LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
There comes a time, if one is paying attention, when patterns in one's life become undeniable. There is a... "ah hah!" moment. A time when one realizes what its all about. Some call it "enlightenment". Thomas Merton tells us that true enlightenment can only occur when a person recognizes, accepts and lives what God has willed. It is all in the action! But that topic is material for another blog. For now, I will say that I have arrived at a discovery that if I act upon it, can only be beneficial for me. I am sharing this with the hope that it will be helpful to you as well.
The change in my life that I am desperately in need of is based on my voluntarily submitting to "God's will of good pleasure."
From Philippians 2:13... we are told that: "...not in your own strength...
for it is God who is all the while effectually at work in you,
both to will and to work for His good pleasure and
satisfaction and delight. Do all things without grumbling and
faultfinding and complaining."
Do all things that we recognize as pleasing to God.
What I have slowly come to realize is that I must attempt to do what
I recognize is pleasing to God, for there is where the peace I have
been searching for is found. I understand now that it is a peace
that only Christ can offer me, because I have tried everything else.
In other words..."God's will of good pleasure" is about embracing,
gladly, what God has willed in my life. There can be no more
messing around, no more "swivel hipping" my way through
life in an attempt to realize "a happy ending." No more
pretending or posing. I must remain focused on the
concept of "God's will of good pleasure"...
then go deeper until I am walled up inside Christ.
For as St. Augustine once wrote: "I will not rest, until
I rest in Him."
Hoping that through the process of osmosis I will be able
to understand and embrace "God's will of good pleasure",
I have listened over and over again to the monk's voice
speaking God's truth as he, Merton, understood it.
(Thomas Merton on the 12 Degrees of Humility)
I listen as though my life depends on it... because more and
more it feels like it does! My turmoil, my lack of peace...
my anxiety is born out of my laboring, no... my wrestling
with God's will. I know that now and I believe that
a sick spirit comes from struggling with what the soul
already knows is good and right.
So I ask myself: Could it be that wresting with God
is the source of madness itself?
Because of the importance of this Sunday's Gospel reading which focuses on Jesus as The Bread of Life (John 6:51-58), I feel compelled to speak to a reply I often hear when the subject of attending Mass regularly is mentioned: "I don't have to go to Church. God is everywhere. I do my own thing. We have understanding he and I (noticed the lower case h)...I'm good." And then the discussion is over and the speaker leaves no room for any idea other than what he/she feels is true.
I always find these encounters unfortunate and sad because many times these same folks are also afflicted with "the dark night of the soul"; a real malady of spirit based on a person's life that has been invaded by despair. The fifteenth-century Christian writer John of the Cross described this experience in what I see as a hopeful way; he called it la noche oscura, or dark night, and explained that it is a difficult invasion of God's astringent grace to open us to new realms of spiritual experience. Many would call this "depression"...a Saint calls it opportunity.
Without participating in The Holy Mass, logically speaking...from start to finish...the idea of "being an Island unto one's self" doesn't, won't and can't work if one wants to be in just relationship to God. And why is that? Because without participating in Mass we are not able to live the Mystery of the Eucharist. Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you." He could not have been more clear.
In 1956 Thomas Merton addressed what he felt was "the whole problem" and I quote:
The whole problem of our time is the problem of love:
how are we going to recover the ability to love ourselves
and to love one another? The reason why we hate one
another and fear one another is that we secretly or openly
hate and fear our own selves. And we hate ourselves
because the depths of our being are a chaos of frustration
and spiritual misery. Lonely and helpless, we cannot be at
peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves,
and we cannot be a peace with ourselves because we are
not at peace with God. ...In order to see something of the
meaning of the Blessed Eucharist, we must live the Mystery
of the Eucharist we must see God and adore Him in this
Sacrament (The Living Bread, pg. xii).
SO simply put...one can't live the Mystery of the Eucharist...see God and adore Him in this Sacrament if one remains outside the doors of The Church
Last night, in a dream, I was in Rome where I met Pope Francis.
He is a loving, quite endearing, very hopeful man . He spoke to me in the dream and asked if I would do something for him. I thought as I returned his gaze: How could I refuse you?
Dreams, in the Christian tradition, are considered a "ever-present call to holiness and wholeness, as an invitation to relate to God and to our deepest inner self, and as a gift to the individual and the community." (Louis M. Savary, "Dreams And Spiritual Growth," Paulist Press. 1984.)
With that in mind, I am certain that last night's dream was not a coincidence.
I have been working on my own conversion: a daily exercise of prayer, study and receiving the sacraments often and I believe that this Pontificate visitation is apart of my journey.
A very close friend of mine offers this rebuttal whenever I try to discuss my dream or his: "Its just a dream dear...." He gives no credence to an unexpected nocturnal visage. Another good friend reminds me often that: "I am every part of the the dream." I have always disagreed with both of them, believing that dreams are prophetic. After all, hadn't St. Joseph, for example, been instructed by God through a dream? And hadn't Elijah, in today's scriptural reading fallen asleep under a broom tree at which time an angel visited him twice to offer him heavenly intervention? We are told in the handbook, "Dreams and Spiritual Growth" that: In the early Church, many Christians followed their dreams to find God's will and to understand how God was working in their lives. " Why, I wonder then, am I any different?
Abraham Lincoln said: "How much there is in the Bible about dreams! There are, I think, some sixteen chapters in the Old Testament and four or five in the New in which dreams are mentioned: and there are many other passages scattered throughout the book which refer to visions. If we believe the Bible, we must accept the fact that, in the old days, God and his angles came to humans in their sleep and made themselves known in dreams."
(Reported in Lloyd Lewis, Myths after Lincoln (New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1957)
Clearly, dream work can be a means through which we might share the Joy of the Gospel and is a stunning method of Evangelizing. I am offering this place for you to record, observe and share your dreams. With the help of some of the thirty-five dreamwork tools and techniques found in the Dreams and Spiritual Growth perhaps we can help each other discern God's will.
In the column "dear Padre" a reader complains: Our last pastor gave good homilies, and I got a lot out of them. Our new pastor either tells jokes or talks about what he did during the week. How can I get him to preach better homilies? (Signed: Hungry for the Word)
I think the parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish ( Stamford, NY) are particularly blessed, if not spoiled by the quality of homily they receive every Sunday. Our pastor, Fr. Cambi, spends a great deal of time preparing for the writing of his typical eight minute homily; he knows the power of words and how to make them work for us and he is engaging. I can follow just how he carefully and skillfully uses the day's Scripture reading to direct the listener to a place of reflection. Sadly, not every Catholic has the good fortune of experiencing such a "homilist" and that works against The New Evangelization and individual conversion. If a person is "not getting anything out of " the Liturgy of The Word there is a big problem brewing for The Church, the individual and the priest.
Fr. Rick Potts aka "the dear Padre" tells us: "a homily must artfully draw a listener into questions of the human heart and bring that day's Scripture reading to bear on those questions. In that moment we hear--in faith how hope, love, sacrifice, and belief in God guides us in our life's journey."
Many of my readers at LetItAllStartHere are knowledgeable enough to describe the qualities of a strong homily. They know what they need to get out of that experience. I am asking those same readers to join our movement as we insist that priests do the work and prepare thought provoking homilies. Answer the question: How can a pastor write a better homily? BE NOT AFRAID! Tell us what you have learned through the many years you have participated in The Holy Mass. I can start the ball rolling by offering this from Thomas Merton: " We don't need so much to talk about God but to allow people to feel how God lives within us, that's our work." This is the work of the priest: To get his people to feel something.