Tag Archives: God

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

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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

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.

An Aside: On Meditating while “Saying the Rosary”

There are a myriad of ways to “say the rosary,” that is to say all the prayers while contemplating on the various mysteries. While on my own I may not be able to come up with a new way to approach today’s mystery for the umpteenth hundred time, if I start out asking the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit in offering my prayer to the Father for His glory, they pull out of their bag of tricks amazing insights each and every time.

For example, one such that they shared with me is an Allegory of the Sorrowful Mysteries. You need to pull way, way, way back to see this one, and go with the flow. And please realize that my description will not in any way do justice to the real contemplation. Nor does it plumb even the shallows of these mysteries, for that is what they are, not just human, but Divine Mysteries, played out on our human stage. Therefore, we shall never be able to grok them in their entirety.

The Agony in the Garden is just what it says, an individual’s “struggle for victory in the games”[1] of life. Jesus prayer and our prayer is to avert the inevitable in one form or another. It is for relief from this constant struggle and especially for the much more horrific ultimate struggles yet to come. If I follow Christ, if I take up my cross daily, then I, too, must end in ultimate obedience to the Father’s will, no matter where or to what it leads.

The Trial before the Jews[2] from an eschatological or end-time perspective, is the continuous avoidance and denunciation of God by the so-called righteous. They will not recognize who Jesus really is, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, until ultimately He comes again in power and majesty, our Judge and our Savior, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. [Mk 14:62] This rejection, this mangling of the gift of revelation in an attempt to fit our meager understandings, our petty power schemes, will be reenacted over and over again until the ultimate revelation. And it will be amazing who will not get it, who will not truly believe, who will so distort the image of the true God as to make idols of their own imagination. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” [Mt 7:21-23] Lord, help me not fall into that trap.

The Trial before the Gentiles, also from an eschatological perspective, is the continual lack of recognition and acceptance by society and in particular, by those political and social powers in society of the reality of God, the reality of Jesus as the King of Creation, of the Universe, of the Cosmos. Like Pilate, even understanding, though accompanied by a refusal and rejections of the implications thereof, will come in stages, first of Jesus, of God as a criminal without charge other than being what the Jews did not want, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?”…“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” [Jn 18:29-30] Separation of Church and State has its good points, e.g. non-interference, the freedom to practice one’s religion, but it also has its bad points, e.g. by implication, separation of Morals and State, Conscience and State, Divinely instituted ethics and State, regardless of the fact that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them. [Rom 2:15] The State and society also recognizes that the Church, by giving bread, hope and healing to the masses, he threatened their ability to rule, their status quo. Note the echo of Jesus first temptation in desert just after his Baptism before the beginning of his ministry . [Mt 4:3-4]

Then Pilate acknowledges Him as a King, but “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” [Jn 18:36] an echo of the third temptation. [Mt 4:8-10] Finally, the Jews tell Pilate: We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God, [Mt 19:7] the final echo of the second temptation.[3] [Mt 4:5-7] [4]

The Carrying of the Cross Here, Jesus has already invited us to join Him. If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Following Jesus requires self-denial and the steadfastness in accepting life as God’s will unfolding one moment at a time, one joy, one sorrow at a time. This is the cross, the constant fluctuation, the control in God’s hands, the suffering, derision, rejection, being counted among the outcast, the marginalized. We will be called upon to witness to Christ, to testify with our actions, our words, our thoughts, our way of life that we follow Him. To be strong, resilient, faithful in His service is the life to which we are called.

But I cannot carry my cross alone. I will stumble, fall, sink beneath its weight, the weight of my sins, my sinfulness, the sinfulness of the world. Humanities realization of our own frailty may explain the addition of the three falls in the Stations of the Cross. Though not based on Scripture, these resonate with the reality of our own experience in carrying our crosses. We will need the help of our loved ones, our family, our friends, the Church, even strangers as in Jesus case. From Veronicas who wipe our face to Simons who help carry our cross, our journey up Calvary’s hill of life must be populated with caring strangers who lend us a hand on our way.

The Crucifixion The final scene of each life. The top of Calvary. Death come to us all. And no matter what form it may take, to the person involved, it is her or his Calvary. It is time to wrap up one’s life. It is time to forgive and be forgiven. It is time to come to terms with heaven and hell. It is time to hand over all to others. It is time to put loved ones for whom we have cared in the hands of God and of each other. It is time to confront God, ask Him where He is and demand He come. It is time to eat and drink one last time this side of eternity. It is time to place myself in the only hands that can lead me through the door of death into life eternal. It is a time of sadness, yes, but also joy. It is a time of faith. It is a time of hope. It is a time of love. It is time for time to become eternity. This is the Eternal Now.

[1] The original meaning in the Greek according to the online etymology dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php? term=agony

[2] I have substituted this and the “Trial before the Gentiles” in the second and third sorrowful mystery slots to give a more complete Scriptural recounting of all that went on in the passion, not just the particularly brutal Scourging and the sadistic Crowning which, though certainly worthy of contemplation on their own merit, are only parts of the event.

