Monday, August 31, 2020

Thoughts on Vincent van Gogh

 Dear Lord,

Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life, by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. . . . O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.


Henri Nouwen

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Thoughts on uncertainty

 “Be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty.”

James 5:8 (PHILLIPS)

We’re living in strange and uncertain times. We don’t know what’s happening in the world. We get conflicting information from every source. We don’t know how long this coronavirus is going to continue spreading. We’re not sure how to make wise decisions without all the information we need.

When so many things are uncertain, we can remain certain of this one truth: God is in control.

“Brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord comes again. See how farmers wait for their precious crops to grow. They wait patiently for fall and spring rains. You, too, must be patient. Don’t give up hope. The Lord will soon be here. Brothers and sisters, stop complaining about each other, or you will be condemned. Realize that the judge is standing at the door” (James 5:7-9 GW).

Why does James remind us several times in this passage that the Lord is coming back? Because it’s the ultimate proof that God is in control.

History is God’s story. It’s not circular. There is no circle of life. History is linear, and it’s moving to a climax. God has a plan. God has a purpose. And one day Jesus is going to return. Everything is on schedule. We don’t know when he’s coming back, but the Bible talks more about Jesus’ second coming than it does about his first coming. That means it should change how we live our lives every day. We should be living with great expectation!

Although the situation may seem out of control and what you’re going through may be painful, nothing is beyond God’s control. Be patient. God’s timing is perfect. He’s never late. He is in control.

The J.B. Phillips translation of James 5:8 says, “Be patient, resting your hearts on the ultimate certainty.”

What’s the ultimate certainty? Jesus is going to come back one day. Nothing’s going to stop that.

Knowing that history is under God’s control and that Jesus has promised to return should give us all the confidence we need in uncertain times. When you feel like you can’t count on anything else, count on this: God’s got this. And Jesus will come back one day soon to make all things right and new.

Rick Warren

Friday, August 28, 2020

Thoughts on grace

 The Costly Grace of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship is a Christian classic by the German "martyr" to the sin of racism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The book centers around an exposition of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, in which Bonhoeffer spells out what he believes it means to follow Christ. It was first published in 1937, when the rise of the Nazi regime was underway in Germany. Against this background Bonhoeffer developed a spirituality of costly discipleship, which ultimately led to his execution in a concentration camp because he opposed the racist Nazi regime. As he went to his death in 1945 Bonhoeffer wrote: "This is the end-for me the beginning of life."
A central element of this book is the contrast Bonhoeffer makes between "cheap" grace and "costly" grace. In his words: "cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
Costly grace contrasts with cheap grace confronting us as "a gracious call to follow Jesus, coming as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels one to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
In Sunday's gospel (Mt 16:21-27) Jesus invites us to grow in costly discipleship with these words: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny self, take up one's cross and follow me." The grace-filled school of prayer and discernment we offer freely in the Spiritual Exercises at White House invite us to grow in the fulfillment of Jesus's promise: "if you lose your life for my sake, and for the gospel, you'll find it," and that means abundant riches flourishing out of costly discipleship. For all of us, isn't this the end-the beginning of life?

-Fr. Ted Arroyo, SJ

Monday, August 24, 2020

Thoughts on a contained life


Choose a Contained Life
I know how great a temptation it is in times of anguish and agony to look away from our painful center and expect peace and a sense of inner wholeness to come from some external source. But I am increasingly convinced that, at times of anguish and agony, we have to choose a contained life where we can be in the presence of people who hold us safe and bring us in touch with the unconditional affective love of God. Do not get involved in experiences of living that will lead to dissipation. What is so important is to have a deep sense of inner safety, of being held by a love that is in no way using you, manipulating you, or “needing” you.

