Three Religions, One God.

The City of Jerusalem. United in Adoration. “Join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the ancient city of Jerusalem, as we explore the three great faiths which share a common belief in God, the one God, the God of Abraham.

3 faiths

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

Arriving in Jerusalem, I could sense the presence of God. Home to all three monotheistic faiths, that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the streets were filled with His praises. Called by many names, including Yahweh, God, Merciful Father, Jesus Christ, and Allah, almost every person in His holy city cried out in adoration. Amidst this praise, however, was a palpable pain, for although they were united in adoration, they were divided in beliefs and religious practices. Stopping for a brief overlook, our Jewish guide pointed out the holiest of sites for each of the three monotheistic faiths. Included was the Jewish Wailing Wall, a remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher, containing the actual Crucifixion and Resurrection sites of Jesus, and the Islamic Dome of the Rock, built over the destination of Mohammed’s Night Journey. Raising a glass of champaign, he toasted our Catholic tour group, saying, “welcome home.” At once, I heard the 3 o’clock Islamic call to prayer bellow throughout the city streets. Overwhelmed by the sheer power and contradiction of the moment, I humbly raised my glass in unified adoration.

Bibles and Quran, interfaith symbols of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the three monotheistic religions, Haute-Savoie, France, Europe

The Torah, Bible and Quran, interfaith symbols of the three monotheistic faiths, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The three great monotheistic faiths, otherwise known as the Abrahamic religions, include Judaism (founded in the 7th Century BCE), Christianity (founded around 33 AD) and Islam (founded around 630 AD). Each claims descent from Abraham, the ancient Israelite father of faith. The Israelite Nation, known as Jews, traces its Abrahamic lineage through he and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Christians make a similar claim, for they consider themselves grafted into the family tree through Christ’s New Covenant. Muslims, founded by Muhammad, find their connection through Abraham’s son, Ishmael, who was born to the slave girl, Hagar.

In 2005, these faiths comprised approximately 54% of the earth’s population (Christianity-33%, Islam-21%, and Judaism-2%). This represents about 3.6 billion people. Therefore, it seems prudent that these groups strive to live in harmony, seek common ground, and mutual respect. In common, they each:

  1. Profess a belief in the One God, who creates, loves, forgives, reveals, rules and judges humanity at the end of time.
  2. Accept God’s revealed truth through Abraham, the father of faith, and many other divinely inspired prophets.
  3. Preserve God’s revelation in sacred text and various oral teachings of their faith tradition.
    • Judaism: The Jewish Bible, or Tanukh, consists of God’s Laws (Torah), the prophets (Neviim), and sacred writings (Ketuvium). Additionally, Jews look to the supplemental, rabbinical teachings of Midrash, Mishnah, and the Talmud.
    • Catholicism: The revealed Word of God is contained within the 73 Books of the Old and New Testaments (teachings of Jesus, who is God incarnate), the Church’s Sacred Oral Traditions, and the Holy Spirit guided Magisterial teachings (Pope in union with the bishops) detailed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    • Islam: The 114 Chapters (Suras) of the Qur’ran contain truths revealed by God through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad. Additionally, Muslims look to the supplemental teachings (Hadith) and life story (Sira) of Muhammad, referred to as the Sunnah. The Faqih, or the legal teachings, provide supplemental guidelines for daily living.
  4. Follow an annual religious calendar, and religious, disciplinary and liturgical practices, including but not limited to:
    • Judaism: adherence to the thirteen articles of faith, which summarize core Jewish beliefs, three times daily prayer for men, observation of the Saturday Sabbath, celebration of Shabbat and Passover, adherence to male circumcision, dietary laws, and other spiritual disciplines.
    • Catholicism: belief in the Trinity, One God made of three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), acceptance of the Nicene Creed, observation of the Sunday Sabbath through participation in the Mass (partaking in the consecrated bread and wine or Body and Blood of Christ), and reception of sacramental graces (Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick) as members of His Body, the Church.
    • Islam: observation of Five Pillars, including believe in One God and Muhammad as His final and most perfect prophet, five times daily prayer, alms giving, annual observation of Ramadan, and the completion of a pilgrimage to Mecca (the birth place of Muhammad) if at all possible.
  5. Speak of humanity’s choice between good and evil, and an eternal reward for those who choose obedience to God’s moral law.
  6. Anticipate the coming of a Messiah, who will bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.
  7. Share a love of Jerusalem and deep reverence for the Temple Mount, where Abraham offered his son, in faith, as a sacrificial offering to God. Of course, Abraham’s son was saved, for God, Himself, provided the sacrificial lamb, (Genesis 22:1-13).
3-religions-claim-jerusalem

View of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Visible is the Western Wall (ancient remnant of the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies) and the golden, Islamic Dome of the Rock.

