Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4 Ch. 5

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The voice of the Beloved:
[W]ith your entire will offer yourself upon the altar of your heart as an everlasting sacrifice to the honor of My name, by entrusting with faith both body and soul to My care, that thus you may be considered worthy to draw near and offer sacrifice to God and profitably receive the Sacrament of My Body.

The altar of my heart… I have to wonder how the altar of my heart appears to my Lord.  Broken.  Filled with rubbish.  Scarred.  Desecrated.  So much is laid there that there must be no room remaining for the Body of my Savior to rest.

If a man does what he can and is truly penitent, however often he comes to Me for grace and pardon, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”; I will no longer remember his sins, but all will be forgiven him.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

“And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.'” (Revelation 21:5)


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Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4 Ch. 5

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The beginning and end of the chapter Thomas à Kempis writes (primarily written for priests, but it was in the meditation following that I found a truth for us all):

Had you the purity of an angel and the sanctity of St. John the Baptist, you would not be worthy to receive or administer this Sacrament. It is not because of any human meriting that a man consecrates and administers the Sacrament of Christ, and receives the Bread of Angels for his food. Great is the Mystery and great the dignity of priests to whom is given that which has not been granted the angels…. When the priest celebrates Mass, he honors God, gladdens the angels, strengthens the Church, helps the living, brings rest to the departed, and wins for himself a share in all good things.

Each and every time I consider that God has made me a priest through the laying on of hands by the Bishop, I shake my head in disbelief.

Here is my heart, Lord.  My mind.  My soul.  You only need glance upon the surface of each to know with certainty that filth covers them all.  Please, dear Savior, do not look to see what is within, my shame would crush me.  Yet, through the great mystery of grace, forgiveness… Love… You chose me.  So, there I stand, hands outstretched over the bread and the wine, praying for your presence.  Praying once more for you to come to us, your people.  I’ve seen the mist of Your Spirit upon the wine and the drops of Your blood on the bread and I’ve seen the wine “stirred up”, and I am… no words.  We bow before you.  We approach Thee.

When you approach the world, when you approach others…

Thine endeavor should be to cherish within thee throughout the day the same dispositions with which thou shouldst approach the altar.

We must seek to approach the world and others in the same manner, with the same reverence and holiness and awe and fear that we approach Jesus on the altar.  Here, in this one, in this many, is God.

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4, Ch.3.2

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Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” (Matthew 15:32)

Jesus had given so much of himself in the healing of the crowd, yet he continues to have compassion for them and their needs.  Therefore, he feeds the 4,000 with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.

Jesus also has the same compassion for us as he did for that crowd.  Yet, the food he gives to us is himself.

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)

Brother Thomas writes:

Therefore must I often come to Thee, and receive Thee as the medicine of my salvation, lest perhaps I faint in the way, should I be deprived of this heavenly food.  For so thou, O most merciful Jesus, when thou hadst been preaching to the people and curing the various maladies, didst once say: I will not send them fasting to their home, lest they faint on the way.

The Lord does not send us away with our soul’s fasting.  He nourishes us with his body and blood.  No greater love.

Reflection: TAK IOC Bk. 4, Ch.1.9

TAK = Thomas à Kempis

IOC = Imitation of Christ


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Last year I had the opportunity to visit the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.  It was spectacular and truly I could have spent several days there poking into the various rooms, chapels, and nooks.  I would have liked the time to stop and pray here and there and allow my soul to drift upwards.  It seemed, for whatever worldly reason, that I was nearer to my God.  I would not call it a religious experience, but it came close.

Many people travel far to honor the relics of the saints, marveling at their wonderful deeds and at the building of magnificent shrines. They gaze upon and kiss the sacred relics encased in silk and gold; and behold, You are here present before me on the altar, my God, Saint of saints, Creator of men, and Lord of angels!

Often in looking at such things, men are moved by curiosity, by the novelty of the unseen, and they bear away little fruit for the amendment of their lives, especially when they go from place to place lightly and without true contrition. But here in the Sacrament of the altar You are wholly present, my God, the man Christ Jesus, whence is obtained the full realization of eternal salvation, as often as You are worthily and devoutly received. To this, indeed, we are not drawn by levity, or curiosity, or sensuality, but by firm faith, devout hope, and sincere love.

