Thursday, February 26, 2015

Our Walk by the Sea

Early walk by the sea
You're watchful of me
Waves washing in
Our day did begin
You grasp my hand
Feet cool in the sand
In blossoming light
And all is all right

The sun and the shark
By the watery dark
Your smile and your soul
The waves they still roll
My fear of the wave
Your arm it will save
Fear becomes joy
For your little boy

A word was once spoken
The sound was unbroken
Now faint and unclear
So far from here
Yet with your final breath
There was no sign of death
Eternal so close
You loved me the most

Now hours and years
Now smiles and tears
I still see you in light
Forever in sight

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Putting the Re: Back in Repentance

“If you always do what you've always done, you’ll always get what you've always got.”
-Henry Ford

I, for one, do not want to stay how I am. Yet, I found myself taking a good hard look at myself and realizing that much of what I often try to change...hasn't...and much of what I haven't wanted to change...has.  Such is life, right?  Well, as I've been digging down deeper and asking the Lord to illumine my darkness I've come up with a couple things you might find helpful.  First today's gospel:

Mark 1:12-15 (RSVCE)

12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Holy Spirit, "drove" Jesus Christ out into the wilderness.  This took me off guard today.  Jesus always struck me as a sort of, "guy in charge" kind of man.  But what is this?  It appears that even Jesus in his human nature was, in fact, subject to the Spirit...obedient to the Spirit.  Of course!  He maintained full obedience to the Father and to the Holy it.  I asked the Lord to help me, right off the bat, to help me be more responsive to his bidding. (To be able to hear his bidding more clearly)  I am often too responsive to my own thoughts and this is, "what I've always done."  Therefore, if even Jesus sets out into the desert it makes sense for me to likewise look for certain, "deserts" in my own life.  Prayer, adoration, and solitude come to mind. (Heard a great homily that spoke a bit on solitude this morning by the way...inspiring)  The desert is not the place that I often WANT to go...but is the place I'm ALWAYS glad I went to.  I more easily go to any "oasis" I can find.  Self-will, entertainment, food...whatever I want to do.  I need to let the Spirit "drive" more often.  Mortification, fasting, solitude, prayer...these things can bring peace but peace at a cost of my own whims and desires...which aren't really worth that much to begin with anyway.

Unplug...says the Lord. This is hard for me. I often think that I have something worthwhile saying when in actuality I spend time saying it and miss things that I should rather be doing.  My words are not that valuable and people can surely go on without them.  I have to remember this the next time I let too much time slip by. Yes, my times writing are often a prayer for me...I just need to shut up sometimes.  In fact I need to remember that my actions speak more loudly than words.  My wife and kids are watching me peck away at is passing me by.  This is not to say writing isn't important at has it's place and time.  I just "always do" this kind of thing.  If I want a true, deep and lasting change of heart...I think to unplug is to listen to the Lord more least for me.  Maybe some of you need to do more, "speaking up" and that's fine too.  The Lord is working on all of us if we're letting him.  I want to change and be more like my Lord.

I want to leave you, then, with a great quote from Magnificat and then I'll be on my way:

"Here it is good for me to consider that, unless I take deliberate care, I shall simply copy the life around me . I shall conform to the spirit of the world in which I am immersed. But to achieve that newness of mind whereby I am formed after the fashion of Christ, I must make careful scrutiny of myself and, contrasting myself with that divine Model, reform my soul gradually to that perfect pattern." ~Father Bede Jarrett, OP.

Ultimately, I can't even repent on my own and I need the Lord's "hand" which is "at hand" to believe in the gospel.  I depend fully on his grace.

With that, in fact, I'll stop here for now...until next time...God bless you and keep you and grant you his peace! Amen.  (My son just handed me a note that says, "I Love You Dad.")

Bye for now!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

ISIS: How They Are Helping Us: Unintended Consequences

Early Church Father Tertullian: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
Unintended consequences? Absolutely! Wonderful consequences. I'm fairly certain ISIS would stop what they are doing to us if they only understood just how much they are serving the building up of the Church!

Though this is not the commonly prescribed method of "Church Growth" among those who scour demographic studies and how to, "better reach the lost." This has been the most successful throughout the ages...the blood of Martyrs.

