PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Sunday, March 31, 2013

 

Fwd: The buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee

Inspiring forwarded message

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A Good Story for Easter
A Good Story for Easter .... I received this strange tale of the 3 Bs - Buzzard, Bee and Bat - and thought it would make a nice Easter Sunday message.

THE BUZZARD

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner.

The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

------------------------------------------

THE BAT

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place.

If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.

Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

------------------------------------------

THE BUMBLEBEE

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

------------------------------------------

PEOPLE

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up!

That's the answer, the escape route and the solution to any problem....

just look up!

-------------------------------------------Sorrow looks back,

Worry looks around,

But faith looks up!

Live simply,

love generously,

care deeply,

speak kindly,

Look up and say THANK YOU, LORD. Have a Blessed and Glorious Easter.

 

Index to Lent 2013 reflections


Day 1: The paradox of major vs minor sins, 1

            The paradox of major vs minor sins, 2

Day 2: Aiming for higher excellence

Day 3: Quick history of my big-time conversions

Day 4: I found God in a coral reef.

Day 5: The radix of radicalism

Day 6: Civilization of service

Day 7: Routing egocentrism

Day 8: Degrees of depth of conversion

Day 9: Call to the heights

Day 10: Peering at the mountaintop

Day 11: Call to be heroic

Day 12: Celibacy, poverty, obedience

Day 13: My subtle ways of spiritual resistance

Day 14: Velleity

Day 15: "Sin obscures sight."

Day 16: Happy life as motivation for deep conversion

Day 17: Everybody's salvation as motivation for deep conversion

Day 18: What is (true) love?

Day 19: "It is individuals, not groups, that blaze a trail."

Day 20: Whatever happened to my love affair with God?

Day 21: Psychology vs spirituality

Day 22: Illuminism

Day 23: Gospel therapy

Day 24: Repaying evil with goodness

Day 25: Unity as a sign of deep conversion

Day 26: What I'm getting so far

Day 27: The surprises of forgiveness

Day 28: The seven Be's

Day 29: "Humility is total honesty."

Day 30: Consolations

Day 31: Boredom as a sign

Day 32: Spiritual life is warfare

Day 33: Still on humility

Day 34: More hidden faults exposed

Day 35: Prolixity and other offenses at the confessional

Day 36: Grace building on nature

Day 37: Hans Urs von Balthasar: "Truth is symphonic."

Day 38: There's nothing in the world like Christianity.

Day 39: Revisiting (my days of slavery in) Egypt

Day 40: A recap or integration of sorts

Addenda:

Fr. DuBay's 11 motivations for deep conversion

Amor con amor se paga

Saturday, March 30, 2013

 

Paradise

Last Good Friday, a Jesuit on TV drew parallels and reversals between the two instances that the word paradise was used in the Bible -- in the Genesis and during the Crucifixion.

The first, he said, involved man falling out of grace and out of Eden; the second, man being saved, with a promise to enter Paradise.

(I will try to remember the other points he raised.)

 

Second chance

It's odd how I stumbled on three stories of second chances today in consecutive order:

1. The story of the prize-winning child actor Jiro Manio who got drug-addicted and became a father at such a young age. He entered rehab and is poised to make a showbiz comeback.

2. The story of another award-winning actor Baron Geisler, the constant fodder for  petty and serious controversies. He had a problem with alcoholism, and with it bad reputation at work and out of it. He also tried rehab and seems to be doing his best despite figuring in incidents now and then.

3. The story of a woman who got her face disfigured after having a facial injection in a fly-by-night beauty shop. A GMA 7 do-good show shouldered the expenses for her reconstruction surgery.

What is God telling me? Hmm.

 

Note to self

Who am I not to get sick when the pope himself falls ill and get physically incapacitated. Health troubles are not (always?) God's punishment for something I did.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 

Nouwen on life's ambiguities



Living Faithfully in an Ambiguous World

Our hearts and minds desire clarity.  We like to have a clear picture of a situation, a clear view of how things fit together, and clear insight into our own and the world's problems.   But just as in nature colors and shapes mingle without clear-cut distinctions, human life doesn't offer the clarity we are looking for.  The borders between love and hate, evil and good, beauty and ugliness, heroism and cowardice, care and neglect, guilt and blamelessness are mostly vague, ambiguous, and hard to discern.

It is not easy to live faithfully in a world full of ambiguities.  We have to learn to make wise choices without needing to be entirely sure.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

 

How the Church fathers attracted the youth

http://www.fathersofthechurch.com/2006/06/07/youth-when-the-church-was-young/


[T]he Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There’s ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises. They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.

The brightest young man in the empire’s brightest city — a teenager named Origen of Alexandria — promised himself entirely to God in virginity. And, as he watched his father taken away to be killed, Origen would have gone along himself, turned himself in, if his mother hadn’t hidden all his clothes …

Search all the volumes on the ancient liturgies, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a scrap of a Mass we’d call “relevant” today. We know of no special Youth Masses. Yet there was an overwhelming eucharistic faith among the young people of the Church.

...

What made the Church attractive in the third century can make it just as attractive in the twenty-first. In the ancient world and in ours, young people want a challenge. They want to love with their whole being. They’re willing to do things the hard way — if people they respect look them in the eye and make the big demands. These are distinguishing marks of youth. ...  It’s young men who beg for that kind of rigor.

 

The many ways we betray Christ

Reflection:
How do we betray Christ? By our selfishness.

Let's look at the motives of Judas in today's Gospel passage. Why did he betray Jesus despite experiencing his unconditional love for three years?

We know that Judas was selfish, because we know that he had embezzled donations (see John 12:6). Intent on finding "what's in it for me?" he wanted Jesus to become a messiah who would deliver him from Roman oppression. Jesus turned out to be quite an uncontrollable disappointment. Judas was so blinded by his own strategies that he could not fathom the possibility that God might have a better idea.

Self-centered people like Judas don't like to sit idly by and accept disappointment. When he decided to take control by turning Jesus over to the Jewish authorities, he asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" Until they promised a reward, handing Jesus over was still an if.

No wonder Judas committed suicide! He was unable to recognize the forgiveness that Jesus made available to him, because at the heart of every self-centered person is the belief that they are unworthy of being loved. Selfishness comes from the notion that if I don't take care of myself, no one else will (not even God!) because I don't really deserve it.

Are you ever disappointed that Jesus is not what you want him to be for you? We all fall into this "what's in it for me" trap whenever we're upset that God doesn't answer our prayers the way we want him to, or when we give our problems to Jesus and life doesn't get easier, or when he asks us to do something that's difficult and unrewarding.

