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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beatitudes, Part VIII

Matt. 5:1-16

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." 

This cycle of reflections is nearing an end, but the last two are especially focused on being in a hostile environment and not allowing it to keep you from your mission. 

St. John the Baptist.

The Lord says of him in Scripture, "This is the one about whom scripture says: 'Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Lk. 7:27-28). 

John's mission is one of preparation - he is to go to the people of Israel, as all of the prophets of old were called to do, and proclaim to her that the Bridegroom is on his way, and that they must prepare themselves. He is to call them to repentance and healing, to be cleansed and purified to make room for the Love who comes to dwell in the hearts of those who will receive him. 

This is what I think of when I meditate on this beatitude - that God our Father comes to many hearts seeking entrance, a home, a place to be made for him that he can fill and sustain the life of that person. Yet, so often, he encounters a hostile environment. Whether purposeful or not, we often make sure our time and heart is full of many other things so that there is no need to address that He is knocking. If we can, we will simply be satisfied with the noise we surround ourselves with and the distractions we use to keep us busy. Sometimes we suffer from sins or addictions that build very strong defenses against love entering our hearts - self-hatred leads to self-deprecation and unhealthy or dangerous behaviors that are fed from insecurities and lies about our self worth or image. We become trapped in a cage we allowed the world to build for us, and even though we might want out, we cling to what we feel "comfortable" in, even if its our misery. We allow the fear of change, or of pain, or of the truth which may be hard to face to keep us shut away. We prefer the light to the darkness, because there we don't have to acknowledge what is wrong, or we don't have to go through the healing process.

Yet, the Lord keeps knocking - he is a persistent lover and the flame of love that never burns out. He has all the time in the world to woo us, since he is outside of time. There's no rush, he'll just keep offering us his love. Yet, we sometimes need extreme measures of other's help to break down walls we are too weak to face. Sometimes the analogy that JRR Tolkien creates with Grima Wormtongue and the King of Rohan is exactly what we are living - we have heard too many whispers of lies in the dark and hidden places and we have slowly lost all our strength to them until, even when we desire the change we are offered, we cannot do it alone for we are too weak. 

This is what I think we can picture for God when he finds the hostile territory of hearts unwelcoming to his love. He offers freedom, but we don't see the offer, we're squeezing our eyes shut tight. Or he offers us love, and we are bound in fear and cannot open the door. He offers us new life and we don't hear his voice. 

This too is how it can be for those who are attempting to proclaim the Kingdom day to day in their lifestyles, their holiness, their love for the Lord. They encounter people and situations and institutions and laws that are not open. They may be directly attacked, mocked or persecuted, but more often it is that they are not acknowledge or accepted in this state. People ignore that part of them, or pretend that they don't notice their devotion. Or they are sincerely unaware of it because it is foreign to their daily lives. 

This is the challenge then, to work on our own hearts being opened, walls broken down, eyes unblinded, ears unplugged, fear sent away - that we might be able to receive his love and life. Likewise, the challenge is both the obvious (to endure through persecution and to be brave even when threatened or attacked, as John the Baptist was), and the more hidden aspect, of assisting others in unplugging their ears and opening their eyes. Love, mercy, honesty, persistence, faithfulness, truth, etc.. these attributes will eventually shine through and aid our brothers and sisters in recognizing the invitation Jesus is making to them. 

The more we are able to humble ourselves, ask for grace and love to be with us, and work for the goodness these beatitudes teach, the more we will be able to invite others both directly and indirectly into the very Heart of Christ, and into the Church.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Beatitudes, Part VII

Matt. 5:1-16

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

To be honest, this is perhaps the hardest of the beatitudes for me to understand and extrapolate. It is so easy to say, "don't cause fights," or "stay calm when you want to lash out." The Lord Jesus means more than this in his challenge to us, and we can discover the hidden depth by examining his life.

I have not been focusing often on the blessings that are included with each of these beatitudes - in this situation, I believe the blessing reveals the call to holiness embedded. Christ is the first and foremost, the one and only, Son of God. Each of us receive a part in this sonship through Baptism and participation in the Body of Christ, the Church. Therefore, we are co-heirs and brothers and sisters before our heavenly Father. As children of God, we strive each day to live according to the example set by Jesus.

It is fair to imagine Jesus as a fairly peaceful person - he engaged in a few "heated discussions" from time to time, but through Scripture we don't encounter him picking fights or becoming angry out of personal injury or insult (in fact, the only time he is really heated is through zeal for 'his Father's house', the temple). Yet, I would focus on a specific point here - Jesus directly speaks of peace to his apostles at a few key moments.

First, in Matthew chapter 10, the Lord sends his apostles out to cure diseases and illnesses, and to proclaim the kingdom of God. He tells them, "As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you" (10:12-13). He then follows this in verses 19-20 with, "When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." We see something similar echoed in the Gospel of John, chapter 14, where the Lord says, "I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. Peace 12 I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (14:25-27).

In both instances, Christ's "peace" is directly related to two points - first, being sent to do the will of the Father, to proclaim the good news, to preach Christ to the world. Second, the Holy Spirit. The "peace" of God seems to be synonymous with an anointing of the Holy Spirit upon someone's life and work. When the apostles are sent to proclaim the truth, they are not to fear or worry, for what they must say is already with them and in them through the Holy Spirit, and the courage and wisdom to speak will be with them as the Spirit rests upon them and dwells within them.

One other instance of "peace" in Scripture that I think brings all of this together is Christ's words after the Resurrection. John 19:20-22 says, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the holy Spirit.'"

The Lord specifically reveals all three of these imporant aspects of a life as a child of the Father in these short words. His two gifts to the disciples are one and the same, his peace and the holy Spirit. How he repeats himself! He is driving home this good gift, being so clear. Twice he says "peace be with you" and then follows it with "Receive the holy Spirit." This is the way in which he expects the apostles to "go," to be "sent" - they receive from him the Spirit and are made able to go fearless before all men in the name of the Lord.

