Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday, 5th Week: God’s Everlasting Covenant Rests On Unconditional Love

"I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them” – Ez 37:26 

When God makes a covenant with us, God says, “I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me, or betray me.” In our society we don't speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say, “I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours. When you don't live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.” Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms. 

God did not make a contract with us; God forged a covenant with us, one that is rooted in God’s faithfulness more than ours. Regardless of our infidelity, God keeps God’s promise of everlasting love. And God wants our relationships with one another to reflect that covenant. That is why marriage, friendship, and life in community are all ways to manifest God's faithfulness in our lives together. 

O Faithful One, help me to be faithful to all my commitments.

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday, 5th Week: Our Calling to Give and Receive Consolation

"In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears." - Psalm 18:6 

Consolation is a beautiful word. It means "to be" (con-) "with the lonely one" (solus). To offer consolation is one of the most important ways to care, to love. In silence, God is with Jesus, lonely and forsaken on the cross. The Risen Jesus offers consolation to followers who grieve his death.

Life is so full of pain, sadness, and loneliness that we often wonder what we can do to alleviate the immense suffering we see. We can and must offer consolation. We can and must console the young adult who is confused and depressed, the mother who lost her child, the person with AIDS, the family devastated by tsunamis, earthquakes or lost jobs, the soldier who is wounded, the teenager who contemplates suicide, the old man who wonders why he should stay alive. 

To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, “You are not alone, I am with you. Together we can carry the burden. Don't be afraid. I am here.” It is to trust that God is present and will give hope somehow, despite uncertainties. That is consolation. We all need to give it as well as to receive it. That is God’s great gift in Jesus, who is God-with-us-in-suffering. That is our calling, especially as we enter Holy Week.

Lord, who do you call me to console today?

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent: It is my Father who glorifies me.

Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word"…So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.—John 8:51-59

Jesus is taking a very unpopular stand here—which I realize is a massive understatement! His is a stand that inspires rejection, ridicule and violence as much as it transforms and heals others. Asked, Who do you think you are?, he unflinchingly owns his unity with God, inflaming his foes. He calls his persecutors liars to their faces. This is why Jesus is called a radical for his time. I see him as a man radically empowered by love; so rooted, so certain of God’s favor, of God’s love, he moves in the world free to alter the course of human history.

To risk speaking and living one’s truth when the prize is the promise of a righteous adventure with Christ is easy enough to imagine. It may not be so attractive an option when the outcome opens us up to rejection much less a stoning. Jesus example here is not subtle. It is very clear. Sometimes it is hurts to be true. There is no promise of painlessness in carrying our cross. Jesus example invites us to be so grounded in God’s love that we are sustained in times of humiliation.

Lord, help me to reject the certainty of silence and her deceptive comforts. Grant me the courage to embrace wading in agitated waters so to loosen complacency from my grip. Help me to receive your love that I may embody your justice in the world. Help my fragile ego rest in the certainty of your love when those around me make theirs contingent. How I long to walk ever closer to you.

Lord, Where do you need me to take a stand that is unpopular to fulfill your will in my life?

reflected by Alma Morales Risse

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday, 5th Week: Return Often to God's Word

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

True freedom is the freedom of the children of God. To reach that freedom requires a lifelong discipline since so much in our world militates against it. The political, economic, social, and even religious powers surrounding us all want to keep us in bondage so that we will obey their commands and be dependent on their rewards. This is not their overt message; but in subtle and gradual ways, we are seduced into this bondage.

But the spiritual truth that leads to freedom is the truth that we belong not to the world but to God, whose beloved children we are. By living lives in which we keep returning to that truth in word and deed, we will gradually grow into our true freedom. By getting in touch with this bedrock experience of who we are before God, we take another step towards true freedom.

What shows that you belong to God, not to the world? Get in touch with this foundational experience…

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday, 5th Week: Waiting through Patient Listening

“The people complained against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food’ - Numbers 21:4-5
Patient waiting is a difficult discipline. Our contemporary culture places little value on waiting. Anything that does not seem efficient or productive is considered a waste of time for us. We turn to our cell phones, iPods, tablets, etc… while waiting for a flight, for the rain to stop, for a friend’s arrival, for the end of a workday, for a meeting or class to end. We distract ourselves with activity to pass the time away. Yet, patient waiting is not just passivity until something else happens. It involves living more fully the present moment to make space for God to work, for hidden gifts to unfold, for seeds of grace to grow. It does involve some suffering, for the word “patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means to “suffer.” Such suffering may take the form of a dying to one’s preferences, wants, agenda, timeline; it may take the form of letting go, of paying attention to what is happening here and now, especially feelings of discomfort and dis-ease. 

