Saturday, November 18, 2006

"When we in our weakness believed we were strong"

One major concern I have about my last several posts is that I might seem to be placing too much emphasis on our own efforts in living our faith. So, I want to pick up on one sentence from yesterday's post and use that as the basis for this morning's message: "For most of us, the movement of grace is driven by the cycle of sin and forgiveness; when we are weak, then we are strong, as God's strength is made known to us through our weakness" (2 Cor 12,6-10). This was the summary sentence of my paragraph on conversion and how God changes us, which is through His grace, His sharing of Divine life with us. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, or unholy, or guilty because you are not living up any number of the rules we accept out of love as Catholic Christians, if you feel unworthy and far from God, if, after reading what I have written you come to realize how high the bar is set for us as we seek sanctification, that is, holiness, and feel a bit hopeless and despairing, I have one word for you: RELAX! The fact that our love is not yet perfect should not concern us. One of the reasons we are called into community, into communion, as followers of the Lord Jesus is exactly for the purpose of perfecting our love. It is true, one person is no person. We need each other as much as we need God, which is why it makes no sense to hypocritically reject people because they do not live up to our standards. None of us live up to God's standard! So, a desire to perfect our love is all we need to bring before God and to Church. God can and does work with such paltry offerings, which is all any of us are capable of bringing. It is a scary thing, to paraphrase eighteenth century Jesuit spiritual writer Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, to abandon oneself to divine providence, to entrust oneself completely to God's perfect love.

Feelings of guilt, despair and hopelessness arise from an over-reliance on ourselves. To open ourselves to God, we have get over ourselves. We are our biggest hurdles. Something that is used in the recovery community applies to us when catch ourselves feeling unworthy: "Let go and let God". God loves us and has already redeemed us; nothing we can do will ever change that reality. As St. Paul writes, "we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom 3,28). Therefore, our hope is in God, not our own efforts. We are where we are and God loves us right here, as we are, right now.

However, we must use these harsh realizations to rigorously examine ourselves to further open ourselves to God's transforming power, which is not only the most powerful force in the universe, it is the power that made the universe, it is the power that constitutes at its deepest level the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, that power is not just a power that God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has, it is what God IS. What is this power? The power of LOVE. "Deus Caritas Est,"; God is love (1 Jn 4,8). In no way is divine power made more manifest than in Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world," we read in St. John's Gospel, "that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him"(Jn 3,16-17).

On this Saturday morning, pray. Do not cut yourself off from God. We must come to experience that it really is through our manifold weaknesses, which are easy to despair about, that God's power is made known. If you are feeling down use this scripture as a basis for your prayer and meditation "'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 'Submit yourselves therefore to God.' Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." Finally "[h]umble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." (Jas 4,6b-8b.10). In the Letter to the Hebrews we read "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12,29). Let us use words from Jennifer Knapp's song, All Consuming Fire, as our prayer.

"Alpha and Omega
Prince of Peace
O, my king of Kings
The Great I Am, Jehovah Jireh
Who cares for me
The Holy One, the Holy Father, the Blessed Trinity
All Consuming Fire burn in me."

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