Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Impossible to Overstate the Love God has for Us

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus in Matthew 6:3
Scott Hahn in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible commentary writes, "Those who recognize their need for God and his grace . . . find their security in the Lord and rely on his mercy rather than their merits."

I don't think this is merely a promise for the end of time, after the last judgement or after our own personal judgement and meeting with Jesus after our death, I think we find the Kingdom of God within ourselves when we realize our powerlessness, our inadequacy, our ineffectiveness, our inability to bear fruit despite what others might say about our natural gifts and talents, unless we are rooted in the confidence, trust, and awareness of the magnitude of God's love for us.

The Holy Spirit has been teaching me this for the past several weeks.  What patience the Counselor has with me!  One of our priest's in the homily on August 12, 2012 on Matthew 18:23-35 explained how ridiculous the servant was to the master saying that he would pay back everything.  The NIV says the debt was ten thousand bags of gold.  The NRSV says ten thousand talents, and in the Oremus online reader there is a mouseover footnote that reads, "A talent was worth more than fifteen years’ wages of a labourer."  Our priest explained that there was no way that the servant could repay his master.  It was ridiculous for him to make this promise as he fell prostrate before him begging for patience.  He could never repay the debt. 

The priest also explained that many times in Scripture the word debt is used in place of the word sin.  And this is why in one version of the Our Father  we pray or sing, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."  Still the real debt is the inability we have to repay the great love God has for us.  This is our poverty, our wretchedness, our nothingness that we read about in the writings of our beloved saints.

The priest explained that the worst thing to happen in this world is not losing your job.  It is not getting diagnosed with cancer (and he knows what that is like).  It is sin.  And what is sin?  Sin comes from the prideful, self-absorption that moves us from the natural gratefulness and returning love for love that should be so natural to us if we consider the tender love and mercy God has for us.  Sin is choosing and seeking our own will and desires apart from God.  It is losing the humility and trust that should come so natural to the state of being the mere children we are, and instead following the example of our first parents, Adam and Eve, that lost that humility and trust when tempted to vanity and pride with Satan's promise, "to be like God." (Genesis 3:5)  That was the lie the serpent told, that we mere children could be like God, deciding good and evil based on what suits us.

I read once, in one woman's infertility blog, that it is an often repeated, but fallacious saying that God only gives us what we can handle.  (It is a variation on the actual scripture verse that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear and without a means of escaping the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13) Instead he gives us more than we can handle because this drives us to Him.  God does this with me in my worklife, in my marriage, with my children, with the mental health of my parents.  No doubt he does this with you too.

Without this overburdening, how rarely do I come out of my habitual self-absorption, and mental preoccupiedness (is that a word?), and come to him as David, his anointed prophet and King did so readily?  Instead, sadly, how often do I rely on my own thinking, or even consultation with those around me rather than simply acknowledging my own poverty and need for Him.  King Saul was also anointed and blessed by God, but instead of asking God when he should attack he consulted soothsayers angering God.

I've learned a few things this morning that you are probably aware of, but might appreciate the reminders:
  1. We are all poor in spirit, the question is whether we realize it or not
  2. Jesus is drawn to the weakest and poorest, to those who realize they are weak and poor, and to those who don't realize the truth that they are weak and poor (that covers most all of us, doesn't it?)
  3. I need to contemplate regularly what God has done for us
  4. I need to remember Jesus is everywhere present and longs for me to make the effort of will to come to him directly, relying on Him with all the trust he always expects from me
  5. Jesus wants me to realize that just as he is filled with compassion and love for me, he expects me to follow in his footsteps, certain of the power of his love, opening my eyes and heart to the people around me---seeing their needs and reaching out to them as he has reached out to me.  He tells me, "Let your heart overflow to those who come near you."
Here's a scripture to help you through the rest of this post.  When I need several weeks to learn something the Holy Spirit is teaching me, the result is not a quick read!
"Better gain wisdom than gold,
choose understanding in preference to silver.
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Those who listen to instruction find happiness;
whoever trusts Yahweh is blessed." Proverbs 16:16,18,20

From He and I:
Gabrielle:  I should so much like to do something for You!  Even in giving all of myself, I give you nothing.  What can I do?"
Jesus:  Come to me.  Rely on me with all the trust I always expect from you.  Come to me directly; I'm waiting for you.