We fall into the "what's in it for me" trap whenever we search for our own solutions after trusting in God and not getting the results we want. We succumb to it by listening to our self-protective fears. Selfishness tells us to protect our wishes, our happiness, our comfort zone, our possessions and our lifestyle. It blinds us to the possibility that God might have a better idea.

Like Judas, in our selfishness we betray Jesus. We profess to trust him as the Lord of our lives, and yet our self-serving decisions prove otherwise. We believe in him only when it suits our purposes. We adore him only when it's easy.

The question is not "Have I betrayed Jesus?" but "How quickly do I seek his forgiveness after I betray him?" Peter betrayed Jesus, too, but he loved Jesus so much that his selfishness lasted only a little while.

Imagine that you're sitting with the disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus has just dipped his matzah into the spice dish, and he hands it to you. He's looking you in the eye. He knows your heart. He loves you despite all your betrayals. What will you say to him? Admit your betrayal; receive his smile. He will now take your sins to the cross with him. Remember to do this at every Mass, because the liturgy transcends time to connect us to the real Last Supper.

Monday, March 25, 2013

 

Quotes


Your attitude is the librarian of your past, the speaker of your present, and prophet of your future. - via Fr. Dave Concepcion



Ang tao ay nilalang upang papurihan, igalang, at paglingkuran ang Diyos. At sa pamamagitan Niya, matatagpuan niya ang kanyang ganap na buhay. We were created to praise, reverence, and serve God and by so doing find our salvation.

The purpose of the human person is to get out of our confinement, to get out of our shells, to get out of ourselves, and to reach out to God in praise, in reverence, and in service. - Spiritual Exercises ni San Ignacio ng Loyola,via Cardinal Tagle



 

Lenten retreat with Fr. Dave Concepcion

Glad to find this!


 

Nouwen on the healing power of touch




The Healing Touch

Touch, yes, touch, speaks the wordless words of love.  We receive so much touch when we are babies and so little when we are adults.  Still, in friendship touch often gives more life than words.  A friend's hand stroking our back, a friend's arms resting on our shoulder, a friend's fingers wiping our tears away, a friend's lips kissing our forehead --- these are true consolation.  These moments of touch are truly sacred.  They restore, they reconcile, they reassure, they forgive, they  heal.

Everyone who touched Jesus and everyone whom Jesus touched were healed.  God's love and power went out from him (see Luke 6:19).   When a friend touches us with free, nonpossessive love, it is God's incarnate love that touches us and God's power that heals us.

 

"Amor con amor se paga"

Amor con amor se paga. Love is repaid with love. That's what the Spanish mystic St. Teresa of Avila reportedly said. Beautiful.

How have I loved so far? Let me count the ways I am getting love, for a clue, for if I have indeed given real love, I will surely be repaid with real love.

Parents: My relationship with both parents have improved a lot. They seem worried, nay alarmed, at my situation, and I can feel their concern. Despite not being able to give something to them this time around, I don't feel rejected for being useless. This is a great development, as I have harbored terrible resentment for years, especially against my father, though I never talked to him about it, but I'm sure he could feel it. Thanks to God's grace of healing, I was able to let go of my expectations of my father, many of which were unfair considering his cultural background, and I too hope he has felt that I have 'set him free.'

Siblings: I receive love and caring in various degrees. I am confident that if I needed more help, which I pray to God won't be the case, they will rally behind me, they will unite to help me, even when I felt obligated, burdened, and a bit resentful because I feared for my own future, when I helped send five of them to college while standing as the family's breadwinner. I wish they'd remember what I did for them, but hope I would never ever oblige them to return the favor. One thing I hate is love that is conditional because I know how much it hurts.

Relatives: I am pretty sure they care about me, but up to what extent, I am not sure. Maybe it's because I didn't love them enough out of fear maybe? I don't know.

Close friends: Well, this is a mixed bag. I am quite disappointed with a close friend who is good to me only because he is getting something from the friendship. Have I been user-friendly to my friends? A fair-weather one? Hope not that selfish, hope not.

Brothers and sisters in community. Most members were elated to see me during the last assembly I attended. In fact, there were only two or three who didn't express that feeling. I can sense how much they love me and care for me. One elder told me directly he'd invite me for coffee one time because he's been missing me. I was touched, for he is among my spiritual fathers in community. That alone is enough. Another texted me something like, If you need anything, just text me. That was brave of him. What if I actually asked anything, right? Again, that little gesture was encouraging. An elder brother, my current pastoral leader, actually went out of his way to visit me in my place that I was so embarrassed because he got lost and it was a lot of trouble. He did it not even once but twice. There are members who now and then volunteer health info especially those who've been through panic attacks themselves. At least one texts me inspirational message everyday. I am also grateful to a couple who are willing to fetch me each time they use the service road nearest my place. With all these, I can say I am being loved in the community I chose to love and serve, warts and all. I can hardly complain. Who am I to?

As for my readers, it's very telling. I seem to have lost everyone. How does that reflect on how much I conveyed love through my writing?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

 

Dear God, please don't trust me so much!


Mother Teresa herself said it!

Mother TeresaI know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.

 

Nouwen on self-perception vs friends' perception of us



Friendship in the Twilight Zones of Our Heart

There is a twilight zone in our own hearts that we ourselves cannot see.  Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves - our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and drives - large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness.   

This is a very good thing.  We always will remain partially hidden to ourselves.  Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can.  The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves.  We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends.  That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility but also to a deep trust in those who love us.   It is in the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.


 

Quote

God's message to me today:

"Feelings, etc. should not be our focus. Our focus should be God. May our head, heart, and hands focus on God."

Fr. Glen Paul Gomez, SVD, on Palm Sunday Mass

Saturday, March 23, 2013

 

Fr. DuBay's 11 motivations for deep conversion

1. Happiness and fulfillment
2. Real love
3. Unobscured sight and insight
4. Ecumenical effectiveness
5. Purification of venial sins
6. Inexpressible joy
7. Eternity
8. Increase in apostolic effectiveness 
9. Never experiencing boredom
10. Ability to handle suffering profitably and even happily
11. Building up of our primary community (marriage, priesthood, consecrated life, etc.)


 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 40 – Recap or integration of sorts

If nothing else, what this retreat did to me is expose a multitude of sins. In a way, it shattered whatever illusion I held of myself that I am anywhere near sainthood.

Fortunately, I am in that stage in my spiritual life wherein I am not easily deterred by my faults and failings, because I have largely accepted myself, the part that’s capable of sin great and small, coupled with the discovery of the immensity of God’s love and mercy.

