Guide to Goodness

Good Friday Lord’s Passion: Action Speaks Louder than Words

So much of my life I was caught up in what people would say instead of basing reality on their behaviors.  This likely stems from having significant relationships in my life who were emotionally unavailable to me in my formative years.  This destructive coping mechanism led me into a lot of wishful thinking and living in the hopeful future.  After suffering the consequences of a failed marriage and another long-term dating relationship, I was able to see how this habit was not serving me well and was able to change my mindset to ensure that actions must match words.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus gives us the playbook to live a life of love and peace.  Our faith is based on what God has promised but also on what He has done. 

Even if you do not believe in me, believe the works.

Focus on His truth, John 14:11

The greatest of all His works is the resurrection from the dead, which we will commemorate a few days from now.  Works, or actions are always more powerful than words.  Words may convince my mind but works move my will into action – to decision.  Jesus continues to do the works of the Father today, through the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and sacramental confession.  Through God’s grace and love, I see these works as they really are, true actions of Christ available with the power to transform me.

Good Friday and the Lord’s Passion is a work of pure love, beyond our human understanding.  As Pope Francis says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit.  As if to say: if you wish to know me, if you wish to understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in the soil, that is, look at the cross.”

The cross gives us a way out of the sin of our human nature.  It is the ultimate act of a loving Father, to sacrifice His son who bears the weight of darkness and the world.  I will always remember one Good Friday service where we venerated the cross.  Emotions of gratitude, sadness and hope welled inside me as I kissed Jesus’ crucified feet – so powerful they will never leave me. 

The Three Hours’ Agony, or Tre Ore, is a liturgical service held on Good Friday from noon until 3 o’clock to commemorate the Passion of Christ. Specifically, it refers to the three hours that Jesus hung on the Cross and includes a series of homilies on the seven last words spoken by Christ.  Bishop Barron was invited by Timothy Cardinal Dolan in 2012 to preside over the Tre Ore service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York which you can watch.  The service includes an hour of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ which you can listen to here.

As we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice this Good Friday, the Seven Last Words give us powerful insight into His thoughts as He took all the sins of mankind upon Himself. With these words, He forgives His enemies, forgives the penitent thief, cries out to God, and declares the end of His earthly life:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  2. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
  3. “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” John 19:26–27
  4. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
  5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
  6. “It is finished.” Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34
  7. “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

This message of forgiveness provides a way out and path forward from the darkness of sin in our life.  Christ’s love breaks the cycle of our natural human response where if you are cruel to me, I will be cruel to you.  Gandhi also noted, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”  Christ did not run away or confirm the violence afflicted upon Him.  Instead, He stayed, stood His ground by refusing to cooperate with the standards of this world and mirrored the violence to those who inflicted it upon Him.  We have many other examples in the lives of the saints who model this for us.  Saint Mother Teresa, after finding a child in the streets of Calcutta, brought her to a baker’s shop seeking bread for the child. The owner spit in her face.  She thanked him for his gift for her and asked what about the child.  Saint Pope John Paul II is another example where he went to his homeland of Poland to share the good news about God, human dignity, and human rights, drawing people into a new spiritual space where the people wanted God and the wall of communism was broken down.  The power of love can change lives and societies.  Actions speak louder than words – the cross is the purest example.

The Sign of the Cross is a simple prayer, an action where we can show our love, which bears great spiritual power.  This profound gesture opens us up to God, renews our Baptism, and acts as a mark of Christian discipleship, one that repels the devil and helps us to resist our self-indulgence and tendency toward sin.  In The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer, Bert Ghezzi reminds us of its true significance.  You can download this quick read here for free.

As we contemplate our Lord’s Passion on this Good Friday, I invite you to reflect upon how your daily actions reflect your love and gratitude for God’s goodness.   Has your journey through Lent opened your heart to receive a deeper encounter with God’s love?  Will you continue small sacrifices of self-denial, praying and serving others?  Action speaks louder than words.

May we be smitten with the goodness of loving actions,

Cynthia

Inspiring Goodness

Holy Thursday — Entering the Easter Triduum


The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. 

