Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Thoughts on reaching God

Approaching God in Prayer


I must always remember that I can no more approach God than an infant can approach its mother. When that baby sees its mother several feet away, he tries to reach her by stretching out his tiny arms toward her. But it is Mom who goes the distance and makes the connection. In the same way, my human capacity to reach across the great divide between the finite and the infinite is eternally inadequate. But from God’s perspective, the gap doesn’t exist at all. Like a loving mother, our God is ever present. Because of his mother’s faithfulness, the child of the loving mother soon becomes convinced that his reach is sufficient, and in a way he’s right, isn’t he? In the same way, all I need to do in order to reach God is to reach for God. I should do myself a favor and memorize this line: To reach for God is to reach God. I will have to remind myself of this whenever I feel tempted to believe that God will only come to me if I find the magic book, say the magic formula and become the perfect pray-er. I should trust that God is present to me any time I stretch out my feeble little spiritual arms
—from the book Armchair Mystic: How Contemplative Prayer Can Lead You Closer to God by Mark Thibodeaux, SJ

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thoughts on peace

Claim Your Peace
I really wish you an ever deeper peace. I know that that peace quite often lives underneath the turmoils and anxieties of our heart and doesn’t always mean inner harmony or emotional tranquility. That peace that God gives us quite often is beyond our thoughts and feelings, and we have to really trust that peace is there for us to claim even in the midst of our moments of despair.
Henri Nouwen

Monday, July 29, 2019

Thoughts on the Spirit

Can We Recognize His Presence?
The world in which we live today and about whose suffering we know so much seems more than ever a world from which Christ has withdrawn himself. How can I believe that in this world we are constantly being prepared to receive the Spirit? Still, I think that this is exactly the message of hope. God has not withdrawn himself. He sent his Son to share our human condition and the Son sent us his Spirit to lead us into the intimacy of his divine life. It is in the midst of the chaotic suffering of humanity that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, makes himself visible. But can we recognize his presence?
Henri Nouwen

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Thoughts on unity

The Divine Gift of Unity
Jesus prays for unity among his disciples and among those who through the teaching of his disciples will come to believe in him. He says: “May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I in you . . .” (John 17:21).

These words of Jesus reveal the mystery that unity among people is not first of all the result of human effort, but rather a divine gift. Unity among people is a reflection of the unity of God. The desire for unity is deep and strong among people. It is a desire between friends, between married people, between communities, and between countries. Wherever there is a true experience of unity, there is a sense of giftedness. While unity satisfies our deepest need, it cannot be explained by what we say or do. There exists no formula for unity.

When Jesus prays for unity, he asks his Father that those who believe in him, that is, in his full communion with the Father, will become part of that unity. I continue to see in myself and others how often we try to make unity among ourselves by focusing all our attention on each other and trying to find the place where we can feel united. But often we become disillusioned, realizing that no human being is capable of offering us what we most want. Such disillusionment can easily make us become bitter, cynical, demanding, even violent.

Jesus calls us to seek our unity in and through him. When we direct our inner attention not first of all to each other, but to God to whom we belong, then we will discover that in God we also belong to each other.
Henri Nouwen

Friday, July 26, 2019

Thoughts on the parable of the sower

Matthew 13:18-23

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus explains the parable of the sower. Let’s study each part of his explanation.

The seed sown on the path is “the one who hears the word without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown.” This means we might end up blocked from God because we lack education in the ways of the Spirit.

The seed sown on rocky ground is the one
who receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time.” When difficulties and persecutions arrive, he loses confidence.

“The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” Some people hear the word, but then they are unable to maintain their focus and sense of prioritization.

So from these sad cases we can construe the nature of good soil. When we understand the faith, when we take the time to read theology, to study the Scriptures; when we persevere, discipline ourselves, and practice the faith; when we have our priorities straight; then the seed will take root in us. And it will bear fruit thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold.

Bishop Robert Barron

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Thoughts on service

In Service We Encounter God
Radical servanthood does not make sense unless we introduce a new level of understanding and see it as the way to encounter God. To be humble and persecuted cannot be desired unless we can find God in humility and persecution. When we begin to see God, the source of all our comfort and consolation, in the center of servanthood, compassion becomes much more than doing good for unfortunate people. Radical servanthood, as the encounter with the compassionate God, takes us beyond the distinctions between wealth and poverty, success and failure, fortune and bad luck. Radical servanthood is not an enterprise in which we try to surround ourselves with as much misery as possible, but a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood. The poor are called blessed not because poverty is good, but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven; the mourners are called blessed not because mourning is good, but because they shall be comforted.

