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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TRUST
“Trust is a fundamental basis of morality. ”

A virtue is readily identified as the good actor while an opposing vice is the bad one. Virtue is always a virtue; vice is always a vice. Right?

Trust and Trustworthiness are virtues and Distrust and Untrustworthiness are opposing vices; however, there are certain situations and circumstances that seem to warrant distrust and untrustworthiness, in my opinion. For example, some adults [young and old] are all too easily duped or deceived by people you or I would naturally suspect. Yet, these adults are often described as being very trusting individuals. What about the person who refuses to report an acquaintance’s criminal activity? Perhaps the criminal would feel that the silent friend is very trustworthy whereas you or I would call it something else. However, being on-guard against con artists and revealing criminal activities would always be good choices rather than bad ones. The problem seems to be a matter of semantics rather than concluding that sometimes virtues morph into vice or that vice can become a virtue. Being easily duped is best described as gullibility, immaturity, or callowness rather than trust. Similarly, false loyalty or faulty loyalty — rather than trustworthy — best describes the friend who keeps secret the crimes of his criminal friends. We should be able to state that a virtue is always a virtue and a vice is always a vice. Let’s move on and discuss the virtue called trust.

Trust is “not merely a feeling; but, it is a feeling that necessarily flows into doing something good for one another.” [adapted from Rabbi David Wolpe’s definition of love. Wolpe was named among the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post. Feb. 16, 2016. http://time.com/4225777/meaning-of-love/]. 

Like love, trust naturally brings goods and good things to other people. Let’s discuss them. The goods and good things just mentioned are intrinsic and extrinsic goods. They arrive in the same measure that we trust one another. Trust makes it possible to want to help other people. Trust is the virtue that makes cooperation possible while also making cooperation easier and simpler. Ultimately, trust deepens our respect, compassion and empathy for others. It facilitates healthy, mutual dependencies among those we trust. Trust promotes friendships. It develops healthy work environments. Trust promotes social health and wellbeing. Trust encourages neighbors to help each other; thereby making the neighborhood an enjoyable place to live. Trust is the cement that bonds people together. Trust enables us to grow in our understanding about other people and the world they live in. Trust helps us feel secure about ourselves. Trust helps the people we trust to feel good about themselves. Trust creates natural, healthy autonomies and dependencies within societies and families. Trust fosters moral maturity and responsibility toward others. Trust is a necessary ingredient for moral decision making and corresponding action. Trust helps us feel appreciated, understood, and loved by others. Trust opens us up to each other while rendering us open and vulnerable; yet, we don’t worry about vulnerability when interacting with those we trust.  Trust is the necessary virtue for all healthy interpersonal relationships; but especially between spouses; parents and their children; and God and his children. These positive effects reveal why trust is indeed more than a feeling — it is a feeling that necessarily flows into doing something good for one another. Trust is inextricably linked to our feelings and emotions. Trust develops other companion virtues including hope and optimism. Trust facilitates the giving and receiving of the gift of “assured reliance on someone’s character, ability, and strengths”. [Merriam Webster’s definition] In other words, trust is basically an implicit promise to honor, to be loyal to, and to be respectful of another person. It is fundamental to the marriage vows even if the promise to trust and to be trustworthy is not expressly stated. [Many of the previous various ideas are adopted from the following source:  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trust/]

As already stated, virtuous behavior naturally spawns other virtuous acts. Trust supports and is supportive of many different, yet similar, companion, human virtues including loyalty, respect, hope, optimism, trustworthiness, love, justice, cooperation, and compassion for others. Eons ago, Sirach taught: “If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God. Set before you are fire and water; to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death, whichever they choose will be given them.” [Sirach 15: 15-17] Consider how this applies to all virtue and specifically trust. 

When trust is absent, opposing vices easily fill its void including: betrayal, unhealthy doubt, pessimism, skepticism, disloyalty, disrespect, hatred, injustice; and deceit. Recent public protests and demonstrations showcase many of these vices which tear down trust necessary for healthy, social co-existence. The protests show that our culture suffers from an underlying distrust of persons, ideas, and even agencies including the Church and other institutions. Societies will struggle and even fall when citizens grow excessively wary of each other’s words, actions and motives. Friendships fall apart when distrust replaces trust. Marriages fail when deceitfulness overtakes trustworthiness. One’s overall wellbeing is sometimes a measure of our personal treasure trove of virtues vs vice; the same can be said of entire cultures. 

