The Voice of Truth…

Jesus the Way, Truth and Life

I grew up hearing sayings like: “curiosity killed the cat” (poor cat) and “what they don’t know won’t hurt them!”  It is so interesting how it is built into our human nature that we want to know things.  I have a few examples of this from my own life.  I like to read…very much…and when I was working at a library during my High School years, I would pick up books to read… but I would be very anxious to know how they ended.  So…instead of reading the book, I would just read the end.  Another time it was my sister’s Birthday, and she wanted to know everything she was getting for her birthday…her birthday was just the next day…I couldn’t hold it in anymore…so I told her everything!

Knowing is so key in relationships and helps us in our interactions with other people.  Knowing people’s temperaments and how they respond to certain situations is really helpful!  Some people are very much extroverts and find joy in being around people.  Some people like their space and prefer to spend time in quiet and solitude.  Some people have a drive to get things done and enjoy a good challenge…while others prefer to take it easy and enjoy life as it comes.  Learning about each other, getting to know our strengths, gifts, and weaknesses can really serve well in the long run both in family life and community life.  We need to know ourselves before we can fully give ourselves.

Jesus is the Truth.  He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).  He told Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37).  He who lives in a web of lies and deceit is not at peace with himself or others. He who is living in the Truth is at peace.

Knowing is a big part of our relationship with God for we are created to know, love and serve Him.  We know that the intellect is made to know the truth of things and to be able to contemplate God’s beauty, truth and goodness.  St. Anthony the Great said, “The intellect in a pure devout soul truly sees God the unbegotten, invisible and ineffable, who is the sole purity in the pure of heart.”

There are various acts of the mind.  The mind gazes upon reality through the senses, makes judgements on the reality that it has perceived and it can reason by moving from one truth to another.  Let us take prayerful meditation on the Prodigal Son story as an example.  I am able to read the story as it is on the page and picture all the events in my mind.  I can see that the young man asks for his inheritance, leaves home, spends it all, and all that time his father is watching patiently for him.  As I reflect on what I read, I can draw conclusions from it: the mercy of God, God is Father, we are sinners.  The purpose of meditation is to rest in the Truth, allowing the Lord to work from within, and eventually that turns into a burst of love.

St. Maximilian Kolbe once said, “What we can do and should do is to seek the truth and to serve it when we have found it.”  It is our duty to seek after truth and once we have found it, embrace it with all our hearts!  There are five ways of knowing: moral reasoning (mind is led by objective truths), emotional reasoning (the mind is led by the emotions), volitional reasoning (the mind is led by the will, for example a Supreme Court decision made), sacred reasoning (the mind is elevated by the light of faith and is led by Divine Revelation as taught and guarded by the Magisterium), finally contemplation (the mind is silent before the mystery of God and is led through the dark night by the Holy Spirit).

Since the mind has been wounded by ignorance in the state of original sin, it is prone to error in judgement.  There are various examples of this: curiosity, intellectual pride, and spiritual blindness.  Man was made for contemplation of Divine things.  Curiosity can be dangerous because it is possible for the mind to neglect the things of God and salvation and be preoccupied on less useful things.  We can be so fixated on truths that do not give life.  What can be done? Contemplation.  Contemplation communicates life to the soul by pondering the truths of God and allows us to ponder truths already known in order to be transformed by them.

Do we take enough time in our day to ponder the truths of God?  Do we waste time thinking about things that do not help us grow in our relationship with God?

Intellectual pride can also occur where someone is so confident in their own judgement and reason that they do not want to seek help or counsel from anyone else.  This mentality takes away the light of the Holy Spirit.  Heresies were born sadly because people in history put their judgement above the Church which put out the light of faith all together!  Spiritual blindness is another wound where persons lack the light of faith…they are not able to see the things of God because of intellectual pride and curiosity.  This leads into all sorts of difficulties!  Lack of faith in the Real Presence, preferring temporal goods to eternal goods (soccer game over going to Sunday Mass) are some examples.  Divine light is taken away because of repeated sins.

What purifies these wounds of the intellect?  Faith.  Someone with faith must cling firmly to the truths of the Faith on the authority of God.  With faith, we are able to judge according to the mind of Christ.  The light of faith must be animated by charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that we can be guided in all we do, think, say and avoid.  For example, it takes faith to realize that sometimes persons are brought into our life in order to help us grow in virtue, understanding and patience.  It takes faith to believe the Word of God even if we do not fully understand it.  It takes faith to accept suffering as it comes.  Faith is needed in every walk of life!  Let us pray for greater Faith in God…because greater faith will lead to greater love!

