When Mary Visits

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Feast of the Visitation

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on 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,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
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. 

Luke 1:46-55

I was at Mass today on the Feast of the Visitation and the Priest spoke about the significance of the Old Testament prefigurement of the Visitation.  In 2 Samuel because Uzzah is struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant David feels unworthy to bring the ark to Jerusalem.  So David took the ark to the house of Obed-edom.  And the ark remained there for 3 months.  While the ark was there the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.  David recognizes that Obed-edom is blessed because of the ark and knows he can now bring the ark to Jerusalem.

“…The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God…” – 2 Samuel 12

This story parallels Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  Just as the ark stayed with Obed-edom for 3 months, so Mary stays with Elizabeth for 3 months.

We know that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, carrying God within her womb.  But what else can we learn from this?

We can learn that when Mary visits, you will be blessed.  Tradition teaches us that John the Baptist was cleansed from original sin when he leap in the womb upon Mary and Jesus’ arrival.  This is why Jesus proclaimed of John the Baptist;

“I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28

In other words, the closer to Jesus through Mary that we get the more pure we become.  Pure of heart, mind, body and soul.  The Saints knew this.

It got me thinking too about Marian apparitions.  She still comes to us.  She still wants to purify us through her Son.  In pondering just a few apparitions, from Guadalupe, to Fatima, to Akita, Mary has come to visit us.  She always brings a message beckoning us to her Son.

“Know, know for sure, my dearest, littlest, and youngest son, that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth. I want very much to have a little house built here for me, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest. I will give Him to the people in all my personal love, in my compassion, in my help, in my protection: because I am truly your merciful Mother, yours and all the people who live united in this land and of all the other people of different ancestries, my lovers, who love me, those who seek me, those who trust in me…” – Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego

…My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God….” – Our Lady of Fatima to the children June 13, 1917

“Most holy Mother of God, never let me be separated from Your Divine Son. Please defend and protect me as Your Special Child. Amen.” – Prayer Our Lady of Akita taught Sister Agnes on July 6, 1973

She beckons us to pray.  She is in union with her son.

“My son and I redeemed the world as with one heart.” – The Blessed Virgin to Saint Brigid of Sweden.

She also brings with her warnings.

“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead.” – Our Lady of Akita

And within those warnings she implores us to pray the Rosary.

“… Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests.” – Our Lady of Akita

“Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and the end of the war.” – Our Lady of Fatima

What we see when Mary visits is a Mother united to her Son, imploring us to KNOW HIM, to pray, and to repent and turn back to God.  We should all bring Mary into our homes like Elizabeth did, like John did;

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” The He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” So from that hour, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:26-27 

Listen to her command;

“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5

Uzzah did not obey the command of the Lord.  It brought death.  Mary, as the ark, always implores us to obey her Son because it is in obedience because we love Him that we flourish.  He brings life and brings it abundantly.  Through her His grace pours blessings over us.  As we see the degradation of man happening all around us, we can look to Mary as the guidepost, the map, of how to live a life of holiness.  Her Magnificat tells us of the God who is merciful.  Let your heart beat with the Sacred and Immaculate Heart.  Let Mary visit, and may you leap for joy and may you and your household be blessed as she brings you ever closer to her Son.

 

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What Matters

kneeling in Adoration

So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16

I was speaking today to Our Lord in Adoration about all the bad news I see in the world today. All of the fighting, even among Christians. I see people from all sides disparaging one another. I see disunity and hatred. The following journal entry is what I felt the Lord saying back to me. The essence of which is; KEEP YOUR EYES ON CHRIST.

