Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Words dfrom Fr Ed (From July 29th, 2012 Bulletin)

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?

An attitude of scarcity pervades our outlook when we are deprived of faith. Reason naturally asks the question above; mathematically, how can five loaves be divided for 5000 men and their families? But the context of the meal is a gathering around Jesus. One would hope that the crowd was coming for something greater than a great feast provided through earthly riches. We know from Jesus’ words elsewhere that for some it was simply a matter of being temporally satisfied. He says in John, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled." Then he admonishes them, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." He says this in John 6 where he goes on to speak of His body as "real food" and His blood as "real drink". The truth at stake here is whether we are dealing with an uncreated reality beyond the aspect of our senses, what we can see and measure with our natural sciences.
I grew up in a time when there was a great "over-population" scare and a corresponding emphasis on birth control out of love for our planet and a sufficient supply of resources. Time and reason has taught us that in fact we are facing a "demographic winter", a complete collapse of the human population, especially in the west where the theory of over-population was spread with great zeal. The truth then, as it is today, is that the greatest problem is not too many people for too few resources; rather, our most pressing problem is a simple lack of love. Love gladly shares with others who are in need, both in material goods as well as intellectual property and spiritual riches. When we love we are no longer in competition with our neighbors, even when they are enemies.
Along with the virtue of love, the virtue of faith helps us see beyond the physical and logistical obstacles to providing for those who really don’t have enough of this world’s resources. How do we get food, shelter, clothing and other human essentials to people, even in Renton, who lack these basics? This question alone can stretch us beyond our comfort zone of dependence on temporal solutions. There is a beautiful story in the life of St. John Vianney, the Cure D'Ars, who established an orphanage in his parish for the many girls in that area of France who were without family and a safe place to live and grow. They lived on providence, day to day reliance on God providing for their needs. At one point they had run out of food for the 30+ girls. There was only a handful of corn up in the attic. The good Cure placed a relic of St. Francis Regis in the corn and then asked his children to beg God for their daily bread. One of the servants went to check the attic and could barely open the trap door. Grain poured out. The attic was full of new corn.
We should begin each day prepared to face new challenges with an attitude of abundance. God provides for His will to be done. Normally He prefers to work through natural law and the virtuous cooperation of humanity to care for one another. We start there, seeking to be vessels of grace, conduits, not cesspools. God’s grace is meant to give life to ourselves and those we are responsible to. To do that we need great faith, hope and love. May Jesus heal us of any fears or doubts that keep us from following Him. Like the boy in today’s Gospel, we bring our five loaves, our two fish, and see what God can do with them. We stand to be amazed.

Ignatian Exercises
Some of the core principles in the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius that are most practical are the Rules for Discernment. While they pertain to the first two weeks of the 30-day retreat, I think they are of perennial value. I found myself referring to them late in my retreat and they provided immediate consolation. I hope to begin copying a few of them here each week to share with you. Ignatius begins:

[314] The First Rule. In the case of persons who are going from one mortal sin to another, the enemy ordinarily proposes to them apparent pleasures. He makes them imagine delights and pleasures of the senses, in order to hold them fast and plunge them deeper into their sins and vises.
But with persons of this type the good spirit uses a contrary procedure. Through their good judgment on problems of morality he stings their consciences with remorse.
[315] The Second Rule. In the case of persons who are earnestly purging away their sins, and who are progressing from good to better in the service of God our Lord, the procedure used is the opposite of that described in the First Rule. For in their case it is characteristic of the evil spirit to cause gnawing anxiety, to sadden, and to set up obstacles. In this way he unsettles these persons by false reasons aimed at preventing their progress.
But with persons of this type it is characteristic of the good spirit to stir up courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and tranquility. He makes things easier and eliminates all obstacles, so that the persons may move forward in doing good.
I will try to continue these rules in future columns. If you would like to see them online, see:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From July 15th, 2012 Bulletin)

                            He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick…

        Do we trust the Lord? That is something Jesus is asking of His disciples as He sends them out two by two. Do we realize who is doing the asking? If we knew we would trust.        
        Jesus is God. This fact of our faith gives us a radical freedom to trust absolutely. God is infinitely trustworthy. Often we see Jesus in the Gospels rebuking His disciples for a lack of faith or a lack of trust. Remember Peter walking on water, then losing sight of Jesus and beginning to sink. We too, like Peter, fail to trust at times when the waves of our lives begin to intimidate us.
        One of the meditations in the second week of the Ignatian Exercises is the passage about Jesus sleeping in the boat. A storm has come up and they are taking on water, about to sink by all reasonable standards of experience, especially for fishermen. How come Jesus is able to sleep?
        In Ignatian meditations, one imagines the scene, as vividly as possible, even placing one’s self into the scene and dialoging with the participants. What was Peter doing? And John? And James? Who got the assignment to wake Jesus up? What would I have done? What ought I to do given Jesus’ rebuke upon being woken up? Jesus rebuked them for their fear and lack of faith. They didn’t realize yet who they had in their boat. If the Son of God’s not worried, who are we to be afraid?
Applying this to our poverty of faith in daily life is a work of prayer. We must ask for what we do not have or have to a small degree. Jesus called the disciples men “of little faith”. He didn’t say “no faith”, but rather “little faith”. The Scriptures say, “All have been given a measure of faith”. We have to act on what little we have to obtain more. “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”

To wish for nothing more than need demands, Is rest supreme, with simple food and dress
To feed and clothe our bodies and to seek, no more than is prescribed by nature’s wants.
When going on a journey, take no purse, nor of a second tunic think, and be
Not anxious for the morrow, lest for food. The belly lack. Our daily bread returns
With every sun. Does any bird take thought. Of tomorrow, certain to be fed by God?