Among their commonalities, however, one finds significant religious and political differences. Of primary importance is Judaism and Islam’s rejection of Jesus Christ’s divinity and humanity, as God incarnate. Secondarily, is Christianity and Islam’s continuous call and desire to evangelize all nations. Subsequently, throughout much of their common history, these three faiths have found themselves at odds, or in the worst case scenario, at war. Overcoming these long-standing difficulties is at the heart of the Catholic Church’s call for interreligious dialogue. These new efforts or plans are contained within the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate).

Abraham day

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SBD of Perth, Chief Rabbi of Western Australia, David Freilich OAM, and Sheikh Muhammad Agherdien, gathered (Sept. 22, 2016) to plant an olive tree, a symbol for peace, in celebration of Abraham Day, marking their shared faith in the One God, the God of Abraham.

In the spirit of Nostra Aetate, I pray that each of us strive to:

  1. Reflect the light of Christ to a world in desperate need of love.
  2. Enter, with prudence and charity, into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.
  3. Acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found within a non-Christian’s faith, social, and cultural life.
  4. Work together to preserve, and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for all.
  5. Avoid discrimination against people, or harassment of any kind, on the basis of race, color, condition in life or religion.

Closing 3:00 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

 

 

 

Created to Relate!

The Feminine Genius. Pope St. John Paul II used a very interesting phrase when referring to the unique gifts, rights and dignity of all women, that of the “feminine genius”. But what does this mysterious phrase mean and what are the divine gifts bestowed upon each and every woman made in the very image of God? Today’s virtual pilgrimage will attempt to search for answers and also provide a personal invitation for you, or the important women in your life, to learn, first hand, about the feminine genius at work in W.I.N.E. (women in the new evangelization). W.I.N.E. is a national woman’s movement which helps women to grow spiritually, learn about the faith, and utilize their God given gifts to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Along the way, the women of W.I.N.E. develop a deeper relationship with Christ and other women who share a common love for the Lord. Continue reading as we further explore the “feminine genius” and how women are “Created To Relate,” (see the W.I.N.E. event flyer below).

wine_www Created to Relate Flyer 2

In Pope Saint John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Letter to women entitled, The Dignity of Woman, the spiritual leader of the world recognized and celebrated the beautiful design and unique vocation or mission of women. Referring to the “feminine genius”, John Paul II encouraged women to recognize their giftedness, fully engage, and offer their maternal comfort, support and love to a world in such desperate need of radical change or transformation. According to John Paul II, it is only when a woman loves sacrificially, in the true image of God, that she becomes fully alive. With her full dignity complete, she then becomes a true reflection of the love of Christ and a profound conduit of blessings to the community as a whole.

visitationchurch32s

Mary and Elizabeth at the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem outside of Jerusalem. Located on the brick wall of the courtyard, just outside of the church, one finds over forty ceramic tablets bearing the Magnificat prayer in various languages from countries around the world.

As we search for the fullest understanding of the vocation of womanhood, we can turn to Mary, the Mother of God, as our ultimate role model. Pictured above, we find Mary and Elizabeth, both embodying the four crucial elements of the feminine genius: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.

  • Receptivity: At the visitation, both Mary and Elizabeth exhibited feminine receptivity to life, which not only includes biological motherhood, but also its emotional and spiritual aspects as well. Mary, for her part, offered her humble submission to become the “theotokos” or “God bearer” for the world. Through her “fiat”, or freely given yes, she ultimately delivered the promised Offspring of God who “crushed the head of the serpent” and restored the full dignity of the human race, (Genesis 3:16). Upon her arrival at the house of Elizabeth, Mary sang the Lord’s praises (Magnificat) in recognition of the tremendous gift He had given to her and the entire world. Elizabeth, in return, recognized and received the blessings offered by Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (Genesis 1:42).

 

dsc02203

The Wedding Church at Cana, built in 1901, sits atop the archaeological excavation site containing a 1st century synagogue and 4th century cross-shaped Christian Church. It is believed by many to be the wedding location mentioned in John 2:1-11, the site where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.