For us today, if we wish to be peacemakers, and to live the blessing of a 'child of God' in this life, we must first and foremost begin with a life in the Holy Spirit. This is how we will develop a spirit and disposition of peace in every circumstance. The courage and fearlessness, as well as the consolation and hope, the faith and the wisdom we need for daily living as children of God are fully supplied through the grace and love of the Spirit. Consider our Blessed Mother! She was the preeminent child of God, the daughter so like his own heart, the one pure of all sin, and bearer of the one and only Son of God. Was she not filled with the Holy Spirit?! Was her life not a constant state of communion with him? It was. She was. So therefore we have both the example of Christ and his mother, that if we call upon the Spirit and seek to be so filled each day, we will learn to live in holiness as the beatitude promises, as a child of God.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Right, so I usually follow a strict policy of "no journaling" on this blog... but I'm breaking it. Just for a moment.

Love, in all of its intricacies, in the final moments, is about one thing only: all of you, or not all of you. It is a light shone upon a prism that breaks apart its myriad of beautiful, haunting, daunting, enthralling, spellbinding colors... but in the end is still just that single instance of the light hitting the prism. The light has to give itself over to being broken apart, spread out, revealed. The prism has to allow itself to be struck, to be shone-through, to receive the light and make it more complete, more fully itself through the revelation of all that is contained in it. This is what love is!

We, as people, face the same thing, moment by moment, day in and day out. Will we be 100% or not? Will we forgive every time, when they just don't deserve it? Will we keep our mouths shut when we know we're right just because we understand the other isn't to the point where they understand? Will we keep ourselves from measuring against the "give" of the other and simply keep giving ourselves? How often do we think - she hasn't bought that for me, so I don't need to buy it for her, or he mowed the lawn, so I'll do the dishes for him... it becomes a bargaining life, a 50-50 attempt at freedom, happiness and completion. But love is not 50%. It is all, it requires all, it demands all. It cannot be satiated by half-a-heart, half-a-life, half-a-soul, half-a-body! It needs, as we need. There cannot be that hesitation, that "holding some of me back for safety," that insecurity of letting go too much or sharing too much or falling too far.

Darn it! There is no "too far" in love! It is a bottomless pit! How else is love to be stronger than death, I ask you? Tell me! It must be something beyond life and death, something that holds the balance, or holds them both, or holds it all! It is its own entity, its own being. It can be multiplied and recreated and shared and given and spread and opened and played in and heaped up, but not withheld, not squandered, not stored away.

Thomas a' Kempis said, "Love flies, runs, and rejoices; it is free, and nothing can hold it back." This, my friends, is exactly the truth. It is stronger than death because it is the most free thing that is, because it was before all else and will always be. It is God, God is love, he is love, love is he. It is, as he is. He is, and love is. He gives it, and as the torrents rush out, we are created in it, and we are sustained in it, and in the end we will find our home in it.

Can't you feel it? Can't you sense it's burning desire? It's consuming! It engulfs you. There's nothing left! It looks like its snowing, but it's the ashes falling from the fire that just took you up in it. You are gone, and all that is left is the pure sweet song of morning, the cool, mellow breeze of evening, the sweet honey sunlight of summer afternoon, the invigorating chill of the snow in the air before it falls, the feverish excitement that takes hold when the electricity burns up the air and the storm is about to break. Nothing is left untouched by love. You cannot hide it away, you cannot hide yourself away. The light breaks into every shadow, shines on every dark place, looks into each secret room and every buried memory. Love casts a new shadow, one that is cross-shaped. The most pure love in existence is that which freely gives itself totally over to the other, for the other, without any inhibition, understanding that there will be disappointment, injustice, injury, or even rejection. It gives anyway.

I have tried to live at times with the safety brakes on, hoping that I could "love" and yet not get in too deep. I have felt deeply but convinced myself it was not love. I have felt less deeply and believed it to be love. In truth, the only times I have loved well are those that I have willingly handed over the state of my happiness, the state of my peace, the state of my well-being, of my heart, and said "whatever you want." I highly recommend this exchange of love to be first and foremost with Jesus Christ, God our Father and the Holy Spirit. I also recommend offering yourself fully to our sweet Mother Mary. Then, consider that same abandonment in every relationship possible. Each requires differing degrees of self-gift, certainly not each are the same. Yet, in principle, true love is that total gift, whether the recipient has been found worthy or not.

"O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. I promise to be submissive to all that you ask, and to accept all that you permit to happen to me, only show me that it is your will, and give me the grace to do it. Amen."
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place all our trust in you.
O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Beatitudes, Part VI

Matt. 5:1-16

"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God."

