Friday, October 26, 2007

Gem Moments & Decoding Conversations

There remains so much to living that I am amazed at, especially the little things that go flying by from day to day. Even when I slow down to see the smaller things, so much just slips through my fingers like water cascading down from a font, freely falling.

My hardest task is decoding conversations. What is she truly getting at? I'm, now more than ever, completely perplexed of the importance of one incident not wholly her fault in which it opens a whole stream of conversation while the words shared last fall didn't result in a mere shrug of the shoulder. Or is it that I put too much stock in what was shared last fall? Did I read too much into the friendship? I wish I could figure that out.

We're going to Bella very soon this afternoon. There's a group of us going on a road trip from the church so I am extremely excited about that and the fun as a group we'll have. The movie looks to be a very good one, and I might even entertain a review here on the blog.

Last night was fun, too. The Engineering Scholarship dinner was last night, and it seems I get to sit with an interesting group each year. Last year was my department head. This year it was an exec who I heard speak while I was interning in Austin this past summer. What an enjoyable experience!

Oh, yeah...and I capped off things with a pumpkin carving party with some really good friends last night, too. The escapades went on late into the night, but I found it to be a nice reminder of last year and the fun we had then that is so hard to come by now. It was certainly the best event of the week, even if it was only to get to visit with them for a short while. The evening was another of those gem moments I love the most.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Lord and My God!

The classes continue to spiral, but things will survive. The relationships are stagnant, but they will survive. The future is clouded, but it will remain. Nothing is impossible with God, and I am firm in my path with Him. What wonders are there to be seen if only watched closely enough.

I think this has been the problem for me the past few semesters, but especially with this one. I am rushing to the finish line and not paying enough attention to the present. No matter how strong I am, I cannot change something unmovable. I must work within to work without what and who I love.

This past weekend was the PAX (Pursuing After Christ) Retreat in Caldwell, Texas. I wasn't sure what to expect, or what to want to take away from it. However, God did provide in ways so wonderful and unexpected. A friend who went on the retreat, David, put it best as his hope was to have a "scheduled escape." I love that phrase. We often are too "busy" to have a scheduled escape. We work ourselves to death or drive ourselves senseless trying to achieve an unachievable goal. The great adage of "everything in moderation" is so fitting here. So it was a wonderful scheduled escape, but it was also much more than that.

There were sixteen of us on the retreat, so it was a very personal retreat, one filled with free time to contemplate. It wasn't a busy-bee retreat, ones that I'm so accustomed to. It was very much a thinking retreat. Not on the rat race of life, but more of finding tools to apply in the havoc that tends to be at least my life.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said: "There are two ways of waking up in the morning. One is to say, 'Good morning, God,' and the other is to say, 'Good God, morning!'"[1, 2] I think we should remind ourselves to wake up the first way and not the second.

The retreat this past weekend was more than a retreat. It was an awakening of my soul down to its deepest parts, one that shook me, one that turned me over with a deepening so great, so powerful that it will stay with me ever more. It was a conversion so amazing and so piercing into my heart that I know I did not believe before in Him so fervently as I do now.

So, I wish to share with you some words I quickly wrote from that evening. I was so moved in the meditation and contemplation on the Gospel passage from John 20. What it came to be was that conversion of the heart, to making things new. These words below cannot but only attempt in describing what kind of experience found within that hour of adoration, the piercing flashes of light with desolation and a swelling of consolation from God. It was an experience so strong I've never felt before, but I know that it was placed before me for a reason, and I must carry on as the mountaintop visit has gone away again:
The Canticle

How do I describe this experience I have been thrust into?
How do I compare it to any other experience in which I have ever felt or borne in my experience?
How can I doubt the Lord any further?
How can I not love Him as I know now?

What grace has been given to me!
What love has indwelled in me!
What caress of the heart have I felt!

My heart has seen the Lord. It has walked in His presence, His True Presence in all His Glory. His hand has calmed my nervous heart. His mercy has washed over me with all compassion this world can provide. His Light has filled my heart. It has graced me with a brightness so blinding. It has filled me completely.