 

“Gratitude is the Memory of the Heart” St. Mary Euphrasia

Jesus and St. Dismas

I heard a story recently from a speaker about a young boy who would always be so busy playing outside that he would forget to come inside on time for dinner.  His mother finally told her son, “Son if you are late again, you will only be allowed to eat bread and drink water for dinner.”  The boy agreed and then went out again to play.  He was having such a good time outside that he completely forgot about dinner!  He ran back home only to find his mother and father with his favourite dinner before them!  What was at his place?  There at his place was the slice of bread and the glass of water.  The boy, head bent low, sat down at his place.  His father immediately grabbed the boy’s plate and replaced it with his own saying, “Son, I love you and I will take the punishment for you.”

This story explains to us the mercy and love of a father…even though the boy was guilty through his forgetfulness, the father looked upon him with mercy.  How many times in the Old Testament did the Israelites forget about the goodness and faithfulness of God…and how many times did God show mercy and forgiveness for that?  The Lord did not forget the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt!  He delivered them!  God speaks to His people “If I shall forget you Jerusalem let my right hand wither” (Psalm 137:5).  As the Israelites were engaging in idolatry (worship of idols) such as the golden calf, God did not abandon them!  As the Jews were waiting for the coming of Messiah, God did not abandon them…he sent Jesus!

How often we forget things!  How many times have we said to ourselves: “I forget where I left those keys!”  “I forgot to turn over my grilled cheese sandwich and now it is burnt!”  “I forgot to take out the trash and now there is a huge raccoon living in it!”  In this Lenten season, we should strive not to forget the most important things in life.  We should not forget the great love that God has for us in sending His Son, Jesus for us.  When Jesus was going through His Passion, He thought of you…He remembered you and He remembered me.  The good thief on the cross, which tradition names St. Dismas, only asked Jesus: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 RSV).  Jesus did more then just remember him, he said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 RSV).  Dismas only asked to be remembered and then Jesus canonized him!  That is pretty awesome!

Our memory is meant to help us remember God and His goodness to us.  In remembering His love and goodness, it initiates a response in us to want to spend more time with Him in prayer, and receive the Sacraments more often and more devoutly.  St. Mary Euphrasia, a woman who lived in a time of great political unrest and persecution once said, “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”  When we are truly grateful for what someone did for us, or the very fact that the person was in our life…even for a short time, it fills our heart with gratitude and we never forget them; rather, we lift up our eyes to heaven and say, “thank you God, for bringing this person into my life…they are a gift to me.”

Are we grateful to God?  Are we grateful to others? 

In this Lenten season we are beginning to make a good examination of conscience…meaning we are looking back on our life and seeing all the areas where we have grown spiritually, but also the ways in which we have fallen into sin.  Our memory is a very useful tool because it can help us to respond in a healthy way to experiences that we have had in the past.  Perhaps memories of past hurts initiate a response of sorrow and forgiveness in us.  Perhaps memories of past joys initiate a response of friendship and acceptance. God is present in all the events and experiences of our lives.  We must strive to remember God in times when there was great joy, that he was the source of that joy, but also to remember the times of sorrow, that God did not abandon us, but was right there supporting us in our trial.

Our childhood experiences are extremely influential when it comes to forming our character.  If children come from a good home with a mother and father who love them, or if a child comes from a home that was abusive or demanding, this will affect their whole outlook on life: how they respond to God and people in authority.  Our memory of the past affects our interior life.  If we are at peace with the past and are able to see God’s mercy in it, then our interior life will be peaceful.  However, if trials of the past seem to haunt us in a sense, then our interior life will suffer.  We must pray for the gift of peace and acceptance of the past…then God’s Spirit can really work!

There can be three defects to our memory.  Remembering past sins, especially remembering sins that have already been brought to the Sacrament of Confession, can cause a renewed temptation to despair.  I once heard that every time the rooster would crow, St. Peter would weep remembering how he denied the Lord three times.  This did not make him fall into despair, but made him humble. These memories need to be purified with good spiritual direction, spiritual reading, and prayer.  One good book is St. Augustine’s Confessions where he remembers and writes about his life of sin, not out of despair but out of glory to God who delivered him from that life of sin.   Remembering past injuries to the point of unforgiveness can cause anger and resentment to build up.  Lent is a good time to pray for peace in these difficult times and to come to the Sacrament of Confession so that we can receive grace to carry those memories with peace and grace.  Remembering past sins can also make us forget the loving mercy of God.  As stated above we must recall often how merciful God has been to us.  Participating in the Holy Mass is a beautiful way to encounter the mercy of God.  The Eucharist is a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the Cross, for the Eucharist and the Cross are one single sacrifice.  The offering is the same and the one being offered is the same, only the manner of offering is different (C.f. CCC 1366-1367).

