Category Archives: Splinters of Faith

The “Art of Loving”

It sometimes amazes me when I talk to faithful people about their faith, it seems that they have the best walk with God going. The say the best prayers, attend the best Masses, read the best books, etc. and I’m often the same way. I feel my walk with God is right on.

As I reflected on this phenomenon, I thought we might be pretentious, naive and presumptuous, which I’m sure I sometimes am and I bring these sins to Reconciliation often. But could it be that God loves us so much that He is providing for us just what we need as we strive to grow closer to Him. After all, He is the master of loving. Loving is a self sacrifice and it always cost the lover something of themselves. In Jesus’s case, it costs Him his life and an excruciating death on a cross. But what does loving cost us? In our relationships with God, spouse, family, friends and people in general; do we see ourselves as sacrificing for them? As I contemplated this, God put on my heart the idea of the “Art of Loving” as He has probably put on the minds of countless people who have a deep personal relationship with Him. The truly meaningful things of life are not things at all, but the unseen virtues of loving, charity, mercy and justice and are quite possibly, the only remnants of this life that will accompany us to eternity.

If we look at love as an art form, how much more creative thought we would give to this most important facet of our life. Artists of all genre, including myself, spend countless hours contemplating their projects, sometimes more than the actual work time that goes into bringing it to completion. And in spite of this effort, it will pass away. Yet, sometimes our spouse or family members get very little of us in the way of time and creative self sacrifice (loving), the true meaning of our existence. Wow, we truly are sometimes “fools” as the book of Wisdom in the Bible points out.

So, I invite you as one fool to another, to look at this idea of, “The Art of Loving” to think about ways we can creatively love our God, spouse, families and as Jesus taught us, love our neighbor as our self, to storehouse the meaningful parts of this life and not get so caught up in spending our time and energies on the things that will pass away.

Then, perhaps, we will begin to warrant the belief that our personal walk with God and His love for us is the best.

Spiritual realities

It seems to me that most people would say that we know very little about the physical creations that exist all around us and throughout the world. I don’t even know what lurks in the ground below me. Sure I know about worms and moles and such, but I haven’t a clue about the myriads of creatures that never see the light of day for the most part, just in my own back yard. That’s not considering what might be in the ground half way around the world. And it’s only considering one environment. Think of the creatures that exist in the oceans and the mountains and everything in between. I believe scientists, biologists, and archaeologists are finding new species of creatures all the time. I just wonder if God has not stopped creating. Then when we look to the skies, we have learned from the Hubble telescope that the galaxies just continue to be created and if were to think about the discoveries of DNA and all the creations that one finds with microscopes and such tools, it’s truly awe inspiring, this gift of the cosmos.

Yes, and to think that God created man as his finest creation because we were gifted with intelligence and a soul, in the likeness of the Father God. We are so blessed. Yes, I believe that God created man with a soul; therefore man has a dual nature, spiritual as well as physical. Now I know that many of our kind have a problem with the spiritual nature of man, and I pray that this reality will somehow be awakened in them. But God has told us in His word, the Bible, the spiritual man should triumph over the physical man. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, exemplified this by his life, death and resurrection. If we are amazed with the physical realities of this world, believers have to be overwhelmed with the realities of the spiritual world, good and bad, that we know so little about, that exist in our midst. To me it’s exciting and somewhat frightening.

I don’t know if it is the wisdom of age or my yearning for God, but surely a grace from God on either count, that reality; that the spiritual man should triumph over the physical man has captured my attention of late. I have been a doer for most of my life, very much in the physical reality of getting things done. Who I was, was defined by what I did, not so much how I loved. Now I’m finding that the spiritual activities are in reality, the only enduring qualities of a physical reality.

For example, if you are reading this, you know I’m a woodcarver and I make physical images of God’s creation with wood. Although many people think these are good, the reality is that the true value of that piece of wood is in the spiritual values that made its existence possible. The wood itself will be eventually gone, but the spiritual qualities such as recognizing the grace that trees are of God’s creation, the spontaneity of the creative idea, God’s gift to be able to create the project, attitude, prayer, patience, perseverance, and other such qualities that no one can see are the enduring qualities. And I’m finding this to be true in every area of my life. The enduring qualities of any endeavor are those that people can’t see. And one word encompasses it all, love. And true love requires a sacrifice, overcoming our selfish physical natures. Jesus has showed us the way. Imagine that, God always gets it right!

