Rest in God

sleeping-dogsYesterday the W.I.N.E. blog posted a short article called “Shepherd of My Heart,” about the need every soul has to rest in the mercy of God. (It’s a short, easy read – a slice of life from the Saxton household featuring Maddie, our Aussie shepherd.)

Like any good parent, God is relentless in his love and care for us — perhaps especially when we are struggling. Today’s first reading reminds us of another side of God, the disciplinarian who loves us too much to let us remain ensnared by sin.

Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin.

Say not: “Great is his mercy;…

My many sins he will forgive.”

For mercy and anger alike are with him;

Upon the wicked alights his wrath.

Delay not your conversion to the LORD,

Put it not off from day to day.

Sirach 5:1-8

None of us knows for sure how much time she has on the  hourglass of life. Life is fleeting and fragile, and eternity is forever. The good news is that God has provided a way for us to rid ourselves of the toxic habits and unwanted burdens we carry, cleansing us in the sacrament of reconciliation and strengthening us in the Eucharist. Those who are sick and suffering can also avail themselves of the graces of the sacrament of anointing, to give them strength for the journey.

We need not fear death. Something greater is in store for each of us if we spend our lifetime following Christ. So rest in God . . . and keep short accounts.

God bless you! Pray for me as I head to Minneapolis for the W.I.N.E. conference on Saturday!

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Prayer for a Dying Child and Her Family: For Sarah Murnaghan

Sarah MurnaghanThese past few weeks, my colleague Lora Brecker, has been attending to the family of her niece, Sarah Murnaghan, a ten-year-old girl who is dying for want of a lung transplant. Her mother engaged the services of a top-notch PR firm to petition the government to make an exception to the UNOS transplant rules, which make it virtually impossible for children younger than 12 to receive life-saving organs. (Since very few children’s organs are available, and adult organs must be offered to everyone on the list 12 or more years old before they can be offered to younger ones, for reasons that I still don’t understand.)

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

It is difficult to imagine how her parents are coping. Every moment spent fighting the injustice — knowing all the while that it may be too late to save their daughter, but that perhaps someone else’s child may benefit — is one less moment they have with their beautiful daughter. One less moment to be together as a family. And yet, how could any parent live with the possibility that they might have saved their child, had they only _________.

And so, I ask you to please join me in this simple, powerful prayer on behalf of Sarah and her family:

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Heavenly Father, send your Spirit to pour out every grace that family needs.

On Mercy: Thoughts from the life of Catherine of Siena

As the dust of last night’s elections settles, it seems like a good time to mention a charming biography I’m reading right now, Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life by Don Brophy (BlueRidge Press).

Catherine found herself constantly contending with politics, both temporal and ecclesial. She herself had many detractors — those who despised her for being an uneducated female; those within her own order who protested the fact that she wore the habit of the Dominican tertiary (Mantellata) yet had a public outreach that included the spiritual guidance of men; and those who regularly accused her of all kinds of faults, especially pride and wilfullness.

Her response to her detractors is worth noting. “The sword of divine charity,” she wrote, “must be hidden in the house of our soul of true knowledge of ourselves. For when we know what we are not, and that we are constantly producing nothingness, we at once become humble before God and before everyone else for God’s sake” (p.85).

It is by continually seeking true self-knowledge — of our relative littleness in the eyes of God — that we are able to progress in true charity.  When those we love stumble or fail us personally, it is easier to forebear when we recall our own shortcomings.  When those we find difficult to love cause added pain, or simply win the battle of the day, we can detach from anger and bitterness more readily when we recognize how little it will matter in the end, and that God loves our enemies just as he loves us and continually longs for our reconciliation.

Therefore, we may never be more Christ-like in this life than when we extend mercy, measuring a person not by the humiliation of his (or her) worst moments, nor out of the expectation of their periodic triumphs, but with the understanding of what it is to be human — with all the frailties and graces of our common nature.

Heavenly Father, you are God and we are not. You hold time and space in the palms of your hands. You sent your Son to identify with the human race; from his side flows rivers of mercy, stemming the tide of terrible justice, the natural consequence of our continued rebellion. Help us now, by your Spirit, to carry your divine image out into the world fearlessly, consistently, and with great faith. In your Holy Name, Amen.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

small-family1Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunication, the day the angel appeared to Mary and announced that God had chosen her to be the mother of the Incarnate Christ. Her gesture of obedience — the “yes” to God’s plan for her to become a mother while she was still unmarried, and to raise His only Son to manhood — was an act of pure courage.

God’s act, one of pure mercy. Despite the fact that the world didn’t understand, didn’t recognize, and certainly didn’t want the sacrifice … He came and lived among us, first as a helpless infant, then as a young man, then as a teacher … and finally, a living embodiment of God’s eternal grace.

Today, God continues to live among us, though in many ways His Spirit is resisted even more than it was two millennia ago. Lives through the Church, both through the sacraments and in His people. The Spirit continues to speak, through the ongoing tradition and teaching authority of the Apostles and their successors, through the written Word of God, and through divine interventions — miracles — all around us.

Most of the time, we think of these “miracles” as positive outcomes. A healing here, a reconciliation there, a flash of inspiration or transformation that yields tremendous spiritual fruit. And yet, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “God shouts to us through our pain.” From this perspective, even tragedies like this can, from a certain perspective, rightly be seen as divine intervention. Our Good Shepherd knows what it will take to reach even the most stubborn sheep.

May God grant that even in this situation, the shout of His Spirit fall on ears ready and willing to listen.