If there must be a more immediate consolation, it is the knowledge that this new awareness means I am closer to Jesus. I make this claim because spiritual leaders made it first. I remember Fr. Jun Lingad’s sermon at mass, wherein he said that the spiritual life is like looking at the mirror: the closer you move to the mirror, the more you see your flaws.

How wonderful it is then that God allows me anew to see the wrinkles, lines, zits, and other imperfections on my face, giving me a full plate to chew on, or an entire canvass to cleanse of smudges, this coming Holy Week.

I’ll be dealing with the question: What’s next after awareness? That’s what will matter to me in the coming days.

I hereby thank my co-retreatant, Stef, for inviting me on this journey. Now it can be told: Fr. Thomas Dubay has a new fan!

Friday, March 22, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 39 – Revisiting (my days of slavery in) Egypt

Since this retreat is about deep conversion through deep prayer, I thought it is but fair that I stop flogging myself for my sins, for a change, and start celebrating past victories, to remind myself that deep conversion is possible indeed.  Today, I choose to commemorate how God delivered me from the sin of judging or making rash and harsh judgments against people.

I remember a time when I was so careless with speech, having come from negative influencers, personalities who are quick-witted when it comes to making fun of others and mocking anyone who offends them. Their tongues cut like lances, to the delight of their listeners, young impressionable me included. Thankfully God showed me how this brand of speech, often laced with humor, is against His ways.

I can’t forget how, in grade school, I got my first taste of what non-Christians love to refer to as karma. My arch-rival in academics, V., one day came to school with a swollen lower lip, which was apparently bitten by an ant. Behind her back, I made fun of her lip together with another classmate I was close to who harbored animosity with V. like I did (out of academic rivalry). When I got home, I greeted my mother with, “Guess what, V.’s lips got punished today.” The next day, guess what happened to my lower lip?

A similar incident happened, again in grade school, when I made fun of another classmate who came to school with a swollen eyelid. Most probably, it was bitten by a mosquito, and her whole face really looked funny. Naturally, I laughed at her misfortune in her face. But what do you know,  the very next day, I got the exact same ‘punishment.’

The great turning point in my life came when I received a letter from my uncle all the way from the States scolding me for making a negative remark about my cousin who’s dangerously close to becoming an old maid. It was the first time I’d ever receive such a letter, which accused me of saying an objectionable comment against my cousin who was at the time having her first boyfriend. I admitted I made such a comment, and it was told as a joke, and the joke reached my uncle and is family on the other side of the world, but apparently the joke struck such a sensitive chord that it hurt so much. In fact, the whole family described my words as like a bomb dropping off the whole household. I was so humiliated and ashamed, though in my pride, a bit defensive, that I wrote them back a letter asking apology, although I had to add how regretful it was to exchange letters for the first time and the subject had to be that.

It was such a wringer I don’t want to go through ever again, although I am much too prone to commit it again and again because of my chosen profession of writing.
In my anguish/agony during those times, I kept on asking, Does God punish, is He a punishing God? Does he love exacting revenge? Or could it just be that the consequences of sin are inevitable? Could it be that it’s the law of the universe that, for every action, there’s a corresponding reaction?

At this point, I am bound to believe the latter more. If we extend the statement, it should also be true that the consequences of other people’s actions are likewise inevitable. If we are sinned against, then it follows that we will suffer from the sins/mistakes of others. This Old Testament statement therefore makes sense: “The sins of the father are visited/vested upon the son.” Notice that it is not even God who vests the sin on the son, for God is incapable of sin. What we perceive as our own punishment is, therefore, our own judgment on ourselves.

I came to this conclusion on my own, after considering how the Bible also contains a passage that says that the act of baptism effectively erases the sins of our fathers in us, which means the newly baptized Christian starts from scratch, as far as sinning is concerned. Nonetheless, the aftereffects of our forefathers' sins in us remain.

Meanwhile, where did my great compulsion to be rash and harsh and judgmental come from, apart from any inherited flaws? Learning from basic psychology, I know it could only come from what inside of me, projections of what I hate about myself, actions to make myself feel better because other people look far worse than I was.

These thoughts congealed when someone I treated as an intimate friend verbally abused me anew by berating me and describing my current situation as a "dead-end," and for me to "get a life," and so on. His rant came a time when I was feeling so low about my situation, so I got hurt. But I also saw my old self in him. The three stories above replayed in my head, and after that, I felt afraid for my ‘friend,’ afraid for what’s waiting for him because of his rash and harsh words. I was glad to have done my duty of fraternal correction, but I could only pray he might not get to the hellish place I had been through for committing the exact same mistakes in the past. 

Finally, it's good to realize that God has been dealing with me for so long, like a son He loves and cares about so much. There is comfort in the thought that, if God indeed "punishes," then He remains a loving Father in that he punishes only those whom He considers as children because He desires their salvation (unlike the 'uncaring' He displays with those whom He doesn't love and thus allows to be deluded by themselves on the sure road to perdition). Nevertheless, I wish I'd have more victories like this to counter all my past and present defeats in this great warfare of life.

 

Nouwen on self-knowledge

Again: psychoanalysis is essential, but it has its limits.



The Ways to Self-knowledge

"Know yourself" is good advice.  But to know ourselves doesn't mean to analyse ourselves.  Sometimes we want to know ourselves as if we were machines that could be taken apart and put back together at will.   At certain critical times in our lives it might be helpful to explore in some detail the events that led us to our crises, but we make a mistake when we think that we can ever completely understand ourselves and explain the full meaning of our lives to others.

Solitude, silence, and prayer are often the best ways to self-knowledge.  Not because they offer solutions for the complexity of our lives but because they bring us in touch with our sacred center, where God dwells.  That sacred center may not be analysed.  It is the place of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 38 - There's nothing in the world like Christianity.


Fr. DuBay: "Among all worldviews, it is the gospel alone that produces the beauty of the saints."

This quote instantaneously reminds me of a CLP talk I heard in the past. Let me copy-paste it here to remind myself:

---------------------------

Concepts of Man Greatly Affecting the World Today

Oriental view: Man doesn't want to be locked up with himself. He prefers communing with nature.

Hedonistic worldview: Life is all about indulging in pleasure. Pain is evil.

State-is-supreme (Statist?) view: Man is the measure of all things. But when the state decides what is best for man, man accepts the decision even if it is against his values. (I am reminded of the "Feuerbach heresy," which is defined as "the re-creation of God in the image of man.")

