Thursday, January 16, 2014

"She left Samuel there"

1 Sm 1:24-28

In those days,
Hannah brought Samuel with her,
along with a three-year-old bull, and ephah of flour, and a skin of wine,
and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh.
After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull, 
Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said:
"Pardon, my lord!
As you live, my lord,
I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD.
I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request.
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD."
She left Samuel there.

"She left Samuel there"

That last line is a difficult one for me to read. Did he cry? Did she long to take him back? Why would such a sacrifice be needed? This child, Samuel, factors big in salvation history and is close to the Lord in a mysterious way! He hears the Lord and he responds, maybe it is because his mother's generosity and trust in the Lord have removed obstacles of fear and doubt.  My fear of pain, my satisfaction with the world sometime prevent me from really listening to the Lord and from wholly offering myself to Him. In reading this reading I perceive and initiation to feel the longing and sorrow Hannah must have had in leaving her much loved son and trust in the mysterious majesty of God!  God's power works from generation to generation, A sacrifice made with great love is re-payed with unfathomable generosity.

Withhold nothing from God!

Read Hannah's canticle to God after she has left Samuel at the temple.  Though her sacrifice was costly, she knows God is at work.  Hannah's canticle foreshadows Mary's, who also holds nothing back from God. Neither woman lets the fear of pain or gnawing anxiety over impending loss harden their hearts or dampen their joy. They do not protect themselves from their sorrow by withholding their love. This makes the pain of their loss more intense I think, yet they are also disposed to receive the intense love of God all the more. Their whole lives are an offering to God and their hearts are always in trusting prayer. They understand that all that they have is God's and that nothing can be withheld from Him. They trust in The Lord who fulfills His promises to even the barren, or a lowly young women of Nazareth.

 Luke 1: 46-56:
Mary Said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him 
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy.
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."

Rejoice in His redeeming mercy!

The sorrows and sacrifices of this world should always whisper to us "in the beginning it was not so", and in so doing reveal to us that we are indeed souls in exile; we are separated from the Heavenly Bridegroom.  If only we can allow his redeeming mercy to scatter out attachments.  If we do not allow these attachments to be sent away from our hearts our hope for things eternal will wither, and our fears will control us!  We will settle for so much less than what God has in mind for each one of us.  We have to learn to allow God to let us hunger for what is truly lasting!  And we need to trust in His faithfulness in filling the empty spaced in our souls. Allow Hannah and Mary's wholehearted trust in the Lord to get you in touch with the holy longing in your soul -- a longing that is as poignant as a mother who longs for her child or as deep as a bride for her bridegroom. Trust, like Mary and Hannah did, that someday we will see that the longing we so often fill with worldly things be fulfilled in abundance. It is in that longing that we should rejoice, as because that longing is drawing us to Him.

God is faithful in all that He promises!

 Hannah hears and responds to God in her longings, for a son, and then through her longing for him in sorrow after letting him go to fulfill God's plan.  God hears and responds to her longings and sorrow.   Her trust in the Lord makes straight the way for God's salvation for generations to come!  God is the one who will sooth all of these sorrows in the end, because all of them reveal our world's need to be made new.   Mary does not reject what she does not fully comprehend.   She does not hide away from the pain and sacrifice she will watch her son go through.  Suffering foretold in the Scriptures and by Simeon.  She loves deeply and her heart is pierced deeply.  There is nothing superficial or lukewarm about these women.  Their sorrow is deep, but their everlasting joy is deeper still because they seek joy from God!

What is God asking of me?

He is asking for me to trust in Him in sorrow and in joy, and to hold nothing back from Him.  To cast down the fear, envy and pride that keep my hopes from the heights of heaven. To let go of even good things if they are keeping my heart from Him. To seek the Heavenly Bridegroom in whom all my longing will be fulfilled! 

