The Source of Hope: Goodness

pexels-photo-415318.jpegIt is so easy to become discouraged when we hear about violence against the innocent ( such as in Toronto) or the proliferation of nuclear weapons  or the increasing wealth

of the very rich at the expense of the poor. WE must guard against becoming permanently angry and bitter. Hopefully, as we mature, we learn to become grateful

for things we may take for granted such as a food, housing, employment, family, friends…Sometimes, even assisting those who do not have these necessities can generate gratitude for the much needed help. For example, St. Vincent De Paul is just one of many organizations that provide food and furniture vouchers to the needy. It is very rare that these folks do not genuinely appreciate the emergency relief they receive.

In turn, most volunteers realize how fortunate they are to have the basic necessities of life. The poor often teach us how to be grateful. This comment is not meant to glorify poverty by any means as it is a societal scourge; however, the poor seem to display a resilience for survival and a hopefulness that they will do their best to help themselves and one another.  Indeed, Jesus asks us to assist those in need. Perhaps you can visit the lonely neighbour that just lost their spouse or visit the sick friend in the hospital. Further, you might cook a meal for your daughter who is working long hours to support her family. Anything you do that comes from a pure heart is good!  Even Victor Frankl ( Man’s Search for Meaning) in a Nazi concentration camp noticed that those that displayed small acts of kindness towards one another frequently survived the evil perpetuated there.

Indeed, Fr. Ron Rolheiser in pondering the eruption of goodness says that the resurrection of Jesus reveals “that graciousness, goodness, and love are the ultimate power inside reality. They will have the final word and they will never be ….killed or ultimately ignored….( “The Triumph of Goodness”, March 28, 2016) In brief, no matter how much bad happens, love and goodness will prevail due to God’s goodness and power.

Take hope that goodness, despite the presence of evil will have the final say.

God guarantees this.   Before leaving this earthly realm Jesus says these reassuring words: “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives….do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid… ( Jn 14:27-31a) As Jimmy Carter says, God accompanies us

during the good and difficult times of life. God wants a relationship with us. He is the source of our hope.

Advertisements

Welcoming the Stranger

is

 

Greetings to all. Anthony De Melo, a Jesuit speaks frequently in his works about not sleep -walking throughout life. We must contend with a mind that is continually bombarded with

diverse messages about how we should think, talk and act. The world is so materialistic at times that it is easy to forget why we are here; it is not just to buy and sale as Richard Rohr reminds us. We are not just consumers. We are NOT our thoughts. Indeed, we have a spark of the divine within us. Sadly, unless we pray, meditate, read spiritual material like the Bible, and see goodness reflected in others, we may not believe that we are created in the image of God.

However, we must not condemn ourselves when we fail because we will never be perfect. Only Jesus had full consciousness at all times. WE must learn to forgive ourselves and others- the predominant theme in Scriptures, if we wish to imitate Christ as St. Paul urges us to do.  Our mind can be a trickster and we must watch what messages it gives us. For example, if in Biblical times, a person has leprosy, they are declared “unclean” and separated from the community. While, this may be a prudent way to protect the group from infection, oftentimes, that individual is judged as being a great sinner because of their illness. Consequently, consider how often we harshly judge ourselves when we do not

live up to our ideal sense of self! There was a recent story of a beggar who visited a church trying to participate in the service (YouTube). He asked for change and was spurned. In short, he was NOT welcomed by many. Not long afterwards, someone

invites the pastor to speak to the congregation. The “beggar” approaches the microphone

indicating he is the new pastor. He preaches that Jesus welcomes the stranger in His midst: they must do likewise! Many parishioners cry and lament their  poor treatment of this man who of course is judged by his unkempt appearance. May we be cognizant of our internal bias and try to accept ourselves and others just as we are. Amen

 

 

 

Why Fret the small stuff?

wallpaper-men-in-hats

It seems that the “little things we do to help our families and one another are deemed unimportant in this life. We are often convinced that CEO’s, presidents, prime ministers,

movie stars, and professional athletes do the really significant stuff. Yet God decides to be born as a helpless baby in an insignificant, little place called Bethlehem. Even if a star

illuminates Jesus’ birthplace, it is not easy to locate Him. Further, He is among shepherds, not exactly superstars even in biblical days. His surroundings are anything but affluent. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are genuinely refugees as they must flee their original habitat. This latter point seems to have been lost on those in positions of power

that are afraid of the Other. I am not referring to those who may pose serious security risks but those who are simply fleeing war, persecution and or hunger. The Holy Family know firsthand what it means to be living on the margins of society.

