Worth Revisiting: Ash Wednesday!

Ash Wednesday Edition!

Today as we begin the season of Lent I thought that this beloved Catholic funny was definitely worth revisiting!  Beyond the obvious, when many of us have left with just a smear across our forehead, I see myself. (As a bit of perspective, I have actually corrected the cross of ashes on my forehead more than once in my life!) For so many years, I have let my own desire of perfectionism determine the outcome of success. It is a fruitless game of never fully being pleased. and where often the reason why we even tried gets lost in our own sense of pride.

True, this time of Lent is intended to work on those things in our life that distance us from God. However, we cannot do this solely on our own, nor were we ever meant to. Rather than seeking control, by forcing a square peg in a round hole, we are to allow God to chip away at our sins and challenges. To shape us in the true image we were always intended to be.

This is why I encourage you this Lent to:

  • Let go of who you think you once were, or who others have defined you to be to allow God to accomplish His work and what he wills within you. We cannot be transformed if we retain our old selves.
  •  Carve out space and time for both quiet reflection and dialogue.These next 40 days are a gift- an invitation to slow down, get away, and spend time with your heavenly Father. Jesus himself recognized the need to leave his everyday surroundings and daily to-do’s for clarification and direction. Yet, without ready access to a desert..we have to create the time and space in our lives apart from the noise.
  • Whatever you choose to do differently, agree to make it meaningful. If you decide to pick up a devotion this Lent, whether it be the rosary, adoration time, daily mass, Bible study, Liturgy of the Hours, or the Examen resist rushing through to check it off your list. Rather than passively going about this time be purposeful in seeking direction and unhurried in reaching a destination. Keeping in mind that our faith is a journey- one in which Our Father not only meets us but leads and indeed carries us home.
  • Oh, and don’t forget..

God Makes Beautiful Things Out of Dust!

Peace,

Signature

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

Advertisements

So What Am I Attached To?

Though a seemingly simple question, the question of attachment is one which may unearth many layers. It also isn’t a matter of one and done, but most certainly bears continual, if not daily, reflection. But why, isn’t this a quick inquiry as to what is important in my life? And is it wrong to desire for or want to be attached to anything in life?

The short answer is no. We are by our very nature created to be in relationship with God and one another. Desires can be good and enable us to make the best use of our time here on this earth to grow in our love for God and all creation great and small. The important clarification here is to ask ourselves where are our dis-ordered attachments in our lives. In and of themselves any of these things may not be intrinsically bad, but our attraction towards and longing for them could very well be.

What is it that supersedes our pursuit of God will for our lives, or has begun to interfere with a genuine relationship with him?

The reason why this question is so challenging is that we are prone to convince ourselves about our own level of attachment or allocate culpability to friends, family and even God himself.  We, in a sense, look at our intentions rather than our actions themselves and determine our complicity or innocence.  St. Ignatius, is quite helpful here as he looks at attachment from three Christian perspectives with a scenario of newly acquired wealth.

With the first person, we have an acknowledgement that the desire has potential for temptation or ruin but the reflection goes no further. Unable to do some much needed introspection, this individual has no idea the effect of that desire might be in their own lives. It is merely a subject for debate. For the second person, they want to make God part of their already determined course of life and pray that he approves of how they use that desire. God is essentially asked to give his consent to a decision that he never was invited to be a part of in the first place, the co-pilot approach. Finally, with the third perspective we see that they admit that they are attracted to that desire and strive to become detached from it. Though they may never be completely free from that desire, they seek to become indifferent to an disordered desire and to know God’s will.

At different times in our life, we may be any one of these three or a combination, in varying degrees, with anything of value. Again, it isn’t that we shouldn’t have desires or  be joyful at the realization of a goal achieved. Rather, this pursuit cannot be at a cost to our relationship with Jesus Christ or God’s will for our lives. Is there a push for success at work, reward or recognition for even the most humanitarian of causes? Am I motivated by affection, dependent on praise and love outside of myself?  Mentally while we might understand that all human praise, wealth and success are fleeting, nonetheless we chase after the wave anyway.