In the photo they are show in "common convict orange."  Read what Holy Scripture says about them:

Revelation 6:9-11 (RSVCE)

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Dear ISIS, Oops, right?

It should be said, however, that we should pray and fast for a conversion of heart for all adherents of Islam...particularly for those who would commit such atrocities.  We are each called to a better way..a much more heavenly way:

Matthew 5:43-48 (RSVCE)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

None of this is to say that ISIS should not be stopped for the evil they are committing. We should, however, recognize the greater importance of the real, true and present spiritual realities at play in this situation.  Consider the words of St. Paul:

Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." ~Jesus Christ

Lastly, ISIS has helped me in my desire to see things more from Our Lord's perspective.  It is very easy to get caught up in the "frills" of our society.  They help me remember as St. Therese of Lisieux:

I thank the Lord for whomever and whatever assists me on my way to Our Lord and His Saints! Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

While In Exile: Do You Not Yet Understand?

Reflections on today's Gospel:
Mark 8:14-21 (RSVCE)
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
The Disciples, someone, screwed up and forgot something. They should have been perfect already...wasn't this why they were chosen? Who took the blame?  Don't you sometimes feel like you should have things pretty well figured out by now?
15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 
What arose in them that Jesus "detected?" Was He knowing that they were having second thoughts about following this rogue Rabbi, yet again, into the boat and across the sea?  Do you ever experience doubts about Jesus?
16 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.”
Always concerned about food, the earthly view of things...isn't this you? Don't you look first to the things of earth instead of the real concerns of heaven?
17 And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
Do you not see, here, Jesus is speaking to you about your life? Your heart? Do you not see that you have been called to something greater that you are missing because your mind is so often tied up with earthly concerns? Do you not yet have faith?
18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?
What might Our Lord be asking you to remember about Him? Also, about His faithfulness to you throughout your own life? Do you look to the problems or to Him as your solution?
19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
What is Jesus teaching you about the events of your life and how He has been speaking to you through every moment in the mundane and seemingly "meaningless" events of your days?
20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.”    
When Jesus looks at you He sees not only a missionary being trained and "sent" but He sees a child of God! You've been asked to "take up these broken pieces" and to see and understand.
21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
What does it mean to understand? You are a child of God...called according to His will and His purpose to be blessed beyond the realms of this world. He calls you to place your trust in Him and not in the fabulous "formulations" of the Pharisees.  See that, as a child, you have every right to call upon your Father, to eat your fill of heavenly bread, and to know at all times what it means to be drawn in to the very heart of God.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lent: Our Journey to the Heart of it All

For once, I might have started well. Or at very least started in the right direction. This time I truly sought the Lord to help me and did not, wait until I realized I, “needed His help,” or at the point at which I was beyond help.  Most of the time I do not approach these matters in the proper order...thanks God! I need to keep the following verse ever in front of me.

John 15:5 (RSVCE)5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Lent has often been a somewhat difficult time for me because I begin really really wanting to “fully embrace” this time but end up finding myself less than satisfied with the ways I’ve chosen to celebrate this glorious penitential season. Like many, in the past I have chosen to rely on certain, “don’ts” instead of adding meaningful “do’s.” I’ve actually come to the point in recent years where I make a conscious effort to try and “add the right things” as opposed to simply, “not doing the wrong things.”  This year Our Lord has truly given me greater clarity than ever before (because I asked and He is faithful) and I’d like to share some ideas with you. I’ll think you’ll find my suggestions simple; uncomplicated. Yet I believe they will at very least aid you in drawing nearer to Our Lord.  There would be no other reason to keep reading.

