Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Rock of Our Faith. By:C.C.

"For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my church,and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ."(Matthew 16:13-19)

"In her voyage across the ocean of this world, the Church is like a great ship being pounded by the waves of life’s different stresses. Our duty is not to abandon ship but to keep her on her course." (Saint Boniface)

The Cross contains everything that we need to understand the human condition and to make sense of faith and suffering. It is through this avenue, and by no other that we can also better navigate what it means to follow and serve Christ within His Church, built upon the rock of St. Peter.
Jesus promised in today's Gospel that the netherworld would not prevail against His Church. This is consoling and also calls into question the reality of our own faith and to whom we give our obedience and following.
As life's difficulties beat against the Church there is great whiplash felt throughout. As times seem to veer progressively away from the teachings of the Church and what it is She stands for, people are perhaps more inclined to jump ship rather than stay aboard and further seek a means to keeping afloat and on course.

Understandably, there are numerous reasons why one may decide to do so. Perhaps it is a result of questions being poorly answered, or unanswered, perhaps it is ignorance to what the Catholic Church truly stands for, or rather Whose Church it  is. 

Revisiting this Gospel is humbling and at the same time inviting of a faith in Jesus Christ alone, despite what one may perceive, fear, or see the Church becoming. We are reminded to Whom it most belongs and in this is every assurance of truth. We aid in keeping the Church on course by remaining present at this moment shared in today's Gospel and obedient to the role that has been given us in faith. It is not a finite moment , it is not an empty phrase to do away with, It is an establishment of a promise , that we must take time to bear witness to, so that we can then increase our sense of the modern day challenges surrounding, and even greet them with the freshness of faith that Jesus's first disciples had.

From this fresh encounter is the means for living in the promise of Jesus for His Church. The implications that this has in all of our lives, and especially in those Holy men appointed to higher roles of leadership within the Church becomes more apparent through our own own humble obedience and daily surrender to follow Jesus, despite the poundings of criticism and counter Christ ways from our culture. 

If the ship is abandoned at the sight of any difficulty then we can be assured that our faith is not in Jesus Christ, nor is it really faith at all. Difficulty invites a renewal of understanding and trust in the Lord. We can affirm faith in the face of challenge, we can pray for the clarity in our own lives., and beg to have the courage to persevere. 

In many ways from the most subtle to the most alarmingly significant we can each play a role in helping to keep the Church on Her course, by remaining on course ourselves. Not so that we desire a following, or to be held up as an icon of some esteemed example. But so that we remain in the embrace of our Lord and seek to glorify Him in all that we do by the simplicity of faith that we live.

In the face of scandal, in the face of "fake church news" and through encountering challenges with doctrine/dogma and perhaps even some Papal decisions it is well that we are reminded of Jesus' promise and to continually entrust ourselves to God. 

The primacy of our faith and our belief in the Church must stem from our belief in Jesus Christ. As if He were before us everyday asking "But who do you say that I am?"  If our answer professes that He is the Son of God, then all things necessary for embracing the Rock of our faith become possible. (CC)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! 

How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things. 
To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11: 33-36)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Are You Truly Listening? By:C.C.

"Consider this great mystery. The sound of my words strikes the ears, and the Master is within! Do not suppose that any human is the teacher of another. We can Admonish by the sound of our voice; but unless there is one Who teaches on the inside, the sound we make is futile.
I, for my part, have spoken to all; but those to whom the Anointing within does not speak, those to whom the Holy Spirit within does not teach, go back untaught." (Sermon on 1 John 3, 12)

The mystery belonging to our faith and all things divine is something that perpetually calls us to renew our ideas about what it mean to believe, and why we do. We need to embrace this mystery with childlike simplicity and trust so that we may truly be attentive and receptive to the Master within. 

St. Augustine in all of the greatness we come to revere him for was primarily a humble and obedient student of divine mystery and completely surrendered to the power of our Lord's work within Him. 

It is this necessary and admirable detachment that allows for his words to pierce the ears and hearts with a resounding truth that still echos today in all of his words remaining with us, and thanks be to God that they do remain!

In the small sharing from his sermon today he captures a very important aspect about being a messenger for the Lord, and the important work of evangelization. There are many words spoken today striking many ears by the faithful. It can be overwhelming, but seeds are surely being scattered. The fruitfulness of the seeds, while much of it does depend upon the soil that they land on, does also have something to do with the vessel from which they are being thrown from, or the tongue that shares these words.

To be able to share and speak of the divine and with great conviction takes being mindful of our baseness and shared need for God's incredible mercy and grace. We can look at St.Augustine as a prime example for better understanding the reality of his own words shared here today. 

