The Kingdom Road Trip or “Lets Go Riding in the Car Car”

When the Lord invites us to follow Him, he gives us the grace to put aside everything that might keep us from doing His will. That provision sets us free. And yet, there are dangers that go along with being “free in Christ.” The celebration and love of our own life as an outrageous gift from God is one of those areas of danger.  But, how odd. The gift of our own life can become that which robs us of the very same life. So, we must be discerning, lest the very gifts of God become the means for our relationship with him going awry as a result of our freedom in the Lord.

———————–

Galatians 5.1, 13-15

[1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
[13] For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.
[14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
[15] But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.

John 12.23-28

[23] And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
[24] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
[25] He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
[26] If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
[27] “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
[28] Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

——————–

“The Death of the Saints is New Birth”

The body of man is a very frail thing. Sickness may consume it, wild beasts may devour it, the fire may burn it, the water may drown it, the air may infect it, a snare may choke it, the pricking of a pin may destroy it. Therefore when our temporal life shall end, we cannot tell.

The principal cause why we know not the time of death, is even the grace of God; to the intent that we by no occasion should linger the amendment of our lives until age, miles coverdalebut alway fear God, as though we should die tomorrow.

If an old silver goblet be melted, and be new fashioned after a beautiful manner, then is it better than afore, and neither split nor destroyed. Even so have we no just cause to complain of death, whereby the body being delivered from all filthiness, shall in his due time be perfectly renewed.

The egg shell, though it be goodly and fair-fashioned, must be opened and broken, that the young chick may slip out of it. None otherwise doth death dissolve and break up our body, but to the intent that we may attain the life of heaven.

The mother’s womb carrieth the child seven or nine months, and prepareth it, not for itself, but for the world wherein we are born. Even so this present time over all upon earth serveth not to this end, that we must ever be here, but that we should be brought forth and born out of the body of the world into another and everlasting life. Hereunto behold the words of Christ: ‘A woman when she travaileth, hath sorrow because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.’ Namely, like as a child out of the small habitation of his mother’s womb, with danger and anguish is born into this wide world; even so goeth a man through the narrow gate of death with distress and trouble out of the earth into the heavenly life.

For this cause did the old Christians call the death of the saints a new birth. Therefore ought we to note well this comfort, that to die is not to perish, but to be first of all born aright. Robert Atwell, Celebrating the Seasons. Excerpt from “A Treatise on Death,” by Miles Coverdale, (1488 – 1569).

———————

“I will follow you wherever you go”

“’Give me more light as evening falls.’ O Lord, we are now in the evening of our life. I am in my seventy-sixth year. Life is a great gift from our heavenly Father. Three-quarters of my contemporaries have passed over to the far shore. So I too must always be ready for the great moment. The thought of death does not alarm me… My health is excellent and still robust, but I cannot count on it. I want to hold myself ready to reply “adsum” at any, even the most unexpected moment. Old age, likewise a great gift John XXIIIof the Lord’s, must be for me a source of tranquil inner joy, and a reason for trusting day by day in the Lord himself, to whom I am now turned as a child turns to his father’s open arms.

My poor life, now such a long one, has unwound itself as easily as a ball of string, under the sign of simplicity and purity. It costs me nothing to acknowledge and repeat that I am nothing and worth precisely nothing. The Lord caused me to be born of poor folk, and he has seen to all my needs. I have left it to him… Truly, “the will of God is my peace” (Dante Alighieri). And my hope is all in Jesus’ mercy…

I think the Lord Jesus has in store for me, before I die, for my complete mortification and purification and in order to admit me to his everlasting joy, some great suffering and affliction of body and spirit. Well, I accept everything and with all my heart, if it is for his glory and the good of my soul and for the souls of my dear spiritual children. I fear my weakness in bearing pain; I implore him to help me, for I have little faith in myself, but complete faith in the Lord Jesus.

There are two gates to paradise: innocence and penance. Which of us, poor frail creatures, can expect to find the first of these wide open? But we may be sure of the other: Jesus passed through it, bearing his Cross in atonement for our sins, and he invites us to follow him.” Blessed John XXIII (1881-1963), pope, “Journal of a Soul,” June 1957.

