73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 43 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 43rd step:

(43) But as to any evil in himself, let him be convinced that it is his own and charge it to himself.

This counsel follows from the previous one. If God has created us as “good” then any evil is from our free choice to do other than what God wills for us. We should understand that what is “evil” is bad for us, to the point that if we persist in evil it leads to our self-destruction.

If God has created us as good, then anything that is not good can not be from God, it must have another source, St. Benedict concludes rightly that it must come from ourselves.

There are many maladies in life that may seem evil but really are not. Someones genetic makeup may make the prone to an early death and on the surface that may seem like an “evil” but in fact it is only our perception again of what our idea of “good” is. A person whose life is limited by their genetic or physical condition still has been put on this earth by God and still has a mission. They can do much good with the talents that God has given them. To bury the talents because of their perceived bad condition is to squander the good.

A woman born in a physical condition that gave her little chance to live beyond her twenties, described an incident that she says happened to her on the day of her birth. “God,” she says, “asked me if I wanted to do something special for Him.” She says that she responded, “Yes.”

Virginia Cyr spent her short twenty-something years praising God in a body racked with pain, in and out of orphanages after her mother abandoned her, sexually abused by a drunken priest who took advantage of her physical condition which prevented her from running away–through it all she thanked God for the mission, He had blessed her with on her day of her birth.

Now this Indiana woman lies waiting the resurrection in a grave in Lafayette. The orphanage where she lived in Fort Wayne, no longer is there. Perhaps an answer to some prayer that God answered because she had so faithfully carried out His mission.

No matter what, evil is our choice and the good is God’s blessing.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 42 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 42nd step:

(42) To refer what good one sees in himself, not to self, but to God.

If we have lived long enough, and are in touch with what motivates us, I think we will come to see the truth that there is a great good that is essential to who we are at our deepest core. God created us and as God says in the Book of Genesis when he looked upon his creation-He saw that it was “good.”

God is responsible for the goodness that is at the core of every human being. It is there and we can both see it in others and in ourselves.

When God became Man, He had no problem recognizing the “good” that was in all of creation. Where some saw prostitutes or tax collectors, the Son of God saw precious creatures that had the same basic goodness as all who have been created by God.

When the rich young man called Jesus, “Good teacher,” Jesus corrected him, “Why call me good? Only God is good.” Here we have an application of this counsel by Jesus Himself.

Yes, only God is good, but He has shared that goodness in His creation. We are part of God’s creation. Therefore when we worship Him, we come to know ourselves as we truly are and we come to see the goodness that is at the heart of who He has created us to be.

This original goodness has been marred by Original Sin, sadly people do not realize the great value that they possess. Often they are confused about their purpose in life and unfortunately many waste the talents that they have been blessed with because they take the definition of who they are from other people or from some other ideal of who they should be.

Jesus’ death and resurrection make it possible for us to understand that God loves us. By being baptized the original goodness that is in us can come to the fore.

We are “good” because God created us. Our actions are good as much as we act out of the self that God created us to be. All is from God and God deserves all the praise both for who we are and the good that we do.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 41

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 41th step:

(41) To put one’s trust in God.

As if to remind us what all this is about, in the middle of these counsels, Saint Benedict gives this counsel that refocuses on the real issue here. Going through the counsels we can lose sight again that almost everything that is negative, not to do this or not to be this is all about a positive to “do this,” to put our trust in God.

Most of us probably would say that we put our trust in God. But our reaction to all of these counsels of Saint Benedict is like a giant mirror that reveals whether we really do or not.

There is a story that I have heard so many times that it has lost it’s punch for me, but perhaps not for you-so here it is. A man is walking along a mountainside when suddenly he hits some lose soil and goes tumbling over a steep precipice. Luckily he grabs on to a tree branch as he falls down.

Looking down, he sees that if he hadn’t grabbed the branch he would have fallen to a certain death. But looking up he can see no way to reach the safety of the path again, and he realizes that he can’t hold on forever. He yells for help, “Is anyone up there?”

A voice booms, “I’m here, it’s God.”

The man says, “Thank God! Can you save me?”

“Of course,” God says, “but you have to do exactly what I tell you.”

“Okay,” the man says, “what do I need to do?”

“Let go,” says God.

“Is anyone else up there?” The man screams.

Putting our trust in God means more than just giving lip service to Him. It means, “letting go,” and whether we do or not ultimately decides whether we live or die-forever.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 40

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 40th step:

(40) Not to be a detractor.

