The dictionary defines resistance as the refusal to accept or comply with something. A common fruit of resistance is inaction. Today I am struggling immensely with resistance— resistance to get up this morning, go to work, and resistance to write! My family had a busy weekend. We celebrated my son’s birthday party and we had 15 kids running around our backyard for a few hours. On top of that Sunday we celebrated our priest’s going away party at our parish and took the kids out to the municipal zoo for a few hours before wrapping up with night by watching the Lego: Batman Movie. All in all it was a jam-packed weekend.
I normally get inspiration for my daily blog topic on my morning drive to work when I listen to Christian music. Today, I do not experience any such inspiration. I felt tired, unimaginative, and slothful. Resisting my feeling of resistance seemed futile. Thank goodness that statement is not true. I chose to act. Not with a grandiose or creative act, but with just a simple act. I choose to start writing. Sometimes that starting act is enough. We experience highs and lows in life. Today I am experiencing a low, a lull moment. My resistance to resistance is not much, but I am hopeful that it is enough to carry me to the next day—where my battle against resistance will begin anew. Tomorrow, I hope to write about how music inspires me. Hopefully, I will be inspired tomorrow during my morning drive to work listening to the radio. Hope. Because of its existence resistance is not futile!
Anxiety is something I have struggled with for the majority of my life. In elementary school, I battled anxiety during standardized testing sessions, constant changes to my schedule, and my shyness in the classroom. As an adult, I was able to mitigate some of my anxiety—still worry continues to haunt me. I suffered from mild depression the last couple of years. Fortunately, I am blessed my faith and family continue to provide opportunities to help me out. Recently, I started going to a counselor to help me with my anxiety. I am come a long way because the old me was ashamed and embarrassed to admit I went to counseling. I felt like a failure for needing outside professional help.
What I have come to realize during my writing journey these past few months is that the Holy Spirit provides assistance in unusual times and places. Today I wish to share how I experienced peace on this Therapeutic Thursday.
1. I’m Alive Because He Lives: Matt Maher’s song Because He Lives played over the radio this morning on my drive to work. Here is the song’s refrain:
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives
Focusing on these words over and over during my work commute, I realized that my anxiety is nothing compared to the fact that Christ conquered death. When I unite my song to the eternal song of the Gospel life will flourish within me. Why do I suffer from anxiety weekly—some weeks almost daily? The answer is my failure to trust in the Providence of my Father. I’m alive because He lives!
2. Signs at Work: Our Father is so provident that in addition to Matt Maher’s words of truth, I realized signs of God’s goodness at my workplace. How do I truly know God’s signs were at work? Peace. One of the more simple and constant pieces of evidence for God’s work in our life is a sense of true peace. We had our monthly recognition meeting this morning. It seems silly but I always get nervous right before this meeting. It is in large part to my struggle with pride. I prideful hope I get recognized for my great work by my manager in front of the entire department. When it does not happen I get a sense of defeat. Well, I actually did not feel that way during today’s meeting. I did not get the monthly manager team shout out. I was oddly at peace. Later in the meeting our department played a team-building game. Little signs from God like the game gave me peace of mind.
3. Consoling Counselor: The advice I received from my counselor to utilize in stressful situations abetted my anxiety and worrisome mindset this morning. He told me to pause and do some slow breathing exercises when an anxious situation arises. I did that today before our departmental meeting. It helped. Our Heavenly Father knew that humanity struggles with worry. So before Jesus ascended into heaven a promise of a Consoler was given. Jesus’ Apostles questioned him about the next steps of their faith journey after he would ascend. He replied with the following words, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NAB). Growing up, I commonly overlooked the role of the Holy Spirit. In the past few months, my relationship was the Divine Consoling Counselor has grown and deepened. I am continuing to learn to relay on the power of the Holy Spirit through the actions of others to help heal and comfort me.
Social media has promoted a lot of aficionados for alcoholic alliteration by referring to Thursday as Thirsty Thursday. While moderate drinking of beer, wine, or ale is not inherently bad, reliance on things to drown out our worry will not solve the problem on a long-term basis. Therapeutic relief from stress by our Consoling Counselor is lasting because God last forever. I hope I may continue to drink from the spiritual wellspring to acquire peace, joy, and thanksgiving before the Holy Trinity. You are never too far gone to ask others and God for help!
Below is a letter I wrote to my unborn son Jeremiah who left this life on All Soul’s Day 2014.
Words will never fully describe the yearning I have to see you again in heavenly bliss. I will try my best with this letter. Life was tough in the months ensuing your death. While pain set in quickly for your mother, I remained aloof from the suffering—for a time—eventually I broke down and trembled at our sudden and inexplicable loss. Though I never blamed God, our Father, for taking you away from us, I did question the good in the situation.