First Things First

Consider viewing this Lenten journey through the TELOScope.  The Greek word, “Telos” means: “ultimate goal, ultimate end, purpose, aim”  Therefore, begin with the end in mind.  Consider this very Lent in terms of your ultimate goal in life.  And, though there are many ways to break down how our ultimate end can be expressed~ consider the following verse as a sort of “ultimate” according to Jesus Christ:

Mark 12:28-34 (RSVCE)28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

Our telos is to love Our Lord above all things and to love our neighbor as our ourselves.  This is the ultimate aim of this life.  So consider putting on the above passage as your “lens” through which to view any practices you might choose to take on and certain “not good” things you’d like to be rid of. (Side note: It is important to recognize here that a person can’t really rid themselves of a “bad habit” until they have something greater to replace it with.)  These considerations follow a pattern presented by Jesus Christ, “All your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Consideration #1: All Your Heart

To the Ancients, “Heart” was not considered primarily in physical terms as an organ which aides in pushing blood through the human body.  Their understanding centered on the heart being the center of the person. The thing that would move the rest of the body. Baker’s Theological Dictionary defines heart as: “a person's center for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities.” We could, in a sense, stop here and not go on to even consider the following, “soul, mind and body/strength” as the word “heart” covers most everything having to do with a person.

This Lent consider how you might better receive the Lord’s Heart more fully into your own. Prayer is the beginning of this pursuit. Here I would encourage what is often called, “Mental Prayer: Click to Learn More” If you do pray already, consider praying more this Lent that you typically do.  If you have no “typical” consider setting aside a particular time (or amount of time) during the day.  Consider this time to be a matter of life and death...something you wouldn’t miss for anything.  Of course, with the understanding that you may need to relinquish your desires...AND it is important to stay open to the “other plans” Our Lord might have for you. In other words, don’t be militant about this time...but almost.  And, let the primary focus be, for all of the Lent, “Lord, give me Your heart...for my own life and for the lives of others...that I many know You Lord still more...that I may love You Lord still more.”  Nobody has ever gone wrong with this approach.  In fact, it is really a time-tested approach to prayer to desire to pray and to enter prayer desiring Our Lord to “take it from there.”  Distractions will come and go but the important thing is that you’ve made yourself available and you understand the Lord has called you to Himself.

1 Samuel 16:7 (RSVCE)7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Consideration #2: All Your Soul (Here we can also say “Spirit”)

Think here of, “life-breath, Spirit, feelings, desires, affections”  A strong distinction need not be made between soul/spirit and heart in most cases. But for our purposes here, though we see a person as a “whole” in general, it might be useful to consider your own breath...your own breathing.  I’m not advocating Hinduism or Zen practices here...these have very different “ends” which are certainly not compatible with Christian practice. Apply your own breathing with lungs and air and place yourself before the Lord and say, “with every breath I will praise Our Lord.”  What might this look like on a practical level?  We’ve mentioned prayer and it’s absolute necessity.  Consider here, how you might more actively praise Our Lord.  Praise is a tremendously powerful action as it can stir us toward acts of love and good deeds.  In a sense, through praise, we are filled with God Himself.  “Clothed with power from on high.” We can become, “people of praise.”  Here I’m also thinking about:

Psalm 150:6 (RSVCE)Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Consider as you walk, move, run, dance that, as Bryan Adams once “said” “(Everything I do) I Do it for You: Listen to the Song” This song was intended as a mere, “Love song” and yet it has deep connotations of God’s love for us “search your your soul...when you find me there you’ll search no more…” Naturally all romantic love (and other categories of love) are from God.  So consider the song (and even the images from the video) as a way of understanding how our “everything” should be Our Lord and we can search Him and find Him in, “everything we do.” Of course, Our Lord loves us even more than Kevin Costner loved his co-star...but you get the point...maybe like a flaming arrow point.

Consideration #3 All Your Mind

Again, I do not want to create unnecessary distinctions between, “Heart, Soul and Mind” but for our purposes here I’m considering, “Mind” as that which is your conscious awareness, patterns of thought which can lead us toward right action. Consider the following verses in this light:

Philippians 4:6-9 (RSVCE)
6 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

Very simply, seek to saturate your mind with things that raise the mind (and also the heart) toward, “things above.” Here I think of the importance of “Praying through the Scriptures” and not simply reading them but taking the time to let them penetrate our hearts, souls and minds. A specific way of entering in to this kind of “reading-prayer” is called, “Lectio Divina” or in English, “Divine Reading.” Lectio Divina Explained Many people have taken this approach already and not really even noticed.  Yet to pursue this kind of reading of Holy Scripture (or even some other good, solid Spiritual book...if you want suggestions just contact me.) This kind of “soaking our minds in the Word of God is a way of, “putting on Christ.”  It is a way for us to be “washed in the water of the Word” and to have our outlook~the way we view things~our vision of life~ completely changed for the better. The saying, “You are what you eat” certainly has physical truth behind it.  Even more does it have Spiritual ramifications!  What you “put in” is what will “come out.” St. Paul encouraged us:

