73 Steps to Communion with God – 62

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the right. This is the 62nd step:

(62) Not to desire to be called holy before one is; but to be holy first, that one may be truly so called.

Holiness comes from God’s grace. One’s desire should be to be in a good relationship with God and not to be well thought of by others. In fact Our Lord declared that “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,” Matthew 5:11. It would matter little then, if people thought of us as vile and pagan if that were not the truth.

There was a group of holy men in Russia who sought to live this out quite literally, to no avail. They are know as the “holy fools of Russia” and would do everything humanly possible to be thought of us vile and “unholy” to the point of publicly fornicating with prostitutes, walking naked through the public squares and uttering every kind of vulgarity loudly. But the populace knew that this was all so that they would not be well thought of and so they revered them anyway!

We do not have to go to such lengths to avoid being well thought of by others but we shouldn’t lose the point of their witness–that holiness is something to be rather than something that others think we are. Holiness is not an act but rather is the result of a relationship with God. Our motivation should always be to seek the Kingdom of God in our lives first and sometimes that will lead to others thinking poorly of us. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed and that is what matters.

The civil rights leaders of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were religious people. They were motivated by their belief in God to reject the way black people were being treated in this country. They sang praise to God as they marched in front of State Capitals, sat at lunch counters or entered school buildings. Other so-called “Christians” reviled them declaring them to be atheists, troublemakers and Communists. But they were blessed and now we look upon them as saints and martyrs.

When we are gone from this earth, then we hope people will think of us as holy.

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73 Steps to Communion with God 60

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God by Michael DubruielThe previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 60th step:

(60) To hate one’s own will:

Someone who seeks to be in communion with God has to learn to subject themselves entirely to God’s will. Jesus who was the Son of God still prayed in His humanity that “not his will be done but the Father’s.” We all have “our way” of looking at life and “our way” of doing things and the Scriptures are quite clear that “our way is not God’s way.”

We all suffer because we believe that happiness lies in fulfilling our will. But if we have the gift to reflect on our past, we quickly come to the realization that much of what we “will” does not bring us happiness and in fact is quite fleeting and arbitrary–changing with the wind.

To fight “our will” does not mean going off into another direction but rather facing reality. Our “will” often pulls us away from what most needs our attention. We often will to be somewhere other than where we are, to be doing something other than what needs to be done and to be with someone other than the one we are with at the present moment. These are exactly the moments when we are to “hate” our own will and seek to do the will of God.

God had placed us where we are right at this very moment. He has also placed us in a situation that demands our attention at this moment. The person who is before us has been placed there by God. Being attentive to all that God has placed in our midst will bring a contentment that we will never find if we are constantly seeking to flee from the cross.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 33

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 33th step:

(33) To bear persecution for justice sake (cf Mt 5:10).

St. Benedict references one of the Beatitudes for this counsel, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:10). If we are just and right in what people choose to persecute us for, then we should bear it patiently.

Many people suffer persecution for doing what is right and unfortunately often at the hands of religious people. Our Lord told his disciples that, “indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God,” (John 16:2). One have only to open the papers and to read of crimes against human beings committed by people of every religious belief out of conviction that they are doing the will of God.

Jesus promised his followers, ” Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” (John 15:20). Therefore, again in imitation of Our Lord we should bear persecution when we are not at fault with patience.

One of the greatest examples of this patient endurance of persecution in our own day is the nonviolent civil rights movement of the late 1950’s and 1960’s. There are memorials and historical markers where horrible persecutions took place in various cities through the south. The test of time has proved the righteousness of the cause, but those who stood up suffered horribly at the time. They took their example from the Scriptures.

In more recent times those who have bravely protested nonviolently in front of abortion clinics, silently praying the rosary, are great examples of the just who are persecuted for righteousness sake!

We should do the same. When we stand up for what is right and just we should not expect accolades; in fact we should be weary of the applause. What is right is seldom popular; people seem to slip into a collective hypnosis from time to time that blinds them from recognizing the truth. But God is the truth and living a lie can only distance us from Him.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God 24

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 24th step:

(24) Not to entertain deceit in the heart.

Our Lord is the way, the truth and the life. Anything that tempts us toward falseness is not of Him. Again, St. Benedict warns us not even to “entertain” the idea of deceit in our emotions, symbolized by the heart.

Everyone deserves the truth. As Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

Unfortunately many people do not believe that the truth is helpful to others. To quote a phrase from the movie A Few Good Men, that was a favorite of students that I once taught Ethics to, “You can’t handle the truth,” seems to be most people’s guiding principle.

Doctors are not honest with patients who come to them expecting honesty. Parents, sometimes keep the truth from their children, leading them to search for it elsewhere. Even bishops now are not known for standing for the truth but rather hiding and trying to conceal it.

The result of such deceit lives with us for years. It destroys our capacity to trust. One can see how it could destroy a tight knit community like a monastery, but we should not let that excuse us.

A meditation on the effects of deceit that we have been on the receiving end might help us to appreciate why as St. Benedict counsels us, we should not even entertain the idea of being that way to anyone.

Everyone deserves the truth. The truth is a good and valuable commodity. Whatever perceived good we might think that hiding the truth from someone might bring, usually back fires.

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the natural purpose of speech is to communicate the truth. Can you imagine a bird warning of an intruder to another bird , if in fact there is no intruder? A dog barking out lies to another dog?

