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Reading the Interior Castle (or the Mansions) by St. Teresa of Avila is incredible! Although a very deep and theological read, I find it quite entertaining . This woman (epic saint, doctor of the Church, religious sister) amazes me. How humble, real, inspired and funny she is! It is evident how great her trust in the Lord was as she wrote this. Time and time again she is confronted with her “ignorance” in respect to many theological topics ( she is often apologetic for her intellectual “roadblocks”). However, it is through her YES to Holy Spirit, that St. Teresa would produce some of the greatest spiritual writings in the church. To inspire, teach, and direct the hearts, minds and souls of men and women to God himself. Here is an example of something that made me laugh out loud! I can just hear her mumbling this aloud to herself, questioning the Lord on his crazy plans for this book, but moving forward with such an expectant faith and joy.
” God help me! How I have wandered from my subject! I forget what I was speaking about, for my occupations and ill health often force me to cease writing until some more suitable time. The sense will be very disconnected; as my memory is extremely bad and I have no time to read over what is written, even what I really understand is expressed very vaguely, at least so I fear…” (Interior Caste, P. 58)
Lord, thank you for the life of St. Teresa. Even if we feel inadequate, forgetful, ignorant and simply unqualified, You can work in us. You have shown this to be true in the life of the holy, humble and truly blessed Saint Teresa. St. Teresa : Pray for us!
Do we really trust God? How do we perceive God the Father? Jesus, his Son? Do we believe that the Father is more harsh, radical and prone to judgement than Jesus? Why? How do we let these ideas of the Father and Son impact our own spiritual lives? How does Jesus reveal the Heart of His Father?
These are but a few of the many wise, powerful and thought provoking themes that came about in Dr. Tim Gray’s talk, “Can you trust God?”.
I would like to highlight Dr. Gray’s call to repair our false and misleading perception of the Father and his Son. He writes that a lot of people, and especially Christians “… believe that God became merciful and God the Father has to have mercy on us because Jesus died on the cross. In other words, we think that God’s merciful because Jesus died in atonement for our sins on the cross. But thats wrong. It’s not the cross that makes God merciful. It’s because God the Father is merciful. That he gave his son on the cross to save us. The cross doesn’t change God. It’s who God is. For all eternity. God is loving and God is merciful. What the cross is supposed to change is not God’s mind, but ours. Because throughout salvation history, we didn’t trust God… the cross is supposed to change our minds, not God’s...”He continues on to say that “…we have to deconstruct this false image of the Father”.
Dr. Gray then leads us to Exodus 34:6-7, where God is revealed as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and faithfulness, keeping merciful love for thousands, forgiving iniquities, transgressions and sins, but by no means clear the guilty.
God reveals these 7 attributes that truly speak to the depths of who He is; merciful, all-forgiving, loving and compassionate. Often we only focus upon the final attribute which is only meant to remind of us the severity of not asking for forgiveness. If we ask, our sin are always forgiven.
It is extremely destructive when we misunderstand who God the Father is. We also misunderstand who Jesus is, and ultimately we begin to distrust our own heavenly Father. Jesus is not the “good cop” and the Father the “bad cop” (using the example of Dr. Gray). Everything that Jesus did, was in accordance with the will of the Father:
” I am not alone, because the Father is with me” John 16:32
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9
” No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6
Jesus was sent on earth to reveal the heart and the will of the Father. God freely gave his Son to humanity. When we realize the depths of the Father’s love, and mercy, we have every reason to trust in Him. The Old Testament stories often depict the Father as harsh, but a father is always in charge of correcting and leading his children in LOVE. Why do we forget all the accounts of God’s incredible and beautiful mercy that precedes and follows these actions of correction? We need the whole story. We need to bring back the Father and the Son and the Spirit to fully understand salvation history. This love story is mind blowing. It’s not a fictional account, or a nice set of stories. This is real. The Father has given us, you, me, and all mankind his own Son. Let us contemplate and enter into that truth this day! Thank you Eternal Father, for the gift of your merciful heart in which you have always bestowed on your people.
” You therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48″
I was always confused by the concept of perfection. Why is it that God calls us to be perfect when perfectionism only leads to self reliance and pride? I began looking at what the world says about perfection. Generally this involves the altering of our physical appearance to fit an accepted style or body type. It is also hiding our difficulties, character flaws and sinfulness to avoid reflecting on the depths of who we are and who were called to be. Basically, we want to be noticed. We want acceptance. We want to be loved.
