Category Archives: Meanderings: Random Inspirations along the Journey

Distractions: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #2

Another peculiar package of God’s blessings are distractions in my “prayer life.”[1] How can I conceive of such a thing? Distractions, after all, take you away from prayer! Nonetheless, I am convinced that, in some way, distractions are a blessing. Like the previous package of pride, distractions are something with which I am plagued and at the same time, through God’s grace, by which I find another path to faith.

I am convinced that, without God’s help, I cannot get rid of distractions in prayer. I used all the techniques in the world: from anxiously waiting for them to pop up so that I can banish them from my thoughts [a useless exercise in futility; they only become the focus of my attention] to sitting on the riverside, letting them float off into the oblivion. I have prayed until I am blue in the face for God to set me free of them…but normally, in everyday ordinary prayer, be it my own or during the Eucharist, the recitation of the Hours or the rosary, etc., distractions arise from every point of the compass, flights of fancy, starting piously innocent but ending up far afield.

On special occasions God grants me the blessings of focus and concentration.[2] But the majority of the time that I am plagued by distractions about everything under, and even beyond, the sun.

Are these simply the floating garbage of life washing up on the beaches of my prayer? To regard them as such would be to somehow fall into the trap of separating my body, mind and emotions from my soul, my spiritual life from my “normal, everyday” life, the sacred from the secular. Since this is the opposite of what I know to be true, the oneness and unity beneath the structure of the analytical categories into which I box reality, how should I re-evaluate these distractions in light of God’s providence? How do I refocus my vision to bring into alignment God’s knowledge of these distractions with their seemingly ungodly purpose of taking me away from prayer, from talking with Him, from praising and reverencing Him, that is my purpose in life? His constant answer: “I am here, learn from it. My grace is sufficient for you.[3][2Cor 12:9]” I must understand why this answer to my pleas are part and parcel of His unconditional love and desire for my greatest happiness, when in fact, these torture me constantly.

This is not an “either/or,” but, like many of God’s mysteries a “both/and.” I also find there are many intertwining answers: (a) growth in faith and humility, (b) seeing God in all things, even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant things in life, and (c) acceptance of my vocation to live the life of the ordinary Sunday-go-to-Church Catholic with all its joys and sorrows, ups and downs, desolations and consolations, nothing out of the ordinary, and with great need to find God right there in the midst of all that clutter of life, chaos of family and job.

I am what is to be a sheep of which Pope Francis wants the clergy is to smell. I am one of the millions and billions who live lives trying to bridge the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, between doctrine and dogma and the lived reality in God’s world. I am only one very small part of this Church in the Modern World, this Body of the Cosmic Christ. I am a beneficiary with all of the blessed mercy and forgiveness necessary to transform the world into God’s Kingdom. And if I do my part of that right here in W. Pawlet, Vermont, and you do your part in San Francisco, Tokyo, San Paulo, Seoul, Beijing, Mumbai, then, not by our individual or even combined efforts, but by the power and providence of the Father working through the Holy Spirit to bring the world to His Son, this ultimate transformation will happen.

Distractions are a microcosms, the evidences of this life and, if I, by realizing that they too are God’s reflection, can use them to come to Him,[4] then I will have brought one more microscopic portion of the Kingdom into focus. I don’t always achieve this; in fact, it is a rarity that I even am conscious of this. But, like Merton, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” [5] And, in that, I am comforted.

Finally, one of the blessings that You, God, have brought about with distractions is my confrontation with “You.” By constantly realizing that I am off the track again, that I have wandered, I then find you searching for me even there. You are indeed the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find this one lone straggler and bring me home on Your shoulders. You exude the smell You wish Your sheep to have, the odor of humility and faith, “of sanctity” as it use to be known. By humbling Yourself in constant service to us, Your brothers and sisters, Your creatures no less, You provide an example for us to follow…You walk the walk, not just talk the talk. By having faith in me as a person, that I am someone for whom it is worth Your time and energy to go out and search, You extend to me the hand of fellowship, of love, of caring; You hope that I will return. And by setting me on Your shoulders with great joy, You show me by your emotions that the joy of the Gospel is a lived joy, a joy of deep friendship, of love, of the bonding of Shepherd and sheep, of God and man. Your actions make clear that there is really and truly more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk 15:5,7]

