Monday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time

I went to confession again, today. This is the third time in seven days. What a wretch I am. The Lord knows I’m a sinner, and I’m ashamed that I have been falling into mortal sin so frequently.

These feelings of shame are counter-balanced with feelings of gratitude. I am grateful for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What an incredible mercy that God gives us! I commit a mortal sin, deserve to be cast into Hell, despite living an otherwise righteous life, but this Sacrament is here to wipe my sins away, again. Oh, Lord you are so merciful! How can this be? I don’t understand this love you have for me, but I’m grateful.

Inspired by the diary of Saint Faustina, I asked the Lord to be one of His Chosen. He asked me if I knew what I was asking for, and I replied that I do not know but I completely trust in his Mercy and will accept what he gives me. My prayer life was increasing in intensity, and God allowed the old temptations to come back in order to test my resolve.

Obviously, I failed. Yet, God was teaching me that I have yet to rely on his strength. If I want to be one of His Chosen, then I need to turn to him always. I still need to learn how to fight my basic temptations. These old battles need to be fought again before my Lord and Commander gives me more difficult assignments. The Holy Spirit is revealing that my old weaknesses are still there and may never go away. So I need to learn to rely on Christ always. 

The enemy will set traps and I need to be vigilant. The enemy knows my weaknesses, too, and will exploit them. The only way I can defeat their efforts is to struggle with prayer during those moments of temptation. If there Our Fathers is not enough for those temptations to subside, then say a whole rosary. If a whole rosary is not enough, then kneel and do a chaplet of Divine Mercy. I have other spiritual weapons at my disposal and I should familiarize myself with them, as any good soldier would before battle.

I will be mortally wounded, like I was yesterday. Whether the death was by the enemy or by my own carelessness doesn’t matter. There is no need for me to walk around dead, like a zombie. I can be healed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I can always start over after a mortal “game over” until the power that keeps my physical body alive is shut off. Praise be to God. Have mercy on me. Train me to be a better soldier. I want to do battle for you.

Resolve to Be Grateful

I’m enjoying a Bourbon Pecan Tart on a late Saturday morning in Gangnam, Seoul. A tiny cup of bitter espresso sits finished on its plate, satisfied to have accompanied the sweet tart to its end.

Paris Croissant, Gangnam

I’m pondering why it’s taken me so long to write, again. One month turned into a year, and now… what? Two years or more? I don’t know for sure and I’m too lazy to go check.

It doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that I start, again. With a shot of espresso in my tummy, I feel animated to take a few minutes to reflect: where am I in my spiritual life?

Lent, my favorite liturgical session, started out well but ended in sin. How ironic… having gone into Easter as soiled and broken as I was seven years ago, when I first entered the Church. That condition was fitting, though, since it was a sharp reminder of my spiritual pride. I had believed my increase in piety, my growth in charity and my goodness was intrinsic to my own efforts. My fall corrected me of that notion. The subsequent Sacraments (yes, plural) of Reconciliation were a merciful ladder dropped down by God, and I was able to climb out of my own stinking pit of sin. I wager my Guardian Angel gave my soul a helpful push or two during my escape. Now, I’m still not far from the pit I escaped, but the healing has begun and I feel more resolved to continue on my journey towards holiness.

Are you curious about the nature of my fall? Don’t be embarrassed; it’s only natural to be curious. That curiosity, at its best, helps us relate to one another. So, let’s say the fall was murder, adultery and theft. All of the above. Imagine the most damning sin and I committed it because all mortal sin cuts us off from God.

However, let’s not dwell on sin. There is no evil that God cannot forgive. That is the hope that Christ’s death on the Cross gives all humankind: He already paid our debts. He already suffered our punishment that rightfully should’ve been borne by us. This hope is all the more magnified by the fact that Jesus only needed a single drop of His Precious Blood to redeem the whole universe, but He was gratuitous with His Love and endured the Crucifixion.

A moment’s reflection on that thought is bittersweet. I avoided punishment because He bore it for me; but, I have done little to show my gratitude.

