Session 1 of “Presence” – Reflection

Exodus chapter 3:2-8, 10-15

This passage in Exodus continues the story of Moses, who is now a shepherd who serves his father-in-law Jethro. Moses had left Egypt forty years earlier. Moses has not had an ordinary life for a Hebrew. As an infant Moses was set adrift in a reed basket in the Nile River by his mother in an attempt to save his life – all male Hebrew infants were to be drowned at birth by an order of the Pharaoh. Moses was rescued by the daughter of the Pharaoh and raised as her own child. Moses then lived a privileged life with the royal family until his murder of an Egyptian, who had been beating a Hebrew slave.

Moses set adrift

The only mention in the Bible of Moses’ relationship with his birth family or other Hebrews during these early years is that Moses was nursed by his birth mother at the request of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Once Moses was weaned, he was returned to his adoptive mother. There is no mention in the Bible of Moses further interaction with the Hebrews until he returned to Egypt to fulfill God’s mission.

Moses fled Egypt when his murder of the Egyptian is seen by Jewish witnesses and likely reported. Moses then settles in Midian where he marries one of the the daughters of Jethro, a Midianite priest. His wife is named Zipporah and she bears Moses a son. Even though the Pharaoh whom Moses knew had died, the Hebrews remained slaves to the new Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. 

(A Bible dictionary tells us: “ to be holy is  “to be set apart.” This applies to places where God is present, like the Temple and the Tabernacle, and to things and persons related to those holy places or to God Himself.”)

Moses and the burning bush

In Exodus chapter 3 we read, “and the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush...”. Moses has been tending the sheep of his father in law near Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God, and his attention was caught by an unusual sight – a burning bush which is not consumed by the flames. Intrigued and curious why this might be so, Moses approaches the burning bush. A voice calls to him from the bush – “Moses, Moses” and then Moses responds: “here I am”.  Moses is told by the angel’s voice that the place on which Moses is standing is holy ground, that he should take off his shoes.

Taking off one’s shoes in the presence of God or in a holy place suggests that one must be submissive and respectful to the One who is above all things, who has power over all things and all people, who deserves to be venerated and loved. In Church we genuflect or bow when we enter as we recognize the holiness of the worship place and of the Person who is present in the Tabernacle behind the altar.

God addresses Moses and tells the shepherd that the Person speaking to him is the same God who once spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, ancestors of Moses’ people. In fear and reverence for God, Moses hides his face for we read that  “he was afraid to look on God.” It was believed at that time that gazing upon God would bring instant death.

God has spoken to Moses for He has an important task for Moses to accomplish – Moses must go back to Egypt and bring God’s people out of Egypt to the promised land. God tells Moses that “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry…I know their sufferings.” Moses is understandably confused and perplexed as he later wonders aloud how he is to accomplish this task. God comforts Moses by telling him that He, God Himself, will be with him as Moses goes about this work. The sign that God has sent Moses on this mission will be shown when Moses has accomplished the task – the Israelites will worship God on this very mountain of Horeb.

What God is asking of Moses is an unbelievably difficult task. For centuries the Hebrews have been enslaved by a powerful foreign nation. Moses must return to Egypt, where he is a wanted criminal and even rejected by the Israelites some years ago and free the enslaved people. At first Moses is given no directions as to how he is to accomplish what is asked of him, although God assures Moses that “I will be with you“.  As the conversation continues, God provides more details about the help that He will provide to Moses.

Moses’ first response to God’s request is somewhat strange – Moses wants to know God’s name in case the Israelites ask him. God responds to Moses’ question and says that His name is – “I AM WHO I AM… this is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”  God continues in this way: “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: “The Lord, the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever.” God is reminding Moses and the Israelites that He is making good on His covenant with the patriarchs, that the chosen people have not been forgotten. God then tells Moses how to begin this mission so that the Israelites are assured the God will lead them to the land once promised to Abraham and to freedom.

Knowing a person’s name was important in Biblical times as it denoted some control over that individual if his name was known. God’s response to Moses question does not give any power over Him as the name itself denotes God’s power. God cannot be controlled or owned by anyone as He just is. God is existence itself.

