To tell you the Truth…

forgiveness_benefits

Truth speaks to the heart…it has a way of penetrating the heart so deeply that it transforms you…

People are not just hungry…they are STARVING for the truth.  Sometimes hearing truth can be painful, but there is a freedom when truth is known and loved.  I once heard about a priest who gave a homily and I am sure that those who heard it will never forget it.  He read the Gospel at Mass and paused for a minute… Everyone was eager to know what he was going to say.  Then the priest said… “When are you going to start being honest with yourself?  You are hiding something aren’t you?  You know what it is…maybe it is sin you have committed, or something you are ashamed to admit. Are you so afraid to mention it in Confession?  It is time to cut the nonsense.”  Then he sat down.  The priest who told us the story said that afterwards there was a big line-up for Confession!  It did not necessarily mean that people had serious sins on their soul.  But questions like this can penetrate the heart so deeply and speak a truth to us… because we don’t really know ourselves.

At times, it is possible to be afraid of the truth.  Sometimes there are things that we are hiding that we are either too embarrassed or too afraid to bring into the light.

We are not really free when we try to hide the truth.  We are not free when we try to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.  We fear the consequences…we fear being judged…we fear not being loved.  We can start to believe this lie: “If they really knew the truth…they won’t love me anymore.”

So what do we do?  First, we need to acknowledge our pride and remind ourselves that God never stops loving us.  God is Love itself!  Are our sins and mistakes so big that God stops loving us?  No that is ridiculous!  God can never stop loving us!  God is love!

Second, we need to accept ourselves and slowly learn how to forgive ourselves…especially for mistakes of the past.  This is extremely difficult, especially for someone who is experiencing the memory of betrayals and regrets of the past….and as a result it is possible to get angry.

Sometimes the emotion of anger bubbles over in us and we are not sure how to handle it.  We need to decide how we are going to handle our anger.  Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and count to 10, or sometimes there are wounds that are so deep that it takes time and perhaps some additional help from a spiritual director or counsellor to learn how to forgive the mistakes of the past… live in freedom in the present…and accept the events of the future as they come.

It is so easy to see our brokenness and be angry at ourselves.  We can enter a certain type of “spiritual anger” where we feel angry that we are not having the consolations in prayer like we used too.  We can call this an “immoderate desire for spiritual gratification.”  If we only have consolations in prayer, it is possible to get the false impression that we are perfect already and fall away from our desire to love God more.   Our founder, Fr. Ryan used to say, “We cannot love God enough…we must want to love God more!”

It is also possible to have an anger that arises because we see the virtues in other people.  Yes, we can become bitter that someone else is growing in virtue.  We see the virtue in another person and right away it is possible to get angry and seek out something that they are lacking in order to relieve our own emotional anger and make us feel better about ourselves.  How do we combat this?  Be thankful for the virtue you see in the other.  Give a prayer of thanksgiving to God for that person in your life!

As much as we hate to admit it, it is easy to be angry with the fact that we are not perfect!  We lack patience with ourselves and so this is a display of our own pride.  We make resolutions and commitments and it seems that the more resolutions we have, the more we break them.  We need to pray for meekness and gentleness of heart for ourselves and others.  We need to be more compassionate to ourselves!  God knows our brokenness, mistakes and failures, yet He still wants a relationship with us!  Take courage because some of the greatest sinners turned into the greatest saints: St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalene and the list goes on.  How did they become saints…after their lives of sin?  They repented and came back to God.  We can go to Jesus too, through the Sacrament of Confession.  It is easy to go to Confession angry and embarrassed because we are not perfect.  We need to go to Confession with a disposition of sorrow, and humility and try our best to be open and honest.

Do not let anger over the past damage the love that you can bring in the present!  You have so much to give…so much love to give.  That kind word you gave to that person who annoys you…that listening ear to that person who really needed a shoulder to cry on…choosing to look at people’s virtues as a gift from God are little ways that we can give glory to God.

So, stay cool everybody!!

