Life after Epiphany


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Taking all things and rendering them unto Christ… thank you to all who make cyberspace a place where the Lord can work in us!

I found out last night that my grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer, and that due to her heart condition, her pacemaker and the advanced state of some other health complications, the usual avenues of treatment were possibly not open to her.

I tweeted a very simple prayer request.

Less than 2 minutes later I had an overwhelming number of responses and retweets popping up from not just the people who follow me, but from people who follow people who follow me, people I have no connection with whatsoever.

I was just overwhelmed at the Body of Christ in action even in cyberspace.

Electronic communities can never replace good, in-person human relationships. But where electronic connections DO exist, it is a beautiful thing to see that they are being used to further the Kingdom. We hear a lot about cyber-bulling and other negatives. I thought it was heart-warming to see that much good can also be achieved in an online setting.

Blessed be God! And thank you to all who pray for my grandmother. I ask that the Lord bless you even as He blesses her.

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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 4)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love this past week:

  • a difficult but fruitful conversation with my Dad
  • in a productive and reassuring meeting with my PhD supervisor
  • in the enjoyment of a beautiful view of the harbour one clear, sunny morning during the drive into work
  • in a renewed appreciation of God’s mercy to me
  • in receiving reassurance about my the positive state of my Dad’s health
  • in the arrival of another Mother’s Day where both of my grandmothers as well as my mother are all alive and around; I am so thankful for these beautiful women in my life!

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 3)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love this past week:

  • in the Father’s Providential gift of a new job
  • in time with my beautiful niece an nephews over the Easter Octave
  • in some beautiful, prayerful Masses throughout the Easter Octave
  • in the reception of Communion AFTER Mass one day last week when I had been unable to partake during the Mass due to having missed observing the 1 hour fast by about 10 minutes – Blessed be God in the gift of the generous priest who stayed back to ensure I could still receive our Lord!
  • in some wonderful quality time on Skype with a dear friend who lives on the other side of the world 🙂
  • in the terrifyingly beautiful sky yesterday afternoon during the strangest storm I’ve ever seen. Made for extremely dangerous driving conditions, during which the Lord kept me safe
  • in some financial relief from an anonymous benefactor as I settle back into lay life; she requested that her gift of money in an envelope be delivered to me with the message “its from Our Lady” – what a beautiful person this benefactor must be, and what a relationship with the Lord and His Mother she must have!
  • in a timely and inspiring homily
  • in a good amount of quiet to counter-balance the time spent with people over Easter

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?


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Thomas of Surry Hills – the blind taxi driver who discovered love

lovepoursitselfoutThere was a doubting Thomas living in Surry Hills, Sydney. He was a sworn enemy of the Christians in his community and determined to sabotage whatever he could of their activities that in anyway moved beyond the confines of the building in which they worshipped. Any initiative of theirs that involved public spaces or common property? He made it his mission to campaign against it.

This particular gentleman – and we’ll call him Thomas in honour of today’s Gospel, was in the process of bringing a lawsuit against the local Baptist church in his area when he discovered that due to serious illness, he was going to rapidly lose the use of his eyes. He was a taxi-driver by trade and this meant the loss of his livelihood.

One of his neighbours, a member of the very Baptist church on the other end of Thomas’ legal action, learned of his condition and began a huge fundraising campaign to raise the money for surgery that could salvage his sight. He was a little taken aback, of course, but refused the money and opted  against the surgery. Love never takes offense, and neither did the Baptist community. They simply asked if there was anything they COULD do for him.

He responded that since he had lost his livelihood, he would appreciate a little help with his household expenses. Expecting occasional cheques of $10 or $20 here or there, you can imagine how stunned he was at regular cheques of $400 or more – substantial living assistance. This constituted a very real sacrifice on behalf of the community providing the money… this all took place during the worst of the global financial crisis; yet nothing was asked or expected in return. Thomas had never encountered such unconditional, sacrificing love and it began to change him. He began to learn what real love was. His atheistic objections to Christianity slowly weakened and disappeared.

In 2012 he became a Christian and joined the community that treated him like a brother, before he had even realized that he was!

What a beautiful example of love our non-Catholic brothers and sisters have set for us here in authentic love that pours itself out for another. When Our Lord showed His wounds to Thomas, He was showing the badges of authentic love that pours itself out. It was this love that enabled Thomas then to see.

