This article from John Martens writing in America Magazine is an answer to a recent prayer. In his discussion of loving our enemies, he concludes:
It is this desire (for perfect love), grounded in the longing to be holy as God is holy, that allows us to rise above our feelings for vengeance, feelings which the world understands, accepts and might even urge on us, to love our enemy. In the love of enemy we convert not only our own hearts, but the possibility exists that when we forego destroying enemies with weapons of vengeance, then love, the weapon of the spirit, will transform them.
So, I prayed recently that the Lord would guide me to my next meditation.
I’ve been wondering lately … reconsidering really…my long-held views about any number of subjects, but most recently capital punishment. Right or wrong? I used to be more certain of my answer. Today, not so much.
It was in the middle of the night. I’d awakened briefly and was in that dreamy half-sleeping, half-waking state.
In the beginning when I was more awake and said ‘hi’ to God, as I always do when I first awake. Then I continued to say a couple of prayers, thinking about each phrase as I progressed through them, considering how each phrase related to me over the last few days or weeks.
That was the beginning. Then I sort of drifted off into a space that was dreamier. I was still conscious enough to be aware of and remember the thoughts and images I was having.
This was the message I got back. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but this is the next stream of thoughts that I had.
I was contemplating love and evil, juxtaposing them, acknowledging that God is pure love. Jesus is pure love. I acknowledged that we are called to love Jesus and try to be more like him. In order to be fully with God, we are called to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.
I moved on to consider evil. What is it? Hatred, vileness, greed.
Where do they come from? What’s their basis? Is it fear? Hmmm, maybe. Hatred and vileness, villainy can often be traced back to fear. Is the devil fearful?
You know, I think He probably is. I think He knows the end of the story, too. I think He knows that God wins. But the devil’s nature is what it is.
When I have called upon God’s protection, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the devil’s presence…his essence in my thoughts, or his seeming presence with me…goes away. It just dissolves into an impotent vapor and slinks off.
On the basis of his occasional reappearance, I know the devil has not been fully conquered in me, but God’s power is always available, on call, to help me overcome evil’s temptations.
So, if we can do what God has asked us to do — to love Him, to aspire to be like Him, to project pure love — then should we not also be able to dispel fear and hatred in others? To project such compassion and charity that the power of evil is dissolved, vaporized in the face of our love?
Back to capital punishment. Why do we put people to death? To keep them from ever harming others in society? Justice? Well, yes.
Okay, forget capital punishment for now. It’s too complicated an issue for me at this point.
But isn’t love the goal? Doesn’t Our Father want each of us to begin – now, right where we are, to learn to love so purely, to love so strongly, that evil has no foothold in our lives. That the devil and all his forces can gain no traction?
If love conquers fear and hatred, which we know it does in the end, then when we approach any situation in our lives – any confrontation, argument, disagreement, physical attack even – if we take on the mantel of pure love, devoid of fear — if we don’t allow fear to seep in, I wonder if the hatred and vileness of those others whom we confront would dissolve before us, just as if they were standing before Our Father?
If so, good to go. If not, well I guess we might meet Our Lord all the sooner.
So, are we still good to go? Are we prepared to die, as we offer love as our self-defense?
I guess it requires detachment from life itself, doesn’t it? The Jesuits say we must have a spirit of detachment, even from life itself, in order to fully be one with God.
Well, that’s the meditation. I know for certain, I don’t have a clear answer to all this yet for myself.
I still feel more comfortable carrying and knowing how to use self-defense aids. I will continue to encourage our children to stay alert to threats. And I feel a certain relief, when a cold, calculating, murdering sociopathic sex offender or child trafficker is put out of his or her misery.
Can we not advocate for our enemy’s incapacity, his incarceration, possibly his elimination, while still loving him, mourning his death or injury. To act with justice, but without vengeance or hate, without a desire for retribution?
In the end, love is the goal. How do we love You better, Lord?
Well, My child, go now and resume your daily work. Be silent, be honest, be patient, be charitable, love very much the Blessed Mother of Jesus; and tomorrow bring Me a heart even more devoted and loving. Tomorrow I shall have new favors for you.
