My Jesus, My Home.

Home is Where the Heart Is. I am sure you have heard this saying many times, but have you ever taken the time to contemplate its Christian implications? As we approach December 25th, the celebration marking the birth of Jesus in a rustic home away from home, let us pause to reflect upon its deeper meaning.

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The Christmas Creche or Nativity Scene. The scene of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem has been pictured and used in church services since the first century. The nativity scene we think of today finds its origin in Greccio, Italy, where St. Francis of Assisi set up the first live Christmas Creche on Christmas Eve, 1223.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a home is one’s place of residence. To me this defines a house not a home. In regards to a home, I sense a deeper, more intimate meaning, one involving personal belongingness and happiness. The physical location of our house may change but the emotional constancy of our home usually travels with us. This emotional connotation, in my opinion, best reflects the nativity scene pictured above. There, in the small town of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph and their new born Son, Jesus, found themselves far from their town of origin or house in Nazareth.

I can easily relate to the Holy Family’s experience as I recall my own son’s birth on Jan 6, 2001. It was two weeks before Christmas and my husband, Tom, and I had traveled to Daytona Beach, FL in anticipation of our son’s upcoming birth and adoption. Away from home, but not alone, we welcomed the birth of our only son, Joseph, three weeks later, on the Feast Day of the Epiphany. He was and is our greatest gift from God, more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That special day, our family of three found a temporary home away from home in a Holiday Inn Express located two miles from the Daytona Speedway. Despite the noise and multiple distractions, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude. We were right where we longed to be. We were home.

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The Grotto (or cave) of the birth of Our Lord, located in the lower level of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

About 8 years back, I had the privilege of going to the Holy Land and visiting the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. As I walked in His footsteps, and those of His mother, Mary, I actually touched the very spots where Love was born; born in a stable in Bethlehem and perfected on the Cross in Jerusalem. Included in my pilgrimage was a visit to the ancient remains or foundation of Mary’s home in Nazareth, the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. In Nazareth, I not only saw the remains of Mary’s house but also the Grotto of the Annunciation. This cave, connected to the backside of Mary’s house, was where Mary gave her “fiat” or yes to God, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say,” (Luke 1:38).

Mary’s loving obedience, trust and joy, in the face of such confusion and fear, provides us with a deeper understanding of the meaning of home and an intimate peek into her Immaculate Heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is a name used to refer to the interior life of Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, but most of all, her virginal love for God the Father, maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and compassionate love for each of us. Near the Grotto and remains of Mary’s family house, I once again found a home, for there, my heart was filled with the love of my spiritual mother, Mary. There, in Nazareth, I found my spiritual home safely tucked away within the chambers of her Immaculate Heart.

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The Grotto of the Annunciation, located within the lower level of The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

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The foundations of Mary’s house in the ancient town of Nazareth.

This past November, I traveled to Italy with Teresa Tomeo, Kelly Wahlquist and the women of WINE (Women In the New Evangelization), as we walked in the footsteps of many Catholic female Saints, including St. Claire, St. Katherine of Sienna, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. Perhaps my favorite of all our destinations was the small town of Loreto, located in the mid-western Italian province of Ancona. In this small town, we found the walls of Mary’s Nazarene House, the home where Mary raised her Son, Jesus.

How, you may ask, did Mary’s house from Nazareth find it’s way to Loreto, Italy? According to Church tradition, it was in 1221, during the Crusade time period, that this ancient domicile was transported by angels to Loreto. I have no trouble believing this story, for just as the angels announced the coming of the small babe, Jesus, in Bethlehem, so too, could the angels have transported Christ’s original house to the home country of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. A second rendition of this miraculous story tells of a royal family named, the Angels, who meticulously transported the Holy House of Mary to Loreto for safekeeping. The House of Mary is pictured below.

 

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Pictured above: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy House of Loreto, otherwise known as Mary’s House.

Our group spent over two hours in the Holy House that morning. It proved an unforgettable experience for me. Quietly, I leaned up against the very walls where Mary raised her Son, Jesus. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. “This is my home,” I thought. “This is the place that I long to be, where I want to spend my time.”  Amidst the ancient walls of Jesus’ childhood home, I found spiritual warmth and safety. As I pondered these feelings in my heart, I suddenly found myself, once again, within the confines of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. There too, was my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for Mary always points me toward’s her Son, Jesus. My home is with Jesus, deep within the confines of His Most Sacred Heart. He goes where I go. Present too was His mother, Mary, and her Immaculate Heart, for the two Hearts are bound together in love, the love of the Holy Spirit.

 

Yes, home is where the heart is, however, the question remains: Where is your heart this Christmas Season? Is it with the Lord and His Mother Mary? This is an appropriate question to ponder this Christmas Season, for as St. Augustine of Hippo says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God.”

“Home and Jesus! The two should be inseparable. Husband and wife need the clasp of that infinite love to keep their hearts true to each other. Parents need the guidance of that infinite wisdom and the power of that infinite strength to keep them patient and long-suffering and gentle and wise in the training of immortal souls,” (Albert Elliot Kittredge).

“It is to Jesus Christ we owe the truth, the tenderness, the purity, the warm affection, the holy aspiration, which go together in that endearing word – home; for it is He who has made obedience so beautiful, and affection so holy; it is He who has brought the Father’s home so near, and has taught us that love is of God.” (James Hamilton)

May the love of the Lord fill your home and your heart this Christmas Season. Amen

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Trinity of Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com

 

 

Divine Protection.

