He 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.’
St. Teresa of Avila says: “Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone changes us. Patience gains all things. If you have God, you will want for nothing. God alone suffices.”
It is so amazing that you can go to Mass day after day and then one day God can show you something that has been there all along; that moment of grace can change your life forever. You will never be the same. That is what happened to me one day as Fr. Ring raised the Holy Host, Christ’s Body, Soul and Divinity, and then the cup of Christ’s Precious Blood in adoration at daily Mass one day. God spoke to me as if from the Last Supper, “Then He 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.’ I reflected about that sentence. As the days went by I began to learn a truth about growth in Christ; on the journey to maturity there is a road called holiness, if you chose it. It is a road that will take you to the very heart of God; if you let Him.
“How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life. And few ever find it.”(Mathew 7-13:14)
Let’s face it ladies, when we first come to give our whole heart to God and embrace our Catholic faith, He blesses us. We walk around with a permanent smile on our face. We are sure we are His favorite because we know without a doubt that God loves us more than anyone else on this earth. We secretly name ourselves, “God’s Dimple Darling!” We sing out loud, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine, His banner over me is love.” We are waiting patiently of course for the “Coat of Many Colors” to arrive at our door via UPS from Heaven. Yes, at first God blesses us! We are blessed indeed! You see before God makes us Holy, He makes us whole!
Then after a long season of grace (unmerited favorite) God begins to call us to a deeper walk with Him; better known as maturity. We begin to realize that the Christian walk is not all about me, my way, or being God’s Dimple Darling! No, rather it is about Christ in us as our hope of glory, being robed in His righteous and decreasing in sin, self-righteousness and pride. Then if we allow Him, God will accept our surrendered, “Yes,” to break us. It is in this season of testing, trials and tribulation that we begin to know God for our self. God’s Word says in Hosea, “I lead you to the desert to speak to your heart.” I must admit, as a new committed Catholic Christian, I used to panic when God led me to the desert. I too thought that God had left me alone to die of thirst. I learned to thirst after His Word, the Sacraments and wise council. I learned to rest in the adoration chapel instead of in front of the television. I learned that God will never leave me or forsake me. I learned to walk on the water by not just quoting the scriptures but by putting the Word of God into action. I have found thru maturity that the desert is a place of grace. Our Heavenly Father is the perfect parent, whose job is to mold us into the image of His dear son Jesus. In the book of Proverbs it says, “He will instruct us in the way we should go. He will guide us with His eye upon us.” We are to learn obedience. We can learn it the easy way, or we can learn it the hard way. While in the desert God will send His people a “GPS” in the form of the voice of His Holy Spirit. We must if we are a desert traveler, attune are ear to His voice. The Holy Spirit leads us, He guides us, and He lives inside us. God sends St. Michael and our guardian angel to protect us from all harm. Our job is to listen and to obey.
In the desert God sends us manna, Heavenly bread, to feed our souls as we read the Word of God. This is the banquet that God has prepared for us in the desert. He calls each of us to the banquet eating table at one time or another. Psalm 23 says, “He prepares us a banquet in the presence of our enemies, our cup overflows.” If we be still and know that He is God, and seat ourselves at His banquet eating table, we will begin to appreciate that His banner over us is love. We will see the choice foods that He provides and we will savor the moment. What is on the menu? We may be fed the bread of suffering, or the gift of persecution, which may be served to us from our closest friends. Job was served that meal and so was Jesus. God may dish up a heaping helping of humility. Eat up because I can assure you, it will bear good fruit in due season. It will bear the fruit of character which will last a lifetime. On the menu there is also the fruit of long suffering if you choose it. Lastly, you could order some pain or some suffering, as a side dish. I am talking to those who have matured to the point where they understand that in this world we will have many tribulations, but God will deliver us out of them all. Those who have walked long enough to know that He is God and we are not. He is our Lord and we obey out of love for him. We do not tell Him, the potter, how to mold the vessel. Some people think that if we pray with a certain amount of faith that God will do exactly what we want. I do not read the gospel that way myself. I read that the way is narrow and few find it. I read if you want to be my disciple you must take up your cross and follow me. The banquet food is not for everyone because everyone cannot stomach the food.
