Do not be afraid: learning to trust in God

Trust in God

“…Fear no one…do not be afraid…so do not be afraid…”

We get it Jesus! He tells us not to fear 3 times in 7 verses and this is just a small taste of how many times some version of “do not by afraid” appears in scripture.

Why? What are we so afraid of?

The same thing Adam and Eve were afraid of when they ate the apple: that God wouldn’t provide for them and that he was holding out on them.

Adam blaming Eve
Classic…

“Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.  All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.” CCC  397 

Resurrecting Trust

What is the answer?  Like most things with God, I have to keep relearning what causes me to be overwhelmed by fear and how to trust him again.  While pondering this gospel it hit me: “…you are worth more than many sparrows”.

You are worth more than sparrows

Unlike the similar verse a few chapters earlier (Are you not much more valuable than they?), this is not a question.  It is a firm statement of the truth: you ARE worth more than many sparrows.

 

Now how in the world do we get ourselves to believe this???

The root of our fear is mistrust in God’s love for us.  We have a hard time believing that he sees us as precious and worth caring for, let alone worth dying for.

I thought I was doing pretty good with learning to trust the Lord and not letting fear keep me from abandoning myself to him. Then he asked me to leave the convent.  This is something I had been deathly afraid of.  Whenever someone left in a state of peace and joy, I couldn’t understand how they could be so happy about leaving.

The moment I got my fears out in the light by talking to my superior, they all magically disappeared.  A burden was lifted off my shoulders and freedom like I have never experienced flooded my soul.  In that moment I knew what God wanted and I was freed to say yes wholeheartedly.

Now that I am back to dealing with “worldly” matters, my trust is being put to the test. This past week, I was almost panicky with stress over money, finding a job, going to school. I felt out of control. And this is precisely why I am so afraid: I want to be in control and I certainly don’t want to give it to God.

 I have to look out for number one, because no one else is going to.

Trust takes time

I think we forget sometimes that God wants a deeply personal relationship with us and that relationships take time.  Due to the fall, we have a hard time trusting God, and it takes our whole lives to repair that trust.

Since leaving the convent, I have definitely not been living the life of a nun.  It’s so easy to abandon prayer and the spiritual life when I don’t have structure provided for me.  One day, I was feeling ashamed and apologizing to God for being so lazy and basically ignoring him.  His response blew me away: “it’s okay.  This is a relationship and I’ve just done something that makes it hard for you to trust in me.  I knew what would happen when I asked you to leave.  I knew it would take time for you to trust me again.”

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

I used to think this meant that if I loved God perfectly then I wouldn’t be afraid. But, in the words of St. John: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us…”

“But how is it possible to live fearlessly?  Saint John tells us that perfect love casts our fear.  The love that Jesus Christ offers us is so perfect and total that even all the hairs of your head are counted.’  Through our embrace of the overflowing, ‘gracious gift of Jesus Christ,’ we can live unafraid.” – Magnificat

Knowing that God loves me perfectly is what casts out fear.

What keeps you from trusting God?  Alternatively, what helps you trust in his goodness? These aren’t rhetorical questions, I really want to hear from you!



As it is in Heaven

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb
“The Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan van Eyck, 1432

The Father has prepared a wedding banquet with food and drink that satisfies our deepest hunger.  The Father begs us to come to the feast.  He has prepared the choicest food and has saved the best wine for last.  The food at this banquet will never run out and we will never hunger or thirst again.  He implores us “come to the feast.”

Continue reading “As it is in Heaven”

I am with you always

2017-06-04 21_28My heart sank when I saw these words in my office book on Pentecost:

“The Easter Season ends with the conclusion of Evening Prayer.”

The sweet consolation of Easter, basking in the glory of the Resurrection, my patroness (my religious name was Sr. Magdala Marie) popping up all over the place: it was all over.  Then I realized that Ordinary Time is ushered in by a series of solemnities to wean us off of desserts, Alleluias and perhaps even his felt presence.

Continue reading “I am with you always”

Together with Mary

So what did we learn from the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe? Perhaps, the fact that millions of people were converted following the appearance of Our Lady was no coincidence.  What if Our Lady is the key to the New Pentecost?

