Monday, April 02, 2018

Questions for the Guard



Easter Monday
Matthew 27:8-15

You were bribed to keep your mouth shut though your eyes were wide open.  They were not shut.  You were not sleeping.  You saw what you saw and yet, now, coins fill your pockets but your heart is empty.

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How do you sleep at night?  How do you ever close your eyes again after what you saw...and denied?  Does the glorious image of the Resurrection now float behind your sleeping eyes as a nightmare?  Do you find yourself awakened by your own body falling to the stone floor just as you fell back when you saw the angels?  Can you ever dream a pleasant dream again after denying that which the prophets of old longed to see? 

Do you and your cohorts exchange haunted glances in the halls and on the parade grounds?  Do you ever begin a conversation with another soldier about that fateful morning?  Does he answer your inquest with a head shake as though trying shake the image from his mind once again?  Did you, and they, try to reason away what it was that you saw?  Was it the stress of war, illness, or a bad batch of wine that opened your eyes to see Him who changed water into wine, death into Life?

Do you see His face in the common man on the street and does your heart skip a beat? Are you hesitant to visit the tombs of your own loved ones for fear that He may be there, perhaps looking like a gardener or a rabbi?  Are you haunted by the echo of that great stone slowly rolling away as you looked on helplessly?  Does the morning sun shining through the windows make you jump to your feet in fear and trembling as though you are living that great and terrible morning once again?

Were your coins spent on women and wine in an attempt to forget it all?  Do you see the angels in your drunken stupor, the women, Him?  Why is it that you still hold on to that last coin?  Why do you refuse to spend it?  Is it a charm to ward off that which you cannot keep at bay?  Is it the only weight that is keeping you moored to this passing earth?  When will you let go of it and let Him in?

How will you spend the rest of your years?  Will you continue to try and run from Him?  Will you come to terms with what you know you saw...and denied?  Will you convert?  Will you leave everything and live for the only One who is worth dying for?  What have you to say, you, who after all these years still guard an empty tomb?

More from James M. Hahn can be found on this blog or on his Author Page at Amazon.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Into the Night


Thursday of Holy Week

The sadness of Christ,
For the coming sin,
This one shared his table,
His cup, once a friend.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

One who sits and sups,
One who witnessed all,
One who values passing things,
One who Satan calls.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

Upon his breast his beloved,
This morsel do you see,
To him whom I give,
One last attempt a friend to be.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

The sin completed,
If only in the heart,
No turning back,
The night that here did start.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it master?
Surely, it is not I?

Back to the Son,
He follows shadow low,
The silver loses glimmer,
Upon the path he chose.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it rabbi?
Surely, it is not I?

It was night, as always is,
When going away from Him,
Away from the Light, into the darkness,
The black pit of selfish sin.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it LORD!?
Surely, it is I.

FROM THE SAINTS - "These things are written that we bear not malice towards those who injure us; but rebuke them and weep for them; for the fit subjects of weeping are not they who suffer, but they who do the wrong. The grasping man, the false accuser, and whoso works any other evil thing, do themselves the greatest injury, and us the greatest good, if we do not avenge ourselves. Such a case as this: some one has robbed you; have you given thanks for the injury, and glorified God? by that thanksgiving you have gained ten thousand rewards, just as he has gathered for himself fire unspeakable. [...] Wherefore Christ also repaid him who was about to betray Him with everything opposite. He washed his feet, convicted him secretly, rebuked him sparingly, tended him, allowed him to share His table and His kiss, and not even by these was he made better; nevertheless (Christ) continued doing His own part." - St. John Chrysostom Hom. on St. John #71

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Garden of our Soul

Wednesday of Holy Week

I recently gave a parish mission and one of the topics covered confession with special emphasis on the value of frequent confession. While studying in preparation I discovered this wonderful quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1863 Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable. "Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness."

This quote helped me to realize what venial sin does to me. It helped me realize the value of frequent confession. If I put off confession for too long, my goodwill becomes "impeded" and I become disposed "little by little to commit mortal sin."

I liken this to a garden. Our souls are gardens, virtues are the fruit bearing plants, and the weeds are sin. If I we are careful to keep watch over our souls (garden) we can remove the weeds when they are small and easy to remove. At the same time we must feed and water the plants. We must foster growth in the virtues and be sure they receive enough sun (Son). When we neglect the soul for too long, the weeds (sins) have a chance to take root and they become more and more difficult to remove. Long periods of neglect make it nearly impossible to distinguish the plants from the weeds. Yet we must never despair. Even if our garden has long been neglected and the soil become hard and the thorns overgrown, Christ can help us to start again. It may be more difficult than when we first began but it is possible to cultivate a beautiful garden (soul) no matter how neglected it may be.

