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Archive for June, 2014

I belong to a community called the Marian Servants of the Blessed Trinity, and last Tuesday we had a delightful guest speaker by the name of Fr. Joseph Mendes, M.S.F.S.  (His biography is below).  Fr. Mendes gave an informative talk about holiness, and afterward we were able to ask him questions.  One of the ladies in our group asked about Jesus’ admonition to “…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5: 43-48).  She was puzzled because the admonition doesn’t say to TRY to be perfect, it instructs us to BE perfect.

But as Fr. Mendes explained, Jesus is calling us to live our lives as perfectly as possible.  He went on to explain perfection as fulfilling the will of God as successfully as we can, and then illustrated his point with the image of a screwdriver fitting perfectly into the head of a screw.  Obviously a Philip’s head screwdriver won’t fit into a flat head screw, and vice versa.  Just so we should pour our lives into the mold of God’s plans.

I loved the illustration, since my husband has been worrying over a broken light fixture in our kitchen for several weeks.  The fixture has been loose for at least a year, and even though he has laboriously gotten the ladder out and fiddled with it, he never could get it flush against the ceiling.  Then two weeks ago the fixture dropped and was hanging down about an inch.  Out came the ladder and tools, but he still couldn’t fix it.  So he removed the glass globe and puttered around some more.  Still unsuccessful, he waited several weeks until he had a free day to devote more time to the puzzle.

That free day came Tuesday afternoon, so out came the ladder and tools again.  He got the idea to take the entire box out the ceiling and reattach the light fixture with longer bolts, so he ran to the hardware store and bought some new bolts.  No dice.  They simply didn’t fit.  So after much complaining, and convinced he needed to call an electrician, he decided to try to get the right size bolts and drove back to the hardware store, purchasing smaller ones.  No dice.  Too small.  Much more frustration and ranting; meanwhile, all I could do was to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance!

Back to the hardware store for medium size bolts.  After some finagling, VICTORY!  My ‘fix-it man’ was finally able to properly clamp the glass globe flush against the ceiling.  Unless the bolts were the right size, the light fixture simply didn’t mesh together.  My husband’s experience seems to mirror our relationship with God; we try to fit God into OUR imperfect plans, rather than fitting ourselves into HIS perfect plans.  Have you heard the joke about someone laying out their plans to God?  And God laughs and says “that isn’t my plan”!  Whether your plans are to get the perfect job, or have a wonderful vacation, or to give an important presentation, sometimes the ‘best laid plans of mice and men go astray’.

I listen to Clark Howard, the expert on WSB about staying away from scams, and last week he warned about a new scam concerning vacation rentals.  Scam artists copy pictures of a vacation condo or home for rent, then place an ad requesting payment in advance, and when someone responds, the scammer disappears with all the money.  The duped vacationers get to their destination, and find out they don’t have a place to stay; their plans are ruined!  We work hard to plan for our future, but then God reveals a different plan.  A salesperson might get deathly sick right before an important presentation to a new client, giving the opportunity to another sales rep, causing the loss of an important commission.

It is infuriating when your careful plans fall apart, but remember that when God tells you no, or seems to slam the door shut, it is always because He has an even better plan ahead!  “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 3:20″).  We don’t know for sure if God allows our plans to fail because the path would be detrimental, or because he has an even better vacation or commission in mind.  But we do know God always has our best interests in mind.

Inspired by the example of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare became the abbess of a group of ladies who were followers of St. Francis, later being known as the ‘Poor Clares’.  St. Clare’s parents were of noble blood, and were adamantly opposed to her entering the religious life, and in fact were planning to join her in marriage to a wealthy young man.  With the help of St. Francis, Clare slipped away to join his merry group of penitents.  Francis helped her to shave her head, and when her parents came to reclaim her, she held on to the altar for dear life and refused to leave.  The shock of seeing her bald head convinced her parents of her sincerity, and they allowed her to follow the path of poverty.

God’s plan for their daughter was infinitely different than the path her parents had carefully planned, but look at the beautiful legacy St. Clare has given to millions.  Her order of Poor Clares now has over 20,000 nuns in over 75 countries; they are still faithful to their vow of poverty, and inspire many Christians with their lives of trust and courage.

You may be extremely successful in your career, but ask God daily if this is still His plan for you.  He might be calling you in a different direction by asking you to offer your marketing skills to help out a local charity, or perhaps by using your business acumen to help men and women on welfare acquire job skills.  So tune in daily to discern God’s will for you that day, praying Jesus’ words “thy will be done”.

Bio of Fr. Mendes:
In 1994, Fr. Joseph Mendes (from the Missionaries of St. Francis De Sales) left the Nagpur Province and came to support the American Mission and joined the community at St. Patrick’s Church. He served the American Mission at St. Patrick’s Parish as parochial Vicar and at Villa Luyet as Novice Master.  In 2001, after seven years of service to the American Mission, he began his ministry as Chaplain to the Visitation sisters, chaplain to Mother Teresa’s sisters and parochial vicar at St. Marguerite d’Youville Church in Lawrenceville while being directly under the authority of his provincial.