Henri Nouwen    

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Thoughts on poverty


Poverty is a Quality of the Heart
Poverty is the quality of the heart that makes us relate to life, not as a property to be defended but as a gift to be shared. Poverty is the constant willingness to say good-bye to yesterday and move forward to new, unknown experiences. Poverty is the inner understanding that the hours, days, weeks, and years do not belong to us but are the gentle reminders of our call to give, not only love and work, but life itself, to those who follow us and will take our place. He or she who cares is invited to be poor, to strip himself or herself from the illusions of ownership, and to create some room for the person looking for a place to rest. The paradox of care is that poverty makes a good host. When our hands, heads, and hearts are filled with worries, concerns, and preoccupations, there can hardly be any place left for the stranger to feel at home.

Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Thoughts on the present moment

 In letters written in 1740, Jean-Pierre de Caussade (ordained member of the Society of Jesus) wrote about the sacrament of the present moment. We are invited to choose to live each day as a sacrament (as a gift), enabling us to see, to hear, to taste, and to touch grace—the goodness of God’s presence in our world. We need to bring this sacrament back and allow it to be front and center in our lives. I’m pretty sure that St. Francis would agree. Franciscan spirituality is an incarnational earthy spirituality. Put simply: God is close, never far away.

—from the book This Is the Life: Mindfulness, Finding Grace, and the Power of the Present Moment by Terry Hershey

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

Thoughts on compassion


Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

Henri Nouwen

Friday, August 7, 2020

Thoughts on fruitfulness


We Are Called To Be Fruitful
You have to be really aware of the difference between fruitfulness and success because the world is always talking to you about your success. Society keeps asking you: “Show me your trophies. Show me, how many books have you written? Show me, how many games did you win? Show me, how much money did you make? Show me. . . .” And there is nothing wrong with any of that. I am saying that finally that’s not the question. The question is: “Are you going to bear fruit?” And the amazing thing is that our fruitfulness comes out of our vulnerability and not just out of our power. Actually it comes out of our powerlessness. If the ground wants to be fruitful, you have to break it open a little bit. The hard ground cannot bear fruit; it has to be raked open. And the mystery is that our illness and our weakness and our many ways of dying are often the ways that we get in touch with our vulnerabilities. You and I have to trust that they will allow us to be more fruitful if lived faithfully. Precisely where we are weakest and often most broken and most needy, precisely there can be the ground of our fruitfulness. That is the vision that means that death can indeed be the final healing—because it becomes the way to be so vulnerable that we can bear fruit in a whole new way. Like trees that die and become fuel, and like leaves that die and become fertilizer, in nature something new comes out from death all the time. So you have to realize that you are part of that beautiful process, that your death is not the end but in fact it is the source of your fruitfulness beyond you in new generations, in new centuries.

Henri Nouwen

Thoughts on leisure

 We tend to think that the opposite of work is leisure. Leisure is not the opposite of work; play is the opposite of work, if you have to have a polarity like that. And leisure is precisely the bridging of this gap between the two. Leisure is precisely doing your work with the attitude of play. That means putting into your work what is most important about playing, namely, that you do it for its own sake and not only to accomplish a particular purpose. And that means that you have to give it time. Leisure is not a privilege for those who can take time for leisure. Leisure is a virtue. It is the virtue of those who give time to whatever takes time, and give as much time as it deserves, and so work leisurely and find meaning in their work and come fully alive. If we have a strict work mentality we are only half alive.

—from the book The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life by Brother David Steindl-Rast

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Thoughts on community

Among the proper lessons of culture is that we remind ourselves of our limits, of our need for community, of our ignorance and the tragic realities of living in such ignorance—lessons, in other words, that help us remember that we are creatures. It is through such recollection, being gathered back to ourselves from the diffuse ambitions that draw us away from our roots, that we are able to begin to heal the damage done to the world and ourselves. “The task of healing,” writes Wendell Berry, “is to respect oneself as a creature, no more and no less.” Humility, by helping to return us to the integrity of our humanity, which involves an acceptance of our particularly human creatureliness, also helps to make our lives more coherent, more integrated. “The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature,” writes Berry, “the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” It is by humility then that we join the membership of creation in acceptance that we are a part of the world rather than an individual struggling against it. There is grace and community for us, if only we would accept the gift of our givenness.

—from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield