Easter Reflection – When Jesus brings us to overwhelming places

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-njraf-ae9de6

As I was living the sacred days of the Paschal Triduum this year, I have been thinking of how overwhelmed people are feeling these days. It seems as if we have been brought to the edge: as a country, as a Church, and even the burning of Notre Dame has been as a kick in the gut. 

Though we prefer to meditate on Jesus as the kind and gentle Shepherd, the merciful Savior, the consoling Master, Jesus actually brought his disciples into a state of “overwhelm” a number of times. Consider the storm on the lake. Jesus told the apostles to go to the other side of the lake. A sudden storm threatened to capsize the boat. Spotting Jesus walking on the water they cried out in fear. Peter, ever the courageous one, demanded to walk across the water to him. Looking down at the waves that swirled at his feet, he began to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me.” Or consider when Jesus was preaching into the evening and the apostles urged him to let the people go into the village to find something to eat. “No. You give them something to eat.” And then he offered them no instructions. “How are we going to do that?” was the immediate response of the befuddled twelve. There are any number of times when Jesus brought his apostles into “overwhelm” mode.

But Holy Thursday was a dramatic shift. With the shouts of joy and praise still in the disciples’ ears and hearts, the mood turned somber as the darkness fell. To the men who still wondered who was first, who was better, and if they were going to get something from an expected victory of Jesus over the Romans, their Lord and Master was now about to teach them truly what his life as Emmanuel was really about….

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By His Wounds You Are Healed

Sr. Mary Leonora is one of those persons who lives her life as an artist. Great artists don’t create their own concept of what they wish to draw, but allow the subject of their painting to emerge from the colors they add, both dark and light, and lines both clear and smudged. I’ve known Sr Mary Leonora for many years now, and like an artist, she knows it is not about what she puts on the canvas, but what emerges under the guiding Hand of the Eternal Artist that creates of her life the beauty and hope the world so longs for. Having lived through great suffering in her life, there are a lot of dark colors the divine Hand has painted through the years, but she has touched up the sadder moments with colors that create a pathway of healing for the rest of us.
She has written:

Our culture is drawing more and more away from God while the need for healing is increasing. Where will we find healing, if not in the triune God who created and redeemed us? Yes, we can find healing for our bodies in doctors and the medical sciences. We can find at least some healing for our psyches and troubled minds from professionals. But where do we find healing and wholeness for our spirits, our souls, our hearts, when these have been abused and wounded? Who will heal our heart, if not he who created it? And who can heal the wounds of our spirit, if not he who let himself be wounded for our salvation?

Even though everyone’s story of woundedness and healing is unique and personal, I have noticed there are some common denominators in this journey, and I think these are what make up what I would like to call a spirituality of healing: a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.

I’m so happy to welcome Sr Mary Leonora to Touching the Sunrise and know that you will find the reflections she shares in these next couple of months both helpful and healing.

 

The Spirituality of Healing: 

In His Wounds, We Are Healed

by Sr. Mary Leonora, FSP

I’m back to continue our reflection on the spirituality of healing. You probably remember that in my last article I defined the spirituality of healing as “a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.” I would like to begin to unpack what I mean by that, beginning with focusing on Jesus. Holy Week seems the perfect time for it.

Why? First, because in this week we fix our attention on Jesus, on His sufferings, death and resurrection. Second, because I have lived first hand the amazing healing power of his wounds. St. Peter, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says that by Jesus’ wounds we are healed (cf. 1 Pt 2:24; Is 53:5).

Someone might contest that both Isaiah and Peter are speaking of spiritual wounds caused by sin. But when we speak of wounds caused by abuse, are we not speaking of woundedness caused by sin? Even sickness can be traced back to original sin and the loss of those special gifts possessed by our very first parents.

What does Isaiah say when speaking of the suffering servant? “He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Is 53:5). Peter rephrases Isaiah’s thought, making explicit reference to the crucifixion of Jesus: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross…; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24).

As I continue these articles, I plan to tell you some of my story and my journey to healing, since the Lord is letting me understand that he wants me to share my experience to encourage others in their own journey of healing. Early on in childhood I discovered that gazing on the crucifix and praying before it is a great source of strength and spiritual healing.

Ever since I can remember, suffering has been a part of my life – physical, emotional, spiritual—trying to find a mother’s love, but never succeeding; seeking to make sense of explosive anger and blows that seemed to come unprovoked; and, the most difficult of all, dealing with rejection. By the time I was eight I was convinced that there was something terribly wrong with me and at the age of ten I decided that the only thing for me to do was to leave home. So, I got on my bike and left.

After pedaling for a couple of hours I was tired and stopped in front of a small church. The door was open, so I went inside. There, in the entranceway, was a more-than-life-size crucifix. Jesus’ arms were spread out, nailed to the cross and his head was bent as if he were looking at me. There was a terrible gash in his side and blood was coming out of his wounds. The expression on his face was so kind! His image burned itself into my memory and tears still come to my eyes when I remember that cross. I stood there, mesmerized, and just kept gazing on that face and bruised body. I felt his pain and wanted to comfort him; I was so taken with Jesus that I forgot my own pain.