We’ve reached our 14th and last meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. I find myself wondering,
‘how on earth does anyone manage to do these meditations in just 15, 30, or even 60 minutes, as they sit with the Blessed Sacrament? It’s taken me two+ weeks to get through them. Do others think or meditate that much faster or more efficiently than I do?’
I get that writing down my thoughts and editing them to capture just the right message takes longer, but even if I adjust for these steps, I know myself well enough to know that if I’m not writing words onto paper, my mind wanders, loses focus, forgets important insights, and is, in a word, undisciplined.
I also find myself a bit relieved at having completed these meditations. I’m ready to go and ‘resume [my] daily work’ in the world, to rest and recollect my larger purposes for this space.
Our Father, knowing I was approaching this place, thankfully prepared the next step in my way. I found it last night in an excellent book I’m reading, Why Pope Francis Leads The Way He Does, by Chris Lowney. I’m anxious to share it with you.
Have you no joys to tell Me? Why not confide to Me your pleasures? Tell Me what has happened since yesterday to console you, to make you happy, to give you joy. An unexpected visit has done you good; a fear has suddenly been dispelled; you have met with unlooked-for success; you have received some mark of affection – a letter, a present; some trial has left you stronger than you supposed. All these things, My child, I obtained for you. Why are you not grateful? Why do you not say, “I thank You”? Gratitude draws benefits, and the benefactor loves to be reminded of his bounty.
God loves our gratitude. For me, gratitude is accompanied by a strong sense of humility.
Much of our culture doesn’t reward humility. I have worked for many years in a career where individuals become “subject matter experts” or SMEs. Even those who don’t promote themselves this way in the beginning can eventually be affected, drinking the koolaid and taking their pumped up biographical descriptions seriously. Others will further inflate SME credentials in order to promote their own personal agendas, their own value.
In meetings filled with inflated egos there’s often little room for God or humble recognition of His goodness and might.
So, what’s joyful about this particular recognition? It is this:
After so many years toiling in this particular field, staying centered on Him in the midst of all the self-promotion was a challenge I wasn’t always successful in meeting.
But God is good.
Through His grace can I now — finally — awake each morning remembering Him first and, upon remembering, feel an almost overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude for His presence in my life. Just that.
Remember to say good morning each day to God. Acknowledge His presence with me. Invite Him into my day.
Because in doing so, I can’t help but take the additional mental steps to acknowledge Him as the source of my being, the architect of any success I might enjoy, the origin of my existence and my ability.
Thank you, Father, for the grace to remember You each day.
Only as You allow me to remember You, am I able then to acknowledge Your role in my life. Credit You for all the ways in which You have blessed me. Give You thanks.
And through all these, to feel consumed with humility for how meager my contribution would be without Your blessing.
And have you no thoughts of zeal for Me? Are you not anxious to do a little good for the souls of your friends, for those whom you love, and who, perhaps, forget Me? Tell Me who interests you, what motives urge you, what means you wish to take.
In reflecting on this sixth meditation before the Blessed Sacrament several friends and family members come to mind, who have forgotten about God or who have never been introduced to Him. I name them often in my prayers, asking God to touch them, to touch their hearts.
My heart aches for them. God wishes so much to love them, but, recognizing we seldom really know others’ inner-most desires, they mostly seem, if not hostile to Him, then indifferent, uncaring.
If they were only open to His call, their hearts could be so much freer; they could go about their daily lives with lighter burdens and with so much more clarity.
And yet, outside of my prayers and the occasional invitation to church or suggestion of a new book or a class or an inspirational writer, I feel helpless to know what to do.
My heart aches for me, too, since the understanding between us, me and each of them, could be so much deeper, richer. We would have a greater ability to share the most important part of our lives with one another.
And my heart aches for God, who waits patiently while we all take our sweet time coming to Him. I imagine Him yearning for our oneness with Him and watching each day as so many pass Him by unnoticed.
Call each of these people to You, Father. Help each of us to find our way. Allow me, Father, if it is Your will, to help them, that my walk with them might be lit by Your holy purpose. Wash us clean, O God, of all our sins, that we may offer ourselves to You as empty vessels to be filled only with the love You pour out upon us. Allow us to commit ourselves again and again until, at the last, we walk hand in hand with You on the journey You’ve planned for each of us.