Quite honestly, I can say that as a type A personality in reform, I have often been driven by the pursuit of perfection. Regardless of what it is, how long I have attempted the task, or lack of God given talent I have pursued the brass ring. While this is in itself a noble cause, I have come to recognize not the goal that God always intends. At times, I am being asked to help others to realize their dream or to learn important lessons in the process. Other times, I have discovered that there is a dire need to patiently await God to unfold his desire for me rather than try to force his hand.

Just order, then humbly places God first and everything in God’s hands. It requires inviting God, from the beginning,  to take the lead with whatever your heart desires. Recognizing that his plan for you is ultimately better, you acquiesce to becoming who you were created to be. And when on occasion that order is tested, it is prayerfully discerning how to detach and surrender once again.

“Father, you know me better than I know myself. Help me to release my stubborn willfulness and attachment to the things that get in the way of my love for you.  Enable me to learn to desire your righteous and holy will for my life. Allow me to see, even in small ways, where I need to let go and grow. All this I ask in your name, Amen.”

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Thy Will be Done

 :

Lately these four words have spoken profound volumes in my life. With the busy fast paced work of collaborative parish life, my own vocation as wife and mother, and the decision of putting our own house on the market,there is such solace in this simple prayer. In an Ignatian practice of pause, time spent in contemplation of each word prayerfully leads us to consider what God’s word means for our lives today.

Thy

All that is within creation is God’s alone. From the smallest grain of sand to the tallest mountain, from the fiercest storm to the most placid waters it is all His and in His control. From the tiniest spark of life placed by the Creator, to the life nearing the end of its days- God is present and attentive to our cry.  In awestruck wonder I stand amidst it all and offer my gratitude both for the grandeur of all I see, but also for my place in His plan.

This week my cousin was fatally killed when struck by an automobile while crossing the street. His childhood was a difficult one growing up on the outskirts of Chicago, and he fell easily into a life of addictions as did his sister who died early of an overdose.On and off again homeless, he did have moments of stability but none lasted very long. With his mother and father now gone too from cancer, there were but a few that were close to him. Though he too, I believe, was loved dearly by his heavenly Father, he longed for that sense of belonging here on earth. The reported images of his passing, struck and laying dead in the middle of the road left me immediately heartbroken. Yet, how could I let my grief consume me when I know the certainty of the love and mercy of God’s embrace? He is Yours now Father. May his struggle here meet your joy and forgiveness, and may he know that he is truly missed.

Will

Here there is a beautiful recognition that God is God and I quite simply am not. Truthfully, I do not want my life to follow my own inclinations, despite my repeated attempts to persuade or otherwise take the reins at times.

This week in bible study we turned towards Genesis-walking in the peace of the Garden, and experiencing the pain of our disobedience and prideful use of will. Do we too desire to have the wisdom of God? Whatever would we do if we did? I do not know about you, but I haven’t always made the best decisions when I have acted on my own. What are the consequences even when we have achieved our immediate desire? The key can be found in the search itself- the longing for happiness.  So often, we look for happiness not eternally, but rather satisfy ourselves with temporary happiness. Those things which pacify us but disappear quickly are our forbidden fruit. In consuming them they give us a feeling of self-empowerment, and control and cloud the reality of our utter dependence on God.

Oh, Lord please help my will to align with Yours! Please make straight my crooked paths and set everything right when I have forgotten your loving ways. Though I do not know the way ahead, I trust that you do.

Be Done.

Release of the outcome to the One in control of it all is essential in a life directed towards God’s will. His time, His direction, His edits and our “YES!”. Are we saying yes daily but our more accurate response is a maybe?

As anyone who has gone through the process of selling a home can attest to..one wishes not only for a good price but for the pain to end quickly. Living in a constant state of readiness and cleanliness is a work of wonder with a family of boys and a playful German Shepherd. Only week two and I who began this quest in an open surrender am already petitioning God to walk the right family through our home. I know, that God’s answer might be yes..but it may be a no, or perhaps later. After we do all that we can do to prepare each day, what remains for each of us is for the resolve of the situation to “Be done”.

