Thursday, October 23, 2014

Atheists and Believers

No matter how strong someone's faith is, he will have doubts. No matter how strongly convinced an atheist is, she will have doubts. People are not divided into two categories of believers and non-believers. There is only one category with a range that varies throughout a persons' life. The one who calls herself a believer is not so different from the one who calls himself an atheist. They are both brothers and sisters on the same scale of faith that varies from day to day.

I know a person who has so much faith that she is willing to lose the most precious thing or person in her life without wavering on her faith, and yet she doubts. Every time a person commits a sin, he does it out of lack of faith in "God's will for him" whether he admits it to himself or not.  I also know a person who belittles in his own mind those who believe in God, but that same person experiences embarrassing and confusing moments of faith.

God gives consolations to everyone. We see them as winks or smiles from God, and sometimes as life changing miracles. We respond by looking up, wanting more consolations, more signs, and more miracles. We transform into sand holes that cannot hold the water for too long. When God withdraws these consolations from us, so that we may seek Him and not the gifts ["The Dialogue"], we fall into an abyss of doubt and confusion. Some of us walk away loosing trust in God, while others go on reading, praying, and searching to restore a firm ground to stand on. Saints are not so different from us as they doubt too. 

Those of us with a scarce amount of faith, or no faith at all, get all spun around with any consolations from God. It is so uncomfortable for us to loose faith in our contained and controlled sensual logic. We go on spinning in confusion, until our re-thinking and re-analysis, mixed with reassurances from our most trusted dead authors, bring us back to the stable realm of certainty. We grab on tight to our intellectual weapons and anchor ourselves in case a second consolation from God hits us by surprise. 

We are all the same when it comes to a measure of faith or lack of it. We are naturally weak beings, a product of life's experience and at the mercy of life's happenings. We have nothing more than near sight into space and time, a faded warped memory of the past, an uncertainty of the future, and a dream-like state of the present, all guided by limited faith and intellectual powers. What differentiates us from each other is not our measure of faith, nor our intellect, but rather our capacity to love and give ourselves to others. 

In chapter 51 of "The Dialogue", Catherine of Sienna teaches us how God graces us with memory to discern our experiences, with intellect to make sense of them, and with will to put them into actions of love. It makes no difference if we label ourselves atheists or believers, what matters is our capacity to give ourselves, through memory, intellect, and love to others. When that becomes our way of life, we become children of truth and light, and therefore ascend to a higher realm of life where God "remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us." [1 John 4:12]

My dear brothers and sisters, let us not boast as believers or atheists, but humble ourselves before God so that through His grace and mercy we may be truly exalted in truth and love. [Matthew 23:12]

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Worshiping Other Gods

Look! Do you see this Hindu person over there praying? Look closely at the picture in front of her. What is in that picture? It looks like a dancing person with four arms and an elephant trunk, doesn't it? Does this Hindu look sincere and genuine to you? Are her hands not folded together like your hands when you pray? Are you concerned for her? Are you conflicted and puzzled? Do you think she is praying to herself? Do you think no one hears her most inner thoughts and sense the secrets of her heart? How different is her state of being from yours when you are praying?  Is your mercy greater than God's mercy? Can you see in her heart better than God can see? Would He possibly be listening to her? Or do you think He shuns her and sends her away as a stupid worshiper of imaginative gods who never existed in the first place? What do you think? 

What would you do if you were God? Would you listen to the Hindu person or would you be offended that she does not address you by your true name and know your true story? Would you listen to her? Would you speak to her heart? How passionate is your God for Her? How loving is your God? Is your heart stubborn like the pharisees so that you cannot get beyond your strict interpretation of various biblical verses about a jealous God that does not allow for other gods before Him? Or are you tender of heart but puzzled by your conviction that there is no salvation except through Christ and His Church? How does one acknowledge Christ? Is it enough to say Lord Lord? How does one truly acknowledge Christ?

Beloved, God is present through Christ to anyone who tries to worship Him with a humble and contrite heart. God is present through Christ to those who love Him and love their neighbor. St John tells us: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love."[1 John 4:7-8] God, through his Son's death and resurrection, has reconciled the whole world to Himself. There is only one true God indeed, but when people pray with a contrite heart and humble spirit they worship the true God without knowing. Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman apply to them: "You people worship what you do not understand, we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spririt and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth." [John 4:22-24] 

Anyone, be it Hindu, Muslim, …. who places himself before the god he knows, and speaks to God in the truth of his heart and worships Him with a pure humble spirit filled with love for God and neighbor, can only be worshiping the one and true God. For those of us who know God as the Father who loves us, as the Son who died for us, as the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, we must not belittle anyone who worships different than us for they worship without knowing and God relates to them. Rather, like Christ and the Samaritan woman, we must love and respect them, while sharing our joy with them speaking the truth about a loving God who thirst for them, who thirst to give them living water so they may live life more abundantly.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

What if it is True?