Sorry this one is so delayed in coming - life gets the better of me sometimes :).
Short and sweet for today, I feel this beatitude speaks of simplicity in its core.
The "clean of heart" are only thus by grace. The Lord gives grace so freely, so fully, to any heart that seeks him. Thus he tells us so often, that if we seek, we will find, and if we ask in his name, we will receive. The pure of heart ask for the grace to be pure, and in their asking they have already received this gift, for to desire that purity requires that you already have some of it dwelling within you.
So to be simplistic, the clean of heart have discovered what it is in this life that is worth pursuing, what all the work is meant to be about. They have seen, they have heard, they have known... it is Truth. They have encountered God in his beauty, his goodness, his absolute truth, and that is what they hunger for. In every situation, life circumstance, challenge, gift, suffering or delight, they seek what can be found - what is real, what is profound, what is love - the truth.
Encountering the Truth can be painful as well as wonderful. Often it brings freedom, a freedom to even more swiftly fly down the path of goodness. The less you can be bound by the lies of the evil one, those doubts and falsehoods and failures and secret fears that creep up on you and eat at your heart, the less you will be misled or your sight darkened when looking for the light. Truth gives immense courage, both because you can surely recognize falsehoods for what they are - fabricated lies meant to deter you - and because you are made bold in your honest acceptance of your humble state. Truth is the light that shines down and reveals your own littleness, brokenness, smallness, and neediness. It awakens you to your failures, your pride and vanity, your self-justification. It opens your eyes to how much you need grace. It makes the working of the Holy Spirit in your life dramatically evident, and allows you to trace back moment by moment how each act, thought, hope, prayer, goodness, delight, etc... in your life has been assisted by the love and mercy of God. This is the reason for hope, courage, boldness, confidence, even audacity - because you know that you would have fallen long ago, and been left in the dust to rot. You know you would have given into the lies to make the hardship go away, would have justified the sin rather than endure the consequences, would have hurt those you love to make life easier... but you didn't, and that grace has been sufficient. So it will remain. It will continue. It will grow. It will dig deeper roots and bear greater fruit. You will be able to do the good that you wish for but feel is impossible, not because you are strong, but exactly because you are weak! In your weakness, He is strong, and your poverty is the space He needs to fill you up and form you. 
So Truth reconciles us time and again, day after day, with ourselves, our families and friends, and our Lord. It leads us to understanding, then to contrition, then to forgiveness, healing and mercy. From there we gain grace and hope, boldness and joy, and we pursue the truth more rigorously than ever. It's a funny cycle, much like when you frequent the sacraments (especially Confession and the Eucharist), that is somewhat addictive, for you realize this is one area that you can never actually have too much of (until you are in the beatific vision), and therefore - the more the merrier! It's encouraging.
So let us pray for clean hearts, ones that are natural, given in grace and love, filled up and lavished upon by our Father and Lord and the Spirit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beatitudes, Part V

Matt. 5:1-16

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Perhaps I will begin every one of these reflections with something like, "I know I said this last time, but this one must be my favorite." I just have to smile. Each one of these small "to-be-blessed" statements from Our Lord holds so much depth, heighth, fullness and freedom!

Very quickly I want to speak for a moment on what a "beatitude" even is. That probably should have come at the beginning, but here we are. The useful online dictionary defines this word as follows: "Supreme blessedness or happiness." What I take the Lord to mean here is that if one should choose to make these lessons a way of life, to take Jesus at his word, to believe fully in the truth he is, that person will inevitably inherit a fullness of life, both here on earth and in heaven after death. These are the sign posts on Imitation Road, where we can come to see the footprints of Jesus laid out before us, measure our feet against his... see how utterly impossible it is to fill those shoes, and then rejoice because he has given us a way to stand on his feet so that we can still walk with him on the journey. They direct us on how to stand on his feet, and how to balance when the road climbs up and dips down. As he is the truth and life, these are his way. They are aspects of his heart, chambers which we can enter into and learn from. Each is its own school and yet all work together to form the greater whole of a Christ-like life.

Now back to the merciful being blessed!

I cannot communicate, by any stretch or means, what the truth of mercy is. It is the active verb of love. God is love. Mercy is his action. Mercy encompasses every moment of our failure, our sin, our rejection, our hate of the one who has given us everything, and in that covering it not only washes all the sadness, hurt, brokenness and darkness away, but it brings newness as well.

The lines from this song help to reveal something of this truth:
"I give you my heart,
It was never mine at all.
So I don't mind if it breaks or falls,
You'll restore it to life after all.

Cause you never stop making us new,
More and more into the image of you."

Mercy is that we are alive. Mercy is that the world exists. Mercy is that we keep existing. Mercy is that I have been born into a family that loved me, that raised me to love the Lord, that provided for me, that was provided for by the Lord so that it could provide for me, that educated me in his ways, that enabled me to learn to read and write and to one day share some of that gift with you as you read this now. Mercy is everything. We do not have to have food, or clothes, or shoes, or a job, or a house, or a family. We do not have to have hope, or trust, or forgiveness, or joy, or peace, or excitement, or perseverence, or strength, or courage, or justice. We do not have to have life. We do not have to be. There could be nothingness. A lack. An absence. But the Lord, in his mercy, has filled it. There is. There are. We are.

Mercy is grace, it is love, it is truth. There is nothing more true than that God is love. There is also then nothing more true than that God is merciful, is mercy itself. Mercy, by definition, should be "the love of God poured out." That simple. The blood of Christ poured out during the Passion, the fire of the Holy Spirit poured out at Pentacost, the ever-present gift of being poured out from Our Father in heaven! Everything is a gift, everything is his mercy.

So what shall it mean for us to "be merciful as He is merciful"?

I suppose the cliche answer (yet, completely valid answer) is to be ever-forgiving, ever quick to charity, ever living love, ever pouring out ourselves and our hearts.

As a beatitude, I would dare to say, as they all are, that this is a disposition of the heart, soul and will. Charity, in its fullness. To be merciful and thus blessed in that mercy, we have to seek and pray to always be "unmindful should our hearts break or fall" because of our love and trust in our Father. I have heard it called "holy indifference," but what I mean to say is that if we could always see all of life, including our very being, as a gift of generous love, we would have this response that immediately shouted "well, here, take it! It isn't mine anyway!" How often we are quick to pick up the thing someone left lying on the subway, or on the sidewalk... finders keepers or even more basically just a "its there and I picked it up" mentality. Yet, that isn't yours, it isn't mine. If someone came up to you after you picked it up and said, "I'm sorry, I dropped that, it is mine," you would understand that you have no right to it and quickly return it to its owner. If nothing else, you'd be embarrassed that you were trying to keep what wasn't yours. This is life! This is how we are. Borrowed in the generosity of God. Kept in being by his merciful love that exceeds all time and place, force and motion. It isn't ours. One day, or perhaps everyday, he will say to us (often through a family member, friend or stranger), "excuse me, that is mine, may I have it back." We aren't always so quick to give it up.

