Saturday, August 27, 2011

The LORD was not in the earthquake

The events of this week brought to mind one of my favorite Old Testament stories:

"Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave." (1 Kings 19:11-13)

This story reminds us of a very important truth: God doesn't normally speak through major events like earthquakes or hurricanes; he usually whispers, or as this translation says, speaks in "a light silent sound." Of course, He is God, so He can do whatever He wants. But generally, He prefers to speak in silence. But why would He prefer this? It seems that it would be better to speak loudly so everyone would hear Him. However, I think that is precisely why He doesn't speak loudly. God wants one thing above all: for each one of us to be close to Him. If a person is shouting, the natural reaction is to step back, away from them. But if someone whispers, we must come close to them to hear it. So if God wants to draw us closer to Him, it is better for Him to whisper-He only shouts when we won't listen to His whispers. If you want to hear God's voice, then spend some time in silent prayer. Take 15 minutes, an hour, whatever you can manage, and just listen for God's voice. I have found that it is helpful to listen to this song at the beginning of this time of silent prayer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ask Not...

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."
 This is probably the most famous statement John F. Kennedy ever made, and for good reason. It reminds us of the often forgotten truth that it is better to give than to receive. It is certainly good to serve America, the great country that has been defending our freedom since before we were born, but the applicability of Kennedy's statement does not end there. Unfortunately, many people today view God as an omnipotent being who exists to serve them, and so they treat Him as a servant. They do not simply ask Him to satisfy their needs and wants, they demand it, and far too often they leave the Church because He fails to live up to their expectations. But why should we expect this of Him? He already warned us against this in the Bible: "You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?" (James 4:3-4). Even if God existed for the sole purpose of serving us, it would still be better to seek to serve Him-after all, America exists for precisely that reason: the purpose of a country is to benefit its citizens. And if we should serve America, which exists to serve us, don't we have even more reason to serve God, whom we exist to serve, yet who chooses to serve us anyway? Ultimately, it does not matter how much we have asked from God, or how much we have received from Him. All that matters is how much we have given Him. Ask not what your God can do for you - ask what you can do for your God.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Running the Race

"Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Have you ever considered what it takes to be an Olympic gold medalist? No one wins by natural talent alone. Many train several hours a day, every day. Their training is often so extreme that to most of us it seems impossible to perform. And yet even with that training, very few manage to earn the prized gold medal. How do they manage to endure such harsh training? It's simple: they keep their eyes on the prize. They want that gold medal. Anyone can say they want an Olympic gold medal, but if you're not willing to fight for it, if you're not willing to dedicate your life to earning it, you don't really want it. But if you do really want it, if you see it as a prize so valuable that it is worth sacrificing almost anything to earn it, then you will not only be able to train for several hours a day, but you will find it easy. And what is the gold medal? It is a great honor, but the medal itself has very little value. Once you're dead, you won't care about the honor, and pretty soon everyone else will have forgotten it too. But what is our prize? It is not merely a great honor, but also a prize of infinite value: God Himself, and the perfect happiness found in being completely united with Him, loving Him, and being loved by Him, at every moment, for all eternity. If we truly recognize the value of this prize, and remain focused on it, we will not only be able to do whatever it takes to get there, whether that is getting up early to go to Mass, finding a few hours to pray, or giving up our favorite sins, but we will be able to do it easily and joyfully. This is all it takes to be a saint: to do everything for the love of God.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Prayer

Jesus, I love you. I am so sorry for all the suffering I have caused you, and for all the times I have failed to prevent others from hurting you. I want to do everything I can to ease your pain. Let me be your angel in the garden and comfort you in your agony. Let me be your Simon and carry the cross for you. Let me be your Veronica and wipe the blood and dirt from your face. Let me be your beloved disciple and remain with you to your death. Let me be your Mary and take you down from the cross and hold your body in my arms. If it is possible, let me take your place and suffer the scourges and crown of thorns and the five sacred wounds so you don't have to. If suffering the pains of hell for the rest of my life, or even for eternity, could save you even a little pain, I would gladly do it; just help me to always remember that I do it for you. Lord, I offer you my life, my death, and even the place you have prepared for me in heaven. Mold them, as clay in your hands, into whatever shape is most pleasing to you. Amen.