So, how do we put on trust? Trust is both learned and earned! As we mature, we learn to trust others through verification. We begin with those closest to us. Consider babies. At birth, babies are naturally trusting because they have yet to experience disappointment or betrayal. Around seven months of age, babies begin to express stranger fear/anxiety because they finally realize that everyone is not necessarily mother, father or siblings; although they may have developed a preference for certain individuals within their immediate family. This new awareness protects babies as they are not yet able to verify the trustworthiness of strangers. Their fear of strangers gradually diminishes as baby observes his parents interact with friendly ‘strangers’. Even toddlers and pre-schoolers remain wary of strangers longer than we realize and for good reason. Gradually, children give and receive conditional trust because of emerging verification skills. 

How do we verify the trustworthiness of others? The verification processes involve studying a person of interest, observing him while interacting with others; listening to his ideas and thoughts; discussing topics with him; questioning his ideas; receiving input from others about him; getting to know him personally; and trying to understand his motives, beliefs and worldview. It is next to impossible to verify someone’s motives — even though motives really tell us who the real person is. All of us ought to reveal our motives so others don’t have to guess them — assuming we understand them ourselves. When a person’s motives remain a mystery, we are forced to draw conclusions about his/her trustworthiness based on the other verification systems listed above; our final conclusion about their trustworthiness may be off the mark when jumping to conclusions about their motives.  Trust eventually loses most of its conditionality when determining that someone is trustworthy; we then form the belief that the person of interest is truthful, sincere, and trustworthy — or not. 

Trust is shattered through the act of betrayal of someone’s trust. We automatically link betrayal to cheating on a spouse but it is has a broader context. Feeling betrayed may happen for the following reasons and situations; including the discovery of a hidden addiction of a loved one, friend or coworker. Persons who feel used by someone for any reason — financial, social, or others — will often feel betrayed by the person they trusted. Getting ripped off  financially by a trusted person is betrayal. Constant lying to someone betrays trust. Talking or gossiping about others can make the person being talked about feel betrayed. Abandonment - whatever the age or relationship can feel like betrayal. Revealing someone’s deepest secret without permission is a form of betrayal. Giving up on a friendship or marriage for little or no reason feels like betrayal. Discovery that a loved one has committed a serious crime feels like betrayal. Turning friends or family members against each other during arguments, court cases, or work disputes, can feel like betrayal. The pain felt by betrayal depends on the degree of trust placed on the betrayer. It also depends on the seriousness of the offense to the person who has been betrayed. Betrayal is one of the deepest hurts ever felt because it lays bare a person’s vulnerability and exposes it to the world as if it were their fault for trusting someone. Betrayal takes advantage of a person’s good will and optimistic hopes. It forces us to erase our belief system about someone. [https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/04/12/dealing-with-betrayal/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/worse-than-cheating_n_6036228.html]

Unconditional trust has no reason to monitor, track, question, or constrict the actions of someone we trust. However, after betrayal, that is exactly what we are tempted to do to prevent future episodes of betrayal and to diminish the hurt that we feel. These self-preservation efforts trend us toward becoming invulnerable rather than open to new-found trust. Broken trust doesn’t just lie dormant; it remains lost. Consequently, a betrayed person is also in danger of succumbing to vice that pretends to heal brokenness including acting out with anger, disrespect, hatred, injustice, vengeance, retaliating against the perpetrator; and other vice. Perhaps William Congreve himself betrayed a woman and therefore knew full well her fury when writing:“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Unfortunately, the betrayer often ends up in a better spot — emotionally,  psychologically, and socially —  than the person he/she betrayed.

Attempting to control someone's will, actions or life does not heal anyone; neither does it remove distrust. Betrayal undermines one’s sense of confidence and reality about self.  How does healing take place? It never helps to be told: just get over it or its time to move on.The emotions and feelings involved after a betrayal are very real and they run too deep to ignore, stuff inside or bat away without suffering serious consequences to social, psychological, physical, spiritual, or mental wellbeing.

