Three Visions of the Soul

giant soap bubble rainbow colors
giant soap bubble on the sky background

I am probably on the autism spectrum. My kids certainly are! One reason why I say that is I can think in pictures as well as verbally.  Over the years, I have been blessed with three different pictures of the soul each of which has benefited me tremendously.  Take what you will from them.

Do you remember blowing bubbles as a child? Those beautiful iridescent transparent spheres that moved in the breeze? My first picture of the soul was like that except that there were smaller spinning spheres within. They touched each other like cogs in a machine, except there were no rough edges. The motion of one affected the other spheres and it allowed the sphere to move in absolutely any direction simply by a thought. Beautifully lit from within, it was gorgeous and breathtaking!

This was the picture of a pure soul able to act in perfect obedience to whatever God desired. I thought of the inner spheres almost as organs.  I know that one was our will. Another would have been whatever causes our body to do what we will.  As St. Paul says sometimes we do what we do not want! When everything is in order to know God’s will is to do it.  Mary or Jesus would have had a soul this pure and obedient.

The second picture was of the same sphere but it was clogged with mud and grit. Some of the inner spheres were spinning without connecting to the other spheres.  Others couldn’t spin at all.  The inner light could not be seen.

This was a soul in the midst of sin and suffering. The mud was sin that obscures the light of God from us. We can neither see it ourselves nor illuminate others.  It prevents us from moving forward.  We are literally spinning our wheels.  The grit was suffering. The tiny rocks were cutting us so we would shrink from moving in that direction because of the pain involved. Pain and suffering can certainly paralyze us and keep us stuck at a particular point.

The light from the last picture was so brilliant I could only gaze at it for a nanosecond. The soul was washed beautifully clean.  The scars from suffering had etched it like fine crystal.  As a result the light within reflected off of it like a brilliant diamond except the light was going out not in.  The dazzling light was too much for the eye to take in.

The mud had been washed by the sacraments. Our forgiveness of others who had hurt us removed the stone but had left the etching behind.  The end result was our ability to shine the inner light of God out to the world was greatly magnified.

Mary and Jesus never had the mud but they did experience suffering in doing His will.  Rather than shrink from that suffering they embraced it.  Their etching runs much deeper than ours so they show the light of God most perfectly and brilliantly to the world.

I hope these three visions help you in understanding the role of suffering in your life and why sometimes we are spinning our wheels.  The answers are always repentance, forgiveness, sacramental grace and embracing the cross. Now go forth and shine the light of Christ out into the world.

Reference scripture: Romans 7:15

#trcot #tcot #Soul

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Gehenna was an actual place. It became a name for Hell

Orange and blue flames of fire
Fire flames orange and blue on black background

Gehenna was actually the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem.  In that valley the fallen away Israelites would burn their children alive to the god Molech. This was one of the reasons given for the nation of Judah going into exile.  The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would become like Gehenna.  Sure enough it was burnt to the ground as the people were taken off to exile.

After the return from the exile, the people used the area as a dump because of the shame of that place.  People would haul their dead animals, plant waste, and other debris out the southern Trash Gate of Jerusalem to go to Gehenna.

As a result, there were always fires going on in the dump from the heat of decomposition.  It reeked of death and the decomposing animals were covered with worms and vermin.  I am sure there were vultures constantly over the place. To even touch a dead animal would render a person “unclean” according to Jewish law. This place was the “mother lode” of all things unclean.

Jesus used the word Gehenna as a name for hell “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”.  He was using a very real awful place associated with terrible sin and uncleaness to describe an unseen worse place for His hearers. The impact on His hearers must have been immediate, rather than on those of us today who wonder what those phrases mean. Now, you know!

Referenced scripture Mark 9:48.

#Hell #Gehenna #trcot #tcot

Lazarus at our Gates

Vienna - Last judgment scene - Altlerchenfelder church
VIENNA – JULY 27: Jesus Christ and Last judgment scene by Leopold Kupelwieser from 1860 in nave of Altlerchenfelder church on July 27, 2013 Vienna.

I recently encountered an acquaintance that I knew from school decades ago.  As a child, he did not to fit in. There was an indescribable something off–too shy, too sensitive.  Whatever.  Of course back then and probably today that made you a target.

When I listened to his story, I heard about a dysfunctional family that left him scouring garbage cans for food.  When he was finally taken away into foster care, he was locked in the basement with a couple of other foster kids.  They were fed little and given less to drink.  If they cried, they were beaten. It made me weep to hear his story.

Where could he have learned how to fit in?  His shyness was his only means of protection.  His sensitivity was a sign of the rawness of his soul. Lazarus was sitting at our gates. We were rich with good families and adequate food but we ignored him or abused him.

It was beyond our capabilities to comprehend or to fix his life then, but kindness could have helped. For the most part, I was too self-absorbed to see.  But what about now? Is there a Lazarus at your gate?

