Lenten Reflection Day 4: Ezekiel 33:11

Listen here: https://anchor.fm/simplediakonia/episodes/Lenten-Day-4-Ezekiel-3311-eqm80p

“I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Reflection:

Lent is a time of conversion. A time to clean our hearts from the impurities blocking the flow of spirituality within. A chance to change our ways, repent and live in fellowship with God and each other.

God loves everyone unconditionally. He desires a deep relationship with us. Let us not let lies, life difficulties, and misconceptions about Him to deprive us of His grace of salvation.

Today’s Intention:

Lord Jesus, this Lenten season, give us the courage to turn away from our ways and send the Holy Spirit to guide our return to God.

Peace and Goodness

To Not Lower Our Spirituality Standards

Homily: Feb 16, 2020

Readings: Sir 15:15-20; PS 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10; MT 5: 17-37

Opening Prayer: Jesus, you died for us sinners, because we are Your Father’s beloved children. Thanks for the opportunity to worship you this day. Send the Holy Spirit to open our fragile hearts and minds to God’s desire for us today: “To not lower our spirituality standards.”

My wife knows that when it comes to buying things, I have two standards: well-made and practical. For example, I drive a 165K miles 2003 vehicle. I like driving it because it meets those standards. Most of you are probably in my camp when it comes to having standards when buying things, right? We want to buy things that last and serve us well. When it comes to our spirituality, God wants our spirituality to last and serves us well too. His desire for us is not to lower our spirituality standards.

When guided by the Holy Spirit, our spirituality is discernment in action, shining with high standards. When in communion with the Holy Spirit, we develop the wisdom that helps us understand God’s spirituality standards for us, which is to obey His law. Armed with this knowledge, we recognize that “to none does he give license to sin.[1] Instead, through His Son, Jesus Christ, He commands us to keep the commandments: to love God above all and to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves. Then, he reaffirms that the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.[2]

On the other hand, when we lack the guidance of the Spirit, as in the case of the scribes and the Pharisees, our spirituality standards become flawed. As the Apostle Paul tells us: “if they have known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory…. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything”[3] Moreover, when the Holy Spirit guides our spirituality, we receive the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, reverence, and respect of the Lord. Those gifts help us discern our Father’s will: not to lower our spirituality standards.

Children have a prominent presence in the Gospels. In Matthews 18:2-3, Jesus says: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When we obey God’s commands, we humble ourselves like a child.  Children obey and trust their loving parents because they know parents want the best for them. This reminds me of a children story I read recently,

Once upon a time, in a small country, people decided to investigate what it was that parents liked the most. A competition was organized. It would use the latest invention of a famed local professor, the Gladometer.

The Gladometer was the only contraption ever built, capable of measuring joy and happiness.

So, one by one, the children demonstrated their talents to their parents. And the Gladometer measured their parents’ reactions.
One boy turned up with a trained pig; the pig sang and danced. A girl came and played the violin like an angel, and an intelligent boy came and read his very big book. The parent’s happiness was plain to see.

Finally, a boy came to the Gladometer carrying nothing. Nor did he know how to do anything. When the organizers asked him what he was going to do, he said: “I am very obedient.”

This said the machine measured such a high reading that it began to vibrate violently, and finally exploded. The boy who had done nothing won all the prizes that day, for solving the mystery of what pleases parents the most.[4]

God wants our highest spirituality standard to be obedient.  When we are obedient, we follow Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[5] That is the example Jesus gave us as he agonized in the garden: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”[6] Jesus had the opportunity to lower his standards, but he chose to love his Father by following His commandments. Then, Christ commands us to do likewise: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”[7]. If that was unclear, he said: “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”[8]

God knows, however, that we are broken by nature, and when left to our own devices, we may lower our spirituality standards. To assist us, He provides a set of commandments for us to use as guiding posts in our lives.  The commandments tell us how to worship and praise God, how to behave with our parents, with each other’s, and in our community. When we follow the commandments, we fulfill God’s desire for us today: to not lower our spirituality standards.