The gift of Faith

I think…..that one of the most enlightening, compelling and challenging passages in the Bible is Mark 14:29; And Jesus said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters to come to Jesus. Then in verse 30 and 31, Peter begins to sink because he saw the winds and he cried out, Lord save me! Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. You of little faith, He said, why did you doubt?

This is one the most dramatic examples of the many passages in Scripture where Jesus talks about the faith of people, some that have faith, some that don’t,  even including His own apostles at times, as in this case with Peter.

Where does faith come from. Are we born with it? Is it something we can can attain on our own? Can we nurture it? How is it expressed? There are all kinds of questions one might have about faith. I know that I’m one of them and I’m still trying to understand faith and incorporate it more fully in my life.

I think we all would agree that walking on water is miraculous. So, is it possible to allow God to do supernatural things with our lives, if we keep our eyes on God and discern His will and love and be loved.? I think so, if we are humbly following Jesus. If we look to the lives of the Saints, we have evidence of this and two Saints that come to mind from recent history are Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Blessed Mother Teresa. Both of these Saints did extraordinary deeds without a perceptible means to which to do them. But did they always have the faith do the great deeds for mankind that they did?

Personally, I think we all have the capacity for faith and I think we all experience faith. For example, when we go into a dark room and reach for the light switch and flip it, we have faith that the light will come on; when we pick up a phone and dial a familiar number, we have faith that we will reach that number; if we see lightning, we have faith that we will hear thunder; and the list is really never ending. Synonyms of faith are words like confidence, trust, reliance, assurance, conviction, and belief, devotion, and loyalty.

Webster’s simple definition of faith is,” a strong belief or trust in someone or something.” And thankfully the Bible has a definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1,”now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We certainly don’t see electricity, except perhaps in thunder storms, so why do we expect a light to come on when we flip a light switch and why do we expect thunder after lightning? Because that is our experience. We know after Spring rains, the flowers will soon burst forth, that is the way its always been and it is our experience.

Now, I think mankind was made to know, love and serve God, but I didn’t always believe that to be true because I didn’t have the wisdom to discern this reality. And I think the reason for my human stupidity is my own personal sin and the sin that Adam passed on to us in original sin. And we are all born this way and some people are blessed in that they discover this reality sooner than later, but I would propose that most of us spend most of our lives living without ever discovering the fullness of this truth. If we had, we would be more like Mother Teresa and Maximilian Kolbe, doing supernatural things. Why do I say this?

Well, if its not our experience to rely and trust in God, how could we? It seems to me that we put too much of our trust and faith in mammon, especially here in the western world. Our bank accounts, retirement accounts, the stock market, insurance, doctors, our jobs, our skills and here of late too many people putting their faith in our government. Not that all these things aren’t important, because God has his hand in all these things,  but did Maximilian and Teresa and the other Saints build their faith in these things? No, they didn’t because they weren’t available to them and had they been, they may have not become the people of faith that they became. They put their faith and trust in God to fulfill their needs. Mother Teresa didn’t start the Sisters of Charity with a thousand young women standing in line at her door wanting to serve the poor. she didn’t have a door. She started by herself and gave all that she had to the poor day after day relying on God to provide for her very sustenance, “that hoped for assurance and conviction of things not seen.” She learned to have faith by experiencing God coming through for her in the small things. She counted on God. And as she was assured of Him fulfilling his promises to her (as he has made to all of us), she trusted and relied on Him more and more. Faith in God is a practiced reality, the more you do it and experience it, the more you realize that you can count on it.

Its fundamental when you think about it. Satan used the distrust card on Adam and Eve and its still his go to card for all of us. It goes something like this, “You can’t trust God to provide for you. He’s holding back on you. You need to trust in your own capabilities and do it your way. Eat the apple and you’ll be like God.” And we buy into it because our parents didn’t know any different either and most of us follow our families’ values, so here we are playing like we are gods looking out for ourselves, with little or no clue about sin, not caring about what God says is the best way to live or not even acknowledging He exists. Not fodder for experiencing the super-naturalness of God in our lives, even though we have the capacity of great faith.

