Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines"

In the past and especially recently, we have had at least one blogger who has had great difficulty coming back to the Church after years of being away. He (or she) is trying to follow Christ but does not seem to experience His presence anywhere. He hasn’t experienced God’s grace, it seems, and has been questioning for a long time if God will ever reveal Himself in his life. It might have been him who asked the other day, “does God punish people for their sins by keeping them from receiving grace for a period of time or for their whole earthly life?”

I have been thinking and praying a lot about this blogger’s situation (for a long time, actually), and hope that he finds Christ’s peace. The past two days, especially, while reading the letter to the Hebrews in the Office of Readings, this struggling Anon has come to mind.

Anon, hope this helps:

Hebrews 10:
“Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.”
----------------------

Hebrews 12:
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons: ‘My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.’

Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards. Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not (then) submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.

So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

16 Comments:

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm having such a hard time with the "experiencing God's grace". I don't have this big load of painful sins to dump, no one has aggretiously harmed me who I need to forgive, I haven't explored other faiths to find some meaning elsewhere- I've just always wanted to be Catholic and understand/experience all that means. I've wanted to experience the things the faithful here in this site have described- but I don't.

I once read that a Christian life cannot be lived in isolation, but what if practicing this faith brings you a greater sense of isolation? The more I "don't get it" the more I feel separate. Sometimes I go to Mass and I feel alone. It scares me- if I'm alone there, I guess I'm alone everywhere. Sometime I'll walk into a Mass and feel like I'm imposing myself of others' private experiences. I haven't let that feeling stop me- in fact, I go back to Mass and pray for it to go away.

No one would have any idea I was feeling this way, and I can't seem to bring myself to talk about it with anyone. I do understand the feeling punished thought. I think I do what I think I'm called to do, but I still feel lost. There have actually been times I've thought- if God feels I'm unworthy of His grace....I've done all I know, so- oh well!

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

Anon;

I wish I could just reach out and take that feeling of isolation away from you. It is burdonsome and hurts... an ache like no other in your heart. All I can do is tell you that you are not imposing yourself on anyone when you come to Mass, you arn't there to worship anyone else but God and HE will never leave you alone. Trust me, he will NEVER leave you alone sometimes how we hear him and feel him is out of tune and all we sense is "static". We have to keep adjusting to be able to 'hear' him.

I can only pray that you don't listen to the little voice that tells you you are imposing or that you are unworthy or don't recieve God's Grace, you do we all do because he loves us.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Thanks Fr G for your compassion, and thanks anon for expressing how it is for you.
Anon, I know what you mean about that 'isolation' when you go to Mass. There are so many words in Mass, and I just feel confronted with all the things I find I don't believe. I hate the sign of peace, as it seems like such a lie for me to take part. For now, I am basically not going to Mass again.
But I can't quite forget about it all, much as I would like to. There are just a few inklings I would be wrong to throw it all away.
At the same time, I don't know what to do about all my questions and doubts, and I am sort of at a 'standstill' with respect to faith.

 
At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Anonymous,

It is interesting that FG quotes scriptures about discipline. I have recently experienced much discipline. God revealed things (in my life) that are not His will but mine. He also showed me the results of living in my will. Oh talk about the pain of discipline!

Although, maybe your situation is not entirely about discipline. Just a thought, how much quiet time/silence do you allow for Jesus each and every day? Sometimes we forget to quiet our environment, our minds, our souls so that we can "feel," His presence. Also, do you listen to Christian music and meditate on God? Do you pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance?

Do you make decisions first and then consult God? Do you have at least a few close relatives or friends who are trying to live the faith? Some people need a ton of fellowship and others seem to need a few confidantes.

Do you attend adoration regularly? Have you tried to let go of your expectations of experiencing God's grace?

Are you living in a state of mortal sin? Or regularly engaging in mortal sin? I have some friends who live with their significant others and they struggle much spiritually. Not trying to be judgemental, but mortal sin can definately be a problem.

