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A Meditation for Holy Week: Jesus’ Seven Last Words

Seven Last Words of Jesus

Courtesy: WikiImages, U.S. Public Domain

As a newbie, I did not realize that a reflection of the seven last words of Jesus (really the seven last phrases or utterances) is a part of Good Friday tradition, as we don’t have that at our parish. But what a wonderful way to remember Jesus and to contemplate the Passion.

So much is focused around Jesus’ physical suffering during the Crucifixion, which is of course important to understand and honor, but I think it’s important to also contemplate what Jesus was trying to tell us in those last moments.

Seven Last Words of Jesus by James MartinBest-selling author Fr. James Martin, S.J., author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” and “The Abbey: A Story of Discovery” (which I reviewed in a previous post), has put together his thoughts on these seven last things in the new book “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus” (Harper One, 2016).

The seven last utterances are:

  • “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.”
  • “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken  me?”
  • “Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.”
  • “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
  • “I thirst.”
  • “It is finished.”

There are many different ways to interpret these phrases, which are found in the different Gospel accounts, and truly you could spend a lifetime just meditating on these alone. Mother Teresa, for example, centered almost her entire life’s work around “I thirst” in an effort to help quench Jesus’ thirst for souls.

Fr. Martin takes them and applies them to our day-to-day life, helping us to relate to the human Jesus, who experienced pain and suffering — both mental and physical — just as we do. While some of his commentary I disagree with, especially as it relates to Mary (see my previous post on Mary: Unimportant Woman or Faith Perfected?), and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken  me?” (which I believe refers to Psalm 22, actually offering hope instead of despair), we can each draw our own conclusions and thoughts with guidance, of course, from Holy Mother Church. The book I recommended that every Catholic read, “New Testament Basics for Catholics,” also does a good job considering some of these utterances.

So spend a few moments this week on each of these phrases and ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to see what He is trying to reveal to you personally about each one.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Prayers at St. John the Evangelist Church Indianapolis for My Readers

As a thank you to all my wonderful readers, I just wanted to let you know I lit a candle and prayed for you in front of the image of Divine Mercy and statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in beautiful St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis yesterday.

If you are ever visiting Indianapolis, stop by this lovely church in the heart of downtown directly across from the Convention Center. This is a vibrant parish with many different activities in which to get involved. It has weekday mass at 12:10 p.m. with weekday confessions from 11 a.m.-Noon. Every now and then, I enjoy heading out of my suburban Indianapolis town to visit downtown Indy for confession followed by mass.

St. John the Evangelist Church Indianapolis

 

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue

 

Image of Divine Mercy

Image of Divine Mercy

 

Nativity Scene, St. John the Evangelist

Nativity Scene, St. John the Evangelist

Getting to Know Jesus: 10 Ways to Grow Closer to our Lord and Savior

Getting to Know Jesus: 10 Ways to Grow Closer via @ACatholicNewbie

If you want to become holy, be a saint, remain steadfast in your Christian faith, you’ve got to get to know Jesus. I struggled with this early on in my conversion. I felt like I did not know Jesus, that He did not want to know me (why would He want to know lowly ol’ me?) and I was, in fact, intimated by him. I pictured Jesus overthrowing the money-changers’ tables and some of the harsher statements he made. So I was distant.

But soon I realized that if I was going to be a saint — or strive to be — I’d better get to know Jesus!

Here are 10 ways I found that helped me draw closer and truly develop a personal relationship with Jesus, something I believe is crucial to true Christian conversion:

  1. Receive Jesus – Tops on the list of ways to grow closer to Jesus has to be receiving him in the form of the Eucharist. This is a special gift enjoyed by Catholics, whose priests transform ordinary bread and wine into the living God by repeating Jesus’ words at the last supper. When we receive Jesus, we meet Him in the flesh and we literally carry Him with us out into the world. Receive Jesus as often as you can!
  2. Read the Gospels over and over – This tip I attribute to author Matthew Kelly, but it’s a key one. A wonderful way to get to know Jesus better is to read about him and the main place we can do that is through the Gospels. Read them over and over, a little each day, letting Jesus’ words and actions sink in. Kelly, in his book Rediscover Jesus, recommends imagining yourself as different people in the stories to place yourself in the context of what is happening.
  3. Spend time in adoration – In addition to receiving the Eucharist, we can also be in Jesus’ presence by simply being in the presence of the Eucharist. Try to visit your church’s Blessed Sacrament Chapel (where you can always find Jesus in the Eucharist identified by the red candle burning outside the door) or during Adoration where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed versus locked away. Read, pray, write or just sit in the quiet presence of Jesus. Many experience vocational callings and other insights during adoration.
  4. Encounter Him in Reconciliation – Did you know when you go to Reconciliation, you are in the presence of Jesus? Jesus is present in the priest, no matter which priest you see. In Reconciliation, he pours out his mercy upon us, forgiving our sins and giving us graces to help us from sinning again and to grow in holiness. Other than the Eucharist, it’s one of the few places you can encounter Jesus. Go and go often!
  5. Choose a stage of Jesus’ life you can relate to – If you’re like me and struggled feeling close to the Jesus in the Gospels, consider Jesus at a more vulnerable time of life. St. Therese of Liseiux developed a devotion to the infant Jesus. Can you picture Jesus as a tiny baby, cooing in his mother’s arms, nestled close to Mary’s heart? Start there. Talk to the Baby Jesus or Jesus as a youth, working with his father as a carpenter.
  6. Talk to Jesus – How can you really get to know anyone without talking to them regularly? You can read about them, but is that the same as really knowing them? Develop the HABIT of talking to Jesus all day long. Thank Him for the beautiful day, the blue skies and birds singing — for every good thing that happens during your day. Ask for help when you have a decision to make — big or small. Tell Him when you are frustrated, stressed, happy or joyful. He wants you to talk to Him!
  7. Read Jesus Calling – It can be hard, of course, when the person you’re trying to get to know doesn’t talk back to you — in words, at least. I’ve found Jesus Calling, and the version for kids, to be a great way for me and my kids to grow closer to Jesus. The book is a daily reflection where the author puts all of Jesus’ teachings into words, as if He were talking directly to you. It’s helps us, in all our humanness, to hear His words as if they were spoken directly to us.
  8. Read Rediscover Jesus – Author Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic has written a new book with the aim of helping Christians — and all people — develop a personal relationship with Jesus. He does a wonderful job of considering Jesus’ teachings and the example He left us to help us understand how we can live as He desired in the context of our modern society.
  9. Pray the Rosary – Of course, we associate the rosary with Mary, because she’s the one who gave us the prayer, asked us to pray it and it’s filled with Hail Marys. But the Rosary is really about Jesus. If you pray the rosary daily — or as often as you can — you will be meditating day in and day out on the life of Jesus. Each day is a different set of “mysteries” or events in Jesus’ life to meditate upon as you say the prayers of the rosary. You’ll find new insights pour in as you contemplate these events over and over every time you pray the rosary.
  10. Read The Diary of St. Faustina and the Flame of Love (free copy here) – These two books, which are approved by the Catholic Church as communications of Jesus, present a more personal voice of Jesus and can help you relate better to Him. Two passages I bring to mind often while looking at the Cross are His request that Elizabeth Kindelmann call him “my most adorable Jesus” and his request that she imagine herself “nestled close to his merciful heart.” I can certainly picture myself there.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to get to know Jesus! Please share what has worked for you and what a difference it has made in your life to have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.