In the Catholic faith we are blessed to have the truth of redemptive suffering. In order to understand and grasp this truth, you must let the fire fall in the baptism of suffering. This is the purification fire of God’s love. This is found on the highway they call holiness, where few ever enter. You see my brothers and sisters in Christ, “Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God in your heart.” As we empty ourselves of sin and flesh, God’s Spirit fills us. Yes, to overflowing, if we have room for the new wine of the Holy Spirit. We must buy our new wine skins, which were purchased by Christ’s blood on the cross. We purchase them by daily choosing the life of Christ over flesh and death. Everyone knows that you cannot put new wine in old wineskins.
God is near to the broken-hearted. You feel that you are Job until you open up the Word of God and read Job’s story. After you fall on your face in deep repentance you realize that the suffering that you experience is nothing compared to Job’s experience. When you get to the end of the chapter you read the word that Job spoke to God, “I heard about you from my friends, but now I know you for myself.”
It is on the road you will begin to get a glimpse of the meaning of suffering. Suffering is not easy, it is hard. Jesus even prayed, “Lord if this cup can pass by, but your will not mine.” “In great suffering is found great graces.”
You reread the book of Job. As you read it, you quickly see that when Job needed His friends most, even though they were present, he felt all alone. Maybe it was the words they spoke. When he needed a word of encouragement, criticism seemed to flow freely out of the mouth of his friends, hitting Job in the center of His broken heart. My mom would always say, “With friends like that who need enemies.” Job lost everything; children, home, property, health and yes, he felt all alone. The journey you take to the heart of the Father can be a lonely place.
Our Savior Jesus lived that same experience. On the road to Calvary He was all alone. When disaster strikes, sometimes like Jesus at the cross we are almost all alone. Not only do we feel all alone, we are actually like Jesus, alone. Our friends are nowhere to be found. Remember this friend, Jesus is there and Mary is too. Also, those who have been taught to stand at the foot of the cross will be there. Mother Teresa said, “When you are at the cross, you are so close to Jesus that you can kiss Him.” Do you want to be close to Jesus? Do not be afraid to stand at the foot of the cross. You will find that is where the grace is. You will discover that even if you feel you are alone, God is closer to you there at the cross than ever before. You will be in good company because Mary is always willing to stand at the cross with one who is suffering. Do not be afraid, call upon Jesus.
Are you carrying a cross in your life that seems too heavy to bear? Are you falling under the weight of it? Are the crosses that you are carrying during this season of your life too sad to mention? Call upon Jesus! Some crosses you bear for the sake of the kingdom you will never forget; they change you forever. In great suffering is found great graces! The fruit will be good if you take hold of the nail scarred hand of our Savior Jesus and let Him lead you. He will never fail you. Once rooted in your heart, there will reside a compassion for others who suffer that only God can grow there, if you let Him. Suffering tenders a heart, adding to compassion a seed of understanding. This heartfelt compassion will grow in your heart on the road of suffering if we are willing to let Jesus break us. “… unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Yes, our Savior is looking for willing and obedient hearts to fill with His love. Will you give your surrendered, “Yes” to Jesus? John the Baptist said, I must decrease, He must increase. St. Paul said, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me!” Many are willing to walk with Jesus in the good times but how many are willing to walk with him in the bad times, the times of trial and suffering? Just like the marriage covenant teaches us to stick together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, as we walk toward maturity in the Lord we learn to take up our Cross and follow him.
During the time of suffering we need to be a willing vessel, to be broken like the clay pot, to be molded and fired in the crucible of life. On this journey, we begin to know another side of our God. We learn that He is faithful, that He will walk on the water if He has to, to save us. If our boat is sinking he will carry us on his back if he has to bring you to a place of safety. He will hold us in the palm of His hand. We also learn about ourselves, we learn that we are weak, but in our weakness he is strong, that we are human and need not only Him, but we also need the Body of Christ. We learn that grace is unmerited favor, not something we earn. We don’t deserve it. We learn that we need Jesus to daily save us from our sin and from ourselves, not one time, but over and over again. This mission, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if you decide to take it, will bring you right to the heart of God. You will not self-destruct. I promise that you will learn, “I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me, but apart from you Lord, I can do nothing.” You will learn that “I am nothing and you are everything.” Then God will pour you out to love and serve the Body of Christ, both in the Church and in the fallen world. You never know where God will lead you.
