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The Eucharist, Grief, Loss and Hope

My mother passed away in July 2017. She battled kidney disease heavily during the last years of her life. A kidney transplant prolonged her life much longer than many would expect. She spent her last years going to dialysis three times a week. It was a great burden of suffering for her that wasn’t alleviated until she passed away.

After her death, I couldn’t sleep at all. I would wake up in the middle of the night weeping. I remember laying on my couch and sobbing during the midnight hours; asking the Lord why she suffered so much and why I didn’t get more time with her. My mother’s life was fraught with loss and pain – physically and emotionally – and she carried a lot of wounds that never healed. A lot of my mourning was not just for the loss of her life but for a life that never was well-lived

One night, my seven year old offered my mother as the intention for bedtime prayers. And, my heart was finally consoled. I knew that my prayers for her were carried to the heart of God and met with a final purification for a woman that may have “failed to respond in a correct and perfect way to” the love of God. [1] In light of this, I knew that the love that I had tried to express to her for all of my life was now expressed in the most perfect way through the love of God. Through the death of my mother, He even found a way to pursue my heart.

It’s been almost 8 months since Mom passed. This weekend, I was sitting at Mass with my husband and our now 11-month-old daughter. She was waddling up and down our aisle, grabbing hold of whatever she could to give her balance – the back of the pew, empty chairs, strangers’ knees, etc.

I often look at my daughter and remember bringing her to meet my mother. She was three months old and my mom was recovering from a horrible bout with pneumonia in an assisted living facility. She was small and frail on her hospital bed but she was so excited to meet her newest grandchild.

“Oh, Rachel,” she said. “I’m so glad you brought her to me. That’s all I needed. I can go home now.” She passed away just a few days after that meeting.

Back to Mass. We were sitting next to another woman and her wheelchair bound mother. My daughter waddled over to the mother and grabbed onto her knee. My daughter looked up at the woman’s elderly face and grabbed onto her hand which was shaking from visible tremors of age and deteriorating health. My daughter didn’t let go and the shaking increased from excitement as tears welled up in the woman’s eyes. I watched this and stopped breathing. How incredibly beautiful.

I remember thinking that my mom wouldn’t be able to enjoy our youngest if she were still alive today. With her declining health, she had visible tremors like the woman in the wheelchair at Mass. As I sat watching our daughter grasp on to her, I could almost feel my mother inviting all of this to happen for my mending heart.

After Mass, the woman next to me thanked me, “My mom lacks grandchildren. This made her day.”

I replied to her, “My mom passed away last year. This made my day too. A gift for you and a gift for me. Thank you.”

For the rest of the day, I cried on and off. Upon further reflection, I realized that the tears weren’t because of the absence of my mother but they were tears from the realization that God pursues me and loves me deeply. He has found me in the midst of some of the deepest pain and dropped moments of clarity and beauty for me to remember his relentless pursuit of my heart.

Christ does this for all of mankind – giving us constant reminders of His love in every day life. But, He does this most perfectly through the Eucharist. “To receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.”[2]

We must approach the Eucharist with thanksgiving for His sacrifice and love but also for the opportunity to be one – united together across time and space. You, the reader, with me, the writer, and even with my mother as the Eucharist allows us to “unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.”[3]

Even now, I have very real moments of grief over the loss of my mom. I don’t think that will ever fully go away. But as I mourn with hope, may I continue to see Christ in every moment of every day and especially in the moments when He consoles my broken heart during my own loss or amid the darkness of the world.

And, I’ll see you in the Eucharist along with my mother and all of those who have gone before us and will come to be.

[1] “General Audience of 12 January 2011: Saint Catherine of Genoa | BENEDICT XVI”www.vatican.va. Retrieved 2017-05-17.

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1336

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1326

Word on Fire: “The Flash,” Fear, and the Kenosis of Marriage

The Flash

My first blog for Word on Fire was posted today. Here it is! Thanks for reading:

I’m a huge fan of “The Flash.” The CW has had my viewership since they created “Supernatural.” I would count myself as a storyteller, and I know that every story always points back to the ultimate Creator. All of creation reaches back to its Creator. I look for that reality all around me, and most recently, I found it in “The Flash,” season 4, episode 16: “Run, Iris, Run.”

This episode has several themes: the isolating nature of fear, the natural call to holiness, and the altruism of marriage. For this, I would like to focus on the altruism of marriage or the kenotic love of the sacrament of matrimony.

