Five Ways to Cultivate Joy in Hardships by GREGORY POPCAK

 

Five Ways to Cultivate Joy in Hardships

GREGORY POPCAK

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:16-18).

That’s a tall order St Paul lays on us. It can be hard to remain joyful even when times are good, but it’s especially challenging when life becomes complicated or downright difficult. The first thing to remember is that while joy and happiness are related, they aren’t the same thing. Happiness is more fleeting and dependent upon our environment, while joy is a state of being that allows us to hold on to a sense of rightness, connectedness and peace even through difficult times.

Here are a few tips to help you cultivate joy in challenging times.

  1. Don’t Pretend

Many believe that being joyful means pretending that things are better than they are, but true joy can only flourish in a spirit of authenticity. It’s ok to admit you have problems. Dealing with problems joyfully means reminding yourself of all the times you’ve made it through difficulties before, all the times God has delivered you from previous challenges, and then making a plan—in graceful confidence—to overcome the challenges you are facing in the here and now. To hold on to joy through trials, praise God for his past providence and make a plan for the future.

  1. Pray

Research consistently shows that prayer improves well-being. The more we pray the more resilient we are and the more peaceful we will be.  Cultivating an active prayer life is key to maintaining the attitudes (and grace) that makes joy possible.

  1. Reflect on Past Successes

We can have a tendency to dwell on the hard bits of past experience and de-emphasize the fact that we made it through in one piece (or even with flying colors).  The more we can focus on the ways God has come through for us in the past and the times we have successfully overcome hardship the more we are able to draw meaning from past struggles and the more we can do that, the more hopeful we can be that our present trials will be meaningful too.

  1. Maintain Rituals and Routines.

A large part of cultivating joy is maintaining our connection with others. The best way to do that is creating and keeping up rituals and routines like family meals, prayer times, game nights, family fun days, etc. Having regular, scheduled, expected times to connect with others is critical. When hard times hit, we tend to jettison our rituals and routines first. That’s a tragic mistake. A nice family meal in the middle of a crisis can be a port in the storm. A game night can be the eye of the hurricane. To keep up your joy, maintain the rituals that keep up your connection with others and the routines that give order to your life.

  1. Be a Blessing

Another big part of joy is feeling that your life is making a difference to others.  Even if you’re going through a tough time, ask yourself everyday, “What is one small thing I can do to make someone’s life a little easier or more pleasant?” It takes a little effort on the front end—especially if you’re having a bad day/week/month/year yourself—but it gets you out of your head and helps you see that you really do have the power to change things for the better. Being generous to others gives you the hope you need to apply your resources more effectively in your own life.

  1. Laugh!

We tend to think that humor has to surprise us to count. That’s not true. Especially when you’re going  through a rough patch, you need to  intentionally seek out opportunities to laugh. Go out with that friend who always helps you put things in perspective. Go to that funny movie. Watch that comedian you like or those silly videos on YouTube. Make yourself seek out laughable moments. There is a lot of science behind the notion that intentionally seeking out laughter is tremendously healing and focuses your mind in a way that puts problems in perspective and enables you to become more aware of resources you have previously overlooked.

There is a reason that psychologists consider humor one of the most effective and sophisticated defense mechanisms. Cultivating joy obviously involves more than trying to turn your life into a laugh riot; but turing to laughter, especially when you’re going through hardships, stops you from ruminating about all the negative stuff in your life and enables you to find the little blessing that make life worthwhile.

The goods news is, you can become a more joyful person regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. Joy enables us to find meaning, confidence, and peace even through the most imperfect of days. You don’t have to wait for it to happen to you. You can go out and find it.

By Dr. Gregory Popcak

Dr. Gregory Popcak is the Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, an organization dedicated to helping Catholics find faith-filled solutions to tough marriage, family, and personal

 

Coming Out of the Closet Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Coming Out of the Closet

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

At times, priests reveal intimate secrets about themselves from the pulpit.  I’ve always hesitated to do so mostly because a sermon should be about Jesus, and innermost secrets and feelings are none of your business. But there are certain advantages that a priest has in the twilight of his priesthood.  The expanding mosaic of his experiences – good and bad – can provide others with useful insights.

