Has 2006 been a New Year for You?
by Fr. Peter deSousa
We are already a month into the New Year. How is it going for you? Maybe at the end of 2005, we thought would like to leave behind some of our behavior that was self defeating or caused problems to others, so that we could be more fully alive and more life-giving to others. Maybe we tried and succeeded or maybe we slipped back and feel discouraged. We know that our efforts by themselves are not enough. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to make us interactive channels of God's grace to each other.
Maybe we need to change some of our basic attitudes before we can change specific behavior. Otherwise it is just cosmetic surgery without looking at the underlying causes for malfunctioning of our channeling system.
From a reservoir there are canals that bring clean, fresh water to different districts and from these, there are pipelines that bring the water into our neighborhoods and homes. If there are sewage leaks the water will become contaminated.
The Holy Spirit is Living Water that flows in a stream from the heart of the Risen Christ, to bring Divine Mercy to all who humble themselves with contrite and repentant hearts. We open our hearts to him in prayer and by reflecting on God's life-giving Word. But have we repaired the pipes and canals to prevent the sewage from contaminating the water?
We cause these cracks that let in the sewage by allowing ourselves to be influenced by other words in the media and society, without examining them in the light of God's Word. God speaks to us in various ways and the signs of the times. But we need to continually look at them in the light of God's Word. We ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts of the Faithful and enkindle in them the fire of his love.
I received a book entitled 52 ways to Live Success from the Reader's Digest by Jeanne Shabuno. A lot of it is common sense. But if we look at God's Word, we can see how while there is no mention of this inspiration in the book, the author is certainly sharing ideas that are central to the Bible.
In chapter one, she suggests that instead of living from OUTSIDE IN, we live from INSIDE OUT. Many of us tend to live from OUTSIDE IN, even though we do recite prayers and read God's Word. But if we pray (listen to God and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us) and reflect on God's Word as Mary did, we will also be enabled to live from INSIDE OUT.
Being + Doing + Having is living from INSIDE OUT; Having + Doing + Being is living from OUTSIDE IN. I found to my dismay that I vacillate between the two. In this year of grace, 2006, I would certainly like to live from INSIDE OUT. I would like God's Spirit, residing in my heart, to lead and guide me to be a living Gospel.
All of us are influenced by the world in which we live. Advertising subtly influences us to have more and more. We can never have enough. We want something that is better, more attractive, more time-saving, more efficient, more expensive. Make a list of the things I treasure and would hate to lose to moth or rust or theft.
I cannot take what I have to the grave. Like the rich fool I can build bigger barns to store what I have, but I have to leave them behind because they will not fit into my coffin. St Ambrose tells us that all the extras we have and do not use belong to the poor. What do I need to give away from what I have? Do I need to clean out my wardrobe, house or bank vault of false securities I HAVE?
What am I doing all the time that takes up so much of my attention, energy and time? Am I a compulsive doer? Have I a list of jobs to be done not only by me but by my family and servants who have to earn their wages!! Is my home caught up in a flurry of activities? So do I even watch the clock and put on a timer when I pray, read the Word of God and meditate.
I find it difficult to sit and listen for a long time to someone, who complains or repeats a tale of woes, I have heard before. I give her the quick fix solution but she did not listen. Nor am I listening to her need for love, respect and assurance that God loves her.
What is being? Am I aware of whom I am, as a unique child of God, made in His image and likeness? Do I see myself through Jesus' eyes with compassion and understanding? I have to stop comparing myself with others who may be more attractive, smarter, talented or better in the eyes of the world. Can I be me? Can I begin again with His grace and live one day at a time?
Perfectionists are never content with being. They want to play God and improve on his handiwork. Yes we can develop our potential. But an apple seed cannot become a mango tree.
Mary was presented to all Christians as the pre-eminent Christian, a model to imitate, on the very first day of the New Year. She really lived from INSIDE OUT. Being means to be aware that you are a precious child of God. "He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. So my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" All of us are aware of our faults and failings. That may be good in the sense that we realize that by ourselves we can do nothing but that we can also do all things in Him who strengthen us. Our weakness makes us sympathetic and understanding of other's weakness. But "His grace is sufficient for us".
So with the grace of God we can overcome our faults so that we may be life-giving to others instead of death-dealing. I am a precious child of God and so are you. So I have to respect you, accept you and treat you as I would like to be treated, with love, forgiveness and kindness.
Enjoy myself by enjoying being myself. Spend quiet time with myself, walking, meditating, resting. Listen to the voice of the indwelling God. Be aware of God's Spirit who lives in the cave of my heart and is the source of my strength. As I empty myself of my compulsions to have and to do, I can be and allow God to carry me in the hollow of his hand and provide for me, as he provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. I read God's Word and allow the Holy Spirit to make that Word a part of my life. St Benedict told his monks to "read a little, pause a little and pray a little". Then repeat the cycle. God's spirit prays "Abba Father" in my heart, when I am quiet and rest in God's presence.
Doing my duties and doing for others is good and praiseworthy. I am not encouraging anyone to be lazy or helpless. Do unto others what I want them to do unto me. Be a servant like Jesus who washes the feet of his disciples. But do not become a robot. The Holy Spirit guides us to use our time, talents, money and energy in the service of others. Does DOING COMES AFTER BEING in my priorities?
So in this New year, a year of grace, 2006, begin to live INSIDE OUT. A month may have passed by, but the year is still new. Let the living waters flow through you. Let the Holy Spirit make you interactive.
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