden is blooming and laughing like never before.

From heaven I will send down a shower of roses   ~  St Thérèse of Lisieux

          Oh joy, she certainly has kept her word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blessing in Disguise

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          We have loved zinnias for a long time. They stand for a time of joy. For the time before sorrow visited us.

          We used to have a whole bed of them, every colour, different varieties. They were our special flowers. We had them at a time when orchids were the rage for many of our neighbours. Every morning, going to my window for a brief respite from milk feeds, porridge and diapers, my zinnias had smiled for me in the glory of sunny mornings.

          Then, came a time when our hearts no longer sought them in the joy we once knew. We did try to grow them again and for a time, they flowered. Yet, something was just not the same anymore.

Our zinnias no longer smiled.

          We made an attempt at comfort by trying to grow them elsewhere, but the plants gently refused us. The meaning of this was lost on me in those grey years, but today, I understood:

Our zinnias would not live in the soil of sorrow.

They were, for us, joy, and so, only joy and hope could nourish them to bloom in beauty once more.

          Yesterday, we reeled from a yet another blow. In the church courtyard, I sat in my car, gripping the phone in anguish as my husband told me of a verdict our whole country had been waiting for. Adding to the mountain of injustices and religious bigotry, was yet another racially charged judgement.

          Cut up, I went into church and went before my silent Jesus. I placed before Him our pain and the pain of our country. I placed into His heart our embattled Attorney General. In quick strokes, I laid bare our collective grief, Will things ever change for this land?

          My morning quiet time earlier had been rushed and a trifle harried. Hence, not having had the time to do my Daily Readings then, I went to them now, in the silent church, its stillness untroubled.

…the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:
Tell this to the governor of Judah,
Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak,
and to the remnant of the people:

Who is left among you
that saw this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?
But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the LORD,
and take courage, Joshua, high priest, son of Jehozadak,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
says the LORD, and work!
For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!
For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations,
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
And I will fill this house with glory,
says the LORD of hosts.
Mine is the silver and mine the gold,
says the LORD of hosts.
Greater will be the future glory of this house
than the former, says the LORD of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace,
says the LORD of hosts!   ~  Haggai 2: 1 – 9

          I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

But now take courage, Zerubbabel,
and take courage, Joshua,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
For I am with you,
My spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

          Take courage! Take courage! Take courage!

Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight
against a faithless people;
from the deceitful and impious man rescue me.   ~  Responsorial psalm – Psalm 43:1

          Do me justice, and fight my fight, O Lord, I murmured over and over, faith tightening its bands around my heart. Looking up at my Silent Jesus, remembering His promise to me last week,

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart

I requested once more in quiet expectation, Speak to me Jesus.

          Immediately, I felt these words written in my ears,

A blessing in disguise.

          I sat there, staring at the words within. A blessing in disguise. It didn’t seem possible. All that was certain was further entrenchment of injustice and evil triumph. And yet, Jesus had whispered a message of contrarian hope,

A blessing in disguise

          I look out now at the bed by the fence, our first zinnias of the year. No longer downcast, unsure of staying. But a profusion of colours in wild and giddy bloom, resolute yet clearly happy in the dance of the late morning’s sun warmed blue~breeze kisses.

A blessing in disguise

          The last vestiges of doubt fled. I believed with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cock is About to Crow

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          Rising early yesterday to travel to the city, heaven touched my eyes briefly.

Pray to St. Gabriel

          There are 3 of them on my heart, so with no further instructions forthcoming, I prayed to all 3 saints. And then, the mists rose, and my heart could discern no more.

          The day went well but as the night veils uncurled, the winds began to lift the sands. The twilight hours were soon filled with piercings over the state of our nation. A missing child found dead. Bumbling police. A leader bent on destroying the nation. Elected representatives with their moral compasses askew. 

          A succession of crises, one worse than the other.

          We gathered as a family and talked about the issues that had come up, at the heart of each was the right to life. We were emotional, we were charged up. Still, we reminded  one another to fight the fight each is called to. And then we prayed.

          Though tired from travelling, my sleep at night was not as restful as hoped for. Awakening in the middle of the night, I pressed the air for hope.

          No new hope did the night yield me. All the problems of our troubled land strained towards me. So, I gathered what I had and reached for the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

          When I awakened later, soft sunrise, like old gold, greeted me in the new hours of the day. The winds, infinitely gentle, tread softly as they descended among trees silent and firm in their wisdom. A new gentleness had settled upon our land, like a soft blanket placed upon our sore hearts by a loving Mother.

