Holding the Living Word of God

Often on the last day of a retreat there is a time for participants to share any graces received on the retreat with other participants. I am always amazed and moved by how the Lord works uniquely in each and every one during retreat. I would like to share with each one of you, one of the graces I received last week:

My spiritual director asked me to reflect on the birth of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (Lk.2:1-7). In my prayer, I imagined myself asking Joseph and Mary if I could hold the Christ child in my hands. Joseph handed me the infant Jesus. I simply held the infant Jesus in my hands. For a long time, I sat in silence gazing at the beautiful Christ child and I was filled with a sense of love and peace in my heart.

Then the surprise happened! I was no longer holding the Christ child but the living Word of God — the Scriptures. The Lord showed me so clearly the truth that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of the Father, was in my hands. This was an incredible grace for me. I know that the Bible, the Scriptures are alive. I have been preaching that for some time. In Hebrews we read: “the word of God is alive and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4: 12)  But now I know it in a deeper and more profound way!

This prayer period for me was an incredible grace! The Holy Spirit revealed a truth in a new deeper way for me; one that brought incredible joy. During the remainder of the retreat I asked for the grace to be attentive to holding the Word and I asked St. Joseph to mentor me and to teach me how he held the child Jesus in his arms.

Thank you for all of your prayers this last week when we were on retreat. I know that there were many graces that sprung from your faithful prayers for us.

If there are other priests who would like to share the graces they received while on retreat, out of generous hospitality, I invite and welcome the sharing of your graces with all of us.

Fr. Mark’s Musings

Stewardship = Receive. Nurture. Share. Return.

Did anyone take me up on my challenge to enthrone the Bible on your pillow? How about reading one chapter of the Word of God before going to bed, letting the Word of God take you into the night? Then enthroning your Bible on your shoes to read one chapter of the Word of God as you put your shoes on, letting the Word of God take you into the day?

If so, what has been your experience?

This past week I have been working my way through Paul’s letter to the Romans, again reading one chapter at night and one in the morning. In Chapter 5 I read,

“But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one person’s sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal. For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ” (15-17).

After I read this passage I simply wrote in the margins of my Bible “gift/stewardship” because through this Word my heart was drawn to the definition of a Christian Steward? Who is the Christian Steward? One who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them shares them with justice and love with others, and returns them with an increase to the Lord”  (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, 42). A great way to remember this definition of stewardship is through four simple words! Receive — Nurture — Share — Return.

The faithful steward is the one who receives the most incredible gift of all, the gift from the Loving Father, who gives us His Son Jesus Christ that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  We must be open to receiving Jesus into our lives and into our hearts that He might become this living gift of the Father within us. It is in nourishing and sharing Christ within us that we begin to live a life of true generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship.

I’m always amazed when I read the living Word of God how passages leap out at me, speaking to my heart about hospitality, faith and discipleship.

Have you had this experience as well?T

Wisdom from the Ozarks

In my musing last week, I shared the importance of reading the Word of God every day because it is Jesus himself who speaks to us through Sacred Scripture.  Again, Pope Francis said “Take it, carry it with you, read it every day: it is Jesus himself who is speaking to you… The important thing is to read the Word of God, by any means, but read the Word of God it is Jesus who speaks to us there. And welcome it with an open heart. Then the good seed will bear fruit!”

Even though we know that Jesus longs to speak to our hearts, reading Scripture daily is a challenge. Our lives are so busy with family, work, meetings, activities, and countless other additional interruptions that distract and pull us away from spending time with the Lord each day. When we get busy it seems like the first thing cut from our schedule is our prayer life. Why is that?

In our diocese we see stewardship through the three lenses of hospitality, faith and discipleship. The faith lens is comprised of prayer, study and formation. Reading and reflecting on the Word of God is essential to be people of prayer. The Word of God is alive and has the power to bring about conversion in our lives, but we must establish the practice, the habit of reading God’s Word every day. We must not let the busyness of our lives distract us from Christ. We must not let the lesser tasks of life trump our most important responsibility, our relationship with the Lord.

Fr. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. in this book Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures tells this story:

“Before I came to China I spent a few years in our monastery in the Ozarks. This is one of the poorest areas in the United States. The people living in these mountains are very poor but often very devout. I found among the people there a very good practice. Do you know where they enthroned their Bible? On the pillow on their bed. This means that when they go to bed, they have to pick up their Bible. And they take a moment to get a word from the Lord to carry with them into sleep. Then they placed the Bible on their shoes. In the morning, of course, when the rise they have to pick up the Bible. Again they received a word from the Lord to carry with them through the day. Clever people, those friends in the mountains.”

This week let us try this simple and concrete exercise Fr. Basil Pennington describes. I encourage you to enthrone your Bibles on your bed. Every night before your head hits the pillow read one chapter of the Gospels. Make sure before you go to sleep you put the Bible on your shoes and when you wake up in the morning read another chapter of the Gospels. Let the living Word of God take you into tonight and into the day. Just think if you read one chapter at night and one in the morning you could read the Gospel of Mark in 8 days, now that’s lively faith.

Fr. Mark’s Musings

“Have you read my book?” – God

Last weekend I led the men’s retreat at Terra Sancta. For the retreat I used a book by Thelma Hall, RC, Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina. I shared with them that the text of stewardship is the Bible. The document Stewardship: A Disciples Response refers to stewardship as, “flowing from a personal and communal relationship to Christ, which holds a particular attraction to people. It is, ultimately, the pull and the power of the Gospel that comes alive in our times and circumstances” (SDR 2).

I encouraged and challenged the men that to grow in the life of stewardship (generous hospitality, lively faith and dedicated discipleship), then it is vital that they read the Word of God every day. Pope Francis in his address to the Church of St. Michael the Archangel asked the question, “Which TV channel does Jesus speak?” Pope Francis answered his own question. “He speaks to you in the Gospel and this is an attitude that we still do not have: to go and to seek the word of Jesus in the Gospel. To always carry a Gospel with us, a small one, or to have one at our fingertips. Five minutes, 10 minutes. When I am traveling or when I have to wait… I take the Gospel from my pocket, or from my bag and I read something; or at home. And Jesus speaks to me, Jesus preaches to me there.”

I know this past year Fr. Steve Biegler at Our Lady of the Black Hills purchased the Pocket Gospels and Acts of the Apostles for his Confirmation students and those going through RCIA, encouraging them to read this life-giving word every day. We read in Hebrews 4:12-13, “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.”

Just think if we took Pope Francis’ words to heart, “Take it, carry it with you, read it every day: it is Jesus himself who is speaking to you… The important thing is to read the Word of God, by any means, but read the Word of God it is Jesus who speaks to us there. And welcome it with an open heart. Then the good seed will bear fruit!”

If we want stewardship to bear fruit in our Diocese, then we must take serious the call of our Bishops in their pastoral letter to see the pull and the power of the Gospel in our lives, our families and our parishes.  T