Colossians 3:1-3 (RSVCE)
3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Consideration #4 All Your Strength/Body

“For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” This certainly rings true again regarding, “Strength” and “Body.” From the biblical view strength and body are almost synonymous...almost.  We could say, in a way, these two are different sides of the same coin.  When you see “Strength and Body” you can think, “Wealth and Self.”  What you are able to physically do, perform and how you act in your body (physical self) produces that which is there to take proper care or your self and that is…wealth.  Here, “wealthy” does not apply in terms of abundant riches/money.  What is meant is that each person has a certain “wealth” meaning what you possess in yourself and in your belongings.  Each person also has a certain bodily “health” which is a form of wealth.  So before this gets more confusing that it already has the main point is: We have been baptized and our lives are no longer our own but are to be given fully and completely for Our Lord.  This means that nice house you, “earned” is only on loan...just as your current (or possibly former) degree of bodily health is on loan from God.  Again, here, we want to be able to say, “Everything I do...I do it for YOU!”  We are accountable for everything.  Again, St. Paul’s attitude is a perfect of what it means to love the Lord with all our strength:

Philippians 1:19-26
19 Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Considering this in “Lenten Fashion” with our Telos in mind we can conclude that fasting, abstinence and giving alms are good and certainly reasonable.  In our pursuit of Christ it IS NOT true that, “It’s the thought that counts.”  No!  Jesus Christ did not call us to follow Him only with our minds but also with our paychecks!  With our hands, feet and everything else between our heads and our toes.  Everything. (again cue Bryan Adams...thanks, quite by accident, Mr. Adams!)  Yes, kind thoughts and words are worth a great deal.  But consider the following from the epistle of St. James:

James 1:19-27
19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, 20 for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.26 If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Here I want to recall the words of Pope Francis who was recently asked to give an answer as to what people should, “give up for Lent?”  He answered: “Indifference! (Click to read more).” A short quote from his teaching, “God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.”  He gave Himself, entirely, in body...pouring out all the divine riches at His disposal.

Philippians 2:2-11 (RSVCE)
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

By fulfilling the above, by the grace of God, we are certainly more oriented toward the command, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  It is true.  By seeking the Lord in Prayer, Praise, Spiritual Reading and Action (Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength/Body) we would truly experience “Lent’s Intent.”  Many programs and formulas exist and many are good.  But to take Lent as an opportunity to truly “hit the reset button on life” can have lasting, even eternal, consequences.  Really, for Catholics, the ultimate place to find Our Lord is in The Holy Eucharist and we should seek to receive Him often in this way during Lent.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  

#1324 The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself."

Spend some time before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Ask Him to lead you home to His heart. Amen.

St. Therese of Liseux, Pray for us!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Everything Was Perfect Now This?!?!

The problem with difficulties is the fact they are difficult. The problem with weakness is that we want to be strong. The problem with strength is that our strength often fails.  So what is a human to do?
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition)
8 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. ~St. Paul the Apostle
The solution to the problem? The weakness? The failure? (Not to mention persecutions and calamities?) But the question I raised was, "What is a human to do?"  We recognize our frailty (I would even go so far to say that we BATHE in our own recognition of our frailty) however, we rarely actually consider our frailty in the right view...the right, "light."  What do I mean?

How do we most often "deal" with our weaknesses and frailty?  Here are some common approaches:

1) We deny it (Denial)

"What?  What weakness? I'm not weak...who said I was weak?  They're actually the ones who aren't seeing me correctly...I'm not weak...Never have been...I'm a strong person...I have true grit and absolute determination...It's a set-back...It's an illusion...It's not me...It's never me!"

2) We wrongly "embrace it" (Arrogance)

"I'm only human...Absolutely perfect as I am...Faults and all...Take me or leave me...I wouldn't change a thing."