We have spent the past 40 days of Lent renewing and reinvigorating our faith in preparation for Easter.  The sacrifices and penances we have made have softened our hearts to be ready to enter the Easter Triduum — Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil — in which we commemorate the passion, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Easter Triduum allows us to walk in Jesus’s footsteps during His final hours on earth.

Continue reading “Holy Thursday — Entering the Easter Triduum”
Guide to Goodness

Finding Perfect Precious Love

Joy isn’t what happens when life goes perfectly. It’s what happens when you know you’re loved perfectly, even when life’s a mess.

Chris Stefanick, Living Joy

The journey of Smitten With Goodness began with a simple question.  What does it mean to love?

Continue reading “Finding Perfect Precious Love”
Inspiration

Pruning Hearts

Today’s post, on this second Sunday of Lent, is written by a guest contributor Melanie Boutiette.  Melanie is my sister, mother figure, and friend.  I am pleased to introduce you to her and an article from her blog Just Beloved, Words of Encouragement for you!

I love to garden. I love digging my hands in the rich soil, planting beautiful flowers, and transforming a once barren area into a beautiful bed or landscape. The whole yard is filled with a variety of flowers and plants. I especially love the front of the house. I have an English garden there that once was just an ugly plot of ground after disease destroyed all the bushes and plants. To look at my yard right now in the dead of winter, you cannot tell that I love to garden.

More than ten years ago, a friend of mine who is a true master gardener, surprised me for my birthday that year and had my circle of friends gift me with a rose bush. Then she helped me transform that ugly plot of land with beautiful flowering roses. There is a profusion of color in bold reds, soft pinks, pale lavender, white, and yellow roses when in bloom.

Over the years, many, many more plants have been added to this English garden. Yellow lilies, purple, white, and lavender irises from my mother’s garden. Pink, fuchsia, and white peonies from my grandmother’s garden…just to name some of the plants. I am not a master gardener, so I do not know the specific names of all the variety of flowers but they are all precious to me.

My husband has joined in by planting zinnias, phlox, geraniums, petunias, and more. My husband, children, and grandchildren have given me a new rose bush or hydrangea bush to plant for Mother’s Day or my birthday annually. My garden is not limited to just flowers, but has many herbs for cooking like mint, thyme, parsley, and rosemary.

I love when the garden is in full bloom, fragrant with life, drawing the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. I love making beautiful bouquets of flowers to enjoy and share with others in neatly arranged vases. I relish cooking with fresh herbs. I simply love gardening.

And so, does God. He is a Master Gardener. He loves transforming barren hearts and lives into places of beauty. How precious is His Love?

Gardening is not easy. In fact, it very hard work. It is a constant struggle to tend the plants: to water, nurture, fertilize, and feed them. It is laborious to keep the weeds at bay and any pests or invaders out. It is hard work to keep plants trimmed and maintained. It is worth it though to realize the fruit of my labor.

A garden can often reflect the nature of the heart too.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that I may bear more fruit.”

Focus on His truth, John 15:2

God looks at our hearts as a garden. Daily we must spend time with Him. Time in His Word. We must water and feed our soul on that which is good. We must constantly weed out bad attitudes, anger, unforgiveness, resentment or anything that does not reflect the beauty of God. We must confess sin and pluck it out quickly before it has time to take root and spread. We must be careful to tend our garden well, and not allow foreign invaders in or pests and disease to ruin its beauty. For how quickly the world and sin can influence the garden of our heart with the lures of temptations so that we no longer look, talk, walk, or act like Christ!

And the garden does not just need tending in the spring, summer, and fall, but in the winter too. Winter seems brutal to look at the garden. The rose bushes have been pruned back as has the verbena bushes. The peonies, and much more have seemed to die and have been cut back. It is ugly right now. And everything seems dead. But winter is also a time of rest. And though it looks barren and hopeless, much is happening behind the scenes, and underground if you will.

God will often prune our lives and it can be severe. It can even be painful. He will cut off things that do not serve His purposes, or that are causing disease. He will pluck up, pull down, and root out anything in our lives that do not reflect His beauty, because He is after the better! Sometimes those old plants He is rooting out can be people, activities, friendships, jobs, and more because we have allowed those to replace God or they have become idols in our hearts.

