Saturday, July 20, 2019

Peace to you!

My uncle, Fr. James Conner, O.C.S.O., a Trappist Monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, wrote a homily recently about the words of Jesus found in the gospel of Luke.

 “If they do not accept you, go out into the streets and say: 
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, 
even that we shake off against you’”.  Luke 10:10-11

     "The words of Jesus," he said, "might seem quite harsh at first sight...However in the context of the whole text..., we see that it is done only as a last resort.

     Jesus is primarily sending his disciples into towns to proclaim the message of God’s love and care for all peoples. The primary word that He wants them to proclaim is: “Peace to this house!” It is a peace which only God can give, but a peace which is promised by all the prophets for the mission of the one sent by God.    

     Jesus comes among us as the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of one who will be Prince of Peace. He comes to proclaim peace which comes from God’s loving care for each one of His children. Isaiah compares the peaceful person to a child on its mother’s breast. “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you”. That child is each one to whom the Word of God is proclaimed. It is each one of us who have received this message that God will care for us as a mother cares for her infant.

     But we don’t like to consider ourselves as infants. We want to see ourselves as self-reliant and competent to take care of ourselves and our world. We all too often act as if we did not need God’s help and protection. 
                 
     But Paul tells that “the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6: 14). The world that must be crucified to each one of us is the world of deceit and selfishness – a world of power and prestige. But by that very fact it is a world of lies. Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies”. The lies which Satan sows in the world and in our hearts is the lie of self-sufficiency – “I do not truly need God – I can care for myself and my world!” 

     It is such lies which lie at the root of all the evil and deceit in the world today. All too often, even leaders of nations are known more for their lies than for fostering truth. Such actions only sow dissent and division within a nation and in the hearts of those who follow him. It serves to divide the nation from other nations and even beget division within the nation itself. And Jesus said also: “A house that is divided cannot stand”. (Mark 3: 25)

     In contrast to this, Jesus sends his disciples – he sends each one of us – to spread the true message of God’s love and care for every person. We may object to world leaders sowing dissent and division, but do the very same thing in our dealings with one another in daily life. 

     Each time that we encounter another person, it should embody the message: “Peace to you!”. The Christian should be a person of peace. Above all, the monk should be a man of peace – peace within himself and peace with others with whom he lives. The injunction of Jesus does not extend merely to missionaries. It extends to each one of us – whether in the monastery or in our homes and places of work. 

     That is why we express the sharing of Peace before receiving the Prince of Peace within Communion. That brief moment cannot be simply a distraction from the Eucharist – but a call to each one of us to heed the message of Jesus and truly live as men and women of peace, knowing that our names are truly written in heaven." 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Reset the Button

Friends,

Do you ever feel you need to hit the reset button on your life? You've become aware of too many distractions causing you not to stay attracted to what's most important in your life?

Resetting can be done at any time of day, but may be easier at night before you go to bed or in the morning before starting off your new day.

At nighttime, it's helpful to take time to reconsider what happened during the course of the day.

What are the things that stand out the most in your mind? Did they bring you joy or sadness? Did they uplift or bring you down? Were you responsible for what happened or did someone else cause it? Is there something you can learn from what happened?

It's important to stay aware of your emotions during the day--the joy, the sorrow, the anger, impatience, frustrations...perhaps you've experienced them all in a day--that's not uncommon.

The emotions are talking to us. What are they saying to you? Do you know? If you were angry, why? What caused the anger? Is there something you'd do differently tomorrow? 

Here's where you reset the button. Learn from the day's experience. Resolve to do something different the next day if you need to. If it was a good day full of joy, then give many thanks. The reset button is hit that way too.

If you're resolved to hit the reset button in the morning, begin with gratitude. Give thanks for your breath and a new day to start fresh. Let gratitude rule your mind--giving thanks for even the smallest things that we take for granted.

Reset. Resolve. Refresh!

