Making the Prayer of Jesus Your Own

throughwithShane Kapler has a newly published book titled Through With, & In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus And How to Make It Our OwnIt’s a long but quite accurate title.

Shane adeptly explores Jesus’ life of prayer, situated in the Jewish culture of His day, and offers insightful reflections on how our Lord’s prayer can be ours.

I was amazed at how much of Jewish worship and day-to-day life Shane revealed. At times I felt like I was reading a historical novel of the near East two thousand years ago. It’s fascinating to learn about the context of Jesus’ life of faith. Shane shows how the Church’s prayers, devotions, and liturgy all have their roots in the life of Christ and thus in the rituals and observances of the Old Covenant.

Each chapter is filled with theological insights into the great mysteries of our Christian Faith–for example the Incarnation and life of the Holy Trinity–along with the Israelites’ practices and prayers and how they are connected to those of the Church. Finally, Shane gives practical ways that the Church offers us to deepen our prayer life today: from Eucharistic Adoration to the Divine Mercy Chaplet, from the brown scapular to the Our Father to the sacred Heart of Jesus.

The book is accessible to any Catholic, and I would recommend it to every Catholic. It offers countless insights for growing in your faith and in your own prayer. Shane’s writing style is friendly and winsome; you feel like he is a companion journeying with you as you read.

I am only too happy to encourage you to buy this great book!

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There’s Death And Then There’s DEATH

The Four Last Things

The Four Last Things

I’ve been pondering the gospel readings during this Lent and  have been struck by the different way that death is spoken of. For example, in John 11 Jesus says:

Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?

What a paradox! Anyone who believes in Jesus, though dead, shall live, and everyone who lives and believes shall not die forever. What can it mean?

To us as Christians I think it is straightforward: the first death that Jesus speaks of is the death of the body, physical death, where the soul separates from the body. It is the end of our earthly life, yet our soul lives on.

Hence the second part of Jesus’ statement, that if we believe in Him we will “never die” or “not die forever.” Meaning, we will be in Heaven with Him forever. We will still experience bodily death, but not the death of eternal condemnation in Hell.

The Communion of Saints

Jesus gives us another incredible glimpse into spiritual realities in John 8, when he says:

 Amen, amen I say to you: If any man keep my word, he shall not see death for ever. The Jews therefore said: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest: If any man keep my word, he shall not taste death for ever.

Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself?….

But I do know him, and do keep his word.Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.

Again Jesus reiterates that anyone who dies in His friendship, who has kept His word, will not die forever. The Jews don’t understand and keep thinking He is speaking only of bodily death. They keep repeating that Abraham and the prophets “are dead.”

Jesus had responded to this sort of statement when the Sadducees made it (in Luke 20) when He answered:

Now that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him.

A direct refutation, showing them that bodily death is not the definitive death, and that those who experienced bodily death are actually alive with God!

How did Abraham see Christ’s day, and with gladness? I don’t know if there is an official interpretation of that passage and have heard several ideas: Abraham saw Christ’s day when He entertained the three angels, when He was going to sacrifice Isaac, when he in the future saw Christ’s crucifixion. Another interpretation would be Abraham, alive with God, “saw” Christ’s day when He became incarnate. The Transfiguration, when Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus, demonstrates that the great saints of the Old Covenant are very much alive and active.

All this shows that bodily death only ends our earthly pilgrimage. We remain alive with God in our souls, awaiting the Resurrection and final judgment. We remain in union with Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church. We remain in communion with one another, with the saints in Heaven, the suffering saints in purgatory, and the saints-in-the-making on earth.

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A Year on Bethlehem Hill Farm

Killdeer eggs

Killdeer eggs

We’ve been on our farm a year. I wanted to share some thoughts.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

We have done a tremendous amount on our farm in this first year. Too much. The farm was junked up with garbage. We ordered a 20 cubic yard dumpster and spent a week pitching refuse into it–old chairs that smelled of urine, rusted metal barrels, empty old fuel cans.

We rebuilt our big pond, and are now hoping for enough rain to fill it. We built berms (mounds of dirt to channel water) to funnel the rain runoff into the pond. We renovated our house, which had thirty years of cigarette smoke in the walls and floors. We had a wood stove put in, and I lost three years off my life worrying about it burning down the house.

Animals That Can Kill You

Our neighbor had his cows on the property (including a bull), but he was abusing our land with them, desertifying the pasture. I kindly asked him to remove them. Problem was, that meant we needed to buy seven of our own cows to keep our tax ag exemption. So I set out to find affordable cows and finally we have seven of them (and a little calf–Valentinus–born around St. Valentine’s Day).

Pineywood Cows

Pineywood Cows

These cows are big, have horns, and can kill or maim you, even without intending to. They toss their horned head back to swat some flies, and if you are standing their, LIGHTS OUT.

Our next-door neighbor has something of an animal menagerie, including some huge 500 lb pigs. She needed help one day and asked me to come over. I did. We walked into the barn and she slipped into one of the empty stalls, shutting the gate behind her. I was in the open middle passageway, and in come the animals: Five horses, ten donkeys, six pigs. Apparently it’s feeding time and I may be the main course for the pigs. “Uh, am I safe out here,” I ask my neighbor. “Oh sure you are,” she says, “But you may want to climb up on the gate there and hold on to the rafter.”

I do so, but the next thing you know the two enormous pigs are jumping up and putting their front hoofs on the gate where I am standing. They make a horrible screeching noise that sounds like they are being slaughtered. I later learn my wife starts to worry as she only hears the noises from the barn–am I being eaten alive?

My neighbor throws some grain to the pigs and they start hogging away. I slip out and leave.

Some months later my son and I are walking down our own driveway, when one of the huge pigs breaks through the fence and starts coming toward us. I pick Edmund up and run for the house. We get to the house before the pig gets to us. I go back out and make sure that the pig goes back to our neighbor’s.

Machines That Can Kill You

I bought a small tractor. I never learned to drive a stick shift. The tractor is a stick shift, plus about ten other knobs, gears, buttons, and levers to make all the different parts do things.

1I start using the front loader (bucket) to get dirt and make a berm. Our land is sloped, and no sooner do I start toward the berm location than the tractor hits a dip and almost tips over. How unstable are these things? I wonder. I sort of get the hang of it but almost tip many times. Reaction is to lower the bucket and dump the contents immediately, which it turns out is the correct reaction if you start to tip.

We met a new friend, Evan, several months back. He is making a go at farming again, but does IT work as his day job. I get the news from our mutual friend: he bought a new tractor, pulled stumps with it, and it tipped over and crushed him. He was life-flighted to the hospital but died on the way there. So tragic. And that could be me. Out here, animals and machines can kill you. The padded walls of postage-stamp lot suburbia are gone.

Gleanings

I’ve learned electric fencing, rotational grazing, fodder, grasses, chainsaws, cow milking, squeeze chuting, calving, and the pace of country old-timers (slow).

0212141714-01I bought a great old truck on Craigslist. Nine months later the engine went belly-up. I learned about engines. We bought a reman long block engine and I had a “shade tree” mechanic replace the dead one with it for cheap.

Cows are smart, but they like routines. They are mainly dangerous only if you do not exert your dominance over them. Not an abusive dominance, a psychological one. I didn’t know what this meant when I first read about it but do now.

The best part of it all has been seeing my children get to roam far and wide and learn so much about nature and life. They’ve seen guinea fowl die, chickens die (raccoons), a cow die, a calf born, a cow milked, killdeer nests, snakes, and much more.

I’ll try to post more about our farm in Year #2. Sometimes though you just have to live your life and not blog about it.

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