The Wonder of it All
One of my favorite summer guilty pleasures when I was a child came through a most wonderful little transistor radio given to me by my uncle, a gift he brought back from his travels to Japan. My AM radio was 2 & 1/2 by 2 & 1/2 inches square, complete with an ear plug. (In in those days you only got one ear worth of sound since the radio was mono and not stereo.) I would sneak my radio into bed with me since it was easy to hide, and once the 'coast was clear' I would turn on that spectacular device and travel to places far away for a little girl living in Long Island, NY. Once night came, distant signals would become clearer since many stations went off the air, so I would find stations from far away cities, listening to things like a baseball game in St. Louis, Missouri, a talk show in Florida, and even a show originating in Toronto, Canada! Ah, the wonder of it all!
My favorite memory with my radio was one particular July 4th; it must have been 10 PM or so, but it felt like an exotic hour to me. I had the window open and was feeling the slightest breeze as I turned on my radio and tuned into a thrilling re-enactment of the 1812 bombing of Fort McHenry which came from the Baltimore area. They were "bombing" the Fort with a fireworks show, which culminated with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, all the while giving a "play by play" of what was happening not only in the Harbor, but to Francis Scott Key as he penned his famous lyrics. I could not see it, obviously, but the thrill of my imagination filling in for sight, listening to the sounds, and the words of the commentator, was incredible. Oh, how I loved my little radio as I listened to far off places in the night!
The world has changed since then, especially the world of technology. While I love today's technology with its instant access to the universe, I really do miss those days when one could turn on an AM radio in the night and listen to places which were far off, enabling the imagination to run wild and free. It truly was a wonder to me that my little battery-operated device, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand - (sound familiar?) - had the ability to be so educational, and oh, so much fun. I am sure my mother was aware of my late night listening, though I thought I was quite surreptitious. But it was the most wonderful experience to be had night after summer night, listening to these shows, broadcasted from places far from my bedroom in my Long Island neighborhood.
What I learned from that experience is that it does not take much to find wonder in our world and in our lives. One might argue that I entertain easily, but having a sense of wonder and awe is important to God. After all, He gave us that gift when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation. We indeed have an abundance of modern conveniences and technologies which are mind-boggling in how they work. There is much wonder in that. But sometimes I think we can miss the wonder in the world around us because we can take it for granted due to the very same technological gadgets that bring it to our fingertips. It is easy to have so much access that we lose the sense of awe at what is in the world outside of the realm of our computer screens. It is more fun to experience something "in real time" than on a screen, though I grant that we can see things there that we would not have access to otherwise. But my point is that we should never lose the sense of wonder that is behind all that technology by taking the sheer magnitude of it for granted.
God has given us the gift of nature, that is, the gift of all of creation. Those who live in cities can be left breathless when seeing the Milky Way, away from the lights that cloak it, and those who live in more rural places might be inspired by seeing the wonders of city architecture. But it is important that we truly allow ourselves to see what is around us no matter where we are. Every day the sky looks different and every day we meet people who are also wondrous if we allow ourselves to see them as such. Everyone has a story to tell, and each one is unique and worth telling.
I wonder what the Israelites thought as they were traversing the desert. Did they see the rock formations and the day-to-day paths as wondrous or as tedious? Given that they were wandering, I am sure it became boring just as the repetitions we go through as we drive to work daily can become flat and dull. Have you ever arrived at work and wondered how you got there? That is because it was so routine that we automatically did what we needed to do in order to arrive; therefore we really did not “register” any of the trip. While not every moment of every day can be exciting, (it would be foolish to think that this would be so), we can see things within seemingly routine actions at a deeper level if we allow the Lord to open our eyes to the wonder of it all. The ancient Celts, for example, had prayers that were about the seemingly mundane, such as thanking the Trinity for the gift of the hearth fire, or the cow they were milking, or the stream they were crossing to get into town. As a result, they noticed, and in noticing, they found God's action within just about everything. In seeing God's action, with wonder and awe, they found Him.
Throughout our reading of Scripture we can actually be in the passages we are praying if we use the gift of imagination God has given us. St. Ignatius of Loyola taught those making the Spiritual Exercises to compose the scene in their minds and hearts and to enter into it while in prayer. He knew that God is not limited by time and space, so when we enter into prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are really there in the place and time we are considering. Therefore when you read about the Israelites wandering in the desert, you can enter the wandering with them, seeing and feeling in your own experience, gaining insight into what God may be revealing to you through the passage of Scripture. You can be present as Elijah called down God's fire to prove to the pagans that He is the one true God. (1 Kings 18) You can witness Jesus healing the bleeding woman or the man with the withered hand, and be present as He spoke the challenging Sermon on the Mount.
