Thursday, July 7, 2011

Humility and Undivided Heart

" . . . He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:7-8)
Extreme Humility
I've read that many times, and had my Confessor point out to me at Christmas and during Lent the humility of Christ, but somehow I am seeming to learn this lesson fresh and new this morning.

I went to confession this past Sunday, one of the things I love about my church is that Confession is available during the Divine Liturgy most Sundays.  I try to go at least once a month, since that is what Our Mother told us to do in messages from Medjugorje.  (It's important to do what Our Mother tells us!)

When I go, I usually wait to go after the readings and the homily, so I can hear what the Holy Spirit wants me to hear and learn before going for a good soul-scrubbing before receiving Communion.

This past Sunday what I remember most was how the priest started.  "No matter how long we have been in the spiritual life, there is always opportunity for improvement, for growth.  What I mean by that is there is always opportunity for us to have more joy in the Lord!"

On rare occasions, the priest who is most often my Confessor, who at one time did attend Charismatic prayer groups, will place his hand on my head after the granting of absolution and will say a short prayer for me.  Either the first time I went or the second time, it was close to Pentecost and he prayed that I would receive the Holy Spirit along with some specific gifts.  Looking back, that was a key turning point in the way I live my faith.

On Sunday he did place his hands on my head and prayed simply for God's blessings and peace.

I have not been at peace lately, and I think I have received the grace these past few days in my meditations, some of which he gave me as penance, to learn why I have not been at peace.

I had prayed during the Novena to the Sacred Heart to have what St. Faustina had, when Jesus told her, "I delight in your soul."  I prayed that Jesus would find his delight in me, and that I would find my delight in Him.  I also prayed for the gift of understanding, wisdom, and counsel because I seem to have understanding of the outlines of things, but not a penetrating understanding.

I am thanking God for answering my prayers.  I learned that I do have a divided heart.  My heart has the priority of loving God first and foremost, but not the follow-through during the passing moments of the day.

We attended a parade on the 4th of July and my three younger kids would position themselves when they saw floats or marchers throwing candy.  Then they would as politely as possible swoop down to get the goodies.

In The Better Part this was exactly the example that Fr. John Bartunek used to explain how I am when I am looking for attention, whether it is checking my emails, or blog stats, or for a card in the mailbox, or at work, when I am striving to be perceived as success, and soaking in whatever compliments or recognition that I can come by.

None of this is "Seeking First the Kingdom of God".  What is?

I am learning that it is to break from the tendency to slip into self-destructive thirst for recognition and success, and attention.  I realize this tendency is deep.

I also realize that if I am loving God "with my whole heart, my whole soul, and my whole mind (Matthew 22:37)" then this shouldn't be in my thoughts, and certainly should not affect how I feel emotionally.  Something is broken in my make-up when this is the case, and this is why I don't have peace.  I know with my mind how things are supposed to be ordered, and I am not at peace because my heart is not ordered like Christ's undivided, and humble heart.

I need to seek only to be pleasing in the sight of God.  I need to turn to him first thing in the morning, and throughout the day. If I don't feel like it for some reason, I need to ask him for his grace, because, he always answers the prayer for grace, with grace--his presence.  Either in my knowledge that he is there, or in the sense that he is there.

If God is pleased with me, what do I care about the opinion of others?  Now for the practical, how do I build the habit of not caring about the opinion of others, and seeking first for his will and to please him?

"My help comes from Yahweh who made heaven and earth."  Psalm 121:2

Not sure I have that figured out, but as we are going on vacation, and as blogging has been feeding rather than being the antidote for my vanity, I'll be fasting from reading or writing in the blogosphere for the next week and a half.  I hope when I return to have some better habits of loving and seeking God as primary to my living, and I have confidence "If You seek him, he will let you find him (1 Chronicles 28:9b)".  Maybe I'll actually be able to do a "Sabbath Moment" post for Colleen's MEME?

Then I hope to do as Jesus did with his undivided heart.  To love with self-forgetful love in love of God, and to please Him, and not to receive attention or recognition from others because of my efforts.  Still to truly love others for who they are, and in gratitude for what goodness God has brought to light in them.


  1. Colleen,
    Excellent post. How wonderful to have confession during the Divine Liturgy! I have problems with the follow through as well. Keeping our minds and hearts on God and living what we believe in our days is not easy, but it is the path to holiness. I love the things you ask for in prayer and meditation. I am sure God does delight in gracing you with those gifts.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights on an undivided heart.
    God bless.

  2. Thank you for reading, Karinann, and for your helpful comment. I hope some new habits can follow my fresh understanding!

  3. Somewhere along the line I changed my attitude about others' praise of my work. I stopped seeking to satisfy others, and started seeking to satisfy myself. If I did what I thought was right, and if I did it with my best effort, then I was satisfied. I asked God to help me with those two things, and I found I wasn't seeking others' praise or recognition any more. Oh it came sometimes as a result of what I did, and I was gracious in accepting it, but I often found that some praise came which I had never seen before --- praise for things I wasn't trying to do. I guess God was leading me on those things, as I asked Him, and occasionally He gave me an "Atta Boy!" through others comments. Those both surprised and delighted me.

    Just pray to know God's will, Colleen, and the fortitude to do it as best you can. Everything else will be well, whether people notice what you are doing, or not.

  4. Good advice, Tom. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for your honesty in posting, Colleen. I think when we share things like this on our blogs we often see that others share the same difficulties - I know I do. My goal is to have an undivided heart but I often fail in regard to this.

    I take regular blog breaks during the course of the year too. I find that this helps me keep my priorities straight. Sometimes it's only for a few days, other times for weeks. The blogs are always here waiting :) Enjoy your vacation!

