Christ is truly present when two or more are gathered in his name, and we certainly qualified this week as a long awaited reunion took place for several of us.
All things come together to glorify God. The difficult but amazing coincidence of several of our members in the past few weeks were no different. Three of our number have mothers who are severely ill and needed special care this week. As our sisters in Christ shared each other’s heartaches, we first listened to the struggles of keeping a mother in her own home for as long as possible despite the need for constant nursing care. The family take turns living with their mother for two or three weeks at a time, rotating round-the-clock care–including showers and toilet needs, feedings and restless nights. The weeks our sister in Christ is away caregiving, she carries a painful loneliness for not just her own children and sisters in Christ, but for the loss of her mothers companionship even in her presence, as her lucidity wanes. Rather than self-pity however, she speaks thanksgiving to God for His goodness. “I am living in three different worlds now, helping my mom, my children and grandchildren and missing you all, but God is good, and I am thankful for all that He is revealing to me about myself, and that I have the gift of rare moments where my mom is lucid and I can say all the things I need to say to her before she departs this world.” Our hearts melt.
The next sister in Christ’s mother is also ill. She has a severe case of pneumonia which continued to develop into further medical complications. Rather than complaining, she expressed only gratitude for God’s goodness for bringing her to a group where she feels strengthened by fellowship and wrapped in prayer.
A third member of our group’s mother had a stroke and surgery the day before to remove an aneurysm was unsuccessful. She enters the room and greets us with a smile. “Good news!” She shares, “they couldn’t get to the aneurysm, but they did find another one and were able to remove that one, at least!” She beams a smile of grace, showing her trust in God. She shares that her mother is excited for heaven, and not worried about the outcome of her circumstances. “She is looking forward to Heaven, and is ready to go!”
As the church celebrates the feasts of All Saints and All Souls this week, we are called to be mindful of the greater body of Christ; the faithfully departed. As we head toward Advent, these next few weeks in the scriptures with the universal church will incline our attitude away from the world and toward repentance to “prepare the way” for the Lord.
All of the discussion and prayer from today’s Encounter with Christ lead us to the reality of that thin veil between ourselves and Heaven, and the need to keep ourselves detached from the things that take our energy away from God’s will for our lives. How? As we read for this upcoming Sunday’s gospel, (and to unwittingly quote the Beatles) all you need is love.
Gospel MK 12:28B-34
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
When we put God first by spending quiet time in prayer, we are loving Him. We can feel the fruits of that time with Him in our own sense of peace. The love that we show Him will naturally radiate to others.
…to love your neighbor as yourselves. In order to love others well, we also need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes as God has forgiven us. The enemy has lots of “tools in his shed” to make human love more difficult;
- Annoyance vs compassion: one way to be devoid of charity for others, ourselves and even God. We see a lot of annoyance in our culture, and it is a self-serving emotion that has no place in charity. (Proverbs 12:16) The more time we spend in prayer with God and ask for graces for love to be in our hearts, the less powerful the temptation to be annoyed with ourselves or others.
- Scrupulosity vs simplicity: We can get distracted in prayer practices with technicalities or depend on ourselves too much, which sways us away from letting God’s love and grace into our hearts in silent prayer.
- Selfishness vs Vigilance: In The book “Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, one of the main ways he describes evil is keeping our minds from God by thinking about ourselves all the time. Vigilance in guarding against thinking too much about ourselves, even when we are fixated on trying to be better, (we are still letting our hearts and minds revolve around ourselves) is key. Instead we need to lift our hearts up to God and make space for His grace to enter into us. We are seeking Him and trying to find Him, but the key is to being still and letting ourselves be found by Him.
- Controlling vs Abandonment of ourselves: Humility is putting ourselves completely aside. One saint explained that we shouldn’t say good things about ourselves, or bad things about ourselves; we just shouldn’t say anything about ourselves. We can apply the same principle to our thought patterns. I don’t think poorly of myself, or well of myself…I focus on God and His goodness; how good He is and how He can be trusted. We need to be about God alone: He is the One and there is no other than He.
- Martha Vs Mary: We can struggle with the balance between praying and doing. We can be contemplative and attending mass, and saying our prayers, but then the pendulum swings to focusing on what others need from me, to the point of not getting around to making time for God in the silence of my heart. It’s important to be prayerful when serving others. These are both part of the greatest commandment–to love–and together are more effective than any kind of sacrifice.
Grace alone… Sometimes, in this world we are blessed to be given tiny “peeks” at God’s Kingdom* through moments of love in our life. Whether through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or in a moment of changing a diaper or taking care of a sick loved one, we can see God at work in these special moments.
The Thinning Veil*
One of our sisters in Christ shared her spiritual experiences through the untimely loss of her little sister to a car accident. Through the horrific circumstances, she learned that the pain of losing her sister taught her and her family so much about having a heavenly perspective. She described it as having the veil between Heaven and Earth thinned to such a point that she is continually aware of the miraculous and mystical presence of God in her life; an eternal perspective which truly minimizes problems in life.
Whether suffering an untimely loss of a loved one or watching someone we love lose their memory or faculties, we understand that God, His Son, Our Blessed Mother, the angels and saints all walk this life with us and are only physically unseen by us through a veil whose thickness depends on our hope and faith in God.