Reflect: How do we respond when situations are slower than unexpected, or end unfavorably for what we would have desired? Can we let God who has the big picture take the lead? If not, what could we do differently?

Peace,

Signature

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

Worth Revisiting: A Storyteller’s Guide to A Grace Filled Life

Image result for A storyteller's guide to a grace filled life

In reviewing this book, I cannot help but share a bit about the storyteller as who he is leaps off of every page in a humble, open, sincere and unassuming way. No different in real life, Tony has a profound gift of engaging the heart, inspiring reflection and engendering friendship. Through his eyes we glimpse the lost, lonely and forgotten and through his words we are invited to see ourselves in each of these.

“Since we cannot do good to all, we are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances are brought into closer connection with you.” St. Augustine (p. 27)

Whether close to home, at table with our families, in our daily interactions with others  or in a prison cell… grace is a chosen gift to accept.

As Tony illustrates, grace touches not only the ones we are moved to be attentive to but it can renew our faith, restore our relationships, and change the course of our very lives. What is remarkable is that when encountered, grace seeks not to occupy a corner of our hearts but to consume it entirely. Through prison and homeless ministry, Tony relates time and again our innate need to feel loved, and be reminded of our self worth despite the circumstances we might find ourselves in. Grace calls our name, and provides the reassurance that God loves us regardless of the past and ushers in the hope of change.

Within the family, Tony is key to point out the cultural influences of today that pull us away from deep conversation and allow us to settle for shallow waters of accommodation. Sacrificing both quantity and quality of time we far too often miss out on the numerous grace filled moments that God desires to bless our lives with. And in prizing our own idea of self we neglect to honor or claim who God has created us to be in our varied vocations. To this Tony is not remiss in offering a bit of well earned and honed wisdom from the challenges he too has faced in life.

Yet, more than a prescription, A Storyteller’s Guide to a Grace-Filled Life invites the reader following each story to reflect on their own joys, sorrows, weaknesses and gifts to discover or re-discover grace. For grace does not expire, or cease but simply awaits our response to more fully be who God has created us to be. And our unique stories, as Tony so beautifully remarks not only “forms the fabric” for our understanding and struggles in our lives but also “become the glue that connects each generation to the next”.

A word of gratitude to my dear friend and fellow Catholic blogging evangelist Tony Agnesi who continues to share his “Grace-Filled” journey with the world. You are such a bright ray of hope and grace…Thank you for letting your light shine!

To hear an on-air conversation between Tony and I through An Engaging Faith, available on podcast tune in here .

Peace,

SignatureWant to Join In_ Add Your Link Here!

In Search of Water

 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 4:28

Growing up as a southern girl in a small town, where everyone knew everybody and all their business there wasn’t much that ever stayed hidden for long. Gossip tended to flourish even over the smallest insignificant things despite the Sunday sermon that preached against it.  And yet, there was a wide path of forgiveness, where amends could and would be made if you planned on becoming a lifer. Especially, if you belonged to the same church and came with either a contrite heart or with a reasonable explanation requesting prayers.

Church was known to be a place where reconciliation occurred not just between the penitent and God but with the community. Where you were encouraged to foster relations between Christ, neighbor and stranger alike refusing to let them fall. Moreover, by inviting a new friend you participated in a grownup Christian show and tell. Out of town relatives and those who had left other churches were considered indeed special as they were entitled to a warm welcome.

Now in an age where an event can not only make the evening news but is broadcast all over social media, it is no wonder why community reconciliation seems near to impossible. Likewise while you may know several repeat families at a particular Mass, the thought of inviting a new friend and introducing them is itself a foreign concept.  Thus, in a strange dichotomy, Church can be a place that is a solitary and isolating experience where the in club includes everyone but you.

Recently I encountered one such believer, who through no fault of her own had found herself alone and pitted against the world. Circumstances created by another had placed her family first and foremost in the center of the news. Due to the nature of the event, she could not help but feel judged and defined forevermore. However, now in need of help she knew of no where within her own community to turn. And “why would they?”, she questioned, for she did not have the bonds of neighbor or friend to call upon.

