On How Many Atheists and Christians Live Similar Beliefs…

Of course, as anyone knows, most atheists, by definition, do not believe in what the overwhelming majority of humanity has generally called, God.  As a matter of fact, atheists are historically and numerically a small minority compared to us who do believe in God.  Its my belief that at the heart of atheism lies the belief and lived reality, of simply choosing to do one’s own will, and not being accountable to anyone or anything but one’s self and one’s desires. If we briefly examine and compare the difference between one’s stated beliefs and one’s lived beliefs, I believe that the historical and numerical divide between atheism and what many today take as ‘Christian living’ is actually much less than many of us would like to admit!

A person’s stated beliefs, like one’s fundamental political or business, moral and social perspectives, can and do often change, grow and mature over the course of one’s life – especially if one is not super rich enough to evade many of life’s inevitable and very concrete daily struggles.  Our stated beliefs are those we proclaim openly in and to the community; they allow others to generally understand ‘who and what we are about’ or ‘what angle’ we are coming from: democratic, republican, Christian, atheist, conservative, liberal, feminist, etc. They allow others not only to better understand and/or to categorize us, but also, to some degree, to hold us accountable for our behavior in reference to these beliefs.

A person’s lived beliefs can be very different from one’s stated beliefs, and as such, by definition they are often not openly stated or shared with the communities that we are apart of. Lived beliefs are those we allow to truly guide how we live; those beliefs we struggle to willfully practice in our relationships and community lives. We have to hope, plan, seek and look for ways to practice our true lived beliefs.  Lived beliefs, if they are different from one’s stated beliefs, are generally hidden from most in the community.  To find them out, one often has to be ‘outted’ regarding them – with proof – before that person can be held accountable by the communities in which they live. Classic examples of this are the serial thief or the serial adulterer, both who publically proclaim their beliefs of respecting the property and personhood/relationships of others, only to eventually – be outted by proof – of what their real lived beliefs actually are.

What does this mean for the Christian? Well, it means that atheists are correct when they say that most Christians are hypocrites, except for the most holy among us (and that is probably notyou or me yet)!!!

It also means that those who are publically Christian in name, but who have no intention of acknowledging and prayerfully destroying their hypocrisy are very similar to atheists: they practically refuse to acknowledge and utilize the gifts of grace and the Holy Spirit given at baptism, which can actually transform them into a different – much holier person.  In short, though publically Christian – for whatever reason(s) – they always willfully choose to do their own will and refuse to live by and be held accountable to anyone or anything except their self and their desires.  It means they have truly accepted and live out the hypocrisy we have all been born into.

It also means that true Christian believers are those who not only recognize their hypocricy and failure, but who also – through the gifts of grace and the Holy Spirit received through baptism – prayerfully work daily toward reaching that hope, goal and day when their stated beliefs will actually become their lived beliefs. True Christian believers accept and acknowledge, but fight to change and eliminate the hypocrisy we find ourselves living in.

That day – of finding ourselves different from the atheists and being a true Christians – comes only by grace and often, after years of prayerfully picking up our crosses daily and striving to make God’s will our own by strugglin’ to live out the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Laws of Love first and foremost in our lives.  Often, it comes only after years of prayers, when our prayer by grace has changed from being a discrete act done at church or before meals, to a real, living dialogue with God throughout the day…

On that day, our other naturally stated beliefs, like being good capitalists in our business dealings, good republicans or democrats, feminists or progressives, conservatives or liberal, etc. will no longer come first in our lives or will be argued forby using our Christian faith.  Like all the true saints, they will not fall away, but will seen and evaluated in light of our relationship with God.  As our publically stated Christian and lived out beliefs become one, all will see and understand the true love of God that we are both stating and living from.

On that day, we will no longer worry about being held accountable for what we really believe and will be willing to suffer for it as the real true Christians – the saints – have and are doing today with their very lives.

On that day, the community will increasingly recognize us as true, authentic and genuine Christians – the persons God has called us to be – as we lose the natural hypocrisy that we are born into and that has many living like true atheists.