 

  • Sensitivity is defined as the feminine discernment or alertness to the inner life and needs of others. The feminine ability to see with the heart, beyond the external, effectively exhibits God’s ability to meet the deepest needs of the human heart, mind and soul. Feminine sensitivity is beautifully demonstrated in the Gospel story  of the Wedding of Cana. There, we find Mary, fully aware of the needs of others, bringing these concerns to her Son for rectification. Son “they have no wine.” Jesus said in reply, “Woman, what has this to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” In response, Mary says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” (John 2:3-5). Subsequently, Jesus performs His first miracle and turns the water into wine.
  • Generosity A woman’s heart is a generous heart. Generosity makes a woman attentive and responsive to the needs of her family, Church Parish, community and work associates. Welcoming a new life into the world is perhaps the best example of feminine generosity, however, there are many other aspects of feminine generosity on display in various Gospel accounts. An excellent example can be found in Martha and Mary’s constant care and concern for Jesus. In Mary and Martha’s example, contemporary women find a personal invitation to participate in the ongoing mission of Jesus. This is a mission of love, directed and guided by the orientation of the heart, for a generous and loving act of kindness can transform the world.
DSC03014

The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built atop Golgotha, which means Skull Place, where Jesus was crucified, (Matthew 27:32-38). Picture above is the location where Mary stood beneath her dying Son.

  • Maternity. In no other place is physical and spiritual motherhood on fuller display than at the foot of the Cross. There, we find a sorrowful mother offering her unconditional love and support to her dying Son, while simultaneously taking the lost disciple, John, as her own. When Christ said, “Woman behold your son, son behold your mother,” John, the Church and each of us gained a spiritual mother, (John 19:26). Filled with sorrow, love, hope and compassion, Mary became the ultimate symbol and living model of the “feminine genius”. She remains an eternal beacon of light reflecting the glory of God to a world in such desperate need of love. Each of us, as women, mothers, daughters, wives, and faithful Christians, are called to do the same.

To learn more about the “feminine genius” and God’s design for peace and joy, please join us at the Women, Wine and Wisdom Event detailed in the flyer above. Hope to see you there, but if not, please consider sharing this flyer and blog with all the special women in your life! Additionally, I suggest that you give each of them a great big hug as you tell them just how much you appreciate their “feminine genius.” I am quite sure that this gesture will simply make their day!

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

 

 

The Pinnacle of Faith!

What is the pinnacle of our Catholic Faith? The answer: the Easter Triduum, which starts on the evening of Holy Thursday and concludes on the evening of Easter Sunday. Although these events occur on three consecutive days, together, they represent one liturgical event which marks the unfolding of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. Included is Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday’s Passion of the Lord, and Easter Sunday’s Celebration of the Resurrection. Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as we walk with Jesus, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to His Passion, Death and glorious Resurrection. My hope is that this journey will somehow enhance your Holy Week Celebration, as you anticipate and encounter the real presence of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Enjoy!

dsc02710

Paved road, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, to the lavish praise of the townspeople shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9). Celebrating Him as their promised Messiah, they threw clothes and palm branches in front of Him in homage.

dsc02728

The Chapel of Dominus Flevit, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. As He came within sight of the city, Jesus “wept over it and said: ‘If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from view!'” (Luke 19:41-42).

DSC02730

The Beautiful Gate, contained within the present wall built by the Turks in the 17th century, is the gate that Christians venerate as the entry point of Jesus after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, celebrated on Palm Sunday.

 

 

dsc03357

Remains of the Jewish Temple where Jesus entered and “overturned the money changers’ tables” saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:15 and 17)

DSC02792

This Upper Room in Jerusalem marks the proposed location where the Last Supper took place as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (50 days after Easter). 

dsc02736

Garden of Gethsemani, located on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus suffered His agony and was arrested. “Father, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26:42) 

dsc02762

View of the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemani, and the adjacent Church of All Nations, marking the site of Christ’s agony. 

DSC02719

Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, built over the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, where Jesus was interrogated and detained prior to His Crucifixion. This location also marks the place where Peter denied the Lord three times. The Latin word Gallicantu actually means,  “cock crow”.

dsc03043

The Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow in Latin) is a street within the Old City of Jerusalem, believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to death by Crucifixion.

 

DSC03014

The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built atop Golgotha, which means Skull Place, where Jesus was Crucified. (Matthew 27:32-38). Above: Location where Jesus was nailed to the Cross. Below: Location of Christ’s death by Crucifixion.  

DSC03018

DSC03000

The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Above: The anointing stone, believed to be the place where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.  Below: The Holy Sepulcher, built atop the currently empty grave site of Jesus, for on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead.

