Fear of God: 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

 


  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.
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This Epiphany: Still Seeking?

“It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world!” St. Aloysius Gonzaga

With the approach of the Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12), we behold quite a scene- one of perceived royalty and the other of unassuming divinity wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And here, this quote by St. Gonzalga finds its resonance, revealing a profound truth of the nativity story. For regardless of worldly stature or knowledge, the maneuvers by peasants and kings alike are guided by the promised birth of a savior.

King Herod, was the proclaimed king of the Jews, and yet his Idumean family had been forcibly converted to Judaism. Herod was known to play both the Romans and the Jewish leadership against the other holding no real allegiance other than to money and power. Thus when the Magi asked “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? ” That in itself spoke to their recognition of just where legitimate power truly rested, and to whom they wished to pay homage.  Couple that with the astronomical occurrence of a star foretold in Numbers 24:17, and promises in Micah 5:2 and Isaiah 7:14 of a child to be born and Herod had good reason to be concerned.

 

The Magi, perhaps more accurate than the term “wise men”, alludes to their knowledge of the movement of the stars and position as Persian priests somewhere in Babylon or Arabia. Was it mere curiosity that carried them from their lands across the desert or was it more than that? They are aware of the prophesies and scriptures accompanying the signs, so we trust that they have knowledge.   Is theirs a “faith seeking understanding” as St. Anselm proposes? Have they sought God through self-knowledge and now seek God’s revelation of himself trusting that it will be affirmed under the light of the star? Up to this point, as St. Augustine would assert, though full of worldly wisdom they had yet to even understand themselves fully until they came to encounter and know God.

What is intriguing about this consideration, and their inclusion in this story is that the Magi were gentiles. And while the Jewish priests and scribes were well versed in the scriptures and could inform Herod, they are seemingly disconnected from its fulfillment. The faith of the Jewish leadership appears content in its present knowledge, and either no longer seeking greater understanding or for its fulfillment to occur differently that they had preconceived.  Their idea of a messiah was a political leader who world provide transformation in the eyes of the rest of the world not in their own lives.

This is a reoccurring theme in the Gospels, and early church. Though initially beginning with the Jews, time and time again the Good News would also be extended to the Gentiles. Was this a conversion for the Magi, we do not know. Yet, these men left behind their lives in pursuit of understanding, and humbly acknowledged the king of kings that day. One can only wonder how their faith journey continued as they returned home.

Reflect:

Am I still desiring greater understanding in my journey with God? Or do I feel that I have my place in this world and God all figured out?

Today, I’d like to invite each of you to consider if your spiritual contentment could actually be keeping you from growing closer to Christ. Maybe, just maybe, God is asking you to leave this safe space to journey with him… to discover the “more” that he has to offer. To seek the God…who is forever faithfully seeking us!

Peace,

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Guest Post: The Present

The following guest post comes from an Advent Taize service led by my close friend and colleague from Loyola Chicago, Paula Kowalkowski.
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
                    Luke 1:26-38

The idea for this reflection came to me right after the 4th of July – lots of hot and
humid days – highs in the 90’s. Just a bit different from what we are experiencing
now…..
When an idea comes – grab it, I think.
The word PRESENT came to me as I walked along the residential streets of my
Chicago neighborhood on that summer morning.
The word PRESENT comes from the Latin praesentia – being at hand/being
present. In more modern words, being mindful, being attentive to what is.
It’s an invitation to be present to what is. And what is? We are together in this
season of Advent standing – and sitting – in the presence of our Creator God. We
are in this space at St. Thomas Becket Parish – giving praise, giving thanks, asking
our God to be with us in all things. Things we understand and things we may be
questioning. This is what is. This is being present.

In our Gospel reading, we heard that on that day – so long ago – in Mary’s life, she
was present. If Mary had not been attentive to what was happening – she may
have missed the Angel – she may have missed the message. Mary heard and
listened and responded. Mary did not understand fully what she was being
called to – yet she trusted and we are called to do the same.
— Mary and Martha – Jesus said that Mary chose the greater part/portion.

The word present – means gift, as well.
And oh, what a gift God has given to us – as we wait for this gift once again in this
holy season. This great present of God – as human being, the gift of Jesus – who
was and is and forever more will be – our greatest example of what it is to be a
fully alive human being.

Jesus, the Christ – who is given to us every time we receive him in the Eucharist –
HIS REAL PRESENCE.

God’s ongoing gift of Godself to us and to the world. This
Jesus – this great gift given to us – is life – is truth – is the way and is hope!
The writer of Deuteronomy reminds us that God has put before us life and death
– blessings and curses. And what are we called to do? Choose life! The
abundant life which God provides for us – as we follow and trust God’s
commands and will for us in God’s time, not ours.