On the Sandwiches We Serve in Our Victories

Both hard fought and unexpected victories – like the righting of a personal wrong and the seeing of justice served as an evil perpetrator is punished – are great opportunities for the tempering our mouths, hearts and imaginations in a manner not unlike those offered by our losses and sufferings. When experiencing a great loss or suffering, we must often learn how to talk honestly about it as we also learn how to accept its cross more humbly… In talking about our losses and suffering in life, we often have to pray and learn how to not blame others as we also pray for the grace to honestly accept our fair share of the credit for having them…

Often, with an unexpected and/or even hard won victory, as with the seeing of justice served, there is not just the celebration of the hoped-for moral good, but there’s also often present an ‘inordinate relishing’ that lingers in our hearts, minds and imaginations.  Please don’t get me wrong… Yes!  We are to experience, enjoy and celebrate moral goods – especially in the righting of a wrong and when an injustice is brought to justice, just as it is also in the achieving a hard fought victory in life, etc.

However the former, is often accompanied with a relishing of the suffering experienced by evil’s perpetrators, which belies and reveals a lack of God like love in our hearts. Let’s make the eternal case in point: does God really relish the suffering and loss of any souls in hell? Hardly not! Even in the celebrating of an unexpected or hard won victory, there can be an inordinate rise in that unhealthy kind of pride, which takes increasing credit for the victory, even when it is not due – at least, not due to ourselves but to the grace of God only!

I wouldn’t know, but I suspected some big lottery winner’s can attest to this fact… Initially giving glory to God but then talking ad nausea about how they’ve played the lottery for years and perhaps, even worked out a system which eventually led to their winning!

If we must learn to temper our very real life sufferings and to pick ourselves back up off the ground and – by grace – learn how to continue journeying forward; we must also learn how to temper our very real victories – even if they are expected and was worked hard for.  We must learn how to humble our minds, hearts and tongues by attributing these victories to all who assisted us in thier attainment as we also humbly learn to consistently give the glory to God for them.

A common occasion and invitation for doing this that is available to all: is not taking full credit for successfully realizing the potential of our gifts and talents which, by the grace of God and the sacrifice of many others – has resulted in personal blessings not realized by others in the community…  …like being moderately healthy or truly becoming financially independent or graduating from college or having and maintaining a career or even raising healthy and ‘successful’ children, being blessed with a loving spouse and marriage, winning that case against a perpetrator of evil, etc.  Whether worked and hoped for or unexpectedly received, each of life’s victories invite us to temper our response to them…

I’m not sure which is harder for you, but for me, it’s an easy call: it’s harder for me to temper my joy from hard fought victories than with the unexpected ones like the winning of a lottery ticket!!!  Truly and consistently giving worthy credit to others as I also humbly and gratefully give glory to God can be difficult for me, especially if I think that I worked hard for, earned or somehow deserve it!!!!  Don’t get me wrong, yes… I too and do, loudly exclaim the praises of God in those initial moments of the victory, but with each passing minute it seems that in all honesty, I find myself giving less glory to God as I increasingly take more credit for them as the hours pass.

In short, I often find myself praising the Lord at the outset – as the first piece of bread – and then piling on a huge stack of “mein the form of ‘what I did’ meat” – before ending with another thin slice of bread that praises and gives glory to God once again!!!  And just like that, the longer I’ve run my mouth and talked about the victory, the more I find that I’ve created a quite tasty and very big ‘pride sandwich’ which I’m all too willing to share with others… A pride sandwich is always like that huge-with–meat-falling-off corned beef sandwich on two thin pieces of rye bread that my dad used to buy us as kids…

On the graced and Spirit led occasions when that pride sandwich is absent, I find myself speaking both honestly and succinctly about the victories I have received.  I am able to give glory to God at the beginning like in my pride sandwich, but then I am able to acknowledge all those who’ve truly made it possible in the middle – as the meat and cheese – before, once again, praising God with an ending slice!  On these graced occasions, my hard work, sweat, and suffering in achieving these victories are honestly presented more like that thin layer of mustard or piece of lettuce – as a condiment– on that short, sweet and truly grace filled sandwich that I share with others.

My prayer for myself and for all reading this, is that with every victory in life – whether hard fought or unexpected like a lotto ticket – that we may serve more grace filled sandwiches than pride sandwiches to those in the communities where we walk, live and serve. Amen.

