Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jesus, I Trust in You --- How Much?

I often pray that short Divine Mercy prayer:  Jesus I trust in You.  A picture of Jesus with that saying is on my kitchen wall, and a plaque hangs in the upstairs hallway.  Of late though, I’ve had to question my sincerity in saying those words.
I’ve written here the example of the man who constantly begs for some trifling amount of money.  The constancy of his begging is irritating.  I wish he would “straighten out his life,” but know that isn’t going to happen.  (You know someone like that.)  Friends counsel me:  “Stop giving if it bothers you.”  I, looking at my humility, question why it bothers me --- perhaps it shouldn’t.  And so I continue to give to him, although I now always give with a request to him:  Please spend some time praying for God’s help in your life; He WILL hear you, and I’m somewhat heartened by the positive response I’ve heard to that request.  So in this matter, I now DO trust in Him.
Recently I received some free tickets to a concert.  I offered them to friends I wished to reward for their goodness to me.  There were no takers.  So I offered them to acquaintances.  No takers.  I offered them to the nuns I see at mass --- not a convenient night.  I offered them to a friend as we ate breakfast at a restaurant.  He also declined, but then a stranger came over and said:  “I overheard your offer of free tickets; I’d like them if possible,” and he gave me his business card.  He was a promoter; he’d probably give the tickets away to promote his business, I thought.  I told him I would get back to him, and I sent out emails to even more remote acquaintances.  No one was interested.  Finally, the day of the event arrived, with still no takers, and I wondered:  should I call that stranger as a last resort?
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I’ve written about how money is not a problem for me.  I wouldn’t think myself rich, but certainly compared to many others I am.  I have money I don’t need; I give it away.    When mom died she left me a sizeable amount, and I chose some investments to store it.  If I feel called, I readily give chunks of it away to what seem worthy causes, and I offer to help those in need.
I received a note from a friend, a priest friend, yesterday asking me for a substantial donation.  He wishes to begin a new initiative in his parish, one that seems good and needed.  We had talked about the changes he was considering --- but I don’t recall mentioning money in the conversation.  The amount he asks for would dent my bank savings --- and I’d lose the whopping 0% interest I am earning there --- and his note implied that perhaps a greater request would be coming in the future.  I might have to cash out some of those investments.
His note left me, I don’t know to describe it, perhaps a bit scared?  It was a lot of money, but truly money I don’t expect to need.  It was mom’s money in the first place, and the request for a very good cause which I am sure is needed.  So I wonder:  why am I scared of the request?
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My Jesus I trust in You;  I say that prayer often, but just how much do I trust?  Looking at the example of the tickets and the giving of money to those in need, I perceive that there is a limit to my trust:  it seems to end when I lose control. 
If I choose to give away the tickets, it seems a good thing.  If a stranger asks for them, it seems, well, perhaps not.  If I choose to give away a trifling amount of money to a beggar, even an irritating beggar, it seems a good thing.  And even if I choose to give away a larger sum, it feels a good thing.  But if someone, even a priest, asks for a lesser amount for a good cause, I hesitate.  Why?  Is the answer that when I offer the tickets or money I expect to receive a response of “thank you” for my generosity?  Is that part of the reason why I give --- because it makes me feel like a bigger man, or just one in control?     
I think the answer lies in not how much I trust Jesus, but in how much I trust myself --- more.  I have been thinking and praying and writing about humility and its relationship to charity.  This week I saw more examples of that relationship in my life.
Charity is a matter of will; I must will to love my neighbor.  He does not have to be “lovable;” I can love him anyway.  That’s how Jesus loved even the sinners --- even me.  I just need to “will” to love Him, as I seem Him in my neighbor.  I think my hesitation is my confusion on my will and God’s will:  which am I trying to do?
I’ve seen examples this week of how I am willing to love my neighbor, but with MY will, MY discernment, MY choosing of a neighbor worthy of MY love.  But, I say that prayer:  My Jesus, I trust in You,” and if I am truly saying that prayer from my heart, what I should be saying is:  “Lord, Your will, not mine, be done in me.”  By definition, I am not God, and so I can never truly know the will of God.  I can only pray, and trust He will show me His will.  Did He show me his will in that stranger asking me for the tickets?  Did He show me in that priest asking for help with his ministry?  How do I know; how much do I trust?
I don’t think there is an easy answer to that question, but certainly the path to that answer begins when I learn to move from trusting myself first.  And that path is the path of humility.
One man asked me for tickets which cost me nothing.  Another asked for a substantial amount.  What if someone with a very good cause asked for all I had?  How would I decide; how much would I, should I, trust?  I don’t know --- but Jesus asked a similar question of a rich man once. 
But the same Jesus also told of the parable of the talents and how they must be used wisely ---- He’s counting on us, who have been given much, to use it wisely.
It’s hard to choose, to decide to love, really love my neighbor, without counting the cost, without thinking I know what’s best for him.
Jesus, I trust in You.  Or, I’m trying to.
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I wrote the above words last night, and after writing them, I continued with my Evening Prayer for a Monday night, and I read the following:
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged,
For as you have judged them, so God will judge you.
The words seemed another shout about my willingness to give, another consideration for my prayers, and my humility.
But then later in the Night Prayer I read these words from Psalm 86:
In the day of distress, I will call
and surely you will reply.
Ah yes, there’s words showing my level of trust --- when I call to God and it’s for me and my distress, then I really do trust Him.  But if I am (as I pray in the Prayer of St Francis) seeking to be an instrument of His peace, to be God’s presence to my neighbors, then why can’t friends and even strangers call to Him in the above prayer, and God use me to provide an answer from Him, and be a real instrument of His peace in THEIR time of distress? 
Why can’t I listen for that small, still voice of God’s call, and recognize that sometimes it comes to me from my neighbor’s mouth?
And then finally last night I read this:
Humility is to charity what the foundation is to a building.
-- Divine Intimacy, Monday, Second Week of Lent (p301)
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At mass this morning, I had one final thought on these matters.  I was saying a short prayer to Fr. Benedict Groeschel to intercede for me this day when I recalled a check I had given him one Christmas many years ago.  It was a large amount and I told him to give it to someone he didn’t want to give it to.  If they ask, give this money to them, even if you don’t want to, I said.  Call it a lesson in humility for yourself.  He did what I asked, and in subsequent years as our paths crossed, he always remembered that request. 
And now, as I prayed about giving to someone I don’t want to, these thoughts of Bennie, and my request came to mind.  He probably whispered them in my ear in response to my prayer to him.  And I can almost hear him laughing.  And I almost wanted to laugh aloud with him. 