Fr. J shared this little anecdote as one component of a multi-pronged homily today for Divine Mercy Sunday, Low Sunday in the Easter Octave. Fr. J, if you ever see this – thank you! You were ON FIRE today 🙂

And thank you for the reminder regarding the formula for the Act of Contrition during the sacrament of Confession. It was SO GOOD to see so many lining up for confession today!! God is so good, He is working wonders in the hearts of ordinary people all over our diocese – what a privilege to see that work in action today! We all need His Mercy – the love that pours itself out.


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“Salvation” … a song I wrote about the hope that the Resurrection gives me

Many years ago I was in an awkward situation. It was Easter Sunday and I hadn’t been to confession in a long time. I had been struggling in faith and in life for a little while and here I was at Easter Mass thinking I’d have to miss out on receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist.

My parish was one of those parishes where we were blessed to have more than one priest. As I stood for the Gloria I saw out the side door of the Church one of the other priests of our Parish walking across the carpark to the Parish Office. Amazed at how Providence works, I ran outside and asked him to hear my confession. He heard it on the spot and I returned to Mass before they even got to the Second Reading!!

I was on fire with joy and gratitude at the forgiveness I had received! I could participate fully and receive Our Lord! As I listened to the priest’s homily on Salvation History, ideas started forming. Later that Easter day I wrote a song. Here are the lyrics:

SALVATION

Surely if You could free the Israelites from Egypt, You  free me
from the things that tie me down – the things that keep me far from You
Surely if You could make the world anew after the flood, You could
create a new heart in me – a heart more capable of loving You

Your Resurrection gives me hope
in the power You have to change my life! 
Roll the stone away and pour Your mercy out to heal the world!
Salvation History points to the mystery of how 
You gave Your people life

A man who conquered death: my King, my Saviour
You paid off my debt
Emptied Yourself that I be given life
There had to be a reason why

(Refrain x2 with melodic variation second time)

Surely if You could free the Israelites from Egypt, You could free me…

The hope that I realized that day really helped me to face some of the things in my life that were keeping me from God. He truly DID free me. From time to time I sing it and play it on the guitar to remember and to praise Him for what He did for me. One day I might make a recording of it.


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subverting shame – a symbol of love

goodFridayVenerationCross

Crucifix laid out for Good Friday veneration.

 Shame is a lie.

Likewise, discouragement is a device of the evil one and must be seen for the deception it is.

Shame is our instinctive response to an internal acknowledgement of inadequacy or wrongdoing. Discouragement is a response to an awareness of shame. A spiral of lies.

Before Jesus shouldered our sin upon Himself and died to reconcile the world to Himself, the cross was the instrument of the most shameful death in society. Crucifixion was the execution of choice for criminals and agitators; there was nothing dignified nor heroic about it.

Setting humanity straight in more ways than one, Jesus subverts everything we think we know about the world. The Cross had no power over the Creator of its makers, nor the nails over the Lord of the man who hammered them into place.

A friend of mine wrote a wonderful song, a reflection on this very point. Her song was called “Not by Nails” and it speaks of the Love which held Our Saviour to the Cross. God is love, and Jesus is God. Jesus was physically nailed to the Cross but it was Jesus’ own choice to be bound by that physical reality. Love and obedience carried the day. Jesus did the Will of His Father out of such a pure, personal, particular and preferential love for you, for me, for each individual that ever has or ever will live that we can’t even begin to fathom it.

Horror is juxtaposed with beauty. That Holy Face which was Transfigured has, for a time, become disfigured. (Pope John Paul II writes eloquently on this reality in Vita Consecrata.)

As a child, I understood on some level my complicity in Christ’s death, but rather than solemnly contemplate in silent gratitude the gift of our salvation and the means by which it was wrought, I used to get very upset about the brutal way in which Jesus was executed. It took some time before I started to learn that love was more than a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is the choice symbolized by the Cross.

Before Jesus died for us, shame was the only appropriate response to sinfulness and inadequacy. In dying, Christ won for us the freedom to choose between  continuing to dwell in that shame, or a radically different response: love… and the trust and the gratitude that go along with it. I no longer look to myself and my weakness. Yes – my weakness is there… but I’m not scandalized, I’m not ashamed. No… I no longer look to myself. I have Christ ahead of me and I choose to look to Him, to He who is Love.


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turn on the ignition!

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A lot of us are sitting in the driveway in beautiful cars, tanks full of gas, oil in the crankshaft, fluid in the radiator… and we’re sitting there saying “I wish I could go places!”

Turn on the ignition!

Listening to a talk on “Fanning the Flame of Faith” by Alex Jones, I was struck by this remark that he made. How impotent we make ourselves!!

