Favorite Things: Jesus Images

The Christian faith, especially in the Catholic Church, offers rich imagery for believers to assist in their worship.  After all, God created us with five physical senses and desires us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Some images, however, fall flat for me, or are too pink-and-blue pretty.  For example, I seriously doubt that Jesus had blond highlights.

Since they say that a picture is worth 1000 words, in this post I’m sharing some of my favorite images to keep me mindful of my Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

Sacred Heart of Jesus stained-glass

Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Houston, Texas; photo by MaryLea

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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

Prepare to Die

Wrote this while two people in my life are actively dying, Mr. John Meehan, a friend and mentor, and my cousin’s husband, Larry Winger.  May God grant them peace…

Well, I’m feeling better – yes!  The pneumonia and bronchitis that could have killed my crippled, crumpled little body didn’t, new medication stopped my seemingly endless menstrual flow (and another new medication is on the horizon to, hopefully, shrink the huge uterine fibroids) and the usual treatment was able to put a mild Crohn’s disease flareup at ease.  Phew.  There is always the knowledge that I could catch another chest cold at any time, but I’m trying not to live in worry anymore.

And, of course, I still can’t walk, move my arms, hold my head upright, take care of myself, or breathe without rocking my body, but, for me, that’s just everyday, like the small stuff.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Christina Chase, crippled, hand, SMA

Because of all this, I feel a little more deeply into the season of Lent, which began with the reminder “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  Lent, as I have written before, isn’t about doom and gloom but, rather, about preparing to live eternally – yet, this is also a what makes Lent a really good time of year to prepare to die.  Having recently experienced the fragile mortality of my body in an up close and personal way, I have been thinking about death more – and differently.  Preparing to live eternally and preparing to die are, in reality, the same thing.

Are You Prepared to Die?

Death is part of life and, so, it should be lived.  In our mainstream culture, we often think that it’s morbid, unhealthy, and just plain wrong to think about dying while we are living.  Many people don’t even want to talk about death at all.  It’s as though we think that, if we don’t think about it or talk about it, then it won’t come.

Ha.  It’s coming, like it or not. Continue reading

Redemptive Suffering

The womb that cannot bear new life

is, instead, bearing pain.

Seemingly meaningless and devoid of promise,

for the hard grip – twisted deformed rocks –

makes it unrecognized as gift…

The fruit of love conceived

in union with the Pierced Heart

shedding blood, suffering,

giving of oneself for the other…

The womb that cannot carry

feels the weight of souls.

© 2017 Christina Chase

quote on suffering Saint Faustina

Christmas Cycle

One Christmas Eve, after placing a small figure of baby Jesus in its resin manger at our house, my then 4 or 5-year-old nephew asked, “But… is he… alive?”  So much was said in his look of perplexity and disbelief – If Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, then where is he?  Shouldn’t he be growing up by now?  Also… if he was born 2000 years ago… then, maybe he should be dead – right?  Then why do we act like he’s a little newborn baby?  What is this weirdness???

Nativity scene, Christmas, Jesus in manger

Of course, there is something to be said about the Eternal Now, as well as our preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord – but that something is said in other places, I’m sure, with more scholarly expertise.  What I want to reflect upon in this post is the beauty and power of the newness of our celebrations – every single year. Continue reading

Morning Prayer

I’m not alone in believing that we need prayer now, more than ever. Why? Perhaps, because ordinary people aren’t praying as much. People like you. And me.

It’s not like I believe that we get whatever we pray for – far from it. (And don’t I know it.) Sometimes, the greatest blessings come from “unanswered” prayers. (So, if you don’t get Continue reading

Favorite Things: A Quote from Pope Francis

This is the first in a serial feature (which you can expect to see a lot of this summer) that I am calling Favorite Things.  Featuring some of my favorite quotes, artwork, poetry, songs, etc., each post is meant for your reflection, without taking up too much of your time.  I hope you find them as beautiful and inspirational as I do!

Here is an exquisite thought…

Pope Francis tears

… how truly does this thought bring us to the heart of  loving Christ – and to the profound self-giving of Christ’s love for us on the Cross.  Through the tears of our heartbreaking love, we see Jesus face-to-face, heart to heart…

© 2016 Christina Chase

The Sacred Heart in Scripture and Strawberries

strawberries

June is the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church. You may ask, what is meant by the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Well, the Sacred Heart is Jesus. And devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to the love of Jesus, devoting oneself to loving   Him entirely.  The heart is a symbol of love, of course, but also an ancient symbol for the core of one’s being, the sacred abode in which God dwells with the person… and more. I wrote more about the heart HERE, HERE, and HERE. For an article on the more scholarly particulars of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please click HERE.

What does any of this have to do with strawberries? The answer to that is at the end, after a bit of reflective exploration…

Why Does Anything Exist?

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Something about Mary

Mary statue close-up Catholic Suncook

There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus – more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on, and on, and on… besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima…. All Mary.

Why?

I think it’s a case of giddiness – the good kind.

We Catholic Christians are Continue reading

Weird and Wonderful: the Essence of the Ascension

It’s time, once again, to reflect upon the Ascension of Jesus Christ…

Okay, it’s true, Catholics believe some radical things.  Like the Ascension. We profess that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but also went bodily to a supernatural place that we call Heaven. His risen body is glorified, we believe, able to eat, walk, withstand probing, and all the other things that a normal body can do – but also able to pass through walls and bear a deadly wound without death or bleeding. And, now, Jesus, in all that he is, both human and divine, abides bodily… somewhere… some where that isn’t exactly here… or there… somewhere from which he will return… somewhere which we hope to be. This is the Catholic Christian faith. And it does rather seem all too fantastic to be true.

But, then again, have you heard about quarks? Dark matter? Dark energy? The world which we take to be solid and true is too wonderful to comprehend in its entirety or even in the entirety of its smallest part… for what is its smallest part? We would know nothing of the existence of, say, subatomic particles if a privileged few people hadn’t “seen” them and then told us about them. Tales of whitedwarfs and blackholes sound like mere tall tales indeed, but the small percentage of our population, called scientists, are intelligent and fervent in their telling of them. And we accept. We have not seen the proof and, even if we did, most of us would not be able to understand the “proof” – but, we believe.

Life is profoundly complex and marvelously weird. We would be arrogant to think that everything in existence can fit into our limited brains. There is so much more than what we know, so much more than what we can imagine…. The myriad clusters of stars and sweep of galaxies in the night sky are as beautiful to my eyes as the exuberant profusion of blue forget-me-nots in the garden beneath my window. Sometimes, I may think that the superabundance of suns and planets in the universe renders the specially-intended and divinely-loved existence of human beings into a myth. Yet… is it a myth, a fairytale, that the superabundance of apple blossoms blooming only rarely yield forth a tree? From countless seeds come not countless plants – all that is required, all that is hoped for, is but one.
DSCN8106

This is how God creates. For this is how God loves. Profusely, limitless, overgenerous in creative exuberance and abundant forgiveness… what goodness there is now is only the smallest part of what will be.

So, yes, I believe. Jesus, our savior and Lord, is fully where he promised to be, where he will call us to join him one day. Although we may not know “where” that is, we know the way… the way of  Christ, of pure and self-giving love without limits. Just so, though we may not know the exact purpose and workings of the plethora of stars and flowers, we know the beauty… the wonder and awe-inspiring beauty of life…

– of life loved exuberantly into being.

© 2016 Christina Chase
originally posted 2015

photo© 2015 Dan Chase