Category: Meditations

Meditations – May 24, 2017

By Rev. Ray E. Atwood   Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
Love is not automatic
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning; we should love one another (1 Jn. 3:11).
There are lots of “automatics” in our lives, including automatic dish washers, automatic washing machines, and automatic software updates. But some things are not automatic. Love is one of those things. Love is not automatic. Love is not like a glittering jewel, which shows its luster without any effort on our part. Rather, it is like a seed that is planted, grows daily, renews itself through storm and wind, rejoices in its blossoms, thrills to its fruits, dies to itself in winter, and arises to new life in the spring. Love must undergo a continual transformation, or it will become dull and lifeless.
Love must cry or it dies. It thrives on crisis. A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in us. Love is transformed in crisis, such as the birth of a child, sickness, sorrow, quarrels, and even following the death of one’s partner. Love is not like a plain, but instead like a succession of valleys and mountains. The story of love can seem like a roller coaster ride. Love in the spiritual order is not one continual ascent in joy to God. Instead, it is a journey through the thorns and thickets of trials, and struggle against temptation to sin. There would be no resurrection or ascension without a crucifixion.
When Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration saw Our Lord’s face shine like the sun and his garments white as snow, he wanted to stay in the mountain. He offered to set up three tents. But Jesus reminded him that one must pass through the winepress of Gethsemene and the darkness of Calvary before enjoying the sweet wine of resurrection and the light of the empty tomb.
There are two great moments of love in Our Lord’s life: one from Bethlehem to Cana, the other from Cana to Calvary. In the first, Mary appears as His only Mother; in the second she appears as the Mother of all people He would redeem. In the first, she is the mother of Jesus because she calls him “my son.” In the second, she is the mother all people when she calls her “your mother.” Cana is the turning point because there she was given the choice of keeping him for herself or delivering him to the world.
In human love there comes a time when something must be lost, when death must come so one can rise to new heights of joy. Many married people are not together enough to know they love each other. They mistake a crisis for the end of love when it is often a doorway to a deeper love.
Our modern life is geared to discontinuity and failure. Life is snuffed out by birth control; love dies in the refusal of sacrifice. But in the meantime there will always be the remnant of true lovers, who will see that as gold is purified by fire, so love is enriched by sacrifice. Love is not automatic. It is a dynamic relationship between God and the people He made for Himself.

Meditations – May 17, 2017

By Rev. Ray E. Atwood    Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
True Love
Do you love me more than these? (Jn. 21:15)
There are two kinds of love: love for the sake of pleasure, and love for the sake of another person. The first is also called carnal, or fleshly love; the second is called spiritual love. Carnal love sees the other person only as a biological partner, a means of exciting one’s desire for physical pleasure. Spiritual love, on the other hand, sees the other person in his/her own fullness, spiritual, emotional, and physical. In erotic love, the burdens of the other are regarding as impeding one’s own happiness; in spiritual love, the burdens of the other are opportunities for service and growth.
Somewhere along the line, our world has been duped into attaching the label “love” to everything that advertises itself on billboards, Facebook, plays, dramas, best-selling novels, music, and perfumes. Love has become so vulgarized that those who really love are afraid to use the word.
Today love is often a desire to intensify its own self-centeredness. You sometimes hear people talk about their “soul mate.” This is, in my opinion, a mere desire for self-gratification. A soul mate is someone who has the same likes/dislikes as you (e.g., tennis, movies, long walks in the sunset), which is the reason you want that person. You don’t want to go to the trouble of relating to someone different than you.
The Savior did not come for Himself, but for us! Hence true love is about the other and not us! Jesus did not extinguish the flame of love that burned in Mary Magdalene’s heart when she came to anoint Him that first Easter morning (Jn. 20:11-18). Instead, He was transformed into a new object of affection. He met her where she was, and brought her to a new awareness of who He was. In addition, the woman who poured ointment on Our Lord’s feet was a reminder to us that true love is that which dies for the beloved (Lk. 7:38). Love reaches beyond itself to the beloved.
True love is Godly love. The flesh has a role in that love. God uses the love of the flesh as a stepping stone to love for God. A well-regulated moral heart is one in which, as times goes on, erotic love diminishes and spiritual love increases.
As Easter progresses, may our love be strengthened and purified so that we will more perfectly reflect the love of the One who loves us.

Meditations – May 10, 2017

By Rev. Ray E. Atwood   Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
The Mystery of Love
“This [marriage] is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32).
Mystery is one of the great realities of life. Mystery is a reality that we can see partially and not see partially. There comes a time when the mystery of life fades. We begin to take things for granted, like a jeweler who casually handles precious stones without bothering to admire them. This casualness can cause us to lose an appreciation of mystery.
When wonder has vanished, then life becomes banal. It is possible that the popularity of mystery novels is caused by the fact that so many people have ceased to dwell on the mysteries of faith and are looking for a cheap substitute. Perhaps one reason people use cell phones obsessively is their deep desire for connection and relationship. And this may be a result of our turning from God and to the world.
Love is a mystery. If love is only physical or emotional, it will not last. And if mere physical or emotional love is the foundation of marriage, the marriage will end. Whenever we take someone for granted, there is less sensitivity and delicacy, both of which are the essential conditions of friendship, joy, and love.
Marriage is a mystery. In fact, you could say there are four mysteries within marriage. First, is the mystery of the other person’s physical being, the mystery of sex. When that mystery is “solved,” a baby is born, and a second mystery begins. The husband sees his wife as a mother, which is a new role for her. The wife sees her husband as a father, which is a new role for him.
When children reach the age of reason, a third mystery unfolds: that of motherhood and fatherhood, the disciplining of young minds and hearts in the ways of God. As the children grow to maturity, this mystery continues to deepen.
The final mystery of marriage is social living, when husband and wife jointly interact with a wider world. The family is the key to a stable and healthy society. Here lies the root of democracy because in the family the individual is not valued for what he is worth, but for what he is. The family is the social principle on which society depends, and is a potent reminder of the most important of all political principles; the state exists for the person, and the not the person for the state.
May we spend more time pondering the mystery of love and marriage, and growing closer to the God who is the origin of both.