Life-signifies-nothing (Life is meaningless?) view: Life has no meaning. There is absence or vagueness of objective truth. Man can do anything on his own.

Pharisaic mentality: There is rigid adherence to rules (letter of the law) and man depends on his own strength (instead of acknowledging that there are certain things he can't control on his own, like his fallen nature).

Running-out-of-cope mentality: Life is a matter of surviving all the brickbats/curve balls it throws your way one after another. (? - not sure if my paraphrasing is accurate)

Do-it-yourself mentality: Life is what you make of it, everything realized through your own effort. (?)

**

Effects/Profound Repercussions

The oriental view is protective and nurturing of the physical environment, but results in an impersonal concept of God, instead of a loving God.

Hedonism has a twisted concept of freedom. In the process, respect for others (or others' rights) is affected.

The state may have good intentions when it comes to freedom, equality, social justice, and the common good, but what if the means (of change) is not right?

Other people are viewed as a threat (not a brother, sister, or a fellow child of God). Relationships are transactional. There are no norms and values, including hope and patience. There is only cynicism.

With these worldviews, these philosophies mean nothing: "No man is an island." "I am my brother's keeper."

There is impersonality in our daily transactions.

Hopelessness/perceived inability to cope results in drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, neurosis, insecurity, low sense of self-worth, disturbed people.

The name of the game is "Survival of the fittest." "What's in it for me?"

There is also status quo mentality.

**

We are all afflicted somehow with all these negativisms. One alternative to these belief systems is Christianity. However, Christianity, which is often thought to be mainstream, is in fact a resoundingly rejected belief everywhere in the world, at all levels of society.

Ironically, Christianity teaches man to have self-worth, a (healthy-RSO) sense of importance in this world. It inspires people to "give loving service," and not merely out of a sense of emptiness or a shallow desire to feel better. There is a sense of purpose. It inspires equality in the context of a loving community, with an appreciation of the diversity of gifts/talents and various levels of ability.

Alas, we all have rejected the Christian thought in various degrees. Europe, most especially, has rejected its Christian roots, favoring atheism in its place. (I have somewhat a vision of Europe turning Muslim once again. Note: Islam teaches that man is a slave of God, instead of the Christian "child of God." -RSO)

-----------------

Reflective points for the day:

How have I been infected by the worldly, non-/anti-Christian views above? How may I be purified of them? Which parts of my belief is nature-worshipper, hedonist, pharisee, DIY, statist, Buddhist, Stoic? Hmm, I feel uncomfortable with the line of questioning. Sign of guilt? Haha. Later.

 

Nouwen on "the sacredness of our being"



Claiming the Sacredness of Our Being

Are we friends with ourselves?  Do we love who we are?  These are important questions because we cannot develop good friendships with others unless we have befriended ourselves.

How then do we befriend ourselves?  We have to start by acknowledging the truth of ourselves.  We are beautiful but also limited, rich but also poor, generous but also worried about our security.  Yet beyond all that we are people with souls, sparks of the divine.   To acknowledge the truth of ourselves is to claim the sacredness of our being, without fully understanding it.  Our deepest being escapes our own mental or emotional grasp.  But when we trust that our souls are embraced by a loving God, we can befriend ourselves and reach out to others in  loving relationships.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 37 - Hans Urs von Balthasar: "Truth is symphonic."

Will Fr. DuBay never run out of wonderful quotes and quotables? The above quote grabbed me by the collar for its verity.

True music is harmonious, each note in each beat in consonance with the rest of the accompanying or succeeding sounds.

In a true piece of literature, every word counts, not a single word is useless or purposeless, everything contributing to the whole, leading inevitably to the ending.

The same is true of true works of art, of anything that is beautiful. There is a purposefulness running through each part like a thread, bringing about a mysterious whole, the wholeness of beauty that the beholder can only discern but not totally explain away.

It can't be helped, therefore, that this truth is expressed in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Though there are nine known components (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity - Gal. 5: 22-23), the Bible uses a singular term to encompass them all: fruit. Why? Because the fruit of the Holy Spirit is more like grapes. There is just one fruit although there are actually separate fruits interconnected to each other.

If I am faltering in one area, that means the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not manifesting in its fullness in me. I have to take a step back and examine how a serious failure is impinging on the rest of the gifts.

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 36 - Grace building on nature


"Make yourself a capacity, and I will make myself a torrent." - Jesus to Angela of Foligno

Another wow moment for another great quote. I am instantly reminded of Thomas Aquinas's classic, oft-quoted statement, "Grace builds on nature." The spiritual life, to attempt to paraphrase it in my own inadequate words, is a constant interplay, a balancing act, if you will, of God's will and man's will. how beautiful to state it, especially when terse, but in practice, it's more of a terrible struggle.

Anyone who's struggling hard to be the best Christian he or she ever could be knows this from the heart. When we are feeling rebellious, finding God's will (which we know from His Word and through other people or through direct inspiration) can be a push and pull, a struggle worthy of sleepless nights and cold sweats.

It's a comfort to know that God is patient with us, being the perfect Gentleman that He is. He knows we will fall, sin, struggle, so probably he is wont to take His time, our time, until we begin to accept what we thought to be the bitter yet essential pill: God's will.

My own struggle with God's will is mostly practical/day-to-day in nature. Is it God's will to choose this job over that? Is it pleasing to God to read this book, watch this film, TV show? What would Jesus think about this shirt I'm wearing? Things like that.

It's good to know that, His moral laws aside ("God's will" in strictly Biblical terms), God is respectful of our will that He allows us to choose, to have our own will, as in our own chosen/preferred vocation or state in life. One priest-formator testified to this, as he grappled as to whether he should choose priesthood over that of his girlfriend at the time. He reported to have heard God tell in his heart to choose one and be faithful in it. I, of course, was very much surprised to hear that. It erased my notion of a harsh/stern, my-way-or-the-highway kind of God. Even his commandments, seen as things to be strictly obeyed, or else, have been formulated with our own good in mind, and not to satisfy the deity's own ego-tripping. As one chain mail put it, [God's will] is not meant to punish or coerce, "but to protect."

What a lovely/lovable God/heavenly Father we have.

More on this topic here http://restyo.blogspot.com/2008/02/grace-builds-on-nature.html


 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 35 - Prolixity and other offenses at the confessional

I learned another interesting term, and of course, it shall be used both in the title and in the text: prolixity, meaning taking up too much time in the confessional, or something like that.

I'm mindful of others' time down the queue, so I am not guilty of this particular offense. But I am guilty of other faults at the confessional.

