To all that shall be,.........................YES !
To love God with one's whole heart means to say a wholehearted Yes to life; to accept without reservation all that God has ordained for it; to have the attitude that Jesus had when he said: "Not my will, but yours be done."
The artist has a vision and works so that this vision will become a reality. Where we would only see a blank, white canvas, the artist would see the Mona Lisa. Where we would only see a huge block of marble, he would see the Pieta'. And gradually he would start working so that his vision will take shape.
God is an artist. The Artist.
He has a grand and magnificent vision for each and every one of us and He is working so that this vision is realised.
So where, perhaps, we can only see ugliness and confusion, He is seeing the image of His Son. And slowly, very slowly He is working to chisel out this image.
Sometimes this hurts. The blows of the hammer and chisel aren't always very gentle. At other times you have your plans and God makes havoc out them. And that hurts....and makes you cry.
Remember at times like this that these are no more than the blows of the hammer and chisel that the Artist is using to bring forth the image of his Son in you.
As long as we refuse to accept that we are a mixture of light and darkness, of positive qualities and failings, of love and hate, of altruism and egocentricity, of maturity and immaturity, and that we are all children of the same Father, we will continue to divide the world into enemies (the "baddies") and friends (the "goodies"). We will go on throwing up barriers around ourselves and our clans or groups, spreading prejudice.
God knew you and me before He formed us in the wombs of our mothers. He knew of our days and of our nights. He knew there would be Spring-times of delight and dark nights of lonely anguish. He knew there would be moments of human ecstacy and other moments when we would feel very much alone and when we would wonder if there really is a God who cares. He knew that our gift of freedom would involve the possibility and fact of sin. He knew that evil would touch your life and mine. He knew that He would offer us grace to overcome temptation, but that we would at times refuse His offer. He knew that He would have to write straight with our twistedness. He knew that He would have to mend our brokenness. Yet, in full knowledge of all these things, God said: "Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves."....and God saw all that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1)
Once, a brother priest told me that shortly before he was supposed to be ordained to the priesthood, he took a tranquilizer prescribed by a doctor to relieve the tension of "ordination jitters". By a strange bio-chemical irregularity, for him the tranquilizer proved to be a stimulant. He returned to the doctor and reported the deterioration of his condition. The well-intentioned doctor consequently doubled the dosage, and soon the young man's vision became clouded and his nervousness seriously worsened. Aware of these developments, the superior of the seminary called him into his office and sympathetically but firmly informed him that he could not be ordained.
My friend told me that he went to his room, knelt down at the side of his bed, and thrashed his arms down across the bed again and again, protesting. "Oh God, you can't do this to me. You can't take thirteen of the best years of my life and then, within arm's reach of ordination, take it all away from me !" The agonised protest soon became a litany: "You can't.....you can't....!" Finally, exhausted and emotionally spent, he fell across the bed and whispered, "But, of course, you can. You can do anything you choose to do. You are my God. I am your creature. Thy will be done."
Then he added something that I did not anticipate: "It was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced complete peace. There were still many unanswered questions throbbing in my head, but my heart knew only the peace of surrender."
Later, as the pages of the calendar were turned, the painful questions were answered in time and the young man was granted his desired goal of ordination. But the lesson of peace in the open hands of surrender will be with him all the days of his life.
A man was travelling through the desert lands in the north of India, where drinking water is a scarcity and has to be bought from water-boys. These would approach incoming trains, pitcher in hand and small earthenware pots in which they carefully measured out and dispensed the precious liquid.
Upon arrival at the station, the man leaned out of the window and called a water boy. The boy drew close, and the man asked him: "How much for one pot ?" - "Fifty cents of a rupee," answered the lad. "I give you thirty," bargained the traveller. At that, the water boy, without so much as looking at him, went away and approached other windows. The man was annoyed and shouted at him, "I called you first !" The boy turned towards him, and with surprising dignity in his bare feet and lean body, he answered solemnly, "I will not sell you water, sir. You are not thirsty. If you were thirsty, you would not bargain." And he went on his way, leaving the traveller without water.
Carlos G Valles S.J. More Abundantly
"If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and He would have given you living water." John 4,10
"anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life." John 4,14
How does one learn to love ? First, a person must realise his or her loveableness. This is done by seeing with God's eyes, not the world's. To the world, most people are nobodies. But to God, nobody is a nobody. Everybody is a somebody because God made each and every one of us in love. To know and appreciate one's uniqueness and loveableness is the first step towards loving God.
Secondly, one must know that he or she owns nothing but his or her sins, as St. Francis said. St Therese knew this in a profound way. Not only was she content with this knowledge, she delighted in it ! She was nothing. God was All.