The hurt caused by the betrayal becomes the opportunity to become even more merciful, forgiving, strong, and Christ-like through prayer, appropriate personal action, and decision making. It helps to seek expert advice so that the path forward is highly influenced by helpful directions, guidance, and oversight. This helps to ensure that he/she remains appropriately open and vulnerable, a just forgiver, and has new opportunities for personal growth.

How does disappointment in someone compare with betrayal? The difference between the two are hugely different. Disappointment does not feel as crushing as the feelings caused by betrayal. If you wondered about the difference, you probably haven’t been betrayed; perhaps you have merely felt  disappointed in someone. Feeling disappointed in someone proves two things: the trust we had in that person was very conditional — and probably for very just cause; and the act that disappointed us was probably not that serious. Let me give a few examples. Most parents realize their children are not perfect; therefore, they expect to be disappointed occasionally by their child’s choices, decisions and lack of maturity. Of course, committed parents are disappointed to learn that their child was unruly in the classroom, disrespected a teacher; was mean to another child; lied about something; was disobedient; cheated on an exam; or other misbehavior. Yet, we expect some of these things to happen as our children experience new people, places and things. Children have yet to mature so they do stupid things, make immature decisions, and say inappropriate words. They will never be perfect; neither will we. The feelings of disappointment range from low to high depending on the expectations of the parents, whether the act was new or repeat, and the degree of the wrongdoing. Like betrayal, disappointment provides us with the opportunity to teach, train, and supervise our children so they learn from their mistakes and our disappointments. Disappointment provides parents the opportunity to help their child become a better version of himself. [Matthew Kelly] So, parents set consequences, set higher expectations about future results, and monitor their children’s compliance. During a Fortifying Families of Faith workshop for parents, a psychologist stated that its important to remind our children that we trust them but we don’t trust their judgement  — yet. This statement seems to miss the truth about Trust. Unconditional trust involves trusting someone’s character, judgement, choices, decisions, etc.  Parents lack trust in their child because their whole personhood is immature! The way teens see others, ask questions, calculate situations, interpret, judge, and verify people, places and things is immature. We don’t just call into question their ability to judge; parents ought to call their whole verification processes into question. Parents’ trust of their children should remain highly conditional until they demonstrate mature behavior consistently. Until then, parents will be occasionally disappointed by our teens and adolescents and even college age children. 

Who do we trust fully and unconditionally? Your answer should focus on Three Persons - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Everyone else was born under the [except Mary] yoke of original sin and susceptible to the influence of concupiscence. None of us are completely and unconditionally trustworthy in all situations and circumstances. But we can work on reversing the effects of that condition can’t we? Not one of us will ever have to verify the trust of the three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They will not disappoint or betray us — ever. Even though we betray God through personal sin, He does not turn on us. God’s response to our betrayals — past, present and future —  was His willingness to sacrifice His only son - Jesus. And Jesus’ yes was his response to His Father. Similar to human betrayals, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes our opportunity to receive God’s perfect love and grace. 

How do we learn to trust God? Trust begins naturally and gradually opens us up to pondering supernatural trust. We begin to better understand God’s Supernatural Trust by understanding the great blessings provided to us by natural trust. We begin to understand supernatural trust by meditation on the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. He teaches us what betrayal feels like and how to respond. 

Only God is perfectly Trustworthy; only He is full of Truth, Integrity, Purity of Motive, Optimism, and authentic Love. God will never betray us; we can depend on that. That is what drives our Faith, Hope and Charity. God’s trust is the standard to use when learning and earning fellow human’s trust. God’s Trust created the world; it continues to support creation despite the original betrayal by Adam and Eve; the next betrayal by God’s beloved Jewish people, and our ongoing betrayal of God because of sin. He continues to love and forgive and show mercy — unconditionally — if we seek it. Let this be our example to live by. 

