Do you remember?

Do you remember?

Have you ever read Hilaire Belloc’s “Tarantella”? It’s such a fun poem. He uses the words to create the rhythm of the famous folk dance from the Mezzogiorno, where my family is originally from. “Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn?”

This afternoon, I took a little break from work to walk around my alma mater (Catholic University). It was the first real spring day after a long spell of post-winter chill.

 

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Where I live, April is usually warm and sunny, but this year it’s been noticeably overcast and cold. It’s so strange to see people wearing their winter coats to checking out the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. (I promise you, if you’re not from DC, it’s not usually like that).

The extended winter of this year has been matched by an extended winter in my soul. More than once in the last week have I asked myself, “Why, if it’s Easter, am I still stuck in the Garden?”

As I began my walk, I said a little prayer and asked Jesus to come along with me.

First I noticed the dandelions, and the tiny little purple and blue flowers peeking out among the weeds.

And I heard that quiet, gentle voice:

Do you remember?

And something began to stir.

Then I saw the tulips, with their bright red petals.

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Do you remember?

Then I found myself among the cherry blossoms, and watched as the little pink petals swirled around me, in and out of the streams of sunlight.

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Do you remember?

Yes, Lord, I do! I remember when dandelions and violets were priceless little treasures, and each new bloom was filled with possibilities.

I remember when I would sit in the grass and make chains of clover, and listen to the birds and wonder what it was that they were saying.

Yes, Lord. I remember. I remember what it was to be a little girl.

You still are, to me, and you can be, again.

Sometimes in the dark and stormy winters of life, we forget that there ever was a spring. Sometimes the chill sinks so deep that we don’t even realize there was a life before grief. Hope? What’s that?

If this is you, I promise you, spring will come. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I know it will.

Do you remember?

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:4-8

 

 

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There Is Always Hope

You all know the story of Jairus, right? His daughter was sick, so he ran to Jesus and asked him to come help. Jesus and Jairus were walking back to Jairus’s house when someone came running up to them and told Jairus, “Your daughter has died. Do not trouble the teacher any longer.”

Your daughter has died.

Most likely the absolute worst news of Jairus’s life.

Do not trouble the teacher any longer.There’s no point. No hope. What can Jesus do now?

Here was Jairus, whose world had just ended. But Jesus looks at him and immediately says,

“Do not be afraid.”

Really, Jesus? Do not be afraid? How could he not be afraid?

“Have faith, and your daughter will live.”

We know how the story ends. Jesus goes back to the house, sees the girl who has died, takes her hand and says, “Little girl, arise.” And she does. And he tells them to feed her. (Ever notice how in the Gospels whenever people come back from the dead they’re hungry, like when Jesus asked for food after his resurrection? Strange. I wonder if there’s a treatise on this somewhere.)

What really struck me today when my eyes fell on this passage was the part that Jairus was walking with Jesus as he got the news that his world had ended. And Jesus looked at him and said, Do not be afraid. Have faith…

Many times we find ourselves on the road with Christ when we get our own earth-shaking news. Sometimes it’s the loss of a person, like it was for Jairus. Other times it’s the loss of a dream, the loss of something we’ve worked for, a diagnosis we never expected, etc. And the world tells us to abandon all hope.

But that’s not what Jesus says.

Do not be afraid. Have faith.

There is hope.

 

The Author of Life

The Author of Life

The infertility stories in the bible have one thing in common. They all end in a miraculous pregnancy. Abraham and Sarah conceived in extreme old age, despite the sins they committed in their distrust of God’s promise. Hannah cried in the temple and vowed to give her child to God, if only he would grant her request. God said yes, and Samuel was born. Elizabeth and Zachariah, the parents of John the Baptist were infertile and advanced in years, yet God answered their prayers, regardless of Zachariah’s doubt.

Some will point to these stories and say that if you pray hard enough, you will conceive a child. They claim that if you’re still not pregnant, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. There are even a number of books that espouse this notion.

