Saturday, February 25, 2012

Devotion for today: The Wound of Rejection

Today we have a beautiful reflection on the First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden. For Lent, I will post a new reflection for Sundays, so be sure to check tomorrow’s blog.

“He was spurned and avoided by men.” Isaiah 53:39
On this Holy Thursday night Jesus showed us the very ‘depth of His love’ by giving us the complete gift of Himself and His total love in the Holy Eucharist. Then He appealed to His apostles for the first holy hour of prayer when He took them into the garden in the middle of the night, and asked them to watch and pray with Him.

 As He started to pray, He began to sweat blood. The agony He suffered was the realization that the Holy Eucharist would be rejected by so many and appreciated by so few. To reject the Holy Eucharist is to reject Jesus Himself.

He saw down through the ages how He would be left alone, spurned and avoided by men in so many tabernacles of the world, while He comes to bring so much love and so many blessings. How few would believe in His Real Presence; and fewer still respond to His appeal to be loved in the Blessed Sacrament. And His Heart was “filled with sorrow to the point of death.” The blood He sweated was grief poured out from a broken heart caused by the sorrow of His Eucharistic love being so rejected.

Then an angel brought Jesus indescribable strength and consolation by showing Him every holy hour that you would ever make. At that moment in the garden, Jesus saw you praying before Him now and He knew that His love would be returned. This is why your visit today is so important to Him. Your holy hour consoles Him for those who do not love Him and wins countless graces for many to be converted to Him.

He sees you before Him now and forgets the rejection of the world. Here we offer to Jesus any rejection we may receive from others that He may be loved by all men in this Most Blessed Sacrament.

Blessed Sacrament Prayer: Conscious of Your loving Prudence, Jesus, we unite ourselves deeply to Your attitude in the garden when You prayed: “Father, not My will, but Your will be done.” During this decade we offer You the perfect love of Mary to make up for what is lacking in our own hearts, and to repair for all of the rejection that You receive from the world in this Sacrament of Your love (Come to Me in the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Martin Vincent Lucia, Apostolate for Perpetual Adoration, Mt. Clemens, MI).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Devotion for today: come, watch with me

Scripture for meditation: Philippians 3:7-11
But those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For his sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth and I may be in Him, not having any justice of my own, based on observance of the law. The justice I possess is that which comes through faith in Christ; it has its origin in God and is based on faith. All I want is to know Christ Jesus and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in his sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death. Thus do I hope that I may arrive at resurrection from the dead.

Christ asks us: Matthew 26:40
"Could you not watch one hour with me?"

St. Peter Julian Eymard tells us: Adore and visit Jesus, abandoned and forsaken by men in His Sacrament of love. Man has time for everything except for visits to His Lord and God, who is waiting and longing for us in the Blessed Sacrament…. Sympathize with Jesus Who is betrayed, insulted, mocked, and crucified far more ignominiously in His Sacrament of love than He was in the Garden of Olives, in Jerusalem, and on Calvary. Those whom He has the most honored, loved, and enriched with His gifts and graces are the very ones who offend Him the most by their indifference. Offer up for this intention all that you have suffered during the day or week that Jesus may be loved and adored by all. Because we ourselves are unable to atone for so much wrong, we unite ourselves to the infinite merits of our Savior Jesus. Receive His diving Blood as it mystically flows from His Holy Wounds, and offer it to the Father in perfect atonement for the sins of the world. Take His sufferings and His prayer on the Cross, and beg the Heavenly Father for pardon and mercy for all. Unite your reparation to that of the most Blessed Virgin at the foot of the Cross or the altar, and from the love of Jesus for His divine Mother you will obtain everything (Come to Me in the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Martin Vincent Lucia, Apostolate for Perpetual Adoration, Mt. Clemens, MI)

Prayer: Prayer Reflection on Philippians 3:7-11
Jesus, You are the Living “Vine” in this Sacrament of Your love, giving divine life to all the “branches” of humanity. Apart from You, nothing good can be done. With You all things are possible. I adore You, and acknowledge that I am completely dependent upon You, whom I love with all my heart, mind and strength. Beget in me a holy desire to be single-hearted in everything I think, say and do, from a pure motive of whole-hearted love for you. Transform my lazy mediocrity into a burning quest for sanctity – giving me a new heart and renewing Your own spirit within me (Come to Me in the Blessed Sacrament, Fr. Martin Vincent Lucia, Apostolate for Perpetual Adoration, Mt. Clemens, MI).

