ON BEING WEAK

“That I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’  I will rather boast most gladly of my weakness, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”  (2 Cor 12- 7-9)

We are weakened by the knowledge of our shortcomings.  It seems that no matter how often I pray for a clean heart, I find myself filled with the sharp pain of jealousy or a mean thought.  My prayers for a clean tongue find me cursing over a small problem or speaking ill of someone.  It is not easy wanting to be a saint and living as a sinner.  The good side of all this work is the knowledge that of myself I am nothing.   Another good aspect of living this way is that I come to depend on the grace of God and not on me.  I always fall.  When I think of Christ’s passion and his three falls that are part of the Stations of the Cross, I am amazed that he continually got up again.

Some of the people I talk to think of religious people as self-righteous, pompous.  Maybe some are.  I think most of us are so cognizant of our weaknesses and our dependence on God that it comes across differently to those who don’t even know what we’re talking about.    The world preaches self-sufficiency.  It never worked for me.  Alone I am in bad company.

I am so happy to be a Catholic Christian.  I am so happy to be a member of the universal church He established which continues to teach me as I age and allows me to go deeply into intimacy with Jesus Christ.  There is no end to the wisdom of our faith…no end to the beauty that lifts me up and asks nothing of me but to follow the still, small voice to the journey’s end.

Advertisements

DISCOURAGEMENT

I lived a life of discouragement.  I never seemed to be able to succeed at anything I tried.  Most of my life I thought of myself as handicapped either mentally or physically.  In truth, I know today, I was handicapped spiritually.  I thought I had to depend on my own strength.  My pride always deceived me.  And, I didn’t think to rely on God in times of trouble or in times of opportunity.  In other words, I tried to succeed alone, I failed alone, and I reviewed my actions alone.  I was always discouraged to try again.   How could I expect to garner strength when it was my own lack of strength that made me fail?

St. Theresa of Jesus said:  “The soul must sometime emerge from self-knowledge and soar aloft in meditation upon the greatness and the majesty of its God.”  

The greatest acknowledgement of self I ever made is that I have been wrong about almost everything.  I am wrong so often, I wonder how I ever had an ego.  Today I realize that I am merely a mortal being.  I will be here for a while and then I will not exist.  I realize I know only a little…and what I think I know is based on my logic – which is often skewed.  I have lost my opinion about things in this world.  Political figures come and go, national problems come and go, wars and enemies come and go.  We are passing through this world at lightening speed.  What was cool one day is considered weird another day.  One only has to look at hairstyles and clothing styles to have a good laugh.  However, in their hayday they were considered the latest, the greatest of all time.  

With St. Theresa I pray:  “Yes, oh my God, I am happy to feel little and weak in Your presence, and my heart remains in peace.” 

Today I am encouraged by God’s mercy and grace on His people.

THE JUST SAINT, SAINT JOSEPH

Saint Joseph, the faithful foster-father and guardian of Jesus and Mary, stands humbly behind them.  He was chosen by God as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, his wife.  He carried out his duties with complete fidelity.  Through him, Christ was fittinly and honorably introduced into the world.  After our gratitude to Mary for being chosen to bring Christ into the world, we must acknowledge Saint Joseph for not only bringing the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment, but for being the kindly caretaker of Our Blessed Lord and Our Blessed Mother.  At a time when Mary could have been stoned to death for being pregnant without being married, Saint Joseph obeyed the words of the angel and took her into his home.

Thank you, dear Saint Joseph, for the justice and the fidelity that enabled the greatest event in human history to unfold.  Pray for us that in our world today men can muster the mercy and grace which you showed to the world.  Help the fatherless families that need your support and help fathers to be faithful to their duties in life.  We need your help, dear Saint Joseph, now more than ever.  I ask in the name of your foster-child, Jesus the Christ.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

I’m Irish.  St. Patrick’s Day used to be a day to celebrate that fact with a lot of drinking and jokes told with phoney Irish brogues.    One of the jokes I remember was:

Question:  “Do you know why God invented alcohol?” 

Answer:  “So the Irish wouldn’t rule the world.”

The only thing I knew about St. Patrick himself was that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  I heard about the wee people and the shamrock.  That about summarizes my knowledge of being Irish.

Today I know that Saint Patrick was born in Great Britain around 385.  As a young man, he was captured and sold as a slave in Ireland where he had to tend sheep.  Having escaped from salvery, he chose to enter the priesthood, and later, as a bishop, he tirelessly preached the gospel to the people of Ireland where he converted many to the faith and established the Church.  He died at Down in 461.

A sampling of the Confession of Saint Patrick, Bishop, he wrote:  “I came to the Irish peoples to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgraimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.  If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for His name.  I want to spend myself in that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.  I am deeply in debt, for He gave me the great grace that through me many peoples should be reborn in God, and then made perfect by confirmation and everywhere among them clergy ordained for a people so recently coming to believe, one people gathered by the Lord from the ends of the earth.”

