In this life there are many things to prepare for, but the most important is for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. I will take you with me, should you want to come along, on my personal journey to the door which will lead to eternity, through which every soul must pass. Where the angel of death waits to ask the all important question, "Are you prepared for the Kingdom?"

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Location: Anacortes, Washington, United States

Two years ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived surgery along with chemo/radiation treatments. Recently, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and although I am again on chemotherapy, in all probability I have perhaps one more year to live. During these last months I would like to share what I have learned about the most important thing we'll ever do in this life and that is, prepare for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Mother of God

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

These words resound over and over again in my mind and in my heart as I pray my daily rosary. Sometimes I pray for specific people, sometimes for the souls in purgatory and sometimes for myself as I approach the hour of my death.

I can only hope I will be so honored as to have the Mother of God praying for me at the hour of my death. This is something that all of us need to request from her. For who better knows the heart of her Son. What greater advocate do we have than she who gave birth to Our Savior.

I read a very beautiful reflection on Mary this week. It isn't for those who are not willing to lay down their short lives to serve the Lord. It is however, for those (and I am speaking to women here) who are willing to become lowly and humble so as to represent the true meaning of a virtuous woman. May the Lord grant us the grace we need to hear this message.

Homily on the Most-holy Virgin, the Theotokos
by St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ochrid

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38)

Here indeed, is a true handmaid of the Lord! If a handmaid is she who exchanges her will completely for the will of her Lord, then the Most-holy Virgin is the first among all of the Lord's handmaids. If a handmaid is she who, with intent and with complete attention, beholds her Lord, then again the Most-holy Virgin is the first among the handmaids of the Lord. If a handmaid is one who meekly and quitely endures all insults and trials, awaiting only the reward of her Lord, then again and again the Most-holy Virgin is the first and most excellent of all the handmaids of the Lord. She did not care to please the world, but only God; nor did she care to justify herself before the world, but only before God. She herself is obedience; she herself is service; she herself is meekness. The Most-holy Virgin could in truth say to the angel of God: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. The greatest perfection, and the greatest honor that a woman can attain on earth, is to be a handmaid of the Lord.

Through the prayers of the Most-holy Virgin Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

This should be our desire and greatest goal in this life, to be a handmaid of the Lord. To be willing to serve Him in the most undesirable of circumstances. If I may be so bold to say that women are not called to be priests. We are not called to shepherd the flock. We are called to serve just as Mary served. She did not help Jesus lead the people. She did not present herself as a woman of great pride, but of one of great virtue. And now she is held in the highest of all places with her Son. Higher in honor than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.

How can any woman consider herself called to anything but a handmaid of the Lord. As St. Nikolai so beautifully says, "The greatest perfection and greatest honor that a woman can attain on this earth, is to be a handmaid of the Lord." What more is there to want than this. All else is vainglory.

At the hour of death, I pray that by the mercy and grace of God, I will have somehow become as a lowly handmaid, an unworthy servant who hopefully, has done only what has been required of her by the Lord. May He find me worthy and say the words I will long to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant." And may the Mother of God welcome me with her Son into the heavenly Kingdom. This is my desire. This is my hope.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, O Savior save us!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

God With Us

What can be said about the love of the Lord that can change hearts? Perhaps if we stop and listen in silence, we will hear his sweet voice crying out to us from the manger. An infant, God comes to earth, trusting that those He has chosen will care for him and love him.

During this season of Advent, in preparation for the Lord's coming, I went to Mt. Tabor for a short visit. As always, it was very edifying. I prayed a lot for those who have asked me to pray for specific situations. I prayed for miracles, for patient endurance, for clear and right decernment and for the souls of many who are lost.

I was blessed by the company of several friends that I've met at Mt. Tabor over the past few years as well as by the company of the monks and especially Fr. Abbot. He blessed me with a copy of his new book, "Joy Comes the Dawn" which is not only spiritually enlightening, but a reflection of true Christianity.

I have experienced God in so many ways over the past couple of years that it has become hard for me to imagine Him not being with us. But there was a time long ago when He had not come in the flesh, but promised that he would redeem all mankind. So in His perfect time, He came as one of us, an infant needing to be cared for. How special were those He chose for this task. How carefully He planned his birth.

And here we are, 2000 years later, experiencing the reality of God with us. If you are not experiencing this reality, then I suggest you sit quietly and open the scriptures. Read the historical reality of this incredible birth. Read the prophecies in Isaiah and Malachi. Read the Gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke. Then read the Gospel of John. One cannot read these sacred writings without experiencing God with us.

May the peace of Christ be with all of you during this beautiful season when we celebrate his birth and may we sing with the multitude of angels, Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to His people on earth!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!