But it don’t have to be……. I’m going to continue this thought at another time and if you have read this and would like to comment, please do.

Thoughts, leading to words and actions

This writing is a reflection from a simple sinful man about thinking and  thoughts, as they are the precursors of words and actions, and how our thoughts can give glory to God. When I was growing up I would often hear from some of the adults in my life say “Don’t do as I do, do as I say” and even then as a small child that didn’t seem right and probably like you, when I grew older the phrase “What you do speaks so loudly, that I can’t hear what you say,” has become my and it seems the world’s universal mantra that unconsciously monitors relationships with others.

I was prompted to write this reflection because of the blah, blah, blah I would hear in many conversations, including my own at times. I thought a reflective probe into this topic could be fruitful to us, giving a deeper understanding of our thoughts and how they impact our words and actions in relationships with others as well as with our God.

I’m going to be the first to admit that many of my thoughts are hollow, my words sometimes insincere and my actions are those that sometimes don’t give glory to God because I’m sinful like everybody else. We are all human and we make mistakes. That’s why the mercy of God is so precious and we need the Son of God, Jesus, as our Savior.

Of course, the perfect thoughts of God are so incredible, that galaxies and all that is contained in them come forth. All life and even our very next breath is in God’s thoughts. His words are Truth, which, indeed, when applied to our lives, we can become more like Mary and her son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who is indeed the Word of God. And God’s actions become the miracles that continue creation moment to moment, if we have eyes to see.

As for us humans, at first glance, in the hierarchy of meaningfulness, thoughts are at the bottom of the totem pole, compared to words and action. Our mind is an amazing facet of human life, instilled by God Himself. The thoughts of our minds seem sometimes an ever, endless, inaudible chatter that can or can not have any real impact on our own lives or the lives of others.  But our thoughts are the forerunners of our words and actions, either consciously or unconsciously. As we think, we do. It is obvious that there are different levels of thought; from sinful thought, those thoughts that distant us from God, to contemplative thoughts, thoughts that unite us to God, and everything in between.

In this reflection I will refer to two classes of thought; collective and uncollective.  Thoughts that I will refer to as uncollective thought are those endless, inaudible, frivolous thoughts that come and go, inspired by only our human natural senses, that are a dime a dozen and have no real value. We could liken these thoughts with idleness of the mind. These thoughts can be sinful thoughts because they are not infused with love of God or neighbor. As a matter of fact, in my opinion,  sinful thoughts are often hidden in that incessant chatter of our minds within all thought, so much so, that we can sin without realizing it. In our naturalness, we neglect charity often times and interwoven with our good thoughts (collective thought), we find with introspection, thoughts that are insidiously infused with pride, lust, intolerance, and judgement, to name a few, and are detrimental to our relationships with people and God..

However, collective thought, is thought that is pervaded by the love of God, in the midst of the world and incessant chatter, and can be fleeting and elusive if we don’t make striving for an intimate relationship with God a priority. And even then because of our human weaknesses and lack of discipline, 100% collective thought would be improbable in this life. However, it can be an ideal that we can strive for and is what Saint Paul alluded to in his letter to the Corinthians when he wrote to them about the love of Christ overwhelming us to the point of putting on the mind of Christ and a forgetting of self. This self annihilation would free us to think collectively, rather than to rely on our own natural thoughts, that are often uncollective, therefore susceptible to sin.

I suppose one could make a case that there is another form of thought in between the positive collective thoughts and the negative uncollective sinful thoughts and I would understand that. But I feel that these middle of the road thoughts that are neither positive or negative are really collective thought because we are in fact thinking and fulfilling God’s design for human beings, much like animals naturally doing what God calls them to do. These thoughts are part of His creation for humans, therefore good. And if a measurement was to be made, these middle of the road thoughts would make up a large percentage of our thought. These thoughts include our everyday kind of decisions about eating, clothing, work, relationships, etc.

