Fourth Week of Advent….just hours long!

Friends,

This Fourth week of Advent is only hours long this year!  Here are some thoughts:

Decisions reversed

When we make a decision, we want it to be the right one. This is natural.  When we make a decision, we want it to be long lasting. This is normal.

But our Lord doesn’t always allow us to make the “right” decision; nor does He always allow our decisions to remain the same.

Today’s readings on this the shortest Fourth Week of Advent, reminds us that God is in charge of our life, not our decisions. He gives us the ability to make decisions, but the Lord is responsible for the outcomes and results of these decisions.

king davidKing David. He thought he was doing something good and noble.  Something right, but while his intentions were correct, it wasn’t what the Lord was asking of him.

Mary thought she was to be the wife of Joseph and to have his children. But she wasn’t correct.  The Lord had much bigger plans for her. baby jesus

What these two, King David and Mary, in reversing their original decisions have in common is the gift of knowledge. Knowledge created a path out of darkness.  It also makes clear the path we should walk.

David: The decrees of the Lord are firm,     and all of them are righteous.  10 They are more precious than gold,     than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey,     than honey from the honeycomb (The Psalms)

Mary: My soul magnifies the Lord, 47  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. (The Magnificat)

The Gift of Knowledge:  Generally knowledge of God’s true will for us comes through gradual illumination. This begins with a knowledge of who WE are. Before we can fully embrace God, it is helpful to fully embrace ourselves.

When Augustine wrote his famous book, Confessions, he looked back upon his years of wandering and wrote: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient yet ever new; late have I loved you! You were inside me all the time but I was running around outside.”

But after his conversion, Augustine never ceased this inner journey. He wrote, “Let me know myself; let me know you!” This helps us to understand that while we might have made an initial decision to follow God, or to enter a particular way of following God, it is a never ending search. Like David and Mary, we might be surprised and change our path, for our search for God is never ending. There is no point in our lives where we can say, “Done! I’ve found the Lord and His will for me. Done!” No, we do what Michael Casey writes, ‘as soon as you carefully articulate why you have come to the monastery, you will need to through it out and start all over again.’

And so, this short fourth week of Advent, I invite you to reflect upon this gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of knowledge.

Father Jordan Aumann defined the gift of knowledge as the gift that enables a person “to judge rightly concerning the truths of faith in accordance with their proper causes and the principles of revealed truth.”

The Baltimore Catechism defined it as “a gift of the Holy Ghost which enables us to see God reflected in all creatures and to praise Him in them, but yet to see the nothingness of creatures in themselves so that we will desire God alone.”

Lastly, Father Adolphe Tanquerey defined it as “a gift which, by the illuminating action of the Holy Ghost, perfects the virtue of faith, and thereby gives us a knowledge of created things in their relations to God.”

Those are good definitions, but they are kind of long, so I would like to add my definition: Father Ken says,

“Knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and by knowing ourselves we come to realize the immensity of God mercy and love, and therefore by knowing ourselves we come to know God.”

I guess mine is longer……see how the Lord has given me the gift of knowledge to know this!

Blessed Advent hours!

Father Ken

vanhaverbekesmall13_cartoon

 

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To see as God sees

Friends,

Ever doubt your faith?  Then you are in the company of great saintly people!

“There is so much contradiction in my soul.—Such deep longing for God—so deep that it is painful—a suffering continual—and yet not wanted by God—repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal.—Souls hold no attraction—Heaven means nothing—to me it looks like an empty place—the thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God.—Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His—so He has ever right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody even to God.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta
 

 

“I get tired of the darkness all around me. The darkness itself seems to borrow, from the sinners who live in it, the gift of speech. I hear its mocking accents: It’s all a dream, this talk of a heavenly country, of a God who made it all, who is to be your possession in eternity!  All right, go on longing for death! But death will make nonsense of your hopes; it will only mean a night darker than ever, the night of mere non-existence!” Therese of Lisieux

 

 

 

“Lord, unbelievable darkness enveloped me. It was as if people from every corner came into view. There were so many. I seemed so small—so empty—so alone. My soul seemed suddenly drained of every ounce of love—my capacity to love was shattered, my strength overcome by weakness.” Mother Angelica

 

“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near……….For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Isaiah 55

Deutero-Isaiah may be the work of an anonymous 6th century BC author in Exile, but it describes our understanding of the Father of Jesus Christ.  By realizing darkness, exile, and even weaknesses is part of God’s for our salvation, and accepting God always answers our prayers, but rarely in the manner or time we expect, we can stand firm in faith with Mother Teresa, Therese of Lisieux, and Mother Angelica.  We can state as Mother Angelica did:

“Only in eternity shall we see the beauty of the soul, and only then shall we realize what great things were accomplished by interior suffering.”

Peace,

Father Ken

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Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

Friends,

today’s readings are all about forgiveness.  Here are some thoughts:

Henri Nouwen – Forgiveness is an act of liberation

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

Immaculee

Immaculee acknowledges that since the war ended, feelings of anger and hatred for the killers sometimes tempt her at weak moments. “But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester,” she writes. “I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”

At one point, just as the violence in Rwanda had been quelled and talk of UN-led tribunals had begun, Immaculee returned to Kibuye. There, she visited a prison to meet the leader of the gang who killed her mother and her bother, Damascene. His name is Felicien.

