He Comes to Us

My wife and I were pretty transparent in buying each other Christmas gifts this year.  I know I’m getting a couple new Catholic Bible commentaries, and she knows she’s getting a miraculous medal.

She always liked the simple aluminum one she had, but she lost it.  I found a really nice sterling silver one at a local Catholic gift shop, but this morning she told me she doesn’t want to know how much it cost—or she might feel like taking it back.

She joked that I should be grateful to such have a “thrifty” wife… so I’ll never have to worry about getting her expensive gifts; and that we’re meant for each other since I didn’t have a lot of money anyway when we got married.

I joked back: “You’re right… except that means I don’t get any expensive gifts neither!”

Well, that conversation inspired me to get to the bottom of our wifi issues the last few days so I can jot down a few thoughts on the laptop.

Thank God for smartphones and data or I don’t know how we would’ve ever gotten by!

Anyways, this Advent season really got me thinking about the incarnation and birth of Christ as it relates to the Eucharist.

I’ve always loved those documentaries on the immense size of the universe;

where they begin by showing how small we are on this big planet….

then they zoom out to show how small earth is in comparison to the sun….

they zoom out a bit more and show how small our sun is….

a bit more to show how small our solar system is….

then how small our galaxy is….

Milky Way Galaxy, Wikimedia Commons

They’ve always helped me reflect on how BIG the Creator of all that is, but also on His immense love for us; because it helps me to at least try wrapping my head around God’s humility—emptying Himself of that BIGNESS (for lack of a better word), in order to come into our smallness and walk with us; to live with us.

How Jesus chose to be born into this very broken world not in wealth or grandeur, but in poverty; showing beyond all doubt how much He wants to enter our own personal brokenness and poverty, and share in our life so we can share in His.

How He came to be with us so completely, so we can be with Him for eternity.

If I’m honest with myself, there’s plenty of room for me to grow in contemplating and appreciating how Jesus offers that to me and each of us every day in the Eucharist—and for the same reasons.

Reflecting on all this helps me in that area; because if I can wrap my head around Christ’s incarnation, birth, and the fact that He walked among us, then as I contemplate on how He comes to us in every Mass—under the humble form of bread—I think to myself:

Isn’t that just like our LORD.

The Nativity by Vasco Pereira Lusitano, Wikimedia Commons

“Behold, daily he humbles himself as when he came from the royal throne into the womb of the Virgin; daily he comes to us in a humble form; daily he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest.” (Admonitions of St. Francis 1:16-18)

here I AM

I remember in grade school, taking these periodic field trips to nursing homes with our class.  I also remember feeling a little guilty that I really didn’t want to be there.  Many of us noticed a distinct odor and it seemed a bit depressing as well.

We were young and immature.

Last Sunday night I was off work, so I took advantage of the opportunity to visit a chapel in my area that has Eucharistic Adoration on Monday.  It’s become the favorite place for Adoration for my son and me since we discovered it early this year.

We discovered this location at a particular time I felt an urgent need to sit with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but couldn’t find a place nearby open on a Friday.  So I texted my sister who lives in the neighboring city, and she told me of a local chapel that offers daily Adoration.

It happened to be located in a nursing home.

After you sign in to visit the chapel, you walk a few feet in the direction of a corridor that leads to the residential area, stop short of it, and hang a right into the chapel.

Upon arriving at the chapel this past Monday, a thought just sort of popped into my head.  I plopped myself down, gave thanks for the opportunity to be there (at a time I would normally be sleeping), and imagined Jesus responding, “here I AM.”

Now before I go any further, I’m not suggesting that every thought that pops in my head is a mystical experience, but my mind went back to that corridor—the one that leads to the residential area.

I began to think of how special this place has become to my son and me, and how Jesus has always been there for us.  Then I thought of the gospel the day before.

It was Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus teaches about the day He’ll separate the sheep from the goats.  When He taught that what we do or don’t do for the marginalized—those in need and forgotten—is what we do for or don’t do for Him.

Then I began to think how I see that corridor every time I go there for Adoration, but not once have I ever looked into visiting the residents in that nursing home.  I let that thought sit with me, but then forgot about it until last night.

Last night my wife and I, along with our two youngest kids (18 and 15), went to wish her aunt a happy birthday.   She lives in a nearby assisted living home for adults and our visits are limited to holidays and her birthday.

My son grabbed his banjo and I grabbed my guitar, figuring it was a good opportunity for us to show off a few songs we think we’ve gotten petty good at.

