God’s Voice Brings True Peace…

godsvoice

This month of June is the time that we thank God for our Spiritual Fathers.  At the end of this month of June, I would like to end with a message that was given on Good Shepherd Sunday from our spiritual Holy Father Pope Francis!!!   

I hope that his message helps all of you on your faith journey as much as it has helped me.    

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The fourth Sunday of Easter, which we celebrate today, is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. The Gospel says that: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3). The Lord calls us by name, He calls us because he loves us. However, the Gospel says, there are other voices, that are not to be followed: those of strangers, thieves and brigands who mean harm to the sheep.

These different voices resonate within us. There is the voice of God, who speaks kindly to the conscience, and there is the tempting voice that leads to evil. How can we recognise the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief, how can we distinguish the inspiration of God from the suggestion of the evil one? One can learn to discern these two voices: they speak two different languages, that is, they have opposite ways of knocking on [the door of] our hearts. They speak different languages. Just as we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the evil one.

The voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, He does not impose himself. Instead, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but transient. At first it flatters, it makes us believe that we are all-powerful, but then it leaves us empty inside and accuses us: “You are worth nothing”. The voice of God, instead, corrects us, with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. God’s voice is a voice that has a horizon, whereas the voice of the evil one leads you to a wall, it backs you into a corner.

Another difference: the voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past — the enemy does not want the present — it brings to surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, … many bad memories. On the other hand, the voice of God speaks in the present: “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can forego the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. It inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present: now.

Again: the two voices raise different questions in us. The one that comes from God will be: “What is good for me?”. Instead the tempter will insist on another question: “What do I feel like doing?”. What do I feel: the evil voice always revolves around the ego, its impulses, its needs, everything straight away. It is like a child’s tantrums: everything, and now. The voice of God, however, never promises joy at a low price: it invites us to go beyond our ego in order to find the true, good peace. Let us remember: evil never brings peace. First it causes frenzy, and then it leaves bitterness. This is the style of evil.

Lastly, God’s voice and that of the tempter, speak in different “environments”: the enemy prefers darkness, falsehood, and gossip; the Lord loves sunlight, truth, and sincere transparency. The enemy will say to us: “Close yourself up in yourself, besides no one understands and listens to you, do not be trusting!” Goodness, on the contrary, invites us to open up, to be clear and trusting in God and in others.

Dear brothers and sisters, during this time many thoughts and worries lead us to turn inwards into ourselves. Let us pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let us ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognise and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel, guide and accompany our discernment.

Special Thanks to the Vatican Website for Providing us with this message:

http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2020/documents/papa-francesco_regina-coeli_20200503.html

Happy Solemnity of the Sacred Heart!!

sacred heart of jesus

Happy Solemnity of the Feast of the Sacred Heart!!

Let us thank God for His amazing love manifested to us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  Remember what Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary?  “Behold this heart which loves so much yet is so little loved.”  Have we hardened our hearts?  Are our hearts open to practice charity?  Wait…what is charity?

In order to develop the truth about charity, we must recall what we know already.  We know that “God has created man through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27).  Just ponder on that for a moment!  God created us because He is love and it is His love that holds us in existence.  Yet, we are weak, and fallen, yet out of His great and infinite love He sends us a Saviour to redeem us.  Jesus says: “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  God humbles Himself, becomes one of us, like us in all things but sin, in order to redeem us.  That is love.  Jesus’ gift of Himself was total…He held nothing back, He gave everything!  That is love…that is true charity.

There are times where we can mistakenly think of charity using Gollum’s theology.  For those of us who are familiar with Lord of the Rings, we remember that Gollum is a creature who represents sin, and the effects of sin.  His theology of charity is as follows: “We’ll be nice to them (the hobbits), very nice if they’ll be nice to us…”  Poor Gollum, he is a creature representing the effects of sin.  Purely attached to the ring of power, and purely obsessed with his own desire for it, we see in his definition of charity a very selfish way of thinking about love.  However, it raises some questions: Is “charity” and being “nice” the same thing?  Is charity about only being nice to others if they are nice to us?  In short this is bad theology…sorry Gollum!

