DRESSED FOR THE WEDDING FEAST

Go Home To Your Family

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Jesus and His disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When He got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met Him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before Him,
crying out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure You by God, do not torment me!”
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?”

He replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.”
And he pleaded earnestly with Him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with Him,
“Send us into the swine.  Let us enter them.”
And He let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg Him to leave their district.
As He was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with Him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.   ~   Mark 5: 1 – 20

 

          The Parable of the Pigs as I call it is an enigma to me. No matter how many interpretations and explanations I read on it, the initial intellectual satisfaction is always temporary. After a time, I always get the sense that the real meaning of the parable for me  – eludes me. It’s akin to travelling on a road and coming to an inn by the wayside. Once inside the inn, with the nourishment of food and drink inside me, I assume that my journey has come to an end and that I should just stay the night or return to where I came from; that there is nothing more to journey on for any more.

          But soon, I realise this inn is not the last stop for me; its nourishment not as filling and as lasting as I first presumed.

          The road stretches on further.

          Today, seeing the parable again, it suddenly came to me that the Parable of the Pigs is meant to be a journey, different parts meaning different things as I journey though life, and meanings constantly evolving. In an odd way, this comforted me considerably, it made sense why my heart cannot seem to settle for any discernment.

          And so I returned to the parable, but this time, with different eyes.

          Always confounded by why the demons had to be sent into the poor pigs, resulting in them rushing down the cliffs into the water and drowning, why Jesus allowed this mass death of animals to occur, this time, notwithstanding the same questions, my heart was steered towards something else.

          For the first time, I didn’t see the pigs. I saw the possessed man.

          I saw his sorrowful home, his life of horrifying, endless grief among the rocks and tombs, confined to dying but never death itself, by the hold Legion had upon him. Often, he was driven to mad despair, dashing himself with stones, his self-harm a plea for real death, that the torments end.

          For the first time, in that poor man, I saw myself, from childhood till marriage and even after the joy of children, banging my head against walls, hitting myself with my bare fists, with books, pulling violently at my own hair, slapping myself, screaming and screaming for release from the madness and cruelty of an entity whose name was not known to me back then.

the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned…
And people came out to see what had happened…
…they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.

clothed and in his right mind

          Tiny pearls began to line up. The dream 11 years ago. My husband and I are dressed in our wedding finery, entering the church through the left side, with our children as ring bearers and flower girl. Entering church to be married once more, it seemed. Followed by deep joy in bathing one of my children, the seemingly mundane tasks of family life. Then, a sudden swerve. I am alone, in our present parish, dressed in a dark, dull red blouse. In the empty church, taking up an offering of preserved flowers. Alone. Empty church. Dried flowers. And the dream ends there.

          Dried flowers, red blouse. For some reason, immediately and long years after, those two details stay with me like a burr. Why dried flowers? Why red? I have probed a thousand times.

          Then, one night, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, less than a year after the dream, sorrow biting deep, yet happy that I could care for my family, my in-laws. Awakening in the dark dawn, seeing the shadows of tree branches dance against the walls, the play of tiny lights. Deep serenity.

          Suddenly, a flash and a return to memory of the 2 dreams – the Second Wedding and the Offertory.

          And in a silvery breath, a soft, clear, feminine voice saying to me,

The dreams will be reversed in reality.

Sorrow before joy.

          Taking the Offertory. Dull red blouse. From last year, starting from the anniversary of our marriage registration, inexplicably, each and every time I wore red, my husband and I have been asked to carry the Bread and Wine during the Offertory at Mass. In a church of more than 1 000 parishioners, red is common enough and I have nothing to me to make me stand out for any reason.

          And yet, each time without fail, since our last marriage anniversary, every time I was in red, the usher would quietly come to our pew with the request.

          Solitary offertory in an empty church. I’ve always wondered if it was God’s reminder to me offer up my efforts, at home and at work. To make it my firstfruit offering each and every time.

          Today, Someone gently settles understanding on my heart:

Offertory in an empty church

Console Me

          Suddenly I see what I’ve never seen before – last year, as never before in our lives, each time we were in the city, no matter how rushed we were, I’d try to take the family with me into the empty church, to spend some quiet time with Jesus, trying to heed little St. Francisco Marto’s call to Console Jesus. It never seemed like much. Not with a ticking clock, restless children, miles upon miles to travel before we got home. I recalled too the recent night awakenings, and the immediate turn of mind and heart, to console Jesus.

          Now I understand that, that was the Offertory God had asked of us.

the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.”

          Go home to your family. With the deepening strife at work, each time I cried and begged to be released from my work chains, God took more and more out of me, more and more away from me. And over and over, I heard the same,

Go home to your family

          To my children’s needs. To my husband’s sufferings and struggles. To my in-laws’ tribulations with marriage, ill health, old age and increasing distance from the faith. Every time something or someone at work hurt me, the Angel led me to bury my wounds in caring for family – the Heart of Jesus.