This story is similar to many which we read in the Bible – God calls someone for His purposes and doesn’t tell the person how exactly to accomplish the task which has been assigned to him. A person appears to be on his own, to come up with the means and methods to accomplish the task until the story unfolds further and the reader recognizes that God has been directing the action and assisting the person in his mission.

God places His trust in the person He has chosen. God’s choice of the person and the mission is not random. God sees the past, the present and the future. God created the person he has chosen, so God is aware of what the person has the ability to do.

Moses’ conversation continues with God. Moses tries to back out of the assignment citing his speech impediment, but God gives Moses help by choosing Moses’ brother Aaron to help him, to do the speaking for Moses.

Moses from “The Ten Commandments”

The sign God presents to Moses is what I found most troubling at first. “You will know that you have done what I have asked you to do and that I have asked you to do it when you have accomplished it.” In other words you won’t know for sure that God has sent you on this difficult mission until you accomplish it.

As we continue reading we see all the signs of God’s presence along the journey which Moses undertook. There were plagues directed against the Egyptian gods, the Passover of the angel of death, the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the manna in the desert, the water from the rock, the cloud and fire which accompanied the people and many other miracles.

How does this story relate to the mission which God has assigned to each of us? Our lifelong assignment from the time of our Baptism into our faith is to follow Christ, to carry the crosses in our life, to relate to the people and situations which God places in our lives, to share His message of love. We will not truly know that we have accomplished our mission until the mission is completed. We walk in the dark, using our reason and the gifts God has given to us. We trust that we have understood what our task is until we finally reach the end of our lives. We then hope to hear our Savior say to us, “well done, good and faithful servant“.

Like Moses we must trust that God is with us as we travel the path set before us. As we proceed in our assigned tasks, we are blessed with many “signs” of God’s presence as Moses was. Christ has left us the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, to serve as food for our journey. Christ left us His Holy Spirit to encourage and guide us along the way. By reading and studying the stories in the Bible we are encouraged and strengthened, for we see God’s work throughout salvation history which assures us that He is with us.

The God of Surprises

Over this past week the weatherman had predicted rain for Sunday night into Monday and continuing during the day on Monday. Rain is so important for my husband and me as we collect rainwater for our household needs. The rainfall has been sparse over this past winter and in April we received less than a tenth of an inch when the month of April is when we usually receive the most rain in our area. The trees and all the native plants were thirsty after a dry winter and  especially after the trees set out full canopies of leaves and the wildflowers bloomed. 

Photinia after 25 years

My husband and I  made all the necessary preparations for the rain event on Sunday evening so that we would be sure to collect as much water as possible when the rain came. We eagerly watched the weather radar during the day and evening on Sunday to ascertain the truthfulness of the weather bureau’s prediction. We watched as a line of showers announcing a cold front approached us from north Texas.

Since the weather bureau predicted that the rain would come overnight, my husband and I went to bed believing that we would hear the pitter patter of raindrops on the roof during the night. When I arose on Monday morning the driveway and surrounding areas were dry; I had not heard any rain or thunder during the night. I was so disappointed and worried that this chance for measurable, collectible rain had passed us by. I looked again at the radar images and saw a small area of rain far out to the west of us, but there was nothing nearby that seemed to be approaching.

The swimming pool and some potted plants were in need of water, so I headed outdoors to attend to those needs. I had finished watering the potted plants and filling the pool which took about 30 minutes when I felt raindrops on my head. Before I could walk hastily indoors, the rain was coming down hard. Once inside I looked at the radar images on the computer. There were  large areas of rain headed our way. Where did the rain clouds come from, as I had not seen these radar images just 30 minutes before?

Yellow Iris

By the time Monday was over, we had received an inch and a half of rain. During the storms I ran outdoors several times to “save” some potted plants that were quickly being inundated by the heavy rain. We were able to collect over a thousand gallons of water from the rainfall.

I had to laugh later at my wet shoes, socks and shirts which came from my mad dashes between thunder claps to save drowning potted plants, because God had taken care of our immediate needs – and He always does. The weather bureau predictions of rain were correct, but the images on the radar maps which I trusted missed the rain until after it began to fall. 

God surprises me so often that in addition to saying that God is a  “God of Love” perhaps I should start saying that He is also “a God of surprises and unexpected blessings when I most need them”. I needed those surprises and blessings that were brought by the rainfall yesterday. So praise and thanksgiving to our good and gracious God who takes care of his little flock – and especially me.