A Test of the Heart…

angry girl

“More torturous then all else is the human heart, beyond remedy who can understand it?  I the Lord explore the mind and test the heart… (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  The Son of God has a Heart.  His Sacred Heart inflamed with love is also a wounded heart.  His Heart is wounded by sins of ingratitude…sins against faith, hope and love.  Yet His Heart still burns for us…

I once heard a story about Brother Juniper that you can find in the book entitled: The Flowers of St. Francis.  Brother Juniper, in his innocence, at times made people angry.  There was one time at Christmas where a poor woman asked Brother Juniper for alms.  He saw that the cloth on the altar had some costly bells on it.  So, Brother Juniper cut the bells and gave them to the woman in need.  The sacristan in anger took the cloth to the Superior General who then corrected Brother Juniper with severity.  Brother Juniper delighted in being corrected (yes delighted) and wanted to find a remedy for the Superior General’s hoarse voice.  So, he went to town to buy flour and butter to make a pudding to help soothe the Superior’s hoarse voice.  Brother Juniper made the pudding, and upon waking his Superior General at a very late hour he said, “Father, when you reproved me today for my faults, I perceived that your voice grew hoarse, and I thought it was from over-fatigue.  I considered what would be the best remedy and have had this hasty-pudding made for you…I pray you eat of it…for it will do you good.”  After the Superior angrily refused because of the lateness of the hour, Brother Juniper said, “Father, since you will not eat the pudding which was made for you, at least do this for me: hold the candle for me and I will eat it.”  Then the general, seeing the piety of this friar answered, “Well, since you will have it so, you and I will eat together.”

I really like this story.  Brother Juniper was so free…even though people were angry with him and did not understand him, he was so free.  He did not allow the anger of others to take away his peace, nor did he turn in on himself getting discouraged and upset that he made a mistake.  Brother Juniper knew that he had good intentions for why he responded to the woman’s request…and so he was able to be at peace, no matter what the other Brothers, or even the Superior thought of him.  Brother Juniper used this opportunity to love…to really love.

Our hearts are also wounded.  We have had times where we have been hurt…sometimes very hurt.  And what is our reaction on a natural level?  Anger.  Yes anger.  We have all been angry have we not?  We have allowed emotion and passion to get the better of us!  There are times where we have lost our temper, for things small like: who did not pick up their socks?  Who left these dishes in the sink?  We lose our temper over bigger things, like when someone has cut us off from traffic, or when do not get what we want.  We are angry when we lose someone we really care about…and we grieve…and we want to blame someone…sometimes we blame God…sometimes we blame ourselves or others.  When we lose someone we torture ourselves and live in a state of regret and guilt: “If only I would have had the opportunity to tell them how much I cared about them…if only I could have had the courage to say that I was sorry…if only I could have been able to speak the healing word to them…if only I would have thought before I acted…if only I could have just loved that person, for who they are instead of who I wanted them to be…if only I could go back in time, and fix what I have broken…and the list goes on and on and on.  Living in a constant state of regret and guilt is making us look at ourselves…we are not looking at Christ! There is something disordered there…we are afraid to accept our own brokenness and we are afraid to forgive ourselves…and so we get angry.  We are angered when someone offends us very much…when someone says something, or does something that leaves a deep wound…a deep scar, that can only be healed with love and the grace of forgiveness.

For those of us who are perfectionists, we tend to get angry that everything is not perfect…including ourselves!  We tend to get upset that the people around us are not perfect.  We imagine that we ourselves our perfect, and are not able to accept others who do not meet our standards.  What is the cause of our misery?…I hate to break it to you…WE are the cause of our own misery.  We are bringing it on ourselves…we are allowing ourselves to be angry and freely choosing to live in a sea of pain and regret.  What can be done?

Let’s look at the life of Jesus.  He suffered people’s jealousy, ignorance, the pain of not being understood or accepted even in his own country.  Yet, what does Jesus do?  He forgives and He loves them so much that he died for them.  The Son of God would rather die then spend eternity without us.  Is the love I have for those who have hurt me like the love of Christ?