Since I am yours, you are rich.  You are only poor when you count on yourselves and expect to act in your own unaided strength.  How destitute you are then!

But if you lay hold of My merits with humility and hope, what a priceless fortune is yours?

Who is anything beside the infinitely great God?  And you, particularly chosen to be showered with blessings, you are nothing but wretchedness.  I feed this wretchedness every morning with my Eucharist because I want to keep you in My friendship, for I am drawn to the weakest and the poorest.  Give me everything that you blame in yourself, since I am the One who transforms even the ugliest, the lowest into the gold of My Glory.  How?  By love. (from May 9, 1946 and April 26, 1946)

"The secret to perseverance in friendship with Christ is to draw our satisfaction not primarily from what we do, but from what God has done for us, and that requires the daily mental discipline of directing our thoughts again and again to God's goodness, cultivating an attitude of gratitude." (#186, meditation on Luke 10:13-24)

Again from He and I:
Jesus:  Follow me everywhere . . . . Let your heart overflow to those who come near you . . . . My poor little girl, enriched by my riches alone, may you be careful not to think that you are worth anything by yourself.  May you be conscious of your power through my power.

Tell Me that you are beginning to be more certain of the power of My love, although you know you are unworthy.

Tell Me this to comfort Me for the ones who do not believe. . . . Let us make an alliance between your poverty and my riches.  Never fail to lean on Me.

Have no confidence in yourself for even a moment.  Where would it lead you?

You don't think often enough that I am everywhere, that nothing exists where I am not present.  Think of this.  It will help you reach me.  One thing only I ask of you:  oneness with Me.  We are united in the morning in my Eucharist, let us not be separated by your indifference; it leads to constant mind-wandering.  When people are in love they never stop thinking of the beloved, do they?  Then what should I conclude if you don't think of Me?

Say to Me, "Have pity on me.  I am nothing but a poor sinner."  Believe it and I'll be moved to pity.  

Consider your nothingness.  If you could see it, you would be terrified if you didn't know My tender mercy.  Try to grasp the poverty of your soul, its destitution.  The you in you is nothing.  The vision of yourself as you are would be terrible for you if you couldn't count on my merits.  Make this your consolation in the meditation on my passion.  Look upon Me and discover My obedient death, accepted with the sweetness of My entire Being. (April 26, 1946; Holy Thursday - April, 1946, March 22, 1945)

8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause, God also hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names: 10 That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: 11 And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.13 For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. 14And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations: 15 That you may be blameless and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:8-15)

And still more from He and I:
Jesus:  Will you ever comprehend My sensitivity and how your every tender and compassionate thought thrills My heart?  But even if you don't understand very well, even if your love never gets beyond the stage of trial, I always take into consideration the earnest effort of your will, and this is My delight . . . .

My poor little girl, I love the nothing that you are so much that if you give me permission, I take up all the room in you.

Lose yourself in Me.  Surrender yourself.  Fade out of your own thoughts.  Enter into my eternal being and move and have your being in me. (April 10, 1947)

Finally in the midst of the homily on August 12, and the readings and learnings that concluded this morning, I received some helpful spiritual insights from our friend Patricia, between her comments on my comments on her blog and an email she sent me.  I don't think she'll mind me sharing these since much of the reason she blogs is to share these same insights with whomever might find them.

"Some people pass their whole lives without realizing how great God's love for them is.  How blessed are we, Colleen, to know and to believe in His Love for us!  I heard a priest mention in his homily once that 'a Saint is not so much one who loves God, as one who is absolutely convinced that God loves him.'  To feel safe and confident in God's Love, to know that He longs for us, will never reject us, sets us free to just run to Him and hold on, and be hugged and want to love Him back with all our might."

He (the lawyer) answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he (Jesus) said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’  Luke 10:27-28

To sum up:  I can only love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself if I regularly contemplate the great Love that God has for me, and if I remain in that Love, follow his commands -- to see and love others as he has loved me and as he exemplified during his time on earth.  The more my job or anything else augments my vanity and pride, the more I have to run back to him, declaring my poverty of spirit, and my absolute need for him.