Here we are touching the profound spiritual truth that service is an expression of the search for God and not just of the desire to bring about individual or social change.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thoughts on God

God Is Perfect Love
Often we use the word God. This word can suggest something fascinating as well as horrible, attractive as well as repelling, seductive as well as dangerous, all-absorbing as well as nourishing. It is like the sun. Without the sun, there can be no life, but if we come too close to it, we are burned. The Christian, however, believes that God is no “something,” but rather a person who is Love perfect Love. The Christian knows it is possible to enter into dialogue with this loving God and so work at renewing the earth. Praying, therefore, is the most critical activity we are capable of, for when we pray, we are never satisfied with the world of the here and now and are constantly striving to realize the new world, the first glimmers of which we have already seen.
Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Thoughts on weakness

If the God who became one of us saw the necessity of accepting weakness and suffering in order to be fully human, doesn’t that tell us something about what we’re meant to do? It’s easy to accept this intellectually, but hard to live it. We’d much rather find a way to live the spiritual life while keeping the scary parts of our past locked away. For many of us, acknowledging and accepting all of our past may be one of the hardest things we ever do, especially if we have things buried so deep that they are not immediately within reach. But the insights of psychology, the experience of Jesus and the saints, and the stories of the Bible seem to suggest that this is a necessary step. Indeed, I don’t believe that it’s possible to advance in the spiritual life without it. If we truly desire to know what the God who loves us desires for our lives, we not only need to pray, but we also need to be able to look at the entire story of our lives.

—from the book Already There: Letting God Find You, by Mark Mossa, SJ

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Thoughts on our Church mission

Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Friends, our Gospel today, taken from the magnificent tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, is a portrait of the Church. It shows us what Jesus wants his followers to be doing and how to do it. Listen to how the passage begins: "The Lord appointed a further seventy-two and sent them in pairs before him to every town and place he intended to visit."

We are a missionary Church. We are sent by the Lord to spread his word and do his work. The Christian Gospel is just not something that we are meant to cling to for our own benefit. Rather, it is like seed that we are meant to give away.

He sends them two by two. We do this work together, with others, in community. Ministers need people to support them, pray for them, talk to them, challenge them. Francis has an experience of God and then, within months, gathers people around him; Dominic, from the beginning, has brothers in his work; Mother Teresa attracted a number of her former students to join her in her mission. We don’t go it alone.

Bishop Robert Barron

Friday, July 5, 2019

Thoughts on nature

Nature is a Gift
In recent decades we have become particularly aware of the crucial importance of our relationship with nature. As long as we relate to the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the fields, and the oceans as properties to be manipulated by us according to our real or fabricated needs, nature remains opaque and does not reveal to us its true being. When we relate to a tree as nothing more than a potential chair, it cannot speak much to us about growth. When a river is only a dumping place for our industrial wastes, it no longer informs us about movement. And when we relate to a flower as nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, the flower loses its power to reveal to us the simple beauty of life. When we relate to nature primarily as property to be used, it becomes opaque, and this opaqueness is manifested in our society as pollution. The dirty rivers, the smog-filled skies, the strip-mined hills, and the ravaged woods are sad signs of our false relationship with nature.

Our difficult and very urgent task is to accept the truth that nature is not primarily a property to be possessed, but a gift to be received with admiration and gratitude. Only when we make a deep bow to the rivers, oceans, hills, and mountains that offer us a home, only then can they become transparent and reveal to us their real meaning.
Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Thoughts on doubt

We, like the apostle Thomas, have doubts from time to time. We are challenged to examine our faith with use of our reason and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Just as Thomas found faith and confessed it with the now famous words, “My Lord and my God,” as a result of his personal encounter with the Risen One, so do we strengthen our faith and deal with our doubts each time we encounter him.

–from the book Meeting God in the Upper Room by Monsignor Peter Vaghi

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Thoughts on the de profundis prayer

Matthew 8:23-27

During the storm, Jesus’ disciples cried out to the Lord in desperation: "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" This is a de profundis prayer. Do you know the de profundis prayer? It comes from Psalm 130: "Out of the depths, I have cried to you, O Lord. O Lord, be attentive to the voice of my pleading." It is the prayer offered at the darkest times of life, when we feel utterly incapable of helping ourselves.

Perhaps there are some people reading this right now who feel themselves in this precise situation. Perhaps you’re reading these words from your hospital bed where you are recovering painfully from surgery, or where you’ve just received some devastating news. Perhaps you find yourself caught in a terrible, unrelenting depression. Maybe you’ve just lost a loved one, and you’re awash in a sea of grief.

If that’s you, then pray as the disciples did. Awaken someone who can help. Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm is a very powerful symbol of God’s sovereignty over even the darkest and most difficult trials that life throws at us.

Bishop Robert Barron

Monday, July 1, 2019

Thoughts on gratitude

Gratitude is a Quality of the Heart
Gratitude is the awareness that life in all its manifestations is a gift for which we want to give thanks. The closer we come to God in prayer, the more we become aware of the abundance of God’s gifts to us. We may even discover the presence of these gifts in the midst of our pains and sorrows. The mystery of the spiritual life is that many of the events, people, and situations that for a long time seemed to inhibit our way to God become ways of being united more deeply with him. What seemed a hindrance proves to be a gift. Thus gratitude becomes a quality of our hearts that allows us to live joyfully and peacefully even though our struggles continue.
Henri Nouwen