Radically Give Thanks in All Things

Thanksgiving, Bible quotes,

“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”[1]

You know that Thanksgiving tradition of going around the dinner table asking each person for what he or she is most thankful?  One easy way for me to respond would be to say, “I’m thankful for my family.”  Simple and, perhaps, cliché – yet, this gratitude is so profoundly, undeniably, and unshakably true that I do feel compelled to say it aloud whenever situations allow.  May I write out right now: Thank You, God, for the awesome blessing of my family and friends!!!

Yes.  It is good to express gratitude out loud for good people and genuinely praise God for them.  But…

Radical Thanks

In the Bible verse that I quoted from St. Paul, it doesn’t say to give thanks for the nice things in your life.  It says to give thanks in all circumstances.  And this calls to my mind the words of Jesus, who reminded us that it is easy to love the people who love us – but what about the people who hate us?  Christ calls us to cast into the deep, to not be bound to what comes naturally to us as creatures of the flesh, but to transcend instinct and do what is supernatural, what is divine, responding in accordance to the spirit within us.

As we, then, are radically called to love our enemies, we are also radically called to give thanks in all circumstances.  Yup, all of them.  If we are in the midst of an unjust situation, then we are called to be thankful for the opportunity to practice virtue, to right a wrong, and to share God’s compassion.  If we are in the midst of grieving the death of a loved one, then we are called to be thankful for having known and loved this precious person, who is thankfully not lost, but alive in Christ for all eternity.

This gratitude doesn’t mean that we are called to be complacent.  We pray for the courage to change the things that we can… but we also pray for the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change.

One Big Thing That I Cannot Change

Continue reading

Scripture Quotes on the Mind

Tree, earth, light, Creation

I left you (last week) with this thought:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ~ Romans 12:2

I wondered how this might be the key to letting God love me – and the key, in so receiving Real Love, to authentically loving myself and others in my ultimate joy.  So… let me think… Continue reading

On Redemptive Suffering

Christina Chase

A friend told me fairly recently that she thinks of me when she reads Colossians 1:24.

Yes, I admit, I had to look it up…

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…”.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with this one, as well as its association with redemptive suffering.  But… I can’t say that I understand it.  Because I don’t.  I don’t really get the concept of redemptive suffering… but, I am trying.

My mother is a lifelong Catholic and, so, I do know about “offering it up”.  That is, she has told me to simply offer up my day and all of my pains and sufferings to God, suggesting to do this with a simple prayer first thing in the morning.  Okay.  I didn’t do that when I was younger, but, after my long spiritual journey and upon rediscovering Christ (perhaps, more accurately, upon discovering him for the first time) I wanted to give it a go.  And I have been.  But… I still don’t get it.

What Is Lacking in Christ?

Sometime during this year’s adventure in health, I thought again about this enigmatic phrase from Sacred Scripture, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ,” and a new thought was given to me.  Well, a new angle or perspective…

Cross

Jesus took on the sufferings of humankind with his sacrifice upon the Cross.  He was fully united with us in our pain, suffering with us.  But (and please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, I do not mean it to be, and if I am speaking incorrectly of Church teaching, please correct me) Jesus was one human, with one human body.  He could not, in his one human lifetime, suffer every suffering that is known to humankind.

There are billions of ways to suffer in this life.  Jesus suffered his particular suffering and, being fully divine as well as fully human, in his particular suffering he took on all of suffering – but… he did not himself physically suffer leprosy, or lifelong disability, or cancer, or, of course, menstrual pains and the pain of childbirth.  We do that as individuals.  However (and this is a big however) when we offer these trials and sufferings of ours up to God, when we seek to suffer them in union with Jesus on the Cross, then Jesus was and is able (the Mystery of the Eternal Now) to suffer them himself up there, once and for all, for the Salvation of the World.

Why Am I “Offering It up”?

Does this make any sense?  Well, not completely, but that’s partly because it’s a Mystery.  There are some things in this life that we can never understand because we are limited.  Jesus asks us to offer our sufferings up to him so that he may unite them with his Sacrifice on the Cross for redemption.  He suffers everything with us and for us when we turn to him in our sorrows and needs and, thus, saves humankind.

