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Archive for October, 2013

Searching for Peace

To be an instrument of grace, it is necessary to “acquire and maintain interior peace”, Fr. Jacques Philippe tells us in his book “Searching For and Maintaining Peace”.  He compares interior peace with the image of “the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining.  If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected.”  Interior peace in our soul reflects God’s peace; conversely, if we are agitated or upset, we are not able to be a reflection of Christ.

One huge block to our peace is worrying about money; where will we get the money to pay the mortgage and credit cards which seem to mount every month?  In Matthew 6 we’re assured that just as He provides for the birds and the flowers, so He will provide for us.  Yet sometimes we don’t have money for groceries; even though the world deems these needs as indispensable, God’s promise is to provide the essentials “His presence, His peace, and all that is necessary for the complete fulfillment of our lives, according to His plans for us.”

Another block to our peace is excessive concern for family and friends when they are experiencing problems such as depression, unemployment or strained relations with others.  Our compassion for others should always be accompanied by confidence in God’s power.  As He reminds us in Isaiah 49:15 “Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Yet even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

If concern for others causes us torment and makes us lose our peace, then our love is tinged with egotism.  As Fr. Philippe explains “In order for it to be a true Christian virtue, compassion for others must proceed from love,  (which consists in desiring the good of others, in the light of God and in accord with His designs) and not from fear.”

Another big block to our peace comes from the antics of the people around us.  The glaring faults and erroneous beliefs of others can be irritating and frustrating.  We aren’t supposed to judge, yet we want everyone to believe just as we do, and we are extremely impatient with someone who has an opposing view.  “We believe we wish the good of others, or our own good, but this wish is frequently mixed with a great deal of hidden search for oneself, our own will, our attachment to personal beliefs, narrow and limited, to which we cling so much and that we wish to impose on others and sometimes even on God.”

Sometimes our own faults can be vexing and disrupt our interior peace.  When our failures trigger discouragement and anguish, our wounded pride rears it’s ugly head and the ideal we want to portray is badly shaken.  Never making a mistake would actually cause more harm than good, giving us an inflated view of our abilities.  “One who accepts peacefully  the idea of being wrong from time to time and accepts that others know it manifests true humility and a true love of God”.  Rather than being terrified of making a mistake or a wrong decision, we can confidently trust God’s promise that he will bring something good from even the worst errors (Romans 8:28).

“Let us then seek to put into practice all that has been said, with patience and perseverance, and, above all, without becoming discouraged if we don’t arrive at perfection!”

All quotes from the book “Searching for and Maintaining Peace”

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Peter was such a puzzle; a fisherman who couldn’t catch fish, weak, impatient, rebuked often by Jesus, a braggart, uneducated with a country accent so strong he was recognized by it after he betrayed Christ three times; his faith faltered after just taking 5 steps on the water.  This ‘rock’ that Christ chose to build his Church upon, in Matthew 16:18, was an ordinary, sinful man.

So how was St. Peter transformed from a spineless wimp into a bold evangelist?  In Luke’s gospel, chapter 22:31, Jesus said “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers”.

The main purpose of sifting is to filter out impurities, as a chef will sift flour to make sure his supply isn’t harboring any insects.  God allows Satan to sift us through difficulties and trials, either through misunderstandings or tension between family and friends, or through more serious problems like cancer or loss of job.

“Sifting” highlights the areas which are dead or barren, and which need to be pruned so that we can bear more fruit (John 15).  When the impurities of pride and self-reliance, indifference or apathy surface, God uses his pruning shears to cut them away, leaving the “genuineness of faith” for the “praise, glory and honor of Jesus Christ” (1st Peter 1),  Sifting allows us to rely more and more on God’s grace, helping us to be more courageous, wise and kind.  God wants to use us in a mighty way to spread the gospel and further his kingdom, but first he has to get us ready.