As we learn to wait this way, we grow in trust that God is present and actively working through these moments of seemingly un-productivity and waste of time.
We can also develop a deeper attitude and capacity to listen – to ask: “Lord, how are you present and communicating to me at this time, in my present circumstances?”

Spend 10-15 minutes to engage in a most counter-cultural yet life-giving activity: patient listening through prayer. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Lent is often associated with NO: saying “no” to certain luxuries or treats (whether it is sugar, fast food, coffee, or another indulgence), saying “no” to selfishness, and refraining from certain joyful acclamations in the Liturgy. With so much “no,” it sometimes can be hard to recognize where or what we are saying “yes,” to.

I love that the Feast of the Annunciation, the feast of Mary’s “yes” falls during Lent 95% of the time. It is a reminder to me of a “yes” that cries out louder than all that “no”. The Psalm response today, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will” echoes that total willingness of Mary to say “yes” to whatever it is God is asking of her. It is a “yes” to uncertainty and the unknown struggles that will come.

The words of the Muslim poet Hafiz capture for me the deep peace of Mary’s “yes” and the place I yearn to speak from:

Every Movement by Hafiz
From my mouth

Because it is so plain to my soul

That God has shouted, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
To every luminous movement in Existence.

I rarely let the word "No" escape

It is because God has first said “yes” to me (to my uncertainty, pain, and longing) that I want to answer “yes” to whatever God asks of me. I am not there yet, but for me the Feast of the Annunciation is a reminder to strive for that “yes.” Instead of stressing about what God might ask of me, or if I am getting the message right, I am tying to focus on making it “plain to my soul” that God’s yes is resounding everywhere. I know that if I can focus on God’s yes, that yes from me might flow easier. Today is a refreshing respite in the desert of Lent, and in many ways a renewal of that yes we proclaim with our own Baptism.

“Do not be afraid… for nothing is impossible with God.”
Are there subtle reminders today of God’s YES to me?

reflected by Jen Horan

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Invitations beyond Understanding

"The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David's family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?" – John 7:41-42

An irony surfaces in today’s Gospel with the Pharisees’ doubting questions. They refuse to believe Jesus is the Christ because He currently resides in Galilee – probably without knowing of His birth in Bethlehem before. The scriptures were indeed fulfilled then, but not the way in which they imagined. They judge Jesus as false because they simply do not understand.

I have been guilty of this myself on a number of occasions, and still catch myself doing so from time to time – that is, expecting God to come a certain way in my life. God doesn’t happen the way that I think He will, and then I’m tempted to plunge into doubt, despair, and sometimes even anger. I have ideas about how things should or could look, and then become fearful, confused, and dismissive when they appear otherwise.

Yet then, is it God’s will or mine that is taking the lead? If it’s my lead, I am then only present to how I want God to be present to me, rather than being open to what God really wants to reveal. Perhaps the invitation is to look at the fulfillment of His plans in a completely different way, if only I could step outside my little box of understanding.

Where might Jesus be present in my life beyond my understanding or comfort right now? What might He be trying to show me through this?

reflected by Quyen (Nhi) Ngo

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday, 4th Week: Accepting Our Brokenness - And Living It

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken." - Psalm 34:18-20

Jesus was broken on the cross. He endured his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs but as a mission to embrace. We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds, or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships. Countries suffer from broken relations.

How can we live our brokenness? Jesus invited us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God's blessing for our purification and sanctification. Rather, we are invited to a deeper intimacy with Jesus on the Cross who suffers with and for us. In his wounds, our are healed. Our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.

"What helps you accept your condition as sinful and broken -- yet redeemed and called to contribute in your own special way?"

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday, Week 4: Turning to Our True Source of Life

“You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.” - John 5:39-40

There are so many things that vie for our attention, that promise happiness, fulfillment, and so on. Whether they be material goods such as cars, clothing, houses, or job positions, or even personal relationships. We may look to these things to define our happiness, our joy, but if something goes wrong with one area, we start to question our entire lives. There is a yearning for something more. Then where does our ultimate fulfillment lie? In the only One that lasts, in Jesus.

