All for God

 

Jesus The Forest Meeting by Amy McCutcheon
Art by Amy McCutcheon

 

Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!
~ Matthew 13:16

 

We must resolve to put the whole of our sense life at God’s service. We must refuse to use our senses except when their exercise is for the honour and glory of God.

We can so easily presume that the whole bent of our being is to God, and fail to recognize how we allow ourselves dangerous distractions; how we allow ourselves to notice and nose into other people’s business; how we yield to useless curiosity, indulge ourselves in countless ways.

Hold up! Fix your eyes on the perfect Son. Hold yourself in your hands so that your activities are controlled, that you know what you are doing, and are not drifting by carelessly occupied with trifles, occupied with yourself.

Our whole way of life should be helping us to this true recollection, this concentration on God. Sustained discipline is absolutely essential if we are to belong to God.

‘Many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what your hear, and never heard it.’ Let’s weigh these words.

How utterly privileged we are to know Christ Jesus our Lord. How privileged to have access to his words, his thoughts . . . Do we really see this as an unheard of privilege?  We shall answer that question truthfully by looking at what we do. Are we always most seriously, with everything we have in us, trying to get to know him and trying to live according to his teaching?

. . . The torch is sweeping slowly round our room. Do we want to see the cobwebs? Do we want to remove them? Or do we allow our eyes to rest on them for a brief moment only, and then go on just as before.

 

~ A Meditation by Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

 

Jesus, holy and beloved
hold me always in your ‘yes’.
Let nothing matter to me from this moment
but the Father’s good pleasure,
the coming of his kingdom.
Let me not matter to myself.
I have only one short life in which to love
in difficulty and pain,
trusting in the dark and non-seeming.
Opportunities come and pass forever,
never to return.
Let me not miss one,
let my life be lived in total love:

There is no other way of living a truly human life.
 

The Temptation to Shame Others

 

Sieger Köder2
Art by Fr. Sieger Köder

 

John 8: 31-42


Jesus tells the Jewish authorities that being a true descendant of Abraham comes not from physical ancestry but from doing the will of God.


 

Justin Martyr wrote that some Jews who lived during the time of Jesus believed that because they were “descendants of Abraham according to the flesh [they would] certainly share in the eternal kingdom, even though they be faithless sinners and disobedient to God’ (363). This may have been the reason, or one of the reasons why, when Jesus said that if they were slaves to sin then they had no “permanent place in the family,” the people in today’s gospel vehemently assert their descent from Abraham. It is worth noting that it was not his adversaries who lashed out at Jesus; rather, “those Jews who believed in him” did. Here we encounter a common dynamic of daily life, namely, how when we feel threatened our behavior toward others, even those who are close to us, can change in a moment.

Furthermore, today’s gospel sets before us the vindictive venom that we can spew on others when we are either threatened or angry. When Jesus says to his audience that they are not Abraham’s children, they fire back, “We are not illegitimate children!” This retort is retaliatory, for the original Greek contains the implication that “we are not illegitimate but you are.”

Because Mary had conceived out of wed-lock, Jesus was considered illegitimate. In Saint Mark’s gospel, for example, the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth express their contempt of him by saying in derision, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” In the ancient world, a man was called by his mother’s name only if he were illegitimate. One rumor said at a Roman soldier named Panthera was the father of Jesus. The statement, “We are no illegitimate breed!” implies that the rumor of Jesus’ illegitimacy was public knowledge and followed him wherever he went.

Like those in today’s gospel, all of us are privy to the skeletons in other people’s closets. We are keenly aware of the vulnerabilities of others and know where they are susceptible to shame and how to make them feel inferior. When threatened or angry, we can be tempted to attack where others are easily hurt. How often, in a moment of anger, have we dredged up a person’s past and thrown it in his or her face? How often have we gone for the jugular because we felt defenseless? How often have we shamed someone to protect ourselves from being shamed?