So, I have come a tiny bit closer to understanding “offering it up” and the reason that my friend thinks of me when hearing St. Paul’s words.  It is, after all, quite obvious, upon looking at me, that I suffer in my body.  And also rather obvious, upon knowing me, that I rejoice in being alive – if not exactly in my sufferings.  (I’m definitely not a saint yet!)

I don’t know what sufferings await me in the future – of course, no one does – but mine were feeling palpably close and real when I came to this understanding.  When I was thinking about offering it up during my cancer scare, Carrie Underwood’s song would come into my head: “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I don’t really know the words of the song or what it is about, but the sentiment of wanting God to take control and take over – because I know that I can’t do it on my own – I get… And I’m hoping that this is part of “offering it up”, too….  Yes.  It is.  For I am not alone.  None of us are.  And it’s good to know that.

Why Redemption through Suffering?

All of this does beg the question, however – “Why redemption through suffering?”  What is so good about pain that it has eternal benefit?  I’m sure there are many theologians that have tackled this question, but I’m just going to answer with this:

Why are lush, green islands dependent upon volcanic eruptions?  Why do the bodies of furry creatures need to decompose upon the forest floor and, thus, feed the forest?  Why rain?  Why childbirth to bring new life?

This is life, this is how this life works.  I don’t know precisely why because I didn’t create it.  But, I do trust the Creator and I am willing (God, help me) to live fully and love deeply this terribly beautiful life that He has given to me.  There are people who are suffering so much worse than I am, so much worse than I ever can.  My heart goes out to them… Can you imagine how much more so with Jesus?  His heart not only goes out to me, it is beating for me, it is being pierced for me.  For you.  I am not alone.  You are not alone.

May I truly offer my sufferings up to Christ for the Glory of God, for the Kingdom and the Salvation of Souls.

So mysterious… So fleeting this life… So lovely….  Please help us, our Lord and God…

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo credits:

  1. At the Altar, © 2017 Dan Chase
  2. Aaron Burden, free to use through Unsplash.com

Two Poems of Wonder

This week, I’m sharing two little poems of mine (and I don’t claim to be a poet.)  The first is from a recent excursion with my parents to Rhododendron Sate Park, here in New Hampshire.  The second was written a few days later.  To all poets (official and unofficial) out there: Please share your observations, suggestions, and advice for improvement – thank you!

(Photos taken by my father.)


In the Rhododendron Forest

Rhododendron State Park, New Hampshire, forest

Embrace me in your beauty, Lord!

As I am sheltered, here,

within the blossoming bower,

let me know your love.

Thick leaves arching overhead,

on wild wood from tangled roots

in forest golden-brown;

white petals glimpsed through latticed-light

above, or fallen whole upon the ground.

Resting here in the quiet,

I wait for you, my Lord

and you do not disappoint…

I see you in the peace and hear you in the joy,

I linger in the loveliness within and all around.

 

When I’m come through this long and winding

wonder-passage of shade and green,

out into the brightness of the other side,

Embrace me in your beauty, Lord!

Your heaven’s delight of endless awe

surpassing earth’s imagining,

beyond the twigs and moss of time,

beyond

the loveliness I leave behind

that’s yours, O Lord… not mine.

Rhododendrons, flowers

© 2017 Christina Chase


My Life Is

wheelchair, forest, New Hampshire

 

My life is small,

tiny,

a grain of sand,

gritty and glittering;

a drop of dew,

globular weight and wonder,

cool and wet upon the green palm of time,

until…

it slips

from its leafy mooring,

form shattered,

essence absorbed

into the wider deep…

seen no more… but known.

 

My life is a wonder-passage,

a winged seed in flight,

a caterpillar taking up

the promised glory

bite

by little

bite.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo Credits: 

Embracing Beauty, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

Rhododendrons, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

Into the Woods, © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

“Who Are You?” Mentor and Memoir

window, portable

Who are you?

