Monthly Archives: May 2018

Diversity of Work

Once St. Anthony was asked, “What good work shall I do?” And he answered. “All works are not equal, the scriptures said that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him. And, Elijah loved quiet, and God was with him. And, David was humble, and God was with him. What therefore you find that your soul desires in following God, that do, and keep your heart.”

—-Abba Anthony of the Desert

All followers of Jesus feel the need to work to achieve the tenants that Jesus revealed. Many times, we ask ourselves the nagging question – Where do I fit? Often we come to the conclusion that our work is not good enough. May-23-post-1We all search for that “work” that all Jesus followers must do. Many of us were trained from a very early age that we must discover the “way” to follow Jesus and be a part of his work. The Abba tell us that there is not just one work but many works that meet that goal.

 

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:28

The monk and the apostle Paul tell us that God has given us what we need. Anthony pointed to three very well known epic biblical characters and the diversity of the work they performed. In doing so, he quickly says that God was with them all. He used the hospitality of Abraham, the silence of Elijah and the Abba-Anthony-May-23humility of David to accomplish the work of the God. They were all different, maybe radically so, but  God was with them. He created them and He used them. Paul in his Corinthian letter sets forth the concept of gifts for ministry. The message is, not all ministry is the same. We are designed by God and equipted by him.

Paul strongly points out to a very diverse and sometimes very divided church at Corinth that there is a place for all. Even more importantly, there is not a superior way of serving God. We are all equipped to be up to the task. The key is for us to embrace ourselves as God has equipped us and serve as we are gifted. Perhaps just as important is to relish in the way God has created us.

God has blessed you just as you are created. Please don’t allow the world to convince you that you have nothing to offer, or that your gift is not worth sharing. God is the one who determines such things. There are many people in the church and outside of the church that will be more than happy to devalue you so that you will not even try to offer your service.


Prayer

Lord, I know that you have created me as a person of great value. Let me discover that I have something to offer and my offering will be blessed by God.

Amen

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Meditation

Meditation-1Meditation is the latest of a series of spiritual practices that have surged in the past few year. Practices of meditation have been around for thousands of tears. These practices were usually limited to monasteries and groups that specialized in the practice.Wikipedia tells us that meditation can be defined as a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Meditation is practiced by all world religions and by agnostics and atheists. Why?

  • Meditations relieves stress
  • Meditation get us in touch with our inner selves
  • Meditation demands for us to slow down
  • Meditation forces us to live without noise
  • Meditation is a way to get in touch with God
  • Meditation improves our focus
  • Meditation can make us healthier

Let’s take a look at what a few well known thinkers has said about meditation.

The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. – Confucius

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. – C.S. Lewis

Divinely bent to meditation;
And in no worldly suits would he be mov’d,
To draw him from his holy exercise.
– William Shakespeare, Richard III Act 3, Scene 7

God’s first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation. — Thomas Keating

meditation-2We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can, namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us. – St. Teresa of Avila

In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. – St. John of the Cross

Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him –Padre Pio

The more we can give in our silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. – Mother Teresa

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. —-Psalm 19:14

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain—–Psalm 104:1-34

My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Your precepts. May those who fear You turn to me, Even those who know Your testimonies. —- Psalm 119:78-148


Prayer

Lord, help me to find the time to dwell upon you everyday. May I be guided to a special place that is quiet enough to hear even a whisper from you.

Amen

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Dark Silence

The Seven Storey Mountain

The Seven Storey Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

—T.S. Eliot

For language to have meaning, there must be intervals of silence somewhere, to divide word from word and utterance from utterance. He who retires into silence does not necessarily hate language. Perhaps it is love and respect for language which imposes silence upon him. For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence.

—Thomas Merton

TS Eliot and Thomas Merton were both writers who spent a lot of their lives and writings searching for the ultimate meaning of life. They chose different paths. Merton was born in France and made his way to the US and became a citizen. Eliot, on the other hand, was born in St. Louis MO and immigrated to England where he became a subject of the Queen. Eliot married twice and dedicated his life to his wives and poetry. Merton joined the Abbey of Gethsemane and became the most famous writing Monk of our time. These great writers left us with a treasure trove of great literature. They were different but the same. The above quotes inform us that they had a commonality of thought about silence and meditation.

Their joint cry is that we hear and see the most when we cut ourselves off from the language and light that surround us. That cutting off is called by different names, silence, contemplation, meditation but it always has the same end desire, to communicate with something, someone outside of ourselves. We all have an inbuilt desire to discover our true selves that God created. We are bogged down, stitched up with the learning and cares of the world, and we all know there must be something more. That more only exists when we move beyond.

Eliot stresses the need to allow ourselves to be swallowed in the darkness so that the light might manifest itself. He aptly states that if we create our own hope it will be a prejudicial hope that is wrapped in our own desires. Only when we allow love that is not purely self-love enter, can we see light rise from darkness.