Have you no plans to interest you? Tell Me all about them. Do they concern your vocation? What do you think of? What would you like? Are you planning some pleasure for your mother, for your family, for your guardian? What do you wish to do for them?
This fifth mediation before the blessed Sacrament made me oddly uncomfortable. Do I have plans about which I’m concerned? Some event I’m planning for family?
I found I didn’t want to think about it. I moved instead to clean some dishes left over from an earlier dinner with friends and put them away. I noticed the silver probably needed to be cleaned and polished it before the next weekend’s company. I fixed myself a cup of coffee and began reading others’ blog postings, hoping for some inspiration. I re-read the meditation once or twice and began a couple of sentences about something that seemed mostly unrelated.
And then it struck me.
Well, yes, I do have an upcoming event that concerns me…that dinner party next weekend. And no, I have not yet asked for God to take my apprehensions into His care. In one part of my mind I uncharitably figure God’s to blame for getting me into this situation to begin with. (Editor Angel – Oh, dear!)
A bit of back story will probably help. Even as I write, I can feel my own resistance to the whole subject. How to describe this? (Editor Angel – Stop this procrastinating, Just write; edit later!)
My husband and I have been estranged for several years from his brother. There wasn’t anything in particular that prompted the estrangement — no triggering argument or incident. Just years of this sort of competition of wills.
Just one example: An atheist, my brother-in-law nonetheless always participated in our family Christmas and Easter gatherings, especially after their father passed and their mother was most-often with us for the holidays.
For several Christmases he would decorate the tops of his gifts to us and our children with little rubber ducks. Potentially cute, but instead of the yellow, smiling duckies that we all remember fondly from our childhood, his rubber duckies would be red and black, sporting a devious smile and devil horns. Better yet, they came in varying sizes, so my pre-teen daughter at the time could make little families out of them.
Whoopee! I had a choice of being a wet blanket or acquiescing in a pretty aggressive, but non-verbal tug-of-war in my own home.
The duckies quietly disappeared.
After their mother passed a few years ago, it just didn’t seem we had enough in common to bother getting together with him and his partner. It was a relief for me, actually, to be able to forgo gatherings, where I would have to work to avoid being pulled down by the undercurrent of tension that always seemed to threaten.
So, I guess my resistance is laced with equal parts guilt and simmering righteous indignation. Even I can detect the not-so-latent hostility I’m still carrying around.
As I have been called over the last year to a different level of commitment to Christ, though, I have felt a need, if not yet a desire, to make more of an effort. One minister I heard preach years ago said God has given certain of our family members to us as sandpaper gifts; they’re there to help smooth our rough edges. Still, I don’t know if a real relationship is possible or even a good idea.
But, maybe he’s evolved somehow over the last couple of years. Maybe my prayers for him and his partner to be touched by God have found some traction. Or maybe we can enjoy a simple evening just discussing our favorite new recipes, how all the kids are doing, our travel plans for the year, our favorite new books. Safe topics. Non-personal topics. Maybe.
But, is there something further I would pray for if I had real, honest-to-goodness faith that God was a mighty God, capable of any and all things?
I know I can’t give up God in order to satisfy my brother-in-law, so I guess I could pray for Him to take all of us and our relationships into His care and to show us His way. To make us a miracle.
Oddly (maybe), this following prayer was what I wrote at the beginning of this reflection, those words that I earlier didn’t think were related to this topic:
Our God — father, brother, companion — who walks with us, sits next to us, patiently awaiting our attention, who is always available to comfort and guide and protect us, who understands our humanity — hold my hand. Lead me. Steady my steps when I falter. Strengthen my heart when fear and anxiety creep in. Help me to know Your love so fully that I cannot keep it in.
I’d appreciate your prayers for us this week, too, as we all prepare for this upcoming visit. (Editor Angel: There now. Was that so difficult? Well, yes, actually, I feel just a bit naked, all things being equal!)