When I read ancient writings and realize the power of a person’s love for God, I am in awe that what was true way back then is, in fact, true today.  I am moved to a deeper Catholic faith by the power of a man who lived 1700 years ago and yet believed what I believe.   This is all part of what makes me A Happy Catholic.

WITH LIGHT

Romans 13: 12-13 reads as follows:  “Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.” 

The contrast of light and darkness, the white hat and the black hat of the old Westerns, the day and the night, the open and the hidden are all symbols of the same good versus evil phenomenon.  I cannot enjoy a book in a dark room.  I need a light.   I cannot be a good Catholic Christian if I pretend to be good in public and, in secret, commit many sins.  That pretense alone is a lie and the sins adding to my darkness.   I remember as a child when I used to watch a friend of my father’s receive Communion with such reverence I wanted to be as good as him.  I knew his wife and children and thought their family was like The Nelsons.  Then one beautiful summer day I saw him with his arm wrapped around a much younger blonde as he drove by in his convertible.  It devastated me and, during the period I was away from the Church, I used the contrasting pictures of the man in my mind to assure me that religious people were all hippocrits.  I’m sure the man never knew the impact he had on me.

My sins are committed in darkness.  If they are thoughts, they are hidden from the rest of the world.  If they are words, they are masqueraded by justifications or an image I’m trying to hide behind.  If they are deeds, they are usually hidden from others or performed at night.  Any good act, word or deed can be done out in the open or in the light of day.  We don’t have to do or say them in the open, but if they were found out, it would be okay.

Jesus called Himself, “The Light of the World.”  If I follow His example, I can be free to live in the light.  I accept that I am a sinner and have a dark side, but it is my hope that I will be drawn to the light in all my affairs.   Because I know I am a sinner, I know I need God.  The human condition is my problem, the Divine Light is my solution.

God bless us all!

ON SEEKING

My story is not more important or deeper than any other person’s story.  Every wall I banged into and every bridge I crossed brought me to this moment.  I continue to seek and to find and to seek again.  As I went along on the road to today’s faith, I tried to solve the great mystery of God and what my place in God’s world could be.  As I went deeper into my Catholic faith, I found that not only was the mystery of God more than I could ever grasp, but that the mystery of myself was just as great.  Who am I that God could love me into existence?

On seeking an answer to the two mysteries (God and self), I would get to a place in my faith where a veil would lift.  I’d gasp in response and meditate on the beauty and wonder of it all.  For instance, I just read a small publication from Paulist Press called “Poverty of Spirit” by Johannes Baptist Metz.  In it Johannes says there is more to being a human being than conception and birth.  He says we are challenged to accept ourselves.   He said “assent to God starts in our sincere assent to ourselves, just as sinful flight from God starts in our flight from ourselves.  In accepting the chalice of our existence, we show our obedience to the will of the Creator in heaven; in rejecting it, we reject God. 

I never looked at myself in a good light.  I mistook this as humility.   I didn’t realize I was telling God he made a mistake when he made me.  Today I know when I start the negative self talk that I am complaining about God’s handiwork.  I must accept the chalice of me.

Another point brought out in this little book concerned the three temptations of Christ and the devil’s underlying intention of tempting Christ to let go of His human nature and utilize His divine nature.  It would have made the Incarnation “an empty show” and would have lessened His sacrifice.  When I read that, I understood for the first time the reason for these temptations.  And the obedient Christ did not falter, but rather won for us forgiveness of sins right up to His death on the cross.

Each epiphany lifts a veil.  God is being revealed to me moment by precious moment.  I seldom find anything if I am not first seeking the answer.  I know I will never totally know God in this life, but nothing beats seeking Him.  “Seek and ye shall find.”

Poor I-Sight

Max Lucado, in his Volume II of Grace for the Moment, says that poor I-sight is swinging from one side to the other.  He said one day we are too high on ourself and the next we are too hard on ourself.  When asked where the truth lies, he answers smack-dab in the middle.  Instead of “I can do anything” or “I can’t do anything”, he refers us to Phillipians 4:13:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We are not a mistake.  We are not a V.I.P.   We are children of a loving God, and, as such, we are in the middle.  On days when I act as if I am a very important person or wish I was a very important person, I am not listening to that still small voice.  On days when I see no worth in my person, I am still suffering from obsession of self.  It is when I concentrate on what God would have me do that day that I begin to live happily.  If I rightly relate myself to others and to God, I am free of any weight the world or my life would place on my shoulders.

To be an ordinary person with an extraordinary God is a great way to see our life.  If we start the days on our knees to the God we understand, we will direct our thinking toward others and toward God.   To read His word and to receive His body and blood is life indeed. 

Dear God, let me always take my poor I-sight to You, the Great Physician.