——————–

“O Holy One, give the spirit power to climb to the fountain of all light, and be purified.  Break through the mists of the earth, the weight of the clod, shine forth in splendor, thou that art calm weather, and quiet resting place for faithful souls.  To see thee is the end and the beginning, thou carriest us, and thou dost go before, thou art the journey, and the journey’s end.” Boethius (c. 480-525)

———————

When I was a child, my parents and godparents used to pile into the car, during the summer, and go for a Sunday drive. We would spend the afternoon picking blackberries and walking in the piney woods. There is a song I learned in elementary school that seems appropriate to add at this point. Here is a portion of it.

Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brm, brrrm b’ brrrm,
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm b’ brrrm,
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm b’ brrrm.
Brrrm brm brm brm brm brm brrrm.

Take me riding in the car, car;
Take me riding in the car, car;
Take you riding in the car, car;
I’ll take you riding in my car.

I’m a gonna send you home again;
I’m a gonna send you home again;
Boom, boom, buhbuh boom, rolling home,
Take you riding in my car.

I’m a gonna let You blow the horn;
I’m a gonna let you blow the horn;
A oorah, a oorah, a oogah, oogah,
I’ll take you riding in my car.
“Riding in My Car, by Woody Guthrie

It was during those Sunday afternoon rides along the roads of East Texas that I learned the practical meaning of the Scriptural readings I had heard that morning during Holy Communion. I heard what it meant to faithfully struggle in the midst of everyday life to “go the distance” and “keep the faith” and “finish the race” from men and women who had lived the Great Depression and World War II. We have our struggles too. They are just as significant and provide the opportunity to fashion us into what it means to be an everyday saint.

We human beings are a pretty dynamic bunch. We have the capacity to exhibit incredible “durability and flexibility.” We can adjust and maintain our emotional balance in the midst ofokies seemingly impossible circumstances. I have seen stories of stamina, perseverance, resourcefulness, and hope. People who have lost their whole family in a heartbeat are, mysteriously, able to reach out to others who have lost less providing strength and hope for those who have none.

And yet, at the same time, we are incredibly “fragile and delicate.” In the midst of the fairly mundane and ordinary events of everyday life, let alone the major disasters, we find ourselves on the ragged edge in each and every moment, unable to take another step.

We cannot successfully “go it alone”. We need to let God and others care for us and we need to be one of those whom God chooses to enlist to care for another who also needs someone.

We are strong. We are weak. Not one or the other, but both. We have the ability to be both strong and weak at the same time! That is our blessing and it is, potentially, our curse. Human life is, therefore, a risky business. Of course, we are not sand dunes. We have the added dynamic character of being able to choose to be strong when it is called for in the face of our own weakness and weak in appropriate ways so that, by the grace of God, we might finish the race that is set before us.

Lets answer the invitation Jesus offers to go for a ride in His car car…

Awake and Arise – Become Prayer

“Let us be attentive.”

“Awake o sleeper.”

—————————

St Gregory of Sinai“What is prayer? After offering a long series of definitions, Gregory concludes with the simple yet memorable words: ‘And why speak at length? Prayer is God, who works all things in all men.’ Prayer is God: in the deepest and fullest sense prayer is not our own action but the action of Another in us. It is not we who by our own unaided efforts gather our mind within our heart in prayer, but the indwelling Paraclete; and without him we can achieve nothing. ‘No one of himself can control his mind, unless he is controlled by the Spirit.’

True prayer, then, is the prayer offered in us by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Gregory develops this point in a specifically sacramental way, observing: ‘Prayer is the manifestation of Baptism’ (βαπτίσματος φανέρωσις). Since prayer is the action of God within us, and since it is through the sacrament of Baptism that God comes to dwell in our hearts, it follows that prayer is essentially the discovery and disclosure of baptismal grace. Our aim in the life of prayer is to bring to light this divine presence within us, to remove the obstacles of sin so that the grace of Baptism may become fully ‘active’ in our heart. Prayer, then, is to become what we already are, to gain what we already possess, to come face to face with the One who dwells even now within our innermost self. The whole range of the ascetic and mystical life is con­tained, by anticipation, within the sacrament of Baptism.