Parishioners notice many uncomfortable details about priests, ranging from personal hygiene to personality quirks.  Depending upon circumstances, a pastor may have a duty to affirm or deny rumors for the sake of tranquility, and transparency.  These acknowledgments can be painful but necessary. So here is one of my many secrets:  I am a conservative.

I prefer the term “Catholic.” But since I have an obligation before God to conserve and preach what I have received, after careful consideration, I have come to accept the conservative characterization.

But I wasn’t “born that way.” My Baltimore Catechism upbringing, my undergraduate training in philosophy and logic, and even my professional grasp of accounting – that debits must always equal credits – contributed to a conservative understanding of words and reality. Honesty and realism are the stuff of a traditionalist spirit.  Nonetheless, the life of a conservative is not without real conflict.

Years ago, over lunch, a retired priest dismissed me as an “arch-conservative.”  Puzzled, I questioned the venerable old man. Did he consider me a heretic?  No. Did he disagree with me on any doctrinal matter?  No. Was he referring to my political positions, if he knew them?  No. Did he object to my preference for traditional Catholic practices?  No. What, then, is an arch-conservative? No answer.

I concluded that a “conservative” dares to vocalize the hard truths of Church teaching, and an “arch-conservative” – like the priests who deny pro-abortion politicians Communion – acts on his beliefs.  Of course, conservative testimony may be more imprudent or contrarian than courageous.  But even if the delivery isn’t picture-perfect, bold witness comes with a priest’s job description.  “Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we too believe, and so we speak.” (2 Cor. 4:13)

*

Many Gospel passages boldly challenge and deeply disturb souls.  Years ago, a permanent deacon read the Gospel and preached the homily during a Mass I celebrated. The Gospel included this phrase:  “every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Mt. 5:31-32)

To avoid controversy, the deacon ignored the passage in his homily and preached his customary platitudes.  After Mass, an irate parishioner – failing to distinguish between the sermon and the Gospel text – lambasted him for suggesting certain behavior was adulterous. The Gospel not only provokes consciences but can even implicate hesitant and timid messenger boys.

The new secular moral world order is far more demanding and unforgiving than the Ten Commandments.  Violations of political correctness provoke mean-spiritedness, hate, and intolerance.  The politically incorrect is an unforgivable infraction of the politics of inclusion, and respectable society must banish all offenders.

Even children are not immune.  Recently, prominent banks withheld scholarship money from Christian schools because of their religious opposition to gender ideology.

Perhaps, for the sake of peace, priests should insist that the Ten Commandments are not their personal opinions.  They are merely delivery boys, reporting to parishioners what God teaches us through His Church.

After all, priests and people alike fail to live up the demands of the Ten Commandments. We all hope for a patient, kindly, and an understanding priest for Confession. Not to put too fine a point on it, we might argue that if you disagree with the Ten Commandments, do not crucify the messengers. You actually want to crucify the Divine Author.

Alas, Jesus even has an uncomfortable answer to that scheme:   “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20)

Contrary to the dogmas of political correctness and heterodoxy within the Church, intolerance is not exclusively a conservative vice.  The breakdown in the seminary system over the last fifty years is old news, though there seem to be recent improvements.  (Most senior priests like me are too far out of the loop to know for sure.)  But some of us recall past intolerance of Catholic orthodoxy and still have our seminary PTSD flashbacks.

In 1984, as a new seminary recruit, I attended a day of recollection at a retreat house in the Midwest.  Over beverages and snacks that evening, the conversation turned to the hot theological topics of the day.  I boldly weighed in on the questions of celibacy and the ordination of women, supporting Church teaching.  But I unwittingly violated a taboo and paid the price.

The vocations secretary breezily dismissed me with, “Jerry, you’re so conservative.”  I responded with good cheer. “You flatter me.”  But the rest of the evening, I found myself excluded from the conversation by seminarians who likely feared guilt by association.  It was an early encounter with the soft tyranny of institutional theological dissent.  In those days, many counted on the “spirit of Vatican II” (not the texts) to change the Church. Dismayed and isolated, I returned to the dormitory room and retired.