When we read Scripture we can be transported into the stories, allowing God to reveal what He wants us to learn. He wants us to understand His presence not only to the people of Israel throughout history, but to become more attentive to His presence in our own journeying. He wants our eyes to go wide with awe when we learn to see His handiwork in the nature around us, whether in our own backyard or in our travels. He wants us to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the wonders of His creation. And He wants us to experience the uniqueness of each person with whom we come in contact in order to come to see our own uniqueness and beauty. Hopefully we will come away saying about the world, ourselves, and others: "Ah, the wonder of it all!"
It is easy to only focus on the negative things going on in the world or in our personal lives. We need not become as Pollyanna, only seeing through rose-colored glasses; that could be dangerous. But we need to see the beauty around us, lest we become jaded by the constant barrage of negative news we are exposed to daily. There is much beauty in the world which we take for granted often enough. Let us allow the Lord to open our eyes, as He did with the blind people He healed in the Gospels, so that we may see with our eyes and with our hearts the beauty which abounds which we often simply do not see. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said we need to be like little children. Maybe He was trying to say that we need to stay filled with the wonder and awe that children have in seeing things that no one else sees. Maybe having an attitude of wonder, such as listening to a little radio into the night and hearing things broadcast from afar with eyes alight, is the attitude that we need to keep in order to really see the beauty of creation.
May we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the wonders of the Lord! May we have the gift of renewed wonder and awe! May we have the heart of a child, open to the presence of beauty around us! May we be filled with gratitude for the wonders of creation and be moved to be more aware of our responsibility to take care of our planet! May we have reverence for all the Lord has made, especially our brothers and sisters! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the God of All Creation in wonder and awe! Peace!
The radio depicted at the top is not the radio I had, but it is as close as I could get. Mine was in a black plastic body, and had a key ring on the end, rather than a medallion. It was also perfectly square. This one is a Sony ICR-120. I do not remember what model mine was.
The middle and end photos are from my recent trip to Sicily.
© Michele L. Catanese
Longing for True Sight
Last week I saw something that was both frightening and amazing all at the same time. It took place in a matter of seconds. While driving, I came to a red light at a busy intersection near where I live. There are three lanes of traffic going in each direction, not counting the left hand turn lanes. A young blind man, with his sensing stick in hand, was attempting to cross the street I was on. It was clear he was not a novice at this, but for some reason instead of crossing all the lanes to the median and then the other lanes in a straight path, he drifted at an angle heading right into oncoming traffic! He thought he was going straight, but no doubt because of the noise of the traffic, he unknowingly became disoriented. Therefore what seemed to him to be straight was actually misguided and he was walking into danger. In an instant I saw multiple car doors open, but a teenaged girl who was a passenger in the car next to mine was faster than the rest of us. She flew out of the SUV and already had the man by the arm, guiding him safely to the median and then to the opposite side of the street. In another instant she was back in her car and I lost sight of the young man.
The scene was amazing in that so many people were attentive and ready to go to the aid of the man. What the teenager did was rather beautiful; she had him put his arm through hers and led him to safety. I am not sure what she said to him, but he smiled as they crossed the street. This incident was also frightening, because the young man could have been killed. If there were no cars on our side, he would have had no one to save him. Some unfortunate person, minding his or her own business, would have hit him by accident, and so two people would have had tragedy, not just one.
This event has stayed with me, obviously, and in my reflection it helped me to see how we, too, are like the blind man. Quite often we think we are going straight ahead, but we are actually drifting into danger unaware. This happens to all of us more often than we realize, especially when we stop praying because we become too busy, or we think we can handle something on our own. We have all sorts of good intentions, but we stop listening because we are distracted by the noises of life around and within us, therefore not hearing the urgings of the Spirit who is trying to help guide us.
In the Old Testament this happened over and over again as the people tried to do things their way. When Moses was trying to get the Israelites to the Promised Land the attitude they developed was one of self-reliance. Some of them argued that God had brought them to the desert to die, and they actually longed for the fleshpots and "security" of Egypt. At least there, they reasoned, they knew what to expect, even if it was slavery. Others felt that Moses was not really speaking with God, that he was doing "his own thing," and therefore they wanted a god to guide them, thus crafting the golden calf. All those attitudes brought were destruction and loss. Until they realized that God had their best interests in mind, and until they learned to trust Him, they wandered, literally going in circles. Once the new generation understood that Moses really was God's spokesperson and accepted His leadership, they came to the Promised Land.