Perhaps our prayer lives reflect something similar. How often are we praying, asking God for something, looking for answers in specific places or specific ways, rather than allowing and listening to God answer in His way? There may be conditions that we put on how we want God to be a part of our lives, rather than creating space and being present to Him in all aspects. Simply, to let His will be done in us, so that we truly and fully may have life.

Lord, in what ways are you inviting me to be more open to your life-giving ways today? Help me to see that You are the only true source of life. 

reflected by Quyen Nhi Ngo

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Serenity. Joy. Trust. This is what envelops me when I am fully connected with the Father. Anxiety. Doubt. Discomfort. This is what pokes at me when our relationship is neglected. Lately I have to say my life has been the latter. For two months my prayer life became dry, yet I could feel my soul struggling to hold tightly to my fellowship with God. While the question of “what is life’s purpose” always comes to mind, the combination of anxiety, doubt, and discomfort brings to the forefront all the disillusions the Evil One so easily injects. Who am I? Am I good enough? Is God listening?

“In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people…” Even though these words are not audibly spoken, I hear them loud and clear. These three short phrases tell me what I need to know:

God not only listens to my words; he answers me.

The Father did not create me to set me up for failure; he anticipates my leaning on him for help so I can live my life to its fullest and be ready on the day of Salvation.

God created me for one specific purpose—to serve him and his people. The capacity in which this is to be carried out is yet to be determined, but I must have faith that the Father will direct me.

God hears us, he answers us, he helps us. Despite whatever life may throw at me, whatever emotions may sweep over me, I can rest confidently knowing that “the Lord is near to all who call upon him.”

reflected by Audrey Orda

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday, 4th Week: Enough Light To Take The Next Step

"Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.” – Ez 49:12 

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, "How will next year be for me? Where will be five or ten years from now?" There are no answers to these questions, because all we see is the present. The past is the present remembering. The future is the present anticipating. We only experience the present moment. By experiencing fully each moment, we are living into the unknown future.

Often pain and hardships overshadow the present and its anticipated future. Yet, we are gifted in the present with just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not to get anxious about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust, that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let us rejoice in the little light we carry and not demand the great beam that would take all shadows away. The spiritual life is taking one step at a time with Jesus - the Light of the World.

"Lord, help me to embrace the gift of the present, give thanks for what I have, and take that next step with You.”

inspired by Henri Nouwen

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday, 4th Week: Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"I hope that my achievements in life shall be these -- that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been." - C. Hoppe

A friend of mine died just over a week ago. It's crazy, because as I work and I'm so in the moment with daily life, it just doesn't sink in. But now as I sit down to reflect his life, it finally hits me.

And I cry.

Thoughts of him make me smile. I can remember the first time that I met him. I taught Sunday School with my friend Ann, and she said to me that she was going to bring in a guest speaker. So here comes Johnathan - this little older, short, balding, fat Vietnamese man - who spoke about how he was rich and so into money, dating beautiful, tall, white girls and driving fancy cars, but he gave it all up because of an encounter that he had with this loving, alive God that gave him so much peace and joy. It was not hard to believe in this peace because every time you would see him, he would have this big shitty grin on his face. (Sorry for the PG-13 language, children.)

It amazed me how many people he blessed and how little credit he took for it all. He would volunteer at our confirmation retreats. At that time, we had so many broken teens from broken situations and families that just really needed to know the love of God. When it came time to work with these teens, he volunteered to be with the most wayward - the most difficult to get along with - and, without fail, these at-first obstinate teens would love him by the end of the retreat. No doubt that God worked through him to let those teens know how much God loved them. They would thank Jonathan for all his care, but Jonathan always gave the credit back to God.

And, it's through Johnathan's life, that the gospel comes alive for me today. In the Gospel, here was this guy (St. Joseph), who finds out in a dream, that the love of his life, that his bride-to-be, the one that he has been waiting all his life to be married to, finds out that she is pregnant. And the baby sure ain't his! God then asks him to take care of Mary and her child. Because Joseph is righteous, he doesn't call her out (which would have been the thing to do back in the day, when a woman was found to have sex outside of marriage - which you would assume in Mary's case since she is pregnant), but he takes her in still to be his bride and takes in the baby that belongs to another.

