June 22, 2018

To Live by Faith

To live by faith in the Risen Lord is to root one's existence in a personal reality far deeper and far higher than the exigencies of the moment. Tenderly relational, this faith makes a mutual indwelling of the heart in God and God in the heart. Faith that seeks Him, though He seems so hidden, allows the winds of eternity to blow into time. Faith in His living presence renders an unnoticed instant vulnerable to eternal meaning.  Faith's gift opens the heart's door to this Divine Guest - that mysterious neighbor whose benevolence remains unmatched. 

Living by such faith is to be liberated from chains of rash judgments and the weight of painful memories. To cleave to God in this way alone sets one free on the vast horizons and sure ground of truth. The substance of our hope, only this faith opens to a love stronger than death and more powerful than the dark forces that threaten human dignity. Only this faith forgives sin and gives standing before the Almighty. 

Stretching earthly existence beyond what natural reason can calculate, this radiant light inspires the loftiest of thoughts but is never circumscribed by them. This new beauty baptizes the imagination with heart-piercing symbols and signs but no mere myth contains it. No projection of one's own ego or project, this astonishing power carefully purifies and heals deep seated instincts and urges, patiently submits them to the One who conquered sin, and humbly raises them above to glory. 

To die by faith in this Bridegroom, the One whose coming no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth can deter, this is to offer in love the most beautiful of deaths. Faith in the Life, the Truth, and the Way, who died for love of us, empowers us to offer our own bodies as a living sacrifice, so that even our last breath is taken up into spiritual worship.  For by faith, even as we die, His power is given to us and is accomplishing in us a work so rare and so vital, the whole world awaits its revelation. 

May 3, 2018

The Grace that Silence Knows

In the deepest center of the abyss of one's being there is a fountain of life-giving waters. This fount flows forth from an even deeper abyss into abyss of the heart - for deeper than the misery of the heart is the mercy of the One who knows it. Ever deeper the farther from its center - sanctifying, forgiving, healing, renewing. This life giving spring lives unfathomably deeper than either sin or death can know.

If the truth revealed to us did not propose the secret of such a hidden place, that haunting ache for the One who we do not know remains a mysterious witness. For in the painful emptiness that prayerful silence hears suggests the fullness that eagerly waits to fill it. In the silent cry of the heart one discovers that the ennui that creation suffers for the Creator is only a dim reflection of the ennui the Creator has freely embraced for humanity.

The Cross has unleashed this torrent relentless in pursuing its course -- making all things new. The ocean of mercy that issues forth from such glory can never be exhausted. The empty tomb is proof that the vast horizons out to which these waters stream remain, to this very day, largely unexplored. The real presence of the Risen One ensures that this hidden but mighty river will flow in us always until the end of the ages.

The grace that makes holy the human heart invites, calls and challenges each one. Like the morning sun invites and the beauty of spring calls, grace evokes new confidence and enkindles fresh hope.  Like the love of a bridegroom challenges his bride, this wonderful gift surrenders itself into the surrender that each heart renders. For the grace that makes holy makes youthful and new every heart that receives it - no matter how aged.

This freely given gift liberates a soul from its own ego. An immense overflowing flood of love and life, its currents are not imposed, are not extrinsic.  For this most precious and delicate of gifts refuses to coerce what is most interior to man. This grace floods a person's interiority until the body itself is freed for love. This mysterious power makes chains of selfishness fall away. The ability to do something beautiful for God and one's neighbor is unlocked.

With tender gentleness, this gift from above re-constitutes and subtly perfects what is most noble within us. It conceives truths and movements of heart by which God Himself is enjoyed and brought to bear for solemn purpose. To resist such a priceless gift is to resist no less than the truth about oneself and the dream that God has kept from before the foundation of the world.

May 1, 2018

From the Deepest Abyss to the Furthest Frontier

Your body is a temple. It is not inconsequential. You have been set apart - not as an abstract spirit, but enfleshed.  A dwelling place for God, there is something sacred about who you are. How you offer your body reveals your spiritual worship. If you allow Christ to renew your mind, your whole existence can be entirely transformed.

Just as at the dawn of creation, the Living God has fashioned each one's being not unlike an open sea. The shores of each one's existence are only found beyond one's own horizons. On this ocean, ripples from a single thought begin in deepest secret and move beyond anywhere unaided reason might strain. Blown by the Spirit, they can even enter into the heart of another. And the ripples that this same thought causes to flow from the heart of a stranger can also suddenly pierce through one's own indifference.

These Spirit blown ripples of new life go out with gathering speed and magnitude until, as mighty waves, they surge toward the rugged coastline of humanity's furthest frontier -- their final destination, not a place, but a Heart who eagerly awaits them. Against the Rock Ages, their foam and spray reach for the heavens, and for pure joy, their roar and crash crescendo. For indeed, words fall short of this happy meeting, the pledge of something that this world cannot contain. Pounding again and again, as if always for the first time, rock and water mutually surrender, one to the other, while each remains in total otherness, entwined. Is it the waves or the shore that has caused this jubilation?

At this mysterious frontier where humanity and divinity meet, all restlessness, guilt and death is circumscribed. All that threatens the greatness and dignity of humanity finds its limit on this obedient shore. On this rocky fastness one's very integrity and all noble hope find safe haven. Tears are dried. Sorrows consoled. Confidence given. A new beginning awaits. For such is the limitlessness of Divine Mercy - that exotic coast whose untamed freedom defies all mastery.

Yet what thought goes from the deepest abyss to these furthest frontiers of human existence? This fiery sword cuts free, severs and penetrates deeper than marrow. This shining star captivates, draws to heaven, and radiates one's very existence with truth. An anchor for one's whole being, body and soul, that suffers storms only to establish an even deeper peace.