Before the genocide, he had been a successful Hutu businessman known for his expensive suits and impeccable manners. Immaculee recalled in her talk how she used to play with his children. It was Felicien’s voice that she heard calling her name when the killers searched the pastor’s home. Now, here was Felicien, sobbing, his clothes hanging like rags from his emaciated body.

Shamed, he could barely make eye contact with Immaculee. “I wept at the sight of his suffering,” Immaculee said. “He was now the victim of his victims, destined to live in torment and regret.” She reached out and touched his hands and said: “I forgive you.” His Tutsi jailer was furious at this, hoping that she would spit on the man. “Why did you forgive him?” he demanded. “Forgiveness is all I have to offer,” Immaculee responded.

 

Here is a wonderful prayer about forgiveness that first appeared under the title of the Peace Prayer in France in 1912 in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). It was published in Paris by a Catholic association known as La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League),

Lord make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred let me sow love Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith Where there is despair, hope Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console to be understood as to understand To be loved as to love For it is in giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are pardoned And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life Amen

Sound familiar?

Peace.

Father Ken

 

 

 

 

 

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Correction

Dear Friends,

It is difficult to accept correction.  Here are two “rules” which might help:

 

Rule Number One: Presume Good Will

While personalities, mannerisms, and poor circumstances might create a harshness when we are being corrected either by a superior or a co-worker, we must “presume good will.”

Even if the person does not fully understand the complexity of the situation,  we can be humbled for two reasons:  First, their observations often are either partially correct or right on the money, giving us something to address; and secondly, it reminded us that God speaks through people, not just in our thoughts! And our thoughts of ourselves are not always correct!

Saint Augustine notes that correction is one of the benefits of genuine friendship.  If I were engaging in behavior that is liable to be damaging, I would hope that a friend would help me see the error of my ways.  True friends will spot a danger and let us know.

Rule Number Two: Growth only happens in vulnerability.

St. Aelred writes:  “The human heart is like a vessel that may be either full of honey or poison.”  He goes on to explain how correction will open that vessel, and then the person will know if his heart if filled with fraternal love or vice. When we bristle at correction, its filled with poisonous vice; when we accept with humility, its filled with fraternal love.

It is important to “open our lid.” If we find poison or vinegar, then we must follow the advice of St. Therese who reminds us we should not be afraid of our weaknesses:

MY DEAREST SISTER, – Do not let your weakness make you unhappy. When, in the morning, we feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, it is really a grace: it is the time to “lay the axe to the root of the tree,”1 relying upon Jesus alone. If we fall, an act of love will set all right, and Jesus smiles. He helps us without seeming to do so; and the tears which sinners cause Him to shed are wiped away by our poor weak love. Love can do all things. The most impossible tasks seem to it easy and sweet. You know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. What, then, have we to fear?

You wish to become a Saint, be not afraid of correction. If in the midst of fraternal, or sororal correction, you find your vessel full of vinegar or poison, this is God’s will.  For wouldn’t you rather find out what is inside now, embarrassing before your family and friends, then before Jesus at his judgement seat?  Now you can make changes, then it will be too late.

Presume good will, and growth only happens in vulnerability. Correction. Hard, but necessary, for even Jesus and the Apostles were corrected.  Jesus question by his mother when lost at the Temple; and the apostles, well many times!

Correction is God’s means of helping us grow in wisdom and stature.

Peace,

Father Ken

 

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To be duped!

Dear Friends,

“Duped!” That’s a word you don’t hear very often, but for me, it is associated with the prophet Jeremiah.

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.

These lines are found in his prophetic book, (Jeremiah 20:7).  Oftentimes I feel “duped” too! It means to be deceived or tricked. Does God really deceive us or trick us into doing something?  Of course not, but sometimes it feels like it.

St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote a great deal about our free will said:

Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act

If you look at Jeremiah’s words, he readily accepts this notion that one has free will too.  He said, “YOU duped me O Lord, AND I LET MYSELF BE DUPED!”  In other words Jeremiah is saying, “Yeah, I’m no dummy.  I knew what you were really asking and I accepted it!”

In our lives and in making our daily decisions, we never know the exact outcome of these decisions, but we choose to trust.  This is what Jeremiah did, and we must do.

I am reminded, and will show my age, by a song by John Denver.  It lyrics reminds us that if we knew all the outcomes of that first step, we would never take a step.

 If our lives could lie before us like a straight and narrow highway
So that we could see forever, long before we took the ride,
We would never look to heaven, make a wish, or climb a mountain,
‘Cause we’d always know the answer what’s on the other side.

But life ain’t no easy freeway, just some gravel on the ground.
You pay for every mile you go, to spread some dust around.
Though we all have destinations, and the dust will settle down;
This life ain’t no easy freeway, just some gravel on the ground.
So let’s walk the road together.
Who knows what we’ll find tomorrow;
Maybe good times, maybe sorrow will be waitin’ ’round the bend.
Given time, two hearts discover what they’re feelin’ for each other;
At the best we’ll end up lovers, at the least we’ll make a friend.

I could sing the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus!,” but will only leave you with the memory of the tune which might linger in your head all day!

Peace.

Father Ken

 

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