Compare Gollum’s definition of charity with our own Catholic definition of charity.  Charity is the supernatural virtue infused by God into the will, by which we love God for Himself above all things and ourselves and our neighbor for God.  St. Giuseppe Moscati, a saint who was a doctor said this about charity: “Let us practice charity, let us not forget to make an offering of our actions everyday, every moment, doing everything for love’s sake.”

So what are some essential elements of charity?  Practicing charity means communicating the divine goodness that is present within us to those who are both sinners, and faithful people.  The desire to give love, to share the divine goodness that is inside of us, is something that we must will.  We must will the salvation of all, including those who hurt us.  Gollum, on the other hand, only wanted to help Frodo and Sam so that he could eventually steal the Ring…not the Christian form of charity!!!

Finally there must be a willingness to both receive and give of the Divine Goodness.  We cannot give what we do not have ourselves.  Our love must be a desire for good for ourselves and an ability to receive and give love.  Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Intense love does not measure, it just gives.”   Receiving and giving love is both founded and rooted in charity.

So what are the means for growing in charity?  How can we receive this Divine love that is called to be poured into our hearts?  By engaging in lectio divina, we are able to awaken God’s love through holy reading and mental prayer (a loving heart to heart conversation with Christ whom we know loves us).  Also, by the sacraments, (Eucharist etc…) so that we are able to respond to God’s love through sacramental graces.  I find it so interesting that Gollum does not eat the lembas bread (filled a man’s stomach with just one bite).  The lembas bread represents the Eucharist that sustains us.  Gollum could not receive the lembas bread because his heart was not disposed to receive…he was too consumed in his life of sin and darkness.

Not only this, but we are called to love God in return and our neighbor in God through liturgical praise and worship.  At Mass we come together as a community of faith to give God the worship that is due to Him, and to come as one united body.  By practicing a purifying love for the Cross of Christ, we can learn to embrace a love that is sacrificial for our neighbour.

Indeed, charity is the most excellent of the virtues.  First, it intimately unites us to God.  Faith helps us to know God, hope prepares us with union in God, but a life of charity means we begin to live a life of divine perfection, meaning a life where the Fruits of the Spirit are lived out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, modesty, self-control, generosity etc…  The great Padre Pio once said: “Joy with peace is the sister of charity…serve the Lord with laughter.”

As we ponder on the Sacred Heart, let us keep in mind the intense love the Lord has for us!  Let us also keep in mind this wonderful virtue of charity.  Charity is more then being nice.  Charity is a gift of self to God and to others.  Please ponder on this Scripture passage today:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…So faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13).

Are We There Yet???

family road trips

“Are we there yet?”  “Are we there yet?” “ARE WE THERE YET???”  This is the most common question that children ask their parents on when they are on long car rides on summer vacation.  Annoying as this question might be to parents (especially if it is continuous) it does imply a certain excitement, wonder and awe: “we are heading towards somewhere fun, exciting and I WANT TO BE THERE NOW!!!”

Indeed, as Christians we know that where we are heading is the destination where we will find true joy and true fulfillment, more than we could ever imagine!!  Heaven is eternal beatitude with God where we are totally embraced by love itself!!  We cannot even begin to imagine what that is like!!!  The Scripture tells us “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)  We need to embrace the HOPE that one day we will be with God for all eternity!!  Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms!”  A house with many rooms…that must be a MANSION!!!!!  I went in a mansion once… it was HUGE!!  I went in and I thought to myself, “oooh… a game of hide and seek would be so fun in here!!!”  Imagine, Jesus says that His Father’s house has many mansions and that He goes to prepare a place for us!!! (John 14:2).   That is awesome!!

Do I take enough time to think about heaven?  Am I excited about heaven?

Do I make acts of hope throughout the day?  Am I often discouraged, worried and stressed…do I turn to God in these moments?