For this reason, her call for help involved a conversation with a church in a neighboring community whom she hoped would have a different perspective. Though, despite my best efforts to encourage her reach out locally, she had already resolved that help was unavailable. Whether or not her assessment was accurate, one thing became clear she needed someone she could trust to turn to. Someone, that is, who could see beyond the precipitous of the crisis providing mercy without scrutiny.

 “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.” John 4:35-36

While her story is highlighted here it is not a remote occurrence within our society or our churches. Quick to rush to judgment we often listen to the side that is portrayed without considering all of the victims of the situation. Even unintentionally we fail to provide the same merciful encounter with Christ that we are being asked to witness. Yes, “the fields are ripe” and there is much work ahead.

We who have “reaped the benefits” of the labor of saints long before cannot remain idle if we are to have a church community living the Gospel. Welcoming needs to mean more than a smile at the door… as Catholics it must entail an encounter with the real presence of Christ. That is, we must be willing to attend to the real needs of those around us, extending both hand and heart to the isolated, and disenfranchised. Each person becomes then more than a member but a profound witness to Christ alive in this world as well as the promise of eternal life.

Reflect:

Do I take God’s love and mercy for granted? Has my discipleship and witness become stale? Who might be in need of an encounter with the living Christ today?

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Whose we Are

“What I think is more important than what others think..The more you trust my love the less you care about their (opinions). Remember, Eli said, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.” You are Special, Max Lucado

As you reread these words again for a moment pause, and ask yourself if you could hear these words said by anyone who would you want for that to be? Truth is, from our very birth we have been created to seek affirmation and approval. The difficulty is that we choose, far too often, to seek it from all the wrong places. Am I smart, talented, pretty or successful? What is it that others see, and is that what truly makes me special?

In and of themselves these qualities are worthy to be appreciated, and yet they will never be the sole measure of our worth. For as we all know beauty fades, success wanes, and talents can come and go in an instant. Even the praise received by family, friends, and peers can quite easily be matched by criticism given time and circumstance. This is true too for quite the opposite. Some of the most creative minds in history have lived unnoticed quiet lives before their discovery. Prompting the world to ask , where on earth have they been?

So back to our original question, who and what are we living for?

As the youngest of three, with an incredibly beautiful sister and a successful brother ahead of me, I had decided to work on being the “smart one”. This was motivation for me to consistently aspire for the highest grade, receive recognition in the community, and be admitted to one of the top undergraduate schools in the nation. Pushing myself in this way for so long, there came the recognition that this was an endless pursuit that had not only taken a toll on me, but was no longer fulfilling. If it ever really was in the first place. There was so much more in life that lay unexplored including who I was at my core and had been created to be in this world.

While my faith had always played a substantial role in my life, somehow I had compartmentalized my interior and exterior life. Rather than approaching God to see who he wished for me to be, I was instead coming to God asking him to validate or not who others saw me to be. In doing so, I was not living like I was loved but in fear of the next critical word and anticipation of the next word of praise.  This has been, for me, a lifetime of reaffirming self discovery with God leading the way.

“You are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.”

And still, what time and experience have revealed is the profound need for these words to permeate deep within the soul of every one of us in our lifetime. Yet, in order to do so we must keep our eyes and trust on him. It entails spending time with our Creator, and allowing him to remind us who and whose we are. The more often we do this, the less we care what others think whether good or bad in nature. We were created with and for an extraordinary purpose- the continual revelation of which has been, for me, an unimaginable source of true and lasting happiness.

Reflect:

Do I rely too much on the opinions or affirmation of others for an assessment of my self worth? How often do I seek God’s evaluation and affirmation in my life? 

Challenge:

Spend 15 minutes today in silence, free of distractions allowing God to remind you of your purpose and value.

Peace,

Signature

Link up with other Catholic Bloggers or see what they are revisiting this week!