Peter’s faith was sifted by his triple steadfast denial of Christ, which allowed quaking fear and self-preservation to surface.  As Christ was lead away to his death, Peter ran and hid, broken-hearted by his abject failure, weeping in contrition.  Only by facing and acknowledging his weakness and failure, could he become the daring and fearless head of the Church, facing persecution and imprisonment, and eventual crucifixion himself.

You may be going through a time when anything that could go wrong, has gone wrong – car repairs, air conditioner repairs, a broken refrigerator and stove, medical bills, vet bills, slow sales at your business, and health issues.  Rejoice, because God might be ‘sifting you for service’, revealing a lack of trust or drooping faith, and preparing you for a new ministry.  He may simply be using you to become a magnifying glass, reflecting Christ to your neighbors and co-workers.  Or he may be calling you to start a rosary group at your church, teach CCD or youth group, volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul or a soup kitchen, or possibly attend a Cursillo or CHRP, or Marriage Encounter weekend retreat.

So have courage and pray, and ask God to reveal the special path that he is preparing just for you, asking for his wisdom and guidance.  As St. Peter tells us in 1st Peters 5:6 “So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time”

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Confidence in God

Over and over Jesus encourage his followers to ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid‘ (Mat. 14:27) and in Heb, 4:16 we’re told to “confidently approach the throne of grace, to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”  Yet few Christians have confidence strong enough to dispel anxiety and doubt.  Lack of confidence can cause us to hesitate, and sink into despair and discouragement.  When St. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he eagerly jumped out of the boat with assurance and confidence.  But when the waves rose threatening to overpower him, and he saw the ferocity of the raging storm, he became frightened and took his eyes off Jesus, promptly sinking like a rock!

Sometimes we are calm and peacefully gaze into Jesus’ tender eyes, but when sickness hits or finances get tight, we lose our focus and concentrate on our problems instead.  If we can cling to Christ with growing confidence, we can overcome our trials and stay hopeful, rather than getting bogged down in anxiety.  St. Thomas Aquinas calls confidence a “hope”, but not just ordinary hope, but heroic, or “fortified hope”.  From the “Book of Confidence”, by Fr. Saint-Laurent,  we’re told “The faint glimmer of the dawn and the dazzling light of the sun at it’s zenith form part of the same day.  So hope and confidence pertain to the same virtue; one is the complete blossoming of the other.”

Fr. Saint-Jure continues “Confidence is firm, stable and constant to such an eminent degree that it cannot be shaken – I no longer say just overthrown – by anything in the world”.  If you have confidence, you can remain calm no matter what trials life throws at you, whether loss of job or health.  The more difficult the problem, the more fervent your prayer should be, absolutely certain that God will find a way.

St. Martin is a shining example of confidence in God.  While traveling he was taken by robbers who planned to kill him.  Inexplicably they turned him loose and freed him.  When asked by the bishop if he was afraid, the holy saint replied “Not at all.  I knew that as human help became more improbable, the divine intervention was all the more certain.”

Does this mean we sit back and wait for God to act?  Of course not!  We have to do everything humanly possible to accomplish our goal, but then pray, knowing God is omnipotent.  As St. Ignatius advises “In everything you do, behold the rules to follow:  Trust in God, acting, nevertheless, as if success in everything depended entirely on you and not at all on God; but, employing your efforts to attain this good result, do not count on them, but proceed as if everything were done by God alone and nothing by you.”

Are you facing some giant obstacles?  Moses and the Israelites were nearing the borders of Canaan, when the scouts returned.  They described seeing huge, powerful giants, which some feared were undefeatable.  One scout, Caleb, remained confident in God’s promise that he would deliver the Promised Land over to the Israelites.  He declared to the others  “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30b NIV).  “He was focused on the magnitude of God and not the magnitude of any giant challenge ahead.” (From “Daily Hope” by Rick Warren, link below)

No matter how insurmountable your giant or mountain appears, or how inadequate you feel, remember that God has filled you with his strength and power, and everything else you need to overcome these obstacles.  Faith and confidence are closing related; the more your faith grows, the more deeply rooted your confidence will be, and the more you will experience God’s peace and joy.

