SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING column for September 5, 2000
SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING
Elevating the soul to a higher realm
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may the Infinite Peace, Joy and Mercy of Almighty God by with you always.
In the past few articles that the Holy Spirit asked me to write, I have tried (inadequately, I'm sure), to share with you the wonders of God's Love while we made our pilgrimage to Lourdes in May of this year.
In the last article, I spoke about a new understanding of the Mystical Body of Christ. There really are no human words to express what knowledge I was given by Our Lord at Lourdes. I must say here that I am not worthy to be given such knowledge. It was not something I asked for. Actually, it was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. Yet, it is not because of worthiness that God gave this knowledge to me, it is directly because I am a poor sinner, striving to Love Him for His own sake, that He turned His merciful glance upon me.
In discussing the Mystical Body of Christ, I shared with you the reality that we are all directly related to one another from a supernatural, spiritual bond that is much stronger than any blood-relations we have. Our sojourn on earth must always be prioritized: God First, always. Then, our husband/wife, and our children. We then move forward to include the happenings of each day, our relationship with our fellow men in all manner of life experiences. The Mystical Body of Christ is amplified, it's reality comes to full focus at each Mass that we attend and participate in, and the Sunday Mass is an obligation we should not take lightly.
I have learned from my experiences at Lourdes, to look at everyone and see Christ in them, even if I don't know their name, if their character is one that I would rather avoid, etc. Christ is there! The soul thrives on the knowledge of God, our Love for Him, and henceforth for our fellowman. The entire world, and all the souls in purgatory and in Heaven are our brothers and sisters. The love of Christ overflows into our soul, and we are obligated not to keep this Love damned up, possessing it as one possesses and hides his gold or silver or his CD account at the bank. On the contrary, we are obliged, if we truly love Him, to share all that we are given in the supernatural life with one another. How do we do this?
With God's grace, we learn to see Christ in one another, and to love that person in the name of Christ, realizing that God does not make junk. Every person, no matter their deeds, or lack thereof, is God's miracle! Life today is cheap. We are in a era of "grossness", where the TV, Videos, magazines and movies play to the basest of our emotions, and strive one against the other to outdo the degree of grossness that each represents. Our youth today are desensitized to the beauty of God's miracle of life. We are taught, instructed, however subliminally, through the medium of TV, Movies, etc., to shun those who are overweight, who do not have "beautiful" features. We come together at Mass, with our built-in prejudices that do not allow us to pass beyond the surface. We see people with our limited, prejudiced minds, not allowing our soul to communicate with the soul of the other person. This is the area in which we all fail to some degree, and there is caution that we should take for our own salvation.
First, we must, with God's help which we must ask for, strive with our entire being to see and find Christ in our neighbor. Not just the person sitting next to us, but the entire assembled congregations. From priest to lector, from altar servers to the off-key choir, from the handicapped in one row, all the way to the back door, and even in some circumstances, outside the main body of the church to all those who linger at the end of the line, all are our brother and sister, and God commands them to love them as He loves them, as He loves us. It is not a human emotion I am speaking of. Rather, it is supernatural. It flows from the very heart of Christ, and takes up its residence in our soul, in the intellect and will of our soul, which can and should dominate our human, fallible mind, heart and emotions. This is not something that one does on the surface. It takes long, hard work in the spiritual life, but the reward is a new awakening of our soul to the beauty and unlimited magnificence of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
What I have learned has changed me, but it has also made me very aware of just how much "surfing" we do at Mass, at the Kiss of Peace! This Kiss of Peace, perhaps one of the most argued reform items of Vatican Council II, must and should always be a matter of spirit alone, and not the human personality which sees only an acquaintance, a friend, or a total stranger whom we would rather not get to know. Our spiritual life must transcend these human attitudes, and begin to elevate us into the glory of God.
There are many, many reasons that Vatican Council II brought out the Kiss of Peace. Is it in the wrong place at Mass? Probably. Is it distracting, rather than uplifting? Definitely. And now I know why. In those short seconds, which often lead to a minute or more of handshaking, "how do you do", and exchange of first names, how could we possibly get beyond surface emotions, so often shaking hands and offering Christ's Peace because we are obligated to do it, and the sooner we do it the sooner the Mass will continue to its fulfillment. I know that for years it was a duty that I dreaded, one that was merely surface, for in the back of my mind, I wanted to have quiet time in preparing to receive Our Lord. I resented the interruption of my meditation and contemplation, and I was wrong! Until Lourdes, I did not know I was doing this, and that I was not making God happy with my mindset and my resentful duty of greeting my neighbor at church. That has changed! Only the Holy Spirit can produce this change, and the bottom line is that we must ask for the Holy Spirit to awaken our soul to the REAL purpose of the Kiss of Peace.