Not a tempest threatening with passionate violence, yet this sudden spark can sting one's conscience until one's life turns in a new direction. Not a abstract ideal, yet a coming to one's senses that leads from pigsty to the Father's embrace. Not a program of self-improvement, but this gentle call of love evokes solemn resolve. Not understood or grasped by any natural capacity, but in unaware fruitfulness, this contemplation is given and received in naked faith.

Filled with the Word who makes all things new, this vulnerable prayer vanquishes death and gives birth to a life undying. Born in the impoverished ambiguity weighing on the world below, this ray of truth enriches with the most delightful treasures and raises everything to what is above -- so that even the heavy of heart wonder over how light the burden, how easy the yoke.

To allow this holy thought to sanctify your heart, turn your thoughts to Him. His Tomb is empty yet His Cross stands at the very center of your life. In the face of meaninglessness, Christ Crucified lives to free, purify, and graft us in truth. On the waters of our hearts, He processes in sovereign freedom. In heart-breaking silence, His prayer to the Father still echoes with hope and His life, poured out for the world, still pours out with love.

The holy sanctuary of your  heart yearns for memory of His passion to be renewed. Your very body, fashioned by the Father to be a temple, longs for His Son's life giving water and blood to burst the banks of the sin and misery that have imprisoned you.  Your soul starves for the only food that can feed it, the only drink that can satisfy its thirst. Once surrendered to His humility by humble prayer, nothing can stand between your heart and the inexhaustible torrents of our Savior's love.

April 28, 2018

Witnessed on a Freeway in California

A glimpse of faces passes
Mindless sunglass glances
Mosaics of machinery chances
Moving seeming secure advances
Atop asphalt surfaces imperiled

Between barren hills whose golden brightness
Is broken by oaken blotches of bitterness
Under strident currents of reckless drivenness,
Lurk faults of unforgiven-ness,
On bumpers, beneath smiles of strangers embroiled.

Sorrows unseen in merciless
Stares: Each from disparate starting point relentless
Barrels to its goal in senseless
Abandon, reeling unaware, restless 
Hearts racing for connection en-shadowed --

Under a rosary's hope dangling
     from a rearview mirror: 
Between what lay ahead and what is passing
Away, that shining still point of the world's revolving
Anew by but the resolved murmuring
Of lips, by heaven's taste, hallowed.

April 3, 2018

The Resurrection and Life

Do you long for New Life?  Easter is about the only new life this tired out world has ever known. This life has the form of a vine exploding with branches and fruitfulness.

Jesus, risen from the dead, is the Vine - and his friends who believe in Him are the branches. He has called you, the one who is reading this, into this friendship.  Connected to the Word of the Father by faith, we have a new life in us -- an eternal life, stronger than death, making all things new.  Just as life flows from a vine to the branches, the Holy Spirit flows from the Son through His Body, the Church, into the soul of the believers to make their love for one another fruitful.

That we might fully possess this joyful fruitfulness, the Father tenderly serves us as the Vine-Dresser. He delicately prunes his vines, for no other reason than that they might be fruitful. Sometimes, this means patiently pruning us down to the stump, until nothing but what seems weakest and most inadequate is left.

The mystery of the Father's vine-dressing is a difficult mystery. Yet, it is rooted in everything Christ revealed to us through His own passion and resurrection. Only by allowing His Son to suffer death is the Father able to raise Christ's humanity to life not subject to death. Similarly for us, that we might know the life of the Risen Lord, the Father sometimes prunes away what we deem most precious.

The devotion of Christ to the Father, characterized as it is by faithfulness, confidence and trust, must become our same obedience to Christ. His total surrender to the loving plan of the Father is given to us and meant to live in us. The Father only prunes away what is lifeless, what stands in the way of this surrender.  He permits us to die to ourselves in order that Christ's obedience might become the obedience that lives in our hearts. As the Risen One reveals, surrendering to the Father's will, even as we die to ourselves, opens up a more fecund and eternal mystery. Paradoxically, being pruned by the Father is the source of joy.

To be pruned down to the stump - there are times when we most desire to feel the presence of the Risen Lord, but in our distress cannot seem to find Him. It is a kind of death. Sometimes,we are permitted to suffer that interior void, that empty abyss that only He can fill. We long for an answer to tragedies sometimes so catastrophic that nothing in our lives feel like they will ever be the same again.  Instead, we are left, at least for a time, feeling puzzled and even abandoned. Yet, engulfing this abyss is an even deeper abyss: God has plunged our misery into the immensity of His Mercy. 

Though we cannot see or feel it, Christ who knows our misery sends the Holy Spirit into our sorrow to bring us a new life, a new joy.  This is why, as we are pruned even to the stump, we have a reason for our hope.  If we believe, nothing can stand between us and the love of Christ - no matter how great the feeling or difficulty. Our work, at such times, is simply to trust in Him, to remain in Him by an act of faith -- for obedient faith goes deeper than feeling, thought, fantasy or intuition. Obedience lives in a deeper part of who we are -- and the Spirit dwells in these abysses because it is here that He has fashioned horizons vast enough for His presence.

The Risen One too was stripped, and as He suffered the loss of everything, our Crucified God, through his obedient devotion to the Father, accomplished His greatest work: our salvation. Our work, as the Father prunes the branches of His Vine, is to be obedient to the Word that not even the meaninglessness of death could mute. This means sacrificing our plans for God's plans. It means putting our neighbor before what is comfortable and convenient. It means also renouncing sin - no matter the cost. It means offering the sorrow of our heart as a sacrifice of love in prayer. All of this is how we remain in Christ even as we are being pruned and stripped of everything - even down to the stump of our lives. When the obedience of our faith is most tested and conformed to the obedience of the Son, we can at last receive the fruitful joy that the Father longs for us to know.