Joseph's life amazes me. His decision to love Mary (which I bet he made many, many more decisions to love her) amazes me. Just like Jonathan's life amazes me.

I remember, back when I was in my early days at medical school, I met a friend - a fellow med student - that seemed to have it all so together. He did well in school, was well-liked, balanced school with everyday life. I asked him, 'Toshi, how do you do it, man? I mean, how do you have it so all together?' And he said to me, 'Eddie, I didn't always have it all together.'

And that little brief exchange gave me so much hope. That these amazing people weren't always so great, but they were on their way to becoming great, through little small decisions and actions in life to become who they were. Maybe Joseph was the same way. We don't see the picture of him before that decision, but maybe Joseph wasn't always the "JOSEPH" we know in the bible. And maybe Jonathan was always the "JONATHAN" we knew. Just like Toshi wasn't always THE "TOSHI." (I can totally imagine me using finger quotes).

Maybe that's what Lent is about. To do things like give alms, pray, and fast, so as to let God show us things that allow us to know more deeply of this loving, alive God. To let Him know that He is working in us, that we are still works in progress to realize that we are great, just like our Maker. To learn lessons that allow us to be more fully alive and loving, just like our Creator. To maybe fall in love with God all over again so that we can be amazed by His life, just like the Joseph's, Jonathan's, and Toshi's in our lives.

Toshi died unexpectedly early, just like Jonathan, and when I attended Toshi's funeral, there was a quote displayed:

"I hope that my achievements in life shall be these -- that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need that I will have left the earth a better place for what I've done and who I've been."

I used to read it as if I were the one saying this quote, to inspire me to do great things. But, maybe a new and interesting revelation is possible. What if God were to say that to us? That he had hope all the things in His life was to fight for what is right and fair? That He left the earth a better place for us? That all that He had done (and is doing) and that He was (and Is) is for us to live more freely, with more love, and more abundantly? How would that change us?

reflected by Eddie Ngo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shadows Better Emphasize Light – Fourth Sunday of Lent

“But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” – Jn 3:21

One of the most difficult things for me to do in life was to be honest with myself, to my parents and older brother. For many reasons, I was very depressed at the end of college. I felt like I was living a double life; childhood wounds were haunting me in force; my fears were rolling from the deep which I could no longer keep at bay; I could not decide between married life or the priesthood, to take a break from my girlfriend in order to truly explore a religious calling; I could not be honest to everyone that I did not want to be a doctor, but pursued it mainly to please everyone, especially my dad. I had misled my parents that I had graduated from college. Faith and trust in God at the time felt like an insurmountable wall. I did not understand that one is saved by grace, by the free gift of God. I had, up to then, relied on my own powers to do and to be good, on my on works (Eph 2:8-9).

After a silent retreat, I was given a great grace while praying. I was able to be utterly honest with God and with myself about everything that was going on without judgment. To let God see me clearly as I am. At the time, it felt neither soothing or spectacular. Yet, it changed my life. I was able to come before my parents, uncovered the fears and lies that were overwhelming me, confessed how I had let them down in so many ways. My parents taught me a lifelong lesson as things were been brought into the light. They said, “Son, how foolish you are. We love you, not the things you do.” Through them, God’s unconditional love flowed and was embraced by me. I was being taught to live more in truth. I am still learning.

When we let the shadows and sins of who we are come to the light of God’s love, we are blinded at first. Accepting untruths about who we are, letting go of allusions about who God is and what love is, does not feel freeing at all. Yet, freedom and peace dawn slowly in our hearts and through our relationships.

We learn from physics that the light we see is a result of photons reflecting off the surface of dust particles and impurities in the air. In a perfect vacuum, devoid of any dirt or contaminants, light cannot be seen. It is a truth I continue to discover that my imperfections, sinful tendencies, and shadows actually reflect the light of God’s love. It is a humbling and freeing truth. When I live and serve out of this awareness, God flows. Pope John XXIII is on to something when he says: “If God created shadows, it was to better emphasize the light.”