This is a question that my mentor, Mr. John D Meehan, asked me in one of a handful of face-to-face conversations that we had.  And when he posed it to me, different answers went through my mind.  All that I could really think of responding with, however, was, “me” – and that with a question mark at the end of it.  I chose not to give an answer out loud, just sat there thinking and waiting for him to continue.  I knew that he would.  He mentioned each of the ways that had flipped through my thoughts, the ways by which most people answered the question: professional identity, national identity, religious affiliation, familial or social association, maybe even a hobby.

But, Mr. Meehan said, none of these go to the heart of your true identity, to who you are.

He said that the truth of who we are is in relationship with Christ, then gave the example of Mary Magdalene.  She didn’t recognize Christ Resurrected, but as soon as he spoke her name, she knew him.  In this, Mr. Meehan was inviting me to find the answer of who I am.  Having been a teacher, I think that he could have spelled it out a bit more plainly to me.  If he had, maybe he would’ve said something like “you are a child of God”… but, then again, perhaps he knew that that answer would not have penetrated into my mind and heart because I had heard it too many times before.  Or, perhaps, he didn’t like that answer either, for the same connotative reasons that would have made me smirk.  I’ll never know now, because, last week, Mr. Meehan died. Continue reading

Expire

Now, breathe out…

 

“His body is letting him down.”

We say this about a person who is getting old or becoming sick with an incurable disease.  Why?  Isn’t the end of life death?  Are we not all born to die?  We know that death is inevitable – so why do we treat it like it’s not?  Why do we act like our bodies are supposed to remain young and healthy forever – and then, when they begin to age or weaken through illness, why do we act as though we have been betrayed?  Betrayed by whom?

Nobody is promised endless youth and health.  Nobody is promised a life that won’t end with physical death.  Nobody.

It’s like we’re all delusional, in a way.  Some say that religious people suffer from wishful thinking – but, it seems to me that almost everyone in mainstream culture is suffering from that.  In my experience, religious people know that suffering happens.  Death is coming.  Catholics are certainly reminded of this quite often, invited every day to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, uniting our sufferings with his, gazing upon the crucifix.  And every year, when the Lenten season begins, we (and other Christians) have ashes put on our foreheads and are told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Suffering happens.  Death will come.  Not even God Incarnate lived a human life without it.  Continue reading

Gratitude

If you are not a grateful person, then you will never be great.

If you do not appreciate the people in your life, then you cannot receive their amazing value – only their cost.

If you do not say “Thank you” when you didn’t get what you wanted, but, rather, what you needed, then you won’t know true joy if you do get what you want.

Giving thanks is easy when you are surrounded by a delicious feast and a happy family.  But, how easy is it to be thankful if you are sadly without home, without family, or without feasting?  The awesome, powerful thanksgiving that transcends the 4th Thursday of November is experienced by those who do not lack gratitude even when life is hard.  For these are the people who recognize life itself as an eternal gift.crucifix-2-flash

The life of your soul is not a gift that was thoughtlessly or cheaply purchased.

It is given by the Giver with pure love…

Live your Thank You by loving – and let your unconditional loving be your joy.  May God help me as I strive to fully live with gratitude…

 

For more of my posts on Thanksgiving and giving thanks, please click and read

One Year of Blogging – and Still Thankful

Giving Thanks (While Gazing upon the Crucifix)

Giving Thanks – Eucharist

© 2016 Christina Chase

3 Years Blogging: Remembering the Reason

Christmas is coming soon.  Yes, I said it.  And much as we are asked to remember “The Reason for the Season”, I am celebrating the upcoming 3-year anniversary of this blog by remembering the reason why I started this thing in the first place… Continue reading

Sensing the Great Big World: 7 Month Fetus

7 month fetusWhen your mother began her third trimester of pregnancy, you looked a lot like this
picture.  During your seventh month in utero, you began to use all five of your senses!

Sight:

Ultrasound reveals that babies at this age like to open their eyes and look around.  What were the first things that you saw?  In the dark safety of the womb, the first thing that your eyes were able to distinguish was light.  “… God said: Let there be light, and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.  God then separated the light from the darkness.” [1] You could see sunlight and artificial light as it penetrated through the uterine wall, and your pupils dilated and constricted in order to better see in your watery world.