I guess by calling us to perfection, God is really just calling us to Himself. He’s asking us to strive for the Perfect goal; His own heart. We should want and desire to be perfect, but this means acknowledging our tendency to sin (concupiscence). Failing to do this results in over scrupulous judgments on ourselves and anxiety in our imperfect spiritual life. Not only is this unhelpful, but these unrealistic expectations might push us away from the faith.
Even the greatest saints were sinners. They experienced habitual sins, trials and temptations. They didn’t achieve “perfect status” on earth, but they lived for He who is Perfect. These holy men and women knew that perfection will not come from our own actions, but through the action of God in us. This is why they were humble, vulnerable, enduring persecutions, embracing their weakness and taking up their crosses.
I suppose another wonderful paradox of the faith. When we truly strive for perfection, we let down the walls of pride, fears and insecurities. Perfection is accepting our littleness for the sake of God’s glory to overshadow us.
The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth in the bible is an incredible story. Directly after finding out that she had conceived the Son of the Most High, Mary was already embarking on a three months stay with Elizabeth. This life changing news did not immobilize Mary, but rather propelled her to evangelize and share the good news.
I am quite struck by Mary’s trust and strength in the Lord. Especially in regards to leaving Joseph, who stayed back in Nazareth. Imagine; being visited by an angel, carrying the Savior of the world in your womb, being engaged, and not fully understanding what God is asking of you. Now, add in the fact that Mary was separated from Joseph for these first three months. She was without the man she loved and planned to marry. No skype. No whatsapp.
Mary had faith. Incredible faith. She trusted in the Lord completely. She didn’t have the ability to confide in Joseph, she was left to wonder and ponder all that had happened in her heart. Similarly, Joseph was without his fiancee. He too was faced with the absence of Mary in the most complicated time of their relationship.
As I am in a long distance relationship, I am learning so much about love and patience. As it says in Corinthians 13:4, Love is patient. Of course, this is not always easy. There is a lot times where I resent the distance and wish time could hurry up.
All of this said, I want to learn from Mary and Joseph. They were a holy couple, even before they married. They sacrificed their time together for the sake of the Lord’s plan. They were able to accept the distance with humility and trust. It’s such a beautiful witness for me. Long distance isn’t easy. But, when we make space for the Lord in our lives; becoming a tabernacle for him, he will give us the strength to go on. God only gives us what we can handle. He gave Mary and Joseph the grace in those months. He will grant this to all couples who are asking for this too. Mary and Joseph- Pray for us!
” In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ” Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:39-42)
In this time of advent, we prepare as Mary did, to welcome Jesus. Through the Annunciation, Mary was accepting all that would take place in the life of her Son. His birth, childhood, mission on earth, miracles, persecutions, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit. Mary always endured these moments with perfect faith, hope and peace. I share this poem as a prayer of thanksgiving to Mary for her YES. By her openness to the Holy Spirit, she contributed to the redemption of mankind by giving life to Emmanuel; God with us.
Will we come to the humble cross,
And kneel at Mary’s side?
To contemplate this gruesome loss,
Our Savior who has died.
In silence do we bear the pain?
Submit to greater love.
To know this Lamb who has been slain,
Was sent from up above.
With eyes of Mary, let us see,
That light and hope remain.
His body hung upon the tree,
Will come to life again.
Oh Perfect Hope and Loving Heart,
Come to our aid we pray.
To never leave nor to depart,
But guide us on our way.
To you our Mother, Queen and Guide,
We give you all we are.
Into your heart, let us abide,
Most Holy Perfect Star.
What is love? This is perhaps the greatest question man can ask. It requires the honest pursuit of purpose and meaning for our lives and our relationships. Unfortunately in English, love is a noun which expresses affection for a pair of shoes, the man/woman we love and even God. We are unable to differentiate between the categories of love that exist. It’s obvious that we “love” our shoes in a different way than we love our husband/wife. This construct of the English language is extremely limiting, unlike Greek which uses four separate nouns to express different categories of love.
Love is often associated with a feeling or an emotion. It is often understood as a purely romantic or sexual desire. When I speak to high schools students about love and sex, there is some serious confusion. Most young people associate sex as the greatest expression of love. For years they were told that dating and sex go together, pleasure is the ultimate purpose of sex, and that something is wrong with them if they aren’t sexually active. This often results in men and women who live marriage-like relationships exempt from any longterm commitment or vows that support and anchor their decision to remain together. This leads to a lot of problems for our hearts and our bodies. Couples endure while the love is strong. As the feelings fade, so does the relationship.
So we’re left with a lot of ideas about love. For some love can be; sex, pleasure, chemistry, feelings, happiness, exciting or destiny. I even find myself caught up with the fairytale version of love and romance. Perhaps this is the result of the many cheezy chick flicks I watched during high school, or disney movies as a child! Though incredibly entertaining, I picked up on some false ideas of love… these ideas still have a way of getting into my head.
