Friday, March 02, 2012

No trial has come to you but what is human

“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10: 13)

The authority of the word of God teaches that any trial, disappointment, obstacles, delays, frustrations that we experience in life is what is common to humanity.  This is a sobering truth.  Without this divine authority, we are inclined to consider the severity of our personal crisis as very unique.  To know that the word of God is true and authoritative helps us to develop perspective in our trials.  The other lesson from 1 Corinthians 10:13 is also striking.  God is faithful and He will not allow us to be tried beyond our strength.  Based on this authority, we can say:  “This crisis!  I can handle it because God Himself says that I can and I believe Him.”  Do not forget what the verse says about God’s faithfulness.  The scripture that I like very much about God’s faithfulness is the one that says:  “Faithfulness is the essence of his name.”  In other words, you can call God, the Faithful One.

Have you ever thought of the truth that for every temptation or crisis, God Himself provides a way of escape?  Without the divine authority in 1 Corinthians 10: 13, I would not believe this.  But it is true.  Remember that God taught in Deuteronomy 8: 3 that “Man does not live on bread alone.”  God is able and willing to provide livelihood through any means.  His all powerful and divine providence is a mystery.  After all, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways are not our ways.  All that He asks of us is to trust Him.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Ask and Receive Thursday

“Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord.   She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.  Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.  As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers that you, O Lord, always free those who are pleasing to you.  Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan.  Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.  Save us from the hand of our enemies, turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”   (Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25)

The above scripture  is the first reading today, Thursday – First Week in Lent.  I made this note in my Missal about today’s scripture readings for the Mass:  “Ask and Receive Thursday.”  The first reading, the responsorial psalms, the gospel and the antiphons all have one unifying theme:  PRAYER.  For me, this is a rare occurrence.  Before looking at other scriptures in today’s liturgy, I want to point out a couple of things from the powerful passage from Esther.

First, note what Esther did when seized by the mortal anguish.  She knew where to seek help.  She had recourse to God in prayer.  Next note her posture.  She lay prostrate on the ground.  Was she alone?  She understood the concept of prayer partnership.  Her handmaids were prostrate in prayer with her.  This is a big crisis.   How long did they pray?  From morning to evening.  How did Esther pray?  After invoking the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (similar today to invoking the name of Jesus), she blessed God.  In Philippians 4: 6-7, we are advised to bring our request to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.   Esther tells God twice that she is alone and has nobody to help her except God.  She recalls from Scripture that God always helps those who are pleasing to Him.   She pleads to God to help her and reminds God that she is an orphan.  God after all is the Father of the fatherless and orphans.    Then finally, she was specific about what she wants:  “persuasive words” when she meets the king;  “turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.”
I find this a great prayer and a model of prayer in crisis.

The Response verse is very appropriate:  “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.”  God answered the prayer of Esther and delivered her people in a powerful way.    The rest of the Responsorial Psalm 138 continues with the theme of gratitude for answered prayer.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the infallibility of prayer.

“Jesus said to his disciples:
"Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 7: 7-12)

The Gospel of today is a master-piece in its teaching on prayer.  Prayer as noted above is declared an infallible resource by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The Church confirms from experience what the Lord teaches here.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb

“Father, you never fail to give us the food of life.  May this Eucharist renew our strength and bring us to salvation.  Grant this through Christ our Lord.”  (Prayer after Communion, Wednesday First Week in Lent)

The Eucharist is a sign of God’s faithful provision.  “Man does not live on bread alone.”  (Matthew 4:4)  It is also a mark of His abundance.  It is the Bread that never gets exhausted.  “"All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!" (Isaiah 55:1)

"Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)       
Jesus Christ who is our security and our stability uses the Eucharist to strengthen us. 

The Eucharist is the sign of the New Covenant.  He fulfils His age old promise by giving us the Eucharist.  " Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.k " (Luke 22: 19-20)

God declares blessed everyone who is invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Lord delivered me from all my fears

“I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  (Psalm 34: 5)

Fears that keep us awake at night are some of these:  health, family, money, job, tools (cars, homes, computers, etc), food and future.  From personal experience, David bore witness to the fact that confronted by these fears, he sought the Lord.  He did not hide his fears as he did not cover his sins.  Some weeks ago, I was attacked by fears over money and job.  Providentially, I read Psalm 34 early that morning and I knew what to do.  I listed my fears on a piece of paper and took it to the Lord in the Chapel.  Standing very close to the Monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, I placed the piece of paper at the base of the Monstrance and surrendered my fears to the Lord.  The Lord delivered me from my fears.

“I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  (Psalm 34: 5)

Exactly three weeks after this deliverance, the fears returned.  I remembered the Chinese proverb:  “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.”  Because I had learned the lesson of what to do with my fears, I returned with the list to the good place.  I stood again very close to the Presence of the Lord and surrendered the fears once more.  Once more, the Lord relieved me of my fears. 

Then I wondered:  Why doesn’t the Lord deliver me once and for all from all my fears?  I understood that there just as some illnesses are cured by surgery, others like are managed by medications.  God Himself taught us in Matthew 4:4:  “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  This means that God in His all loving and powerful providence is both able and willing to use the necessary means to satisfy all living things.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The acceptable time of 2012

"For he says: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

This is Lent 2012.  For many years now, Lent has become my favorite season of the year.  Most of the richest blessings in my life occurred during Lent.  For example, God healed me of addiction to tobacco during Lent.  My prayer habit and life were sown during Lent.  The fast from food and soda is good for my body.  The increased prayer time is good for my soul.  The almsgiving is good for my pocket.  It helps to convince me that God is a faithful provider and delivers me from the fear of want. 

For many years, I have fasted from television and this fast is wonderful and helps me focus on Lent and protects me from unnecessary distractions.  While I fasted in the past from television for the 40 day period of Lent, I had not necessarily fasted from news.  I could not resist the curiosity to know what is happening in the world, especially in an election year.   Both the radio and the Internet are rich sources of news today.

 Although my domain is in religion, I have known for a longtime that I am a political animal.  As I help to build the City of God, I am aware that I still live in the City of Man and must contribute my quota in making it good.  So it has been very difficult to fast from news.  Some years ago, I started the fasting on news and it was great for my soul.  At the end of Lent, joyful and light in mind and body, I wish I could continue the fast from news.  I know that like the other types of fast, it must now be controlled rather than totally eliminated so that I can do the greatest good with all the resources provided to me.