Only Grace

This upcoming Sunday’s gospel, John 14:1-2, Jesus is again reminding his audience (the disciples) that he and The Father are ONE.  John’s gospel so convincingly explains to us how Jesus and God, the Father, are one in the same, connected and inseparable.  Some of the disciples characteristically struggle with the understanding of Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, and even go as far as to ask Jesus just to show them the Father, and “that will be enough”.  We gotta love the disciples.  They represent the very human nature that we all have, questioning, confused and insecure.  It is easy for us to read about their reactions to the mysteries Jesus carefully reveals to them and smile a little at their responses.  I think we all know that every one of us is just as vulnerable and confused at times about our faith and the deep understanding that often evades us, yet for which we long so desperately.

Let’s take a moment to read this passage and reflect for ourselves. I invite you to see if any of the points which the Holy Spirit brought to light for us today at our prayer group come to you as well.

Last Supper Discourses. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

  • Do not let your hearts be troubled“; As we came into the meeting today one of us was relating a concern over a family problem, and joked that the answer to that problem would probably be written clearly in the gospel reading, because the Holy Spirit always provides for us in that way.  When we began to read this passage out loud, a few of us were nodding knowingly at these words.  Why do we constantly let fears take over our minds when our hearts know exactly what to do with them? God has us in the palm of His hand.  We couldn’t be in better care, yet we constantly have anxiety over our situations.
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life“; The only way through difficulties is with Jesus  Christ. We know this:  He is the answer.  We must know him personally for him to help us live our life in his truth and way.
  • “…the Father is in me, and I am in Him”; Jesus is always trying to explain his relationship with God, Our Father, to his followers.  John’s gospel is the most detailed in his iteration of this mystery.  Jesus simply reminds them that if they know him, they know the Father as well.  Fear and insecurity take over, especially for Philip and Thomas; they want proof.  Often in our wordly educated minds, we need to rationalize everything and come to understand things only through our own thoughts, but God’s way is so much higher and sophisticated.  He doesn’t need flawed human understanding to justify His greatness.  He is the creator of these creatures and He knows what’s best for them, but like children, we often need continuous encouragement.
  • “Whoever believes in me will do works greater than these”; It’s beyond imagination to think that we could do works greater than those Jesus himself performed: raising the dead, healing the sick from disease or demons, conversion of hearts in an instant…but these things have gone on through the centuries when performed by those with great faith, all in his holy name, and he set the example.  If only he could command our every step so that we wouldn’t keep messing up our own lives! How do we know what to do to be like him? First of all, we stay close to him in prayer.  Matthew Kelly (http://dynamiccatholic.com/) states in one of his books that the path to being holy consists of just doing the next best thing.  Just make the next decision be the right one (ask the Holy Spirit for help and move forward with discernment and prudence), one situation at a time.  This is a more manageable view of being a co-worker of Jesus Christ’s good deeds.  We should be patient with ourselves in this process as even the apostles who spent all kinds of time with Jesus were confused by these great mysteries of faith.
  • Overall, we feel that we must remain connected to Jesus throughout the day.  Saying an act of faith “Jesus, I trust in you”, or love, “I love you Jesus”, or hope, “Increase my faith Jesus, you are my hope” at any given time and often.  We should remember that the only way to receive continual encouragement in our faith, and a way out of being dragged off course by the enemy, is to remain in constant vigil in our hearts in prayer.

The Holy Spirit led us to vote on a case that was closely related in theme and practice to the gospel lights we reviewed, as he ALWAYS seems to do every meeting.

Atheist Converted In An Instant By An Act of Forgiveness

Two women were friends; one who had been a Catholic Christian all her life, and the other, an avid Atheist.  All of the years of their friendship, the two women had moments of tension when discussing faith, and the atheist friend became especially angry and heated during discussions, and would come against her Catholic friend for her beliefs, but her Christianity lead her to be patient and loving, and say little in response.

At one point, the atheist friend made a mistake.  A great. big. mistake.  It wasn’t said what the mistake was out of charity for her, but apparently it was a life-wrecking, friendship-smashing mistake made directly against the Catholic friend.  She felt heartache over her mistake and went to the friend whom she had so violently sinned against.  The friend gladly accepted her apology yet stopped her from going on about it.  “It is forgiven. It’s in the past.  No need to think about it anymore. It’s gone.” Total forgiveness.  The atheistic friend was so blown away by this act of forgiveness, she instantly decided that she must convert into a believer in Christ and joined an education program to become Catholic that year.  She had related that after this gross wrong had been committed against her friend, she was so moved by the reaction of forgiveness she admitted to herself; “That is how I want to live my life.”

  • The virtue we focused on was Humility, which it was noted seems to be running theme this year for us all (“The Year of Humility”?) Given with a great sense of love and justice on behalf of both friends.  The forgiven and the forgiving.
  • We noted that many parallel cases exist, especially in the gospels; the “Woman at the Well”, Saul/Paul, and most of the apostles’ stories of conversion.  There were so many instances in our lives over the years of people we knew who hated the Christian faith, or didn’t know God, claiming to be an Atheist, and were challenged by the way someone was able to live their faith in love and mercy, and eventually converted to become a Christian.  We also discussed in the cases we knew in particular that most of the atheists that had a stirring in their spirit (or a call by God to conversion before they understood it) went through a very angry phase at Christians in general before overcoming this spiritual battle in their hearts.
  • The outcome of our case included lights to live this virtue in our lives through the week:
    • Apostolic action: When a moment comes where we are faced with adversity or a challenging conversation or criticism, we will take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit for help and the right words, and say as little as possible out of love (not in a “cold shoulder” or manipulative way) and patiently continue to show love despite the conflict.
    • Spiritual resolution: Go to the chapel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or go make a Eucharistic visit to the tabernacle/church and sit with Jesus for an extra hour this week.
  • The GRACE we receive from the Eucharist (Body of Christ) is the source of all humility.  We cannot conjure forgiveness, mercy or peace in our own hearts.  We are, as stated before, the creature.  The Creator is the only One who can give us the grace to do what He wills us to do.  We are unable to humanly overcome our insecurities and adversities.  We can’t play God in our own lives, as we can see from the gospel reading and in the case of the Atheist; it doesn’t work.  We continue to need God, seek God (albeit sometimes in the wrong things or people) and desire to know Him; but we must make the time to quiet ourselves before Him and let Him do “greater works than these” through our souls so that we may show mercy and love and bring others to know Him.

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