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.

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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.

ST. AGNES

My birthday is on the feast of St. Agnes.  I took her name in Confirmation.  My name was going to be Agnes, but my father wanted a more Irish name.  However, St. Agnes, a young martyr who was killed by Roman soldiers for not renouncing her faith, has been the singular most important saint in my life.   As a child, I read her story in Book Two, Miniature Stories of the Saints, and wished she just said she wasn’t Christian but had her fingers crossed behind her back.  Today as a mature woman, I see the importance of her giving up her young life. 

She is always pictured with a lamb.  She was a lamb taken to slaughter just like her Lord.  Pope Damascus adorned her tomb with sacred poetry and many of the Fathers of the Church honored her in their writings.

Beyond her slaughter she gained eternal life.  How did such a twelve year old overcome the fear of pain and death?   She loved God more than she loved her life.  

Dear St. Agnes, help us!  Show us the way to eternal peace!

GOD, THE GIVER

Earth, air, and water are necessary to our survival and God, the Giver, has put them into our world in abundance.  We need to breathe and sleep and eat and we are naturally able to do these things.  They are common and so much a part of our day that we don’t notice.  The Giver gives to almost all of  us the abilities every day to survive.  Most of us don’t ever worry about these gifts.  Yet without them, we would not continue to live.  God, the Giver, not only gives us these things, but gives us these things in abundance.

In the supernatural realm, love and fidelity are necessary…perhaps as necessary as food and water in the natural realm.  If  The Great Giver gives to us in abundance, then it follows that love and fidelity cannot be too difficult to acquire.   To do our part in God’s world (to love and be faithful) we will have abundant help.   

In the book Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Father J. P. de Caussade, S.J.,  he says it is easy for us to attain great holiness.  We have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Catholic faith and of our state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to us to do and to endure without searching for anything ourselves.  

May God , the Giver of all Gifts, in this holy season of Christmas, allow us the clarity of thought to draw us all to holiness.  May He reign in our hearts forever.

AWAKEN! THE SAVIOR IS COMING!

How do we make ourselves ready for Our Savior?   I think we quiet ourselves interiorly, even more so than exteriorly.  The quietness of His humble birth in a lowly stable in the middle of a starlit night seems the prototype for our hearts.  How do we make our hearts humble and penetrate the mystery of God so loving the world that He gave us His Only Son?

I suggest we find time to sit in the presence of God to get in touch with God’s great love for us.  The God of Great Mercy loved us so much that He became flesh and dwelled among us.  Can we contemplate this kind of love?  Can we even fathom it?  Let us try.  To spend some time in meditation on this great love can only enhance our Christmas week.

Let us awaken!  Let us be faithful to this humble Lord.  Let us love Him above all other loves.  Let us be such a loving example of a good Catholic Christian that others want what we have.   Let us pray with a sincere heart after this contemplation that we can continue to serve Him.  Let us pray with St. Catherine of Sienna, “Of eternal Greatness, Oh fathomless Bounty, You lowered Yourself to ennoble mankind!  Wherever I turn, I can see nothing but the abyss and fire of Your charity.”