Thursday, October 29, 2009

Life's Miracles

My original title today was “random thoughts”, but as I finished I realized that all of the random thoughts I had written, actually revolved around today’s topic at mass-- “life” -- so therefore I will share these somewhat random bible verses about the miracles of life.

Father began our service today with this introduction: “God’s most life giving gift to us was his son, sent here to forgive us.” Do we ask for and accept his forgiveness and ultimately eternal life?

October is “Respect Life” month and as Joe and Francie so aptly put it, not just life in the human sense, but more importantly as the ultimate gift of eternal life. “Children, and those who are dependent on us due to disability or age, offer us the opportunity to grow in patience, kindness, and love. They teach us that life is a shared gift, not an encumbrance. At the end of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Cardinal Justin Rigali, Statement for Respect Life Sunday, September 29, 2009

I would ask your prayers for the approximately 4,000 mothers who sought abortion today, so that they may be forgiven and given the consolation of God’s love. And secondly for all those who are thinking about seeking abortion, so that they will see that God’s creation is meant to be loved, not forsaken. (See Project Rachel for more information on healing and forgiveness from abortion.)

Very much the opposite side of abortion is that of wanting to give life. I had a friend this week who asked me to pray for her daughter who is having difficulty conceiving a child. I told her I would pray for her and suggested that we should ask for the intercession of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (canonized in 2004) (Saint Gianna), “pro-life saint.” Saint Gianna is the patron saint for motherhood and thru her intercessions with God many who were previously infertile have had “miraculous” babies.

I think it is only right to explain what “praying to a saint” means since it is one of those things that are misunderstood by non-Catholics and Catholics alike. When we pray to a saint, we are praying “through” the saint. A saint is someone who through their life demonstrated a complete “laying down of their lives for God’s purpose.” (See Col 1:11 “who has made you fit to share the inheritance of the holy ones in light.”)

In this case Saint Gianna gave her life in childbirth, even though as a doctor she knew all of the risks and by giving life she would probably lose her own life. She provides an inspiration to all those who experience the constant demands and confusing signals that our current culture places on us.

Praying to or through the saints, angels or Mary is not unlike asking our prayer groups and friends to pray for us. And because the saints (for more on how someone is given sainthood see, have been raised to the altar in heaven, they have an even more “direct line” of communication with God to help us ask for his help in our lives. Personally, I will take all the help I can get by asking for the help of “those who share in God’s inheritance” for the special needs of my family and friends.

As you will notice in the following prayer to Saint Gianna, it does not pray TO Saint Gianna, but prays through her to Jesus: “Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me, make me only know Your will. My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls, and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms, I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will, the grace to confide in You, the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms.”

So I would ask your prayers for not only my friend’s daughter, but for all others who are having difficulty having a child. Children are one of the greatest miracles of God. I think many of us know someone who was blessed with a miracle child, especially after a lengthy period of infertility and many times after an adoption.

Following the miracle theme, today’s reading was about one of the miracles Jesus performed, by giving sight to the blind man. Mk 10:46-52 The miracles documented today by the church are not much different than those performed by Jesus during his life, that of healing, giving life, and feeding (giving the basic needs of life). While scientists always try to explain away these phenomena, there is really no need for an explanation if we believe in God.

Saturday’s readings applied a parable to our acceptance of life through forgiveness in the story about the barren fig tree.

“Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!’

“And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” Lk 13:1-9

Do I have the faith to repent, forgive and trust in the miracles in my life? Are my eyes and ears opened with/by my faith in God? Am I willing to ask for God’s “fertilizer” and accept and grow because of God’s greatest miracle, his Son’s death on the cross?

Who will I be this week? The owner ready “to cut it down,” to accept the immortality of the world, unwilling to take a stance for change because “it doesn’t affect me,” or using the “I can’t do anything about it anyway,” excuse? Or am I a barren fig tree, fertilized, but unwilling to accept the love and truth of God’s words? Or am I like the Galileans, letting those around me suffer because I will not accept God’s forgiveness, his miracle in my own life? Could I be the gardener, fertilizing, helping others to grow in faith so that they can see their positive selves by forgiving and patiently “tending the soil” so that I give those I love another chance like the gardener gave the fig tree. Or am I like the fertilized and ready fig tree, ready to give my life in faith thru God’s word and truth, so that through my own forgiveness and model I might show others the way to eternal life?