Such is Gregory’s basic orientation. Prayer is God within us – God who dwells in our hearts through Baptism; to pray is to pass from the stage of baptismal grace present in our hearts secretly and unconsciously, to the point of full perception and conscious awareness when we feel the activity of grace directly and immediately. (“The Jesus Prayer in St Gregory of Sinai,”May 11, 1972, Kallistos (Ware), Metropolitan)

————————–

The greatest part of mankind, nay of Christians, may be said to be asleep; and that particular way of life, which takes up each man’s mind, thoughts, and actions, may be very well called his particular  dream. This degree of vanity is equally visible in every form and   order of life. The learned and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, are all in the same state of slumber, only passing away a short life in a different kind of dream. But why so? It is because man has an eternity within him, is born into this world, not for the  sake of living here, not for anything this world can give him, but only to have time and place, to become either an eternal partaker of a divine life with God, or to have an hellish eternity among fallen angels: and therefore, every man who has not his eye, his heart, and his hands, continually governed by this twofold eternity, may justly be said to be fast asleep, to have no awakened  sensibility of himself. And a life devoted to the interests and enjoyments of this world, spent and wasted in the slavery of earthly desires, may be truly called a dream; as having all the shortness, vanity, and delusion of a dream; only with this great difference, that when a dream is over, nothing is lost but fictions and fancies; but when the dream of life is ended only by death, all that eternity is lost for which we were brought into being. Now there is no misery in this world, nothing that makes either the life or death of man to be full of calamity, but this blindness and insensibility of his state, into which william lawhe so willingly, nay obstinately plunges himself. Everything that has the nature of evil and distress in it takes its rise from hence. Do but suppose a man to know himself, that he comes into this world on no other errand, but to rise out of the vanity of time into the riches of eternity;  do but suppose him to govern his inward thoughts and outward actions by this view of himself, and then to him every day has lost all its evil; prosperity and adversity have no difference, because he receives and uses them both in the same spirit; life and death are equally welcome, because equally parts of his way to eternity.  For poor and miserable as this life is, we have all of us free access to all that is great, and good, and happy, and carry within ourselves a key to all the treasures that heaven has to bestow upon  us. We starve in the midst of plenty, groan under infirmities, with the remedy in our own hand; live and die without knowing and feeling anything of the one, only good, whilst we have it in our power to know and enjoy it in as great a reality, as we know and feel the power of this world over us: for heaven is as near to our souls, as this world is to our bodies; and we are created, we are redeemed, to have our conversation in it. God, the only good of all intelligent natures, is not an absent or distant God, but is more present in and to our souls, than our own bodies; and we are strangers to heaven, and without God in the world, for this only reason, because we are void of that spirit of prayer, which alone can, and never fails to unite us with the one, only good, and to open heaven and the kingdom of God within us. A root set in the finest soil, in the best climate, and blessed with all that sun, and air, and rain can do for it, is not in so sure a way of its growth to perfection, as every man may be, whose spirit aspires after all that, which God is ready and infinitely desirous to give him. For the sun meets not the springing bud that stretches towards him with half that certainty, as God, the source of all good, communicates himself to the soul that longs to partake of him.

We are all of us, by birth, the offspring of God, more nearly related to him than we are to one another; for in him we live, and move, and have our being. The first man that was brought forth from God had the breath and spirit of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, breathed into him, and so he became a living soul. Thus was our first father born of God, descended from him, and stood in paradise in the image and likeness of God. He was the image and likeness of God, not with any regard to his outward shape or form, for no shape has any likeness  to God; but he was in the image and likeness of God, because the  Holy Trinity had breathed their own nature and spirit into him. And  as the Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are always in heaven,  and make heaven to be everywhere, so this spirit, breathed by them  into man, brought heaven into man along with it; and so man was in heaven, as well as on earth, that is, in paradise, which signifies  an heavenly state, or birth of life.