So, what is hope?  Hope is the theological virtue (remember we receive three at Baptism: Faith, Hope and Charity) infused in our will which we desire God as our beatitude (true happiness) and trusting in his mercy we are confident in reaching union with God!!  To have hope requires a two-fold act of our will.  God purifies us of our desires and helps us to see all our desires in relation to him.  For example, I desire ice cream and pie for dessert today.  This desire can bring my mind to God and make me desire God more: “God knew what he was doing when he inspired someone to make apple pie and ice cream!!”  Apple pie and ice cream is so good, but it does not even compare to the infinite and loving goodness of God!!  When we grow in hope, everything begins to be put back in right order (God first, persons second, things third) and we begin to see everything as God sees.  Secondly, trust and confidence in God grows as self-reliance diminishes.  What does that mean?  Well, sometimes we believe the lie that we can merit heaven without God.  This is not true!!  Our redemption is through Christ.  “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7).

Indeed when we are beginning the spiritual life, we see that our hope is not yet perfect.  In the beginning, the purgative way, we have a desire for God and salvation…along with many other things.  In other words, our hearts are divided, and our desires for things need to be purified which means putting them in right order.  This is done through prayer and acts of self-denial and mortification.  When our hearts are focused on things, we worry more.  Padre Pio says, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!  Worry is useless.  God is merciful and he will hear your prayers!”  Secondly, in the purgative way, beginners’ trust in God is very imperfect so we sway between despair (taking eyes off of the mercy of God and just focusing on His justice) and presumption (focusing just on God’s mercy and not enough on His justice).  Despair is basically saying, “All is lost!  I will never be a saint!  I will never get to heaven!”  Presumption is “I am saved already!  I’ve got my ticket to heaven, I don’t need to grow in my relationship with God, I am a good person and so I am saved already!”  Despair and presumption are indeed the two great sins against hope.  In order to combat them, we need HOPE and a pure belief in God who is both merciful and just.

A person who is a bit more advanced in the spiritual life, souls in the illuminative way, desire God alone and their own personal sanctification.  They trust only in the merits of Christ and are confident that God will eventually make them saints.  St. Therese the Little Flower once said, “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”  They rely consciously on the merits of Christ and not on themselves.  One of the nice things about a person in the illuminative way is that they are not shocked or surprised when they fall into temptation or even sin.  They just simply seek pardon and reconciliation through the Sacraments and continue on.

Perfect souls, those who have reached the unitive way, have a great hope and confidence in God, so great that they desire to be united to Christ crucified for the salvation of the world.  They desire universal salvation and are willing to offer everything in order for souls to enter eternal life!!  What an amazing gift!!  These souls have grown in charity to such a high degree that the glory of God and salvation of souls is everything!!  A quote that is attributed to St. James the Apostle is, “let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20)  These are souls who have great peace, because their hope is so great that even in the midst of ridicule, calumny, injury, misfortune, nothing takes away their peace and nothing discourages them!!!  Their heaven begins on earth because their hearts are already in heaven!!  This is interior freedom…we all want this and we must pray for it!!

So the next time you are on a family trip and your child asks a billion times: “Are we there yet?,”  remember the virtue of hope.  Perhaps in that moment make an act of hope!!  There are so many things that we hope for everyday: that our family members would come back to the faith, that we would hear from that person that we have not seen or heard from in a long time.  We can hope for a new beginning in relationships, meaning that instead of them being based on selfishness and the unholy trinity “me, myself, and I” they can be based on trust, humility, openness and transparency.  We can hope for a new beginning!!  Everyday is a new beginning and that should give us tremendous hope!  I think our lives would not look as dark and grey and stormy if we would all, myself included, take more time to ponder heaven!!  Our greatest hope must be eternal union with God and to hear the words of Jesus, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master!” (Matthew 25:21).

Opening the Doors of Faith…

door-opening

We open doors everyday!  Just think about it…we open so many doors everyday!… the doors to our house, cars, office buildings, and churches.  Doors are everywhere!!  Indeed, open doors say a lot…when someone has an opened door, it is usually to say, “welcome!”  “Come on in!”  “Happy to see you.”  But it is also possible to close doors…lock them…or even slam them!…  Jesus is steady knocking on the doors of our hearts.  How do we respond?  Do we welcome Him in with open arms…or do we lock the doors of our hearts.  How do we open the doors of our hearts?  Through faith.

