Sunday, August 31, 2014

WhA-cHu OfFeRInG?

As I was preparing for my homily this weekend, I was listening to a couple podcasts to get a good backdrop. I was praying and trying to figure out what to preach on and every time I would visit my notes, I could tell that the Spirit was nudging more and more to a saying that I learned later on in my life..."Offer it up."

Most of us may not have heard of this saying. I seem to always find out that the older generations heard it growing up. "My mom would always say that to us!" "My grandparents would constantly tell me to offer it up."

Suffering is a very difficult thing, but it seems to me that we have become sensitized over the years. Any form of discomfort or suffering is quickly avoided. We have forgotten, have never realized, or have never been taught that suffering can also be a great opportunity. Suffering is an opportunity for us to become channels of grace for those around us and for the entire world.

O_o

I know, right?!?!

Yes suffering is bad and we must do what we can to alleviate it. I'm not promoting masochism. Still, if we find ourselves in a moment of suffering, we can unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and offer it up. We are united to Christ by virtue of our baptism. We are in Him in a very real way. He is living in us. When we bring Christ into our suffering, it becomes a moment in which his grace can be poured out into our lives.

And actually, we can offer it up for someone else. We can undergo a certain difficulty and, uniting ourselves with the suffering Christ, ask the Lord that he use our suffering to bring grace to someone else that may have a greater hurt or greater difficulty...we can even offer our suffering for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Notice, through the very suffering of Christ; his agony; his persecution; his beatings; his heavy burdens; his scourging; his nailing and suffocation on the Cross; through all of his suffering moments and ultimately through His Death, he won for all of humanity the promise of the Resurrection. He redeemed the human experience and brought value and meaning to suffering. When we suffer, it does not have to be in vain. We can offer it up along with Christ. We are part of his Mystical Body and can thus share in the redeeming value of suffering as we undergo own sufferings.

Think of a parent who gives her meal to her child so that they can eat. She offered up a suffering (her own hunger) for the wellbeing of her child. Similarly, we can undergo our sufferings with someone in mind that they may be spiritually nourished, strengthened, and or assisted by God's grace.

Suffering is difficult, but it no longer need be endured in vain. Be it a paper cut, an annoying client at work, the individual who cut you off in traffic, the friend that betrayed you, or your second round of chemo...all these moments of sufferings are moments in which we can offer it up and be united to the Suffering Christ.

Start using the saying! Tell your friends and family about it...*warning, they'll probably hate you at first when you say it a lot...so go easy on them!* And yes, be mindful that we may need to console those who are in grave difficulty, still, now we know that suffering can change the world around us.

I found some links about Offering It Up. I think they can help fill in some of the gaps I am overlooking. They give Scripture references and other everyday perspectives!
http://catholicmom.com/2014/08/22/offer-it-up/
http://www.fisheaters.com/offeringitup.html
http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/offering-prayers.html
http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2014/03/whats-point-of-mortification-and.html
http://happycatholic.blogspot.com/2005/10/offer-it-up-what-heck-does-that-mean.html
http://catholicism.about.com/b/2013/11/08/offering-it-up.htm


Now if you would excuse me, I really don't want to clean up my room...so I have to go offer it up!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ViR-choo!! uh...Bless you?!

These thoughts are being prompted by a great book called Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Edward Sri. I totally recommend it and will be using it as a spring board for this blog entry. I'll also be quoting it below. 

When I was going through my college years, and prior to that too, I recall learning about virtue. Over the last few years, after entering seminary and being ordained a priest, I've come to see and notice that we don't speak about virtue. I suppose we begin to consider virtue to be a lame or stagnant way of life. It's almost a bad word to say someone is virtuous, right?

BARF!!!

It's so fascinating what society has done to our understanding of all those things that are true and good and beautiful. You know virtues actually help us be more human. They help us control our passions. They help us see things as they should be seen. They help us interact with people as we should. I mean, they help us be more than just animals.

