I’m reveling in the afterglow of finding true silence at a men’s retreat this weekend. It’s the kind of silence that one can’t really remember now that I’m once again surrounded by the noise of my everyday reality. Like trying to recall lyrics of an old song while the radio blasts another Christmas melody, I can only sit and smile knowing silence… deep, penetrating silence, really did happen. I’m also grateful I was availed the opportunity to give the closing presentation, which I would love to post it all for you – but that would seem like twenty minutes stripped out of the context from the forty hours encompassing this retreat. Still, I am compelled to share some portions that I pray you find encouraging – regardless if you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc… you get the picture. Although many of you may differ from my expression of Christianity, it is my greatest desire that you recognize the symptoms of my Catholicism as the proposal of God’s love should the mere admission of my Tradition push your mouse to surf elsewhere. I’ll edit the following portion lightly and humbly invite your heart to read what I believe our souls crave …
A portion of this presentation, “Putting your faith into action”, is inspired by scriptures found in both Mark and James:
Mark 16:14-18 Go out to all the world and proclaim the good news
James 1:22-25 Be not merely hearers of the word, but also doers
Maybe it’s more than putting your money where your mouth is, but rather sharing your heart where your treasure is. Recently, I have wondered with a heavy heart if I have been growing rich in what is of value to God. I continue to learn that my masculinity hinges on humility and a growing vulnerability that allows God’s quiet will for my life. Although, through mentors, friends, and community have help me discern a faith-filled vision for my life, I have often run blind in my selfishness and regret. I have learned I cannot serve two masters. I cannot juggle between choices that either pull me towards or push me away from God. Thankfully, I am not alone in this battle of wills knowing God provides all of us with helps. However the Holy Spirit chooses to intercede in our lives, discerning and accepting through love will bring not just Glory to God but peace within the soul. Faith-filled, unhesitating, compassionate action that propels the Christian towards charity does not become a priority in ones’ heart overnight.
Listen to the words of St. Francis De Sales:
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in another way deceive themselves.”
God’s love is our sacrament. God’s love gives us our worth. The grace of God’s love is found in the unexpected gift of faith which is our growing awareness of His omniscience. Becoming still… allows us to contemplate the temple we hold within ourselves. God lights this temple through the wounds of His Son’s glorified body – whose very wounds are an endless plea before the Father on our behalf. The temple walls we freely and joyfully build to house this extraordinary light are mortared in humility, faith, and hope – but the bricks we stack, one upon another, are formed solely through the love of God and neighbor. We must recognize love before we put our faith into action.
Our first steps towards loving are encouraged by the very words of “follow me” gently spoken by Jesus, the God-man who lifts us up and invites you and I to The Way…of God. It is in those two words whispered within new hearts for God that can be heard in the stillness we seek. Listen…to the writer in Hebrews, “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
This retreat offers us an opportunity to be still and know God. In those moments of clarity, when silence becomes the window pane to our soul, we begin to realize our own transparency in communicating to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Although we may see ourselves dimly, we quickly realize that God sees us in a totality we cannot yet fathom. It is in the beauty of silence that we also realize how God wants us to view ourselves in the unique will He made for us. When we die a little each day to life’s distractions to simply live momentarily in divine communion, our “Time and Choices” begin to fill with love. A heart can only transform to respond to the Gospel when it first fills with love.
Love will move mountains…and climb them.
Love will conquer all.
Love has redeemed those willing to say “yes” to lifting their cross and following Christ.
And…love has and will continue to give courage to those martyred in their final walk of justice.
We must accept the full capacity of God’s love so we may fully trust in putting our faith into action. My dear friend and mentor, Bob, continues to exemplify to me a trust resting in a love that casts out all fears – but again, that didn’t just happen to him overnight.
I have grown to adore the slow hand of God in my life. It reminds me of His patience with me so my humility can be offered to another. My immediate and greatest source of witnessing humility is watching our priest consecrate the sacrifice of the mass. To my awe – Holy Orders appears to distill down to this moment of profound Grace as our priest submits to becoming an instrument of God’s sublime charity. Before you leave this retreat, we will celebrate the mass, during that moment our priest invokes the Holy Spirit to sanctify the bread and wine,… remember your transparency as you step forward to receive and become part of something extraordinary. Upon the close of each mass we are “sent out” to become bread that is broken and shared and wine that is fearlessly poured out for others. Ask God to show you injustice to the innate dignity of your brothers and sisters. Whether it simply handing out a hot cup of coffee or a pair of warm, clean socks to the poor that gather on the corner of Michigan and Adams Streets every Saturday morning, or visiting a sick friend, or encouraging a prisoner with hope, or praying in vigilance in front of an abortion clinic – seek…and you will find the life of God’s will before you. Remember the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, “Where there is love, there is God.” If love inspires then peace will follow. Immeasurable peace, a type this world cannot sell you, comes on the hinge of humility when we open that door in trust to accept that invitation to follow Christ. Let’s pray we allow this profound sense of trust to pass through us like a filter, removing all seeds of hesitation to follow the One who makes all things new.
Therefore…what we profess in faith we must live in fact.
St. James reminds us that we delude ourselves by simply being mere hearers and not doers of the word. We must receive what God reveals to us and respond humbly and obediently – considering it all a joy knowing your faith produces perseverance. (Paraphrased from James 1:2-3)
Let us help each other to accept this challenge. Let our bonds of fellowship encourage one another, especially when doing so becomes difficult. As a Catholic community, I pray we are willing to stand strong for others who endure unkind reactions when responding publicly to our Lord’s will. If we find ourselves ostracized, insulted or worse…then pray we find strength in the words of Jesus who says.
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven”
Our lives offer us many opportunities to put our faith into action, to be doers of the word — treasure that “time” and spend it wisely.
Remember, God not only loved us…….
but He did something about it…
Lead Me Lord
Love has ravaged this unexpected heart,
Love has stolen my selfishness and pride.
Love sculptures granite into works of art,
Love invites me to follow alongside,
Strengthened by a yoke that becomes my guide.
Lead me Lord and I will surely follow.
Knowing you patiently wait by my side.
For by your blood I fear no tomorrow,
The courage of martyrs leaves no sorrow,
Grief finds all – yet without despair’s shadow.
Yes, love has invaded this unwary heart,
A knife that cuts straight through the marrow,
Separated from Adam I depart,
Clinging to Christ whose blood sets me apart,
My love draws my faith, like a horse pulls a cart.
I hear your voice O’ Lord,
And respond to your call,
Help me live my faith,
Lift me from Adam’s fall.
The harvest has many,
Your disciples are few,
Add me to their comp’ny,
Lord make this old man new!
Extending from my church,
Turn faith into action,
An olive branch of hope,
A hand of Your compassion.
©2012 by Chris Clody 11/2/2012
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