ON KEEPING LIFE SIMPLE

I read somewhere that in order to keep life simple, we have to get into the habit of making decisions so that no matter what happens in life  we make up our minds to either change or accept.   It isn’t the losses, the hurts or the fears that cause trouble in life.  It is the refusal to make up our minds whether to accept it or change it.  Staying in the middle leads to emotional turmoil.   Making a decision will simplify anyone’s life.   Today’s first reading was about Job.  His usual reaction to problems or successes is “The Lord giveth; and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  He kept life simple.

Another contribution to making life unmanageable is the danger of resentments.  Almost all problems can be tied to resentments.  We hang on to our hurts.  We re-feel and re-feel the hurt, which complicates every action.  It is amazing to what lengths resentful people will go just to get even.  To simplify our life, we need to practice letting things go.

There is a new commercial where a meeting takes place to find the answer to a problem.  One of the attendees suggests “blamestorming”.    Are we blamestorming others for the problems in our life?  If we are, expect to feel miserable for a while.  Until you see your part in your own misery, you will continue to flounder around in a problematic life.

I don’t say I have all the answers.  Perhaps I can say I have one.  In order to make my life simpler, I need to make a decision about changing something or accepting something.

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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.

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.

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.

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!

SAUL, SAUL, WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?

St. Paul said “On the journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’  I replied, “Who are you, sir?”  And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ 

In this year of St. Paul, I often think about this exchange.  The voice calling his name changed Saul’s life forever.  In all his writings, he glorifies Jesus Christ and Him crucified with such devotion, it is hard to imagine his previous life where he sought out “people of The Way” to torture and kill.  It is difficult to realize that he was present at the first martyr’s assassination. 

I’ve had my own conversion of heart.  It makes no sense to those who know me and it is a glorious gift to me.  I sought God for years and felt that perhaps the story of Christ might be a myth that people wanted to believe in.  The sheer number of Christians made me wonder if it was something the world needed to make sense of their existence.  I certainly could make no sense of mine. 

Today I am a believer.  I love my religion.  My mediocre world has been colored in the brilliant rays of faith.  I have received the gift!  Me!  Of all people!  I am gifted every day of seeing the people I meet and the conversations I have as an illustration of God’s love.  I feel I walk with God’s love and the Blessed Mother’s care.  The fact that I am nobody makes the truth that much more wondrous.

My God, my God, Why did I persecute you?