How often have you heard this from your children or grandchildren? Or worse, how often have you uttered it yourself, either audibly or inaudibly? And how much more frequently these words are uttered today, in our supposedly more modern, advanced world filled with gadgets and gizmos. We have more stuff, less time and greater bouts of boredom. We have millions of bits of stimuli bombarding us daily, yet we are too often overcome, or give in to, boredom. We have God’s natural beauty surrounding us, His love residing within us at every moment, yet we yawn.
Boredom is unnatural; it is disordered. Whether it falls under the heading of apathy, sloth, indifference, idleness, dreariness or lethargy, the end result is a dulling of the senses and a loss of interest in the seeking of truth. This dulling of the senses often leads to sin by way of boredom. It is like a drug; it sets an ever increasing stimulus threshold in order to be satiated. It requires more and greater stimuli to zap us out of our self induced comas. Left unguarded, it eats away at our prayer life, and zaps us of source of strength.
Boredom, an act of the will, comes from the inside. It is caused by a lack of action on the inside, not the outside. Yet we seek solutions for boredom on the outside. This is insane! We try to fix the inside by looking for solutions on the outside. The problem is within. We look to the world for a finite fix instead of looking to God for an infinite solution. In doing so, we move further away from God and deeper into Satan’s web of lies. Saint John Vianney reminds us of the solution to our every boredom. He tells us that, “Everyone is ready to run after the latest novelty. But as for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, He is deserted and forsaken.”
The maxim, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is true because when we are idle the will is not directed or focused. If we don’t direct our will, someone else will do it for us. As boredom is not a natural state, our body seeks to rid itself of it, almost at any cost. Through the abuse of drugs, alcohol, sex, sports, shopping, work, etc., endless amounts of time and money are spent trying to fill the God-shaped hole inside of us with anything and everything but God. Stop seeking temporal solutions to an eternal equation. Do not let boredom be a contributor toward evil; let it be a catalyst toward good. Allow the restlessness you feel to motivate you toward seeking God’s will.
If we would only take the time to be with Jesus, through prayer, adoration, sacraments, we could not possibly be bored. As Saint Augustine tells us, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Be not bored, rest in Him.
“If only” is one of Satan’s favorite mines that he lays. If he can get you to trigger a couple of his "If only" mines, pretty soon the terrain of your mind is severely damaged. If only I were rich, if only I were pretty, if only I were thin, if only I were tall, if only I were…
From there, it moves onto others. If only my husband was, if only my wife was, if only my parents were, if only my kids were, if only my friends were, if only, if only, if only. Ultimately, it leads to if only God was….
If only is a subtle, but unmistakable first step away from God. Satan, with a little help from us, now has us questioning God. We go from doubt to discouragement to despair in no time at all. And it all started with a simple phrase, if only.
With these two little words, Satan sows negative seeds which can blossom into flowers of destruction. What started out perhaps as a moment of self reflection or maybe a simple daydream has turned into a nightmare.
So, the next time you are feeling sorry for yourself, rather than head down the path of "if only," and "what might be," why not move closer to "what is" and "what will be" praising God and claiming your birthright, as Child of God! Rather than desiring what is not present, why not be present to your truest and most complete desire, God.
As Child of God, there is no need for “If only,” there is only love. If we begin to desire only what the Father desires, we will soon be in perfect union with Him. Let Saint Peter of Castroverde’s prayer be your own, “Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire.”
He has Risen! He has risen, indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia.
We have talked about the simple truth that God is love. This blog post presents a corollary truth, that is, what God permits He can redeem. In the words of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, “Souls that really love God know that everything that happens in this world is either ordered or permitted by God.”
Nothing happens to us that is outside of God’s will. While certainly things do occur outside of God’s perfect will, nothing could occur outside of God’s permissive will. (If something could occur that was outside of God’s will, than He wouldn’t be God.) And whatever He permits can be redeemed.
Because of the true nature of love, God never forces us to love Him. In order to be able to freely give our love to God, we must have the ability to withhold from God this love. This is called free will. In the exercise of free will, we can choose to not love God. In short, we are free to sin. Our sins a are permitted by God, but certainly they are not willed by God. God never positively wills sin, but He does permit it, and can even redeem it for His glory and for the salvation of souls.