                                        Prudentius, The Spiritual Combat    Ignatius, Pt. IV

        As I write this I’m entering Week Three, the Passion of Christ. I’ve just read the Entry into Jerusalem and will begin the Temple narratives tomorrow. The Second Week closed with the Three Levels of Humility and the Making of an Election (A Decision). The Election is especially relevant as it either deals with discerning and choosing a vocation or improving on one already committed to. While I’m in the second category, I still read through the material on the first and wanted to share it with you. St. Ignatius begins by reminding the reader of the purpose of life, ‘to praise, reverence and serve the Lord and to save my soul.’ All choices ought to support that end. He warns,

        “I ought not to order or drag the end into subjection to the means, but to order the means to the end. In this way it happens, for example, that many choose firstly to marry, which is the means, and secondly to serve God our Lord in marriage, although the service of God is the end. Similarly, there are others who first seek to possess benefices (Church offices/benefits like lands that make money), and afterwards to serve God in them. Thus these persons do not go directly to God, but desire God to come directly to their disordered attachments. As a result they transform the end in to a means and the means in to the end; and consequently what they should fasten on in the first place they take up in the last.”

        This can happen in big decisions like whether to marry as well as smaller decisions, like what job to take, where to live, or simply how to spend a free hour. Too often we can place our will in the driver’s seat and then ask God to bless our direction. Are we really going to change our direction once we’ve made that decision? Not so easily. Putting God first can be as simply as saying an Our Father before we make a decision. We say in that prayer, “Thy will be done”. If we mean it, it will affect our choices. As I finish my retreat by the 20th of July, I hope to see you next weekend. Thank you for your prayers and know that you are in mine daily.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From July 8th, 2012 Bulletin)

"He was amazed at their lack of faith."

Our Gospel this weekend reveals both Jesus’ humanity and ours. His is recognized in that "He was amazed". To be amazed shows some kind of surprise, an unexpected happening. God the Son would not be amazed, knowing all things. It is Jesus in His full humanity that has a hard time believing people’s lack of belief. It would seem from His response that faith ought to come more naturally. That’s where our broken humanity comes in.

I have to say ‘broken’, because I believe that Jesus knows that a human being, given natural law and the gifted light of reason, should recognize the Divine at work. His own Nazarenes did not recognize Jesus’ work as Divine. They tried to explain it away by referring to his relatives that they knew. The ordinary, hidden life of Jesus, not hidden from his neighbors in Nazareth, was a reason given to not believe in Him. The thought that God would be united with a man in such a way was beyond the willingness to believe. They were not able to hold on to the faith that says,"All things are possible with God."

We of varying degrees of faith may face times where we’re not sure how much we believe, if at all. No need to panic. Jesus says, "Ask, and you will receive." One of the prayers that I say five times a day during my Ignatian Retreat is, "Lord, give me an interior knowledge of you, who became human for me, that I may love you more intensely and follow you more closely." This is bound to increase one’s faith. Jesus is faithful to His promise to respond to every sincere prayer.

Ignatius is big on asking for the grace that one desires and needs. Each meditation time begins with another prayer called the ‘Preparatory Prayer’, which "…is to ask God our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty." This really could be a daily prayer intention, or shall I say, a life intention.

As I shared last week, I’m now well into the ‘Second Week’ of the exercises, which actually have twelve days attached, depending on the director’s sense of what you are ready for. I’m on seventh day, which is a contemplation on the call of the first disciples. I’ve also been asked to review the origins and graces of my own call. It is well worth it to look back on what motivated and moved one to choose a vocation. Hopefully there were clear signs and indications of the Holy Spirit guiding your choice. If not, then God is present to renew or tweak your accordingly.

One of the most helpful meditations was on the ‘Three Classes of Persons’. Each person has come into 10 thousand ducats (Spanish currency), "…but not purely or properly for the love of God."They all want to be at peace with God, but deal with the situation differently. The first person wants to be rid of the attachment to the money, but "does not take the means, even to the hour of death." This is someone who knows what is right to do, but procrastinates, even until death!

The second person is someone who wants to get rid of the attachment but keep the money. This person is someone who is blessed, but uses their blessings on their own terms, not God’s. How often we might say, "Well, I’ll do such and such and then ask God’s blessing on my endeavor." God is not invited to influence the actual decision about how to act in a given situation; He only mops up the results, so to speak.

The third person, but wants a disposition that is free from the money, whether it is kept or not. Their desire is only to do God’s will and is busy seeking that will with an open heart and mind. The goal is whatever will "be better for the service and praise of the Divine Majesty." This is freedom and happiness. It is also a grace. We need supernatural help to maintain a freedom from creatures. Our weakness would tend toward security and pleasure, but God can strengthen us to where we are indifferent as to possessions except for how they may serve God or distract us from Him.

St. Ignatius closes with a‘colloquy’, a short prayer, beginning with Our Lady, that she might "obtain former grace from her Son and Lord that I may be received under his standard; and first, in the most perfect spiritual poverty; and also, if his Divine Majesty should be served and if he should wish to choose me for it, to not less a degree of actual poverty; and second, in bearing reproaches and injuries, that through them I may imitate him more, if only I can do this without sin on anyone’s part and without displeasure to the Divine Majesty." May God grant us this grace. I continue to pray for all of you.