The Father has prepared a wedding banquet with food and drink that satisfies our deepest hunger. The Father begs us to come to the feast. He has prepared the choicest food and has saved the best wine for last. The food at this banquet will never run out and we will never hunger or thirst again. He implores us “come to the feast.”
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This exact question is asked of Jesus two times in the gospels, by two different people, and he gives them different answers.
“The Easter Season ends with the conclusion of Evening Prayer.”
The sweet consolation of Easter, basking in the glory of the Resurrection, my patroness (my religious name was Sr. Magdala Marie) popping up all over the place: it was all over. Then I realized that Ordinary Time is ushered in by a series of solemnities to wean us off of desserts, Alleluias and perhaps even his felt presence.
So what did we learn from the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe? Perhaps, the fact that millions of people were converted following the appearance of Our Lady was no coincidence. What if Our Lady is the key to the New Pentecost?
What does the word Pentecost bring to mind?
I know a few years ago when I was pondering the new Pentecost needed in our Church I was very focused on the externals. I think expressing our love for God and praising him with full heart and voice is very important, but I’ve come to realize that there is something more basic going on.
I’m experiencing post-Africa let down all over again. Having come home right before Easter, for the past few weeks we’ve been singing joyful “Alleliua” songs like this one:
Doesn’t that make you want to dance and lift your hands in praise? Okay, maybe it’s just me…
But seriously, when twenty women sing this song in a more lively fashion than a 200 person congregation, there is a serious problem.
The problem isn’t that I’m used to being surrounded by people who are madly in love with Jesus and are not afraid to show it! Honestly the average parishioner usually doesn’t even look like they want to be at Mass. No wonder we’re attracting so many people.
Sarcasm aside (with maybe a touch of sass), what does our Church need? The same thing we’ve always needed, since Jesus ascended to the Father: the Holy Spirit. More specifically we need a new Pentecost.
I love, love, love the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The Lord often reminds me of it when I’m trying to pretend that everything is okay (like he doesn’t know everything!). I can’t tell you how many times in prayer I’ve felt the gentle nudging to be honest with Him but insist that I’m “fine”. In these times I’m invited to have the honesty of Mary and Martha – to get angry, because God can handle it! Martha and Mary didn’t meekly say, “oh it’s okay Jesus, we know this is for the best and we trust you.” No, they were not afraid to show that they were angry and confused: “what the heck Jesus! You go around doing all these great miracles but you can’t stop our brother, who you claimed to love, from dying. Some Messiah you are!”
I think the key to understanding this story is the fact that Mary and Martha never lost their faith. They believed with their whole hearts that he could have healed their brother and Martha even says, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
These two sisters believed that Jesus could do anything, they just didn’t realize “anything” included raising men from the dead. This is something they couldn’t imagine. Our God does more than we can ask or imagine.
But the part that we still struggle with is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place. Because he loved them. Logically speaking, this is completely insane. Let’s talk about my ways are not your ways. Jesus even goes so far as to say, “for your sake I am glad I was not there”. Can you imagine the disciples shock and confusion over this?
Jesus allows Lazarus to die because in the end, it is better for everyone. I’ve wondered if this was to give them all hope during Jesus’s crucifixion. They must have thought: He raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps He will rise also. God allows a brief period of pain and mourning, to make the new day that much more brilliant.
One thing I learned in convent was that I hate suffering (okay who really likes it?). But I really struggle to see the value in it, which I think is true to most of us. We believe in a God whose plan to save us involved letting His Son die in utter agony by being crucified. I know we’ve all struggled with the questions “why suffering?” and “why do good things happen to bad people?” Maybe you’ve even tried to explain redemptive suffering to others and think you really get it. But deep in each of our hearts we all ask, “why?”
Why does God allow so much evil? Why do little children get shot, abused and horribly mistreated? Free will, we like to throw around. Is that a satisfactory answer? God could just stop it all if He wanted. And then what would draw us close to Him?
“What is he?” murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to another. “A writer of storybooks! What kind of a business in life, – what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation, – may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!”
-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Ironically, I was introduced to the show “Call the Midwife” while in the convent. Now that I have some time on my hands I’ve watching some more of the episodes. I’ve noticed that some of the characters struggle with something that I do as well (and I suspect most of you): wanting to be useful. Through aging or illness, they are afraid of not being able to do what they used to, and therefore being of less value.