8 Free Catholic Items to Deepen Your Faith

8 Free Catholic Items to Deepen Your Faith  @ACatholicNewbie

Did you know there’s quite a lot of amazing Catholic books, tools and more that are waiting for you to order them at either no cost or for a very small shipping fee or donation? These are amazing tools that just might be what you need to light the spark in your faith if it’s started to dim or to make it burn even brighter.

I’ve stumbled across many of these over the last few years and here are some of my absolute favorites. Go order them for yourselves right now!

1) Rediscovering Catholicism – Matthew Kelly and his DynamicCatholic.com organization offer tons of free books and resources on their website. But my favorite is his original book on Catholicism, Rediscovering Catholicism. This is what helped me early on understand Catholicism and its relevance in light of our society today. EVERYONE should read this book. It will bring your faith to life for you! Order here + $5.95 shipping & handling.

2) The Rosary and Divine Chaplet on CD – The easiest way to start praying the rosary is to order this CD and stick it in your car. Pray whenever you have quiet drive time. If you don’t yet know how to pray the rosary, this is the easiest way to learn. They pray it for you and you can either just listen to them or repeat back as you begin to learn the prayers. Order it here for just a $1 donation. Here are more ideas for fitting the rosary into your busy day.

3) Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary materialsRead my blog on Total Consecration (a process I highly recommend) and if you decide you feel called to make this commitment to Mary, order free materials to help you through process from MyConsecration.org. This practice, made popular by St. Louis de Monfort and Pope John Paul II, can be completed in several ways. If you’re interested in the more classic, prayer-filled preparation from St. Louis de Monfort, order those materials free here. If you’re interested in a more modern interpretation and requires less time, order 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley for free.

4) Flame of Love – Similar to St. Faustina’s visions of Jesus and subsequent diary, Flame of Love written by Elizabeth Kindelmann shares messages she says she received between 1961 and 1982 from both Jesus and Marty. They are similar to those of St. Faustina and other approved Marian messages  around the world. Order your free copy of her book. At the National Congress of The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary movement in Budapest, Hungary, June 6, 2009, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop President of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary and President, Council of Episcopal Conferences in Europe, gave the text his Imprimatur.

5) Mass Journal – Another great free tool offered by DynamicCatholic.com is a mass journal. Bring this notebook with you to mass and write down any messages from God or thoughts that occur to you during mass, so you don’t forget. Order here + $5.95 shipping & handling.

6) The Conversion of Scott Hahn CD – I recently heard a fellow parishoner, who was a lifelong Protestant, mention this CD as key to her understanding and ultimate conversion to Catholicism. Hahn is a wonderful writer who helps explain the Catholic faith in his many books. He is a former Protestant minister turned Catholic convert. Order for just a $1 donation.

7) St. Therese Novena Prayer Card – Many Catholics have a devotion to the “Little Flower,” St. Therese of Lisieux (my confirmation saint, whom I adore). It is said if you pray her novena for a specific intention, she will send you a sign in the form of a rose. I’ve received my rose (read about my signs from St. Therese)! See if you get yours. Simply order this free St. Therese Novena Prayer Card from the Society of the Little Flower. You can also order prayer cards, even ones touched to a relic, for $.55 or less.

8) Prayer Process Cards – This is a wonderful exercise suggested by Matthew Kelly that you strive to complete daily. It encourages you to prayerfully consider your day from what messages God was speaking to you to what you could have done better to thanking God and praying for others. These cards are a simple reminder of the process to keep by your bedside, on your side table, in your prayer area or wherever. They send 20 at a time with $5.95 shipping & handling, so share with your friends!

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St. Therese, the Little Flower, Pray for us!