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Sunday 21 December 2014

Are you a true lover of God?

Recently, I heard a spiritual person say something I heard in the past. He said, "God does not punish us when we are suffering. Suffering is not from God."

God does not cause suffering, this is true, but that God allows it must be seen as part of punishment.

Yes, God does punish us and we should be glad of this punishment.

I am losing a good spiritual director I found here as he is moving away for the rest of the time I shall be here. I have lost spiritual directors before through moves on their part or mine. I am beginning to realize that losing a spiritual director, or not being able to find one, is part of God's plan for those of us in the desert.

Not being able to talk with someone about spiritual things is a punishment. But, the saints have something to say about this point of punishment. They tell us that punishment now on this earth is better than purgatory or damnation. I do not think people ponder about going to hell enough. Many, if not most, people will go to hell. This fact will happen not because God does not love us, but because too many people do not love God enough to ask Him to show us our deep, secret sins.

Going into silence and the desert which God gives us give us opportunities to see the predominant faults and get rid of these.

When the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became Man, He entered into a life of suffering, not for His sake, but for our sake. He took on our punishment which was eternal separation from God because of the sin of Adam. When Christ, Mary and Joseph suffered, they entered into redemptive suffering for us.

St. Alphonsus wisely summarizes suffering for perfection in this way:

We ought to view in the light of God’s holy will, the loss of persons who are helpful to us in a spiritual or material way. Pious souls often fail in this respect by not being resigned to the dispositions of God’s holy will. Our sanctification comes fundamentally and essentially from God, not from spiritual directors. When God sends us a spiritual director, he wishes us to use him for our spiritual profit; but if he takes him away, he wants us to remain calm and unperturbed and to increase our confidence in his goodness by saying to him: “Lord, thou hast given me this help and now thou dost take it away. Blessed be thy holy will! I beg thee, teach me what I must do to serve thee.”
In this manner too, we should receive whatever other crosses God sends us. “But,” you reply, “these sufferings are really punishments.” The answer to that remark is: Are not the punishments God sends us in this life also graces and benefits? Our offenses against God must be atoned for somehow, either in this life or in the next. Hence we should all make St. Augustine’s prayer our own: “Lord, here cut, here burn and spare me not, but spare me in eternity!” Let us say with Job: “Let this be my comfort, that afflicting me with sorrow, he spare not67.” Having merited hell for our sins, we should be consoled that God chastises us in this life, and animate ourselves to look upon such treatment as a pledge that God wishes to spare us in the next. When God sends us punishments let us say with the high-priest Heli: “It is the Lord, let him do what is good in his sight.”
The time of spiritual desolation is also a time for being resigned. When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations. “In this life,” as St. Teresa used to say, “our lot is not to enjoy God, but to do his holy will.” And again, “Love of God does not consist in experiencing his tendernesses, but in serving him with resolution and humility.” And in yet another place, “God’s true lovers are discovered in times of aridity and temptation.


Let us assume that this aridity is a punishment for your tepidity. Was it not God who sent it? Accept your desolation, as your just desserts and unite yourself to God’s holy will. Did you not say that you merited hell? And now you are complaining? Perhaps you think God should send you consolations! Away with such ideas and be patient under God’s hand. Take up your prayers again and continue to walk in the way you have entered upon; for the future, fear lest such laments come from too little humility and too little resignation to the will of God. Therefore be resigned and say: “Lord, I accept this punishment from thy hands, and I accept it for as long as it pleases thee; if it be thy will that I should be thus afflicted for all eternity, I am satisfied.” Such a prayer, though hard to make, will be far more advantageous to you than the sweetest sensible consolations.
It is well to remember, however, that aridity is not always a chastisement; at times it is a disposition of divine providence for our greater spiritual profit and to keep us humble. Lest St. Paul become vain on account of the spiritual gifts he had received, the Lord permitted him to be tempted to impurity: “And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me.

Hatred Is Never Justified

We can hate evil actions, but we must not hate people. We can hate sin, but not the sinner.

What is happening in America are events which seem to reveal a strange need to hate, which is surfacing from many sources.

I taught for years a group of students who were labeled "at risk" students. At two colleges, I taught "at risk" students who were from minority groups and were the first in their families to be in college.

There are special departments for "at risk students", special tutoring, and grants. Many people who are black and Hispanic have been greatly supported in their attempt and success at obtaining certifications and degrees from these programs.