Human nature being what it is, that story is repeated throughout the Old Testament. The people went astray over and over again, first not listening to the judges who kept rescuing them, then not listening to the prophets who God sent to save them from bad leadership, (some lousy kings), and from their own poor judgment in choosing false, nonexistent gods over Him. The people insisted on doing things their way, even as the nation was crumbling around them. Like the blind man, they thought they were headed in the right direction, but were headed right into danger. It was because they surrounded themselves with the noise of self-righteousness and rationalization that they could no longer hear the truth. Before the Babylonian Exile they thought: "We have Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant, and the king who is in the line of David, therefore nothing can touch us." But since they actually were far from God and most people had ceased to listen to God, they lost everything.
In various New Testament stories we see Jesus confronting the issue of people not seeing or hearing. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus says that they have eyes but do not see and they have ears but do not hear. He is indicating that this is a choice we make. It takes work to see and hear, and often we need someone to help lead us in the right direction. Jesus came to lead us to the Kingdom. When He died and rose, He left us the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us, gently leading us towards God.
In Mark's Gospel Jesus indicates that a disciple is one who is a hearer and doer of the Word; in other words, a disciple is one who is listening and makes a response. He insists that one must hear in order to do. In the original Greek, the word for hearing (akouein) is related to the word for obedience (hypakouein), but this does not imply servitude. Rather, it implies that the one who wants to be guided by the Spirit knows that to follow His promptings is to grow closer to God. We obey, or follow, because we believe that God has our best interests at heart. And we follow because we trust Him and because we love Him.
Notice how hearing and seeing are related. The blind man attempting to cross the street could not hear the tapping of his stick and lost his bearings. I know that the blind usually develop a heightened sense of hearing, so when the man could not hear due to the noise, he was misjudging his steps. And I know that I hear better when I have my glasses on. Seriously! (I am guessing I am not alone in this experience.) But for those of us only a little sight impaired, we do not usually develop better hearing. So instead of only seeing better with our glasses, we also hear better.
In John's Gospel when the blind man who Jesus healed really heard the words of Jesus, he was able to attest faith in Him to the Pharisees. (John 9) He became a follower of Jesus because the Word penetrated his heart. He saw and he heard as if for the first time. Meanwhile the Pharisees refused to hear and were stuck in their spiritual blindness. Even when they witnessed a miracle of Jesus they could not see it because they chose to be impervious to His message.
Just as Jesus says the sheep know the shepherd, (John 10) we need to come to learn to recognize His presence. God gives us tools to learn how to do this. If we ask Him to be our guide, we will become less blind. If we use the Scriptures and prayer as sources of learning to discern His presence, we will be less in danger of walking off the path. But we are never able to go it alone. We never arrive at full sight until we meet Him face to face in the next life. As St. Paul says, "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12) The Good News is that we are never alone. God longs for us because He wants to give us every good thing and mostly because He loves us with an unfathomable love. So let us ask for the gift of willingness to spend time with Him, for the gift of longing for Him so that we will make time for Him, and the gift of deepened love so that we may become more aware of just how loved we are by Him.
May we have the gift of longing for true sight that we might not wander into danger! May we have the gift of desire for deeper relationship with the Lord! May we become more attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit! May we be healed of whatever blindness we may have so we may see more of the beauty of the Lord! And may we be inspired to make the time we need in our schedule for the most important Person in our life, the Lord of Love! Let us continue to meet within the Heart of the Lord where all blindness is healed by the power of His love! Peace!
The top and bottom photos are mine. The top symbolizes what things look like when we think we can see, but things are really not clear at all. The bottom picture, taken only a few seconds later, is clearer and therefore we see more detail, symbolizing the clarity we receive when we let God guide us.
Both icons are the work of Rev. William Hart McNichols. The first is called Hagia Sophia and can be found at http://184.108.40.206/~fatherb4/index.php/all-categories/product/20-hagia-sophia
The second icon is called The Holy Spirit, The Lord, the Giver of Life,The Paraclete, Sender of Peace and can be found at http://220.127.116.11/~fatherb4/index.php/all-categories/product/28-the-holy-spirit-the-paraclete-the-lord-and-giver-of-life
Check out Fr. Bill's new website at www.fatherbill.org. Remember, I do not receive anything by endorsing Fr. Bill's work or website. He is a friend and I love his work, so I enjoy sharing the wealth. :)
© Michele L. Catanese
These days we read a lot about the effects of bullying and what people are trying to do to combat this terrible behavior. I remember being the victim of some bullying when I was in middle school. It certainly was not the most enjoyable part of my life, especially during a time in life that is awkward enough as it is. It seems that everyone has an experience of bullying at some point, whether it was while very young, or in school, or even in the workplace. I even had a college professor who was a bully to his own students, all of whom were incredibly talented people! Bullying can crop up anywhere. It is, simply put, a misuse of power, real or perceived.