As I get older, and grow in my faith, the desire to understand love grows within me. Especially in the relationship with my boyfriend. Saying “I love you” requires an understanding of all that love entails. It is one thing to say those three words to him, but the actions need to follow. I want to show this love with a genuine heart and pure intentions. Love is a big deal. It does not come from hollywood movies, feelings or emotions, nice looking princes… it comes from the Cross. We’ve maybe heard this before, but it is so true. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the symbol of love. Love is not selfish. Love is sacrificial. Love endures. Love is patient. Love does not boast. Love is not rude. Love never ends ( shout out to St. Paul for helping me articulate the depths of love through the Letter to Corinthians).
The greatest love stories are found in the bible. Jesus life, death, and resurrection is the ultimate example. Healing the sick, preaching to the poor, dining with sinners and outcasts. Sinless and innocent, Jesus who is love, freely accepts death to free mankind from sin and death. It’s a love that gives. A love that is free. A love that endures. A love that is constant. A love that forgives. A love that gives life.
The life of Mary is another love story. She accepts the message from the angel which announces that she will be the mother of God. Alongside Joseph, she raises and teaches Jesus in the Jewish faith. She remains at the foot of the Cross during the crucifixion and death of her Son. In all of these instances, Mary’s love is pure. It’s a love in times of confusion. A love that provides. A love in the darkness. A love in times of injustice. A love that hopes. A love that is faithful. A love that perseveres.
Only through these stories, lives and examples of faith, do we come closer to understanding love. As I strive to grow as a Catholic woman, girlfriend, daughter, sister, auntie and friend, I hope to keep this in my mind and heart. Our love is not dependent upon our feelings. It’s not motivated by sexual desires. It’s not about self-gratification. Our love should be radical like Jesus and Mary. They loved in the moments which were incredibly dark, painful and complicated. They model what we are called to do. To actualize this love, we need the heart of Jesus himself. We definitely can’t do that on our own. Goodness me, I have trouble loving the person who cuts me off in traffic. It’s only by his grace that we can come nearer to this kind of love.
“May the Heart of Jesus Christ be our School! Let us make our abode there. Let us study its movements and attempt to conform ours to them. Yes, O Divine Jesus, I want to live there” – St. Claude de Colombiere
With a title like that, I feel it would now be appropriate to :
a. Share some crazy rap lyrics that I’ve written
b. Post a photo wearing a gold dollar sign necklace
c. Insert a few 2Pac references/quotes
Hopefully it’s not too disappointing for you, but I will have to leave the gangster rap to Drake and his boys… perhaps one day the Holy Spirit will inspire me to rap.. oh man, that would be something else!
Actually, Tiny D and Biggie G have to do with a classic and famous story. One which might take you back to your own childhood. It is one of the most exciting bible narratives I heard when I was little; David and Goliath. It was always so impressive to imagine this young, tiny David facing the big and well known warrior Goliath. David, lacking weapons and experience was simply armed with courage in the Lord. When all things were going against him, David clung to his trust in God. He even has the guts to say the following, ” You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down…” 1 Samuel 17:45-46
Only a few verses later, David slingshots a stone into the forehead of his opponent, ultimately defeating the infamous Goliath and saving the people of Israel from destruction. It’s an epic story of how an unshakable faith, trust and confidence in God can bring about miracles.
This song below is actually what motivated me to write on this theme. In particular, I was touched by the following lines,
” So no more listing the reasons why I am unqualified. For you to use me. So come and use me”
“I will go where you lead. I will not be afraid. You are all that I need. You have called me by name”
We are the Tiny D! We are often up against so many giants; believing lies about ourselves and our worth, facing addictions, injustice, corruption, relativism, individualism, scandals, sinfulness. We may be tempted to believe that we are inadequate, incapable or unprepared for battle. Perhaps we are struggling to believe in the plan God has for us.
Despite these feelings, the Lord calls us to action: to stand up for our faith, advocate for truth, be the light, speak life. It takes courage, guts, faith and trust. We can’t do this alone. I know I have a few big giants in my midst. I don’t want them to rule my life. Instead, I want to pray for a faith like David. A crazy faith in the God of the universe who is always victorious, even against all odds. We might be the youngest, the most unexperienced, only armed with a few stones. But this is enough. He has given us everything we need in his Son. Let’s start praying for each other and keep this melody in our hearts and on our lips:
“I will go where you lead. I will not be afraid. You are all that I need. You have called me by name”