Naturally, many of wish to be seen as significant.   Some people strive for power without realizing how easily this may corrupt them. Often individual’s convictions get lost in the

search to maintain that control. We see this frequently with various rulers and government leaders. Contrast this with Jesus. He did not seek power but vulnerability;

after all, He was always associating with the poor, the sick and the marginalized. He opened Himself to great criticism from the established authorities who jealously guarded

their status and positions at the pinnacle of their society (as much as they could be with  Roman permission).

Hence, Jesus moves in a downward movement since He does not seek power, admiration or status. He is instead the perfect role model for humanity and He comes to serve, not to be served. Jesus says to have faith in Him and to follow His ways, something difficult then, and presently.  Let us strive to be truly present to one another-as much as possible, since no one can live from their Higher Self continuously. Let us regard one another as equals, for it will be only then that we become a more peaceful society.

Inspired by R. Rolheiser.

 

Taking Up Our Cross

Today our priest says if we are to be good Christians we must, as Jesus does, accept that

suffering is an integral part of life. Who has not been deeply disappointed for not landing a coveted job? How about the sadness when a loved one becomes ill or dies?

Further, most of us chafe at life’s unfairness when we are misunderstood or blamed for

something that is not our fault. If we become bitter about negative events, we may lose self-confidence and a zest for life. Simple joys may no longer even be noticeable. For example, how many times have you driven to work on a beautiful fall day but not noticed the changes in the leaves or the fresh smell in the air because you are dwelling

on a problem? In addition, your partner or spouse may feel deeply, the weight you are carrying, striving to handle their own stress and support you also!  In short, we may become overly focused on what is wrong in our lives and lose  gratitude over events that are going well. We become our smaller self, like the husband who cannot sleep (in some commercials) due to a bad cold. Guess what? His poor wife cannot sleep

either because he wants her to share his misery.  Over time she may resent him for not taking up his own cross. As Anthony Mello used to say, awareness of our words and actions are key. Naturally, we can share our burdens with others, but feeling sorry for

oneself and loudly complaining is not Jesus-like.

We all share daily mini-deaths. For example, a persistent back pain, migraines and upset

stomachs is the lot of many. Perhaps your child is heading off to school for the first time or your grown daughter is leaving home for university. Maybe a friend moves away to another city.  These are difficult things to accept but we must let go.

Remember that we will leave things unfinished despite the egos’ drive to accomplish.

It is important that we follow God’s will as best we can. Then we may say “I wish I could do more but realize we have little control over the length of our days on earth. Moreover, we may be surprised at times at good things that occur amongst the bad. You visit someone with dementia thinking I am spending time here but he/she does not appear to be paying much attention to my presence. Moments later they say “do you have to leave already?” This is a little gift from God. God knows our intention to love the other.

Finally, let us pray that God will give us the courage and fortitude to deal with our daily crosses

as Jesus does. When I pray, I almost always feel a little more support from God even  if it is for a short time. Hence, pausing to think about God during a busy day is praying with our bodies, remembering that not only does life have daily deaths but it has resurrections too. Ultimately, Jesus overcomes death and we too will join others in the final resurrection.

I feel inspired by R. Rolheiser as I write this .

MotherTeresa_094

Natural Human Dignity

The Gospel says the poor is where one will find God.  Those who are suffering, mocked,

and /or excluded fit this category. How challenging it is to be present to them! After all,

one may ask, “do I not have enough troubles of my own?” At times, this is true. However,

we actually suffer less by focusing on the suffering of others. Still, this is not the

sole reason for assisting; for Christians, Jesus and many of the saints are the role models

for loving others. We are uniquely created in the image of God and believe we have image014 at least a

little of the divine residing in each and every one of us- that includes all humankind, not

just a select few!  Nevertheless, Henri Nouwen says do not be discouraged by the imperfect love of

people nevertheless; instead trust the boundless love of God’s spirit that lives in you.