Grace and Peace to all!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Come and Worship Christ the Newborn King

This post is also featured on Journey To Wisdom

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King

This past November an Episcopalian priest was expressing his hesitation to celebrate the feast of Christ the King in an Omaha World Herald feature called “From the Pulpit”.  This priest felt that king was too much of a political term with too great a connection with oppression and exclusion.  To his mind this title obscured Christ more than it revealed Him.  He had alternative titles that he thought more relevant and worthy of a feast day; one being ( I kid you not) “Christ the Includer”.  Yes indeed, I can  feel the banality of that title suck the passion out of every deep yearning of my soul.  In one fell phrase this man reduced the great Christian narrative of the return of the King to restore His good creation to a platitude of inclusiveness. What small hopes we have, our hearts desire is to be part of the crowd.

Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.

Don’t let your desires be reduced to platitudes, don’t let your hopes be tethered to worldly ideals.  Read the Infancy Narratives! Read of how God subverts the worldly narrative of Pax Romana under Caesar Augustus by sending the true King, who comes in quiet obscurity, without an army of men – but with a “multitude of heavenly hosts” .  Remember how throughout all history great worldly political leaders come and go, but the representative of the true King, the successor of Peter, in still here in the flesh.  And know that this King is not a distant impersonal King, he is a King who came to rescue me – ME!  Daydreamer and nobody that I am, and He is ,in fact, what all my hopes and dreams are ultimately directed to!  And He came for you in the same way!  Ask Him to show you, trust that He will.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,
Watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
Yonder shines the infant light

If that sermon was not disappointing enough last Sunday in a Catholic Church I sat through a homily that turned the virtue of piety completely upside down.  It was the feast of the Holy Family, and the priest told us over and over again that the Holy Family were “neither perfect nor pious”.  I guess if he would have defined pious as empty outward religious actions (which apparently is one of the definitions of the word) I may have cut him some slack, but this priest made no effort to clarify what he meant by pious and, based on the rest of his homily, I was left with the definite impression that this was an “I’m okay, your okay -- all you have to do is connect with your spiritual core and you will hear God – but you don’t need to wear your religion on your sleeve” homily.  And, in fact, if that is what he meant, then of course the Holy Family was not pious, just individualists trusting in themselves to get through difficult situations.  Where does that leave you and me?  Trapped in isolated individualism, egoism and pathetic self-consciousness.  How can we be saved from that?

Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King

Again, read the Infancy Narratives.  Read of Mary’s humble fiat, and her beautiful  Magnificat.   Read of her firm faith an trust in God’s goodness.  Read and ponder Joseph’s righteousness, and through that righteousness, his discerning response to the angel's messages.  If you go by the actual Scriptures, they were indeed a pious family through whom the Kingdom of heaven emerged, even in our imperfect and,debased world.  And in humble piety we too can receive Christ in our homes, in our families, in our hearts, in a deep and  personal way. And we too can let God’s kingdom overtake even the most hellish situations here in this world. Don’t let an unimaginative culture steal your wonder away.

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen His natal star.

Both of these men diminished a title or a virtue, based on a darkened and rather hopeless, vision of humanity.  In doing so they obscure our deepest desires,  allowing them to remain misdirected at worldly things.  I get the feeling that these clergymen have no real hope in God’s power to undo and restore all creation.  If you had heard (or read) these sermons, you would have noticed that despite the words that seemed consoling and caring, Christ was not a personal savior that you can know and be known by, he was simple an inspirational, motivational figure.  Don’t let Him be diminished in that way.  Let Him show you His power, let Him be you Savior. Let Him be your great desire.

Saints, before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear.

It is surely a sign of a latent cultural despair that we would settle for “Christ the Includer" to be our savior (from what – unpopularity?) or that we would so blithely diminish the beauty of Immaculate Mary and the righteousness of the pious Saint Joseph. I know that when we compare ourselves to them we find that we fall short, but that should be a reason to rejoice, because they show us what Christ our King has come to do for us! Do not fear true repentance, do not give in to the temptation to reduce the Divine Word to banal and distant platitudes, yield to Him, give Him your fiat.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,
Doomed for guilt to endless pains,
Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains.

