Philosopher’s Corner

I proposes that all Christians should be philosophers. I say this because philosophy is the search for truth, and Jesus is the truth. Jesus said, seek, and you will find.  So, philosophy, as the search for truth, is a core component of being Christian. At the same time, philosophy as a science can be difficult to understand, and its historical usage hard to apply.  

Having said this, I would share with you what my self-studies have highlighted as a couple of important issues that all philosophers need to understand.  The first has to do with the basic assumption regarding the meaning of life.  The two major views can be summarized as follows. On the one hand, there is the teleological view, which holds that humans were created for a reason, and that there is an end goal to existence. One’s life endeavors should be directed towards this end goal.  On the other hand, we have the mechanistic view, which focuses on humanity as a bunch of biological operations, including neurological.  There is no end goal, and each person is thus able to direct his or her life in any direction; one has the right to choose his or her own end.  

As Christians, we must hold onto the belief that life has a meaning beyond our individual decisions and desires. We have to believe that there is an end goal, which Jesus phrases as becoming one with God, the creator of all. The question then arises – are all of my endeavors directed towards the end goal of union with God? As sinners, the obvious answer is that no, not all of our endeavors are so focused.  In today’s materialistic world, it is easy to fall into the more mechanistic view that life is about personal fulfillment, which typically means seeking sensual delights. By sensual, I’m not just talking about the normal connotations, but anything that delights the mind or senses.

This concept of sense experience is the second issue I want to highlight. For the most part, there are two key methods of seeking truth: through sense experience and by using our intellect to interpret and analyze our experiences and the world around us.   The early philosophers spent a lot of time debating the use of sense experience because it can be misleading.  Some totally dismiss sense experience, but in my opinion, sense experience has its place in the search for truth; however, it is important to know that we can be mislead by our senses, and that logic is a great tool for combating misperception.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit and ponder the statement that all Christians should be philosophers.  Do you follow Jesus’ directive to seek? Do you have a great appreciation for the Christian life as directed towards an end goal of union with God?  Where are you caught up in an overabundance of time spent on sense experience, and where do you need to add in logic to direct your analysis of sense experience towards an end goal of union with God? How can you use the tools of sense experience and logic to enhance your search for truth? As you conclude your time of prayer, spend some time thanking and praising the Holy Spirit for the insights and direction that you have received.  To the extent needed, wrap up your time of prayer journaling about how these insights should be incorporated into your daily life. 

In Him,

dw

Spiritual Immune System

This morning, I was pondering how I often act out against the Holy Spirit and his healing efforts.  I started thinking about how to explain it, and I saw the human immune system.  When foreign bodies enter us, our body attack them, and seek to wipe them out.  Unfortunately, some people develop auto-immune diseases where the immune system attacks the body. In so doing, an immune system can make us sick instead of healthy. 

In a similar way, we can make ourselves spiritually ill if we do not learn to stop working against God.  In some respects, we act out against  God because we have a belief structure about how God is supposed to interact with us.  We often forget that his ways are beyond us, and that his ways are always right. It is easy to become confused and to act against his way, even though the only thing we want in life is to cooperate with him; to become one with him.  Consequently, when we attempt to enter into a relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit, in our confusion about how this should work, we often treat his presence as a virus. When we consume Jesus in the Eucharist, we often inadvertently work against his healing presence within us. Luckily, unlike autoimmune diseases, this resistance to Jesus is something that can be cured.  However, we are not often healed of our tendencies over night. It takes effort. 

Treatments for spiritual immune disorders are not much different than those for physical illnesses.  We need to take our medicine, which can be done through participating in the sacraments. We need to eat healthy, which we can do by feasting on the word of God.  We need to rest by sitting silently and in full awareness of God’s presence within us.  We need to exercise, which can be done through acts of service and ascetical practices, like fasting from food or other things that give us pleasure.  