By and by, there was a gentle knock on the door; it was a young seminarian.  He introduced himself and asked:  “Doesn’t it bother you that they think of you as conservative? So am I, but I haven’t told them!”

In time, I moved on to happier ecclesial hunting grounds and lost track of the young Nicodemus, who always kept his distance, publicly at any rate.  In recent years, he was consecrated a bishop. Maybe he has come out of the closet.

The “conservative” label may be distracting and an invitation for controversy.  But preaching the truth and acting on it is a Catholic thing – and the cause for hope.

When Thunder Whispers: The Voice of God in the Old Testament by Stephan  Beale   

When Thunder Whispers: The Voice of God in the Old Testament

by Stephan  Beale   

In the Old Testament, one of the most profound ways God makes His presence known is through His voice.

This is evident from the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve have sinned and God is looking for them:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).

Reread that first line again: When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking. The word translated as sound here could more literally be rendered as voice, which only reinforces the weirdness of the sentence. Voices don’t walk. And yet, that is what the verse says. If we embrace the meaning of these words they compel a particular conclusion: that God’s voice has substance, so much so that it can ‘walk,’ noisily enough so that its very own walking is heard.

Looking back at this text from the perspective of the Incarnation, it starts to make more sense. John 1 describes the event of the Incarnation as the word of God, or the logos, taking flesh. So it is fitting that God made Himself known in a substantial way through His voice in the Old Testament because it looked forward to the Incarnation. As Catholic philosopher Emmanuel Falque reminds us, wherever there is a voice, there is always a body. One might say that the word first takes flesh in the voice.

This means that ancient Israelites’ experience of the voice of God is relevant to us today. They did not directly see the body of Christ. Instead, He came to them through His voice. Likewise, today, we do not directly gaze upon the body of Christ, since it is veiled by the appearance of the Eucharistic bread and wine.

So the Old Testament can teach us how to hear Christ’s voice. As we follow God’s voice throughout the Old Testament, two aspects stand out: it is both substantive and subtle.

This duality comes to the fore in two classic accounts.

First, there is Moses’ encounter with God on Mt. Sinai.

It begins with the burning bush in Exodus 3:

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:2-6).

Just as the fire does not consume the burning bush, so also God’s voice does not overwhelm, or ‘consume,’ Moses. We can better appreciate the tenderness of God’s encounter here in light of what happens later: later on, during the exodus itself, Moses enters into dialogue with God. Again, God’s presence is indicated by fire. But this time the fire has become terrifyingly immense: Exodus 24:17 reports that “the glory of the LORD was seen as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain.”

And yet Moses, who had once been afraid to look upon the burning bush, is able to step into the fire and talk to God. The Israelites, on the other hand, shrink back in fear. In Exodus 20, God delivers the Ten Commandments to Moses. His words are intelligent to the Israelite leader, but to the mass of people his words are as thunder:

Now as all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blast of the shofar and the mountain smoking, they became afraid and trembled. So they took up a position farther away and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die” (Exodus 20:18-19).

This account is consistent with how God’s voice is described elsewhere in the Old Testament:

The LORD thundered from heaven;
the Most High made his voice resound (2 Samuel 22:14).
The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over the mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is power;
the voice of the LORD is splendor.
The voice of the LORD cracks the cedars (Psalm 29:3-5).

When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar,
and he brings up clouds from the end of the earth,
Makes lightning flash in the rain,
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses (Jeremiah 10:13).

In the case of Elijah, the pattern is reversed. Instead of approach Elijah in a less imposing manner, as He did with Moses, God takes the opposite tack:  Elijah is overwhelmed with natural terrors of a wind storm, an earthquake, and a fire. Only after that is His tenderness disclosed:

Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13).

It is perhaps fitting that Jesus selects both Moses and Elijah to appear with Him during the Transfiguration. In a particular way, these Old Testament prophets have important things to teach us about how we encounter the voice of God, about how we hear Jesus.

One key lesson is that God approaches us in different ways. Moses first met Him in the humility of a flaming bush. Elijah’s initial interaction, on the other hand, required hiding out in a cave as one natural disaster after another rocked the mountain.