“Beside each believer stands……?……as a protector and shepherd leading him to life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #336). Can you fill in the blank to complete this sentence? There are several valid responses, however, the correct answer may actually surprise you. Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we learn more about our promised protector and shepherd, which leads us to life.

Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Four: The Protection of Mercy (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy).

Feeling helpless and unsure, the despondent mother cried out, “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me? Joseph, my son, is made in your merciful image. He is your child as well as mine. Please, merciful Father, tell me how to reach him.” Getting no immediate response, she vowed to persist in her asking and interceding on his behalf. Later that week, while praying in a rocking chair near his bedroom, she received a  response, as several unexpected visitors appeared before her. Seeing with the eyes of faith, for none were visible to the naked eye, she found herself within the very presence of an angel. Leading the group was a valiant warrior, and the leader of all angels, St. Michael the Archangel. He made no sound but simply called fourth four others. One by one, they each appeared before her.

From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by their (guardian angel’s) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth, the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #336).

So, here we find our answer to the posed question. But what can we, as Catholics, actually learn about these angelic beings from Sacred Scripture and Tradition? Continue reading to find out.

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Angels are mentioned throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture. In fact, they appear from the beginning to the end, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation.  As we read in the opening line of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Most of us are very familiar with these famous opening lines of the Bible, but how many of us are aware of creation’s deeper revelation contained within Paul’s Book to the Colossians? Here, Paul writes that all things in heaven and on earth were created through and for Jesus Christ, who is the very “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:16). Paul’s words illuminate many things, in regards to angels, including their intended purpose (to serve and honor God) and their relationship with humanity (as creatures of God).

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Cave of the Grotto, in Nazareth, where the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary during the Annunciation.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the angels serve as “messengers of his saving plan” and are “spirits sent forth to serve” for the sake of our salvation (CCC #331). How appropriate is it then that an angel, named Gabriel, announced the birth of our Savior to Mary in the small town of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-28)?

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,”Hail, Full of Grace. The Lord is with you.”

One angel announced the birth of the Messiah, however, many others would continue to minister and care for God incarnate, Jesus Christ, throughout His life on earth. Shortly after the Annunciation, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:19). Shortly after the birth of our Lord, in the small town of Bethlehem, an angel once again appeared to Joseph saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). Here, we find two divine functions carried out by God’s angels, that of divine messenger and protector of humankind (Genesis 28:12 and Psalm 91:11). As a matter of fact, the word angel itself means “messenger”. Therefore, in this title, we learn something about their mission. But what of their nature?

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Grotto under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where the angel warned Joseph about the plans of Herod, prior to their flight into Egypt.

According to St. Augustine, angels are spirits who are “servants and messengers of God”. They do not have physical bodies like humans. As purely spiritual creatures, they are personal, immortal, and possess intelligence, power and free will (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 20:36 and CCC #330). Throughout various Bible passages, we find mention of nine different orders of angels: seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), cherubim (Ezekiel 10:22), thrones, dominions, principalities and powers (Colossians 1:16), virtues (1Peter 3:22), archangels (Jude 1:9) and angels (Matthew 17:27). Of these, only three are named in Sacred Scripture, the archangel Michael (Daniel 12:1), Raphael (Tobit 12:15) and Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

Although angels are pure spirit, they can take on any form to accomplish the will of God. Most often, throughout the pages of Sacred Scripture, we find them taking on the appearance of men (Genesis 19:1-2). At other times, like at the site of the Lord’s resurrection, angels have appeared like a “flash of lighting” as “dazzling as the snow” (Matthew 28:3). So, you may ask, do angels actually have wings, as we so often see them depicted? In Isaiah 6:2, we read about angels with six wings and in the Book of Exodus, we find God instructing Moses to make a pure gold covering for the Ark, topped by the outstretched wings of two angels (Exodus 25:20).

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Catholic Church at Shepherd’s Field where an angel announced the birth of the Lord, and a multitude of the heavenly host sang praise and honor to God.

When Jesus Christ came to earth, a new era began in the ministry of angels. Although we find their presence throughout the Old Testament, it was only through Christ’s birth, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven that we find the “whole life of the Church benefiting from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (Hebrew 1:14 and CCC #334). This is why the People of God, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, join with the angels and saints in offering praise, honor and glory to their King, Jesus Christ. For this is the ultimate mission of each of God’s creatures, including the angels, saints and each of us.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and eyes all over, inside and out. Day and night, without pause, they sing: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, He who was, and who is, and who is to come!” (Revelation 4:8).

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Hebrews 12:22-24: “You have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gatherings, to the assembly of the first born enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.  

Moreover, the Church encourages all the faithful to pray to St. Michael, the archangel, for protection against the wickedness of Satan (the fallen angel), and to their own personal guardian angel for comfort, protection, guidance and care.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. St. Michael, the archangel, pray for us. Amen

(Revelation 12:7-9) Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent known as the devil or Satan, the seducer of the whole world, was driven out; he was hurled down to earth and his minions with him.

Closing 3:00 p.m. prayer for Divine Mercy.

Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world. (Repeat two more times).

Jesus, I trust in You.

Please click on the link below to learn more about my non-for-profit company, The Healing Eyes of Mercy, make a donation for the people of Haiti, Rwanda, or the Holy Land, shop, or read about my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. Thank you and God Bless!

http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com