From my vantage, I think many of us have lost an understanding of the value of ascetical practices.  The truth is that ascetical acts are practices in love. In our society, we understand that when we love ourselves the right way, we exercise and eat healthy.  In the same way, when we love God and realize that the spiritual life is about being joined to him, then we start to realize that through ascetical practices, we empty ourselves in order to make more room for him. In other words, the negative aspects of human nature often involve selfish tendencies. So, by dying to self, we become more focused on others; we become more loving of others.  In effect, asceticism is just a form of living a balanced and healthy life; a life that provides more room for God and others. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit analyzing your spiritual immune system.  Is it healthy? Does it attack only the bad stuff, or does it attack your spiritual progress?  Which aspects of the plan for healthy spiritual living are you following, and where do you need improvement? It is in resting with Jesus? Participating in the sacraments? Reading scripture? Studying the lives of the saints? Practicing acts of love? Going further in your efforts to die to self through acts of asceticism? Once you have completed this task, create a plan for living a healthier spiritual life.  Close your time of prayer in praise and thanksgiving of the one who loves you and wants to show you the way to live life to the fullest. 

In Him,

dw

Because He First Loved Me

Not too long ago, I posted the following question on my personal Facebook page – “Why are you Christian?”  I received a lot of well rounded answers.  As I have pondered this question for myself, my answer has been boiled down to love.  I love God, and because he has revealed to me the truth in his Son, Jesus, I am a Christian.  

Why do I love God? My love of him can only exist because he first loved me.  1 Jn 4:16.  In truth, I say that I love him, but I don’t love him near enough.  If he is my all, then why isn’t my response to love something that others can more clearly in me?  Some of you may say you see love of God within me, but it isn’t the fire of love for which I long.  It doesn’t burn with intensity and draw others to the flame within me.  No. I long to burn with love the way St. Paul burned.  I want love to burn to such an extent that I live no longer I, but Christ in me.  Gal 2:20.  

At the same time, I do not want to endure what it takes to be aflame with love.  I do not want to undergo the level of dying to self that results in that level of love.  Then again, that level of love is all that I want.  How can one endure such a contradiction?  

I do not have an answer to that question. Through prayer and study, I have come to believe that he will bring me to it and through it.  I just have to get up every day and keep trying to surrender my all to him.  I have to keep telling him that such surrender is my free will desire, and keep asking him to remove all that keeps me from attaining that goal.  The Bible tells me that because it is my desire, it will happen.  I understand that my prayer has not been answered because God will not overcome through force the part of me that resists. No, despite being all-powerful, he will not force me.  Instead, he will court me, seduce me, until my all surrenders freely.  

I wish that day was today, but it likely isn’t.  So, I will keep meditating on the greatness of his love for me, and work to be open to his on-going acts of salvation within me.  I will do my best not to run from the fires, and to try and do better at tolerating the pain that goes with such surrender.  I will keep remembering that such tolerance comes from dying to self. I will seek little ways to learn to die to my selfish wants and needs. I will keep asking him to show me more ways to die.  I will keep on in faith until such time that I become all him, and yet all uniquely me in him.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit analyzing your own level of love for him.  Do you understand that your relationship with him calls you to surrender ever further to his purifying love? Do you understand the way of the Cross? Imitating Christ? Do you need the Spirit to further show you the way?  Ask him for the willingness to submit to the fire of love, and to respond to his great love with an ever more pure form of love. 

In Him,

dw

The Perfection of Love

In order to find heaven on earth, our capacity to love must be purified. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity tells us that we cannot take great strides towards union with God as long as we desire things that are foreign to divine union. She uses the analogy of purifying gold, whereby through fire, the impurities are separated from the gold. It is in this way, that the soul is purified of worldly desires, which then allows the soul to love God more purely. She goes on to explain how this refinery is located within us. As we learn to spend time with the indwelling Trinity, we are drawn to love, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn to let go of worldly things. 

Learning to take these desires to the refinery located within is very hard.   The process reminds me of the story of the transfiguration. God reveals wonderful things to the select disciples, and in response, Peter longs to get busy; to build tents. Mt 17:1-8.  In this way, so, too, do we become restless when confronted with the awesomeness of the indwelling Trinity. There is a part of us that longs to stay rooted in worldly things, and there is likewise a part of us that longs to do the job ourselves.  However, God calls us to be like children, and to let him do the heavy lifting. A part of us rebels and wants to claim that this is not the only way. Unfortunately, other than St. Paul, who had his own type of burning experience, I have yet to read of a saint who has attained a significant level of holiness without seeking it in the eternal flames that come to rest within us at baptism.  

