Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why "Inadequate Disciple"?

Why did I choose "Inadequate Disciple" as a blog title when I started this few years ago?  Because I am.  When Jesus says things like, you will know them by their fruits, and remain in me that you might bear fruit, and I don't know of any fruits following from this here branch, that speaks to my inadequacy.

What is this fruit?  Some write that the fruit could be virtue - in oneself - things like self-control, gentleness, temperance, prudence, integrity, fortitude.  Some write that it is good works, like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Some others, especially when you read and reflect on The Parable of the Sower, would think that fruit is conversions.

It is true we don't always know about these fruits.  St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face (a.k.a. The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux) lived a quiet life in a cloistered monastery yet she has born the fruit of many conversions - both initial conversions to the Lord, and then deeper commitments to the Lord when people read and are inspired by her life, her words, her prayers.

One of my favorite meditations by my priest and friend was that one of the joys we will have when we get to heaven is meeting people who will be waiting to thank us that they are there because of the suffering we offered in union with Christ’s and because of the prayers and sacrifices we offered on their behalf, whether we prayed for them by name, or whether we offered them for the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus or simply for the conversion of sinners, and the poor souls in purgatory.

What incredible joy I had in this life when one person I worked with did take the steps to be reconciled – went to Mass, went to Confession, went to Communion, even began speaking about her faith in a community that likes to refer to God as “the universe”, and atheism, agnosticism, or only theism are the norm.

That only happened once, and at the time I started this blog, and still now, it bothers me.  Remember the question you get asked by the priest at least once a year in a homily, “if it were a crime to be a Christian, to be a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” 

Well if part of the evidence is that I love being Catholic and that the joy, the love I feel and express through my Catholic faith are a treasure, and if I care at all about the people around me, the people God has orchestrated into my life that I might help with them finding salvation, finding the joy of the friendship with Jesus, communion with the Holy Spirit, then why weren’t there others who also converted?
It is not ourselves that we are proclaiming, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus's sake.  It is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' that has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ.  But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own.  (2 Corinthians 4:5-7)
I looked up Inadequate Disciple in an internet search. One of the better posts I found on it was how the apostles were wholly inadequate to feed the 5000 men that gathered and did not have food to eat.  Yet the power of Jesus Christ manifested itself through their obedience to his mysterious orders.  Take these pieces (of couple fish and loaves of bread) and distribute it to the multitude, after you divide them up into 12 groups.  They were astounded.  They got to see the fruits of their trust and obedience that day.  They learned without a doubt that they could do nothing apart from the Power of Jesus the Messiah, but with him, 5000 men, plus women and children were fed, and there were enough leftovers collected in the 12 baskets (12 apostles) for each of them to more than eat their fill.

They had to put their human doubts and confusion aside and get out of the way in order for Christ's miracle to be accomplished through their efforts.  I don't think I do that well.  See all the I's?  That is part of the problem.
Recently I had another moment to cooperate with the work of grace to draw someone into a more meaningful, loving, fulfilling relationship with Jesus, and felt myself to have been a miserable coward and totally living up to the title of this blog-- inadequate disciple.

A woman I work with, who was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school through high school, was confirmed, but was not going to church anymore.  Wasn’t even planning on going for Christmas.  When she first began sharing an office with me she rather frequently used the Lord Jesus’s name as a swear.  I said the Divine Praises a few times after Mass in reparation.  Because I love Jesus, and because the Holy Spirit has taught me how holy is the name of God, it hurts when someone does that.

I let it slip that I was going to daily Mass at a nearby church couple times a week, and then the use of Jesus’s name as a stress release seemed to stop, completely.

I took this lady out for a beer her last day at this client of ours.  I kind of sensed it was the last time I had to try to help her with her faith, possibly the last time we would talk in person, although she kept saying we would get together again.  She raised her objections.  I heard them before, but I don’t personally share them.  I wanted to keep the conversation going, and used examples of others that shared her objections to do so.

A day later I realized what a wimp I had been.  This was a pivotal opportunity.  I have already noticed a pattern with people I work with.  Usually when either they are leaving the place or I am there is the lifting of the “don’t talk religion and faith at work” rule and some free-flowing faith talk ensues.  It might come up before then, and I have been less veiled in recent years.  But it is at the end of our time working together that the faith conversation flows and we find out we share a common faith, a common love.  This time I knew it was not what we had in common that was important.  Still, I did not appeal to the Holy Spirit for inspiration, for the words to speak, the heart to hear.  