The greatest example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. It was, at once, the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In the Easter Proclamation, we hear, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” What He permitted (Adam’s sin), He redeemed (via the New Adam, Jesus.) Without Jesus’ death and resurrection humanity’s relationship with God would have remained fractured and the gates of Heaven would have remained closed.
God, who is love, loves us where we are at, in the midst of whatever we may be doing. In loving us, truly loving us, He offers us the opportunity to have even our sins repurposed. God used Satan’s plan to destroy humanity to instead save humanity. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the “devil, in spite of himself, becomes, as it were, an instrument and coefficient of holiness.” Likewise, in our lives, God can redeem our sins and suffering, our trials and temptations. He can write straight with our crooked lines. Our moments of weakness, of anger, of fear, of pride, of envy, of hatred, etc. can be redeemed if we give them over to God.
Find yourself yelling at the kids or angry at your spouse? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself gossiping about a friend or lying to yourself? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself slacking in prayer or struggling with an addiction? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself sick or suffering? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself doubting God? Know that this can be redeemed. God can use the worst to bring about the best. He can use ugliness to bring about beauty. He can use death to bring about new life.
So as we celebrate Easter season and look forward to Pentecost, we can place our hope in a God who loves us and desires us to be saved. His mercy endures forever.
A few years ago I attended a wedding of a dear friend. During the General Intercessions, the lector misspoke and included the newly married couple in the list of those who had recently died and for whom we were to intercede.
Though unintentional, it did bring a simple truth to light; that amidst the flowers, caterers, DJs, bridesmaids, wedding planners, etc. there is an often a misunderstood reality to marriage. It is as much about death as it is life. In fact, if marriage isn’t first about death, then it likely won’t have a long lasting life. Allow me to explain.
Using ratios to help understand what makes a marriage work, I will often ask an audience what is the right ratio for a successful marriage. What are the numbers between a husband and wife that will afford them the best opportunity for a long, loving, healthy marriage? Most people answer with 50:50. Most people would be wrong.
To enter a marriage with a 50:50 mentality is to enter into it with a limit as to how much you will give and an expectation of how much you need to receive in order to be happy. Give too much and you will be cranky. Receive too little in return and you’ll be upset with your spouse. You’re happiness becomes a matter of percentage points. (Under the 50:50 model, do the dishes for the 51st time when your spouse has only done it 48 times and you’re ticked.)
The next answer people usually give is 100:100. While half of the equation is right (you giving 100%) the other half is wrong. Again, you have set an expectation on the other person. If (and, really, when) they fall short of that 100% threshold, you’re not happy.
The correct answer is 100:0. You give 100% of the effort, 100% of the time and expect nothing in return. (Hopefully you marry someone who believes the same; otherwise it could be a tough road ahead.)
If you are thinking that is nuts, it’s not; it is simply love. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the truth of love is made known through the truth of suffering.” Scripture tells us that, “No greater loves is there than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Mother Teresa remind us that, “I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Think of your own life, perhaps when your child was born. The ratio there was 100:0 and it was done with joy and love. You did 100% of the work and expected nothing in return. In Catholic theology you died to self. That’s what marriage is. In order for the two to become one, each of the two must die.
To the degree that you and your spouse each die to self, your marriage will be filled with life and love. And if your spouse isn’t willing and it hurts, then follow Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice and keep loving. No time is better than now for you to do your 100%.
Fair is a word of our times. “It’s not fair” is a phrase that this culture embraces as if it is the highest good or a right. Yet fair rarely includes God’s perspective of the moment. If fair were the highest value, the greatest good, Jesus would never have died for our sins. Fair is not love, for sometimes love is unfair. Do you want your spouse to treat you fairly or to love you?
Fair is, in many ways, lukewarm. Fair will never die for another, will never extend itself for another, will never challenge another to greater heights. Fair is a judgment you make that is predicated upon your chosen perspective. Fair denies, or, at the very least, ignores, God’s perspective. Fair is in many ways opposed to faith.
It’s not fair is the wound that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s promptings were given a place to resonate in the hearts of Adam and Eve when they doubted God’s providence and said to themselves. “Well, that doesn't seem fair.”