DSC03010

The Easter Day Celebration continues until the following Sunday’s celebration of Divine Mercy, referred to as the Solemnity of Mercy Sunday. Here, we recall that God’s mercy is infinite and open to all who simply approach Him in trust. “Jesus, I trust in you!” Due to the central importance and tremendous graces available during this pinnacle time period in our liturgical calendar, I will not post my next Friday blog until April 28th. I wish you and your family a wonderful Easter filled with peace, joy, hope and the endless mercy of Jesus Christ.

 

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

God’s Loving Plan for Our Lives!

Books and apple

Have you read any good books lately? How about God’s best selling book, the Bible?

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, correction, and training in holiness, so that the man of God may be fully competent and equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16).

Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the beautiful country of Israel, as we take a visual journey through God’s plan for our salvation.

books and flowers

The Bible: God’s love story for His people.

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

Exhausted from the demands and emotional difficulties in raising a special needs child, the young mother sought a quiet refuge in the arms of God. Finding rest and comfort in His house, she made regular Mass attendance and Eucharistic Adoration a main stay in her life. This special time, spent with her beloved Jesus, enlivened a deep longing for God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. Recalling her cherished Easter and Christmas memories, she suddenly found these childhood stories lacking. Desiring a more intimate relationship with God, she resolved to read and learn all about His plan for her life. The following day, with her new Bible and CD study set in tow, she started her slow, but persistent journey through God’s love story for His people.

picture-book-1983812_960_720

God’s loving plan of salvation is hidden amongst a “library of books” contained within the pages of Sacred Scripture. By learning which books are narrative and which are supplemental, one can read and better grasp the story of salvation history. Following the narrative thread will reveal the patient love of the Father, beckoning call of His Beloved Son, Jesus, and steadfast guidance of His Holy Spirit. The eternal Trinity of Love, there in the beginning, is present to you now, and always will be. I hope you enjoy this visual journey through the story of salvation history and that it inspires you to dive into the pages of God’s eternal love story. (Taken from Appendix Five: The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…….” (Genesis 1:1)

Narrative Books: Genesis 1-11 

DSC02402

Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.         

Beginning with the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and continuing to the last book of Revelation, God the Father reveals His plan of salvation and His loving desire to re-establish the broken relationship between Himself and man. The promise and beginning of the fulfillment of that plan, revealed in the book of Genesis, is manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Then the Lord Gods said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel”         (Genesis 3:15)

dsc02327

“Abraham’s gate”, in northern Israel, where Abraham first entered the land promised to him by God.

The Lord said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

God called Abraham and promised that his descendants will be numerous and that they will inherit the Promised Land. This promise, or covenant, indicates their special relationship with God. They are now His chosen people, set apart to love and worship Him. The courtship has begun.

Narrative Books: Genesis 12-50, (Supplemental: Job).

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land, with the water like a wall to their right and to their left, (Exodus 14:21-22).

God kept His promise to Abraham, as he became the father of a great nation, named Israel. Freed from 400 years of bondage in Egypt, the Israelites are eventually led by God and his prophet, Moses, towards the Promised Land. After forty years of wandering in the desert, they cross the River Jordan and make their triumphant re-entry into modern day Israel.

Narrative Books: Exodus, Numbers and Joshua (Supplemental: Leviticus and Deuteronomy).

DSC02622

Qasr el Yahud, the traditional baptismal site of Jesus, is located on the eastern bank of the River Jordan, just north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. Other biblical events associated with this site include Joshua’s leading of the Israelites across the river into the promised land (Joshua 3) and the prophet Elijah’s miraculous ascent into heaven (2Kings).

The Lord said to Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons” (1Samuel 16:1).

The next period in salvation history is often referred to as the monarchy, for then the nation of Israel asks for a King. David, a mighty warrior and a man after God’s own heart, unites the tribes of Israel into one kingdom. Solomon, his son, builds the Jewish Temple in their new capital city of Jerusalem.

Narrative Books: Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1Kings 1-11 (Supplemental: Psalms, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs).

dsc03326

The remains of the ancient Jewish Temple Western Wall, located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The original Jewish Temple, built by King Solomon, is believed to be atop the site of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:2 and 1Kings 6).

They have forsaken the Lord, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized. Where would you yet be struck, you that rebel again and again? (Isaiah 1: 4-5).