Again as Patricia wrote in a comment:  "We should gaze on Jesus lovingly in the midst of whatever else we are doing, as St. Teresa of Avila (and Brother Lawrence too) wrote, 'finding God among the pots and pans.'  As I am so small and helpless, I beg for his power to fill me with that grace of recollection, of turning to Him with a gaze or sigh, as we do with those we so love."

Glory to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do You Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Really In You?

That is the test, St. Paul says.  If you don't acknowledge that, then you have failed the test.  He was writing to the Corinthians in his second letter explaining that backbiting, gossip, obstinacies, disorders come because others are not as we would like them to be.  This was another lesson that the Holy Spirit served up for me this week when I grabbed a few minutes to check out the Office of Readings last Saturday.  I had come off a week which seemed to have daily recurrence of the backbiting, gossip . . . . and that was what was sending me walking around the pond to detox from at least once a day.

Here are his words that spoke to me and may to you as well:

What I am afraid of is that when I come I may find you different from what I want you to be,

and you may find that I am not as you would like me to be, and then there will be wrangling ---
jealousy, and tempers roused, intrigues, and backbiting and gossip, obstinacies, and disorder.

Examine yourselves to make sure you are in the faith; test yourselves.

Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is really in you?

If not, you have failed the test.

Try to grow perfect.  Help one another.  Be united, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 12:14-13:13)

Many of you have read the following from St. John Mary Vianney and probably as recently as his feast last Saturday, but it is so beautiful and touching and impactful that I wanted to spread this good news around too.  Bold emphasis is mine.

On Prayer
Man has a noble task:  prayer and love.

Prayer is nothing else than union with God.  When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvelous light.  In this intimate union, God and the soul are like two pieces of wax molded into one; they cannot any more be separated.

It is a very wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding.

We had deserved to be left incapable of praying, but God in his goodness has permitted us to speak to him.  

Our prayer is an incense that is delightful to God.

My children, your hearts are small, but prayer enlarges them and renders them capable of loving God.

Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven.  It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything.

In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun.

Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, so pleasantly that one fails to notice how long it is . . . . 

Once almost all my colleagues were ill, and as I made long journeys (to visit them) I used to pray to God, and I assure you, the time did not seem long to me.

There are those who lose themselves in prayer, like a fish in water, because they are absorbed in God.  There is no division in their hearts.

How I love those noble souls!  St. Francis of Assisi and St. Colette saw our Lord and spoke to him as we speak to one another.

How often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask. And yet when we go to call upon someone, we have no difficulty in remembering why it was we came.  Some appear as if they were about to say to God:  "I am just going to say a couple words, so I can get away quickly."  

I often think that when we come to adore our Lord we should get all we asked for if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart.

That is my prayer for you dear reader, and for myself.

Dear Father please give all who read this and myself  a lively faith and a pure heart.  
In Jesus Name, 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Work Takes Over Your Existence

Haven't worked this many hours since, hmm, it has been about 5 years I think.  78.5 hours last week.  Several nights I didn't get home from work until after 4 a.m.  This week is better.  Got home tonight around 11:30 p.m.

We are doing a proof of technology project and we are in the final week of testing.  That means probably very little to anyone outside of the IT industry, so better get this back to what the Holy Spirit has been teaching me.

Crazy thing is I am enjoying the work except for the politics.  One part of the client company wants the technology to fail, and the other part wants it to succeed so the results of our labors are challenged not unlike what you see on the news shows regarding the Presidential race.  Today I was happy I made it past 2 p.m. without taking a couple laps around the pond to get out the stress from having to talk tactfully when I want, you know, to verbally crush someone.

When I am going around the pond, which is becoming a joke where I work, I am saying the Jesus Prayer.    I do almost a half lap with "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."  But then I switch it up a bit.  I replace 'me' with my family members', friends, and co-workers' names.  While mentioning one person's name I noticed that I had a great desire for the person to be converted.  I seemed to feel the love Jesus has for this person and how much he longs for him to respond to his mercy.  We'll see, and I'll continue to pray.  There is really no reason to work this hard unless there is something great that comes out of it for the Lord's glory!  The guy is a Hindu father of 2, so I will be very much glorifying God if this happens.