Be merciful. Be of the disposition that what is yours, isn't yours, and what you've worked hard for is still not yours. You've received the drive to work hard. It's a gift that you wanted to work in the first place. Everything is His generous love! So give it back.

Forgive the annoying man whose armpit you are stuck in on the crowded subway... he's uncomfortable too. Forgive your brother when he is short tempered and blames you for something you didn't mean to do... he is hurting and needs to be understood! Forgive your teacher who says "um" between, um, every syllable and drives you nuts... he's been embarrassed by that for years and it is only in great humility that he continues to teach when he knows how students mock him. Forgive your boss who decided to belittle you at your staff meeting... even if there is no good reason for it that you can discover, your life is a gift and so you have to take confidence that the Lord will use both your embarrassment and his unkindness to better form both of you into his image.

It is that simple. Find a way to reasonably forgive, and if there isn't one, then seek the grace to forgive anyway. Jesus forgives us every time, and it is never reasonable. Jesus died, forgiving us. Who can truly say they would let others beat them, bruise and mock them, insult and punish them, even kill them, when they were innocent of all crime, and then as they were being killed, honestly and genuinely forgive them? It's impossible, but for the love of God, the Holy Spirit moving in our hearts. But the power of the Holy Spirit can be a rushing river, and it can create new channels in our hearts for mercy to flow through, and it can lift up the silt and grime that has piled up, and it can rinse us of our anger, our disdain, our pride, and leave us with clearn hearts.

I know that many would say to "be merciful" is more an "active" beatitude, that it refers to charity-in-practice, to social justice, to the poor and needy. By all means, the Lord does mean this! Yet, look at the example of Christ. Every person he heals, every miracle he performs, every life he changes in Scripture - it is not the bodily injury or ailment but the spiritual one, that of sin, that he first and foremost heals. It is forgiveness that precedes everything else. The healing of hearts, souls and wills in the merciful love of God enables all the other miracles to take place. How can we expect reconciliation among family members, or peace in the workplace, or comfort in our ministries, if we do not first come as bearers of God's mercy? The miracles are possible, but the mercy must be first.

The merciful are blessed because they recognize that life is not their own. They have peace because they let things go. They have joy because they realize that the grace to let go and forget is a gift given. They have more joy because they realize the grace to ask to have the grace to let go and forgive is a gift given. In this track they end up recognizing that nothing is ever of them, and yet they are always the center of God's loving action, as he moves and reforms their hearts so that they are an image of him in this world.

As I said, there aren't words. I repeat again that mercy is the active-verb of love. "To love" is to be merciful. To love is to forgive, time and again. To love is to never fear forgiveness being withheld from you, and to never leave others in fear of your forgiveness being withheld. Could this mean being taken advantage of? Walked upon? Perhaps. Do we take advantage of the Lord, and walk all over him? Absolutely we do. Does his love extend so far beyond our injuries against his love? He set up the giant trampoline long ago, and it is ready to catch us immediately. We'll land and be shot back up to him in an instant. It's almost fun, being forgiven. It buoys our spirits, leads us to rejoicing! So we can be so free with others. He will always supply the strength for us, always give us the courage to be more merciful than we think we could bear.

Love. Forgive. Never count the cost.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Beatitudes, Part IV

Matt. 5:1-16

"Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."

I would like to think this is one of the most unique and perhaps overlooked beatitudes. So often Christians/Catholics struggle with the issue of justice. We hear things that conflict often in this area, such as Scriptural references that insist not to live the mantra of "an eye for an eye" and yet also demonstrate Jesus acting in just anger by forcing the Pharisees out of the Temple when they have used it as a marketplace. Where does that leave us, the disciples?

Society usually enforces the "get what's yours" attitude along with the "it's your right" attitude. This trains us to be frustrated, annoyed, hurt, and angry when things we believe are our "due" are withheld from us or when others "deprive" us of something we feel we deserve.

Then there's St. Paul, that wonderful teacher, who so beautifully writes,
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Rather, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.' Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good." Romans 12:17-21

Here we face a frightening challenge - not only to learn to be less offended when we are put-out, but to turn around and love the person or situation that is causing us grief. Really, St. Paul? Can't you feel your eyebrows rising slowly higher and higher as you realize what living this command out means?

Let's take a few quick examples:
Your little brother steals your favorite anything (fill in most recent offense) and what do you do? Initial insticts say the following: tell on him (and enjoy his squirming under the scrutiny of mom or dad), go take it back (with force) and be sure he understands you are not happy, or perhaps, steal something of his that is of equal or greater value (war tactics) and do not relinquish it until your possession is returned with the interest of a humble apology or some other offering to appease your wasted time in punishing him.
Sound familiar?
You know this has been you. I know this has been me.

Perhaps something less obvious.
Public transportation (or even in your car in traffic) and you get jostled/bumped/roughly moved aside/edged out of your lane/the jerk didn't use a turn signal/the crazy driver is going 5 miles under the speed limit/etc... Who hasn't been tempted to rear end the slow guy? I know I've considered plenty how I could not be blamed for the accident. Who doesn't want to imitate Dane Cook's hilarity when they're bumped and say something "condescendingly nice" like, "oh, no problem," before they apologize (because they weren't going to)? You get the point.

Last example:
You are poor, you go to grad school (this may be a personal example, not making any promises...) and somehow all these other students in your class who are not as poor as you have scholarship money that is need-based. Wait a minute! You may not be good at math (and I'm terrible), but certain comparisons aren't that hard to make. Why are you taking out two loans and they aren't? Who's in charge here?!