After Solomon’s death there is a disagreement among the tribes. Subsequently, God’s people split into two rival kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Despite the warnings of many prophets, the people of both nations turn their back on God and continue to worship many pagan gods. Their stubborn self-reliance, and rejection of God, eventually leads to a time period of captivity in many foreign lands. This period in Jewish history is often referred to as the exile and return. Forty years later, the Jewish nation returns home, rebuilds the Temple and fortifies the Jerusalem city wall. Once a powerful and thriving nation, they are now a small nation occupied by first the Greeks and then the Romans. Feeling lost, but not alone, they eagerly await the future coming of a just, gentile, suffering servant-king who will once again free them from bondage.

Narrative Books: 1Kings 12-22, 2Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees. (Supplemental: Obadiah, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Tobit, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Daniel, Ezekiel, Judith, Lamentations, Zephaniah, Baruch, Zechariah, Haggai, Ester and Malachi).

DSC02730.JPG

Remnants of the ancient wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen his glory: the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love, (John 1:14).

God never abandons his Chosen People, for when the time was right, He sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. This is the ultimate event in salvation history. Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, is the complete and final revelation of God’s saving plan. Although many of the Jews are hoping for a mighty warrior, Jesus shows them a different way. He preaches love and forgiveness. He heals wounds, works miracles, and ultimately dies to free us all from the bondage of sin. Through His death and resurrection, we have once again gained access to the garden of eden.

Narrative Books: Luke, Acts and Revelation (Supplemental: Matthew, Mark, John, Paul’s Letters, and the other letters of the New Testament).

grotto

Grotto of the birth of Our Lord in Bethlehem.

DSC03074.JPG

Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built over the sites of Our Lord’s death and resurrection.

The next day, when John the Baptist caught sight of Jesus coming toward him, he exclaimed: “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

I hope that you enjoyed the pictorial walk through the Bible and humanity’s story of salvation. Now that you know the narrative books, start reading, for you don’t want to be standing before God speechless when He asks, “Did you read my book?” As an adjunct to your readings, I highly recommend Walking with God. A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins. http://store.spiritualsafariguide.com/t/books-cds-dvds

 

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

Take the Good with the Bad?

Take the good with the bad??? Growing up in New Orleans, I have always heard, “laissez les bons temps rouler,” which is French for, “let the good times roll!” So which old adage is most appropriate in the life of a Christian??  Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage as we explore the City of New Orleans and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in search for answers.

parade-2

Mardi Gras parade rolling down the streets of New Orleans.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! If you are from New Orleans, like me and many other “natives”, as we like to call them, you would know exactly what this Cajun saying indicates. Translated into English as, “Let the good times roll,” this phrase is often mentioned at times like this, when Mardi Gras is rapidly approaching. As a matter of fact, as I sit here typing, some of our city’s finest are lining various neighborhood streets with metal barricades in anticipation of the weekend’s upcoming night parades. Ironically, the entire Season of Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”, anticipates the arrival of another important day for Catholic “natives”, that of Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. The juxtaposition of Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday provides us with our first clue in regards to the desired life of a Christian: approach life with joy, knowing that harder times are sure to come.

An excerpt from my upcoming book, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, highlighting another historic event in New Orleans, will provide our second clue.

hurricane-katrina

Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States, made its second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, 2005 in southwest Louisiana. Katrina’s powerful storm surge, and the failure or breach of many levees, resulted in rising waters which caused over 700 deaths and severe flooding in over 80% of New Orleans and its surrounding neighborhood parishes.

Book Excerpt. Chapter Twenty-Two: Lost But not Alone (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

Enjoying family time on the couch, the couple stared at the repetitive TV warnings in disbelief, for the dreaded storm of the century was headed their way. The husband and wife had no choice but to grab what little belongings they could and leave their new home as soon as possible. Two days later, Hurricane Katrina slammed directly into their home town of New Orleans. For weeks, they were refugees in Atlanta living from day to day in a small hotel on the outskirts of town. They felt alone and isolated, for they were unable to contact any friends or family members. Unaware of when they could return, or what would be awaiting them, they cried out to God in desperation. He responded. Finding a welcoming spirit, among locals and fellow refugees, the small family of three found the necessary love and support to get them through this difficult time period. They returned home, with their two year old son, four weeks later. Although the recovery process was slow, they managed to pull the broken pieces together and move forward with hope and joy.

The juxtaposition of hope, in the face of such profound uncertainty, provides us with our second clue in regards to the desired life of a Christian: call out to the Lord and trust in His divine providence when facing the really bad moments in life! Next, we will travel to the ancient site of our Lord’s Ascension, located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, in search of our third and final clue.

ascension-site

The Traditional site of the Ascension is located on the Mount of Olives overlooking the ancient city of Jerusalem. Over the years, several churches have sat atop this sacred site. However, today, all that remains is this 40 by 40 foot octagonal structure or edicule. Located within, is a stone believed to be imprinted with the footprints of Jesus.