Meditations – May 3, 2017

By Rev. Ray E. Atwood   Sacred Heart Parish, La Porte City
Infinite Love
“Were not our hearts burning while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” ~ Luke 24:32
The disciples realized the incredible experience they had once Our Lord vanished from their sight after opening the Scriptures to them. They understood that true wealth is found in a personal relationship with the God who can inflame hearts. That relationship is the greatest wealth on earth.
There are two kinds of ownership: one is a legitimate extension of our personality; the other is not. We can see these two types in a nursery: a child who has only a single toy enriches it with his love. The spoiled child, on the other hand, with many toys spread out before him, quickly becomes bored and ceases to take pleasure in any one of them. We do a disservice to children and adults by filling their lives with all kinds of things that only clutter and distract us.
Men and women are forever trying to add to their possession far beyond the limit of enjoyment. This is because of their mistaken belief that their hunger for the Infinite can be satisfied by an infinite number of material things; what they really need is the infinity of Divine love.
Our imaginations are easily misled into desire a false infinity, when once we begin to long for wealth. Wealth appeals to the imagination, which is insatiable in its desires. Real goods, such as food and water, do not have this quality. There is only so much food our stomach can consume. When the Lord fed the five thousand people in the wilderness with loaves and fish, all had their fill. But if He had given them $20,000 savings bonds, no one would have said, “One is enough for me.”
Credit, stocks, bonds, and bank balances have no limit. We can accumulate them forever and never be satisfied. Why? Because God made the heart for Him, and only He can satisfy it.
In this materialistic world, how do we keep our love pure? First, by giving away in proportion to the amount we receive. For example, if we receive three percent bonus, we could give three percent of our income to a charity. We are merely trustees or stewards of wealth. By giving away our tithe, we realize wealth is fleeting and meant to be shared.
The second way is to detach from wealth. Saint Francis of Assisi did this in an extraordinary way. His example is not necessarily meant to be followed literally. But we can examine our earthly goods and perhaps downsize our lives (spring is an excellent time to do this). The man who gives up wealth as security is the most secure richest man on earth because he desires nothing.
Misers can fill their wallets but never their hearts because they cannot obtain all the wealth they are able to imagine and desire. On the other hand, the poor in spirit are rich in happiness because wealth does not possess them. God gave us love to spend in getting back to him. He did not give us love enough to hoard. May we seek the greatest wealth of all: the love of God.

Meditations – April 26, 2017

By Rev. Ray E. Atwood   Sacred Heart Parish,  La Porte City
Behind Closed Doors
We can only imagine the uncertainty and even terror of the Apostles after Our Lord’s death. The Master they loved was arrested, tortured, convicted, and crucified. All but John, Mary, and a few faithful women fled the scene. They didn’t want to suffer the same torments.
The place where the disciples were assembled on Easter Sunday evening was the Upper room, where Our Lord celebrated the First Eucharist only seventy-two hours previously. Fear had motivated them to lock and bolt the doors, lest the Sanhedrin break in and arrest them on the false charge of stealing the Body. They waited for an angry mob to break in. But instead of an angry mob, someone else appears.
Though the doors were shut, suddenly in the midst of them appeared the risen Lord, who greeted them with the words: “Peace be with you” (Lk. 24:36). He had told the women at the tomb to rejoice, and now He tells His frightened disciples to be at peace. He came in His own Person to deliver this message. Peace is the fruit of justice. Only when the injustice of sin against God had been requited could there be true peace. They were astonished and gladdened to know that death was a comma rather than a period in the story of salvation.
One week later, Jesus appeared again, and offered the gift of peace to the first professed agnostic, Thomas the doubter. Thomas saw and believed, and became a model for all believers. At the time the doors were locked and barred, but Jesus came through them and offered peace and the gift of the Spirit. The Apostles were empowered to forgive sins (which is why Catholic priests hear Confession. We believe the power to forgive sins is shared with priests, who exercise it in the name of the Lord Himself. If we don’t hear Confessions, how can we exercise the power to bind and loose?). Their lives and our Church would never be the same.
Like those Apostles, we sometimes lock the doors of our hearts. We are afraid, ashamed, or too proud to admit we are wrong, or maybe we don’t want God to pull us out of our comfort zones. But the Lord can pass through barriers, and often does. He prefers to come to open hearts and homes, and will do so if we allow Him.
As we celebrate this second Sunday of Easter, may the Lord find the doors of our hearts wide open and ready to receive His glorious Body and precious Presence.
Happy Easter!

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