  1. Interesting isn't it, how money and possessions come to control us secretly, in our hearts, even when we they are not doing so? How easily we deceive ourselves, until we are tested. Then the truth begins to become evident.

    I love your reflections, because now you are actually seeing the problem. You are honest with yourself, and that is very good. You admit your actual self to yourself.

    One aspect that may help. Consider this: God gave you every opportunity you had in your life. He gave you access to a career and life that acquired wealth. You may not have been with Him at the time, or acknowledged such, but even if you did not know it, He was the giver of those gifts. He gave you prosperity, and he gave your parents prosperity that you inherited. Now you are the steward of HIS material property, the wealth you control. You are the STEWARD!!! You have a fiduciary responsibility to manage that money well, to be used for Him and as He wishes. Therefore, in prayer, you must try to discern how He wishes you to distribute the money, large and small. You are to be responsible, but not look to your own interests, but to His. To help you, you can try to look at the money as not really yours anymore, but His, and in prayer, look for indications where you should give it. And to trust He will take care of you, even if it seems you will end up with not enough.

    So, if, in truth, the man who gets small amounts from you is not where God wants you to give, then don't give it. Or, if you do, extract a "price" such as you are doing: I'm only giving this to you if you will stand here and say 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Mary's and 3 Glory Be's with me, and ask God for His mercy. Or some such thing.

    I am sure God is working with you slowly and carefully to challenge you and allow you to take steps toward Him. You are now being asked to leave the boat (like Peter when Jesus was walking on the water.) Your natural self tells you that you can't walk on water, but Jesus beckons. Peter went, and then noticing the waves, fears, and begins to sink. Jesus says, why did you falter.

    Walkin' on the water. Jesus, help me walk on the water. I trust in YOU.

    1. Thank you for your interest and kind words, Fran. I'm pleased that God has opened my heart to see these things in me. In many, many ways I am being reminded to look at myself more deeply, and to face up to the challenges of humility, so that I can really love as He means me to love.

      BTW, I did give those tickets to the marketing man who, when I called, was on his way to that same restaurant. And when I gave him the tickets, he immediately began calling, and I heard him: "Hey, I came upon some concert tickets I can let you have ...." Oh well, it's for God to make good out them. I will trust. And as far as the other thing, it came to me at mass this morning that a law may still be in effect which would allow me to donate to charities directly from my IRA account, with no tax penalties; I'm checking. That would allow me to not deplete bank savings nor have to sell stock investments. We'll see.