According to Acts of the Apostles, on the fortieth day after His Resurrection, Jesus instructed His apostles to wait in Jerusalem for, “the fulfillment of my Father’s promise,” the gift of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 1:4-5). “No sooner had he said this, than he was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight,” (Acts 1:9). Ten days later, these same men sat alone and afraid in a small upper room on the outskirts of town. Fortunately, they were not alone, for there too, was their spiritual mother, Mary, providing encouragement. Moments later, they “heard a strong, driving wind” and saw “tongues as of fire” part and “come to rest on each of them.” Immediately, “all were filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:2-4).

The juxtaposition of the Apostles’s exuberant joy during their forty days with the risen Lord, subsequent fear in the upper room, and eventual gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, vividly illustrate our third and final clue in regards to the desired life of a Christian: remember the joy of new life available to each baptized Christian, seek comfort and guidance from Mary, our spiritual mother, and finally, call upon the transforming power of the Holy Spirit when great courage is warranted. So, should we, as Christians, take the good with the bad??? As a native New Orleanian, I would say, “No” and respond with a resounding, “laissez les bons temps rouler,” for as Christians we should strive to:

  • approach life with joy, knowing that harder times are sure to come,
  • call out to the Lord and trust in His divine providence when facing the really bad moments in life,
  • seek the comfort and guidance of Mary in times of fear and uncertainty,
  • call upon the transforming power of the Holy Spirit when great courage is warranted and finally
  • remember the hope filled promise spoken to the Apostles, as they gazed up into the heavens, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the skies? This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the heavens,” (Acts 1:10-11). Amen

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

 

Our Spiritual Mother, Mary: A Perfect Reflection of Self-Sacrificial Love.

Why is the rose often associated with Mary, and what does motherhood have in common with this beautiful flower? To search for answers, please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to:

  • Mary’s home in Nazareth, where she loved and raised Her Son, Jesus,
  • Cana, where Mary’s compassionate love and concern for all people is visibly on display,and
  • The Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows, where Mary met her Son, Jesus, on His ascent to death by Crucifixion.

 

dsc02162

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

 

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

Filled with gratitude, the new mother watched as the priest poured living water on her son’s forehead saying, “Joseph, I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Dressed in a beautiful white gown, he cooed and joyfully accepted the cleansing waters and Spirit of God. Cherishing her new little gift of life, she pondered all these things in her heart. Aware of her adoptive son’s in-utero risk exposure, she pictured a rose, beautiful but containing thorns, as she anticipated both joy and pain in their upcoming journey. Accompanied by the Spirit of God, and her husband’s bright future, she remained confident in their ability to face any hardships they may encounter. Despite her confidence, she had no idea what self-sacrificial love actually entailed and how it could possibly benefit others in the Kingdom of God, for there were so many aspects of the faith awaiting her discovery.

immaculate-heart

The Immaculate Heart is a name used to refer to the interior life of Mary’s joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and above all, her virginal love for God the Father, maternal love for her Son, Jesus, and compassionate love for all people. 

About 6 years back, I had the privilege of going to the Holy Land, where I walked in the very footsteps of Jesus and His Mother, Mary. As I touched and saw the spots where Love was born; born in a stable in Bethlehem and on the Cross in Jerusalem, I began to know the true meaning of self-sacrificial love and the impact it has on others. It was there, that I saw the joy and sorrow of motherhood reflected in the thorns and petals of a rose. It was there, that I encountered the Immaculate Heart of my Spiritual Mother, Mary, the perfect reflection of her Son, Jesus, Who is Love Itself.

dsc02178

The ancient remains of the original childhood home of Mary, located under The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Nazareth is the largest city in the Northern District of Israel. Within the heart of this populated region is the ancient remains of “Old Nazareth,”described in the New Testament as the home of Mary and site of the Annunciation. It was there, that Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say,” (Luke 1:38). This simultaneously joyful, confusing, and frightening announcement clearly represents the profound joy, uncertainty and pain often accompanying the vocation of motherhood. In this encounter, we find maternal guidance within:

  1. The angel’s words, “Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God, (Luke 1:31), which reminds us, that we too are favored by God, who alone can provide for all of our needs.
  2. Mary’s questioning of the angel, “How can this be since I do not know man,” (Luke 1:34), which encourages us to seek answers from the Lord in times of doubt or uncertainty.
  3. Mary’s “fiat” or ultimate surrender to the will of God, which reminds us to trust in the Lord, Who only desires what is for our good.
dsc02167

Exterior view of The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Only 4.3 miles northeast of Nazareth, one finds the town of Kafr Kanna (Cana), best known as the place where Jesus performed His first public miracle, (John 2:1-11). There, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, we witness Mary’s compassionate love and concern for all people as she says to her Son, “They have no more wine.” Despite Jesus’ reluctance, she instructs those waiting on tables to, “Do whatever he tells you.” Here, we find two more valuable lessons:

  1. Continually take all of your concerns to your spiritual mother, Mary, who in return will bring them to her Son, Jesus, and
  2. Do whatever He tells you!

