Be Yourself

There is a constant urging from our world and its media to reinvent yourself into something else.  The messages are constant and they all focus on the gathering and accumulation of personal power; to what end, who knows.  Perhaps it is to control your life and the world around you, 100%?  To be rich or famous?  To achieve for achievement’s sake…..or for the attention and self-love that must come with it? A sample:  “Be fierce…….seize the day…..dream big things…..be the change you want to see in the world…..”

How about:  be yourself?

Be yourself.  Just, be yourself.  God made us in His image to know Him and love Him and serve Him.  He gave us life, our own self, in HIS image, and no one else’s.  If he made you to be bold, then bold you should be.  If you prefer to be a quiet soul, then be quiet.  We don’t need to be more than we are, or be someone we’re not.  If He wanted us to be something else, He would make us something else.  But can we just be as God–and not the world—intended?

The world insists that being beautiful, fit, educated, rich, powerful, influential, all-controlling, ‘fierce’ (whatever that means), and so on….is the pathway to happiness.

But what if being quiet makes you happy?  What if being a parent makes you happy?  Or a teacher or plumber or tree surgeon or a minister or cab driver or librarian–whatever it may be.  Can you just be yourself and be happy?

Perhaps an even better question is:  can you be anything but yourself and be happy?  The answer is most definitely no.

Be yourself.  Think about what makes you happy and do that thing.  Pray to Our Lord for the grace to know Him and know what He intended for us so we may be reasonably happy in this life.  Ask Him for guidance to lead you to your true self in this world and You will know a contentment that few discover.

Forget the world and it’s messages.  The world needs you as you are. It is an imperative! For you were not made by the world nor made for the world.  You were beautifully, wonderfully made by Him and for Him and His Kingdom.

As St. Augustine said, “You made us for Yourself, O God.”

What is your true self?  Search for the answer only in your self through Jesus, your best and most trusted friend.

Be Yourself!

It Must Be This Way

From this past Sunday’s readings:

“But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD…”   (Zeph 3:12)

“Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing….”  (1 Cor 1:27-28)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…..”  (Matthew 5:3-6)

The humble, the lowly, the foolish, the weak…..the lowly (again) and the despised; the poor in spirit, those in mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty….those who count for nothing….

These are the Lord’s people.  But why?

It must be this way.  For the Lord calls us to come near and be close and listen, and learn from Him, and be formed and shaped by Him.  And there is no way to be formed, shaped, molded in His image, without this road.

The blacksmith cannot forge without the fire and the hammer.

And our Lord showed us Himself:  There is no crown without the Cross.

He wishes no one is left behind. And the long road to Him is uniquely different: no two roads are the same. Your own road is especially made for you, with your own perfection waiting at the end.

But as we walk the road, after we ‘meet’ Him at the beginning, as we ‘learn’ of Him in the early going, after we ‘love’ Him and ‘accept’ Him as our steps grow numerous, then something else happens: the final invitation, to trust.

And know this: in the enduring of your trials, you are not proving to the Lord that you trust Him, but He is proving to you that He is worthy of your trust. That He will not fail you. That, no matter the outcome of your life, that every moment you remain close to Him in your trials builds your castle in His Kingdom.

So….it must be this way. It must be the hard road.  To get to Him, there is no other way.

On Christmas and Loneliness

How hard the Christmas season is for many people.

Amidst the preparation and anticipation can be a sense of emptiness, of loneliness. Christmas is a season of hope; yet, we can feel as though, on the other side of our hope, there is no fulfillment here in this mortal world.

Especially, loneliness. Perhaps we feel lonely if we do not have a spouse, or significant other, or family to be near to and share the holiday with. Perhaps our Faith is dry and empty; we want to experience the joy and anticipation of the arrival of Christ, but if our Faith is flagging, it’s hard to muster a feeling of hope–and we don’t want our faith to be contrived at all, but genuine.

Perhaps we’ve experienced some recent loss that has left us sad; perhaps Christmas reminds us of carefree days gone by when we were happy.

Consider this: maybe, just maybe, Our Lord is behind all of the emotions you feel, for an important reason: to make room in you for Himself.

Maybe, just maybe, the One we long to see is already here. Your feelings of longing, loneliness, emptiness–might they be His way of clearing out a space for Himself, moving things out of His way, so He can come and abide with you in a new way?

Just maybe, is it possible that the loneliness is a holy longing–its the Spirit of God within each one of us, calling out to us, ‘Christmas is coming, but I am here for you now!’

When you feel the darkness coming in, that fleeting sense of emptiness, that loneliness, consider calling out to God as a child to a father. Perhaps this prayer, or your own words, will help:

Father, I just want to be with you.
All I want for Christmas is to be near to You, near to Jesus.
Instead of parties, presents, food and drink– I just want you.
Please draw me near and be my peace and my portion and cup
Especially when I feel the darkness closing in–
This Christmas and always.