…Awake then, thou that Sleepest, and Christ, who from all  Eternity has been espoused to thy Soul, shall give Thee Light. Begin to search and dig in thine own Field for this Pearl of Eternity, that lieth hidden in it; it cannot cost  Thee too much, nor canst thou buy it too dear, for it is All, and when thou has  found it, thou wilt know, that all which thou hast sold or given away for it, is as mere a  Nothing, as a Bubble upon the Water. (The Spirit of Prayer, Treating of Some Matters preparatory to the Spirit of Prayer & Chapter 1, 2-10, William Law)

The Living Mystery Among Us — Christ Jesus

Life as a disciple of Christ Jesus is, to put it bluntly, an experience of being incorporated into the Living Mystery and being filled with The Living Mystery – Christ Jesus. Mutual indwelling is another way to put it – “abide in me and I in you.” The scriptural narrative is the account of the working out of this salvation.

——————-

“No one bound by worldly desires and pleasures is worthy to approach, draw near or minister to You, the King of glory. To serve You is great and awesome even for the heavenly powers. But because of Your ineffable and immeasurable love for us, You became man without alteration or change… It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come.” The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

——————–

Judges 13.1-25 (Jerusalem Bible 1966)

Again the Israelites began to do what displeases the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren, she had borne no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child. But from now on take great care. Take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For you will conceive and bear a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb. It is he who will begin to rescue Israel from the power of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went and told her husband, ‘A man of God has just come to me; his presence was like the presence of the angel of God, he was so majestic. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not reveal his name to me. But he said to me, “You will conceive and bear a son. From now on, take no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be God’s nazirite from his mother’s womb to his dying day.”’

Then Manoah pleaded with the Lord and said, ‘I beg you, Lord, let the man of God that you sent come to us once again and instruct us in what we must do with the boy when he is born.’ The Lord heard Manoah’s prayer for favour, and the angel of the Lord visited the woman again as she was sitting in the field; her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman ran quickly and told her husband: ‘Look,’ she said, ‘the man who came to me the other day has appeared to me again.’ Manoah rose and followed his wife, and he came to the man and said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to this woman?’ He answered, ‘I am.’ Manoah went on, ‘When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the boy’s rule of life? How must he behave?’ And the angel of the Lord answered Manoah, ‘The things that I forbade this woman, let him refrain from too. Let him taste nothing that comes from the vine, let him take no wine or strong drink, let him eat nothing unclean, let him obey all the orders I gave this woman.’ Manoah then said to the angel of the Lord, ‘Do us the honour of staying with us while we prepare a kid for you.’ For Manoah did not know this was the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Even if I did stay with you, I would not eat your food; but if you wish to prepare a holocaust, offer it to the Lord.’ Manoah then said to the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honour you when your words are fulfilled?’ The angel of the Lord replied, ‘Why ask my name? It is a mystery.’’ Then Manoah took the kid and the oblation and offered it as a holocaust on the rock to the Lord who works mysteries.’ As the flame went up heavenwards from the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame in the sight of Manoah and his wife, and they fell face downwards on the ground. After this, the angel of the Lord did not appear any more to Manoah and his wife, by which Manoah understood that this had been the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, ‘We are certain to die, because we have seen God.’ His wife answered him, ‘If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a holocaust and oblation from our hands; he would not have told us all these things.’ The woman gave birth to a son and called him Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him; and the spirit of the Lord began to move him in the Camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

 ——————-

Luke 1.26-38b (Jerusalem Bible 1966)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

——————–

2 Corinthians 12.1-6

But I will move on to the visions and revelations I have had from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago, was caught up – whether still in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows – right into the third heaven. I do know, however, that this same person – whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows – was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language. I will boast about a man like that, but not about anything of my own except my weaknesses. If I should decide to boast, I should not be made to look foolish, because I should only be speaking the truth;

———————

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother  — “God’s mercies shall be my song forever”

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

  The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

  Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son. “Universalis” (Italics mine)

——————–

It is, indeed, “… a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” who is continually inviting us to Live The Mystery.

“Love for God or the Things of God: Is God Enough?”

The need for love – received and given — is the deepest need of the human heart. Our “fallen condition” does not include the destruction of this need and its operation. Indeed, people will go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy this need. Sin and death, operating in us and around us, does however distort this need. It counsels us to seek that love “in all the wrong places” as the song says. That realization comes to us in retrospect. And yet, even though we may realize this has been the case we often end up exchanging one “wrong place” for another. (See Orthodox Spirituality, by Fr. Dimitru Staniloae.)

