Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa.
Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony.
And God made one version of you…
We exist to exhibit God, to display His glory.
We serve as canvases for His brushstroke, papers for His pen, soil for His seeds, glimpses of His image.
–Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life
This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… For now, his voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.
- Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle -
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
I’m having a different kind of Advent where I’m trying to walk, not run… think, not speak… fast, not feast…(yet)… be mindful, not forget… Love, not withhold.
So I’m asking Jesus to help me to not only see the whole big picture — the way my theological-analytical-critical-creative skills might drive me — but to see the smaller, particular, personal things he needs me to know, see, and be.
This lone verse comes to us from the longer epistle for the Second Sunday of Advent. My love of St Paul’s good counsel always makes my heart desire to lean in to what he is saying.
Welcome one another…
Oh, to be welcomed!
…Momma and Daddy welcoming a newborn…
…Kids coming home after school and there’s hot cocoa and cookies and snow day tomorrow!
…A beloved son or daughter returning home from a semester away!
…A husband waiting to meet you for a special date he’s planned!
…A long-distance friend arriving at the airport!
…Your most fun guests arriving at your front door!
…Or like the one you’ve longed for, prayed for, to come back to your family, or to their family, or to the church!
It warms the heart to offer such welcome… to lavish one’s love on the one being welcomed. Or to be the recipient of such a welcome.
What a watchword for me. How’s my welcome? Of Christ? Of others? How can it improve? What does this call me to in terms of hospitality, and generosity?
O Mary, help me with this… help me welcome Jesus and others into my heart, my life, my home, like you.
…as Christ welcomed you…
Yes, this is the Little Child of Bethlehem welcoming his Momma and Poppa into His Sacred Heart… who smiles at angels and the warmth of their song… feels the breath of animals nearby and nods at the shepherds with their sheep in tow… and goos at the holy magi who came a distance. This, too, is Jesus who see us kneel tenderly before the creche in our homes and churches.
Yes, this welcoming Christ really is the One all our hearts long for — that took on flesh… so we would know his face, his touch, and the Father’s heart through His. The same Christ in whose name we merit Baptism — a true welcome into union with God and with the Church.
Yes, this is the same Christ who takes on a living Presence in the Eucharist and welcomes us to an intimacy with God that is beyond our wildest imagining, and our deepest hopes.
…for the glory of God.
It’s true, the glory of God lives in us by baptism: “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col. 1:27)
It’s true, the glory of God is the end of our story.
The welcome we give to others must imitate the welcome Christ bids to us…. and Lord-willing, to foreshadow the welcome we’ll receive in our heavenly home, as we all sit together with Christ at the head of the heavenly banquet.
“I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who is thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the give of life-giving water. (Rev 22:16-17)
Bonus Chorus from “The Messiah” (G. F. Handel):
“And the Glory of the Lord will be revealed… and all flesh will shall see it together… for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
You can read the first journal entry for the first week of Advent here.
Post Photo: /s
As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)
Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…
God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.
Faith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.
We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.
The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.
“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”
Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.
We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.
Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)
Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.
The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)
Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.
This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).
The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.
Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).
Read the rest at my column on Patheos.
Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.
EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!
Jesus and Mary, thank you for the godly women that you send into my life.
Today I had breakfast with one of my good friends. The kind of friend that you lament that circumstances prevent you both from getting together more often, but you are so glad that you did.
We talked about the transitions we are in over eggs and toast, oatmeal and coffee. The mothering journey is different when you have adult children. The marriage journey is different than it was decades ago. The work we do now is ever changing from what we did long ago, too.
Yet the prayer life is deeper, more Eucharistic, steady. It is what always makes sense. And what makes sense of us.
A few observances…
Midlife is one of those times when you really need courage…
-to make transitions,
-to try new things as we keep up with the old things,
-to be open to a season where both younger and older generations needs you…
-to finally be comfy enough in your own skin to accept whatever comes, with love and with more love…
God still has few surprises in store for us in midlife… so better get ready…
-you will shake your head and laugh at what God has planned for you… and those you love…
-because it is so good, or better, or crazier, and riskier than what you would imagine for yourself…
God knows you are much better at trusting His Plan for your life these days than you used to be.
-So you keeping showing up.
-Day by day
-Because He does.
I am finding more and more comfort in the bedrock of Providence…
All I know about tomorrow is that God’s Providence will rise before the sun.
-Fr Jean Baptiste Lacordaire, OP-
The special role granted to women in procreation… is highlighted by the fact that as soon as she has conceived (and conception takes place hours after the marital embrace), God creates the soul of a new child in her body. This implies a “direct contact” between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father place no role whatever. This contact gives the female body a note of sacredness, for any closeness between God and one of His creatures is stamped by His Holy Seal. This divine “touch” is… a special privilege that every pregnant woman should gratefully acknowledge.
Alice von Hildebrand
I reflect on this in chapter 8 of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.
This post is for all those who struggle with their relationship with their fathers. Sometimes, when Father’s Day comes around, we are reminded more acutely that the pain of these relationships or non-relationships plays like uncomfortable background noise in our lives.