The major one is probably confessing out of my morbid fear of God's power to put me to hell instead of out of my profound love of the Lord. Instead of desiring to assuage God's hurt and make it up to Him, I am more fearful of His punishment, which I anticipate like clockwork. I have learned that this is wrong and that I have been projecting my toxic guilt on God, my wrongful notions of His kind of love and sense of justice, as I have absorbed from home and outside of it.

It's good to be reminded that I should approach confession with the right heart: to declare my resolve to love God, to affirm my confidence in God's forgiveness.

The other offenses are minor in comparison but troubling nonetheless, as they are effective blocks to attaining deep conversion. I confess monthly, and sometimes, I have this feeling that I am doing it mechanically, just to say that I am fulfilling my sort of vow. Fortunately, priests are good at detecting false piety and false or forced remorse. Another issue is the horror at confessing the same sin again to the same priest, for fear that the priest would berate me for having confessed the same last time. I know that's funny, but this paranoia clearly comes from sinful pride and lack of confidence in God's patience, plus of course the fear, again, of a punishing God coming down hard on me. These sins are self-inflicted, and only I will be able to address them.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 34 - More hidden faults exposed

I love it when spiritual exercises like this reveal new faults I haven't been cognizant of. More accurately, this retreat has resulted in greater awareness.

I now realize why I am irritated every time Fr. DuBay mentions overeating as an example. It's because I love to eat and I am prone to gluttony. I just didn't want to confront this weakness that's why I am irritated reading about it. I am guessing I got this hypertension (as alleged) from all that eating out and food reviewing I have done. Sigh. Let temperance in eating begin, for gluttony is another form of lust, or is it not?

Another fault I was made to more aware of is envy. But since this is too personal to discuss in this space, I'll just write about it separately as a draft for mine own eyes only (sorry to my co-retreatant, Stef!)

The third is more of a revelation than a new awareness, and it has something to do with my habit of snapping at family members when they say or do something stupid. I am thankful to the Lord for revealing to me this, because the irritability indicates an impatience I am barely aware of. I have earlier noticed this accidentally when a brother used the digicam to take a video of me, and I irritatingly told him off, to snap out of it. More than my fear of him posting that video somewhere in the interwebs, I am bothered by the way I made faces and snapped at him. I wish to see an improved me.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 33 - Still on humility

This retreat has, so far, nudged me into probing myself more deeply than usual, and the meditative probing has borne fruits, for I have found a new awareness to two particular sins I have. Let me focus on just one for today: my hidden snobbery/elitism.

This one question I encountered in the retreat book (or elsewhere, I'm no longer sure) convicted me: Who are the people I ignore or view as unimportant?

Bingo! I already knew I sin in this area, but I discovered only now that there are a lot more people I tend to look down on than I first thought.

I thought of how I interact with the garbage collector, how I never engage them or to to avoid looking at them in the eye. That's very telling.

I thought of how I regard hobos, thinking they are less than God's children.

I was also reminded of people who I perceive to be poor, lazy, uneducated people who know nothing but freeloading. So some are really abusive like the fake mendicants knocking at my door, but I never gave much thought to the possibility that they could be desperate in life.

The list is getting longer, but I am thankful of seeing these faults when before I wasn't aware of them.

Thank You Lord, and forgive me. Teach me to do better.

 

Loreena McKennitt: Dark Night of the Soul

A friend asked me. Am I going through John of the Cross's the dark night of the soul? If so, at what stage am I? Ref.: http://www.oocities.org/sunsburninghaze/darknight.html



Saturday, March 16, 2013

 

Our role in forgiving people who cross our path

Can't help but share. Apologies to the author.

------------------------Reflection:
How many people have taught you how to forgive seventy times seven times? These are the ones who repeatedly – sometimes seventy times in one day! – give you opportunities to practice forgiveness. This method of learning the lesson of today's Gospel passage is not fun. But there's a reason why God allows it: These people need your gesture of mercy more than others do. In God's great concern for them, he has put them in your path. (Gee thanks God, but couldn't you have picked someone else?)

Such people are in desperate need of unconditional love; they've received less of it than we have, and that's why they behave so badly. In many cases, they have never received real love; their only experience of "love" is actually co-dependency or control or emotional bribery.

In some cases, disease, addiction, demonic oppression, or mental illness has robbed them of the ability to receive love when it is, in fact, given to them.

No one can give to us what they do not have. They can only give us what they do have, and sadly, that's grief – and plenty of it!

We, on the other hand, can give them the forgiveness we've received from our loving Father – the "king who settled accounts with his officials" in the parable. We know what love is, because we've opened ourselves to God's generous love, and therefore we have the responsibility of sharing it with those who have less.

They might assume that they know what love is, but they don't know how to recognize real, unconditional, Christ-like love, so we have to persist and forgive and persist and forgive until finally – finally! – our love breaks through the barricades of their hearts.

Then, when they slip back into their old ways, we forgive them again. Our persistence might be the only true connection to Jesus that they have.

However, we cannot succeed alone. Others are also needed, including counselors, doctors, or therapists. Sometimes God tells us that we've done enough and it's time to step away so that he can help them through someone else.

The process is long. We have to ask God to give us a supernatural love for these people. When we want to quit prematurely, we can look at Jesus hanging on the cross for us. He did not give up on us. If we truly want to follow him, we have to become like him. By uniting our sufferings to his cross, we are intimately united to his redemptive power.

Pray for those who are causing you pain; choose to forgive them. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. And we need to do it now, not when (or if) they repent. Jesus did not delay his walk to Calvary hoping that humankind would repent before he got nailed for our sins. As you follow him in the spirit of forgiveness, remember: After crucifixion there is always resurrection!


Join the discussion! We value your input in our online faith-sharing group,
The Emmaus Journey, and on our blog.

© 2013 by Terry A. Modica

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 32 - Spiritual life is warfare

"The spiritual life is a warfare."

This is an important reminder to me because it's easy to become complacent.

In the ECLP, we've learned in community that the enemy, evil, is present in three fronts: the devil himself, evil in the fallen world, and the evil in me.

I've been dwelling too much on the evil that's inside of me, and in the prolife fight, the evil in society, so I tend to forget the other, the main, source: the devil himself, who's ever-vigilant in causing my downfall.

My community has a prescription/suggestion to weaken the enemy: faithfulness to prayer time, daily rosary, extra or daily masses, holy hour per week, confession every month or as needed, and of course, no mortal sins and, ideally, few venial sins so as not to cloud our judgment.