My friend, I pray that any loneliness or emptiness you feel during this Advent and Christmas  season is, instead, filled with the hope of His Salvation, and His Presence in your life now and all your days.

Merry Christmas.

On Determination

Luke 9:51
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, and sent messengers ahead of him.”

Such a solitary, almost forgettable passage among many in the Gospels– yet could there be any one more important than this one to illustrate the character of Jesus?

Consider- in Luke’s account, Jesus’ ministry is nearing a pinnacle. He has preached and worked miracles, his fame and notoriety is spreading, his controversy is growing. Jesus, ever the traveler, knows that it is now time to journey to the inevitable–and terrible–end. There is much work to be done on the way; until he reached Jerusalem, he will commission the 72 disciples, cure on the Sabbath, speak many, many parables on faith, on money, on the prodigal son, on mercy, and so on.

But the tide and the trade winds have permanently shifted, and Jesus knows this: He will meet his end in Jerusalem.

In that, are we not stunned by His resolve? Jesus knows the torture and suffering that He will undergo–and yet He resolutely set out for Jerusalem, and sent messengers ahead of Him…..

How hard would it be for us mere mortals to do likewise–move into the face of destruction for a greater love? Impossible! And yet–not really. For the depth of the love we have for those in our care, the more readily we would march into a hail of destruction, a life and death situation–no questions asked. What parent, who’s child was facing certain death–would not say, ‘here I am, take me!!’?

And, to make sure that all knew He was on His way, ‘he sent messengers ahead of him’. He has accepted the Father’s Will to its fullest; He has been given his mission and there is no way He is going to fail.

Dear friends– let us resolve again to march off into the cruel world, face trials and burdens, come face to face with our enemy, be willing to be scared, afraid, feel panic, feel as though our world is crumbling under our feet–all for Him and His greater love. Let nothing stop you, no matter how frightened you are in the darkness, no matter how complete the absence of clarity. He showed us how to do it, and He walks with us through it today. Amen.

May God bless you this day, and always.

Freedom

“The Lord became my protector.

“He brought me out to a place of freedom; He saved me because He delighted in me.”

Psalm 18: 19-20

The Lord wants us be free.

Recall how often the Lord asks his disciples to ‘trust’, ‘be not afraid’, and so on.  His mighty exhortation: “Take courage! It is I!”  should be all that we need! His repeated encouragement to us to turn to Him is so we may be free–free from the heavy burdens of this world, free from fear and anxiety, free from anything that keeps us focused everywhere else but on Him.

He is our protector. He promised to remain with us until the end, when He will gather us in and take us to dwell with Him forever. And in His promise to be ‘our protector’, he instructs us to leave everything with Him, go about the things set before us, and leave all the rest to Him to work out for us. As Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote:

“Holy Scripture makes it very plain, ‘Fear God, and keep His Commandments, as this is the whole duty of man.’ This is ALL we have to do. This is active loyalty. If we do our part, God will do all the rest. Grace will pour into us and perform marvels beyond our understanding….”

And we will be slaves no longer, but free.

Let us pray, then, this prayer from the Irish Jesuits:

Lord, you created me to live in freedom.
Freedom to enjoy the world You have created.
Grant that I may live as You intended:
With complete confidence in Your loving care.

May you have peace today. May you be free, leaving all with Him, trusting in His merciful love, and live today and every day in the fullest.

Ascend with Him

Today, we recall the Ascension of Jesus.

We are told in Luke’s Gospel that as Jesus rose from their sight, the disciples were left standing with their gaze fixed upon Heaven……..even after He had vanished.

Likewise we are called to fix our eyes upon Him…to ascend with Him, spiritually; to keep Him at all times in our hearts and minds. So hard this can be, as the world and it’s demands and temptations pull us downward, interfering with our spiritual pursuits, forcing us to avert our eyes from the things above to the things of earth.

The Lord knows of our struggle–and He knows we have a live to live, people who need our time and attention, schedules to keep, lists of places to go and things to do.

But can you take an hour, a few minutes, or even just a moment, and leave it all behind?

Let us lift up our hearts and our minds to Him, immerse ourselves with nothing but thoughts of Jesus; come into His world, even for just a moment.

Take a minute and daydream of Eternity. Imagine Him with His arm around you, opening the door to Heaven. Be reunited with loved ones and old friends long gone. Let Him show you things: the gardens and vistas and beautiful sights and sounds of Heaven.

People who have written of their ‘near-death’ experiences have sometimes talked of the beauty of Heaven far surpassing that of earth……Heaven! Where all of our hopes are fulfilled–where at long last that terrible longing for God is taken away and a contentment we’ve never known is ours forever.

For just a moment, leave this world and all its troubles and Ascend with Him. May he speak to you His presence. Remember and believe his promise that we will join Him at the end of our journey and abide with Him for all eternity.