So I keep fighting the distractions, shooing them away, to come to You. But at least I know that You are with me anyway and that I am beloved by You, even when distracted. Would that I were not distracted in prayer with You, in conversation with You, in communion with You! But I am and probably will continue to be. I thank You for coming to find me and for our bonding each time after Your rescuing me once again. That is truly such a blessing. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] “Prayer life” is somewhat of a misnomer. It is normally used to designate that time or portion of one’s life which is set aside specifically for talking with God. While Jesus Himself taught us by example that there are times each day you need to go up to your mountain alone and pray, particularly before making important decisions, He also modeled praising God and speaking about God and calling on Him throughout his normal day. Finding God in all things, in the world around me, is not a separate special investigation I undertake only when I put my mind to it. It is a constant habit that I enjoy, finding, seeing, talking to God wherever I am, whatever I am doing, with whomever I am.   Thus, prayer life is all life seen from the perspective of living in God’s presence and carrying on conversations with Him as you do with family and friends throughout your busy day.

[2] One of the reasons I pray at my computer, typing what comes up between God and myself, is that I am not so distracted, I am forced to concentrate, I can listen to the Spirit for the next inspiration, for His reading on the topic, for what is true and what is false, what is on target and what is not….and raise my mind and my heart to Him in thanksgiving and praise as I relish and record to the best of ability His wondrous view of reality, a feeble attempt at recording a grand masterpiece.

[3] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

[4] Not “back” to Him; He is, somehow in some manner which may be totally unrecognizable to me, present in all things, people, and places; so my realization is just an awareness of Whom is already there.

[5] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton > Quotes > Quotable Quote, Good Reads, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/80913-my-lord-god-i-have-no-idea-where-i-am

O Happy Fault[1]: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #1

God’s blessings sometimes come in very peculiar packages. In my works of charity, it is pride. How can I conceive of such a thing? Pride is a sin! Nonetheless I repeat that God uses this blight on my character as an avenue down which grace can flow.

By allowing me to preen and puff over the trifles I do, Jesus has handed me a branding iron and has me stamp “No Reward” all over each of my actions. Jesus compares me to the hypocrites He berates three times in succession in Matthew 6: first for blowing trumpets to win the praise of others [2][Mt 6:2a] when giving alms; second for showing off while praying so that others may see them [Mt 6:5a]; and finally for looking gloomy and disheveled so that they may appear to others to be fasting.[Mt 6:16a] In all three instances, Jesus denunciation and condemnation of such public show is the same: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. [Mt 6:2b,5b,16b]

I may attempt to fool myself into thinking that I do not show off externally, thus gloating over my superiority over such hypocrites…an utter charade. I may pretend to “swallow my pride” and play at false humility, pride’s foulest ludicrous and pitiable mockery. I may simply pat myself on my proverbial back and present myself with pseudo-kudos for being “such a good boy” in helping others, when, in truth, I have used them by my actions, my charity sanctimonious lies. I may even play at such right here and now with a display of verbal dexterity.

And all for naught….For Jesus turns to me each time I pretend and says in no uncertain terms: Amen, I say to you,…[you] have received…[your] reward. And the insane aspect of it all is that I know in my heart of hearts that He judges me with this O, so cruel yet truth-filled condemnation every time…and yet I keep on doing it again and again and again, in never ceasing stupidity. I am just like my namesake, St. Paul: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hateThe willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. [Rom 7:15,18] I am truly insane, according to Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.[3]Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? [Rom 7:24]

And if you think this is an addiction, it is. Any sin that becomes a habit is probably addictive. Let’s face it: it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, then, by Jove, it’s a duck! Fortunately, thanks to the grace God gave Bill W. and others, we have a program that fights addiction. Since my life is unmanageable and I have concluded that I am insane, I must join all the other addicts, in this case, sinners of the world, and come “to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and then make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”[4]