The wonder of the Infancy Narratives are that God intervened in our dark world in such a personal and intimate way, and that is astonishing precisely because He is God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Don’t allow the world to reduce His titles,  let them stir up wonder and awe. To be included is nice, but doesn't your heart desire something more wondrous? Christ has come for you to be more than just passively included, you are pursued and romanced by our Lord and King.  He is powerful enough to vanquish the sin and debasement of our souls, if you yield to Him.  We should pray for a strengthening of the virtue of piety so that we will direct all of our distorted, distracted desires to the One Desire who is the source of all good things.

Though an Infant now we view Him,
He shall fill His Father’s throne,
Gather all the nations to Him;
Every knee shall then bow down:

I want my every thought impregnated with His Gospel so that every sense that I have is alert to His coming and my heart is in awe that my God comes so very near to a nobody like me.  I don’t want platitudes, I don’t want an impersonal spiritual inner presence, I want my King, my Savior, my Lord.

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To th’eternal Three in One.
Come and worship, come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King

Merry Christmas and blessed 2014!


Subheadings are the lyrics of the hymn Angels From the Realms of Glory
Downhere, a Christian rock band has a wonderful version of this hymn.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Keep Christ in Christmas by Trusting in your Awkward Fiats

Christmas tree hunt 2012 069

Keeping Christ in Christmas for our family means preparing ourselves during Advent, so we are ready for Him when He comes.  We listen to Him in His Word, we seek Him in our prayers and in our extra efforts to see and attend to the needs that around us. There are so many good ways to prepare the way,  it can easily become overwhelming. My best advice is trust Him, and trust His Church to guide you to Him. He can take a little desire on your part inflame it with a passion ordered unto Himself, and you will scarcely know that anything is happening at all.  His coming is usually small, and still.

It does take a wee bit of planning.   What sort of prayers will you say? What gifts will you prepare for the Christ child?  How will you awaken the wonder of the Advent of Christ in yourself and your family? How will this Advent make His voice more recognizable to you and your children, so that you are prepared for His coming, so that you can alert others? What part of the secular celebrations will you take part in, what will you let go of? 

Mostly it takes a firm hope, that our fumbling and awkward fiats, which are all we have to offer Him, will be enough. We see through the glass darkly, it is very easy to not recognize His movements in our efforts to bring Christ into our Christmas preparations. It is too easy to convince ourselves that our efforts are not accomplishing anything.  His desire for you is greater than yours for Him.  So great He will enter into this broken humanity of ours, just for you, and just for me.

Even with this knowledge, sometime near Gaudete Sunday, if not sooner, I begin to have the creeping feeling that I am failing to do Advent right.  Because we have not done enough volunteer work, or the right kind of volunteer work.  Because our Christmas tree is up already -- or maybe it is not up yet.  Because I love Christmas music and it is already playing.  Because my children behave like this:

Naughty or Nice? Please note that Luke rarely goes about with his fly open anymore, but as for the Sass-master….well, she IS the Sass-master!

 Many nights our Advent rituals feel distracted and poorly done – what with the fire hazard and little children who are fighting over whose turn it is to blow out the candles and the older, sulky children who have piles of homework to do there are often a lot of side bars during our prayer time (which may or may not include a parent who has lost all patience and finds him or herself screeching at the children in a not so peace-on-earth way).  To top it off, all too often I feel our Advent prayer time was hastily done; the Holiday activities make for later evenings and children must be put to bed. Mom and Dad need to have a little time to chill, maybe even with a glass of wine (We do!  We really, really do need it!).

Why do I always, every year, think that I must first set up the perfect environment for Advent to truly be fruitful?  Why am I always fighting off a feeling that my efforts are hopeless, and that I am alone in my failure?  Why am I always afraid that He won’t come for me, or my children?  That we did not do it right.
Every season I have to learn and re-learn that even my fumblingChristmas fun! 047 efforts, done with love and great yearning, are all Jesus needs to come to me, and to my children.  It is my awkward, broken fiat that I offer Him. It is all I have. I yield to the structure and sacraments that Mother Church has provided, to help me and help my children order our hearts and our desires to Him.