To be honest, I have not fully recovered from our tragedy of you passing from this life to the next, ironically on All Souls’ Day. The pain does get a little bit less each day. Your mother and I were at a crossroads on a cool summer night. It was June 2015 the month you were supposed to be born. All around us people we knew were having babies and we were only reminded of our pain and thinking what might have been. I prayed out to God “I just want something good to happen in my life!” Weeks later we discovered your mother was pregnant. Despite this amazing news, we were cautious and often thought of losing you months earlier.
Half-way through the pregnancy we learned that we were having another baby boy and we settled on a name—Josiah. Later we learned that this name means “healer”. I do not think that was a coincidence. I firmly believe God answered our prayers and used you as a powerful intercessor to keep your brother Josiah safe throughout the pregnancy.
I want to thank you for the gift you have provided your family! I am grateful to have heard your heartbeat before we lost you. That memory gives my daily strength and every milestone Josiah has I think of you. I ask for continually help and intercession in your union with our Heavenly Father.
Your siblings and your mother deeply miss you and we hope to be united with your after our pilgrim journey in this life is completed.
With great love and gratitude,
P.S. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” –Jeremiah 1:5 (New American Bible)
What is truth? According to the dictionary, truth means that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. For years I have found myself asking the same question: What is truth? This query has seemingly evaded philosophers’ full grasp for centuries and political leaders sought out the answer to this question as well. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate even posed this question before Jesus Christ himself in John 18:38.
What I want to focus on today is the words of Christ that caused Pilate to ask “What is truth?”. According to the fourth evangelist Jesus told Pilate, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37 New American Bible). Jesus’ statement seems to be a stoic reply that apparently seems to not really give us much information. When I searched the rest of John’s gospel on passages that relate to truth I came across this verse that I think decisively answers Pilate’s question. In a discourse during the Last Supper, Jesus consoles his apostles, specifically Thomas, with the following words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2466 declares, “In Jesus Christ, whole of God’s truth has been made manifest.’Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.’” Manifest means clear and obvious to the eye or mind. In other words, truth was plainly seen the Incarnation that occurred 2,000 years ago. Struggling with A.D.H.D and anxiety my entire life I have tried a gamut of remedies to cure my nervousness and constant worrisome. Truthfully, it is not until I rest in the Truth of God in the person of Jesus Christ where my anxiety truly disappears. All my successes: marrying my wife, celebrating our children’s births, earning my Master’s Degree, and promotions at work only give me temporary relief from my daily anxiety.
Uniting myself to truth is the only solution to my worry. I do believe humanity was created to yearn for truth. St. Augustine’s adage, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You” is truer now than ever before. I ask the Holy Spirit to continue to provide me consolation and strength to daily seek and unite myself to the Truth!
“Everything changes and nothing stands still,” the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once claimed. I first heard these words as a sophomore in college during an Intro to Philosophy class. Years later, this truth resurfaced under the guise of different words in a response to a question I posed to my interviewing manager for the job I am at today. I asked, “What is the single greatest piece of advice you have been given to succeed at this company?” The interviewer paused and pensively stated, “Be prepared to deal with change and learn to embrace change!” Ever since that 2015 summer afternoon I have frequently pondered the meaning of these words and what exactly they mean for other aspects of my life. Today I want to share my experiences and knowledge that I have learned about the importance changing for the better meant, and still means, for my daily life.
As I mentioned in last week’s post Organized Chaos or Chaotic Order: Which Do I Prefer? I am on the autism spectrum. Change always posed a challenge to me. Growing up as a cradle Catholic I benefited from the guidelines of the Catholic Church teachings through which I developed a black/white dichotomous view of morality. Either you are holy or you are not. That was my though process and my coping mechanism to reconcile differences I noticed in the world. Not until suffering found me on a personal level did my judgmental and simple morality start to transform. Losing my job and suffering a nightmarish miscarriage led me to the end of my rope. Let with nothing in the aftermath of this change-filled maelstrom I turned to God. To be frank, I did not feel His presence at all but through the urging of my mom and wife I went to Eucharistic adoration on a weekly basis. Here I sought out the Unchanged One for stability and support.
Fast forward to 2017 and I am more at peace and learning to realize the importance of changing my mindset from negative to positive. My son’s official autism diagnosis in 2016 helped provide some clarity for my situation as well. I am not defined by my inherent inner struggle with change. Although I have moved toward the right direction I still have a long ways to go in embracing change on a daily basis. Encountering God as the Unchanged One through Eucharistic adoration and through Matt Maher’s song Deliverer gave me hope and perspective to change for the better. I learned that suffering is redemptive and clinging to the Unchanged One changes a person. I am not the same person that I was in 2015. I am transformed and I thank the Unchanged One every day!
If you are struggling with life’s changes in little and grand ways please consider relying on the Unchanged One to transform you. If I could go back in time, I would tell Heraclitus that he was half-right. I would change to his maxim “Everything changes and nothing stands still” to “Everything changes and nothing stands still. Only meeting the Unchanged One and standing still in His presence will let us authentically change.”
