Thursday, August 17, 2017

Freedom in Forgiveness By: C.C.

"Lord, if my brother sins against me, often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times."

Every now and then there are Gospel verses that pop up and truly cut to the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are given and presented with a lofty challenge of sorts demanding deep inner work and clinging to Christ. 
We are reminded in today's Gospel of the very difficult and necessary reality of forgiveness. 
This work is as ongoing as conversion should be. 
It is impossible without great love of God. To forgive means first that we recognize our own brokenness and imperfection, and reconcile ourselves to accepting that we are but broken instruments and people with vast limitations. Yet, simultaneously we are invited to forgive, not because of what we owe another, but more because of Whose we are, and the freedom and peace which our Lord so desires all of us to have. 
A lack of forgiveness weighs us down more than the wounds that a single act, or repeated acts of hurt can create in our hearts. The heaviness can cause us to live shackled by emotions and lead us into desolation. It is not an easy predicament to be in. 
Surely there are various reasons where one is invited to forgive. The gravity of these reasons will undoubtedly vary.
I think forgiveness needs to be better understood at times though. Because I do feel we can lose many people with today's Gospel if we expect forgiveness to mean having a Sunday picnic with the individual who has wronged us. Forgiveness is essential, but can truly look different in many cases and depending upon scenarios will demand something as varying as the circumstance. 
There can be no forward motion toward union with Christ if we have a lack of forgiveness in our heart toward our neighbour. It is a barrier like no other and it is one that continues to ooze out resentment and anger, leaving little room for peace, and cultivates division. 
To forgive does not mean that we forget our worth, or to suggest that we endure dangerous circumstances. Of course good prudence is needed in what forgiveness looks like. It is an inner work. 
Jesus forgave the unimaginable. From the sufferings of the Cross he begged His Father to forgive--"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).  And yes, while this radical moment of forgiveness is incredibly difficult to live up to or imitate it is something we can look toward for helping us understand the depth of what Christian forgiveness means. 
To forgive from the heart as the close of today's Gospel reminds us requires us to offer up all of our sufferings and difficulties to Jesus. As we carry our various crosses and even feel nailed down in pain by many wrongs that may have been done to us we are invited to gaze upward to our Lord and plea for the help and peace of His forgiveness. 
We come to recognize the immense work of prayer to aid the process of forgiveness. The way to transform our heart to doing so requires that we pray more than we point blame. 
Let us be patient with ourselves and others as we attempt to forgive from our heart, so that we may one day experience the freedom of Christ centered love, and comfort found in clinging to the Cross. (CC)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wake up and Meet With God by:CC

"Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day's work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it." - St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

I begin most days very early and in prayer, not because I am overtly pious or claim to be perfect by any means, but because I recognize the immensity of God's gift of time to me. 

Beyond this, I have come to experience quite honestly the incredible way that our Lord truly gives the power to accomplish all things when we entrust ourselves completely to Him through carving out much needed time and sit at His feet in prayer.  

Today the Church celebrates the feast of a wonderful and heroic virtuous woman St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she is an example of a woman truly hidden in Christ and imbued with great strength, intellect, and a deep sense of femininity. I wrote more reflecting on her and her example over at Serviam Ministries this week, and I am sure it is a piece that will flutter some feathers, but is a necessary reflection.

When I reflect upon St. Teresa's words about letting go of our personal plans and giving the first hour of the morning to God, I can see the importance of this for acquiring balance and being able to fulfill the many tasks that lay before me throughout the day. 

We can tackle all things, even chaos when we begin our waking hours focused on God and making ourselves receptive to His will. This is not easy at first, no doubt. To discipline ourselves and to be receptive to a sense of routine and order requires obedience and sacrifice. Under the illusion of greater rest, perhaps hitting the snooze button seems more alluring. But I would almost challenge anyone "out there" to choose instead to hit the button on their alarm and rise a bit early, even if momentarily grumpy and then immerse yourself in some quiet time of prayer, collect your barrings , and slowly the beauty will emerge. 