Undoubtedly, those minutely familiar with his life will see that he was not the poster child for holiness in his earlier days, nor was he an ignorant fellow in the eyes of education or learning. Truly from the lap of his mother, St. Monica, and many others who would have tried to instruct him in the ways of faith, numerous words struck his ears. At first there was little impact, he did not attend to them, nor did they initially stir up anything convincing enough for him to turn completely away from his sin, and into the fullness of faith. We do know though, how he ended. His beginning is made all the more of a powerful testament to us, a true testament of God's incredible mystery.

He speaks in his sermon here of the impact that words can have, but also he is mindful of Whom it is that must speak within, Whom it is that must work within and lead one to true transformation. The hearing and the listening leading to conversion and understanding   belongs completely to God. 

To be a witness for the Lord is to be first obedient to His precepts and live out in love the way He instructed to do so. To preach and share the good news is more about doing so reverently, than doing so with the intention of entertaining, and opening hearts. It is not our work to do that, it is the work of God alone. Many may "go back untaught" but this does not mean that the work is unimportant. 

We must pray,  to place primacy on our relationship with the Lord and to be humble vessels. Let us not pray that our words are received, but that God's grace may open hearts to hear, and eyes to see His mystery. We must recognize that we are merely instruments in God's symphony and not the conductor, or the composer. 

May we renew ourselves daily to be taught by our Lord, to sit at His feet always recognizing the need to be perpetually fed and filled with His love. May we then go forth ministering to those in the active vineyard of Christ for God's glory, sent by His grace alone. (CC)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Fasting, Fish, and Phones By: C.C.

Fasting seems to be a lost concept. I am not suggesting that it doesn't exist anymore at all, but truly it does not seem to be spoken about enough anymore. Fasting is needed as many of us are entrenched in a "want world" and self gratified society. 

What comes from fasting is a much needed detachment from things, and ordering of our passions, and ultimately an avenue that welcomes a much necessary closeness to God. 

It is not easy, nor should it be. It is a radical way of attuning ourselves to living more presently in the presence of our Lord and purifying ourselves. It liberates us from the temporal things, albeit not without much enduring.

Most Catholics are perhaps more traditionally familiar with fasting from meat on Fridays, many still do practice this within their homes. But often fish Fridays can take on an even more gluttonous reality than a fast would suggest. For example, being Italian-Canadian extremely rich and battered calamari fritti is surely a beloved favorite of a Friday fish menu, but is perhaps even more lavish in indulgence than my breaded chicken. Therefore the heart of my fast is not pure in it's intention nor sacrificial. I'm sure it would be an interesting thing to dialogue about. 

When we talk about fasting we are talking about a sacrifice, and not something that is easy or enjoyable for us. It should shed us, and prune us, and unearth some of the vices that we battle with. It can be a tremendous and necessary helper as we strive to live a life of virtue. As our western world progressively climbs toward more consumption, more indulgence, and more self gratification, a fitting and crucial response by the faithful at the face of all of this is much needed temperance and self denial. 

I am not trying to foster a population of "sour faced saints" of sorts, but to help cultivate the recovering of encountering true joy and true peace belonging to a heart completely abandoned to God. To be mindful of sacrifice is an authentic aspect of following Christ. To be present enough to encounter His presence, even in the face of others, means that we must be willing to unplug ourselves quite literally from time to time.

In our world today there is a lot of talk  about the prominence of social media and technology and a complete loss of strong/healthy human interactions and attentiveness to people. Last night on Twitter I was reading a thread regarding this very concept and it invited further reflection. I also had the privilege of chatting with Arleen Spenceley for my humble podcast some time ago and she brilliantly shared even more on this subject (which will be posted in the near future).

We are consumed by screens locked in everywhere we go. How much we boast about free wifi in some locations at coffee shops and such, only to see people out for coffee, which is arguably a lovely pastime, now sitting across from one another tweeting, chatting, and youtubing away with everyone but the person before them. We are seemingly more connected, but truly people are starving for more genuine connections and authentic friendships.

While our social media can be implored for some good, no doubt. It is a refreshing idea to think of implementing a fast from phones. To limit use within the day and do so drastically. Perhaps even choosing one day completely to shut down. Detachment should not belong solely to time away in retreat, or the feeling that you need to have an excuse of sorts to not answer your phone. Simply select time and be obedient to it to be unplugged. 

I remember well my first ever retreat I shut my phone down as soon as I had text home about my safe arrival and off I went phone free.  I can't begin tell you how many times I looked for my phone almost shamefully on numerous occasions desiring to check it and did not. I had to work up to a sense of peace with the idea that it was not there. It was extremely liberating, but also more concerning to me was my dependency upon this device. 

