ENEMIES

You Can Have It All

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Act of Hope
from the Augustinian Manual

Since You have promised to come and dwell within me, O my Redeemer, what may I not expect from Your bounty? I therefore present myself before You with that lively confidence which Your infinite goodness inspires. You not only know all my wants, but You are also willing and able to relieve them. You have not only invited me, but also promised me Your gracious assistance: “Come to me, all you that labour and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.” Behold, then, O Lord, I accept Your gracious invitation: I lay before You all my wants, my misery, and my blindness, and confidently hope, without the fear of being disappointed, that You will enlighten my understanding, inflame my will, comfort me in the midst of the crosses or afflictions  that You have willed that I should suffer, strengthen me in all temptations and trials, and with the powerful assistance of Your grace, change me into a new creature; for are You not, O God, the master of my heart?

And when shall my heart be more absolutely possessed by You than when You have entered into it?

 

          The week ended with a wounding and a struggle to forgive. When I sought my Jesus, He told me to pray for His blessings upon the two people who hurt me. It was a struggle for me to pray for them, much less intercede that they be blessed. And honestly, I didn’t want them blessed; I wanted the space of two continents put between me and them.

          But there was something about the words of Jesus when He directed them to my churning heart. His words imprisoned me, held me in a vice.

          And so began a new struggle – to pray for God’s blessings upon those who can only live if they hurt me. I wish I could say I fought my heart valiantly in order to fulfill the Divine Will; I did no such thing. I prayed alright, as often as I remembered, but I prayed for God’s blessings upon my enemies with all the sullenness of a spoilt child denied her wish.

          I prayed with a heart calloused by blows. And God saw my struggle. He knew I needed help to soften my heart. He offered that help through a worship song by Brian Johnson, Have It All.

 

          I played the song over and over and over, threading each line like a vine through my sadness and pain. Slowly, I could feel my heart softening. I could feel the hardness give way, the gates and walls crumble. I began to feel as if my heart had found its resting place, the wounds it hid within it bathed in a tender, gentle Love that Saw, that Knew.

That Mourned with me.

          It was then I realized I was loved.

          In a gentle awakening, I suddenly knew that my struggles were not hidden from Him, that He had not turned His face away from my ugliness.

I saw that I was not alone.

          I felt my God was holding me, holding me close, His arms around me, His hands over each one of my wounds.

          From that Love flowed a strength that flooded my will, levelling mountains and hills in its path. Lifted to the quiet skies sweetened by the breath of God in the green~gold breezes, I finally escaped the fetters that sought to imprison me to the will of the earth.

          I turned back towards the prayer He had asked of me,

Ask Me to Bless them.

           Freed by the miracle of surrender, I prayed unrestrained,

Jesus, give them Your Blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bless Them, Lord

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It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them Your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord give us the grace to love them.   ~   Pope Francis

          Sometimes, I can’t help but think that the biggest slaughterhouse around must be in my own heart. Too often that is where those who hurt me unknowingly end up. No, I don’t imagine killing people. But I am pretty creative about the path I wish them on when they have hurt me so deeply that forgiveness seems an impossibility.

          I have a lot in common with them Mafia.

          But today, as I struggle with those who have hurt me, God tells me to do the impossible:

Ask Me to Bless them

Love them

          It is asking me to scale the mountain when I can’t even manage the hill. So, so often He tells me to love my enemies. The frequency of this exhortation just goes to show what my biggest struggle is. I wish He would tell me something else for a change. That He would take my wound-ers away. Or that He would ask them to wear my crown for a day, carry my crosses, live my journey.

          But He does none of it.

          I eye the two pearls He has placed before me today. Ask Me to Bless them. Love them. As if the asking for the blessing wasn’t hard enough, my God wants me to love my enemies. Although I know God’s call to love is very different from my idea of a saintly, sincerely smiling face willingly inclined towards every spit and slap, I can’t help but feel despair that not only have I to pray for them, I have to cheerily love them as well.

          Is it reversed, I wonder suddenly. As if in answer, an old memory rises like incense before me. Of two consecutive dreams one December night in my prison. The first dream of joy, then of sorrow. Then, eight months later, on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sweet, feminine voice in the dark of dawn,

The dreams will be reversed in reality. Sorrow before Joy.

          I look again at the two calls set before me now. Ask Me to Bless them. Love them. I suddenly see that it is indeed reversed.

Love them

Ask Me to Bless them

I am being asked to love those who hurt me by asking Jesus to Bless them.

          I take a deep breath. The revelation makes things a little easier. I don’t have to be all chummy-friendly or walk around with a cherubic smile not mine.

