Saturday, October 21, 2017

blog for today

sorry, my internet is failing me tonight...I'll post my blog, which I did write today, tomorrow when I get my internet working...

Friday, October 20, 2017

be gentle to the poor

Our saint with the great name, St Commodianus, talks to us today about who we really fight in A Year with the Church Fathers. And he gives us good advice. He says to stop fighting one another, and fight our sins. Fight the real enemy - the lusts and envies and addictions that threaten our immortal souls.

But he uses one little phrase in the midst of this great advice that stopped me in my tracks. He says, "If you are rich, be gentle to those who have little." Be gentle. It's such a great mental image. When you see those whose lives have been ruined by disaster, even of their own making... and who are now in ruins. Be gentle. Take care of them. Help them up. Respect their dignity. Speak kindly to them. Open your heart to them. Be gentle.

Some of us have to go out of our way to find the poor. Some of us live right next door to them. Whatever the case, the next time your path crosses that of those "who have little", remember St Commodianus's advice.

Be gentle.

God, thank You for letting us in on Your little secret... how gently You care for the poor. Please help us do the same.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

letting go of grudges

St Jerome talks about grudges today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that he wrote a letter to a relative when they were both advanced in years, attempting to bury the hatchet and let go of their grudges. He basically said that he didn't want to die with this anger still in his heart, and be judged for it by God.

That's important, I'm sure. But why does God tell us to forgive in the first place? Besides the fact that it makes all of our lives much better, there is another reason. I'll get to it in a moment. But it DOES make our lives better. Holding a grudge might seem like it feels good at the moment. But it eats away at us. And, even though we don't notice it at the time, it makes us smaller people.

Let that sink in for a moment. You'll sense the truth of it as you think about it. Think of people you know who, every time you talk to them, they bring up the same gripe that they have against the same person. Every time you talk to them. Over and over. They just can't let it go. It makes them boring, right? And it makes them seem so small. Really? You can't let THAT go? It's so insignificant. Yet, each of us do it. And it almost always has to do with our pride. She said WHAT about me? Does he have ANY IDEA who he's dealing with?? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?? You really think I'm must going to sit here and let you talk to me like that?

When we take a step back, cool off, and let our pride deflate, we realize that we're being silly and small. That we need to take the situation, and ourselves, a little less seriously. And let it go. We're much healthier when we do.

But the bigger reason I referred to earlier is this: we are probably (if everything goes well) going to spend eternity with this person. If we can't even act civilly while we're together for a few years on earth, how can we possibly think we'll get along forever in heaven? Forgiveness is of the utmost importance - because without it, we can't possibly live forever with all of the other saints.

God, help us forgive.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

avoiding schadenfreude... and more

St Ephrem the Syrian talks to us today about the right response to the suffering of others today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that we shouldn't take delight in other's suffering. In German, this is called schadenfreude - when you see someone else having a bad time and it makes you happy.

The roots of schadenfreude are of course in envy. We see that others seem to have things we want, and are happy. This makes us sad. So when they lose something, or experience pain of some kind, it makes us happy because we're not alone in our suffering.

St Ephrem takes this to a whole new level, though. He says that not only should we not enjoy the suffering of our friends, or of strangers... but we should not even rejoice in the suffering of our enemies. He says that when others are suffering, we should feel it... we should suffer with them.

He makes a good point regarding Satan. He says that Satan is happy when people fail. Satan's goal is for all of us to mess up our lives and fall from grace. So when we rejoice in the failings of others, we're joining Satan in his game. He says eloquently, "If you don't like the name, don't go near the act."

So what's the positive side of all of this negative advice? "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Even if it's your enemy that's weeping. Who knows? A few shared tears could turn your enemy into your friend.

God, please give us compassion, so we can share the joys and sorrows of our friends AND our enemies.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

some surprising advice

St Asterius of Amasea gives us some surprising advice today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that if we are enamored of gold, or silver, or fine jewels... rather than envying those who have them, or stealing them, or even BUYING them, wasting money that we could be spending on other things, like feeding the hungry... he says we should go "window shopping". Go to the markets, he says, and enjoy the view of the beautiful things that you like. Enjoy the sights. Take pleasure in the things that bring you pleasure. But draw the line on this side of sin.

The advice, I think, is best considered in the big picture. It might be better to "kill" those feelings rather than indulge them. It's possible that "window shopping" will only incite the lusts and passions that tempt the shopper, and lead them into sin.

But the big picture is that Asterius is giving us very practical, down to earth advice in dealing with temptation. He realizes that we're not perfect, even if we're striving to be perfect one day. He knows that quitting "cold turkey" works for some people... but that others have to wean themselves off of the things that "so easily entangle them". His advice, while maybe not perfect, is very pastoral. It's advice that helps people to move toward being Christlike, while still remembering that they're human, and will often fail.

God, thanks for giving us advice that takes our weaknesses into account.

Monday, October 16, 2017

fighting greed with... patience?

St John Cassian talks to us today about greed in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that Judas started off robbing the bag that the disciples kept their money in. Then it escalated. And finally, he sold out the savior of the world for thirty pieces of silver.

Greed slowly takes hold of our lives, doesn't it. We can be going along in our lives, totally content with what God has given us. Then we see it. Maybe it's in a TV commercial. Maybe our friend has one. Maybe we hear about it on the radio. And suddenly ... we HAVE TO HAVE ONE.

As many of you know, I'm a technophile. I love gadgets, and I'm an early adopter. So when some new gadget comes along, I usually want to try it out. There have been many times that I'll start to buy something, and I feel a check. I feel like God is saying, "Hang on there." So I usually walk away. I don't buy it right away. I "sleep on it", and forget about it for awhile. I often find that when I come back to it a couple weeks later, I'm not so keen on having one. The desire has passed.

This is probably a good practice for any new thing that comes along. New job offer? Pray about it... give it a little time. If they have to have an answer RIGHT NOW, then the answer is usually no. One of the ways that our enemy traps us is by giving us the pressure that we have to do the thing RIGHT NOW. When it's in God's will, He patiently waits for our response.

So let's respond to the possibilities in our lives with patience. God knows what He's doing. If it's the right answer, it will still be the right answer a few days from now.

God, thanks for teaching us that patience can be the best answer to the temptation of greed.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

humility vs greed

Asterius of Amasea gives us some interesting advice today in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that we have to always be on our guard against the greed and envy that make us want more and more things that aren't ours, to add to the things we already have. He says this behavior was exhibited by Satan, who was created as an archangel named Lucifer. But Lucifer did not practice humility. He indulged in pride, and in that pride greed and envy grew. It led to his downfall, and to the misery of millions of people and angels alike.

How does humility protect us from greed and envy? Well, humility is reality. It's not pretending that God has not given us gifts. If God has gifted you with the ability to sing, then you're not being humble by pretending you can't. You are, in fact, neglecting to use the gift that He has given you. But in the reality of knowing you can sing, you should use that ability for good: not to puff up your ego or make millions of dollars to spend on your desires, but to help people, to worship God, to lift the spirits of your downtrodden neighbors. Humility is realizing what we really have, who we truly are, and putting it to the use for which we were given the gift in the first place.

If we're busy doing that, we don't have time to worry about what someone else is doing, and be envious of them. We're too busy doing good to greedily want more and more wealth, fame, or power. If wealth, fame, or power DO come to us, those are gifts which we can turn around and use to help people and bring glory to God.

God, help us to be humble... and to use our gifts for You.