May 29, 2018

Beloved,

Don’t you see?
I AM trying to set you all free.
But you consent to bondage.
Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
Why did I say this?
Because your human pursuit of good isn’t focused on the Father.
God is the source of all goodness. That is how you know goodness. If you KNOW ME, YOU KNOW THE FATHER. YOU KNOW GOODNESS.
You must draw from God to bring goodness into the world.
The incessant bickering and complaint, that is not drawn from God. It’s no wonder no one sees me. Even in my house the division and bickering over things that matter not.
FIGHT FOR WHAT MATTERS.
LIFE MATTERS.
The things around you can be used for good or for evil. They are just tools. It’s what’s in your heart that matters.
You have become rich Christians. Comfortable Christians. Comfortable Christians don’t fight for what matters. They are luke warm.
I WILL SPIT YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH.
In the early days of my church they fought not about music, or stained glass, or TV’s. They fought for their freedom to exist on earth as MY CHILDREN. They are assured it in heaven.
They cherished my presence in the Eucharist and they cherished one another.
They asked for protection from evil and were granted it until such a time that my glory could be revealed through them, many as martyrs. Martyrs of LOVE.
THEY PRAYED FOR EACH OTHER AND THEY PRAYED TO ME.
I KNOW MY OWN AND MY OWN KNOW ME.
They were a church of miracles. Are the miracles gone? NO. What changed?
I AM.
ALPHA AND OMEGA.
UNCHANGING.
In your comfort you consent to evil.
You have distracted yourself into a DEATH KNELL.
WAKE UP!
You no longer know what matters.
You kill your own children to satisfy your sexual desire.
You yell and scream at one another and don’t see the serpent speaking into your ear.
He tells you that you are right, he tells you that you are god.
And you degrade your fellow man in my name.
I WILL NOT HAVE IT.
I AM LOVE.
I AM MERCY.
I AM JUSTICE.
Be sober and alert.
Become a Living Sanctuary.

Stop fighting the way the world fights and fight with ME. ON YOUR KNEES.

Pray for the Pope.
Pray for the Vatican.
Pray for the Conversion of Sinners.
Pray for the Conversion of Russia and China.

Psalm 33:18

– Your Divine Spouse

Authors Note: I write what pops in my head as letters from God. I wrote this as a reflection of what I thought God was saying to me. I was taught to journal this way by my Spiritual Director. He said as long as it doesn’t stray from Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church, I can write what pops in my head while I am praying. These letters come from a very personal discussion I have with Our Lord, and what I write back is filtered through me, a very fallible individual.

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Deliver Us From The Evil One

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Jesus tempted in the wilderness by James Tissot

He (Satan) is the malign clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination, and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical and mental makeup, or to our profound instinctive aspirations.  Pope Paul VI General Audience, November 15, 1972

Deliverance can sound like a scary word to some people.  I am not sure why because we pray for it in the Our Father.  As you all know I have been taking classes about all this.

Deliver us from evil.

Do we truly mean that when we pray it?

Or the old way of saying it, Deliver us from the evil one.

When a person recognizes their own sin, it brings them to a state of remorse, and often times they feel so ashamed and unworthy.  They see their own soul and they need the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness of them.  This is what Confession is for.  They receive the sacramental grace from God to know they are forgiven and loved.  And the process of conversion and change begins to take hold.  We can rest knowing, that even in our weakness, we are loved.  This requires the Priest, who is in persona Christi capitis, and therefore has the authority to do this;

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 18:18

But even with this immense grace and assurance of forgiveness and love, even with the Eucharist, spiritual direction, adoration, and confession, some people still struggle with repetitive sin.  Some things are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even know we’re doing them.  We don’t recognize the demons speaking to us.

Why?

Because we have not fully picked up our cross and followed him.  Most of us hold onto some kind of unforgiveness that is deeply rooted and we don’t even recognize it.  It can be passed through our family or from our personal sin.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

 Demons speak to us and state, “He hurt you, that man that caused you trauma, you don’t have to love him, seek revenge.”

And we listen to him and our soul speaks, “Crucify Him.”

 The demon, who came to kill steal and destroy, speaks, “You can never be a mother, you must abort your child.”

 And we listen and our souls speaks, “Crucify Him.”

The demon speaks and says, “You will never be good enough.  You are not loved.”

 And we listen to the accuser and we can’t forgive ourselves and our soul speaks, “Crucify Him.”

This voice of the accuser that condemns you is especially insidious when the lie that you are not loved takes hold, because in between the place where God forgives you, but you don’t forgive yourself, lies anxiety and depression.  Your lack of forgiveness of yourself is a defiance of God’s forgiveness of you.  You are playing God.  Do you see how astronomical anxiety and depression have become in our society?

And we don’t even know who we are listening to.

It’s important to note, we are not possessed, but we are listening to the lies.

Father forgive them, they know not what they do.  Luke 23:24

 Our soul, our spirit is the deepest core of who we are.  When it is wounded it can be hard to forgive.  We can spend years in counseling addressing our emotions, but until we fully pick up our cross when we forgive others like Jesus did, we will most likely remain stuck in these repetitive behaviors because we have not let the Great Physician address our wounded spirit.  When we forgive the trauma others have caused us we are embracing the Cross of Christ.