I think the point is clear. In the practical life-lessons of the daily grind, we find ourselves tired, hungry, over-heated, uncomfortable, maybe a little sick, suffering in some capacity, and even if everyone else is too, we're still entitled to feel good. So what do we do? Well, we're angry, at life, then at everyone else. Maybe at ourselves too. So we're a little short-tempered, and we might lose patience faster than usual. "Charity" isn't the book we're reaching up to take off the shelf. It's more akin to "How-to-make-someone-suffer-without-being-caught."

I'm not saying our "excuses" aren't legitimate. They are. We do get worn out. Our nerves are raw. We all need more rest, more peace, more quiet, more stillness, more sitting-in-the-rain-and-letting-life-be-still, more fireplaces with someone we love, more smiles, more laughter, more children-who-are-adorable-bringing-us-joy, more hope, more silliness, more... more generosity.

Welcome to how this is all going to be explained.


The Prayer of St. Francis is perfect here (and anywhere, really):
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

When we allow charity to come into our hearts and make its dwelling place there, we discover a fountain of goodness that we had no idea was inside of us. The beautiful gift of God is that this fountain truly is always present in us (as the Holy Spirit is always with us), and we need only seek the Lord's mercy and grace to bring the waters flowing into our hearts and out into our actions, words, thoughts and prayers. I think of St. Bernadette who discovered the fountain of water below the dirt where she was told to dig. Embarrassed and mocked for her actions, this young woman so full of faith was able to bring to the world immesureable miracles through her seeking God's will and allowing him to bring the waters flowing, in her life quite literally. We can all share in healing waters coming into our souls and our world when we go to him who has said very frankly, "Jesus stood up and exclaimed, 'Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.' He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive." - John 7:38-39
So the first step of being a Christian who hungers and thirsts for righteousness is to be one who hungers and thirsts for charity, for generosity, for the Holy Spirit, for mercy and forgiveness, for purity of heart, for truth.
When these become the dominating themes of one's thoughts and desires, even when we are attacked (physically and spiritually) in the subway or by our families or in our places of work, we will confidently know where to turn. Just a few moments of quiet and stillness, just a quick prayer of peace, a deep breath of the Holy Spirit can return our hearts to the worship they were made for, the Lord's will, and away from our own angry or hurt dispositions.
On the more spiritual plane, I think it is fair to say that when we hunger and thirst for righteousness we seek the Truth above all else.
This truth, we expect and mean to be the Lord's will, in our lives and in the world. Whether our decisions are to eat a meal or to date someone, to apply to a school or to call an old friend, big or small, effecting only ourselves or many, they need to be placed first before Jesus. Truly.
I do not mean that we should be overly scrupulous and need to pray, "Lord, should I be reading this blog now?!" (He'd probably say yes, though). What I mean is that when we place our hearts before him and our wills and our bodies before him and we say (everyday) - these are yours, Jesus. I am yours. This life that I have, it is yours. I am your child. Save me, care for me, instruct me, hold me, guide me, love me. I am your servant. Send me, inform me, enlighten me, use me as you will. I am your lover. Lead me deeper into love with you today. With Our Lady we can say simply, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be it done to me according to your word" (Lk. 1:38).
Then, with a heart disposed to belong to a lover and King who has condescended to love us purely and fully forever, we will find that each decision we face will inevitably belong to him as well. He will guide our wills and hearts. We can trust our hearts, because they are his. So we can move through life in confidence and hope, because we hunger and thirst for his satisfaction, for his pleasure, for his joy. These are fulfilled when we love him. When we believe in his love, so much that no sin or failure will ever keep us from him, because we will believe in his mercy and forgiveness above all else. So our hope will ever motivate us to seek him, to seek Truth, to know it and follow it, to proclaim it and live it. To witness to truth. To teach the truth.
Let us pray that our understanding of what righteousness is will ever be the wisdom of the Lord, and that our hunger for it will ever be satisfied as we place our trust in him.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beatitudes, Part III

Matthew 5: 1-16

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear this beatitude is the following words that flowed from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, full of the Holy Spirit -
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Luke 1:46-55

The meek are not the downtrodden, the lame, the uneducated, the loathsome, the weak, the gullible, the easily manipulable. No, meekness does not translate into cowardly or spineless. Quite the opposite, really. Meek could be translated into "wise" or "honest" or "full of truth" if it is to be best understood. The meek are they who realize both the goodness of the Lord, the mercy and generosity of God, and their own poverty and littleness. Not to confuse this with "poor in spirit," the meek add an active lifestyle to this knowledge. The meek are those who willingly choose to submit to God's will, to other's who are harsh or take advantage of them, who accuse them falsely, who judge them wrongly, who may be unkind, for the glory of God and his plan, and not because they can't fight back or win. Most often the meek are more confident of the truth and could easily prove the injustice of the other if they so desired, yet choose not to because they understand a greater purpose and a more generous end than those who are their accusors or attackers.

The first definition in the dictionary for Meek is: "humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others." The importance here is that those who are humbly patient, who are meek, know that beyond a doubt they have already won. Rather, Him who they are fighting for has already won. His battle tactics can seem unconventional, but when he says to lay low and not rise to the bait of the ignorant or those acting out of hurt or confusion, but rather to love them in the justice that he loves them in, they obey, freely.

I can say there have been a number of times in my life when I have come under some small persecutions and have handled it poorly. Sometimes I attempt to be meek at first, but then my sense of self-righteousness gets the better of me and I find a way to disprove them or "try to talk to them, to make them see their wrong." Sometimes we are certainly called to challenge others to love better, to respect others more, to respect themselves more, etc... We are never called to vengence though, and God tells us in Scripture to leave repayment of evil up to him. We are to imitate his Son, who rather than snuffing us out like the gnats we can be, he endured our greatest ridicule and silently went to the cross, even when he was given opportunities to defend himself. Such was his love. He asks us to seek to live in the same manner, to try to forgive when forgiveness seems impossible, and moreover then to forget, as if it never happened. He asks us to accept his unconditional love, and then to relate to others with that same love we've received. There cannot be conditions or stipulations or requirements. Cool or awkward, pretty or ugly, best friend or uncomfortable person on the subway, we are all his sons and daughters and he yearns for us to invite everyone else into the love he is freely handing out.