Questions to ponder: 


  1. Pray for Trust. 
  2. Have you ever been betrayed? What was your response? Have you forgiven them? Have you been able to re-learn how to trust that person? Why or why not? 
  3. Have you ever betrayed someone? What were the consequences and effects on you and the person you betrayed? Have you sought forgiveness and mercy from them? 
  4. What does trust mean to you? 
  5. Did you disagree with anything in this article? What was it? 
  6. Did you ever consider other types of betrayals before — other than within marriage? 
  7. Have you been disappointed in your children or spouse or siblings? Explain how that differs from feelings of betrayal. 
  8. List the opportunities provided by the betrayals and disappointments. Thank God for these opportunities. 
  9. How does Sirach 15:15-17 pertain to any discussion about trust? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Patience is Eternal by Linda Kracht 

“Patience teaches us to trust our journeys.” “Patience helps us maintain right attitudes while waiting.” “Good things will always come to those of us who believe, but even better things to those who are patient, and the best to those who don’t give up?” “Be patient; everything is coming together.” “Patience is one’s capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” While these cliches attempt to describe patience, an authentic understanding of this human virtue involves more than striving to have good attitudes; simple trust; tolerance; or avoidance of anger. Even the synonyms for patience get us a bit off-track from owning patience. At a minimum, patience is the sum total of all of the above plus more. Let’s talk about more next. 
Michelangelo - a genius/master sculptor, drawer, painter, architect, and philosopher noted: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. Within our lifetimes, the greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but setting our aim too low and achieving our mark. If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” His statements begin to unveil the qualities and characteristics of authentic patience. How? 


Substituting the words — blocks of human flesh —  for Michelangelo’s blocks of stone moves us beyond mere thoughts about our natural talents and invites us to reflect on the intrinsic/natural purpose, value, and design of the human person — especially self. ‘Every block of human flesh has a great masterpiece inside it and it is our tasks to discover our genius. Within our lifetimes, the greatest danger for us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.’ Michelangelo’s disappointment with those who take the easy route should be our disappointment as well. But is it?

Why do we aim low and achieve less? It seems directly related to the lack of patience with self, others or God. We want to resolve the who, what, when while very young without giving much thought or exploration of the our core self. We all too readily want to accomplish yesterday’s goals last week without looking ahead 20 years or more. We fail to really consider who we are in terms of body, soul and mind with psychological, spiritual, social, physical, and mental dimensions. Too often, we turn our backs on the needs of our immaterial selves while gratifying only material desires. 
Michelangelo’s philosophy of life still applies even though — as a society —  we tend to aim low and deliver less just because of our impatience with self, others and God. Few of us spend the hours Michelangelo did to create David, Moses, the Pieta, the Sistine Chapel, and others. His masterpieces reveal authentic patience with himself, others and God. Michelangelo said that he painted with his head and not his hands; we live in a time where its easier to create with our hands rather than our heads. And the results are accordingly less masterful — to be sure. How can we discern authentic patience? 

Several years ago, a priest taught students in the St. Paul Catechetical Study Program that each of us probably has a greater struggle with one of the three Theological Virtues [Faith, Hope, Charity] for different reasons. He assigned an hour of personal prayer, reflection, and discernment to help us figure out which of the three virtues was most challenging for us —  personally. I discerned that Love [Charity] was my obstacle to holiness without being able to fully articulate why. That is, until I read Adel Bestavros’ [self-described servant, teacher, leader, and family patriarch of the Egyptian Coptic Christian Sect] prescription for Patience. Bestavros defined patience this way: “Patience with others is Love; Patience with self is Hope; and Patience with God is Faith.” His explanation revealed why Love is my greatest challenge to holiness. Impatience with others opposes authentic love because it all too readily reveals the underlying, competing issue of pride and self love. Impatient love is not the way that Christ loves me. It is not the way that Christ loves the people I am most impatient with. Bestavros’ definition helps me understand patience more genuinely than do the modern cliches quipping about the virtue. For all of our sakes, let us pray for God’s help to love others authentically. He has taught us that there is Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love. “ If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” [1 Corinthians 13:1]