I’m no expert in the field of human relationships, but I do know this: As Christians we get to tap into a power that it bigger than ourselves. It’s called grace. And the graces we receive in and through the sacraments, beginning with our Baptism, allow God’s life and love to be activated in us. As Christians we also experience on-going conversion… which is another way of saying, we learn to cooperate with God and God’s graces more and more as we continually grow closer to Him.
So what does all of this have to do with our fathers? With grace and time, we can learn, to forgive our fathers (or our mothers, or anyone significant to us) thanks to the incredible love of God that unfolds in our lives through on-going conversion.
Frank Weathers, at his blog Why I Am a Catholic, whose parents were divorced when he was young, explains that forgiveness of his father flowed in the days that followed his conversion to Catholicism…
One of my first memorable acts upon becoming a Catholic was to forgive my father for leaving his wife and family behind. It took me a few months to get around to it, though.
Prior to my becoming Catholic, I had boasted that I would never forgive him. And not just to myself, but to others, publicly, and loudly.
Break your promise and leave your family? I just couldn’t see how someone could do such a thing. And Pharisee that I was, planting the flag of prideful honor on the hill of righteous indignation came pretty easy to me.
But this all changed back in the Summer of 2008.
My wife and children were in California on vacation (two weeks ahead of me) visiting her family…
I invited my dad to spend the weekend with me during this time…
You see, I needed to tell him that I was a Catholic now, and I figured getting together with him was a good way to broach the subject.
Certainly he knew that I had married a Catholic. He’d witnessed the event of our Nuptial Mass nineteen years earlier. But I had never converted to the faith either. Just like I had loudly and publicly said I’d never forgive my father for leaving us (not when he was around to hear it, you understand), I had loudly said to him on more than one occasion that I’d never become a Catholic either.
Oh, he probably already knew, as my sister had attended the Easter Vigil and either her, or my brother, might have told him during a phone call. But I wanted to tell him, and tell him in person.
I thought it would really be a big deal, but it wasn’t. During a lunch break while we were working, we were talking about being Christians, as he himself had undergone a reconversion of his own. I was reading Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth at the time, and I shared a few things I’d learned there.
Then I just up and told him that I was now a Catholic…
The mountain I thought I would climb to make this revelation turned out to be a mole hill. Or perhaps with faith the size of a mustard seed, the mountain was just leveled for me. Either way, it was a relief.
My dad went to his car and brought me a few things he wanted me to have. One of these items was an envelope full of photographs that he wanted to give me. They were duplicates of photos of me from various time periods, including when I was a wee tot and we were still together as a family.
As I was leafing through them, my heart burned within me, and I just felt compelled to tell him the simple words that mean so much, but which are rarely said. Earlier that year, he had had a mild heart attack, and there being no time like the present, before I could stop myself I said,
“Dad, I just want you to know that I forgive you for leaving us.”
Of course, by the time I got those last three words out, my voice had broken and the tears were flowing, and we embraced each other much as I figure it was like when the prodigal son was embraced by his dad. The roles seemed reversed to me, but the effect was the same.
Read his entire post.
This is a fact: the deeper you come to know Jesus, the more that relationship will invite you to forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiving them doesn’t change the facts of what happened between you, or make the gravity of their mistakes or offenses — or ours — any less. For example, it doesn’t take a felony against love and reduce it to a misdemeanor. But it changes us. Grace allows us to choose to leave the judgment of the offenses, or the pain, in the hands of God, and allows us to cling instead to the mercy of God. Mercy and grace restores some measure of what we’ve lost by helping us let go and move on. Mercy combined with forgiveness helps us transcend hurts.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, in her column in The Pilot, reflects on this.
There comes a point in our lives when we can no longer hold our parents responsible for what we’ve become or haven’t. Even the very worst of situations is within the reach of transforming mercy. While forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation in every case, it can mean peace.
When I left home for college, I packed a lot more than I thought I had. I took the hurt and rejection of fatherlessness with me. It didn’t take long to notice the elephant in my dorm room. By Thanksgiving, I had found my dad’s Florida address and phone number. I knew I had to forgive him.
That phone call was at once one of the most difficult and liberating things I have ever done. Talking with him after 10 years of absence didn’t make the hurt disappear, and didn’t end up giving me the father I had needed. What it did do was enable me to let go of unmet needs, broken promises, and reasonable expectations.
Perhaps you or someone you know needs to forgive, or ask forgiveness from a father. Maybe there are fathers, too, who need to be forgiven. Whatever regrets or hurts, whatever disagreements or disputes, whatever obstacles there are between children and their fathers, it is not impossible to set them aside. You don’t even have to trust your dad to do it. You can trust your heavenly father, and have faith in Him, instead.
Read it all.
Wolfe’s final point is significant… “we have to trust our heavenly father and have faith in Him, instead.”
How do we do that?
What if I can’t trust my Heavenly Father because I’ve had a damaged or broken relationship with an earthly father?