          As I tiptoed among the lightening hours, my heart rejoiced quietly at this change, even as I pondered and wondered. Something… something

As if night has passed.

          Then, Gabriel laid out for me this prayer by St. Ambrose, one I’ve never before seen.

MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about does bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

does in their times the seasons give.

 Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

 The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

 O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

 

          My breath caught at the words,

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er

New hope his clarion note awakes

          Memory returned me to the words of God 4 months before, God will help it at the break of dawn.   ~   Psalm 46: 6.

          The seas are in a fury now, tempest after tempest roiling the waters. We row on, fighting ourselves, fighting for others, fighting the ever towering waves. It seems as if the night of oppression refuses to die, that dawn will not come soon enough.

          But the angel descends  today to sound the call of new hope.

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er.

          Beloved Gabriel come to rise our spirits,

Dawn is about to break.

 

Lent 34 ~ Two Roses

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          This morning, I returned to an old garden, hidden from the busy walkways of life. There, I plucked two blooms and carried them back with me in my heart ~ my two children returned to Heaven through miscarriage.

          Later, a struggle with anger against oppressors attacking my kids, anger worsening with every mile to church. All through Mass. Wanting to protect my children. Planning. Then, not sure if anything I do will work. Twenty years of this, worse now because of the kids and the danger they face.

          I tried saying the Rosary during our drive to church but I couldn’t focus on a single Mystery then. So, I resorted to simple Hail Marys, little roses for my Mother. I couldn’t seem to offer anything else.

          I just wished She would say just one word to me.

          Just before Mass began, I was with my Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul. Speak to me, please, I begged. The entries I read were to do with Confession. I read them carefully, searching for His voice. I couldn’t hear anything clearly. So, I moved on.

          Then, I remembered that we were planning for Confession. I went back to the Confession entries.

Concerning Holy Confession.

We should derive two kinds of profit from Holy Confession:
1. We come to confession to be healed;
2. We come to be educated-like a small child, our soul has constant need of education.   ~   #Entry 376

          I understood the words. But I still could not access the direction and comfort I was desperate for. Then, somehow, I lost my place in the book. Searching, I stumbled upon something else – O Blessed Host… Despite my inner turmoil, I was drawn to those words.

O Blessed Host, our only hope in the toil and monotony of everyday life.

O Blessed Host, our only hope amid the ruin of our hopes and endeavors.

O Blessed Host, our only hope in the midst of the ravages of the enemy and the efforts of hell.

The efforts of hell. Yes. That aptly described what I was facing, what the kids and my husband were facing.

          As the Host was raised, I cried out with heart and soul,

Save us, Jesus!

Save us, Jesus!

          Later, during Confession, listening intently to my pastor’s words, quiet and gentle, unhesitating in his counsel, my soul was educated, and directed towards hope.

And towards the seeking of angels.

          Just before his final prayer, this gentle priest who has known much suffering, told me to offer Heaven a gift. Two Hail Marys. Roses for my Mother. A softness stole into my heart.

          I knelt to pray. Heart and soul, I offered up the Hail Marys. I begged Mother Mary to keep my children safe.

          Then, I remembered my two wee babies returned to Heaven through miscarriage.

Two children

Two Hail Marys

          Two roses. One for each child, for our Mother. Gift of angels.

 

 

 

Lent 33 ~ Unexpected

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They who aspire to reform the morals of others lose their time and their pains, by not preaching by example, in correcting themselves first.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

          Yesterday, the quote above touched me. When surrounded by so much negativity and wrong, and we’re trying to survive and thrive, it’s easy to forget to look within ourselves for the solution. When I read the quote, its gentle urge to work on myself filled me with unexpected light, and that light – to preach by example – I took to the day,

          For cruelty, compassion

          For self-seeking, generosity

          For pride, humility

          Towards the end of the work day, preparing for my final appointment, I reflected that, despite my best intentions, I didn’t really get the chance to press compassion, generosity and humility into the widening cracks of my workplace. There’ll be another day, I reassured myself.

          Only the angels could have known what was waiting for me at that final session. We strayed slightly away from our discussion and I stumbled upon pain territory. I heard of truly heartless bullying by those tasked with protecting their charges. I heard the unspoken, deepening resentment. I heard voices stretch and crack from hurt. The blow was unexpected, but paled beside the rawness of the wounds suffered by those victims.