Throughout the Bible the phrase “Do not be afraid” is invoked over 300 times. In fact, the first mention of fear in the Bible is in reference to Adam and Eve hiding for fear of disobeying God for eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Fear, worry, and anxiety are feelings that are at the center of the human condition. The reality of sin—otherwise known as the separation from God—is the number one cause for humanity to fear and worry. As a broken and fallen man, I struggle with worry constantly both in large and trivial matters. Changes at my workplace leads to anxiety on my part and past suffering such as the loss of my unborn child are a couple of the various things I worry about. Even this morning, I got anxious about what topic I should write about today.
Oddly almost immediately after my worrisome thoughts are lacking a subject to write about, my eyes noticed a bible verse I have posted on my cubicle wall. Matthew 6:25-34. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit granted me the gift of knowledge and understanding and shed light on my situation. I thought, “Matt why don’t you write about the subject of worry and God’s answer?!” Here I provide four reasons why Matthew 6:25-34 is the most relatable bible passage for me personally.
- My personal anxiety: For most of my life I have struggled with anxiety and stress. It got so bad in high school that I went to see a counselor for a couple of years. I got it under control better in college but a couple years ago anxiety struck again—after losing my job, suffering a miscarriage, and stresses of adjustment to a new house and city—and attacked me. I have since been on the road to recovery in large part to the sacrament of marriage [my wife’s patience is awesome!] and a discipleship group at church has helped as well. A few weeks ago, I printed off Matthew 6:25-34 and posted on my cubicle wall to remind me that God is in charge. Jesus remind me, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:25-27).”
- My Children: When I lost my job I seriously begin to doubt the providence of God and I worried about the very thing Jesus tells us not to worry about above—feeding my children. God provided me with a job that is less stressful that my previous job and allows for excellent flexible options for me to take time off in case my children get sick. Why was I anxious about food and paying the bills? Failure to trust and fear caused by sin. Once again the sacramental graces God poured out to me through my marriage helped me out!
- Timeless Message: Several passages in the bible sound anachronistic—out of place and outdated. Not so for Matthew 6:24-35. Jesus’ words relayed by the evangelist contain a message that will never age! Finding adequate shelter, food, and clothing will always be relevant for the human race despite the leaps and bounds we have made technologically. That is the genius of the Gospel to stay relevant across centuries and centuries!
- Birds of a Feather: Living in the Midwest of the United States of America, I see tons of birds in my yard and throughout the city. Robins, crows, and sparrows. Some bible versions translate birds as sparrows. Whether this is the most literal translation is debatable; however, I associate with this passage even more when the word “sparrows” are used. Jesus says, “Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? (Matthew 6:26-27).” I notice animals around my neighbor on a daily basis and they eat on a daily basis. God loves humans immensely more. Do not worry!
Each spring a sparrow tries to build its nest in our garage. Jesus’ words always come to mind in those I notice twigs and straw hanging from the rafters left by my aviary associate. “Look at the birds [sparrows] in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” Yes…He does provide.
For several years of my life, the final words of Jesus before his death on the Cross puzzled me. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34). The word forsaken according to a thesaurus has many synonyms but the two that stand out to me are quit and desert. Let’s insert these words into the previous quote and read it again. On the Cross Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you quit on me and deserted me?” I think that everyone relate to Christ’s words. Within my own life I feel God has quit on me too many times to count and I believe I may be experiencing a period of abandonment and loneliness currently.
Why am I telling you this? Is my accusation of God’s commitment to me a grave danger to my Catholic faith? Is my feeling of abandonment caused by outside factors such as my work, stress, the winter weather or something else? Perhaps. However, I felt compelled to journal about my inner struggles as a Catholic man as a type of prayer to God Himself.
Let me back up and explain how I have grown to realize that feeling abandoned by God is not necessarily a bad thing. A few years ago, I was taking graduate theology courses and there was a particular class where I was required to read St. John of the Cross’s A Dark Night of the Soul– a spiritual grace that flowed from his period of spiritual loneliness. During this time of my life, I starting reading the Diary of St. Maria Faustina and she expressed similar sentiment. The Polish saint writes, “O Jesus, today my soul is as though darkened by suffering. Not a single ray of light” (Diary 195), Her words express my exact thoughts today.
When I read Faustina’s words I felt provoked to learn more about the words of the dying Christ, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. It turns out that the Gospels writers were making an allusion to Psalm 22- a prayer the psalmist wrote as a lament to God. I believe that the Holy Spirit was teaching me by fusing my theological background of the Scriptures with my current life experience.
Maybe God is allowing me to suffer loneliness because He knows that this will direct me on the path of prayer again. See I have not been the best Catholic. I have been impatient at work and home. I allow doubt to creep into my life. Perhaps this spiritual abandonment is the greatest gift God can grant to me now. Perhaps God is doing the same thing in your life now. Let’s embrace this loneliness together and continue to hope in God’s Providence. Amen.