An inspiration about Mary as a mother

During one of the morning Liturgy of the Hours, one of the first psalms to be read and prayed was psalm 95. The psalm begins this way:

“Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord;

Let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation,

Let us greet him with thanksgiving;

Let us joyfully sing psalms to him….

As I read the psalm I imagined that the Blessed Mother often sang this psalm to her Son in the quiet hours of the morning, perhaps when she nursed Him. The psalm continues praising God for His work of creation and reminds us that everything belongs to Him for He made everything.

The psalm then continues:

“Come, let us bow down in worship;

Let us kneel before the Lord who made us.

For he is our God,

And we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.”

As we read and pray the psalms we see many of the topics which Jesus used in his preaching. I wonder if many of these motifs became ingrained in His heart and mind during those early years of His life when He spent so much time in His mother’s presence.

The extraordinary life of Mr. Doofus – part one

Peeps

When our daughter was in the seventh grade, her science class hatched out some chicken eggs as part of a science project. As the school year was drawing to a close, our daughter asked if she could bring home one of the chicks – a cute little peep. Since we lived outside the city and had a few acres of land, we decided to “adopt” the baby chick. For some weeks the little peep lived his life in a box under a light to keep our baby chicken warm.

Original chicken coop

Aware that our growing peep would need a more secure and spacious home than the cardboard box he or she was living in, my husband started building a chicken coop. We still have that original coop, having moved it to our newer home. Over the years the original coop has deteriorated as you can see – it was once painted a bright spring green. It was quite a nice coop “in the day” when the wood and the paint were fresh. Now the old coop is used for storing wood to keep it dry for when it is needed.


His Majesty, Doofus the Great

Day by day the little peep grew. Of course, we had hoped the chick was a hen – my husband had dreams of fresh eggs for breakfast. But as luck would have it, the chick was a male. Sexing baby chickens as we later discovered, is a special art and not one which we have ever learned. As the chick continued to grow and then started to crow, we knew that our cute little chick was a rooster. My husband named the little rooster “Doofus”.

Having adopted a rooster, it was necessary to find some hens. Roosters have no known use except to make noise, fertilize the hens’ eggs and sadly, to serve as food. We were able to purchase two young hens of laying age and named them Henny Penny and Miss Chicken. Now we had a happy chicken coop! Day by day our hens gave us fresh eggs – one apiece. Minute by minute Doofus let us know how special he really was with every loud song he sang. 

We purchased books about chicken husbandry as we were curious about how often roosters crowed, the best food to buy for raising chickens and when to be concerned about the chickens’ health. Roosters crowed, according to one book, when the barometric pressure changed; another book said roosters crow in the early morning when the sunlight appears over the horizon. Given how often our rooster crowed, we surmised that the “instruction books” were either all wrong, or we had a rather remarkable rooster. We know now that Roosters crow when they have a mind to – even in the dark. Doofus was usually quiet at night, but a passing car on the dirt road alongside our property late at night could encourage Doofus to raise his voice in song. Once Doofus started singing, it was hard to stop him, such was his desire to “proclaim glory to God.”

Doofus, Henny Penny and Ms Chicken

It became apparent that two hens for this incredibly busy and exceptional rooster were not enough. Due to the way roosters “impregnate” hens, the hens started looking raggedy with lots of their feathers missing from all the rooster’s activities. So before long we bought a few more hens to keep Doofus occupied and happy.

We purchased a few different breeds of chickens because their feathers or the colors of their eggs were pretty, but we quickly learned that Rhode Island Reds, also called Production Reds, were best for making eggs. Although Leghorns also lay quite a few eggs, their low weight allows them to “fly the coop” whenever they have a desire to do so – which it turns out, they often have the desire to do.

Is this a hen? Doofus looks
confused
Whoa! Not a hen!

The original coop quickly became too small for our growing flock. My husband built an even larger coop which connected by a wire covered tunnel to the vegetable garden behind a redwood fence that surrounded a storage yard. Within the storage yard we had a small metal shed for garden implements, a laundry line where I hung loads of laundry several times a week, trash barrels, a covered shed for our tractor and other power equipment and the new, larger chicken house. Life was interesting and good for all of us – chickens and humans.

