Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We all have unique gifts given us to build up the Kingdom - even you!

Mother Teresa said it best:

"I can do something you cannot do; you can do something I cannot do. Together let us do something beautiful for God."

Friday, March 9, 2018

Talking to God ...

All prayer begins with the invitation of God, who invites us to know him in a personal manner. The triune mystery, the energizing presence in all things, is always reaching out to us through the indwelling Spirit.

We think that prayer is our effort to reach out to God. What appears to be our initiative is actually our response to God’s Spirit prompting us to pray. Often we go about the day unaware of God’s gracious presence calling us to new life. When we pray, we wake up to God’s call and loving embrace. This is why St. Paul advises us to, “Pray without ceasing.”

The best way to speak to God in prayer is as one friend to another.  We can thank God for food, our house, our teachers; asking God to bring our family members safely home from work and school, or saying sorry when we hurt each other. These are prayers of thanks, petition, and forgiveness.

Christian tradition teaches that God speaks to us in many ways, especially through Jesus Christ, but many struggle to hear God speak at all. The psalmist warns, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” The key word in that sentence is "if." The psalmist thinks the problem is hard hearts, which is no doubt correct, but we also have a hearing problem. Living in a fast-paced, noisy world, we struggle to hear the voice of God. Many Christians do not know how to listen for God’s voice because they do not understand how God speaks. Many conclude, therefore, that God does not talk to us. If we do not expect God to speak to us, we will not listen for God’s voice.  We harden our hearts and close our minds.

How does God speak to us?

One way is through remorse. Sometimes we act against the work and mission of Christ and engage in destructive behavior. When these situations arise, the Holy Spirit works to change our behavior by filling us with remorse. Many Christians assume they only experience God in moments of peace and joy, but Saint Ignatius of Loyola reminds us that God speaks to us in other ways, particularly in experiences of remorse. This is an act of love on God’s part because God desires to free us from our distorted attitudes and actions. God speaks to us through feelings of regret and sorrow over how we act at times.

The Lord also speaks to us in confession. Through the priest’s words, we experience the Lord’s mercy and compassion. After admitting what we have done and agreeing to do our penance. We often feel light, happy and filled with energy. According to St. Ignatius, God encourages the person who seeks reconciliation by restoring the relationship and by filling them with energy, courage, clarity, and inspirations. God also gives spiritual consolation. What is that? The most common form is feelings of quiet and peace and experiences of interior joy that attract us to live like Christ. When we are feeling free from guilt, we have a sense of God filling us with joy. That is an experience of “spiritual consolation,” a result of our cooperation with the Lord.

St. Ignatius believed that all the good we receive in our lives comes from God, like light streaming toward us from the sun. We always need to ask ourselves: “What good things was I given today?”  Most of us would answer family, friends, our home, and food. Do we know what God is saying to us when he gives us such good things? He is telling us how much he loves us and cares for us.

Why doesn’t God speak to me as he spoke to the prophets or the disciples of Jesus?

This is a common question for many Christians, adults as well as children. Our experiences, interpreted in the light of these Ignatian principles, reminds us that the Lord Jesus is always speaking to us through our relationships and choices, through our feelings, desires, imagination, and thoughts. He speaks through creation, through the gift of our lives, through other people and through our own abilities, opportunities, and struggles. The Lord desires to be in a relationship with us, to free and transform us into his image. Our task is to listen and respond.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Transfiguration

It’s been a tough year in America. First came the hurricanes that devastated so many people.  Then the wildfires which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors here in California.  And now another awful mass shooting at a school. A year like this prompts so many of us to ask … "Why?"

Why does God allow tragedy and suffering?

And the truth is there’s a mystery to tragedies like these. We don’t know the answer. And we may never know until God explains all things to us. To these big tragic events, we can all add the everyday pain and suffering we experience in our individual lives. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, injuries, heartache, crime and the loss of someone dear to us.  And we ask –  Why? Why? Why?

At least Jesus was honest with us about the inevitability of suffering. In the Gospel of John, he said, "You will have to suffer in this world." He didn't say – you might – he said it is going to happen. But why?

If you ask me, “Why did God allow the gunman to spray a high school in Florida with gunfire just a few days ago?” the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words: "I do not know."  None of us have God's mind we don't share his perspective.

Saint Paul once said: "Now we see things imperfectly like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity." Someday we'll see clearly, but for now, things are foggy. We can't understand everything from our limited perspective.                                               

The people suffering from the Florida tragedy don't need a big theological treatise right now, any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What they desperately need now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. They need a shoulder to cry on from someone who cares. They need friends to journey with them through the pain.  And we know and can be grateful, that so many churches and ministries of that community are helping them experience that.

It is still important to grapple with the question of why God allows suffering in our lives. I had a very good friend who taught me a lot about suffering. His name was Liam Hearne. Liam was born with cystic fibrosis he had been in and out of hospitals his whole life and yet he told me one day he thought God is fair. I looked at him in amazement and said, “Liam you think that God is fair after all you have been through, and he said, "Yes … and God has all eternity to make it up to me."

There was the transfigured Christ standing right in front of me - Liam Hearn.

We've all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter to reject God to become hard and angry and sullen can cause another person to turn to God to become more gentle and more loving and more tender willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain.

That was Liam! He was always ready to reach out to comfort others.

The God we worship isn't some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. He entered our world and personally experienced our pain. But he also came into our world to show us the glory of God too. That’s what the Gospel story teaches us today. Yes, suffering exists, and Christ who shared in our humanity shared in our suffering so that we could share in his divinity. And that day on the mountain he showed Peter, James, and John - and us - His divinity is something truly spectacular.

John Henry Newman a 19th-century convert who became a cardinal told us what this moment truly means. He said: “It is the duty and the privilege of all disciples of our glorified Savior, to be exalted and transfigured with Him; to live in heaven in their thoughts, motives, aims, desires, likings, prayers, praises, intercessions, even while they are in the flesh; to look like other men, to be busy like other men, to be passed over in the crowd of men, or even to be scorned or oppressed, as other men may be, but all the while to have a secret channel of communication with the Most High, a gift the world knows not of; to have their life hid with Christ in God.”

That is our call to be transformed too.

To shine the light of Christ – the glory of God – to those all around us

To like Liam be a beacon of light even in a broken world.