Patience with self is Hope. For those struggling with Hope, perhaps you have discerned that you are most impatient with yourself. You may not reflect often enough on the fact that you are God’s masterpiece — a work of art in progress. Maybe you tend to tell yourself you coulda, woulda, shoulda done this or that. These negative thoughts beat you up for not already being perfect! This self-abasement stymies the revelation of a genius within! Any do-overs are probably pretty hard on your self esteem. “If you consider yourself a work of art, and you should, then you will be able to fully appreciate that you are not to be rushed. Meet yourself where ever you are and don't judge. Work patiently and gently to free the masterpiece that is you. Never give up. Never give in. Keep at it. Oh so patiently.”   [ http://www.sandraguzman.com/2012/05/genius-is-eternal-patience.html] When we are impatient with self, we may also tend to question our relationship with God. We may be tempted to lose Hope - the firm awareness that we need God’s help [grace] to get to Heaven.  [CCC p. 882] List your talents, gifts, and abilities and thank God for each of them. Strive to become the genius he designed you to be. Pray for Patience with yourself.

Patience with God is Faith. For those who struggle being patient with God you are probably also struggling to be patient with His Church. Impatience dismisses our First (Primary) Obligation: “To Love, Honor and Obey God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts.” [CCC 1809; p. 879] Impatience with God, makes it very difficult to accept, adhere to, assent to, or even desire to know His moral right from wrong. We already have a tendency to be independent from God; impatience hurries that tendency along. Impatience with things of God blurs the necessary linkage between our feet and the practice of our Faith. Impatience with God diminishes the desire to get to Heaven because we may wonder whether or not God and Heaven even exist. Your blame for things gone wrong probably point to God rather than self. As impatience turns us from God, our love for Him is replaced with love of self and all things material. Have you wondered if Truth and Morality - one right conduct — are real? Perhaps unwittingly you have allowed relativism to seep into your worldview; thereby, decreasing your patience with God. All too often we use the excuse of relativism to explain away our greatest moral defect or sin. Ongoing impatience with anyone always makes it difficult to acknowledge their goodness publicly or privately — this also pertains to God. Pray for an increase in Faith-always - but especially when acting impatient with God. 

Understanding that patience acts as a barometer of the strength or weakness of Faith, Hope and Love is important. It is also important to note that the authentic practice of patience helps to advance all human virtues while opposing all vice. Finally, it’s worth noting that patience — the virtue — is negatively stressed by living overly busy lives. Have you read that BUSY is an acronym for being under Satan’s yoke? Busyness prevents us from aiming high and achieving mastery of things worthwhile — of God. Studies show that Americans complain about  being too busy; while, actually loving it. Authors, Silvia Bellezza, Neeru Paharia and Anat Keinan, found that while most Americans complain about being too busy, they are actually humble-bragging about their own value and purpose in life. Being overly busy only serves to pat ourselves down with false honor and purpose. The above authors contend that in our society, the “busy person is perceived as having high status which is heavily influenced by our own beliefs about social mobility. In other words, the more we believe that one has the opportunity for success based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing. By telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we implicitly suggest that we are sought after, which enhances our own perceived status.” [Research: Why Americans Are So Impressed by Busyness. Harvard Business Review. December 15, 2016.] This is a rather new American phenomena that probably won’t change anytime soon. Compared with Italians [who still value leisure over busyness],  Americans are on unhealthy paths forward toward the undisciplined pursuit of more. [Bellezza, Paharia and Keinan, McKeown, etc.}
The most unfortunate reality of over-valuation of busyness is that it will be readily passed on to the next generation! Children learn what’s normal from their parents example. They also tend to adopt similar world views after learning through example. And parents have proven beyond a doubt that they love being busy. All too many of us equate time with money and busy lives mean we are living the Good Life.

Thankfully, many people love patience for all the right reasons and swear by it. These are the people we should listen to. The next two examples help prove that point. In the first example, the couple has learned what patience is all about. The second example proves the need for patience.

Lesson 1: My friend recently remarked that she and her husband take the backroads home from their lake cabin. She had to explain why to my surprised face — proving me to be the dummy. Mary gave three reasons. The backroads are almost always less crowded and the traffic is slower. Fast drivers naturally prefer freeways over backroads. Mike and Mary like to drive slowly so they can appreciate the nature they are passing by — the animals, birds, fields, places and people of interest. The slow drive also provides them with the opportunity to reflect [together] on how the weekend went for their guests and themselves. They get to discuss what — if anything — they will do differently next time, based on what worked or didn’t work this weekend. Mike can more easily participate in such discussions when the traffic is light and he feels unhurried. Finally, they arrive home just as rested as when they left the cabin.

