Monday, July 30, 2012
"With gentleness and peace, make your small efforts to better serve the Divine Goodness, but do not be frightened by the difficulties that crop up. What good, what precious thing has ever been obtained without effort and hard work? On our part, it is only necessary to remain faithful to our resolution to reach the perfection of holy love by doing all we can to make it perfect. If we do not do that we are not aiming very high." (St. Francis DeSales)
The ultimate goal of our Christian journey is to aspire toward holiness. We are each called by God to live a life that surrounds the teachings of Jesus and the virtues that He taught us. It is through reading the Gospels and learning about Christ's first followers where we come to understand the meaning of our own Christian lives and our true vocation as believers.
We are called not only to live faithfully with belief, but to also act out of our faith and the values that we hold dear to us as followers of Jesus. In order to do this we are required to make constant effort to serve our Lord and the "Divine Goodness" for which we yearn. We must strive daily in our dealings, conversations, meetings, and our times of conflict to respond with "holy love". This is something that requires hard work and mortification.
As St. Francis DeSales reminds us "what good, what precious thing has ever been obtained without effort and hard work?". Sadly, our world promotes the "easy fix" all to often. May we each strive to glorify God and serve our Lord despite the difficulties and challenges. May we turn to our Lord in prayer with perseverance each day and ask for the strength, courage, and faith to serve Him. May we come to realize that in striving to reach holy love, we must also love what is holy and let the Lord work through us. Amen (C.C.)
Friday, July 27, 2012
"Effort is required to remain sensitive to the presence of this
I consider it a great blessing to have met the author of this beautifully written reflection. Fr. John Eudes Bamberger at the Abbey in Genesee has truly been one whom I have come to learn a lot about my faith from--and faith in general. It is in witnessing the way that he has chosen to live out his faith that also strengthens me along my journey. I can only imagine how many others share this same sentiment.
His words that I have chosen to reflect upon capture such an important truth about the way that we are called as believers to constantly be aware of God amidst our present reality. It is easy to lose sight of Him as we encounter the difficulties of our present day. And yet, rather than focusing on these difficulties, Fr. John reminds us of the perseverance we must maintain in our efforts to remain sensitive to the presence of God's kingdom. We are each called to return again and again to the place where we meet our Lord. We are called to a spiritual life that can aid us in dealing with our present reality..and prepare us for the Kingdom of Heaven for which we are created.
It is through our constant effort of returning to Him where we will find the strength, courage, hope and joy to persevere through times posing great threat to our freedom of faith. It is in living amidst this world with deep regard for the Eternal Kingdom that we can share the beauty of our Lord and faith with one another. With simplicity of heart, faith, and yearning to experience God's presence daily we can each attribute to creating a better reality for ourselves and those around us." Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Amen. (C.C.)
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
" In some way, all of us are like the lepers. We all live at times with our feelings numbed by the harsh realities of life; at times we feel the wasting effects of the enemy's warfare, and at other times we feel bitterly isolated from others." (Claire Cloninger)
The Gospels provide us with the opportunity for better understanding our Lord and the way that we are called to live through serving Him and one another. Most importantly, in reading the Gospel passages we can see the ways that our Lord loves us and the distances that He will go in order to aid us in our times of greatest need.
In some ways, it is true that we are like the lepers. As the author states we all live through the harsh realities of life and can battle greatly with many feelings as a result of these "life-shudderings". It is here we can draw a correlation between ourselves and the lepers that we read about in Scripture (Matthew 8: 1-4) --and through this potentially come to understand the healing power of our Lord.
In acknowledging this truth, one must also be willing to recognize the immense faith of the lepers that sought Jesus for healing. While many people continued living with great skepticism and resistance of the truth, the afflicted lepers did not hesitate to flock to the Lord with desperation and profound belief that He could indeed heal them.
As we experience affliction it is by having great faith in our healing Lord that we truly come to know His mercy and love for us. Amen (C.C.)
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
" Lord, I have not lived like contemplative. The first essential is missing. I only say I trust You. My actions prove that the one I trust is myself- and that I am still afraid of You. Take my life into Your hands, at last, and do whatever you want with it. I give myself to Your love and mean to keep on giving myself to Your love-rejecting neither the hard things nor the pleasant things You have arranged for me. It is enough for me that You have glory. Everything You have planned is good. It is love. The way You have laid open before me is an easy way, compared with the hard way of my own will which leads back to Egypt, and to bricks without straw. If You allow people to praise me, I shall worry even less, but be glad. If You send me work I shall embrace it with joy and it will be rest to me, because it is Your will. And if You send me rest, I will rest in You. Only save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement`s sake, to unsettle everything You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory. This is what I live for. Amen." (Thomas Merton)
I have recently found great comfort in the words of reflection and prayer written by the late Cistercian Monk Thomas Merton. There is much often said about him as being "one too spiritually advanced", or one who "has had so much success living in contemplation that the ordinary faith-filled individual can not relate". These judgements and preconceived ignorant notions of Merton also intimidated me and I was hesitant to leap into the land of Merton.
However, after spending time on retreat at a Trappist Monastery I developed a profound admiration not only for the Cistercian order, but also for Thomas Merton. After reading I was amazed at the incredible insights, lessons, and shared spiritual challenges from one whom I have come to see as a fellow brother in Christ.
In Merton`s prayer the reader is able to see into the pure simpleness of a soul yearning to continually do God`s will. It is here that any intimidated idea of Merton is met with empathetical understanding, incredible humility, full surrender and likeness.