Another day or two passed and I wrote her an email with the subject “Colleen is a wimp”.  Here it is:
I was thinking back on our conversation at Durkin’s (whatever the name).  I think I was a wimp when we were talking about faith.  I get slightly uncomfortable struggling to keep relational connection and then failing to witness to the Christ, instead of overcompensating to your point of view.  Thank you for noticing my faith.  I am grateful for the gifts of grace that are my faith and the joy, strength, and more compassionate heart that comes from it.  There are plenty of reasons to reject Catholicism or Catholics, but none of them had much sway for me personally.  When we were talking I mentioned “my husband this”, and “a friend from work that”, to try to maintain the relational connection.  But for me personally, Jesus has grasped me from an early age, and through his grace, abundantly given to me through the Catholic Church, no reasons would keep me from receiving his grace in his Word, in his Sacraments (especially Confession and the Holy Eucharist), and through his priests and saints, and his Holy Mother, whose intercession is entirely the reason my husband and I are still married!  So, I very much hope you find your way back.  If not to the Church or a church in the near future, then why not just take the direct route highlighted by the pope in the following.   
1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
I. A joy ever new, a joy which is shared
2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”.[1] The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!
4. The books of the Old Testament predicted that the joy of salvation would abound in messianic times. The prophet Isaiah exultantly salutes the awaited Messiah: “You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (9:3). He exhorts those who dwell on Zion to go forth to meet him with song: “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (12:6). The prophet tells those who have already seen him from afar to bring the message to others: “Get you up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion; lift up your voice with strength, O herald of good tidings to Jerusalem” (40:9). All creation shares in the joy of salvation: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! Break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones” (49:13).
Zechariah, looking to the day of the Lord, invites the people to acclaim the king who comes “humble and riding on a donkey”: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he” (9:9).
Perhaps the most exciting invitation is that of the prophet Zephaniah, who presents God with his people in the midst of a celebration overflowing with the joy of salvation. I find it thrilling to reread this text: “The Lord, your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival” (3:17).
This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment” (Sir 14:11, 14). What tender paternal love echoes in these words!  (You:  “Why can’t we enjoy life?”)
5. The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. A few examples will suffice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary (Lk 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:41). In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47). When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (Jn 3:29). Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Lk 10:21). His message brings us joy: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians “ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (2:46). Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (13:52). The newly baptized eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (8:39), while Paul’s jailer “and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God” (16:34). Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?
6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).
7. Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. To some extent this is because our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy”.[2]I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to. I also think of the real joy shown by others who, even amid pressing professional obligations, were able to preserve, in detachment and simplicity, a heart full of faith. In their own way, all these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.[3]
8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?  (ßand here is where I failed, and hopefully Papa Francisco can fill in the gap I left unfilled!)
Happy New Year!  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to send this note.  And if I care at all it is because Jesus loves me, and he wants you to know that and that this upcoming day, this upcoming year will be the year that your friendship with him grows.  It is a bit overwhelming isn’t it, that he wants to be your friend.   I think the unrequited love that you no doubt experienced in some of your friendships taught me the most about how much he loves each of us at a personal level, and how great a debt I owe him. 
As Jesus told St. Margaret Mary when she was seeing a vision of him with his Sacred Heart showing:
"Look at this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return."
You are obviously striving to be a good and helpful person, and it seemed to me like you would like to have a stronger connection to God, but you don’t right now.  Sorry I was too wimpy to tell you this in person, but now you have a nice long email to read and consider. 

Heck if the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons can go door-to-door, at least I can send an email. 
If you would like to try a morning or evening meditation time each day, I highly recommend The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek.  It contains the full text of the Gospels and meditation on 4 different levels for each day’s short passage.  The four levels are:  1) Christ the Lord, 2) Christ the Teacher, 3) Christ the Friend, and 4) Christ in My Life. Here is an example from last Sunday’s Gospel:
Another great book is Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  This is a do-it-yourself retreat that I found very helpful over the past couple of years.  My priest friend that was battling stage 3 colon cancer recommended it to me.
God Bless You, including providing your next job –


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 200 Word Post

Is it possible?  It is for some.  They don't post unless it fits their blog theme, and they make every word count.  

I usually think to write after the Lord teaches me something.  He has been teaching me from the book of Wisdom lately.  I think it is the Holy Spirit that is drawing me back to that book so often over the last year.  This is one content rich book.  I’ve been reading and re-reading it in three translations:  Douay-Rheims, RSV-2CE, New Jerusalem.
Inspirational quotes from just the first 5 chapters.
Seek him with sincerity of heart (from Wis. 1:1)
He manifests himself to those who have faith in him (from Wis. 1:2)
The just shall shine (from Wis. 3:7)
Their Lord shall reign forever (from Wis. 3:8)
For the precious gift of faith shall be given to him (from Wis. 3:14)
There were some who pleased God and were loved by him (from Wis. 4:10)
His soul being pleasing to the Lord (from Wis. 4:14)
Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.  (Wis: 5:5)
For the fruit of honest labours is glorious. (Wis.3:15)