Are you grateful to God? Do you adore, love, and praise Him? Do you read the scriptures often? How is your prayer life? Service - do you serve others often and much? Do you ever fast?

I do not know or will even attempt to guess your answers to any of these questions. They are simply the questions and actions which have helped/prompted me to grow closer to Jesus and experience His grace.

God bless you.

 
At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Zophiel said...

Anonymous,

One of the most wondrous of the seeming paradoxes of faith is that very often, the desire for a thing is the evidence of it's presence.

To wit: Your desire to experience God's grace, your unflagging efforts to find this experience, your writing here and to Fr. Greg. . . these are all evidence that God's Grace is very much at work in your life already. Only Grace inspires desire for Grace. The cravings don't occur until after the initial dose ~_^.

I know this is very hard to believe. You feel so very alone right now, so abandoned, and you wonder why you haven't been gifted with something so bright and luminous to share with others as some of the other commentors here. You wonder, what's so wrong with me? Why is everything dull and grey?

Would you believe me if I told you that these pleas of yours are something bright and luminous? That your honesty and openess with your struggle are a gift to the rest of us? They are a reminders to us-- that the miraculous is in the day to day, that even the greatest of mystics and saints experienced the dry desert times.

You are not alone, even when you stand upon the lip of the abyss and stare down into it. Even when the shadows creep and surround you and try to convince you that there was never a sun to begin with. Even when you can't see Him, or hear Him, or feel Him, He is there, holding you and telling you to keep going. There will be a day, when like the man in the story, you look back at the footsteps in the sand, and learn that when you thought you were most alone was when He was carrying you.

Yes, it's a bit cliche, but for a reason--because so many people recognise that story as their own. As I think you will too, one day.

In the meantime, I'll keep you in my prayers. I feel a kinship with all who wish that our Lord would be a little more obvious, and a little less subtle. It's one of my more frequent prayers, so I'll just add you in. . .

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger fran said...

Another perspective.....
While the word discipline is synonomous with the word "punish" it is also synonomous with the word "teach."

If we look at our earthly trials and sufferings as Jesus lovingly teaching us, rather than punishing us, perhaps that takes away some of the negativity associated with punishment and re-directs it toward the positive of teaching.

Just as a loving parent can punish his/her child for NOT being obedient or respectful, he can also teach his/her child to BE more obedient or respectful. So, we can look at our loving Father as punishing us for our shortcomings, or we can look at it as his teaching us to be the person he desires us to be.

 
At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do some people go to confession alot while others hardly go or don't go at all? I mean we hear Kat say that she goes often but I know friends who don't go at all.

 
At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

If you haven't read the book of Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible, I hope you will consider doing so sometime soon. These are the heart's outpourings of a man whom God called "a man after My own heart"

This man whom God called "after His own heart" was the great King David. He lived about 4,000 years ago, and he was also an ancestor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and therefore of Jesus, also.

Close to God as he was, and a king, David experienced many times when he felt lost, alone, utterly abandoned by God. These feelings he set down so beautifully in words in for future generations to read and pray over:

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily,’Where is your God?’
Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.
I say to God, ‘My rock, why do you forget me? Why must I go about mourning with the enemy oppressing me?’
It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me. They say to me daily: "Where is your God?"
Why are you downcast, my soul, why do you groan within me? Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.”
- Psalm 42:2-4;10-11

And again:
I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes have failed, looking for my God.
- Psalm 69:4

And again:
“On the day of my distress I seek the Lord; by night my hands are raised unceasingly; I refuse to be consoled.
When I think of God, I groan; as I ponder, my spirit grows faint.
My eyes cannot close in sleep; I am troubled and cannot speak.
I consider the days of old; the years long past
I remember. In the night I meditate in my heart; I ponder and my spirit broods:
‘Will the Lord reject us forever, never again show favor?
Has God's love ceased forever?”
- Psalm 77 3-9

As we move into the New Testament, we have Jesus on the cross crying out:
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" - Matt 27:46

But God sustains those who seek him. To return to the Old Testament, in the prophets, we read:
“Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not;
See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. . . For I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink."
- Isaiah 43: 18-20

and:

GOD, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights - Habbakuk 3:19

May these poignant words of men who lived thousands of years ago, and who, like all of us, had to seek God in the midst of suffering and discouragement, enrich the precious hours ahead as you prepare for the Lord's Resurrection.