My thoughts: The invitation from Christ to “watch one hour with Him” is fulfilled so beautifully by spending one hour in Adoration. Many churches offer Perpetual Adoration, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed twenty-four hours a day. If this is not possible, then sitting in front of the tabernacle in church is a wonderful way to spend an hour with Christ. We can transfer The Agony in the Garden into our own lives by taking time to isolate ourselves for one hour, and be with Christ. We unite all of our sufferings and trials to His in the Garden; we make reparation for sin by offering all of our loving thoughts, words and deeds to Him for the forgiveness of sin (ours and the world’s) and we pray, silently, with Him, that all men may be united with Him in heaven. A plan for a Holy Hour could be to start with the Rosary, meditating on the mysteries as we pray. Next, we could do a reflection, like the one offered today. Study a scripture passage, and form a prayer which makes it your own. You can then spend time in silence, allowing God to speak to the inner recesses of your heart. Then, ask Mary to present your prayers to her beloved Son, and end with a good Act of Contrition, pledging to bring the love you found sitting before Christ, out into the world.

Our prayer to God: Consider making this act of love a part of your Lenten program of prayer: by spending one hour with Christ, once a week for six weeks, you will find peace, respite from your cares and woes, and a new relationship with Christ. Please, watch with Him one hour.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Devotion for today: consoling Jesus in Gethsemane

Scripture for today: Psalm 69:21
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none.

Christ tells us: John 16:31-32
Jesus answered them: “Do you really believe? An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone. (Yet I can never be alone; the Father is with me.”

Louis Vereheylezoon, SJ, tells us:  Theologians hold for certain that by the infused prescience with which God invested His soul, Jesus knew all that was in any way connected with the work of Redemption. He foresaw, then, all the good and evil which would occur in the course of time, and hence whatever would be done for or against Him. He knew then, in particular, how men would repay His love. One may even say that this prevision was one of the causes of His deathly sorrow at Gethsemane. But at the same time He foresaw the tokens of love which He would receive from His faithful followers, and particularly the reparation they would make to Him for the ingratitude of others…This prospect consoled, encouraged, and fortified Him, and helped Him to give Himself up to suffering and death in spite of His prevision of the ingratitude of so many. Whenever, then, we pay to Jesus some homage of reparation, we may cherish the gratifying conviction that, especially during His agony in the Garden, He saw us in the far off distance of time, that He gratefully looked upon us, and that our reparation really soothed His sorrow to some extent, and comforted and strengthened Him in His agony (Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1978).

Prayer: This is a meditation prayer taken from the book “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr. Michael Gaitley (Marian Press, Stockbridge, MA, 2011):
Lord, Jesus, even though my sins are many, I know the mercy of your Heart. I’m sorry I was afraid to go to you. I’m sorry I left you alone. But look, here I am. Please forgive my sins. I’m going to try to do better. Please forgive their sins, too. Lord, if only they knew you, they’d love you.  Lord, I can’t offer much right now except for my weak trust and love. Jesus, I do trust in you, and I love you. Praise you, Jesus, and thank you for everything, especially for what you’re suffering right now out of love for me. I’ve come to be with you, my friend. Don’t be sad. I love you, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here, praising you, thanking you, and consoling your broken Heart.

 My thoughts:  Now that Lent has begun, we need to find ways to add prayer to our daily lives during these forty days. One way to do this is to meditate on aspects of Christ’s passion. This week we have been looking at the first sorrowful mystery, the Agony in the Garden. We have been shown by Pope Benedict XVI how we can follow Christ’s example and exchange our will for God’s will. We see that, just as Christ was not abandoned in the garden, God will send angels to us as well in our time of need. Now let us spend time in the garden with Christ. We learn today that His anguish was created by his foreknowledge of all the people who would reject the love and sacrifice He offered them. We also learn that our comfort and prayer, our time with Him, was also foreseen, and that He knew we would love and console Him, and that brought Him comfort. It is time to enter the Garden.

Our prayer to God:  Enter a quiet place in your heart and picture the Garden of Olives. The apostles are asleep. Jesus is praying in anguish to His father, and He is so alone. Go up to Him, place your hand on His shoulder, and recite the above prayer. Stay with Him in silence, comfort and love.

Jesus praying to God the Father in Gethsemane, Heinrich Hofmann, 1890

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Devotion for today: heaven on earth in Gethsemane

Today, Ash Wednesday, we conclude our look at Pope Benedict’s address on the Agony in the Garden.