We have arrived safely! – Joseph

Dear Family,

I am sending this short letter with a distant relative whom Mary and I met in Bethlehem – Simon bar Josiah. Simon has promised to deliver this letter to all of our family when he travels soon to Nazareth. 

On the way to Bethlehem – F. McDonald

Our journey to Bethlehem was difficult for Mary, since she was so heavy with child. We could not keep up with the caravans traveling to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Mary rode our donkey for the bulk of our travel which slowed the pace of our journey to Bethlehem. We were often alone during the days and nights of our travel, but our merciful and gracious Lord protected and sustained us. Mary and I arrived safely even though the journey took much longer than we had anticipated.

Mary and I could not find proper lodging when we arrived, since so many people had arrived in Bethlehem ahead of us. A kind soul pointed out the grottos on the hillside outside of Bethlehem where sheep were sometimes sheltered at night. We were able to find an empty cave which was a warm and quiet place, and Mary was delivered safely of our Son. We named the child Yeshua at His circumcision. He is a strong and healthy child.

I was able to find lodging for us in Bethlehem a few days after the child’s birth, as most of those who had come for the census had now returned home. It is a small living space, but it is quiet and secure. Both Mary and the child are doing well. God’s Providence has been guiding us throughout all this time of difficulty. May the Lord be praised!

Purification of Mary

I have found work to help support us while we await the time of Mary’s Purification. Mary and I look forward to returning home to Nazareth once this time of waiting is over. The child will be stronger as will Mary, so I am hopeful that the return journey to Nazareth will be safe for both Mary and the child.

Please give our sincere thanks to our new found relative Simon when he visits with you. He has been helping our little family more than I can say in this short letter.

Affectionately,

Joseph

Hearing the Voice of God

Home in Round Rock

In the early 1970’s my family purchased a bluebonnet covered 4 acre lot on a windy hill just south of Round Rock, Texas and had a home built there. We lived on that property for more than 20 years. The only trees on the property were a few scraggly hackberries along the barbed wire fence bordering the dirt road which ran by the property. Eventually we were able to plant several live oaks and coax them to survive in the heavy clay like soil.

From the back porch of the home we could see the spire of the Palm Valley Lutheran Church along Highway 79 in Round Rock. To the south of the home we could see another hill, similar to ours – mostly barren, except for the fence line hugging hackberry trees and the ever present scrub grass. Just south of that hill was the growing suburban city of Pflugerville.

What was most interesting about our location on that windy hill was our being able to enjoy the majesty of the changing sky. In the fall we could watch as the growing thunderclouds, which announced cold fronts, marched slowly our way. In the summer we could see the thunderclouds coming in off the Gulf of Mexico bringing much needed rain to Central Texas.

Summers in Round Rock

Our home in Round Rock had a well which served us for our water supply. When we first moved to that windy hill, the water level in the well was less than 50 feet down. As the years passed and Round Rock expanded, the pump had to be dropped again and again, as the city drew water from the same aquifer, until our pump was nearly 350 feet below ground level – quite a change in 20 years.

Summers in Central Texas are usually quite dry, so we limited outdoor watering during the summer season. Eventually we added a 5000 gallon water tank to draw and store water when it was more available during the spring. There were few options for us if we ran out of water. It might have been possible to buy water and have it delivered, but even that was questionable during the dry summers.

The lack of water and the infrequent summer rains led to great anxiety for me. One spring I had planted marigolds in the small planting area near our front sidewalk. The plants thrived and the blooms were glorious in the spring, but once summer came, the plants began to dry out and die.

Planting area for marigolds

I prayed daily that God would send us one of the summer storms from the Gulf of Mexico to supplement our meager water supply. The storms often came tantalizingly close, just to skirt around us when the clouds seemed just a mile away and reform and rain heavily north of us over Round Rock. This scenario played out day after day until one day I lost all hope to save my precious blooming marigolds. 

I ripped the plants out of the ground in a fit of anger as I saw another of the summer storms approach. I said to myself – “once again it won’t rain here, I don’t know why I even asked the Lord to help.” In my head I heard the following words loudly and clearly: “You don’t think I can do it, do you, Franciene?” The voice was from Someone who seemed to be laughing, as if God Himself was amazed at my lack of faith and my frequent emotional outbursts, and found it amusing.