Eventually, and not too long into retreat that instinct faded and I was absorbed in the most important. Yes, the environment was obviously more favorable in some ways of having this occur, but here I am amidst the daily grind of things and I can recognize that there is a dependency still lingering for sure; a habitual reliance upon a device that I think can be purified, and even must be purified if I am to be present to the most important within my day.

I can not boast of having a TV in our home and this is a wonderful thing. That itself seems to be a heroic endeavor in today's world, so I have absolutely no idea what is hip or happening in TV land, and I couldn't care less to be quite frank, but more than this I have come to see that though the absence of TV is profound, my phone can very well make up for lost time, time that many lose in front of the tube. 

And so, I am challenging myself, and even maybe some of you out there to fast from phones as you would fast by eating fish. It can be as structured or unstructured as you would like. You may choose to simply shut down completely for a day, a morning/ afternoon whatever, or to limit your use of what you use your phone for. 

I am officially launching the phone fast challenge and to be attentive to how this deepens your self awareness, and also your relationship with God. 

I am not expecting there to be magnificent Moses mountain top type of elaborate enlightening, but there will be growth, there will be clarity. I am joining in this too.My phone is off, and has been for the entire morning. (CC)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Desiring to be Last. By: C.C.

"But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (Matthew 19:30)

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1-9)

We spend our lives in a state of yearning for achievements and accolades. From the classroom setting into various sporting and artistic endeavors we can be geared toward acquiring and deeply desiring tangible merit for our successes. The pat on our backs perhaps proclaims to us that we are worthy, that we have done well. 

To be imbued with the Gospel is to live out our natural lives and numerous tasks that we are given, mindful of the supernatural aid that sustains us. While also being ever reminded of our limitations and the Lord's provision in our lives of all that we have received.  

The daily Gospel readings over past little while have focused on the inheritance of heaven and how we can strive to live eternally with our Lord. This eternal reality that is so very hidden from us, yet by faith so very visible, can be a difficult concept to fully understand. It is fitting however that we do not understand it completely, and even necessarily so. For we must strive only to understand the importance of seeking God and living our lives in accordance to His teachings, and in imitation of the virtues that were so visibly exuded by the holy men and women we come to know throughout our rich Church history. 

When we reconcile ourselves to understanding the baseness of our earthly inheritance  in order to keep proper order of things and recognize the true value of things eternal we can begin to live well and to use our worldly merit and gain for the good of the kingdom of God. 

The close of today's Gospel proclaims to us that "many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."   It is a very defeated message in the eyes of the world. We are so groomed to be first in all things and failure is shunned and even feared by many. Thus, we do never acquire a true sense of greatness at all, but are merely like hamsters running endless wheels getting no where. If we desire heaven, and we want to take our faith life seriously then we must meditate upon our end. I'm not suggesting to live with a fear of apocalyptic ending per say or to go out and purchase caskets and jump out of airplanes as some part of a bucket list. But rather to give each day fully to our Lord in gratitude, to offer Him back the gifts that He has so freely given to you, and to cultivate these using them for His glory. 

We must live desiring to be last in all things so that He may be first, and in this we begin well, and even live well. Through this humble manner we can acquire a true sense of peace and joy in our time of serving. 

I have chosen to follow the close of today's Gospel reading with a passage from 1 Peter, because I think this does well to further drive home the true promise of eternal life and our inheritance by faith. Though we are presented with the reality of suffering, we are given a reminder of our hope. And to Who we must be ever mindful of. 

We are naturally drawn to the good, to want glory, and peace, to want to live in a state of "happiness". But when the reality of suffering inevitably comes we do not always greet it with pleasantry. we can be led to ask some serious questions "What is such a life?" "What's the point of faith?" If we ask the questions, then we too must welcome the answers that have already been answered. In the Person of Jesus Christ. 

When we are refined by fire we can learn how to praise all the more. And indeed recognize how much our God loves us if we remain desiring union with Him. 

For much of my adolescent years and young adult life I spent desiring to be first. In many ways. Running on my own esteem and the baseness of human passions----(that's an understatement in avoidance of wanting to be crude) The emptiness of it was undeniable. Surely I had every good reason to remain that way through a worldly lens, but how then did it fade ever so quickly? how did I soon see how worthless and how lost I was? That alone belongs to the mystery of God and to the reality of our faith. When eternal life can be accepted as real, then the daily life that we are given takes on great purpose and meaning. We do not climb the ladder to heaven as one climbs the corporate ladder, for in many ways, and even the most essential way this is done is by always desiring to be last.

We begin well, by desiring to end well in our Lord alone. 

May we strive daily to live mindful of the inheritance of heaven so that we may spend our days living as Jesus taught us. Loving God above all things, and striving to love our neighbor. (CC)

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)