I once heard a priest say a few words that had a big impact on me. I will never forget what he said on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  He said “obedience leads to faith and faith leads to healing.”  When we obey God and his commands, it brings life to our soul and increases our faith in Him as a loving Father who wants the good for us.  Faith leads to healing in our lives.  Jesus, before performing a miracle of healing would ask: “Do you believe I can do this for you?”  Our response of faith moves the Sacred Heart of Jesus!  When we open the door to faith, the Holy Spirit can really act in us, bring us peace and transform us so that we have the love of Christ.

As I was looking at the various comments for this Blog on the comment board, I was asked to elaborate more on the blog post entitled “The Voice of Truth” which was written in March.  Perhaps I may speak a bit more about faith.

Faith opens the door to Christ.  It enlightens us in our spiritual journey and helps us to see God as Father.  Faith is a journey which begins with our Baptism and ends in death.  Through our Baptism, we entered into a home, the Church.  Faith is also an encounter with a Person.  YOU ARE LOVED BY LOVE ITSELF and God comes to meet you.  Coming to this truth, and this encounter with the Lord we can say with boldness: “I am loved…my life has meaning…my life is a gift and I rejoice that I have existence…”

Faith has two objects namely the formal object and the material object.  The formal object is God Himself whom we encounter and He reveals to us the secrets of His heart.  The material object would be the Divine mysteries which the Church articulates in the articles of Faith professed in the Creed.  We can think of the material object of faith as the truths in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Doctrine.  When we profess our faith we encounter God and help others to do the same.

There are some truths that are known through objective evidence…to deny them would be to deny reality… for example: fire is hot, grass is green, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the best hockey team (just kidding to the last one!)  But there is another way of knowing that is a free choice: the mind is moved by the heart.  This is a knowledge that is based on trust.  I trust the testimony of certain people.  Let’s take Marriage as an example.  Marriage is based on Faith.  The spouses do not know what the future will hold, so they must have faith in God that he will take care of them.  Hopefully, couples will come to know each other well enough and are able to trust each other before they are married so that they can trust each other to be faithful until death.  They believe and trust each other, because they love each other.

God our Father has taught us many truths.  We believe them because love moves our mind to assent to these divine truths.  The Heart moves the mind to assent to the truths.

Faith is very obscure.  It entails believing in certain supernatural mysteries that are above our comprehension.  It is almost like teaching someone born blind what colours look like…it goes beyond their comprehension…because they cannot see.  Man normally comes to know things through His senses.  However, the mysteries of Faith like the Trinity and the Incarnation go over and above our senses.  Our mind is always restless because we want to see God.  Our mind must humbly submit to what we cannot see and our heart must look forward to the day where we will see.  St. Augustine once said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”  God has revealed that He is infinitely good and he wants to share Himself with us, so he calls our heart to move our mind in assenting to the Divine Truths that he has revealed to us.

Overall, we need to trust God who is our loving Father.  Union with God is our goal for He is the first cause of all things, keeping all of our souls in being.  Our obedience to Him is a loving obedience that animates our soul with God’s own life.  We receive a supernatural union through grace where the soul is able to take on the likeness of God.  When we are fixed on God and detached from all creatures, we experience the transforming power of love in our lives.  In order for this to happen, we need to encounter the Word who is Jesus Himself and have confidence and Faith in all that He has revealed to us.  There are times where we will have questions about what we believe and why we believe it.  We must pray, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief!” Jesus normally asks in the Gospels before he performs a healing, “Do you believe I can do this for you?” We need to believe in the love and mercy of God…then miracles happen.  He has given us everything when He sent Jesus into the world!  Our hearts must turn over to the Lord: “I believe Lord because you are Truth.”

So will you open the door of your heart to Jesus today?…