All the kids I taught wanted to improve their lot in life, their families, and they were looking towards the future. Most succeeded in moving on to careers of all types, including well-paid positions in government jobs and the medical fields.

I admired these students for working hard, as I did, to get their degrees. I respected their work ethic and drive.

Some were angry to begin with, when they first came into the programs. Some had attitude problems, but when they learned that the teachers and administrations truly had their welfare as a priority, the attitudes shifted.

A few could not change and fell back into doing and selling drugs, prostitution and other anti-social lifestyles.

Those who succeeded left hate behind, entering a new world in which they were accepted for their talents and hard work. One person told me he had to get the ghetto out of his head, and he did.

Those who left these programs fell back into defeatism and hate. Thankfully, there were a only a few who actually left the programs, of which I knew.

Hate is never justified. We have the greatest example of forgiveness from Christ the God-Man, a Person totally innocent, yet horribly tortured and killed.

He taught us the way forward in all relationships. He taught us forgiveness.

For those who choose to hate, forgiveness is seen as weakness, and revenge is chosen as a sign of strength. Yet, the truly courageous man or woman forgives.

It hurts to forgive. It hurts to forget. But, until groups decide to forgive and move on in cooperation, violence will be chosen over meekness and stability.

America stands at a crossroads. I predicted a land under martial law over six years ago, in 2008. I said it would happen over race relations,which I thought were being purposefully stirred up even then.

I hope leaders of all racial backgrounds can move people to forgiveness and reconciliation. Otherwise, America will soon become a land without freedom. Freedom can only come to those who choose love-a healthy, balanced love of self and love of neighbor.

Let us pray for Christ's love to be remembered and shared. Love is always justified.

Sad Days

I attended two Masses today, one in French and one in German. I had reasons to do this.

At both, about eight people were in attendance. And, yet, the streets were chock-a-block with tourists.

I have never seen the streets of Valletta so crowded, even in the summer. Many Maltese were out, attending children's Christmas programs of dancing and song, as well as for last minute shopping.

But I have seen Mass attendance dwindle here in the past four years. A priest told me that grandparents go to Mass, but not the children and grandchildren in many areas. Also, the number of foreigners moving and settling here come from countries which are not Catholic-Egypt, Libya, Russia, Liberia and so on.

The population is changing and one can see it in the streets, on the buses, and in the churches.

Malta boasts some of the most beautiful churches in the world. The Knights of Malta supported art, music, liturgical vestment, altar ware and so on. This heritage is obvious in most churches, but also, sadly, in the museums. To go to these institutions and see all the Catholic pieces of artwork, altar ware, even tabernacles, no longer in use, breaks one's heart.

Some Maltese men told me they are very concerned about the changes here. And, yet, one young man told me he would not get married or have children in this hard world. He is afraid of the changes. He has not attained an adult faith.

The Faith is dying. If it is dying here, with such an amazing tradition of real piety and faith handed down for hundreds of years, the faith is passing into history even faster among other European nations, as well as in America.

Sad days for the Church. After leaving the second Mass, I said to my companion that we have just witnessed a snippet of the future--when the very small remnant will carry on the Faith in small churches of eight or ten people.

Today was a glimpse of the future, unless people start having Catholic babies, raising Catholic children, and returning to their Catholic identity.

On Today's Readings part three

Mary is called "highly favored" in some translations by the Archangel Gabriel, the messenger. In the Judaic tradition, Gabriel is not only the messenger of God, but the destroying angel at the Passover in Egypt.

That Gabriel, who caused, in God's will, the last plague, which led directly to the freeing of the Hebrews from slavery, is the angel who tells Mary she will be the Mother of the Messiah, the Son of God, seems to be a happy non-chance.

I do not see in my imagination a soft, cuddling, feminine image of Gabriel. I see strength, a spirit of power and grace. Gabriel bursts into history again, as he did in the Old Testament.

He who paved the way for Moses to lead the people to freedom comes to announce to Mary that she leads us to freedom through her Son, Jesus Christ.

Mary is highly favored, she is blessed. She, alone of all humans, from conception, is full of grace. Gabriel knows this. He would not only be full of love, but awe at the call of this woman. Mary, as the Theotokos, the God-Bearer, now becomes Queen of all angels.

Her call reminds us of the long salvation history of the Old Testament. Gabriel comes to this lowly Hebrew young woman, explains God's will for her life, and waits for her answer. He who destroyed the first born of the Egyptians, brings news of the First Born of all creation, the Incarnate One, the Son of God, prefigured in Moses. Christ is the Savior, the real freedom fighter of all mankind. Gabriel waits.