Then, one will come to realise that Christ left heaven and died as a nobody so that we, who are nobodies to the world, might possess all that is possible in heaven.
Madeline Pecora Nugent The Messenger of St. Anthony
"My father drinks a lot because he is out of work, and my mummy always goes out at night. That is why they have put me in a `home`. The only one who loves me is a little gold-fish that I keep in a jar by my side. Even while I am asleep at night. The sister told me that I cannot keep that fish any longer, so, at night I go to sleep with the jar tied to my wrist with a piece of string beacuse I am afraid that when I wake up I would find my fish gone. Please help me so that they won't take away my fish from me, 'cause if they do take it away, I won't have anyone else to love me."
Man can live without candy, ....without many, many things, actually. But he cannot live without love. But what kind of love...? Being loved by others is marvellous, it is necessary, it is a reflection of God's love. But....it can never satisfy the enormous thirst that we have in our hearts.
In our society there is no need to become an adult. One may remain - one is exhorted to remain - a child forever. In such a life, the central aim is self-fulfillment. Marriage is merely an alliance, entailing as minimal an abridgment of inner privacy as one partner may allow. Children are not a welcome responsibility, for to have children is, plainly, to cease being a child oneself. One tries instead to live as the angels were once believed to live - soaring, free, unencumbered.
People say of marriage that it is boring, when what they mean is that it terrifies them: too many and too deep are its searing revelations, its angers, its rages, its hates, and its loves. They say of marriage that it is deadening, when what they mean is that it drives us beyond adolescent fantasies and romantic dreams. They say of children that they are piranhas, brats, snots, when what they mean is that the importance of parents with respect to the future of their children is now known with greater clarity and exactitude than ever before.
Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, and most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant. The quantity of sheer impenetrable selfishness in the human breast (in my breast) is a never-failing source of wonderment. I do not want to be disturbed, challenged, troubled. Hugh regions of myself belong only to me. Seeing myself through the unblinking eyes of an intelligent, honest spouse is humiliating. Trying to act fairly to children, each of whom is temperamentally different from myself and from each other, is baffling. My family bonds hold me back from many opportunities. And yet these bonds are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being in a way that I want and need.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy! Going to Mass on Sunday morning, putting a little silver in the envelope for the fight against world poverty, not taking my neighbour's bank card....... If that is all being a disciple of Jesus Christ means, well then there is every chance I would not feel anxious. But being a disciple of Jesus is not just practicing a religion, but rather, living the Gospel...... n my whole life. In fact, the Lord is asking us: what are the essential values for you? What are you afraid of losing? What you really value is revealed by the nature of your fears.
Living the Gospel could well mean not to succeed materially, being misunderstood, having to suffer....
But Jesus says to us: Do not be afraid I am with you. You are worth so much to God that he sent his Son to redeem you.
But that does not mean that we are not hurt in the struggle. God has not given us a miraculous bullet-proof vest to wear, nor does he send his toughest angels to act as our body-guards. We shall be harmed like everyone else, but the wounds will not penetrate to our heart of hearts. We shall remain peaceful and loving because we are made strong by a Love that goes beyond us, a Love that has triumphed over hatred, suffering and death. We cannot be harmed.
So, do not be afraid! The Father is very close to each and every one of us and His eyes never leave us.
I met an accomplished teacher of dance recently, who confided to me that his partners often told him how well he'd danced and how he would always ask them had they enjoyed the experience. Invariably they said, "Of course!" He knew that as the dance got under way and they lost their initial self-consciousness, they had become caught up in the dance. No longer passive, they'd brought their own personalities to it, each of them uniquely. He had the gift of sensing their individuality as it expressed itself in subtle ways, and was able to adjust effortlessly. "You know, somehow the dance was in them!"
God is a dancing God: God approaches us one by one and asks, "May I have this dance?" God adjusts to our particular gifts and even if I'm flat-footed, God brings it about that the dance is in me. It's important to notice that my dance with God is not an exclusive event removed from this world: rather, as we dance, God is signalling to me to invite other people in, because the divine dream is that God and all humankind will finally dance together.
"There are very few persons who realise what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.
A thick and shapeless tree-trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture, and would never submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor, who sees by his genius what he can make of it.
Many people who now scarcely live as Christians, do not understand that they could become saints, if they would let themselves be formed by the grace of God and if they did not ruin his plans by resisting the work he wants to do."