So these collective and uncollective thoughts are intermingled within our minds in all of our waking moments. So what are we to do with them? If our desire is to glorify our Lord with our life, we want to move more to collective thought and move from uncollective thought. How do we do that? Well, I’m on this journey as you are and I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think that common sense would start us looking in the right direction. “Put on the mind of Christ”, St Paul tells us. To think like Christ helps us become like Christ. If we do what Jesus did and teaches us to do in the Gospels, to gain our eternal salvation, we will definitely be thinking the right way. Theodore Roosevelt said “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” And I would add that it is much more than that. What would it be worth to you to know that your thoughts are leading you to salvation and fulfilling God’s plan for your life? Incredibly peaceful and then our words and actions will follow our thinking and we will no doubt give glory to God with our lives. And I’m sure that if you are giving glory to God with your life, your relationships with other people will be flourishing as well because you have learned to love; real love, the sacrificial gift of yourself.

Then there will be no one that uses the phrase, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say”, with regards to you because your life will be a testimony of how you think without uttering a word. And in reality, isn’t this true of all of us?

 

Have you ever had an original thought?

In other words, is there ever anything new under the sun? Abraham Lincoln said “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t new after all.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said “All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” And Blaise Pascal said “The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men. Ordinary persons find no difference between men.”

As you can see, the thoughts about original thinking seem to be all over the place. I wanted to explore this idea of original thinking in light of the Gospel and the collective thought of humanity.

First of all, Jesus Christ turned the world upside down with His original thinking. There has been no man in the history of the world that has said and did the things that He has. So in response to my question, in regards to Jesus Christ, “is there anything new under the sun?”, the answer is a resounding yes. To get more information about this phenomenal person, go to whoisjesus-really.com and get the facts.

But what about us mere human beings? Do we have original thoughts. Well my first reaction is yes, I hope so. But my reflection will be in light of our spiritual dimension and our possible relationship with our Creator, because He is inspiration. God has a unique, personal plan for each of us and if we strive to understand that plan, He will reveal Himself to us in awesome ways allowing us to tap into some of His unfathomable thoughts, little by little. This awareness or enlightenment is not something that we can do on our own, but by God’s  own design, He transforms His creatures that accept and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, as their personal Lord and Savior. All of the Church’s saints have followed this wisdom and it is my hope that you and I can follow in their footsteps. C. S. Lewis, said in effect, that the last frontier on earth was not going to be space travel or other forms of technology or evolutionary marvels, but man’s understanding of “The Way” of Jesus Christ, as taught in the New Testament and His Church.

It seems modern man, including myself at times, through pride and wanting to do it our own way, have not acknowledged God and/or have not developed a desire for the “Good News” that Jesus Christ represents, thereby hindering our enlightenment and our right relationship with creation. I think Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson, when they say that there is essentially nothing new under the sun, actually agree with Pascal’s statement, “The greater intellect one has, the more originality one finds in men”. These authors recognize the wisdom of the ages because God’s intelligence permeates believers and we can recognize the beauty of each individual soul and all of creation.

Pascal goes on to say that ordinary persons, (I would interpret that as those who don’t see with divine inspiration), see no difference in men. When men lack the Holy Spirit, it is very likely that their so called original thinking doesn’t reflect Truth and belies the tradition of humanity’s wisdom, visio beatifica, the “seeing that confers bliss”. But when man accepts Jesus as God’s son, who came among us and willingly accepted a horrifying death to save mankind from their sinfulness, we become new creatures with the possibility of being filled with the Holy Spirit, who pours out His grace and love and mercy on His beloved.

Then with God, it is likely that an individual will have the availability of true original thinking, that of God’s. I believe, like the Saints that have gone before us, all things are possible with God. Let’s give Jesus our availability so He can  inspire us in “the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes” as described in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book, The Phenomenon of Man, and strive to be what God is calling us to be. God bless you!

Prayerful reflection on the Blood of Christ

My wife and I have a devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ and often times during our times of prayer we will reflect on the events of our Lord’s passion and think about not only what the evangelists highlight about our Lord’s passion,……. His betrayal, His aloneness and humiliation, but will also reflect and speculate on the physical sufferings of the whips, beatings, falls, stakes, and the thorns that emptied our Lord of His precious blood.
As we mentally walk with Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to his burial in the tomb, let us reflect and contemplate all the areas, materials, surfaces, clothing, tools and people that His Precious Blood most probably fell on during His Passion.

