Christmas – Holiday or Holy Day???

Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people.  For me, December 25th is a holy, miraculous day.  It is a time, a season to prepare ourselves.  To truly believe that God became man makes the commemoration of this most important day and most important moment in history imperative.  Of all the moments, of all the days, this one is most important.  The God man is born.  What a loving God we have who humbled Himself to become one of us.  Imagine  the love!  Imagine the humility!  Of all the kindnesses, all the wonderment, all the beautious moments in life!  May my heart and all hearts welcome Him!

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DYING TO SELF

If we are to believe all the commercials on television, we will have friends, prosperity and a great life if we just buy their products…their cars, their lipstick, or their steamed vegetables.  They continually guarantee a better life by flying to a resort for a wild vacation, or getting the right hair color.  Life seems like a series of spending sprees and wild relationships.  If one never went outside of the house, they might believe it.

However, those of us in the real world have to get out of a perfectly comfortable bed to go to a job where we are unappreciated and underpaid.  Perhaps the car won’t start or our children continue to fight and make a mess of the house.  Maybe we are afraid that we are going to lose our jobs and will fall victim to a life of total fear with no money in sight.  Whatever our dilemma, we know better than to believe what we are sold about life.  But, if that is all you see, it can seem like you are out of step with the rest of the parade.

If we go through life the hard way, like most of us do, we learn that we have to depend on a power greater than ourselves.  On our own, we will not make it.  God is the power I seek because without God I am just another blade of grass with no purpose.  When I connect with God and, more, when I give my life over to God and ask Him to guide my thoughts, my words and my actions.  I must die to myself  (realize that of myself I am nothing…the opposite of all the commercials) and live in Jesus.  I must take on the armor of God and face the world with hope, love and the gift of faith.  I must add to the world.  I must not take advantage of people or try to outsmart the Creator.  Each day this is an important decision…to humbly ask God to take our lives and bless them and make them holy by His grace.

When I am conscious of this in the early morning before the world actually wakes up, I get the right start.  This right start is more than a nutrious breakfast cereal that gives us important vitamins.  It is the right start on yet another journey – one I hope to live in peace following the love of my life.

HE IS RISEN!

“What is it to die, but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?  And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?”  Those words from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran lend me the vision of my spirit melting into the sun and becoming part of the freedom of finding God. 

I believe in life after death because of Jesus Christ.  It has been revealed to us in the words of those who went before us.  Jesus Christ died and is risen!  He is the First Born of the Dead.  Our death is a doorway to eternal life.  We have a supernatural end – not just a natural end.  The supernatural end is life with God.

I want to see His face.  If purgation is the necessary means for the Beatific end, then my soul will be happy being made ready.  I love God for the gift of life, but I love Him even more for the gift of eternal life.  I pray God I will be found worthy of this Divine gift.  I say today with Saint Augustine…my heart is restless until it rests with You.  Alleluia!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

Happy Easter!  Happy Life serving the one, true God!

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.

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.

OUR POVERTY AS HUMAN BEINGS

Becoming a human being involves a lot more than conception and birth.  We are challenged and questioned from the depths of our boundless spirit.  We must fully become what we are – a human being – through the exercise of our freedom.  This freedom leaves us to ourselves.  The danger of being fully human and accepting our freedom is that we can go awry.  We can say “yes” to our whims and “no” to our responsibilities.   We can then see why we need God’s grace.  We need the guidance.

I believe doing God’s will is to be fully alive.  I believe to be fully alive is to be fully conscious as we go through our days, limited as they are.   As we have conversations with family, friends and strangers, we need to review our reactions.  What are our intentions?  What are our goals?  Do we believe it to be within our power to succeed as human beings?  What is our definition of success?

The most amazing fact of life is that God took on our flesh and became human Himself.   When I take the time to truly realize this, it is overwhelming.   On Sunday, we read about Jesus’ temptations in the desert…the three assaults on Jesus’ human nature.  Jesus subjected Himself to our plight.  He immersed himself in our misery and followed our road to the end.  He did not escape the torment of our life.  He was not spared the dark mystery of our poverty as human beings.  He came to us where we really are.  Imagine the love!

ENCOUNTERING OUR LIMITATIONS

Along Life’s path we  meet our limitations.  We also meet our fulfillment in some areas and our frustrations in many others.   As it states in “My Daily Life” by Anthony J. Paone, S.J. he states, “Being human means having a nature which is united in some ways and divided in other ways.”  Anyone who reads St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where he speaks of wanted to do good and ending up doing what he doesn’t want to do understands this struggle between the push and the pull of our natures.  It can tire us at best and take us to despair at worst.

I never understood what it was in me that allowed me and made me desire to do what was wrong.  Why did I go against my better judgement?  Was it all about the original sin…my lowly nature…thanks to Adam and Eve’s disobedience?  Could I throw up my hands and say, See?  It’s just too hard for me to do good, to obey the principles of the ten commandments and Jesus’ commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves?

The virtue of obedience to spiritual principles, of which I am well aware on most days, often seems impossible.  The natural evils of fire and floods and the moral evils of war and abuse are blanketed throughout our world.   The world’s woes make my limitations seem harmless in comparison.  I think what happens to me is that the wrong I want to do seems harmless.  It seems like fun and may even be folly, but in comparison with the greed, war, and impossible situations found in life – seems innocent.  In the shadow of darkness, our little black spot seems inconsequential.

I think the grace of realizing our weakness in sin despite our desire to do good is proof positive that we need God.  In repentance, we find a small path back to Him.  The decision to grow in holiness through our repentant spirit will clear away our wreckage so that we may walk in the light of God once again.  Through the grace of confession we walk to our God in Holy Communion with renewed awe.   Being true to ourselves, being honest about our failings, is not an exercise in futility, but is a way back home to our Savior.