So blessed are the meek, for they have received first love, then wisdom and understanding, and then perseverance in mercy and generosity, so that they are livnig testimonies to the love of Christ for all men.
Let us be as our Lady and never hesitate to proclaim the greatness of God, for those who are humble he will exalt. Amen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Beatitudes, Part II

Matthew 5: 1-16

"Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted."

This is one of my favorite beatitudes, mainly because we all mourn. The Lord is too good to leave us broken, though often our hurts can be at least in some part attributed to our own faults. We are too proud, too stubborn, too hard headed, too vain, too attached to things that are not of the Lord, and then when we burn our hands on the open fire that he warned us not to touch, he just brings out the aloe and starts tending our wounds. Too good, if that could ever be said, is the Lord. What is important is that we learn from these experiences, and do better the next time.

There are many types of mourning, some more obvious than others. Dramatic experiences such as the loss of a family member or loved one or tragic accidents that leave people disabled or sick can be very painful. Less dramatic experiences such as minimal sickness or sorrow that comes from a broken heart or lonliness can be equally as troubling. So often the heart and mind, even the will, reach a point of being broken down and exhausted, and begin to submit to depression or despair. We start to lose hope so quickly!

Yet, the Christian message is one solely based on hope. This virture comes hand in hand with faith in God - who he is and what he promises - and with the Love that he is and offers freely to us. We cannot lose these, nor when they seem to already be lost can we just accept it or settle down to unhappiness.

However, it is so important to remember where and who the healing and strength and comfort come from. When we face these kinds of trials and heart breaks, only one can take on all of our brokenness and put us back together. That is the same one who put us together in the first place. Our Father and Lord.

To think we can get ourselves back up after some piercing suffering is silly. We can try but we will not be able to fully recover until we lay ourselves in his hands and leave it to him to remake us. I can speak to this because I know what it is like; I have endured some very real sufferings, and I had every "right" to be angry with God or to question his goodness and love. My baby brother passed away at three months old and people seemed so shocked that I was "ok" or seemed to be handling it well. I wasn't handling it well at all! Nor was I ok. I was horrified, and frightened, and broken, and still breaking as I watched my parents continually break down. What I did have was God's mercy, and in that I found both peace and hope. Collin was baptized, clearly never sinned, and suffered for those three months of his life from cystic fibrosis. This, in Catholic terms, is a recipe for heaven-bound from the moment of death. Being free from original sin and having committed no other sin, it is easy to hope and hold as true that he is with the Lord in the beatific vision. That is a comfort, no matter how hard our loss might have felt on earth. My brother beat us all to the finish line. But that is actually a reason to rejoice, not to be sad. So although I did endure great sadness, I also occasionally rejoiced, because in truth this world is only a passing place, something transitory to prepare us for everlasting life with our God. Under that truth, Collin sped along in his journey and made it home much faster than many holy people. How could we not be happy?! It is the grace of God and nothing else that can offer us this disposition of spirit to be able to see his beauty at work even in hardship. This is why we must pray often, cling to our Blessed Mother and go before her Son in the Eucharist to receive the graces and mercy he wishes to pour into our souls!

On a much smaller scale, I've also endured the little sorrows, such as thinking yourself "in love" with someone and being rejected. When our hearts feel so ready to give of themselves and that gift is rejected, it can be such a cross to bear! Satan jumps in with so many temptations of why you must not be good enough, or how the love was never real in the first place, and in fact how all love is a disillusion. He's lying and he's wrong. Tell him to bug off. Or try to teach him the truth, that usually seems to make him flee. Explain how God's love is so perfect that you are grateful for this cross, for this hurt, because it humbles you. As you are humbled, you are able to realize how great, how deep, how wide the Lord's love is for you, because even if you fall so far down and are so small, he can still reach you, and he's still there with you. In fact, you are so deeply drawn into Jesus' sorrowful Sacred Heart in this suffering you experience that you rejoice, and hope that you will be given more opportunities of suffering just so that you are never again separated from His love. Oh! It is so sweet, so real, so beautiful, so alive, how he loves you. It is so comforting, and you are not afraid anymore. Other things that threaten to rock your boat or bring about pain are just opportunities for you to be bathed in the love and mercy of God once more.

The Holy Spirit is the great comforter, the Divine healer, the sweetness of God's love working in our souls. Pray this prayer, and in faith and trust lay youself into the Lord's arms when you are hurting. He will bring you to peace.
"Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beatitudes, Part I

I have decided to do a series of short reflections on the beatitudes. I continually feel that through Scripture and the lives of the saints these important words of Christ are reinforced time and again as the pathway to holiness. I would like to share some of this walk with others through discussion.

So let us begin with the words Jesus has for us -

Matthew 5: 1-16

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I think it is a fair place to begin with the example of Mother Teresa. This woman's life was a witness to love, a love that she bore so deeply inside she seemed to be made up of nothing but that love. The Blessed Mother would, of course, be the most perfect example of the poor in spirit. Mary was able to receive the message from the angel who said, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk. 1:35), because she was so pure that there was nothing taking up space in her other than the readiness to do God's will.

Lives that are fully spent for others, expended to the furthest drop of blood, exhausted to the point of death - these lives are those that burn brightest, that last the longest, that seem to live on decades and centuries after the life is over. They are the ones we praise, we admire, we seek to imitate. They are those who have discovered the true human strength - that of overcoming the self for the sake of love rather than of being conquered by the self for the sake of self-love. One seems so good, to care for and look out for one's own good and own interest, but the other is the one which is heroic and valiant, because it defies what comes to us "naturally" and seeks the better nature that all mankind was given before the fall. These lives have faith that cannot be shaken, and hope that does not disappoint, for they chose to believe fully that it would not. We see miracles happen in their lives and after from their good works, we discover deep sufferings they never complained of or beautiful thoughts and prayers that were never shared, and we marvel at how they could be so free, and so alive. We crave that.