In the garden, we know from scripture, (Luke 22: 44), that Jesus sweated great drops of blood that fell to the ground. I know we are all familiar with the famous painting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying with His hands folded over a large rock. ( A Catholic church, the “Basilica of Agony” was built there.) Well, obviously His blood would be on that rock and of course on the ground and other rocks and perhaps on vegetation in that area, and one would assume that it was on His clothing as well. This thought might seem insignificant, but what value would a small stone covered with one just one drop of the blood of Jesus be worth to you?……….or indeed in the capital markets of the world? Exactly, priceless. His Blood is the price of our salvation.

After Judas betrayal, the chief priests, the captains of the temple and some Roman soldiers bound Jesus and led Him to the high priest, Caiaphas’s house. Scripture does not say anything about the treatment of the Lord during His movements from the garden to the high priest’s house and from there to Pilate’s, the Roman governor, then to Herod and back to Pilate, but it does say that they had Him tethered in chains and the elders of the Jewish faith had just accused Him of blaspheme. I would imagine that they ill-treated our Lord immensely; pulling Him this way and that to hurt Him and perhaps making Him fall and perhaps striking Him. If that is indeed the case, His wrist, hands, knees and possibly other body parts were probably bleeding. His precious blood would have been on the chains and would have fallen on many materials on the ground and could have been smudged against a post, a bridge abutment, a tree, a soldier’s clothing or any number of other items.

Contemplate what the precious blood on any or all of these items might mean. …..For example, let’s speculate the soldier’s clothing; this soldier obviously was following orders and most likely didn’t recognize Jesus as the Savior and may or may not have mistreated our Lord, but what if the soldier, because of a grace from God, attributed to the blood on His clothing, came to realize after the crucifixion or after the Lord’s resurrection that He was indeed who He said He was and the soldier realized that he had a hand in Jesus’s torments and the blood of the Savior of the world was on his clothing, (much like the blood that was on Veronica’s veil). How would the soldier view and venerate that piece of clothing and how many souls would that soldier’s conversion impact? The soldier’s conversion would have touched the lives of his family, perhaps a few friends and these individual souls would touch the lives of others as well; the spiritual impact of Jesus’s saving blood on that clothing could be seen as  similar to the effect of a rock thrown into calm water., touching many people’s lives, just as a conversion of any person throughout history has an impact on multiple lives.

After being questioned by Pilate, Jesus is handed over to be scourged and crucified. Saint Bridget recorded from a private revelation that our Lord told her that He received 5,480 wounds during His Passion. Many of those were the result of the scourging of our Lord. Scenes from the movie, “Passion of Christ”, are difficult to watch because of the torture our Lord was portrayed to suffer, at the hands of His tormentors. But let us think about where Jesus’s precious blood fell during His scourging. It would be on the handle and whip, with the bits of steel that were embedded in the leather strap that tore our Lord’s skin. His blood would be found on the torturer’s skin, clothing and perhaps on his footwear, on the ground, on the post to which He was secured, on the wrist chains or ropes that secured Him to the post, on Jesus’s clothing and his sandals and if we can imagine the scene, it could have fallen on the side of a building, nearby plants or various other materials. I love the scene in the “Passion of Christ” where Mary, his mother, is soaking our Lord’s precious blood from the stone pavement with a towel because she knew the value of His blood.

What if we spent some time reflecting on our Lord’s precious blood on the whip or any other of the articles that his blood covered? There is no right or wrong thought about these, but just the time that we spend reflecting on them with love, for our Savior, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would be beneficial to us because we are reflecting on the price of our salvation, regardless if our thought is factual. For example: what became of the whip that was used to scourge Jesus? Well for me, that would be a very special tool that I think God the Father would use to bring souls to Christ. I’m sure that the Roman soldiers had more than one whip with which to do scourging because it was a common form of punishment for them and I would think that these tools all would have had human blood on them, but Jesus was God and man and the tool used in Jesus scourging would be very special indeed. I can’t help but think that everything that Jesus’s blood fell upon was used by God for His glory.