In case I think that if I get rid of pride, I have it made…think again. In this, Bill W echoes Jesus’ “No way!” Jesus says: All who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.” [Gal 3:10,12] Whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. [James 2:10] Therefore, any trip up, any slight deviation, any “venial” sinful act and I am cursed. If I try to follow the law, I will fall. And the law has no safety net…one fall, I am guilty, I am cursed. That no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for “the one who is righteous by faith will live.” [Gal 3:11]

Without Divine intervention, we are caught in a Catch 22, a vortex that inevitably leads to condemnation, death, and eternal punishment. For only God [Mark 2:7] and those to whom God has given the power [Jn 20:22-23] can forgive sin. But, thanks be to God, the Father, who for our sake…made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. [2 Cor 5:21] Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,”…so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.[Gal 3:13,14b]

I can be thankful for the fact that, though I am judged guilty of sin, God says to me, “I so loved the world that...[I] gave…[my] only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For…[I] did not send…[my] Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Believe in me, believe in my Son, believe that Jesus took your guilt for those sins of yours, your condemnation of Him, your blows as you scourged him, your taunting as you crowned Him with thorns, your betrayal as you denied him, your hatred as you screamed “Crucify Him, crucify Him”…He endured all these things for Your sake, took them with Him to the Cross and there forgave you for you did not know what you were doing. [Lk 23:34] For every time you sin, you in effect reenact the entire passion, re-betraying, re-arresting, re-judging, re-interrogating, re-scourging, re-crowning, re-condemning my Son. And each time, each and every time, He forgives you and asks Me to forgive you. And, since He forgives you, neither do I condemn you. And I say to you: Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more. [Jn 8:11] You are no longer forever guilty of your sin; everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin;..[but] if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. [Jn 8:34,36] My Son freed you and My mercy triumphs over judgment.” [James 2:13b]

Thank You, Father, for turning all things, including pride, to work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Rom 8:28] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] From the Exultet, the Proclamation that is sung during the Easter Vigil Liturgy. http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/p-30-exultet.html

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

[3] Albert Einstein Quotes, Brainy quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/ a/alberteins133991.html#yQWHIbTCt6MDpevx.99

[4] Steps One, Two and Three, The Twelve Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Service Material from the General Service Office, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf

Cana Update[1]

I am always brought up short by the strange encounter between Jesus and his mother at Cana. Jesus has already begun His public ministry, He’s been baptized, been to the desert, and is traveling around the country preaching with an entourage of His first disciples. He and his followers arrive at the wedding of friends and as the party is getting going, one of those “Opps” of life happens to the groom, the guests have imbibed all his wine. Mary gets wind of the embarrassment via the guest grape vine and informs Jesus.

Perhaps that all she intended to do, inform Him. Perhaps she hadn’t thought beyond that except that something needed to be done to help her friends. If this is the case, then Jesus enigmatic reply could be interpreted as an invitation to greater belief, to faith: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. [2] [Jn 2:4] In other words, “Does your concern about the embarrassing situation of our friends affect the Kingdom which I have come to establish? Does it pertain to the Father’s will? There is a time and a place Providence has assigned for all things. The hour of my revelation of myself as the Messiah is not now.”

The response He invites from Mary is one of complete faith in God and trust in His guidance of Her. Perhaps this is a Mother-Son moment when He is sincerely asking for Her guidance. Her lesson to Him is that this concern does actually affect Him, as Elizabeth’s need affected her and as the concerns of all affect each of us. She may realize, though perhaps only peripherally, that all concerns need to be His concerns, all needs His needs, not just on a human level, but on His Savior level, His Kingship level, His Divine level. Perhaps this is the “Ah-Ha” moment when she knows He must realize the full import of His being connected with every other human being by virtue of His very Incarnation. Perhaps this is what He later would formulate in His parable on the Last Judgment: whatever you…[do] for one of these least brothers of mine, you…[do] for me. [Mt 25:40] Perhaps He needed to grok the depth and the encompassing reality of the 2nd Great Commandment: Do to others as you would have them do to you, [Lk 6:31] and that this included Him on the Divine level as well as the human level.

