Dying to self, realizing that all is God’s

 

“You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24

What does it mean to die to self and be a follower of Christ?  In this world we live in today, what does that look like?  How can I truly be as Christ is to me?  How can I, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, “produce much fruit,” John 12:24?

agriculture arable barley blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Pretty serious questions.  I often ponder these questions in my life along with am I fulfilling God’s Will by  acting on the answers to the above questions.

Is my heart truly mine?  Are my hands and feet truly mine?  How about the money in my bank account, my possessions or the children I am blessed with?  The more I contemplate this, the more my answer is – if I die to self and follow Christ, the answer to those questions would be no, they are all God’s.

When I lay down my heart and allow it to be in union with Christ, I will love others as He loves me.  I will embrace each person as if he or she were my brother or sister.  I would pray for them as if they were a part of me.

When I allow Christ to be my hands and feet, I will feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked.  If I see one of my sisters and brothers injured, I will pick them up and attend to their needs.  I will be a true servant to each of my brothers and sisters, giving of myself.

When I accept that my possessions are not mine but God’s, given to me to use to build His kingdom, I would trust that when my brothers or sisters reach out to me in financial need, I would give what I had to give, knowing that it was God’s to give in accordance with His will.

When I accept that my children are God’s, I would have less anxiety, trusting their lives into the hands of their true Father, their creator.  I would know that the hands that created them within me will direct their paths and their journey in life.

When I truly know that all I have is God’s, when I truly die to myself, my trust and peace will reach the heavens.  I would live the life God intended and I would be fulfilling His Will, building His kingdom here in this temporary home.  I think this is what it means to me to die to self and bear much fruit, just as the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it is then that the wheat is useful.  And so we, like the grain of wheat, will feed God’s people by bearing fruits of the kingdom through our service, love, compassion, and mercy given to us to be Christ in this world that needs it.

Dear friends, is your heart God’s heart?  Are your hands and feet that of Jesus?  Are your possessions God’s gift to use to aid His people?  Are your children His, given to you to spiritually guide and produce abundant fruit in the kingdom of God?  How simple would our lives be when we accept that all that we are and all that we have is God’s and was given to us to serve and love our brothers and sisters.

If I saw You walking by…

If I saw You walking by, would I be a beggar, the one who gave all she had,  the blind man, the hemorrhaging woman or the Pharisee?  I ponder this question as I journey through life.  Am I at times the Pharisee, persecuting You with my ignorance to who You are, what You have done for me?  Do I, like the blind man and the hemorrhaging woman know who You are and desire Your healing?  Am I the beggar, searching for what You have to offer, seeking Your riches?  Or may be I am the one who gave all I had, honoring Your presence?

seashore under white and blue sky during sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Through my journey, I have been each of these.  I have persecuted Jesus through my earthly desires and selfishness.  I have thought of myself when I have meditated on the Passion as one who has spit on Jesus, that screamed “crucify him”.  When I see myself in the Passion in this role, I identify with the affect of my sins.  My sins affect not just my small world and inner being.  They have a greater affect, a ripple affect that extends to my community and beyond.  In essence, my sins today are the people of yesterday that persecuted and crucified Jesus.  Sometimes that is a little hard to swallow – to consider my own sins a part of Jesus’ Passion.

Then there are times when I am the blind man or the hemorrhaging woman, seeking healing and knowing that Jesus is the source of that unending gift of life giving water.  My healing comes in the form of both physical and spiritual healing.  More often, my healing takes the form of spiritual healing and it is through the deeper relationship with Christ that I find that healing, through embracing the Body of Christ, found in both the Eucharist and the Church.

When I see myself as the beggar, I ponder the riches I seek.  When I have fulfilled this role, have I sought from Jesus only to gain for myself or I have sought from Jesus riches to pour out upon others?  Through my journey, I have done both.  I remember when I was in college, I would pray my rosary or kneel down in prayer to ask for God to assist me in making a good grade on my exam.  In my mind, I always felt that if I had studied and did my part, then prayed and asked God to do His part, I would be successful in making the grade.  I guess it worked.  But I think in my shallow faith at the time, I was begging God to help me make the grade for my own personal success, not considering what His intention was for that success.  On the flip side, as I have grown in my faith, I often find myself praying for things that help me to be the person allowing God to fulfill His Will in or to accept His Will in the outcome of something I am praying for.

When I look at all these roles, I think I personally prefer to be more of the person who gave all that she had, honoring God’s presence.  This is the role that I feel will provide holiness.  This is the role I want to fulfill more often in my life as I journey forward to my final resting place.  It is in this role that I accomplish all other roles and unite with God.