I wonder and am ashamed.  Here in my church in Enid, Oklahoma, below the sanctuary lamp and within the chamber of the Tabernacle is my Lord!  Why is it that I do not desire and seek to know the Living God, to explore Him as I did that great building of wood, stone, and mortar?

Turn the eyes of my soul to Thee, my God, that I may behold the glory of Thy Presence.  That I may seek Thee where Thou truly are.

Funerals and Names

I stopped keeping track of the number of funerals that I have presided over when it reached 100.  The youngest was age 4 and the oldest was 101.  Some had their lives taken from them, others took their own lives, and some lived full lives.  I have been present at the time of death on a number occasions.  I have sat quietly praying next to the deceased in emergency rooms, hospital rooms, nursing homes, private homes, in a garage – wherever they lie in the end.  It sometimes bothers me that I can’t remember all their names.  It seems I should.

May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

On Bad Sermons

BARCHESTER TOWERS (Chapter VI), by Anthony Trollope (1857)

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. … But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age, the old man whom we Sindbads cannot shake off, the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday’s rest, the incubus that overloads our religion and makes God’s service distasteful. We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship, but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God without that anxious longing for escape which is the common consequence of common sermons.

I pray my sermons never fall into such a category!  (Although it may be pride that makes me think they haven’t!!)

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 10

IOC 3.10

TO DESPISE THE WORLD AND SERVE GOD IS SWEET –

THE DISCIPLE

NOW again I will speak, Lord, and will not be silent. I will speak to the hearing of my God, my Lord, and my King Who is in heaven. How great, O Lord, is the multitude of Your mercies which You have stored up for those who love You. But what are You to those who love You? What are You to those who serve You with their whole heart?

Truly beyond the power of words is the sweetness of contemplation You give to those who love You. To me You have shown the sweetness of Your charity, especially in having made me when I did not exist, in having brought me back to serve You when I had gone far astray from You, in having commanded me to love You.

O Fountain of unceasing love, what shall I say of You? How can I forget You, Who have been pleased to remember me even after I had wasted away and perished? You have shown mercy to Your servant beyond all hope, and have exhibited grace and friendship beyond his deserving.

What return shall I make to You for this grace? For it is not given every man to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and undertake the religious life. Is it anything great that I should serve You Whom every creature is bound to serve? It should not seem much to me; instead it should appear great and wonderful that You condescend to receive into Your service one who is so poor and unworthy. Behold, all things are Yours, even those which I have and by which I serve You. Behold, heaven and earth which You created for the service of man, stand ready, and each day they do whatever You command. But even this is little, for You have appointed angels also to minister to man — yea more than all this — You Yourself have condescended to serve man and have promised to give him Yourself.

What return shall I make for all these thousands of benefits? Would that I could serve You all the days of my life! Would that for but one day I could serve You worthily! Truly You are worthy of all service, all honor, and everlasting praise. Truly You are my Lord, and I am Your poor servant, bound to serve You with all my powers, praising You without ever becoming weary. I wish to do this — this is my desire. Do You supply whatever is wanting in me.

It is a great honor, a great glory to serve You and to despise all things for Your sake. They who give themselves gladly to Your most holy service will possess great grace. They who cast aside all carnal delights for Your love will find the most sweet consolation of the Holy Ghost. They who enter upon the narrow way for Your name and cast aside all worldly care will attain great freedom of mind.

O sweet and joyful service of God, which makes man truly free and holy! O sacred state of religious bondage which makes man equal to the angels, pleasing to God, terrible to the demons, and worthy of the commendation of all the faithful! O service to be embraced and always desired, in which the highest good is offered and joy is won which shall remain forever!

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 9

IOC 3.9

ALL THINGS SHOULD BE REFERRED TO GOD AS THEIR LAST END –

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

MY CHILD, I must be your supreme and last end, if you truly desire to be blessed. With this intention your affections, which are too often perversely inclined to self and to creatures, will be purified. For if you seek yourself in anything, you immediately fail interiorly and become dry of heart.