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

Connections

 

friends and soul friends
Art source unknown

 

Where did I learn to connect physical things with spiritual truths? My parents never let me forget that every task, however ordinary, is of redeeming supernatural value, if done out of love.

Awareness of little things done well for the love of God is daily living lifted up into the heart of Christ. It means we rise in the morning, aware that this day is given to us so that we may grow in grace and wisdom before the Lord. It means that we have been given another day to spend in the school of God’s love.

In order to enter heaven, we must be lovers. For instance, we wash the dishes for love of God. When you serve your family, do it quietly and efficiently. If you learn to connect serving to prayer, you will grow in wisdom and love, and you will become a light shining in the darkness of the world. This light from your loving service will lead people to God.

 

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

 

“It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
~ Matthew 7:21 

 

 

Brother Lawrence Prayer,
17th century French Carmelite monk

O Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I’ve no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven’s gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.

Amen!

Fifth Sunday of Lent

 

Christ and the woman taken in adultery art by lorenzo lotto
Christ and the woman taken in adultery, art by Lorenzo Lotto

 

 

Cycle C: John 8: 1-11


The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery to see if he will condemn her. Jesus simply says to them, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at her.”


 

In John Cheever’s short story “The Country Husband,” Francis Weed is attending a cocktail party, when the maid serving the drinks arrests his attention. Francis had seen her before, when he was station in Trenon, France, at the end of World War II. She had been the subject of a public chastisement because she had lived with the German commandant during the Occupation.

It was a cool morning in the fall. The sky was overcast and poured down onto the dirt crossroads a very discouraging light…. The prisoner arrived sitting on a tree-legged stool in a farm cart. She stood by the cart while the mayor read the accusation and the sentence. Her head was bent … [and] when the mayor was finished, she undid her hair … and a little man with a gray mustache cut off her hair with shears and dropped it on the ground. Then, with a bowl of soapy water and a straight razor, he shaved her skull clean. A woman approached and began to undo the fastenings of her clothes…. She [stood there] naked. The women jeered; the men were still … the cold wind made her white skin rough and hardened the nipples of her breasts. The jeering ended gradually, put down by the recognition of their common humanity. (391)

When Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” he invited them to recognize the common humanity that they shared with the woman. He didn’t condemn the Pharisees and scribes any more than he condemn the woman. He simply bent down and gave them time to reflect upon their lives. We are told that they drifted away one by one, beginning with the oldest.

The judgment of the Pharisees and scribes was not rash, for the woman was guilty of adultery. Rather, it was harsh. But once they reflected upon their own sins and their desire for a merciful judgment from God, they could recognize their common, frail humanity in the shamed, guilt ridden creature that stood before them. As their judgments softened, their clenched fists loosened and they released the stones they were holding.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

 

 

Why Can’t I Pray?

 

couple in love art by robert berran
Art by Robert Berran

 

You have got to approach prayer as a love affair. And the accent is not on praying; it is on the one to whom you pray. You are drawn to God as a young girl is drawn to a young man. Slowly, as in a human love affair, Christ absorbs you more and more and becomes the center of your life. You savor and find new depths to every word he says.

Then you turn to the Scriptures. We call this meditation, but how can such a little word describe your plunging into the depths of each word of Christ?

As you plunge into Christ’s words, your deep relationship to him, the one you call prayer, will change. You will enter into a new dimension, which some call contemplation.

What is contemplation? One Sunday I was walking in a city park, and I came across a couple sitting on a bench. Before them was their picnic basket, and a dog was happily eating their sandwiches, paper and all; I stood less than ten feet away. The two paid no attention to me, and were utterly oblivious to the dog. They were holding hands and looking at each other.

There comes a moment when words become useless—men and women just sit and look at each other. This is the moment of deepest love, when the wings of the intellect are folded and the heart is totally opened to the other. This is contemplation.

