Monday, February 29, 2016

Listening to God & Obedience


For some time, I have been in the grip of what I would call a "disordered emotional attachment" to someone I see frequently.  Deep down, I knew it was not good for me, but I didn't want to give it up, even though it sometimes made me feel very unhappy.

Recently, however, I began to notice that I was no longer able to maintain my recollection throughout the day as usual.  Although I didn't like that, I didn't pay a lot of attention at first, because my friend Father Flaherty had warned me that the awareness of Jesus near me--which I have had--might not last forever: the spiritual life has its ups and downs.  If you ever read St. John of Cross, then you already know about the Dark Night of the Soul--which I hope I never have to live through, frankly!   

However, I finally had to admit to myself that this emotional attachment was what was disrupting my close relationship with Him; you cannot be sensitive to the presence of God if your emotions are constantly being torn and tossed about--you have to be calm and peaceful in order to attend to Him.  Jesus is more important to me than ANYTHING ELSE, which means that anything which distracts me from Him, or is a barrier to Him, must be sacrificed, no matter what it is or how much I like it.

At first I tried to get out of the grip of this emotional fantasy through force of will alone--but I think, to be honest, my effort was half-hearted, and also I was not strong enough to do it.  Finally, in desperation, I begged Jesus to free me from this attachment so I could again be one with Him.

The answer was immediate. I don't mean He spoke to me--I am neither crazy nor a saint!--but right after I made this prayer, a thought came clearly into my mind about something very specific I could do which would help me to overcome my problem.  My first reaction, though, was "Well, I don't really need to to do that, do I?"

Amazing, yes?  I ask Him for help... He gives me an answer... but I don't want to obey Him!

A few seconds later, I realized what I was doing, and I did as He had suggested...and the sense of peace that I got once I had done it was clear and instantaneous.  And, my awareness of His presence around me has returned, for which I am very grateful.  I am not completely cured, but I can tell that I am much improved and that I will be released from this problem--if I keep asking Him to help me.

I have had a lifelong problem with obedience:  I knew it when I was very young.  Although as Catholics, we put no credence into astrology, I can't resist saying that I am a classic Aries personality:  a natural leader, a person who seeks to dominate others but will never allow anyone to dominate them.  And I never made any attempt to overcome this, because I actually reveled in being that way:  to me, humility was not a virtue, but a weakness.  What lies underneath obedience is humility:  you can't or won't obey if you do not have that virtue, because you think you know better than God--which of course is impossible. 

Now that Jesus has shown me how wrong I have been, I recognize that I have a hard road ahead to achieve a life of holiness--but I cannot believe that, having called me to strive for it, He will not give me the graces I need to get there:  I know He will.  +

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Meeting Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation


I am very blessed in that I am almost constantly aware of the presence of Jesus near me throughout the day as I go about my normal life--it is something I cannot explain or describe, but I know it with absolute certainty.  Because of this, I talk to Him pretty much continually, mainly telling Him how much I love and adore Him, or thanking Him for something He has done for me. I have been surprised and puzzled, though, that I am not  aware of His presence when I am in the Confessional.  

Recently, I came to understand why.  It is because He is really there, in person, under the appearance of the priest.  I see Father Rafael, but it is actually Jesus within him, there to show me His mercy and forgive my sins.  Just as when the priest, in the person of Christ, utters the words "this is my body/blood," the elements appear to be bread and wine, but they are really the Body and Blood of Christ. I think this is pretty awesome.

If every Catholic knew this, they would be flocking to Confession in droves.  I wish there was some way to tell them.  +

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Meaning of the Crucifixion


After Mass this morning, I was alone in the church, and because it is Lent and I can't attend the community celebration of this traditional devotion, I made the Stations of the Cross by myself.  I have not done that in at least 35 years!  

To be perfectly honest, I wanted it to mean more to me than it did at that time. Later on, I was looking at the crucifix on the wall in my room, and I asked Jesus to give me a deeper understanding of what His death on the Cross really meant:  I understand that it was horribly painful, and that in the Catholic Faith, we believe that suffering is not meaningless if accepted in the right spirit-- but I still felt it must be about more than that.  

This is not a profound observation by any means, but I think at its core, the significance of Christ's Crucifixion is really about obedience, not suffering: perfect obedience to His Father's will, despite the fact that obedience included acceptance of terrible physical pain and a sense of being abandoned.   

We ourselves may never suffer physically in this life (although we probably will at some point), but what really matters is that we are obedient to His will, whatever that may be.  Obedience in itself, though, can cause interior suffering, because we have to renounce our desire to have things our way, which can be very difficult--at least it is for me.  

Please grant, dear Lord, that I may never refuse to do what You ask of me.  +

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Sin of Pride, In One of Its Many Disguises


I was feeling very depressed recently, because I am aware that someone whom I love and greatly admire does not like me.  Frankly, that is something I am not used to, because most people DO like me, I am happy to say.

So, as usual, I took it to Jesus in prayer, looking for some consolation, but that is definitely not what I got!  Instead, He allowed me to see that my need for the approval of others is actually a manifestation of vanity, one of Pride's many insidious variations.  Obsessing about this was just distracting me from living for and in Him;  the only person whose judgment I need to be concerned about is His, no one else's.  Furthermore, I will never achieve the virtue of humility until I can detach myself from caring about what others think of me.

Although this was hardly welcome information, I recognized that if I truly mean what I say--that I aspire to live a life of holiness for love of Jesus--it is something I needed to know, so I thanked Him anyway.

Actually, it feels quite liberating to (at least) stop caring about what that person thinks of me--and I believe I have, because I am much more peaceful at heart now.  Let's see if I can keep it up.

I did a little Googling and discovered there is a prayer for this, The Litany of Humility, written by Cardinal Merry del Val.  I will be reciting it often, and trying to really mean it as I say it!   +