Mary’s answer: “Yes, this does affect You both as my Son, a fellow human being, one who is truly empathetic to all the vagaries and vicissitudes of live, the manifestations of the effect of sin in the world, of which lack and need, deprivation, running out of things, is always a sign. Your Father so loved this crazy, mixed up world with all its foibles that He gave us You so that we might believe in You and not perish but have eternal life, [Jn 3:16] Of Him, You will tell us do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. [Mt 6:31-33] You and the Father are one. [Jn 10:30] Show us the Father’s love here and now. You will talk the talk later, now walk the walk.”

How does she join Him in bringing about His first miracle? This is same way every believer who has ever “preformed” a miracle joins Him. No human actually “performs” a miracle. God does the performing; humans only express their explicit faith and trust in God to do so and thus are instruments through which God chooses to work. Every miracle not performed directly by Jesus is performed through the faith and instrumentality of a person requesting Jesus intercession and believing absolutely that He will intercede. The human person gives him/herself up to God and invites God to work through him/her; she/he transforms her/his self into God’s instrument.

Mary is not trying to override His or the Father’s timing of His hour, but, as with the Finding so many years before, she has explicit faith that, given her explanation, Jesus will do “the right thing.” She doesn’t press Him. She doesn’t define what He is to do, but she has an explicit faith that He will know what to do. Thus, when she says to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you,”[Jn 2:5] she lets go and lets God. Her statement is another way of saying what she says with her whole life, in her dormition, her assumption and even as she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth: May it be done to me according to your word. [Lk 1:38]

Obedience, then, comes back to its root meaning, “to listen to.” It’s not so much doing as being, as listening, as following, as joining in the yolk next to Jesus. To hear and let it be done to me, to have faith and trust in God, in whatever His eternal Now brings for my next step. It is to pick up one’s cross daily and to follow the Word, strap on His burden, take on His yolk and walk the world’s roads to the Calvaries of today with Him. It is to listen and hear the Spirit’s whispers of guidance and inspiration, to follow the promptings of one’s true heart, to the love of God and our fellow man to which we are called by our very nature as familial members, not just of the human family but of the very familial Body of Christ. We would not be here if it were not for God’s creation and we would not be human without accepting our place in the family of humankind and thus our relationship to all others.

Jesus obeys, Mary obeys, we obey, I obey. Listen, listen, listen and allow it to be done onto me. This is our calling, this is our “vocation,” this is our purpose in life. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

Lesson in Obedience

[A Caveat: As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.]

It is encouraging to me to realize that even Jesus needed lessons in obedience. Not that He ever disobeyed God the Father. But that obedience came into conflict with obedience to his parents. He needed to grow in discernment and understanding, to mature just as we do, to be able to listen to the Father through His mother and step-father, or, as Luke puts it, He needed to go down to Nazareth and to be obedient to them in order to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.[2] [Lk 2:52] Note that this obedience to His parents was necessary not just to advance in the opinion of men, but also, and perhaps especially, in the reality, the Truth that is God.

God had made it necessary for Jesus to be absorbed into, to become part of the fabric of his family, of the community at Nazareth, of the society around him. He could not hold himself aloof, to separate himself from the warp and woof of everyday life, to go off to study scripture with the priests in the temple, not even to go up to the mountain and pray alone, without realizing that His connection with the world, with His purpose, why He was there, with the Truth, the real reason why He went up to the mountain to pray…for His people back to Adam and forward to the end of time.

God speaks to us of this universal interrelationship through His creation, through the earth, through the everyday activities of earth. This is true of you, of me, even of the hermit and the cloistered. Their day and ours are strewn with ordinary routines, encounters with Him through our bodies, our activities, our emotions, our thoughts as we swim in the His Divine milieu of creation.