What is the remedy for purifying our memory?  The remedy is hope.  Hope purifies the memory, because it makes us mindful of God and orders our memories to God.  We learn through this virtue how to see everything in the light of God and His Providential care.  Through hope, our past memories of sin can transform into memories of God’s Divine Merciful Love.  Memories of the past through the eyes of hope can help us to have more self-knowledge, place us in a spirit of humility, and bring sorrow to our soul for having offended God.  Healing through past injuries can cause the Holy Spirit to empower us with the grace to forgive others…the way that Christ has forgiven us.  Healing that happens from the past brings joy to the angels and saints in heaven…with them we can forever sing of the Mercy of God.

The Carpenter’s Son…

Joseph and Jesus

I once heard that you can tell a lot about a man by the love in his heart and the work of his hands.  And similarly, you can tell a lot about a man by the one that he chooses to spend the rest of his life with.  Indeed, St. Joseph was a carpenter who loved to work with his hands!  How fitting that God, the Creator of the universe would allow His Son to learn a simple, humble trade.  St. Joseph would have worked with such faithfulness, gentleness and obedience that we could say he loved, worked and moved in God’s presence. What is most special about St. Joseph is that he was prompt to obey God’s will for him, no matter the difficult circumstances.  Living in poor conditions, not able to find room in the inn, and having to accept the coldness of a stable, the flight into Egypt are all examples of difficult circumstances, however St. Joseph gently accepted God’s holy will knowing that God was with them.  The fact that he chose the Immaculate Virgin Mary to be his spouse says a lot about the type of man that St. Joseph was! “How pure then were St. Joseph’s thoughts, always centered on God; how holy his desires and affections, which came from a heart filled with love; how peaceful his eyes which were never disturbed by an unholy object” (Orafferty, Discourses on St. Joseph: For the Month of March, St. Joseph’s Feasts, and Similar Occasions, 46). The humility by which St. Joseph took Mary to be his wife is outstanding!  Mary, the all-pure, all spotless Virgin had also seen something remarkably special in St. Joseph…she saw the love in his heart shine through in his faithful response to God.

How does Joseph respond to God?  He spent His life doing everything for the glory of God.  He was content with doing the ordinary.  We can imagine how day after day, Joseph would work with his tools producing work that would provide for his family!  St. Joseph is a model for us of someone who worked for God and who constantly lived in the presence of God, for he had the Son of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary living under his roof!  We can imagine St. Joseph, with great gentleness and simplicity showing Jesus all the skills in his trade.  We learn from St. Joseph that holiness can be achieved in the ordinary. I can imagine that St. Joseph had customers who were not happy with his work.  I can imagine that St. Joseph would get bored sometimes.  But in all these circumstances of life, I am sure that it made him yearn for heaven more.  I am also sure in these circumstances St. Joseph would just look at His little Jesus and say, “this is for you!”

Are we content with the ordinary?  Can we see Jesus in the day to day routine of life?  Do we see in the ordinary circumstances and duties of life that we are able to become great saints?    

It always makes me smile when we read in the Scriptures who the people thought Jesus was.  “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55).  What an honor for St. Joseph, to be known as the father of Jesus!  That is an amazing reality, that Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity would humble Himself so much to be known as “the carpenter’s son.”  We cannot even begin to fathom the remarkable humility that Jesus had shown working in the carpenter shop and at the same time redeeming us.  St. Joseph’s love for Jesus was a reflection of God the Father’s love.  Let us pray to St. Joseph to continue to help us love Jesus more everyday…especially in the ordinary duties of the day.

Bibliography

O’Rafferty. Rev Nicholas. Discourses on St. Joseph: For the Month of March, St. Joseph’s Feasts, and Similar Occasions. Bruce Publishing Company: Milwaukee. 1951.

I Can Only Imagine…

jesus with hand

When I look back on the good ole days of my childhood, I am quite impressed with the adventures that my sisters and I would go on.  We had quite the imagination!  First, we were princesses, coated in make-up in our castle with playdoh food and purses full of money (play money of course).  Then we were explorers with those walkie-talkie machines running around the yard trying to make it to headquarters before dad would see us (he was good about playing along!).  You probably have memories from your childhood too!

The past few weeks, we have been speaking about various purifications and detachments that take place in order for us to obtain the transforming union with God!  We have spoken about death and how we must always be prepared.  This month, we are going to journey through purifications of the intellect, memory, and imagination.  Indeed, Lent is a time where we are striving for deeper holiness.  Our thoughts are fixed on what we can sacrifice, or how we can break certain habits.  However, have we considered the importance of having a renewal of our mind in which we strive for thoughts to be more God-centered?