It may seem difficult as Christian laity to fully feel a sense of relation to Merton`s life and Monastic journey. It is through his writing above (and many others) where Merton mirrors each of us as he openly expresses his thoughts on full surrender and serving the Lord with the sheer simplicity of seeking Him and His will constantly. In Merton one can find great comfort and consolation. It becomes evident that each of us living a Christian life, regardless of individual vocation, has the same call-- that being to do everything with full surrender to the will of God with the utmost love and dedication. This commitment and deep devotion may often lead us to places that are uncomfortable...yet it is through this dryness that we may experience the greatness of our Lord.
Like Merton, we can acknowledge the times when we have fallen short or stumble upon our very selves as we seek to do God`s will. May we all strive to follow the way laid open by our Heavenly Father and may we also recognize with humility the times that we need to be saved from ourselves and "our poisonous urges to change everything" . Lord help us to continually seek Your will in all we do. Amen. (C.C.)
``Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him. To the soul who seeks him.``(Lamentations 3:25)
Saturday, July 21, 2012
"The deepest lessons the heart has to deliver to us become accessible only when it is ruptured. It is anguish that makes the heart an open book because the wound it causes pierces all the way through to the core. These are terrible lessons, the kind that fill one with nausea. We like to think our lives would be happier if we could find a way to avoid learning them; but the only way to do that is to close one's heart and keep it closed, so that nothing gets in or out of it - to make oneself a heart of stone. It is terrible to put into words the one real alternative to this avoidance. But I see no way to get around what seems to be the harshest, the most merciless truth about the human heart - I mean the fact that, to keep it open, once it has been pierced, one must allow it to be an open wound." (Jerome Miller)
"Ruptured", "pierced", and "open wound" are not the words that invoke comfortable feelings. It is hard to imagine that out of this brutality one can be led to the joyful end of true love. As Catholics we see the Cross in this same light. It is through the suffering, pain, and brutality which Jesus endured that we come to recognize what love means and truly calls us to do.
To love Jesus is to love the Cross. I am not suggesting that one becomes a lover of pain through this process, but one is better suited to accept suffering and pain as a pathway to peace, to true love, and to a deeper relationship with Jesus. To deny the pain of the Cross and focus solely on the Resurrection is misleading and can result in one living in a false reality; a "flesh-filled focused" reality aimed at what feels good and benefits our selfish wants, needs, and desires. It is through living this way that hinders us from learning the truest lessons, loving to fullest of our potential, and therefore unable to live as God intended.
It is when we press through the agony and pain that we can experience our Easter Sunday--our true sense of love.
The sheer idea of the emotional battle that one endures as a result of this pain is often difficult to accept. It is at times seemingly impossible to press through the inner agonies that can leave us feeling that our very palpitations have become paralyzed. In these moments we must decide which path we will take. Will we remain here and become numb , or will we press on, surrender to learning our lesson from the wound(s) and embrace our Cross?
Will we press on in faith, clinging to the Lord and await our Easter Sunday? (C.C.)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
"When Our Lord corrected Saint Martha, He said, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things..." [Lk 10:41] Note that she would not have been troubled if she had been merely diligent, but she was overly concerned and uneasy; she was hurrying about and all stirred up. Rivers that flow gently through the plains carry along large boats and rich merchandise. Rains that fall gently on open fields make them fruitful in grass and grain, while violent storms devastate fields and pastures. A job done too eagerly and hurriedly is never done well. "He who is in a hurry should go slowly,: says the proverb. We perform actions quickly enough when we do them well. Drones make more noise and work more eagerly than worker bees, but they make only wax and not honey. So also, people who hurry about with tormented anxiety and solicitude never accomplish much, nor do they do anything well." (St. Francis DeSales)
Many of us who read these words from St. Francis De Sales can find some relation to the hurried and anxious St. Martha. It seems that much of our society has been victim to a fast paced lifestyle and mentality for quite some time. We seem to lack the very thing we need in order to truly live as God has called us to. In saying this, it is important to note that many of us have also fallen away from the notion of God as creator and true architect of our lives. We often run ourselves to the point of exhaustion to accomplish our goals, meet deadlines and complete assignments. Yet, one must consider asking themselves in response to this sharing from St. Francis De Sales “What would happen if I just slowed down?"
For many this idea of slowing down may appear as laziness, lack of ambition, or a deflation of their work ethic. However, if I may suggest, in slowing down one can better understand and complete their goals with clarity of mind and peace of heart that will ultimately carry them further..and not leave them utterly exhausted. It is also in this slowing down and freeing ourselves from the constant obsession to be in motion that one may also reconnect with our Lord. As I have shared many times before it is through silence and stillness that we encounter God and can truly hear His voice.
Choosing to slow down and live free of "hurry" despite what is going on around us is a very challenging task. Many come to this decision when faced with no choice at all. It is often sadly after the death of a loved one, a health matter, or technological failure that may lead us to realize our need to just stop, breathe, feel, and think.
Naturally the pressures of life may cause us to react as St. Martha did. Just as our Lord corrected her then, He is now speaking to each one of us saying “You are anxious and upset about many things there is need of only one thing." (Luke 10:40-42) The one thing Jesus refers to is the very thing that will enable us to be like the gentle falling rain which gives life and fruit to the dry open fields. It is through slowing down that we are able to accomplish great tasks. Let us learn from St. Martha's hurriedness and not forget that as we hurry our Lord is calling us away from our distractions and anxieties to sit and listen to Him.
Lord, Today I pray that during these summer months those who are burdened by work, worry, and unrest may find the time to slow down. Let us not fear the stillness- but rather embrace it with openness. Lord provide us with the clarity to see that we can not accomplish great tasks without great surrender to You. Provide us with the strength, awareness, and courage to overcome the human emotions which often lead us astray. Help us Lord to prioritize our lives and our daily agendas in ways that acknowledge our need for You. And Lord, when we are distracted and overcome, help us to see You. Thank you Lord for Your many blessings and gifts. Teach us to sit and listen. (Amen) C.C.