Today’s meditation, the fourth from the Catholic “Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament,” says:
Do not hesitate to ask for the good of your body – for health, for memory, for success. I can give you everything, and I always give when the gifts make souls more holy. What do you want today, My child? Oh, if you knew how I long to do you good!
I find as I’ve gotten older that my prayers for myself are more often for others — children, parents, siblings, children, friends, children, our soldiers, the poor, children (Editor angel – okay, we get the point! You’re a mother and a worrier!).
My first thought here, especially, with regard to my prayers for our children, is that their well-being is directly related to my well-being. So when I pray for them, my prayers are pulling double duty and helping both of us. When I put their care into God’s hands, I can often quit worrying about outcomes. My time and my energy — sometimes, my sanity! — are eased; the time required for other responsibilities in my life is more productive.
I’ve been blessed with exceptional health so far and as I near retirement, my career success is mostly what it’s going to be. Thank You, Father!
What I have talked with God about, long and often, in the last year is for guidance in how I might “re-purpose” myself now that my children are mostly grown and work work is slowing down. There’s a whole baby-boom generation, I imagine, asking themselves a similar question: “what now?”
I’ve asked how I might use my gifts for doing something pleasing to God. This blog is part of the plan He and I devised together a few months back.
Now that it’s getting underway, I pray I remember who’s in charge; I pray for His guidance, that He will whisper the right words — heck, I ask Him for the right thoughts — to express here. This whole effort would be kind of the ultimate plagiarism, if I were to take credit for it. None of these ideas or words is mine. Or, at least, I pray that I can get myself and my ego out of the way, so He might have clear passage, a blank page to speak to others through me in this space.
Wow! And EVERY time I say something like that I feel so incredibly arrogant, so very unworthy to be considered by God for a task so important.
And yet, here we are, me and God, working together to tell others how very much He loves them; how He wants them to accept His love; how much He wants them to grow closer to Him. Because, He reminds me over and over again, it’s not about being good enough or smart enough or worthy enough. I’m not. We’re not.
But, God is. And He’s ready to bless us and our work and make it good. We only have to be willing.
My husband and I were tremendously moved by this story, by God’s work in your life. I’ve always said that our Lord knew I was not strong enough yet to bear such burdens as yours, but He has softened my heart and it was touched by your story. Thank you.
Our family went last night to visit a shrine. as we do every Christmas. The lights were magnificent! The live manger was awe inspiring as the choir sang nearby. Of course, over the years it has become more commercialized…Merry Go Round ride for $3. Ride in the trolley, $5. $4 dollar popcorn and $5 dollar cotton candy. $12 for a small book about the nativity, and $25 for the accompanying small stuffed sheep. $9.95 for a children’s chicken nugget meal. Of course, with more and more lights, the expenses increase, and they have to fund it somehow. But I digress… The money making aspects of the shrine in no way minimizes the true spirituality and healing nature of the location, which is worth all of the money in the world.
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The Catholic Church has a pamphlet that I find tremendously comforting.
It’s titled “A Meditation Before the Blessed Sacrament.” Consisting of 14 meditations, it encourages our prayers and meditations. (Your local church likely has copies available).
I’m going to reflect on one meditation from this pamphlet each day for the next couple of weeks. As I do, I’ll post each one on my Meditation page.
The first meditation says:
My child, you need not know much in order to please Me; only love Me dearly. Speak to Me as you would to your mother, if she had taken you in her arms. Have you no one to recommend to Me? Tell Me the names of your relations; of your friends; after each name add what you wish Me to do for them. Ask a great deal: I love generous hearts that forget themselves for others.
The first consolation I received from this meditation is the message that I need not know more than a little child in order to be pleasing in God’s sight. What a relief! I think little children have an easier time pleasing God than we grown-ups — or “grumps,” as adults were called on an old episode of Star Trek back in the 1960s.
Here, God encourages us to be generous to others in our lives and reminds us of others we might consider, who may be in need of His favors.
It reminds me that God can’t work miracles through anyone who has shut him or herself off from family or friends or community. It’s through our own generosity — of wealth, certainly, but also of our talent, time, affection, and spirit — that God blesses us and through us, our world.