We face a culture that considers the f-word to be common knowledge, and "poverty" to be akin to a curse word. To be poor is to lose all respect, to have no morale, to not be worth someone's time. At most, to be poor is to gain pity. It is never a virtue, and never something to learn from. Then again, culture rarely tells us to "learn" something from anything, because we aren't even humble enough to believe we need to be taught things, much less that if we are in a position where we are being taught things that we could consider it a good thing.

There we find the true thing to pity. Bl. Mother Teresa spoke to this exact problem. She said,  "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." Real poverty is when there is too much inside of a heart or soul to be able to open to love, truth, beauty and goodness. It is sad and pitiful, for so many claim that they are full, happy, satisfied, acheiving good things, and yet are struggling and empty of what truly satisfies. The Lord satisfies. His love satisfies. Nothing else.

So what Jesus is speaking to here is not the poverty of hunger or of material things, nor the poverty of the wealthy or lonely who choose not to let him in, but the poverty of a heart that has freely given over themselves to their Lord that he might lead them as he wills.

This is an epic freedom, a total one. It allows the soul to soar to new heights, and the heart to remain steadfast in great trials. It is frightening, at first, to open your heart and soul to this love. It can come as a torrent, sweeping in and taking with it things that we thought we held dear, or things we thought defined us as who we were. It can become a purifying river, that will cleanse us of many things we did not even realize we were clinging too - things that are the building blocks for the walls that will not let God's love in. Yet, when we have the courage to allow this bursting-love to come, to move within us, to take over... we are amazed. Life looks so different through eyes that see it in truth.

This truth is one that recognizes three important things: first, that God is God, Jesus is Lord, the Spirit is our life, and in the Trinitarian love we find our truth, our "why", our purpose, our hope, our reason, our fulfillment. The second is that we are nothing, empty, little, pitiful, sinful, children who rebel and think we deserve good things when in truth our behavior and our lack of love deserve only punishment.  The third is that the Lord's love is merciful, that mercy is actually the active existence of this Love, of him who loves us, and so in reality, the more we recognize our littleness, the more we pray for the grace to be humble, the more we delight in our embarrassments and humiliations, the more we are grateful for every little thing and do not think anything is of our own doing, nor that we deserve any of what we have, the more we can recognize that all of this life is a generous gift, the beautiful and the sorrowful, the more the Lord lavishes his love upon us and delights in our repentence, and refills our souls abundantly with his love.

Moreover, we become addicted to this glory, to the pure peace and hope that comes from being broken and empty, and receiving from him his mercy and love in abundance. Not that we sin more to receive more mercy, quite the opposite! But we are able to see more and more our imperfections and failures, and while we are ashamed and even horrified at how cold and stony are hearts can be, we realize all the more the deep tenderness and gentle love that the Lord pours over us.

In the end this poverty of spirit becomes one continual laughter, a joy that wells up deep within, as we enter into the logic of God. He, who is all powerful beyond comprehension, who holds the universe in his mind and could end it all at any time, He prefers that we have free will. He, though not needing our love at all, desires it to be given to him, freely. He choses that we would have the choice to give him our hearts or to hold them back. He desires that we love like he does, freely, generously. He gives us a lifetime to understand it and so many mercies and graces, people and situations, that we might ever more deeply comprehend how low he has stooped to save us, how far down he has come to be near us, how marvellous his love truly is. So we must laugh, we must giggle, we must rejoice! He is in love with us, stupid, frail and evil though we can be. He still wants us, still yearns for us. His love does not have limits, nor conditions. So we have to laugh, because it would seem that nothing but our own stubborn hate could keep us from him. How ridiculous! We fall at the smallest temptation - we forget him, ignore him, tell him we'll be sorry later, cheat and lie and even hope he won't notice. Yet, there he is, scooping us back into his hands, laying us against his Sacred Heart, softly singing to us of his mercy and love. It almost seems as if we could not escape him if we tried. But we can, and sadly often do.

So let us pray for the grace to be poor in spirit. Whether materially wealthy or not, whether someone who feels close to the Lord or not, whether stuggling with deep rooted issues or feeling happily care free, we all need to be humbled, we all need to pray more, we all need to seek grace and mercy, and we all need to ask God to make us his servants, children and friends.

Let us love one another as Christ first loved us!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Will Never Have Words

I cannot honestly say the number of times I go to write something about love on this blog and then stop short.

What can I say?

Has not everything that could possibly be said been said already? Even if it had not, how could I presume to have something to add to the castle of thought and literature on this topic that has already been built?

Sometime I think a poem or song would be more managable, because at least in such prose there are some definite boundaries for me to work within. Other times I think just an ongoing list of descriptive adjectives and verbs would suffice. More often, I wish for a palette and every color in existence, so that I can just shade and draw and paint the beautiful explosion of color that I feel communicates what I think about love.

However, since I am not in a place to write poetry, my guitar is not handy and I have no paints or crayons, I will have to accept a feeble attempt with bare words.

The following will sometimes inappropriately use semicolons - ; - please do not hate. It made this easier.