In today's Gospel we are given a picture of what a soul looks like that is falling to neglect. We see a man whose "little" sins are more and more disposing him to commit the ultimate sin; to betray the Son of Man.

Judas, no doubt began with a good heart. Surely Jesus had a great love for Judas to choose him as a close follower. Yet Judas allowed himself to be overrun by his love for money even to the point of seeing the hidden value in the apparent "waste" of the expensive nard. As Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, "[Judas]knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." His growing greed impeded his growth in Christ. By saying yes to himself each time he took a little from the "money bag" he found that he could not say no to himself when the ultimate temptation came but instead said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?"

Let us therefore run to Christ and confess often even those little things before they become unmanageable and take root. Otherwise we too may be more and more disposed to betray Our Friend with a kiss.

FROM THE SAINTS - "While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call "light": if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession." - Saint Augustine

Thursday, February 08, 2018

God Challenges

Saint Jerome Emiliani, priest & Saint Josephine Bakhita, virgin

Mark 7:24-30

I love a good challenge. I love to be challenged to rise up and meet a difficult task. I often find that I create these challenges myself. I am currently working on an allegorical poem with an insane rhyming scheme. It usually takes me an hour or two to finish but eight lines but I love the challenge.

I must admit, however, that I have a melancholic temperament and sometimes challenges can overwhelm me. It's not that I can't overcome the challenge but rather that I often consider all the options in such detail that I become paralyzed, unable to begin. Instead of pushing forward and acting, I think too much and quickly become overwhelmed by the situation. It is at these times that I need to imitate the woman in today's Gospel.

It probably took a great deal of courage for this woman to approach Jesus, seeking an exorcism for her daughter. First, she had to seek Jesus out. He was basically looking for a break, a retreat of sorts. He was trying to hide for a little rest and relaxation. The homeowners where He was staying probably told the woman this but she persisted. Second, she was not only not a regular follower of Jesus, she wasn't even a Jew.

After overcoming the first two challenges she is given what appears to be a nasty insult from Our Lord, "For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Here I would probably have walked away with my head down. I would probably have been disheartened and overwhelmed by my situation. But this woman simply brushes it off. In fact she uses His words against Him as she persists in her request. Our Lord's heart is won over by the faith and determination of this wonderful Gentile woman. His "insult" becomes a catalyst for her imploring Him all the more.

Lord Jesus, I know that nothing happens in my life without Your permission. I know that you love me and often that love comes in the form of difficulty and suffering. Give me the grace to accept the sufferings of my life. Help me to rise and meet the challenges You allow for my own good and for my growth. In short, Jesus, help me to carry my cross a little better each day without complaint.

FROM THE SAINTS - "Pernoctans in oratione Dei" - "He spent the whole night in prayer to God," says St. Luke of our Lord. And you? How many times have you persevered like that? Well, then...
- Saint Josemaria Escriva The Way #104

Monday, February 05, 2018

If Only

Saint Agatha, virgin & martyr

Mark 6:53-56

In my teen years I was filled with this phrase - if only. If only I had a car I could go and do what I wanted. If only I didn't have to go to school I'd be much happier. If only (insert desire) then (insert poorly perceived result).

Today's Gospel made me put these "if only" moments in perspective. In my "if only" moments I am usually acting in a faithless, selfish manner. Either I am trying make a deal with God or I am exhibiting a lack of faith that would make those in Nazareth take notice (cf. 6:1-6). Here, however, I find people swarming to meet Jesus. He is unable to find rest because of these people. And yet they are not making deals with Him. They are not promising to change their ways if only He will improve their lives. Rather, these faith-filled people are coming to find Jesus hoping that they "might touch only the tassel of His cloak."

This hunger, this desire for Christ is so strong and their faith in Him is so strong that all they are asking is that they might touch a part of his clothing. This sort of faith is exhibited throughout the scriptures. In Matthew's Gospel the Centurion has so much faith in the power of Jesus that he asks him to "only say the word and my servant will be healed" (Matthew 8:8). Later in the same Gospel we hear of the woman who was suffering for years with hemorrhages who said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured" (Matthew 9:21). In the Acts of the Apostles we see that this power is passed on to the Church when crowds look for Saint Peter, "hoping only that his shadow might fall on one or another of them" (Acts 5:15).

Looking back on my life I feel as though I have been setting the conditions with God by my if only attitude. Yet today I see that He clearly says to me, "if only you had more faith..."

Lord Jesus, give me a simple faith. Give me a faith that is content with a touch of your garments or to have your shadow fall upon me. It is truly more than I deserve!

