There are numerous books and documents on spiritual life, and the authors of these are long on the journey with God. However, a consolidation of the elements of a spiritual life and how they can affect one's life are both interesting and helpful as they have been to me. These INSIGHTS are most useful in beginning as well as enhancing one's own spiritual formation. Over 100 separate views which are threaded among seven chapters speak to a practical approach to carrying out the Lord's will in the spiritual life.
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Insights To Spirituality
By Gerald W. Miller
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Gerald W. Miller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGod Is Everything
"You, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, governing all with mercy. To know you well is complete justice, and to know your might is the root of immortality." (Wisdom 15:1,3)
To describe God is both difficult and infinite in its breadth, as there is no limit to God nor can one tell all of who God is. We know him through his gifts to us: FAITH in his always being there for us; HOPE in his promise that we will one day be with him in Eternal Life; LOVE that he so generously gives unconditionally to us and has mercy on those who return his love. We live through the generosity of Jesus dying for our sins, freeing us to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father and filled with happiness in his love. God is always calling us to love, and our response must be letting God be God in us.
Life As Gift
We are all familiar with the expression, "Seeing is believing." We take in a lot of information through our ability to see. However, there are two ways in which we do not see. The first way is through blindness or actual loss of visual sight. As a result, we cannot see what is around us, nor can we acquire the total beauty of our world. There is a second kind of blindness that people who are not sight impaired possess. This inability to see is often created by our lack of attention or belief in the world around us. For example, one person may recognize the beauty and goodness of a newborn baby, whereas another may simply acknowledge the fact that the baby exists. Some people see the miracle of the seasons of the year, shown by the wonderful changes in the trees and plantings that surround us, whereas others are too busy to admire the changes around them. Many do not see because they do not choose to see.
It is in this way that many people see or do not see God. One person does not believe that God exists, whereas another recognizes that one cannot exist but for the love of God. Even among those who profess their belief in God, there is a variety of ways in which they describe "their God". Their God may exist in the way they pray, or in the ways that they treat others, or when they believe that he is really listening, or in many other personal ways. All of these attitudes may be good, and all may be different, perhaps, as different as the people are. Attitudes can be attributed to the way in which we relate to God, or to our experience with God through our lives. It is an awareness that each should nurture continually.
But Jesus is always tugging at us, trying to move us along further in our spiritual life. He wants us to pay attention and develop the awareness to understand that he and the Father are one with the Holy Spirit. As we receive the Holy Eucharist, we experience his being in us, and as a result our being in him and the Father. We know this from the Scriptures, (Jn: 14:6-15) when Thomas asked where Jesus was going, and when Philip asked him to show them the Father, Jesus said, "I have been with you so long and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever sees me sees the Father; how can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" He further states, "and everything you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son, and everything you ask in calling upon my Name, I will do."
We are at times like Thomas and Philip who do not see Jesus as he is with us. He is a part of us, moving us along in our mission for which he has created us. We must recognize that he is a part of everything we do as he is a part of us. Stop for a minute and think about what this means!! We seek to become believers who see the impact of Jesus in our lives, not ignoring the numerous times he helps us each day. We grow with him as a part of us by continual reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. We become more sensitive to his presence, more aware of his part in our lives. Sometimes, we seem to either ignore this fact, or we fight with the fact that he is truly a part of us, for he told us so.
This belief that Jesus is a part of us always is a recognition that we have only to follow his lead into eternity. Talking to him, praying that his will be our will, seeking his blessing on our neighbor and loved ones, looking for his meaning in disappointing times, and living a regular life are all a part of knowing him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is always with us, and life is pure gift.
Grateful To God
We know from history that those who do not sow cannot reap the rewards of their labor. Ask any employee what they expect from their employer if they do not work. Adam and Eve did not work for living in the garden provided by God, for God had provided them with everything, except the fruit from a certain tree. Rolheiser, in his book, "The Shattered Lantern" (1), presents the idea that Adam and Eve's sin was a forceful taking of the fruit of the tree in disobeying God, as the fruit was only available to them as a gift from God. They were to receive life as a gift from God, but not to take it as their right.
