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Sunday, September 23, 2018

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today I am using the reflection on this Sunday's Gospel by Father Joseph Donders (1929-2013) found in "Give Us This Day":

"The world does not respect people because they are people. It respects people because they are influential, because they are important...
Jesus said: "Nobody among you should be called master, or teacher, or father." When they asked him who was the most important, he called a small, smelly, unwashed street boy over and said to them:'This one.'
This Jesus, our universal king, showed us that our whole attitude should change, that our world should change in a revolutionary way, that we should respect all people for the simple fact that they happen to be God's people...that we should respect all people because Jesus knows their names...
He is not interested in their cars, in the quality of their clothes, in their degrees, in their prizes and awards, ... He knows their names. He knows them, and He wishes them all well, and all they need.
And that is how we should behave..."

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Today I am sharing this bit of practical advice from
Abbot Issac on Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6:6:
"We pray in our room whenever we withdraw our hearts completely from the tumult and the noise of our thoughts and our worries and when secretly and intimately we offer our prayers to the Lord. We pray with the door shut when without opening our mouths and in perfect silence we offer our petitions to the One who pays no attention to words but looks hard at our hearts."

Sometimes we just need to bolt the door; some can turn off hearing aids which is a great help; others might try ear plugs!

Friday, September 21, 2018

The importance of Prayer

Pray as you can, not as you can't! The important thing is to pray! Just show up and let God act. He really wants to love us and we are crazy if we think we are too busy to pray. Ruth Burrows has this to say and I find it consoling: "...a life that is truly Christian is all prayer. For God's 'chosen', life is an unceasing desire expressed in their practical choosing of the divine will in all that happens. It is being there for God's coming in all the details of life, loving, purifying, transforming. Solitary prayer, liturgical prayer ad the prayer of grace-filled activity are one and the same great work of God and our cooperation with it. All three are necessary; they are interdependent and nourish one another."

I hope my readers are taking time to reflect on their own relationship with God. Our prayer is really just furthering our relationship with all three Persons in the Trinity and God takes the initiative. Let us abandon ourselves into God's hands and let Him mold us as He wills.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Prayer is simple

As you know, I have often said that prayer is simple. Thomas Merton asks: "How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun."
I love that image and both Wendy Beckett and Ruth Burrows talk about the simplicity of prayer. Ruth says:"For Christians, those who claim Jesus as their Way, Truth and Life, the one who reveals the Godhead to us, through whom we are in God and God in us, prayer should be the simplest and most uncomplicated of activities."
Then she goes on to tell us that the essence of prayer is God.
He is always there to love us, and, in that loving, transforming and 'saving' of us, brings us to that perfect fulfillment for which we are created.
"On our side prayer is simply being there: open, exposed, inviting God to do all God wants. Prayer is not our activity...God is there ready to do everything for us, loving us unconditionally."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Commit ourselves to the sea of God's love

This picture is of a tranquil lake; the sea of God can be terrifying, but we need to immerse ourselves in it and let God carry us. It takes trust. Ruth Burrows talks about faith as a "sustained decision to take God with utter seriousness as the God of my life. It is to live our each hour in a practical, concrete affirmation that God is Father and he is 'in heaven'. It is a decision to shift the center of our lives from ourselves to Him, to forego self-interest and his interests, his will our sole concern."

Let us open ourselves to God and plunge into the sea of His Love without thought of the wind and waves, secure in His Love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Our search for the Beloved

Another passage that I have found helpful from Ruth Burrows is this one that speaks of our search for Jesus: "When we search for him in the Scriptures we have already found him. He is with us, at a level we do not perceive and cannot perceive, touching our inmost depth and working within us, infusing light, inflaming the will."...Our seeking in Scripture must be like that if the bride in the Song of Songs: all heart, never a merely intellectual effort...Our search for the Beloved in the revealed Word means that our times of silent prayer have content... Jesus draws us to himself not for himself but so as to take us to the Father."

That was more than one passage as I just keep adding some of what I had underlined the first time I read this book. I figure that if it helped me, it may help at least some of my readers.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Intimacy with God

In her Essence of Prayer, Ruth Burrows, OCD, assures us that intimacy with God is not only possible, but it is what God desires of each of us. She writes: "How do we attain to intimacy with God? Or, rather, how do we enter into the intimacy offered? We must be certain that no wooing is necessary. ...
Here is someone who is love itself, the very fount of our existence, enfolding us, inviting us to receive him, drawing us to his heart. All these human expressions are totally inadequate.... It is not easy to speak properly of a deep human relationship: how much more so when on of the partners is God."