In addition to the need for love is the ongoing assurance of that such love continues to be available and the basis of that availability. In short, is it conditional or unconditional? Upon what is its availability based and what is the limit of it?  Is it the result of something or is it the source of something?

One of the most important aspects of our growth in Christ, in my opinion, is the shift of the assurance of love from the signs of it to the giver of it. In other words, what do we desire (love) the most, the things of God — consolations — or God? (Please do misunderstand. I am not suggesting that consolations have no place in the Christian life.) Could it be that our journey of transformative requires us to move beyond the assurance of God’s love residing, necessarily, in the things of God and becoming located in God Himself ? ! This would force us to think about our relationship with God to be a communion with His real presence instead of signs or tokens of His presence ! !  Indeed, this would require letting go on one set of presuppositions (wherever we got them) for another set.

Here are some excerpts from some not so ancient authors that might help us think more deeply about this important constellation of questions…

 

Friday after Trinity 2
Reading from Abandonment to Divine Providence
by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Let us proceed to reflect upon our understanding of the divine action and its loving deceptions. What God seems to take away from us, he returns to us, as it were, incognito. Never does he allow us to be in want. He acts like one who at first maintains a friend by gifts of which he is openly the source, but who subsequently, in the interest of his friend, pretends no longer willing to oblige him, while continuing to help him anonymously. If the friend did not suspect this mysterious ruse of love, he might well feel hurt. What reflections would he not make on the behaviour of his benefactor? But as soon as the mystery began to unveil itself, God knows what sentiments of tender joy, of gratitude and love, of confusion and admiration would arise in his soul. Would he not burn still more with zealous affection for his friend, and would not this trial confirm him in his attachment, fortifying him for the future against similar surprises? The application of this parable is simple. The more we seem to lose with God, the more we gain; the more he strips us of the natural, the more he showers us with supernatural gifts. We loved him a little for his gifts; when we no longer see them, we begin to love God for himself alone. It is by the apparent subtraction of those sensible gifts that God is preparing us to receive this great gift, the vastest and most precious of all because it contains all the rest. Robert Atwell, Celebrating the Seasons, Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd.

 

“FALSE AND REAL HUMILITY”
By François Fénelon

It is false humility to believe ourselves unworthy of God’s goodness and to not dare to look to him with trust. True humility lies in seeing our own unworthiness and giving ourselves up to God, never doubting that he can work out the greatest results for and in us. If God’s success depends on finding our foundations already laid, we might well fear that our sins had destroyed our chances. But God needs nothing that is in us. He can never find anything there except what he himself has given us. No, we may go further and say that the absolute nothingness of the creature, bound up as it is with sin in a faithless soul, is the fittest of all subjects for the reception of his grace. He delights to pour it out on such souls, for sinful souls who have never experienced anything but their own weakness cannot claim any of God’s gifts as their own possession. It is just as St. Paul says: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”

Do not fear then, that your past faithlessness must make you unworthy of God’s mercy. Nothing is so worthy of mercy as utter weakness. He came from heaven to earth to seek sinners, not the righteous; to seek that which was lost— as indeed all were lost if it were not for him. The physician seeks the sick, not the healthy. Oh, how God loves those who come boldly to him in their foul, ragged garments, and ask, as of a father, for some garment worthy of him!

You wait to be familiar till God shows a smiling face. But I tell you that if you will open your heart thoroughly to him, you will cease to trouble yourself about the particular appearance of his face. Let him turn a severe and displeased countenance upon you as much as he will, he never loves you more than when he threatens. For he threatens only to test, to humble, to detach souls from themselves.

Do you want the consolation God can give, or do you want God himself? If it is the first, then you do not love God for his own sake, but for yours; and in that case, you deserve nothing from him. But if you seek him alone, you will find him even more truly when he tests you than when he comforts you. When he comforts you, you have cause to fear that you might care more for his gifts than for himself; but when he deals roughly with you and you hold on fast, it is to him alone that you cling. The real time for progress is not when we delight in a conscious sweetness, but when faith is dry and cold— if we do not yield to discouragement.