I had just received communion and knelt down at my bench to reflect. As I typically do, I lifted up my eyes to watch every person at the moment they receive the Eucharist, so I can remember that the Body of Christ is being poured into each one of us, uniting us is Christ, no matter how different we are from each other. Since I was sitting at the front bench, the Eucharistic minister was distributing the Blood of Christ only a couple of feet away from me. I can hear the words "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ" over and over again.  

I thought to myself "What if it is true?" What if we are actually receiving the Body of Christ and drinking His true Blood. What if it is true? Then the thought came to my mind "I would not give my beloved anything less." Knowing our Christian God, it is true that He would not give to us anything less then His true self.

Some have hurried up proclaiming that God would not take a human form, that He only appeared human, and that He cannot suffer. They have underestimated the love of God for His beloved. They loved a God who cannot give as much ... a God who cannot give Himself. Just the same, God would not give us an appearance or a mere reminder of Himself in the bread and wine, just as much as He would not give us an appearance or a mere reminder of Himself 2000 years ago. He came Himself, the divine, in body and soul, and never ceased to give His true self since then. We must always remember Him and His sacrifice for us whenever we partake of His Body and drink of His Blood. That is what He asked us to do.

What if it is true? What if it is true that we have in our midst, even more, within ourselves, a unique and special presence of God in His divinity and humanity? What if it is true that He has never left us? What if it is true that He brings to His table the poor and the rich, the believer and the doubter, the sick and the healthy, the proud and the humble, the strong and the weak, the child and the grown up, the smart and the simple, the beautiful and the not so beautiful, the saint and the sinner? What if it is true that He feeds us all on His true Body and true Blood, and in doing so, joins us in Him, a sacred and beautiful offer to the Father, united in One Holy Spirit?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, what if it is true? What if it is truly Him? Would our God of love give us anything less?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mad at You O God! [Part 2/2]

My Dear Child,

"My Thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways … As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts." [Isaiah 55:8-9]

Be grateful to what you have received. I may have taken away from you what you love and desire, but I will never take away from you myself. Would this mom abandons her child? Even if she does, I will never abandon you. Created things may come and go, like desert mirages to thirsty souls, but I am with you always. Learn to trust in me. Learn to trust in my ways. Abandon everything created and hold on to me. Learn from my son Augustine's after a life of wants: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

Nothing and no one else can truly satisfy the human heart, because it is formed in me and belongs to me. Be grateful to your daily bread and give thanks to the little that you have received. You have committed yourself to my will and you are wise to do so, now humble yourself and ask for the grace to love my will. You want the moon and cry for loosing it, but it must be taken away from you.  What I have in mind for you is greater than the moon and greater than the stars. Humble yourself and accept what life brings you whether you judge it to be good or bad. On your own you cannot do what I am asking you, humble yourself and pray for the grace to truly love and accept my will. Pray for the grace to be comforted in your present situation.

You say that you are mad at me …  you are mad at yourself for grasping on what is not me. You are mad at yourself for finding yourself thirsty for unquenching human praises. You are mad at yourself for holding on what and who you know can only truly live in me. My dear beloved lean on me, trust in me, and you will share my joy and it will never be taken away from you.

Teresa, my daughter and my good friend also said: "Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices."

Mad at You O God! [Part 1/2]

My Dear God,

Now why would you do this? At least why would you let it happen? I want you to know that I am very mad at you. More so, I feel betrayed by you. You are closer to me than I am to myself and because of that I am even more hurt. Yes, I still believe that your will is better for me, nevertheless I cannot help being angry with you. When I ask you why did you do it, or why did you let it happen, I do not really care to know why, I am simply stating that you should not have done it, or at least you should not have let it happen. 

I was enjoying your good creation. I know that is pleasing to you as well, because you are the source of every good thing and what father would not enjoy the happiness of his son? However, just before I reached the summit of my happiness, you snatched everything away from me and left me in shock. My lips quickly went on uttering "Let your will be done … Let your will be done ..." for that is how I have prepared myself to live, yet my heart is shattered and my soul depressed and folded on herself. I am in a lot of pain my Lord.