On ‘Spiritual Stages’ in Our Unique Journey Towards God’s Kingdom

 

I believe that our Lord and Savior guides each of us uniquely along our own spiritual paths in route to the Kingdom of God.  Even though each of our paths has its own unique orientation, challenges and gifts, I believe that most of us will go through a number of very similar stages in the spiritual life – even if when and how we encounter these similar stages will vary according to the individual.

The last couple years, in going through the common and natural transition of a vocational transition, I have ‘graduated from’ and have been invited to live out of a new spiritual stage. In moving from teaching to chaplaincy, it is only now, years later, that I can truly look back in retrospect and celebrate this transition as yet, another one of these graduations to and spiritual invitations to live from another stage of the spiritual life.

What am I talking about when I say “similar stages” in the spiritual life? I’m thinking in terms of universal stages in which we learn “spiritual ways thinking and being” that we must, by grace, integrate into our being and life before God allows us to, as it were, graduate onto the next spiritual stage and disciplines in route towards heaven. Let me give a couple examples of the spiritual stages that I’m talking about.

I believe one stage in the spiritual life is that of learning to appreciate, live out and respect the Scriptures of our own specific religion. Scripture, as the divinely revealed Word of God, should come to play some kind of role in guiding and leading us, even if we are not scripture scholars.  Scripture is often where our primary images about who and what God is can be found as well as being the source of the moral expectations that God has for us as his children.  Even if one does not study Scripture as a Scripture scholar, the acknowledgment of Scripture as holy/divinely inspired and that we are called to live out of its commands and expectations, like morally frm the 10 Commandments and the New Testaments Laws of Love, is an important stage in the spiritual life of the person in route to the kingdom.

Another one of these stage in the spiritual life, is not just the recognition of our own unique gifts and talents as natural human beings, but the recognition that they are gift given to us for the purpose of loving and serving others in route towards God’s Kingdom.  Many recognize and are graced to be able to develop their gifts and talents as young adults, leading to various levels of professional, vocational and financial success in this world, but only later come to realize and live from the spiritual reality that they are given to them and are not theirs alone to own. Many of these people become more philanthropic as they age, sharing both their resources and time to build up the community in ways they would have never imagined as young adults.

Finally, the third and final example of a common stage that I believe all are invited to grow through, is that of acknowledging that God’s goodness and grace is not and can not be limited to and cornered within our own specific religious understanding, communities and practices.All, whether growing up in a specific faith or choosing one as an adult, must eventually get and grow to a point in which they can theologically and practically acknowledge that the greatness of God’s and His grace transcends all specific religions.  This stage invites us to both live fully from our chosen faith path as we also and willfully refuse to limit how, when and where God’s grace may be working in the lives of others, and regardless of their religious and/or spiritual beliefs and practices.

These are but three common stages and/or “schools, disciplines or moments” within the spiritual life leading to the Kingdom of God.  I believe that the Holy Spirit leads each of us to and through each of the schools and disciplines based on the uniqueness of our own life, choices, journey and contexts.  In short, there is no universal first step for all humanity: God can start with any school/discipline/stage and guide us to holiness throughout the course of our lives.

Often, the transition from one spiritual stage to another occurs unexpectedly, through the natural realities that make up human life: like finding and developing our gifts as the young adults, acknowledging and learning to struggle through the specific “– isms” that may stamp and affect our lives with their sin and pain, falling in love and struggling to live lovingly in relationship with others, and of course in such realities as marrying, parenting and of course, the common struggle that we all face – aging.

Allow me to briefly state and explore one gift I have received from entering my present spiritual stage that has been offered through my present vocation as a hospital chaplain, in my journeying towards God’s Kingdom.

The gift given, received and that is now being honed is an ability to truly ‘walk with’ and to ‘be genuinely present to’ those I am serving – without being tethered to or guided by specifically stated theological/educational goals, like teaching specific learning outcomes/philosophies/religious doctrines, etc., as found in Catholic high school religion class rooms and departments.  Being no longer responsible for imparting any specific religious denomination’s ‘good and stated outcomes, doctrines and philosophies’ to those I am serving – apart from walking with and being completely present to those I am serving and their needs – has been such a refreshing change, that I now look back and am amazed at how God’s grace allowed me to minister and teach in that context with ‘so many religious doctrines, outcomes and goals’ hovering over and guiding my ministry.

