Living right on the left coast of North America!

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.—2 Thessalonians 2:15

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Holy Weak: our vulnerability; God's strength.

Several big box stores have closed on Vancouver Island. Last month a local manufacturer of small aircraft laid off 116 employees—twenty percent of its workforce. Other businesses—e.g., big box stores—have closed or are currently in the process of reconfiguring. Several strip malls have lost more than a few small businesses.
[The Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.—St. Paul, First Letter to the Corinthians 12:9-10.
Prayer in and with Christ helps us to see possibilities in the midst of problems.

The adversity that often accompanies unemployment gives us the opportunity to move closer to God if we allow our attention to turn from limitation to possibility. Holiness is found in the midst of uncertainty probably more so than in the midst of relative stability and affluence. Stripped of the illusion of control over our lives, we turn outward away from a preoccupation with self and comfort in material "security" to the One alone Who can give us peace in such moments of turbulence and uncertainty.

Unemployment, a real and serious distraction, should not interrupt our daily quest for holiness. In fact, unemployment is the perfect opportunity to pray during our search for employment while considering, perhaps, that God is calling us to something bigger and better. That call to "(p)ut out into the deep and let down ( )our nets for a catch" (St. Luke 5:4) can be tough to hear when the next paycheque is not coming, rent is due, mouths need feeding and the cupboards are bare.
And when (Jesus) had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
How do we relocate our thoughts in the midst of a serious distraction?

We start with prayer! Remember—Jesus Christ is the Divine Logos. If we need creative solutions to difficult circumstances, then we had best start by asking the Incarnate Logos to shine His light upon our minds. Ask Jesus to enlighten your mind with His grace and then be ready for an exciting and perhaps unsettling (but constructive) answer! God always answers prayers... in His way that is best for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Jesus, I trust in You.

The best place to encounter Christ is in His prayer of the Holy Mass. Jesus is found in the community He established, the Church. If you want to meet Christ, go to Mass and encounter Him in the wisdom of Holy Scripture, in the midst of the congregation (Mt 18:20) and in the most sublime reality of the Eucharist (Mk 14:22-25). In the Eucharist, Jesus gives Himself to us.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.—Psalm 103:2
After Mass, when done praying, engage people in conversation (in the vestibule or narthex, of course!). Share your hopes. You never know what connections might emerge during the course of a casual conversation.

We pray for the grace to remain calm, the grace to see things clearly, the grace to communicate well and to convince potential employers that we are motivated to work hard and to support their businesses. We pray for guidance and the strength to put rejection into perspective, and to consider all possibilities. With God's help, reassure yourself by
  • reevaluating your choices and reappraising your attitude(s)
  • reassessing or reapplying skills
  • reinventing or repurposing yourself
  • reinvesting, reeducating, retraining
  • relocating to access opportunity
  • revisiting or reaccessing prior opportunities
Ask God for the grace to take another look at your experience and for the grace to reapply or reassess your knowledge. Perhaps, instead of working for someone else, take the initiative to draw on your experience and start your own business.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28
God is the only One Who can give us authentic peace in the midst of the noise and haste that we often create for ourselves.

When all else fails—friends, family, livelihood, health—what have we got? The only real consolation is to trust that God alone is in control.
Words to the wise; preaching to the choir: booze, drugs, illicit sex, gambling, etc., are little consolation compared to the true hope found in God's grace. Do not give in to the temptation to medicate away your problems by indulging any of the aforementioned "drugs". If you want to further complicate your life, drugs of one kind or another will only enhance the illusion that you are in control. Good luck with that.
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me."—Exodus 20:1-3.

God will not abandon us. If one is accustomed to ignoring God's call to put Him first in one's life, then the idea of putting God first will seem like nothing more than a mere platitude. However, if you are accustomed to living a God-first life and you encounter hardship you will more likely than not embrace trial as an opportunity to see more deeply into the reality of life and to act with greater authenticity, i.e., courage, adaptability or resilience, and fortitude. The Christ-centred person is more disposed to taking risks because he or she is not afraid of death, of dying to self, of dying to a comfort zone that might inhibit one from seizing opportunities.
We are comfortable with what we know. "Comfortable" is not always a good thing. Suffocating jobs and unhealthy relationships can become quite comfortable. Who wants any additional chaos in his or her life? So, we tolerate the crush of familiarity while withering inside and allowing ourselves to be poisoned by an unhealthy workplace when we know we can do better. We tolerate our own lethargy or complacency while poisoning our relationships. We get used to chaos instead of taking responsibility and making a change out of love for friends, a spouse, one's children or one's colleagues. 
When you think about it, life is rarely not chaotic. Sure, there is the chaos of success: a loving family with kids who need to be dropped off at soccer or ballet or swim lessons or any number of otherwise enjoyable activities. Love of family can be wonderfully chaotic. One's employment, however, can monopolize one's energy, keeping one frenetically busy and testing one's ability to give time to family or rest. The balance between work and family, work and play, work and rest is an ongoing struggle. And then there is the chaos of the unexpected, e.g., unemployment, medical problems, etc. How does one prepare for the unexpected and how does one sustain one's energy in the day-to-day dance between work and rest? Prayer.
Bring it all to God!

