Sunday, July 21, 2013

Choosing The Better Part. By:C.C.

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke10:42)


    The Gospel reading for today is one that invites each of us to take a look at our own lives and into the anxieties and distractions that we often experience. Many of us can potentially insert our own names into this passage; identifying ourselves most with Martha as we too may overlook choosing the "better part".
    Being aware of the presence of God in our lives and working towards remaining attune to Him can enable us to accomplish our works with much greater ease. It can also help us to prioritize our tasks. Thursday's Gospel reading reminded us that we are invited to cast all of our burdens upon Jesus..."Take my yoke upon you and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."(Matthew29:29-30) It is easy to become overwhelmed and distracted as Martha did by the pressures of life and yearning to please others. As responsibilities pile upon our shoulders we can feel as if we work alone; losing sight of our Lord and His providence by becoming consumed in the noise of activity and deaf to His words.
    Jesus calls us away from our tasks and burdens as He did with Martha by reminding her what the "better part" was. Though Martha's intent was pure and seeking to serve our Lord, there is something much more beautifully selfless in what is most pleasing to Him. It is not a matter of self-flattery by which Jesus declares Mary's choice to be the 'better part', but it is a statement made out love and desire to provide Martha with the sustaining peace, joy, and strength that His presence and counsel can bring to her. Jesus also affirms through this that it is far better to be in communion with one another, sharing time, and listening to each other, rather than perpetually busying ourselves with what we deem to be productive and necessary work. 
      I was moved in two directions while reading this Gospel. The first asserted the need to constantly practice the presence of our Lord and to cast my burdens upon Him so that I may fulfill all of my tasks in the way that He wills. Secondly, I am reminded of our call as Christians to receive others as if we are receiving Christ. The way that we treat our brothers and sisters so too do we treat our Lord. 
    Jesus reminds us today of our need to sit with Him and listen in order that we may grow in a relationship with Him and remain aware our need and His constant desire to be part of our lives. It is the "better part" to sit attentively before His feet so that we not only remember His majesty, but that we come to know His immense love for us. By being present at the feet of our Lord we can learn how to be most present to our tasks and also to those we encounter. Let us strive to always choose the "better part" by sitting attentively and listening to our Lord. (C.C.) 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The 'Can't' Catholics and Ineffective Evangelization by: C.C.

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth." (2Timothy 2:24-25)

    To love our Lord is a beautiful thing and to seek to live out His will is something that each of us should strive for. To live in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church is to live in accordance with Christ. Potentially after reading such a statement many who disagree wholeheartedly with this may feel quite "puffed". And for this I will apologize, but not entirely. I apologize to you because if you disagree with this statement then it means that this Truth has not been properly shown and shared with you by those you have encountered. It is for this reason that many people today are misguided, misled, and overly critical of what the Catholic Church is all about. We do most disservice to one another and ultimately to our Lord when we begin looking at others and finding fault in them declare that there must be a greater fault in their religion. We also cause immense damage when we do not humble ourselves and live in accordance to what we are taught and have received through grace. When we preach principals that we do not practice without a humble spirit we cause damage.
   I am full of fault and error, I sin and I fall short many times from reaching the bar that our beloved saints have set. I can not yet love in the fullness preached in the Gospel and I surely can not begin to look at another and criticize their shortcomings as if I am better than them. What I can do though is gently point them in the direction of He who can do and has done everything that I can not. I can lead them through my actions and my surrender toward He who through us can accomplish the impossible;He who provides love beyond our understanding and calls us toward Him with love and not in a spirit of condemnation. I can lead them to the beauty of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, allowing what can not be understood by words and intellect to be experienced.
     There is nothing more ineffective than losing sight of the simple truth that we are human. The humility required to serve our Lord is immense. Our biblical ancestors and beloved saints, and even those living around us today with great fever and effectiveness for our Lord all possess an incredible amount of humility.
     What makes us most great is not the many things that we accomplish or strive to achieve, rather, as Christians we acknowledge that to be "great" is to be nothing and to allow our Lord to accomplish amazing things through us. It is in this way that we can attain joy, peace, and experience the love of our Lord. It is troubling to me when I am faced with those around me within the Catholic Church family, who believe that for some reason a way of "catching souls" is through condemnation, anger, judgement, and by throwing out rules and "Can'ts" opposed to presenting the person of Jesus. 
    Surely there is a way ordained to live our lives in accordance with God that may first appear limiting to some, but this is a conclusion made out of ignorance and not out of the awareness of truth and love. It is love that places these seemingly demanding ways of life upon us. Love that cares more for our well-being than we often care for ourselves and even realize. In seeking to evangelize we must be aware that our first task is to live out the Gospel, live out the faith, live in a relationship with the Lord and strive for purity of heart. It is only in this way that we can ever engage with our brothers and sisters within and "without" the Church in proper spirit of God and in the way that we are truly called. 
   We must own our humanity and brokenness, we must see ourselves before God in humility. In seeing the truth of ourselves we become less critical of those around us. We can not parade around yelling at others saying "You can''t do this, and this is wrong", we must act in love. I am not suggesting that we tolerate what is evil, I am not saying that we dilute our faith by any means. I am saying that it is time to reclaim the old Latin saying "Fortiter in re,  suaviter in modo" - Strong on the principals, soft on the approach. May we  seek to first live out the principals we wish to uphold with a humble heart, turning time and time again to our Lord in faith and trust. (C.C)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chastity: Clarity to Discern and to Love. By:C.C.

     The virtue of Chastity is presented quite prominently today. However, it is still something that many may dance around discussing and addressing due to the fact that well, we are asking people to address the matter of sex. How does one do this without crossing "the line'? It is accomplished by presenting human sexuality through the lens of He who drew the line in the first place. We do most justice to matters of our sexuality by drawing nearer to our Lord to understand what this beautiful gift so misused and misunderstood today is truly all about. Through this we are able to become aware of the intended purpose of our sexuality and how each of us individually are called to live it out. We become aware that chastity is not a "death sentence" or something proposed so that we will not enjoy our sexuality, but rather, it is a means for us to experience true freedom, true joy, and unity in a way that often exceeds our understanding. 
    Sexuality is not separate from God, or bad, but it belongs so appropriately, intimately, and beautifully with Him that it must be utilized in accordance with His will and design to fulfill it's full purpose. When we understand our sexuality in accordance to the will of God then we are truly being led toward the greatest of joys. 
   God's will is often ignorantly perceived of as being authoritarian, punishing, and strict which leads many to buy into the lie of using sex as a means of recreation and "liberation" which ultimately leads them to becoming enchained by lust and unable to experience the depth of intimacy that is beyond physical limitations. Where is the liberty in that? It is this misguided understanding of human sexuality that has added to the evils we face in today's society..abortion,sexual addiction, pornography, adultery, and the destruction of family life. 
     There is a fulfillment of relationship and understanding of human intimacy on a divine level that can not be attained or experienced by disordered physical and sexual intimacies. There is a bareness through which we approach God when we are not consumed in lust; and also, the way we encounter our brothers and sisters in Christ is a much more profound and genuine experience. Chastity invites us to experience the love of God and the love of one another in purity. 
  Sexuality is a gift from God and living chaste is a gift that we give to God, but ultimately one that in turn gives so much more in abundance to us. Often, we are led to think that chastity is all about our "future spouse", and while the importance of chastity before and within marriage is undeniable, chastity is a call for all of us primarily for union with God Himself. It is by living chaste and seeking to grow in relationship with our Heavenly Father that we can discern with clarity and are ultimately led to where God wills us to be (marriage or religious life). It is through chastity that we can see the immensity of what God has gifted us with and can hear Him calling us His beautiful beloved. Like all things on our spiritual path there are challenges and trials in living chaste, but we do not work alone. May we invoke the intercession of our Heavenly Father, all the angels and saints , and our Blessed Mother Mary as we seek to live out chastity.
      Heavenly Father we thank you for the gift of our sexuality. Help us always to acknowledge this as a gift from You and provide us with strength to live in purity as we strive to serve You. Lord forgive our sins and protect all of us from temptations and from lust. We pray especially for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother to wrap her mantle of love around our shoulders and guide us along our journey toward purity. Amen (C.C.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Balance of St. Benedict:"Ora et Labora"-Pray and Work. By:C.C.

"Ora et Labora" can often be perceived by the Western world as an ancient ideology rather than an essential balance needed for our "modern times". We can often be most victim to a motto of "work, work, work," and view the idea of having a prayer life to be another job. Prayer, by it's nature should lead us into further union with our Lord where we can attain peace and the means to properly accomplish our tasks according to the will of God.
   It is disordered to consume ourselves solely in work and can result in hindering our time with God, and also damage the relationships with those around us. By being a slave to time and deadlines we are often led tumbling downward becoming most overwhelmed. We create a god out of work and the fruits of this "devotion" are not able to sustain us or satisfy our needs. The often ignorant idea of what obedience to God entails or may ask of our lives can keep us prisoner to the world and unable to attain what we are truly striving for. It keeps us slaves to something that does not provide for what we truly need.
    Obedience to God is the beginning of freedom and fulfillment. It is something Saint Benedict understood well, lived well, and articulated in his writings. By embracing these teachings we can live a balanced life of prayer and work so that we are not slaves to our tasks, or victims of empty and burdensome rushed prayers.
  In giving God our time, we give God credit for the time given to us by Him. One may find themselves accomplishing all work in a spirit of peace, purpose, and joy. One may also see that work can be a form of prayer. It is by giving ourselves to God that so much more is truly given to us. We can find in this offering of ourselves seemingly more time and a Divine helping hand to aid us in our work. Creating the balance between prayer and work begins with prayer. Let us pray to have peace and balance in our lives and to continually turn to our Lord throughout the moments of our day seeking His will in all tasks. (C.C)

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Wound;A Place of Grace. By: (C.C)

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. ( Vance Havner)

We are broken. It is in our brokenness that God shines forth His fullness and enables us to be whole. It is through our weakness that God provides His strength. In surrendering to the will of God and our need for Him, this idea of embracing weakness and the shortcomings in our life serves a purpose by welcoming the immeasurable mercy and healing power of our Lord. By owning the fact that we are not perfect, that we are very broken, and that we are in need of our Divine Physician we are most inclined to receive the grace of God and the understanding of our place in His plan. There is beauty in our brokenness. 
   So often we are tempted to shy away from our wounds, our brokenness, our sufferings, and our sin. We are often afraid to let even God into these places. We create for ourselves not a hidden place of safety, but a personal prison cell entrapped by our own motive to protect, deny, and avoid the very place where we need the most love; where we need the most healing. 
  It is in this place that our Lord wishes to venture and take these burdens from us. It is an act of faith and trust to be completely bare before our Lord exposing our wounds. When Jesus appeared to the disciples he came in peace, acknowledging His own wounds and showed them. It was through this gesture that the disciples recognized Jesus. 
   It is said that that through His wounds we are healed, and potentially it is through our own wounds that we most touch Him; through our sufferings we come to touch the wounds of Jesus. Through our own pain we are able to have some minute understanding of Jesus Christ crucified. When we embrace this cross then all of our trials, pains, and burdens become a way of connecting us further with our Lord and allow us to experience the peace and joy of the Resurrection within our own lives. 
    Our suffering leads us to the fullness of love and into the love of God for each of us if we remain open and surrendered in trust. The place that once burned with pain becomes a place of grace. Our wound becomes a blessing, something we can use to serve God, to relate to our brothers and sisters in their brokenness, and to help others draw nearer to our Lord with trust in His healing power and love for us. 
   It is because I am broken and imperfect that God is most merciful. It is because of my wounds and my sufferings that I can best serve our Lord. It is so because he sought me and I surrendered, enabling Him to shine forth His strength where I was weak, and His fullness where I was broken. It is because He loves all of us unconditionally. In looking back from where I stand today I can rejoice in the Lord when faced with remembering the wounds of my past, and the experiences lived. "What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?" (Psalm116:12) I shall return love and trust. Reminding my brothers and sisters in Christ that Jesus longs to heal our wounds and use them as a means of sharing His love, His mercy, and His compassion. Let us recall the woman in the Gospel reading today and her great faith, she knew that by simply touching the garment of our Lord that she would be healed. May we seek to touch Jesus and be in His presence, trusting that He too will heal us and meet us in our brokenness with love.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Great Faith, Great Grace. By:C.C

``Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our Father's love- difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs - everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness. Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events - to the heart that loves, all is well. (St. Therese of Lisieux)

     When reflecting upon the lives of our beloved Saints it is important to acknowledge the difficulties and sufferings that they too had to endure. In our veneration of them, and the way in which we regard them as `spiritual heroes` of our Church it is important to also recognize and be reminded of the obvious fact that these men and women were indeed human. They were faced with challenges and joys, trials and tribulations, sufferings and consolations. They were created no different from you and I. They are beloved children of God just as we are. They, like us are called to love. The degree in which these men and women experienced the love of God in their lives is the result of how much they truly loved, trusted, and honored God through all things. This too is the same for us. The Saints were not excused from the trials of life, and quite often they were faced with the most perilous of circumstances. What is it then that these men and women possessed which enabled them to lay down their lives for the Lord?  It was great love and great faith in God.
  I have chosen to use these words from St. Therese of Lisieux because of the amazing example she has been to me in my life and also in the lives of many I encounter. Her simplicity and her humility enabled her to experience our Lord's love in the most beautiful of ways. It is because of her great love of God that she was able to accomplish great things and be an example for us today. 
   "Everything is grace". How often do we find ourselves truly saying this throughout our daily dealings and struggles? Do we find time in each moment and circumstance to seek the hand of God upon what we are faced with? 
  Though our flesh may urge us to scream and rage in reaction to some of life's obstacles the spirit reminds us that these "stumbling blocks" are moments of great opportunity for purifying us and strengthening our faith in the Lord if we remain focused on Him. In recognizing all things as a gift from God we can better approach our challenges with a sense of peace and serenity. If our love and trust in God is great then we trust that He can accomplish the unimaginable; we can accept all things from His hand as necessary even if we do not understand them. May we continually seek to serve our Lord in love through all things. May our trust in Him grow in accordance with our love so that we are able to face difficulties, contradictions, humiliations,  and all the soul's miseries with great faith. (C.C.)