In retrospect I do very much appreciate the two plus decades of formation and guidance, even though in looking back as one does with high school, undergraduate education or early parenting stages, I can say, “Whew!!! Been there, done that… and I am now soooo glad that it is over with!”    God knew that during that period of ministry andfamily life, I needed the structure and guidance offered institutionally.

Then, by God’s grace, my vocation corresponded to my role as a father guiding and laying the moral and spiritual foundation for my young family.  Now, as they are now young adults finding their way in the world, the new gifts and vocational freedoms I am experiencing, once again and by God’s grace, correlate with my journey as a parent of adult children.  Only God can do these kind of mysteriously beautiful things, like writing straight with the crooked lines of our uniquely human lives.

My prayer is that all who read this will also come to experience and one day testify to the power of the Spirit and the universality of God’s grace, in leading them through life’s various stages and on towards God’s Kingdom.

 

Few, if any, full blown Shlep Rock days anymore…

I know, those days…

Upon my waking awareness, I know and feel from the very start, that this day has got the potential to be, one of those days…

Everyone has them…

Every person’s those days are unique; each with its own kind of spirit draining funky cloud that surrounds and challenges the person, often magnifying their weaknesses. On those days, our unique funky little attitudes, recurring slanted perspectives on life coupled with whatever challenges our world and Satan can muster for this perfect storm, all appear at once as we seem to be weakened and at best, unprepared for the fight.  Yet, we must somehow go forth amidst the storms and rains into our regular day…

I call those days Shlep Rock days, after the character found in The Flintstones cartoon who was followed by his own personal storm cloud and was noted for saying, “no sense being pessimistic, it probably won’t work anyway.”

I have found only three Strong Winds to be both consistently powerful enough and always available/on call for me to assist in blowing away that personal cloud trying to change what “the Lord has made… (for) us to rejoice and be glad in,” into a Shlep Rock day… 

  • Rising and taking at least ten to fifteen minutes of morning prayer – just sitting with, listening to and being with God – that is, if grace allows, in between the venting prayer sessions (lol)…
  • Listening to the daily Catholic Scriptures – I used to only read the scriptures and sometimes still do… But especially on these days its all I can do to press play and try to listen… I almost always have to do so at least three or four times in a row, with each time separated by a brief “what do I hear or see or get from this reading” silent listening period…                                                                                                              http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings-audio.cfm
  • Praying the Rosary – I have noticed that many Schlep Rock days just happens to occur on those when the church is praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on (Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross and Crucifixion).

For some strange graced reason, after just trying to pray through Jesus’ sufferings with the Rosary, my STILL-VERY-REAL cloud almost NEVER seems to be as close anymore…   …sometimes it even disappears!!!!!!

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These three Strong Winds are always available, inviting me to rise and simply stand in the Holy Spirit’s gentle breeze, allowing It to blow away my stormy clouds… 

Each Strong Wind works in its own gentle holy way to spiritually and naturally ease the anticipated bumpy ride of the coming day. These grace filled breezes are like spiritual double bubbles or happy hours – only, at the beginning of the day to make that coming day smoother, instead of as an aftermath to an unexpected and crazy week…

We here at Strugglin’Catholic.com invite our readers to share with others  the holy Strong Winds they use or have in their spiritual arsenal, by sharing a  comment on this article. Please feel free to briefly share your experiences about how using various spiritual exercises and devotions are of great assistance in blowing away the Schlep Rock clouds of those days on your spiritual journey.

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May the Holy Spirit illuminate our paths this Lenten Season, in the same manner that It walked with and embodied our Savior during His forty day fast after being baptized in the Jordan. By that same Spirit given to us at baptism, may we resist both the daily temptations that beset us and especially those especially hot, dry and thirsty Schlep Rock days we encounter this Lenten season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatz love got to do with it (Lent)?

The first Monday after Ash Wednesday…

Reading 1: LV 19:1-2, 11-18     Gospel: MT 25:31-46

          In today’s first reading, the Lord tells Moses to assemble the children of Israel and to instruct them to, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” Then the Lord gives Moses examples of His holiness, which includes living out the 10 Commandments in addition to a number of social laws that focused Israel on living justly as a community. Finally to summarize and seal His teaching, the Lord instructs Israel to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Many are surprised to find Jesus’ Law of Love stated so early – within the first five books of the Bible!

