Thanks Every Day

November 15th, 2016 Posted in writing | 1 Comment »

Every November we celebrate Thanksgiving when, if we are lucky, we can gather with family and friends to count our blessings and share a meal. But being grateful isn’t something just for one day out of the year. It should be our attitude on the other 364 days as well.

St. Paul urged his communities to be filled with gratitude. He taught that thanksgiving should mark all our requests to God. He wrote, “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians, chapter 4), as if every “please” should begin with “thank you.” It means that we are not only grateful for the good we been given but that we can look forward to a blessing in whatever comes.

That is easy to do, of course, when we receive something we truly desire and the goodness of which is apparent. It is more difficult when difficult and painful things happen. Are we expected to be grateful then? Perhaps that’s not possible; but we can leave open the hope that when bad things come, God will be present to help us bear the pain and suffering. Our faith assures us this is true (read the end of chapter 8 of the letter to the Romans) and for that we can indeed give thanks.

Yes, Thanksgiving is certainly a time to remember our many obvious blessings but can also be a time to affirm that even bad times cannot keep God away. So this year, and every day of the year, Happy Thanksgiving!

A Simple Thought about Inner Peace

September 16th, 2016 Posted in writing | No Comments »

Though plenty of things these days can cause us to be upset and fearful, the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians ask us to “ let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts” (Colossians, chapter three). Notice that Paul doesn’t say we have to create this peace on our own. Instead, he tells us to let Christ’s peace reign.

We do this when we open the doors of our hearts to accept the bedrock conviction of our faith, namely, that God loves us completely and entirely and that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8). When we do this, we find that Christ’s peace is the antidote for worried minds and disturbed souls.

So, though the world may provide us a diet of bad news about things that can worry and upset us, Christ’s peace can still reign in our hearts and minds if we ask the Holy Spirit to help us remember the profound truth about God’s abiding love and accept that truth into our lives.

Measuring Trust

July 17th, 2016 Posted in writing | No Comments »

We print “In God We Trust” on our paper money and inscribe it on our coins. But if we wish to have a genuine measure of how deep our trust in God is, we should look at who and what we entrust to God.

Opportunities to entrust people and things to God come in many circumstances and on many occasions. We entrust our children to God at their baptism and continue to pray for their safety each day. When we discover our most important loves, relationships and dreams we can place these, too, into God’s hands. When we gather as a community for the funeral of someone we have loved, then along with our grieving, we try to entrust them to the love and care of the One who created them. Finally, we can entrust ourselves into God’s care like Jesus, who said on the cross, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit.”

So, the measure of our trust in God is not what we put on our money but our willingness, with God’s grace, to entrust ourselves, our loves and our hopes to the God who promises to protect and watch over them, and us, forever.

It would be wonderful if we could do this all at once and with ease. But the truth is that we have a difficult time learning to put people or things into God’s hands. We persuade ourselves that we’re powerful enough or smart enough or talented enough to protect what we love without God’s help. Or we may think that if we put our loves into God’s care then we should no longer feel love and attachment to them. But that’s a mistake, for entrusting them to God is in itself an act of love for them and brings them closer to us and us to them.

Sometime this week, ask yourself, “Who or what have I entrusted to God? Who or what do I presently need to entrust to him?”

From Garden to City

May 24th, 2016 Posted in writing | No Comments »

Aristotle said that human beings are, by nature, “political” animals. The term comes from the Greek word “polis,” which means “city,” so he was really saying that we human beings are city-makers and city-dwellers, who spontaneously come together to share our lives with each other, living not as isolated individuals or members of tiny kinship groups, but in communities that go beyond the individual and the family.

In the Bible, the story of the human race begins with a single individual, then two, then their offspring. But though Genesis locates the start of our history in a garden (Eden), the Book of Revelation says it will end in a city (the new Jerusalem). It will descend from Heaven already prepared for us, a city of massive proportions and perfect symmetry, built on twelve foundation stones and having twelve gates. In that place, God will live with us and we with him and with each other for all time. God himself will be the light of the city; it will not depend on the sun or moon for light, for God will be the source of never-ending day in this city of perfect beauty.

And though it will not be a city we can claim to have built by ourselves, we may presume that our good desires, our love for others and for God, our sacrifices and our deeds of justice and mercy will provide material out of which God can build and adorn that new Jerusalem.

In our time, when there is so much division, mistrust, hatred, and demonizing of others, it’s heartening to remember that we have a city waiting for us where our deep, God-given desires to be connected with others will, finally, come to full reality. We and God will live together there forever, and the love we have shown and the good we have done will enrich and beautify it.

God’s Three Voices

April 25th, 2016 Posted in writing | No Comments »

Last week I overheard a mother at a grocery store speak to her little girl who was talking loudly, “Audrey, let’s use our indoor voices, ok?” Audrey got the message and lowered the volume.

Children learn they have both indoor and outdoor voices and parents generally tell them which ones they should use in a given situation. In a recent reading at Mass Jesus said that his sheep would listen to his voice and follow him. Does God, then, also have an outdoor voice and an indoor one?

If God does, then I guess that God’s outdoor voice would probably be the whole of Creation: the stars, the planets, the laws of physics and chemistry, the movement of oceans and continents, and all the intricate, fundamental things too marvelous and too important to ignore.

God’s indoor voice might be the one he uses when he speaks to our consciences, when he engages our sensitivities to others and our desires to do good, or when we see something beautiful or meet a friend we haven’t seen for awhile. These can all be God’s indoor voice.

But there remains a third voice that God can use, the one Elijah heard as he stood at the opening of his cave and heard God speaking in the tiny sound of the breeze. God uses that voice to speak quiet words of forgiveness, acceptance, love, trust and encouragement. The Father used it when he told Jesus, “You are my Beloved and I am pleased with you.”

There are those who’ve never been able to hear the voice of God, know where it comes from or discover what it means. But if we do hear God’s voice and recognize it as God’s, then whatever voice God uses, we can not only be grateful to hear it, but listen for the invitation to come closer to the One who is speaking.