Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ten were cleansed: an attitude of gratitude

Written by guest blogger Tim Cone

Based on today’s Gospel - Luke 17:11-19

How grateful are we for the gifts our Father has given us? Are we thankful? Are we grateful? Or do we take them for granted? Do we go on with life once our prayer has been answered neglecting the fact that our Almighty God has directly intervened in our lives? It is an easy trap to fall into, being ungrateful. Most times we do it without acknowledging it. We may spend hours, days weeks, or even years praying for something, asking the Lord for a specific grace. But when the prayer is answered what do we do. Unfortunately, I can think of seemingly countless times when I have had prayers answered, and yet I find myself casually going about my day as if I was never wanting to begin with. I recognize this in my own life regarding money. When money is short and I don’t know how to pay for the bills that I have. I am so eager to go to the Lord to ask for help, asking him to give me what I need. Sometimes this goes on for days and weeks. Then our Lord will answer the prayer, sometimes through a random act of kindness from a stranger, or an unexpected check from the Knights of Columbus, or something, and I find myself the next day walking around as if I have not a care in the world. Where is my gratitude? Thanks be to God, as time has gone on and I have continued to walk with our Lord and grown closer to Him, gratitude has become more a part of my everyday speaking with Jesus, but it is a choice. The Father prompts us to offer praise and thanksgiving, and we have a choice to respond. An attitude of gratitude, as my friend calls it. A disposition of gratitude, realizing that everything that you have: the roof over your head, the shoes on your feet, the shirt on your back, the friends that you have, your job, your education, your very life and existence…. All of it is a completely free gift from our heavenly Father. What Jesus points out in the gospel is a stern warning never to forget that. When we acknowledge the Giver of these gifts, we are acknowledging who He truly is. When we acknowledge who He truly is, we are exercising our gift of Faith. That is why Jesus says to the Samaritan, “stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” He acknowledged that it was God that had saved him and healed him, and it is a most fitting response that he would return to the Source out of gratitude. Today, slow down, look around, everything that you see, everyone that you encounter, everything that you have has been given to you by our Father, because He loves you. Thank Him. Spend time with Him. Love Him. Do something nice for another in thanksgiving for the gifts that our Lord has given you.

--Tim Cone

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Time is Now.

I want to be like Jesus.  It’s a desire that has been set in my heart from a young age.  Some days I am tired and my desire to be like Jesus is taken on more as a duty, but with grace, some days that desire is present to my heart in a way that burns with a heat that I can’t even imagine it cooling off.  The last few weeks have been busy ones, slowly feeling the Lord place more logs upon the fire.  Advent was filled with a deeper realization of Christ’s gift in becoming man, that He really did humble Himself out of Love for me.  Christmas was the fulfillment of those weeks of thought and preparation. 

Then I took a little trip to the city of Rome.  This may be a surprising point, but I didn’t go because I have a deep love of Church architecture.  I didn’t go because I’m enthralled by history.  I didn’t go because I had a mission to see specific saints who have helped me on my faith journey.  No, I went because there are a few brothers studying there who have cared for me well, and it has been some time since I’ve seen them.  The opportunity to go to Rome before my Jterm in Ireland arose and I began to save money for the trip, as I would even if it were going to be a trip to say some small unheard town with no history.  I had few expectations and an excitement to just be, as it was still Christmas break. 