In the Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 25, we find one of the only readings where Jesus specifically addresses what the Last Judgment will be like, when the sheep will be finally separated from the goats on that Last Day. He lists how all those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the ill or those in prison – in short, all those who responded to the needs of others concretely with their gifts and talents – are those who will enter the kingdom. These are they who have met the mark and successfully loved correctly, Gospel Style, in their lives.

The word love gets both over and under used so much in our world today!!!

It is often under used in relationships by those needing to say and/or hear it… and it is clearly overused by the media who applies it to everything: from cartoon characters to candy bars!

There are good loves and bad loves in each of our lives… Whether good or bad, the love that reside in our hearts – must and will be expressed – in some manner, eventually…

Because the world’s great examples of natural love often seems so superficial and flawed, its no surprise that many doubt the existence of love, question its reality and seriously ponder whether it is just a natural and emotional reaction or really, as scripture says, the only lasting reality that grounds us in and with God.

Be not dismayed, nor loose hope about, the reality of love this Lent! Love is real!

Not only (and just as) is it better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all; SPIRITUALLY, it is also better to have sought after and tried to live like Love (GOD) – and to have fallen short, than choosing to never love anyone at all. Note: the former failed attempts to love as God loves can net us heaven, whereas never trying to love anyone at all can only net us hell.

>Real Love, like its Author and Ground, requires and demands a response to the other with our gifts and talents.

>Real Love is, as attentive to the needs of others, as it is to its own needs.

Real love, not the fake or philosophical kind (lol), seeks to reveal and give its self away through words, deeds or some sacrificial manner in response to the other.

What does love have to do with Lent?  It has EVERYTHING to do with Lent!  If Lent is about growing more holy, more God like and more loving – then our Lenten devotions and practices must eventually result in some measurable and demonstrable increase in our love of and for others.

This Lent, identify how you are trying to imitate, grow in the knowledge of and to deepen God’s love through your Lenten sacrifices and devotions. Be specific, i.e. – by giving up/adding xyz I am saving more time to do abc with my family, etc.. Start by listing what your Lenten sacrifices are for this year and then briefly explain how or why it will prompt you to better love both yourself and others in a more holy manner. If you can not explain how your Lenten devotions and sacrifices are going to make you a more loving and holy person, then perhaps your Lenten sacrifice needs some tweaking…

 

P.S. If you are making the same Lenten sacrifice each year, can you now look back and explain how/why it has prompted both real loving acts for others and also real growth in holiness for yourself? If not, who are you foolin’? Whereas Lent should prompt spiritual growth and development in one’s spiritual life, what kind of spiritual character are you really forming by these actions? As Arsenio Hall used to say, this is one of those “Things that make you (spiritually) go, hmmmmmmmm.”

 

 

Satan’s Garden Temptation: Reject being a creature, Yet strive to be like God

 

In the story of the fall, where Adam and Eve gives in to the temptation of Satan, there’s many very deep truths presented by this story which are often easily glossed over or ignored. One simple truth presented by the narrative is that Satan hung that key goodness of “being like God” out like a carrot before the horse (of Adam and Eve).   In seeking to “be like God” by eating the apple (to achieve holiness by some other plan than God’s), they rejected their own innate goodness as creatures  and God’s plans for them to grow in His Love.

We are unsure if Adam and Eve knew about God’s plan for eternal life or not, however, blinded by the evil one’s lies, they came to believe that God had created them in and with anxiety, apprehension, hesitancy and with some concern about the possibility of humanity taking or somehow usurping  God’s power and glory.  But really, how could that ever be?

Buying the lie and now misunderstanding God as the Divine Threat and not as the Divine Love, the prideful first couple followed Satan’s plan in hopes of taking and securing what they now thought was begrudgingly withheld from them: God’s nature.  In doing so, they ALSO disparaged and rejected the giftedness of being a creature, with all of its limitations and realities.

Adam and Eve were like PRIDEFUL, very small children who, aware of their parents’ NATURAL and HEALTHY seemingly endless power and their own limitations as children, mistakenly (and sinfully) can began to undervalue and reject their blessed state as children.

