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.”

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SAINTS PERPETUA AND FELICITY

We are assured of the accurate accounts of the martyrs’ death in 203 through their own testimony and a writer of that period.  “The day of the martyrs’ victory dawned.  They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing.  If they trembled it was for joy and not for fear.”

They loved God with an undivided heart.  They happily went to their death for God.  Their intense love of God was demonstrated by their lives and their willingness, no joy, to die for their faith.  I read this and marvel at their faith.

Today the godlessness in our world is popular.  Our world does not pray in school; our world does not want an end to abortion or embrionic stem cell research; our world cannot live in peace;  our world denies the presence of sin; and our world shows no evidence of  faith.  Those of us who feel the presence of God, hide it and don’t speak our secret.  We carry our dwindling faith to our jobs and our friends and family hidden underneath our egos and our desire to not offend anyone.  In this environment, I can’t imagine the obvious faith of the early Christians.

Today, God, please give me the courage to love you openly! 

Today as I walk through my day, I will remember Saints Perpetua and Felicity.  Perhaps I may even

PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU

In Matthew 5:34-48, we read:  Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense willyou have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are urged to be perfectly loving.  It is difficult to be loving to all and especially to those who don’t like us or put us down.  What could Jesus have meant by that verse in Matthew?  I think He meant just what he said.  He doesn’t say “like” those who persecute you.  He says “love.”  That’s a much different action. 

To love is to want the best for that person, to care about their well being in spite of their behavior.  We are called to model Jesus.  As He hung from His cross in adject pain, he promised one thief that he would be with Him in paradise and he asked the Father to forgive his persecutors for “they know not what they do.”  I don’t know that I could have done that under the same circumstances.  That’s why Jesus is God and I’m not.  But what we are asked to do is to try – to shoot for perfection and be accepting of  just making progress.

In today’s world there are examples of people loving those who persecute them.  It came from the people who lived in the Amish village  in Pennsylvania who, after their young girls were murdered, they went to the home of the perpetrator’s widow and not only offered their sympathy but brought food and comforted her.  And, when the news media made a circus out of the event and came in droves to the school house, they tore the building down and planted grass where it had been.  Normally the news would never publicize the good that men do, but the murders were so horrific that they forgot themselves and broadcast their visit to the widow’s house.  The message left by the Amish still makes me inwardly stand up and take notice.  Their love of neighbor is exemplary. 

In attempting to be loving to all, I find my battle between my will and God’s to be tremendous.   I can come up with a few reasons I find it difficult to love certain people in the blink of an eye.  I have a strong sense of fairness when it comes to me.  But, Jesus calls us to love anyway.  If He could love from His cross, we can certainly try from our little crosses.  His commandments – to love God and love our neighbor could not be plainer.  

Lord, give me the grace to love!

FRIDAY, THE 13TH

Do you still throw salt over your shoulder when you spill it?  Do you walk the other way when you see a black cat?  Do you believe in the power of a day and date like Friday, the 13th?    The motion picture industry gives a lot of attention to these old superstitions.  Some people I come across still knock on wood when they want good luck. In fact, the word “luck” is used in conversations when “blessing” would be more accurate.  

 Today, on Friday the 13th, I am at peace to know the Source of All Blessings.  I am at peace knowing many blessings in my life. The greatest of these blessings is the blessing of life itself.    I know that no salt shaker or knock on wood that can give me life.  Neither object is going to change anything.   I realize that being alive is its own blessing.  Like a three month old baby astonished with the world, I look at my hands in wonder and listen to my voice recognizing the mystery of language and sound.  I am alive for a reason and like the old catechism states, I am here “to know, love and serve God.”   As I watch the white snow against the bright blue winter sky, I thank Him.   In witnessing the beauty in creation, I include my life and thank Him.   Today, on Friday the 13th, I give Him all the praise and the glory!