My spiritual bank has been near empty lately because I am mostly homebound unless someone with a car invites me out and except when this kind couple in community fetches me from home to community on certain Sundays. I rely mostly on the healing masses on TV and the videos of sermons and reflections on the Internet. They are helpful, but nothing beats the spiritual strength that can be had through the daily mass.

When I attempted to attend mass daily, this trial (panic due to palpitations, fatigue, dizziness) came to me. Am I being tested, or the devil is assaulting me on purpose. If the devil is indeed up to something devious, I trust that God is also up to something blessed, knowing how he loves to "write straight in crooked lines."

Friday, March 15, 2013

 

Nouwen on consoling someone in pain


An Honest Being-With

Being with a friend in great pain is not easy.  It makes us uncomfortable.  We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear.  Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain.  Sometimes we say things like "Well, you're  doing a lot better than yesterday," or "You will soon be your old self again," or "I'm sure you will get over this."  But often we know that what we're saying is not true, and our friends know it too.

We do not have to play games with each other.  We can simply say:  "I am your friend, I am happy to be with you."   We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence.  Sometimes it is good to say:  "You don't have to talk.  Just close your eyes.  I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 31 - Boredom as a sign


In high contrast to yesterday's reflection, I was totally disturbed by this line:

"People who are profoundly intimate with their indwelling Lord are never bored."

I felt guilty because I'm a person who gets easily bored. I started my 'writing career' by having published a long essay about being bored at 27.

I've figured out at age 42 that my great tendency to boredom is fueled by restlessness. Why am I so restless? Is it because I feel a need to prove something, to achieve something great, in order to be loved, to be of worth, to be acceptable to my parents/family/society? Why do I feel incomplete/a failure without these? It's very telling.

There must be something I long to hear from the Lord that I haven't been hearing for the longest time.

"The main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty."

I want to be in that zone again with the Lord where everything is idyllic, as though I am prepared to die any moment and it wouldn't matter at all, for I am in an ecstatic, head-over-heels-in-love state with God. When this "fervor of my first love" was lost or waned, or I just couldn't maintain it, I developed this view that holiness is like an 'expensive'-looking woman: too high-maintenance to sustain for long.

Maybe that's the point. Maybe this is the lesson God wants me to learn: I need to really work on my spiritual life. "Resolute" is indeed the word. If I need to prove something, I need to prove the firmness of my will not just to get to heaven but to prove my love of/to/for God.

That's the trouble with me, it turns out: I've been trying to prove all the wrong things, neglecting the only thing I needed to prove. Sigh.


 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 30 - Consoled today


These are consoling passages as well, for me who's undergoing through a terrible trial, which I dare identify as spiritual dryness.

"Taking the path to lofty virtue equips the person to handle suffering profitably and even happily."

"For those who love God everything works together for good." (Rom. 8:28)

"Yes, even illness, criticism or failure bring blessings to one who embraces these negativities of life in union with Jesus tortured to death on the Cross."

I am not sure whether I am just trying to be positive or I have learned my lesson from past episodes, or the Holy Spirit is really at work in me, busy doing some spiritual surgery, perhaps purifying me of past sins (I prefer this term over punishment). Today, I am inclined to believe the latter.

It is hard to be positive at all times and sustain it for months on end and on your own accord. Positive-thinking or optimism can only go so far. I need intercessory prayer from community members and friends, for example. I must have been 'graced' by God to endure this long and difficult trial.

May I benefit fully from it!


 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 29 - "Humility is total honesty."

I am greatly consoled today by this passage:

"Humility is total honesty," meaning a balanced, objective appraisal of ourselves, accounting for all the good and bad about ourselves.

Next, I've heard of these related passages before, but I still am surprised they exist at all, as though to underline the beauty of the truth above:

"Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights." (Jas 1:17).
"What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7).

Fr. DuBay rewords the above as: "Everything that you and I have that is beautiful, insightful or successful is from God. To be acutely aware of this is to be humble and grateful."

This restatement reminds me of a priest's sermon in the past, which said, "Everything good we have comes from God. The only thing we can claim to be ours is our sin. And since everything else is God's, our sin is the only thing we can truly surrender."

Up to now, I can't forget that. It always makes me smile the smile of the humble. Whenever I have  delusions of grandeur, i.e., deluding myself that I am greater than what I really am, out of insecurity, this sermon pulls me back to earth quicker than I can tell myself, "Shame on you!"

If I think that it is I who really earned my keep, found the job because of my own strength, intelligence, and resourcefulness, deserve whatever worldly success I have attained, the above reminder is the sure cure.

Egocentrism is zapped without fail.

Lastly: "If I am full of my own ideas, if in my mind I am always right, God backs off."

How true! I am reminded of the words emptiness and nothingness, which are often associated with Buddhism, unfortunately ancient Asia's version of atheism, but which are really very Christian. The above is its Christianized/Christic/Christified? version/interpretation.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

 

Nouwen on absence vs presence


Wednesday March 13, 2013 

Absence That Creates Presence

It is good to visit people who are sick, dying, shut in, handicapped, or lonely.  But it is also important not to feel guilty when our visits have to be short or can only happen occasionally.  Often we are so apologetic about our limitations that our apologies prevent us from really being with the other when we are there.  A short time fully present to a sick person is much better than a long time with many explanations of why we are too busy to come more often.

If we are able to be fully present to our friends when we are with them, our absence too will bear many fruits.  Our friends will say:  "He visited me" or "She visited me," and discover in our absence the lasting grace of our presence.

 

On being praised

I can't help but share this wonderful reflection here.

----------------------------------------

Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent March 14, 2013
Today’s Readings:
Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 106:19-23 - Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people
John 5:31-47
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/031413.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/13_03_14.mp3

Reading 1 Ex 32:7-14
The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’“
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.
Gospel Jn 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”
Reflection:
How do you feel when you're complimented? Most of us feel embarrassed. This typical reaction happens either because we fail to realize that it is God our Father who is praising us, or because we don’t believe it’s humble to accept praise, even when the praise comes from God.

In today's Gospel story, Jesus makes it clear that the only praise that really matters is that which originates from the Father, and such praise is very important.

Praise is good. We were made in the image of a God who values being praised. But because we're afraid that it's not humble to accept compliments, we quickly negate the affirmation. Well guess what. That's telling the people who compliment us that they're liars. And it initiates the game of "If I say I'm not worthy of your praise, then you'll try to convince me that I am indeed worthy of it, and I'll get more attention from you as we drag this out longer."

What a mess! Pride gets confused with humility. True humility means accepting praise and acknowledging that ultimately the credit goes to God. True humility means affirming those who compliment us by accepting their kind words and good intentions.