Sometimes God knows the things in our heart’s garden are hurting us or holding us back from His vision and purpose. And like a diseased plant, He is pruning us because He is the Master Gardener. He sees the bigger picture. He sees the beauty and fruit that will bloom in due season through that painful process called pruning.

It is winter now: but wait for spring and summer and trust the Master Gardener!  Let Him prune you; beauty will burst forth! It is a promise.

Beloved:

Do you know that My love for you began in a garden?  I delight in all things beautiful. All My creation testifies to that. The delicate smell of a rose or flower is the fragrant perfume of Me drawing you and wooing you with beauty and love. The delightful dance of the bumblebee and butterfly reflects My beauty as well; it is a dance of love.  And when I planned your life, like a Master Gardener, I had specific intent and design to transform the barren landscape of your life and heart into a beautiful garden to reflect Me. But you have an enemy of your soul who seeks to creep in like unwanted weeds and pests and bring lies and destruction. And since the Fall, there is now toil involved in tilling the soil of your heart and in your literal garden.  When I come alongside you to trim and prune and cut away anything that robs you of true life and beauty, sometimes you’ve seen Me as cruel or harsh. You have not understood My ways. And when it seems as though you’re in a winter season where nothing is happening, can you rest in Me and trust? Do you not know that I am good and that everything I do has good plans in store for you?  As I prune you, it is so you can produce an even more abundant garden or fruits for others to see My beauty and goodness.  And it is ultimately for your joy and benefit as well.  Though you may not understand My ways, can you trust My heart?  Yield to My pruning and in time you will celebrate and see the abundance explode forth: just like a spring and summer garden.  I love you My beloved daughter, let Me prune your heart.

Melanie Boutiette is a passionate lover of Jesus, of coffee, and chocolate, she loves just about all things creative. Her creativity finds its expression in writing, painting, crafting homemade cards, gardening, throwing a party, reading, exercising or hiking, traveling, cooking, and playing with her grandchildren. She especially loves to encourage others through a timely note of encouragement or through the inspiring words in a story, poetry, prose or humor.  A former magazine and freelance writer and retired teacher, she now blogs regularly at Just Be-Loved.

Guide to Goodness

Hope is Not Canceled

Today’s post is written by a guest contributor Jacquelyne Rocan. Jacquelyne has been a spiritual sister to me throughout the years and I am pleased to introduce you to her!

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and I find myself recalling this time last year.  While there were certainly reports of the new coronavirus circulating in more and more communities, I celebrated Ash Wednesday in 2020 in many of the same ways that I have always marked that day — attending Mass, receiving ashes on my forehead, fasting, and setting in place plans for experiencing a holy and spiritual Lenten season.  This included plans for additional prayers, readings, and attending Stations of the Cross.  I marked times for all of the Holy Week services on my calendar — the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday service, and Easter Vigil Mass.  It was important to me to fully participate and prepare by attending these services, as much as I could (especially through many years of serving on the RCIA team in my parish).  My Lenten and Easter seasons have felt incomplete when I have been unable to prepare and attend the Easter Triduum services.

Of course, we now know, the many plans that we all had for 2020 came to a crashing halt in March when the scope and seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic became evident and closures and cancelations began in earnest.  While I could still pray, fast, and practice charity while at home, many of the big markers of Lent and Easter were suddenly gone.  Not being able to attend Mass and hear the rich and textured readings and experience the reception of our dear Lord in Holy Eucharist was difficult for me, and for so many Catholics.  I worried that I was missing out on Lenten preparations and I would not be ready for Easter.  My focus on what I did not have or could not do was overwhelming what I actually could do. 

Then, two weeks into the pandemic closures, I received an email with a daily prayer from the Missionary Oblates which contained the following:  “…PRAYER is not canceled, FAITH is not canceled, and HOPE is not canceled.”  This statement was a game-changer for me.  It helped me focus on what I could do, when isolated at home.  I continued my daily prayers and readings, my Lenten readings, daily rosary, and a weekly Stations of the Cross at home with increased commitment.  I was able to maintain a quiet, peaceful space to focus on Lenten preparations in anticipation of Holy Week and Easter Sunday.  For the first time in my life, I felt my experience of Lent and Holy Week was aligned with the Blessed Mother and the apostles and disciples.  Just like I have to live with the uncertainty of when and how the pandemic will end, I feel solidarity with the Blessed Mother and the apostles and disciples who did not know what would happen after Jesus suffered and died on what we now call Good Friday.  They remained faithful and prayed through the uncertainty of those dark and difficult days and received the greatest blessing of the resurrected Christ.  Their example allowed me to continue my Lenten preparations, even amid the uncertainty of the world around me.