Leave it all to God. It is not your business to judge how he should deal with you, because he knows far better than you do what is good for you. You deserve a certain amount of trial and dryness. Bear it patiently! God does his part when he pushes you away. Try to do yours too, and that is to love him without waiting for him to assure you of his love for you. Your love is a guarantee of his; your confidence will disarm him, and turn all his severity into tenderness. Even if he were not to grow tender, you ought to give yourself up to his just dealings, and accept his intention of nailing you to the cross in union with his beloved Son, Jesus.

Such is the solid food of pure faith and generous love with which you should sustain your soul. I pray that God may make you strong under your troubles.

Expect all, and all will be given you: God and his peace will be with you!

 

“THE DECEITFULNESS OF SELF-LOVE”
By François Fénelon

Generally speaking, I should fear that reading about extraordinary spiritual matters tends to harm weak imaginations. Self-love easily flatters itself that it has attained the altitudes that it has admired in books. It seems to me that the only course in such a case is to take no notice of such things. I advise you never to dwell voluntarily on extraordinary experiences. This is the real way to discover how much self-conceit has to do with these supposed gifts. Nothing tends so much to wound the vanity of self-conceit and bring illusions to light as a simple direction to set aside the marvelous, and to require a person who aspires to the marvelous to act as though nothing of the sort existed. Without such a test, I do not think the genuineness of a person can be proven thoroughly, and without it, I do not think due caution has been taken against delusion.

The blessed John of the Cross advises souls to look beyond such light, and to abide in the twilight of simple faith. If the gifts are real, such detachment will not hinder them from leaving their marks upon the soul; if not, such uncompromising faith will be a sure guarantee against delusion. Moreover, such a line will not keep a soul back from God’s true leadings, for there is no opposition. It can only distress self-conceit, which finds a hidden self-satisfaction in such unusual gifts; and that self-conceit is the very thing that needs pruning.

Even if such gifts are unquestionably real and good, it is most important to learn detachment from them, and live by simple faith. However excellent the gifts may be, detachment from them is better still. “And now I will show you the most excellent way”— the way of faith and love; not clinging either to sight, feeling, or taste— only to obedience to the beloved One. Such a way is simple, real, straightforward, free from the snares of pride.

 

“FALSE NOTIONS OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESS”
By François Fénelon

Almost all who aim at serving God do so more or less for their own sake. They want to win, not to lose. They want to be comforted, not to suffer. They want to possess, not to be deprived. They want to increase, not to diminish. Yet all the while our whole interior progress consists in losing, sacrificing, decreasing, humbling, and stripping self even of God’s own gifts, so as to be more completely his. We are often like an invalid who feels his pulse fifty times in the day, and wants the doctor to be perpetually ordering some fresh treatment, or telling him how much better he is.

Some people treat their spiritual director or pastor in this way. They move round and round in a petty circle of easy virtues, never stepping beyond it heartily and generously, while they expect the director (like the physician) to soothe, comfort, encourage, and foster perfectionism, only ordering little sedative treatments that drop into mere habit and routine. As soon as they are deprived of conscious grace— grace that they can feel inwardly, grace that is like the milk of babes— such people fancy that all is lost. But this is a plain proof that they cling too much to the means and overlook the end, and that self is their main object.

Privations are the food of strong minds: They invigorate the soul, take it out of itself, and offer it as a living sacrifice to God. But weak people are in despair at the first touch of privation. They fancy that all their work is being overthrown just when it is really beginning to be solidly fixed and thoroughly purified. They are willing to let God do what he will with them, provided always it be something great and perfect. But they have no notion of being cast down and crushed, or of being offered as a sacrifice to be consumed by the divine flames. They seek to live by pure faith, yet want to retain all their worldly wisdom, to be as children, yet great in their own eyes. But what a spiritual mirage this is! Francois Fénelon, The Complete Fenelon, Paraclete Press.

 

June 7

I AM ALL AROUND YOU, like a cocoon of Light. My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me. Many things can block this awareness, but the major culprit is worry. My children tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life. However, worry is a form of unbelief; it is anathema to Me.