  6. Mary, I very much appreciated this comment, but as I was into the fast, could not respond before now. It does seem like blog break was helpful.

  7. Hi Colleen, I somehow ended up here -- thinking I was on your most recent post, but am five months behind.

    But, I had a thought anyway..about wanting the praise and attention of others.

    This hasn't been a problem for me in least until lately. For some reason, I started becoming very disturbed by being ignored by a certain person who knows several people I know, and who always makes time for everyone but me. I started feeling like the kid in school who is the last one chosen for the team.

    This got so crazy that I was thinking about it all the time. So, I started praying for her..everytime the thought came into my mind. I prayed for specific things I knew she needed in her life -- like for her children, etc. just about 3 days, the whole temptation thing went away : )

    God is just so awesome; so good! All he asks for is a little effort. I couldn't get rid of those thoughts myself, even tho I didn't want them. But with sincere prayer, He took care of it all in the loveliest way!

    Hope this helps a bit...although I am so late you have probably moved on!

    To God be the Glory!


  8. You know Patricia, for some reason I was looking at this post last night too, about an hour before you left your comment. This is a recurring thing for me. I am repeatedly disturbed when a certain real world friend ignores me, even if it is just for a few days, while at the same time I am praying and concerned for her. This past week this friend confided something to me that she had held back before now, because she thought my faith would make me judge her, or not back her that under the circumstances and with the intention she had, it wasn't wrong. I tried to express only compassion to her, not judgement. Still my heart was pouring out, and hers was not. Or maybe her heart was being shared, but not with as much fervor, and frequency? Then if it looks like all of a sudden I lost every reader who ever landed on this blog, it compounds the humiliation.
    I know I need it though. I have prayed for meekness, gentleness, humility for as long as I was an adult Christian. I continue to realize that my pride is deeply rooted, and blinding.
    I will do what you said, maybe with a particular examen, several times a day--when I am indulging in self-pity, when feeling ignored, I will pray for some intentions of those that I am missing.
    I don't think you finding this and being moved to comment on it was by chance!
    I also think when this happens--the first part, not the blog part, that it is a reminder how much Christ grieves that so many--most really, whether believers or not, do not trust in his unfathomable love. My unrequited love is so little compared to his! We don't realize the enormity of his humiliation and suffering and how the love that drove his obedience is no less for us now.
    I'll let you know if it is 3 days, more or less. :)
    Yes, to God be the Glory! Love, Colleen

  9. Dear Colleen, we seem to have a lot in common! When you spoke of pouring out your heart, and yet feeling as though that total commitment of your love and friendship was not returned, I could relate so well.

    When I was caring for my aged parents for a few years before they died, I was shocked and heart-broken that people whom I had always been there for, and whom I believed were my closest friends, just weren't there for me when I needed them most. How I would have appreciated a note or card of encouragement, or a visit when I was keeping long vigils at the hospital -- just someone to have lunch with me in the cafeteria, etc. But they weren't there.

    God taught me so much during that time in my life. That our friends, no matter how dear, are going to fail us at times..just like we have failed others, often not even aware of our offense.

    Jesus helped me to see that He alone is the One I can count one..the One Who will never leave me..Who will always be there when I need Him. The Perfect Friend.

    And yes, as you said, it is a gift to share in His Own unrequited love...a real Grace. I believe He draws us so close to Him when we share this similar pain. All He asks is that we forgive those who have disappointed us, and pray for them and let them be. Perhaps it is time for them to move on...or maybe they will remain in our lives, only we will never again hope for so much from creatures, but only from our Most Beloved.

    He has a "jealous" Love for us, and I think it is delightful to think that sometimes He may not want us drawing so close to others. St. Therse seemed to have that problem. Yes, He wants us to love and serve everyone, but not to be "attached." Therein is the problem...and when we ruminate about it : ) we are attached.

    I smiled at your comment about losing blog readers..I can relate! And, I have to swallow hard when I see some of my former readers reading and commenting on my favorite blogs, while not visiting me anymore. It is an exercise in humility!

    The less attention we attract from others, the more we will draw the most tender and compassioate Heart of Jesus toward us...and what could be a greater joy?

    Hang in there, Colleen! Pray for your friend with all your heart and let her be..even if she neglects you. Jesus will see all, and His Gaze will be fixed on you!

    You are in my prayers, cause I know it hurts : (
    But, I think Jesus is detaching us from our disordered needs.

    Love and prayers and hugs,

  10. If you only knew Patricia, how incredibly timely and loving your comments are! Thank you so much for you prayers, because you are right it hurts. I know it is an attachment. I have prayed many times for God to please order my affections.
    You are so right too with, "our friends, no matter how dear, are going to fail us at times..just like we have failed others, often not even aware of our offense." I do remember to pray when I am feeling hurt in this way for God to bless those I have hurt by not being there for them, by neglecting them, not showing them the care, affection, and encouragement they needed. I believe Jesus is the perfect friend, I do. I know notes like this from you, the words I read in the Bible today and in my meditation are from him. I will seek the joy you mentioned here, "The less attention we attract from others, the more we will draw the most tender and compassionate Heart of Jesus toward us...and what could be a greater joy?" I know St. Therese and St. Faustina counted this as joy. This will pass, and may he please give me the grace to love without growing attached. It is hard isn't it? The beauty he places within another is hard not to become attached to, especially when I experience it when that person is in pain, and my heart is filled with the compassion he has placed there. I know it will pass, and I do pray with you that I'll grow closer to him, and be able to help another, like you are me when they have this trial.