Lesson 2: Several years ago, we hosted a family reunion. That was a true test of patience with self, others and God! One of our nephews named Mike came with his parents. Mike watched our son, Patrick, water ski; and was very eager to try it since he never had opportunity to do so before this weekend. We were happy to accommodate his desire to learn to ski. After explaining the waterskiing basics to Mike, he informed us that he was going to start out with one ski — just like Patrick. We explained the need to start with two skis — balance, inexperience, slower starts, etc. We said he could certainly try one ski after first learning on two… Mike insisted that he would try slalom skiing since he already knew how to snow board! We tried to explain that snow boarders just jump up and go down the mountain from a standing position whereas water skiers have to learn how to let the boat pull them up and out of the water while maintaining good balance, etc. Mike continued to insist on going solo. His personal motto emerged: “One or none — and no problem.” Nothing changed his mind. His mother didn’t help matters when she asked us to let him try. “Don’t discourage him.” She was also a non-skier. His father agreed with us; however the son insisted he could and would do it with only one ski — and on the first try. Perhaps he was a Michelangelo in the making — high aims without promise of success. But after several tries, he just gave up even though we tried to encourage him to use two skis next. “Nothing doing” said Mike proving he was no Michelangelo.  Mike lacked patience and self discipline to learn a new skill the right way.  However, he would have agreed with Michelangelo’s assertion that after realizing how hard Patrick had to work at mastering slalom skiing; the water skiing just wasn’t worth it or even wonderful. He turned down the chance to become a great water skier who loved the sport after first practicing extreme patience.
Patience matters. Patience with others, self and God matters. Authentic patience helps us appreciate life. Patience helps us aim high and hope for the future. Patience is eternal. God is eternal. Patience is one of God’s many attributes. He has proven he is eternally patient with mankind. He has proven he is eternally patient with you and me. Let’s be patient with His Design. 
I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring. Please use the following exercises as a way to better understand patience with self, others, and God. 
1 Pray for authentic patience. 
2 Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently. 
3 Pray to the Holy Spirit for help and strength to put on Authentic Patience. 
4 Reflect on the Three Theological Virtues. Pull out your copy of the Catholic Catechism and read the various paragraphs listed in the index for Faith, Hope and Charity.
5 After reflecting on the Theological Virtues, select which Theological Virtue challenges you the most.
6 How patient are you with God, self or others? Who are you most impatient with — self, God, or others?  Does this least patience link well to your most challenging Theological Virtue? Why/why not?
7 Write a short paragraph describing yourself.


If you would like to read other works by Linda Kracht, founder of Fortifying Families of Faith visit www.fortifyingfamiliesoffaith.com. Linda has authored many books that benefit parents interested in parenting agains the tide of today’s wishy-washy culture. Recommended reading include: Black & White: An Examination of God's Moral Laws; Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever: Parenting Against the Tide; and  Daughters Forever, Sons Forever Curriculum. You may also ask Linda a question by sending her an email to linda@fortifyingfamiliesoffaith.com

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Preparing for Lent 

“My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” Matthew 27:46

Lent is a solemn Liturgical Season designed by the Church to draw us closer to the Lord. As we enter Lent, let’s reflect on Matthew 27:46: “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” [Matthew 27:46] A few verses later, Matthew writes that Jesus “cries out again with a loud voice and then yielded up His Spirit.” [Matthew [27:60] St. Matthew does not tell us what these last words of Jesus were. By way of contrast, St. Luke records Jesus’ last words in the following way: “”And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice said, Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” And having said this he breathed his last.””[Luke 23:46]

Both Gospels point to Jesus’ willingness to hand over His Spirit to the Father; however, the first does so after attributing that willingness to both Jesus’ humanity and divinity. His cries evidenced his humanity; his initial assenting to the plan provides clear evidence of his divinity. And because he was full of grace — humanly speaking — his humanity never rubbed or competed with his divine self. Yet, these passages describe the pain Jesus felt in part because of the silence of His Father during the passion and suffering on the cross. 