Deliverance goes beyond Confession because deliverance goes beyond our own recognition of God’s love and forgiveness of us and teaches us to love like God.  It’s that cooperation with Him and letting Him live in us.  They both are a receiving of what God wants to give, but in deliverance we begin that full cooperation, that full embracing of the cross, taking on the sin of others and giving it back to God.  I would venture to say, most people need deliverance. Most people have listened to the accuser for years and internalized what he has spoken.  Deliverance requires the person, as an ACT OF THEIR OWN WILL, despite how they feel, to cooperate fully with God, lay down their life of unforgiveness they have lived, and place themselves on the cross, which is truly letting go and saying that all debts are forgiven, no one owes me anything, because I have the love of God.  It enables us to put our holy hatred on the devil and love the people and see them as God does. We can see the difference between the demons speaking to people and the people themselves, and we can actively have enmity with the demons, not the people.  It changes the core of who we are and how we love.

When someone is fully possessed a Priest is needed because this person has given permission to the devil to possess them.  They are in complete violation of covenant.  A Priest, as a Consecrated Man, is bound to the Creed of the Church through the laying on of hands given through Apostolic succession. Only the Catholic Church has this, that’s why in cases of extreme possession people call the Catholic Church. We have the Apostolic Authority.  This Authority is needed to break the oath a person has made with the devil.  The person must consent to this as well, but the full force of the Authority of the church is needed.  This is why lay people cannot do exorcism, we do not have the authority.  The Priest has the authority to speak in Jesus’ name because he is In Persona Christi capitis.

Because of the Authority of the Priest he can also expel demons from places, like happened here.  If each Priest stepped into their role of Authority granted him by the church through the Bishops, we would see a vastly different landscape.

The importance of the Sacraments in all of this process cannot be understated.  Demons are legalists and they are bound to God’s laws, just as we all are, no matter if we believe in God or not. The Sacraments unite us to God’s Grace. They strengthen us with the power of God and restore our union when we have fallen away. Participating in the Sacramental Life is if utmost importance to our wellbeing.

The demons are often called “unclean” (Mark 1:23.) and so they are often found in “waterless” places. The living water of Jesus is no place for them because it is through this living water that we are washed clean, we are made new, and we are reunited with our Savior through His Holy Spirit. Just as John baptized with water, he tells us one who baptizes with water and the spirit is coming. (Matthew 3:11)

In the story of the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus casts the demons into the pigs, but to the demons’ demise, they get driven into the water. Deliverance is purification. It is driving the demons into the water, never to return again.

When we fully put on our Baptismal vows, which requires a Sacramental life, and embracing forgiveness like Christ did, it invokes true freedom because we are asserting the authority, the domain God gave to us that had been stolen by the serpent.  It does not require someone else screaming over us in the name of Jesus.  It requires us, in the name of Jesus, receiving the authority he gave us.  A person who lives here has embraced the Kingdom.  They can “be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48 – and sell all to the poor because it is total recognition, acceptance of and cooperation with the King of Kings.

The Saints recognized this.  They were living in the will of God.  God wills that you walk in union with Him and that you receive what was rightfully given to you by Him.  This kind of unity is sorely missing in the world today.  Unforgiveness and hatred is everywhere.  The devil is wreaking havoc.  Don’t let him. Let the Living Water, transform you.  It is imperative in these perilous times we live in that we become living Sanctuaries of God.  This is what is needed to combat the division and hatred in the world.  It’s an embracing of the truth of the cross.  What is true is that each and everyone of us is a Beloved Child of God who can be lifted out of sin, can love as were were commanded, and we can become Saints.  Check to see if your Diocese or parish has a sanctioned Deliverance Team to help you with this process because even though you are receiving the authority God gave you, it is importance to recognize the authority of the Church to help you through this.