We are the fortunate recipients of God's beautiful world, something he created and gave to us for our living. There is the beauty of seasons, trees, blue sky, warmth of the sun, laughter of people, movement of people and animals, and hosts of other phenomena that meet us daily. We have not made any part of this world; we are only influenced it by our being part of it. Scientists have discovered medications that heal disease and propel people to investigate the moon; governments provide services for those in need; housewives have discovered great ways to prepare food for enjoyment; teachers help us to understand our world; parents help us to be a part of the society in which we live. These are but a few examples of what comes from the use of God's gifts to us.
The catch is that many times we are not aware or do not recognize that God is the giver of everything we have, own, use, consume or recognize. I believe that he expects us to use his gifts for others. Accepting his gifts with gratitude expresses our morality as we see the use for them, and their passing through our hands, as being a conduit for giving to others. Our gift is then passing on the love that God gives, not because it is ours or that we own it, but because God has given it as gift. Think about yourself as a branch on the vine as Jesus told us. Our connection is symbolically explained and our actions must mirror this relationship. There are many occasions that God is acting and we are receiving, even unknowingly. Perhaps, at Mass, God sends angels into church to prepare the hearts of each of us for the great sacrifice he will offer through the actions of the priest. This sacrifice is God's greatest gift, and we must be prepared to take part in it.
Rolheiser (1) tells us, "Proper receptivity and gratitude lie at the root of purity of heart. They are the real beatitudes. Matthew 5:8 could be just as easily rendered: Blessed are those who are grateful, who see and appreciate everything as gift, for they shall see God." He goes on further, as "To become grateful and remain so, it is necessary to practice the asceticism of joy. The greatest compliment that one can give to the giver of a gift is to thoroughly delight in the gift. We owe it to our creator to delight in gratitude, in the gift of life and creation."
As we walk through life, we recognize that nothing is accidental. All things have a meaning, and to those who recognize God's gifts, there is always the positive view that somehow God has a meaning meant for us in those things which confront us. Looking at the events of ordinary life and reading the signs of the times prompts us to ask, "What is God saying to us?" This manner of living typifies mystical living in ordinary life. Rolheiser(1) expresses that we must move "beyond our practical atheism to a deeper sense of how God is already present and acting in the ordinary events of our lives". Look for the hand of God in everything and count everything as gifts from an all-loving God.
What do you Want Me to do for you?
Recently, I had the experience of attending Mass in Wheaton, IL at the church of St. Daniel, the Prophet. It is a large church in a rather new part of Wheaton, and the church is only a few years old. The church has its altar at the center point of the round pew arrangement. It was the thirtieth Sunday in ordinary time, and the celebrant was a priest in his 70's, Fr. Tom White. To my surprise, he sang most of the Mass with almost operatic flair. He also explained the background for each reading prior to its reading which enriched the appreciation for what was read. His style of delivery was relaxed while his grasp of the scriptures was superb.
Fr. White read the passage about Jesus' encounter with Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was a blind beggar who had complete faith that Jesus could give him his sight. He called out to Jesus, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." Those around him told him to be quiet, until Jesus asked them to bring Bartimaeus to him. Those around him told him to get up, that Jesus was calling him. He leapt to his feet and came to Jesus. Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" He answered, "Master, that I may see." He both recognized Jesus as Son of David, a proclamation of Jesus divinity and had the faith that Jesus could heal him.
Bartimaeus asked for the light from Christ. He wanted to see what Christ would show him. He could have asked for any of a number of things to alleviate his manner of living as a beggar, but he asked to see. Jesus gave him sight beyond his request, to see the true light, the never ending light of Christ. What a gift! Bartimaeus then followed Jesus from that time.
Fr. White asked the question of himself and the congregation that Jesus had addressed to Bartimaeus: "What do you want me to do for you?" He told everyone that he would ask Christ to be a help in other people's lives. He asked the Church, "What would You say to Christ as He asked you this question?" It is a question that each of us should ponder and pray upon daily so that our response may be appropriate in God's ways. Perhaps the response would come from a person's long standing needs as with Bartimaeus, or it may come from some now recognized need. I believe that God asks us often, "What do you want me to do for you?" as He knows well our needs before we know them. As we begin a new church year in Advent and hear him, let our response be something that pleases him from our needs.
When you have some idea of your response to Christ's question, you may already be seeing the light of Christ. Many are the times when someone or something occurs in our life to give us a new or deeper insight to our life in our community and in the way of the Lord. But, we must seek it and hunger for the light of Christ daily. He is the source of our knowledge and wisdom in seeing what we should be doing in his reign. Take time each morning to ask Christ, "How will I recognize your light today, Lord, that I may see?"
