Lent Day 42 and 43: The Answer To Everything

Here’s a funny observation I made back in Advent of 2011

Interesting connection b/w Matthew’s family tree and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…Matthew mentions the number 14 three times to represent the number of generations b/w Abraham and David, David to the Babylonian Exile, and the Exile to the birth of Our Lord. 14 generations pass in between these 3 huge events in Hebrew history…14×3=42.

So why am I talking about Christmas so early in the year?

Because you can’t have Christmas without Easter. And vice versa. During this season of Lent, we look for hope within the desert, waiting for the rain to come and make the flowers bloom. Even when the worst of humanity shows itself, the best of humanity rises out of the ashes and shows the world that there is good.

I don’t know where this came from, but I heard it said that a life is defined by the line between the year of your birth and the year of your death. What’s unique about Jesus was that he was literally born to die. But the good news is that death isn’t the end of the story. To quote one of my favorite songs: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Christ’s life began and ended…but three days later, there’s a new beginning.

Lent Day 41: Blood Moon

It’s no coincidence that Passover and Holy Week take place around the same time. Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his apostles the night before his death, after all.

But what if I told you that there was another connection between Passover of this year and the day that Jesus died?

EWTN sometimes airs this documentary called Star of Bethlehem around the time of Advent or Christmas because it talks about whether or not the Star of Bethlehem was real and if so, what exactly it was. (Spoilers: The Star of Bethlehem was real. Watch the documentary and find out how.)

But this documentary also shows something else: what the sky looked like (astronomically speaking) on the day that Jesus died. It’s revealed that on the day Jesus died, a lunar eclipse occurred.

A lunar eclipse occurring shortly after the start of Passover. The blood of the lamb washing over a pure white surface. Sounds familiar.

God’s timing can be seriously uncanny sometimes.

Lent Day 39: No Greater Disappointment

Recently, I met someone who told me “There is no greater disappointment than Christ on the cross.”

I want you to meditate on what that exactly means.

Jesus is God made flesh, 100% God and 100% human. So when you look at a crucifix, realize that it’s God experiencing death. God the Son was dead. No apocalypse, no crime, and no betrayal could hurt more than the idea of God the Son suffering, bleeding, being publicly humiliated.

What does that mean for us?

To quote a Chris Sligh song: “Everything is a lesser pain compared to You.”

No matter what in your life has happened to you or what you’re going through, God will understand because He experienced it. Maybe He didn’t experience it the way you specifically did, but like us, he was betrayed by someone he thought he could trust. Like us, He suffered humiliation when He did nothing wrong. Like us, He was abandoned by those he loved except for a small number of family and friends.

Offer your disappointments, struggles, and pain to the Lord. He will give you rest with time. It won’t happen right away, but I can promise you that it will happen.

Lent Day 38: The Voice In the Silence

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Many a Catholic identifies this as a refrain to a familiar psalm.

But what is God’s voice? We can’t exactly hear it!

Maybe the reason we can’t hear it is because we’re not listening to it. But we’re not the only ones. There’s a famous passage about Elijah trying to find God in 1 Kings 19: 11-12

‘Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.’

The last four words in this verse are more well known as “a still small voice.”

Mother Teresa said that “In the silence of our hearts, God speaks.”

Holy Week is a period that consists of more silence than celebration after Palm Sunday. The readings are more solemn and many people spend time meditating on Jesus’s passion and death.

But how can we distinguish God’s voice from other voices, even in the silence of our hearts?

It starts by knowing what God would say. 9 times out of 10, what God wants is pretty much the opposite of what the world says would make us happy. And Satan, Father of Lies that he is, tries to make us think that he is God’s voice by offering us everything we think we want on a silver platter.

Tucker Max, famous for being the epitome of frat boy dreams everywhere, says “The devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for.”

While God wants to give us what makes us happy, a lot of the time, what God wants to give us is not something we expect. It’s often the last thing we expect. Think of all the Bible stories you know. It usually starts with a reluctant hero who at first thinks he can’t, but decides to do God’s will anyway. Okay, that’s also part of the Hero’s Journey, but you get my point. There’s a reason why people always say “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Today, I want you to spend time in silent meditation and I pray that you hear God’s voice during this Lenten season.

Lent Day 33 and 34: The A Word

I know. I’m being more inconsistent than a soap opera lately. I have no excuses.

But it brings up a commonly asked question: Is fasting, prayer, and almsgiving required on Sundays?

Technically no. However, there’s still a type of fasting that goes on during Sunday Mass. The Gloria isn’t sung, for one thing. Some churches choose to pray the Apostle’s Creed instead of the Nicene Creed. The kyrie and Agnus Dei are sung in their original language (Greek and Latin, respectively). But there’s also something missing. It starts with the letter “A” and means “He is Risen.”