The lesson for me? As much as I may wish to be united to God and to the things of God here on earth, to go apart and have an eternal I-Thou love-in, God wants me to realize that He made me to praise, reverence and serve Him directly but also and continually through my every thought, word and action with which I interact with all around me; these repercuss in ever expanding waves washing over the whole world and over all around me.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

Joy

“Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing–sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death–can take that love away.”[1] Joy strikes such a deep resonating cord within each of us. Joy is what we seek in life, our greatest happiness[2], that which makes us rejoice, rejoice in spite of everything, rejoice in spite of anything else. This fundamental, from-the-deepest-ocean-undisturbed-by-the-storms-of-life, joy is what “nothing – not sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death” can wrest from our grasp. Why? Because it is the knowledge, the experience, the enraptured state of unconditional divine love in which God enfolds me and will never let me go. Nothing I can do, no matter how vile and disgusting, nothing I can say, no matter how foul and cutting, nothing I can think, no matter how insidious, cruel or arrogant, can ever convince God not to love me. Any of these can be and are evidence I do not love God nor my neighbor. But the opposite is not and can never be true; God’s just not “built” that way. As Nouwen continues: “we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

What struck me about this phraseology of this fundamental truth, not just of our faith, but of reality, is that it echoes two of my favorite people: St. Paul and St. Ignatius. Paul says: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice![Phil 4:4] and my favorite quote: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, [1 Thes 5:16-18] which sums up for me the whole of Christian life, rejoice, pray and give thanks, demands not just of our thought and speech but also, and perhaps primarily, to be exhibited in our actions, in our lives with others.

Ignatius, in The Principle and Foundation, exhorts us to practice “active indifference.” Far from its common mean of totally not caring, a more apt description of our contemporary society attitude toward our “huddled masses,” “in the Ignatian sense, to be indifferent is to care whole-heartedly towards something, with full desire and hope; but with equally full openness and freedom towards whatever the outcome,” [3] as I quoted in the previous Meanderings but bears repeating. However, it is the examples Ignatius uses to illustrate this point that mirror Nouwen’s description of joy: “as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.”[4] While Nouwen cites only the “bad” things, Ignatius cites both them and their “good” counterpart. “As far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition,[5]” Ignatius points out that our joy, “our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.[6]

What struck me also is that all three agree with Nouwen: “joy does not simply happen to us; we have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”[7] Whether by praying, thanking and spreading God’s love and joy or by holding myself in the dynamic tension of active indifference while serving God and man, joy is something at which we have to work and work diligently and constantly, lest we slip down into stagnant familiarity, presumption, lethargy, distraction, disbelief, dismissal, and ultimately, its opposite, despair. It does not come easily. Therefore, Jesus, help me to seek joy in Your love every moment of my life, rejoicing always, knowing that the bedrock of my active indifference is its exact opposite in God, His total consuming and unconditional fascination, desire and love of me. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Dutch priest, author, teacher: 1932-1996

[2] “God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me. God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him.” Venerable John Henry Newman, Meditations on My Happiness, March 6, 1848

[3] Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org September 10, 2015

[4] Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Location 182). Kindle Edition.

[5] Ibid. 181, 182.

[6] Ibid, 183. Ignatius defines that end: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.” Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 178-179). Kindle Edition.

[7] This quote from Henri J.M. Nouwen is part of a larger quote that is very popular on the internet; I was amazed by the number of people who have cited this quote, from all walks of life and different faith and philosophical backgrounds.

Meanderings: Random Inspirations along the Journey #1

[There is no particular pattern to these inspirations of the Holy Spirit, His sharings into the spiritual dimension. They merit a comment but do not necessitate a complete mediation.  Enjoy!  Amen.  Alleluia!!!]


Are distractions a way to God?

Yes and no, I guess. Depends on how we use them. If I acknowledge to God that I am distracted and ask His grace and helping focusing back on Him, then, no matter how many times I have to do this, I believe God is not just pleased, but right there by my side, encouraging me. He’s my Spiritual coach, my trainer, instead of “One more push-up,” whispering: “Once more, back to basics. Back to Me. You can do it! Good. Keep coming back.”