Having said that this is the way, there are many approaches to this process.  It usually starts with some form of meditation.  In pondering the words of Jesus, as Mary, his mother, taught us, we are led to silence.  In fact, at some point in meditation, one should start to notice a desire for silence over meditation.  When this happens, one should seek to follow the Holy Spirit in this direction.  There are also forms of prayer that can be used to jumpstart silence.  In the end, the Holy Spirit directs us all on a unique, but substantially similar path towards the interior life.  All we need to do is to seek him and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on the path.  

God wants to have a deep and personal interior relationship with each one of us.  He wants to love away our hurts, pains, and misunderstandings.  He wants to teach us how a deep love of him provides the fulfillment for which we all seek. He wants us to know how we can live life to the fullest with him. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit.  Share with him your reservations and your heartfelt desires. Ask him how to take these things to the refinery within. Ask him to burn away all that is unholy, all that keeps you from living in true freedom.  Ask him to help you see when you are resisting. Ask him for the grace to be like a child so that you might better submit to this process. Ask him to help you persevere, even when the fires of purification burn hot.  When you find yourself resisting, ask for his forgiveness, and for a stronger desire to submit to the process.  

In Him,

dw

On Heaven

How many of us believe that heaven is something that happens in the afterlife? If heaven is a place where God is, then heaven is in us now for as Christians we believe that at baptism, the Holy Spirit, who is the Trinity, comes and takes up residence within us. How amazing is that!

It is because of this that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are present within us. The Trinity is like a burning flame residing with us. He is beckoning us inward. He is calling us to himself. He calls to us so that he might teach us all truth. Jn 16:13. He calls us inward so that he might envelop us in the warmth of his love, and teach us how to  live in peace and joy in the present. All we have to do has learned to turn to him who dwells within.

At the same time, it is not always that easy, is it? Just like the disciples and all the people who encountered Jesus, there is much within us that resists. We want to be our own masters. As much as a part of us longs for this union with him now, another part of us resists with everything that it has. So much of the spiritual journey has to do with allowing the Holy Spirit to heal this resistance. He can only do so if we give him permission on an on-going basis. He will not overcome our free will, and our free will is sometimes exercise by the one that longs for him, but, in the beginning, more by the one who resists.

While it is the Spirit’s job to deliver us from this resistance, we must participate. In effect, we must learn to let him replace our selfish love with selfless love. It is a process that lasts a lifetime.  The Bible teaches us how to participate in this process. It is in living the way that Jesus teaches that we make ourselves open to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. These teachings include living a life of virtue, a life of service, and a life of dying to self.

I would suggest that this process of dying to self means living in the awareness of now, and accepting everything as God’s will. He allows things to happen to us so that we might grow in holiness.  I think it also means challenging ourselves in ways that help us live more fully the principles Jesus set forth in the Bible. For instance, by getting behind the slowest driver on the highway and surrendering our frustration, we grow in patience. When we quickly forgive the one who cut us off in traffic, we practice love. In so doing, we increase God’s forgiveness of us for when we pray the Our Father, we pray that he forgives us as we forgive others.

There are many ways in which we can learn to live more Christian lives. However, if we do so without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, our effort amounts to very little. In other words, when sitting behind a slow driver, if we are not with the Holy Spirit seeking peace, our efforts are not as effective as they otherwise would be. Again, I reiterate that we participate, but it is the Holy Spirit’s job to purge us of all that is unholy. 

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, and ask him to help you see the path to holiness. Ask him how you can better cooperate with him and learn to live in heaven today. Ask him to help you surrender to all that happens today, and to maybe even create a few instances of dying to self. Ask him to show you the truth of carrying your cross, of dying with Jesus in all the little things that happen to you today, and how in so doing you begin living in eternity today.

In Him,

dw

Son of Man?

In Mark 1:21-27, Jesus cured a demoniac.  In this story, the demon knew that Jesus was the holy one of God. The people, on the other hand, were confused. They saw the works that this seemingly ordinary man was doing, they pondered his actions in light of their experiences and expectations, and they were confused.