Love. It is guttural and raw; fearsome and blinding; causing you to want to run in the complete opposite direction and hide until the storm passes you by, praying it doesn't notice you shaking there; white light that pierces through your soul, opens up your inner self so far that what you discover you never knew existed within you; purifying, making new over and over and over again; mesmerizing, gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, spellbinding, unhinging, you are left tripping over yourself with a little drool hanging off your lip; enlivening, lifting you up in ever higher concentric circles until all the world is far below and freedom and air and joy and hilarity are all you can sense around you; intoxicating, all that you do, every thought, every choice, every triumph or mistake, every moment is consumed with your love, and the lover - they go with you everywhere, you cannot be alone again, they exist within you and you within them, no distance can separate and no trial can break the "love" that has become its own person, the love that is freely given from one to the other; self-revelatory, clearing away fogs and cobwebs around the heart, breaking into the proverbial "west wing" and discovering the wiltin rose that must be brought to life again; enthralling, leaving the blood in your veins tingling for hours after you encounter love, and causing your heart to leave its common pace and awaken you throughout the night to remind you of the transformation taking place; deadly, in the most serious way - you will awaken as someone new - not that you lose who you are but that you find who you were always meant to be, and this new skin fits better than the old ever could have, and the new eyes you see with understand the world in all the glory you never could perceive before, and the new heart you carry drips with mercy and forgiveness, understanding and compassion, readiness to give of itself at every moment, for you have no way to pay back the gift that has been given to you, that you've received - to way to fulfill the debt of love created when another wholly and completely hands themself over to your miserable and faulty hands; there is no recovery, once you are taken in, and even in the most barren and lonely times, when all the world has failed you and your lover has failed first and foremost, and you are nursing the bitter wounds of your heart in dark places... even then, and perhaps more than ever, does the glory of what love is reveal itself - it is forever, and it cannot be shaken nor destroyed, not drowned nor killed in any way, it will not be deterred and it cannot be taken back - it is the gift that once given, only takes more of the person along with it next time, and more the next, until the only joy the person can experience is when it is giving itself in love; it is more than a habit, more than a virtue, more than a moral code, more than a way of life or a creed, more than a gospel or message, it is a state of being - a single Being (God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Love Himself) - and it is an existence that participates in this being so that the two beings are so united that it is hard to distinguish between them.

Certainly, our human love has far to go before it can ascend these heights, or before it can remain in these heights, or even begin to truly comprehend what sacrifice and self-abandonment is involved with these heights...but what is received, what is gained, what is given as a gift - it is worth everything, more than life itself, for it cannot die, and when we die it lives on, and when we are gone we are not gone at all, for Love has taken us into itself and made a home for us, and we have freely chosen to dwell in Love for all time, and there we are more fully made ourselves than we could ever fathom. "I did not know myself until I was Loved" should be our motto, and it should be renewed every day. Then, moreover, "I did not know myself until I learned to Love in return, to receive Love and then to Love back." This is that starting point, the door that leads to the path where all other journeys and travels converge.

Here we find life, and life in abundance. Because God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Put your whole heart into it.

One of my favorite verses from the Old Testament was in this Sunday's morning prayer. It's from Ezekiel, 36:25-28. It goes as follows from the Revised Standard Version:

"I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

The Lord informs us we don't have to do much work to learn how to love. He plans on doing the hard part for us. The New American Bible's version reads, "taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts." This is how we were meant to live, how we were meant to love. With hearts that are real, enflamed with his Spirit and alive in his mercy.

For God to love us is for God to exist. For us to love him in return, and to love others as he teaches us to love them, is for us to receive another great gift from him; a gift of a new heart, a heart that is not afraid.

The Scripture passage that sunk in for me today as we celebrate our Nation's Independence was Galatians 5:1, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." We cannot dwell in fear for one so great as the Son of God himself freely chose to lay down his life on our behalf and to pay the ransom for our sins, that we might be able to walk in his light and receive the gift of salvation.

But we cannot falter when we look upon the gift! It must not blind us with its light, or startle us with its greatness, to the point that we would not want to receive it! We might feel unworthy, and rightly so, for we are. Yet, he has made us worthy. So we cannot push it away, or deny the gift he seeks to give us!

Today in mass I noticed the mother in front of me cover her sons shoulders with her cardigan (it was rather cold in the church). The little boy shrugged it off and looked at her as if to say, "Mom, really?" I know we all get frustrated with loving gestures our moms try to show, but what came to mind after observing this was how often the Lord attempts to love us in just the same way, and how often we too shrug off his gifts and say, "not now" or "it's a little embarrassing right now, God."

He wants us to have hearts that are open to receive. How else can we live? How can we have the hope of growth or change or goodness or virtues or perseverance or victory if we can't open our hearts to love? This beautiful quote was in one of my favorite books of all time, "I Believe in Love." I'm paraphrasing, but it read something like "A holy nun once said to St. Francis de Sales that she wished to learn love through humility. St. Francis replied that he wished to learn humility through love." I found this so striking because it is absolutely humbling when you realize someone loves you, truly. You know your flaws, your failures, how selfish or impatient you can be. You recognize that you don't always have it together and perhaps you never will. Yet, they love you. They choose to love you. They continue to choose to love you day after day, for who you are now, not who you'll be or who you've been. They sincerely appreciate the heart, soul and mind that dwell together in the person that is you. They wouldn't want you any other way. Why? It seems ridiculous. Love is ridiculous. Of course it should humble us. It absolutely should leave us completely dumbstruck, flabbergasted, maybe even spellbound. Ludicrous. It is ludicrous that any heart can fully and freely give itself over to anything another might bring... beauty and pain, joy and sadness, and the greatest risk of abuse or abandonment... while simultaneously the greatest risk of perfect and ever-present fully returned love.

To enter into this, we need rejuvenation. Often. We cannot help but build up defenses. Walls keep the pain out and help us to manage how we encounter life. Yet, these things can greatly hinder us from receiving and giving, and they aren't meant to last. Sometimes they are good or necessary as we work on healing, but the Lord invites us constantly to new freedom, new wholeness, new love; and with that, he offers us new hearts.

So let us learn how to accept from Jesus' hand the heart he offers us, so that in turn we can passionately live this life, fully giving and fully receiving, because our stony hearts have been cast off and our natural hearts are beating fast.