Jesus said that the Father's praise gives testimony about the Son's worth. Jesus was not implying that John's affirmation was invalid. On the contrary, he reminded the Jews about John's testimony precisely because it was very important indeed. But greater than John's praise was the Father's. The one who sent Jesus into the world was the best one to judge how well he was fulfilling his calling.

You, too, have been sent by the Father. You, too, have been commissioned and empowered to give Jesus to the world by using all of the gifts that he has given you and all of the good that is in you. If you're doing this to the best of your current ability, and if you're obeying the Father to the best of your awareness, the Father is praising you just like he praised his Son, Jesus.

No less than that!

Can you feel his praise? Oftentimes, we need it most when we are least aware of God’s praise. This usually happens when others put us down.

So, we need to make ourselves available to what the Father wants to tell us. Because we cannot hear his voice audibly, he speaks to us through people – but not the ones who are putting us down! Who is the Father putting in front of you today? You can find them in events at church, and even at work, on the sports field, on Facebook, or anywhere. If they affirm what is true in you, if they encourage you and build you up, it's the Father himself who's ministering to you.

Let your Father embrace you with his loving praise: Accept the affirmation of others. And when people tear you down or discourage you, remember that it's only God's opinion of you that matters, and he likes you far more than they do!


Join the discussion! We value your input in our online faith-sharing group,
The Emmaus Journey, and on our blog.

© 2013 by Terry A. Modica

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 28: The seven Be's

Fr. DuBay suggests a "surefire formula" to reaching the level of deep prayer and deep conversion. He calls it the seven Be's.

Be concerned.
Be determined.
Be committed to meditative and contemplative prayer.
Be motivated.
Be humble.
Be specific.
Be persevering.

What struck me readily is how diagnostic this list is, for I saw easily which area I have been flagging: the third Be: Be committed to meditative and contemplative prayer.

For this alone, I am grateful for this retreat: I am such a lazy pray-er, that's why I find it hard to connect with God in a really intimate way. I really need to spend more quality time with God, apart from my daily rosary and Bible reading/reflection or substitute spiritual reading for the day and my morning and evening prayer. I should probably lengthen the hours and also improve the quality by being really fervent instead of complacent.

I should learn how it is to be a contemplative amid a thoroughly secular world, which is sort of a personal dream of mine. I should learn how to enjoy "wasting time with God" (i.e., instead of feeling I am just wasting time).

Now this means I have to give up certain things to make this a reality. Which idols am I willing to slay/smash? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Prayer:

Lord, I don't want to end this retreat with a foolish and defeatist scapegoat, "The soul is willing but the body is weak," so help me God.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 27 - The surprises of forgiveness

Since the topic is on forgiveness, which is a sign of deep love and deep conversion, I'm on a roll. I think I'm a fine one to talk about forgiveness, because I was forced to have a PhD on the subject. The sheer number of people I had to forgive and continue forgiving, and the reasons why!

The first principle of forgiveness I've learned is this: It's too impossible for me to forgive, given my resentful, vindictive nature. Only the grace of God could allow me to forgive. I realized this after being forced by necessity to submit my hatred for certain individuals in the past whom I couldn't find myself to forgive.

There are lot of other principles, which I have detailed here in this blog and in my main blog, but let me jump to something even more positive: forgiveness has its secret rewards.

I can't help but remember this officemate who offended me so just for being there near my breathing space. Why? I don't know if I was merely projecting my self-hate, but I didn't like almost everything about him. He was just so obnoxious, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. So when he did something to me and my friends in the office, which I thought was unfair, I was filled with hatred and resentment. I was already living in Christian community then, so I knew it wasn't right to stay stuck, but I was only human. I got hurt so much, so forgiveness  was not an option, until I thought to bring the matter to God. (I was too naive at the time to know that I should've brought the matter to God at the outset.)

God surprised me that I was able to humble myself by talking to the guy in a civil way despite lingering feelings of resentment. I came to the point that I was really able to forgive him that I came to a point where I could call him a close friend. God blessed our friendship with a lot of things. I hope he never gets to read this post, because I will have to write some giveaway information. This is the guy who introduced me to Les Miserables and other Broadway and off-Broadway plays (mostly wonderful musicals), certain black and white classic films, certain books, and other things.

This is a pattern I have observed with the people I used to hate whom I had chosen to forgive through the help of God's grace. Another guy, who I had to forgive seventy times seven times almost literally, introduced me to new books I had no idea existed, films, and things literary and artistic.

I have a relative, who is a reliable source of headache to me, whom I managed to forgive despite his annoying ways and manners, after I saw through his offensive tearjerking, manipulative stories. The guy, I realize, is so desperate, that's why he was resorting to shamelessness, and I was being too selfish to see it. I changed my cold treatment to a patient, forgiving one. Lo and behold: a miracle happened when he suddenly volunteered to find men who could help me do the long-delayed house repairs that are needed to be done ASAP -- all at minimal cost. (Just in time, a client paid me a relatively huge sum to cover part of the expenses.) What an unexpected reward. To quote a hackneyed quote, God indeed never allows Himself to be outdone in generosity.

On a global scale, I can't help but see the same pattern being played out on a global scale. Combined with an act of justice of a jubilee-year magnitude, an act of forgiveness can make the impossible possible. In this regard, the great American story of white emancipation of blacks, and the blacks' forgiving response to it, is a great inspiration, for it brought about further material and cultural progress for America, from Michael Jackson and all black musicians to Michael Jordan and all black athletes, and so on.

If we could just all forgive the unforgivable, the world will be a much better place. I hope and pray my writings from now on will tend toward the promotion of forgiveness and understanding, especially those hobbled by impossible impasses.

(Lord, please accept this humble offering. I just had to underline the word humble, because I can't even boast of my acts of forgiveness because I honestly couldn't on my own.)


 

Nouwen on the Holy Spirit




The Spirit of Jesus Listening in us

Listening in the spiritual life is much more than a psychological strategy to help others discover themselves.  In the spiritual life the listener is not the ego, which  would like to speak but is trained to restrain itself, but the Spirit of God within us.   When we are baptised in the Spirit - that is, when we have received the Spirit of Jesus as the breath of God breathing within us - that Spirit creates in us a sacred space where the other can be received and listened to.  The Spirit of Jesus prays in us and listens in us to all who come to us with their sufferings and pains.

When we dare to fully trust in the power of God's Spirit listening in us, we will see true healing occur.

