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Coming Out of a Snow Storm … Renewing the Blog

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I don’t think of conversion as being once and for all and that’s that.  I think once the process has begun and continues that you are continually turning inward toward God and away from your own egocentricity and that you have to see this selfish side of yourself in order to turn away from it.  I measure God by everything I am not.  I begin with that.  (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor

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Call.  Conversion.  Covenant.

This is the essence of a relationship with God.

Our longing for God is God’s call to us.  Implicit in this call is our response.

When you yearn for God you are posting for your answer a “response.”  That is, your yearning for God implies a need for you to stay “Yes, God – I desire you, that you be in my life each and every day.”  Yes, your yearning presents a radical trust and subsequent affirmation that you wish to bring God into your life and that you trust God completely – so completely that no other thing surpasses God in your life.

A call hastens a conversion.  In this your life is changed fundamentally and forever.

In this conversation you enter a covenant.  A covenant is NOT a contract (an agreement that can be broken, altered, amended, reinterpreted).

No, a covenant is a faith relationship in which each party assumes the responsibility to be faithful to it and the other party to it.  Yes, God offers unending love and relationship with you, and you offer the same to God.  God chooses you and you choose God – all doubt, all confusion ends – in time temptation has no appeal – good seeks its presence in your life and life has new, sacred and eternal meaning.  In this you have a purpose and certainty in the face of what is yet to come and to know.

In parting, think about thiswhy everywhere does the political Left, the socialist, the Communist, the totalitarian always attack religion and God?

The answer is simple.  In a covenant with God your loyalty is to The Divine, not the state and those who wish to control every aspect of your life.  There is after all a reason why freedom of religion precedes freedom of speech in our Constitution.  The reason?  Our Founders valued God more than state … Do you?  That is the very question we face as a nation today in the United States – all referendums are referendums on God and your relationship with God, the protection of your right to free access to your faith, to God.

Make no mistake, the policies pursued by the Left in the United States are intended to destroy your relationship with God.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

God created man in His own image …

Gen 1:27

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Why would God create us in His image?  A fair question – with an easy answer.  The answer?  So He might have a relationship with us and us with God.  And wherein is the epitome of intimacy and love everlasting.  Yes, the very thing we all long for in our mortal life is given to us right from the beginning of life and time.

God’s love of us is central to our well-being, contentment, happiness, strength, meaning, purpose, peace and identity – the one cardinal Truth that banishes all failure, hardship, setbacks, sufferings.  Yet, we so often ignore this fundamental reality.  But, why?

Pride is the most common reason.  Pride would have us try to make life work to our design.  Despite our failures and the loneliness and stress that our pride produces – we persist … until one day we resign ourselves to this fact – we cannot succeed or be at peace when we neglect God and the truth of God’s omnipotence and God’s love of each one of us.

Still others neglect God for they fear God is a wrathful, unforgiving God – while God is a merciful God.  Yes, people by into fear and the false identity that is pervaded by others that God is not a loving God.

Remember Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope.”  (Emphasis added.)

Why would anyone wish to neglect God in favor of making life more difficult and less certain and stable?  Think about that today and tomorrow … until you come to your senses.

Shalom.

 

Only solitude has taught me that I do not have to be a god or angel to be pleasing to You, that I do not have to become a pure intelligence without feeling and without human imperfection before You will listen to me.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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We neither need be god nor angel, nor pure intellect or perfect.  God loves us and accepts us as we are: human and imperfect.

Yet, what public figures or those in leadership positions or those who insist that they must lead show any signs of what Merton is saying?  Who among those cited have the humility and understanding conveyed by Merton?  Answer: no one.

Given the acceptance of a loving God, we chatter endlessly – much as if to avoid any interior examination.  Ironically there is no leadership to be offered by those who lack the humility that comes from what Merton rightly says.

The endless chatter of the public class says one thing: they are neither whole nor intact.  Run from such people – pay them no heed.  Lacking humility – they lack wisdom and missing each they cannot offer anything much but division and folly … and they do so as we can plainly see.

Chatter is wasteful noise to avoid individual growth and the recognition that we are all, in essence, the same – with the same value to a loving God.  There are no hierarchies of privilege and heritage, and education and wealth that ought be honored.  Indeed, one who serves in leadership must stand with others and not above others.

It is the quiet one who leads.  It is the common one who possesses what Merton describes.  For it is the quiet one who walks with God and others.

Shalom.

Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

A gracious woman attains honors, and ruthless men attain riches.  The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.  The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.

Prov 11:16-18

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HonorMercyRighteousness.  Does this describe you?  Describe those you meet?  Those you admire?  Those you listen to?  Those who have public authority?  Those who wish to lead you?  Those who claim to serve justice?  Those who comment on public affairs?  Those who preach and baptize?

If not, why not?

There is no time in my life that I have seen what I now see: namely, the absence of virtue and the virtuous.  It is as if we have stopped teaching men to be gentlemen and women to be ladies.  More to the point we seem like we emulate Sodom and Gomorrah.  And, it seems that ruthlessness, cruelty and the acquisition of extraordinary wealth and power no matter the cost to our character are just fine by us.

Make no mistake – the human heart longs for what is good, and just, and true and merciful and not what is bad and unjust, false and merciless.

We had best restore the best in us – or bye, bye birdie.

It all starts with you – and it starts now, today!

Shalom.

 

 

“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

… we seek nothing but the particular place willed for us by God …

Then we discover what the spiritual life really is … It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions are directed.  That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves … and in the end the only thing that matters is His glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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In the Mass readings today we hear God lamenting that His children have moved away from Him and we hear Jesus advise us to move away from those who do not receive or listen to his words.

Our dilemma is that we live in an age where many of the most public and most vocal have moved away from God and do not listen to the words of His Son.  Likewise the culture in its digital discourse and mass communication is crowded with those who operate largely by themselves – without reference to God.  Indeed, that is the bulk of present day discourse and we are obviously affected negatively by this.

What is one to do in such circumstances?

Yes, we are assured in the Old Testament reading of today (from Hosanna) that God will act mercifully as to those who rebel.  And, we know that Jesus in today’s Gospel (from Matthew) would have us separate from those who do not receive his words or listen to him.  So we have a plan: be merciful, yet separate from those who reject the Savior’s words.

But how is this to be done?

Merton offers a way: seeking time in silence and the company of God in that silence.  For in that silence the primacy of God is known and experienced and we are in the form that we are designed to know and in which we will find peace when all about are in discord and distress.

Yes, our confidence is in God and our task is to stand apart form those who reject God outright, and in their rejection of the Son, reject the Father.  Our remedy for this is silence – a singular silence where God is heard – much as the Son shows us in his regular retreats to the quiet of the desert.

In silence we can find stability, meaning and fulfillment.

Shalom.      

 

The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

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