Obstacles to God
It is a holy belief all Christians possess that listening to God is most important in our lives. Our prayers are lifted up to God, and we listen for a response. Jesus told us to "ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." So, we follow his wisdom and pray in this manner, while praising God for His unconditional love. We will look for the answer to our prayers in different circumstances, and we may listen with different degrees of attention. Many people hold that God talks to us through our dreams, while others have direct answers to their prayers by their own experience. From my own experience, I know that God answers prayers.
However, while we may not know how to listen, or we may be only somewhat attentive to His message, we seek ways to "hear him more clearly." Our pastor had commented in two homilies over the past summer about our putting obstacles in God's way. We should look at how we listen to the Word and how we should respond to him. We may be our own worst enemy, or as is frequently quoted, "We have met the enemy, and they are us." God wants us to hear him, respond to him, live our lives with him, expand our boundaries for him, tell others of him, and love him. In his loving way, he wants to persuade us to walk with him and be confident of his friendship, at all times. We can be assured in the confidence that God is always there for us.
What are some of the obstacles that we may place in his way? We could do more for others, but for our own comfort, we pass by the opportunity. We may unconsciously not be interested in seeking him. We may be looking for the excitement of life rather than the quiet in which he can be heard. We presume that our daily life activities demand our attention before we take time to pray. We work into our day at our leisure a few prayers rather than having a special time we set aside for Him in prayer each day. Cardinal Bernardin, in his book, "The Gift of Peace", found that after twenty years as a priest and praying at different times of the day, spending an hour in prayer at the beginning of the day was his preferred time of prayer, as the distractions were less and God was first. Greet our Lord first upon rising and before sleeping.
Obstacles to God will be discarded when we put him first in our daily life. Sometimes it is only later in our lives that we begin to seek the love and friendship of God, as we may be too busy raising children, or working, or just plain immature in our recognition of the Divine Master. Can those more mature Christians then provide some example for the younger people? They can send the message of complete conformity to God's way by their lives. There are a lot of busy saints quietly working in our community, removing obstacles to God. Will you join them?
Do You See Him?
Several years ago I was going into a food market when I suddenly encountered a woman who was standing in the doorway, crying. She said that she had been standing there for sometime, asking those entering the store for help. Her need was getting her three children and herself home to a southern state. The situation of meeting someone rather abruptly and having to react in a proper way was somewhat startling, as my mind was on what food items were to be purchased. I gave the woman some money, wished her well, and moved into the store to purchase the few items on my list. I quickly picked up a few items and after exiting the store, I curiously looked around the area as well as up the street where she said her children were staying. There was no sign of her.
Occasions like this can come up where one must react to an unexpected encounter with another person. After several meetings with street people asking for help, one can often respond with more ease in giving than when this occurs infrequently or the meeting is often a surprise. As a friend said to me one time, I cannot pass up giving to the people on the street, as that person may be Christ, and I would not want to miss that meeting. Being asked by another for help is often the opportunity to do God's work in a way that pleases him.
There is a story about visitors to the art museum in Brussels, in which there are several paintings by Peter Bruegel. One in particular is called "The Numbering at Bethlehem". This painting depicts a snowy winter scene in a busy little sixteenth-century Flemish village. The painting depicts the buzz of daily activities where children are playing in the snow, a butcher is slaughtering a pig in his shop, people are warming themselves around an outdoor fire, and a man is courting a maid as they skate on the frozen river. Searching carefully among these people, one can pick out a man in a brown robe who is carrying a saw and leading a young lady on a gray donkey. The images of these two people are almost hidden. The young lady is pregnant, drawn and obviously tired. No one in the picture is paying attention to these two figures who are silently in the background, while the busy people are gathered around a man taking census.
Excerpted from Insights To Spirituality by Gerald W. Miller Copyright © 2011 by Gerald W. Miller. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsI. God Is Everything....................1
II Love Is Our Rresponse....................59
III Prayer, Our Encounter With God....................85
IV My Neighbor—Saints In Our Midst....................129
V Personal Spirituality....................159
VI Communal Spirituality....................203
VII Faith-Filled Practices—Ways To Encounter God....................255