Monday, May 20, 2013

Recognizing God's Will: Fr. Ciszek's He Leadeth Me

            Fr. Ciszek mentions something that all of us dedicated to Jesus Christ seek - knowing and doing God’s will.  As stated, it seems like a simple task.  We look for the “good” choice and do it. Therein, however, lies the problem.  In seeking the “good” choice, our fallen human nature seeks our “good” choice.  How many times have we come across a situation and thought, rationalized, and justified our position and choice as the “right thing”?  Fr. Ciszek so clearly approaches this human mistake in the following passage from He Leadeth Me:
. . .but rather the will of God as God envisioned it and revealed it to us each day in the created situations with which he presented us. His will for us was the twenty-four hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to "do the will of God." No, these things, the twenty-four hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation and to act accordingly. We had to learn to look at our daily lives, at everything that crossed our path each day, with the eyes of God; learning to see his estimate of things, places, and above all people, recognizing that he had a goal and a purpose in bringing us into contact with these things and these people, and striving always to do that will—his will—every hour of every day in the situations in which he had placed us. For to what other purpose had we been created? For what other reason had he so arranged it that we should be here, now, this hour, among these people? To what other end had he ordained our being here, if not to see his will in these situations and to strive to do always what he wanted, the way he wanted it, as he would have done it, for his sake, that he might have the fruit and the glory?  (Ciszek 41)
            Contextually, Fr. Ciszek is speaking about his experience in a Russian labor camp circa 1940.  He and a fellow priest went into this camp incognito, with the hope of serving those people in spiritual need.  However, the grim reality of communism pervaded, and no one wanted to even acknowledge God.  Fr. Ciszek wanted to leave and consistently looked for a way out. Fr. Ciszek was looking to satisfy his own version of God’s will.  But all he needed to do was look around.  God’s will was “the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us.”
     Reflecting on Fr. Ciszek's epiphany, I pray that God gives us the grace to recognize and lovingly act on His will in the everyday "people, places, and circumstances" that surround us. Through God's loving grace, let us see and act with act with the eyes and heart of Christ, and let all our actions serve only His will in the "here and now" of life.  Amen. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sacred Scripture: Jesus Christ, Conversion, and Dr. Scott Hahn's Online Bible Study

Scripture is the spiritual game-changer for me.  Reading Scripture puts me in the direct voice of God, whether it is a dialogue with Jesus in the New Testament or Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Throughout my early life, my faith was like the seed buried beneath the earth that seemed dead but was waiting for the nourishing waters of Sacred Scripture. For many years, if asked about my faith, the standard answer was, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior," but that, and what I remembered about the Ten Commandments from CCD, was the extent of my faith, not that I was compelled to follow the Commandments or even study them.  
    Years later, however, I had a powerful conversion.  A significant part of Christ's reaching out to me came through Scripture.  Up until my conversion, the only Scripture I read was bits and pieces of the King James Bible the Gideons gave me before entering USAF basic training, and that interpretation left me baffled at times.  Through my discovery of Scripture, Christ led me to the New Testament where I was able to hear His voice calling me, as He does all of us, by name.  Reading the Gospels is like having an intimate conversation with Christ.  All of those years that I did not have Scripture in my life I found myself in a barren struggle to find happiness in things.  Yes, I had my loving wife and children, and they always brought joy into my life, but in the absence of embracing my faith through Scripture, I missed the pinnacle of reason for that joy, God.  I needed Scripture to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ’s salvific plan for me, and once God led me to Scripture, I was able to choose to develop and feed that submerged seed of faith.
   In reading Scripture, however, I found there were too many interpretive points of view in the Protestant camp of exegesis. Through prayer and discernment, God lovingly led me back to the Catholic Church, and by accepting that invitation, I discovered Dr. Scott Hahn’s online Scripture study program, From Genesis to Jesus.  Through this Catholic online Bible study, I was given the Catholic tradition and framework for understanding God’s inspired Word. 

* The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition.