Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the world, yet not of it . . . Gregory the Great

I came across this reading as titled above, by Gregory the Great in the Readings for Commons in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Gregory is preaching on the act of forsaking everything, which he admits that he does not "presume to do."  He suggests that you can still have things while giving them up.

How, we may wonder, can we do that?

The answer lies in his genius.  He says, "Whatever you possess must not possess you; whatever you own must be under the power of your soul. . . . In other words, we make use of temporal things, but our hearts are set on what is eternal.  Temporal goods help us on our way, but our desire must be for those eternal realities which are our goal.  We should give no more than a side glance at all that happens in the world, but the eyes of our soul are to be focused right ahead; for our whole attention must be fixed on those realities which constitute our goal."

What a beautiful reminder that everything external to us, especially those things that occupy our human sensitivities and attract our inclination to pride can become obstacles to our "soul's progress!"

He says, "But further, our minds should merely skirt even the good deeds we perform in this life; in this way, the physical things which give us pleasure will serve our bodily needs without hindering the soul's progress. . . . if you will, you can give everything up even while keeping it, provided you handle temporal things in such a way that your whole mind is directed toward what is eternal."

If you have ever wondered how to let go of the grip of the material world and move closer to God, Gregory concludes his essay by reminding us that we have the help of Jesus to achieve this when  "we burn with a great love for him, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever."

Indeed!  It is a classic practice if we want to grow spiritually, not to focus on the obstacle in our path, but to set our eyes on Jesus.  As we do that, the obstacle will fade and no longer be such a stumbling block.  The more attention we give to the obstacles to our union with God, the bigger they become.

Try taking Gregory's advice if you want to grow closer to God.  Spend more time in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament; attend Mass; pray earnestly.  As "we burn with a great love for him," we will surely be amazed by his presence in our midst.

By simply adoring Jesus, you will find the surest path to freedom.

God bless,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don't be so quick to judge!

I was reading in the 2nd chapter of Romans, Verses 25 and following about and its relationship to the law.  If you recall that circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham, it is easy to read "under the covenant" when we read the word circumcision.

So in this passage, then, it becomes very clear that circumcision loses its connection to righteousness if one who is under the covenant breaks the law.  Likewise, one who is uncircumcised but is following the law, is under the covenant.

Romans puts it this way:

"If an uncircumcised man keeps the precepts of the law, will he not be considered circumcised?  Indeed, those who are physically uncircumcised but carry out the law will pass judgment on you, with your written law and circumcision, who break the law."

Ouch.  A pious Christian who sees himself as holy because of his devotional practices might want to be careful, because one who is not attached to a particular church or devotion, may be greater than you if you start thinking yourself better!

An examination of conscience may be in order here to be sure that your attachment to spiritual (or other) works is not leading you down the path of the circumcised who "keeps the law" but separates himself from its spirit.

God bless,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Justification through the Law?

I was reflecting on Galatians and the last verse (21) of Chapter 2 caused me to pause.  I kept repeating it over and over, trying to absorb Paul's intent.  He said:

" . . . for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing."

I think it is pretty clear that Paul is identifying that Christ died for us and through his death we are saved.  We are not saved by the law, because, if we were, then what need would there be of Christ's death?

Metaphorically speaking, I think there are many "laws" today that we look to for salvation.  Salvation not from death, but from misery.  What do you look to for happiness?  For fulfillment?  For satisfaction?

In one of his You Tube presentations, Fr. Robert Barron says we have a cavern, a deep hole, that we keep throwing things into--things that we think will fill up that hole and bring us satisfaction, but rather than filling us with joy, the cavern remains empty.  It isn't until it is filled by God--or our relationship with God--that it becomes full.

So, rather than metaphorically talking about "laws," I think we can talk concretely about those things we throw into that cavern that we hope will fill us up--not only material things, although there are certainly those, but also intangibles like pride and superficial, trivial matters that we overemphasize and give a place of primacy in our lives.

How much of your day has been focused on details that only really matter to you or satisfy your perfectionism, i.e., pride?

How much busy work do you create to satisfy your need for self-importance?

When was the last time you were charitable with your words or your time? (This would be a good hole-filler for sure!)

Getting back to Paul, then, if we seek to be filled by the things of this world, or are under the illusion that they bring justification, then we are drawn back to the question, For what did Christ die?

He died so we would know and love the Father.  So that we could have eternal life.  We must center our lives on Him and give of ourselves wholly because we love Him.