“As you and I journey half way through Lent, what aspects of our lives and our relationships are we invited to be more honest with, to allow God’s light to shine upon?”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday, 3rd Week: Grounded and Rooted In Love

“‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ … for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 18:13-14

The word “humility” comes from its Latin root “humus” which means “ground” or “dirt.” Whatever humility may mean, it includes the sense of being firmly grounded, of being securely rooted in God’s Love. Saint Teresa of Avila sees humility as accepting the truth about oneself. Accepting the truth about ourselves can lead us to two realizations. First, that we are bound by sinful tendencies: we do not do the things we want to do that leads to life; rather, we do the opposite that leads to death. We are profoundly conflicted and divided within. Second, in crying out to God for mercy and unconditional acceptance, we realize our dignity as beloved sons and daughters, as those redeemed by Love which embraces and transforms us beyond our sins, inner conflicts, and tendencies toward death. We grow in deeper awareness that while we are broken, we are continually loved, forgiven, and called into being.

Rooted in Love, we can resist the temptation to let others or our performance determine who we are. We will be affected less by the praise and adulation of others or of our own sense of accomplishment. Deeply rooted in Love, we can enjoy human praise without being attached to it. We can accept the truth about ourselves with gratitude.

“O Lord, help me to come to a deeper awareness of myself as a sinner, redeemed and beloved.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Letting His Confident Love Take Hold of my Fragile Heart

I constantly hear voices in my head. Not weird imaginary voices but, rather, the voices of those who have inspired and guided my spiritual life. Helpful and sometimes even life-saving, these voices deserve my sincere appreciation.

A problem arises, however, when I allow these voices, which so often admonished me, or redirected me, or tested me, to have too much of a priority in the here-and-now. How often do I ridicule myself for not praying the rosary as frequently as I should, or get down on myself for failing to consistently recite the Liturgy of the Hours, or reprimand myself for too often forgetting the poor souls in my daily prayer? How often do I set out to meet Jesus in His Word only to spend the entire time worrying about not setting my sacred Bible on the ground or fretting about praying the four steps of Lectio Divina as precisely and accurately as possible?

Receiving spiritual advice is certainly not the root of my angst, but the question I must ultimately ask myself is this: from whom am I seeking blessed assurance? Do all of these “shoulds” and “should-nots” I carry with me, ultimately lead me closer to the Heart of Christ? Do they allow me to become more of the woman He created me to be? Because at the end of this life, it is not this spiritual mentor or that accountability partner who will stand before me. Christ Himself will be my Judge. And my faith tells me that He will ask me about the love in my heart, the love that I have for Him and for all humanity. So may I let my anxious scruples fall away, and may I allow His all-consuming love to set my heart ablaze.

reflected by Meghan Whalen

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday, 3rd Week: Emotional Life May Control Spiritual Life

“Oh, that today you would listen to God’s voice! Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” - Psalm 95:7-9 

Our emotional lives move up and down constantly. Sometimes we experience great mood swings; from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos. A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings. Mostly we have little control over these changes. It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

So it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life. Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us. As we feel our emotions shift, we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are. We are and remain, whatever our moods, God's beloved children.

Although it is very hard to control our moods, we can gradually overcome them by a well-disciplined spiritual life. This can prevent us from acting out our moods. We might not "feel" like getting up in the morning because we "feel" that life is not worth living, that nobody loves us, and that our work in meaningless. But if we get up anyhow, to spend some time reading the Gospels, praying the Psalms, and thanking God for a new day, our moods may lose their power over us. These spiritual exercises help us to be attentive to and live out of that depth of who we are, beneath the barrage of emotions seem to presently rule us.

"Holy Spirit, help me to achieve the discipline I need for a devout life in God."

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday, 3rd Week: God Is For Us, With Us, Within Us

"For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?" - Deuteronomy 4:7-8 

God made a covenant with us. The word covenant means "coming together." God wants to come together with us. In many of the stories in the Hebrew Bible, we see that God appears as a God who defends us against our enemies, protects us against dangers, and guides us to freedom. God is God-for-us. With Jesus a new dimension of the covenant is revealed. In Jesus, God is born, grows to maturity, lives, suffers, and dies as we do. God is God-with-us. Finally, when Jesus leaves he promises the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, God reveals the full depth of the covenant. God wants to be as close to us as our breath. God wants to breathe in us, so that all we say, think, and do is completely inspired by God. God is God-within-us. Thus, God's covenant reveals to us how much God loves us, such that God is for us, with us, within us. Similarly, we are called to be men and women for and with others. We are called to be the face, presence, and love of God.