To Guard Their Soul

 Prayer and fasting, worship and adoration, Scripture and sacraments and sacramentals all provide the weapons of our spiritual warfare. With them we go on the offensive against the Evil One. But the virtues provide our defense armor…They are our best defense against his attacks, for they guard our minds and hearts from his deceptions and temptations. ” Paul Thigpin, Manual for Spiritual Warfare

As parents, we instinctively prepare our children for every kind of weather, coach them on the right attitude on the field and off, all in order to keep them physically and emotionally safe. Yet are we talking to our children about their spiritual journey with the same level of preparedness? Let’s face it, their minds and hearts are just as vulnerable and less visible to the eye. And still each day they encounter innumerable decisions and temptations that propose a different or altered course for their lives.

These may come as an outright affront or more often as subtleties, small moral choices that go unnoticed. That is, until they don’t or they lead to a bigger decision in life.  Do I watch this video..and if I did, do I tell my parents? Do I join my friends in doing something I feel is wrong?  While we can never protect them from every danger, we can give them the tools to help guard their soul, with virtue.

 

  1. Fortitude (Courage) is the virtue that strengthens and emboldens when we face challenges and temptations overcoming fear and persecution.
  2. Justice is the virtue that entails resolute commitment to God and towards the rights and good of all persons.
  3. Prudence is the virtue of continual discernment of what is ultimately good in our lives and how to achieve it.
  4. Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.
  5. Faith is the virtue through which one comes to believes in God and in what has been revealed as true .
  6. Hope is the virtue that enables us to long for the kingdom of God and eternal life as our ultimate happiness. Fully aware that we could never achieve it alone but only through the Holy Spirit’s assistance.
  7. Charity (Love) is the virtue by which our love of God is above all, and through which we come to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Virtues, like riding a bike work best not with over-corrections but with balance. Likewise what is hard to teach in theory is best witnessed in the lives of others. Take the virtue of love for instance. Someone who is loving of others to an extreme may not see the value in caring for their self or their own self worth. Likewise without love for God or one another, we can become self-centered and distant from God’s will for our lives.  Depending on the age of the child the examples can be more detailed and applicable to what they see and hear around them.

Recently, my 13 year old son approached me about a headline that had made all the news. At the center of the conversation was the action that had now defined who that person was known to be. ” How do you think that this happened?, I asked, Do you think that this person just woke up and decided to commit this crime?”
“Maybe, but there were probably other things before this, he offered, “that led him to this point.”
“Hmm, I agree. Temptations and sin are not always big things, but add up and pull us farther and farther away from where God wants us to be. Much like a doorway,  we begin to allow more and more of what is evil to enter our hearts and lives.”
“But wait..St. Michael can defeat Satan, can’t we just ask him to go to battle for us?”
“The saints are ready to help us but God asks us to strive to grow too. Satan comes in many forms, not just the creature you see pictured with St. Michael. Simply put, Satan comes wrapped in any package that tempts and lures you to go against God’s will for your life or your ultimate happiness.”
“Even a pretty girl?”, he comically tendered.
“Especially a pretty girl!”, I quipped.

After a good laugh I took a few moments to talk to him about the virtues and how they provide a good defense in our lives. Using sports terminology, he readily understood that any good offense also required a good defense to clinch the game. This spiritual battle wasn’t just being waged outside of him, but indeed required his active participation. Now I had his full attention… and so did God.

Reflect:

Where is my armor weakest, and in what virtue might God be inviting me to grow the most?

Peace,

Signature

 

Worth Revisiting: Aquinas on Grace

I would venture to say that both the strength and weakness of Aquinas can best be understood in light of how he believes knowledge is acquired about God and his creation, the body and soul, and the part that our grace plays through it all.

For Aquinas, much like Aristotle, much knowledge is gained by observing the world through our senses and compartmentalizing its importance by reason. Nevertheless, while there are subjects that we learn through reason, there are others that we understand only through divine revelation, and still yet concepts that require both.  When we look at the world in God’s creation we are able to see beauty, wisdom, being and goodness.This notion that our bodies are not evil but through our senses we are able to understand God’s creation and, in part, knowledge of the existence of our Creator is a strength for Aquinas. We look at creation and understand the material that comprises it (clay), and in what shape it is in (pot), understand something about the creator who made it (potter), and ultimately the purpose for which it was made.

