New Wine in Old Blood Vessels

01/16/2018

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the wineskins, and the wine will pour out, and the wineskins will be lost. Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22

Except when you get a VAD. Then you get new wine into old, brittle wineskins. Not sure if anybody thought about that…

Dad, Mom, and everybody Easter Sunday 2016 (03-27-16) _MG_8398

Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 – Dad with his LVAD batteries holstered

I can’t hear (read) this Gospel any more without thinking of Dad, my dad, Norb Kwiecinski. He got a new lease on life in February 2014. An LVAD, a Left Ventricular Assist Device because his left ventricle was failing. It couldn’t sufficiently empty blood from his heart any longer. And he was dying.

450_300_mayolvad rendering of LVAD courtesy Mayo Clinic

Rendering of a Ventricular Assist Device, courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Lack of blood supply means lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen means dying a slow death.

The LVAD gave him new life. It pumped blood through his body for him. But that lack of blood flow for so many years meant veins that had turned into old wineskins. And Dad’s new wine, in the form of a vibrant, fresh blood supply, was too much for the old wineskins to handle.

After being discharged from his four-month journey through intensive care, five staredowns with death, and an incredibly intense physical rehabilitation, Dad became a frequent visitor at the hospital.

Why? He constantly needed more blood. Where was it going?

Despite numerous tests, there was little evidence of a single source of a leak. It wasn’t showing up. So why did he need blood? Where was it going? Was his body like an old automobile engine, burning oil?

My humble, yet considered theory is that his arteries and veins — and especially the fine, delicate capillaries that deliver blood to the extremities and up to the skin — had become brittle from years of poor blood flow. When the LVAD powerfully and efficiently delivered blood, this force was more than these delicate tissues could handle. And the blood was absorbed into the body. It had seemingly disappeared. But it really hadn’t.

Is that really what happened? Is this really the explanation for why Dad consistently needed blood transfusions?

Nobody can convince me otherwise. No one else had a better, more plausible, more scientific explanation. And my theory seems to make sense.

Anyway… today’s Gospel triggered these memories today. Always happens. And the memories of those troubling, yet exhilarating and joyful months come flooding back into consciousness as if they happened yesterday.

I love you, Dad. Still miss you like crazy. Still blame you for my coffee addiction. Still ask you for help with the simplest home repair projects. And I still hear you say, chidingly, “atta boy” when I finally figure it out.

And we have the most serious man-to-man philosophical discussions… well, sure, they’re slightly one-sided. But they’re real. And really serious.

#dadupdate

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What’s Your “One Thing?”

05/27/2015

What is the one thing — one thing and one thing only — that you cherish more than anything else?

How much would you sacrifice to keep it?

How much would you endure to defend it? To fight to keep it?

Ever think about things like that?

Sunrise Saturday morning - Hyatt Atlanta Midtown 11-08-14 10407962_800929943302793_4718057532515000694_n

What is the one thing that you do that causes you the most angst? What is the one thing that pushes you off course… makes you angry… tempts you… creates bitterness…

… prevents you from being more than you are now?

“You are lacking in one thing.” – a portion of Mark 10:21

Jesus counsels a rich man in the Gospel according to Mark (Mark 10:17-27).

“You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.”  –  Mark 10:19

The man is a righteous person. He seems to be leading a holy life. He follows the commandments.

He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  –  Mark 10:20

… but there’s one thing that is keeping the rich man from a complete relationship with God.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  –  Mark 10:21

Who throws obstacles in front of us? Who blocks our path? Who prevents us from following God’s commandments? Who doesn’t want us to enjoy a complete relationship with Christ?

You know the answer.

The devil manifests in many forms. There may be elements of truth in the lies. There may be elements of goodness in the lies.

But the devil cannot manifest the truth. He is always deceptive.

We cannot and do not know exactly why the rich man’s possessions were preventing him from enjoying a complete relationship with God. But there was something about this one thing that stood between him and inheriting eternal life.

What was it?

And what’s your one thing?

Maybe you are following and keeping all the commandments, like the rich man.

Maybe you are working for worthy causes.

Maybe you pray like a banshee for countless causes.

But maybe there’s one thing that stands between you and inheriting eternal life.

Do you know what it is?

I know my one thing.

I’m not going to tell you. It’s too embarrassing. But God knows. I talk to Him about it just about every day. And often several times a day.

It stands in my way.

I don’t presume to speak for God, but I suspect it stands in my way of inheriting eternal life, too.

I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it may not matter. If I have a contrite heart. If I beg for God’s mercy.

God is love. God is truth. God is mercy.

Jesus told St. Faustina that His grace was ours if only we would ask for it.

God knows our hearts. God knows that all of us sin. It’s in our nature.

That’s why he sent Jesus. To assume our nature. To die for the sake of all of us who cannot control ours.

I believe that we have an obligation to lead good Christian lives even if we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I don’t think it’s enough to say “I believe” and go on enjoying our possessions at the expense of neglecting those poor who have few or no possessions, who have few comforts or not enough to eat. Or enjoying our knowledge of God and Jesus and neglecting the poor in spirit, those who have no knowledge of God’s mercy, those who have never heard the Word or the truth.

What is your one thing and how does it keep you from having treasure in heaven?

Confess it. Pray for help controlling it or eliminating it or transforming it.

How do I know… or rather, how do I suspect I know… that we may still find a path to our treasure in heaven, even as we struggle with our one or two or three (or more) things?

They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  –  Mark 10:26-27

It’s okay to acknowledge our shortcomings. It’s okay to confess them. It’s okay to throw ourselves at the mercy of Jesus and His heavenly Father.

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Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, May 25, 2015

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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