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.

 

 

 

 

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

Never Forget The Great Graces You Have Received

 

Christ blessing a child 1926 art by Mikhail Vasilevich Nesterov
Christ’s Blessings, art by Mijaíl Vasílievich Nésterov – 1926

 

 

Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9


Moses exhorts the Israelites to remember the great deeds that the Lord has done for them and to not let those deeds slip from their memories.


 

Upon recovering from a long illness, Wilfred Sheed reflected:

The spiritual life becomes very simple when you’re sick. You pray to get better, and if and when you do, you don’t need to be told to be grateful about it: it gushes out of you. And you discover, in the same giddy rush, that just being alive . . .  is astoundingly good. G.K. Chesterton once said that if a person were to fall into the waters of forgetfulness and come out on the other side, he would think he had arrived in paradise. But all you need to do is to spend a couple of months on your back, or return home from a war and come downstairs to have breakfast in your own house. So my private proofs of God . . . begin with this: the sheer capacity for happiness, and one’s sense, when it happens, that this is correct and normal and not some freak of nature. When health returns, it feels like coming home . . . and the other thing, the bad news — the broken leg or even the mental breakdown — feels like the freak. But now you are to where you belong, in harmony with the universe. And from this I deduce with some conviction that the universe is essentially a good place to be, despite appearances. (10)

We feel gratitude most poignantly shortly, after we have recovered from a great sickness or immediately after unburdening ourselves of some mental anguish. We feel deep relief because we still remember our pain. But as time passes and we get further and further away from that initial experience of relief, our sense of gratitude fades because we forget how bad it really was.

This is what happened to the Hebrews. When they were in slavery, they cried out to God to be released. And when Moses brought them out of their bondage, they were grateful, but only for a while. As they sojourned in the desert, year in and year out, their memory of what God had done for them began to fade. And whenever anything went wrong, they complained to Moses. “Why did you bring us out into this desert? We were better off back in Egypt!” Past pain is no match for present suffering. We forget how bad we had it.

Thus, Moses exhorts the Hebrews: “Take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your mind as long as you live…. “Forgetting the things of the past does not mean the inability to recall an event. Rather, it means that a past event ceases to have an impact upon the present. Remembrance is an act of re-membering ourselves, to reconnect ourselves to the great graces that we have received.

God’s saving mercy has brought all of us through difficult times. We should not let what God has done for us slip from our memory. We need to remember the pain of the past. Doing so fosters gratitude and helps us keep the little annoyances of daily life in perspective.

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

 

Lady Charity

 

Charity por lluisribesmateu 1969 museo del Prado en Madrid
Allegory of Charity, art by Francisco de Zurbarán c.1655

 

Lady Charity
where are you wandering
these days?
where have you hidden?
where is your voice—
your words of kindness
and compassion?
I need to find you
before I lose 
my faith.

Lady Charity
you are my friend 
and companion.
Don’t disappear from
the human hearts.
The hearts of men
need you.

There is so much unkindness
and indifference around.
Men are not kind to each other.
Many hearts are wounded
and exhausted with pain. 

We need to be restored.
We need to be truly caring.
We need a  revolution
of the heart.
We need to love.

I ache in silence
hearing the talks
that lack warmth,
prudence and
sincerity.

Lady Charity
come again
and dwell in all
the human hearts.
The world, God’s creation,
the Church, the families,
the streets need you.

Lady Charity
come and stay for awhile.

Hear my prayer! ❤

 

~ My Personal Reflection