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Celebrate Life like Elizabeth and Mary

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Visitation by Jaques Daret

 

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:41-45

By: Ashley Blackburn

I was picking up my daughter from elementary school when I was stopped by an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. She was unaware that I am pregnant with baby number 5 on the way. The woman approached me and in a sympathetic tone said she didn’t know I was pregnant again.  Despite being a little taken aback, I quickly responded with joy and excitement over this new life that was going to come into the world! My friend proceeded to try to sympathize with me, although I was not sad about being pregnant, and asked how I was feeling and how my husband was “handling” the fact that we were going to have another baby. I then began to realize just how countercultural it is to bring forth new life after you’ve already had your 2.5 kids. Upon this realization, I wanted my friend to know how excited we all were as a family… my husband included. I told her the kids were ecstatic and I was really looking forward to sharing in this joy of new life with my now somewhat older children (ages 12, 11, 8, & 5). As we were about to part ways, she asked when I was due. I told her in July and she told me that it was going to be really hot… another attempted opportunity to show how sorry she was for my being pregnant. “Yes, it is going to be hot in July” was my candid response.

 

I walked away feeling sorry for my friend and for all women with this view. No, pregnancy is not pleasant. Except for those few strange mothers who say they love being pregnant, for the most part it is uncomfortable, often painful, and completely humbling. Mothers sacrifice their bodies, their emotions, their energy, and so much more in order to bear new life within them. It is no small feat. But what are we as women doing to lift up and support pregnant mothers? What are we doing to remind them of the miracle of life that they bearing in their womb? How are we helping them see in this time of self sacrifice how they are cooperating in the creative work of God Our Father?  It is no wonder abortion rates are on the rise and couples are choosing every option available to avoid pregnancy. Expectant mothers are often times left unsupported and often criticized by her peers.

 

Where are pregnant mothers able to find the support and encouragement they need in this culture that views pregnancy and motherhood as an unwanted heavy burden? The answer lies in the example of the Visitation. Mary is no doubt inconvenienced by becoming pregnant and Elizabeth her cousin is pregnant in her old age. Both of these circumstances are not ideal for pregnancy. Both women can be expected to be filled with shame or sympathy. But the Visitation plays out very differently. When Mary approaches Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with joy and surprise… even the infant in her womb leapt for joy. Mary then proclaims the glory of God and rejoices even amidst her unideal situation in the world’s eyes.  In God’s eyes, it was the perfect ideal.  

 

The exchange between Mary and Elizabeth shines a light on the tremendous influence that we women have upon one another. It reminds us that our response to each other’s life story, no matter what the circumstance, is of utmost importance. Women have been given the unique ability to bond with one another on a deeply spiritual and emotional level. These bonds of friendship are what sustain and uplift women in their time of need. When we stop supporting and encouraging each other, we in essence abandon a major part of who we are as women and the unique gift given to us by our Creator.

 

My encounter with my friend was a definite eye-opener for me. It was God’s way of showing me the importance of my own responses, as well as the perception of our culture when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood. It was a way for God to give me the opportunity to be joyful despite what one would expect of someone in my circumstance. It was a way for the light of Christ to break forth into this world filled with so much darkness. I am truly grateful for this opportunity that God has given me today and I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me in this way. May we as women always remember to imitate Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation story when sharing all of our life events with one another.  Choose joy. 

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Don’t deliver yourself to the Torturers

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The Unmerciful Servant – Domenico Fetti

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  Mathew 18:32-34

Have you ever really read, I mean really read, what Jesus is saying in the parable of the unmerciful servant?  We all know the story, Peter asks the Lord how many times he should forgive, 7 times, and Jesus says, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  And then he tells the story.  It’s the story of the forgiving King, but the servant who won’t forgive.

The ending is astonishing, “In his anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured….”

What does this tell us?  If you remember, I have taken classes on Kingdom and Covenant.  When you are in covenant, you have exchanged enemies.  You let your covenant partner take care of your enemy, and you take care of his.  There was also a Walk of Death. This Walk of Death tells you curses get put upon you if you violate covenant.  What does this mean in our covenant with God?  It means, our enemy is not people, but the devil, and we let him handle the people.  So when we put our hatred on people, instead of the demons that are whispering to the people, we are actually violating covenant and inviting curses, or handing ourselves to the torturers.  We have asked for this upon ourselves.

Just look at the Lord’s prayer; Forgive us our trespasses, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US…. If we don’t forgive, we are asking God to treat us in the manner we have treated others.  How did God forgive us? He forgave us everything.  If we in turn don’t forgive, we hand ourselves over to the torturers.

Deliver us from Evil…. Deliverance is letting go of the trauma and hurt that people have caused us.  This kind of forgiveness is hard.  There are a lot of people who have had major hurt in their lives.  Major trauma to forgive.  But this is the kind of forgiveness that sets you free and places you in the hands of Christ.