When we are angry, our heart is tested.  The love in our heart is put to the test.  Are we willing and able to feel the injustice and pain of the hurt and still forgive?  Jesus is with us in the pain, and loneliness…Jesus is attracted to brokenness.  In imitation of Christ, we must make reparation for the people who have hurt us.  This means we must be able to offer our prayers, works and sacrifices for people who make us angry or who are angry themselves.  We can only defeat evil through love!

Time to Rise Up!

Cute asian little child girl praying with folded her hand

I don’t know if you have ever seen the movie: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Spoiler alert…there is a moment in the movie when Clarence tells George Bailey, “You really have had a wonderful life.”  The main character George Bailey lived a life, not thinking of himself, but only thinking of others.  By helping others to fulfill their dreams and get through hard times, his own dreams of travelling the world and getting out of Bedford Falls were dashed.  We can say that he lived a life of generosity and self-sacrifice.  However, there was a moment in the movie when George Bailey was wondering about the value of his life…but in the end…spoiler alert…he realizes that his life is beautiful…because he loved.

We know that when we meet the Lord face to face, He will ask us how we have loved.  George Bailey did not sit back and watch people suffering saying, “oh well!  What can I do about it?”  No!  He took action!  He loved the people in the town, and helped them in charity.  What about us?  Our Lord says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

When we think of laziness, we think of having problems getting things done because we just don’t feel like it! Our homework, chores, and other projects are so easy to leave to the last minute and then we end up either panicking or losing out on practicing virtue.  It is also possible to become weary in our spiritual exercises as well since there can be times of darkness and aridity, confusion and desolation.  In the beginning, we are so used to finding happiness and joy in our prayer on an emotional level, but now, spiritual exercises can seem dull and boring.  It is almost equivalent to a child who would prefer candy and chocolate to healthy food like carrots and potatoes.  The candy gives us consolation…we are happy eating candy!  But when we eat too much candy, what happens?  We get sick!  If God constantly gives us consolations, our spiritual life will not grow, our virtue will not grow and our love will not grow…we will be spiritually sick!  When we do not feel the presence of God when we pray, it is time to rise up out of ourselves in trust and faith and see this as an opportunity to grow in love and trust!  The Lord is with you when you pray.  He is always with you!  When we pray, God is speaking to us.  Sometimes He might just want us to listen. Try exercises in listening.  Take heart that God knows our needs even before we ask Him!

Many times, we approach prayer and other spiritual exercises in order for us to “get something out of it,” instead of just being with the one who loves us totally and completely.  When we do not sense that we are “getting something out of it,” it is easy to give up on prayer.  One of the hardest things to experience is not being able to see the fruit of our prayers…we question whether they are really being answered?  The truth is God always answers our prayers…the answer might be Yes, No or not yet.  The “Not yet” response can be painful…it is hard to wait on the Lord but God is calling us to persevere in our prayer…if we do wait on the Lord, we will be rewarded for our patience.

It is easy to desire to satisfy our own will rather than the will of God.  As St. John of the Cross says, “Many of the beginners want God to desire what they want, and they become sad if they have to desire God’s will.”  How free we would be if we just desired God’s will…however, our natural tendency is to want to turn away from the Lord in mistrust and sometimes anger.  Sloth causes sadness in spiritual exercises and attacks joy in our souls.  What can we do when we are experiencing spiritual sloth?

  • We can ask the Lord to help us accept and love His will at every moment. PTLA: Praise The Lord Anyway!  If things do go your way, praise the Lord!
  • Try to pray even if you do not feel like it! Even speaking the name of Jesus in reverence and love is a prayer!
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer. It is so important to ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your prayer!
  • Perhaps have a sacred image with you when you pray. Looking at a crucifix or a statue can really help focus your mind and heart better on the Lord. Sometimes looking at an image can really help make your prayer more fruitful.