However, although this allows us to know aspects of God, Aquinas concedes that human reason is still limited in fully comprehending God’s magnificence.  Aquinas noted that “while a philosopher can show that God exists, he doubted that reason can tell us much about God’s nature…only what He is not.” [1]  Aquinas consequently argues that human reason must be met with God’s revelation of himself simply to understand his existence.  Therefore, since they both come from God, reason and revelation do not oppose each other, but supplement each other [2] .

When it comes to understanding mankind, Aquinas makes a further distinction in his causality argument. Aquinas sees the soul as the form for the body, and although they can exist separately it is not humanity’s ultimate purpose. Rather, the ultimate goal would be at “Christ’s second coming and the general resurrection when we will exist as embodied souls”. [3] .This ultimate goal or union with God is not achieved, however, by our own reason or will but as an added salvific grace. “Moreover, the Incarnation holds up to man an ideal of that blessed union whereby the created intellect is joined, in an act of understanding to the uncreated Spirit…returns by a sort of circulatory  movement to his first beginning, being united by the work of the Incarnation to the very principle of all things”. [4]

Foremost, Aquinas saw that grace and nature complemented each other in mankind in an “indwelling of grace that elevates our nature and leads us to pursue happiness” [5]  Further, there are also virtues of faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence that will bring us closer to God when matured. In cooperating with grace we are able to live moral lives and good works are seen. This is strength for Aquinas, because it helps us understand the search for virtue, meaning and happiness in those who have yet to experience God’s grace in conversion. [6] However ,what if one’s natural pursuit for happiness is more a product of society’s influence than of the moral law of our creator? Aquinas noted, that “ through sin the reason is obscured especially in practical matters, the will hardened to evil, good actions become more difficult, and concupiscence more impetuous”(Summa I-II, 85,3)

Further, Aquinas’ argument that some truths are only known by revelation from God, would also suggest that there are truths which will not be understood by those who do not believe in God. Hence, “the way in which we understand the substance of a thing determines the way in which we know what belongs to it” (Contra Gentiles 3, 3, 3) Those who do not believe in God, therefore will not accept divine truth and will look to society to explain the truths in the world. Thus, a salvific grace is “added to those of nature in such a way that it does not destroy the latter but perfects” [7] . On this idea of grace and the remission of guilt Aquinas notes, “Now the effect of the divine love in us which is taken away by sin, is grace, whereby a man is made worthy of eternal life, from which sin shuts him out. Hence we could not conceive of the remission of guilt without the infusion of grace” (Summa Theologica II, 113, 3). Rather, because of sin, we cannot grow closer to God without the added grace to know and love God.

Without this God given grace, mankind could not achieve ultimate union with God which is the ultimate purpose of our creation.  Aquinas notes that through Christ humanity is restored, so that “henceforth men might serve God no longer out of fear of death…but out of love of charity”. The weakness in this concept of an added quantity of salvific grace is, I believe, that it does not adequately address the grace presently working in our continued relationship with God.  Here the ” ‘movement of the soul’ towards God is nothing more than faith”. [8]

It is important to recognize that the saints, much like you and I, were working out just who God is and how we come to know God in their own lives. Each one of us is invited to do the same, which in some ways unique to just who God created us to be. 

Reflect:

Who is God in my life today? What do I find moves my soul closer to God? What place does reconciliation play in my journey with God?

Peace,

Signature

Link up with other Catholic Bloggers or see what they are revisiting this week!


[1] Placher, William. (1983) A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. (First Edition). Westminster John Knox Press. p.152.
[2] Placher, p.153.
[3] Placher, p.155.
[4]Kerr, Hugh.  (1990) Readings in Christian Thought (Second Edition).  Abingdon Press. p. 119.
[5] Russell, (2012) Christian Doctrine Trinitarian Controversies, [Power point presentation]. Loyola University, Chicago, IL.
[6] Placher, p. 153.
[7] Ibid.
[8]Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. (2010) Holy Spirit and Salvation, Westminster John Knox Press, p.148.