And yet, I believe we are called to try to put into words our relationship with God. Words will never be adequate, but we can try to express what happens to us when we go to pray. Having spent years as a spiritual director, I know that some people struggle to put into words their relationship with God; others find ways to speak of the intimacy they experience in prayer. The times I have had a spiritual director who seems to really understand me, has made it possible to express at least something of my experience of God. I think we need to keep trying as it makes it more real for ourselves.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus asks us again in this Sunday's Gospel (Mark 8:27-33) "Who do you say that I am?"
This is the question that Jesus poses to each of us often for the answer may vary but it always indicative of what is influencing our inner life at this point in time. I think we need to reflect again today on how I am answering this fundamental question that Jesus is asking me? 
After Peter's confession of faith, Jesus began to teach his disciples that "the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do." 
Then he will tell the crowd, and this means you and me, too, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

Much to think about in this Gospel. And the second reading from the Letter of James is also one to think about today. it is from James 2:14-18.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Today is the day we remember the sorrows of Mary. I cannot imagine how she felt. First, having Jesus leave her after maybe 30 years, then following and hearing even her neighbors turn against him when he returned to his home town; then there was the constant fear that he would be imprisoned. Finally, there was his arrest, the meeting as Jesus carried his cross to the site where he was crucified; then Mary stayed as close to the cross as she was allowed and witnessed her only Son's suffering and death. She was still there when they took his body down from the cross and laid him in her arms. Her own heart was pierced even before the Heart of Jesus was pierced!

We can only contemplate the suffering of this Mother in silence. I feel that the sins of our world are still causing such suffering to so many mothers today, but Mary is there with each of us to console us and strengthen us. Let us spend the day with her in prayer for our world and our Church.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Let God control our prayer

"What does it mean in practice to say that we must be there for God and let God control our prayer, let God act? Does it mean we remain inert, completely passive? No, decidedly not! The essential thing we have to do is believe in the enfolding, nurturing, transforming Love of God which is the Reality: the Reality that is absolutely, totally there whether we avert to It or not. Prayer, for our side, is a deliberate decision to avert to It, to respond to It in the fullest way we can. To do this we must set time aside to devote exclusively to the 'Yes' of faith." 

That excerpt is found on p.5 in The Essence of Prayer by Ruth Burrows who then adds this quote from Julian of Norwich:

"God of Thy goodness, give me Thyself: for Thou art enough to me, and I may nothing ask that is less that may be full worship to Thee; and if I ask anything that is less, ever me wanteth-but only in Thee I have all."

Ruth says that if we are convinced that this is the heart of prayer, this basic decision to remain open to the inflowing of divine love, then we shall understand that we can choose any method we like to help us maintain this basic desire and intention.
And I add, just be there, show up and let God love you! He just wants you and does not need your thoughts or words, just be present to God who is always present to you.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Get out of the boat and walk on water...

Today I want to begin sharing with you some of the wisdom of prayer from a book I often go back to when I feel the need of some inspiration for my own prayer. It is The Essence of Prayer
by Ruth Burrows and was first published in 2006 - one of the few books on prayer that I brought with me to Oakwood.

She says: "Let us assume that we do want God, or, at least, we want to want God, wobbly and weak though we know ourselves to be. 'If it is you, bid me come to you upon the waters.' (Mt 14:28) It is the Lord and he says: 'Come!' So we can confidently enter into the Mystery that is God, relying solely on Jesus and not at all on ourselves."

I will share more tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Autumn means many things

We are back to school and well into September, but in California it still seems like summer. However, we have football games and some trees to take on an autumn look, but I miss the gorgeous shades of autumn, the falling leaves, the brisk weather. Still, I love the beauty of California even while missing some of the changes of seasons.
In our inner lives, do we have regular changes of seasons? It is something to ponder. I think we have all experienced changes, but I think the inner life is too unpredictable to have regular seasons. 
I did find something to share with you on prayer of the heart.

Practice: Prayer of the Heart

"Abba Poemen said, “Teach your mouth to say what is in your heart.” [1] Many of the desert fathers and mothers, as well as the collected texts of the Philokaliain the Eastern Orthodox tradition, have described prayer as bringing your thinking down into your heart. It always seemed like soft piety to me until someone taught me how to do it, and I learned the immense benefits of the prayer of the heart. As a Catholic, I was often puzzled by the continued return to heart imagery, such as Jesus pointing to his “Sacred Heart” and Mary pointing to her “Immaculate Heart.” I often wonder what people actually do with these images. Are they mere sentiment? Are they objects of worship or objects of transformation? You must return their gaze and invitation for a long time to get the transformative message and healing. Such images keep recurring only because they are speaking something important from the unconsciousmaybe even something necessary for the soul’s emergence.
Love lives and thrives in the heart space. It has kept me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me. It keeps me every day from obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive head games. It can make the difference between being happy and being miserable and negative. Could this be what we are really doing when we say we are praying for someone? Yes, we are holding them in our heart space. Do this in an almost physical sense, and you will see how calmly and quickly it works.
Next time a resentment, negativity, or irritation comes into your mind, and you want to play it out or attach to it, move that thought or person literally into your heart space. Dualistic commentaries are lodged in your head; but in your heart, you can surround this negative thought with silence. There it is surrounded with blood, which will often feel warm like coals. In this place, it is almost impossible to comment, judge, create story lines, or remain antagonistic. You are in a place that does not create or feed on contraries but is the natural organ of life, embodiment, and love. Now the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart have been transferred to you. They are pointing for you to join them there. The “sacred heart” is then your heart too."
This was copied from Richard Rohr