A blog entry right after Valentine’s Day, because GOD is love! But … are we loving? Are we living by faith? Are we okay with being uncomfortable, especially in situations that make us uncomfortable because they are personal and possibly affect the people around us, who may pass judgment? Will we stand firm, leaning on God in times of adversity and hardship, or do we remain silent and try to be as politically correct as we can be, in order to avoid confrontation at almost every cost? Do we buckle when we have the opportunity to speak truth, to take the stand we know deep down we should be taking, or do we take the road less traveled and look someone in the eye, lovingly but firmly speaking truth into the web of envy, accusations, condemnations and ridicule? It requires courage, it risks the emergence of an awkward and difficult situation … so we often bail; dash for the easy way out. But what is God calling us to do?
Did you, for instance, ever think your family was perfect? All gathered together on a birthday, the kids playing in the yard while the adults converse joyously while basking in the sunshine with a glass of sparkling wine in their hands. When I look at pictures of my 1st Communion I would say yes, my conception was that my family was just perfect. But mom and dad can’t always shield you from the bad and the ugly that is closer than you can imagine, from the cracks that become more apparent when time goes on, from the awkward reunions to the court orders. And when reality sinks in, resentment and anger lie waste at noon, ready to harden the heart, while disappointment and sorrow flood in like the tide. But when all those feelings and emotions have rolled over, there is only One that you can turn to. The Gospel on Valentine’s day included the following:
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22)
Christ dealt with persecution and ridicule daily. He even drank the bitter wine they pressed up to His lips on a dirty sponge on the cross. If Christ suffered like this, much worse than we ever will, who are we not to suffer just a little like Him? We should rejoice and be glad for the numerous opportunities for edification and humility which persecution automatically brings about! A great cross is very often the prelude to great a grace! “Jesus will never let the Cross crush you; on the contrary, it will lift you up toward heaven!” (Fr. D’Elbee). Learn to make joys of all your crosses; something that is very hard at times, especially when things get personal. JOY! That is exactly the topic assigned to me for formation this week. All missionaries are assigned one of Life Teen’s core values to ‘teach and share’ as formation. God knows His children very well! Joy is not a feeling, it is not happiness, an emotion that comes and goes; joy is a permanent disposition of the heart that belongs to Christ. Even in the most difficult and tragic situations, we can still know joy. This joy is linked to “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding and will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
But it’s so difficult! We fail so often as human beings to love when we are not being loved in return. But Jesus says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). By ourselves we are not capable of this; we will grow bitter and resentful. We need to pray for those who persecute us, we need to pity them, we have to try and see Christ in them! This does not mean we need to avoid all confrontation, dodge responsibility and sacrifice everything for the so-called ’cause of unity’. Fraternal correction; when coming out of love is very appropriate. Sometimes silence refers to cowardice. Is God calling you out? Is it time to take a stand, to stop dodging and to possibly rock the boat?
God has called us guys here at Covecrest out to be more loving and attentive to our call as brothers. Valentine’s Day provided an excellent opportunity to honor our sisters and we therefore whipped up an amazing dinner (yeah Mark!) and had a great time. Praise God for these moments that make us realize who we actually are, how much we actually care for each other and how we need to make that more explicit at times.