Marigolds

Having recognized that the voice came from outside of me and Who was speaking to me, I wanted to find the nearest black hole and lose myself in it. Not having such a hole nearby I asked for the Lord’s forgiveness and have never forgotten the lesson He taught me that day.

The rain didn’t come on that day, but the storms did rain on us the next day. Sadly, It was too late for the marigolds, as by then I had tossed the dried out nearly dead plants in the recycle bin.

The questions I ask myself as I remember this incident: “ Have I grown in trust of the Lord since then? Do I understand that God answers prayers – and always answers prayers – according to His schedule and His will and not mine?”

I am still overly emotional. I want things when I want them. I am impatient and selfish. In short, I am a flawed human being and always will be. I repent each night of my thoughts and deeds which did not come up to God’s will for me. I frequently disappoint our God, but for some unknowable reason, He still loves me. For that I am thankful and always will be.

Dirt Road looking east south east in Round Rock

Finding peace and my place in the world

Poppies in acrylic and watercolor – F. McDonald

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I have always been puzzled by this passage from Scripture. Of all the men who have ever lived or will live, our Lord Jesus had a heavy burden. He had to carry the sins of all of us. How could His burden be light when He carried the cross with our sins to His death?

Recently I read a reflection written by “Servant of God Walter J. Ciszek, S. J.” and I began to understand more of what Jesus was saying. Father Ciszek was convicted of being a “Vatican spy” during World War II and spent 23 years in a Soviet prison.

Father Ciszek wrote “ It was the grace quite simply to look at our situation from “God’s viewpoint” rather than ours….Not the will of God as we might wish it, or as we might have envisioned it, or as we thought in our poor human wisdom it ought to be. But rather the will of God as God envisioned it and revealed it to us each day in the created situations with which He presented us. His will for us was the 24 hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time….”

Jesus didn’t worry about the Passion which was to come, about the tremendous burden which He would carry to the cross. Jesus lived each day in His Father’s will, dealing with the people, places and events which God the Father has placed before Him. 

So what do Jesus’ words mean for me? How do I use what Jesus said in the above passage to reflect on my life and be at peace with the way my life has unfolded?

Growing up in a warm and loving family, I saw my future as being full of promise, and it was, because I was born and grew up in an amazing country and was given all that was necessary to make that future for myself. However, the success which I dreamed about was not the success which I achieved. 

I grew up thinking that I was the “bright star” in my family, the one, who like my dad, was the smartest of all of my siblings. While I hoped as a young person to have a prestigious job, to be hailed by others as a great success, my life turned out differently. I became a wife and a mother and later a grandmother, a volunteer in many and sometimes unusual ways in the communities in which I have lived. I worked in my home, caring for my family and the environment in which I lived.

I struggled from time to time with the career which I chose when I married my husband. It was not a career that I dreamed about during my youth, not a career that I ever wanted. I often hoped over the years I have lived to escape from this  homemaking “career”, because I thought myself more suited to some other work which seemed more important to me and to the society in which I live. I often thought of seeking outside employment, of finding that perfect job, a job that would provide me with the success and public adulation which I wanted. There was always something standing in the way of my “escape” whether it was the immediate needs of my family, or as the years passed, the lack of advanced education which might be needed for that “perfect” job, and then finally diminished physical ability to do something different than what I had chosen so many years ago.

I have come to see that God had a Hand in my choice of a life’s career. I have come to see that the life that God helped me to choose for myself was perfect for me. I am not famous and will never be so – very few people know my name or ever will. I will never have the public adulation I thought that I wanted as a young person. But I have had the opportunity to develop innate skills and abilities I would not have developed had I worked outside my home. I have not been successful in the world as the world counts success, and yet, looking back over these many years of my life, I have found happiness.

Christ’s burden was light, because He did everything He did out of love. Jesus did only as much as His Father set before Him each day. When each day was over, Jesus thanked and praised the Father for all of the moments of His day. Jesus knew that He was successful in the eyes of the Father, because He had obeyed the Father’s will for that single day – and each day of His life. May I always do the same.