Fair is fear of God’s will. “It’s not fair” is the battle cry of those who are not willing to acknowledge with their whole heart, mind, body and soul that God is God and He is their God. Ultimately, your response to life falls into one of two categories, Job’s wife or Job’s. The choice is “curse God and die” or “The Lord give and the Lord take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“It’s not fair” means your heart is not ready. It is time for it to be ready. Prepare your heart by trusting in God grace and mercy. His will, though perhaps not earthly fair, is heavenly perfect.
But Who Are You?
Satan loves to try and tell you who you are. He is after all the “accuser.” He spent the past few decades convincing many to place their trust and identity in the false gods of money, sex and power. He is now reveling in his successes and relishing the depression, despair and even deaths that have occurred because so many don’t know their real identity.
In Acts of the Apostles the story is recounted of the traveling Jewish exorcists who invoked the name of Jesus to try and cast out evil spirits. One of these evil spirits responded to them by saying, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?” Luke records that the exorcists, who did not have a relationship with Jesus, fled the encounter naked and wounded.
If an evil spirit were to ask you, “But who are you?” what answer would you give? To the degree that your answer is earthbound you are in trouble. If your answer is related to your job, your social status, your wealth or your self-esteem, then your identity is predicated upon that which can be easily taken away. This creates an ongoing need to continually renew and restore the false foundation. It also creates dependence and an attachment to them, in effect allowing these false identities to become your master.
Now more than ever you need to know who you are. The times are changing. Uncertainty about the present and fear about the future is all too real. Be not afraid. Remind yourself in whose image and likeness you are made.
So, who are you?
The only sure and certain foundation you possess, and the only real answer to the question is, “I am a child of God.” Any other identity you embrace will be gone in the blink of an eye. Any other identity you embrace makes Satan’s job easier. As a child of God, seek your identity in the God who created you. Rest in the arms of your “abba,” your daddy. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:14-15)
Don’t let the question of the evil spirit catch you off guard. Don’t allow the circumstances of our current times dictate your identity. Don’t allow your fear grip you to be bonded to this world, for if your identity is as a child of God, what is there to fear?
What is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
Who can make kings visit? Turn shepherds into evangelists? Bring amazement to those who hear? How could this infant inspire such intensity, both positive and negative?
Remember the kings of those times were not exactly benevolent. Even if these specific Magi were, they were not use to placing themselves in a position of condescension – especially to an infant.
The shepherds, as Aquinas spoke of them, they were to the desert what the tax collectors were to the city. They were not the image of the loving good shepherd we have in Jesus, they were more like outcasts and loners. Poor, yes, but misfits, often antagonistic to all but their own. Much like ourselves….
So again, what is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
Imagine the newborn Jesus in the manger. See him in His full fleshy humanness. See His folds of skin that newborns abound in, see His huge eyes searching, trying to focus. See His wobbly head, His tiny fingers and toes. Hear His cries of hunger, of cold, of needing His mother. Is this the one the star shines upon? Is this really the sign we are waiting? What can He possibly do for us?
One word: Love.
Love Incarnate arrived that first Christmas morn. He came in love, for love and He came as love. He came so we might love Him. Love is the attraction, love is the draw. This love was, is and will always be, the sign.
From his Midnight Christmas Mass Homily, Pope Benedict XVI said, “God’s sign is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care…God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty…God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby, defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. God made Himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him.”
This Christmas season, will there be room in your heart for Jesus? Amidst the busyness, the festivities, the gifts, the greetings, the visits, this question get right to the core. Will I allow Jesus to be born in the Inn of my heart this Christmas, or will I force Him to be born in the stable outside my heart? You get to choose which sign adorns your heart, Vacancy or No Vacancy, and which kingdom you will honor. Christ’s coming had two opposite effects upon the people of His time and in does in our time as well. Consider:
Mary had room. She said yes. She humbled herself. She obeyed. She surrendered. She pondered. She trusted. Joseph, because he feared, at first thought he had no room for Jesus. After the angel appeared to him he realized he did have room for Jesus. The shepherds had room for Jesus. They heard the message, acted upon it, went to see Jesus, spread the good news, returned home and gave glory and praise to God. The three kings had room for Jesus, traveling many miles and months to pay homage to the one King. By God’s grace they did not fear; they chose to embrace God’s will.
On the other hand, the inn keepers had no room for Jesus. They said no to love. King Herod had no room for Jesus in his heart; Herod feared Him and tried to kill Him. The chief priests and the scribes, whom Herod gathered together to determine if this Jesus could be king, didn’t bother to see for themselves if the king was born. His own people had no room for Jesus, eventually putting Him to death. Whether out of fear, indifference, envy, pettiness or arrogance, they chose to ignore God’s will.
