Monday, September 24, 2018

Cultivating Peace

" [Jesus and His disciples] came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, He began to ask them, 'What were you arguing about on the way?' But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.' "- [ Mark 9: 30-37].

"Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice." -[James 3: 16].

I sense a great longing for Peace today. Of course, worldwide Peace cannot be single-handedly accomplished by any one of us.

Mother Teresa said, "Love begins by taking care of the closest one - the ones at home."

I love this vision of ever-widening circles of Love. I begin first at home, ensuring that my husband and my son are out of the elements, fed, clothed, and nestled in feelings of Love and comfort.

Then, I check in regularly with my neighbors. Maybe one is a widow, a bit low in spirits and in need of a visit. Maybe one is a single dad, and he and his kids miss the home-baking of their loved one, who died.

Then, I donate to my community, perhaps giving to the town food pantry or providing warms hats and scarves to the city shelter.

Every day, all that I do is to help others. The only time I do something for myself is when  I eat, sleep or rest to regain my strength. I try each day to "undo" the traumatic effects of my childhood- - because in doing good, I can do well.

But the doing good, in and of itself, is its own reward. I feel uplifted by my own quiet outpouring of Love, outward into a world so full of jealousy, hatred and pride.  I never do good, by preening and hoping others will notice. In fact, I am horrified at the thought of someone shining a spotlight on me for what I have done. No putting my name up on a building. No item in the church bulletin mentioning me by name.

St. Therese of Lisieux said, "God tells me - Give, give always, without being concerned with the results." And so, I release my acts of Love into the Universe, and I believe that God will carry them to exactly where they need to go.

I am surely not the only one who can do this. The fact that these acts of Love came from my hand is incidental to me. I myself am not the Message. I am only the medium by which Love is carried.

I am simply the vessel which pours out the blessing. There are many who are more talented than I am, or who have talents I cannot begin to possess.

I have come to believe that you cannot serve fully, if you let yourself get in the way. That is, you cannot serve fully, if you let your SELF get in the way.

Sadly, some Christian churches are filled with "devoted servants" who volunteer at every call to serve, but who secretly do these things out of ambition or desire for power.  Or, these "devoted servants" truly believe that their gift or ministry is the "greatest"of all in their church.

But, I have to be surprised at this - how to compare the Eucharistic Ministers to the Choir or to the Deacon? The Mass is not the same without either one of these.

This tendency reminds me of the disciples arguing which one of them was the greatest?

True giving, true Love has no "agenda".  Love is freely given and expects nothing in return. Love is not boastful. Love does not say, "You OWE me for what I have done."  Love is not jealous, saying, 'What I have offered is best.'  Love is not bitter, saying, 'Look how much I have given and others have given less.' Love does not keep score or tallies.

Love is not conditional or discriminatory- 'I will give only to these folks but not to others.'  Love does not look for certain results. Love is not begrudging, saying, 'Why do I have to do this? Why is it always ME?'

I believe that if we long for Peace, we need to look for Love, freely given - without ambition, lust for power, resentment, or jealousy.

(c) Spiritual Devotional

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Bruised Servant

"The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?" -[Isaiah 50: 5-9A].

I grew up in a dysfunctional household.

My brother would verbally abuse me, daily.  My mother would say to me, "If you don't cry, he won't do that. You are too sensitive." Unchallenged, my brother began to hit me.

I went to school with black eyes. Everyone saw my bruises. My mother, when asked, would say, "Well, she is a tomboy."

I gradually shut down, numbing my feelings, ultimately taking a vow of silence when I was ten.

The teachers would contact my mother, telling her, "She barely speaks." My mother would tell them, "She is NOT shy, she is just reserved. Still waters run deep."

I stopped speaking because I had decided that no human could ever give me the Love and caring that I needed.

When I was fourteen, I was not physically safe, the medical care for my chronic lung condition was ended, the verbal abuse continued, I was not being fed on a consistent basis.

I had lost everything, really. Then my parents refused to continue going to church. They took that away, too.

Yes, I set my face like flint. I knew that I did not deserve this treatment. I was a child . . their only daughter . . the youngest. I was not the shameful one.  I had a right to be treated with respect.

I knew that I was trapped for the next several years, I was their dependent. I began hoarding food in my room, in case I wasn't fed. I began to hoard the little money that I earned from babysitting.

I tried to make things better at home as much as I could. I weeded my mother's garden. I knitted my brother a sweater. I did some small painting jobs around the house for my father.

Was I trying to buy their kindness? I don't know. Maybe I was just desperately trying not to become bitter and angry the way they seemed to be.

After awhile, I realized that NO ONE could take God away from me. They could take away my physical safety. They could take away my health. They could take away my food. They could take away my dignity. They could take away my church. But out of all those things that make us human, they could never take away God.

Over the years, I have felt God's presence at times of anxiety, at times of real danger, and at times of joy and peace. "He is near who upholds my right."

I am way stronger with God than without Him. "If anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Let that man confront me."

In many ways, I have "lost" my life. I fear going places alone. I have had trouble sleeping, eating, speaking up. My chronic lung disease needs constant vigilance. I need to lead a very simple life. I have had enough trauma and damage already over the years to fill a lifetime.

But, I insist that I was fighting for what was right. "Who will prove me wrong?"

And as Jesus says in Mark 8, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake  . . will save it."

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018.  All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 10, 2018

To Speak Anew

"People brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put a finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then He looked up to Heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Be opened.' And immediately, the man's ears were opened, and his speech impediment removed, and he spoke plainly . . .The [people] were exceedingly astonished and they said, 'He has done all things well. He makes the deaf to hear and the mute speak.' "-[ Mark 7: 31-37].

