Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Mercy. By: C.C

"For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all them that call on you." (Psalm 86:5)
   The proclamation of God's mercy does not reduce the reality of sin and disobedience to God. Mercy does not entitle us to live by our own esteem and do as we wish. To be mindful of God's mercy is to be aware of the reality of our imperfections and our failings. God's mercy towards us illuminates the unconditional love of God for us, despite us. In the understanding of our unworthiness and shortcomings we are met with the radical love and all encompassing embrace of our Father. It is because of the grace of God's mercy that we know to ask for it. 
   Those who have an experience and deep encounter with God who strive to live in a state of obedient grace are perhaps more attuned to recognizing God's mercy and love in their lives. It is this reality that can keep them from straying on the path toward sanctity and the eternal end for which we as Christians should strive for. 
   To forget God's mercy is to dismiss the fundamental aspect of our faith; Love. This love is not about sentimental fluffiness, but a love that nurtures and demands us to reconcile ourselves to the 'image and likeness of God' in which we are created. To the world it shines and proposes a difficult love. 
   To be children of the Heavenly Father, as scripture reminds us, is to remember that ..."He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:43-48-). This is important for us to reflect upon so we can be certain that no one is outside of the mercy of God, it is only one's ignorance to Him and the gift of generous grace that can leave them at a distance from being receptive to this mercy. It is thus through the witness of one touched by mercy and with eyes open to grace that many can be led back toward the foundational Love at their beginning, in order to arrive most fully at the end seeking reconciliation with God. 
   An authentic experience of God's mercy will lead us to proclaim the love of God in the very way that we live our lives with others. So often we can observe those who claim to be obedient followers of Christ condemning their bothers and sisters. Many rush to take a seat on the throne of judgement, but have no regard for the proclamation of God's mercy. It is as if to determine that people are in fact beyond the mercy of God, and that is not so. To adopt the idea that another's imperfections and sinful inclinations automatically dooms them to hell is to also condemn oneself and render the working out of salvation, through ongoing conversion, by God's grace filled mercy, not a reality of our faith. Where there is still life on earth, there is time to work out life for eternity, those with the grace to know this must make haste to see this through. "Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful"(Luke 6:36).
   The mercy of God is a light of hope that Christ shines in front of us so that we look back with holy trembling at our sins and with a holy fear at our present state. This holy fear is infused by love and not condemnation. It is a gentle embrace that surrounds us as we shed what has become hardened by the world and sin in order to renew ourselves in faith, in trust, and in obedient surrender to God.
   The further we as a society have grown from the Lord, the more radically we must proclaim the mercy of God. To preach justice without mercy, to condemn without first seeking to rid of ignorance is to foster sin and not sanctity. 
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need(Hebrews 4:16).
   Nothing is beyond the grace of our Lord, and nothing within our human power can attain an understanding of it's depths. Let us pray, not for the gift of understanding God's mercy, but for the grace to continually seek the mercy of God in our lives. (CC)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Joy of Yes Forever vs Settling for Being Happy. By: C.C.

"Joy suggests a more complete, ecstatic, consuming passion than mere happiness. In short, “happiness” can be described as an emotion, while “joy” is more properly related to a state of one’s being. By definition, happiness is a response to happenstance, contentment, good luck, prosperity, or good fortune.(Catholic Exchange)

This particular time of year is very special for me. While our secular world is preaching love, happiness, and all the other sentimental ideals that come with the arrival of Valentine's Day, I am pausing to reflect upon the journey Carmen and I made to Rome two years ago to participate in the Joy of Yes Forever event held in St. Peter's Square. The symbolism of this day in our lives is one that isn't isolated to February 14th, 2014, it is one that continually confronts me as I strive to truly live out the promises of my "YES" to God and to Carmen through the Sacrament of Marriage.

Awaiting Pope Francis...
   The Joy of Yes Forever in a world that is all about happiness for the moment is truly a difficult task. To understand what joy means is to fully immerse ourselves in the will of God and the path of virtue. It is indeed a battle at best to persevere. I have never been more challenged or more faced with the reality of my own brokenness and shortcomings. I have never known the importance of true love and acceptance in regards to another until faced with the reality of married love. I am humbled time and time again when the cross appears within my marriage, it reminds me of the reality and foundation of our union. It reminds me that alone we can not attain the Joy of Yes Forever. Only with God's grace, the Sacramental Grace belonging to us as husband and wife can we strive, (even if ever so slowly) toward eternal joy. 

   Sacramental grace does not mean that we are "super-human" , it does not take our humanity away, our faults, our imperfections, or our difficulties. But as the Rite of Marriage reminds us we are "Sealed and Strengthened by God" It takes great virtue to maintain this perspective and I have such a long way to go until this is achieved....therein lies the beauty of journeying with another along this path toward sanctity. I have learned in my brief years of being married that the Sacramental Grace is present in accordance to our remaining true to our "YES". By acting in the favour of our union, by welcoming God into every area, especially when most seemingly difficult the grace of God does sustain us and provide for us. God labors with us to uphold our union when we strive to live our union seeking union with Him above all....it is here we can begin to have an experience of the Joy of Yes that God so willingly desires us to have.