You acted like a mom who allowed her son to get so close to a piece of chocolate, then took it away from his lips at the moment that he opened his mouth to receive it. He then grabbed his mother's skirt and pulled himself tightly to her, burying his face and tears in his only comfort and in this case his offender. You may remind me that you have given free will to your creation, but I know that you interfere sometimes, plus in this case I even feel that you interfered against me. You let me down O Lord, but still I have no shelter but you, so here I am Lord true to myself and you, holding tightly to you, hiding my face and sorrow within you.

Your daughter Teresa of Avila's words come to my mind: "Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few." 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Soul and the Sleeping Snake

In the middle of the night the soul gets very upset and isolates herself from her loved ones. She withdraws from everything and seeks to be completely alone. She moves from room to room until she finds an empty room and decides to rest there. She may be mad at the injustice against her caused by those around her, she may be frustrated with herself and who she has become, or she may be angry with God for allowing whatever is hurting her to come true. The soul cannot go to sleep because anger and frustration consume her. Plus her thought  process is continuously reliving her tragic misery. 

An inner voice from God says to her: "Do you want to leave everything to me and let me solve it my way?" The soul answers: "Jesus I trust in you." She would have been wiser to stop there but in her frustration she adds: "God give me a break, let me be in my misery, let me at least for now hate others and myself, and let me embrace failure and dead ends". God left to work after he heard only the first part. The soul sits there in her rage and circulates over and over again every word and every action that brought her to this miserable state. She tries so hard to sleep but exhausted as she is, sleep is stolen from her. 

Suddenly she wakes up and remembers a dream and realizes that she has fallen asleep but does not know how. In the dream God shows her a large snake residing next to her in that same room. The snake is sleeping and very content with the situation. It has found a dwelling in that same room where the soul took refuge. The soul can vividly feel the danger of the snake. God also showed the soul in that same dream, another small room from her past, where she had also isolated herself from everyone at a very young age, and where she has fallen for the first time to the lure of that same snake. God then brought to her consciousness the strong ties between her tragedy now and the start of her tragedy many years ago. 

Somehow, knowing herself better, the soul is brought to peace. She trusted God and in turn He brought her to an understanding of self. She knelt down in front of the crucifix and repeated the words "Jesus I trust in you!" Then she left the room and joined her loved ones where God and his angels also dwell.

My beloved soul, even at your darkest moment when your heart is dead to love, and you have no hope in you, and darkness overshadows you,  turn to God when He calls you. Turn to Him with your will which no one can take from you, turn to God in your darkest hour and live.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sophie's Love Story

Despite strong advise from her caring friends Sophie went out to meet Adam the boy she loves. Although by nature he is a good hearted person, his heart has hardened throughout the years and he forgot how to live and how to love. He has gotten himself into so much trouble with drugs, sex and violence not to mention many other distractions that drained the life out of him and those who surround him. Everyone around Sophie was warning her that she is going to get hurt and that she better stay away from this boy. She did not want to listen for she was deeply in love with Adam. When she looks at him she is aware of all his faults yet she remains unstained by them. She is always aware of a loving heart within him that no one else can see not even Adam himself. Sophie is in love with Adam and she will always love him until the end of times. What others say about this love story makes no difference to her, for not even death will keep her away from loving him and bringing him to live in her love. She is in love for ever and that is how the story starts and that is how it is going to end.

Now let me shed some light on this love story. You and I are Sophie's friends who caution her from loving and being around Adam. Adam is all these people around us that we cannot bring ourselves to love and like, much less tolerate and accept. They live a different life style than us and they see the world so different than how we see it, namely their values are way beneath our self proclaimed values. Sadly, we are at the same time Adam. Although we do not see it or admit it, if all the books of knowledge were to open to us, we will realize that others see us as Adam and indeed we are once we stop fooling ourselves. Sophie of course is our loving God who in his infinite wisdom loves us and call us to union with him. 

Have I invented this story? Am I making my own version of God? Well, is not Jonah a friend of God and Nineveh close to God's heart  [Jonah 4:1-11]. Did not the Pharisee say in his heart: "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner" [Luke 7:39]. Did Jesus rebuke the woman, or kicked her off his feet as she washed them with her tears? Or did he rather say of her "Her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love" [Luke 7:47].  In the parable of the lost Son did not Jesus describe the Father as catching sight of his son even when his son was still long way off from him [Luke 15:20]. Do you not remember the reaction of the brother who got angry with how his father welcomed his sinful brother. [Luke 15:28]. The same theme is the foundation of scripture which is foremost a love song between God and his beloved free human beings.