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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

And There Was Much Rejoicing and Weeping

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Uniting Our Suffering
Now that I have finished the posts on the Mysteries of the Rosary, I am left wondering what’s next for this blog, so I am starting with a more personal post. 

Before I get too far into this post…

I want to mention that I am now making the artwork from each of my posts available for sale online.  All artwork from my past posts is now available, and the artwork for this post will be available shortly. 
(Shop Ruth’s art online)

Okay…on with this post…

Noah and I celebrated 12 years of marriage this past weekend.  It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s a difficult thing. These years have been filled with change, and growth.  They have been filled to overflowing with joys and sorrows, with laughter and tears. 

Please do not assume that this post is going to be about Noah and I and our marriage.  Nor is it going to be about the new Supreme Court decision on marriage. 

What I think I will share is about one of my deepest struggles…

It’s that we are called to share and unite ourselves to the joys and sufferings of Christ.  Furthermore, if we are to treat others as we would Christ, then we must unite ourselves to the joys and sufferings of others as well. 

Just this past week, I was praying, and I felt as though it was made so clear to me how we can either come closer and closer to Christ and suffer with Him, or we can move further and further away from Christ and suffer alone.  

This is not only true in our relationship with God, the same is true for our own lives with others.  We can either come closer and closer to others and suffer with them, or we can move further and further away from others and suffer alone.

In the Passion narratives we find that Christ is left alone to suffer, except by a few—His mother, Mary Magdalene, and St. John. 

There is a drifting away that happens as soon as Christ enters the garden at Gethsemane.  The disciples fall asleep and they scatter when the crowd comes to take Jesus away, Peter denies Christ, Judas gives up on life after he realizes what he has done. 

Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, and St. John, however, draw themselves close to the foot of the cross where Christ is crucified.   They suffer with Him, and He is comforted in His suffering, and the pain of Christ’s mother, Mary Magdalene and St. John is shared with Christ and with the others.  None of them suffers completely alone. 

All of us hurt.  All of us suffer.  Pain inevitably comes.  Why go through it alone, or why leave others to suffer alone? 

We must take this a step further however, this also applies to periods of happiness and joy.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

All of us have times of happiness, times of celebration.  Again, why not share them with others?

Oftentimes it is out of our own self indulgence that we do not reach out. 

We really don’t want to be sad with someone when we are happy, and we really don’t want to be happy with someone when we are sad.  Sometimes we aren’t happy or sad, and we just want to be left alone. 

Truthfully though…

We can bring joy to someone who is suffering. 
We can share in another’s joy when we are suffering. 
We can also share in someone’s sufferings when we are joyful.

For me, as it might be for many, it can be truly painful to try to live this out. 

This is why it is so important that we do not do this by our own strength but by God’s strength.  Note that the Mother of Christ, Mary Magdalene, and St. John, are there united with Christ at the foot of the cross.  It’s not the three of them suffering together.  Even in that moment they need God’s strength to suffer there with God! 

Oftentimes, I wonder to myself, surely life would be better if it was even keel?  

Nope.  God knows we need joy and sorrow to be well rounded people—who reach out to one another in love, and who look to Him to have the strength to do so. 

Life is full of ups and downs. It is better shared with others and in union with Christ. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Beyond Easter - Living "Ordinary" Life and the Luminous Mysteries

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Hearts from Stone
We are now out of the Easter season, and back into ordinary time…and numerous times I have looked ahead to writing about the Luminous Mysteries, but it was not yet time. 

For whatever reason, the time is now...

The Luminous Mysteries were instituted by Saint Pope John Paul II, and are sometimes considered an “extra” addition to the traditional mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious).  However, the Luminous Mysteries are integral to closing the gap between the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries.  How can we meditate fully on the mysteries of the gospel without meditating on the work of Christ?  How can we live our lives as disciples of Christ, if we do not meditate on the three critical years of His public ministry? 

It was actually the Luminous Mysteries for which I had first received some insights a few years ago, and it transformed the way I worked throughout my day.  Even still, I need to continually come back to these meditations, and refocus my attention on them. 