Scripture for meditation; Luke22:39-46
Then he went out and made his way, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; his disciples accompanied him. On reaching the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not be put to the test.” He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, then went down on his knees and prayed in these words: “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” An angel then appeared to him from heaven to strengthen him. In his anguish he prayed with all the greater intensity and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Then he rose from prayer and came to his disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted with grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Wake up, and pray that you may not be subjected to the trial.”

Pope Benedict XVI concludes: This is what Jesus accomplishes in Gethsemane: by placing the human will within the divine will the true man is born, and we are redeemed. Dear brothers and sisters, every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. We recognize, that is, that there is a will of God with us and for us, a will of God for our lives, which more and more each day must become the reference point for our will and for our being. Furthermore, we recognize that “heaven” is where the will of God is done, and that “earth” becomes “heaven” -- i.e., the place of the presence of love, of goodness, of truth and of divine beauty -- only if on earth the will of God is done. In Jesus’ prayer to the Father on that terrible and wondrous night of Gethsemane, “earth” became “heaven”; the “earth” of his human will, shaken by fear and anguish, was assumed by the divine will, so that the will of God might be accomplished on earth. And this is important for our prayer as well: We must learn to entrust ourselves more and more to divine Providence, to ask God to conform our wills to His. It is a prayer that we must make daily, because it is not always easy to entrust ourselves to God’s will, to repeat the “yes” of Jesus, the “yes” of Mary. The Gospel accounts of Gethsemane painfully reveal that the three disciples chosen by Jesus to remain close to him were unable to keep watch with Him, to share in His prayer, in His adherence to the Father, and that they were overcome by sleep. Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to grant us the ability to keep watch with Him in prayer; to follow the will of God each day, even if it speaks of the Cross; and to experience an ever greater intimacy with the Lord -- in order that a little of God's "heaven" might be brought to this "earth.” Thank you. (General Address, February 1, 2012, Translation by Diane Montagna)

Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

My thoughts: It is very difficult for us to willingly accept pain. We are a society in fear of any kind of suffering. We will medicate, run and hide, lie and turn on our fellow man to insure our own security and comfort. The same is true of our relationship with God. If He is asking us to suffer, if He denies us our hearts’ desires, our tendency is to turn away from Him and seek comfort elsewhere. How sad! Pope Benedict so clearly tells us that we must learn to entrust ourselves more and more to God, and to conform our will to His. Is this easy? Did Christ sweat blood?  Does God abandon us in this struggle? Was Christ left alone in the garden? We know the answers to these questions, and we know that God will never leave us alone. He sent an angel to comfort Christ, and if we stay with God, our Father who loves us so much, He will always send one to us as well. Look around you; you are not alone in your struggle. Remain faithful, grow closer to God, and bring heaven to earth.

Our Prayer to God:  Here is a song I sing when I feel abandoned by loved ones and, yes, even by God. It reminds me that if I listen and look carefully, I will see that God‘s love surrounds me. I just have to believe. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place; I can feel His mighty power and grace. I can hear the brush of angels’ wings; I see glory on each face. Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. Repeat three times and smile.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Devotion for today:abandonment of will: the agony in the garden

Today we continue our preparation to begin Lent by resuming our study of Pope Benedict’s address on the Agony in the Garden.

Scripture for meditation: Mark 14:36
Abba! Father! All things are possible to thee; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will”.

Pope Benedict XVI continues his instruction on the Agony in the Garden: In this appeal, there are three revealing passages. At the beginning, we have the double use of the word that Jesus uses to address himself to God: “Abba! Father!” We are well aware that the Aramaic word Abba was used by a child to address his father, and that it therefore expresses Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, a relationship of tenderness, affection, trust and abandonment. In the central part of the appeal there is a second element: the awareness of the Father’s omnipotence -- “All things are possible to thee” -- that introduces a request in which the drama of Jesus’ human will in the face of death and evil again appears: “Remove this chalice from me.” But there is a third expression in Jesus’ prayer, and it is the decisive one in which his human will adheres fully to the divine will. Jesus, in fact, concludes by saying forcefully: “Yet not what I will, but what you will”. In the unity of the divine Person of the Son, the human will attains fulfillment in the total abandonment of the “I” to the “You” of the Father, who is called Abba. St. Maximus the Confessor affirms that, from the moment of the creation of man and woman, the human will was ordered to the divine will, and that it is precisely in its “yes” to God that the human will is made fully free and attains fulfillment. Unfortunately, due to sin, this “yes” to God was transformed into opposition: Adam and Eve thought that “no” to God was the pinnacle of freedom, their being fully themselves. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus draws the human will back to its full “yes” to God; in Him the natural will is fully integrated in the orientation the Divine Person gives to it. Jesus lives his life in accordance with the center of his Person: his being the Son of God. His human will is drawn into the “I” of the Son, who abandons Himself totally to the Father. Thus, Jesus tells us that it is only in conforming one’s own will to the divine will that the human being attains his true greatness, that he becomes “divine”; it is only by going out of himself -- only in his “yes” to God -- that the desire of Adam and of us all is fulfilled -- that of being completely free.