First, let’s consider what the imagination is made for.  Simply, the imagination is made to store and create images.  However, the imagination was not meant to store just any images, but it is meant to form ideas in order to know higher realities (heavenly realities) better.  Jesus was an expert in helping His listeners use their imagination!  He would tell them parables: the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son are two examples that paint explicit pictures in our minds.  There is a certain pleasure that comes from having certain images.  For example, you can imagine yourself going on a beautiful hike in British Columbia and that might instill emotions of joy and excitement.  These excitable emotions are meant to be lifted up to God, drawing closer to Him… with being awed by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.  Or, you can imagine yourself on a roller coaster and that can leave you with emotions of excitement…or fear…and even that we must lift to God!

Our imaginations do not only put image-forming ideas in our mind, but they also arouse (bring alive) our senses and passions.  Let us consider prayer for a moment.  In prayer, we are called to gather all the powers of our soul and focus on the Lord.  St. Ignatius believed that our imagination is meant to help us in prayer by choosing scenes from the Gospels to contemplate: seeing how Jesus speaks, acts, interacts and ministers to the people.  In this way, thought St. Ignatius, we can experience Jesus and really meet Him.  For example, if we are meditating on Our Lord’s Passion and death, we can use our imagination to put ourselves in that setting.  We can hear the chanting of the crowd to crucify Him.  We can see the tears in Our Lady’s eyes.  We can hear and see in our mind the blows that Our Lord received, and hear the nails going into His hands and feet.  We can see the blood pouring from the face of the Lord…and His tear-filled eyes longing to save us.  These holy images in our minds can really aid our meditation to be fruitful and that is good!

If someone does not have a mortified imagination, two problems can result.  First dissipation, (over-indulgence over worldly things) and second, temptation.  If we do not strive to recollect our imagination, then having an interior life that is God-centered will be extremely difficult.  Things of worldly importance will reign in our minds, and we will seek them more.  Temptation can also result since every image that comes to us arouses our senses.  If one looks at an impure image for example, on a billboard, or a computer, these images remain in our imagination and can cause terrible temptations which may eventually lead to sin.  Padre Pio once said, “Banish from your imagination all those distressing thoughts and sentiments which are all suggested by Satan in order to make you act badly.”  As well, having an unmortified imagination can cause anxiety in a person…an excessive fear that the worst will happen.  This excessive fear can be damaging to health in mind, body and soul.

So what can be done?  How can we better control our imagination?  Take this as your motto: what you put in is what will come out.  If you put wheat flour, you will get bread.  If you put butter in popcorn you get buttery popcorn.  If you put a seed in the soil, you will one day have a tree.  Simply, we need to be prudent in what we read, and watch especially our consumption of media!  Instead of spending hours playing video games settle into some good spiritual reading on the martyrs.  Instead of watching that movie with coarse language and sexual content, look at some good sacred art or watch a movie about a Saint.

Another important piece of advice is to be attentive to the duty of the moment.  You might have heard the expression, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”  We need to strive to prevent daydreaming and idleness at all costs!  Being attentive in our prayer life rather than having anxiety about future difficulties is also key for our growth in the spiritual life.  Furthermore, the great Fulton Sheen says, “Nothing is as efficacious in curing the memory and imagination as Confession it cleanses us of guilt.”  The Sacrament of Confession can help cleanse us of those images in our minds that are taking us away from the Lord.  Praying ejaculatory prayers such as “Jesus, Mary, Joseph” or “Jesus I Trust in you,” making the sign of the Cross with reverence often and having images around our homes to look at when we are beginning to daydream or fantasize are also ways to keep our minds fixed on God throughout the day.

Have I allowed my imagination to be worldly centered instead of God centered?  What can I do to focus more on God today?   

Attention to the present is the best way to prepare for the future!  Put everything in the hands of God and this helps us save a lot of energy in the long run.  In this way we will be better ready to serve God, knowing Him and serving Him all the days of our lives!

“Oh death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

raising from the deadThere is a story that I once heard about our Father Founder, Father William Lloyd Ryan that really struck me.  One day, the hospital had called Father saying that a man was dying and needed the last sacraments.  Fr. Ryan, as you can imagine, was speeding down the highway to get to this dying man quickly.  The police caught up to Father!  However, Father stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out, and went to the police officer.  He told the policeman that there was a man who was dying that needed him at the hospital and the officer could follow him if he wants to!  Fr. Ryan, with his love for the salvation of souls, understood that every soul is precious to God.  He did not want this soul to be lost, rather he wanted this soul to meet God with joy and grace!