          And so I begin. Slowly, with a firmness of intent absent before, I take Pope Francis’ counsel. Every time the faces come before me, every time their hurt rises in my mind, I pray,

Jesus, Bless them.

          It’s less of a struggle.

          But it does not come as easy either.

 

 

 

 

LENT 13 ~ Be Patient In Humiliations

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          Yesterday was the day for me to burn in someone’s fire. I was asked to bow before someone and to submit to a will not mine and certainly not the Lord’s. Having lived most of my life in that exact same position, and only recently finding the courage not to, I wasn’t about to make another huge knot  that Mother Mary would have to undo all over again.

          So, I silently refused to step into the circle of human homage. And that unleashed the flames on me.

          I suffered in the tirade of thwarted intentions. Over and over, the flames leapt for me. I sat in the heart of it, unable to escape the line of fire. Any prayer thought was snatched away by the relentless flames.

          But by the waning rays of sunset, another, more unfortunate, fire had started in my beleaguered heart. I began to be consumed by fury at the injustice meted out to me. I made some weak stabs at prayer, but a more concerted effort went into planning fire darts to avenge this wrong to me.

          By nightfall, however, I had begun to weary. The anger raged as strong as ever, but this time, my soul fought back, refusing to bend in submission to this sin on my part. It raised a different tempest within me – the tempest of awareness. That tempest took away peace to teach me the consequences of my sin.

          I found that I could bear the searing pain of someone’s fire, but not the loss of peace in my soul. 

          So, I turned my heart determinedly to prayer. One after another, I called at all the harbours I knew, every prayer and bible verse, begging for respite from the storm. I know that no prayer is ever wasted, but I didn’t feel the soothing balm of comfort I sought. Restless and anxious, I learned anew then, the lesson learned over and over by wilful souls – everything in His time, not  ours.

          I ploughed on, nevertheless.

          It was then that I recalled my father, Padre Pio. I thought of his anger, how different it had been from mine. But he had known anger, understood the familiarity of struggling against it. He would know what help I needed to extinguish its wounding flames.

St Pio, help me, St Pio help me, St Pio help me.

          By the closing of the night’s Rosary, the winds died down. But in unfortunate possession of a nature that can seethe on demand, I remained suspicious of the calm.

          Awakening in the morning, these words came, brought on the dew wet breath of dawn ~

Be  patient  in  humiliations.

          Not trials. Not challenges. Not difficulties. But – humiliations. That alone pointed to the heavenly origins of the counsel, because the seed of the firestorm of which I was a victim was the very humiliating  public scourging I was receiving for daring to break ranks, and to stand apart and alone for my faith and principles.

Be  patient  in  humiliations.  Love from the heart of heaven for the storm in mine.

          I pick up my cross again, but this time, with a gentled spirit and a renewed strength.

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BOWLS OF PRAYER

But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you  ~  Matthew 5:44

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          For me this week, that was too much for the Lord to ask of me for it has been a week of struggle, tiredness, dryness of spirit. The scent of jasmines, white and wild, did not touch my spirit, nor did the gold of sun rays through green boughs. The hurt of accusations and unjust, selfish demands placed on all the members of my work organization weighed far more than anything else. I hurt for myself, and I hurt for others. With every word my superiors pronounced upon us, I saw shoulders stoop more. I saw anger in tightening features. I saw the light dim in many eyes. No chance to pause and draw breath, to cry a little and heal. Others waiting for us. Others leaning on us. The journey set before us still be to traversed.

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          And yet, I wished there was some place I could retreat to. Not for long, not forever. Just a wee while. Somewhere hidden in the tangles of wild. Away from explanations. Away from demands. Just to rest and find myself. Some place where roses bloomed differently; where music was the wind in the grasses, the buzz of brown bees.

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          But there was none. No such place. No time. The clock ticked on.

The anger and hurt bore down stronger. Frustration welled and swelled. Within me. Within others. Like a bitter flame, in a short while, it seared and burned up what little pools of charity and compassion I had in me for those who persecuted us.

And then, in the midst of that burn, a memory came :

…..golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.    ~ Revelations 5:8

          Pray …..Not anger…. not in revenge…. Pray them to Me

          But I didn’t have an ounce of charity left in me to pray for my enemies. I chaffed against the Lord’s call. I didn’t want to lift my enemies to heaven. I wanted them anywhere BUT in heaven!

          A whisper touched my soul….Place them in bowls… and lift them to heaven.

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          And so I have. Laid out the bowls in my mind’s eye. Four in a row. Earthen bowls, for I am no saint, and my prayer no incense. Everyone who has hurt me and others, I placed in bowls. One for each. Floated them on prayer, towards Heaven.