The reason it is a joke at work is i can't make it past 2 p.m. without needing to go for a couple laps.  I get so angry suppressing my frustration, fielding the obstructionists' many questions, as we review the fourth revision to the 32 page deliverable, that I have to go for a walk so I can think straight for the remainder of the 12+ hour day.  One of my co-workers said she saw me out the window when she was in another meeting and she just started laughing, knowing I must have gotten ticked-off again.  We've also been joking that we need to factor in the therapist fees and anger management course costs into the amendment to the statement of work.

What the Lord taught me today was the helpful intersection between Buddhist philosophy and the teachings of Christ.  Sometimes I joke that I would make a terrible Buddhist as they teach "mindfulness" where you notice everything but do not make a judgement as to whether it is good or bad.  I have analytic bent so I make continuous assessments of the good or bad of just about everything.

Here are the helpful intersections:

  • Buddhists teach origin of suffering is attachment.  The reason for suffering is desire, passion, striving for fame and popularity.  In short:  CLINGING AND CRAVING.  We Christians are taught similarly that we are to have singleness of heart, to seek first the Kingdom; that our God is a jealous God and we are not to have anything in our hearts that has a higher place than him, and we are to surrender all attachments, laying them at his feet.
  • Buddhist teach the idea of self is a delusion, because there is no abiding self.  It goes a bit off the tracks when they talk about "becoming part of the universe", reincarnation, etc.;  We Christians are taught:

    "My old self has been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (St. Paul, Galatians 2:20)

    "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left . . . . " (Lorica of St. Patrick)

    "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
    (Jesus in John 12:25)

    "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."
    (Jesus in John 15:6)
  • Buddhists teach cessation of suffering is attainable by attaining dispassion, and following a middle way between the extremes of excessive self-indulgence and excessive self-mortification.  This reads very similar to many saints who teach that self-mortification leads to controlling the passions and the self-indulgence behind them.
  • The last helpful intersection I was able to get to today was the first part of the Buddhist's Noble Eightfold Path, "Right View".  It means in Buddhism to recognize the four noble truths as Right View yields right thoughts and right actions.  This led me to rapid succession of scriptures on what our right view is in Christianity, and in fact what is the absolute truth and right view for everyone as revealed by Jesus Christ the Son of God:

    "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

    "I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
    (John 15:5)

    "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."
    (John 15:16)

    "He (the Father) cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be more fruitful."
    (John 15:2)

    "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
    (Matthew 7:19)

    "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burne
    d (yes that was the 2nd time for this verse)."  (John 15:6)

    "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God.  Sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.  Otherwise, you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22)

    "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance." (Romans 2:4)
The more intense my life is, the more I turn to the Lord and depend on him.  Last Thursday I stopped into church on the way into work, because I think my team and I desperately needed me to go before the Lord and ask for his blessing and favor on our efforts and on us.  

I am not a calm, dispassionate person, so I am driven to take a walk alone with my God, pleading for his mercy, confident that my strength and any semblance of self-control comes from him.  I have had two awesome 12 hour plus saving ideas come from these quick little exercise/prayer breaks that I know I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

I am also being challenged that in all circumstances, adverse or pleasant, I need to remain in Jesus or I can do nothing.  If I remain in him, I will bear fruit.  If I continue in his kindness I might have the patience to not become a dead branch that is thrown away and withers.  Anyway I believe that is the "Right View".

God has been blessing me like crazy, answering my prayers and the prayers of my friends.  My husband has been wonderful lately.  We have been getting along so much better.  We are laughing more, managing through the summer/fall sport practice schedules, school book orders, and school medical forms along with his physical therapy (from his shoulder injury) and around my crazy work hours the past few weeks . . . .without argument.  God's kindness and grace are apparent.

Hope you are enjoying this last blessed month of summer, my favorite time of year, and that you are being taught much by the Holy Spirit too!