A Simple Gift of Bread

Years ago I made multiple loaves of bread to be given to my family and friends as a Christmas gift – that Christmas was at least twenty five years ago. Some of the loaves were the standard size for home baked bread of 9 inches by 5 inches, some breads were smaller at around 5 inches by 3 inches. Each person receiving a gift of home baked bread was given several small loaves of differing varieties with the addition of one or two larger loaves. The loaves were all wrapped in foil, tied with a pretty ribbon and presented in a gift basket. It had taken multiple days to bake the different recipes, and then to wrap and choose which loaves went to each individual. It was an enjoyable experience thinking about each person who would receive the bread and which loaves might be special to them. The gift was a surprise to each to whom it was given and was well received by all.

I started thinking about this gift of bread as I was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. I found a half dozen of the small loaf pans (5″x3″) and another seven of the larger pans that were used to bake the bread so many years ago. I haven’t used the smaller bread pans in quite a few years, so they were out of sight, stacked behind other serving dishes and casserole and baking pans. I still use some of the larger bread pans, as I bake bread during the winter months. I haven’t decided what to do with the smaller bread pans. It is difficult to give away things that have a pleasant memory still attached to them.

An old bread recipe given to me by a long departed friend, which had been handed down to her from her mother, provides enough dough to make seven loaves of bread at a time. Mixing that quantity of dough all at once is a physical challenge now, though it has always been a great exercise kneading that quantity of dough. I made my friend’s bread recipe a few months ago and decided then that I wouldn’t make it again – this recipe was the one reason I used to hold on to so many large bread pans.

In the midst of thinking about all these bread pans, their history and the tasty gift breads which I once made, I couldn’t help thinking about the “special bread” which God shares with us each and every time we attend Mass. While the “bread from heaven” is shaped into small, flat disks and is generally tasteless, the “bread from heaven” is a more valuable gift than what I had given away so many years ago. 

The “bread from heaven” (Consecrated Host) is very small – only about 1 inch or so in diameter and yet it carries with it an eternal promise. The plain, unleavened Consecrated Bread is our “food for the journey” of our earthly life and is meant to sustain us as we continue our pilgrimage to heaven. Like the ancient Hebrews who were given manna in the desert to sustain them during their journey to the Promised Land, we too have been gifted by God with sustenance for the journey.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6 we read the “Bread of Life discourse” during which Jesus identifies himself as being the “bread from heaven”. Many people turned away from following Jesus after He had said the following: “unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

During Jesus’ final Passover Supper – we don’t know how long it was after that incident above occurred – we read the following: (Luke 22:19-20) “Then he (Jesus) took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying “this is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.””

The Last Supper

In the Old Testament we are told that Jews were forbidden from drinking the blood of an animal, as life was considered to be in the blood and that life was created by and belonged to God. I have often wondered what the Apostles thought of what Jesus said and did during that last meal. Did anyone recoil at the thought of the body and blood which was being offered in the form of bread and wine or look to the others present for an explanation of what was transpiring during that meal? Were the Apostles remembering other covenants between God and the patriarchs? Did they remember that “blood” was often involved in the sealing of a covenant, yet none of those old covenants required the drinking of blood but rather the sprinkling of it? 

After the death of Jesus those puzzling words of His must have been in sharp focus for those who had been present at that “Last Supper”.  When did the Apostles understand what Jesus was telling them? Did the Apostles connect the New Covenant which Jesus had spoken of with the Old Covenant between God and the Jewish people? Did the Apostles understand the connection between the lamb’s blood on the doorways of Egypt and the blood of Christ poured out on the Cross? How long before the Apostles truly knew that our freedom from sin was purchased by the sacrifice of Christ?

After Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, the Apostles repeated often the ceremony with the bread and wine which Jesus initiated, believing that the words of Jesus not only kept the Lord present with them but by eating the bread and drinking the wine, they were helped on their life’s journey. Each time the first Christians ate the bread and drank the wine, they were renewing the “New Covenant” which Jesus had established, the New Covenant which had made peace between God and man and opened the gates to heaven.

Consecrated Hosts for First Communion

As a child preparing to celebrate my First Holy Communion, I was taught that the Consecrated Host is truly the Lord’s body. And as a child I accepted freely and eagerly what I was taught. Only after many years did I begin to fully recognize that what I was taught as a child is true – perhaps more true than anything else in our broken world.