I encountered our Lord though.  I encountered Him in a new and deep way.  We entered St. Peter’s square, and it was busy.  Very busy.  It was loud and diverse and not necessarily what you’d think of as a place of prayer but I was overtaken by peace.  I knew in my heart of hearts that these people around me were friends of the Church.  I didn’t know all their backgrounds, I imagine many were Catholic, some were ‘Catholic’, others some other form of Christianity, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and some I don’t knows.  Yet, there we were, in the arms of Holy Mother Church. I knew peace in the moments of rest in looking around and praying for everyone I saw but I also was moved back to a radical desire to be like Jesus.  I wanted to love each one with a unique and radical love.  I wanted to listen to them, and know their stories-their hearts.  I wanted to lay down my preconceived notions, my tiredness, and my sinful nature and just be Christ to them.  The Lord allowed me on this trip to, at least, in some small way, love like the Church or as the Church really.  Albeit, I wasn’t able to talk with each person I saw because they were countless, I lifted them up in prayer that they may know that they are seen and loved even by those they do not know.  Those I did have the chance to talk to I tried to smile a deep smile that only Christ’s love could produce.  I thought most nights, and even having left, I’m still thinking about these people and the love stirred up in my heart.  I’m holding on tight to the grace.  I don’t want to lose this love because of my selfishness.
Everyday, we pass by so many people.  We have the opportunity to love them with a deep love flowing from our relationship with Christ and we don’t.  It’s hard to be vulnerable and pull down our walls of fear, or shyness, or pride, or self-doubt.  It’s hard to remember to choose true love in every moment.  It’s hard to recognize that community that we are as human beings.  But it’s worth it.  To love another, and to be loved are two of the most beautiful gifts that anyone could take part in.  For whatever reason, we place those things on a pedestal and act as if a quest is needed to enter into them.  But it’s simple.  Look around.  These are all our brothers and sisters, and they are worth loving.  Your love is good and worth sharing.  I want to be like Jesus, and I know that even though we can’t recognize that desire always, that it’s in us.  We can share in His gift of life. 
I pray that we can continue to see others as a gift, and a love can be stirred up in us for them…a love that isn’t cheap or repetitive but a sacrificial radical love for each individual, that even in clinging to our crosses we may revel in the pain for the sake of those we love.   

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dance... Do it...You'll like it.

It was one of those days…one of those weeks…one of those months…

Doubts rest like truth on your heart, compliments are received as correction, newness is hoped for in the darkness…

With it being winter, and coming off of a long break often times I feel like we drop our good habits and fall into an unhealthy train of thought where we become lost in the chaos.  But today, today I chose to dance. 

I went down to a local park, planning on taking a stroll through the blissful freezing air, but as I walked deeper into the park I saw a little area that had been untouched by footstep…a place that must have been prepared by the good God above.  I felt that fresh snow metaphorically call out to me, while the Lord, everything but metaphorically, called me to make that my place for the afternoon.  In the distance I saw some couples walking my way but it didn’t matter. I knew what I needed to do.  I pulled my headphones onto my head, hit play on some sweet jams, and stepped into this square of perfected park.  With each step I felt the Lord take the weight of doubt from my shoulders. The beat began to flow through me, and my foot began to tap.  This tap in unison with the Lord’s love left a little imprint in the snow.  I pressed that spot over and over, breathing deeply the frigid air.  But the Lord didn’t want me to continue pressing in that one spot…He wanted me to move…with Him, for Him, in Him.  I began to dance like a worry free kid on the biggest stage of them all, with my Father looking down approvingly.  I went to town on that perfect patch of park.  At different times the people walking would come closer and watch, they would stare, and giggle but that didn’t matter…I just wanted to rest with my King.  I wanted to give Him back a small portion of the Love He had been lavishing on me.  I began to sweat and become winded because of these prayers of joy and physicality like David of old but I didn’t want to leave.  It was my time with Him, and I didn’t realize how badly I’d missed Him…or how badly He longed for me to just turn my heart’s gaze to Him.

We are all being given a chance to begin again.  Sure it’s a new year, a new semester, a new season of life maybe but more than that today is new…and He gave it just for you.  As I began to dance back up the path to my car I looked at that patch of park and I saw countless steps that I had taken, I saw places that I slid…sometimes forward, sometimes back…I noticed the steps at times even went sideways.  Now, it isn’t every night that we go to bed with a celebratory spirit of the many steps we took forward, but it is every day that we have the opportunity to walk, to rest, to dance with the Lord.  

We should try to let Him lead, but my brothers and sisters He even longs to be with us when we slide back, or when we step too far to the side.  He continues to call us to the floor to dance with Him.    