Only through God's mercy, and not through my own will, do I now see Christ in everyone. I have no problem now in having my meditation interrupted, for I carry this meditation with me even during the Kiss of Peace. To be distracted, as most of us are, is the reason we resent this moment at Mass. It is also the reason that many people use these moments to greet friends already known, and to smile on the surface in shaking my hand, or anyone else's hand that happens to be nearby. Only through the Grace of God does my smile now extend to absolutely everyone at the Mass, and in the supernatural sense, extends to the entire world, to the souls in Purgatory, and to the saints in Heaven. I do not and cannot know if the person with whom I just greeted with "May the peace of Christ be with you", see Christ in me. It is my will that I am in conformity with God's Holy and Perfect Will. That's what counts, nothing else. Do I offer the Kiss of Peace with a purity of intention, or do I await the moment either with dread, or with an expectation that soon I'll be able to say to a friend, "Let's have coffee after Mass so we can gossip!"
The reality of the Mystical Body of Christ supercedes the human element, which so dominates us because we close the door of our Heart to the Graces being offered at that moment. We are rushed to greet one another, because it lengthens the time of the Mass, it postpones the reception of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and, whether we acknowledge it or not, we tend to look at our watches, wondering just how long this affair is going to take, because we've got a whole day planned out, and this Kiss of Peace is keeping us from fulfilling our plans.
That's the crux-the I, mine, the "our will" versus God's Holy and Infinitely Perfect Will. Many of us go to Sunday Mass because it is an obligation. We just want the whole Mass to be over with, so we can get on with our daily lives.
Shame on us! We have missed out on a supernatural moment, that's better than any Kodak moment could ever be! We are like flat stones skipping across the water. We look but we do not see. We speak, but we are not heard. We hear, but we don't listen. To whom should we be listening? To God, of course. We listen with our soul, not our human faculties which permit hearing, sight, etc. We register that someone's hand is too cold, or too hot. We register that the handshake was firm, or limp. We recognize that someone's hand is sweaty against our palm. We'd rather not be involved, thank you! This is what we're saying to God when we go to Mass and don't put our whole self, body, mind, and soul into the adoration we are giving to God, the Creator of All, the Sustainer of our life, and the ultimate Eternal Life that awaits all of us. We are too rushed, to prejudiced, etc., to get past the moment of grace.
Yes, indeed, there are many abuses of this liturgical moment. It differs from one parish to the next. In some churches, the Kiss of Peace is more like a three-ringed circus than a moment of spiritual awakening. This is wrong! That abuses exist is a fact! That the Vatican Council II recommended this practice is also a fact! For years we may have wondered why, or we may have embraced this moment with all of our human emotions, leaving our soul out of the picture altogether.
It's not supposed to be an abuse. Holy Mother Church is now correcting these abuses. It will take time…just as it took time for the abuse to gain a foothold and become a tsunami wave of glad-handing! The human elements involved in this Kiss of Peace are meaningless if we don't bring our soul into the picture. If we could only see ourselves as He sees us: We are like whited sepulchers. Our eyes are blank, our expression fixed as if cemented to our face. There is no love shared with one another, just an obligation, or a chance to really shake the hand of someone we know and like. What about all the others in the Church?
It is my understanding that every single one of us, whichever Mass we attend, is unaware of the enormous wealth of spiritual gifts that God wishes to give us. We do not ask Him for His spiritual treasures, and we close our minds and therefore our hearts to His outpouring of Love, which comprises the Mystical Body of Christ. The Mystical Body is all about Heart, His Heart. It is about genuine Love, not the human emotion. It's about Life, the supernatural life of God, which is the only thing that truly matters in the end.
When we go before Him at the moment of our death, He is not going to ask how much charitable work we did. He's not going to ask why we weren't at this Mass on this Sunday, etc. He's not going to ask us how hard we shook someone's hand, or how much pressure we applied with our handshake. These our outward signs only. They remain meaningless until we bring God, our souls, into the picture.
What He's going to ask of all of us is this: "How much did you Love Me?" And we sill be there, our jaws slack, and we'll try to tell Him that of course we love Him. He saved us, didn't He? Well, then, we should love Him for that reason. And He will reply: "You did not love Me, because you did not genuinely seek to love your neighbor. I am their Father, and you have hurt Me because you despised My son or daughter. You did not see Me in them, for I am always with them. Therefore, you are a liar, because you cannot say you love Me if you have not loved your neighbor with the same love I have for you. Go now to Purgatory and be purified of your prejudices, which kept you from a pure and simple love. No one enters into My Kingdom who is not filled to the brim with love overflowing!"
Shocked, dismayed, wishing we could do it all over again, our Guardian Angel will lead us to Purgatory, and we shall weep! Oh yes, we'll weep over our transgressions, and kick ourselves for not having done it right the first time. There will be no Monday-morning quarterbacking then! We will have lost the most precious commodity we have: LOVE. Not human love, which is fickle, and fluctuates from moment to moment. It will be SUPERNATURAL LOVE, which flows from the very Heart of Our Lord, that will be the measure of our eternal reward. This does not mean that we have to like everyone we greet with Christ's Peace. It does not mean that we have to know them in depth, as we do with our loved ones in our family. The Kiss of Peace has nothing to do with whom we know and trust, and who is a stranger, an unfamiliar face in a crowd of people. Christ does not expect us to embrace everyone with the same embrace we give to a spouse, to a child, etc.