Danbo, leave...the milk...alone!
You've had more than enough!
You know, to be a morally good person means that the standards are held high.(Sri 87) Too often we settle for doing what feels good, "following our hearts," being complacent with the sub-standards of society...And when we fall for these sub-standards, we don't live out virtue but we tend to live out vice...

Danbo: Priest, what is virtue?

My bad...okay, so the easiest way to understand virtue is to think of it as a disposition of your heart and will.

Danbo: O_o

Virtue is basically the ability to do good things without thinking about it. You do good things because its now second nature to you. You do good things because you have made it a habit of doing the morally good thing.

Danbo: After doing a certain action many times it can become a habit? And the habit eventually turns into virtue?

Well, yes, when that action becomes second nature it becomes a habit. A habit to do the morally good thing is a virtue. A vice is the disposition to do morally bad (evil) things.

Danbo: So how does this help you humans not be like animals? How does it help you be your best?

Ultimately, virtue helps you see things as they are. They help you to always be thinking and acting in ways that are morally good. You'll naturally know not to not act out of emotions but out of the right and morally good thing to do. Animals will always act out of instinct. They will always act on emotions. And, though yes they can learn, at some point the animal cannot rationally say to themselves, "I am upset with my owner and the way he is treating me. Even though I feel this way and anger is raging within me, I will walk away until I feel better about this so I don't do something horrible. Then we can forgive each other."

See virtues "remind us of the higher moral standard that we are called to follow." (Sri 87) As human individuals, we move outside of ourselves. We think of the "other" in a personal way. Virtues help us tame the emotions and appetites in us so that we can always act as we should. Emotions and appetites are not bad in themselves, but when we allow them to control our every actions, then in a sense we become slaves to our emotions. We have noticed what happens when we act out of the immediate feelings we are experiencing. We do something we regret or we get ourselves into a slump of some sort...Virtues help us place our emotions in their proper place in our lives so we can enjoy things and interact with people as we should...

Danbo: To act as you should means you act the way you were created to enjoy life?

Yes.

Danbo: But doesn't that mean that all the other fun things you could do are forbidden?

Ah, but Danbo, to truly be happy, live life, and have fun, we must live as we were intended to. First and foremost we follow God. Following Him, we begin to realize how to live our lives and how to enjoy the things of this world. Now, that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy zip-lining, powerlifting, skeet-shooting, wake-boarding, or the like...Being temperate, prudent, just, and fortitudinous help us figure out how to put all our energies in living life rightly while working and having fun.

Doing bad things, though they may have an initial "fun characteristic" to them, will leave us feeling empty and void. They will never satisfy. They will leave us wanting, hurting ourselves and others. If we were meant to enjoy bad things, then why do people who do bad/evil things seem to never be happy nor satisfied? Those that live a virtuous life find happiness and satisfaction because they have developed their hearts and actions to do the good thing.




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ninja and Son of God


Discovering our uniqueness can be a great adventure. For the most part, we will be discovering who we are until the day we die. Some of us will never really understand who we are while others may have a deep, grace-filled, insight and be fully aware of their uniqueness. And what makes us, us? What defines us?

Our existence, our identity comes down to one simple reality: being a child of God. Everything we do in life flows in and out of that reality. What we do, how we interact with people, what dictates what will make us happy or sad, what will build us up or take us down...it all comes back to the fact that we are children of God. Sons and Daughters of the Most High. When we realize that, everything else will have it's place.

Take my pastor for example. I am convinced that he is part of some secret ninja organization--I mean even ninjas need chaplains too you know? Part of his ninja training has equipped him to enter a room without so much as a sound. This has allowed him to come into any room in the rectory without my notice until it's too late. I'm sure on many occasions he could have dealt a fatal blow and ended me. All that said, I must always recall that at the deepest core of who he is, he's a son of God. God loved him into existence and holds him in existence in love. All that he does in life flows in and out of that reality. God has called him to live out that reality, his identity as son of God, as a priest. Of course, this has upped my personal strength training and made me work on my cat-like reflexes so that I can eventually have the upper hand.