Jesus is present to me in the Eucharist – the Consecrated Bread and Wine – and continues to love and sustain me as I make my journey in this life. During these last 15 or so years when I have grown stronger in my faith, I have begun to see how Jesus has touched and renewed my heart over and over again through this gift of bread. What appears to the human eye as just a simple bread is truly a gift of heaven. Day by day, even hour by hour, in Catholic Churches around the world, God continues to feed His children with this life sustaining, miraculous bread. How blessed we are to have so generous a God!

The Red Candle

How strange the inside of a Catholic Church must seem to those who visit one for the first time! There are stained glass windows, holy water fonts by all the doors, statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and sometimes a variety of saints statues, religious paintings, stations of the cross plaques along the walls, a crucifix, an altar and a gold or carved wooden box in the center, just behind the altar. 

Interior of Catholic Church

The gold or wooden box is called the Tabernacle, and it is the most important part of the Church. Usually hanging from the ceiling or on a stand next to the Tabernacle is a red glass candle holder. The red glass holder has a flame burning inside when the Consecrated Hosts are present in the Tabernacle. Catholics believe that the Consecrated Hosts are the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Last evening when listening to an online lecture, the presenter mentioned a stoplight – the red light which we see at every major intersection. When the stoplight is red, we know that there may be danger present. We have to wait our turn to proceed. After hearing the presenter’s words about the stoplight, my mind mysteriously jumped to the red glass candle holder in the Church. I saw a connection between the red glass candle and the red stoplight even though they are entirely different things. They also have entirely different meanings – or do they?

Tabernacle

Several years ago my daughter faced a difficult surgery. Since it was day surgery, I had volunteered to stay at the hospital and bring my daughter home once the surgery was completed. After the staff had taken my daughter to the surgery suite, I was told to wait in the large waiting area where the surgeon would speak to me after the surgery. The waiting room was very crowded and noisy, as it was early in the day and most surgeries were done in the morning.

I was worried about my daughter. The outcome of this dangerous surgery could make my daughter’s life much more difficult – she was and still is a single mom with a young son to raise. I tried to pray while I sat in the waiting area, but the noise level was too high to concentrate. I decided to look for the hospital chapel and spend some time there. The chapel was a stark and cold place, sparsely furnished with a very contemporary look to it. There was nothing inviting in the room. I took a seat in the back row and began to look around, trying to quiet myself so that I could lift my heart in prayer. In the far right corner was a carved wooden box and just above the box was a red glass candle holder. There was light coming from the flaming candle. I began to cry, as I knew then that I was not alone. The Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ,  was there in the Tabernacle with me to accompany and comfort me, as I waited for the result of my daughter’s surgery. I spent some time in the chapel, though I don’t remember how long I was there. When I returned to the waiting room, it was nearly empty and now quiet. Some time later the doctor came to tell me that all had gone well with the surgery and that my daughter would be fine.

Interior of St. Helen’s at Easter

As I pondered the image of the red glass candle last evening while the lecturer continued his discussion, it occurred to me that like a red stoplight, I should stop and wait when I see that there is a flame in the red glass candle holder. Rather than being a sign of danger as the red stoplight is, the red glass candle in our Catholic Church is an invitation. The Lord Jesus is inviting me (and all His children) to “stop and wait” and be quiet in His Presence. No matter what my problems are, no matter how I am feeling, He is with me. I need not be afraid.

A Psalm for our time

As part of an assignment for my weekly Bible study, each of us were encouraged to write our own Psalm. Given the times we are living in and through, an appeal to our gracious and merciful God is needed.

You have always been our shepherd.

Lord, God of Hosts.

You feed us and watch over us.

Your gather Your children in Your Arms,

And keep us close to Your Heart.

Ravenous packs of wolves surround us now.

They fence us in and seek to enslave us.

They would devour and destroy us.

We are alone and afraid.

But You, O Mighty God

You hold all things in Your Hands.

All the world is Yours,

For You have created and sustain it.

Come down from Your Heavenly throne.

Scatter and destroy the wolves who threaten Your flock.

Lead us once again to Your pastures where we will be safe.

We lift up our hearts to You this day

And praise You for Your goodness and mercy.