      I thought again this morning as I said Fr. Groeschel's name in prayer: I can hear his laughter. I had asked him, in humility, to admit that perhaps God deemed worthy someone he deemed unworthy of financial help, and to just give. And when a similar situation came up in my life, I found myself unable to be humble enough to trust, as I had asked him. And the laughter I heard was long. And maybe God was laughing with him too.

  2. Tom, I think anyone who is serious about conversion, even the most broke person in the world, goes through what you are going through. I really believe that. We all have tentacles of our heart wrapped around material things to a greater or lesser degree, and pride is intertwined. And from the Gospels, it seems it has always been that way in human history. It's the nature of the human person. Some people who seem to have an easier time parting with their money may either have always been irresponsible, or have never had much, so losing what they have had does not seem as big a deal, or may have practiced a little more along the way, and so now find it a tad easier going when they are called to give, but it is the very rare person who doesn't recognize the value of a dollar, so to speak. and struggle when they lose control of it.

    As for the investments: I never make a major decision without prayer and letting the whole matter peculate in my brain for a while. What I mean is sometimes I have something I want to do, but I pray and let it simmer on the back burner a little while in my brain, and pray too (O God, help me figure this out!) and often a way of doing it that meets the goal and sits well in my heart comes to me. It seems to have been the same for you. Suddenly you "remember" that some charitable gifts can be given directly from IRAs without tax consequences (I think stocks and bonds may be able to be donated in the same way, with zero capital gains taxes). For the long term you also might even contact a lawyer to explore what sorts of financial vehicles (trusts/funds/foundations?) can be set up and funded that would help you manage (stewardship) that money for future use.

    The tickets, ah, you never know. So he took credit for them. So what? But who knows who received them, and what chain of events were set off that made someone receive a grace? Maybe even he someday may have a conversion, and as he reflects on his life, will remember a random guy who gave him tickets, and will see the hand of God in your very act, and ponder how even then God was present, looking at him. You never know.

    I've been listening to a YouTube series on Spiritual Discernment of St. Ignatius (which you mentioned I think one time here you were taking a seminar on?) and in past years (long ago) I tried to look at this, but it became muddled for me and I didn't keep it up. But now I am listening to this series (I've only listened through Rule #4 so far) on YouTube called Discernment of Spirits and is very helpful, because at least for the beginning part, and the way the priest on the videos puts it, using very clear examples from lives of the saints, you can clearly see what each rule is targeting. And it occurs to me some of this you are going through with charitable giving pertains to Rule #2 - Evil disquiets, upsets, bites to persuade not to go forward, places obstacles and false reasons. The priest uses the example of St. Augustine in his Confessions of how this occurred to him. Anyway, I thought you should consider whether the lack of trust you mention isn't just the evil one presenting obstacles to you, which I think the recommendation is to just reject out of hand. Just mentioning it as something to consider.
    Here's the link to the series if you're interested, or would like to pass it on to others. It's called The Discernment of Spirits with Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV I think it was on EWTN at some point.


    Re: Fr. Groeschel---if you don't think he and God have a wicked sense of humor like that, you don't know the same heaven as I do! :-) And what is so great, you get the joke!! And isn't it so cool that it is done in love, and you sense love along with it; friendship, not mocking? I love that.
    God bless, Tom. ~ Fran

  3. (Cont. from previous post)

    By the way, I was waiting for a context to write this to you, but none has come up. If you recall, one of the things I was interested in when I first discovered your blog was the care taking of parents. My brother and I were taking care of my mom in her home. Well, I wanted to tell you my mom passed away at age 98 from pneumonia on Feb. 20th. I am now beginning the stage you've been in for a while: the "after the passing of your loved one" stage of life. Please say a prayer for me and for her. I am at peace, but still grieving.

    God bless. ~ Fran

  4. Fran, so sorry to hear about your mom. I'm sure God loved her, and was anxious to have her home, after waiting so long. I trust she will be in His good care. I will be praying for you, and her.

    Re Discernment of Spirits by Fr. Gallagher, yes that is the focus book (and we watched the videos) of my Spiritual Director class. The book is outstanding! (I thought I reviewed it here; I'll check. I am so far behind on reviewing good books I have read of late.) Another great book on the same topic is Finding God in All Things, by Barry --- that one I did review here. I recently purchased Gallagher's Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

  5. Thank you for your condolences and prayers Tom. They are much appreciated.

    After watching the videos I thought I must purchase Fr. Gallagher's book. I'm sure it goes into greater detail. To find this is the series you were taking is a great endorsement (although I was already sold on it by the demeanor of Fr. Gallagher, and his way of teaching.

    I'll look for the review on your pages too. Thanks again.
    God bless. ~ Fran