Lessons from the Nativity

January 4, 2011

There is great benefit in the spiritual life for those who spend time meditating on the Nativity. We can learn several lessons from those present at the birth of the Christ child. Radical Catholics would do well to take the time to place themselves inside this beautiful scene and learn from our Lord and His Holy Family.

The following are some brief reflections to help you enter into the mystery of the Nativity:

The Silence of Joseph: Once again we learn about the importance of silence. Joseph’s silence throughout the Gospel should remind us of its importance in attaining the degree of holiness meant for us. Joseph had to protect Mary and Jesus from the powers of evil. It was important for him to be a man of silence in order to hear the command of the Lord. If we want to hear God we must be people of great silence.

The Full Surrender of Mary: While Mary’s original Fiat didn’t take place during the Nativity we can’t help but see it in this mystery. We learn the lesson that when we say yes to the God we come closer to His son. We need to live our life as a constant “Yes” in full surrender as Mary did.

The Humility of Baby Jesus: How could anyone read the story of Christ’s Nativity and not realize the importance of Humility? Our Lord, the King of the universe came as a baby. Without humility we will never grow. Learn from Baby Jesus and humble yourself and God will raise you up.

The Shepherds Poverty: Shepherds were poor people and the Angel came to them to announce the good news of the birth of our Lord. The angel did not go to kings or wise men but to poor shepherds. We can only assume that if we strive for poverty of spirit God will endow us with the riches of His grace. We must come to the Lord as poor beggars for His mercy.

The Wise Men’s Conversion: The Gospel of Matthew tells us they “departed by another way.” Isn’t this the same for every true encounter we have with Christ? When we encounter our Lord we experience conversion and we change the direction we are going. We do not go the same way we came. We go a different way. The Wise men remind us of the conversion we all seek when go to the Lord.

Let us make a manger in our heart for the Lord Jesus that he may come into us and teach us His way.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.  Matthew 2:14

There are many sins that take place solely in our mind:

  • Entertaining thoughts of envy
  • Entertaining impure thoughts
  • Entertaining thoughts of Pride
  • Etc..

There are also many dispositions that our mind can have that are detrimental to the spiritual life:

  • Always living in fantasy (What you wish your life was like)
  • Constant thoughts of the past
  • Loud and distracted
  • Etc..

Most sin begins in the mind. It is a battle field to be won if we are to be successful in the interior life.

Human beings by nature think. You are always thinking about something. When we do not have control of our mind then we are usually bombarded with temptations and thoughts of sin. This ruins our silence and cultivates a barren desert that kills the grace we receive.

One of the best ways to take control of your mind is through the memorization of scripture. I guess the thought is that we fill our mind with holy things and it pushes out the bad. Scripture transforms our minds and makes them fertal ground to receive the grace God gives and prune the weeds of sin and selfishness. Memorizing scripture is like pouring poison on the vermin of sin in our mind. It also is extremely helpful in spiritual warfare. Remember that Christ answered Satan’s temptations with scripture. The evil one will fear a mind that is filled with God’s Holy Word. If you are struggling with bad or inappropriate memories memorizing scripture can be one of the most effective ways to rid yourself of those memories.

Try to conquer your mind today through the memorization of God’s Holy Word. When your mind is filled with scripture your mind is then filled with Jesus. Start by memorizing a verse each week. If you are really struggling with a particular sin then try to find a scripture verse that corresponds to that and memorize it.

Regardless of how you decide to go about it try to memorize scripture often. You will slowly transform your mind into a living bible. Radical Catholics live in Sacred Scripture!

God’s Word is a light to the mind and a fire to the will so that a person may know and love the Lord. To the interior person who lives by the spirit, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than any honey from the comb, and water more delicious than milk or wine. St. Lawrence

Every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of Holy Scripture, to confirm those who do good and to shame those who do evil. St. Basil the Great

It is important that we arms oursleves with the weapons we need fight the battle that is Radical Catholic Living. Each of us can look to certain things that have helped us fight sin, listen to God and surrender ourselves more fully to Jesus. Books, sacramentals, prayers and exercises can make a big difference in our struggle against sin and our race towards Jesus. God will send you these things as arrows to fill your quiver.

Here are some weapons that may be able to help you live an intense Catholic life:

The Brown Scapular: When I began to wear the Brown Scapular I was finally able to make headway against the besetting sins in my life. It is a constant reminder of Mary’s intercession. It is my badge of courage in a dark age.

The Book Spiritual Combat by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli: This is basically the guidebook for combatting sin. It gives you powerful and practical steps to take in the interior life. Read it slowly and over and over again.

The Spiritual Communion Prayer by St. Alphonsus Ligouri: This is a great way to recommit ourselves often through out the day. It is a reminder to always invite Jesus into our hearts. It also helps us to prepare for real communion at mass.

Scripture memorization: Scripture memorization fills our minds with The Word. This can help greatly in our battle against sin that manifests itself in the mind.

Preparation for Total Consecration by St. Louis DeMontfort: This spiritual exercise is integral to the Spiritual life and is the font of many graces. Try it once and then renew it each year. It will help you abandon yourself more fully to Jesus.

A Good Comprehensive Book on Spiritual Direction: When you are committed to prayer and fighting sin questions will come up and if you don’t have an experienced spiritual director there are a few books you can turn to.  I recommend The Spiritual Life by Tanqueray or a book called The Interior Life by “A Carthusian Monk” (That is the only name given)

Holy Water: Keep Holy water around you. I often claim the Kingship of Jesus in my house and other places by sprinkling holy water. It is like poison to the Evil Spirits lurking.