 

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Free Bible images of Jesus asking Peter the same question three times about his love for Him and each time instructing him to feed His flock. (John 21:15-25): Slide 1After Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to the disciples several times.  The third time Jesus visited, he had breakfast with them, and then asked Simon Peter “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”   (John 21:15).  Interestingly enough, Jesus used the Greek word ‘agape’ for ‘love’.  English only has one word to describe ‘love’, be it erotic, friendly, or sacrificial.  But in Greek there are four words to describe ‘love’:

  • Agape – unconditional love
  • Eros     – romance
  • Philia  – friendship
  • Storge – affection

‘Agape’, or sacrificial love is a determined act of the will to put the needs of others first.  Of course people tend to be selfish and self-centered, so the only way to achieve agape love is with God’s grace; after all, only through the supernatural power of God can we forget ourselves and give unstintingly.

When Peter answered Jesus he assured him “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  But Peter answered Jesus using the Greek word for ‘friendship’ love.  Twice more Jesus asked Peter if he loved him with a sacrificial love, and twice more Peter replied using ‘friendship’ or ‘brotherly’ love.  Peter just wasn’t about to give his life for Christ just yet.

Angie and the “Joshman”

As Peter’s faith and courage eventually increased, so will our capacity for sacrificial love.  I have met several women who embody ‘sacrificial love’ in an astounding way.  One is a friend from high school, Angie Barrett Grantman.  She has a son, Josh, with Fragile X, which is a genetic condition causing intellectual disability, anxiety and hyperactive behavior such as fidgeting or impulsive actions. Some may have problems focusing, communicating and interacting socially.  They also suffer from sensory disorders and aggression.

It hasn’t been easy being Josh’s mom; children with Fragile X are excitable and volatile, and are prone to frequent meltdowns.  Josh has autism and has been severely affected by Fragile X.  As Angie puts it “He is impacted with almost every characteristic possible — autistic behaviors (he’s flappy when he’s happy), sensory issues (crowds, bright lights, being touched gently, direct eye contact, loud noises, new environments, etc. upset him greatly; cognitive deficits (mentally, he’s still a toddler but looks like a linebacker), low muscle tone, hyper-extending joints, delays in speech, fine motor and gross motor skills, anxiety, and mini seizures.  We have dealt with aggression (“fight or flight reaction”), usually due to sensory overload or the inability to communicate.”

From running the gauntlet of doctors, specialists and therapists, to remodeling her house to keep him safe, the sacrifice of her time, energy and money and the unending, unconditional love she pours out is mind-boggling.  Angie admits “It’s been a long, daunting and exhausting journey.”   From the deepest depths of despair, to being completely overwhelmed and exhausted to the point of tears, to grieving unfulfilled dreams, Angie has been steadfast and given unstintingly of herself to her child.  Thankfully, Angie’s ‘rock’ of a husband has faithfully stuck to her side and also given unsparingly; sadly the divorce rate for marriages with children like Josh is 70% to 90%.

God loves us with a magnanimous,  unconditional , unhesitating, full-fledged, tireless, lavish, unselfish and bountiful love.  In return, He is calling us to love Him the way Angie loves her son – wholeheartedly and willingly, without any reservation.  But we may not be ready yet; we may answer like Peter “Yes Lord, I love you like a brother or sister”.

Another incredible example of sacrificial love is actress Dolores Hart; she was at the top of her career, having acted in movies with gyrating Elvis Presley and dreamy George Hamilton.  Then Jesus asked her “Dolores, do you love me with a sacrificial love”.  She said “yes Lord”, and this elegant Grace Kelly look-alike gave up fame and fortune, as well as a handsome, wealthy fiance, to enter the St. Benedict cloistered convent.  She is now Mother Dolores Hart.  A wonderful book called Ear of the Heart details her Ear of the Heart Memoirfascinating spiritual journey.

God loves and accepts us just where we are, but He has so much more He wants to give us.  Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles as described in Acts 2 “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim”.

Only with the effervescent, transforming, life-giving power of the Holy Spirit can we hope to love Jesus with every fiber of our being, with our finances, our energy, and our family.   Before the Holy Spirit descended, Peter was afraid, hesitant.  Then after Pentecost he was confident and bold, willing to give his life for his faith; and he did make the ultimate sacrifice, and was martyred by being crucified upside down.

You are most likely not going to be asked to give your life, but are you willing to ask for that kind of sacrificial love that can surrender stardom and wealth, like Mother Dolores Hart?  Are you courageous enough to try to love Jesus unconditionally with your time and resources, your talents and your gifts?  It can be scary, but don’t be afraid to love Him unwavering with “all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27).

God cannot be outdone in generosity; ask for the gift of courage, which comes from the Holy Spirit, to say yes.  Ask for that amazing grace that will turn your life upside down and bring you more happiness and joy than you can ever imagine!

Related Articles:

  • Angie Grantman’s blog http://angiegrantman.blogspot.com/
  •  Dolores Hart http://www.religionnews.com/2013/06/17/mother-dolores-hart-from-kissing-elvis-to-joining-the-convent/
  • May the Force Be With You http://maryscatholicgarden.com/?s=May+the+Force+Be+With+you

 

 

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