Then suddenly, without even realizing I was speaking aloud, my hushed voice filled that small space, “You understand me,” I said. I don’t know what happened in that moment, except that I experienced a kind of all-encompassing embrace that left me knowing I was understood, accepted, loved. I didn’t want to leave that place. I just kept looking and loving—a response to the love that was pouring out upon me from that crucifix. Then, quietly, without any kind of deliberation, as if I were being gently guided, I left the church, climbed back on my bike and pedaled home.

I was not healed in that moment (I was still too young to even know how broken and wounded I was), but this was a tremendous turning point in my life. I now had a friend, a grownup friend, someone I could go to, someone who had suffered and someone who accepted and loved me! Later in life, I would discover that he had the power to heal me. But a relationship had begun, a relationship that would be crucial for my healing. In the years to come that relationship would grow and blossom into something alive and intimate, yielding fruits of love, forgiveness, happiness and healing that I could not even have dreamed were possible.

Relationship with Jesus is the first common denominator of spiritual healing.

Sr. Mary Leonora

Easter: From Ashes to Glory

All of us were glued on the Monday of Holy Week to phones and computers and television screens, to twitter feeds and facebook posts as we followed in dismay the blaze that was collapsing roof and spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

I closed my eyes and imagined all the people who had contributed to building Notre Dame Cathedral through the 2 centuries that stretched between 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and 1345. Craftsmen, artists, masons, architects, carpenters, painters, sculptors…all of them gathering around Our Lady in heaven with sorrow over the impending collapse of this magnificent icon of Christianity that bears her name, the cultural and religious heart of the French people and of all Catholics.

Our Lady received them with such gratitude for all they had done in her Son’s honor with a calmness that seemed out of character with all that was happening. And as I prayed, she seemed to say the words she has always said, “Fiat…. You will see that all shall be for God’s glory.” 

On Good Friday we remember the horror of the three hours Mary stood beneath the cross to which the Son of God, her son, was nailed. Jeered, derided, mocked…. Betrayed, thirsty, unable to breathe…

Moment by agonizing moment the fire of his love that had burned so brightly when he was alive seemed to flicker more weakly until, at last, she held his lifeless body in her arms.

“Fiat.” Perhaps the hardest Fiat of all.

There are no ashes where there cannot also be glory.

Notre Dame will rise anew from the ashes because of the millions pledged for the Cathedral’s renovation. In five years, as President Macron has promised, France will once again have its cultural and religious heart restored in the Notre Dame Cathedral. It will be a five-year intensive “retreat” for the entire country and for all Catholics as we follow the progress and prepare for the first liturgies of the opening day.

But the “glory” to which Our Lady in heaven referred is more than architectural splendor and a sacred space of worship that represents the heart of Catholicism and the French people.

The glory began already in the darkness of Monday of Holy Week and continues in the hearts of all of us who are yet pondering in our souls what this inferno of Notre Dame means spiritually to us personally, to us as Catholics, to the world as a whole.

In the marrow of our bones, we feel that this devastation of the sacred in the most sacred week of the year, carries with it the mystery of a message in a language we can no longer understand.

We no longer know how NOT to understand…Marian NOT understanding as she stood with peaceful faith at the foot of her dying Son.

We no longer have a comfort level with trusting that even if we don’t understand what is happening we can be absolutely certain that God is reliable and all will be for God’s glory.

This is now Easter week. And once again Our Lady is our guide to understanding the ways of God even in the midst of tragedy and loss.

All eyes have turned to her as she turns the attention of the world to a place of sacred worship of her Son.

We treasure in our hearts what we have seen and heard.

We ponder what it can all mean.

We ask the Holy Spirit to show us the deeper wisdom in all that has happened.

We enter with greater reverence our own sacred buildings of worship that, although they are much humbler than Notre Dame Cathedral, are nonetheless filled with myriads of angels and the presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist.

We rest with the Word in Scripture and let the dust settle so that we might be taught by God whose thoughts are far above our own.

We rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, as Our Lady must have done so, knowing that indeed God has the whole world in his hands.

In the ashes of last week, in the ashes of all of Lent, is the astounding way in which God’s glory, in ways incomprehensible to our little minds, continues to save us from ourselves and from the power of the Evil One.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed and worried about the future? Ten steps to a more compassionate life

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9qkvq-aa529d

Only the courageous can choose compassion. Only the brave can witness within themselves their ego’s demands, consistently breaking open the deeper places of love. I believe in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another, even as I see the fear that makes me tremble, so small of heart. I touch the anguish of the world, knowing it is no different from the love I insist on holding back from the person nearest me.

We can overcome the evils of the world only with the courageous choice by which we, as Jesus, would give our life for our brother beside us, in small decisions that choose compassion over cruelty.