Most of this thought is speculation on my part, but I offer it as an example for contemplating the precious blood of our Lord, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We do know for a fact that Pilate’s wife, from an inclination in a dream, considered Jesus to be a Holy man and she didn’t want Pilate to condemn Him to death. But after His death, the solar eclipse, the earthquake and the later information that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, then the testimony from others about His resurrection after three days in the tomb, and the bold testimony of Peter and the other apostles at Pentecost, I could imagine that she, (and many others), furthered their inclination that He was indeed Holy and she may have come to the conclusion that Jesus was the Savior of the world after a period of time. And with that knowledge she may come to realize the sentimental value of this tool and the importance that the whip, that had scourged Jesus, would be to her and His followers. It would not be hard to imagine that she may have requested this whip from her husband, Pilate, that she might share it with the early church and it could have been a Christian relic for hundreds of years. And while we are speculating, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to think that she might have fostered a love of Christ in her husband, Pilate as well. Anything is possible with God.

Then Jesus had to endure the humiliations of the crowning of thorns. Now more blood is flowing from the wounds on his head. The blood is on that crown of thorns, on the spears or sticks the soldiers used to beat the crown of thorns onto and into his head, and on the purple robe and the reeds they placed on Jesus to mock Him. How might these items, after the fact, with the blood of Jesus on them, sanctifying them, have been used for God’s glory?

And then after having been condemed to death, Jesus endured and poured forth more blood on the way to Golgatha. It’s a great wonder that Jesus didn’t die before His crucifixion on the cross, pouring out His precious blood from His head, back, legs, hands and knees. It was revealed to St Gregory that His most grievious wound, not recorded by man, was the wound on Jesus’s shoulder, resulting from the scourging, beatings and carrying of His heavy cross on those wounds. Imagine the agony of Jesus as He fell three times with the weight of the cross on those bloody wounds.

Then one has to shudder at the thought of Him being nailed to the cross. What would the Church give to have the blood stained hammer that nailed our Lord to the cross? What became of that hammer and the stakes that held our Lord on the cross or the spear the soldier used to pierce his side and what happened to the wood of the cross that Jesus died on? How did God the Father use these instuments for His Glory?

Well, many of His followers have comtemplated these questions and I would encourage you to do the same. But the truth that I would like all of us to consider is this: It is evident that Jesus Christ spilled His blood on multiple items and all of these instuments, materials, clothing, etc. that I and most of Christodem would consider invaluable are gone, but if they were indeed here and we could venerate them as relics, we would. But as valuable as the wood of the cross with Jesus’s blood on it would be, it pales with the reality that we can receive not only His precious Blood, but also His Body. In the light of revelation, by Jesus himself, (Mathew 26: 26),  He gives us His Body and Blood and continues to give His Body and Blood through His priests at the consecration of the Mass and told us to eat and drink Him as often as we can. This is  not just a symbol, but truly the real physical presence of the body and blood of Our risen Lord. Yes, it is hard to understand, but it is truth, all things are possible with God. Only a God, the one and Holy God, could even fathom such a rich blessing to be bestowed on His followers who believe in Him. I believe!

Silence

Have you ever tried hearing nothing or tried to turn off the inner voice in your head for any period of time? I have and I feel accomplished  if I get thirty seconds of peace from my own mind. As hard as it is to be silent within ourselves, it is just as challenging to find silence in the world around us.

My first thought about silence was that it is hard to come by. For many us, we are so use to hearing sounds and noises that if we find ourselves in a quiet environment, it’s kind of odd and our tendency is turn something on to eliminate the lack of sound.. But silence is a step beyond quiet because it is the absence of sounds and noise, stillness; which probably many of us have seldom experienced. However, when people speak or write about silence, it seems to be in reference to an ideal environment that if we can somehow embrace, we will somehow find peace. It’s an anomaly in the twenty first century, especially with all of our technology and gadgets that we can’t seem to live without.

Think about the places we find ourselves at through out the day. In our car, at school, at work and at home. Are these environments quiet? For example, when your’re in a commercial building like a school or factory or office building, even though no one may be speaking, you will often hear the sound of people doing their work, the hum of a machine or motor in the background or perhaps miscellaneous exterior sounds like engines running, dogs barking, grass being mowed or perhaps the wind blowing.

Even at home when you wake up in the middle of the night, it may be quiet, but the sounds of a house, like the hum of a refrigerator, air conditioner, furnace, a ticking clock or water heater don’t allow for silence.