However, if I stay away and allow myself to be captivated by the distraction, bowing to it rather than to God, it becomes my god, my idol. If I try to fight distractions on my own, it is a loosing battle from the start: the effort of trying to get rid of the distractions is itself distracting and, realizing this, I try to get rid of that, and thus the never ending vortex, the black hole of oblivion. The additional problem, of course, is that, in this scenario, the entire focus circles back to me, me, me and never on God. This, of course, is the poster child for insanity or at least obsession: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

So, correctly used as a humbling reminder of my dependence on God, distractions can be true prayer…perhaps not the gentle abiding communion for which I was hoping, but definitely a workout in the gym with the Almighty.


The many faces of faith

There’s

  • the I believe in one God, the Father Almighty[1] faith vs the moving mountains faith;
  • a past faith with a present faith;
  • a passive faith with an active faith.

These are both/and faiths. We must have both.

Then there’s

  • the God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you[2] faith vs take up your cross daily and follow me faith;
  • the many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life faith vs the Where shall we go. You have the words of eternal life faith;
  • the we wish to see a sign from you faith vs the blessed are those who have not seen and have believed faith
  • The ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go faith vs the ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went faith;
  • The I have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry! Faith vs the take nothing for the journey faith;
  • The I will follow you, Lord, but first faith vs the Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God faith;
  • The Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? faith vs the whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me
  • The “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” faith vs the “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

These are the choices along the journey of life faith. These are the: “Lord, help me. I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk 9:24]


How to live in Heaven NOW

Jesus modeled and taught how to live on earth in a loving way, and he said that this was indeed heaven! But Christians have all too often pushed heaven into the future. We’ve made Jesus’ death and resurrection into a reward/punishment system for the next world, which creates tremendously self-absorbed and self-preoccupied people. It doesn’t transform anyone into compassionate, loving individuals.[3]


Indifference with a difference

A contradiction with Ignatian discernment is that “indifference” is far different from its more common usage: I am indifferent = I don’t care. In the Ignatian sense, to be indifferent is to care whole-heartedly towards something, with full desire and hope; but with equally full openness and freedom towards whatever the outcome. In other words, it would be with full hope but no expectation.[4]


 When is Good not Good…

When it is a temptation to distract from a greater good. And all goods, both material, physical and spiritual, are relative when compared to God. “All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.”[5]


The Glad Tidings of Cana

While I often think of Cana as a miracle, one of John’s seven Signs, it was also one of the first instances of Jesus’ fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of bringing glad tidings to the poor. [Is 61:1; Lk 4:18] In Jesus’ Kingdom, glad tidings are not just preached, they come in many forms: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. [Mt 11:5] What better glad tidings, at that embarrassing moment in Cana than to tell the frantic bridegroom you have kept the good wine until now? [Jn 2:10][6]


Emmanuel: God with Us

God is with me, right now, right here. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.[Jn 14:23] Remain in me, as I remain in you.[Jn 15:4] Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age, [Mt 28:20] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.[Jn 14:16] By creating the Eucharist, He guaranteed that He would be with us through both here on earth and throughout Eternity. By creating the Church, we are united to each other and to Christ; we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rom 12:5] Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. [1Cor 12:27] It is comforting to know that I am never alone.


[1] First words of the Nicene Creed, our profession of faith, the what of our faith. http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. The contradictory quotes are: Mt 16:22 vs Lk 9:23; Jn 6:66 vs Jn 6:68; Mt 12:38 vs Jn 20:29; Mt 21:30 vs Mt 21:29; Lk 12:19 vs Lk 9:3; Lk 9:61 vs Lk 9:60; Mt 25:44 vs Mt 25:40; Mk 4:38 vs Mk 4:40.

[3] Rohr, Richard, A Change in Consciousness, Buddhism: Week 2, Sunday, September 6, 2015, Center for Action and Contemplation

[4] Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. Daily Inspiration from JesuitPrayer.org September 10, 2015

[5] St. Ignatius as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, S.J., “The Principle and Foundation: Who We Are Before God,” Jesuit Collaborative, Fordham University, New York, NY June 19 – 21, 2009, http://jesuit-collaborative.org/principle-and-foundation

[6] Of course, many, many things came afterwards which were literally, infinitely better: sins are forgiven, living water, the bread of eternal life; and the pièce de résistance, resurrection and eternal happiness with God in heaven.