I wish you a blessed Advent and joy-filled, abundant Christmas.

Paula

Paula Kowalkowski
Music Director at St. Thomas Becket in Chicago, Illinois ; MA Loyola Chicago

My Delight

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph.  3:17

Have you ever experienced a time of holy delight with God? Lately, I have noticed something quite exquisite happening in my daily walk with the Lord.  Though it is not unusual for me to notice God’s presence in my day, my amazement in discovering him has now turned to sheer delight. And the more my delight rests in finding joy in him, the more he responds lovingly in return.

Much like courting, there is a growing desire to be near one another and to make the other’s happiness your own. This is what it is to be in love and to desire to show that love constantly. Then, even the tiniest of favors does not go unnoticed, but is rejoiced with gladness. From an answer in the depths of my heart, to a song played just because he knew I longed to hear it, to a person placed in my path intentionally who needed to see Christ..this has now become my heart’s delight.

But how do we come to this place of delight with the Lord?

  1. First, we are to to delight solely in his will in our everyday and to keep his law always within our hearts. (Ps. 40:8)
    So much so, that it penetrates our inmost being. (Rom. 7:22)
  2. We are to seek truth and be trustworthy with God and others. Prov. 12:22
  3. And we are to honor and find delight in the Sabbath “not (by) going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words” Is. 58:13-14

What does God promise in return?

  1. Rescue: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Ps 18:19
  2. Vindication: “But let the one who boasts boast about this:that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,  justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” Jer 9:24
  3. Direction: The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. Ps. 37:23
  4. Desires of our Hearts: Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4

Reflect:

Do I take delight in God’s will for my life? Am I ready for God’s promises in his delight of me?

May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” Ps 35:27

Peace,

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In Our Weakness

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

In seeking to be present and attentive to friends, family, and all those placed in our care we can at times mistakenly think that we are in control. That is, until we realize that we never were. For, under our own steam, even our own daily needs would seem insurmountable not to mention the needs of others. The reality truly is that we dislike admitting our weakness. We think, we plan, and we organize. Meanwhile, all of our striving though recognized by our heavenly Father was never meant to be ours alone.

The challenge faced in prayer might be how to pray for a specific intention or perhaps, when completely overwhelmed, how to pray at all. Yet, in these times, merely the desire to pray is enough. For while our relationship with God might in truth be a bit strained on our part, we have been given an amazing advocate! The Holy Spirit not only was with the apostles, and the helper of saints past but is there to guide and intercede for each one of us today.

In these moments of weakness, we are finally open to experience the grace that only our loving Father can give. Here we glimpse both how loving and mighty God is. And even in our perceivable strengths, we come to realize that  it is God who gifted them all. The peace that we long for can only come from our living Hope. Nothing that we do can ever create this peace in ourselves or within our community. But with God, all of our striving and yearning, in his will, may be fruitful. And better still, God uses our faults and failings too. Why? To show how great He is , and how unfathomable His love is for each of us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace to see your work in me! In my weakness, you have enabled me to do things that I never imagined possible. You have magnificently created the world and still meet the smallest concerns of those I love as if they were your only care. When I come next, Holy Spirit, feeling at a loss for words- I ask only for you meet me in my weakness.

Reflect:

Where do I feel the weakest in my life? How do I face crisis, despair, and loss? What strength and consolation have we found in the past? What hope do we have of God’s faithfulness and love in tomorrow?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: What Truly Matters

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Can you recall a landmark moment in your life? A  time when it became suddenly visible what truly mattered, and where God was in it all? The following is one of my very own- all but a blink of God’s eyes yet a graced moment when I will forever felt held.

It was a late Spring morning in the South, ominous skies grey and overcast coupled with warm and humid conditions were the makings for the perfect storm. Locals knew the weather system well, and it wasn’t long before the tornado warnings ensued. I had never worried about these storms, not because there was nothing to worry about or because of my youth, but quite simply my mother worried enough for the both of us. Yet, that day would be different.

As students were sitting at the long adjoining tables in the school cafeteria, the alarms resounded through the halls, school, and town. Beckoned to get down beneath the little protection that we had, warnings were issued to tuck in and resist looking out the windows. That is when I saw it, just outside the huge glass window that encompassed the side wall.. An unbelievable enormous swirling combination of wind, dirt, branches, and other objects it had accumulated in its wake hovering just above the ground. There it was right before my eyes, not more than 8 feet from me, and I could not help but be both in amazement and fear.Unable to close my eyes I prayed for protection, “Lord please protect us and keep us safe from harm. Lift this tornado and carry it up and far away”.

