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

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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”

Taking Up the Challenge of Loving

Frequently, we miss the beauty of life surrounding us. Near my home are beautiful hiking trails that snake through a small forest near a bustling university.

The woods are quiet and offer time for quiet reflection  and observation

of the various trees surrounding you. Occasionally, I will see a passerby who frequently

smiles or utters a greeting; some will even stop and chat briefly. These are all gifts, as we literally share the paths  and  sometimes briefly our individual journeys on that day. As Henri Nouwen says we do not have to travel abroad necessarily to appreciate the

people and places in our own area. Truly, our senses may be heightened however, when we do travel to another place that is quite different from our own. For example, in Costa Rica, I appreciate the very grounded authenticity, of the Latin populace who welcomed us to their country and who emphasized the importance of family and friends in their daily lives.

Nevertheless, we know that we cannot possibly meet many, many people- at least not in this lifetime. Thus when God permits you to encounter certain individuals, really listen to them. Life is so difficult that we need constant affirmations in one form or another. God has given all of our lives meaning,whether we realize it or not. Acknowledging someone

whether it be eye contact, a smile or a kind word may have a profound impact on an individual, particularly if they are hurting. No one has the right to say who is “in” or who is “out”. After all, the latter mentality presupposes a superior mentality on the part of the observer. WE may have different levels of responsibility in our careers for example, but are all equal in the eyes of God. Mother Theresa says that God is not interested in how many degrees you have or how much money you have, but whether or not you love other people.   Yes we have to compete for jobs for instance, but we can still be respectful to one another if we recognize our common humanity and the divine spark that resides in each person. Let us strive to love one another every day.