Come and dance, for the Lord loves you and me so radically and so fully.  Begin again.  Toes get stepped on, but His heart quickly forgives, He giggles, and He pulls you in tighter if you let Him.


Dance...Do it...You'll like it.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

I Pierced the Side

Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a lance, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

My heart knows that He is the Lord.  My mind knows that I have no right to even draw near to this God-man of love.  I see this man and how He loves; fully, no matter the consequences…specifically, even through rejection…humbly, although He is the Anointed One…and I’m afraid to let Him know me. 

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

I encounter this man on many roads, and with many companions.  In these moments He turns His gaze on me, I can’t help but weep.  The tears that I shed beg the question, where should I go?  Countless times the Lord has said, “Come and follow Me” and countless times I have said, I know a less bumpy road we could take.  At those words, I step away from Him slowly but with a spirit of rebellion.  Why doesn’t He go my way?

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

I have seen Him perform miracles.  In the simplest moments I have seen the healing power of His presence.  I have watched many give everything for Him.  I have seen the broken hearted cry out in joy with their whole selves for no other reason than that He looked at them and loved them.  I know that He is a fount of love, but I can’t get too close.  I can’t let Him see my brokenness, even if that would mean healing.  I can handle this.

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus. 

Man has chosen to hate this God-man.  I don’t know why, but they’re calling for His head.  The many things even I, a lowly foot soldier, has seen raises many questions about the level of this man’s greatness.  But I am afraid.  I can’t argue with the others.  I don’t want to enrage them and turn them upon me.   I must join in their jeering. 

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

He was killed.  I just watched them take this Lord with the healing gaze, beat Him, spit on Him, and hoist Him up on a cross.  On the walk to His place of death He shed tears for the many He encountered.  He looked to me as a tear fell, and I knew that He was crying because of my choice to walk on my own path.  He was killed. 

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

I didn’t have a hand directly in that death; I could’ve written it off.  But as He hung there another soldier threw me a lance and said the words that still rock me to the core, “Finish it”.  I became angry with this soldier, angry with myself, and I took the lance and I slid it fast into this Lord…

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

Blood and water poured out upon me.  Those around me were weeping and screaming.  In that moment this Lord, this God-man became my Lord, my God-man.  I began to weep, and through my tear filled eyes, and through the wound that I had opened, I saw His Heart.  His Heart had flames surrounding it, and my own heart began to burn.  Immediately I knew what was next.

I am the soldier that pierces the side of Jesus.

I have fallen.  I have chosen wrong.  I have rejected my God.  Yet, by my piercing of His side, He has asked me to draw closer.  I hurt Him…and He wants to love me more.  He wants me to be His soldier.  Today I choose. 

I was the soldier that pierced the side of Jesus.

But today, I revel in the mercy that flows from His heart.  I am His soldier now.  Some days the path is rocky but I know that I never want to leave that burning Heart that I witnessed in the day I was furthest from Him.  He never forgot me and I want to learn to gaze with Love like He gazes upon me.  I thought I wasn’t worth love.  I hurt Jesus. But today we are blessed.  He speaks the words I know all too well, “Come and follow Me”.  He calls me to be a cause of the outpouring of His mercy.  Who am I to be in such union? 

I am a soldier for Christ.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Daughter

Dear Daughter,
            
Countless hearts rest in your goodness.  When they see you smile, they encounter true joy.  When I see you smile I too find consolation.  Often amidst the journey to the heavenly Kingdom the path seems less life-bearing and I know in certain encounters on this road it seems that continuing to walk isn’t worth the effort anymore.  My little one, I long for you to find rest in me…but not rest from the pain of being misunderstood or rest from the sacrifices caused by blessings…I desire for you to know my rest always.  You have seen glimpses of this rest in certain souls I have placed before you, but I have more planned for you.  You are starting to see that I have created you special My sweet daughter. 

With every step you take, I love you.

With every breath in and out, I love you.

With each passing moment in sorrow or in joy, I love you.