I call bullshit.

You heard me.

The point of these biblical stories about miraculous cures of infertility point to one big TRUTH:

We are not the author of life. God is.

God is in charge. God has a plan. God has the ultimate power to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whichever way he chooses. Human beings may cooperate with God’s design, but we are not the ones in control. Period. He proves this time and time again in Scripture. Mary, a virgin, conceives. Lazarus is raised from the dead. Job’s life goes in all over the place. The widow’s oil and flour is always replenished, and as God cares for the sparrows and the fields, so too will he care for you (Matthew 6:26).

In our world, there are many beautiful, wonderful, faithful women who never conceive. Infertility is a symptom of our fallen world. It is not their fault. It’s no one’s fault.

God gives each of us different gifts, depending on his plan for our life. This is why we pray for his will, and for and increase in faith and trust on our part. Just because God can doesn’t mean he will. And even though he may say “no” or “not yet,” he always has a perfect plan.

Why is there suffering? A Lesson from the Man Born Blind

Why is there suffering? A Lesson from the Man Born Blind

Recently I decided to read the Gospel of John from start to finish, one chapter at a time. This morning before work I read chapter 9, which is the story of the man born blind.

It was crowded. Jesus saw the blind man. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

Jesus spat on the ground, made a little mud, put it on the man’s eyes, told him to go wash it off, then disappeared back into the crowd. The man did as he was told, and he could see.

Blindness is a cross. Like every other form of suffering, it is a symptom of our fallen world. It’s nobody’s personal fault.

Very few of us will receive miraculous physical cures for our sufferings. Those kinds of miracles happen, but they are rare. All of us, though, through our suffering have an opportunity to be an instrument for God to show the world some of himself. Like the blindness of this man in the Gospel, God can allow us to suffer so that his works may be made visible through us.

After the healing, the pharisees question the man, badgering him about how he was healed, and whether he believed that Jesus was from God or not. To the man who was healed, it was pretty simple: “One thing I do know is that I was blind, and now I see.”

The man doesn’t really know who Jesus is, but he stands up for the godliness of his healer, and is kicked out of the synagogue. When Jesus hears of this, he finds the man, reveals himself, and the man becomes his disciple. He knows that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Why do we suffer? Perhaps because it is through our trials that God reveals himself to us. Through these experiences we come to see that we are completely dependent upon God. We have no control. We are powerless on our own. The one who opens the eyes of the blind and calms the tempest with his word offers his peace in our lives. All we have to do is place our trust in Him.

What’s the point of Confession?

Last night, in the midst of all the shopping and wrapping and baking, my fiancé and I decided to go to our parish penance service. If you’re not familiar with Catholic penance services, they do a few readings from the bible, have a short homily, and then everyone lines up to receive the Sacrament of Confession. Several priests from other parishes were there to hear confessions, including one from my beloved old parish, St. Mary of the Mills.

Going to confession is one of those things that provokes a lot of uncertainty from people, whether they are Catholic or not. Plenty of people argue that there’s no need for it. Why tell the priest your sins when you can tell God yourself?

The official answer is that through the Sacrament of Confession, God forgives us of our sins and grants us the grace to be stronger in the future. This is a textbook answer that works for some. It’s not compelling enough for everyone.

There’s no answer that would satisfy everyone, but the reason I go is pretty simple. It’s wonderful to be able to tell someone all of your problems, and have that person listen, give you a thoughtful answer, and tell you not to worry about it anymore. That’s basically what confession is. Most priests will listen as if they’re your best friend. They’ll give you advice you never thought of. They’ll tell you that God forgives you. When you’re really troubled, it makes a huge difference to hear someone actually say, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The best part of it all is that there is someone who will listen. They’ll listen, and they’ll never tell a single soul. It’s sacred. Confession is an opportunity to talk to someone in total secrecy and know that they have your best interest at heart. With everything that goes on in life, how could you not want to take advantage of that?