3) We blame others (Accusation)

"If they weren't so_________I would be stronger...If that person would only_________then I could do what I should...They are the source of my problems, difficulties...Life would be better if only they wouldn't_________! (Insert necessary words in the blanks)

4) We ignore it (Ignorance)

"On and on I go...On to the next thing...The next thing...The next thing...I will not examine my life...It's too much trouble...I have enough money...I have enough prestige...I am doing well!"

5) We unnecessarily put our struggles upon others (Laziness)

"Can't you do this for me?...Why don't you help me?...Serve me?...Ask not what I can do for you but what you can do for me...I need you or else I can't go on...I give up unless you do this, that and the other thing..."

The above are 5 things and I'm sure there are hundreds more that could be considered.  The point is to truly, rightly and honestly "embrace" our weakness we must turn our focus entirely to Our Lord, His Mother and the intercession of all the Saints and Angels. Just as St. Paul, we recognize, accept and avoid blaming others in situations of weakness ONLY IF we recognize that through all things Our Lord's GRACE shall overcome.  And where Our Lord does not "solve" our problems we embrace them not so much AS PROBLEMS but as a means to the ULTIMATE SOLUTION which is our, in a word, SALVATION. We love others BECAUSE He first loved us.

Consider these:

When we deny our weakness we do not open ourselves to truth.
When we view our weakness as some kind of "badge of honor" we deceive ourselves and others.
When we blame others we confuse the real source and tremendous depth of our weakness.
When we ignore our weakness we never truly find any solid source of strength.
When we wrongly rely on other people as our ultimate "way out" of our weakness we can never really receive the mercy and grace Our Lord so very much desires to give us.

Consider St. Paul's approach:

He turns first to the Lord in search of a solution.
He listens not to himself but to what The Lord offers him.
He accepts what The Lord has to say.
He then rightly views his weakness something meant to draw him still closer to The Lord.
He understands that he will receive power and should not rely on his own power.
He finds deep meaning and identifies with his sufferings with those of Christ...for the sake of Christ.
He sees rightly that his weakness is a means to an end, the ultimate end, which is Christ Himself.

I don't like to be weak, rejected, persecuted and cast aside.  I don't like to be forgotten and improperly treated.  I don't like being sick.  I don't like having to deal with the weaknesses of others.  Yet, when I relay on the GRACE of Our God...His Mercy...His means of sanctification of my soul and the souls of others...when I view the reality of pain and hardship in their proper light (that is the Light of Christ) I see that which is hidden from the false "powers that be" in our world.  I can say, by God's grace, that when I am weak~then I am strong.

What about this approach in a nutshell: "When I recognize my inability to overcome anything by myself, I call upon God, He answers me and upholds my life...THEN I am strong."

How do we get there?  Prayer.  I simply need to remember to ask of the Lord and He will grant me what I need...and that which I do not need He will not give.  St. Paul, pray for us.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Will Jesus Still the Storm?

"Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Brother Claude 

Today's Gospel reading is magnificent. One of my absolute favorites because of what it says about Jesus Christ, what it says about nature,  and what it can say about us.  First, the passage as a whole~ then in parts as I'll offer some things to consider verse by verse...

The reading:

Mark 4:35-41 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Jesus Stills a Storm 
 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?
The reading with reflections:

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 

What does it mean for us to "go across to the other side?"  We begin where we are and go with Our Lord to where He would desire to take us. It appears simple enough but as I often like to remember the disciples were common men and not all too different from ourselves.  To set out at night, as I imagine, would be more potentially dangerous and perhaps completely ill advised.  Do we often hope to go with Jesus "to the other side?"  Or do we deem it more favorable to follow Jesus by staying right where we are?  Is it our preference to follow Jesus Christ, "our way?"  This isn't possible.  Let us pray and ask our Lord for the grace to follow Him HIS way.

36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him. 

