August 12, 2018

Only the Love of God the Father Can Restore Us

The moral and spiritual crisis of our time is a crisis in fatherhood - a refusal to allow the Father to love us and the lack of courage to reveal the Father's love and concern for the most vulnerable.  We see this reflected in the mentality that Church problems are fixed by money and programs - rather than conversion of heart and prayer. Just as no program can heal the heart of a child as much as the love of father and mother, no committee or policy can heal the Church apart from the love of God the Father. Yet, because so many have been abused or neglected by their fathers, we are afraid to draw attention to God the Father.

We see the Father as neither comfortable or convenient politically, socially or culturally.  We pretend that we do not come from Him and that we are not in His image and likeness. We presume that we have a right to take the blessings that belong to the Father, and to use them for our own social agendas and projects. To live on our own terms rather than His, we distance ourselves from His Love.

Since we will not draw close to our heavenly Father, we ourselves have forgotten how to be fathers.   Afraid to offend against dehumanizing ideologies, we do not speak of the Father's goodness or wisdom, or offer His blessing to those who most need it. Shamed into silence and afraid to sound unsophisticated, we have allowed heartless jargon to replace what we can only find if we go to the heart of the Father. And fatherless societies beget walking wounded, children whose gaping emptiness torments them ... even to the point that to relieve the pain, they abuse themselves and others. These fatherless children become adults -- and now we live with generations suffering this nihilistic vacuum in which all that is innocent, good, holy, and true is sucked away. Even those who we trust have become like pigs -- and have we not been drawn to their sty?

The love of the Father is so much more, so far beyond, so much more beautiful and tender than the limits of our feeble hearts allow us to feel or know. We are afraid of his paternal affection because we will not allow ourselves to become familiar with it -- we are ignorant of just how much we are loved to our own downfall.  If only we would calm the internal rancor of our own thoughts and allow ourselves to listen to the deep movements of tender concern and gentle understanding that live in His Word!

To be kissed by the Father, to be taken into HIs embrace, this is no less than to surrender into a love that at once heals, purifies, reconstitutes, and transforms. This is the Gift of the Holy Spirit - its intensity and power cannot be overestimated. Such loves moves us against presumption to penance; against callousness to make restitution; against arrogance to humbly atone for what unaided human effort can never atone. The sheer immensity of the Father's love raises us above ourselves -- not only in our giftedness and excellences, but in our weaknesses and inadequacies -- especially in the painful voids. Yes, there where love seems most absent, the Father is there with us -- aching over our humiliation and shame, with life giving tears.

The Father's heart is pierced by the plight of his children -- He is never indifferent or aloof. This is what we read in the story of the Prodigal Son... Luke 15:11-32. The Father is deeply moved when He sees His son coming from a long way off.  The verb in Greek for "to pity, to have compassion" (ἐσπλαγχνίσθη) means that the deepest parts of one's very being are moved, implicated, in the plight of another. This is the same word used in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is also used when Jesus sees the crowds who have come to follow him.

When applied to God the Father, this means that the mysterious depths of God are implicated in our plight ... that like of Father of the Prodigal Son, God the Father has taken our side. He is already running to us, ready to embrace, to kiss us with the affections of His love for us. Anyone who allows himself or herself to become the object of the Father's love, such a person becomes like the Father, capable of being moved by the plight of those in distress. Such a movement of heart never sees strangers or enemies to be feared or used ... only family to be cherished.

We live at a time when all of us need to come to our senses and consider how generous and good the Father is to everyone who serves Him.  Betrayal, denial, abandonment are not more patient than this healing love that both awaits and evokes our contrition. Avoiding responsibility has baptized us in desperate plight - it is time for the courage to face who we are, what we have done and to whom we have done it. No program or policy can  replace humility. No optics or media spin can heal the shame or cure the wounds we have caused. We may not feel that we are worthy to be his sons or daughters -- but the One who begets, who loves life, wants us to live life to the full.

To approach the Father, we must follow the way of His Son - empty ourselves of our projects and ambitions, humble ourselves about our need for salvation, die to ourselves and our hubris. We approach Him in penance, fasting and prayer, realizing that in the immensity of His generous love, we are not worthy to be his slaves for His Son took the form of a slave... and, on this very cross road that His Son trod, the Father runs to meet us with the same love that He bears "the One in whom I am well pleased". And in a silent fullness, we feel at once the comfort of His embrace; and the overwhelming goodness of His kiss. Healing and restoration await in the tender touch of those wetted cheeks and in those tears, divine and human, mingled through that hoped for, but surpassing, joy. 

July 29, 2018

Avila and Signs


Around Avila, as the holy soul by love,
Walls witness signs above.
Wisdom here, against rancor, raises
Ramparts, crying out, "God never changes."

Blood's anger before these walls will pass -
Testimony that loss is not the last
word, for only one Word abides.
Trial, for the humble, after a time subsides.

His strength and goodness remain
Reflected, and in silent stillness sustain,
Above all dark dread on earth's slope,
a sign, her one great unvanquished hope.


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.