In Jesus’ account of the Final Judgement, those rejected by God ask “when did we see you hungry and not feed you?”  I think that is the fundamental problem with a lot of us. We don’t see Lazarus or give aid when we do. To every Lazarus who sat at my gate, I am truly sorry that I did not see you or know how to help you. May God bind the wounds that I ignored.

Referenced scriptures: Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 25:31-46

#trcot #tcot #Lazarus

The Holy Family’s Disappearing Act

Rome - Flight to Egypt fresco in Basilica di Sant Agostino
ROME, ITALY – MARCH 27, 2015: The Flight to Egypt fresco in Basilica di Sant Agostino (Augustine) by Pietro Gagliardi form 19. cent.

Joseph had a dream telling him to rise up and take the child and His mother to Egypt. Herod’s guards went house-to-house searching for them and killing all the male children under the age of two. The Holy Family slipped away into the desert darkness, making their way to Egypt.

The people of Nazareth were probably like people of today. If you hear of a disaster near where someone you know lives, your mind starts to wonder about their welfare. Were they involved? Did they make it?

It would be several years before Joseph had another dream telling him it was safe to return. Just as suddenly, though not as urgently, they were able to head home.  Jaws must have dropped and tears flowed as they came home to Nazareth with a toddler in tow.  I’m sure someone said, “I never stopped believing that you were still alive.”

In many ways the Flight to Egypt anticipated Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. The innocents’ death prefigured His own, the escape from death–His resurrection, and leaving for another country–His ascension into heaven.  His return to Nazareth prefigured His coming again!

Jesus spoke in His parables about a ruler going to a far country to return when his servants did not expect it.  Those who figured that their master was delayed in coming, abused the other servants. These were cast out.  Those who never stopped believing that He would return, lived their lives accordingly. These were greatly rewarded.

In  Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s big lesson was to live in the spirit of Christmas all of the year long. Our job as Christians is take what we have learned this Christmas season and live in anticipation of His coming.

#trcot #tcot #Flight into Egypt

Referenced scripture: Matt. 2:13-23, Luke 9:41-48

Simeon’s Sorrowful Prophecy

Maria Mutter Gottes

While the shadow of the cross is all over the Infancy narrative, it is especially strong in Simeon’s words to Mary.  Here it is that she is first told of the suffering both she and Jesus will experience.

“Behold,  this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35

Most people know what happened to Jesus but few of us know the Seven Sorrows of Mary. That is why she is sometimes shown with seven swords through her heart.

This prophecy at the Presentation is considered the first sorrow.  Hearing that her son would be rejected and suffer was difficult.  She pondered those words as He grew.

She did not have to wait long for the second sorrow.  Joseph had a dream in the middle of the night telling them to flee.  They escaped one of the most horrific massacres ever but at the cost of living as an exile in Egypt.

The third sorrow was when she lost the child Jesus for three days when He was twelve years old.  Fulton Sheen had a wonderful sermon on Our Lady of the Empty Arms.  She experienced what it was like for sinners to not have Jesus and to search for Him.  Every time my autistic son has run away, I have prayed to her and the Child Jesus.

The fourth sorrow was the Way of the Cross.  She saw her son struggle with the cross as he was being cursed at and jeered by the crowd. Simeon’s prophecy was becoming very real to her.

The fifth sorrow was standing at the foot of the cross for three hours as her son suffered and died.  I think she stood there willing herself to be strong for His sake.  So, He could have a place to gaze and see pure love staring back at Him.

The sixth sorrow was when He was taken down from the cross.  Did she look at His hands and feet as she did when He was born?  Did she ever so carefully remove that hated crown of thorns as if He was still capable of feeling pain? As she wrapped Him in linen cloth for His burial, did she remember wrapping Him in swaddling clothes?

The seventh sorrow was the hardest.  So quickly was He taken from her.  Sunset was coming and He had to be in the tomb before the Sabbath.  No time for her to anoint His body, no time for mourning.  Soon there was a big rock between her and her son.  So much had happened in so short a period of time.  How long did she stay there? Did she hug that rock like she couldn’t hug her son? Did she remember the kisses of birth as her soul was ripped asunder into a chasm of unbearable pain? How reluctantly did she leave with John?

What can I say for you, to what compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?  Lamentations 2:13

#trcot #tcot #The Presentation #Seven Sorrows #Mary

The Presentation Reimagined

Bruges - Virgin of sorrows in St. Salvator's church
BRUGES, BELGIUM – JUNE 12, 2014: The virgin of sorrows on the windowpane in St. Salvator’s Cathedral (Salvatorskerk) by stained glass artist Samuel Coucke (1833 – 1899) with Simeon and prophet Ann,

The Presentation is one of the joyful mysteries and I have imagined it many times over the years.  Mary proudly carrying her beautiful son while Joseph carried the two turtledoves.  They gave the doves to Simeon the priest who after offering the doves took the child in his arms and praised God.  Anna, an aged widow, nearby comes to see the baby as well.