In praying on this, I realized that while I know Jesus is the son of Man, I likewise find myself confused about what all of this means. You see, my belief that he is the son of man, creates certain expectations in me, and God does not always work within these expectations. I suspect that I am not the only one.

God is beyond our comprehension. He does not always behave the way we expect. This can cause confusion. The only way to resolve this confusion is to hold onto faith, and to consistently pray for wisdom. Wisdom comes in the silence, in that place where we encounter the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We cannot escape wisdom when we find the time and the openness to meet him there.

The problem is, when we enter into a relationship with God, the more fully we enter into a battle. This battle is between accepting his will, his way, and exercising our own will. We say in truth that we want to follow his will, but it is equally true that we want our own way. We are at war with our desire for holiness and our desire for worldly things.

To some extent, confusion exists because we cannot see the conflict between our two conflicting desires. We cannot serve two masters. Peace comes in allowing the Holy Spirit to clear the cloud of confusion, but it is in this moment of clarity, that we must choose against our selfish desires. Sometimes we kick up dirt to cloud the decision we are being asked to make, and in so doing, we prolong our suffering and confusion. It is only through experience that we learn to take the knowledge of the warring factions within, apply it to the circumstances at hand, and learn to say, “my Jesus, I accept your way, your will.” 

Send some time with the Holy Spirit asking him to help clear the confusion you may have in your own life. Ask him to help reconcile your will to his. Ask him for forgiveness for the times you failed to do so. Reassert that your free will choice is his way, and ask him for the grace and wisdom to overcome the various things that cause you to choose your will over his. Spend a few moments in the silence of your heart acknowledging his presence, and basking in the warmth of his love and mercy.

In Him,

dw

On Suffering

I ventured out to the theater yesterday to watch the new movie on Fatima. The movie left me with various emotions and reactions. I do not want to discourage people from seeing it, because many people have reviewed the movie favorably. At the same time, I think a discussion on suffering is merited. I think a review on atonement and modern Catholic theology is worthwhile.

In the movie, the visionaries preached a message of atonement by suffering. Anyone who reads the Bible knows that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is all the atonement that is needed. There’s nothing anyone can do to save souls on one’s own. At the same time, Catholics believe that there are valid ways of cooperating with Jesus. There are ways in which we can participate in God’s plan of salvation. Biblically speaking, we see this in the example of Simon. Simon assisted God by caring the cross with Jesus. He helped Jesus get to the finish line. We also see this in the words of Jesus when he says pick up your cross and follow me. 

The church teaches that we participate in Jesus’ salvific actions by enduring what comes our way with joy. We carry the cross with Jesus, just as Simon did. The church teaches that by joining our prayers and actions with Jesus, we participate with Him. We believe that carrying the cross with Jesus is a way of working with the Holy Spirit for our own purification and the purification of others.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit analyzing your life and your way of dealing with the trials and tribulations of this life. Ask him to show you if there is any value in changing how you mentally deal with these things.  If you are already a believer in this, ask him to show you ways in which you can more fully cooperate in his work.

In Him,

Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.

On Baptism

This morning, I reflected on the baptism of Jesus. In the synoptics, John said he baptizes with water for repentance, but one who would come after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Why water and fire? Water cleanses externally. It washes away the dirt and grime that settles on the skin.  Fire, on the other hand, really purifies all. 

John says he uses water for a baptism of repentance. Repentance is a means of becoming aware of our imperfections, and regretting them. The Bible teaches that more is necessary, that we must have a true conversion; a turning towards God; a coming from darkness to light. 

Baptism by water comes first. In our earthly baptism, we start to see our sinful nature, and we regret it. Regret is insufficient. So, the waters of baptism cleanses us, but more importantly, Baptism places the fire within.  It sets us on the path of true conversion, full purification. It sets us on the way; on the path of discipleship. On this path, we constantly encounter Jesus, who continues to open our eyes to the better and more perfect way. He shows us where we are missing the mark, and encourages us to change.  In this way, the fire burns away all imperfection, until we fully die and rise with Christ.