This forgiveness does not mean people don’t receive consequences.  Or that we turn a blind eye to the crimes people commit.  It simply means that the victimized person let’s God handle the human being;  His judgment, and eternal consequences.  And that the victim actually wishes in their heart that everyone know the love of God and will one day be in his glory.  A converted heart is something to rejoice over.  Damnation to hell is not.  How do we forgive like this?

Divine Mercy.  We cannot do it without asking God for help and receiving what he wants to give us.  We must ask Him to teach us to love like he does.  To teach us to Forgive like he does.  This enables us to close the door on the devil and take back our domain.  Our hatred should be at sin and the devil, this is holy hatred.  It should not be directed at people.  Take back authority over our own lives from the devil and live and walk in true freedom.

I went to the visit Father’s of Mercy last week.

Fathers of mercy1

As I sat in the church looking at the image God told Saint Faustina to bring us, all I can say is God impressed upon me how much mercy is poured over us.  It was as if I could palpably feel his mercy, and the communion of Saints, those that lived in his mercy.

I began to ask God to pour any mercy people reject over me, so I can be a conduit of His mercy in the world.  I think that’s what he wants for all of us.

I asked God to show me the areas in my life where I need to forgive, and where he wants to heal me.  He wants to set me free.  He wants to set you free too.  Ask Him to show you who you need to forgive.  Then close that door to the devil, and live in the freedom of God’s mercy and love.

When I look at the news today, I see a whole lot of anger and rage, and not a lot of mercy and forgiveness.  We can’t control what’s going on out there, but we can make our own hearts living sanctuaries of mercy and love.  And we can spread it to each person we encounter.  Don’t hand yourself to the torturer’s.  Get on your knees and ask God to show you how to forgive.  Start with your own family.  And let’s change the world one heart at a time.

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The Marriage Covenant

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Gerard David – The Wedding Feast at Cana

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

***Warning*** I have written some graphic content in this piece. This is not for children.

In my prayer, as I am sure many people have also felt, the Lord has impressed upon me the importance, to an overwhelming degree on my soul, of marriage.

You all know I have been taking classes on Kingdom and Covenant.  I learned a lot in this last class discussing marriage. In learning about covenant, we understand that a blood sacrifice is made, and we know that the Eucharist is the most Sacred and Profound covenant God made with us.  His own Son giving us His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  We are able to renew this covenant every single day at Mass.

Jesus gave us this outward sign of His love when he stated, “This is my body given up for you.”  And we know that the Mass is known as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.  His outward gift of love presented to us, and we, the Bride of Christ (whether male or female) receive this gift of love.

Have you ever wondered about that marriage analogy?  About the fact that Jesus spoke of it?  Marriage must be important to God.

And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. Mark 2:19-20

Like the Eucharistic covenant, marriage is also covenant.  Two Sacraments gifted to us by God.  Now bear with me for a moment because I am going to get R rated here to some people, though what I am going to say is meant to show the beauty of God’s creation.  The covenant of Sacramental Marriage is written in the very body of the man and woman.  When a man, in love with his wife, is passionate for her, his very body has the outward expression of this.  And a woman can see it. On his wedding night, a groom says with his body, “this is my body given up for you”.  An outward expression of love for his wife.  Additionally, since marriage is covenant and covenant requires blood sacrifice, when a a virginal woman sheds blood on her wedding night through intercourse, this shedding of her blood, is just as a covenant sacrifice, and the covenant is made.  Her body receives him, receives his love.  A husband and wife renew this covenant again and again throughout their marriage.  And the two become one flesh.

No longer two but one. These couples together, when they center their lives on Christ, their power grows exponentially.  Where one puts 1000 to flight, two puts 10,000.

“How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up?” Deuteronomy 32:30

This is why the devil tries SO HARD to pervert sexuality.  If he can do this he perverts the beauty of the Sacramental covenant God created.  When marriage is strong societies flourish and spread love, joy and beauty.  The devils goal is to destroy.  And in our day and age, he set his sights on the destruction of marriage.

When we have sex outside of marriage, we give a part of ourselves away.  Pre-marital sex takes part of our soul and gives it to another.  Then, when we enter into marriage later, we only can give what we have left of ourselves, it is not a complete giving, because of what was left behind.  When we are not whole from the start, it makes it harder to live a Godly marriage.  Sex before marriage is a way that we actually can destroy other souls and our own soul.  I think this is why God impressed upon me how deadly of a sin lust is.