I was not always disciplined enough to recognize the importance of beginning each day with a structured time in prayer. It was the fruit of hanging out at a monastery retreating from time to time in my early twenties. I encountered the Rule of Benedict. And obviously as a lay woman, I do not have to observe or live by this to it's entirety, it would be quite odd in fact if I did. However, something very vital and important struck me about this way of life. Something I think that leads to a healthy human formation, and great balance. It is the ordering and balance of work and prayer. Prayer being most central of course, and for all of us as faithful, the primacy of Christ should be crucial in our days as well. Wherever we are called to serve, and in whatever we may suffer, with Christ at our center, and with an obedient willingness to align ourselves to properly understanding this we will have great flourishing in our lives. I am not promising that one will merit the material and tangible things that our world has come to deem most valuable, but I am speaking of great interior peace and this, by far, will allow us to "tackle the day's work" and live more intentionally and purposefully.

Quite often when one is overwhelmed there seems to be a suggestion of taking more "me" time. Granted there is something vital in that. But, as a Christian I see "me" and "my" time, as God's time and so thus begins my day. We can make this experience  something incredibly personal. It does not have to be spent kneeling down on concrete floor reciting litanies, and wearing a hair shirt or chanting psalms. 

I spend mine with two cups of coffee (black) and reflecting upon the readings of the day before preparing food and attending to my chores, this too can be prayerful. And, I have also incorporated praying the Rosary into a morning work out, then off to daily Mass with the kids. This dedication is not the result of a life of luxury or ease or because other people take care of things for me. It is born from giving that first hour to God, and sacrificing  in order to do that. We are no better rested by avoiding time of prayer. However, to acquire routine is a process and it is a grace I believe, one that we can pray for. 

The Lord will meet us and lead us gently, and fill us up with His grace and give us the power to accomplish all things. "Let go of your plans" respond to the invitation of sitting in silence with our Lord, begin early, bring your coffee, and witness the beauty unfold. (CC)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Privilege of Poverty: C.C.

"Jesus said to his disciples:"The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again,and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it."(Matthew 13:44-46)

Jesus' way of having us understand the Kingdom of heaven, among many, is often through using examples that are very easy for us to understand. Surely His words are not easy to live by, nor do they require us to go at once and sell all that we possess and prance through the streets in our birthday suits. Judgement aside of course, perhaps some have found this to be exactly what they must do. 

When we look at our lives, however, for those of us living with relative comfort and met needs (arguably have more than we need) these words can pierce our hearts and have us reconcile ourselves to understanding the poverty of spirit we must live by to inherit the Kingdom of heaven. 

Before we can arrive at that point of shedding the interior self and chiseling away at the material like goods that shadow the purity of our soul, we must take an honest look at our lives and our attachments. The closer we get to Christ the nearer gratitude for the most simple things rises to the surface. We are forced ever so gently into recognizing our poverty and also the value of the ordinary blessings that become so tragically over looked amidst the endless consumption of goods.

This should not lead us to a punishing sentiment of guilt, or shame, or a feeling that to be in Christ means we must have absolutely nothing, but rather that our everything is nothing unless the primacy of Christ is at our center. In this way we come to recognize the immensity of God's blessing and the privilege we have in our "richness" to choose to be poor, or even the necessity of being so in order to see the Kingdom of heaven. 

To know the value of heaven is to know the worth of everything else, for at the sight of it the most glorious treasure, pearl, iPhone, mansion, sports car, whatever it may be carries no lasting value or substantial worth. We can implore the material gains of our lives to serve the Kingdom of heaven, they can become the vehicles of sharing the blessings of God through our charitable action. We must work to refine ourselves to seeking the most glorious pearl of great price, that is the Kingdom of heaven. 

Until Christ is all we need, nothing we think we need will ever satisfy us or give us lasting joy. 

Let us pray to find our truest treasure, making our lives a gift to others by utilizing our privilege to serve. To pray for poverty of spirit . giving rise to humility and living virtuously until we are called home. (CC)