"Blessed be the Lord, for He has heard my cry..." Ps 28: 6



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Taking Quiet Time

     Sometimes there are so many distractions that come from every direction. Just when you think you can sit down, be still, take a deep breath and enter more deeply into the presence of God--who is with us always--other things can quickly grab our attention. For instance, the phone might ring and a family member needs you, someone might text and needs to know something about your plans later in the day, you need to go to the bathroom so you get up and you get distracted on your way back to your prayer chair, or someone in your family asks you a question even though you said, "I'm in quiet prayer now"…I've experienced all of these and more.
     So many different things can happen as we try to enter deeply into this sacred space. But regardless of the distractions, every return is virtuous when we re-commit our will to make a return. Do not let the distractions bother you even if many have already occurred--just be grateful that you’ve been given the grace to keep turning back. Be mindful of those distractions. Think about humanity and how many people are needing to enter this quietness and have no idea how to get there. But you do if only for five minutes. And that’s a very good start. 
     So uncross your legs and put both feet flat on the ground. Straighten your back and take a deep breath. Be aware of the light of the day that is shining on the world. Imagine that light penetrating your body and your mind and it is healing light. You open up to receiving it because you know you need it. And remember it is not an "it," rather a person-Him!
"I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."  
     It is he who is calling you close, out of his enormous love, his magnanimous love. He wants to give you a kiss for the day, a kiss that will be with you throughout the day--one that will remind you and seal your identity as his child, actually as his lover. Imagine that! So embrace the five or the 10 or the 15 minutes in silence, and be filled with the light for this new day. Then let that light shine to all you meet.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

TRUST

Have you heard this way to describe trust? True Resolve Under Severe Testing. Makes perfect sense to me.

What resolve do you make when things are at their worst? How do you stand firm? Are you armed for spiritual battle? Aware that "we are fighting not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12 Do you dress yourself daily in the armor of God, our Father in Heaven--with righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer, perseverance, supplication?


In trying times, I remind myself about God's everlasting love for me and you. That I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved us.  Romans 8:37


Sooner or later we all face terrible trials--severe testing. It may be tribulation, or distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword. We have only to look across the world and see all these afflictions that people--our brothers and sisters including ourselves--are suffering from.


What will set us free? Believing God is with us through it all.


Regarding God’s Everlasting Love, the holy scriptures in Romans 8: 31-39 says: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.' Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."


Lord, increase our faith to believe and to experience your loving presence in our midst. We want to trust you in all the circumstances of our lives. Give us the grace of perseverance to endure our trials and to keep standing firm no matter what. In the power of the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Comfort, Comfort My People

Within our living room early this morning I faced my prayer chair toward the rising sun, and set a timer for thirty minutes for quiet contemplative prayer.

I sat down with my back erect, feet uncrossed on ground, taking a deep breath and hearing the song of the birds outside singing to my soul. These actions center me to become more aware of the presence of the Lord.

After the timer went off, I opened my prayer journal and wrote this: "Dearest Lord, here I am. I hear you calling me closer so you can whisper secrets to my heart. I want to hear you. Speak, dearest Lord, I am listening." (1 Sam 3: 9)

And then I heard, "My child, comfort, comfort my people." (Isaiah 40) Since I know a song with those words I looked it up in my worship hymnal and carefully meditated on the words. I was struck by "comfort those who sit in darkness."

So I asked the question in my journal, "Who do you want me to comfort?" And I understood "all who come upon your path."

With the grace of God, I determined to be mindful of that admonition and asked, "What else do you desire to tell me?"

I understood this: "All that I have given you is gift to give others. Give freely, generously, lavishly, like I do with you. You are my child, called by my name. I send you out to be a light to the people (Matthew 5: 14), to be a star in the darkness (Philippians 2: 15), to tell others of my love and goodness. Listen to my spirit guiding your every footstep."(John 16: 13)

My response written in my journal was: "I surrender to you. Use me for your holy purposes. I am yours!"

I was led to read the words of the song again and felt encouraged to pay attention to what struck me the most in the lyrics. It was "Speak of peace...speak of the peace that awaits them."

And so I say, "Peace be with you this day." And pray...

"O gracious Lord, you who bestow every good and perfect gift so freely, generously and lavishly from above (James 1: 17), we thank you for calling us your children. Give us an abundance of grace and peace to respond to your Word that calls us to comfort others, share our gifts and shine like lights in the world. Open our eyes to see those who are hurting in our midst. Give us wisdom and courage to tell others of your love and goodness. We rejoice that the Spirit of truth guides us to all truth and that he speaks to us what he hears from you. Amen." SM


Monday, February 26, 2018

Discernment

Recently I overheard the radio station playing in the background from another room in our house. The person speaking caught my attention because she was explaining three practical steps of discernment according to the Ignation Rule.