Read more….

The Flash and Marriage

(imdb)

I’m a huge fan of The Flash. The CW has had my viewership since they created Supernatural. I would count myself as a story teller, and I know that every story always points back to the ultimate Creator. All of creation reaches back to its Creator. I look for that reality all around me, and most recently, I found it in “The Flash”, Season 4, Episode 16, “Run, Iris, Run”.

This episode has several themes: the isolating nature of fear, the natural call to holiness and the altruism of marriage. For this, I would like to focus on the altruism of marriage or the kenotic love of the sacrament of matrimony.

Setting the stage, Barry and Iris were married a few episodes ago. Their lives are intertwined through almost every facet imaginable and for the most part, they are both defined by their roles on “Team Flash” – Barry is the speedster (AKA The Flash) and usually out in the field while Iris is the boss, working her magic from a bird’s eye view by guiding the time using technology at their headquarters (usually not in the field).

The pivotal point comes early on in the episode when Iris tries to empower another Team Flash member (Ralph) who is living in the isolation that fear causes. From within that fear, he lashes out at Iris, “You don’t have any concept of how dangerous it is for me out there…you’re always back there hiding safe and sound while the rest of us are out in the field putting our lives on the line.”

Obviously, Ralph speaks out of fear at this moment, which is a whole other topic, but this is how the enemy sometimes works. He uses our brothers and sisters to plant seeds of doubts during their (and our) moments of weakness, moments of disquietude. It’s also worth mentioning that prior to this line from Ralph, Iris tried to refute him with “I am the leader of this team”! A lion doesn’t need to roar to show himself to be a lion.

Now through a strange turn of events, Barry’s speedster power is transferred to Iris. This further escalate Iris and Barry’s struggle with their identities – Iris, involving her leadership and place on the team; and Barry regarding the recent loss his job and (seemingly) never-ending quest against his latest foe.

They end up having to switch their normal positions on the team in light of the transference of power. Iris becomes the speedster in the field and Barry runs point back at headquarters. They each face hardships when they are thrust into their new “identities” – Iris is unsure of how to use her powers and Barry can’t explain how he has utilized them in the past.

Iris ends up going back out into the field and amid her self-doubt, she is empowered by Barry’s encouragement which inevitably runs back to the show’s title and one of its favorite lines “Run, Iris, Run”.

In the end, Iris and Barry both thrive in their new positions but not without help from the other, and they both return to their previous positions, positions in which they utilized their individual charisms the best and positions that they grow more fond of when they are taken from them.

Now all of this somehow lead me to the kenosis required of the husband and wife within the Sacrament of Marriage. There is an individual call for each to “pour themselves out” for the other, a self-emptying (kenotic) love. This can sometimes invite us or even thrust us into environments with which we are not accustomed.

I have found that there are gifts that have been given to my husband and I, individually, as well as gifts that we both share in together. Within our individual gifts, we are more fully ourselves and find the best avenue for self-emptying. These gifts are not the ONLY avenues but they have proven to be the best for each of us.

On the other hand, there are situations which call us into further self-emptying through the use of gifts that “feel” unnatural to us or gifts that require more effort on our part to put them to best use. In those unnatural environments, there is a deeper level of humiliation (of dying, of kenosis) that is found because in order to use the gift, we must turn to someone that has used it before, that naturally exercises their theosis (transformation to the likeness of God) within this method of kenosis. This ebb and flow is beautifully exemplified in the sacrament of marriage.

While we live in a state of kenosis, there is an added benefit of a sharper reflection of God when our “light” is shined outward instead of inward. While we are the mirror, we are unable to see such reflection but rely heavily on the other to remind us that the reflection is indeed the face of God even when we have muddled the surface of the mirror with our dust and smudges or insecurities and self-doubt. We encourage one another and wipe away that which has been marred to reveal a perfect reflection of the Godhead when our hermeneutic is for the Other.

In the last scene of “Run Iris Run”, Iris explains what she believes makes a speedster great and I believe the same applies to what makes each of us great. “It’s being the light that everyone needs when the world goes dark.”

So in the spirit of Lent, let us follow the Son into death only to rise with Him in the light of the resurrection. Where must I die in order to live more fully? Maybe the best way is by living just as Rachel is called to live. The world is not in need of a thousand of the same person – a thousand Mother Teresa’s or Padre Pios – but perhaps enlightened by their holiness, we may be fully ourselves inspiring those that live in darkness to walk out into the light.