I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Focus on His truth, Matthew 28:20

I will always remember this experience with gratitude and peace in my heart.  In previous years, I would rush to make sure I was on time for Stations of the Cross and the Good Friday service, participating in RCIA retreats, and meeting with family and friends.  While a beautiful and spiritual experience, I did not get to experience quiet and peace on this most solemn day.  I spent Good Friday last year in quiet prayer and contemplation.  I listened to Bishop Robert Barron and his beautiful talk on Jesus’ last seven words on the cross.  I conducted a private Stations of the Cross.  I watched Pope Francis conduct the Good Friday service from the Vatican, and also watched a special prayer service reverencing the Crown of Thorns from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (with memories of the fire that almost took that building from us on April 15, 2019).  Mostly, I focused on the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for all us, including me, over 2,000 years ago, and the gift of mercy that he gave to us all that still resonates through the years to the present day.  I felt closer to God in the silence and contemplation in a way that I had not experienced before.

This Lent, I pray that the quiet and contemplation of Good Friday 2020 will fill my heart and soul as I prepare for Easter.  I have identified several resources to assist me in these preparations, including many of the resources listed here.   Mostly, I plan to leave room for quiet prayer and reflection to focus and prepare for the great miracle of the Easter Resurrection.  While I still do not know when or how the coronavirus pandemic will end and what our new “normal’ may look like, I know deep in my soul that Jesus died for all of us, that He has risen from the dead, and that He is with us always, until the end of the age.  This reality fills my heart with joy, and peace, and love.

May we all be Smitten with Goodness during this season of Lent!

Jacquelyne

Jacquelyne Rocan is a life-long Catholic that enjoys continuing to learn and grow in the faith.  She has a special devotion to St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta.  Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she lived in a number of U.S. cities while growing up and is now happy to call Houston, Texas home.  During the day, she practices law, and spends her free time reading good books, enjoying movies, drinking hot tea, and dreaming of when she can travel to Italy again. 

Guide to Goodness, Uncategorized

Are You A Giver Or A Taker?

I recently listened to organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s podcast about Givers and Takers where he breaks down three personalities and offers simple strategies to promote a culture of generosity in the workplace.  It was validating to know that the givers win out in affecting positive culture and increased results. Go figure!

Being a giver is good for others and good for us.  As we wrap up another Valentine’s Day, a day which has its roots in Catholicism and the profound concept of love, I want to focus on the third leg of the Lenten stool of good works: almsgiving or service to others. 

Because we are created to love and be loved, we yearn to love and be loved. This innate yearning is fulfilled and strengthened by the practices and traditions of our faith of loving one another which is service at its core.  

When we are in service of others, we willingly enter the loop of grace, giving away the gifts we have received.  A gift must be given for the original gift to be multiplied and enhanced. This is God’s grace. 

Most of us feel the weight of the symptoms of lack of love in our world today.  When we lift the veil, the problem is really lack of self-possession.  Self-possession is doing what is good, true, noble, and right.  Our ability to love is directly linked to the level of self-possession we have.  

How can I love my neighbor if all I am concerned about is myself and my needs before the needs of others?  

To give of ourselves, we must first possess ourselves.  Broken relationships, divorce, and dysfunction, which surround us, fuel our lack of self-possession.  But there is a blueprint for us to rebuild self-possession in the spiritual disciplines that make up the landscape of Catholic spirituality.  These disciplines are designed so we can love God and neighbor and be loved the way we were created to be loved.  The perfect Valentines gift to our world!

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  Our interior penance can be expressed in many and various ways, but scripture insists on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others.   