Sound:

With your cochlea, the hearing organ of your inner ear, fully developed, you’d been able to hear a variety of sounds for quite a while.  At this particular age, you could even distinguish between different voices!  “…at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Smell:

At this age, important parts of your nose were fully operational, so that you had a fully functional sense of smell.  Scientific studies show that infants born prematurely, at just 26 weeks in the womb, can detect different odors.

Taste:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalms 34:9) Swallowing amniotic fluid, you tasted what your mother ate while she was in her third trimester of pregnancy, developing that affinity for the foods of home.  Do you like licorice and those black jellybeans?  Chances are that your mother ate something anise flavored while pregnant!  Food tastes travel fast from mom to baby – reaching your little taste buds in just 45 minutes!  Sweet tastes would make you swallow faster and bitter tastes would cause a less pleased reaction that even showed in the expression on your face!

Touch:

“With skin and flesh you clothed me, with bones and sinews knit me together.” (Job 10:11)  You had been sensitive and reactive to touch from a very early age, by just five weeks in utero.  As you grew, more and more of your body detected touch and pressure and you even felt pain.  By seven months in utero, your entire body was capable of feeling touch and the grasp of your hand was even stronger than it was right after you were born!

And you were on the move!  Through a series of walking like motions, you liked to do somersaults!  You received antibodies from your mother at this age, that would protect you from a wide variety of diseases.  Small as you were, had you been born at this time, it’s highly likely that you would have survived – a chance that increases with ever improving medical technology.  Your brain waves, at this stage of fetal development, were similar to those of a full-term newborn – and you could even cry.  Yet, shockingly, babies in utero are not, by governmental law, considered human beings at this point in life.  Abortion is still legal in the third trimester of pregnancy.

© 2016 Christina Chase

from original post on my parish’s website: CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

The Endowment for Human Development:  https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit16.php

Web M.D. http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-26-30

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#Science

Photo Image: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

[1] Genesis 1:3

Dream a Little Dream: 6 Month Fetus

By the time that you were six months in the womb, you were already physically reacting to music, moving rhythmically to songs.  What was your first playlist?  Probably your parents’ favorite tunes along with a lullaby or two.  Also, you had developed a blink-startle response to loud noises. You still have this response – think when something loud scares you. You shut your eyes quickly, jumping a little! This is a trait that girls develop sooner than boys, while still in utero.

Breathing motions were made with your lungs as a kind of practice for the outside world, better developing your respiratory muscles. Your brainstem was able to detect CO2 levels and trigger an inspiratory response when they were too high. You began sitting up straight as your internal organs settled into final place – and you even started to be responsive to light.

You may have been hidden from sight, receiving from your mother your every need, but your connections to the outside world grew. At this age, if you had been in just the right position, your father (and other family members and friends) would have been able to hear your heartbeat by simply placing his ear against your mother’s abdomen.

6 month fetusWhen you looked like this picture, you had already established a rhythm of sleeping and waking… but, did you dream? Well, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) began between 18 and 21 weeks of your life, which means that you experienced the kind of sleep that allows for dreams. What kind of dreams did you dream? Although your world was very limited at this time, there were stimuli that surrounded you – dim light glowing through the uterine wall, the swishing of fluids and beating of your mother’s heart, the waves of song your father would sing, the touch of your fingers and toes.  All of these, scientists speculate, were woven into the fabric of your dreams in your watery world.…  Perhaps, in your first sleeping visions, your very Creator spoke to you… “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon mortals as they slumber in their beds.”[1]

 © 2016 Christina Chase

from an original post on my parish’s website: http://www.CatholicSuncook.org


Sources:

Just Facts: http://www.justfacts.com/abortion.asp#f66

The Endowment for Human Development: https://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit15.php

Web M.D.: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-21-25?page=2 (ages listed are from LMP, subtract two weeks for actual age)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore: http://www.archbalt.org/family-life/respect-life/spiritual-adoption/upload/Bulletin-announ-w-baby-images.pdf

 

[1] Job 33:15