After what seemed like an eternity, the greenish grey funnel lifted taking with it its new found treasures but leaving the middle school cafeteria building untouched. Though we breathed a quick sigh of relief, we were not out of the woods yet as there were a total of 9 funnel clouds that had formed and remained over this small town that day. Quickly, the school staff  ushered us all into the main building and into the hallway by the lockers. Deemed the safest place, we all huddled there and waited till we could leave to join our families. Beside me was a boy that I knew well, for we shared a strong Christian faith- a fact that did not go unnoticed to me that day.

Marvin, was a bright, joyful thirteen year old boy who just lit up a room whenever he entered. This was because he always carried the love of Christ with him. As we sat there, there was a brief pause and then I asked, “Marvin, I am concerned about my mother, and our families and friends..can we pray together?” “Yes..me too. Let’s pray.” And there we were- two kids praying in the hallway of a public school, oblivious that others would take notice. I still remember our prayer so clearly.

“Father, please protect us all in your loving care. Watch over our families and loved ones, and let these tornadoes pass us by. Though we would miss the things we have become attached to, it is the safety of the people we pray for today. Please take away our fear and concern and leave us with your peace. In this we pray-Amen.”

As I parted from him that day to be picked up by a neighbor of mine, I knew that God had been present in our midst. Arriving at my apartment building, I saw the devastation. No longer was there a roof but open sky in its place. Part of the roof had been hurled into the apartment of another neighbor and the rest wrapped around a lamp post. Yet where was my mother? Finally my eyes spied her,  standing solemnly inside the doorway of our apartment. To everyone’s amazement none had been injured.

Virtually everything I owned was damaged or destroyed by the winds, rain and debris. Yet, as I stood there hand in hand alongside my mother, in a pool of dirty water surrounded by the stuff in life, I realized that everything else was meaningless. I had my mother and nothing else-not the toys, the pictures, the clothes or the furniture truly mattered. Here was a recognition that God had not only answered my prayer, but of the small list of essential things in life.

With an internal prayer of gratitude I then watched as men from my community approached with tarps, tools, and provisions to cover the apartment and remove the debris. Here God was once again caring for us, this time in the shape of benevolent strangers who had stepped forward to volunteer their time and gifts for others. And while I would never see these men again, they will be forever etched in my heart.

It would be some time before I could move back into my house, but I had gained a better sense of where home truly was. It was for the moment beside my mother but always in the presence of my God. It needed no accouterments, but could be found in prayer. This was the meaning of joy in simplicity, grace through destruction and peace in crisis.  It remains for me a spiritual guidepost when I get preoccupied with the accumulation of comfort and the material things in life.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Moving Forward

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If you are reading this you might be thinking to yourself… Well where else would my foot be?

Let’s start with the fact that I am by nature a problem anticipator. Typically, my feet are moving forward and mentally I seek to be two or three steps ahead to better assess where I need to go. This works well in project management, and parish planning where long range goals and timelines are essential. And yet spiritually, God is simultaneously reminding me that, as with Martha and Mary, sometimes the best place to be is right where I am at the moment. Sound familiar?

On the commute into work this past week, I found myself with a lead foot and an unusually impatient spirit. Did they not understand that leaving a gap a mile wide just encouraged people to cut in? Were they not aware that those they shared the road with were indeed trying to get TO their destination sooner than later? Such was my conversation with God and myself and the more I nodded in agreement, the less concerned I became with my other highway companions. So much so, that my arm actually ached from throwing it up in indignant frustration.

That was when the truth hit me. I had become so focused on where I thought I needed to be, that I neglected to meet God in the present. The more I pushed him aside to consider all that was to be accomplished, the more I also failed to choose what is better. My time could have been spent differently..I had a choice.

Father, patiently train me to value these precious moments with you. Instead of time squandered in useless irritation and in anticipation of something greater- let me appreciate the gift of the present. I need not be the first or the fastest of those around me but in truth will reach my destination eventually. For Your invitation – to gaze upon the horizon, prayerfully offering the day and petitions, and to listen for Your guidance awaits. You have a better plan in mind for my day than all of the schedules that I have made.  

Just how do we practically do this?