"Let not, then, those who are joined in matrimony neglect the grace of the sacrament which is in them; for, in applying themselves to the careful observance, however laborious, of their duties they will find the power of that grace becoming more effectual as time goes on. " (Pope Pius xi)

Our joy is often limited because our gaze is set upon our desire for the fleeting reality of happiness. By keeping our eyes upon the visible and not entrusting ourselves entirely to Him we can not attain a true sense of joy in our lives. To be joyful is to go beyond what is mere 'happenstance' and toward the Source of our true joy found in God alone. It takes perpetual work and constant renewal of our desire to understand married love and to forfeit the desire to be temporarily happy. We must return to God time and time again renewing our reliance and need for Him in our midst. He fills us with the grace to endure, He alone provides the joy and grace to sustain us all our days. 

In times when I fail, in times when my wounds and my faults become bigger than my surrender and sacrifice in my marriage, I meet God's mercy by kneeling before Him and commit again to the joy that He provides. 

In order that our joy may be full we must first become empty and make ourselves humble before God. Our Lord's commands to us are designed for the purpose of our joy. If our gaze is limited to the things of this world and our perception of fulfilment rooted in our emotions, then we keep ourselves away from knowing true joy in this life. When we dismiss the path of virtue as one of destruction and embrace the inauthentic sensory pursuit of happiness, we deny ourselves the genuine experience of joy as God wills for us. 

The enduring presence of joy in life and in married love depends upon the endurance of our hope, trust, and love of God in all things. As our faith teaches us, “... true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or any human achievement…or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love.” In other words, temporal happiness is not enough to satisfy us; we long for the “joy of the Lord” (CCC 1720). Recognizing that God is our Creator and that we rely totally on Him is a “source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence” (CCC 301)

I am joyful to not have settled for being happy. Most days of married life are not happy, and for that I am joyful! I can have the potential to know the truth of love only because I seek to know God and his design for love. In a world that tempts us with the allurement of happiness, let us be reminded that the Joy of Yes Forever, is built up of many small moments of surrender and sacrifice. The reward is beyond our understanding. (CC) 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Carrying Our Cross. By: C.C.

Wedding Day March 8th, 2014
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (Luke 9:23-25)

   The richness of letting go and an experience of fruitful surrender is found in our ability to recognize our inner poverty. The discomfort with suffering and our human reaction  to "fix things" inhibits the ability for us to see God's unwavering providence, especially amidst the difficult moments of our lives. Today's Gospel reminds us to deny ourselves and to accept our Cross. Ultimately, we are reminded to accept suffering. Nobody likes to suffer. Our discomfort with the suffering causes us to close our eyes at the foot of the Cross. To imagine only a resurrected Lord. To solely proclaim Easter joy, and not reflect on the sacrifice and pain that paved way for our eternal joy blinds us from the very reason for our faith.

   As Christians we must embrace the Cross of Christ, and thus we can better encounter our own with Divine help. We are much too weak and limited to endure what comes alone. Our Lord does not invite us to deny ourselves so that we lose ourself in a harmful way, but so that we recover and become our most authentic self in the way that God intended.  Lent is a fitting time to ask ourselves some important questions.....Do we become obsessed with the joy of Jesus, with the love, with the compassion, with his unconditional care, so much so that may we forget the suffering; forget His message to us in these times? The joy of the Gospel is most evident in the Cross, this choice of love to provide such joy and freedom for us. Jesus chose the Cross so we could make sense of the crosses in our lives. To be 'sons in the Son' is to be bound to the Lord, to belong to Him, and thus to face the Cross within our own lives. Because of the love, compassion, and unconditional love and mercy of our Lord, we do not face our cross alone. 

   Pope Francis often reminds us of the difficulty in following Jesus closely, because eventually, and unavoidably we encounter struggle. Granted these challenges and Crosses in life are presented to all of us. It is part of the human condition to suffer. Many look upon this truth and see no reason for following such a God. No purpose for embracing Him and His Cross if we are 'doomed' to have our own. This thinking leads to imprisonment and further disillusion in regards to what it means to be free. Faith shows to us that we are free because we have first been created and found by a God who loves us despite of ourselves and our brokenness. He meets us within our struggles and teaches us the way to be free.

    Belief in our Lord and trust in His mercy and love leads us to trust that He too bears our Crosses with us. It is not a means for us to escape the reality of our human condition, but to live our condition well and to dwell within this world with great purpose, with hope, and with an understanding of our suffering. To set our gaze upon the Divine reveals to us the reason and purpose for our humanity. Our Lenten journey especially welcomes our sacrifice and acceptance of going without. We choose to suffer, in a very minute way so that we may draw closer to Christ and further from worldly allurements. Let us strive to deny ourselves daily as to affirm our walk with Christ. (CC)