Over the past few years this desire has been purified but it is still a nagging thought: am I doing something worthwhile? Will I live up to these ridiculous expectations I have set for myself?
I came face to face with this need to be “useful” in religious life – which was perhaps the Lord’s plan all along. What good could it do the world to do laundry, sell Altar Bread and pray – oh prayer is what always seems like the most useless thing. What good does prayer do?
But religious are not the first and are certainly far from being the last to be accused of wasting their lives.
Remember this story?
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.”
When I was in college I switched my major from English to Social Work, because I thought I should do something more “practical” to help people. Partially through physical illness, I was stripped of my desire to be “useful” in the convent and as the Lord uncovered my eyes to see my own beauty, the desire to write re-awoke in me like a living fire. Poverty fosters creativity and I’ve done my best writing in the past four years, showing me what I am capable of.
So now God is calling me to waste my life in a different way and I have a feeling I won’t be leaving poverty behind!
I’m sure someone has written about this already, but my cursory internet search came up with nothing, so here’s my two cents: Beauty and the Beast screams Theology of the Body. I had this revelation while watching the new live action version.
What specifically came to my mind is the fact that St. John Paul II says women teach men how to be human. This is literally happening in Beauty and the Beast! Due to the fall, men tend towards beastliness (ok honestly we all do), at least figuratively. In this classic movie, Prince Charming is literally turned into a beast, so his outer form matches his cold, selfish heart. Remember, he was never really charming to begin with, so he couldn’t use turning into a beast as an excuse. However, he became more bitter and resentful.
Enter a beautiful, selfless, young woman. Here is a person whom the beast can love, can live for. With her he can, “discover himself through a sincere gift of self”. And she must let herself be loved as she is, just as she receives him as he is. She, through her love, helps to redeem and transform him into a man, more of a man than he ever was.
Incidentally, this is all reminding me of the ideas of a newly ordained priest, Fr. Patrick Shultz, of the Cleveland Diocese. In his Master’s Thesis on the genius of men (it’s about time!), he described the man’s heart as a castle. A man is pierced, wounded by a woman’s beauty and he let’s her into his heart, to be protected. The man’s instinct is to live with an outward focus, but when he lets a woman inside she draws him in as well, into the home she creates.
Do you see what I see?? This is also happening in Beauty and the Beast! The beast is trapped inside this castle, through his own fault. It became a prison, something to escape from. But then he lets Belle, aka Beauty, into his castle and eventually into his heart. His rough exterior is pierced and he is freed to love. At first he tries to possess Belle, to keep her as a prisoner in his castle, but it is only when he sees her as a gift and lets her go that she can truly be his.
Why do women have this unique role? The more human we become, the more God-like we become. Jesus became man so we could see what we’re supposed to look like, for we were made in his image. Furthermore, God chose to redeem the world through a woman – and continues to do so. It is women who are the preservers of culture, who embody compassion, kindness and mercy. It is women who make humanity more human. Every time a woman gives birth to an immortal soul, it is a redemptive act, and as she tries to bring that child up in a Godly way, then she is bringing that child closer to its destiny of becoming God-like. She is repairing the image and likeness of God in humanity.
I told you that my last post wasn’t goodbye! I’m writing this quick update while on my home visit because I really need your help.
These last five months have been amazing, challenging, and just all around a blast! When St. Francis started attracting followers he reportedly said, “…and the Lord gave me brothers.” Now I can truly say, “…and the Lord has given me sisters!” The TOR community has quickly become my family and I love them dearly.
By the grace of God and the trust of my superiors, I was allowed to enter with some remaining debt. However, it does need to be paid off before I enter postulancy in August 2014. So many of you have been incredibly generous and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. However, there is still about $23,000 that needs to be paid off.
I have applied for a grant from Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations but they do not make their decisions until March 15th. Please pray extra hard until then! My chances for receiving the grant will increase if I can decrease my debt before then, so anything will help!
Donations can be made through this website: http://www.youcaring.com/other/form-a-franciscan-sister/85925
Or by mail: 369 Little Church Road Toronto, OH 43964
Please make checks out to Franciscan Sisters, TOR
Check out the Youcaring site for continuing updates!