          For a while, I couldn’t find words, anything to make it hurt less for them. As I struggled to wrest control over my emotions, I heard myself speak. I spoke about not rebelling – as I sensed it would worsen the situation. I told the group, all Muslims, that there is a God who sees and feels their tears. I found myself telling them about our natural reflex towards revenge – which is so entrenched in their religion – then gently steered them to rest that revenge in God’s heart, clearing the path in their own hearts to receive His powerful strength.

          They were not empty words, not out of a book, or some preacher’s mouth. They were my journey, my struggles. But I didn’t tell them that because what mattered was their suffering and that they leave the room in hope.

          Did I give them that? Was it enough? As I fretted about it hours later, someone softly spread this over my heart,

          For cruelty, compassion

          For self-seeking, generosity

          For pride, humility.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 20 ~ Three

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          A short while back, when it became certain that a health concern was recurring, I became anxious and worried. I had faced it before and knew firsthand how problematic and disruptive it could be.

          In the midst of this Cross, I thought of Julian of Norwich and the way she had come  one old night bearing the message,

All shall be well

          I wished she would come once more now, to tell me again that I needn’t fear.

          But she didn’t. It was just one more disappointment which I tucked into the folds of my heart.

          Then came the exhortation that I ask God for His sign for me. After some dithering, I obeyed. On the third day, He brought me this sign early in the morning,

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices. ~   St Teresa of Avila

          All things are passing away. My heart caught at those words. I could feel strength slowly return, gently watering the fear~dried gullies within me. I had just learnt an important lesson – to hold on to hope, to keep my eyes on God – through loving my family.

          And so to the garden of my beloveds I went to love. The hours flew by as the winds sang their hymns from the breast of trees. Late last night, the house stilled in slumber and my heart at peace, once more, St. Teresa smiled her words at me,

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices. 

          This time, I felt her place her finger on Whoever has God lacks nothing. As my heart willingly embraced those words, someone quietly and gently stood behind me. Sensing a presence, my spirit turned, and I beheld,

All shall be well.

          My beloved Julian of Norwich. The third of three.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 19 ~ Eyes on God

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          Last night, eyes of my heart moving over my day, I was chagrined to realise that my  hours could have been lived better. I had done little and accomplished even less. I had given in to sluggishness. I had not served my family as much as I should have. I had not spent enough time to listen and to enjoy them.

          I barely even heard the birds in the winds yesterday.

          I did not forget the rainbow message of the morn – to remember hope – but even as I held on to the promise of hope, I forgot to try to live that promise in a deeper way. Instead, I had allowed my weariness over my health issues to cloud my day. I allowed it to hold back more of myself from giving love to others.

          Today, I strongly sense that God must have watched me in my hours of yesterday. He must have observed me spend that time trying to hold on to hope by fighting my fears, suppressing my worries through positivity and some prayers.

          And surely, He knew that yesterday, I forgot the most important prayer of all – the prayer of holding His hand through my family.

          So, with the deepening of the night veils, He set about straightening my path.

          He brought me a week’s old post of Melanie Jean Juneau’s where she had written of a situation she was facing. Of the fear. Of trying to hold on to Jesus’ hand even as she tried to walk on water. Of feeling the waves rise higher and higher over her.

          Reading about it, pity and sympathy for a woman I admire so much pierced my heart and shocked me out of myself. Wanting to do something to help her, I bound  Melanie to the Passion of Christ, to His Blood and Water, in fervent prayer for mercy for her and for her family.

          I believe that prayer set me free. My health concerns paled in comparison to this pain. My eyes now just where He wanted them to be, God then set before me other posts – each bearing the message of keeping our eyes on the Lord as we walked on water towards Him.

          No spirit can turn away from such a powerful sign; neither could mine. I knew my Master’s sign the moment I perceived it. I understood His urgent call and my spirit surged towards the impossibility of what He was calling me to: walk on water.

          He’s not called a loving Father for nothing.

          God knew I would hurry to obey. But then, like Peter, I would suddenly take my eyes off Him and I would begin to sink quickly. And so, He showed me how He wanted me to keep my eyes on Him.

          …in the garden every morning are these exquisite blooms, ravishing roses, that are our beloveds …. As we step out each day, may we celebrate the blooms God has so graciously gifted us with.   ~   Linda Raha, Time Enough, Reflections From An Open Window

          God was telling me to return to my family. To love them. To serve them. As I cared for my beloved blooms, I would be keeping my eyes on Him and walking on water towards Him.

          That is how He wants me to remember hope.