Wednesday, September 19, 2012
How To Find Peace
I was tempted to title this post as: “How to be Happy,” for it means the same thing. And so I wasn’t surprised when shortly after I had thoughts on this title I read these words in my Morning Prayers: “Those who trust in God know what it is to be happy.” Think God was telling me to title it “How to be Happy”?? Well, whatever. Perhaps it was just a reminder that He is thinking about me. (And that gives me peace, too!)
If you’ve read some of my recent ramblings you probably noticed that I’ve had a growing focus on two topics of late. And I’ve come to learn their great importance in alleviating my anxieties, and have written about them so that you too might find greater peace. I hope my slow growth in understanding these things has not bored you. (When it comes to things of God, I confess I am a slow learner and often lose focus, but fortunately He has patience with me. ;-) )
The first important thing I’ve noticed of late is ME --- okay, but I’m not that important, but it’s so easy to focus on me and what I want. The first thing I’ve learned is the depths of the phrase “The Ends do not justify the Means”. I’ve come to learn that in our society it is easy to focus on good “ends” --- it’s easy because we all naturally want good things, even for others --- but unfortunately the actions we take to achieve those good ends are often not good. We (and our actions) are the “Means” to many good “Ends”, even if our actions are only to pray to God that He do some good thing. Still, we are the initiator, the means to good ends. Unfortunately, we don’t talk enough about our actions, and only focus on the good ends we are trying to accomplish. We don’t pay enough attention to the things we are doing: Are they good also? Like the ends, the means must also be good, or else the good ends we seek will not be so, for good ends do not justify bad means.
We don’t talk about the “means” much, or at least not as much as we should. Why is that? The means are as important as the ends. I think I’ve come to understand our lack of focus on the means: It’s because WE and our actions are the means. And WE are quick to defend ourselves: “What do you mean I’m doing something wrong (the means)? Am I not accomplishing some good things (the ends)?” The problem, as I see it, is centered around that word: WE. For many of the problems of our Church, our country, and our culture have to do with what WE do, and what WE want. We are focused on “WE.” (I could say that we are a “We-We” society, but I won’t.)
And what is the solution to this “We” problem? It is learning that WE don’t have to do everything. It’s learning that there is someone who loves us even more than we love ourselves. It’s learning that for all we think we know, He knows more. It’s learning for all we assume we are doing right, He can do better. It’s summarized in the phrase: “My Jesus, I trust in You.” – the second topic I’ve focused on of late.
Now I’ve read and listened and learned a lot about that phrase “The Ends do not justify the Means,” but I admit I haven’t learned nearly enough about the phrase “I trust in You.” It’s hard to let go and trust everything I worry about to someone else, even God. And although that is what I want, I often find it difficult to do, and to find peace with it. And yet that simple phrase is the answer to what I’ve written about here nearly 600 times: If I can trust in God, I can let go of my anxieties. And I know that if I can trust in Him, all those good things I want to accomplish will be done, and even better than I could have done them myself. If I can just trust …
Lighthouse Catholic Media puts out many CDs which explain the Catholic faith and its teachings. You can pick them up at their website or from displays in many church lobbies --- or you might get them mailed to you from a true friend, as I did. I found that Fr. Thomas Richter, in his talk titled: “Trust in the Lord” explains better than I ever could what it means to trust, and how to do it. I recommend this CD to anyone with anxiety difficulties.
I knew Fr. Richter was going to tell me something new (that means if his talk were in print, I’d have underlined this section) when he spoke about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Old stuff, I initially thought, and I started to focus more on the road in front of me than the CD playing in my car. But then as I continued to focus my mind on the road, I found Fr. Richter’s words opened my heart --- for he spoke not about the Prodigal Son, but about the son in the parable who had stayed home, and loyally worked on the farm for his father. That son was resentful at the attention paid to the Prodigal Son when he returned, and so he said to his father: “Look, many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a goat that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!” And his father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Fr. Richter explained it this way: “The elder son said I’ve been faithful and you’ve given me nothing. But the father explained that I’ve given you everything (talk about a disconnect!). The problem is that the elder son does not know how to receive the gifts of the father. He wants to earn them, and to claim them. He does not know how to receive the goodness the father has constantly tried to give him.” Fr. Richter went on: “We can live like that, feeling like we’re giving to God and he’s giving us nothing back. That is a lie. He has given you everything! And if you don’t have it, it is because you haven’t received it. And you receive it by trust.”
How many of us have disconnects like that? All of the good ends we want are not achieved because we go about receiving them the wrong way --- OUR way. If we change the way we are trying to obtain good ends, they are their to be achieved, the right way.
There was much more on Fr. Richter’s talk that hit home with me, and I suspect it will with you also. It’s worth the $5 cost ---- or maybe you can hint for it at for Christmas. Then take the time to listen. You really want to lessen your worries? You need to learn and TRUST that there is someone already worrying FOR you. And you do not need to be anxious.
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I haven’t posted much these past few weeks, as I’ve been making gallons of chili, Bolognese sauce, and spaghetti sauce, using over 200 tomatoes from my garden. I’ve also used my eggplants in my eggplant parmesan recipe. It’s been a lot of work and taken lots of time, but now the garden is slowing down (and the freezer is full). And as you can see, my hard work has just left me unable to find time to post as often as I would like, but I have not stopped going to church at night (no fun laying on the hammock at night anyway) and I have not stopped writing in my time spent with God. So you may be seeing posts a bit more frequently soon, as I try to catch up ---- that is, after I catch up on my zzzz’s.
I hope you have had as good a summer as I have. God is good. Always.