Normally she’s in her room, but yesterday she was in the foyer, along with a couple other residents.  My wife gave her a small gift and an individual cake, and asked if she wanted to hear a couple songs.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about playing songs in the open foyer for a couple reasons:

  1. I didn’t know if we first needed permission, or if we’d be a disturbance to anyone.
  2. It didn’t help that my son’s banjo is pretty loud, and as he was tuning it, his older sister kidded him that he should’ve brought his ukulele instead of that “loud obnoxious” instrument.

The thing is, I couldn’t help but agree with her.

Anyways, after playing a song, a couple employees came out into the foyer and responded with some very kind encouragement to play another.  One employee clapped and sang along with the songs she knew, and wheeled in a nice old man— who was really the life of the party—as a few other residents hung out for a bit.

He shared a few songs of his own that we added chords to, and I think he might be the missing piece to take this act on the road!

They invited us back just to eat with them for their Christmas dinner coming up, and told us the best hours to come back if we ever wanted to have another jam session.

We all left feeling really good and I know why.

You see, that random thought I had earlier this week of Jesus saying, “here I AM” may have been to assure me that He’s there body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament; but also, that every grace and blessing He gives me in the Sacraments and in time spent with Him should point me down that corridor.

I don’t know what constitutes “enough time” on the periphery; I just know that I and we as a family don’t spend enough time there.  I hesitate to share anecdotes like this because they might give the impression we’re this perfect family.

Far from it.  We have our “stuff.”

We shared a little time last night with some of those on the margins, and we were the ones most blessed.  We were all touched, because in my wife’s aunt, in that old man who sang with us, and in each person there, we met Jesus.

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a sacrifice of thanksgiving

I’ve been mulling over a couple Bible verses that got my attention the other day.

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High.” (Psalm 50:14)

“He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23 )

Speaking for myself, my thanksgiving prayers to God use to look something like this: Continue reading

Quiet with God

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out.  Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold.  In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can.  Stay quiet with God.  Do not spend your time in useless chatter.” ~ St. Charles Borromeo

The above excerpt is from a sermon from St. Charles Borromeo in today’s Office of Readings (Nov 4, Saturday of week 30 in Ordinary Time) as on the Universalis site.  The entire sermon not only spoke to me personally, but also seemed timely as it fit with a discussion my 15 year-old son and I had last night on our way back from Eucharistic Adoration. Continue reading

when we cry for help

The other day my wife was letting our grandson practice eating diced pairs with a spoon; but they kept slipping off before the spoon made it to his mouth.  Rather than just shove them into his mouth with his hands like grandpa, he instead appealed to us with that irresistible 19 month voice, “Help!”

It brings to mind a movie that came out in the late eighties about a bear cub that loses its mother in a rock-slide.  After the cub comes to the aid of an adult male grizzly nursing a wound from hunters, the adult bear takes cub in as its own. Continue reading

How Do I Know If I’ve Really Forgiven?

Last year our youngest daughter (a senior at the time) asked her younger brother (a freshman) why he didn’t say anything back when another student was teasing him in one of his classes at school—in front of others who laughed along.

Of course this was difficult for our daughter to understand; she has a laid-back disposition and the quick wit to diffuse teasing remarks sent in her direction.  She’s the type that causes friends and classmates to think twice before roasting her.

We’ve reminded her that those too are gifts from God, and that a wise man once said:

“With great power comes great responsibility” ~ Uncle Ben, (Spider Man)

Continue reading

The Line that Separates

I try, I fail, I get up and try again …. some days are better than others …. but deep down I know each day it really begins in me.

“…. the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.”  ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

 “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  ~ St. Paul, (Romans 7:21-25)

…because you are His child…

Funny thing happened yesterday via electronic communication.  My oldest son (21) just recently changed phones (temporarily).  After getting the new number from my wife, I thought I’d shoot him a text in the morning.

Knowing he probably didn’t have his contacts (remember those days when we had to remember numbers), I wasn’t really surprised with the reply, “Who is this?” Continue reading

Mass – The Heart of the Matter

I, along with roughly fifty others were blessed by a powerful and moving talk my sister gave on the Mass today, as it relates to her own faith journey.

There’s no way I could recapture all that she shared, however, I was inspired to share a video she concluded her talk with; and by providence she was asked to produce for the archdiocese of Milwaukee a couple of years ago. Continue reading