Pictured below is the Franciscan Wedding Chapel at Cana and a large stone vessel, thought to be used for the Jewish rites of purification, found in its general vicinity.

 

This brings us to our last and final virtual pilgrimage location, the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrow. This 2,000 foot winding route, located within the Old City of Jerusalem, starts at the ancient ruins of the Antonia Fortress and goes westward towards its final destination, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Way of Sorrow contains 9 marked stops, or Stations of the Cross. The remaining 5 are located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher itself. It is at stop number four, where Jesus meets His mother, Mary, that we find our final and most profound demonstration of a grieving mother’s love, for there we find Mary’s quiet suffering and steadfast support in the face of such profound sorrow. There, we find Mary, our spiritual mother, the perfect reflection of Love. There, we find the rose of motherhood, simultaneously lovely and pierced with thorns. Amen

dsc03043

Station Four on the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) in the Old City of Jerusalem.

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

 

 

The Right to Choose or a Gift of Life?

The Gift of Life. Whose life is it any way and what part does God play in this often debated question? Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the ancient City of David in Jerusalem, and the altar commemorating the Church’s first martyrs in Bethlehem, as we search for answers to this important question. No passport necessary.

dsc02947

The Chapel of the Innocents, located in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, is dedicated to the young children killed by Herod during the time of Christ’s birth, (Matthew 2:16-18).

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

Watching the birth of her new born son and holding him for the first time, the new adoptive mother was filled with an extreme sense of hope and gratitude. Together, with her husband, Tom, they gazed upon their son, Joseph, meaning “one who adds”, with awe and wonder. Filled with emotion, a tear of joy rolled down the new mother’s cheek and onto her son’s forehead. Startled, he looked up with the biggest brown eyes she had ever seen. Staring at him, looking so tiny and vulnerable, she instantaneously fell in love and quietly whispered, “Hello, Joseph, my son, I have been waiting for you for a long time! It’s me, your mother, nice to meet you!” Among their immense joy, however, was immense pain; the pain of incredible loss felt by the birth family. One family felt the joy of new life while the other, the sorrow of loss. Joy and sorrow, two opposite emotions but both redemptive and life giving. The pain and loss of the one led to life and joy for the other, so is the mystery of Christ.

But whose life is it any way and what part does God play in this often debated question?

God's Saving Hand reaching for the faithful

God’s Saving Hand!

“O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the Lord for as long as he lives,” (1Samuel 1:11). These words were spoken by Hannah, the barren wife of Elkanah, who was mentioned in the Old Testament Book of 1Samuel. As we read in 1Samuel 1:20, God heard Hannah’s prayers, for she did conceive and bear a son, whom she named Samuel. Here, we find our first clue to the stated question: that this child is in fact a gift from God to a mother longing for a son.

As we continue reading, however, we find that, once this child was weaned, Hannah returned to the Temple and said, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord,” (1Samuel 1:27). Here, we find our second clue to the stated question: that this child belongs to God, who created him for a specific purpose. This purpose is revealed in several subsequent chapters, for there, we find Samuel in the Temple of the Lord, responding to God’s instructions with faithful obedience, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” (1Samuel 3:9). Accordingly, “Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him,” thus all of Israel came to know that, “Samuel was an accredited prophet of the Lord,” (1Samuel 3:19-20). In fact, Samuel was the very prophet who anointed a young shepherd boy, named David, King of the Israel, (1Samuel 16:13).

irdavid2

Entrance to the ancient City of David, located just south of the Old City Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

King David, however, is a mere foreshadowing of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, for David was not only the “anointed” king of God’s people, but also a shepherd caring for his flock, a warrior uniting His people, and a Messiah leading them to Jerusalem in the Promised Land. Here, we find our third and final clue to the stated question: for each soul, made in the very likeness of God, is created for the new, heavenly Jerusalem or Kingdom of God. For just as David built his house or castle in the earthly Jerusalem, so too does Christ, build His Church, a place where all members of His Body call home. Protected by the true King of Kings, and Savior of the world, each life is, in fact, a gift to Jesus and through Him, the Heavenly Father. Each life is precious, and it’s fate and ultimate return home, therefore, must be determined by God, who alone knows when it’s earthly purpose and mission are fulfilled.

city-of-david

The City of David is an Israeli settlement and archaeological site which is speculated to contain the 9th century B.C. remains of King David’s Palace. This intensively excavated site holds many significant biblical sites, including the Pool of Siloam where Jesus performed a miraculous healing.