I grew up in a house that was highly dysfunctional - alcoholism, verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, bitterness, jealousy, greed, blackmail. . .

Even at a young age, I decided no one was going to protect me or meet my needs, so I would have to accomplish this myself. When I was five, when my father would say, "Do not feed her, I would eat a gluttonous meal in the school cafeteria, or I would find food at the neighbor's house.

At five, if my mother said, "You are five, you are not tired", I would put myself down for a nap.

I got tired of running and crying to my mother about all the taunting and abuse. She told me, "If you don't react, you won't gain attention and the taunting will stop."

It became my responsibility to defend myself. No human being was going to do it.

Thereafter, I would not show any feelings when the abuse started up again. When nothing got any better, I became afraid that if someone could even "see" my feelings inside of me, the abuse would renew. So when I was 8, I numbed my feelings.

By age ten, I had stopped speaking. I had become invisible.

Walking softly, showing no emotion, not speaking, I was certain, would eliminate me as a target. I also stayed up at night until everyone in the house was asleep.

My vow of silence was not a speech impediment. Nor was it a holy vow. My Silence was borne out of fear of being noticed. My Silence was also borne out of despair that any human being could love me or protect me.

My Silence lasted several years. I rarely spoke and if I did, I was annoyed at myself for "slipping up".

The power in this Scripture is that Jesus, through His Love, notices the Invisible. Not only does He notice them, He makes them Visible again.

And He loves them. He does not blame them for their afflictions. He does not judge them for being poor, disabled, desperate and alone.

This is a far cry from Jesus' world then, or our world today, where too often, Power speaks loudest.

I can tell you that no mere human intervention saved me. Teachers were alarmed and told my mother that something was seriously wrong. My mother dismissed them, saying, "She is just quiet."

No compliments from teachers or parents made me blossom. A volunteer in the school library once told me, "You have a beautiful smile. You ought to smile more." I thought- She has no idea what it is like to be me.

It took meeting the man who would become my husband to reach me. My pastor a few years ago told me that God works through others here on Earth to show us His Love.

It is a miracle that I would be open enough to receive this man's Love. Something blossomed inside of me. I slowly began to trust again.

A friend of my mother's told me at my wedding that she had never seen me so happy. I had truly blossomed and become a vibrant young woman.

The words I spoke to my husband were words of Love. And God IS Love.

Yes, God DOES "make the mute to speak". -[Mark 7: 37].

"Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you. Then the tongue of the mute will SING." -[Isaiah 35: 4-7A].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Evil From Within

"Be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  -[James 1: 21B - 22, 27].

Many who decry organized Religion and who call themselves "Spiritual but not religious" are critical of the outsized role of Ritual in the Church.

It is true that Jesus called out the Hypocrite above all else, the Pharisees and scribes who ritually washed their hands and sanitized their cups and vessels, all the while engaging in Sin from the heart.

In Mark 7, Jesus said, "You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."

In Isaiah, it is written: "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts."

In my family, we called ourselves "Christians" because we attended services in a Christian church.
Our names were in the roster of congregants. We decorated a Christmas tree, and wore brightly colored spring clothes for Easter. My family gave money to the church regularly. We received Communion and we had a Bible on the bookshelf at home.

But my family was Christian in demographics only. My parents disdained those without money. They disdained the poor, the immigrant, the uneducated. They were very far from loving their neighbor as themselves. They gossiped, they were jealous, bitter, superior in attitude.

They were not Christian as a matter of Heart.

Their Christian "Cover" enabled them to appear upstanding citizens in the community, all the while they were neglecting my medical needs, not feeding me, not keeping me physically safe, verbally abusing me, blackmailing me, emotionally abusing me and so forth. If I were to complain, who would have believed me?

Religion that tramples upon the widow and the orphan, that operates in name only and clings to Ritual without purity of Heart - is dangerous.

We see this thin veneer of Religion, in the allegations of priest abuse for over 70 years in Pennsylvania.  This level of abuse is not without precedent. There have been cases of Church abuse of children and the poor in Ireland, in Canada in the orphanages, and in Boston, as well.

To be fair, this kind of abuse has occurred in many Protestant churches over the years.

In PA, priests covered their victims with the Crucifix. They ordered the children to "confess their Sins." This is a perversion of holy Ritual, stemming from a misbelief that the Ritual alone will cover the Sin. But a Ritual devoid of a pure and undefiled Heart only deludes, and causes deep harm. An empty and perverse Ritual such as this is blasphemy.

The Catholic Church viewed the Sin as coming from a temptation arising within the child. The Church removed the priests from the temptation, that is from the child and from his or her location.

They face the fact that the Sin came from within the priest himself.

Jesus said in Mark 7: "Nothing that enters from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."

From the abuse in the Church, from inside the priests involved, came evil thoughts and unchastity. What resulted was not just a physical assault on the child, but theft of the child's trust and murder of the child's Soul. From within the priest came depraved behaviors: the preying upon innocent children, the arrogance of the deceitful cover-ups, the folly of blaming the victims in requiring them to confess "their Sins". From within the Church came the malice of putting Ritual and the reputation of the priests ahead of tender care for the children.

As the Church itself went to elaborate lengths to cover up the depravity, the Church itself became defiled. Empty Rituals went on week after week during Mass at the altar, even as depravity and deceit rolled on and on. . . for 70 years.

Immoral and depraved priests must be removed, not just moved around. And the tender care of the children must begin anew and with Heart. If this does not happen, we will have no Church.

(Related Postings: "Clinging to Human Rules", 9/4/12; "The Evil Seed", 5/24/13.)

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2018. All Rights Reserved.