Where is Christ today?

This is the day when everything is silent.  We can go about the day not giving much of a thought to it–just seeing it as the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet monumental things were happening in the spiritual realm.  Christ descended to hell to set captives free.

This still has meaning for us.  So often we think nothing is happening in our own spiritual lives, yet God is about monumental things.  Have hope in the Unseen.

Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light.  Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable.  Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God.  Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

And for those of you who feel that you are living “in darkness and in the shadow of death”, take heart, for you are exactly who he desires to visit.  From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:

Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives . . .

She burns the light of hope

{This is a repost . . .]

mary-pierced-heartHave you ever wondered why Saturday is traditionally observed as the day of Our Lady? A few years ago I was reading a book by John Saward (The Beauty of Holiness, the Holiness of Beauty), and, in a section about our Lady, he described Mary’s unfailing faith through the long, terrible day after Christ’s death when she alone kept faith in her Son.   I had never before heard of this mariological foundation for Saturday being traditionally her day:

The yes [her continued yes to the Lord that began with her Annunciation yes] of Our Lady does not end on Good Friday and [Christ’s] yielding of the spirit . . . . The faith and love of Our Lady last into Holy Saturday.  The dead body of the Son of God lies in the tomb, while His soul descends into Sheol, the Limbo of the Fathers.  Jesus goes down into the hideous kingdom of death to proclaim the power of the Cross and the coming victory of the Resurrection and to open Heaven’s gates to Adam and Eve and all the souls of the just.  The Apostles, hopeless and forlorn, know none of this.  “As yet,” St. John tells us, “they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead” (Jn 20.9).  In all Israel, is there no faith in Jesus?   On this silent Saturday, this terrible Shabbat, while the Jews’ true Messiah sleeps the sleep of death, who burns the lights of hope?  Is there no loyal remnant?  There is, and its name is Mary.  In the fortitude of faith, she keeps the Sabbath candles alight for her Son.  That is why Saturday, the sacred day of her physical brethren, is Our Lady’s weekly festival.  On the first Holy Saturday, in the person of Mary of  Nazareth, Israel now an unblemished bride, faces her hardest trial and, through the fortitude of the Holy Spirit, is triumphant.

I take great comfort in knowing that Mary always burns the light of hope for me (and you!) as well.

Christ is already next to you

CHRIST IN THE DESERT

by 

On Saturday, I watched good friends carry a miniature white casket up the aisle of our parish church, to be laid before the altar for a funeral Mass. Their son was stillborn last week. Our parish had come to the church to pray for them as they laid their son’s body to rest.

My friends have entered the season of Lent in a profound way.

During Lent, we remember Jesus, fasting and praying in the Judean desert. We remember that Jesus was weak, and tired, and alone, and that, relying on the word of God, he overcame the empty promises of Satan.

Like Christ, my friends will likely feel weak, tired, and alone this Lent. C. S. Lewis said that grief feels much like fear, and I suspect they’ll sometimes feel afraid. He also said that grief is an amputation, and I suspect they’ll sometimes feel crippled.

And like Christ, my friends will face temptations. They may be tempted to turn on each other. They may be tempted to turn from God. They may be tempted to pretend they don’t need help—human or divine—when, in fact, they surely do. I suspect my friends will overcome those temptations, by grace. But if they don’t, I know they’ll seek God’s mercy, and I know he’ll give it freely.

During Lent, most of us offer up small sacrifices—pittances, really—to spend more time in prayer. We limit our comforts, just a little. We give alms, usually from our excess, and rarely from our need. And somehow God, in his mercy on us—his pity for our pitiful sacrifices—gives these tiny sacrifices meaning, and uses them to draw us closer to him.

Sometimes, though, we see Lent as a proof of our endurance, an annual test of our strength and resolve as believers. It is easy to think that during Lent, our little sacrifices take us out into the desert to be with Christ. We don’t readily see that Christ is the one who has come out into the desert, to be with us.

We often have trouble admitting that we are already in the desert, already weak and without food, and already tempted. Often we forget that Christ conquered temptation not for himself, but for us—so that we can rely on him to conquer Satan’s lies, which are whispered to us in the moments of great suffering, in the desert of this life.

Lent, at its best, is a discovery that Christ is already next to us. We silence our distractions to discover the Lord’s love, his steadfast presence, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

My friends have been driven into the desert of loss this Lent; I hope they will find that Christ is there with them. I hope that in their weakness, they will encounter the savior who can “sympathize with our weakness,” who “in every respect has been tempted as we are.”

Many of us are in deserts of loneliness, or mourning, or despair, or fear. We are thirsting for living water. I hope this Lent we will find the Christ who has come out to the desert to meet us.

J. D. Flynn is a canon lawyer in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A Bright Sadness: Leave the Light On

Barnstorming

What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.

It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind.

Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.
~Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

It is easy to lose faith: one bad outcome, one prayer seemingly unanswered, one loss leaving a gaping hole.

It can feel like God has up and left.

Much harder to sustain is faith that keeps an open mind in the darkness of the deep pit, in the midst of interminable waiting, or while facing the disappointment of lost hopes and dreams.

When belief is elusive, the worst possible reaction is…

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Start on the right foot this Lent

In the first place, it’s not about what we do, but about what He does.

“In the relationship with God our first act of love, one that must remain the basis for every act of love for him, is this: to believe that he loves us, and to let ourselves be loved in our poverty, just as we are, quite apart from any merits or virtues we may possess.”  (Fr. Jacques Philippe)