The Christian is to be someone who builds people up, not someone who tears others down. Often detraction is a sign of our own insecurity or feelings of inadequacy.

Someone who puts God first in their lives will recognize their own self in an entirely new light as well as all others.

If we see someone who seems less in our eyes, it is we who have the problem not them.

This of course does not mean that we turn our eyes from those who commit grievous sins against others. They should be confronted, and if personal confrontation does not work as Jesus said, the matter should be brought before the whole Church, and if that doesn’t work they should be treated like a tax collector. Of course Jesus–welcomed tax collectors, so there is irony in the last part of his counsel.

Christianity is not a religion of castes. In Christ there is neither Greek or Jew, male or female–all are one. In order for that to be a lived reality we must see the importance of each individual and seek to build them up. In doing so we are aiding the Holy Spirit’s work of building the Kingdom of God.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 39 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel.  The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 39th step:

(39) Not to be a murmurer.

I like how the dictionary defines a murmur, “a confidential complaint.” Of course the complaint being offered confidentially is never directed at the person who is responsible for the complaint.

There are murmurers in the Gospel. When Jesus says to the paralytic “your sins are forgiven” the people present begin to murmur amongst themselves about what they perceive to be the presumption of Jesus to do something that is reserved to God alone, (this brings to mind the modern tendency for everyone to forgive sins or at least dismiss them as not really all that serious). Jesus hears the murmurs and addresses them directly.

If you have ever been caught murmuring by the person you are murmuring about–you probably know how they felt.

We should not murmur because we are not addressing the people that should be addressed. We should however speak out “unconfidentially” against injustices, against wrongdoing that harms others. But sometimes the things we complain about in whispered tones hardly rise to that level.

If God is God for us, there is less to murmur about. Many of the events of life that we might normally complain about will be seen to be part of a plan that is much larger than us. What we might perceive as the “wrong way of doing things” might actually lead to “God’s way of doing things” being done in the long run.

Again the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis provides an excellent meditation for us on this issue.

Feel like complaining, go to the chapel instead and complain to the boss. He can do something to remedy the situation while your co-worker will only add to your misery.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 38 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 38th step:

(38) Not to be slothful (cf Rom 12:11).

The scripture passage that St. Benedict quotes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I expected it to be the passage “if a man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat,” but its not that. The passage he quotes is “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.”

Again, like in all previous counsels the motivation to not be slothful is to be animated by God’s Holy Spirit. How do we receive this Spirit, by serving the Lord (I like to think of this as “working for the Lord”).

Just as one might take a job with a certain company and enjoy certain benefits that the company offers, so too for the person who “works” for the Lord. The chief benefit that God provides to those who serve Him is that He gives them the power to fulfill the job. He also fills His workers with the desire and zeal to do the work.

Being lazy, or slothful is a sign that we have turned in on ourselves again; that we are “serving” ourselves and our own desires. So it is easy to see how this would stop us from being in communion with God.

What then of all the lazy Christians? Remember Benedict wrote these counsels for monks, men who had left everything to follow Christ in the life of the Monastery. But as Jesus prophesied the the “love of many will grow cold,” so too in religious life, people can lose sight of the great need that they have for God and start slacking off in prayer.

Which brings us to the greatest danger of being slothful–neglecting prayer. Communicating with God is essential if we are to live–we must never give up prayer.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 37 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous posts are below and in the archives to the right. This is the 37th step:

(37) Not to be drowsy.

Several years ago, Amy and I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at a monastery. We arrived at the Abbey Church on Holy Saturday night at 9 when it began. The Blessing of the Fire was done, the Easter candle carried in procession, the Exsultet sang, and the readings began. Then they stopped after the fourth one.

There was an announcement. The readings would resume at 4 A.M. We both looked at each other. We were staying at a hotel about a half hour away. It was already 10:30. We rushed out the door and headed back to the hotel and after leaving a wake up call for 3 A.M. at the desk went to sleep.

Like zombies we took are place in the Church again at 3:45 A.M. The monks were all there, psalms were being read. They looked well rested, alert-awake. I was not, I was drowsy.

Monks get up at 4 A.M. every morning. Most of us do not but sleep is essential for all of us. St. Benedict’s counsel reflects the rigors of monastic life but applies to us as well. We need sleep in order to give our full attention to life’s demands.

There also is the memory of the Apostles and their failure to stay awake at the crucial moments of Our Lord’s agony, “And he came and found them sleeping,” (Mark 14:37). And of course the warning that he is coming again and how will Our Lord find us, “Watch therefore-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning-lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch,” (Mark 13:35).

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