Blessings, Charlotte

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Power of Prayer

“First of all, let me make it perfectly clear that the power of praying is not a means of gaining control over your spouse, so don’t get your hopes up! In fact, it is quite the opposite. It’s laying down all claim to power in and of yourself, and relying on God’s power to transform you, your spouse, your circumstances and your marriage. This power is not given to wield like a weapon in order to beat back an unruly beast. It’s a gentle tool of restoration appropriated through the prayers of a spouse who longs to do right more than be right, and to give life more than get even. It’s a way to invite God’s power into your spouse’s life for their greatest blessing, which is ultimately yours too.” From the Power of the Praying Wife/Husband by Stormie OMartin

Father talked about the secrets of life--that we are all going to die, (that we must die to ourselves, and to live totally unselfishly); and the need for someone else (community) in our lives.

Prayer is one of the “powers” to achieve those “secrets.” Prayer lets us become “naked” before God, to receive his grace by turning over all of our sufferings and selfishness to him. Prayer bares our souls and puts God in Power of our lives. The most powerful prayer, the mass, combines our reliance on God’s power to transform us with our need for community. “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there.”

In this “instant gratification” society I think all of us are guilty at some point or another of saying: "What do I do now" or "I wish I could change this immediately." We are looking for that "secret to success, to healing, to fixing whatever today's problem is." The secret is God, and the way to reach God is thru prayer.

Remember the cliché, “The family that prays together stays together.” Why is that such a truth? And have we taught our children to pray? Prayer is like glue that will hold us together, in times of stress, grief, pain or suffering. And if we are praying together as a family or as a couple we are relying on God, together in our community of faith. We are giving Him the Power in our lives, in our family, in our community. We are not trying to control our own destiny. God shows us his mercy and love by “speaking” to us in prayer.

When someone asks me to “pray for them;” or I ask someone to” pray for me;” I think of it as “many voices” turning to God for the common good. The more of us praying together, the louder the voice: or as another cliché would read—“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Jesus and his disciples are seen many times in the bible praying, both in praise and thanksgiving, and in suffering and pain. We must go to God in prayer. The “power” of asking God is heralded by the following verse: “If the prayer of the just man avails much, how much more the prayer of the one made perfect” (Rev. 21:27).

So how do I begin if prayer is not already part of my daily life? The definition of prayer in Wikipedia is this: “Prayer is the act of addressing a god or spirit for the purpose of worship or petition. Specific forms of this may include praise, requesting guidance or assistance, confessing sins, as an act of reparation or an expression of one's thoughts and emotions. The words used in prayer may take the form of intercession, a hymn, incantation, words of gratitude, or a spontaneous utterance in the person's praying words.”

Prayer doesn’t come from a “textbook”, prayer comes from the heart. But if you are in need of a “jumpstart” try the following website:

Prayer is a "conversation with God." As the definition reads there are "asking, thanking, praising, or blessing" prayers. And in order to hear God’s reply sometimes our prayer can just be a quiet time to “listen” to what he wants to put into your heart.

The most powerful prayers, the Mass and the Most Holy Rosary, are combinations of prayers given to us in scripture. (The mass is over 80 combined scriptural passages and Jesus gave us the “Our Father” (Luke 11: 2-4) and the “Hail Mary” (Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:41-42b) which combined with the meditations on the mysteries in the life of Jesus and Mary make up the rosary).

So, do we pray with our spouse and our families? Do we ever say “I don’t have time to pray?” Or how many times do we say “I don’t know where to start or how to pray?”

Do we remember that “with God, all things are possible?” Even though God knows what is in our hearts, as his children, we must ask. We can tell God anything. We can ask him anything. We must “Just Do It.”

Start today! The power of Prayer will change our lives and push us closer to helping us achieve the secrets of life. Don’t keep the power of prayer a secret in your life or in anyone else’s!