Related Article:

http://purposedriven.com/blogs/dailyhope/?contentid=11443

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Love of Money

In a recent homily, Pope Francis warns that love of money is the root of all evil (1st Timothy 6:10) “Money, thePope, in Assisi, calls on Church to shun vanity Pope went on, sickens our minds, poisons our thoughts, even poisons our faith, leading us down the path of jealousy, quarrels, suspicion and conflict. While money begins by offering a sense of well being, if we are not careful wealth can quickly lead to vanity, self-importance and the sin of pride.”  Reflecting on the way in which greed can corrupt our hearts and weaken our faith, the Pope stressed we can never serve God and money at the same time.  (From link below)

Some people think we can find happiness if we just made enough money; or if we have enough money we can create a utopia and solve poverty and all of the other world’s problems.  Materialism is rampant in America, with more moms working and families having fewer children.  Parents rationalize the need for both to work in order to have expensive computers and clothing.  Young adults delay marriage and children, because they want the good life and be able to afford expensive cars and be able to travel to exotic locales.  They are well aware that children require sacrifice of time and money.  CEO’s and athletes make hundreds of millions of dollars, while the average worker gets $8 to $10 per hour.  The pursuit of wealth seems to overshadow morals and values.

Many years ago I was enticed into joining a multi-level marketing group with the promise that I could make a lot of money and help others.  We have many nations in Europe and in Scandinavia on the verge of an economic collapse, because of their misguided attempt to redistribute wealth to the poor and create economic equality.

St. Francis of Assisi was raised in a wealthy family, and one day he heard God speak to him and tell him to “rebuild my church”.  Francis took these words literally and sold some of the silk in his dad’s shop, giving the money to the local church to repair the building, which was falling apart.  Francis’ father was furious when he found out, and dragged him to the Bishop demanding his money back.  The words in Mark 10 “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” reverberated in Francis’ heart and he tore his clothes off, giving them to his father, renouncing him saying “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.'”

Wearing only rags, he went singing into the freezing cold and began begging in the streets for food. Followers joined him, and soon the Franciscan order was born.  St. Francis was adamant that his followers give away all their belongings before they joined him, and no one in his order was allowed to own property or any other possessions, because he felt your possessions made you a slave.  He told his followers “If we had any possessions we should need weapons and laws to defend them” and that only by owning absolutely nothing, could one truly be free.

The middle ages were a time of darkness filled with corruption and greed, including priests and many Catholics.  The humility and poverty of St. Francis was a powerful antidote which purified and transformed the Church.  Much of the anxiety many experience today is directly related to money.  As Mother Teresa cautioned “The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom”.  The more you have in your bank account, the more you fret over losing it.

St. Paul warns against the desire for wealth in 1st Tim. 6:9 “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.”  Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, and sadly our government has shut down, unable to pay it’s bills, causing tremendous uncertainty, leaving many without income and financially strapped.  Our Congressman claim they care about helping others, yet so many of their policies leave Americans in perilous circumstances as a result of the government dangerously overextending itself.  The politicians thirst for money fuels their greed and quest for power.

Whether we want more money for ourselves, or our goal is to nobly ‘help the poor’, desiring more money is playing with fire.  A government which demands more and more of your income can become tyrannical.  Jesus and the apostles went from town to town sharing the gospel, not money.  In Acts 19:12 St. Paul blessed hankies and aprons and handed them out to the sick and poor, who experienced miraculous healings and conversions, and “the evil spirits came out of them”.  So be extremely careful in your quest for wealth, either for yourself or others.  Money can distort our faith and values, taking us away from God, and making us proud and arrogant.

Related Articles:
http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-warns-love-of-money-is-root-of-all-ev

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