In many ways, that is ancient, though obviously important, history. What is relevant today and no less important is this: Do you have room for Jesus today? Will you allow Jesus to be born in your heart this Christmas? Will you allow Jesus to enter into your heart and change it? It’s still early, we have time to prepare.
How do you prepare your heart to receive Jesus? Three simple steps. Prepare to receive our Lady into your heart first. Then beg God for the grace of the Holy Spirit to visit your heart. Then move forward with expectant faith and await the arrival of the King.
From O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Remind yourself that Jesus is waiting to be born in you. He wants to come into your heart, into your life and live with you always. His peace will be your present. His Body and Blood will be your feast. He’ll abide in you and abound in you, if you’ll make room for Him this Christmas.
In light of recent events, (take your pick among a seemingly endless number of tragedies), we probably all have uttered something like, “What is going on here?” or “What is this world coming to?” possibly followed by, “When are things going to get better?” The truth is things are not going to get better, that is, not until we get better.
If you are waiting on the world to change, as the title of a recent song suggests, you will have a long, long wait. We don’t realize, like Saint Augustine did, that we are our world. He said, "The times are bad! The times are troublesome!" This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.
It is time to stop blaming “them” and start taking responsibility. We, you and I, are our culture. We are our times. We are responsible. It is up to us to change. It is not up to "them." "They" aren’t going to change until we do. Why should they? And, really, it’s not even we, it is me.
I need to stop my sinning. I need to avoid the near occasion of sin. I need to purify my heart, mind and body. I need to recommit to a daily prayer life. I need to return to the sacraments. I need to rededicate myself to my faith. And I need to beg God for the grace to do be able to do so. Beg Him for His mercy and forgiveness. I need to start living for Him and not for myself.
Saint John Vianney reminds us that “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God. If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to heaven.”
The corollary to that is if we continue to do for the world and not for God, what a great number of Christians will end up in Hell. It need not come to that. The truth is if we, as Catholics, ever lived our faith as we are called to live our faith, the world would change and it would change radically. The fire of His love would burn in us and through us. As Saint Catherine of Siena said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze"
In fact, the world is waiting for us to get up off of our collective rear ends and lead so they can follow. The light of Christ’s fire burning in us will light the way for the world to emerge from the darkness. We were made for greatness, for God’s glory. One by one we would become a force to be reckoned with. An army of truth and love can overcome any enemy. Lukewarmness would be replaced with zeal for souls, anger with charity, envy with generosity, pride with humility, evil with good.
If as you read through this, you found yourself agreeing with the sentiment, then I have one final question for you, “What are you waiting for?”
One false construct of love (there are many) is the notion of being loveable. Too many of us are more concerned about being loveable then we are about loving.
Loveable is concerned about being loved in return. It wants to know that it is appreciated, acknowledged and reciprocated. True love loves without regard for being loved in return. Jesus Christ crucified did not seek to know from His Father how many of us would accept His act of love. He simply loved.
Lovable cares about being understood. Love simply speaks the truth. Lovable pleases and placates. Love elevates those who give it and receive it. Lovable will not die for others; it can't for it is selfish. Love, by its very nature lives to die for others; it is selfless. Lovable cannot inspire others, only intoxicate them. Love inspires and nourishes souls.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words, “Only when someone values love more than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death.”
Lovable tries to control the landscape and orchestrate everything. Love simply loves. Lovable is disposable. Love is eternal. Lovable can never fully connect, will never be vulnerable, will never trust because lovable is a lie. Love is truth.
Lovable is lukewarm. Lovable is inauthentic. Lovable flees if it's not appreciated. Lovable runs away when the inevitable cross comes. Love is zealous for the things of God, love is authentic, love remains on the cross and dies. Lovable is the crowds of Palm Sunday. Love is Mary and John at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. The end of loveable is death. The end of love is new life.
“Love attracts love” says Saint Catherine of Siena. Sadly, the opposite is also true, loveable attracts loveable. The choice is ours. Do we want to be the crowd of Palm Sunday or the few of Good Friday? Do we want to be Judas or Jesus? Do we want to be love or be lovable?