Friday, March 11, 2011

A Cross A Day is a Blessing Your Way

"Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Excerpt, Gospel reading for Mass, March 10, 2011, Lk 9:23)


       The textbook definition of a Christian is one who believes and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Having been baptized a Roman Catholic, believing in Jesus Christ is a given. You could say that having a knowledge of Jesus is as fundamental as ABC for me. Being taught how to call on Jesus is one of the earliest memories I have at the same time as my earliest memories of learning how to read and write.

     But then, that is only one part of the equation. If we go by definition, I have to be able to follow Christ's teachings to be worthy to be called a Christian. Well, easier said than duh! ;-) Of course, there are the the usual observances I practice like Sunday Masses, receiving the necessary Sacraments, giving to the church and the poor and abstinence and fasting to name a few, and for some, this is easy peasy! For those born in the faith like me, we've been doing this in diapers and pacifiers so this is nothing new.

     But then, have you ever really understood that the person we are called to follow is God Himself? And what example are we most often shown? The Cross! Jesus suffering and nailed to the Cross. It's just sunk in, after 3+ decades of existence what it really means. I've realized how shallow my understanding was of God's love. Sorry but I still equated love and peace = getting whatever I wanted in prayer. Answered prayer = happy christian. It has also made me think how much I am not really into pain, physical, emotional or any other type of pain. It's pain! Period!  Who in their right mind would go out seeking pain? To follow Christ and ultimately live in heaven therefore entails pain and suffering. Gee!  It makes you think, "What did my parents sign me up for when they had me baptized???" ;-)  Hehehe. (I'm glad they did sign me up, though.)

     Ironically, I just finished reading a passage from a book entitled Conversations with God by Francis Fernandez. In that entry, he says that suffering in the life of a Christian is inevitable (duh!), but ironically, Christians are not the sullen, grumpy creatures walking this earth because of their suffering if they offer their suffering knowingly to Christ. He says this in the context of the mortifications /sacrifices Christians offer to God especially for Lent. I do not know about you but pain either turns me into a turtle or a shorter version of the Incredible Hulk.  Either way, it isn't pretty.  ;-)

     In the reading today, it says that Jesus said that the Cross should be borne everyday if one were to follow Him... Nulla dies sine cruce (Not a day without its cross), Mr. Fernandez says. Well. True. There are a lot of combinations of persons, events and  things that go on each and everyday that I  have to deal with that are crosses for that particular day. Simple and almost petty things come to mind like forgetfulness, irritable people on the commute to and from work; arriving late for work because of a lack of transportation available despite having woken up and hour and a half earlier; eagerly awaiting your lunch order only to have it given to you wrong; crazy deadlines; and just days when nothing ever goes your way. The U-turn in the passage is this...

     "This way is not a sorrowful one, because Christ Himself comes to our aid, and in His company there is no room for sadness..." (Vol. 2 p.9)

     His (Mr. Fernandez') reminder is... "do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon His Cross. When we abandon ourselves into God's hands, He frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, and ridicule, coming both from within and without. This is because He wants to mold us into His own image and likeness... God conveys His benedictions in many ways, and frequently blesses His friends by making them share in His Cross and making them co-redeemers with Him." (Vol. 2, pp. 9~10)

     This passage got a chuckle out of me because I remember an anecdote told about St. Teresa of Avila, who is reputed to have said during a moment of trial... "Lord, if this is the way You treat your friends, I can see why You do not have many."  :-) I guess, considering things in this light makes the unpleasant things in life more bearable. I just have to remember (goodness help this poor forgetful soul :-) ) that in wanting to know and deepen my relationship with God, He has allowed me to come near Him. (Isn't that what he wants for all of us?) I guess in embracing me like He does to St. Francis in the picture, that nail which came loose scraped my arm, or knee... maybe :-)

     Each time a priest gives a blessing, and each time we pray, we use the sign of the Cross. Maybe, it is really time to offer up these pains to Jesus on the Cross, especially for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are in fact, future saints, as one priest aptly put it. To paraphrase what he said in a homily once, "It is not a bad idea to make friends with the souls in purgatory by offering them prayers when you are still here (on earth) for they will plead (for your soul) when they get to heaven and you are in Purgatory."

     In the presence and in the embrace of Jesus, would anything else matter? May God's grace help me... I have a loooooong way to go.

God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.
~ Saint Augustine


Lord, I have been praying that You keep me by Your side,
Knowing that being anywhere else, I would be lost.
But my human nature naturally would run away from pain,
Even though you've shown the way, the disposition, and the cost.

You lend an ear and accept a little child's pleading...
As I look to You for your Mercy on my repentance
You admonish this sinner on selfish denial,
And tell me to live this life with sacrifice and penance.

©CherWriter 2011.03.11

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Re-fitting into the Mold

     Today, we usher in the season of Lent. It is 40 days to journey into ourselves as we journey with the Lord.

     The season begins with the priest's imposition of ashes on our foreheads to remind us all that as mere creatures, we should in all humility, acknowledge the fact that our lives as creatures on this earth is not forever.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,

     Far from being saintly, I pray for the grace to rediscover the "me" created as I was intended to be by God.  It is like I know I have pushed myself out of the mold, and as I try to squeeze back in, I find that I cannot fit into that mould intended only for me. I have gone away from my true self and need God now in my life to reshape me back into the soul that is pleasing to Him.

     This means coming to terms and facing the excesses I have come to love in this life that I have attached to myself but which are, in fact, not really a good fit for me. I find that I need to recognize those things that are not a good fit for my soul. (Yikes!)  

     As I hope to pray a bit more than what I have let my schedule permit, I know that as I should practice fasting and abstinence on meals, the harder part of fasting and abstaining on this journey would be to let go of the things I have let myself become attached to. The scary thing is that some of the things may have become so deeply ingrained in my system that I may not be able to recognize them or worse, I may make excuses for them. I pray to God that He may let the Holy Spirit guide me in recognizing the things I should let go of, maybe not all at once but at least, slowly, I may be able to give up something of significance this Lent.

Photo from:

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
(Excerpt, Responsorial Psalm of the Mass, Ps. 51:12~14 & 17) 

     It looks like a very tall order to accomplish in just 40 days, but at the same time, I take comfort and place my hope in the reassuring invitation that the Lord has for me today...

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.
(Excerpt. Second Reading of the Mass, 2 Cor 6:2)

Father of Mercy, unworthily I come before You hoping that your mercy and kindness will merit  Your love to see me renewed and recreated in the person you have intended me to be, instead of the person I have created for myself.

Help me to trust in Your love fully that I may give myself to You so that you may mold me once again into something more beautiful and worthy of You.

Mother Mary, I ask for your love and prayers to present to God my petition through the merits of the Most Holy Wounds of your Son, Jesus Christ.


©CherWriter 2011.03.09