We are so blessed in the Catholic Church to have all we need. We have the Truth, revealed to us in the twofold deposit of faith in both Scripture and Tradition. We have the Sacraments. We have the Saints to show us how the Lord can be followed in every circumstance. We have the Blessed Mother to intercede for us to her Son. We have the Blessed Trinity dwelling within us by virtue of our Baptism… but none of us can benefit from these things or help others to benefit from them if we don’t turn on the ignition!

What is the ignition?

Well.. next time you hear one of our Protestant brothers or sisters talking about a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, DO NOT ROLL YOUR EYES and assume that this is buzz-word rhetoric. Our brothers and sisters in other denominations of Christianity differ with us in some very crucial ways, but on this point they are 100% correct.

You and I – each one of us – needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The ENCOUNTER with Christ is the spark that is ignited when the starter engine turns. The starter engine is the movement of Actual Grace – the Holy Spirit at work. Turning on the ignition, then, is surely represented in the action of begging the Lord for receptivity to grace.

The Mother General of the Community to which I used to belong once said to me that the first task of the New Evangelization is RECEPTIVITY TO GRACE. As a religious Novice, cloistered away from what one would generally consider the “mission field” of the New Evangelization, this made a profound impact on me. We need to RECEIVE from the Lord so that we can give to others. We have nothing, NOTHING, without Him. He asks us to give generously, but He first gives that we may then give to others! The life of a Novice is prayer, domestic work and prayer, study and prayer, more prayer. That prayer is less a talkative prayer and more a listening prayer. That prayer is receptivity in action. As a Novice, I was uniquely placed in the privileged position of being able to contribute authentically to the apostolate of my Community by being receptive to grace.

I often think of St. Paul, and the years that passed between his conversion and the beginning of his missionary journeys. Paul needed to be formed and strengthened in the Lord. He needed to receive before He could give.

Now, the Lord has called me away from religious life, but not before teaching me why He called me to that life in the first place. He wanted to give me something precious. The cloistered environment on the other side of the world were precisely the lengths to which He went to enable me to receive the gift He wanted to give to me. Here, out in the world again, I need to concern myself with sharing this with others. Giving myself to others is limited in its usefulness, for I am nothing and He is all. No – I want to give CHRIST to others! Paul tells us “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”

Crucial lesson from this: the receptivity cannot stop! My time in cloister is behind me now. But to live a life of effective, authentic service to His People out of love for Him, even as a lay person, requires fidelity to prayer in that inner cell that my patroness, St. Catherine of Siena, teaches us all about. Every day I need to turn on that ignition again, I need to beg the Lord for receptivity to grace and then I need to spend time in prayer with Him, receiving Him that I may share Him with others.

We can really go places. The Lord wants to take us there! So turn on the ignition and see what wonders He works in you!


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Blessed John XXIII’s Decalogue

Having just moved house this weekend, I find myself in an area with about 3 different Catholic parishes almost equidistant from my new home. Two of the parishes are familiar to me so I thought I’d try the new one this past Sunday. Slipped into the parish bulletin was a document entitled “Decalogue for Daily Living.” It read:

Pope John XXIII wrote a Decalogue for Daily Living, his own commandments for daily life. They reflect his depth, his simplicity and his humility.

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance; I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticise anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself; I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils, hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, despite appearances, I will firmly believe that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in the world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Some of these sound like they might take a bit of practice to really be able to live them well! But that’s what a virtue is… an acquired habit, a firm disposition to do the good! These practices that Blessed John XXIII established for himself seem to me the kind of goals that, apart from the Lord, are frankly unachievable… but with the Lord? Such practices would surely result in a joyful, grateful person that truly reflects the love of Christ, and finds both his strength and his rest in Him. Way to be a signpost to the Kingdom, JXXIII!!


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feeling emotions vs. harboring bitterness

glowingCrucifixVarovilleThere are two major differences that I think are immediately observable between “feeling what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it” and “harboring bitterness”:

  1. Freedom
  2. Love

Feeling in its first instance is a passive act and is a morally neutral act. Essentially it involves the apprehension of some aspect of an external reality through the senses (whether external/physically or internal/emotionally.) Using a Thomistic benchmark, it does not yet even qualify as a “human act”; a non-rational being with a sensitive soul is capable of this act.

The human response to this initial sensation is where the will is first employed.

As far as I can see, in the case where someone causes a situation whereby the reality is apprehended and interpreted as emotional pain, a few things happen:

  • There is an awareness of the unpleasant sensation of pain.
  • Then there is an attempt to ascertain the cause of the pain… and the selection of an appropriate response.