The experience to which I referred was of a cadre of girls and their ringleader whose main purpose for existence seemed to be to make my life miserable. I had been transferred from one school to another because the authorities re-structured the district. There were only a few of us who were affected so I was the new kid in the class. Therefore, the girls were in full swing before too long and it was one misery after the other for a while. Then I remembered a lesson my grandmother had taught me. She said that if I was really kind and friendly every time they tried to make me miserable, "it would be like heaping burning coals upon their heads." I had no idea this came from the Scriptures at the time, but one day I tried it.
I was in a family restaurant with my parents and the girls were at a table nearby. Stealing glances in my direction, they were whispering and giggling. When it was time to leave, I walked over to their table, said hello very sweetly, and told them how good it was to see them. I smiled the entire time. I remember the look on their faces when I said something like, "Have a great weekend. I’ll see you back in school on Monday." I tried to appear as sincere as I could, and not sarcastic or phony, which is what my grandmother had taught me to do. They were astonished, a couple of mouths dropped. How could I be so kind when they had been so mean to me? I continued being nice to them at school and I rarely ever had another problem with any of them.
My grandmother, a true disciple of Jesus, was right: if you are kind to your enemies, they find it more difficult to be unkind back. It disarms them. After all, how can you be mean to someone who is nice? Admittedly sometimes it takes more than what I just described, but the fact remains, returning goodness for evil does work. Jesus' entire gospel message revolves around this one key point: love your enemies.
Love does not necessarily mean “like.” I did not have to like those girls in order to be kind to them. But I did have to be loving. And in doing so, it totally disarmed them. They realized they were powerless to hurt me at that point because I chose to be kind, in the face of the suffering they had previously caused me. When I fought back in times before this incident, it only fueled their fire because they realized that they knew exactly how to push my buttons and get the desired effect. But when I chose to be kind instead, initiating the encounter, love disarmed them and they were left unable to anger me any longer.
Loving our enemy means doing the loving thing in any given situation. As Jesus points out, it is easy to love those who love us. He says even the pagans can do that. But the true disciple is the one who can love someone who is not easy to love back, especially one's enemies. It is especially difficult if the one who is making our lives miserable really does have power over us, like a boss or a college professor such as I mentioned above. But while that person may have some measure of control and power over us, no one has power over us completely unless we give it to them. The boss, for example, may have the power to fire us or to keep us from getting a much needed promotion or raise, but he or she cannot control how we respond to these challenges. We can do the loving thing, which may mean being patient and kind in response, or it can mean taking a risk to stand up to the bullying in some way that is not retaliatory.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. That does not in any way mean that Christians are supposed to be the doormats for everyone else. Jesus was teaching us to stand up for justice by doing it with love and a measure of ingenuity. To understand what He meant by turning the other cheek we have to look to the era in which He lived. In those days, a Roman soldier could strike a Jew on the cheek with the flat of his hand, but by law could not backhand him. That was because Romans wore large signet rings and would break the jaw of the victim if he hit with the back of his hand. The law protected the Jews only a little, but it did offer some boundaries. If the Jew turned the other cheek, he was tacitly challenging the Roman to break the law. The point was to turn the cheek not with impunity, but with gentleness. The Jew always won that battle, because the Roman would not want to incur the wrath of his own justice system.
Therefore, Jesus was not teaching His followers to take whatever was dished out. He was teaching them a more appropriate response in which they never lost control. Even in dying on a cross, which outwardly looked like total failure, Jesus modeled what He taught. He was in control throughout the entire ordeal, which only confounded His enemies the more. He let them capture Him in the Garden, (Matt. 26:52-54), He allowed them to say themselves even if in mockery that He was the Son of the Most High God, (Matt. 26: 62-64), and He let them nail Him to the Cross. (John 19:10-11). But the story does not end there. His act of dying, which was the ultimate act of forgiveness and love, brought about the Resurrection. He turned the other cheek by not calling down legions of angels in an "I'll show them!" attitude and instead he offered salvation... to us all.... we are all sinners.