The devil wants to pervert what God created beautiful as much as he possibly can.  This is why he tries to get you to have as much sex as possible before you’re married and as little as possible with your spouse after you are married.  Having sex a lot in marriage is healthy and powerful in the eyes of God because just like we renew Eucharistic covenant in Mass every day, we also renew the marriage covenant each time we have sex with our spouse.  But the devil has attacked marriage from every angle; divorce, pornography, masturbation, prostitution, contraception,  adultery, homosexuality, abortion, you name it, he has thought of it and tried to attack us with it.

But lest ye despair, especially if you were one that committed these sins of perversion, you must know that our God is powerful enough to overcome your sins.

When Saint Paul was in Corinth, he was preaching to a people that worshipped Aphrodite.  Every woman was required at some point to be a temple sex slave.  Paul was preaching to whores and whoremongers.  Men and women who worshipped a goddess of sex.  And yet he said this to them;

“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” 2 Corinthians 11:2

How could he say this to them?  How could he promise them to Christ as pure virgins?  Paul could promise this because Paul knows Christ is a RESTORER who can DELIVER you.

If you have these past sins and you’re struggling in your marriage, Christ can deliver you.  Ask God to show you where you need healing.  Confess your sexual sins, forgive yourself, forgive those who took a part of you, and ask God to close those doors where the devil has an entrance to attack your marriage.  Christ can make you whole again.  You can be presented as pure before Christ.  The church shows us the way.  Confession is healing.

If you don’t have these sins, ask God to protect your purity everyday.  Hand Him your purity to guard.

We must all of us get on our knees and pray for marriage.  For our own, and for others.  May God make us holy and pure.

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God works all things for the Good

Therese_von_Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux

“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

By: Ashley Blackburn

The other morning I was at mass when the Emmaus Story really came alive for me. In this gospel account, the resurrected Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and at first the disciples were unable to recognize who Jesus was. Jesus walks with them and listens to their story, in which he realizes they had a very limited understanding of scriptures and thus a limited understanding of his death and resurrection. After the disciples finished speaking, Jesus then began to explain the scriptures to them, which opened up their understanding to the fullness of Salvation History and gave them a thirst for more. What the disciples were given in this moment was the Truth. Their hearts were open to hearing it and thus they became so captivated by Jesus that they invited him to stay and dine with them.  For when we hear the Truth being proclaimed, it give us a yearning and thirst in our hearts and it urges us to share this gift we have received in charity for others. After inviting him in, while at dinner with Jesus, their eyes were opened and they recognized who this man really was, Jesus Christ risen from the dead.

This story got me thinking more about my own faith journey and how this story is really all of our stories. In my life, Jesus found me where I was, in the throes of sin and self destruction. I can now attribute this to the many prayers of my family for me as they watched me attempt to ruin my life.

At the point when Jesus met me on my journey, I was not ready or able to see him fully revealed.  He first listened to my story, my misunderstanding of things. He allowed me to speak and he listened. But then something changed as we walked together and he began giving me glimpses of the Truth.  This is what gave me a thirst for him. A deep yearning to learn more, to know him better, to understand more fully.

In my early journey I did a lot of reading.  I was mainly drawn to the modern day contemplative authors which I felt helped me to develop my relationship with Jesus. These authors, who have a wide following of people, taught me how to pray, how to look inward at myself and see where I needed to change, how to not be afraid of the silence, how to rid myself of the anger that I was carrying with me.  They taught me that silence was where I would meet Jesus most intimately and get to know him better. So this became my consolation and I began spending hours in prayer, going on silent retreats and joining bible studies. It was during this time that I first truly met Jesus and began to have a relationship with him through prayer.

There was so much healing that took place during this time. My experience of Jesus was compassion and mercy.  He spoke to me of unconditional love and with that I was healed from my past. This I can see now as a gift. I often come across others who struggle with this.  They are either still living in the shame of their past and are not convinced that Jesus could ever forgive them, or they are living in scrupulosity where nothing they do will ever be enough to earn forgiveness.  All of these people are relying on their own efforts instead of falling into the arms of Jesus and letting him do the work. Once we realize that God is the giver and we are the receiver, we can begin to heal.