Continue reading “Together with Mary”

Another Advocate

What does the word Pentecost bring to mind?

pentecost-660x350-1463029128

I know a few years ago when I was pondering the new Pentecost needed in our Church I was very focused on the externals.  I think expressing our love for God and praising him with full heart and voice is very important, but I’ve come to realize that there is something more basic going on.

Continue reading “Another Advocate”

Love is Alive…but are we?

holy-spirit-dove-drawing-The_Holy_Spirit_by_HammerMarioI’m experiencing post-Africa let down all over again.  Having come home right before Easter, for the past few weeks we’ve been singing joyful “Alleliua” songs like this one:

Love is Alive

Doesn’t that make you want to dance and lift your hands in praise? Okay, maybe it’s just me…

But seriously, when twenty women sing this song in a more lively fashion than a 200 person congregation, there is a serious problem.

The problem isn’t that I’m used to being surrounded by people who are madly in love with Jesus and are not afraid to show it!  Honestly the average parishioner usually doesn’t even look like they want to be at Mass.  No wonder we’re attracting so many people.

Sarcasm aside (with maybe a touch of sass), what does our Church need?  The same thing  we’ve always needed, since Jesus ascended to the Father: the Holy Spirit.  More specifically we need a new Pentecost.

I Choose All!

Working with the poor and writing have been playing a game of tug of war with my heart.  But, in my recent hours of combing through job openings, I came across something illuminating.

(WRITER) ARTIST IN-RESIDENCE

Yale-New Haven Hospital

JOB SUMMARY

Develop, implement and adapt creative writing and spoken word activities for a diverse pediatric patient population in an acute healthcare setting. Facilitate group or individual sessions that engage children of all ages, family members or staff in self-expression through poetry, narrative, theatrical writing and performance to support the healing process. Share patient work through performance and publication.

Wait…I don’t have to choose?? Once again, God has reminded me that He wants to fulfill all of my desires, and put them in my heart for a reason.

Then, this afternoon I really discovered that something I thought only existed in my imagination is a really thing, that many writers do: running writing workshops with disadvantaged populations.

My teenage self would say: duh!  This is why art and music therapy works – because self-expression is an effective form of therapy.  Helping people learn to express themselves gives them power and can even help lift people out of poverty.

Here’s another example of an organization that runs these sorts of workshops: http://nywriterscoalition.org

I made some great connections today and can’t wait to see where they take me!

 

More Than We Can Ask or Imagine

RaisingofLazarusI love, love, love the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  The Lord often reminds me of it when I’m trying to pretend that everything is okay (like he doesn’t know everything!).  I can’t tell you how many times in prayer I’ve felt the gentle nudging to be honest with Him but insist that I’m “fine”.  In these times I’m invited to have the honesty of Mary and Martha – to get angry, because God can handle it!  Martha and Mary didn’t meekly say, “oh it’s okay Jesus, we know this is for the best and we trust you.”  No, they were not afraid  to show that they were angry and confused: “what the heck Jesus!  You go around doing all these great miracles but you can’t stop our brother, who you claimed to love, from dying.  Some Messiah you are!”

I think the key to understanding this story is the fact that Mary and Martha never lost their faith.  They believed with their whole hearts that he could have healed their brother and Martha even says, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

These two sisters believed that Jesus could do anything, they just didn’t realize “anything” included raising men from the dead.  This is something they couldn’t imagine.  Our God does more than we can ask or imagine.

But the part that we still struggle with is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place.   Because he loved them.  Logically speaking, this is completely insane.  Let’s talk about my ways are not your ways.  Jesus even goes so far as to say, “for your sake I am glad I was not there”.  Can you imagine the disciples shock and confusion over this?

Jesus allows Lazarus to die because in the end, it is better for everyone.  I’ve wondered if this was to give them all hope during Jesus’s crucifixion.  They must have thought:  He raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps He will rise also.  God allows a brief period of pain and mourning, to make the new day that much more brilliant.

One thing I learned in convent was that I hate suffering (okay who really likes it?).  But I really struggle to see the value in it, which I think is true to most of us.  We believe in a God whose plan to save us involved letting His Son die in utter agony by being crucified.  I know we’ve all struggled with the questions “why suffering?” and “why do good things happen to bad people?”  Maybe you’ve even tried to explain redemptive suffering to others and think you really get it.  But deep in each of our hearts we all ask, “why?”