St. Paul aptly quoted Proverbs in saying this: "…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21; he quoted Proverbs 25:21-22.) There are those burning coals again: this passage is where my grandmother got the wisdom she imparted to me. Being good to those who wish evil for us makes them very uncomfortable. In a nonviolent way, we make our point and we disarm them. It is what Jesus did through His death and resurrection.
Suffering is a fact of life. Our world is no more just and has no less suffering than at any other time in human history. But the good news is that we have a just Savior who offers us the final victory. Meanwhile we need to ask Him to help us to persevere through the trials of this life. Not only that, but He will help us stand up for justice, which is something we are all called to do. True discipleship has a cost: we have the obligation to stand up for truth and justice in whatever way we are called to do it, in whatever situation we are in. We need to stand against the injustice of gossip, lying, deceit, envy, out-of-control ambition, grudges, rage, bullying, all those “isms”, (such as racism) and even the neglect of "turning a blind eye." We all need to be attentive to how we vote in order to stand up for Gospel values. We need to be attentive to how we consume; perhaps we are wasteful or materialistic, or perhaps we ignore or neglect the poor in our midst. Whatever it is, all of us can be more mindful of how to alleviate the suffering of those around us by sharing love in whatever way we can. The Gospel calls us to nothing less.
And in our own personal suffering, we can turn to the Lord for help. The response may come in the form of someone reaching out to us, through a grace, or simply to know that we are not alone in our suffering. He, too, has suffered and therefore He does not stand outside our suffering and watch while offering platitudes that land limply by our sides. He is in the middle of the raging fire of our pain with us. After all, He is not called Emmanuel, God with us, for no reason. He is compassion and mercy. He suffers with us and He offers us comfort. Let us be grateful for His undying love for us which is so great that He offered His own life so we could get the justice for which we long.
May we become instruments of justice! May we be healed of our urge for vengeance and retaliation when we are wronged! May we turn to the Gospels for the wisdom of Jesus in how to stand firm in adversity! May we have the courage to stand up for what is right and just through love! May we be healed of all that which we suffer! And may we be given the faith to trust, the hope to endure, and the love to guide us home to God! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the Lord of Justice and of Mercy! Peace!
The photos are mine. The first one is on Mt. Etna. It seems that visitors make these piles of rocks using larger chunks of the volcanic lava that are scattered around.
The bottom photo is a sunset which occurred while we were at a farmhouse in Testa dell'Acqua, Sicily.
The two icons are by Rev. William Hart McNichols. The first is Holy Protomartyr Deacon St Stephen and the second is St. Paul the Apostle. You can get a copy of any of his icons and images at http://www.fatherbill.org/
Remember that Fr. Bill's work is copyrighted material. If you want copies, please order them from him. It is his livelihood and it is also the just thing to do. I post his work with his permission with no personal gain other than the joy of sharing. Thank you!
© Michele L. Catanese
Leaders who follow
During the years when I was growing up I remember being taught that it was important to develop leadership skills. People can either be followers or leaders, our teachers said, and so it was good to develop leadership skills to get ahead in life. I had no problem believing this was a good thing because we need good leaders in our world. For sure, it became obvious as I looked at situations in the world which were the result of bad leadership or no leadership at all. But I have come to see that if one is to be a good leader there is a need to develop the skill of being a good follower first. I say that because that is what our Christian faith teaches us.
This past week we celebrated a number of wonderful feast days, such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Guardian Angels. Each feast celebrates those who are followers of Jesus "par excellence." St. Thérèse developed her Little Way by learning to live the Gospel message of Jesus in all the simplicity with which it was intended: she learned to become as a little child to follow Jesus with trust. St. Francis lived the Gospel message of Jesus radically. He literally gave up all he had in order to live the Gospel in word and deed, preaching and aiding the poor. Even the Guardian Angels are followers. They serve God continuously by helping us to stay on the right path in order to arrive at the end of our journey home with Him.
Those who are holy are those who have learned how to follow, just as the first disciples learned to follow Jesus. He needed to tear down the injustice and materialism of the world and build up the compassion and love which is what His Kingdom is about. Therefore Jesus needed (and still needs) followers in order to bring the Kingdom to fruition. Our mission is nothing less than to show others the way to the Kingdom, and to help them to accept the gift of salvation. We cannot achieve this on our own or in our own way. It takes work to overcome the values of the world, to establish justice, to help others in poverty to have what they need to live, and to work for the values of the Gospel to overcome hatred and sin.