With all my heart shall I continue to praise you, O God, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

With all my heart shall I sing of the Lord. I will proclaim from the depths to the heights of every land. I will speak the Word of Truth to all the lands all the days of my life. Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bonfire of the Heart

Fear is a natural thing of life, but there is another kind a fear that paralyzes and tears one down. It can come from all sorts of areas of one's life, but the result is the same: inaction and weakness. Not only does fear take away hope, it makes us weak when we least expect it.

So this week was a decently okay week, but the clouds of fear did roll in, seeing as it is midterm season now. And so I receive the exam grades back, which didn't help things in general. I just feel so drained. The best way I can describe it is with an analogy.

So we have a ship, which I'll conveniently call the Titanic. Unsinkable, right? So this past week it hit an iceberg...or two. Now we have a gash in the hull and it's taking on water...sinking soon, yes.

What am I to do? What happens when fear gets a hold of us? We start arranging the deck chairs and pretend nothing's wrong. The band continues to play. What did we do with the lifeboats? We cast them overboard a week ago. What now?

Well, if we let fear take us over we don't realize that there's a few other options, more sensible options. One is to let the compartments flood, but only so much. We can take some water on and still survive, ship intact, and the passengers safely reaching shore in one piece and dry. We seal off the compartments and we limp to the finish line. So that's where I'm now.

Relatively speaking, I found the controls to shut the compartments last night. Something about last night was different, intrinsically changing. The Eucharistic Adoration was a moment at a spiritual mountaintop. Alas, we, like Moses, cannot stay at the mountaintop. But I left yesterday evening refreshed, renewed, and ready to implement my plan with all conviction and succeed. I know I will succeed.

At Daily Mass yesterday Father Brian mentioned something about fear in his homily, which was on my mind earlier in the day thinking about how I could salvage my classes. We are called not to have fear of this world. Nor are we are called to fear God's punishment so much because He loves us. We are to fear losing His love. How do we lose His love? Does He take it from us? No, it's always there. It's when we reject His love, a love we do not deserve nor have a valid reason to reject. We should fear losing Him, and let that drive us to Him even further, with even more passion. That is what it means to be God-fearing.

I was disappointed a little yesterday before the late night adoration, and it had to do with relationships and my conflicted heart. It seemed my heart was pulled in a new way between last week and those hardships I created then and now. God then put a stumbling block, a wake-up call before me, yesterday. It was in a most intriguing conversation my friend and I had, as I've never quite dealt with one as I did yesterday. I panicked a little. Then I reversed my thinking for leading it down solely a path of friendship. I like her more than that.

But the most ironic things is that it the third brick wall I've faced in the past year, almost precisely a year. And this time it's God working in her heart. How can I argue with God? It's always a losing battle. It was more of a bout of frustration, but it reminded me of the thoughts I've listed before with my April post Roller Coaster of Emotions.

I want to love her, but that road's blocked again. We've got to exit the road again and take another detour, but soon we'll return to the road once more.

And so, finally before I go for the weekend for a retreat, my first to go on (and not just staff, like Awakening) since my freshman year all those four years ago, I want to share a poem I wrote late in September called Bonfire of the Heart.

It was supposed to be something of a descriptive love poem of sorts, but it turned out different and I explored the themes of darkness and light. It brought me to Christ and how best to describe Him in the Eucharist. And so that's what I did. Christ, in the Eucharist, is our Bonfire of the Heart. He is our Daily Bread, our Saving Grace, Love beyond belief, o glorious part of the Blessed Trinity. He is our all.

So, my dear friends look upon the Bonfire and let your soul rest because you are home in Christ and shall forever be blest.

Bonfire of the Heart

The time draws near
To draw friends and strangers
Out of the darkness that lingers
And into the light that is here.

We are called to love
And not to give into present fears,
Opening our hearts and lending our ears
To the gifts given from above.

Add to these fires, every one of you,
The fears and doubts that you have,
And, in turn, Christ will make anew
Your heart with His rod and staff.

