time, talent, treasure

“The more generous you are for God, the happier you will be.” – Saint Josemaria, The Furrow, #18

This Lent, I think it’s important that I become less “me-focused.” And it’s sooo easy to be “me-focused” in a world where egocentricity (wow! that’s a word?! I wasn’t auto-corrected ;-)) is, subtly and not so subtly, glorified.

But truly, it is in giving ourselves to God and to others in His that we find true happiness.

The Catholic Church defines “Christian stewardship” as giving your time, talent, and treasure to God and to others in accordance with what God wills for you. I know for the widower in Scripture, giving her entire life savings into the collection basket was what God called her to do… and yet, I am sure He rewarded her a thousandfold.

This Lent, I would like to be a better Christian steward via my thoughts, words, and actions– in discreet, small, tangible ways, not just big blaring ways. It will take discipline to try to give more of that “gift of [my]self” to others: with a pure, unselfish heart. And if the end at the day, I am happier, that will just be an added joy, though not the end. The end? Love. Charity. Agape.

They say true happiness lies in living a virtuous life. And a virtuous life can only be lived in Love Himself: God.

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Satan and his sly affair

My greatest enemy… is myself.

One may say Satan is our greatest enemy, but really, (most of us) have free will to do what we want. We can *personally* choose to listen to Satan, to worldly desires… to that voice inside our heads that is tainted by “the Fall” (of mankind via Adam and Eve). That tainted voice tells us that it is OK to do something that we know is bad for us or others. Conversely, we can  *personally* choose to listen to God, and to live our lives pointed towards Heaven. It is our choice. We are responsible for saying yes to the voice of the Enemy, consequently becoming our own enemies– or for saying yes to Christ Our King.

Am I listening to God? Moreover, am I DOING something about what I hear: am I clinging to His every word?

In Matthew 4:4, Jesus tells Satan: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Am I listening to Satan, who in subtle AND not-so-subtle ways tempts me, daily? I am but a fool if I fail to see how hard Satan is working to gain my soul. Bit by bit, day by day, little by little… it’s a sly affair. 

Even the greatest of saints were tempted. In big ways AND in little ways. All the time. Tempted to make choices that would lead them to be less alive… less alive in Christ.

I am a saint in the making, and I need to be aware. That’s step one. Step two? To take courage! To pick up my cross and to follow JESUS: the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

It is Christ Our Lord’s grace that helps me to flee temptation and to fly towards Heaven!

As Saint Josemaria put it:

“Don’t forget, my son, that for you on earth there is but one evil, which you must fear and avoid with the grace of God: sin.” The Way, 386

Some youth chillin' with Papa Francesco and taking a "selfie." May God bless them on their quest for HOLINESS... holiness: striving to turn from sin and to run towards Jesus... by listening to Him and living a life built around His word!

Youth chillin’ with Papa Francesco. Hopefully, they left this inspiring pope with a thirst for holiness: to turn from sin, run towards Jesus, and live in Him by clinging to His every word!

“Be not afraid”… of what? why, my own fear…

I’ve heard that the phrases “Be not afraid,” “Fear not,” “Take courage,” and other variations, are in Holy Scripture / the Bible 365 times. I am guessing that in the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books) there are EVEN more references! (Here’s one source.)

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Like Jesus, “Be not afraid!” was also a favorite saying of this Vicar of Christ, Blessed Pope John Paul II.

In regards to sin… of what am I “afraid”? What do I “fear”?

Certainly, when I sin, I do not feel “afraid” nor “fear.” Instead, I feel “tempted.”

When I sin, I feel like I need something or like I need to do something. But really, I only want something. And that something is not good for myself and/or others. No matter how hard it may be to see that, and no matter how easy it may be to rationalize that that something is not.

SIN: an act that goes against God’s Will.

No matter how small (e.g., “venial”) or how big (e.g., “mortal), I am hurting God’s heart BECAUSE I AM HURTING MYSELF. And God is weeping for me,  because He loves me (and His other children who I am hurting). Yes, via sin, I am always indirectly and/or directly hurting God, myself and others, since we are ALL connected.

BUT THEN I REMEMBER THIS…

God does NOT wants to control me or be “strict” with me, as if I am a robot! Rather, His desire is that I use my freedom to do what will NOT hurt me. He is THAT loving of a Father!

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Myself and my grandfather, who loved me with a fatherly love.

When I sin, yes, I AM afraid… I am afraid that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to function.

When I sin, I DO fear… I fear that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to be happy.

This Lent, I have come to ponder how my SINNING is the same as FEARING my own FEAR… fearing the very fear of my own lack of courage to do what is RIGHT… a very human tendency.

Sinning is fearing that if I do not get what I think I need… I will be helpless. But God wants to help me, and I hope that I can always trust, with childlike trust, that He knows what is BEST for me.  In Isaiah 55:8, He tells me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”.

Virtue has never ever been deemed “easy.” It is much easier to live a mediocre, morally tepid, not-so-virtuous life. But God is calling me. And He’s telling me not to be afraid!

Not to be AFRAID of turning away from my tendency to go the easy route: to cling to sin.

Not to FEAR turning towards virtue: away from darkness and death, and into light and life.

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Like 14-year-old Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, one of the Mexican “Cristero” martyrs, did not FEAR his own FEAR… I, too, am called to let Christ conquer sin in me. #BlJLOraProNobis

Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death

Evening Prayer (“Magnificat” version) this evening included James 1:15: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

This reminded me of Blessed John Paul II’s term, “culture of death,” which includes sins of concupiscence / the flesh.

Such sins in particular destroy the human individual, marriages, families, and society at large. Via unchastity, the using and abuse of others, inordinate and excessive emphasis on worldly pleasures, a plethora of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, masturbation), self-deprecation and mutilation, hatred, murder… the list goes on… the human soul no longer teems with life, but is blackened by death.

Even when it might “feel good” at first, the soul is slowly… being killed… dying. One day, it’s dead. It’s over.

And like James 1:15 says, it all starts in small, subtle ways. Very lovely-seeming ways. Our inordinate desires can deceive us. Satan uses them to steer us off course from the Giver of LIFE… from a Culture of LIFE.

But you know what is so beautiful?

Jesus Christ has already won the battle! By His Passion and His Resurrection.

Jesus assures us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

The question is: will I let Him conquer my heart?

O, if I but let the thorns of his crown pierce my hardened heart… it will become flesh again. It will become alive again.

I must think this over and over in Lent! How can I continually let Him give me life as He is wanting? More and more abundantly?

As Jesus said “no” three times to Satan, who was tempting Him in the desert (when He was famished from fasting), I too can say “no” to Satan.

I have nothing to fear! Only my mediocrity, my own lack of courage.

By saying no to my (inordinate) desires this Lent (with which Satan so subtly plays), I can let the Culture of LIFE triumph in this battle in the world of LIFE vs. death.

LIFE will win. Christ Jesus assures me of that!

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