[3] Luke concludes his version of the temptations in the desert with the teaser: When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [Lk 4:13] Luke reminds us of this in the Garden: this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53]

[4] The abrupt ending of this decade without satisfactory closure is both realistic and a lesson in prayer. The underlying prayers come to an end and, according to them, I am to move on to consider the next mystery. It is rather like a museum tour where the guide rushes you through from exhibit to exhibit, but you paid for the tour so you feel compelled to keep up. But, in reality, there is no hurry. It is best to take Ignatius’ recommendation to heart: “I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire, without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied.”
Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 341-342). Kindle Edition.

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.

“But what can I do?” : Subversive Tactics for a Committed Christian

“But what can I do? I’m just one insignificant person.” When stacked up against “everybody does it,” “they can’t all be wrong,” “majority rules,” “you have to go along with the crowd,” “you can’t fight city hall,” “Corporations are people too!”, “this is an international problem,” etc., etc., etc., this flimsy excuse may seem to be a logical conclusion, a rational course of action. “It just makes common sense.”

Or does it? Just because bad guys carry guns and we can all carry guns, we should do so? Jesus said: Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.[1] [Mt 26:52] Just because abortion is possible, the Supreme Court of our land has declared it legal, and many, if not most women, line up behind the battle cry: “Freedom of Choice,” should I suck it up and follow them. What about the “Freedom of Choice” of the unborn child? He/she did not have any say in being conceived. Shouldn’t she/he have a say in whether to live or die? And where is God in this picture? Isn’t He the one who breathed life into the child? Don’t I think that He has a major stake in whether His daughter or son lives or dies?

But I digress. The point is that I have a judgment to make whether the crowd around me is right or wrong, whether I choose to adhere by the moral or immoral way.

But even if I condemn the evil in the world, I still am faced with the same question: “What can I do?” Little, insignificant, ineffectual me? These are monoliths against which I am pitted. This isn’t just David and Goliath, this is Frodo alone against Sauron, the Necromancer, the Dark Lord, the avatar of Evil, plus all his minions. The Enemy indeed controls all this power and…glory; for it has been handed over to…[him], and…[he] may give it to whomever he wishes. [Lk 4:6]

But if we all cop out, if we all buckle to peer pressure, we are doomed not only to hell in eternity, but to hell on earth.

I may not be able to do much. But God needs the little I can do. God needs my hands, my heart, my feet to carry Him to those places where people have shut Him out. I am a Trojan Horse carrying the salvation of the world inside me, the world which laughs, ridicules and derides even the belief in God. I am Frodo already in Mordor, pretending to be an Orc, carrying the ring to destroy it in the Mountain of Doom.

Jesus is poised, ready to make Himself known through me. In the most unlikely spots. At the most unlikely times. In the most unlikely company. That’s where He needs to be. That’s where He is needed most. That’s where He cannot come unless invited. And He definitely wasn’t invited…but I was. He slips in under their radar in me.

Be a double agent for God. He guarantees the Father will be with you every step of the way; I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. [Jn 17:15] Instead of a license to kill, I have a license to preach Life everlasting. Instead of a Walther PPK, I carry a much more effective weapon, one that ultimately brought down empires and conquers even death, the cross.

Subversive tactics. You bet: Instead of hating the enemy, I bewilder them, confuse them, frustrate them by loving them. This is totally unexpected. Guns blazing, that they can handle. Scorn and defiance, that they are use to. Anger and violence, no problem. But love, that doesn’t fit, that’s not fair, that isn’t in The Art of War, that throws them for a loop and stokes their ire. But, instead of revenge, I offer forgiveness. That’s really non-violent. That’s the ultimate peaceful protest.

The nice thing about these weapons of mass salvation is that they cannot be stopped. I can be stopped. My body can be killed, but that just makes God more effective. My witness, my martyrdom will sow the seeds of saints.

Another tactic in our Spiritual Manual is Pebble Pushing. Huge avalanches can be started by as little as a single dislodged pebble striking a couple of others on its way down the hill. Pretty soon the whole side of the mountain comes cascading down, huge boulders crashing into one another and carrying everything in their path with them.

I don’t have to do a lot. I don’t have to be Hercules fighting Alkyoneus and the Giants. I can start with one thought, one word, one smile, send one random act of kindness cascading down the hill of life. You never know what might become of that one gesture, who might be its recipient…the next Mother Teresa, the next Gandhi, the next Desmond Tutu. Or better, it might have been a lost soul who suddenly found hope, saw goodness, felt love. It may have started someone on the way back from alcoholism, addiction, despair. It may have challenged a tepid Christian to look at himself and wonder why he couldn’t be like you, like Jesus. These are the pebbles at the top of our mountain.   Push a pebble today. Start an avalanche for God.

So Ite, Missa est. Go, our Offering has been accepted, our Thanksgiving had been made, we have eaten Jesus and drunk His Blood, our strength has been restored to full power. Jesus marches forth in me, hidden, ready, always ready to spring forth and catch the other unawares. Have I practiced my Spiritual Tai-Chi today?

[1] 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.