Yes, (surprisingly) Santa will come, but the presents will not be remembered. Yet, if I ask my older children about what they remember about Christmas, they always remember that baby Jesus came, and we sang songs and prayed prayers, lighted candles and prepared the way for Him all during our Advent. They remembered that we longed for Him in the darkness and He came, and they know He will come again.  

Peace and Grace to all, Heidi

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Exploding Heads and the Kingdom of Heaven

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
anand no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”
Lk 17:20-25

Channel surfing last Wednesday I watched a snippet  of a History channel production that was going to reveal secrets of the Bible!!!! Not usually my thing, except that the only other acceptable option to watch was a Nova production on the JFK assassination which  had “new” facts that showed that Oswald was the only shooter. Okay.  Not being in the mood to watch Kennedy’s head explode in slow motion over and over again,  I flipped back to the  History channel…but that was a mistake,  because now it was time for my head to explode!

It was the same old and  reductionist theories about Jesus and His kingdom, which -- for those of you who are ready to take a secularized leap of faith   -- has nothing to do with a heavenly kingdom, or even  a church for that matter!  No way!  That was all added later on by misguided, power hungry, misogynistic and/or ignorant leaders of the early Christian church.  Leaders who were trying to justify their doctrines by creating a divine messiah out of an itinerant preacher/ zealot / nice dude (whichever you prefer to sell your book) therefore obscuring His true message until modern intellectuals could sort it all out. Thank heavens (by which I do not  mean  life beyond this world, no way, that would be ignorant, and anyway, where is the hope in that?)!  As for the Kingdom of God it was here in this political view or there in those subversives against that governmental system.  It might even be me, myself, and I, who knows… but it was not supernatural.

It is also not an honest and complete assessment of the message of the Gospel, which is  good news beyond your deepest desire, and  which emerges like a lightning flash even in the darkest most hellish, hopeless places in this world.  The companions of Maximilian Kolbe during their  torturous deaths glimpsed it, and I do not think the    banal theories of TV scholars could ever explain how or why their deaths differed from  the deaths the Nazi’s were hoping to give them; deaths that were supposed to be used as a horrific reminder that there was no hope for their prisoners,  either surrender your humanity or suffer horribly and die like an animal.  With the Kingdom of Heaven so powerfully present in Maximilian Kolbe, those prisoners did neither, they died with heaven overtaking them.

In the end, my husband and I gave up on TV and streamed Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which may explain the extreme heckling tone of this post).  I apologize for that, but well…my head exploded! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

My keyboard is not working!!

I don't have much time to post anything today, what with a wonky wireless keeeeeyboard (sigh) and Max hanging on my back waiting for his next trip to tttthhhhhhhhhhe (@#$&#*!)  potty chair so I am going to post a link to Monsiggnore Pope's excellent post today (long but well worrrrth it! (Stupid keyboard!!!)


And yes, I have changed the keyboards battery!

Update here are a few more links from my otherrr blog:

Larry T's reflection on yesterday's 1st reading

Deacon Paul's on the Gospel or Why you do not need "Powerful panties"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Let the Little Children Come: Be warned, we are!

Receiving the Kingdom of Heaven like a child
At the elevation of the Eucharist during a peaceful and quiet daily Mass about five years ago my then two year old son Luke yelled loudly: "Never like Jesus! NEVER, EVER NEVER!!!"  This was because of my miscalculated strategy to hush his fidgety self down by trying to redirect his attention to Jesus on the altar.  He would not have it, he was much more interested in crawling under the pew. I had to slink out of my seat, trying hard to resist the temptation to dunk him in the holy water font as we made a noisy exit out of the sanctuary. 

On another occasion a nice woman was leaning  forward from her seat in the pew just behind us to chat with Luke and he PUNCHED HER IN THE FACE!  To be fair to Luke, she did not read the pretty obvious signs that he was uncomfortable with her face in his  - I did, but I could not get to him in time, since he was about three kids away from me.  (My husband who was next to him was nicely playing his part as Mr. Oblivious.)  There was no serious harm done, since Luke was not even two, he merely knocked her glasses askew.  But yet again I was hauling a screaming child out of Mass.  I have more stories like that.   So many that I am a bit dubious of what is meant by accepting the Kingdom of Heaven like a child.  I am certain that others who happen to be seated around us are wondering as well, especially the woman who moves to another pew if we happen to sit behind her.