In other words, our spiritual journey is the way of attaining all that Jesus promised in the gospel. Baptism with water begins the cleansing process. In addition, it opens the door to the interior where the Holy Spirit takes up residence. Baptism is the gateway to the kingdom of God. It is the beginning of a process of being purified so that we can become one with God in three persons. It is the beginning of a journey. We must be careful not to spend our lives standing in the gateway. We must pass through the gate, and take a  journey with the Holy Spirit. He will lead us from the outer boundaries of the kingdom to the castle, where we will live for eternity in union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Spend some time with the Spirit pondering your own conversion. The word “conversion” means a turning towards God. It implies a 180° change in behavior. This change is something that happens throughout our lives. Ask him to help you see if you are hovering at the gate with repentance, and if you need to grow in conversion. Ask him what you can surrender to him so that it might be more purified. Thank him for his willingness to show you the way, and ask him to help you shed all that holds you back.

In Him,

Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.

On Being Christian

Being Christian it’s not about a choice for heaven; a choice against hell. It is a choice to enter into a relationship with one’s creator. It is a decision to walk a certain way of life; to walk away from a certain type of life. Being Christian is not about waiting for death so one can enter into the kingdom, but living in the kingdom today. 

What does it mean to live in God’s kingdom today? This is a question I continue to research, but I will share my current findings with you.  

First, it is a way of life. It is path of following Jesus. The early Christians, and even many Christians today, believed that following Jesus was the way of the cross. This meant accepting whatever came one’s way. God’s divine providence allows all things to happen, and thus we must joyfully accept everything that happens (which might take practice). It means spending time with Jesus. It means prayer. It means being aware of what is happening in the world, and seeking ways to alleviate pain, even to the extent of inconveniencing ourselves. It means putting other people first.

Second, it is a process of becoming Jesus. It is a process that takes our entire life, and likely, to some degree, in the next. We see this truth in the words of Jesus where he prayed that we be one with him and the father, as he and the father are one. Jn 17:21-26. We see this truth in Paul’s statement that he lives no longer, but Christ lives in him. Gal 2:20.

In some respects, I believe the way of the cross is the process by which we become Jesus. When we accept what comes our way, we allow God’s will to be done, just as Jesus allowed it to be done in his passion and resurrection. It is in this process that we learn to be obedient to God as Jesus was obedient. 

The way of the cross is about dying to self for one must die if we are to become Jesus. There are many ways to die to self, but offering up our day-to-day discomfort, pain, and confusion is a very good way to start. We offer these things up by taking them to prayer. We take them into a conversation with God. We can ask him why, but the better question is how. We express our willingness or desire to accept these things, and we ask him for the grace to do so. As we learn to trust in God, and to accept these things, we can challenge ourselves more by creating discomfort in our personal lives. We can do things like take cold showers, allow the temperature settings in our house to be at a place outside of our comfort zone, and otherwise seek to live in a way that does not focus on our comfort and pleasure. These types of choices help us become comfortable in what can be seen as a nomadic life, and in theory, open our eyes to the pain and discomfort in the lives of others. It helps us to become full of compassion.

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit. Talk to him about what it means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; to be shaped and conformed into Jesus. Ask him to help you see where is your life can be redirected to achieve these goals. Ask him to increase your knowledge of who Jesus is, and what it means to be him. Ask him what you can do to further the process of dying with Christ, so that he might live in you.

In Him,

Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P.

Loving God

Over the last week, I have had an image of two people falling in love. I remembered falling in love myself, and how I wanted to do things to make that person’s life more comfortable and to do little things for them in order to express my love for them. It made me ponder how many of us live a Christian life because it is what we’ve been taught or otherwise think it is the right way of living. How many of us have truly encountered Jesus, fallen in love, and wished to do things in order to express our love of him? How many of us practice virtue and/or serve others to express our gratitude for his life, death, and resurrection? In other words, how much of our Christian behavior is filled with joy because it is something we do in response to love as opposed to something that we do out of a sense of obligation?

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your life story in relation to your encounters with God. What motivates you to live the Christian life? Don’t be surprised if you, like me, find that the answer is multifaceted. The purpose of this exercise is to hone in on how much of your faith walk is a response to love; how much of it is a joyful expression of your love of him. If you do not like the answer, spend some time praying for the gift of a loving response to his mercy and kindness.

In Him,

Ms. Debra D. Weldon, O.P., JD, MTS