In that child’s mind, sin twists and leads it to misunderstand  that which is healthy and divinely designed to protect and nurture it by nature, the parental-child relationship.  That relationship can now be ALSO experienced as  something that is unhealthy, unequal, unjust and simply a frightening  display of power…

Yet all along, if they had trusted God, they would have eventually found out that God’s plan was to give this gift of Himself to all who completes this earthly journey in faith, hope and love anyway! But how were they suppose to know this? They wasn’t! They were suppose to have faith and trust God, finding out in God’s time and when God wanted them to know about it!

Yet, when Satan tempted them by twisting and lying about Who and What God really is – stressing the differences in His nature, they were woefully unprepared for what that knowledge and experience would do to them! It is like the unfortunate reality of many children nowadays who, via media and internet, acquire the knowledge of human sexuality waaaaaay toooooo early – before they are prepared to utilize it as God intends and in a holy manner. Knowledge, human sexuality, wealth and power, etc., when placed in the hands of unjust, immoral or immature persons, will almost always result in sinful outcomes and more suffering for the greater community.

In their quest to become God like, the first couple God rejected their own goodness of being creatures. They were like our young children pining for the day when they are “grown ups”- an unrealistic day in which they have all the power and no responsibility!   Life just isn’t like that!

Finally, Adam and Eve forgot one of the most important points about our goodness as creatures: we do not have to figure it all out, know it all or get it all right in order to receive our heavenly reward (whatever it is suppose to be)                                                                                             

                         …we simply must to love all as God Loves.

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We are creatures, not gods. By grace, we will become like God, holy in nature, not a god ourselves. Accepting ourselves as creatures means accepting the goodness and messiness that comes along with being human. It means accepting that…

… we are not in control, God is. Period.

… we do not know even half of the answers to our most important questions, but must still press on in this life

… aging and getting old is a good and natural blessing, not a sin

… I must depend on and live in relationship with others, even though often my desire may be otherwise.. and that includes God, too!

… all in life will change and the only thing I can take with me is love

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May this Lent empower each of us to reject Satan’s original temptation in the Garden to reject our creatureliness and to see it as unholy.  By accepting our creation as good, may we also join our struggles with His on the altar of the Holy Cross.  Joined with His eternal Sacrifice, may we – this Lent – experience that true graced freedom and joy of the creature, who lets God be free to be the God Who Loves and governs all creation!

How Our Temptations Mirror Jesus’

 

Jesus did not say, “Thou shalt not be troubled- thou shall not be tempted- thou shall not be distressed.  But He said: Thou shalt not be overcome.”

Julian of Norwich

This Sunday’s Gospel explores Jesus’ three temptations, after his baptism in the Jordan River. Jesus’ temptations mirrors our own daily temptations and also identifies two of the greatest challenges we face in the spiritual life: our bodily challenges and the challenges presented by the world.

Jesus’ and our first temptation, almost always starts with struggles surrounding the body. This temptation, symbolized by turning stones to bread, reflects the challenges we face as natural beings having physical bodies with needs to eat, sleep, touch, love and be in relationship with others, etc. Common struggles rooted in our physical bodies include not only the physical challenge to work and acquire the necessary resources for basic living, but also the moral challenges regarding how we choose to address and fulfill these needs – doing so in morally acceptable ways or not.

This first “test” and “temptation” reflects the initial stage of our prayer lives, when the spiritual journey seems to be comprised primarily of fighting: fighting to eliminate our sinful habits, to accept ourselves as sinners needing God, to build various virtues and to construct a holy character, to be in God’s presence and to develop a prayer life, etc. In this stage of the journey, the spiritual struggle is often felt in one’s very body, as the person now seeks to fast and deny themselves from past illicit sensual pleasures, etc.

Jesus’ second test, where he is tempted to throw himself down from the top of the temple allowing his angels to save him, is a test of the world.   This test reflects the second stage of the prayer life and spiritual journey. Whereas in the first stage of prayer, it seemed as if one was fighting with and in one’s body to break free of past worldly pleasures, practices and lifestyles that enslaved it, in the second stage one finds the fight has now shifted from within their body to against the world.   Now, after experiencing a measure of success in disciplining one’s self for the spiritual life, Satan parades in front of the pilgrim all that he or she has apparently chosen to give up: power, money and wealth, notoriety, being celebrated, etc. In this test, the invitation is for the person to finally, by grace, to abandon all the various worldly rewards and to seek God alone as their sole prize.