Yet we humans can abuse this gift of speech that we have at our disposal.

Ultimately, it is a choice to reject God and to make something else a god in our lives. Whatever we feel is more important than telling the truth is what we really believe in. Our reputation, our pride or our sins all can keep us from fulfilling this counsel.

The confessional, then is a good place to begin. Opening our hearts to God and not even entertaining the thought of deceiving Him. As St. Paul says, “God will not be mocked.”

God not only can handle the truth about us, He can teach us the truth about ourselves. Something usually hidden from the deceitful person.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God. 20 Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the twentieth step:

(20) To hold one’s self aloof from worldly ways.

If you are like me, you can readily come up with a list of what “worldly ways” means, but too often this list have very little to do with what most spiritual masters mean when they use the term.

St. Benedict, again is writing these counsels for monks. Monks take a vow of obedience to an abbot. The abbot, a term that could be translated “father”, watches over the monks and assigns them various tasks for the good of the monastery.

About a year ago, I visited a monastery where the abbot invited me to join the monks for dinner. During the meal taken in silence, while a monk read from one of the Fathers of the Church, several monks had to kneel in front of the abbot’s table. They were being punished for some infraction of the rule that they had committed during the day (one monk told me that he had forgotten to put his napkin back in its holder).

As I sat there, in my forties, and witnessed the grown men who were around sixty years old, I momentarily thought of the ways of the world and how foolish this all seemed. But then, I remembered the counsel of Our Lord, “Unless you become like a child, you can not enter the Kingdom of God.”

All of us must be like children in God’s kingdom. Worldly ways might best be defined as acting in a way of a “self made man.”

There is a story of a man’s employer coming to the man’s home for dinner one night. The employer was brash, rude and made inappropriate comments throughout the meal. All the while the young son of the employee stared at the man. Finally, the boy spoke, “my dad says that you are a self-made man.”

The employer beaming, said, “Well, yes son I am.”

“Why did you make yourself so bad?” The young boy asked.

Keeping aloof of worldly ways, means leaving behind any notion that we are ultimately in charge of our lives. It requires total surrender to God.

Jesus lays out the best commentary for this counsel in Matthew’s Gospel, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and body more than clothing?…So I do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil, (Matthew 6:25, 31-34).”

I like to carry the image of those monks, all dressed in black, sitting and silently eating and drinking while they listen to someone proclaim the Kingdom of God to them, as I go about my dealings everyday–never allowing myself to be drawn away from our true purpose here.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God – 19 by Michael Dubruiel

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the nineteenth step:

(19) To console the sorrowing.

Those who sorrow at the loss of a loved one can often seem inconsolable. In fact the Scripture passage related to the slaughter of the innocents comes to mind, “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Matthew 2:18).”

It is important to remember that death is not part of God’s original plan. When God creates Adam and Eve, he warns them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Death, is the result of original sin and indeed there is nothing that could console Rachel at her loss when the knowledge that death was eternal separation.

But for the Christian–there is Christ!

Death no longer is the final word. Jesus has overcome death and has opened up the possibility that all of us, if we believe in him, can share in his resurrection. The key, it would seem then to consoling the sorrowing, would be to remind them of the fruit of salvation and to point them to the mercy of God.

Yet having been there, many times, during the sad losses that people suffer–this is seldom the case. Instead, what usually occurs is the arrival of many well meaning people who announce loudly that it was God’s will that the child or adult die.

It is never God’s will that anyone die! Death entered the world because of sin-separation from God. God desires the salvation of all people. The angel of death that passes over the Egyptians is not a “good” angel but one who reaps the evil crop that had been sown by the Egyptians in the Book of Exodus.

Francis MacNutt and his wife Judith once presented a more accurate picture of God’s place in someone’s death. Speaking of how to console a sorrowful mother who has lost her child, they counseled the consoler speaking the following truth, “Death has taken your child, but God will take your child from death!”

To console, we need faith. Faith that in Christ, death is not the end.

Old churches still show forth the truth of the communion of saints, those who have died but are still very much alive and present. Most people intuitively grasp that their loved one is still alive, though not physically present. To console is to bring God’s truth to the situation, God’s message of salvation to the horror of a world steeped in sin.

73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel – 18

This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Spiritual Communion with God by Michael Dubruiel. The previous are posted below among the other posts and last week’s archives. Here is the eigthteenth step:

(18) To help in trouble.

St. Benedict counsels us to be “helpers” something that no doubt was implanted in most of us from our youth. How can we best help others and what might keep us from reaching out to others?

When Our Lord was thirsty he asked the woman at the well for a drink. Jesus needed help. The woman rather than just giving him a drink gave him a lot of excuses. First it was racial—“You’re a Jew.”

Funny how little our reasons for not helping others changes. Our excuse might be, “You’re not family” or “You’re not Catholic” or “You’re not American” or “You’re not the same race as I.”

If God is “Our Father” who is not our brother and sister?

Saint Benedict’s counsel is simple and indeed it is the Gospel message that we are to help those in trouble. If we use excuses as a buffer to exonerate us from our duty then we risk missing out with an encounter with Our Lord who comes to us often in the guise of the poor.

The Samaritan woman’s excuse, might have kept her from meeting Jesus, had Our Lord not persisted in his desire. If our desire is to help those in need, we will not miss meeting Our Lord throughout the day.