"If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts." (St. Louis, King of France) Practical advice! We complain many times of the trials of our life, but we fail to see the many sins of our past life, which are more destructive in the long run. The trials may be gifts from God, not to make up for our sins, as to be purified from the effects of our sins. On the other hand, the blessings that we receive from God are given to us in spite of the fact we do not deserve them. Our response should be gratitude and service. A grateful heart goes a long way whether in difficulties or in blessings. Hard to do? Yes. But the alternative is worse.
Are you seeking holiness? Part One
It is the will of God that we become holy. "God chose us in Christ Jesus, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved." (Ephesians 1:4-6)
This call was personalized and made possible at the time we were baptized. We became sons of God and Temples of the Holy Spirit, sharing in God’s life, which is holy. To further emphasize this call, we read in 1 Peter: "Be holy as I, the Lord your God, am holy."
Holiness is not an option for a few, but the expectation of God for everyone of us.
As a man, as a father, as a husband, are you truly committed to be a holy man? Or are you like St. Augustine, who for years told God, "I want to be holy, but not yet."
Before you can fulfill your responsibilities to your wife or your children, you must first fulfill your responsibility to God, seeking to grow in union with him. It begins with a "conversion": turning away from sin and it’s control in your life and turning to God as the center of your life. As we address the sins that separate us from God, we will be better able to deal with sins that cool our relationship with him. Like anything else, it is a process that requires commitment, discipline, and perseverance.
This commitment flows from the conviction that I do not want to be a slave of sin any longer. This conviction is based on the faith/fact that Jesus through his death and resurrection has set me free from the bondage of sin. But I must live in this freedom and not allow the enticement and control of sin to dampen my resolve.
Many years ago, a friend of mine had a dream. In it, she saw a large bird cage in which there was a bird flying in it or at times perch on a swing in it. Then she saw a hand rip open the door of the cage, leaving a large opening. Now the bird was free to escape from its prison. Instead, the bird kept flying around in the cage and sitting on its perch.
That is a reflection of our lives sometimes. Though we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation which sets us free, we choose not to go through that door, but remain in our self-imposed prison of sin. Or, if we do confess, we very shortly return to our state of slavery to sin.
What is needed is a determined commitment. But that commitment needs to be follow up with a daily discipline, which would undergird your resolve. This discipline includes daily prayer time with the Lord ; choosing to be conscious of what leads one to sin and making the firm resolve to avoid it; a daily examination of conscious to see how you are doing; having someone to hold you accountable as you seek to grow in the life of holiness.
The final step is to persevere and not become discouraged because you experience failures. Start again and again, no matter how many times it takes. It took Thomas Edison over 200 experiments before he found the right element for the light bulb. Have the same spirit of perseverance in your fight against sin. You will never be fully free of sin, but hopefully the sin that separates you from God will no longer be present, as you seek to deal with the sins that dampen your relationship.
"Often we are preoccupied with the question "How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?" These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love. Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God's love, so connected with God's will, so burning with zeal for God's Kingdom, that he couldn't do other than witness. Wherever he went and whomever he met, a power went out from him that healed everyone who touched him. (See Luke 6:19.) If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was." (Henri Nowen) What is the witness of people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, Pope Francis? Their genuine love for people as they go out of themselves for the other. Love is the greatest and most effective way to witness the person and message of Jesus. This was confirmed by Jesus when he said: "They will know that you are my disciples by the love you show to others." We have been loved beyond measure by God. Now, we are called to respond by showing similar love to others. This was the love that converted the pagan Roman world. This is the love that can have the same effect today, if we but so witness. By grace, this can be done.
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
What is humility? Here are some thoughts:
"Humility isn't thinking little of self; it isn't thinking of self at all."
"That the virtue of humility consists in the knowledge of certain truths, I had already recognized. These truths are: that I am nothing, that I can do nothing but sin, that I depend on God for everything--for existence, conservation, movement, and grace. What is more, I am most happy in my dependence on God, and I prefer to depend entirely on God rather than on myself." (St. Anthony Mary Claret)
"It is proof of deep humility if one realizes that he is condemned without guilt and yet suffers in silence. This is an excellent imitation of Christ, who innocently suffered for our guilt." (St. Theresa)
unexpectedly struck me that this must be because he is the supreme Truth and humility is
truth." (St. Theresa of Avila, (Interiof Castle, VI,10)
Then he said to the host who invited him, "When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Is humility an attitude of the heart and mind, seeing ourselves through the eyes of
God? As Francis of Assisi says: "I am who am as God sees me and nothing more." Being
whom God sees me to be and being that person is true humility.
“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” (St. Rose of Lima) By embracing the cross in his humanity, Jesus experienced the resurrection in his humanity. Our daily crosses can either be embraced or rejected. By embracing them, they enable us to prepare for life after death. By rejecting them, we are making our journey difficult. I know this doesn't make sense. But it is the paradox that Jesus speaks of in the Gospels. If we do not take up our cross and follow him, we can not be his disciples. If we are not his disciples, how can we be with him in eternity? To die to self (our cross) is to rise in him (our victory). Jesus didn't like the cross, but he endured it for our sake. We don't have to like our cross, but embracing it brings a deeper sharing in his divine life. The cross in time or glory and joy in eternity: which do we want?
"In looking at the analogy between Christ's Ascension and Mary's Assumption, we can conclude that Mary, in dependence on Christ, is the Queen who possesses and exercises over the universe a sovereignty granted to her by her Son. The title of Queen does not of course replace that of Mother: her queenship remains a corollary of her particular maternal mission and simply expresses the power conferred on her to carry out that mission." (St. John Paul II) The gift from God of Mary's Queenship is the culmination of all the graces she received beginning with her immaculate conception. But, as the Holy Father said, all the graces were focused on the most unique gift, being the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We honor Mary because God honors her. We honor her as the Mother of Jesus, and by his design, our Mother. And as Mother and Queen, she intercedes for us before the throne of God. Her greatest desire for us is that we will be with God forever in glory.
“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly” (St. John Eudes ) How often do we reflect on the truth of these words? Is our preoccupation deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ, knowing that from this everything else will follow? Is our preoccupation more material, secular and keeping up with the world? It goes back to Jesus' reflection on the narrow road and the wide road. One leads to God; the other away from God. This idea is truly counter-cultural to the values of today's world. But in the end what will matter is our relationship with Jesus, not just a surface one, but a real, intimate one. That is if heaven is your goal in life.