Friday, February 8, 2013

Come On; You Know You Are Blessed

It is so easy to get depressed when one looks at what is going on in the world.  And perhaps yesterday’s sarcastic words may have sounded depressing to some --- perhaps even me, and that is not what I intend to leave myself or anyone else thinking about when reading these ramblings.  So let’s consider something a bit more positive today.
The Liturgy of the Hours readings with which I begin each day often gives me something fruitful to think upon, and today was no exception.  The First Reading was from 2Thes, and seemed to be a downer:
On the question of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we beg you, brothers, not to be so easily agitated or terrified into believing that the day of the Lord is here.  Let no one seduce you, no matter how.  The mass apostasy has not yet occurred nor the man of lawlessness been revealed (he who seats himself in God’s temple and even declares himself to be God).    Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm. 
Well, I didn’t want to EVEN consider debating whether that day has come or not, but fortunately subsequent readings were more upbeat.  In reading the hymn at the start of Morning Prayers, and even before I read the first Psalm, I somehow knew what it would be:  Psalm 51, one of my favorites in times of trial:
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness.
And perhaps wisdom came to me. 
Those happy words reminded me of a book I recently finished:  33 Days to Morning Glory, by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  That book had a number of good things to teach me, like St. Maximilian Kolbe’s formula for sainthood:  W + w = S.   Sanctity is uniting God’s Will with our will (with God’s Will coming first), a neat thing to remember.  The book also quoted Mother Teresa’s explanation of what Jesus meant on the cross, when He said: “I Thirst.”  According to Mother Teresa, “I thirst is something much deeper than Jesus just saying ‘I love you.’  Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you --- you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you.  Or who He wants you to be for Him. … Repent and believe, Jesus tells us.  What are we to repent?  Our indifference, our hardness of heart.  What are we to believe?  Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor.” 
I liked those thoughts from the Fr. Gaitley’s book, but what I thought about this morning was another thing he taught me in that book.  He taught me St. Ignatius of Loyola’s method of making a daily examination of conscience.  Now Catholics likely have heard this term at one time or another, and I understood it to mean that at the end of each day I should spend some moments reflecting on the day, and how I could have done things better, i.e., my sins. 
I tried that in the past.  It didn’t work.  I kind of felt I didn’t need to remind myself of how often I failed; I knew only too well how often that was:  Every day.
But that is not how Ignatius said to make an examination of conscience.  “It’s not simply a laundry list of sins.  In fact, Ignatius directs people to spend most of their time reflecting not on sins but on the blessings of the day.  It’s really an exercise in recognizing the good things God is doing in our lives and how we are or are not responding to his love.”  In thinking on those words, as I originally read them and as I recalled them this morning, I find such an examination of my day something that would be wise for me to do.  I remember my failings so easily --- and get depressed so easily.  But my blessings --- and there are many of them, I have to admit --- I usually don’t think about them.  And why should I be focusing on those things that depress me, when I could be focusing on those things which uplift me?  The words of the book challenged me:  Why focus on depressing things (whether in my life or in the world)? 
The endnotes of the book explained how the Ignatius method can be summarized in the acronym BAKER.  B stands for “Blessings.”  “The key is to let one’s heart roam about and settle on the particular peaks of joy and blessing of the day, consolations.”  A stands for “Ask, we need to ask for a special grace from the Holy Spirit to recognize our sins.  K stands for “Kill,” because it was our sins that killed and crucified Jesus.  “During this third point, we look at our sinfulness (weaknesses and attachments, too).  E stands for “Embrace; this is to allow Jesus to embrace us.  It may be helpful to think of the Image of Divine Mercy.  I believe that at this point of the examen, we greatly console Jesus when we simply let him embrace us with his merciful love.”   R stand for “Resolution; during this last point of the examen, we take what we’ve learned from the previous points and look ahead to the next day, ready to make resolutions.”
I really liked the idea of reflecting on the day, starting with Blessings.  It is so easy to feel down, and forget all those things which lift me up --- all those gifts from God during my day.
At the end of mass this morning, the priest led the people in saying the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.  That prayer is said at the end of all masses in both of the parishes I regularly attend.  At mass we participate in Jesus’ Passion and He comes to us; the Prayer to St. Michael asks his protection after mass --- for we will be tempted to forget the mass we just attended.  The father of lies (Satan) lies in wait for each of us.
The Catholic Church teaches that we will be deified in eternal life; that was the promise of Jesus, that we would be united with the Body of Christ, all of us together with Jesus, in eternity.  The Church affirms this: that we will be WITH God, and further clarifies but we will not BE God.
Satan says that God created the world selfishly, all for Himself, and tempts us to say: “But I want it.”  Satan wants us to desire to BE God, as he does.  He wants us to choose not to be one with God in eternity, but choose to be one with him.  And looking around at the things of the world --- and so many people (and our government) asking: “Don’t you want this?  Don’t you think you deserve this?  Don’t you think it is your right to have this?”  We hear these temptations and we want to say: “Yes, give me everything!”
How easily we forget.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, one of the father’s sons remained at home and honored him.  Yet when that son saw that one party was given to the Prodigal Son, he said: “I want that.  I want everything.”  And then the father had to explain to him, but “I have given you everything.”  All the blessings around him every day, everything the Father had to give, and yet that son was tempted to want more.
Yes, St. Ignatius’ counsel to reflect each day on our blessings is a good thing.  We are so tempted to forget.
St. Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle.
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
By the power of God,
Cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
Who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

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