The above no doubt means that if you truly love and forgive yourself for not being

flawless, then you allow the divine within to not only accept yourself more fully but to

accept others as they are better. For example, if we permit someone to help us because

we are sick, we may come to express gratitude towards the care-giver rather than

complaining incessantly about our predicament. Indeed, if we allow God to “speak to us”

we may find ourselves, eating better, exercising more and discussing our spiritual lives

with others.

Indeed, Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 5:13 -16, that “you are the light of the world …

you must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your

heavenly Father [Mother]. Yes we shine for God if we visit the sick and marginalized

whether they be strangers, acquaintances, or members of our family.

Peace be with you!

Acknowledgements: Henri Nouwen, Network for Grateful Living, Richard Rohr

Being Awake

image003Our world yearns for perfection but this is seldom seen unless it is witnessed in magazines.

We are sometimes overly concerned about how we look. Men can be sensitive about a

receding hair-line whereas many women worry about their weight. It is difficult to be loving when we at distraught by the cost of housing, whether our children will find

suitable employment, and how to care for an elderly parent who is struggling with health issues. It is no wonder then that out internal critic  launches into self-induced criticisms convincing

us to see life in negative terms. Conflicts with children, co-workers and /or service providers add to our woe. Consequently, we may feel that if we were to meet Jesus, he would see us with jaundiced eyes too. But this is NOT so. God creates us as imperfect children and loves us the way we are!  Indeed, we have to be aware of strong self – criticism. For example, my wife and I looked after our young grandchildren and I was upset with myself when my granddaughter  was so congested she woke up crying with a stuffy nose. I forgot to put on the dehumidifier because she was fine at bedtime; why did you forget the inner critic exclaims?  I prayed about this. My deeper self says you and your wife lovingly responded to their every need, but were unaware of a cold that manifested itself during the night. This may seem trivial but we deeply care about looking after the grandchildren well when called upon. I felt relieved afterwards.

God will always make us feel good about ourselves when we have done our best.

The false self ( some say the devil or evil spirit) will make us feel discouraged and even upset no matter how good our effort. Remember  we are made in the image of God; we carry the divine spark. Hence, we are capable of doing great deeds. They do not have to be spectacular like the Toronto fireman who recently rescued a woman on a crane perched high above the city. Being aware of our goodness should permit us to perform, as Mother Teresa says, small acts of love that may have a profound impact on the person

receiving the assistance.

Giving of Ourselves To Others

Life is difficult. That much we know.  It is especially challenging because despite our best intentions, we cannot often see the fruits of our labour. I taught high school for nearly thirty years. Students often are not interested in the subject matter no matter how much YOU enjoy it. They are at a different stage of life after all. They are concerned about their relationships, who they are and where they are going. I wondered so often if I failed to reach them and yet I KNOW I cared about them! I tried so hard to help them whether it was understanding Shakespeare or struggling to get along with one another.

In other words, I seemed to always be giving to the students without getting anything in return; it seemed pointless. Yet if we stay connected to God through prayer we know  the right thing to do. We empty ourselves to others. How often do we see parents sacrifice their sleep in order to care for their children? Similarly, teachers prepare students

for work. They try to be a good example to them so that they will treat others different from them with respect. Ultimately, students are intelligent. They know intuitively if the teacher really cares about them as a human being. Perhaps God becomes frustrated at times with us as we complain about the suffering that may be moulding us into being more loving human beings like the sleepy parents I mentioned getting up  feeding the baby, changing the diapers and soothing the child . When I am worried and ask for God’s help, so often someone will call, send an e-mail or I will read something that directly addresses my worry.

This has happened numerous times and is available to anyone who seeks God’s help.

In brief, we need to love others knowing we are doing the right thing even if we do not always receive the satisfaction of being appreciated by others. After all, our higher self knows if we acted selflessly or not. Yet is also important not to condemn ourselves if we

fail to love others sometimes. This is bound to happen due to our imperfections. Ask God for the grace to be strong so that His/her energy may flow through us.

Continue reading “Giving of Ourselves To Others”