Tag Archives: desire

Dying to Self

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
—John 12:24

IMG_7355Dying to self means letting go of all the attachments that keep us from God; it is a purging of all that is not love. This means loosening our grip on our own plans, our desire for comfort and convenience, our tendencies toward selfishness and sin.

We can try to be the boss of our own lives, or we can give Jesus permission to call the shots. If we let Jesus take control, we will face the Cross, but we will also begin to see everything in our lives through His radiant Light.

Only when we throw ourselves upon God’s providence will we find ourselves—our true selves, who God created us to be. Dying to self is not an act of self-abasement but rather an act of faith—that when we cut away all the clutter we will find goodness underneath, that in the core of our being we will find the presence of God. Indeed, this dying to self is the seed of our salvation.

By abandoning our own agenda, we open our hands to receive the truest desires of our hearts. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He will give us gifts greater than any of the earthly attachments we cling to.

Originally posted at Frassati Reflections.
Featured image: PD-US

Water

God is closer to us than water is to a fish. – St. Catherine of Siena

Water is weird. Have you ever had that thought? I’ve been having it lately as I sip from my glass. Water is this transparent, tasteless substance that our bodies naturally thirst for; it composes 71% of the world and 65% of the human body (75% for infants); it is necessary for life. “Water, with its amazing dissolving properties, is the perfect medium for transmitting substances, such as phosphates or calcium ions, into and out of a cell… all life on Earth uses a membrane that separates the organism from its environment. To stay alive, the organism takes in important materials for making energy, while shuttling out toxic substances such as waste products.”1

Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796)

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that He was the bearer of the water of life (John 4:10), which is the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Knowing the chemical and biological properties of water, we may reflect on the richness of Jesus’ metaphor. The Holy Spirit sustains us; He transmits God’s grace into our innermost being, and He cleanses us of toxic impurities like sin and despair. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel records his vision of water issuing out of the side of a temple, a spring which became a river so deep that no-one could cross it (Ezekiel 47:2-5). This has traditionally been interpreted in light of John 19:34, the piercing of Jesus’ side with a lance – blood and water flowed out of His side, His very heart.2 Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete or Advocate, would not come until He departed (John 16:7). After Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, which made perfect atonement for our sins, man was reconciled to God and able to enter into His life, life without end.

Water is a tremendously precious substance. We who live in more developed countries can so easily take it for granted, but “only 1% of the world’s water is readily available for human consumption. Approximately 97% is too salty and 2% is ice.”3 One in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water;4 “6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”5

We who know we live by the Holy Spirit have been commissioned by Christ to bear this Living Water to others: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well has ‘been described as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”.’6 He reached out to her across strict social taboos – The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). He asked her for the water she had, just as we may ask a non-believer for his friendship. Jesus’ ultimate aim was to offer the woman the gift of God Himself; likewise, through our human friendships, we too may draw others into relationship with God, offering our friends new life in Christ, so that they may discover their true identities as beloved children of God, the source and ground of their being (Acts 17:28).

You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink – let us be prudent and gentle in offering this precious life-giving Water to others, lest they develop a distaste for it without even trying It properly. Everyone is thirsty in some way – some thirst for beauty, so you can share the musical, artistic and architectural treasures of the Church with them;7 others thirst for truth, so you can find openings for reasoned discussions of the faith. Still others thirst for goodness, which you may exemplify by your living with the grace of God irradiating your life with peace, joy and charity in the midst of earthly trials. Find out what your friends are thirsty for, and you may deliver God to them in a Divine ice-cube to cool the fevered achings of their souls, or a flask of aqua vitae to give them new heart, or perhaps a sweet, fresh breeze that lifts their spirits to highest Heaven. Then you would have accomplished the best act of friendship, sharing your greatest treasure.

I have opened my Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be confirmed in good. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death.
Diary of St. Faustina, #1520

desire for God

Images: Angelica Kauffman, Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen (1796); Catholic Images.

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1 Tia Ghose, “Why Is Water So Essential for Life?”, Live Science.

2 Bishop Wilhelm Keppler, “The Thrust of the Spear”, in The Passion (1929).

3 Jonathan Sarfati, “The Wonders of Water”, Creation.com.

5An increasing demand”, UN World Water Day 2013.

6Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life”, Pontifical Council for Culture & Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Christmas: The Fulfillment of Our Deepest Desires

If God has ever left you feeling the weight of an unmet desire, you understand how agonizing the emptiness can feel. It’s an excruciating type of pain, especially felt during the four weeks of Advent where we are asked to wait, long, and hope even more. During this beautiful liturgical season, it seems that that void within us becomes even more palpable than usual.

Often times, God lets us feel the ache of our longings like this more than we thought possible. Christopher West writes eloquently about this phenomenon, describing it as a “dilation” of the heart, where we feel God relentlessly stretching us and setting our desires on fire. However, there is a reason for it. While it hurts to be stretched, God does it so we can receive more fully, so we can be filled with more satisfaction than what we originally had the capacity for, so even more of His love and goodness can be poured forth into our expanded hearts. 

I have certainly felt the “growing pains” of unmet desire over the years.  Some days it’s not so bad, other times it feels like I can fit a small SUV into the empty space in my heart. I beg God for belonging, acceptance, intimacy, joy, or peace. And when they don’t come, in those very raw moments, I want to cry out like David, “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me?…How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day?” (Ps. 13:2-3). But every time I do, a voice within me always replies:

“You belong to Me. I wholly accept you. I am more intimate with you than any earthly lover. I am your joy. I am your peace.”

How easily we forget that He is the fulfillment of our heart’s desires. In the throes of disappointments and unanswered prayer, we must never forget this beautiful reality – that Christ Himself is the answer to the human heart’s deepest yearnings.

This Christmas, let us remember that the coming of the Christ Child is what our weary hearts have ached for all along. He is the fulfillment of our longings for intimacy, fulfillment, joy, and peace. He is there when all else seems empty and hopeless. He is the answer to the hollow feeling deep down that nothing in this life can fill. And He uses the urges within us to point us to Himself. 

If the Lord has left you waiting for a desire to be filled, if He has stretched and dilated your heart this season, invite Him into that empty space instead. Ask to receive Him in the fullest capacity possible. You will not be left wanting, I assure you.

“Through longing, [God] expands our soul, and by expanding our soul he increases its capacity. So brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled…Let us stretch ourselves out toward him, that when he comes he may fill us full.” St. Augustine