Fiat voluntas Dei.

Gabriel returns to God and history is never the same. God enters the world through the womb of a young daughter of the Jewish people. All history points to this moment and all history moves away from this moment. Human life would never be the same again. Praise God!

On Today's Readings part two

In the second reading from Romans Chapter 16, St. Paul encourages us as well as the Romans. We see that it is our duty to preach the Gospel to the pagans, here called Gentiles.

This is a command. We are a missionary Church and it is in obedience that we spread the Faith.

It was in obedience that David let Solomon build the temple, a project which was in David's heart and mind. But, God had other plans.

We are strengthened by God to do certain works. God in His wisdom calls us to obey His will, His plans.

The other day, someone I know was in a bus accident in St. Paul's Bay, the place of Paul's shipwreck. One can stand on the edge of the town and see the island of the shipwreck. Bus wrecks and ship wrecks dot our lives, but Paul, who endured all types of troubles, kept preaching to the Gentiles. Indeed, he is the "Apostle of the Gentiles". Without him, my ancestors would not be Catholic, as they came from places where Paul preached and sent others and where other missionaries, such as SS. Cyril and Methodius, carried on the missionary work of God.

If we keep our minds, hearts, souls, imaginations and wills focused on God, we shall endure. But, like Paul, endurance is found in the face of suffering. If we focus on ourselves, we can become easily disturbed and weakened in our resolve.

St. Paul's Shipwreck Ludolf Backhuysen 1630 – 1708

25 Now to God, who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

On Today's Readings part one

The first reading for today from Second Samuel shows us how much David loved God. But, as a "man of war", a man who had to subjugate the enemies of the Hebrews and bring order into the Kingdom, David was not chosen by God to build a physical temple.

That was left to his son, God's chosen one, a king who presided over a peaceful kingdom.

One of the lessons for us in this passage is that we must calm our own warlike instincts before building the space God wants us to have in order to meet us-St. Catherine's little cell.

God came to Jerusalem in a great presence, the Shekinah glory, and resided in the Temple. He comes to us in baptism and if we are trained in the virtues, even young ones can open their hearts, minds, soul.

David had a heart most like God's, but God chose Solomon to build the temple. God chooses the persons He wants to do certain works.

Yesterday, I saw a letter from St. Ignatius in a museum. I had seen this letter before at an exhibit years ago in Valletta. It is heartening for those of us who want to do things or think God is calling us to do things to know that some of the saints could not accomplish some plans. Do not think that everything went smoothly in their lives according to their plans.

St Ignatius wanted to come to Malta and could not. Catholics sometimes think that when God plans something, it always happens, but men, politics, wars, governments, thwart God's perfect plans as we all have free will.

God's permissive will allows us to make decisions and our will is sacred to Him, as that is how we are made in His image and likeness-one way.

Some people think God's perfect will always happens. It does not. God had raised David to be His king, but David had to win that kingdom for God.

Perhaps if he had not been called to be such a great warrior, which he was, he would have been called to build, but he was not.

God's plans are mysterious.

All my plans were changed this morning by a small cell phone alarm. Things happen.

An accident on the bus changed my plans several days ago, and a map on line which was wrong changed my plans yesterday as well.

Men's mistakes and mishaps change plans.

But, God had a plan for Israel. He wanted David to unite the country and leave it in peace, and He wanted Solomon to build on that peace.

Jerusalem -City of Peace.

Then, the temple.....

One learns to listen and to follow God daily. One learns to be flexible within God's order.

God promised a "house" for David.

But, of course, David's House is the House of Christ, the Son of David, in the line of the kings.

And, Christ came during the Pax Romana, the time of certain peace because of the rule of the empire.

Here is the entire section from the Bible on David's promise and disappointment. Of course, the promise is that of the Coming of Christ.

from Second Samuel:7 NRSVCE

God’s Covenant with David

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders[a] of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lorddeclares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take[b] my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me;[c] your throne shall be established forever. 17 In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

David’s Prayer

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people,[d] O Lord God20 And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God21 Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. 22 Therefore you are great, O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.23 Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another[e] nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them,[f] by driving out[g] before his people nations and their gods?[h] 24 And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O Lord, became their God. 25 And now, OLord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. 26 Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel’; and the house of your servant David will be established before you.27 For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant;29 now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”