I think in our journey we each go through phases of each of these roles.  It is important to do so because I think this is where growth in our relationship develops and becomes deeper so that we can establish holiness, our ultimate goal on this earth that God has given each of us.  As we go deeper in our faith and develop a more prayerful relationship with God, we begin to move further away from some of the roles such as the persecutor.  I know through my own journey that we are often relearning to walk.  Each time we relearn, the falls and the time it takes to relearn to walk the journey become smaller and smaller as our conscience and heart unite to the one who created us to be Holy.

I want to end this post with a thought.  What does it take to give all that we are, honoring God’s presence in all that we do on a daily basis?  I don’t think it means we are perfect.  I think it implies that we are doing the best that is capable of us, which is what God created you to do – hence holiness.  God Bless!

Are you treading the muddiness of life or seeking life giving springs?

“Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”

This morning as I walked along the pond at work before starting my morning, I noticed murky water surrounding the outer boundaries of the pond. As I asked God to reveal himself to me along my walk, I peered towards the fountain towards the center of the pond. As my eyes moved towards the center, I noticed the water wasn’t as murky.

As I continued to walk, I began to contemplate my exterior and interior being. Just like the outer realm of the pond, there are things on the external that muddy my life, causing confusion and lack of clarity. When I gazed towards the fountain, I could see the life giving springs at the core of who I am. That spring is God Himself living within me. I can choose to go to this core and clear up the murky waters or I can choose to live on the exterior treading through the muddiness of life.

img_2575

Of course God didn’t stop there out at the pond.  As I entered the building, on the wall I noticed a poster hanging that said “Change is life giving. It helps us grow into someone greater than we already are.”  Funny – this poster has probably hung in this same spot since I’ve worked at this campus the past 10 years.  I have walked past it quite a number of times and never really realized the words printed on it.  Yet, today as I’m reflecting on the gradient changes in the pond, I see this poster and realize the words on it are more food for thought for me in this very moment.  You think it was a God moment?  You bet it was.

I asked myself what does it mean to me to go to that center, that living water that resides within me and each of you?

  1. Asking God to desire Him, to desire holiness, to desire life.
  2. Receiving the graces He offers us.
  3. Change.

I’ve been reading “Finding God in all things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, by William Barry, S.J.  In the book, he points out that our desires are not under our control.  If we are unhappy with what we desire, then we must ask God to change or help us overcome those desires.  It is only through our realization that God is in control of our being, even our desires, that we can request to desire Him first, to desire sanctity and this life giving water.

clouds countryside dawn fountain
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Once we have the desire for this life giving water, then we will search out and take part in that which offers us grace – the Sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I believe when we receive the graces God offers us, we begin a transformation within us that is life giving and brings us into the core of who we are in Christ.  This starts with our conversion but doesn’t end there.  The more we are open to receiving the gifts God offers us through this living spring within us, the more change we undergo and the greater God illuminates through us, revealing Himself to others.  This is our call to discipleship, to building the Kingdom of God.  My friends, the greatest vision I have had is to look upon another sister or brother in Christ and see Jesus looking back at me through that person.  Over the years, there have been many sisters and brothers that have reflected the very essence of Christ in my presence through their unending love, compassion and mercy.  Today, that is our challenge, in a world full of brokenness, to reflect the image of Christ from the core of our being onto our brothers and sisters, especially those that hurt us the most.

Where there is love

“Where there is love, obstacles disappear, thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls.”  Before the Altar, Concepcion Cabrera De Armidarose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469.jpeg

In our life, God gives each of us a tool – His gift of love.  Love is not just a feeling, it is an action.  Love is the basis for trusting in Jesus and accepting God’s will.  Trust in Jesus is absent without love.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida explains it perfectly in her meditations Before the Altar,“ where there is love, obstacles disappear thorns are turned into roses, crosses into pearls”.  Filling our soul with Jesus’ love allows us to trust Him, to detach ourselves from the things of this world and rely on the will of God.  This love is an infinite love that pours out and satisfies all desires of the heart.  With that satisfaction comes a renouncement of self and reliance on God.  Concepcion Cabrera De Armida also states, “where there is love, the heart is filled with the most sublime aspirations, with irrepressible zeal and fiery ardor, with a thirst for purity, a hunger for martyrdom, endless crosses and an unlimited confidence in God.”

What does it mean to fill your soul, your heart with Jesus?  Can Jesus occupy your heart if it is filled with self-love, pride, egotism?  One must renounce oneself, surrender to God, void the heart and soul so that only Jesus can occupy it.  Allow Him to come into your heart and occupy it completely, to reign as King in your heart.  You will be consumed with a love that is larger than anything and God will reveal more to you.  He will give you more trials with more victories.  He will show you areas in your life where you have relied on yourself versus Him.  