Here’s a comforting and encouraging teaching that appears twice:

Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love;For grace and mercy await his holy ones, and he intervenes on behalf of his chosen.  (Wis. 3:9 NJB)

They that trust in him shall understand the truth; and they that are faithful in love, shall rest in him; for grace and peace are to his elect. (Wis. 3:9 (DRB)

 That grace and mercy await his chosen ones and that he intervenes on behalf of his holy ones. (Wis. 4:15)

 But the upright live forever,
Their recompense is with the Lord, and the Most High will take care of them.For he will shelter them with his right hand and with his arm will shield him. (Wis. 5:15, 16b) 
I don’t even think I can keep this under 500 words, let alone 200.

What these words stir up in me is holy desire.  Do you desire, like me, to seek God with sincerity of heart?  I don’t seek God because of the promises of rewards.  I am not attracted to those verses in the Bible.  Sincerity of heart . . . the heart he created. 

I remember the nuns, well, Sr. Angela in particular, telling us that we can repent of our sins because of either fear of punishment or because we are sorry because we offended God and we love Him, and that the second one was better.  Of course it is better to love God than to just fear the punishment of God.  It seems just as shallow to me to get fired up for God because of the promise of reward, even though he offers it. 

The blessing of having a sincere heart is seeking after God, wanting to read the Scriptures as his love letter, wanting to spend time in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, wanting to receive Jesus in Holy Communion because He has loved me, and I love him.  Holy Desire, holy affection.  But what of dryness when the Lord tests our will when we persist in our acts of Love even when we don't feel holy affection.  Wisdom has a verse for that too:

God was putting them to the test
and has proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a perfect burnt offering.
At their time of visitation, they will shine out.  (Wisdom 3:5b-6) 

He revealed himself to me, and he revealed himself to me not just in knowledge in the Catechism about his attributes, but to my spirit, my heart, he reveals himself as Love, as Goodness, as Mercy.  His Son reveals the gentleness and kindness of God, and the completeness of his total self-giving in order to make this whole experience of communing with Him in my spirit possible.  It is my holy desire that the gift of faith given to me would be cultivated in me by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, that my soul would be pleasing to the Lord.

I know I trust in Him ultimately, and I know I need to trust in him more in the moment, no matter how ordinary or no matter how unexpected or pivotal.  I know truth, because I know Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. 

I put my trust in him and I delight that our Lord will live forever, that the Most High takes care of us, that - Praise be to God - Grace and mercy await us and He intervenes for us!

I believe the Most High doesn’t just intervene for us at the moment of our personal judgment when he grants our salvation because of our belief and trust in Jesus the beloved Son of God who sacrificed his life to save us, but also that he intervenes in the here and now.  Even now God shelters and shields us.  What you have pain, and suffering, and disappointment, and sorrow?  If he permits it, it is for your good, and if you unite the suffering with that of His Son, for the good of others that they might come to know Jesus, and walk eternally with Him.  That they might know grace, mercy, peace, and God's intervention on their behalf too!

(Word Count 907;  200 Word Post is not possible for this inadequate disciple!)

In fact, it is going to continue now because I lament that the Protestant Canon excludes this book.  It isn’t part of their 66 book Bible.  It is a shame.  It is such a great book.  It also seems to teach against the Calvinist doctrines of : 
  • The total depravity of man
  • The sovereign unconditional election of God
  • The irresistible grace of God

When I read They that trust in him shall understand the truth; and they that are faithful in love, shall rest in him; for grace and peace are to his elect. (Wis. 3:9 (DRB) It says to me that it takes the response of man to trust in God in order to understand the truth.  Then those that are faithful to the truth, the Law of Love, the commandments of the Most High, they find rest in God – because grace and peace are to his elect.  They are elect, because they trust, because they understand truth, and because they are then faithful in love.  
They are not elect, simply because they are elect.  They do not come to understanding of the truth or become faithful because of  irresistible grace.  They do not come to understand or be faithful apart from grace, but they do have free will, and they must respond with trust in order to receive the gifts of salvation:  grace and peace.  This thought coincided with statement by Marcus Grodi with a Presbyterian minister on Journey Home.  Those who believe in pre-destination do not put value on the Fiat of Mary.  One of the reasons they do not understand the veneration of Mary is they do not put value on free will response.  Mary could have said no, instead of "I am the Handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.".  So could all of us.  Even St. Paul, knocked on his behind by the brilliant, glory of Christ the King, could have said no, although that particular conversion is as close as one might experience to the "irresistible grace of God"!