God does not bring misery into our lives. We humans do that fine on our own. Sometimes bad things are imposed upon us by other human beings, people with a problem and who attempt to transfer their problems to us. We would do well to remember to be prudent in our choice of friends and associates. Our material and emotional hardships expand only when we fail to put things into perspective, or when we get lazy and allow ourselves to be distracted by useless preoccupations that inhibit creativity and solution oriented thinking.
When we are weak, God begins to shape us in ways we often cannot see as anything useful at the time when we are most vulnerable. We tend to need time for our awareness to catch up with reality, God's reality. That awareness is aided most fruitfully when we call on God to illuminate our minds and communicate to us the truth of our condition. God may do just that through a variety of avenues: a word from a stranger or a friend; a word from Holy Scripture; a word or phrase in a homily; a seemingly casual encounter that resonates with us and hints at something more than mere coincidence; a moment of peace when we admit to ourselves we are powerless and ask God for help.
Worry: obstacle to peace or incentive to change?

Worry can be useless, and most often it is precisely that. Unless you enjoy feeling sorry for yourself, make a change. If you are healthy, get a move on! Adapt. If a chronic health problem prevents you from leaping to your feet to find work or enact change in your life, then reach out to strangers, draw others to you who will hear your plea and offer possible solutions and support. There is strength found in the flux of community, in the voices of people who may not have all the answers but manage to help you realize that you are not alone in your situation, and that your situation is not unique. In other words, others who share or have shared similar experiences can help you understand how to disentangle yourself from the web of confusion, etc.

Reassurance

The kind of strength most people need when vulnerable is not primarily material support. In times of crisis, people need to be reminded that they have the skill and courage to pick themselves up and, perhaps with a little interim financial and moral support, begin the task of finding work and making a living and to continue making a life.
Confidence comes with knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge. A student who is encouraged by a teacher to refine his or her knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge can attain academic freedom and avoid being restrained by a lack of opportunity due to a lack of intellectual fortitude and commitment to learning. For those reasons, i.e., authentic freedom and well being, education is important to the health of the individual, the family and society. The best mentor's are the people who help us be honest with ourselves about our weaknesses and our strengths. They give us permission to be ourselves and to make the necessary changes which help us become responsible adults who are capable of enabling others to do the same.
No one is without skills that can be developed to provide a living and a means of support for themselves and others. What is often missing is the creativity to find solutions amidst the skills one possesses and the wherewithal to apply oneself. When it comes to creativity, none is more reliable than God the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide. If they truly believed in grace and were willing to ask more of God, more people might be surprised to learn that God is all ears and ready to lavish upon them His help, His inspiration and His strength.

Jesus understands.

Jesus Christ, God the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, died on a cross. He conquered death and rose again. We can trust in that reality to fuel our own recovery from death and darkness—the death of a job, a relationship, a family member.
When we are most vulnerable, God is waiting to enter into that wound made possible by crisis or loss or what have you. Do not give in to the temptation to blame God for something as mundane as the ever shifting landscape of a local economy. Furthermore, the temptation to think one is in control will be thwarted by one manmade crisis or another which helps one realize that only God is truly in control. The sooner we turn our lives over to Him the sooner we shall discover that He will draw us out of our comfort zone into a life giving encounter with Him in every circumstance we face. Knowing God is hidden there in every situation means we can reach out to Him in prayer for grace and strength. When we accept grace we can take risks by being the person God made us to be instead of allowing ourselves to be defined by mundane pursuits which, if we attribute to such pursuits the place of God in our lives, only make us fearful and reluctant to change.
In good times... .

Generally speaking, people in the West enjoy an abundance of free-time that most others in the world can't even begin to imagine. We westerners attempt to fill every free moment with a yoga class or visit to a pub or go shopping or some other leisure activity, anything but prayer, the one activity that disposes us to God Who offers grace to sustain our souls. One need not be tried by adversity to appreciate the need for God's grace.

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We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.