In my love for you I know that your heart desires to share in my Kingdom on earth in peaceful prayer and understanding relationship.  That I can give to you but again I have made you special.  You will know the weight of my Son’s cross, which will bless you in community with the saints above, and those that walk beside you.  You will realize the gift that your feminine heart is to my Church.  And if you call to me in faith I will rest my healing hand upon that very heart.  Do not be afraid to draw near, I will not leave you.  My Spirit of freedom, trust, and courage resides deeply in you. 

In this moment, in every moment, my heart pours forth love because of you.  In the beginning, in the creation of Eve, your beauty shown through.  As you walk forward in this journey, raise your eyes to me, and walk with the pride of being created by a Father who loves you.  I promise to turn my glance to you, and radiate eternal joy in being your creator.

I know the hurts and wounds of this world.  I know especially the pain of rejection and ignorance found in those who are called to love you most.  I will continue to draw them to my heart, but the sting of your burning desire to love them more fully is preparing a place for my glory. 

Perfection with Me is worth it all.

You are worth My all.


-God your Father

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Don't Wanna Fall In

I’m afraid to fall in.

I walked down to the river near my house to find a chill spot to pray and there were no boats in the water so I decided the dock would perfect.  I had a seat, took my socks and shoes off, and let my feet hang over the edge.  With where I was sitting my feet lightly sat on top of the slowly flowing river.  I began to talk to the Lord about how I want to trust Him more…How I want to have a greater faith of His working in every aspect of my life…How I desire to learn more about His will for me. 

As I relayed all these things from my heart to Him I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders and my head dropped down in relief.  He didn’t give a clear and radical revelation in that very moment but with my eyes down I started to really notice the water flowing beneath my feet.  I felt the coolness kissing the bottoms of my feet and my mind turned to Peter. 

The Lord asks of us radical things…Radically simple things.  He wants us to love Him.  He wants us to love the people around us.  He wants us to love us in the beauty of His creative hand.  How we reach this level of love, this level of Christianity, is by growing in faith.  I’ve struggled with the term faith at different points in my journey because I feel like it’s so vague I’ll never be able to obtain it, and even if I did, would I realize it. 

I looked back to my feet and asked the Lord for the gift of faith.  I put more pressure down and my feet went under the water.  Dang it.  I was hoping to go for a walk… But anyway, I remained there silently for a time with Him, slowly and continuously handing Him my heart that I may be made more receptive and aware of His love.  It was a peaceful moment, nothing incredibly deep as far as my fuzzy spiritual vision could tell but I got up with a rested heart. 

My feet being soaked by the nasty Rock River water I decided to not put my socks and shoes back on.  I began to walk back home through the parking lot of the park and my eyes were drawn back to the ground.  When I began the walk I didn’t think it was going to be difficult at all.  I thought it’d be a quick 7 minute walk back up the hill but I realized otherwise quickly.  Certain areas of the road were well laid, and the sun had warmed it and it was pleasurable to move forward.  Other areas had larger pebbles that I needed to avoid, because I knew if I tried to go that way I would most definitely hurt myself.  It took a few moments longer but it was necessary.  Other areas seemed to be perfectly okay to walk on but tiny little rocks cut into my feet.  I lifted my feet, shook of the rocks and kept walking forward.  I wanted to turn around and find a different route or stop and put my shoes on to shield myself on the rest of the walk but I knew I should just step forward.  After a few steps of pain, it was gone and the path was clear the rest of the way home. 

The Christian journey to heaven is a difficult one.  I want to have the faith to walk on water…but being as I’m not there yet I know I just need to walk forward and trust Him; when it’s comfortable, when it’s difficult, when I want to turn around, He is leading me and I can walk forward. 

Many of you may be on the right track in faith with high hopes of going to our final home in heaven.  I know how the smallest pains hurt you.  I know how heavy the continual yeses are.  I know how sometimes the destination doesn’t seem real enough to keep walking.  I know how easy it is to fall into being judgmental and prideful.   I trust He is guiding you.  I trust He is guiding me.  The walk is worth it. 