THE PRESENT MOMENT

Spiritual reading and prayer and, in fact, our whole spiritual life is sparked in our recognizing God’s calling in the present moment.  It doesn’t depend on our past life or what, if anything, resides in our future.  The consciousness of the present moment is the needed ingredient in following God’s will when faced with a decision. 

I believe God’s will for us is to live life fully.  Our sins, through our thoughts, words and actions, set us up for not recognizing the next right thing to do.  If I am a sinner who has not gone to confession and has not lived to regret my sins through self-examination, the chance of me connecting with God will be slim to none.  There should be a period of confession and a time for the remorse and guilt to help us practice different behavior.  This practice is, at first, seemingly impossible.  After fighting through our spiritual laziness by doing the right thing, we are in a much better position to live fully in the present moment.

Living fully a moment at a time leads to living a full life.  The battle changes, but the rewards are swift.  We have to stay awake to recognize God’s love and forgiveness.  We have to stay awake to recognize when we are going astray.  Our insides will warn us if we have cleared away the wreckage of the past.  If we do not get the warning, perhaps more contemplation and study is called for.

The will and designs of God are the life of the soul.  In whatever manner this divine will touches our mind, it nourishes the soul.  If we are meant to listen to the man in front of us, then we will feel new when we do.  We will have listened to the still small voice and we be filled for doing so.

A RIDE IN THE SNOW

One December morning about eight or nine years ago, I sat on the 100 High Speed Line rolling out of the station high above the Schuylkill River.  I witnessed a bright orange sunrise and the rushing water past snow-covered rocks which seeped into every part of me.  I was filled with the wonder of the Creator.  I never felt so filled, yet my mind went to the back-and-forth wonder of whether Jesus was truly God. 

In my gratitude for being alive and a witness to the beauty of the world I lived in, I could sense God.  I could see God in the natural wonder, I trusted God in my spirit, yet my mind continued its volley this way and that trying to capture God in logic.  Finally not wishing to feel the pull of the mind when all else reveled in deep love, I asked God to help me understand.  I heard a voiceless answer say with poetic emotion, “I gave you Jesus Christ just as I gave you this sunrise.”

In that instant, a peace beyond all understanding flowed into my mind (the only area of tension) and I smiled.  Ah, the beauty of the early winter morning!  Ah, the beauty of snow-white-covered tree branches and rooftops!  Ah, the beauty of the God Man who lived two millenia ago!

I watched the morning landscape change outside my window knowing  there is a wondrous Creator that I cannot imagine.  This morning, though, I imagined Christ, my brother, beside me on the train.  I was never happier.

HE IS EVERYTHING

Father Walter Hilton, a canon of the Augustinian Priory in England, who died in 1396 said “He is everything and He does everything, if you could but realize.  You do nothing but allow Him to act on your soul and consent with great joy of heart to what he deigns to do in you.  You are nothing but His instrument, though you are endowed with reason.  And therefore, when at the touch of His grace you feel your mind caught up by a strong desire to please Him and love Him, believe that you possess Jesus.”

I am moved by the knowledge of a man who lived over 600 years ago.  His words confirm what I feel in my being often since my conversion back to my Catholic faith.  There is a filling of beauty, comfort, rightness that I cannot describe which I have received since attending Mass and praying through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I am clearly happy with a sense of consistency which I didn’t trust at first.  I lived with this internal joy on my journey without a sense of toil or frustration.  I was visited by peace, a beautiful sense of wellness, a warm and gentle spirit which did not leave me.  Though I did not always know it, I felt it.  My earlier life was tormented by unrest.  It is hard work to be lost in an alien world and trying to find a resting place. 

My Catholicism is a peaceful blanket in a wintered world.  I have a grateful heart, a life that finally makes sense, and way of life that makes my ordinary days extraordinary.  God has truly touched me.  I am strengthened by His Eucharist.  I rejoice that I experience the same feeling of His Presence as a priest who lived 600 years ago.