Refer all things principally to Me, therefore, for it is I Who have given them all. Consider each thing as flowing from the highest good, and therefore to Me, as to their highest source, must all things be brought back.

From Me the small and the great, the poor and the rich draw the water of life as from a living fountain, and they who serve Me willingly and freely shall receive grace upon grace. He who wishes to glory in things apart from Me, however, or to delight in some good as his own, shall not be grounded in true joy or gladdened in his heart, but shall be burdened and distressed in many ways. Hence you ought not to attribute any good to yourself or ascribe virtue to any man, but give all to God without Whom man has nothing.

I have given all things. I will that all be returned to Me again, and I exact most strictly a return of thanks. This is the truth by which vainglory is put to flight.

Where heavenly grace and true charity enter in, there neither envy nor narrowness of heart nor self-love will have place. Divine love conquers all and enlarges the powers of the soul.

If you are truly wise, you will rejoice only in Me, because no one is good except God alone, Who is to be praised above all things and above all to be blessed.

The Imitation of Christ Project: Bk. 3, Ch. 7

IOC 3.7

GRACE MUST BE HIDDEN UNDER THE MANTLE OF HUMILITY –

THE VOICE OF CHRIST

IT IS better and safer for you to conceal the grace of devotion, not to be elated by it, not to speak or think much of it, and instead to humble yourself and fear lest it is being given to one unworthy of it. Do not cling too closely to this affection, for it may quickly be changed to its opposite. When you are in grace, think how miserable and needy you are without it. Your progress in spiritual life does not consist in having the grace of consolation, but in enduring its withdrawal with humility, resignation, and patience, so that you neither become listless in prayer nor neglect your other duties in the least; but on the contrary do what you can do as well as you know how, and do not neglect yourself completely because of your dryness or anxiety of mind.

There are many, indeed, who immediately become impatient and lazy when things do not go well with them. The way of man, however, does not always lie in his own power. It is God’s prerogative to give grace and to console when He wishes, as much as He wishes, and whom He wishes, as it shall please Him and no more.

Some careless persons, misusing the grace of devotion, have destroyed themselves because they wished to do more than they were able. They failed to take account of their own weakness, and followed the desire of their heart rather than the judgment of their reason. Then, because they presumed to greater things than pleased God they quickly lost His grace. They who had built their homes in heaven became helpless, vile outcasts, humbled and impoverished, that they might learn not to fly with their own wings but to trust in Mine.

They who are still new and inexperienced in the way of the Lord may easily be deceived and overthrown unless they guide themselves by the advice of discreet persons. But if they wish to follow their own notions rather than to trust in others who are more experienced, they will be in danger of a sorry end, at least if they are unwilling to be drawn from their vanity. Seldom do they who are wise in their own conceits bear humbly the guidance of others. Yet a little knowledge humbly and meekly pursued is better than great treasures of learning sought in vain complacency. It is better for you to have little than to have much which may become the source of pride.

He who gives himself up entirely to enjoyment acts very unwisely, for he forgets his former helplessness and that chastened fear of the Lord which dreads to lose a proffered grace. Nor is he very brave or wise who becomes too despondent in times of adversity and difficulty and thinks less confidently of Me than he should. He who wishes to be too secure in time of peace will often become too dejected and fearful in time of trial.

If you were wise enough to remain always humble and small in your own eyes, and to restrain and rule your spirit well, you would not fall so quickly into danger and offense.

When a spirit of fervor is enkindled within you, you may well meditate on how you will feel when the fervor leaves. Then, when this happens, remember that the light which I have withdrawn for a time as a warning to you and for My own glory may again return. Such trials are often more beneficial than if you had things always as you wish. For a man’s merits are not measured by many visions or consolations, or by knowledge of the Scriptures, or by his being in a higher position than others, but by the truth of his humility, by his capacity for divine charity, by his constancy in seeking purely and entirely the honor of God, by his disregard and positive contempt of self, and more, by preferring to be despised and humiliated rather than honored by others.