We switched up some roles in this week’s Encounter With Christ, and I handed over my beloved pen in an exercise of attempting to be fully present to the Holy Spirit and get some “Cross” training (+) for our sisters in Christ, always working on our leadership skills. Thanks to our recent growth spurt in beautiful souls joining our group, we now are meeting weekly even in the summer, and so many new faces are joining us to pray that we need someone to be able to do any of the various jobs of secretary, prayer leader, time-keeper, etc.
Whether I hold the pen for the meeting or not, I continue every week to grasp my own spiritual “pen” because my heart prays by writing, and something so deep in my heart must be a love language from God. So here I am, writing away once again. Conversely, gazing upon the beautiful faces of my beloved sisters in Christ while we reflected on this upcoming Sunday’s gospel was an extraordinary experience. I saw their smiling eyes and humble postures contemplating Christ in their hearts and listening to each other with the beauty and grace that only comes from God. Here is what was at the center of our prayer:
Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Reflecting on this passage, a few of us were inclined to the part where man can plant seeds, but God grows the food (which in the second paragraph also become the shelter!) and all that we need. It is God’s business to make the world and give us what we need; it is our small contribution of faith, that is the seed, where He can begin the work in us. Similarly, reading the book by Matthew Kelly, Perfectly Yourself, (check out Meg’s Bookshelf for more) he likens it to the financial analogy “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” God doesn’t expect us to handle the big picture, which is His work, His world. If we attack our lives with the attitude that it’s all up to us, we will be frustrated and exhausted. Our job is to do what Matthew Kelly tells us is to “just do the next best thing”.
A few of us were attracted to the last lines of the gospel, wondering how we can understand some of the difficulty of the meaning of the parables, which even the apostles who spent time with Christ seemed to have difficulty understanding.
Again, with the small seed of faith that we plant when we sit down to pray with scripture, God is able to handle the “growth” of what His word can do in us, and additionally we can refer to the writings of some of the doctors of the church for help. One example that was given is that of a priest and scholar who said that as Catholics we should be reading the papal encyclicals ourselves so that we can hear the voice of the pope echo in our own souls, and what he is saying to each of us. We of course also use guided studies (as we are currently doing) which aid our understanding of church teaching.
Our case study was about the recent controversial exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” in which the fashion world use the platform of sacred art and priestly vestments as medium for irreverent and defiling images of Our Lady and the faith.
Scandalizing of the faithful has always been a factor in the spiritual battle for souls since the beginning of time. But rather than focus on that never-ending spiral of events, we chose to look upon this situation in light of the gospel and how Christ handled these situations.
Christ came for sinners and walked with sinners. He was steady, loving and consistent when faced with these situations which are meant to invoke anger and emotions in us that lead others to doubt our faith. It is likely that many of the people who created, sponsored, or attended this event don’t know Jesus, and have never been exposed to the faith. We all need Christ in our lives and we all need love. We came to the conclusion that people’s hearts will change when they see Christ’s love in us, steadfast and loving, meeting people where they are, understanding that we are all sinners, and we all need his love and mercy.
We want to develop a character that is full of dignity, but unafraid to go into the messiness of the world, and be a light to others who are in darkness. We also know that the power of God can work in a heart where and when He chooses to reveal Himself, despite the circumstances. Perhaps it was the first time someone looked upon the image of Our Lady, the mother of Jesus, or a “hat” worn by a pope, and perhaps (despite the intention for which it was exhibited) it struck a curiosity or sparked a hunger for Christ in the person unaware.
Here is another timely story of such a case by one of my favorite bloggers, Patti Armstrong from The National Catholic Register.
Despite beginning the case with hearts heavy with disappointment, we decided that the virtue of FAITH, as in this week’s gospel passage, must be at work in each of us. We want to focus on the human virtue of TEMPERANCE this week (moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance for the use of goods).
Spiritually, we decided to pray for the people who were involved in this exhibit, who may have knowingly, or unknowingly, offended God and hurt others with their desecration of what is Holy to the faithful. We even are praying for those who went to see the exhibit, and may have been struck in some good way to look at Christ despite the offensive nature in which the exhibit intended to “entertain” people.
Once a day we will pray the Memorare:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for us.
Our action item for this week (apostolic resolution) is that we will snap a picture of sacred art, as we have such a rich treasury of these in our church history; and share it with each other, and one person outside of our group. We hope to console the heart of Jesus from these offenses in our world by spending a few minutes contemplating a sacred image. *many of us plan to use the images in our home that we may pass by daily without much thought or attention.