To become a follower requires a radical letting go of having it our way so that the Lord can teach us how building the Kingdom can be accomplished. The saints discovered that only God can achieve this end, so they spent years cooperating with grace, having to let go of that which kept them from following as completely as they could. In other words, they had to work hard to follow Jesus, but they fell so in love with Him that they could have it no other way. That love and desire is what enabled them to follow, even at great cost. Often the cost was in discovering their flaws, limitations, brokenness, stubbornness, and whatever it was that kept them from inner freedom. But with perseverance and a lot of prayer, (and even some blood, sweat, and tears), they were able to let go of all that kept them from freely following the One they loved. Those who grow in holiness do so not for the sake of a project, but for the sake of a Person: they do it because they love Jesus so much that they trust in His word and His promise. They are willing to serve Him because they love Him and know of His love for them.
In order to follow similarly, we have to be willing to let God lead. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But the reality is that most of us want to take the lead and are very uncomfortable with letting go of control. It is like dancing: someone leads and someone follows. If we both try to lead, there are a lot of toes stepped on! Not only that, but God has more wisdom than we do, and so He is truly the only leader we can follow who has our best interests always in His heart. His simply loves us and wants us to be close to Him forever.
If we call ourselves disciples, then, we need know who it is we follow. Do we really know the God the Father or Jesus the Son well enough to know what it is they are leading us to do? The best way to know who we follow is to spend time with God in prayer as well as to look for His presence throughout the day. In getting to know Him, we will come to know His message. Therefore reading the Scriptures and praying over them is important. The Holy Spirit can help us to have insights as we pray over the texts, but it is also important to do some Bible study, take a class, listen carefully to the preaching at services or simply watch someone who is living the message and learn from them. The saints are great role models in learning the way of the Master, Jesus.
We are called to follow, but ultimately we follow because of love. And we follow because we value what Jesus values. Even if we do not understand His ways, we know that He leads us in wisdom and truth, like a good shepherd leading His flock. In taking on His values, we stand against the values of the world, which are about self, greed, power, and possessions. Following Jesus is counter-cultural: we follow the banner of Christ, which leads us to others, sharing, love, and Godliness. But the bottom line is love, His for us, and ours for Him. If we love Him, we will follow.
So often I hear people say they really want to pray, but they simply do not have the time in their busy schedule. It is all a matter of doing what is most important to us. If enjoying God's love, growing in relationship, and becoming a better disciple are important values to us, then we will do it. But if we say that it is important, and we have every good intention to do it, and yet find we rarely ever take the time to pray, perhaps we really are not that committed after all. When we love someone, we always try to spend as much time as we can with them. It is a matter of priority.
We all struggle to find the time for all the things we need to do in our busy, demanding world. Perhaps a place to begin is to set a goal that is attainable in order to spend a little time with the Lord. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes in the morning before we get too busy, will help the day ahead not only go more smoothly, but we may find that we become more of a light to those around us. And perhaps ten minutes of Scripture reading or something spiritual at night may lead us to want to say more to the Lord or ask Him questions, leading us to desire to extend our time of prayer. It is important to ask for the same help which the disciples before us asked: "Lord, teach us to pray." The Holy Spirit will help us know what to say and will also enable us to become more adept at hearing the response of love which the Lord has for us.
If we become better followers, we will then become better Christian leaders in a world sorely in need of leadership. If we live the Gospel we lead by living the message; we lead by our example. Christian leadership means being loving and all that loving involves. It means being Christ for others, putting our own judgments and ego aside. It means humility, service, and charity. As Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, it means doing little things with love. If so, we do become leaders. But it also takes courage to stand against the values that are contrary to the Gospel and it takes courage to love as radically as Jesus loved. Therefore we need to stay connected to the Lord in order to have the graces we need to imitate Him as a follower. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us to follow so we may lead.
May we trust in the promises of the Lord that we may truly be His disciples! May we ask for the grace to be followers of God who leads us to life, and not followers of the ways of the world which lead to emptiness! May we become leaders, building the Kingdom with the building blocks of faith, hope, and love! And may we be instruments of His love and peace, bringing others into the Kingdom by being disciples who lead! Let us continue to meet in the heart of our Lord, Jesus, who is the one we follow! Peace!
The first photo is from Sicily. It was on a road in the Palermo region, on the way to the interior of the island.
The second is a photo of the Christ Pantocrator icon which is in the cupola at the cathedral in Monreale, Sicily.
The last is a photo of a painting of St. Thèrése of Lisieux and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, two modern followers of Jesus.
Heart Speaks to Heart