Even when I’m hiking or backpacking, the wooded environments that I find myself in would be what most people would refer to as silence. And I too believe that these solitary hikes are as quiet as the woods can get, but as you all well know, as appealing and soothing as the woods can be, they are far from silent. Generally, a breeze may be rustling the leaves in the trees, or when you pass a stream you will hear the babbling of the water. I often hear the chirping of birds and the crack of a stick or debris underfoot as I walk on the trails, or any number of other sounds that this environment will offer; quiet yes, silent no.

My point is, even if we aren’t making our own noise by listening to the radio, headphones television, computer, etc., there is the noise of our everyday lives that constantly bombard us. It takes an effort to disconnect and find quiet places where we can soothe ourselves and an even greater effort to find the solitude of silence.

Recently my wife and I went to Indiana Caverns and we found ourselves 110 feet below the surface of the ground. There were six people in our party and when the guide turned the lights out for a minute or so, we experienced a total blackout and total silence. It was very different than quiet; you could hear your heart beat  and hear yourself breathe.

Another quiet, almost silent environment I remember from my travels was the high desert in California. The stillness and the quiet of that area has stayed with me all these years. And I’m sure many of you have memories of quiet places like these because they make an impact on our psyches.

Jesus our Lord, the epitome of humility and majesty, began His ministry by fasting in the solitude of a desert for 40 days and often sought out those places of solitude to commune with His Father in prayer. Jesus came to save mankind and we read in the Gospels that he was with them in their sorrows and joys, teaching and healing them where they were, and calling them to love God with all their might, showing us by His example how to live a successful life. If Jesus made it a priority to seek consolation with His Father in  quiet places, how much more do we need to do the same?

I don’t think it is necessary to find total silence, like in a cave, to commune with God, but it is necessary that we remove ourselves from our technology and the hustle and bustle of living to find some alone time with God in serene environments, where ever they be found; your home, the woods, your backyard, a mountaintop, or even a cave. Then we can fulfill what Jesus emulated for us and fulfill the directives found in Psalm 46:10 and Psalm 62:5, “Be still and know that I am God.” and “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” And among others, Habakkuk 2:20, “But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him”

May you find the silence that will allow your heart to soar to God. God bless you!

 

Reflection on Sin

I think that in today’s culture, most people think they are pretty good people. And I would agree, that by our culture’s standards, that most people I know or meet are good people. But if God’s standards are used to determine how good we are as a people, then we have a problem.

When we think about God’s standards, we have to think about the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God and the two great commandments that Jesus taught us. Those are to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and have no other gods before Him and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. He said these two commandments incorporated and summarized the Law of Moses and all the Prophets.

In todays culture when we hear words like “don’t do this” or “don’t do that”, like we find in the ten commandments, many of us respond in a negative way. We don’t want to be told what to do or not to do. We get all riled up with the feeling that “nobody’s going to tell me what to do.” and we don’t see the wisdom within these simple rules. If we were the ones composing these rules for the citizens of the world, I have to think that ideals of the Ten Commandments would be the default rules in order for a society to live and flourish. All of them are common sense directives to live a successful life, as an individual or as a society.

The commandments are given to us by God, not to limit us from experiencing life, but as gifts to help us live more fully; to free us from sinfulness, thereby allowing us to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator to live a supernatural life.

Most people don’t understand this basic tenet of wisdom. We don’t get it because we do not really see Jesus as our highest treasure, and we sin by anger, resentment, envy, and vanity in the human trials of everyday life. When we desire to live for God, and seek His thanks, appreciation, and love, rather than be concerned about getting what we want and what people think of us, then we will begin to live a life of eternal success.

I really don’t think that people who are not growing their faith and their relationship with Jesus, believe that they are sinners and from the small percentage of people in lines that I see for confession in churches that I attend, it appears that even the faithful seem to lack a sincere sorrow for their sins, or they feel that their sinfulness is not important in their relationship with God and their salvation, as I sometimes do.

On the other hand, the people that are serious about their faith seem concerned with their sinfulness and are found in the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis, monthly, if not weekly. I’m not saying these folks are any more sincere than those who do not frequent the sacrament; it just appears that they have a better understanding of sin.

Sin is defined as an act, thought, or way of behaving that goes against the norms of society or against the teachings of a religion, especially when the person is aware that he is doing wrong.