But He does expect us to embrace all people with the same LOVE that he gives to us each moment of our lives. Remember, this is a grace, a gift of God through our unity in the Mystical Body of Christ. We take it for granted, or we perhaps don't think about it at all. It's time we all started thinking of our supernatural life, which transcends our human mortality. We must take into account our own personality, and like a sculptor, be willing to acknowledge what we truly are, as God sees us, and then, to humbly and contritely ask God to give us the grace and the knowledge of the beauty and fulfillment of the Mystical Body of Christ. If we do this, if we ask for this grace and have the patience to wait for it, then we will have a whole new perspective on ourselves, our neighbor, and on the Beauty, Mystery and Infinite Love which is given to God and to us at each Mass. We will carry those graces received at Mass with us, and Christ, Whom we receive Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion will be more than pleased to take up residence in our soul. To put it in the common terms of today, "Christ will remain in our hearts so much so that He'll have His mail delivered to Him personally there, for it is His Home."
We so often chase God out of our lives by our finite, fallible human nature. We forget we also have a spiritual, supernatural life that is far stronger, and immortal. We can't get past the weaknesses of the flesh. We take for granted that we have every right before our fellow man to snicker under our breath if someone is not handsome of beautiful. We skip right over this or that person because they have a character we disagree with. What has any of that to do with God? Not one thing. God does not create junk! Each one of us is unique, of infinite value. We place a cheap price tag on ourselves, and the measure of our own worth is translated into blank stares, begrudging handshakes, at the very moment when Our Lord is sending the angels and saints in Heaven to our side to bring us to Holy Communion! We just want to get on with the Mass, so we can get out of the church and back into our comfort zone.
Again, shame on us! We trivialize the spiritual life, and maximize the human, mortal life as the god of each day!
This next Sunday, or weekday, when you go to Mass, ask the Holy Spirit to come and awaken in you the precious, infinite grace of being part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Savor these graces, learn from them, practice the lessons they teach. You will find, as I have found, that the burden is indeed light, and the task easy. LOVE always makes everything easy. We simply need to be reminded by grace that the spiritual LOVE is what really counts. If our spiritual LOVE is alive and growing, then our human love will be far more precious to us. We won't trivialize human life, we won't gossip and speak of others in a manner of disregard. Instead, we will cherish each moment, and each person, for in them is Christ, our very heart and soul. If we do not learn to see Christ in one another, then we are cutting God out, and selling ourselves short. It's not too late for any one of us to seek these graces from the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is be honest with ourselves, realize our failings, faults, weaknesses and sins, and then, simply, humbly, with contriteness of heart, go before Our Lord, our Crucified Savior, and ask Him to help us. He's waiting eagerly for the plea to come. He never acts against our own free will. We must all learn to turn our free will to Him, taking upon ourselves His Will, and leaving self-will right at the foot of the cross, where it properly belongs.
Let us go together then in the Spirit, to love one another, to care, to share, to pray for one another not for human reasons alone, but because we are all Members of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is LOVE!
May the Holy Spirit come and touch us all! I, too, must daily renew my offering to God of my own free will. Each day, and throughout the day, I am constantly reminded by God that I have gone back to doing my own will, and not His. Instead of being crushed by this knowledge, I immediately place myself as a little child, sitting on His lap. I acknowledge my nothingness, and He gives me a big Hug, and He smiles at me so tenderly. Then, He bestows upon me the graces of which I am most in Need, and off I go to do His Will. I know now that this constant reminder will remain with me until I am born to eternal life. I also know that by doing His Will now, on earth, that one day in Heaven I will meet all of you, and we will know one another because of our LOVE.
If you ever wanted to wear a specific pin, to belong to this or that organization or club, there is one that is superlative in the infinite definition of membership. It's the Mystical Body of Christ, and we are members of this Body, this supernatural immortal "club" through our baptism. Never, never shut the door on that membership. It is one of the most precious gifts God could give us, and He gives it constantly. Seek Him, Love Him, and do not be worried about anything, for He, Who sent His only-begotten Son to suffer and die for us, will never, ever, leave us abandoned. You are not alone, your struggles, sorrows as well as you joys, are shared equally by everyone else who belongs to the Mystical Body of Christ. And though you may find this hard to believe, there's an infinite amount of room in the inn, which is Christ, because all those who do not yet belong, by grace, to the Mystical Body of Christ, are as welcome as we are. We have been privileged with Faith. Bless and pray for those who have not been given this special grace, for they are heirs of the kingdom, too. Christ did not suffer any less because of those who deny, reject, of simply do not know of Him. He came for all, from the beginning to the end. Rejoice and be glad, for you have a tremendous loving family pulling for you through thick and thin.
You will be in all of my humble prayers. Please keep us in yours, for like you, ours is a journey of faith, hope and love lived from one moment to the next, with the admonition of God not to look back, nor jump ahead to the future. The present moment will suffice, and once you awaken you soul to the reality of the Mystical Body of Christ, you'll understand just how beautiful the present moment is, no matter what's going on in your life.
May God's peace be with each of you. Your very little sister in Christ,
September 5, 2000
volume 11, no. 161
SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING
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