This conversion of heart is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice, by the admission of faults, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, and endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness.  All these expressions allow us to take up our own cross each day and follow Jesus. Voluntary self-denial such as fasting and especially almsgiving allow us to be reverent, and experience brotherly love to both the living and the dead.  

One thing I have been learning about recently is that the Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.  I am understanding the importance of commemoration and helping those who have died by offer prayers for them.  

God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them.  The Church’s love for the poor is a part of her constant tradition.  Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working to be able to give to those in need.  It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.  When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.  Our world is in such need of true justice!

For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me. 

Focus on His truth, Matthew 25:35

The works of mercy are charitable actions where we come to the aid of our neighbor in spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently.  The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.  

I will never forget my conversion of heart after I gave blessing bags every day of lent to a different person in need on the street.  Many times, I was blessed to see the face of Jesus as I looked into that person’s eyes.  For a COVID safe idea, check out the CRS Rice Bowl where you can help feed the world. 

How will you experience a conversion of heart and serve others this Lent?

As St. Francis of Assisi says, “Let us give alms because they cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.”

Out of personal devotion, we may promise almsgiving as a sign of respect to the divine majesty, love for a faithful God and to be Smitten with Goodness.  Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses as to how we love our neighbor, and it is also a work of justice pleasing to God bringing His love into the world. 

In His Service,

Cynthia

Prayer

Help Build A World Of Equal Dignity

We can all unite in the goodness of prayer…..

To End Human Trafficking

Loving Father,

We seek your divine protection for all who are exploited and enslaved.

For those forced into labor, trafficked into sexual slavery, and denied freedom.

We beseech you to release them from their chains.

Grant them protection, safety, and empowerment.

Restore their dignity and provide them a new beginning.

Show us how we might end exploitation by addressing its causes.

Help us reach out in support of victims and survivors of human trafficking.

Make us instruments of your spirit for their liberation.

For this we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

St. Josephine Bakhita pray for us!

Guide to Goodness

Fasting For The Love Of It

Fasting is amazingly popular in our culture today if you are seeking to shed some weight or reap the debated health benefits.  A google search provides an overwhelming amount of information.  On the other hand, not much is written about fasting as a tool for our spiritual growth.  This time-tested practice is a proven method for shedding the weight of self-will and the evolution to our lower self.  Today, I challenge us see how fasting trains our soul for goodness and the higher purpose of love.  I have mentioned previously, God prunes our hearts through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as we unite with Him. 

When our lives are aligned with and to God, we become conduits of enormous power.  A force for good.  When we step fully into our higher self and reflect God’s goodness in our broken world, we impact every person in our life.  

Attachments block us and break us from this flow.  The ego is involved in all our attachments.  We can be attached to wealth, possessions, persons, a group, our jobs, or our intelligence.  It is anything I convince myself I cannot live without such as money, power, pleasure, honor, comfort, social media, you get the picture, right?

This past year, with the pandemic and my husband’s transplant, brought to light many of my attachments that I am now choosing to let go of.  Clothes, purses, and shoes do not bring the same joy as they used to.  It is also time to let go of my coveted Houstonian membership as I simplify and pare down to only what I need. 

We have more than 2,000 years of history that point to the benefits of fasting.  With the right intention, fasting trains our soul for goodness and to resist evil. Out of love for His father, Jesus overcomes the temptations of sin and shows Himself as God’s servant, obedient to the divine will opposed to Adam who gave into temptation and ate the dreaded apple.   Did you catch that?  Jesus prays and fasts out of love for His father.  It is not about what is being offered it is the why.  As I offer things for God’s love, it increases my love and faith for my God. 

I love my coffee and there are days when I would really like to have a third cup.  As I have grown in my knowledge about fasting, I often offer up that third cup of coffee for God’s love and feel him smiling at me for this small sacrifice.  

In our developed countries the flesh rules and our lives are oriented to this reign of self-destruction.  We think it is a blessing that we can find whatever we want, whenever we want it, in abundance whether legal or illegal.  Instead of making our lives better, this addiction reverses the intended roles of our lower and higher natures.  Immediate gratification feeds our lower nature and our craving for the things of the flesh that seek to rule us.  It feeds our desires that lead us to the seven deadly sins and their offspring, all of which unchecked, lead us into our own personal hell.  These desires enslave us to the wants and whims of our feelings rather than to our intellect and will that God has given to us.  This enslavement leads to a weakened will and down a pathway to internal disintegration including anxiety, stress, and ultimate separation from God.  