There is a corollary to this: at first it may be hard to hear what God is saying to us. In His immensity and majesty we might hear the roar of thunder. Just because we may not be able to understand Him, doesn’t mean God isn’t speaking to us.

One may draw an analogy with the contemplative concept of the ‘dazzling darkness’—the idea that God’s brightness is so intense that it can be blinding. Likewise, His voice is so great that it may deafen us with His thunder.

We may need to train our ears to listen to thunder. But there is good news here. After the thunder has passed, God may speak to us quietly as He did to Elijah. So we must also be attentive to the subtle ways God may be speaking to us. Thunder He might, but the thunder also whispers to us.

By Stephen Beale

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

Why bother with faith? by Alain Quilic

Why bother with faith?

1Faith isn’t easy and doesn’t always seem very “useful,” so what is the purpose of spending our time on it?

It is no accident that the question of the utility of faith is more prevalent these days. Today we must acknowledge that useless things are thought to be worthless. Why waste time with things that have no use or purpose?

First, we must ask ourselves, what is it that everyone is after? What does a Christian living in this world seek? Jesus tells us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:34). This means that we will give our utmost (our very heart) to whatever has value for us and represents our treasure. What is then considered to be a treasure in this world? Whom has it given its very heart? And what represents a treasure for a Christian?

What is everyone after?

The main preoccupations of the world population consist in, personally and collectively, spending life with as few problems as possible. What could be more normal? In so far as Christians living in this world go, they have the same preoccupations. What counts the most from this point of view is success, being fulfilled in life, and having a happy family. What counts is to have enough money to live well, to have a certain social standing, an interesting life, good health, and (if possible), to live a long time – to have many advantages and as few inconveniences as possible. None of these preoccupations is to be condemned. And there is no one who can reproach a person who while remaining honest does what is possible to live well. It is a life within a grasp of human possibilities. The Bible calls it a life “made by human hands.”

Obviously, from this point of view, all that could contribute to this social and personal success is approved while all that could undermine it is condemned. And all that could not actively help us to acquire goods is rejected and stored away in a box for the useless and the pointless. Based on this, you might always wonder, what is the use of Christian faith? I fear that we might be forced to say that it is of no use. Let us say, it is not terribly practical, so we don’t upset anyone. In any case, directly promoting social success is not its goal.

The world promised by Jesus

We must now ask a second question – what should be a treasure for a Christian? Where does it lie? To put it otherwise: Does the Gospel preoccupy itself with promoting social success and improving our life on Earth? Is it right to follow Jesus in order to obtain a good place in the kingdom that He will most certainly establish on Earth? This is what the wife of Zebedee, as a woman with her two feet firmly planted on the ground, planned for her three sons. She was mistaken.

Even if as human beings we find a certain balance, or a certain sense of joy in following in the footsteps of Jesus, even if we are fortunate enough to be a part of a warm community, which gives flavor to our life and supports us through difficult times, even if the wisdom contained in the Gospels seems superior to all that had been offered by the greatest philosophers, we are forced to admit that it is not in the plans of Christ to establish us as successful on Earth. What He aims at is the Kingdom of Heaven. What He offers us is a place by His side and by that of His Father. What He presents to us is a place at the heavenly wedding feast. And to get there, the path He presents us passes through a very narrow gate (which means we have to leave our luggage behind). It is a life of renunciation; it is the way of the cross.

It is not a life “made by human hands.” It is a life impossible for men, but possible for God. It was Jesus who said this. It is the life of Jesus. This is exactly what the Virgin Mary told Bernadette in Lourdes “I don’t promise you joy on Earth, but in Heaven.” The grace of St. Bernadette lies in the fact that far from perceiving this promise as pitiful and without interest, she saw it as the most precious. She did not tell herself “what is the use of all these visions if I keep on ‘going through hell’ on Earth?” Her perspective was heaven.

How to perceive the purpose of faith in your life?

So we can say that the Christian faith is useful in the sense that it concerns the eternal joy of entering into a true communion with God and for the success of our eternal life. It is the only existing means available to men to enter into this eternal life. Still, it is necessary for us to believe in the reality of eternal life, that nothing is more important for us than accessing this eternal life, that our home is in heaven, that all which can help us gain access to this joy is useful and that all that does not actively contribute to it must be restored to its true place.