Worth Revisiting: A Walk in Wisdom

“Right discernment of life begins with an obedience discernment of YHWH the Creator” (Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 309).  1

This quote by Bruggeman truly calls attention to just how we understand knowledge, and become aware of God’s immanence and transcendence. For many years,  I had difficulty with the wisdom tradition’s notion of knowledge stemming from a “fear of the Lord” . Perhaps, it was simply in my understanding of the word fear, which does not aptly describe my understanding of our relationship with God. Even still, was it’s usage in the numerous fire and brimstone homilies I had grown up with. Yet, when we place this word fully in the context of scripture, there is ample clarity.

In contrast to understanding God cosmically and historically at work within the world, Israel sought to understand God as Creator within the context of everyday life. Through the Wisdom literature we are attuned to a plurality of voices that speak to who God is and experienced in the daily lived reality of the community in which God is believed to be central to its ordering. 2  Here, we behold a deep concern with the very human and routine problems of life, death, sex, commerce, and relationships encountered in living in the world. Moreover, there is considerable moral weight placed on decision making, with the responsibility seen in the highlighted and inherent consequences.  In honoring this divine order, one’s life and that of the community, it is asserted, would be blessed the gift of well being. 3

Conversely, the consequences that are intrinsic to deeds that are negligent of Yahweh’s structuring of creation invite misery, suffering, and even death for the community.4  Skillfully, it is fashioned by reflective and inquisitive teachers employing literary designs of poetry, metaphor, drama to describe a “faith in the world as intended by the Creator”.5  Knowledge, as argued by the teachers of Proverbs, begins therefore in fearing the Lord with awe and wonder. (Prov. 1:7)  Thus, what we witness is an expression of faith seeking to recognize God’s intended purpose and boundaries inherent in creation that is believed to provide meaning and safety for the whole world. 6

Here “fear” reveals more of an overwhelming marveling at considering the magnificence of God, what he has done, and continues to do within creation. This we are invited to do each time we behold a sunrise, or connect with the eyes of the believer receiving communion, or hold the tiny hands of a newborn baby in ours. In our appreciation of God as the source of all life, and desire to know his will and purpose for our lives, we begin to seek to know more and grow in our love and service to him. What is knowledge then, if not our acknowledgement of the Creator who offers this gift and desires to be in relationship with his creation?

When I was a child, I would customarily ask my grandmother her advice on various questions of life. While she did have concrete suggestions for me to follow, it always came down to her embodied philosophy..put God first and everything else will fall into place. Or, better still, it will be shown to be inconsequential in the bigger picture. This seems so simple, and nonetheless we strive to make our lives so complicated. Yet, as the wisdom teachers assert, we will never be able to even discern the right path unless we take the “Creator’s large vision to bear on these everyday realities”. 7

In order that we understand this perspective fully, we are given God’s magnanimous answer to Job which attests to his “greatness and which transcends the small moral category of Proverbs”.8 What’s more, God demands a reply from Job as well, not to his innocence or guilt, but in questioning if Job recognizes that it is God alone who holds the entirety of creation in his hands.9  In Job, we are reminded of Jacob, who also “wrestled” with God..but won. Job, however cannot respond to God equally, and realizes finally that he needs to accept God’s mystery of purpose. (Job 42:1-6) In yielding his “complaint and protest” to renewed “hope and trust” God moves forward to restoration of Job’s life and indeed his relationship with God.

Interestingly too, God addresses the three friends who had “not spoken rightly concerning” God. (Job 42:7-9)  In penance, they were to offer holocaust, and seek the intercession of Job whose guilt they had so easily assumed. Thus, there was restoration for the three friends as well, and vindication of Job’s righteousness. This highlights the significance of sound pastoral ministry whenever we speak or offer comfort. Prayerful reflection must be given to what we do choose to say. Likewise, we must be open to recognizing that we are far from infallible, and when mistakes are made, we should seek reparation as well.