God always holds up his end the deal… he perpetually gives. But we are not always the best receivers. Whatever the obstacles that we continue to place in the way, we are only able to receive when we let go of it all, bear our souls to the Lord and turn to him with open hearts. For me this also included handing him all of my past sins and allowing him to transform them and heal me from all of my wounds. So often we tend to ignore, hide, rationalize or discount our sins. When we do this we are placing obstacles in the way of receiving all that God wants to give us. It’s only through presenting our weakness to the Lord that His mercy is able to rain down upon us.

At this time I found myself in a really good place spiritually. But as my life got busier and busier I began to find less and less time for prayer.  Less and less time to read. Less and less silence. And this is where I was left on my contemplative journey; relying solely on prayer, silence, and self reflection. What I can see now is while this part of my journey was completely necessary and healing, it only took me so far.  The books I had read did not speak of the fullness of the Truth and though they were a part of my journey of healing, I was still left wanting more. There was something missing.

As humans we are both spiritual and physical beings.  Just as we cannot deny our spirit, we also cannot deny that we are tangible creatures. Often times we need tangible things in order to relate to the spiritual, especially when life gets busy or when we are thrown for a serious curve. When there is no time for the silence, when there is no energy or desire to pray, when we are in the pit of despair, we need tangible things to help us navigate our path and keep us in union with God.  

This tangibility is exactly what the Catholic Church provides.  Christ knew our humanness and thus he knew what we needed for our salvation. Through the Sacraments, the Church is a tangible means of dispensing grace to us. Although the Sacraments are not the only means by which we receive grace from God, they are a clear and tangible means for us. They allow us to see and know in a real way, God’s desire to gift us with his grace at any moment. If only we would remain open and willing to humbly come to him in order to receive these gifts. If we stop believing in the Sacraments, we will eventually stop believing in God’s grace.

The other tangible thing the Church is for us is an Authority. The Catholic Church continues on through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. She is here to help us navigate our way, especially when things get confusing and unclear.  We must recognize that this is the work of the devil, to confuse us, to trick us, to make things unclear, to divide us. He is very clever in his attempts, we don’t always recognize that it is him whispering in our ear a distorted version of mercy and love because it sounds somewhat good in nature.  So this is where the Authority of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, is there for us in a tangible way to help us navigate this world. What a gift this is that we don’t have to have all the answers on our own.

As I journeyed on, trying to navigate my spiritual journey, my life took a turn when I finally began saying yes to God.  In prayer, I felt him asking me to do certain things, but I was never quite brave enough or thought myself worthy enough for the task.  One of the first things I said yes to was beginning to help in the R.C.I.A. ministry at my parish. I definitely did not feel worthy of this calling.  I was not knowledgeable about my faith, I was terrified of speaking in public (let alone teaching adults) and I was already so busy… how could I fit this huge commitment into my already busy schedule?  But Jesus was loving and persistent in his attempts. I finally said yes and began sitting in on R.C.I.A. classes, trying to figure out where I could help out.

Through this ministry my eyes were opened to the full Truth of Jesus.  I already had a relationship with him, but now he was feeding me Truth. And suddenly I found myself praying again, reading again, but this time the authors were a bit different, they were contemplative but steeped in the Truth of the Church.  I discovered the saints. Saints like St Therese of Lisieux and St Bernadette, who both had a very deep prayer life, but who also clinged to the Catholic Faith. I learned the teachings and history of the Church. Jesus had opened my eyes, much like he had done to the two disciples at table with him in the Emmaus Story. I was able to recognize him in a new way through the Catholic Church and it was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

In my prayer and reflection further about this new phase of my journey, I have found that God is actually calling me deeper. He is asking more of me everyday, while also giving me tremendous consolation in my obedience to him. He has widened my view and revealed a much fuller picture to me than I previously had. While I don’t feel I ever have struggled with scrupulosity, which comes with its set of dangers and misguidance, I am now seeing where being solely spiritual and focusing on looking inward at self is actually at the other end of the spectrum, also with its own set of dangers and misconceptions. Both ends of the spectrum can focus on being critical of the other, they can look to the people living at these opposite ends and get judgemental and even condemning. But Jesus calls us to walk the narrow road between these two. The true contemplative has a conversation with God, it’s a relationship.  This relationship, this mental prayer, coupled with the Authority of the Magisterium and Scripture, enables you to obey God and to surrender to him in a way modern day contemplation didn’t call me. I am thankful for my journey and I realize that God worked all things for the good in order to bring me closer to Him. I love Jesus AND I love the Church. And I am grateful for having found Jesus ever more present through my journey back to the Church.

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