 (General Address, February 1, 2012, Translation by Diane Montagna)
Prayer: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.

 My thoughts: The three points of the prayer in the Garden help us to hand our souls to God this Lent. First, by seeing Him as Abba – Daddy – we allow ourselves to have a personal relationship with our Father. Secondly, Jesus makes it okay for us to ask God to relieve us of our suffering and pain. Lastly, and most importantly, Jesus’ prayer to our Father turns it all over to Him. If more good will come out of our suffering, either for our redemption or that  of others, then so be it. “Thy will be done” is the only prayer we ever really need.

Our prayer to God: Here is a wonderful prayer to add to our day during Lent. Try to say it during the Divine Mercy Hour, from 3 to 4pm, as requested by Our Lord to Saint Faustina:

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world, and empty Yourself out upon us… O Blood and Water, which gush forth from the Heart of Jesus as a Fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You (Diary of St. Faustina, 1319, 187). (Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Fr. Gaitley, Marian Press, 2011)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Devotion for today: fear and acceptance of God’s will: the agony in the garden

 Today and tomorrow we will look at Pope Benedict’s comments on the Agony in the Garden as we prepare our souls for Lent.

Scripture for reflection: Psalm 43:5
My soul is very sorrowful.

Scripture for meditation:  Mark 14: 33-35
And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch’. Going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

Pope Benedict XVI instructs us: Jesus’ words to the three disciples he wills to remain close by during the prayer in Gethsemane reveal the fear and anguish he feels in that “Hour”; they reveal his experience of an ultimate, profound solitude precisely at the time God’s plan is being realized. And in Jesus’ fear and anguish, all of man’s horror in the face of his own death, the certainty of its relentlessness and the perception of the weight of evil that laps against our lives are recapitulated. Jesus falls face to the ground: It is the prayer posture that expresses obedience to the Father’s will -- a total, trusting abandonment to Him. It is a gesture that is repeated at the beginning of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, as well as at monastic professions and diaconal, priestly and episcopal ordinations in order to express in prayer, and also in a bodily way, the complete entrustment of oneself to God, and reliance on Him. Jesus continues by asking the Father that, if it were possible, this hour might pass from him. This is not only the fear and anguish of a man faced with death; it is the inner turmoil of the Son of God, who sees the terrible flood of evil that he must take upon himself in order to overcome it, to deprive it of its power. Dear friends, in prayer we too must be capable of bringing before God our struggles, the suffering of certain situations, of certain days, the daily undertaking of following him, of being Christians, and also the weight of evil that we see within ourselves and around us, so that he may give us hope, that he may make us feel his closeness and give us a little light on the path of life (General Audience, Feb.1, 2012, translated by Diane Montagna,

Prayer:  Psalm 43: 1-4
Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight against a faithless people; from the deceitful and impious man rescue me. For you, O God, are my strength. Why do you keep me so far away? Why must I go about in mourning, with the enemy oppressing me? Send forth your light and your fidelity; they shall lead me on and bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling-place. Then will I go into the altar of God, the God of my gladness and joy.

 My thoughts: As we prepare our souls for lent, it is good to remember that we are traveling a path, for forty days, of penance and forgiveness, of fasting and prayer. Lent is the time of the year where we put aside worldly pleasures (fasting) to remind ourselves that these things don’t own us; we have control over them. We add more prayer to our daily lives to help us convert our weaknesses into strengths, and we give alms, to show our solidarity with our fellow struggling brothers and sisters. Our souls are often sorrowful, as was Christ’s, and we need comfort and care during those times. Jesus did not want to be alone in His agony. That is reason enough to give up TV shows or radio programs and spend that time with Christ. Remember, He goes on to say, “Can you not watch with me one hour?” to his sleepy apostles. Let us not be sleepy this lent. Rather, let us answer the call to stay with Christ throughout the agony of these forty days, being always thankful that He stays with us all our lives.

Our prayer to God: Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days by Claudia F. Hernaman
Lord, who throughout these forty days
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins
And close by Thee to stay.