  1. Try starting your day with a reflection and coffee. Though I may read a reflection over coffee, often I do not really unpack or unearth its richness right away. As you travel or wait, just hold the questions or scripture in your heart. God is there ready to inspire you and your day.
  2. Get accustomed to the silence: Breathe and take a few quiet moments to allow God to speak to your heart. Notice the details of the landscape, the color of the sky and the rhythm of the world around you.
  3. Music: They say that music soothes the savage beast…well, for me this is true. My IPod is replete with almost 1,000 Christian songs from every music style imaginable. If one song doesn’t fit that day, there is always another one right behind it.
  4. If your mind and heart are busy, use this energy to pray the rosary. There have been days where I have had so many thoughts that I offered each bead/prayer for a different person or intention. With each name and concern spoken I ease into a more peaceful way of being. Why? Because I recognize that God has it covered!

Peace,

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Gratitude’s Expression

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This week I once again had the blessing of sitting round a table with religious leaders from within our community from all different walks of faith and backgrounds. The purpose of our meeting not for the proselytizing or the conversion of one another, but the sharing of grace, and desire to serve and work towards a better tomorrow.  Each one of us knows that there are many things, premises or subtleties, which we would most assuredly disagree on and yet that is not the reason we are there.

With a warm bowl of homemade soup, and sandwich in hand the fellowship began and the conversation unfolded. As one delightful woman, of Jewish decent, was relating a recent story she paused to add, “Though it is a small thing really.. I don’t know, it made me feel rich.”  This insightful aside prompted a searching repose of soul for the small things which we found immeasurable appreciation for. Time with our family, nourishing meals, the comfort of our bed, and warmth in the bitter cold.

Today as the forecast for blizzard conditions with snowfall up to 16″ reveals, the last one holds special importance in my thoughts and prayers. Safety and warmth in this kind of weather simply are a luxury that many of our homeless, low income and elderly cannot afford. Right now, I wonder if “Adam” has found a place to hunker down and ride out the storm, or if “Sue” whose home is now her car has found her place on the snow laden roads. Many of our elderly and poor too, due to the rising cost of utilities, cannot warm the house adequately and if the heat goes out do not have a backup.

I mention this not to invoke a feeling of guilt but to illustrate gratitude’s corresponding response. For, gratitude and action go hand in hand. John 9 tells us of the man born blind who healed by Jesus went forth and witnessed to others of the healing he had received. Then when he encounters Jesus again he professes an even deeper belief. But do we? How to we respond to God’s generous gift of love and mercy in our lives? Does our initial thankfulness fizzle or does it lead us to a greater understanding of God’s will for our lives?

What then is it that makes me feel rich?

Well more than the gift itself- it is the overwhelming presence of gratitude. For with this comes a yearning desire to go deeper in our relationship with Christ – to share what we now recognize as priceless with others. In experiencing God’s generosity, what once appeared small now becomes a precious treasure. And rather than keeping this to ourselves, we wish for others to  partake as well and know in our hearts that there is a way.

Reflect:

Take time today to ask yourself, “What is it that makes me feel rich?”. Are there others that may not readily have access to this gift or for which this is a luxury? How can I better respond to God’s generosity in my life, and encounter Christ more fully in others?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Praying with Teresa of Avila Part III

Persevering in our journey through the Interior Castle with Teresa of Avila we reflect on the 4th dwelling place..

Finally willing to submit and surrender to God’s working within, we have recognized that the life giving water which suddenly floods our soul is a gratuitous gift. Far greater than we could have imagined, this wellspring of grace inspires, renews and strengthens us to endure with greater patience any trial to come. It is such a gift that we desire to experience this over those things which formerly brought us joy and satisfaction. With the heart we now are drawn toward the shepherd’s voice, a soft gentle whistle that invites us further inward promising peace and love.

The Fifth Dwelling Place

As we progress in our spiritual journey, Teresa observes that we are drawn further inward to a “prayer of union”[1] with God, a ‘cocoon in which we experience a brief dying of self to reemerge reborn in Christ’[2]. In doing so, our transformed soul, like a little butterfly, is “restless” in the things of this world and unable to “recognize itself”. [3] This we see clearly in Teresa’s life experience as she sought to reconcile her contemplative life with the necessary affairs of the world. She describes this experience within the fifth dwelling place as an initial trial or a cross that is carried, when all we desire is to be in union with God again[4] Still, we are humbled when we imagine the smallness of our trials in comparison with the Passion of Christ and His suffering at seeing our offenses. [5] It is here that she also begins to speak of this time in union as courting, or brief glimpses where God grants mercy so that they might get to know the other more, and ultimately desire sole union.[6]

What is it to recognize my soul’s inner transformation in the world? Does my love for God find its intrinsic connection and outer expression with the love of neighbor?