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

Anon;

I can't answer you on why other people hardly go or don't go to confession at all, I can only answer why I go to confession frequently.

I go to confession alot because I sin alot and I pray everyday that I am not blind to my sins that Christ will show them to me. I do an Examination of my conscious every evening either after work during my commute or before bed. And I try and go to confession as soon as I can if I cross the line into mortal sin. I found that the longer I let things linger with me rather then going to the sacrament and giving them over to Christ the worse things get in that area. But if I go to confession that wound is healed. And when we see that we are really really wounded by sin we need alot of healing. So too, I have seen where my life can go withiout regular reception of the sacraments of confession and Eucharist and I really don't want to ever be there again.

 
At 5:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Have you tried to let go of your expectations of experiencing God's grace?"

Maybe my problem is that I just do not know what "grace" is.

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I left the post above and then tried to go back to sleep for a little longer- no luck. I think I've come to a main block for me. I don't have a clear understanding of what God's grace is. I think I was thinking it was like a gift of something I want in my life, but maybe, instead it's a gift of what I need. Maybe what I need isn't even what I want. Maybe all these struggles I'm going through right now aren't actually punishments. Instead, what if they were gifts, and when I come out the other side of this mess, I'll be "better" in some way rather than worse off (which has been my current perception). Maybe I'm needing to feel alone and isolated to help me to turn to Christ. Maybe the desperation I've been feeling is a kind gift to draw me closer to Him. If any of that's true- it changes some things for me. So many questions, and now I'm wide awake.

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon,
I can say that in my life, what you describe has been true. God's grace doesn't seem to appear like a wonderful, boisterous party. Rather, it comes when I'm being introspective. It comes when I realize I must appreciate the struggle to understand the goodness that surrounds me. I'm not sure you could sincerely understand grace until you've experienced despair, isolation and loneliness. A song I love says, "I never saw the sun rise until I stayed up all night."

 
At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daily Meditation (Henri Nouwen)
Daring to Become Dependent

When someone gives us a watch but we never wear it, the watch is not really received. When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received. When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received.

Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say: "Without you I wouldn't be who I am." Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers.

 
At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first set of comments that I have printed to keep and re-read. I won't reiterate what you have all said except to say that I am also one who does not feel God's presence or His grace. I was struck by the Anon who said he/she is sometimes scared in Mass or other services. I am too and have sometimes had to leave due to crying or anxiety. (I am generally not a cryer). But something else I experience is being overwhelmed when meditating on Christ and what He did for humanity. It's too enormous and if I embrace it, it would change reality. It would be an upheaval of how I see everything and everyone. Can I do that?

 
At 9:54 AM, Blogger fran said...

Dear "Sleepless" Anon (7:04a.m. post)

It is wonderful to read your thoughts regarding what you want vs. what you might need, being better off when you come through your current trials, etc.!

I would say that you have had an epiphany and that what you are experiencing, more fully now, is Christ's grace!

As I was driving home from Mass this morning, a song was playing on this Christian station I listen to (WGTS 91.9 FM) and you came to mind. The recurring line is " I must walk through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God." You are traveling the valley, but I have every hope that you will soon be upon that mountain which is God.

 
At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Saturday a day of obligation? If so, is it for the Easter Vigil? What does that entail in terms of time? Also- I saw in the bulletin that the church is open until midnight for Adoration- will there also be a Benediction? I'm going to need to set up sitter help and would really like to get some info.

 

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