These meditations are somewhat different from the others.  These are short and acute.  The point being to take them and live them out directly—moment to moment in one’s day. 

I think that in these, the Mysteries of Light, we find how we too can open ourselves to becoming flames of light like our Lord. 

How important it is that at this point in time, when Popes have been calling for a New Evangelization, Saint Pope John Paul II gave to us the Luminous Mysteries.  Over and again, it is made clear to us—in the gospel, in Christian tradition, in the lives of the Saints—that as Christians it is first and foremost that we actually live the gospel.  Evangelization cannot happen without the living out of Christian love. 

Going back to the fact that we are now beyond the season of Easter…

At Easter, in the Catholic Church, many thousands of persons the world over are welcomed into the Church on the night of Easter Vigil.  Easter Sunday is the pinnacle of the Liturgical Year, and is celebrated with deep solemnity and joy.  Our entire faith is hinged on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. 

Then, the Sunday directly following is Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is another gift of Saint Pope John Paul II, and a day when special graces are poured out on those following the devotion to the Divine Mercy, to which Saint Pope John Paul II called everyone. 

Catholics throughout the world renew their Baptismal Promises during he Easter season.

In the initial Octave of Easter, and in the Easter season following, there is a tremendous outpouring of mercy, grace and love by God through His Church.  It is spring not only in nature in the northern hemisphere of the earth, but spring in the Church.

If you know anything about gardening and plants, you will know that once seeds have sprouted and grown, or bulbs send forth their first growth, the next thing they need is food.  They have had the spring rain, or you have watered them sufficiently, but now they need food for growth, and in due time they will begin growing flowers. 

Now that we have experienced the renewal of Easter after the penance of Lent, it is time to nurture and feed our lives, to allow the next level of growth and flowering to occur.

Our Lord, in being baptized Himself and in His actions following baptism, shows us how to live as baptized Christians.  He calls us to trust, He calls us to conversion, He calls us to worship, and He calls us to celebrate the Eucharist.  These are the Mysteries of Light. 

We are watered through baptism, or the renewal thereof, and now we need to be nurtured and to allow ourselves to grow and be transformed.

What I am about to describe in these meditations is a living out of the Luminous Mysteries moment to moment, every day.  It is a way to live out God’s will in the nitty gritty of our lives. 

Based on the meditations below, we could lay it out this way:
  • Obedience to each little call. 
  • Trust in following that call.
  • Conversion in doing what we are to do. 
  • Worship to God for what has been done. 
  • Thankfulness for the ability to respond to the call. 

This may sound simple…but because of our concupiscence and the strength of our own wills, it can feel more like being tried in a crucible. 

Growth and transformation almost always comes with pain, suffering and self sacrifice. 

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” John 12:24

The Luminous Mysteries

(Jesus is baptized by St. John in the river Jordan and is acknowledged as the Son of God.)
Christ in baptism is obedient to the Father.  In every moment we must be obedient to each little call.  We must acknowledge and submit ourselves to the will of God in every moment. 

Wedding at Cana
(Jesus turns water into wine at the request of His mother Mary at the Wedding at Cana.)
Christ trusts His Father’s plan for Him.  Mary gives Christ the opportunity to perform His first miracle, knowing this will begin His public ministry.  We must follow the call of God, and trust. 

Proclamation of the Kingdom
(Jesus goes out and preaches the Kingdom of God, healing many and forgiving sins.
Christ goes out and calls everyone He encounters to conversion.  In doing God’s will in every moment, we ourselves experience conversion, and we can also call others to conversion.

(Jesus is transfigured on the mount, and is glorified before Saints Peter, James and John.) 
Christ reveals His identity in a profound way, calling us to worship Him for He is the Son of God.  He reveals His true divinity.  We must praise God for the work that He does in and through us. 

Institution of the Eucharist
(Jesus institutes the Eucharist as a memorial of His sacrifice of His Body and Blood.) 
Christ gives Himself entirely to us, body, blood, soul and divinity.  We must give entirely of ourselves, and in doing so, we must give thanks to God for the ability to respond to His will.