Trusting God with Our Lives

Today’s reading comes from IS 55:10-11

Faith is more than just trust, but trust is an inherent and paramount dimension of faith.  The entirety of the Old Testament text recalls moments of fidelity and moments of infidelity from the Israelites to YHWH and His enduring faithfulness to them.  When the Israelites trusted YHWH they flourished, and when they did not they suffered.  Here, Isaiah reminds us that whatever suffering they endured was not because of YHWH’s unfaithfulness to His word; rather, they suffered because they did not keep their promises to Him.  Whatever YHWH promised He will do for the Israelites, He did.  Was it not Him who delivered them from Babylon as promised?

What about His promise to us in the new covenant?  There is no doubt that His promise has been fulfilled.  He promised us freedom from the slavery of sin and death.  He has kept His promise: he exchanged his tears from this freedom; he paid the ransom with his flesh and sinew; he bought us this freedom with his very own body.  As for us, we must learn to trust in Him.  Trusting in YHWH requires that we have no backup plans like the Israelites who worshipped YHWH but also Baal and Asherah for needs that they think YHWH might not be able to provide.  Trusting in God means that even the very fundamental thing we need for living – our daily bread – is something we ask Him to provide.

Happy Tuesday of the first week of Lent, friends.

Let Us Pray

God has provided us a way to ask of Him for whatever we need: prayer.  Just as one who is in need of money or goods must beg for a living if he is unable to work himself, so too must we approach the Lord in prayer to ask for those things that we need that we cannot provide for ourselves.  The fall of our first parents has shut us out from our Father’s home, and it is by prayer that we knock to gain entrance.  This entrance is promised to us by Jesus if we pray aright.  Just as a good parent would provide those things that she deems fit and good for her child, so too will God, our parent par excellence, grant to us all those things that are most beneficial to us if we only approached Him and ask.  Do not be fooled into thinking that God would ask us to pray and refuse to listen to our prayer, or to give us something harmful.  He gives us what we need and at the correct time when we need it – we may be rash in our timing, but God is kairosian in His.

More importantly, God has made it so that prayer is available to all.  Prayer is for the Christian and the non-Christian, for the poor and the rich, for the adult and the child, for the priest and they lay person, for the general and the cadet, for the courageous and the cowardly, for the wise and for the foolish.  Prayer is for all, and all are welcomed to God’s throne filled with grace ready to be dispense to each according to his or her need.  Let us pray! Mt 7:7-12

A Prayer – Digby Mackworth Dolben

From falsehood and error,
From darkness and terror,
From all that is evil,
From the power of the devil,
From the fire and the doom,
From the judgment to come,
Sweet Jesus, deliver
Thy servants forever.

Repent and Return

We are reminded in today’s Gospel reading that the path towards God is often one that requires the carrying of crosses.  The world offers convenience and ease as temporary fulfillment for our permanent thirst.  These drinks require our returning to them over and over again because they do not fully satiate our thirst.  None of us are strangers to these drinks.  However, Christ’s words are clear: the way of the Lord is difficult and tough, but while the body aches the soul rejoices.  And just as St. Monica prayed and waited patiently for the young Augustine to turn from his wayward ways, God, our parent par excellence, remains in waiting for our return to Him.  Allow Ellen Gilbert’s words from Prodigal to be our own words to God and guide us back to Him this Lent:

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home to Thee;
Home from a flight and freedom
That was never meant for me.

And I, who have known far spaces,
And the fierce heat of the sun,
Ask only the shelter of Thy wings,
Now that the day is done.

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home, at last…
O hold me to Thy Heart once more,
And hide me from the past.

The Christian’s Hopeful Melancholy

Indeed, the wisdom of Augustine’s felix culpa allows us to understand that there is hope in a fallen world that seems hopeless.  And at no other time during the liturgical year are we reminded this more than on Ash Wednesday: remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  In the these very words uttered is an unmistakable hope that every Christian clings on to: this returning to dust does not mark the end, but rather the very beginning of an eternal reality that has been awaiting him since he was first formed in his mother’s womb.  Praying, Repenting, and Fasting are ways that the Christian is called to prepare himself for this eternal reality.

Richard Crashaw’s A Song of Divine Love reflects so beautifully the hope of the Christian as he faces his return to dust.  On this Ash Wednesday, let us reflect upon Crashaw’s words along with this question: how am I preparing myself to meet my God when the day comes?

Lord, when the sense of thy sweet grace
Sends up my soul to seek thy face,
Thy blessed eyes breed such desire
I die in love’s delicious fire.
O Love, I am thy sacrifice.
Be still triumphant, blessed eyes.
Still shine on me, fair suns, that I
Still may behold though still I die.

Though still I die, I live again,
Still longing so to be still slain;
So gainful is such loss of breath,
I die even in desire of death.
Still live in me this loving strife
Of living death and dying life:
For while thou sweetly slayest me,
Dead to myself, I live in Thee.

A Good Friday Reflection

Two reflections ought to take place this day: the historical death of Jesus, fully human and fully divine, and what that death demands of us.  For the first reflection, a good friend and mentor has put into words so perfectly well here.  As for the second reflection, I offer you this:

Perhaps Lewis Carroll had in mind the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace when he wrote Humpty Dumpty. Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty presents the reader with a clear illustration of prideful arrogance. Dumpty’s pride causes him to dismiss Alice when she noticed that the wall is too narrow, and in the course of the conversation, he proceeds to redefine words as he wishes. Alice points this out to him, but he simply ignores her and proceeded to further show his arrogance through exalting himself as a great poet. Shortly after the conversation, Dumpty had a great fall. Dumpty’s fall is caused by his pride, as was Lucifer’s.

Pride was the first sin, and it has become a ubiquitous sin in our time. This is the reason why children are taught not to be prideful through fables and stories like Humpty Dumpty, the Hare and the Tortoise, the Mouse and the Lion, and etc. God, our parent par excellence, teaches us the same lesson in humility, not by story-telling, but through love-showing. The Incarnation shows us that humility is the answer to pride, and such humility requires some kind of death, even of that which we value most, life.

Martyrdom proper, however, is hardly something the modern Christian comes across daily; instead, the he must undergo another sort of martyrdom, the denial of the self and all its thirst for those things that are not of God. God cannot live in a full heart, and neither can He live in a heart partially full. When it comes to God, it is a matter of all or nothing at all. The soul must make room for God, and in order to make room for Him, it must deny its sinful inclinations, and thereby, it must deny the self. The image of Christ needs to be limned upon the soul so that human pride may realize that it must be bitterly charred by proper humility in order to prepare itself as a place for God. All human dross must be crucified to that cross and buried before the soul can receive its God.

God, for His part, is ever near and ever calling. As the poet Francis Thompson so brilliantly illustrates, God, like the hare, is ever extending His mercy and love with “unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace” after the soul. The jealous God will not have anything other than Himself filling the entire human heart. Run as he might, Thompson finds himself encountering the goodness of creation refusing to turn its back to its Creator. The soul, therefore, must seek shelter in the ever-present and ever-ubiquitous cross. Thomas a Kempis puts it wonderfully when he writes in the Imitation of Christ:

The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever     you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.

The soul must realize that it is worthless and vile in its sinful ways; that it does not deserve the least of love, and yet God remains ever near. If the sinner is to have hope, the self must die in order for it to rise. Death must encounter human desires in order for the life of Christ to be had abundantly. The heart must forfeit all that it loves, absolutely everything, in order for it to receive Him who demands every little piece of it. And in doing so, the heart finds quenching for its thirst—that indefinite and deafening thirst that caused Augustine to put it into these eloquent words: for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.