Many of God’s chosen ones took the journey on the road of suffering; Elizabeth was barren. Mary was thought of as unwed, and Ruth was a widow. Noah’s wife sailed away from home and had to leave all she knew for a boat ride with a zoo full of animal’s three sons and her husband too. Esther left her people to spend three years at a spa, not a Hebrew kinswoman in sight. Miriam got leprosy and Tamar was raped. These were God’s anointed. These are the women He called to do a work. What is God calling you to do? Will you take the journey with Jesus? Let Jesus bless you! Let Jesus break you. Then let Him pour you out to bring the life of Christ to all you meet.
Will it cost you anything? Oh it will cost you everything! It cost Jesus everything. It cost Mary everything! It cost Job, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul. It cost Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, our modern-day saints and all the saints before us everything; all their time, all their talent and all their treasure. What did they receive in return? There is no comparison to the great graces God will bestow on those who love Him. This world has nothing worthwhile to offer those who walk the way of the cross with a Holy God. On the journey you learn as St. Teresa learned, God alone suffices. But oh my sisters in Christ, I will be honest with you, it is worth the road trip because it is a journey, towards the heart of God. The journey never ends until we come face to face with our Savior in our heavenly home.
I have learned that true virtue does not grow unless it is tested on the path of unbearable suffering and in the crucible of humiliation. Once a seasoned traveler along this path, you will begin to understand with a glimmer of hope the words of Jesus, “If you want to be my disciple, you must give up, home, mother, father, brother and sister; take up your cross and follow me.” I have journeyed to mountaintops of great joy, into valleys of tears and sadness, and through deserts of loneliness, waiting until God parts the Red Sea. I have learned that in the crucible of suffering you get to know God for yourself. He alone will teach you how to walk on the water, if you keep your eyes on Him. When you begin to sink, He will send a lifeboat in the form of other committed followers. No one can walk the journey alone. I learned just as St. Teresa of Avila did, “God alone suffices!” Jesus taught me how to put my trust in Him alone. He taught me how to find joy in His presence and how to find wisdom in His word. He taught me how to walk on the water by keeping my eyes on Him. I walked along the desert path, Jesus and me together. Alone with my Jesus I walked unafraid. There were times that we would stop to gaze upon a rainbow together. Other times my Jesus would shelter me from a storm under the umbrella of His love. I found joy in the adoration chapel, retreats to the beach, the Mass, confession, spiritual reading, interceding with my prayer partners over the phone, in songs of praise, reading scripture, building and serving family, and sitting at the feet of Jesus in my quiet time. I was lonely for people but I was held tightly in the palm of my Father’s hand. Unless you have walked the lonely road with the Savior you will not understand what a grace this was. I was absent from people but present to God. It was in this time of great suffering that great graces were bestowed upon me in abundance. I began almost every daily Mass with my mascara applied to both eyes with the perfection of a make-up artist. By the end of Mass I found tears streaming down both checks while the mascara decorated my face. I wept for conversion of souls. My soul was at the top of that list. You see the closer you get to Jesus the more you realize how much you need a Savior. Your sins are paraded before you day and night constantly reminding you of how much you need Jesus. The price He paid for my sins is no longer just a debt I could not pay but rather a demonstration of agape love thru His amazing grace. Now I no longer try to win His love but I am filled with a joy and thanksgiving for what He has done for me. My life has becomes a thank-you gift to my Abba Daddy, who was and who is and who is to come. In Him I live and move and have my being. In grace I fully pour myself out as the hands of Christ to all I meet. First, of course, I would try to meet the needs of my family, then others. You see, when Jesus fills you, you have to pour it out or you will overflow. I wake up every morning to pray and seek the face of Jesus, and to take a strong hold of his nail scarred hand. I listen for His still small voice; then try to do what He tells me. I know I need Him. In God alone, I place my trust.
St Frances de Sales said, “Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow, the same everlasting Father who cares for you today, will take care of you every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing suffering and He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.”
The word of God says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes to eat from the tree of life.” Invitations have been sent out for the wedding feast of the Lamb.” Bride, are you ready? The King is coming! It may be in a day or it may be in 1000 years, no one knows the day or hour He will arrive. What we do know is we have today to make our hearts ready to receive Him. Let our heart cry “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!” Let’s make our Abba Daddy proud! He gave His all for us; Let us give our all to Him. Bless us, Lord! Break us, Lord! Pour us out, Lord!
St. Therese, the Little Flower, says, “I would like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus because I am too little to climb the rough staircases of perfection. The elevator that must lift me up to heaven is your arms, Jesus!”
Copyright 2016 Ellen Mongan