FROM THE SAINTS - "My fellow Christians, our annual celebration of a martyr's feast has brought us together. Agatha achieved renown in the early Church for her noble victory. For her, Christ's death was recent, his blood was still moist. Her robe is the mark of her faithful witness to Christ. Agatha, the name of our saint, means "good." She was truly good, for she lived as a child of God. Agatha, her goodness coincides with her name and her way of life. She won a good name by her noble deeds, and by her name she points to the nobility of those deeds. Agatha, her mere name wins all men over to her company. She teaches them by her example to hasten with her to the true Good, God alone."
from a homily on Saint Agatha by Saint Methodius of Sicily

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Most Ridiculous Commandment

Mark 2:23-28

Thou shalt rest. Thou shalt take it easy. Thou shalt relax, read, spend time with friends and family. Thou shalt spend time with Me for one day before going back to work.

How many of us have ever uttered these words or similar words? - I'm so busy, I need a break, If I only had some free time I would (insert favorite activity here). I always thought the third Commandment was sort of ridiculous. Who needs to be told to take a day off? Who needs to be told to not work? Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get out of work. Yet God, who knows His children best, saw fit to make one of the Ten Commandments tell us to take it easy.

Of course keeping Holy the Sabbath is not simply about being a couch potato. It is supposed to be a day of retreat. It is a day where we can duck out of the world and spend time with God and enjoy His gifts - creation, family, Scripture, etc.

I treasure my Sundays. That is my favorite day of the week. It is a day when we get up early, go to Mass, eat breakfast on the deck, go for a hike or go fishing, and end the day with a campfire or family rosary or both. When we can't get out and about, we institute an "electronics free day" and spend time reading, playing board games, or wrestling.

While some may live for the weekend I live for Sunday. I admit that it often does take some planning since we choose to refrain from shopping, dining out, etc. But I think that makes the day much more enjoyable. If we're going hiking at the state park we make sure our tank is filled on Saturday. If were cooking out or entertaining we get the extras during the weekly grocery trip. Then, come Sunday, no worries. I love it! It's like a weekly retreat. It's recreation in the true sense, re-creation - a chance to be re-created in God's image and likeness. Its a chance to love Him and enjoy His love.

So what was the big deal with what Jesus' disciples were doing? The Pharisees had taken a basic list of things that shouldn't be done on the Sabbath and expanded it to a 39 item list. So a simple command (in it's true sense and spirit) like "do not perform farm work on the Sabbath" becomes a ridiculous and anguish-filled command like "do not walk through a field of grain or even casually pick the grain to munch on for that is considered farm work."

Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, His disciples, and us that the law of charity must trump all other rules. He uses a story that they were very familiar with to prove His point (1 Samuel 21). Man's basic needs must come before ceremonial rules. Jesus shows that it is better that man be fed by picking grain on the Sabbath than starving to death on the Sabbath in order to keep a ceremonial law.

Lord Jesus, help me to truly rest in Your presence this coming Sunday. Give me the strength to deny my worldly interests for one day and focus on You and the gifts You have given for my benefit. Help me to retreat for a day and be recreated so that I might better serve you in the days that follow.

FROM THE SAINTS - "I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals, and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job." - Saint Josemaria Escriva

Monday, January 15, 2018

Newborn for Newborns

Monday January 22 marks the Day of Prayer for he Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  On Friday January 19th, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, race, color, and creed will
descend upon our Nation's Capital in peaceful protest of legalized abortion in our great country.  We should all be praying for the marchers, speakers, law enforcement, politicians, and opponents of life.

Of course being pro-life doesn't end when the baby is born.  We don't revel in another life only to turn our backs on this new life and the mother who bore him or her.  Being pro-life means supporting the choice for life before birth and supporting the mother and baby after birth.

The organization AND - Angels Nurture & Disciple does just that.  They help mothers and their babies in hundreds of ways.  Just some of the things they provide include - emergency housing, financial assistance, education, employment, childcare, spiritual guidance, and much, much more.

Our family feels strongly about the need for care of mothers and children after woman has chosen to keep her baby.  We want to help and we're sure you do too.

You can help by visiting the AND site and donating money, that's simple.

You can help by purchasing diapers for the kids, they'll be shipped via Amazon right to those in need.

You can shop our Real Life Rosary site.  If you purchase any item with the Newborn Twine Color, we'll donate the entire amount of that item to AND.

So, if you buy a Newborn Rosary, Chaplet, Keychain, Bracelet, etc, 100% of that item gets donated to AND.

Buy 10 Newborn rosaries for your Bible Study group, yeah, it all get's donated to AND.  It's what we call Newborn for Newborns and we'll do this until the end of January.


Questions for the Guard