Deliverance prayer from Pope Leo XIII: Here is a link to the prayer: http://www.catholicdoors.com/prayers/english/p01975.htm

These are things that have helped me substantiallyin striving to living a Radical Catholic life. With the Eucharist, Rosary and confession being foundations of our life these things can help build a strong house of devotion that will help us to surrender more to Jesus and become His. Please leave suggestions about things that have helped you below in the comments.

Ask God to send you arrows to put in your quiver. Arm yourself with the weapons that will help you finish the race and fight the good fight.

Arm yourself in this battle. Fight to the Death.  

Yesterdays first reading was the story of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal. This is absolutely my favorite story in the Scriptures. I think the story holds special significance for those trying to live the Radical Catholic life. 

Elijah is the last of the prophets of the Lord in an extremely unfaithful generation. (sound familiar?) The king’s wife, Jezebel, is something like a witch and she worships the god (demon) Baal. Baal was worshipped through ritual sex and prostitution, child sacrifice and blood. To say the least this was an evil scary religion. Jezebel had killed all the Prophets of the Lord that she could catch. Elijah just can’t take it anymore so he challenges the prophets of Baal in front of the people of Israel. 

You know the rest of the story… Our God, Yaweh, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega answers with fire while Baal remains powerless and silent. 

Isn’t this what always happens? The “prophets” of this world lead the people away from God. But God always answers with fire. 

A radical Catholic knows that God answers with fire when you have Jesus deep within your hearts. A radical Catholic knows that God answers with fire when you ask for that fire in the name of Jesus. When we go out into the world and the false “prophets” and the worship of false gods is being thrown into our faces we know the answer. The answer, my brothers and Sisters is Jesus and when we proclaim Jesus and when people surrender to Him, He always answers with fire. 

The fire that Elijah called down was physical and it burnt up the stones and wood and sacrifice and lapped up all the water. This fire I am talking about is not physical but it is infinitely more powerful. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit and it will burn up the hardness, doubt, sin, hate and hurt inside each man. If we ask and surrender God will send down fire into our heart that will stir up the gifts we need to kill the false “prophets” of sin, pride, godlessness, lust, and hopelessness that plague our culture. God wants to set us all on fire and as radical Catholics we should earnestly desire this fire. 

Come Holy Fire. Come Holy Spirit. Lord, God answer with fire. People of the world listen! The God who answers by fire; He is God. 

Are you a Catholic? Christian? Believer of any kind? Have you asked the Lord Jesus to send down the fire of the Holy Spirit into your hearts? Ask and surrender right now! Lord Jesus light me on fire. Burn me as a sacrifice to show the folly of glorifying anyone but you. Kill whatever is in me that is not of you. 

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” 1 Kings 18:39

The God who answers by fire is God!

 

I can honestly say that most of the progress against sin in my life has come from devotion to Mary. She has a passionate desire to bring us closer to Her Son and because of that her intercession is powerful in helping us rid our life of sin. It wasn’t until I started consecrating myself to Mary daily, that I was able to make progress against a particular stronghold the devil had in my life. When I took up the brown scapular I finally was able to make progress against a “besetting sin” that I had been struggling against for years. She is called the “Refuge of Sinner’s” for a reason.

Mary tells us so simply in the Gospel, “Do whatever He tells you.” She knows that we can’t do whatever He tells us unless we are free to do so and this means free from our addiction to sin. The more free we are the more fully we can imitate Mary in saying “Yes” to God.

We recently renewed our baptismal promises at the Easter Liturgy. It’s a great time to renew our battle with Sin and try to come closer to fully accepting the passionate love that Jesus offers us. Renewing or starting a devotion to Mary will help you do this more fully. Start today.

Prayer of Consecration to Mary

My Queen and Mother, I give myself entirely to you. To show my devotion to you I consecrate to you this day my eyes, ears, mouth, heart, and whole being without reserve. Therefore, good Mother, since I am your own, keep me and guard me as your property and possession.

 

 

With your help, as long as there is strength within us,

we will fight to the last breath.

So help us O Queen, O Lady, O best and dearest Mother!

St. Maximillian Kolbe

Be Transformed…

February 23, 2010

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2) In this day and age Catholics and Christians are becoming more conformed to this world and this age. Culturally, intellectually even spiritually we are struggling to be a “people set apart“.

The only way to fight this conformity is by renewing our minds. How do we accomplish this? First and foremost we renew our minds by an intense life of grace. (prayer, sacraments, etc.) More specifically we accomplish this through abiding in the Word of God. In Scripture we have the mind of Christ. Radical Catholics need to be soaked in scripture to see with the eyes of Christ. It should be part of everyone’s prayer time and our daily life in general. Lectio Divina in particular is helpful for entering into the Word of God and having it fill your mind and change you. (I won’t share what lectio divina is because other people can explain it much better. Just do a quick google search.) Try adding Scripture to your daily prayer and see how God transforms you in His Word.

“Lectio divina consists in pouring over a biblical text for sometime, reading it and re-reading it, as it were, ruminating on it as the Fathers say and squeezing from it, so to speak, all its juice so that it may nourish meditation and contemplation and, like water, succeed in irrigating life itself.”

Pope Benedict XVI

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420

“To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches.”

St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407

“All troubles of the Church, all the evils in the world, flow from this source: that men do not by clear and sound knowledge and serious consideration penetrate into the truths of Sacred Scripture.”

attributed to St. Theresa of Avila, A.D. 1515-1582