Even more discouraging, just across the isle is the perfect family whose five children sit ever so peacefully and - as far as I have noticed - have never needed to be removed from Mass.  Mom can even serve as an EMHC and Dad can lector, because their kids sit so nicely.  So while my youngest (which now is Max) roars like a dinosaur or grunts like a pig  (“Ha ha, I a pig Mama!”) during silent meditation time, they sit peacefully meditating – imagine that!

Stephen's 8th Grade Graduation Fam Picture

But I wouldn't trade places for a minute. Their family is beautiful in their peacefulness, ours is maybe more of an example of perseverance.  And that is okay.   Because when it comes to revealing the Kingdom in this world, it is never as neat and tidy as our sentimentalized ideals would lead us to believe.  That messiness means that we are not all meant to reveal the Lord in the same way and you have to have the humility to let God lead you and your family where you are to the very special place that He has just for you.  It means that God wants you to come to Him now as you are, not when you are perfect (then you wouldn't think that you needed him).  I need Him, my husband needs Him and my children need Him now and forever.  So even if I have the opportunity to leave my little ones at home, which I can at times, I frequently choose to bring them with me anyhow.

So, let the little children come!  The quiet, shy ones; the rambunctious, naughty ones; the fidgety ones; the distracted ones; the noisy ones and let us all trust that the Lord who desires their presence so much will shower His graces upon them, and us.

Heidi Knofczynski

However, I do wonder at times if our Lord had in mind my oinking little Max.*

Peace and grace to all!

*just to update anyone reading this Max has not oinked at Mass for the better part of three months, now we are just working on keeping him in the pew.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Writer’s block

I am a first class procrastinator.  Every morning my intention is to write at least a little, for this blog or for Journey to Wisdom.  Maybe I will publish, maybe I won’t but the goal is to just write.  The Lord know that I need the practice, my writing will not ever improve if I avoid just doing it.  But in the end I become I pillar of stony salt, just staring at the computer screen, reading other blogs and then giving up because I have already wasted enough time on the computer.  Besides, in this glorious summer time, the breezy trees are calling me to sit outside and contemplate God’s wondrous creation and take joy in my children’s play (My desktop cannot follow me outside….thank goodness!).

Photo credit: Heidi Knofczynski

In fact, the longer I procrastinate the more futile this blogging becomes to me.  I can go to a number of different places and find insightful and inspired writing, sometimes on the very subject that I had on my heart and mind.  Leave these musings to those who are more qualified, let them express what you cannot.  There is more than a little truth to that I know, but I also know that I came into this through prayer, and I will stay with it until I discern a clear direction to end it.  Yet, here I am pillar of salt, with nothing to say, just staring at the computer and fearing my own inadequacy. 

In fact, it is a lot like my prayer time.  Which should tell you that over the years my prayer life has stopped and started, stopped and started, stopped and started…especially my rosary.  If you can’t get it all in don’t bother, if you can’t meditate without endless distractions (both interior and exterior) wait until you are in the right frame of mind.  And there I am pillar of salt, knowing what I ought to be doing but frozen in my inadequacy, and refusing the difficulties of breaking through it.
To break free from this is the trick.  And to do so I need to stop thinking that these activities will always be products of affective inspiration.  Sometimes they are the duties one offers up, because the One to whom they are given can be trusted to return so much more back.  I know that I need to break free of the fear, to break free of the need to grasp at the Spirit.

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build.  Unless the Lord guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.  It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night, To eat bread earned by hard toil – all this God gives to his beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127 1-2

My motivation to blog is what I am finally confronted with.  Beyond the other reasons - for pageveiws, for a creative outlet, to show off my brilliance (all of which have their terrifying flip-side i.e., failure, failure and failure) - there was a call.  And it came from Him and for Him alone I continue, trusting that the words of the Psalm above.  Because if I am doing it for any other reason than I am that pillar of salt, afraid of that terrifying flip-side and unable to move.