Friday, August 30, 2013

Graces. So many graces.

Okay, I don't normally blog about these kinds of things, but for those of you that know me (and perhaps even those of you that don't), when the Lord does something really neat in my life I have to tell as many people as possible. This has especially been the case since the 8-day Ignatian (silent) retreat I had the privilege of going on last summer. During the retreat's last nightly conference, one of the priests leading the retreat made very clear the necessity for us to share and unpack the graces that the Lord gave us with those around us. In the words of St. Ignatius, "that one grace may be shared by many," which essentially means that the Lord doesn't give graces so that just one personal can benefit, but rather so that others can grow, learn and also receive graces from whatever the Lord is doing one's life. And not only do others receive blessings from the graces in your life, but whenever you have the opportunity to retell the story of Christ's action in your life, pow, game-changer right there. It's amazing how telling the same story for the umpteenth time can bring so many different blessings to you. I think most often we like to be selfish with the gifts we get, thinking they were meant for us and us alone, when in fact the Lord gave us that to teach us vulnerability (ahhh!) and humility (eeek!).

So...why did I begin this post again? Oh yeah, to share a grace from this week with you, and maybe preach just a little; what are blogs for anyway? (Answer: standing on your own personal soapbox as often as you'd like, that's what.)

Lately I've begun reading, rather praying, through the Gospel of Matthew and chewing on each section very slowly, digesting each verse. On Tuesday, I read through Matthew 8:5-13, 'Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant.' When I saw the title my reaction was, "Oh hey! That's where that one part in the Mass comes from since the new translation; Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." I said a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and prayed on. When doing Lectio Divina (literally meaning, "divine reading," you can read about it by clicking on the link), I often read through the passage and simply ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate a word or phrase that the Lord desires to use to speak to me through. When I read through this passage the first thing that stuck out was, "he marveled," in regards to Jesus marveling after the centurion told him,
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it."
Jesus has just entered Capernaum and this Roman officer comes forward begging Jesus to heal his servant. As soon as Jesus agrees to come and heal him, the centurion responds in that manner--with such great faith!

It's incredible that this is where the line comes from in the Mass that we recite right before we receive the Holy Eucharist, the precious Body and Blood of our Lord. And Jesus marveled at the centurion's response! Jesus not only marvels, but announces to his followers, to those who think they are doing the heroic thing by literally following Jesus, "Truly I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith"

Hold on! Now I can't say for sure, but if I were in that crowd I probably would've been pretty upset. "What do you mean, 'not even in Israel have you found such faith'? I left mother, father, brother and sister to follow you! I left my job, my house, my everything! I've done all that you said to do, and this centurion has greater faith than I?" Humbling, very humbling.

Jesus made a point to address the centurion personally after announcing his great faith to the peoples and told him to, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." ..."And the servant was healed at that very moment." Boom, just like that. In sum, a sinner begs Jesus to have pity on him and heal his servant, Jesus has a remarkable amount of mercy on him, and then heals his servant "at that very moment." Sounds like a trustworthy Savior to me. We cry out to him, trust that He will hear our prayer, He sheds grace and mercy, and answers as He will...solid. I had never realized the correlation in that simple story to the Gospel message itself until now, and that's not even the part that really hit me the other day. 

What particularly moves me is that we recite the same prayer that that centurion prayed 2000 years ago, to the same Jesus we are about to receive in the Eucharist during the Holy Mass. The new translation (which is actually just a more accurate translation into English of the Latin, but I don't need to get into that now. In Spanish they literally say, "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter into my house, but one word of yours will suffice to heal me.") is no coincidence. What's amazing to me is that when we pour everything out on the altar and then recite those same words with the faith of the centurion, Jesus will marvel

I don't know about you, but when the thought of Jesus marveling at me crosses my mind, the only thing I think he could possibly marvel at (def: be filled with wonder or astonishment) is my sin. What I've come to learn over the years is that Jesus doesn't marvel at our sins. Why glorify that which kills the soul? Jesus marvels when he sees his friends (ahem, all of us) more fully trust in Him. Perhaps you can understand when you are asked a question that you have no idea how to answer, or when you get asked to complete a task that seems way over your head. You literally marvel at the person that asked you that because you cannot believe someone could ask something like that of you. "Wow," you think to yourself, "I can't believe they would ask me this. Do they even know me and what I'm capable of?" I remember asking myself that same question a few times on, yeah you guessed it, the Camino. Simply because I could communicate in Spanish I suddenly became the expert on all things 'Camino'. People asked questions about topics to which I had absolutely no idea how to answer. For example, "Hey Kelsey, will there be bed bugs here tonight?" Or, "Hey Kelsey, how far away is the nearest bathroom?" Or, "Is it safe to drink the water?" (For the record, I never knew any of the answers to these questions. All I did was respond with my best educated guess and with confidence. Worked like a charm. Oh, sorry if any of you are reading this now thinking that I lied to you the entire trip. I assure you I did not.)

Jesus also marvels at us when we ask big things of him. Let's be real, it was pretty gutsy for said centurion to have the audacity to beg Jesus in front of all those people to heal his servant, and then not actually let him in his house! Imagine if we could do the same. One of the things our team at NDSU is doing this year is "praying big," as Bryan puts it. Why ask for things that seem probable. God becoming man so that He can die on a cross and then allow us to eat him weekly, or even daily, is not very probable. Christ being born of a virgin is not very probable. What I'm coming to learn is that these are not just nice stories of something that happened long, long ago. These make up the real story of our salvation. And they are not fiction, they're all true!

Today is the feast of the Passion or Beheading of John the Baptist. What a humble guy. For those of you who read one of my previous posts, John the Baptist heavily influenced my summer simply for his words, "He must increase, I must decrease." And John the Baptist was a real person. On the altar at Mass tonight I noticed a small reliquary and had a hunch it was one of his relics, seeing as FRC loves the guy and it's one of his feast days (yes he has more than one..this one is celebrating his martyrdom, there is also one celebrating his nativity...etc) and I knew I'd need to spend some time with him post-social time after Mass. It was no coincidence that today is also a Thursday and we are encouraged to pray the Luminous mysteries of the Rosary, the first being the Baptism in the Jordan. 

John the Baptist...why the name? Oh, because he actually baptized JESUS. As I read through this mystery's reflection in my prayer book I was completely struck at the fact that this is a first-class relic (i.e. an actual piece of the Saint) of the man who baptized my Lord and Savior and the King of the Universe. And I just received Jesus in the Eucharist. Talk about being filled to overflowing with the love of God, man what a grace.

That's it, I could go on for hours but I'll stop there. That alone is enough for me to chew on for days. Essentially, my takeaways (or rather, giveaways) from this post for you are this:
  1. Ask big things of Jesus at the Mass, He is honored when you ask.
  2. When you recite the same prayer as the centurion before receiving the Eucharist, ask for the grace to truly believe and have great faith that the Lord will answer your prayer.
  3. Jesus, Mary and all the Saints are not just a nice story that happened long ago, or never actually happened at all. Each is a real person and plays a large role in the history of each of our own salvation.
Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus
direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase
and abound in love for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.
1 Thes 3:11-13 

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