"Lord, help us to grow in gratitude for the awesome gift of our Christian faith and for our redemption." 

adapted from Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Forgiveness and Unforgiveness: Life and Death

What we forget is that when we do not forgive, when we hold on to bitterness and rage, we damage ourselves more than we damage the one we do not forgive.  The bitterness of our unforgiving affects all of our relationships and kills our ability to love.  But if we turn toward love, if we forgive, then we can live again.

Baptism and Grace

I embraced my death;
ice-bound in my frozen tomb;
tomb of anger,
tomb of bitterness and loathing,
tomb of darknight.

I heard the faintest
distant whisper-sound;
a tiny ripple in the
hidden recollections
of my heart.
How could I hear it, I so dead,
so far from life?
Was it your voice?

made me turn around…

You are here!
Holding me close
in the blazing,
sparkling light
with colors of joy
dancing all around.
You are here,
Baptizing me in my tears,
washing me alive again.
Sharon Sullivan

Am I holding on to bitterness?
Who do I need to forgive?

reflected by Sharon Sullivan

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday, 3rd Week: Asking for What We Truly Need

"As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" - Psalm 42:1-2 

We ask God for many things, most of which we do not need, many of which we do not we really want. We are often spiritually lazy: we do not allow ourselves proper time and space to sift through our wants to discover what we truly need. This is a hard truth to accept; yet one that can open up to a deeper awareness.

There is a deep longing in each of us “for the living God” – to experience God’s love in real, personal ways. And God will not refuse when we ask with trust. Yet, we do not ask for it earnestly. We reason away: “God already loves me, how dare I ask for it? I am not good enough, not deserving enough, not holy enough. Moreover, it seems selfish to ask for it. What if God refuses?” Yet, when we earnestly and consistently ask for it, we risk trusting God with what we truly need. We also begin to intentionally let go of anything that keeps us from experiencing God’s deep and personal love for us. Asking for what we truly need makes our hearts tender toward God and lessens our clutter of obstacles that keep us from God’s embrace.

“Lord, help me to risk asking for what I truly need and letting go of whatever that keeps me from you.”

Monday, 3rd Week: Asking for What We Truly Need

"As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" - Psalm 42:1-2 

We ask God for many things, most of which we do not need, many of which we do not we really want. We are often spiritually lazy: we do not allow ourselves proper time and space to sift through our wants to discover what we truly need. This is a hard truth to accept; yet one that can open up to a deeper awareness.

There is a deep longing in each of us “for the living God” – to experience God’s love in real, personal ways. And God will not refuse when we ask with trust. Yet, we do not ask for it earnestly. We reason away: “God already loves me, how dare I ask for it? I am not good enough, not deserving enough, not holy enough. Moreover, it seems selfish to ask for it. What if God refuses?” Yet, when we earnestly and consistently ask for it, we risk trusting God with what we truly need. We also begin to intentionally let go of anything that keeps us from experiencing God’s deep and personal love for us. Asking for what we truly need makes our hearts tender toward God and lessens our clutter of obstacles that keep us from God’s embrace.

“Lord, help me to risk asking for what I truly need and letting go of whatever that keeps me from you.”

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday, 2nd Week: Spiritual Homecoming Lies Beyond Self-Rejection

“'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast.” – Luke 15:21-23

The spiritual life is essentially a homecoming. It is a coming home to the deepest truth of ourselves as loved by God personally, deeply, irrevocably. That we belong to God. Whether we have wandered afar in search of life or love beyond our spiritual home in the boundless heart of God (like the younger son) or have been lost in fear without ever going away (like the older son), God’s unconditional love is offered freely and fully. As the father who rushes out of the house to embrace both the errant younger son and the resentful older son home to the banquet, God yearns for us to rejoice in our dignity as Beloved sons and daughters.

Such homecoming involves a most daunting task: allowing ourselves to be seen as we are, without self-condemnation. While we long for such transparency, we harbor secret thoughts, feelings, and fears. We often think, “If people really know what I think or feel, they would run away.” Those guarded secrets can lead us to self-rejection, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and actions. They are the loud voices within that clamor “what you have done is beyond God’s forgiving love” or “you need to be perfect to deserve such love.” They prevent us from the grateful recognition that we are pure gift and precious in God's eyes.

Our homecoming involves allowing the inner voice of love beyond self-rejection to take hold of us and gift us with the courage to live as God’s Beloved children. 

"What keeps you from homecoming? What helps you to realize that you are precious in God's eyes?" 

inspired by Henri Nouwen