Return to me with all your heart, with fasting. 

Focus on His truth, Joel 2:12

In the Lost Art of Sacrifice, Vicki Burbach provides a pathway to reinvigorating the lost art of ascesis – of saying yes to God and no to the flesh.  She gives us a process of reordering the flesh so that it is subordinate to the spirit which is essential in knowing the peace of God and to the soul’s progress to sanctity.  Fasting is a disposition that helps us develop the art of sacrifice.  

The precepts of the church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by the liturgical life.  Observing the days of fasting and abstinence prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.   Interior penance can be expressed in various ways, but scripture insists above all on fasting, prayer and almsgiving.  Throughout scripture we find that God’s people fast and as they fast, the power of their prayers increased, especially when they are engaged in spiritual warfare.  Voluntary self-denial through fasting sets us free.

St. John Chrysotom wrote about God allowing temptation for us to grow our spiritual muscles.  Since we have received greater power and a sharper sword against evil through baptism, we learn through trials, the superiority of His grace and the greatness of this spiritual strength.  God allows these attacks and the opportunity to gain many victories. 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux shows us that making sacrifices in the proper spirit brings us joy and growth.  She understood that the size of the sacrifice is not important, but it is the motive of the heart.  As a child, St. Thérèse knew this power and would carry a sliding string of beads in her pocket as a reminder.  She wanted to make at least ten acts of love daily, so she would offer up a small sacrifice and pull one of the ten beads to the other side of the string, until all the beads were pulled. 

A friend of mine told me a story about the $8 Priest.  Every day this priest set aside eight one-dollar bills in his wallet as Gods money to use as He willed.  Some days the priest would be called to give the money to eight different people, others he might give all the money to one person.  Small things done in love. 

I hope this post helps you identify something in your life that you are willing to give up for love during the forty days of Lent.   For me, I think this year I need to give up worry.  Every time I start to worry, I will offer that up in prayer “Jesus, I trust in You!” 

As Matthew Kelly says, “Love is a choice, and an important one, because we become what we love.”   Will your higher self be victorious over your lower self as you reflect on your day?  I pray that our small daily victories add up to great wins so we can be smitten with goodness, spreading seeds of goodness throughout our world.

In His Love,

Cynthia

Uncategorized

How Much Simple Love is in Your Heart?

Image by Joy! Digital

A few years ago, I realized that I had a divided heart.  I was being drawn closer to spiritual love and less satisfied with the worldly things that took up much of my time and attention.  During this time of discerning and yearning, I contemplated what love means and its transforming power and goodness.  Love is a superpower each of us holds within us. It is the true essence of who we are and how we are called to treat each other yet we have strayed away from love.   It is an action we are called to perform.  Love, for even our enemies, is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.  This radical philosophy, so much of what Martin Luther King, Jr.’s advocated for in his platform of nonviolence and love of our enemies, resonates for me as I contemplate love.

Behold, there are only three things that will last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Focus on His truth, 1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is our deepest identity.  As Richard Rohr synthesizes from his book Essential Teachings on Love:

When we live out of the truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. To talk about love is to talk about what Plato calls “holy madness.” Jung even refused to include love in any of his classic categories—it finally defied his psychological descriptions. Perhaps that is why love has so many false meanings in our minds and emotions. Perhaps that is why Jesus never defined love, but instead made it a command. We must love, each of us absolutely must enter this unnamable mystery if we are to know God and know our own self!

Love alone is sufficient unto itself. It is its own end, its own merit, its own satisfaction. It seeks no cause beyond itself and needs no fruit outside of itself. Its fruit is its use. Love is our deepest identity and what we are created in and for. To love someone “in God” is to love them for their own sake and not for what they do for us. Only a transformed consciousness sees another person as another self, as one who is also loved by Christ, and not as an object separate from ourselves on which we generously bestow favors. If we have not yet loved or if love wears us out, is it partly because other people are tasks or commitments or threats, instead of as extensions of our own suffering and loneliness? Are they not in truth extensions of the suffering and loneliness of God?