Yet, our desire for union alone is not enough, as we discover a time of still greater trials in preparation for a spiritual engagement in the sixth dwelling place. In this time, Teresa vividly describes pages from her own journey in which she faced disbelief, jealousy, fear, illness, praise and persecution, towards the intimate spiritual favors that she received.  Praise, she notes, is perhaps a greater trial since we know that all good things come from God and our soul, aware of its faults, feels completely undeserving of such favor.[7] Even so, we are given moments of merciful “sunlight” that dispel the trials and awaken us with a resounding “thunderclap” to hear His call again.[8] Thus, when God so desires he pursues further in choosing to silence our outer senses and move our soul into eruptions of ecstasy and intense awakening.[9] Our soul is swept away in the grandeur of God, privy to the mysteries of heaven, and chosen in betrothal as God’s own.[10] This experience is so profound that it leaves a certainty in our soul, deep humility in our hearts, and abundant praise on our lips for the One who has called us into such intimacy.[11] Still, Teresa realized from her own error, that we cannot remain absorbed in anticipation of rapture that we neglect contemplation of Christ and the practice of virtues.[12]

Take a moment: Have there been intense moments of sunlight, rays of mercy in my life when the trials or challenges seemed to be the greatest?   Have I experienced an awakening to God’s intimate presence within- so profoundly that I embrace the encounter, am drawn into wonder and compelled to praise?

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[1] Ibid., p. 92.
[2] Ibid., p. 93.
[3] Ibid., p. 94.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., p. 96.
[6] Ibid., p. 103.
[7] Ibid., p. 110.
[8] Ibid., pp. 113, 115.
[9] Ibid., p. 127.
[10] Ibid., pp.127-130.
[11] Ibid., p. 132.
[12] Ibid., p. 150.

Work Harder, Pray More

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In light of the upcoming elections, many of us have spent time considering our options, weighing the consequences and praying that not only our nation survives but can address necessary issues. As difficult as this election year has been, I am reminded that my faith, though resting solely in Christ, cannot remain isolated from the reality that it is practiced in a world that often runs counter to that faith. Noted Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, stressed three elements of “costly discipleship”: (1) prayer, (2) community, and (3) an engagement with surrounding political realities.

At this time in my life, I  seek to have an active life of prayer, a discipleship in community, and in small everyday ways to be engaged with the political realities in the world around me. Yet, in my youth, I was undoubtedly more political- even devoting my undergrad entrance essay to the the apathetic attitude of Americans towards voting and working towards change. In the last 10 years, admittedly I have become somewhat disillusioned in the leadership to protect and preserve  life, and determination to truly accomplish transformative change. However, the mission of  working towards the kingdom of God  is calling us forth as a church, as the body of Christ, to respond. And before we ask, “What can I do?”, we need only look to the efforts of those individuals who have taken that step to make a difference and the power of a “Yes!”

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

St. Catherine of Siena knew the intimate connection between contemplation and action, between our baptism the living out of our discipleship. Renowned for her care for the poor, diseased, and the conversion of sinners, she used her insight, and conviction to influence both pope and city state leaders alike in a call for peace and unity of the church.

“Ora et labora”

For St. Benedict, prayer and work were the basis of monastic life directed towards the commitment to  further“seek after peace and pursue it.”

“Praying with my feet”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel first gave this response when asked why he, a renowned Hebrew scholar, chose to march with Martin Luther King in Selma. For when prayer is centered on God, there is an invitation both to piety and praise, as well as to commit our actions towards that love of God. Whether or not you feel represented, led or inspired by either candidate in this election, the majority of us can agree that there remain many steps to be taken ahead.

“May prayer and action always be deeply united. A prayer that does not lead you to practical action for your brother.. is a sterile and incomplete prayer. But, in the same way, when ecclesial service is attentive only to doing, things gain in importance, functions, structures, and we forget the centrality of Christ.” Pope Francis, Angelus 7/21/13

Pope Francis is setting a beautiful model that we can all emulate in calling us to reach out as a community to meet those who are suffering and in need…to embrace, heal, provide reconciliation and be a means of hope. He articulates the necessity to be aware of the intimate presence of God within, to seek moments of contemplation in our everyday world, work for the common good, and encourage others to do the same. It is here that I see my place currently within the community of faith in working towards these initial steps, and in enacting my faith albeit locally towards new paths. Each step is a prayer, and a hopeful course of action. Each life encountered, an opportunity to see and meet Christ in one another.

Reflect: What shape does “costly discipleship” take in my own life today and in the years ahead? Am I engaged in active discipleship and willing to “pray with my feet”?

Peace,

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