I talk about the “how” in Chapter Three of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: and while that is a book largely written for women, one theme in this particular chapter for everyone: JESUS IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER.
Here’s one suggestion for “how” we can start to trust our Heavenly Father: thanks to our baptism, we can make the powerful prayers of Jesus our own.
Jesus entered into the world that we might enter into relationship with God the Father. We all need to know who our Father is. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
Maybe you’ve heard that before. Sometimes when we hear something over and over again, we take it for granted. Notice the language of fatherhood, love, and life: “For God so loved . . . that he gave his only Son. . . . Everyone who believes in him should . . . have eternal life.”
Jesus reveals the personal and unique love God has for us and his universal plan of love for the salvation of the world. Jesus taught us about God in the ways we really need to experience him most—as a father.
Jesus knows some of us harbor reticence when it comes to fatherhood. Still Jesus teaches the necessity of our knowing the Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). He reveals the Father by what he did and said. He never stops using examples in parables about fathers or praying to the Father himself.
The gospels record Jesus saying the word father over 130 times. Coming to know the Father in heaven is not optional for a Christian. Jesus repairs the rift opened in the days of Adam and Eve when the first human relationships with the Father were fractured. Most important, Jesus instructed us to call God “Our Father” in The Lord’s Prayer, which is one of the most basic prayers in Christianity: “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Mt 6:9; emphasis added).
Jesus taught us how to enter into his prayer, using his words, when he taught us to pray to our Father. Jesus shares the love of his Father so that we, too, might enter into conversations and prayers—a loving relationship—with the Father like he did. Ultimately, “the Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us” (CCC, 2783).
The gospels are filled with Jesus’s prayers to the Father, a Father that yearns to love us, not disappoint or hurt us, a loving Father who understands the baggage we may be carrying. Let’s make Jesus’s words our own. Learning the words of the Son’s heart can help heal our daughter-hearts.
The image of the Good Shepherd soothes my daughter-heart. Jesus describes the tender, committed care that he offers his sheep, a care in union with his Father:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (Jn 10:27–30)
No one is father as God is Father. If someone has treated you badly, such that you cannot understand the gift of the Father’s love, remember that “no one is able to snatch . . . [you] out of the Father’s hand.” His love for you has never wavered, even if you have been unable to know it, see it, or understand it. Jesus’s word guarantees it.
We can make this our prayer, too: no one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand.
To trust Jesus is to trust the Father.
When we address God as our Father, as Jesus has taught, we are moved toward trusting the Father. When we refer to God as “our Father,” we do two important things. First, we declare him as the origin of everything in our lives. Second, we trust the goodness and loving care that a father bestows. (See CCC, 239.)
When Jesus was finished with his work on earth, he charged his followers to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (See Mt 28:18–20.)
In the graces of Baptism, God became a father to me…
The graces of Baptism empower me to make Jesus’s words my own…
In Baptism we meet the fatherhood of God, blessed and dignified as beloved daughters. Unfortunately, it is a gift we can fail to recognize or take for granted. Imagine owning a costly heirloom worth millions, but having no idea of its value because it is locked away in a chest and forgotten. For many of us, that treasure is our Baptism, specifically the knowledge that we are God’s beloved daughters. That knowledge is the key that unlocks many graces.
If we ponder that, relying on the graces we’ve already received in Baptism, we will begin to reclaim the girl who may be carrying around a lot of angst and rejection where fatherhood is concerned.
Baptized Christians utter the word Father six times in the Nicene Creed. There’s a reason. We are blessed daughters standing before a magnificent, loving, all-knowing Father…
Here the fatherhood of God heals our hurts. Lest we think this is some kind of romanticized vision of love, think again. It is rugged and strongly tempered in power, yet gentle and approachable enough to trust. The Father’s love is sturdy enough to enable us not only to thrive despite our hurts, but also to transcend them.
How can we transcend hurts? You already know—by deeply entering into the prayers of Jesus and making them your own. Jesus and our Baptism give us direct access to our heavenly Father. You’ve seen it with the Our Father; now take it a step deeper. Jesus prayed at his crucifixion amidst complete suffering. He forgave his persecutors, his detractors, enemies, friends who betrayed or left him, and those who forcibly put him to death. And he forgave us even before we came to be: “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them’” (Lk 23:34).
With grace, we can forgive in the name of Jesus, with Jesus, who is one with the Father. I can forgive each person who has hurt me, even the worst offenders. I can even forgive myself. “Father, forgive them.” Father, forgive me.
The name of the Father is the name Jesus used when his deepest wounds were open and bleeding. It’s the name we can call on to heal us of wounds we can see and the ones we keep hidden. It’s the name that brings our ongoing conversion.
[More details about my book here.]
This Sunday at Mass, on Father’s Day, when I stand to pray the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, I will be remembering my own healing and growth in these areas, and pray that we can all enter into those prayers more deeply that they may bear good fruit in our lives.
Let us pray for one another. And pray for all the fathers out there too.