This is where I found myself many years ago, embracing this love.  As I embraced it and consumed it, releasing myself, God revealed much more to me in my life.  He revealed areas that I knew I had to change.  The struggles came and the strength overpowered them.  There were times that I would reflect on a situation and wonder how I was able to react the way I did, how I was able to overcome it.  In many cases, it wasn’t me.  It wasn’t the way I would have normally reacted.  It was larger, it was an act of a consuming love, a greater confidence in God.  It was Jesus reigning in my heart as King, His heart beating in unison with mine.  He was the center of it all. 

Love is the foundation of it all.  It allows you to trust in God and let Him provide the strength to lift the burdens of your crosses you bear in your life.    

How does love provide this foundation to trusting God and carrying you through your struggles?  Concepcion Cabrera de Armida speaks of three dimensions of love in her meditation of charity in What Jesus is Like.  She states that we must first love Jesus with all of our heart and soul.  Most of us have this love for Jesus.  Where we begin to struggle is to allow Jesus to love us, the second dimension of love.  Once you have established a love for Jesus, then you can open your heart by your own will to allow Him to love you.  After you have allowed Jesus to come into your heart and love you, then you are giving up your own will to that of the Father.  Jesus wants you to look at Him, gaze upon Him and see this reflection of love He has for you, embrace it and exhibit it.  By soaking in His gaze and reflecting His love, you must completely empty yourself and then you will see the Father through Him and will your life over to Him.  By loving Him and allowing Him to love you, you will surrender to His desires.  This leads into the third dimension of love, to surrender the soul to only pleasing God.  By surrendering the soul to think only of pleasing God, you will resemble Jesus.  Jesus came into the world to seek your love and to surrender His love to you.  By resembling this dimension of love, your eyes and heart will be fixed on God and you will “live in God”.

What is it like to resemble this dimension of love, the goodness of Jesus?  This was another question that pondered my thoughts in the struggles in my life.  How can I resemble Christ – love as He did?  He graciously, lovingly, selflessly carried His cross for mankind.  With every thorn in my life, I weep, I complain, I ask God to take it away.  Is that the solution?  Does God want me to resemble Jesus in these moments?  Does He want me to rely on Him, embrace His love and allow it to overflow during my darkest hours?  How can we resemble Jesus’ goodness to forgive, to love unending, and to be compassionate to suffering?  It is an act of self-sacrifice. 

What does this self-sacrifice look like?  It is emulating Jesus’ compassion, His love and forgiveness to bear the crosses you are given just as He did.  It’s accepting these crosses in your life and asking for strength to bear them.  In What Jesus Is Like?, Concepcion Cabrera de Armida mentions an analogy of the striking of a harp and picking of the petals of a flower to a good soul.  She states that the good soul is like a harp and a flower.  “When it is wounded by criticism and torn apart by ingratitude, it can only respond with harmony and the perfume of goodness.”  This is what Jesus’ soul is like.  He radiates with self-sacrifice and kindness even though He was/is persecuted by mankind.  Through all the trials you experience, you are called to do the same.  You must seek kindness, compassion and love in each moment versus anger and pride.  You must humble yourself, holding true to God, seeking His guidance and strength in each moment of persecution.  Through these acts of love, kindness and humility, He will shower you with His love and He will carry you through any circumstance, big and small. 

How Many Labels Do You Wear?

pexels-photo-697059.jpeg

Do you wear a label or several? Most of us wear labels. It could be a label that others placed on us or perhaps something we were taught as a child that influenced a belief. Being A Christian, especially Catholic, and being separated and getting divorced caused me to feel like a label was placed on my forehead. The church celebrates family. And I felt I was no longer a part of that because I had placed this label on me based on my belief in the sacrament of marriage. Early in my separation I remember feeling like I would be judged by those who I attended Mass with every Sunday. I was embarrassed, I felt I had gone against church teaching. The feeling was so strong I started attending other Mass times to not feel confronted, questioned or judged. The one constant at the time was my faith in God and the overwhelming grace He gave me to deal with the hurt. I did understand deep within me that this was a path I had to take and that God was holding me and carrying me through it but I still had this label, a “divorced person” in the church. It was a label I placed on myself and wore each time I attended Mass alone or with my two girls. One of the messages at a comedy show I attended was that we should not let our relationship status define us. Who we are in Christ should be what defines us, our status as a daughter or son of a King, and not just any King, “The King”. That goes for all labels we place on ourselves or others place on us. There is a children’s book by Max Lucado that points this out so perfectly, “You are Special”. As long as you allow the labels to stick they will. When you realize Your creator doesn’t place these on you, they will not stick because you are special and perfect. Today ask God to help you see who you are in His eyes without any labels.