The usefulness of Christian faith only becomes evident when we see the goal. If you wish to reach God Himself, if nothing seems more important to you, then you have found the most effective means to attain this goal. However, if you seek to feel as comfortable as possible on Earth, then, indeed, faith will not be of much use to you. Jesus did warn us: “For whoever wishes to save his life (on Earth) will lose it (for eternity), but whoever loses his for me, (on Earth) will find it (the eternal life)” (Mt 16:25). The stakes are extremely high.

Christian faith is the bridge allowing us to pass on the other shore

For the one who aims at eternal life, the Christian faith is like an outstretched hand that grabs him and helps him to pass over a precipice. It is like a shoulder on which he can rest when the journey becomes too hard. It is like the light that emerges in the darkness and lights the path, like the wind that rises and fills the sails. It transforms our daily life. It even brightens the worst of our troubles. You wonder what the purpose of faith is … It is to simply live a life and to live it forever!

Alain Quilic

The God of Justice and of Mercy Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

The God of Justice and of Mercy

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

The transition from the strict justice of the Mosaic Law to the mercy of “forgive thy enemies” in the teachings of Jesus sheds light on the glory of the Incarnation, which we are celebrating in a special way during these Christmas days, as well as on our participation in the life of Christ in the Sacrament of Penance.

King David viewed his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah as offenses against God alone: “Against thee [God], thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment.”   (Ps. 51:4)  The Psalmist also expected God to crush his enemies:  “And in thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am thy servant.” (Ps. 143:12)

Desire for vengeance can seem as boundless as God’s mercy.  It’s telling that when David provoked God with his census, he (again) feared human wrath more than divine punishment: “I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” (2 Sam. 24:14)

“An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” expressed the strict justice of the Mosaic Law, which – contrary to the way that it is often read today – actually restrained the limitless human inclination to vengeance and prepared the Israelites to exercise mercy.

The Old Testament, however, has very few examples of mutual forgiveness.  The Wisdom literature foreshadows the Lord’s Prayer:  “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” (Sirach 28:2)

The account of Joseph and his brothers is a touching example of reconciliation.  Jacob, in his last words to his sons, instructs them to seek Joseph’s forgiveness for their attempt to murder him:  “Say to Joseph, ‘Forgive, I pray you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’” (Gen. 50:17)

In contrast to the “eye for an eye” emphasis of the Mosaic Law, Jesus’ teachings repeatedly emphasize the obligation to forgive others:

  • “[I]f your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” (Lk. 17:3)
  • “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mk. 11:25)
  • “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you.” (Mt. 6:14)
  • “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  (Mt. 6:12)

Peter’s response to the new emphasis on forgiveness shows that it caused consternation among the Apostles: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’” (Mt. 18:21). Peter was probably not pleased with the response: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

*

Jesus doesn’t relent.  He teaches us to forgive others as He forgives us, “if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Mt. 5:39)  God’s forgiveness of us depends upon our willingness to forgive others.

The change in emphasis comes into fuller focus when we consider the meaning of the Incarnation and the Church.  The revelation in Genesis that God created man in His image and likeness is a hint of basic dignity despite the Fall.  In the Person of Jesus, God and man are reconciled.  The Incarnation reveals that sins against God are also sins against man.

David sins against God, but also against Uriah, who carries the divine imprint.  Our sins crucified Jesus, true God and true man.  We see the results of our sins in His crucified humanity, and we seek His forgiveness in His humanity as our Brother.

By Baptism, we also become members of His Mystical Body and brothers in Christ.  As Saint Paul teaches, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body/” (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-31, as well as Col. 1:18; 2:18-20; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13).

As members of His body, we are in union with Jesus, true God and true man.  When we sin against man, we sin against His body.  When we forgive others as members of His body, we become instruments of His mercy. Hence, it is fitting and obligatory to forgive others, and to seek the forgiveness of others – by word or deed – even as we continue to pray with King David, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”

Note that Jesus institutes the Sacrament of Penance during His first encounter with the Apostles after the Resurrection:  “‘he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”  (John 20:21-22).