Merton reminds us that we are noise machines who seek to fill in every void with more noise. For our language (noise) to have any meaning there must be times of silence that allow us to digest what we have taken into our souls. That silence is the time when we experience divine translation of human noise. In the brightness of the light of God sometimes our utterly meaningless sound becomes the voice of God.

Some years ago I spent a few days at days at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana. I chose to stay in the guest rooms of the Monastery itself rather than the retreat house. By doing so I experienced the complete rhythm of Monastic life. Prayer, work, sharing meals and recreation time. I sat at the Abbot’s table in the refectory for meals and that is where I really got a message in the silence of meal time. There was a young monk reading some “Vatican News.” He was an otherwise engaging and intelligent young man, but his reading skills for this kind of stuff were horrible. Therefore I chose to tune him out but there was another sound that captivated my brain. It was the clanging of the dishes as the monks ate their food. That clanging became all that I heard. Mysteriously, God gave me a message in that absence of my noise. I have never again taken a single meal for granted. The noise of the dishes reminds me of the abundance that God has provided for me and the desire I must have to share it with the world. My silence allowed God to break into my life and speak to me. Merton reminds us, “For the mercy of God is not heard in words unless it is heard, both before and after the words are spoken, in silence.”

Seek the dark silence today so that you might experience the light.


Prayer

Lord, lead me to a time of silence and holy darkness that will allow me to get a glimpse of your light. It is the light that illuminates beyond my imagination. Allow me to silently bask in that light so that I may see you more clearly.

Amen.

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Who Do I Think I am Fooling?

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward, since they do not proceed from God as their first principle, and by Him alone is our virtue real virtue. The soul separated from Him is no longer pleasing in His eyes, because by committing a mortal sin, instead of seeking to please God, it prefers to gratify the devil, the prince of darkness, and so comes to share his blackness. I knew a person to whom our Lord revealed the result of a mortal sin and who said she thought no one who realized its effects could ever commit it, but would suffer unimaginable torments to avoid it. This vision made her very desirous for all to grasp this truth therefore I beg you, my daughters, to pray fervently to God for sinners, who live in blindness and do deeds of darkness.

—-Teresa of Avila

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

—-Matthew 7:21-23


 

For most of the world, good works and words equal oneness with God. The mystic Teresa of Avila and Jesus himself have something else to say. Jesus, while addressing the religious zealots of his day, points out that words and actions not grounded in the heart will leave us without peace. His message is clear. There are untold numbers of people who do things for their own self-aggrandizement and pretend that they are doing them for God. That was true then, and it’s true now. He met these people with a scathing” I never knew you” and sent them away. Teresa picked up on this theme in her writing that we use today.

She referred to the state that a soul finds itself in when mortal sin exists. I would venture to say that being absent from the grace of God is simply being present in our own grace. We are prideful creatures who love to relish in our own greatness. No matter how great our self-worth rises, there are still times when we feel threatened. In these threatening times, we are pushed to do something to prove our worth. The temptation of the garden was to have the knowledge of good and evil. When man attained this knowledge, a knowledge that was reserved for God, he was ejected from the peace of the Garden of Eden and banished into a life of struggle and toil. We are the heirs of that banishment and we must seek the path of grace. Let us consider a few facts.

· THE REALIZATION THAT WE CANNOT DO SAVE OURSELVES

Somehow, somewhere we all believe that we have the power to save ourselves. People are inbuilt with the inclination that we can do things our way, and our way is enough to please God or anybody else.

· OUR BEST EFFORTS FALL SHORT

If we can just do our best, that will be enough. We deny that we have a real sin nature and feel that steady improvement will get us to a true and solid relationship with God. The very idea that we have a serious problem with sin causes our sin nature to balk.

·THE GRACE OF GOD IS NOT FOR SALE

In our frantic path to do our best we somehow feel that we will eventually attain the price that God wants out of us. What will it take to please God short of admitting that we can’t do it on our own? That is the haunting question that cries out from our souls. The grace of God is a free gift set for distribution by the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah on the cross.

· THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF-MADE MAN

Here in the United States, we love the story of the self-made person. The classic rags to riches stories are what makes the American dream. In our minds, we think of pleasing God by doing all the work ourselves. That “I can” attitude is deeply ingrained in us and the only way to be one with God is to say, “I can’t” and turn ourselves over to his mercy and grace.

Just as Teresa said to the Carmelites many years ago, “While the soul is in mortal sin nothing can profit it; none of its good works merit an eternal reward,” our efforts to come to God without first admitting our sin falls short. Let today be the day that we take a serious look at who we are and come to know that without grace we are not what God made us to be. Our relationship with our creator is not measured by what we do but by who we love and serve. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”


 

Prayer

Lord, help me to see myself as I really am. Free me from the burden of working frantically to attain a salvation that is your free gift to me and the whole world. Help me to control my ego and to turn to you. May I accept my sin and ask for your grace.

Amen

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