It’s “Alleluia.” 

Why don’t we say it during Mass during Lent? Because Lent is supposed to reflect on Jesus’s time in the desert along with his Passion and death. It’s also a common Catholic practice to not say “Alleluia” at all until Easter arrives. It’s kind of the equivalent of keeping a surprise party secret.

And if there are changes made in the Mass during Lent, we have to apply these changes to our Lenten resolutions as well. So don’t think that just because it’s Sunday, you can have your cake and eat it. The cake is a lie anyway.

Lent Day 31: What is Love?

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection talked about how compassion and forgiveness became God’s weapons as Jesus hung upon the cross. The reflection is titled “The Weapons of Love.”

I’ve written about love on this blog before. But there’s always two questions that I keep asking when it comes to people who write stories of love: Do they portray a healthy, wonderful, loving relationship accurately? And if they didn’t, why?

Take JK Rowling for example. She created relationships in her books, but recently had second thoughts about one of the relationships she created. Also, in my very biased but hopefully honest opinion, I don’t think she convinced her readers that James and Lily were truly, happily married to each other given that we are given little about them aside from stuff other characters said about James and Lily and Snape’s flashbacks, which show that James was a bully. In my opinion, I don’t think that Rowling is a romantic. She was divorced at the time she started writing Harry Potter and by the time she married again, she was world-famous and writing Book 5. It’s hard to find a normal relationship in between then, but that’s just my speculation.

On the other extreme, we have the author of the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight series is entertaining, but many critics have pointed out that the relationship between Bella and Edward isn’t a healthy one. And yet, Meyer’s stories became a household name for a while, leading to the creation of Fifty Shades of Grey and other stories revolving around relationships with one partner being dominant and another partner being submissive.

It doesn’t help that television doesn’t portray relationships accurately, either. Just ask the fans of How I Met Your Mother about how they felt about the series finale. (I’m still hurting from it, by the way.) So often, in television and film, characters get caught up in the sweeping ideas on what a relationship should be like, caught up in the drama or the idea of a person or objectifying a person rather than actually loving the person for who he or she is.

Going-to-be-a-Saint-Soon Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body provides a middle ground between a detached viewpoint of romance and the overly dramatic portrayal of love we see in films and television. Click on the link to read the whole series. But if you’re like me and you don’t see yourself as someone who really understands theology, there’s a book by Christopher West that introduces Theology of the Body in ways that the everyman can understand. West’s book was actually the first book I read this year.

What do you think makes a relationship healthy and loving?

Lent Days 27-29: Waiting In The Desert

There were a few reasons I didn’t write the past few days.

Monday’s Lenten Reflection talks about how posture can make a difference when it comes to prayer. Fr. Robert Barron quotes psychologist William James who says “…it is not so much sadness that makes us cry as crying that makes us feel sad.” Without going too much into detail as to why, I spent Monday night crying. And what hurt more than the crying was a feeling of disappointment in the world as a whole and a sense of despair. God was far from my mind that night, in spite of the fact that I went to Mass the previous morning. I neglected my prayers and drowned myself in distractions.

Yesterday’s Lenten Reflection asks: “Have I tried to live on something other than God?” That answer was a resounding “Yes.” In spite of me praying to make up for the previous night’s neglect, I felt like I was saying my prayers instead of feeling them. And I went back to my distractions, wishing that the past couple days never happened. I tried to focus making something positive out of the sadness I felt, but negativity is a very heavy emotion. God felt very far yesterday. The worst part was that for the past two days, I didn’t even feel like taking pictures for my 365grateful project or updating this blog for a progress report. (I’ll make up for that by doing a progress report post on Easter.) 

The reason for that was that I felt some serious doubt. I knew in my head that God probably understood how I felt, but He himself felt so far away that it was hard for me to believe that God could understand the specifics of my emotions. I struggled with sleep for the past few days due to my sadness and last night, I could only pray how I felt. There wasn’t any formality in my prayers, just me venting to God out loud and in my thoughts about my sadness and despair. “Help my unbelief,” I said.

Today’s Lenten Reflection seems to reflect how I feel right now. I’m in a waiting period in more ways than one. And as I look back on the past couple days, I realize that right now, I feel spiritually dry as a side effect of my impatience. Patience was never my strength, as I said before. But thankfully, the Jesuits have a prayer for what I’m feeling. For now, I can pray for the desire for God’s presence. And even when I don’t want that desire for God’s presence, I can pray for the desire for the desire of God’s presence. For now, that’s all I can do, and that’s enough for me and for God.