I tell this story because it helps me to recall the truth that death is going to come.  It is important to ask ourselves “am I ready for death?”  In the past few weeks, we have been talking about the daily dying to self, breaking away from attachments and accepting purifications as they come.  This might be a good time to stop and meditate on the day that will come when we will take our last breath…the day where we will speak our last word…and none of the comforts of this life will matter.  It is in the moment of death where we will know that we are completely and totally loved by God.  All the events of our past life in that moment will make sense…the times where we questioned God’s paternal care, and the times where we asked him, “Lord, why is this happening to me?…” suddenly now make sense at the moment of death…it had to be that way, even though I did not understand it in my earthly life.

Often times we do not want to think about death because it scares us…we are afraid of it. This Ash Wednesday, we received ashes on our forehead as a reminder to us that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and we are reminded that one day we are going to die. Traditionally, the words pronounced by the priest in receiving the ashes are: “Remember man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  With these words, we are reminded of the original sin of Adam and Eve, and how we are all infected with sin as a result of the fall.  The Church says we must change our hearts and be converted.  We must strive to no longer to be slaves of sin and selfishness, but sons and daughters of God who love.   Jesus once said that death comes like a thief in the night, for he warns us with the words: “You also must be ready.” (Luke 12:40).  One day, we will stand before the judgement seat of God, where we will see Christ, with His glorious wounds, looking at us with eyes of love.  Our judgement will be based on how we have loved.  I remember one of our Sisters who was new in formation saying in a very high- pitched nervous tone of voice that in her judgement she was going to have a discussion with the Lord beginning with the words: “I think I did pretty good, what do you think?”  Of course, she said this in jest, but are there times where we are just aiming for the minimum in charity and console ourselves saying “I think I am doing pretty good!”  In this statement, we are putting a measurement on love.  There is no measurement in love…Love just loves.

I always wondered what exactly the Lord meant when he said, “enter by the narrow gate.” (Matthew 7:13)  I heard a very wise priest the other day speak about this and he said “the gate is narrow; we will all walk single file.”  He was making the point that we should not follow the crowd!!  The wide gate leads to destruction, for it is easy, pleasurable, attractive, and sinful and most people are tempted in that way.  To these will the Lord say the scariest words in all of Scripture: “I never knew you, depart from me you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:23).  However, to get into the narrow gate, we must learn not to follow what everyone else is doing!!  I think of St. Thomas More who would not agree to the unlawful marriage of King Henry VIII even though much of England was in favor of it.  I think of St. Clare of Assisi, who became a Religious even though those closest to her preferred to see her married.  I think of St. Rita who could have easily sought revenge when her husband was stabbed, however she chose the way of forgiveness.  We must have courage like the saints and persevere in the path of holiness, doing and deciding what is right and true rather than what is easy and sinful.

But let’s talk about being prepared!!  If we are like the faithful servants in the Gospel who had their lamps burning a light (Luke 12:35-40), we will not have fear or anxiety over death, rather we will be ready to open the door for the Lord when He comes.  But this is not the only time that the Lord comes to us.  Although at death we are brought fully into the presence of God, there are other moments in our lives where the Lord makes Himself known to us and comes to us: our Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist and all the other sacraments offer us grace and allow our souls to be more intimately united with the Lord.  By our participation in the sacraments we come to be more united with God and are more prepared for death!

Also, if we are confident that Jesus has conquered death by His Passion and Resurrection, and if our lives reflect this truth, we will not be afraid of our death. “Oh death where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  Christ has conquered the grave, and even though “in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Hearing how Jesus raised the dead gives us hope that He will also raise us up.  Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).  If we trust in this truth, death will not be something we are afraid of, rather something we look forward to with joy!

Further, if we strive in life to always follow the will of God, trying to do everything with the greatest love and care we can be sure that God will give us the grace to have a peaceful death.  Accepting the will of God even when it means sacrifice and pain is at the heart of becoming a saint.  If we turn our life and death over to the Lord, resigning ourselves to His holy will, then we will embrace our life and death out of love for God.  Learning to accept our death, and the hour in which it happens under whatever circumstances that God intends is key to having peace.  One day, we want to hear the voice of Jesus say, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Time is very delicate…and we need to use it wisely.  Have you made time to visit with your mother who is elderly and lonely?  Have you forgiven that person who said that nasty word to you, or spoke that lie to you?  Have you made time to listen to someone who is suffering?  Have you told the people you love that you love them?  Let’s not wait to do these things!  Let’s pray that God will transform our dry, cold heart into a furnace of charity…before He calls us home!