Why does God allow so much evil?  Why do little children get shot, abused and horribly mistreated?  Free will, we like to throw around.   Is that a satisfactory answer?  God could just stop it all if He wanted.  And then what would draw us close to Him?

 

A Beautiful Waste

“What is he?” murmurs one gray shadow of my forefathers to another.  “A writer of storybooks! What kind of a business in life, – what mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind in his day and generation, – may that be? Why, the degenerate fellow might as well have been a fiddler!”

-The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ironically, I was introduced to the show “Call the Midwife” while in the convent.  Now that I have some time on my hands I’ve watching some more of the episodes.  I’ve noticed that some of the characters struggle with something that I do as well (and I suspect most of you): wanting to be useful.  Through aging or illness, they are afraid of not being able to do what they used to, and therefore being of less value.

Over the past few years this desire has been purified but it is still a nagging thought: am I doing something worthwhile?  Will I live up to these ridiculous expectations I have set for myself?

I came face to face with this need to be “useful” in religious life – which was perhaps the Lord’s plan all along.  What good could it do the world to do laundry, sell Altar Bread and pray – oh prayer is what always seems like the most useless thing.  What good does prayer do?

But religious are not the first and are certainly far from being the last to be accused of wasting their lives.

Remember this story?

b43d34c7074dc71956866ede91db4436_mary-of-bethany-anoints-jesus-perfume-mary-jesus-feet-clipart-pictures-perfume_401-321

Now when Jesus was at  Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.  And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

When I was in college I switched my major from English to Social Work, because I thought I should do something more “practical” to help people.  Partially through physical illness, I was stripped of my desire to be “useful” in the convent and as the Lord uncovered my eyes to see my own beauty, the desire to write re-awoke in me like a living fire.  Poverty fosters creativity and I’ve done my best writing in the past four years, showing me what I am capable of.

So now God is calling me to waste my life in a different way and I have a feeling I won’t be leaving poverty behind!

 

Find Your Humanity! (Beauty and the Beast Style)

TOBI’m sure someone has written about this already, but my cursory internet search came up with nothing, so here’s my two cents: Beauty and the Beast screams Theology of the Body.  I had this revelation while watching the new live action version.

What specifically came to my mind is the fact that St. John Paul II says women teach men how to be human.  This is literally happening in Beauty and the Beast!  Due to the fall, men tend towards beastliness (ok honestly we all do), at least figuratively.  In this classic movie, Prince Charming is literally turned into a beast, so his outer form matches his cold, selfish heart.  Remember, he was never really charming to begin with, so he couldn’t use turning into a beast as an excuse.  However, he became more bitter and resentful.

Enter a beautiful, selfless, young woman.  Here is a person whom the beast can love, can live for.  With her he can, “discover himself through a sincere gift of self”.  And she must let herself be loved as she is, just as she receives him as he is.  She, through her love, helps to redeem and transform him into a man, more of a man than he ever was.

Incidentally, this is all reminding me of the ideas of a newly ordained priest, Fr. Patrick Shultz, of the Cleveland Diocese.  In his Master’s Thesis on the genius of men (it’s about time!), he described the man’s heart as a castle.  A man is pierced, wounded by a woman’s beauty and he let’s her into his heart, to be protected.  The man’s instinct is to live with an outward focus, but when he lets a woman inside she draws him in as well, into the home she creates.

Do you see what I see?? This is also happening in Beauty and the Beast!  The beast is trapped inside this castle, through his own fault.  It became a prison, something to escape from.  But then he lets Belle, aka Beauty, into his castle and eventually into his heart.  His rough exterior is pierced and he is freed to love.  At first he tries to possess Belle, to keep her as a prisoner in his castle, but it is only when he sees her as a gift and lets her go that she can truly be his.

Why do women have this unique role?  The more human we become, the more God-like we become.  Jesus became man so we could see what we’re supposed to look like, for we were made in his image.  Furthermore, God chose to redeem the world through a woman – and continues to do so.  It is women who are the preservers of culture, who embody compassion, kindness and mercy.  It is women who make humanity more human.  Every time a woman gives birth to an immortal soul, it is a redemptive act, and as she tries to bring that child up in a Godly way, then she is bringing that child closer to its destiny of becoming God-like.  She is repairing the image and likeness of God in humanity.

d0d46bfcb240034fa06feb78a245f036