We too will also experience silence — or feelings of being abandoned by God -  at certain times of our life. It is then that the essence of our faith will undergo personal scrutiny. What do we do about these periods of silence which challenge our faith? It depends on how well we prepare for them. Jesus is the model to imitate and he showed the way by entering into Forty Days of Intense Preparation. Unlike Jesus’ preparation, we will need to eat, It is also unlikely that we will have to endure  the frontal assault by Satan. The Church advises the following: prayer, reflection, almsgiving, self denial, fasting, penance, and performing charitable works of mercy [CCC 1438]. If we merely flirt with our spiritual preparation, we will be less prepared for whatever lies ahead. And at least yearly, we have at least one chance to really grow in our faith and accept the Holy Spirit’s active participation in granting us Divine Grace - as He infused in Jesus before the Final Trial. Like Jesus, we will need to have storehouse full of grace in order to endure the trials and suffering that is sure to come our way in this lifetime. And that suffering will include periods of silence during which time it will feel as if the Father does not exist or is not interested in us. These trials will surely test our faith. Allow this Lent to help you get prepared —  spiritually and mentally.

Lacking a full storehouse of grace, we will react to trials much like any other human being who is weakened by original and personal sin. We will draw inward and further distance ourselves from those we love; our neighbors and God.

All of us know what abandonment [of any type] feels like — at least partially — because we have experienced it in one form or another. While God will never leave us or abandon us, He may allow us to experience His Silence - which in effect will feel like abandonment. How do we know this? Because it happened even to Jesus - and while he was sorely wounded physically and mentally. Yet, Jesus did not give into temptation principally because He was fully prepared and bolstered by the  storehouse of graces infused by the Holy Spirit. 

Each of us will also experience God’s silence as He tests our faith and love. While few of us will have to endure the physical torture that Jesus experienced, we will feel the sting of being dismissed by someone at some time in the past, present or future. We will react in one of two ways. Either we will commend our lives into our Lord’s hands — no matter what — or we will commend our lives to ourselves or the situation at hand and fail to turn to God. The first reaction allows us to draw closer to God and cash in the grace chips awarded during our times of preparation. The latter will only allow us to withdraw from God as we pump our fists; grow angrier and angrier; yell or scream demeaning words to hurt someone [even God]; develop a grudge or two; refuse to forgive; lash out uncontrollably; cry and maybe even try to get even.

This Lent, let’s prepare like there will be no other time of preparation. Let’s commit to experiencing the Forty Days of Preparation [Lent] as Jesus did — by denying self pleasure in dramatic ways. This will allow the Holy Spirit to fill up our spiritual storehouses with divine grace which in turn we can cash in on as needed trials come our way. 

What do we have to do? Stop, Look, Think and then decide how to prepare yourselves this Lent. Then write down your plans. Don’t leave it to memory because that will fail in moments of weakness. Then stick to the plan. What’s the plan? Each of ours will be and should be different from everyone else’s. God desires our personal response — not a canned, group think, plan. 

Let’s be proactive in ways none of us have never been before. Let’s pray intentionally. Let’s receive the Sacraments often. Let’s give alms to the poor more purposefully. Let’s fast meaningfully. Maybe all of us should avoid those fish fries that make life easier — or anything that makes our life easier this Lent. Let’s deny ourselves those things we would not ordinarily give up. Let’s think about new things to give up. Let’s stop giving up the same old same old things that end up being pretty meaningless. Let’s get involved in others’ lives unlike our usual ways. Let’s attend to the charitable and spiritual works of mercy by asking ourselves the following questions: When was the last time I visited the imprisoned; fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, admonished the sinner; sheltered the homeless; visited the sick; buried the dead; counseled the doubting; consoled the afflicted; forgave offenses willingly and easily; bore wrongs patiently; prayed for the living and the dead; instructed the ignorant about faith; practiced mercy willingly; pledged to step out in faith without fear? After answering these questions; let’s prepare our battle plan for Lent! 

God’s blessings on you!