Who is in charge of your life? If it is you, then you have good reason to worry. But if it is I, then worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive. When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me. Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me. I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it. In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me.

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” LUKE 12 : 22 – 31

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” JOHN 16 : 33 Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson.

Blindness and Understanding/Comprehension/Right Relationships

Blindness and seeing are a words we use to speak of the ability or inability to understand or comprehend. It is the word we sometimes use to communicate the idea that a person or group has been rendered unable to maintain right relationships with others or effectively participate in life or has experienced a dramatic breakthrough in that realm.

Here are some pieces I came across in my quiet time this morning that amplify this theme of seeing rightly and its role in maintaining right relationships with others.

Book of Tobit 2:9-14.
On the night of Pentecost, after I had buried the dead, I, Tobit, went into my courtyard  to sleep next to the courtyard wall.  My face was uncovered because of the heat.

I did not know there were birds perched on the wall above me, till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, causing cataracts. I went to see some doctors for a cure, but the more they anointed my eyes with various salves, the worse the cataracts became, until I could see no more. For four years I was deprived of eyesight, and all my kinsmen were grieved at my condition. Ahiqar, however, took care of me for two years, until he left for Elymais.
At that time my wife Anna worked for hire at weaving cloth, the kind of work women do.

When she sent back the goods to their owners, they would pay her. Late in winter she finished the cloth and sent it back to the owners. They paid her the full salary, and also gave her a young goat for the table.

On entering my house the goat began to bleat. I called to my wife and said: “Where did this goat come from? Perhaps it was stolen! Give it back to its owners; we have no right to eat stolen food!”

But she said to me, “It was given to me as a bonus over and above my wages.” Yet I would not believe her, and told her to give it back to its owners. I became very angry with her over this. So she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!” (“The Daily Gospel,” June 4)

John 9
[1] As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.
[2] And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
[3] Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.
[4] We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.
[5] As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
[6] As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay,
[7] saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
[8] The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?”
[9] Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
[10] They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”
[11] He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo’am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.”
[12] They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
[13] They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.
[14] Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.
[15] The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”
[16] Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them.
[17] So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
[18] The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight,
[19] and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
[20] His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
[21] but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.”
[22] His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.
[23] Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”
[24] So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.”
[25] He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
[26] They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
[27] He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?”
[28] And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.
[29] We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
[30] The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
[31] We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.
[32] Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.
[33] If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
[34] They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
[35] Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?”
[36] He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
[37] Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.”
[38] He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.
[39] Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
[40] Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?”
[41] Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,’ your guilt remains. (RSV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own understanding rely not” (Proverbs 3:5).
If all the mountains would move toward you, would you be able to push them back with your hands? You could not. If darkness after darkness of all the mysteries in the heavens and on the earth rushed to the small taper of your understanding would you, with your understanding, be able to illuminate the darkness? Even less! Do not rely on your understanding for, from the perishable matter which you call intellect, a greater portion of it is nothing more than dead ashes. O man, do not rely on your understanding for it is a road over which a mob rushes a hungry, thirsty, motley and curious mob of sensual impressions.

O man, trust in the Lord with all your heart. In Him is understanding without end and all-discerning. The Lord says: “I am understanding; mine is strength” (Proverbs 8:14). He looks on the paths on which your blood flows and all the crossroads on which your thoughts wander. With compassion and love He offers Himself to you as a leader and you rely on your darkened and perishable understanding. Where was your understanding before your birth? Where was your understanding when your body was taking form, when your heart began to beat and flow with blood, when your eyes began to open and when your voice began to flow from your throat? Whose understanding was all this while your mind was still sleeping as charcoal in a coal mine? Even when your understanding awoke, can you enumerate all the illusions which it has delivered to you, all the lies in which it has entangled you, all the dangers which it did not foresee? O my brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart! Until now, He has rescued you numerous times from your own understanding, from illusions and its lies and from danger in which it has pushed you. A blind man is compared to the man who can see, so is your understanding compared to the understanding of God. O blind one, trust in the Leader. O brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart.

O Lord, All-seeing, Eternal and Infallible Understanding, deeper than the universe and more radiant than the sun, deliver us, even now from the errors of our understanding. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen (Prologue, June 4)