You may have felt the same. The gravity of our sins, and the just punishment we deserve, have been forgiven and forgotten. We are happy, but do we just walk away from Jesus like those lepers who were healed? Or do we come back and learn more about this Healer who saved us? He asks us to follow Him, take up our daily challenges and walk with Him. How well are we doing that?

Let us resolve to love Christ better. Let us pray for each other. Ask the Holy Spirit to give us greater grace to carry our crosses so that, step by step, we gradually understand what it means to be a child of God.

A Meditation on Saint Joseph

Most of us prefer to give our lives over to God by the tablespoon; I certainly count myself among that number. Saint Joseph, patron saint of fathers, the Universal Church, and many other patronages, provides an example of a life that was wholly given to serve God. He did not measure out his life when loving and obeying God. And that is what makes him a remarkable person to emulate.

The Nativity

This Saturday, March 19, 2016, will be Saint Joseph’s feast day. My family will be celebrating by making BBQ L.A. Galbi short-ribs, and we’ll be sharing this meal with other families during a fellowship of parents. For this post, I wanted to share quotes from an article that talks about why Saint Joseph’s character is so important for men and husbands, today:

Father Jacques Philippe, in a wonderful little book called Interior Freedom, reminds us that very often the experience of genuine freedom requires acceptance of that which we simply cannot change. He calls it “the paradoxical law of human life,” which grows out of the recognition that “one cannot be truly free unless one accepts not always being free.” In other words, the moments when we are most likely to mature as human beings—enlarging the scope of our own sanctity, as it were—are precisely the times when room to maneuver and master the situation do not exist. But that since life is primarily a gift, why should it matter that we’re unable to manage things?

How piercing the light of that paradox falls upon the life of St. Joseph. Could he, for instance, have imagined a situation in which he was outwardly less free than the one resulting from the fact that his intended bore him a child that did not belong to him? To submit to a situation not of own making? Speaking lines of a script he hadn’t himself written? Had he no other options? Fr. Philippe tells us that when faced with circumstances we do not choose, especially when they appear dangerous and intrusive, there are three possibilities that present themselves to us. There is, to begin with, the option of rebellion, of brazen refusal and revolt in the face of a summons we did not solicit and are loath to welcome. To recoil from the reality before us, says Fr. Philippe, “is often our first, spontaneous reaction to difficulty or suffering. But it has never solved anything.”

Then there is the posture of resignation, which amounts to “a declaration of powerlessness that goes no further. It may be a necessary stage,” he adds, “but if one stops there it also is sterile.”

That leaves option number three, which is an attitude of receptivity leading to real and lasting assent. “We say yes to a reality we initially saw as negative, because we realize that something positive may arise from it.” And the quality of hope hidden in the gesture, as in the willingness of Joseph to extend himself in trust, becomes the grace that ultimately saves. Fr. Philippe is most adamant about the point, assuring us that “the most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.”

I particularly like the quote in the concluding paragraph, attributed to George Bernanos (1888-1948), a French author: “A saint doesn’t live on the interest of his income, or even on his income; he lives on his capital, he gives all of his soul… To engage one’s soul! O, that is not merely a literary image.” This resonates with me because I often find myself obsessed with my family’s investments. The words remind me that I should not be a miser, but to give my whole self over to serve my family, and through them, God.



Loyalty to God

Routine is often disguised as an ambition to do or to embark upon great feats, while daily duties are lazily neglected. When you see this beginning to happen, look at yourselves sincerely before our Lord: ask yourself if the reason why you may have become tired of always struggling on the same thing, is not simply that you were not seeking God; check if your faithful perseverance in work has not fallen off, caused by a lack of generosity and a spirit of sacrifice. It is then that your norms of piety, your little mortifications, your apostolic efforts that are not reapin an immediate harvest, all seem to be terribly sterile. We find ourselves empty, and perhaps we start dreaming up new plans merely to still the voice of our Heavenly Father, who asks us to be totally loyal to him. And with this dream or rather nightmare, of mighty wonders in our soul, we become oblivious to reality, forgetting the way that will lead us most certainly straight toward sanctity. It is a clear sign that we have lost our supernatural outlook, our conviction that we are tiny children, and our confidence that our Father will work wonders in us, if we begin again with humility.

From “Friends of God,” by St. Josemaria Escriva

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