One summer as my wife and I sat on our porch, we were serenaded by a tree frog who had taken up residence in the dense vine climbing a nearby tree. We finally located him, but not until after a painstaking search, because his coloring blended in perfectly with the vine leaves. As we watched him, we remembered a little chameleon we had seen during a visit to Florida. Like the frog, it took on the color of its surroundings.
People often take on the "colour" of their environment too. They can become like the people with whom they associate, whether good or bad.
In our Bible reading today, the religious leaders "saw the boldness of Peter and John" and "realized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The disciples had become like Jesus because they had spent time with Him, listened to Him teach, walked and talked with Him, and followed His example.
We too will take on the character of Jesus when we spend time in fellowship with Him, listen to the Holy Spirit speak to us through the Word, obey His teachings, and walk and talk with Him throughout the day.
I wonder, can people tell that we have been spending time with Jesus? -
Pagers seem to be everywhere these days. People who have one of these devices clipped to their belt receive a signal when they are needed. Being able to stay in touch with their home or office can give them great peace of mind. They know that if someone wants to contact them, they can be reached anywhere and at any time.
That's the kind of open line we need to maintain with heaven. Whatever peace of mind we get from carrying a pager or cell phone is minimal compared with the confidence of knowing that when God wants to speak to us through His Word, we're in a position to hear Him.
Check the "ears" of your heart. Are they dull because you are disobeying the Lord? Then you will be able to say, "Speak, for Your servant hears."
"Kids can be charming sometimes! You will never guess what one of the kids told me this morning! I asked him, 'What would you do if the devil knocked at the door of your heart?' And this tiny little six year old boy answered, 'If the devil comes knocking at the door of my heart, I will send Jesus to open the door Himself for me.'"
I do not know who this little boy is, but if I ever meet him, I will certainly give him a big, big hug, because this little boy has grasped the ultimate secret. When life becomes tough we have a choice. Either we marshal our own resources as if the outcome all depends on us or we can see the situation as an exciting arena in which God will intervene. The choice we make can ... build or destroy us!
Only God knows how often we have wished to say a word to someone and have found no one. We would have liked to share our emotions and feelings with an ear that listens, and a heart that cares, but there was no one.
But this is NOT really so. He is there....He is always there, ready to listen, to show compassion, to comfort us.
A family was going through hard times. The father had died, they were in debt, and one day the only thing the mother could give her son Joseph to eat was a dry piece of bread. In the evening, the mother prayed with Joseph. "Let us say the Our Father," she said. When they came to "give us this day our daily bread" the boy stopped, looked at his mother, and asked if he could add something to the prayer. "Add what you like," she replied. So the boy said, "Give us this day our daily bread, and please add on some peanut butter ...."
Be gentle! Do your best to understand people and help them. Enter into their suffering and loneliness. Come down from your peak of self-satisfaction into the valley of humanity, to the people below needing help and shelter. Do not be hard and do not be hard in your judgement.
There were two monks who committed a very serious sin when they went to the village to sell their wares. But they were wise enough not to let the devil trick them into discouragement and so they came back to the desert and went to the Abba to confess their sins. To ease them into their conversion, they were asked to go and live on their own for one month on bread and water, to pray and do penance. When the time was over, Abba himself came over to reunite them with the disciples. However he was very surprised because one came out grim, downcast, pale while the other was radiant, buoyant and brisk. "What did you meditate upon?" Abba asked. The sad monk answered : "I thought constantly on the punishment which I merit and the justice of God". The happy monk answered : "Well, I used to remind myself constantly the mercy of God and the love which Jesus Christ had for the sinner." Both of them were joyfully accepted back in the community but Abba remarked on the wisdom of the brother who kept his mind fixed on the compassion of God.
" ........ Jesus had to cross Samaria. On the way, Jesus, tired by the journey, sat down by the well.... a Samaritan woman came to draw water..." (John. 4: 1-42)
He sees her coming, hand high on the water jug perched on her head. Slightly bored, the woman makes her daily round to the well........Each of us may drift through life casually like this lonely Samaritan. For each of us, our meeting with the Eternal may happen at a moment least expected. Like a flash, Jesus may light up the depth of our soul. He may appear under the veil of the least of his brothers and sisters suffering along the road. Who knows the day or the hour that Jesus may reach out to him ?
We are engrossed in anxiously guarding our water jar as if it were the globe itself. We run around drawing water from countless wells: the water of praise to refresh our failing self-esteem, the water of success to keep alive a sense of importance, the water of pleasure to delight our senses. Poor Samaritans that we are. Meanwhile, the Eternal may be waiting around the corner with living water at the curve of the busy road along which our life is hastily speeding to its end.