Many of you may be ‘pretty Christian’, you know the Lord and you try to be a good example of love to everyone.  I know how sometimes you don’t feel good enough.  I know how sometimes you feel weighed down by those who seem further ahead in the walk.  I know how you want to take detours for fear the destination of faith may make you empty of yourself in a way that you no longer have clear understanding and control.  I trust He is guiding you.  I trust He is guiding me.  The walk is worth it.

Some of you may have no idea where you are on the walk of faith.  I know how confusing it is to have countless voices telling you a host of conflicting messages.  I know how challenging the teachings of Mother Church seem without a closer look at the source, Love itself.  I know how easy it is to want to pull your shoes on, and shield yourself from the hurt.  I trust He is guiding you.  I trust He is guiding me.  The walk is worth it. 

At this point I may be afraid to get wet but I want to walk, I want to run, I want to see the Father.   We are together sisters and brothers…Together we move forward in faith that no matter the obstacles, the pain, the lack of vision, we can walk. 

You may be beginning a new leg of the journey, with little clarity in what the next few months have in store for you.  You may be lost in the mundane day to day with hope of eccentric joy.  You may be saying “I don’t even know man…”  On all three accounts I just have one thing to say:


Put your eyes on the goal and take a step.    

Friday, August 21, 2015

Life.

I want to be fully alive.

While I was in Mexico, a priest asked me “If you had to tell me what you’ve done in your life in one sentence, what would you say?”

In the moment I gave a sarcastic remark but I’ve thought about this question for weeks…

I’ve studied for years, from shapes and colors to the metaphysical arguments for the existence of God.  I’ve played sports, and had great comradery with brothers from my back yard to the soccer field at the seminary.  I’ve met countless beautiful souls longing to know God more.  I’ve been given so many opportunities that a simple man like me could only hope to experience.

But these didn’t answer the question for me.   

I started thinking about my greatest desire...I want to be fully alive.  But I realized I’m not yet.  It can’t be my one sentence because it hasn’t happened yet.  Yet. 

I’ve always thought that being the man with the answers, or being someone who makes others comfortable, or being a great leader would make me fully alive…

God the Father has been lovingly kicking me in the face.  

I’ve been challenged.  I’ve felt like I’ll never have any answers to help others, let alone the answers to the questions in my own life.  I’ve felt like my abrasiveness can be a hindrance to relationships and so I’m learning to be quiet and patient.  I'm learning to be real.  This time is different than I thought it would be, but I know this journey is the only way to become fully alive.  When everything comfortable is stripped away, like it has been, I’m left with one main thought.

“I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

I want to be fully alive and I finally have an answer I’m confident in giving to my priest friend. 

What have I done so far in my life?  I have loved little and I have sinned much.

There is hope.  

Albeit the phrase that describes my life points to my weakness, I can smile.  It isn’t easy for me to admit that I have weaknesses.  It isn’t easy for me to admit that I don’t have all the answers.  It isn’t easy for me to accept that I can’t do anything on my own worth any merit.  But it also isn’t easy to believe how loved I am.  It isn’t easy to trust in my identity as a beloved son…But it’s true.

A friend knew I was having a rough couple weeks and I was talking to her after mass and she told me to listen to the song ‘Good Good Father’, and the main lyrics are: ”You’re a good good Father…It’s who you are…And I’m loved by you…it’s who I am.”

I am broken as all get out but He’s a good good Father, and you know, even though I’ve loved little He has continually humbled Himself that I may be fully alive.  He gave His Son up to death for me.  He gives me countless sacramental opportunities to return to His heart.  He forgives me.  He revels in me. 

He paradoxically calls me to be crucified with His Son that I may be fully alive.  He not only wants to fulfill that desire in me, but He wants me to find my identity in Him. 

I have loved little.  I have sinned much.  He is a good good Father.  I’m loved by Him.  That’s who I am.   

And that my friends is a life worth living.