So, before you can pray, you must meet God. The best way to meet him is to stand very still, without frustration or anxiety, and wait for him. He will come if you are waiting for him.

That is really all I can tell you about prayer.

And when you hold hands with Christ, whisper my name.

 

~ A Meditation by Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 

 

My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
~ Sg 2: 10

 

 

Fourth Sunday of Lent

 

The Prdigal Son art by Sieger
The Prodigal Son, art by Fr. Sieger Köder

 

 

Cycle C: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32


In the parable of the prodigal son a man loses both of his sons — the first through self-indulgence, the second through self-righteousness.


 

The Parable of the Prodigal Son leaves us with an unanswered question: Does the elder son join in the celebration of his brother’s return or does he stay outside fuming in his self-righteousness? The door is unbarred. He can go in whenever he chooses. Only his inability to enter into his father’s joy keeps him outside.

Within this perspective we can understand Jesus’ words: “If you forgive the faults of others, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours. If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you. “If we misinterpret these words, we can conclude erroneously that God withholds forgiveness from us when we withhold it from others. In reality, when we do not forgive others, we lose the capacity to receive the forgiveness that God offers us.

Jesus condemns not the elder son, but his self-righteousness. Self-righteousness can cloak itself in many forms, even the guise of humility. Even the prodigal son himself has a peculiar self-righteousness that declares, “I may have my faults and failings; I may have even done wicked things in my life, but at least I’m not self-righteous like my brother. ” Such a disclaimer not only proclaims one’s moral superiority but also can even contain a sort of boast. It’s the pride of the initiated sophisticate who smiles down with condescension upon his inexperienced brother. “What does my brother know of life? He’s never been off my father’s farm. He’s never been in the big city. My God, he’s never even disobeyed one of my father’s orders.” Tolkien labels such an attitude “inverted hypocrisy.” He held that while we are somewhat free from the common form of hypocrisy that professes a holier than thou attitude, we are subject to an inverted form of hypocrisy that consists of “professing to be worse than we are” (337).

The two brothers in today’s gospel may resemble each other more than either of them would care to admit. Rigid, overly moralistic, self-righteous people are vulnerable to abandoning themselves to a self-indulgent, hedonistic lifestyle. Conversely, hedonistic individuals are often blind to the self-righteousness that they project upon others.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

 

Fear: Our Worst Enemy

 

woman reflection
Art source unknown

 

Hosea 14: 2-10


The prophet Hosea calls the Israelites to return to God and forsake the idols of their own making.


 

“We shall say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.” People don’t worship work. Rather, they offer their life’s blood for what work affords, be it power, prestige, or possessions. The pagan cults that worship power, prestige or possessions are rooted in fear. Power provides a reassurance against helplessness; prestige offers protection against humiliation, and possessions assuage the fear of destitution. But each god betrays its worshipers. For the more we dedicate our lives to protecting ourselves against insecurity, the more insecure we feel.

The story of the king who had a nightmare reveals a deep truth about insecurity. He called in his wizard to interpret his dream. The wizard told the king that the dream predicted he would be murdered on his next birthday and all of his possessions stolen. Out of fear, the king stockpiled his riches in his throne room and ordered guards to surround it. The closer his birthday drew, the more afraid he became. He moved his riches to a smaller room with fewer entranceways and placed his most trusted guards around it. On the eve of his birthday, he ordered that all of his riches be piled in a vault. The king sat inside the vault and ordered its only entrance sealed up with bricks, to be torn down a minute after midnight, the day after his birthday. When they tore the wall down, his men found the king dead. He had suffocated. His dream came true. He was murdered, and his possessions were taken from him. The culprit was his own fear.

Our deep insecurities are insatiable. We will never feel completely secure. The more we placate our fears the stronger they become. We cannot defeat them, nor should we try. The king did not have the power to stop feeling afraid; his dream was too frightening. But he did have the ability to not give into his fear. The same is true with us.

 

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

 

 

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 34:4