To do anything else is to stand peering into that cavernous hole, day after day, throwing stuff in, without every being filled.

Jesus died for us.  He is the only one who can save us.

God bless,

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A dry river bed of tasks

I was reading, just recently, about biblical scholars and literary scholars and their approach to the bible.  The rising question was, Should we consider  individual pieces (books) of the bible separately, or look at it as a cohesive whole that creates one unified book?

As always happens, words can never truly describe an image given clearly, and that is the case here, but I will try.   Drawing from this study, I suppose, I saw an image of life as a dry riverbed of tasks, lined up sequentially, standing erect like stonehenge, except linear.   In a flash, the image raised the question, Is this what life is about, moving from one thing to another?"

Now this could be erroneously interpreted as a negative, or unhappy view of life, but that would not be right.  For to me, it was the vehicle that brought life to the realization that God's plan is greater than what we try to create.  That riverbed of tasks is what we create; God is the one who gives it meaning.

Each of those tasks that we line up to do every day, if done without an awareness of the bigger picture that is our life in God, stand like those magnificent Stonehenge rocks--a beautiful arrangement that offers nothing beyond what you see.

I do not think we were created just to move from one thing to another without contemplating God in it.  It seems terribly empty if that is the case.  Very one-dimensional. 

A life that is simply lined with tasks in a dry riverbed falls far short of the purposeful life God gives.  It seems there must be more to life, because indeed, there is.

Put this image of the dry riverbed in your mind.  See your daily tasks lined up in it.  Then ask yourself what meaning can be found in them collectively. Move like the scholars from the individual books of the bible to the bigger narrative called life.

Why do you do what you do? 

What might God's purpose be in them?

I welcome your comments . . .

God bless,

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Do you write in your book?

I am one of those terrible people that make librarians cringe.  I write in books.  Not in library books, of course, but my own.  But those lovers of books known as librarians probably can't stand to watch people like me starring, exclamation pointing, and underlining to my heart's content.

I can't help it.  I read something that at the moment is the best thing I have ever read in my life, and well, I don't want to forget it.  Since my daughter broke me of the habit of folding page corners, I've resorted to the habit of marking up my books.

If I didn't do it, then I might miss telling you about some things I have recently read in Mary, Mirror of the Church by Raniero Cantalamessa that are truly amazing.  For instance, he says:

"Mary offered herself to God as a clean page on which he could write whatever he wanted."

Now I know that Cantalamessa surely didn't invent this image, but what if I were to take that as my motto?  What would my days look like?  Would I know longer be irritated by interruptions, because they are not interruptions at all, but just God writing?

Would it help me to set my own agenda aside and be open to God's plan, which is always better?

What about Cantalamessa's insight that "Mary is the example of the divine disproportion between what can be seen exteriorly and what is taking place within"? 

I've added the following Tertullian quote he provides, to my Quotes page and am trying to commit it to memory because it is so profound:

"Nothing disconcerts the human mind as much as the simplicity of the divine works when compared to the great effects they obtain . . ."

Wow!  Think about that!  This leads to so many other things.  The simplicity of the divine works.  What are those?

Well, the bread and wine that is so simple becomes the savior of the world!
The simple "I do" said by a bride and her husband which is bonding for life!
Human conception, which starts so simply and creates a human being in the image of God!

And if you carry it further, what about how simple our work in cooperation with God can truly be, compared to what he can accomplish in us?

Or how God simply calls us to love others and we make it so hard!

Reflecting on the simplicity of the divine works would take volumes to cover, but then to move on to the second part of that quote "when compared to the great effects they obtain" moves us to wonder and awe at the power of God.  More volumes could be written and lead us to gratitude for all God has done.

I hope I can be forgiven for my underlining and writing in my book, but these insights are far too great to be left unmarked!

I hope you will check out this book.  It is loaded with insights that cause one to pause in contemplation.  See if you can find gems that you can apply to your life as well.

God bless,

Saturday, August 25, 2012


This is the time of year when parents and students are beginning to gear up for school. Let us not forget that it is also the time for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process of discernment to begin. This is an opportunity for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Catholic Church--who may be interested in joining the church--to gather with others who are interested. Typically the sessions are weekly and they always offer plenty of opportunity for questioning and discussion. If you have ever thought about joining the church, please contact your local Catholic Church to learn more about these classes. God bless, Janet