See before you the Bonfire of the Heart,
Christ's everlasting gift, His Sacrifice to you.
We are to share in His Sacrifice and take part,
Lifting up our struggles and making our lives new.

Rest in the Lord, all you troubled,
For the Bonfire still burns this day.
His Love and His Sacrifice are forever coupled,
And we are to take up our own cross and follow His Way.

Look upon the Bonfire and let your soul rest.
You are home in Christ and shall forever be blest.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Faith Like a Mustard Seed

It has been a most certainly a taxing week, the most taxing of the semester. However, things that must have been said and must have been done were done and done to the best of my ability.

It is a sad day when a person becomes the person he does not wish to be in a relationship, the jerk and the uncaring one that seems to always be there when a relationship tears itself into two separate beings once more. I had been on the opposite side of a friendship that stung when it was changed by the other. Now I am the one doing the stinging. And it hurts me so, but I know in the end the relationship needed to be put into the light of day and analyzed and discussed completely and openly between the two of us.

What hurts me the most is that I did it to a friend who I know was afflicted before, and I have thus continued to afflict now through my actions and thoughts. I thought I was strong enough. Strong enough to take away that affliction, but it was quick for me to see this past week that I could not take away this affliction. No, this affliction was far too buried down. The roots of past transgressions against her too firmly rooted into the heart of her.

Father Brian's homily today struck me so; it brought me to tears up after listening to it. It was speaking of her heart and its condition, though he did not know it. Amazingly enough, the homily has reverberated back to me even now, these hours afterward, simply because of the imagery used.

The homily focused on today's Gospel reading from Luke. He explained that the Lord had to use two individual parables because the first was not sufficient for the apostles understanding. The first tells of the power of faith, of its potency, but not of its purpose. That is why the one with the faith of a mustard seed cannot just say to the mulberry tree "be uprooted and planted in the sea." No, it has no purpose to it. It is in the second parable of the reading that we are given that purpose. Namely, we are to do as we are commanded by our Master and then say: "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do."

It is here, too, that Father Brian turned the reading almost on its head. It was here that he related the mulberry tree to be those sins and transgressions so deeply rooted into one's heart. That through even that smallest amount of faith, that of the size of a mustard seed, can we through Christ and through following His Will as Christians be able to move the mulberry tree so deeply rooted in our hearts and to have it placed into the sea.

Now think of the sea as God's innumerable and unsurpassable love. It turns the parable even further, to its completion. Let us uproot those mulberry trees according to God's will.

From today's Gospel reading:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
'Come here immediately and take your place at table'?
Would he not rather say to him,
'Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished'?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'"
-- Luke 17:5-10

My friend was told she was not a good Christian, essentially that she was of little faith. She was made inferior by their condemnation, by their reproach. And it hurts me so. Because if we look at today's readings, especially at the Gospel reading today, we can see the poor in spirit, those lacking in faith but not in desire to grow are truly the righteous ones.

As the first Beatitude says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) But if you read further into the Beatitudes, the eighth reverberates the first in this respect: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10) Both of their rewards is the kingdom of heaven, which is important. It shows that these two are equal importance, of equal worth to our attention. She is far from a bad Christian, but one seeking the holiness of God.

Furthermore, if we look into the root of the word "holy" in Hebrew we have "Qadash," which is, at its heart: "to be set apart." We are all called to be holy and to be good, but to be both is not the same. We can be holy which is good, but simply good is not necessarily holy. We must be set apart, and we are not to turn away the Other in their times of need.

I wanted her to hear the words I heard to today, to see the love I've felt today, but I have failed because I had the faith of the mustard seed—the power—but not the will—the purpose—to do fully the Will of the Master. I could not just say to the mulberry trees so deeply rooted in her heart—all that affliction—and say be uprooted and planted into the sea. And for that reason I am an unprofitable servant; I have done what I was obliged to do but failed by trying to do more than what I cannot do in my current state, which is love like God loves and do so fully with all of my heart.