One-Minute Reflection: Ephesians 5:11 (30 Days of Prayer for Unity #12)

Listen to the most recent episode of my podcast: One-Day Minute Reflection: Ephesians 5:11 (Days of Prayer for Unity #12) https://anchor.fm/simplediakonia/episodes/One-Minute-Reflection-Ephesians-511-Days-of-Prayer-for-Unity-12-epp8q7

“Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them.”

Reflection:

Evil grows more potent in darkness. The fruits of darkness include hatred, rivalry, and disagreement (see Galatians 5). These poisonous fruits aim to destroy unity. The children of darkness live by evil.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is the advocate of unity. The Spirit calls out evil and spotlights God’s goodness working through us. The children of the Spirit live by the Works of Mercy. They correct the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrong patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead.

Today’s Intention: Lord, give us the fortitude to expose the works of darkness and the courage to seek unity through Works of Mercy.

Peace and Goodness

The Two Sides of Persistence

Reflection on the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Readings

Reading 1 – EX 17:8-13

Responsorial Psalm –  PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Reading 2 – 2 TM 3:14-4:2

Gospel LK – 18:1-8

As a child my first experience with persistence was my father’s commitment to praying the rosary every day. Nothing got in the way of praying the rosary. To this day, my father continues to pray the rosary daily without exception.

When we think of the word persistence, we tend to think of it as a good virtue. However, the word has a parallel side, an ugly side: vice.

In the case of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) and Moses (Exodus 17:8-13), we witness the virtuous side of persistence.

The widow, Jesus tells us, uses her determination to persuade a judge to vindicate her over her enemies.  After a long period, the judge relents not because it is the right thing to do but because of her tenacity. Jesus uses the story to encourages us “to pray always without becoming weary (Luke 18:1). Never to get discouraged in our prayer.

We can find an example of Jesus’ declaration in the account found in the first reading. There, we witness the persistence of Moses during the battle with Amalek. Moses, with the help of Aaron and Hur, kept his arms and the staff of God upright during the battle. This led to an expedient victory over Amalek’s army.

Now, let us consider two examples of persistent vice. First, we have terrorism. The individuals who commit acts of terror are very persistent in their effort. They will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. And these are not just acts perpetrated by people motivated by political or religious reasons. These are also acts perpetrated by parents who terrorize their families, people who physically and emotionally exploit the weak, and anyone who abuses their position of power to obtain what they want.

Another example is our secular society’s obsessively-persistent-love for possessions. This persistence has led to idolatry, selfishness, and self-reliance among other things. Which in turn has created isolation, relativism, and moral decay.

Since Adam and Eve fell to sin, we have been constantly moving back and forth between virtue and vice. Two factors determine how long we stay in one or the other. First, it is the quality of our spiritual life within the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The second factor is what St. Augustine calls in his letter to Proba “our desire in prayer” (Liturgy of the Hours, According to the Roman Rite, Vol. IV, Ordinary Time, Weeks 18-34, page 407-409).

If our spiritual life is sustained by adoration, reflection, and contrition, we will be in a righteous relationship.  On the other hand, if our spiritual life is lacking, we will live in a fractured relationship.

We must constantly reflect on the state of persistence in our lives. Does it lead to God? Is it guided by the Holy Spirit? or Does it lead away from God? Is it guided by darkness? What are we doing or not doing spiritually to remain where we are?

Then there is “our desire in prayer”. St. Augustine tells us that God knows everything we want. He is God, after all. The purpose of prayer is not to ask for His assistance but “to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.” The “deeper our faith, the stronger, our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed.”  What is your prayer life like? Is it constant and filled with desire or inconsistent and filled with desperation? Is our heart ready to receive the gift He has prepared for us?

These are questions that we are unable to answer on our own, however.  A Spiritual Director can be of great benefit to provide spiritual coaching to exercise our desire. Moreover, we must surrender these questions to God. We must petition the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. We must pray to Christ to give us redemption through faith, hope and love. Above all, we must subject our persistence to God’s will just like Jesus Christ did at the Mount of Olives “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Only then, can our persistence draw from its virtues.

Do not Worry! Riiiiiiiight…

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:34)

Do not worry about tomorrow!? Wow! That’s a juicy one for me; easier said than done. Worry has been a constant companion of mine. Sometimes, her presence is more present than others, but she is never too far away. Sometime I overcome my worries and sometimes they overcome me. So many things to worry about: What do people think about me?  How do I look? Do I have enough money, power, prestige? Am I making the right decisions? How is my English or my writing? Would I be able to support my family emotionally and financially? Am I Christian enough? Am I a good co-worker, father, or husband? How do I get what I need or want? Why are my wife and children this and that? The list goes on…

What leads to worry? Fear! When we are afraid we worry. Father Anthony De Mello, in his best-selling book Awareness, beautifully wrote the following about fear “It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you don’t know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That’s what you fear. Fear to lose something.” What are we afraid of losing – our pride, vanity, honor, power, wealth, reassure, affection, safety, loved ones, friendships, employment, etc.?

Worries in themselves are not terrible; they are part of our self-defense and survival kit; they can be a source of strength when facing uncertainty or difficult situations. However, when we let them control us or when they are misdirected, they could lead us to suffering; they become heavy emotional loads that hold us in bondage and harm others.

Fortunately for us, we have God by our side. God does not promise a worry-free existence. Life is full of misfortunes, successes, opportunities, and challenges; worries are part of being in this world. However, if we ask, God can give us strength, perseverance, consolation, and joy to live a life filled with light instead of fear.

When we surrender to God’s will, he shines his light on our darkness; If we do not surrender, “the path of the just is like shining light, that grows in brilliance till perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know on what they stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18:19). Moreover, when we walk in the light, we become God’s light to the world: “You are the light of the world…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father…you are a guide for the blind and a light for those in darkness” (Matthew 5:14, 16; Romans 2:19).  When we offer up our worries to him and go about our life without grumbling or questioning, we are like “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom  you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)

Worries have always been a “thorn on my side.” Like Paul, I have asked the Lord to remove it. Conversely, I have been just as unsuccessful. However, I hope like Paul did that the Lord’s “grace is sufficient” for me “for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 8-9).

The next time I am worried, I will make an effort to become aware of her power and the opportunity for spirituality. I will face my fear with courage even if I fail trying. I will pray “teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth.” (Psalm 86:11). I will remember Christ’s words “Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. ” (Matthew 6:31-34)

Acceptance of Divine Will Prayer

May the most just, most lovable, and the most high will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised and exalted in all things forever.

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