 

In closing, let us pray for the protection of life, from conception to natural death, and the wisdom to see each miraculous gift as:

  • the conception of a body and soul made in God’s likeness,
  • a soul created for the Kingdom of God,
  • a member awaiting initiation into Christ’s Body, the Church, and finally
  • a gift to loving parents, who, like good stewards, dedicate their child to God, in fulfillment of His divine pleasure. Amen.

 

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

A Fresh Start!

Where do we, as Christians, look for inspiration when developing our own personal list of New Year’s resolutions? Please join me on a virtual pilgrimage to the ancient Jewish Temple, located in the heart of Old Jerusalem, as we walk in the very foot steps of Jesus in search of the truest source of new beginnings and personal transformation. No passport necessary.

dsc03357
Book Excerpt. Chapter Seventeen: The Embrace of Mercy. (The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love. By: Karen Sheehy)

Sitting alone in the comfort of a luxurious black limousine, the bride-to-be took a small shot of Vodka to calm her nerves while staring at the large doors of St. Jude Catholic Church in Atlanta. Awaiting her was the promised love of her life, but how could she be sure? Remembering the wisdom in asking, she simply bowed her head and pleaded to see her future husband through God’s healing eyes of mercy. At once, recognizing the peace and security found within her fiancé’s loving embrace, she immediately saw, in him, her divinely sent and promised soul mate. Fears and uncertainty at bay, she exited the Limo, opened the large church doors of mercy, and headed towards both sources of her fresh start in life, her beloved Jesus and future husband, Tom.

dsc03326

The Western Wall of Herod’s great Jewish Temple and the Islamic Dome of the Rock located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount, believed to be the site of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2), bears great religious significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Known as Jerusalem’s most recognizable landmark, this UNESCO World Heritage Site includes not only the Temple Mount but also the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which contains the actual Crucifixion and Burial Sites of Jesus.

Three successive Temples have stood on the Temple Mount, including the first built by King Solomon in 957 B.C., the second by Ezra in 538 B.C., and its greatly expanded version built by King Herod in 20 B.C. It was there, within the porticos and steps of Herod’s Temple, that Jesus walked, preached, healed and instructed the early disciples and people of Jerusalem. Therefore, this Temple, mentioned many times throughout the New Testament, is an ideal place to look when developing our own list of New Year’s resolutions, for there, we find Jesus’:

  • new born’s presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-24)
  • childhood attendance at the Jewish Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-42)
  • forgiving and saving of the adulteress (John 8:1-11)
  • cleansing of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13)
  • healing of the blind and lame (Matthew 21:14 and John 5:1-9)
  • teachings on the Heavenly Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14)
  • proclamation about the Jewish Temple’s destruction and three day rebuilding of the new Temple, His Body, the Church (John 2:19-22).
dsc03364

The Jewish Temple area and proposed site where Jesus saved and forgave a young woman accused of adultery, (John 8:1-11).

dsc03028

The Pool of Bethesda, located near the Temple remains and Sheep Gate of the ancient Jerusalem Wall, is the site of Jesus’ miraculous healing of a sick man mentioned in the fifth chapter of John’s Gospel, (John 5:1-9).

But how, you may ask, do these historical events relate to New Year’s resolutions?  Well, may I suggest that, as Christians, each of us follow Christ’s illuminated pathway towards spiritual renewal and rebirth by:

  • presenting our lives to God through Baptism and the ongoing gift of self-sacrificial love to others
  • attending daily and/or weekly Mass, including all Holy Days of Obligation
  • receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation on a frequent basis
  • examining one’s conscience daily
  • striving for personal holiness, (the body is the new Temple of the Lord)
  • offering merciful forgiveness to those who have wronged or offended us in any manner
  • performing charitable works for our fellow brothers and sisters in need
  • praying and/or meditating on Sacred Scripture daily
  • adoring the Real Presence of the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.

In closing, I wish you and your families a year filled with the blessings, love and new beginnings promised by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

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