Depending on the extent to which this causal chain is followed back, this is often where the wheels come off the cart. If the attempt stops at “person x did action y” then there is no major problem here. But if the attempt proceeds further back to “person x did action y because of cause z” then we’re in trouble. Attributing motives to anyone is a dangerous exercise… the suspected motives may or may not correspond with reality and the mere perception of mal-intent is enough to arouse some degree of anger or one of its variants – e.g. indignation, regardless of the actuality.Having said that, at this point, even considering the possibility of mal-intent and experiencing a sensation of anger is natural (albeit irrational, given that intention is still unknown) and this in itself has not reached a stage where “harbouring bitterness” is a problem.

When a person starts to turn the situation over one’s mind and replay it, seeking more and more to understand the cause, something for which there is inadequate data, one sets oneself in a pattern of repeated sensation and then emotional response. To attempt to ascertain a motive with inadequate data is a futile exercise and as such the person is no longer operating in a rational way.

1. Freedom

This irrational, cyclical pattern establishes a slavery of sorts. It’s a slavery to the desire to know a question to which the answer is unavailable. It’s also a slavery to an emotional response to supposition rather than reality. If the irrational nature of the internal behaviour was demonstrated to you, and you were free to break out of the cycle, you would. Your will can only choose what your intellect paints as the good. The problem is, you’re not free. You impede your sight by the compounding of the emotional response and your ability to correctly apprehend reality is hampered. Since you cannot apprehend reality correctly, your intellect has incomplete or incorrect information. Therefore it cannot correctly inform the will. Obviously its not as linear as this in reality, but this is an approximation of what’s going on.

FEELING precedes the response. Feeling allows for freedom, because it is a morally neutral act, but the subsequent acts that take on a moral value are as yet undetermined.

Bitterness, or resentment, has a moral value. It is an act subsequent to the feeling. (And, not subscribing to post hoc ergo propter hoc, there is no assigning a necessary causal link between feeling and responding with bitterness/resentment. ) In reality, I believe that bitterness/resentment is caused by the cyclical pattern of behaviour that I have outlined above. So there is an act (or many) between initial feeling and the resultant bitterness, and this/these has/have moral value too. As far as I can see, bitterness/resentment could be characterised by the simple act of allowing this cyclical pattern to continue. Allowing slavery to continue.

FEELING doesn’t impede freedom. Bitterness does.

2. Love

OK – so at this point, out comes the obvious Scriptural description of some of the characteristics of love:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

And so we’re positioned for a syllogism:
1. Love is not resentful. (1 Cor 13:5)
2. A thing can’t be and not be at the same time.
(Aristotle, Metaphysics Book 11 Part 5)
conclusion: Therefore love and resentment are mutually
exclusive realities. (1 + 2 really does = 3!!)

This means If one performs an act that is characterised by love, then it is not characterised by resentment. The converse is also true.
Given that the Great Commandment is an injunction to love, then love is the due good of any act. Given that resentment is tantamount to an absence of love, it is an absence of the due good, i.e. evil. Bitterness/resentment is, quite simply, a sin against charity.

therefore… note to self!!

Analysing a scenario where someone has hurt me is normal. Working through what happened and testing various different possibilities (even on the level of motives) is normal. In most cases it is not possible to know what the other’s motives are, so once possibilities have been tested, to continue to wonder is futile. It creates the risk of bitterness/resentment – an occasion for sin.

Replaying events and causes and motives – this is to be avoided. Having considered all data and seen that insufficient data exists to draw a rational conclusion, the only course of action is to LEAVE IT, to embrace it as God’s Will, to see that whatever the circumstances, God has allowed this to happen in His Providence for my ultimate good. Any other perpetrators/agents involved need to be disregarded. This is how God wills the situation to be, and I seek to do His Will in all things.

As for FEELING it – that’s fine. To feel it, to suffer it in union with Him – that is profoundly human. Whatever it is – well its bound to be such a little thing, really, in the context of His Cross.

Best thing to do is to THANK Him for this opportunity to suffer for Him even in a small way, and then to move on, to choose to leave the past in the past, and to live in the present moment.


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give thanks to the Lord for He is good… (JGL 2)

… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love these past few days:

  • in getting to visit both my maternal and my paternal grandparents all in the same week!
  • in some quality time with my Godmother and my cousin TheChef
  • in a pleasant, sunshiny drive up the north coast
  • in a reunion with old friends from school and the opportunity to see how their families have grown
  • in a suprise visit from my brother, SeminarianA
  • with the good news that my cousin, SeminarianB, is settling well into seminary life

– – – – – – –

NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?