Sin distances us from God. Sincerity and misunderstanding is no substitute for truth. God accepts us where we are, however, I have found from the reading of Scripture, Church teaching, the saint’s lives and my understanding of sin at this point in my life, there seems to be a dichotomy, the closer one is to God, the more he recognizes sin in his life and vice-versa; the farther one is from Christ, the less the significant sin is in their way of life.

So, if you think that you are a good person, great, because God wants you to be good and happy, but if in your goodness, you forget about God and all the blessings He has bestowed on you and you don’t recognize sin in your life like I sometimes fail to do, then you may want to re-examine your priorities and spend some quiet time with God in prayer and ask Him to help you recognize where you have let Him down, so He can continue to pour out His blessings and mercy on you and prepare you for eternal life.

The Eucharist and the Holy Spirit

The significance of the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist has been examined by all serious Catholics since Jesus instituted the Sacrament over two thousand years ago, but many of us still under estimate its significance in our own lives. There is a difference between reception and worthy reception of this great Sacrament. If we contemplate a worthy reception of the Body and Blood of our Lord, we have to consider the state of our soul. Are we in the state of grace or are we trying to deal with unrepentant sin and still trying to receive our Lord?

We Christians strive to remain in the state of grace because we love the Lord and want to please Him. We should focus more on improving the practices of virtue rather than being consumed with sin. Minimally, we stay in the state of grace by not committing mortal sin, which separates us from God, and try to avoid venial sin, which do not separate us from God, but limits the amount of grace which God can bestow on us. And if we are not vigilant about venial sins, they can make us more susceptible to temptation and committing mortal sin. And even on our best days, we disappoint our Lord with our wretchedness. Thank God for His mercy and the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we Catholics can go and receive forgiveness of these sins, if we have a true sorrow and a firm purpose of amending the thoughts and actions that caused the sin.

So the goal of Christians should be to be to remain in the state of Grace, united to the Holy Spirit, not only to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ’s way, but also to be able to worthily receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (The Eucharist) at Mass, at least weekly and Holy Days and more often if our schedule allows. When we are in the state of Grace, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who dwells within us.

There are multiple dimensions of the worthy reception of the Eucharist and this thought is just one of those. When we receive the Holy Eucharist in the state of Grace, we are not only receiving spiritual blessings, we are in a unique, physical, material way uniting Jesus, His Body and Blood and the Holy Spirit. Obviously the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the love between the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit are united spiritually in a mysterious way that our minds can’t fully comprehend, but this worthy reception of our Lord is a special physical way of uniting the Holy Spirit, ourselves, and Jesus. In other words, the Body and Blood of Jesus united to the Holy Spirit through us. And if we allow ourselves to be aware of this significant event, we in our nothingness can be swept up and be united with pure love and we can express our fiat somewhat as Mary, the mother of God, did at the Annunciation of our Lord when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and she received spiritual blessings and conceived the physical embryo of Jesus. We too are a vessel into which God pours the physical and spiritual blessings of His body and blood and like Mary we can say yes to God’s transforming love.

Let us strive to remain in the state of grace so we can fully embrace our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and let’s receive often. God bless you.

A Thought about Prayer

I was thinking this morning about being in the state of grace and being filled with the Holy Spirit and prayer in general. One of the prayers I pray every day is “Come Holy Spirit, come by the means of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, your well beloved spouse.” If we are indeed filled with the Holy Spirit, then He doesn’t have to come. Perhaps this prayer is just a request to our Holy Mother to help us to be more aware of the Holy Spirit that exists in the hearts of the faithful.

In all prayer, we often pray to a distant God, who is up there or out there in heaven waiting on us to lift up our petitions when in fact, God is with us and knows us and dwells in us and knows all that we, think, do and say. It’s our lack of awareness of this God who loves us that we struggle with often times. We get so caught up in temporal matters throughout our days, that we lack awareness of the spiritual world which co-exists in our midst. It seems to me that the more we hunger and thirst for God and His will in our life, the more He illuminates our soul with the light of the Holy Spirit and we become more often aware of the God within.

Everything is a gift, especially this awareness of God. I think it reflects what Saint Paul was talking about when He said that we should pray constantly, or in other words be in communion with the Holy Spirit within us at all times and in all situations, aware that we have a God who loves us more than we can possibly realize at this point in our lives and pursues us and wants us to follow His way so He can bless us in all things. Thank you Jesus, the Light of the World.