When priests hear confessions, they represent both Jesus and those we’ve offended by our sins.  In the words of absolution, Jesus – in union with His Mystical Body, the Church – grants forgiveness with the certainty always provided by the Sacraments.

When we confess our sins to a priest, we seek forgiveness for our sins against God and man – and God and man are reconciled.  The Sacrament of Penance enshrines the “machinery” of mercy and is a synthesis of all Scriptural teaching on mercy and forgiveness.

 

Scripture does not reveal a God of justice in opposition to a God of mercy. Instead, Scripture discloses a just and long-suffering God, Who intervenes in history to mercifully restore our dignity defaced by sin, precisely by leading us towards a renewed righteousness and justice: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” (Ps. 51:10)

Pray this prayer to be a better spouse Philip Kosloski

Pray this prayer to be a better spouse

Philip Kosloski

Marriage isn’t always easy, and sometimes we need a little extra grace to better love our spouse.

While marriage is often very beautiful and enjoyable, sometimes we may have some bad days and have difficulty loving our spouse in the best way possible. Often it is because of some fault or weakness of our own, though occasionally it may be an external event that triggers a disagreement and casts a shadow over the relationship.

Whatever the situation may be, we are always in need of God’s divine grace. We often forget that marriage is a sacrament and through this sacrament, couples have access to God’s aid in a special way.

Here is a short prayer from the Golden Manual that asks God for help to be a better spouse and could be prayed on a daily basis, reminding us of our constant need to improve our marriage.

O God, bless our union, and enable us to live together in peace and love, in the faithful discharge of all our duties to you, and to each other. Deliver us from every evil temper, from every heedless action, which may in any way weaken or embitter the sacredness of that tie by which you have bound us together. Make me faithful and affectionate, ready to deny my own will and inclination in all things. Let not the trials and crosses of this life induce me to murmur, nor any earthly blessings cause me to forget you, the Author and Giver of all; but by patience and meekness, by prayer and thankfulness, may all things lead us together to eternal union with you, through Jesus Christ. Amen

Choices reblogged from Tim McGee

 

Choices

by Tim McGee

Readings for February 16, 2020

Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37

www.usccb.org/bible/readings/

Ben Sirah writes, “If you choose, you can keep the Commandments.” But does God allowing me to choose cause my own ambivalence? Do the Commandments become suggestions when I am able to pick and choose which ones I follow and when I will follow them? Looking around and also looking within, it is abundantly clear that the Commandments are often treated as mere suggestions, like Google Maps offering us optional routes to our destination. How many among us, knowing that a route is the fastest route, instead choose one that avoids tolls? And then, in so choosing, get to our destination frustrated that we’re later than we had anticipated?

I, in particular, want to make my own choices. I, in particular, like the illusion of being in control. Yet, my need for control can blind me to the consequences of my choices. I ignore that choosing the commands “will save you,” and in my need for immediate gratification, I forget that whether I choose life or death, it shall be given to me.

As Jesus explains in Matthew’s Gospel, the Old Law is not dead. Rather, it is fulfilled. And in its fulfillment, I am called to follow the Commandments. And while I may want to choose my own path to greatness, and make sure it isn’t too challenging, I know in my heart that the choices I make apart from God will never be great in comparison to God’s redemption and reward. After all, “Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and all-seeing.”

It is my choice. But in choosing, it would be prudent to recall just how much of God’s wisdom is beyond my own understanding. Kind of like when my mother told me to eat my vegetables. Parents. They just know better.

In all seriousness, it can still be difficult to choose to follow the commandments. But I want to choose life. I want to choose what is good. So I guess, even if sometimes begrudgingly, I should seek God’s wisdom and follow His commands. After all, it really will be the only path to greatness I need, for “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” And I’m not gonna lie—I like the sound of that!

Holy Spirit, give me the gift of wisdom. Not from the limits of my own understanding, but from the infinite wisdom of He who created me to return to Him. Guide me that I may choose obedience over comfort, love over avoidance, and perseverance over ambivalence. Amen