Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Timing is Everything

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Christmas blessings to all as we continue to celebrate the joy of the Christ Child's birth during this Christmas Octave.  This is often a time of basking in the warm glow of the present-moment with family and friends as the holiday continues, and taking inventory for the new year that is right around the corner.  Last evening I happened to watch the movie Joy with Jennifer Lawrence. I did not know anything about it, but enjoyed this account of how this woman seemingly trapped by familial circumstances, was able to reclaim her identity, and pursue her invention of a self-wringing mop that would eventually change her life along with the lives of women around the world.  

This was captivating in and of itself, but I was most intrigued by the line in the movie about some cicada species who hide underground for 17 years before being ready as nymphs to come out into the world, make music, and begin a new cycle of life.  

Their life cycle is described as follows: 

"Cicadas begin life as a rice-shaped egg, which the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb, using her ovipositor. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. 

Once the egg hatches the cicada begins to feed on the tree fluids. At this point it looks like a termite or small white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig until it finds roots to feed on. Once roots are found the cicada will stay underground from 2 to 17 years depending on the species. Cicadas are active underground, tunneling and feeding.
After the long 2 to 17 years, cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. Nymphs climb the nearest available tree, and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. Free of their old skin, their wings will inflate with fluid and their adult skin will harden. Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life.
Adult cicadas, also called imagoes, spend their time in trees looking for a mate. Males sing, females respond, mating begins, and the cycle of life begins again."

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This was a metaphor for this young woman and her life thus far. She was searching to find that little girl in herself who sought to create and make a difference. Where had she gone? She had seemingly been crushed by her parent's divorce, a failed marriage of her own, financial concerns, and the burden of taking care of family members who had opted out of life in one way or another.  She was at a point of great tension as this appeared to be untenable. Something had to give, as we would say in modern parlance.  She recognized herself in the cicada - one who had hidden underground and was operating in the dark of hibernation under the earth. She felt as if her true self had all but died, with just a few wisps of sparks from her soul operating beneath the brittle earth of life.  

But alas, she was able to gather these sparks into a tiny flame that enabled her to climb out from beneath the layers of dirt that had buried her, and begin to push forward towards recouping her broken self and hidden dreams. 
As a Christian, we know that we do not accomplish such a resurrection moment on our own, but instead it is grace and our cooperation with it that enables healthy change to take root in our lives. It is listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit who speaks to our souls, this innate voice within, that moves us towards change in His own perfect timing. Although seemingly sad and a waste of time, I would argue that Joy's time of crushing and lost hopes and dreams enabled her to become the the best version of herself. We know that for all those who love God, all things work together for the good.  Does that mean Our Lord wants us crushed and living unfulfilled lives? Absolutely not. But it does mean that He can use all circumstances, most especially our brokenness, for His Glory and plans for us. 
Sometimes this hidden period in life is necessary to catapult us to come out of our shells so to speak or to rise to the surface in order to accomplish what has been intended for us all along.  It is so often the timing with what is required in the present moment that determines various cycles that vascillate between the behind the scenes work that must be done before a more overt work is accomplished. Such concealed existence can result in the eradication of one's spirit on the one hand, or the strengthening of it to prepare to overcome obstacles so often associated with noteworthy successes that touch and change the lives of others. 

We are reminded in Scripture that there is a time and season for all things. Let us remember that even the behind the scenes times in our lives, and seemingly useless periods of inactivity, difficulties, etc. are not a waste as God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. 


Wheat Harvest



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Having the Light and Eyes of St. Lucy to See Clearly during Advent

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JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate yet another young heroine who gave her very life in order to remain faithful to her promise to Our Lord Jesus to devote her life to Him as His virgin spouse.   Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan, so Lucy devised a plan to convince her mother that her commitment to Christ was God's Will and preferable to such a marriage.


After several prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, Lucy saw the saint in a dream. St. Agatha told Lucy her mother's illness would be cured through faith, which Lucy used to persuade her mother to give the dowry money to the poor and allow her to commit her life to God.
While Lucy and her mother were grateful to God, the rejected bridegroom was deeply angered and betrayed Lucy's faith to the governor Paschasius. The governor attempted to force her into prostitution, but the guards who came to take her away were unable to move her, even after hitching her to a team of oxen. According to later accounts, Lucy warned Paschasius he would be punished. When the governor heard this he ordered the guards to gouge out her eyes.  When her body was being prepared for burial, they discovered her eyes had been restored. [see http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=75]
Lucy's name means 'light' and during this time of increasingly shortened and dark days, such light is what our souls long for and are reaching towards as we approach the last week of Advent before Christmas.   Various studies have confirmed that light or the absence of illumination can shape our moods and our emotional well-being.  When we are ensconced in darkness we more readily experience fear, uncertainty, depression, and confusion. Once one experiences light, one's mood often changes to a more joy-filled, energetic, and lucid frame of mind.  Ask anyone who lives in the Arctic regions or Alaska about the winter months, and they will share how difficult it is, as the body just begins to hibernate and slow down. The proclivity is to hide away physically and emotionally until the light returns. 
The phenomenon known as the aurora borealis is a perfect example of beauty found when light penetrates the darkness.  The bright dancing lights of the aurora are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.  Such a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors enlivens the spirit and the contrast between darkness and light penetrates the soul and calls it to attention. Such stark and dramatic beauty in the midst of darkness jolts the very fibers of our being. 
Image result for northern lights
Photo Taken from http://www.boredpanda.com/northern-lights-photography-joni-niemela-finland/
Perhaps this is why the imagery of brilliant light shining in the darkness brings such hope of fulfillment and future possibilities and promises. Indeed, references and contrasts between darkness and light are plentiful in Scripture. The Book of Isaiah tells us, "The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them." [9:2] Aahh. The long-awaited promise of the Messiah is foretold in terms of light penetrating the darkness of humanity.   Once the time arrives, it is signaled by a noticeably bring star shining in the cosmos and the glory shining forth from the angels announcing the birth of Our Savior to the shepherds in the field. 

St. Matthew's Gospel recounts this story of the Magi who journey by following this star as follows,   
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[c] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[d] and have come to worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [Chapter 1] 

Thirty years later,  Jesus tells His followers, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.(John 8:12) Yet again, "For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light " [Jn. 12:35-36]

St. Lucy understood the light of truth and devoted her whole self to serving that Truth who is Our Lord. She saw clearly, as the spiritual eyes of her heart were open. Even in the darkness of prison and a seemingly impossible situation, she never stopped being faithful and believing. She became a daughter of Light, as Jesus invites all of us to do.  May we have the eyes to see clearly even in the darkness of the world. May we walk towards the Star of Bethlehem in these last days of Advent, with eyes wide open in anticipation. Amen. 

4. A STAR. [by St. Therese]

Sometimes, when all the skies are black 
With gloomy clouds, and no stars shine, 
Our little Jesus grieves alone, 
— He craves your love, yes, yours and mine. 
Then give to Him the light He wants, 
Be like a bright and shining star; 
And let your virtues, like a lamp, 
Shed welcoming radiance near and far. 
So may your rays lead souls to heaven, 
The sinful souls for whom He died. 
This Child Divine, our Morning Star, 
Asks you to be His star, His bride.
 Taken from THE LITTLE DIVINE BEGGAR OF CHRISTMAS.

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