Even though my pastor has these secret ninja skills and freaks me out every time I turn around to find him in the room doing something without me noticing, the dynamic reality of his identity as son-of God will always be firm and will never fade away. His uniqueness primarily comes from this first reality. It doesn't make him any duller. It doesn't make him a one product within a multitude stemming from the same mold...no...He is still unique. Loved into existence to be son-of-God in the only way he could manifest his unique identity -- with ninja skills and all. Loved into existence to be son-of-God, called to the priesthood to mediate God's love and grace to the world so that those he comes in contact with may discover their unique identity as son or daughter of God. 
In the midst of life's crazy chaos, in the midst of our uncertainty and anxiousness, even if we think we ain't nothing much, know now oh man, know now oh woman, that you are more than what you know yourself to be. 
And discovering that reality can be the greatest adventure we will ever have.

Friday, August 1, 2014

WhO Dat taLKiNg BAcK? Habits Help

A couple weeks ago I was confronted by the very person who brings about my downfall on a regular basis. I know this guy a lot. We've been through thick and thin, and yet, every time I want to do something that will help me out in the long run, he tries to convince me otherwise. I am sure anyone reading this would be like, "Dude, just leave your friend. Why keep him around?" Well you see, this guy is...me!

Yup, on a regular basis I find myself to be the cause of my own demise. So I was going to my continued education workshop, Good Leaders, Good Shepherds. Yeah, I was a little excited to go, a little not excited. Hahaha, well who wants to feel like they are in school again? *Ahem* Well, I kind of do...but I digress. So in preparing for pastor-school, as I have dubbed it, I was looking into seeing if there was a gym nearby. Yeah yeah yeah...go ahead, make fun of me, but I've been really digging this new lifestyle. It has helped me out in other areas of my life.

So there I was, day two of the week of the conference. Day two of getting up earlier than the other guys. Day two of driving 5 minutes to the gym...and I parked in front of the gym. I sat there tired --- traveling zonks me out --- and looked at the doors to the gym. The thought came, "You know...you could just exercise later. You can head back, sleep some more, feel rested, and exercise this afternoon." Hmmm...he does have a point, doesn't he? I mean, my workout wouldn't go well because I'm real tired...maybe I should


Then out of nowhere it was like the "real me" realized, "WOAH! WHAT IN THE WORLD?!? What are you saying?! You won't do it later!! You have already decided to do this a long time ago. You are in it for the long haul! You are already here!!!! Get out now and ignore that other guy! Let's do this!"
Brandon Phillips. Photo: Shaun Cleary:
Maybe it was the devil or maybe it was the old habits coming back, either way I had to grab the bull by its horns. Nothing is more difficult than going against those excuses and that nagging "logical-sounding-other." And yet it must be done.

Walking the Christian life is a difficult one. We may find ourselves completely invested during that initial phase but its when the rubber meets the road that you have to come back to the reason why you started. If your reasons were superficial, then any difficulty will have you running for the hills. This reminds me of the seed that fell among the rocky ground. Matt 13:20-21 There is no root, so when the dry arid heat comes, when persecution comes, when difficulty of standing up for your faith or getting up to work out confront you, we wither up and run away.

So how do we stand firm? How do we grow strong roots in rich soil? How can we go against ourselves when the excuses come? By building up habits, good habits, i.e., virtue. Habits would be the everyday life experience of what we do when we workout...we slowly work on weight lifting to be able to be strong and equipped to lift heavier. We slowly work on creating habits to do the right thing so we can be stronger and quicker to do it when things get tough. It's all about the small actions, the small victories, the constant and continual little action to do the right and good thing. If we build these habits, even when we don't want to, we will be able to persevere when it is difficult; we will be able to do the right thing regularly without thinking; we will be able to live out our faith with greater courage; and we will be able to speak to the broken part of ourselves that desires complacency and have them rise to be greater.