When we live out of this truth of love, instead of the lie and human emotion of fear, we will at last begin to live. Love is always letting go of a fear. In the world of modern psychologizing, we have become very proficient at justifying our fears and avoiding simple love. The world will always teach us fear. Jesus will always command us to love. And when we seek the spiritual good of another, we at last forget our fears and ourselves.

Divine love or charity has nothing to do with feelings of “liking” one another. One key biblical word for love, agape, is not based on the myth of romantic love or good feelings about one another. It is a love grounded in God that allows us to honestly desire and seek the other’s spiritual growth. This faith, this love, this Holy Mystery—of which we are only a small part—can only be awakened and absorbed by the silent gaze of prayer. Those who contemplate who they are in God’s ecstatic love will be transformed as they look and listen and find and share. This God, like a Seductress, does not allow Herself to be known apart from love. We know God by loving God. And I think that it is more important to know that we love God than to know that God loves us, although the two movements are finally the same.

During this second Sunday of Advent, we contemplate love, and we wait for the most beautiful love story in history to unfold.  How cool is it that our divine Creator devised a rescue plan to become human so we can be fully alive and free?  He loved us, the world, His creation so much that He gave His only son.  Such goodness and the true meaning of Christmas.

In a recent homily Pope Francis gives us the secret of life, remember this because it is true: the beauty of our choices depends on love. Jesus knows that if we are self-absorbed and indifferent, we remain paralyzed, but if we give ourselves to others, we become free. The Lord of life wants us to be full of life, and He tells us the secret of life: we come to possess it only by giving it away. This is a rule of life: we come to possess life, now and in eternity, only by giving it away.”

Stay Smitten With Goodness,

Cynthia

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The Truth is, I Need a Savior

Photo from Worship House Media

It is officially the Advent season, December 1 and the countdown to Christmas begins.  Like lent, Advent is a penitential season in addition to a time for hope, joy, peace and love. We prepare to enter into our need for a savior.  But first, I must feel that I need a savior.

I must confess that I struggle with this at times. Much of my life I bought into the culture’s prevailing view that I am self-made, that I invent and define my reality. Over time, the richness of Twelve Step recovery has softened my view and had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. Step one in the program is hitting bottom, recognizing we are powerless over something or someone and acknowledging that our life has become unmanageable.  Only then, can I be open to the possibility of believing that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.  It opens the door to the need for a savior.  Sometimes, I try and force my solutions on other people.  This is when I need to take a step back, go to step one, realize my powerlessness and ask my savior for help.  Life works better this way.   I believe we all need a savior but when my ego says, “I’m fine,” I am not ready for Christmas and the coming of a savior.  

O Come O Come Emanuel is the story about God’s coming as the ransom to free the captive Israel.  For centuries, the prophets had foretold the coming of a messiah, the God of Israel who would come to earth, take flesh upon Him, and become their Savior and Redeemer. Listen and prepare your heart.

During Advent, we hear a lot from Isaiah who wrote about the coming of God and role sin and disobedience plays in severing this foundational relationship. By asking myself a few questions, I can assess where I am:

Do I find myself wandering off the path I know I should be walking?  The path that allows me to be the best version of myself and the person God wants me to be?  Do I have the feeling I have drifted from my North Star or there is a problem in my life I do not know how to solve?  This is when I need a savior.  Oh Lord I pray, why do you let me wander from your ways?

Have I lost my sense of wonder and awe of God’s goodness?  Has my heart become hard and brittle, not hearing His voice? I want a soft and supple heart ready to be molded into who He wants me to be.  Oh Lord I pray, why do you let me harden my heart to fear you not?  I need your grace.

Am I resistant to who God wants me to be and feel alienated from His truth? I end up in a bad state when I am not sensitive to the fact that things are not right between us.  Oh Lord I pray, let me feel your passion to set things right. 

I have called you by name. You are mine.

Focus on His truth, Isaiah 43:1

Can you identify with any of these questions?  If so, do you feel withered and lifeless? Advent is a time of waiting and preparing our heart for the hope of Christ.

O Come, O Come Emanuel.