Stumbling around in a murky night of small commitments, petty worries, little lusts and useless irritations, we forget that Jesus may come unexpectely....to tell us, who want abundant life, that life cannot be abundant without Him. It is only Jesus who brings joy to our life.
A man was going to give a big dinner-party and sent out many invitations. At dinner time he sent out his servants, "Please come, everything is now ready". They began, one by one to make excuses....." Luke 14 : 16-24
Long lists of excuses. I called you, and you did not come. It has to be explained somehow. And men and women of all times are ready with varied explanations. Who knows, life in society makes us so artificial that we soon learn the art of improvising excuses without paying attention whether they are convincing or not. It sounds strange, but true. Deceitful occupations that distract us from the invitation to grace...and it would be enough to look them in the face to convince ourselves to set them aside and rush to the banquet. Excuses are only excuses, and we know it ! They hardly succeed in hiding our lack of interest in the call of our lord, our laziness to dress up for the feast, our lack of desire to go where we really should go, and obtain what, primarily, we should obtain.
Excuses that paralyse our life, flatter our mediocrity, and make us miss the opportunities to gladden our existance, to shake off boredom, to draw closer to God who is calling us. God in his goodness, repeats his invitations to closeness all through our lives. Only we are not prompt and eager to accept them.
For Jesus, as it is for us, the dark night was a night of combat, a struggle with terror, with his inner fears and in some mysterious way, with God. Perhaps the real meaning of fear is that it is the context, the battleground in which an individual makes their most important gesture, their " yes ", their abandonment to God.
Jesus, we are told, prayed that the cup should not pass from him, that he should not have to drain to the dregs the bitterness of the days and hours to come. Oh, how important this prayer of his, for in making it he sealed his bond with us, gave us permission to barter with God, to say, "Please, not me, not me. Don't let me die. Please take away this pain. Restore my child to health. Save my lover. Don't let them torture me. Don't let him rape me. Anything, anything, but don't let THAT happen."
People don't talk much about their dark nights. Such struggles are deeply intimate affairs, both holy and shameful at the same time, involving as they do, a certain nakedness, tears, capitulation....ecstasy.
Dark nights are part of being human and take many forms. They may be short and appallingly painful, like some terrible knife wound or amputation, or long and drawn out, with weariness and desolation that defies description. And, of course, they are not necessarily one-off events but may recur again and again in different guises over a lifetime.
Perhaps for some, the letting go into God's hands is accomplished with one stroke of the sword, for others, the ropes must be sawn at with a rusty bread knife until the last thread finally snaps.
In spirituality it isn't effort that counts, but surrender.
When you fall into the water and don't know how to swim, you become frightened and say, "I must not drown, I must not drown," and begin to thrash about with arms and legs - and, in your anxiety, swallow more water and eventually drown.
If, however, you would let go of your thoughts and efforts and allow yourself to go down to the bottom, your body would come back to the surface on its own...... That's spirituality.
There is a clear difference in the Walk that is Life. A purpose helps to climb summits. A no-purpose helps to enjoy the landscape. Both things are good, and both have their times. To be always climbing summits takes away the joy of life. To walk always aimlessly leads nowhere. The wisdom is to combine both attitudes in the difficult art of Life.
"...to go about life with a light heart and an easy mind, not burdened by the need to achieve. We can cheat the world by taking with outward seriousness what we inwardly know to be a game and a play. We have no right answers to the right questions while in our hearts we do not give undue importance to what in itself does not have it (importance). Freedom from the need to reach, to show, to perform, is a great condition for lasting peace of mind. And the gentle loosening of our grip on big and small purposes for life and work, is a vital step in the attainment of that freedom.
A pastor was reflecting upon the frequent reference that Jesus made to the sheep, often likening the people of God to a flock of sheep without a shepherd. But why, of all animals, the allusion to this sheep?
We must understand first of all, the predominantly agrarian background that was familiar to Jesus' disciples at that time. They were very knowledgeable with the characteristics of farm animals, and the sheep in particular.
The sheep is a strange and funny animal. If there is a way in which it can put itself into trouble, you can rest assured that it will find it ! And this is something that the shepherd has to reckon with all the time.
Now look at us. Let us take a close look at ourselves......and we have to admit that we are very much like this in the way we behave.......we come up with the most intriguing ideas of how to land ourselves into trouble. You don't agree..? Just take a look around you......Why all the broken marriages...? Why AIDS...? Why drug abuse....? Why.........but we could go on and on to infinity....!
And Jesus has to reckon with this hard-headedness of ours all the time. And like the dedicated shepherd who loves his flock and is ready to defend it with his life, he patiently endures this and untiringly comes looking for us in whatever mischief we found ourselves embroiled.