Friday, August 23, 2013

Something I Learned from Christopher West

There are lots of opinions about Christopher West. Reading one of his latest books, "At the Heart of the Gospel," I came across something that I really liked. Mr. West, as we know, is one of the great "popularizers" of John Paul II's Theology of the Body. He has studied and read a LOT and from personal experience I can say that he is on fire to bring this message out to the world.

At the end of the first chapter of this book Mr. West reveals what he is carrying in his heart, what motivates him, and why he is going forward despite the criticisms and difficulties that he has encountered. I found it to be enlightening an exciting. Let me just share a few of his words:

"If Christ is to become present within the secular world's understanding, that will mean walking a fine line, a place of tension, between the sacred and the secular. That will mean, in some instances, using a language with which a more pious and refined audience might take issue so that much less pious and refined audience might be reached...let us try, and when we err, let us correct those errors and try again...we must stretch ourselves; we must break out of our comfort zones; we must be courageous, bold, and daring."

Reading that, I could not help but think of the calls of Pope Francis to go out and not stay closed within the Church. He wants a Church that is dynamic, apostolic, and full of love and concern for neighbor. That is what the Pope wants. That is exactly what I read in Christopher West.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Seeing God's Goodness in Fallen Angels

Have you ever thought about the fall of the angels? It really is fascinating. To think of rebellion in Heaven, a celestial battle, St. Michael the Archangel expelling Lucifer from the heavenly host. My question is, why have there not been fantastic movies made about this!

We were praying about this, the fall of the angels, in a month-long spiritual retreat I recently completed. And it was precisely in contemplating this scene that the goodness of God struck me in a particular way. God created. Maybe it is like standing in a sandbox. There is just you and the sand. But then you start making castles and roads in the sand, pools and rivers. That is like God and creation. He animates. He gives being. What He makes is good.

But then the freedom He bestowed is abused. He, the giver of every gift, finds himself rejected, spurned, unwanted. They walked. But that is precisely where God's goodness shines so brilliantly. He let them walk. He loves and respects to such a degree that whatever choice the other makes, He responds with love. If the choice of the other is to spurn, to reject, and even to hate, He respects and loves and never obliges.

We know how the story goes. Man fell, too. God respected man's choice to sin. I am fallen as well. I have rejected God so many times. And His love is so radical that He honors my freedom and refuses to impose upon, which would be to limit, my freedom.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Feeling far from God #2

Dipping back into the Discernment of Spirits...

Rule 10 of the spiritual exercises says that when experiencing spiritual consolation you should buckle up for upcoming desolation. Ok- 1st thing: what's the difference between consolation and desolation? Well, to make it really simple, consolation is like heaven on earth and desolation is, well, the opposite. Of course, this pertains not to how things are at work, at home, in the stock market, with your favorite sports team...but to your spiritual life and your relationship with God. Sometimes we can feel like St. Peter, like we are walking on water. Then, all of a sudden, it can feel like God does not even exist, like he totally fled the scene and is nowhere to be found. What often happens is that we then live accordingly, either as if God did or did not exist. Which means how we live fluctuates like crazy. Good or bad, in light or shadows, before the Almighty or as if I am the almighty.

St. Ignatius says in this rule that when I am experiencing spiritual consolation- i.e. when I believe in God and it feels good and I am happy and loving rather than sinning- I should not just sit back and enjoy. Yes, enjoy it, but without the "sitting back" part. I ought to be preparing myself mentally, aware of the fact that this spiritual high is not going to last forever. On the contrary, a spiritual low is coming. For sure. And there will be a high again after that, but in the meantime I need to get ready for the time of trial. What does that mean? It means that even when it feels like hell on earth, I will live as though God exists and I will strive to love him. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Will we know each other in Heaven?

"The Fulfillment of All Desire" is the title of a great book on the spiritual life authored by Ralph Martin. Have you ever wondered about heaven and, particularly, about whether or not we will know each other there? For example, your spouse, your best friend, your parents or siblings, your mother-in-law...St. Catherine of Siena was a mystic in the 1300's and is a doctor of the Church. She actually touches on this theme in her work "The Dialogue," which is a conversation between her and God the Father.

In 1 Samuel 18 the future king David has a beautiful and profound friendship with Jonathan, the son of Saul. It says that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. This endures even when his father out of jealousy ends up seeking David's life. It is a beautiful example of friendship in the Bible. St. Catherine says in her work, and this is cited by Ralph Martin in his, that not only will we know and recognize each other in Heaven, but our friendship will be even deeper and more intimate. Those healthy friendships we have in the Lord will only reach new heights.

So look forward to heaven! And let's strive to live friendships now in anticipation of how they will be there.

Friday, August 2, 2013

There is that interesting Bible passage where Abraham asks God not to destroy the city if there are 40 righteous people in it, then 30, then 20...and he gets down to 5 righteous people. Well, needless to say the city gets destroyed, but have you thought about why God wanted that to happen?

I remember when I was a kid my mom would bring me shopping. Me? Well I was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- loved the cartoon (early 90's, right?) and needed as many of the action figures as possible. There were all different kinds- the one where the shell opened for storage, the one with the automatic karate chop... Well, I knew that if the shopping was at Target, there would be a chance to get more action figures! The thing was, if I didn't bring it up on the shopping trip, it would not happen because we all know that buying ninja turtles will not be on mom's shopping list. Bottom line: I had to ask.

So I was talking to a recently ordained priest about that passage of the bible and he asked me the very question: why do you think God did that? God already knew what was about to happen. Fr. John told me that God must have wanted to let Abraham know that he needs to be proactive. It reminded  me of something I read in In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe. He emphasizes how we must ask God to inspire and guide us- we shouldn't just expect it to happen. Ok everybody- lesson learned! Let's start praying.