"And leaving the crowd..." Part of what it means to follow Our Lord is to leave the crowd behind.  To use other people as our ultimate point of reference of what, "should be" or for how things, "seem best" is another snare that too easily entraps us. I was once told by a very wise priest, "If you desire to truly serve and love others don't look at them~ rather~ look through them and to the face of God." To be, "in the world but not of it" is absolutely essential to what it means to show our ultimate allegiance to God.  After all when we serve others we serve Our Lord.  As in Matthew 25 Jesus taught: 

"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
Therefore, by all means, don't "leave the crowd" forever.  Yet do not ever be entirely given to the crowd in your heart.  You are God's possession...children of the Most High.  They took Him and yet wasn't it He who was taking them?  Do we not need to yield our will entirely, in other words, say "YES" every day?  Do we accept Him as He is or as we imagine Him to be?  We must follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ and no longer the false "gospel of our own making."

37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.

And, as we can certainly expect, difficulties and hardships will follow if we allow Jesus Christ, "in our boat."  Do we then choose to kick Him out of our boat?  Yes, often, but how do we do this?  We ask Jesus to leave us each time we choose to rely on our own strength and abilities apart from Him...apart from His grace.  Do we need Jesus?  Do we not more often act as if we've got things figured out pretty well on our own?  The disciples, some of them, were commercial fishermen...they knew boats...they knew waves...they knew the dangers of wind.  Yet it would seem Jesus was the only one not apprised of the dangers.  Jesus said:

"...apart from me you can do nothing"

One might reasonably argue that the disciples on this day, (as well as many other days), would have been, "better off" if they weren't hanging out with this rabble rousing rabbi.  They would surely have been safer, more settled, more comfortable to be sure! Yet, they would not be living, " in abundance..." as Jesus offers.  He also offers us an abundant you want this?  Either way you face troubles, hardship, sickness and death in this life...there are no detours around the cross...would you not rather be with the author of life on the "front lines" than be without His abundant life on the "sidelines?"  We often settle for a life of dull mediocrity because we are not willing to, "follow Him wherever He goes."

38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 

How many times a month have you thought this?  "Lord, this bad situation has arisen for me..." or "Lord, this terrible situation has befallen so and so...Do you not care?"  Do you believe Our Lord cares?  Are you not somehow secretly holding on to the belief that God wishes you more harm than good?  Do you not recognize that this belief is from the very pit of the darkness of hell?  The very foundation of evil is the belief that God is not good but wishes us harm and not good.  This was the root of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They believed that God was "holding out on them" and didn't wish for them to have the "wisdom" God owed to them.  It is as if we believe that God isn't giving us what is best in our lives, right?  Couldn't He be doing a better job for me?  Why doesn't He always pull through with my plans and keep insisting on His own?  Faith, conversely, says, "My Lord and my God...I choose to trust You...though I don't fully understand Your ways nor Your plans."  Consider for a moment some essential words of St. Paul from Chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
Do you believe this?  Search yourself for a moment.  I would suggest that this verse, Romans 8:28 sums up the very essence of loving trust and faith in Our Lord.  "He was in the stern, asleep..." The alternative to, "Lord, do you not care if we perish?" could be, "Lord, all that I am is for all that You are."

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

A very difficult aspect of our existence is that we don't see the whole picture.  That which at one time terrified the disciples would most certainly serve as "future fodder for their faith."  Can we not all look back on times in our lives when Our Lord "carried us" through our difficulties?  After a time of tumult has He not always offered moments of "...great calm?"  It is  through difficulties that our eyes are cleared, often by tears, to see the beauty of God in all things.  This is a call for us to recognize, in the midst of our difficulty and suffering, Our Lord will bring a better day and always a better time...whether it be in this life or the next~ Our Lord is ever faithful!

40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

This tells us, though we will experience fear in this life~ and often lack faith...we need not be afraid and it makes no "earthly sense" and especially makes no "eternal sense" to be afraid of anything IF we adhere ourselves to God.  We only need ask Our Lord to grant us the grace to love Him above all else and to follow Him "wherever He goes" and He will be faithful and will certainly see it through.

41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?

Recognize the Lord in all things and do no be tempted to say, "Who then is this?"  We will encounter times of darkness and times of light.  Either way, whether in life or in death, Our Lord is faithful and always looking out for our best.  Consider the following, Psalm 91, which communicates all of the above far better than I could ever hope to communicate.  I just encourage you, now, seek the Lord while He can be found!
Psalm 91 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Assurance of God’s Protection

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.

11 For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.

14 Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.