Monday, March 11, 2013

 

Lenten retreat recollection: Day 26 - What I'm getting so far

What I'm getting so far from this retreat is this: Deep conversion means deep prayer means docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

But first, am I in touch at all with the Holy Spirit, with all the persons of the Holy Trinity? In all honesty, the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no, and the 'no' times is what is giving me trouble times. When I am not connected, or disconnected, through sin whether serious and venial, neglect, laziness, or loss of warmth for whatever reason, my spiritual life goes in limbo.

But I know I don't purposely disconnect myself from God. I am talking more about seeming disconnection, in the sense that I couldn't feel God the way I used to, particularly in the early days of my charismatic life. During that time, I experienced a lot of spiritual 'sensations' that I never had before:

- inspiring/rebuking words leaping out of the Bible's pages
- 'hearing' God 'talk' to me in prayer time
- hearing the word of God through his chosen servants in community, accompanied by feelings of being touched deeply
- being deeply struck by the priest's words during Mass
- receiving answers I've been waiting for directly from God, through an inspiring thought
- perceiving God's wisdom and message through nature and events as metaphors

Maybe, the real problem is that I got addicted to these charismatic gifts, and in my greedy/hungry nature, I expected them never to wane and be less frequent.

Maybe I am now in a new phase in my spiritual life, being tested through spiritual dryness. It's as though God is asking me, Will I still love/believe/follow Him even without all of the above consolations that I got used to? How much will I endure hardship and suffering for His purposes? Will I be faithful even without earthly rewards, even through suffering and tribulation?

May this period of testing soon pass then. "This, too, shall pass." Most importantly, may I pass this test with flying colors. I'm not new to this test, and I believe I have failed in it each time. Maybe that's why the test keeps on repeating.

It's hard to be a saint indeed, but as Fr. DuBay keeps on emphasizing, not impossible, so no excuses.



Saturday, March 09, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 25 - Unity as a sign of deep conversion

Fr. DuBay now talks about unity in Christian community as a sign that its members have gone through deep conversion. Well? Out retreat master has no idea what memories and emotions he is able to plumb deep within me, with the mere mention of the words 'unity' and 'community.'

The history of my current community is one that sprung out of division. I was new to community then, so it was a total shock to witness my community splitting over some major misunderstanding. I had to take sides, and found myself on the other side of the debate. None of my closest friends then was on the side I took. It was a major trial in my spiritual life.

But looking back, I knew quite easily which to choose. Probably, I was in agony because I knew that my choice would entail losing a lot of friends. I had no problems with divisions, really. I found comfort in the words of Chesterton then, which came to me as a quote, and it says, "Division is better than agreement in evil." If unity means agreement in evil, then I'm out of it; I'd rather endure enmity than face the prospect of false peace, especially peace within me, something which I am willing to lose everything just to have.

The division, needless to say, was very ugly. It's nothing less like seeing the devil descend on a Christian community. If an outsider came to see us, he probably wouldn't see Christ. I saw how community teachings, especially the Lord's teachings on speech and wrongdoing, grossly violated in the form of lies, false witness/misinterpretations/misrepresentations, and not hearing out the other party first-hand before making judgment or choosing sides. Things escalated almost to violent proportions, almost to a shameful court case. Had we gone to that extent, I am not sure whether my Catholic faith would survive intact and unscathed. But looking back, it shouldn't be surprising at all: the area of speech is the easiest path to sin.

They always say that we should forget the past and focus on the present. I often say that too, because I believe it; I know its value by heart, by how it allows one to live life to the fullest. I've seen the difference first-hand, as when I see my brothers and sisters in the past from time to time and can't help but look at them through the filter of a dark past we all shared. I've seen how focusing on who and where we are the moment allows us to start all over again. After all, I've realized that that's not how God looks at me either: He doesn't look at me through the filter of my own dark past, my own past sins.

But first, I figure that we must ask forgiveness for the sins of the past, with a promise to make amends, in case we are the offender, the cause of conflict and disunity. We do this for our own peace of mind, if not for the other party's sake; for all we know, the other party has long moved on. On the other hand, if we are the aggrieved party, we must first offer unconditional forgiveness as well, whether or not an apology was offered. Likewise, we do this for our own sake, to release us from the prison, the burden, of aggrieved feelings, if not for the other's sake, from the burden of debt.

We can forget the past, but we can't afford to forget the lessons of the past. (We must remember these lessons, so the past is not repeated, especially by our future children.) [However, if we must not forget the lessons, then we must not forget the past. Confusing!]

I am not writing this to paint myself as a hero, though great the temptation may be, owing to my sense of vanity and triumphalist nature. I confess that I too was caught up in the middle of misdeeds and mudslinging. I couldn't help but participate in the whispers and wayward talks, in my effort to dig up 'the truth' from both sides, so in the process, I made inevitable judgments. I sinned when I got hurt for what a person said or did without him knowing and, as a result, had spoken negative things behind his back (instead of telling him direct), and thus had harbored ill will for him in my heart. I am writing this to remind myself that the unity I am now enjoying in my present community is precious and golden, for it is a unity won hard by going through the wringer of a dark, emotional spiritual battle, a sudden enmity between people who used to embrace themselves as brothers, sisters, friends.

I think I should now begin to study, to marvel, at how deeply converted these people are around me, despite their major differences with the way they view issues in Christian community. How has everyone managed to bring about and preserve that unity through the years? I am so impressed, that I can't help but exclaim that the Holy Spirit must be working in our midst.

Have I contributed to that unity? How so? Was I more of a critical or divisive spirit? I hope to God not. Far be it from me to be the nemesis of unity in Christian community.

Friday, March 08, 2013

 

Nouwen on being nonjudgmental

Towards a Nonjudgmental life

One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices.  Sometimes we aren't even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are.  We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility.  They make us lose our sense of security just by being "other."  Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at "those other persons" as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart.  Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.

 

Here Without You


I have a few pop love-songs that I like. But this particular sad song I love so much because of the beautiful voice and the relatively sophisticated melody (as far as my ears are concerned). It can trigger in me depressive thoughts, though. Not having someone at this age is one of the many things that sends me to a dangerous abyss of sadness. But in a way I am thankful, for it has revealed what is really in my heart.

If I really have God enthroned in my heart, then why do I feel I'm still lacking? Can't I be happy with God alone? Do I really need someone to complete me? Can't I be happy being alone with God?

Apparently not. There. My wild dream of becoming some kind of a contemplative is rudely exposed as an illusion. 

I need to slay first this idol I am worshiping: that I can only be truly happy if I find someone. Maybe until then, I won't find the intimacy with God that I am looking for.


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