Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Up, Up and Away…

“Jesus summoned them and said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant, whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Mark 10: 42-45

We all desire to be great, don’t we? There is this constant, internal drive that compels us forward, that causes us to reach higher, that draws us to excellence. There is something burning in our hearts that does not want to settle for second best, for mediocrity. We want to win the gold and come in first place. We want to be rich and famous. We want to be successful and we want to be known. And we want power—the power to control our own lives, our destinies and perhaps even at times the lives of others.

We aspire to greatness and we try to emulate those who are successful in our eyes. We seek to compete in sports as do the greatest of the MVP’s and hall-of-famers. We try to sing and dance and play instruments like the rock-n-roll gods of past and present. We try to dress and act like the pop culture tells us so that we can be as cool and accepted as the famous among us. We believe that we can acquire wealth from imitating those who have acquired it before us.

But what happens after we acquire the wealth? What happens after we make the hall of fame, or reach #1 on the charts, or have our names on the clothes others wear so they can be as cool as us? What then? Will we look back with satisfaction at the journey? Will we be ready to settle down and just lazily enjoy the comforts success and fame has brought us? Or might there still be a nagging in our hearts do something more still?

The grand irony in life was taught to us by Jesus in His words and through His very life: if we want to be raised high, we need to lower ourselves. If we want to be the greatest, we must be the least. If we want to be first, we must be last. If we want to live, we must die. Bl. John Paul II echoed these words of Christ when he reminded us that the more we live selfishly for ourselves, the less human we become and the more we live lives of self-donation, the more fully human we become.

Jesus showed us His greatness by becoming lower than the angels to take on our form. He showed His greatness by obeying Mary and Joseph and learning at their feet. He showed His greatness by washing the disciples’ feet and giving us His Body and Blood on Holy Thursday night. And Jesus showed His greatness by lowering Himself completely in His passion and death so that we too, could share in the life of the Trinity. Somehow we think we can be great without doing the same?

Dear Jesus, help me to lower myself to where You are at, so that You can raise me up. I want to serve You and others Lord. I aspire to nothing but loving You and giving my life as a donation for others. Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mountain Movers

Jesus said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17: 20

What “mountains” do you have in your life right now? By this I mean situations, people or circumstances in your life that you find impossible to change, heal, correct, rectify, deal with, get over or move beyond.

Perhaps you are paralyzed with fears or worries. Perhaps there is someone in your life that hurts you, belittles you or controls you. Perhaps there is an issue like self-esteem or self-respect that you cannot improve. Maybe you are ill or injured in some way and live in pain with little hope for recovery or relief. Maybe you work in a difficult situation, you live in a lifeless marriage or you are caught in some kind of impossible financial situation. Or maybe you are the greatest barrier to yourself for some reason.

I don’t know what or who your “mountain” is, but I believe we all have them. In some situations these may be crosses that we are asked to bear for a certain amount of time to merit grace for the world. But in other circumstances, these are simply things we need deliverance from. But we so often see no hope, no remedy, no way out and so we despair. In other words, we lose faith.

But in what or in whom are we losing faith? Sometimes we have faith in the wrong things or the wrong person. The bottom line is this: if we put our hope and faith in ANYTHING or ANYONE of this world, no matter how good, we will be let down. What Jesus is saying to us though, is have faith in HIM! If we truly had faith in Him, we would recognize the POWER to move mountains—whether they are literal or figurative. What we so often do, however, is to have faith in ourselves and our own power, or the power of others. And when we (or they) fail, we lose faith. What a trick the devil plays on us!

Faith is not magic. Faith is not a fairy tale. Faith is not voodoo or hoping in some thing to save us! Faith believes in the love and power of Jesus Christ. It’s pretty simple: either we believe in His power over all things, people and circumstances, or we don’t. We cannot have it both ways. Faith is trusting in the Word of God, trusting in His Church, trusting in His Providence. And all we need is a little bit—as the tiniest seed grows into the largest bush, so too does a small amount of faith in Christ grown into more fruit than we could ever imagine. We need to have this faith strengthened, we need this faith to grow and we need to share this faith with others. Then, watch out mountains!

Dear Jesus, as we begin this Year of Faith, may we come to grow more in our personal relationship with You, may we come to learn more about our Catholic Faith and may we become eager to share the Good News with all we meet. Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are You Happy…Really?

“My soul is deprived of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is.” Lamentations 3: 17

So I was creeping on facebook this morning and looking at all kinds of “friends” profiles pages after they had come up on my news feed. There were the typical posts about life: papers due, stress at home, tidbits of mundane activities, funny quips and sublime quotes. And there were pictures. Lots of pictures. Pictures of smiling, happy people at parties, trips to the beach or amusement parks, or at family get-togethers. Then there were the ones of drinking, clubbing, cray-cray madness, YOLO and all that stuff, right? And I found myself in those moments thinking to myself, “Are you happy? I mean really happy? 

On the surface it appears that people are happy. They are smiling. They are hanging out with buddies with beer cans or at a club with drinks in hand. They’re in the arms of “someone” and are kissing or pressing close together. They are dancing, jumping around, goofing off, etc. But as I looked into the EYES of the people in the photos I couldn’t help but wondering if all the “happiness” they seem to be experiencing is not real happiness, but just an experience. We can all be “happy” when with our friends. We can be “happy” doing something we enjoy. People can appear happy while drunk or acting stupid or goofing off.

But what happens when the club closes? What happens when the friends go home? What happens when the game ends or the “someone” is pressed against someone else? What happens when the buzz or high wears off? What happens when it is just YOU and the darkness and you’re trying to fall asleep? When it’s just you and your own heart beating and your own mind racing? Are you truly happy? Or do you realize in those snatched moments of insecurity and fear that perhaps you aren’t really happy and the reason you keep drinking and clubbing and partying and being with all the “someones” is because you are so desperately seeking happiness and no matter how hard you try you keep coming up short. In those moments of unnerving quiet perhaps you realize that all of the “stuff” you post about is simply an attempt to make everyone think you are happy in order to convince your lonely heart that you really ARE happy.

But there is a better way. There is hope and there is peace. Our hearts were created to search for happiness, love, purpose and peace. Our hearts were created to be filled and satisfied by God alone. When Christ is the center of our hearts and the foundation we build our lives upon, then we can be truly happy, even in the midst of suffering and sadness. Neither the evils, nor the goods, of this world will ever be able to completely satisfy the needs of our hearts, only God.  And during those times of quiet darkness, when you are scared of your aloneness and your heart speaks Truth to your mind, it is there that you will find God. And it is then that your heart will be at peace. Then everything else in life will fall into place, because your center and your foundation will be right.

Dear Jesus, help us to understand that only in You will our hearts be satisfied, that only in You will we be truly happy. And in this knowledge may we reach deeper and deeper in the depths of Your heart, where love and peace dwells. Amen.