Wonderful, beautiful, except it didn’t happen that way.  Mary and Anna  would not have been allowed any further than the Court of the Women. This was not just for women only, any Jew could come there, but  the women could proceed no further.

The Temple treasury was also in the Court of the Women.  Thirteen chests also called trumpets for their shape, lined the walls.  They were narrow at the top and large at the bottom.  Each trumpet was labeled for its purpose.  Trumpet Three was for people who wanted to offer turtledoves.  Mary and Joseph would have put a couple of coins in the trumpet.  Sometime later, someone would have come and gathered the money from the trumpet and figured out how many turtledoves the priests had to offer.  If not for Simeon and Anna, it would have been a very impersonal experience.

We don’t really know much about Simeon. He is just called a man in Jerusalem, it doesn’t specify a priest.  God truly must have inspired him to go when he did.  He saw that couple out of the crowd dropping a couple of coins into Trumpet Three and he knew this child was the One! He then gave a remarkable prophecy. First thanking God for allowing him to see the Messiah that he had waited so long for, then he prophesied regarding the future suffering of Jesus and Mary.  I’ve heard it called the second Annunciation.

Both Simeon and Anna were old. I believe they represented the faithful of Israel who had grown old waiting for the Messiah.  Simeon was from Jerusalem which at one point had been the capital of Judah the Southern Kingdom.  Anna was from the tribe of Asher which was the northernmost tribe of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That descendant of that tribe had remained faithful speaks of a remarkable faith lineage.

To begin with after Solomon, the Northern Kingdom separated from the Southern Kingdom. They no longer worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem their king had set up alternative altars.  Anna’s ancestors would have had to make the long trip to that Temple in defiance of the religious practices of their own tribes and country.  This occurred about 930 years before Christ.

Then around 721 BC, her ancestors were conquered by the Assyrians and deported to other countries.  Later the southern kingdom of Judah was also sent into exile to Babylon and the Temple was destroyed.  It would not be until 538 BC that the Israelites were even given a homeland again and that was for the Jews from Judah.

So her ancestors would had to have kept the faith for at least two hundred years in a foreign land separated from the Temple and worship before they would have had even an outside chance of returning. Most people would have been assimilated into the culture. The religion of their ancestors would have been an ancient myth if it had been passed down at all.  Anna represented the faithful of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who had contended for their faith for over 900 years.

The Messiah had come for both of them.  Their hearts are what picked the Holy Family out from the crowd. They knew the One that they had been waiting for.

#trcot, #tcot, #Simeon #Anna #Presentation

 

 

He was Called Jesus (Part Two)

Falling the walls of Jericho - Biblical scene

We continue our comparison between Jesus and Joshua.

Israel was not a nation as you and I would think of one.  The land itself was a series of tribal and family plots that would be held as that family’s possession in perpetuity. That is why over a thousand years later, all of the descendants of David went to Bethlehem.  It was their family’s city.

There are several chapters in Joshua devoted to which tribes got which towns.  Now no family was strong enough to fight off the current inhabitants of “their cities.”  It would take a nation or several tribes together to conquer the land. Joshua was the leader of the people and the army.  He determined where and how each battle was fought.

God had said that Israel was finally getting this land, not because they deserved it but because the people living there were so evil. Examples were the worshippers of Molech who burned their children alive as a sacrifice.  Others would worship their idols by having sex with temple prostitutes. God wanted all of the evil out of the country, they were to destroy the current inhabitants.  They were not to worship their gods or imitate their practices.

When Jesus went around the countryside, He visited every town and village healing people of their diseases and casting out demons.  In the Old Testament, evil was found in the individuals consumed by it.  The only way to handle it was to destroy them.  With Jesus came the power to heal and deliver people.

As St. Paul said, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our mission is to free people not to destroy them.

Joshua never conquered all the land that he was supposed to. After people’s own home towns were conquered, they lost interest in fighting other people’s battles.  They kept the inhabitants as slaves instead of sending them to God. They ended up adopting the practices of the conquered peoples and committing grave offenses against God.

If you see someone whose life is a terrible mess, maybe it is because they have had no one to pray and fight their spiritual battles for them.  Many of us have become like the Israelites who were living in lands that were already conquered.  We ignore or look down on those who still have battles to fight.  Others of us enjoy our vices rendering us ineffectual in our prayers.

Jesus can direct us as to where and who to fight for, but His directions will be useless if we don’t respond. The Body of Christ is a lot like the nation of Israel.  It is made up of individuals and their souls. Spiritual battles won’t be won until we view our neighbor’s battles as our own. Nobody can conquer the enemy alone.

#trcot #tcot #Spiritual Warfare #Joshua