Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"How do you hear God?"

The following are questions from anonymous bloggers:

1) “How do you hear God? …I have heard others say that they hear God through prayer- but h-o-w does that happen?”

The fourth part of the summer Adoration series is this Friday night. My reflection will be focused on “How Do I Pray?” During the reflection, I will address your question, Anon. The answer has to do with putting ourselves in God’s presence (meditation) in order for Him to speak to us (contemplation). Because we are all different and have different personalities, contemplation occurs differently for each of us. In other words, we all don’t hear God speaking in the same way.

The general principles of how to hear God speak to us (mediation and contemplation) are captured beautifully by Fr. Thomas Dubay in his book, “Fire Within”. Of course, pray-ers should consult a spiritual director to know how to apply the principles specifically in their prayer lives as well as how to interpret what happens in their prayer.

2) “Except for the inability to forgive, aren’t anger and resentment a normal emotion, felt by some more than others? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there such a thing as justified anger? Didn’t both God and Jesus exhibit anger at the behavior of many people? Wasn’t their anger justified considering the acts people were participating in? Had they choose not to express their anger, what would have happened?”

This comment is a response to a homily I gave where I made the link between a lack of forgiveness and anger. There are those, I claimed, who “don’t forgive others or themselves as often, and so their burdens are heavier. Their resentments grow, and anxiety and anger increase in their lives.” Anon, your qualification, ‘Except for the inability to forgive’ is exactly the situation I am describing! The inability to forgive brings the negative emotions of anger and resentment.

Emotions can be good or bad. We all have passions; they are the “natural components of the human psyche” (CCC, #1764). How we direct our passions will determine whether they are good or evil. Anger, for example, is an “emotion which is not in itself wrong” (CCC, glossary). Anger which is directed toward evil or acts of injustice is righteous or justified anger. Christ himself was filled with righteous anger at least once in the Gospel.

But, when it “is not controlled by reason or hardens into resentment and hate, (anger) becomes one of the seven capital sins. Christ taught that anger is an offense against the fifth commandment” (CCC). “Everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment” (Mt 5:22). The anger which leads to hate others is the type of anger to which I was referring in my homily. When we don’t forgive others, we become more and more angry with them.

3) “What about the gospel passage that says he who is without sin, cast the first stone? None of us are without sin, so how can we admonish another whether in love or not.”

As other bloggers have pointed out, the Gospel passage to which you are referring is not about the admonishment of sinners. I personally think that it has to do with capital punishment; it reveals Jesus’ opposition to it, in my opinion.


At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding anger, hate and forgiveness- Before can genuinely forgive, I need to know why I’m defensive, bitter and resentful. Without self awareness, I’m unable to forgive or I give false forgiveness. I see that’s why I’ve had such a hard time forgiving some. I haven’t been willing to really look at what's w/ME when I’m hurt and cannot forgive. When I falsely forgive w/o doing that examination, I’m not letting go, and therefore, I’m not really forgiving. I think harboring fear about what may come is the primary way that has shown up- I just haven’t recognized that fear as a lack of forgiveness.

Without looking at myself, I can’t recognize what I’m defending. Most often what I defend is my comfort and pride. Anger is my mode and hatred is my method in that defense. Hatred has helped me defend myself against painful memories, vulnerability to others and my own flaws. It’s helped me hide, even from myself, my inadequacies and shame. That hatred spawns fear, and fear immobilizes me, keeping me from having all I could have. So, I see that this lack of forgiveness I have in my life is self defeating. The very reasons that I withhold forgiveness, this perceived preservation of self, is the very thing that destroys it.

It’s clear to me that, w/o temperance and reason, matters of anger and resentment, even for what is justified do harden into hate. It is so true, for me, that when I don’t forgive another, I become angrier and angrier (good point, Fr.). After a while, it becomes really tiresome.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg, thanks for you suggestion on the book. I looked at "Fire Within" in a bookstore but was intimidated because it seems to be an instruction on how to be a mystic. I, and maybe other bloggers, are looking for instruction on how to develop a prayer life in the midst of a busy and often harried life in the secular world. Does anyone have a suggestion?

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question. Consider two young people who were raised Catholic and marry but decide they have become agnostic. They have a child and decide not to have the child baptized. If a grandparent privately performs a baptism, fully intending to be responsible for the Catholic education of the child, maybe even together with the three other grandparents, is the baptism valid? Has the grandparent committed a sin by doing this without the consent of the parents?

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the edit of the section you posted. Sometimes, reading into all of this seems to require more than a few new vocabulary words but knowledge of an entirely different language!

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pope John Paul II indicates that people sometimes say they don't know how to pray. "How to pray? This is a simple matter. I would say: Pray any way you like, so long as you do pray." You can pray the way your mother taught you; you can use a prayer book. Sometimes it takes courage to pray; but it is possible to pray, and necessary to pray. Whether from memory or a book or just in thought, it is all the same. See, John Paul II, The Way of Prayer, Crossroad Publishing Co. (1995).

There are an abundance of books and websites on prayer. I don't know about others, but I don't think my reading multiple books or websites would increase my ability to define prayer. Prayer seems to be one of those elusive concepts, filled with the concept of infinity, a concept that I believe is difficult for us to understand.


Post a Comment

<< Home