Let us pray: Lord, thank you for your incomprehensible love. We want to be your obedient servants; to not lower our spirituality standards. However, we cannot do it alone because we are weak and sinful. Send Your Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and fortitude. May our prayers of praise rise to you like incense. May the body and blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, which we will receive shortly, remove any darkness preventing us from following your commandments. May we always live in communion with the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

[1] Sirach 15:20

[2] Matthew 22:40

[3] 1 Corinthians 2:

[4] https://freestoriesforkids.com/audiostories/american-english/proudest-parents-short-audio-story-narrated-american-english

[5] John 14:15

[6] Luke 22:42

[7] Matthew 7;21

[8] Matthew 12:50

Four Nonnegotiable Pillars of the Spiritual Life

In his book, the Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser lists four essential pillars to build a healthy Christian spirituality: 1) Private Prayer and Private Morality 2) Social Justice 3) Mellowness of Heart and Spirit, and 4) Community as a Constitutive Element of True Worship. He states that “These are not elements we may choose or not choose to incorporate within our spiritual lives. They comprise the essence of the spiritual life. They also supply its balance. Only when all four of these are present in our lives are we healthy as Christians and as human beings.” When I read these pillars, I was touched by their simplicity, clear prescription, and challenges.

Private Prayer and Private Morality

In preparation for the diaconate program, I struggled with prayer. My focus was on the actual “doing” of the prayer instead of “being” in prayer; I was more concerned about checking the box. I was frustrated by how much time prayer was taking away from my busy schedule. This pillar reminded me that praying is about building a relationship with God. Like the many loving relationships I have in my life, prayer is not always pretty, exciting, or perfect. Fr. Rolheiser explains in Prayer: Our Deepest Longing: “there is no bad way to pray and there is no one starting point of prayer. All the great spiritual masters offer only one non-negotiable rule: You have to show up and you have to show up regularly. Everything else is negotiable….” This last statement was insightful because in my search for perfection in prayer, I became discouraged.

Social Justice

I always thought of myself as a person with a strong sense of social justice. Reading about the pillar of Social Justice shed a new light, however. My previous understanding of social justice involved a political mindset, policy instead of charity. I learned that social justice is to act in relationship with God through charity aimed at the most poor and weakest of our society. In Corinthians 13:1-2, Paul tells us, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” We are called to act with faith through love for the poor and weak in order to be true Christians.

Mellowness of Heart and Spirit

Mellowness of Heart and Spirit has always been a challenge for me. This may be hard to believe for those who know me – except my wife and children – but I struggle with perfectionism. We can all put a façade on; I am not different. A life filled with worries does not make for a mellow heart. This pillar, however, is helping me to understand what I have been missing. Fr. Henri Nouwen explains in his book Making All Things New:  “Jesus’ response to our worry-filled lives is…to shift the point of gravity, to relocate the center of our attention, to change our priorities. Jesus wants us to move from the ‘many things’ to the ‘one necessary thing’: to set our hearts on the kingdom of God first.” I am coming to realize that if I set my thoughts and actions, however imperfect they may be, to give praise and glory to God, then my heart and spirit will grow in mellowness.

Community as a Constitutive Element of True Worship

Finally, the pillar of the Community as a Constitutive Element of True Worship brings all four pillars together for me: “because the search for God is not a private search for what is highest for oneself or even for what is ultimate for oneself. Spirituality is about a communal search for the face of God.” As Fr. Rolheiser discusses, through his incarnation, God became Jesus and while that Jesus is no longer physically with us, he still remains in the Eucharist and in the community of believers. When we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, we  are in communion with God; we give life to his Church by building loving relationships with our brothers and sisters, God’s community of believers.

Blessings!!!

© hectorortiz 2014. All rights reserved.

Book Recommendation: The Holy Longing

If you are looking for a book on spirituality, I recommend reading The Holy Longing: The Search for A Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser. In addition, I recommend you visit his website for great articles and subscribe to his newsletter.

Blessings!!!

© hectorortiz 2014. All rights reserved.