          Go home to your family. I saw the child of my dream, the one I had been bathing, soap suds all over. I heard the tinkle of joyful laughter, baby mirth so, so deeply treasured. The voice I’d give anything to hear once more. I can no longer bathe this child. That time has long passed, never to be mine. But Love Unseen has led me to care for my family and even for those not family but who live in my heart, in ways I could never have imagined during the long years of my parents’ NPD torment.

The dreams will be reversed in reality. Sorrow before joy.

          Go home to your family is the bridge that links the Sorrow of the Offertory to the Joy of the Second Wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

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Not Dressed

          This year, I felt a strong call to honour the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – the anniversary of the 1571 Christian victory in the Battle of Lepanto. I wanted to make the kids a part of that too. So, on the eve, when the night had quietened down, I told them about Lepanto and the need for prayers. We decided to honour the feast by withdrawing from the world as often as we could that entire day, each time to say 5 Hail Mary’s for any intention God chooses to press on our souls. While I did share with the younger ones suggestions of intentions they could pray for, I insisted everyone listen out intently for God’s voice to each soul.

          The next day, we did the sets of Hail Mary’s as often as each could. My youngest seemed to be the most enthusiastic. It touched my heart, for that little sunny soul was also the most mischievous of the lot.

          In the afternoon, settling down for a nap, I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet till I slept off.

          I awakened later, stunned by a dream.

          I could hear a plane struggling to ascend above huge rain clouds. It seemed to stretch its engine capacity to breaking point. Suddenly, I knew it didn’t make it. I heard the plane come down on the side of our house that faces north and the explosion illuminated the walls of our master bedroom. Fearing the fireball heading our way,  I grabbed my husband’s and kids’ hands and dragged them all to another room as far away from the north side as possible.

          We escaped unscathed. Later, we came out of the house and everything outside was covered in grey-white ash. There was a woman I didn’t know by the perimeter fence. She didn’t seem too upset by the plane crash. I asked her if it was an international flight; she replied by giving me the flight number. All I heard was the alphabet B, and the rest of the number faded out. But somehow, it was enough for me to realize it had been a local flight, one of those smaller planes.

          As I was digesting this information, I turned back towards my home and to my consternation, saw that my children had put on their running shoes and were on their bikes and looked to be ready for some fun and games. I was upset that even a plane crash, with almost certain loss of life, could not steer them to deeper compassion for the suffering.

          Then, my focus was inexplicably rained on my youngest, whining over some need not met .

          And she was beyond the age where she needed to do that.

          Opening my eyes, I was shocked over what I had been shown. It was one of those dreams I rarely have where every detail is crystal clear. At that moment, I heard the rumble of thunder. Immediately, I began to pray Hail Mary’s, beseeching Mother’s mercy to prevent any air crashes.

          In the hours before the dream, I didn’t have a single impediment to saying the Hail Mary’s. Now however, every time my heart reached for it, the prayer was lifted out of the way. I kept at it for an hour or so, even trying the Divine Mercy chaplet, but to no avail. Then, I even tried praying different prayers – but connected to plane crashes.

          Nothing worked.

          When I played back the dream, trying to discern for myself what prayer or action was needed, I sensed the various parts swirling before me. For a while, the dream and its parts lost its distinctness.

          I knew what I needed to do. I went to St Joseph, the Discerner of Dreams. I asked him to press upon my spirit what I needed to focus on.

          St Joseph immediately answered me. I ‘saw’ the children once more. And I felt these words written on my heart:

They are not dressed.

          My husband and I have given our lives for our children. We try our best to raise them in the teachings of the Catholic faith. We have our ups and downs. Days when we see God in our children. Days when we sense them going astray. Ours is a home where everything can be discussed, and everything is, so we are aware of where they are at every point in their life. We do not shield them from our struggles. Our kids are not raised in a dream world of light and bubbles. As parents we strive to educate them against the selfie mindset that retards the conscience. As we try to bind the wounds of others, we make our children a part of that too.

But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’    ~ Matthew 22:  11 – 12

          I play the dream over in my mind. All of my children were more intent on their own lives. All of them spared little thought for the suffering. But the one who was singled out was my youngest. Despite her joyful nature, and now, her exuberance to embrace prayer, God was warning me that outwardly she and the others might seem as if they were dressed the part but in the eyes of God, they were not right yet.

          Most parents take pride in their children. They think the world of them. My husband and I are one of those too. But our confidence in our children is not singularly ours. It is shared by others – their teachers, our family, our priests too. It’s not a blind pride that gives us a cautious confidence in our brood that they are good kids.

          And yet, despite all we have done, despite the beautiful souls our children truly are, on the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, Mother Mary has come to warn me.

          That my children are not dressed right. They are not ready for the wedding feast.