Lent Day 26: Temporary Home

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection today reminds me of a CS Lewis quote:

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I had the chance to visit my alma mater yesterday, a place that I called home for four years. But I knew that eventually, I had to graduate and move on. I couldn’t stay there forever, even though I really loved being a student. And every high school student can attest to the fact that no matter how much they liked or hated high school, there was always a point that they knew that the high school life was only temporary.

There’s always a point in our lives where we wonder “Is this all that there is? Isn’t there more to life?” I know that it’s something a lot of motivational speakers and self-help writers say. But it is a question we all ask. It’s why people wonder if there’s life on other planets. It’s why we try and gain new experiences. It’s why we try to find satisfaction in things that ultimately can’t satisfy us in the long run.

We were created for Heaven, but we were given life on Earth as a preparation. Why we’re not in Heaven in the first place is a mystery.

It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz. We are put into this strange world with the desire to find home and we learn a lot about ourselves along the way. And what some don’t realize is that everyone has the opportunity to have a personal relationship with God, just like how Dorothy didn’t realize that her red slippers were her key home all along.

Having a personal relationship with God comes from following God’s will. However, following God’s will isn’t a cure-all, nor is it easy. Finding home never is.

Lent Day 25: Pushed to the Limit

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection asks “What Can The Saints Teach us About Lent?”

In his reflection, Fr. Barron says that a lot of saints go through a period of “extremes” to try and imitate Christ’s 40 days in the desert. Sometimes, though, God puts these saints through an extreme period when they least expect it.

While St. Ignatius of Loyola chose to spend a year in a cave, fasting and turning into Bigfoot, Mother Teresa had a period where she felt so far away from God and her faith was constantly put to the test. She called it the “Dark Night of the Soul,” taking inspiration from St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila who both went through a similar trial.

Fr. Barron also mentions the 30 Day Spiritual Exercises which, for those who don’t know, are a series of meditations that involve placing oneself within a certain event in the Gospels. It’s a very imaginative exercise and they can be pretty intense. However, for Soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II, he endured his own intense spiritual trial in the form of Parkinson’s disease.

Sometimes we choose to push ourselves to the limit and other times, God pushes us. It all depends on the person. I’ve stated on this blog before that God doesn’t just think of the world as a whole, but he also thinks about every individual person and what each individual needs. Lent is not just a tradition for Christianity as a whole, but can also be a period of tests, trials, or great changes for each and every Christian.

But the good news is that as of tomorrow, we’ll be halfway done with Lent! To quote Bon Jovi:

We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got 
‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference 
If we make it or not 
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot 
For love – we’ll give it a shot 

Whooah, we’re half way there 
Livin’ on a prayer 
Take my hand and we’ll make it – I swear 
Livin’ on a prayer 

Only for Christians, it is a difference if we make it through Lent and come out a different person or not. But the good news is that because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not alone. We carry each other as we carry our individual crosses. We are all living on a prayer, but it’s not a bad thing.

So now that we’re almost halfway there, tell me how Lent has been going for you? What have you learned about yourself or about what it means to be a Christian?

Lent Day 24: Psalms and Feelings

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection talks about keeping Christ at the center of our lives. Now that phrase “center of our lives” rings a bell. Why? Because there’s a song with that title, called “Center of My Life,” which is often sung at Mass. It’s actually based on Psalm 16

It’s interesting how little people really know about Psalms. Psalms are stereotyped as “praise and worship” prayers, when in reality, Psalms are actually lyrics to a variety of songs, songs that fit whatever emotions we may feel. One of my favorite books is God, I Have Issues: 50 Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel. Even if you don’t feel like praying, there’s a prayer for that. The chapters are listed in order of emotions and each emotion lists some Scripture suggestions. There’s a Psalm listed for almost every emotion in this book. 

To demonstrate, I will take this idea from Tumblr: What if the Psalms had GIFs?

NOTE: IF YOU HAVE EPILEPSY, PLEASE STOP READING! GIFs CAN TRIGGER EPILEPSY!

Psalm 51: 3-4

“Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.”

Psalm 22: 2-3 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
You are far from my plea and the cry of my distress.
O my God, I call by day and you give no reply;
I call by night and I find no peace.”

Psalm 149: 1-3

“Sing to the LORD a new song,

his praise in the assembly of the faithful.

Let Israel be glad in its maker,

the people of Zion rejoice in their king.

Let them praise his name in dance…”

image

And my personal favorite, Psalm 139

“I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.”

You get the idea.

So the next time you want to pray, pick a Psalm that you feel relates to what you’re going through. Pray it. And if you like it, google “Liturgy of the Hours.” It’s a really cool form of prayer that uses the Psalms (along with other prayers and Scripture readings) as prayers during different times of the day.