As we enter into Lent this year, seek to better understand how the evil one plans on tempting and attacking you this Lent. By understanding the how and why of the evil one’s attacks, you can better prepare to persevere and ‘fight the good fight’ this Lent.  Armed with better preparation and knowledge, our faith is strengthened and we can now stand on the hope that real changes are in store for us the Lent!!!

This Lent, be prepared for and expect the bodily suffering that accompanies the Lenten journey of fasting and prayer. This Lent, be prepared for and expect to be misunderstood and questioned by the world as you retreat from it to your inner garden to prayerfully be with God this Lent. Expect these crosses and more, as you follow Christ to Calvary this Lent. May God’s Holy Spirit lead and guide you through this Lenten Season!

Examining How God Teaches Us His Way in Prayer

 

Year A Cycle 1   Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Responsorial Psalm

PS 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

  1. (11ab) Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

 

The responsorial psalm for today’s readings gives us much hope as we begin our Lenten journey.

Teach me your way” reveals that God’s desire for us is to learn about and to grow in holiness, for God’s ways are always holy. This is what the Lenten journey is all about: growing in and living more like God – living a holier life. If God’s way is holy, then perhaps the most Gospel grounded way of expressing what holiness is in relationship and action, is that God’s way is the Way of Love. Choosing a common challenge for all, lets briefly examine how God teaches us His way and then, how it then leads or causes us to walk in God’s truth – Way of Love, via prayer…

Let’s say one’s goal for Lent is to learn how to speak and communicate more fully in God’s way – to communicate in a holier and more loving manner with others – how can one achieve such a lofty goal? Because one must certainly start with and turn to God for assistance in this matter, the the common Lenten invitation to spend more time in prayer can be applied to this goal. Why prayer? What does focusing on prayer and developing a prayer life have to do with my interpersonal communications with others?

Well, as one struggles to consistently pray and dialogue with God daily, one comes to know intimately, be led by and bathed in God’s Loving Spirit. In the midst of the struggle to pray throughout the day, God slowly teaches the soul His way about what holy communication really is! In that struggle, one comes to know very intimately the God of Love Who saves.

Bathed in that Love through the daily struggle to pray, over time the person is slowly transformed from inside out as old attitudes, perspectives and visions are gradually transformed and, by grace, are replaced with those of God. Somehow, by secretly strugglin’ seek Christ’s Light through prayer daily and integrate prayer into our day, all other relationships and communications become cast in that same Light of Christ and are seen anew.  New Gospel attitudes, perspectives and visions begin to emerge in one’s heart, which  spark with new hope, faith and loving response to the “same old situations and people” making up our lives.

As one’s prayer time monologues are slowly replaced with periods of listening to and dialoguing with God in prayer, one comes to know more clearly how God really communicates with all Creation… Seeing the importance of quietness and stillness in order to truly hear God, by grace, the person begins to cultivate these virtues in their life.   Increasingly bathed in the history of God’s Loving Responses, by grace and out of love, the person begins to imitate God’s quiet, gentle and loving way of expression with others

I suspect this is one major spiritual reason why many older people who have walked decades with God in prayer, are so respectful and kind to others: God has modeled it on the spiritual journey!

Through our prayerful struggle to know and communicate with the God of Love, we learn to love as we are loved, and are transformed by that Love into a saint – a holy reflection of God’s Love – who then spread the Love in community with others!

Communicating in God’s way can mean a lot of different things at many different times: from respectfully being silent to lovingly speaking the truth, from lovingly correcting a friend to pausing to thank or commend that same friend for being a blessing… or just being prayerfully present by another’s side in a time of crisis…   …these are all examples of God’s Loving way of communicating with others that we are called to imitate and live out this Lent….

Our Strugglin’Catholic.com Lenten Challenge going into this first Sunday of Lent is the following: Can you take whatever Lenten sacrifice you have chosen for this year and express it in terms of the Psalm? What are you asking God to teach you how to do in a holy manner this Lent? How and what would you like to walk more in God’s truth about?

By walking, talking and being closer to God in prayer this Lent, may the Holy Spirit teach each that unique lesson needed for right now in our journeys, that we may grow in holiness and walk more fully in God’s truth.