This is a certain type of spirituality and one of my favorites. St. Ignatius of Loyola, whom the rule is named after, spent a lot of time teaching his monks how to discern well.

Statue of St. Ignatius at Monserrat Jesuit Retreat House
Discernment meaning the ability to judge well the direction to take when at forks in the road--should I go this way or that? Through this door or another? We all face these decisions.
In all your ways be mindful of him, 
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3: 6 
Door of St. Ignation Chapel

Here are the 3 steps:

1) This first one is probably more familiar. Write a list of pros and cons in a wholistic approach. Put down everything you can think of. On the pro side all that is positive and on the con side all that may be negative. Remember just a few cons can outweigh many pros.

For example: A father may be offered a new job that pays a lot more money so he will be able to provide better for his family. It's also a higher promotion in the workplace. But he will be traveling 40% of the time and miss many of the senior year high school activities of his son.

Traveling and missing the senior year activities trumped the decision to accept this job offer in this circumstance.

I personally have found it very helpful to make this list of pros and cons when facing important decisions.

2) Now we're going to get much more Ignation in our approach. Sit and picture yourself making that decision. Be aware of your emotions. Do you feel anxious, fearful, doubtful?

Remember the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peace, joy, relief, trust, calm...
Read Galatians 5: 22-23


Continue with this second step by asking yourself how you feel by not making this decision. In this example it was by not accepting the job offer. Again, do you feel peace or not?

3) This third step is really important and I'm sure I've failed to do this many times. Now picture yourself before the final judgment. Yes, before God and he is asking you to make an account for your actions. He knows the motive behind every decision we make so we can't hide from him. "So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God." Romans 14: 12

The question remains: on this earth when I make this decision, am I being mindful of the eternal consequences? As believers this is what we will ultimately face.

Undoubtedly we have all made wrong decisions at times and have learned that God can redeem those situations and work all things together for good if we truly desire His will. Rms 8: 28

Hopefully, recalling these three steps of making a list of pros and cons, checking your emotions and visualizing the final judgment will help you in making the best decisions in your life that bring you greater peace.

I pray we will all have divine grace to make wise and fruitful decisions that also bring salvation to souls and glory to God.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wisdom

Who wants the treasure of wisdom? 

"Happy is the man who has found wisdom. Even more happy is the man who lives in wisdom, for he perceives its abundance." These are words from a sermon by Saint Bernard.

And here are three ways he shares "for wisdom to abound in you":
     First, "if you confess your sins";
     Second, "if you give thanks and praise";
     Third, "and if your speech is edifying."

This morning I was struck by this reading entitled "On the Search for Wisdom". How simple it seems to abound in wisdom if we follow St. Bernard's instructions rooted in the Word of God.

1 John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
James 5: 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

So, sisters and brothers, let us quickly confess our sins that we may be forgiven, cleansed and healed. What I do spontaneously is cry out, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!" I believe it's one of the most powerful prayers ever.

     Psalm 106:1 Praise you the Lord. O give thanks to the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever. 
    1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances;...His praise shall be continually be in my mouth.
     Psalm 100:4 I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter his courts with praise.

Truly we can enter the Lord's holy presence through praise and thanksgiving. Let us resolve that this become a daily habit in our lives. Is this not where we wish to dwell forever--in the house of our Lord? And so, I cry out also, "Praise you, Lord, thank you..." and just let that spontaneously flow.

     Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

This instruction is a helpful reminder that we have the power to bless or curse with our mouths--to build up or to tear down. Let us choose to be blessings to each other--to speak life!
A Prayer
Lord Jesus, we ask you for the grace to abound in wisdom. Give us your merciful grace to humbly confess our sins knowing we are forgiven by you and knowing you have paid the price for our sins. Give us a wellspring of thanksgiving flowing from our hearts for all the good you have done for us and a song of eternal praise ever on our lips. Bless our mouths that we may have enlightened conscientiousness and self control to speak words that are life-giving and edifying to one another. Amen.