Many of us cannot help but smile whenever we encounter the bumper sticker that reads, “What would Jesus do?” particularly when its driver is behaving less than Christian . While, this might provide a somewhat humorous example, it does call attention to just how we live our lives of faith daily. While Proverbs attempts to catch us before we err and in the decision making process itself, experience is far too often the teacher. These are the issues that the writers of Proverbs and Job understood..seeking God in both presence and seeming absence in our lived reality. Both illustrate our need to let God’s wisdom speak in silence sometimes..and let God’s Spirit move in and renew the hearts.

Peace,

Signature

Link up with other Catholic Bloggers or see what they are revisiting this week!

 


  1. Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 309.
  2. Brueggemann, p. 275.
  3. Brueggemann, p. 310.
  4. Brueggemann, p. 312.
  5. Birch,Bruce, A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 384.
  6. Birch, p. 422.
  7. Birch, p. 388.
  8. Birch, p. 412.
  9. Brueggemann, p. 298.

Examen-ing Wholeness..in a Broken World

Wholeness /ˈhōlnəs/ noun
1.the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole; unity.

2.the state of being sound in mind and body. (Google;Miriam Webster)

What is wholeness in our world today? Acclaimed by wellness centers and gurus alike, we might encounter this term in promises spoken and broken. Or, perhaps as a hopeful wish to one day to be made whole. Yet, it isn’t that wholeness isn’t possible, but rather that we often are looking and going about it in the wrong way.

First, we cannot consider what it is to be made whole without examining our own brokenness. And this readily requires a standard to compare brokenness against, an understanding of that which is whole and complete. You see, this is problem so many of us encounter from the beginning. We look around ourselves and quickly settle for what we see in the world touted as wholeness.

Though each of us is created in God’s image in body and soul to be complete, mankind’s original sin having entered our world interjected our own imperfection. Through the sacrament of baptism, each of us becomes a new creation through Christ, and is invited to live a life transformed. This necessitates, however, an active participation on our part to continually surrender our will and desires for that of God’s.  And whenever we slip and fall to ask and accept forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. For the effects of sin, experienced both physically and spiritually in our lives, deter us from consistently knowing what it is to be whole.

Therefore, wholeness isn’t so much a thing ever fully acquired or achieved, but a gradual process of becoming. And just what is it that we desire to become? For, if we use the gauge of the world we will continue to be disappointed, as our measure of wholeness is itself broken. Yet, if we pause to ponder for a moment the state of perfection, unity and completeness that alone is without restriction or exception there can only be one true standard.

With God as the sole principle for wholeness, we begin to understand that our becoming is the journey of a lifetime and not one that can be undertaken without divine help. Not to say that we aren’t assisted by others, because each experience and person placed in our lives is done so with purpose. Sometimes revealing our coarse and jagged edges, and other times a witness to the goodness within.

  1. Begin by thanking God for specific gifts and offerings of the day and more general ways you feel blessed. Where has God met your need today? Where has transformation already begun, albeit in small ways, in your desire for wholeness?
  2. Silently pause to invite the Holy Spirit into the moment allowing the Spirit to guide you to consider the things you may have missed. Remember all of our brokenness expresses a yearning to become more like our Creator and can be used to illustrate where we are to grow.
  3. Review the missed opportunities. Where have you sought the counsel of the world, or yourself without seeking God’s assistance? Surrender the challenges, and reflect how inviting God into the picture could transform the situation as well as your perspective.  Keep in mind that this isn’t a time to focus negatively, but an invitation for renewal.
  4. Seek forgiveness and healing. Are there areas of brokenness in your life that God desires to heal and restore? Is this also keeping you apart from others?
  5. Pray and find hope in tomorrow.

“Holy Spirit guide my heart in its contrition to reconciliation. I understand that this is to be a new beginning in my journey to grow more like Christ Jesus, and to one day to experience true wholeness. I await the new mercies that are available in my tomorrow.”

Peace,

Signature