Tag Archives: Patience

A World of Talking Trees

“Do you still not understand?” Jesus said this to his disciples in Mark’s gospel right after he cured a blind man who only gradually gains his sight. He has to lay his hands on the man’s eyes a second time before he sees clearly. Is that the way we see and understand, gradually?

The cross takes many forms and I wonder if one form it takes in our time is the cross of confusion. We like clear sight for ourselves and everyone else, but in times of great change confusion is inevitable. Like the man in the gospel we’re living in a world of “talking trees” and that’s hard to take, reasonable, resourceful people that we are.  It’s humbling to live in confusing times like ours..

It makes us angry. There’s a lot of anger around us today, the anger that boils over and lashes out, or the anger that retreats into a fortress of resistence and isolation.

Pope Francis often speaks of patience. He said patience keeps the church going. He spoke once of the music of patience, a patience that hears and waits, like the patient blind man who waits for the hand of Jesus to reach out again.

“When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”
(Mark 8,22-26)

Friday Thoughts: The Height Of Stars

by Howard Hain

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My constant companion.

My acting partner, my motivational coach.

Sometimes I forget you’re there.

Such lack of gratitude, such empty graciousness.

But you remind me, lest I forget.

There you are once again.

Right beside me.

Center stage.

All the world to see.

Hard to imagine you any other way.

My constant companion.

My antagonist. My adversary.

Middle of the night, just you and me.

Another standoff. Another scene.

Good or bad, there’s always drama.

One day we’ll part ways I suppose.

But for today, this hour, you continue to goad.

Pestering and probing.

A reaction, any, is what you want.

Like a needle in my hay stack

Pricking my limbs.

Especially my heart.

Weakness.

That’s who you are.

You play your role.

Upstaging the stronger, more noble parts of man.

Clever, cunning, looking for the upper hand.

Curtain up or curtain down.

You’re a character for sure.

Smile or frown.

Jester or clown.

Your disguise is basically the same.

Some sort of wise man, a plot all your own.

But you, Sir Weakness, you are important.

Like tragedy.

Like divine comedy.

You give good measure.

You give the chorus something to say.

And despite your best intentions.

You help establish strength.

You remind people the height of stars.

Without you, my dear Weakness, no hero could ever be.


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Thoughts Upon The Cross: Building Strength

by Howard Hain

 

Jacopo Tintoretto The Ascent to Calvary (1566-67)(detail)

Jacopo Tintoretto, “The Ascent to Calvary”, 1566-67 (detail)

 

In spiritual matters, weight training principles often apply:

Without sufficient resistance, strength won’t increase.

Resistance is then not only something to be tolerated, it’s to be seen as necessary, as something desirable:

Without proper resistance, real growth won’t take place.

In fact, the more resistance the better, as long as we maintain good positioning and form, eat and drink properly, and get enough off-time and rest.

In spiritual terms, these conditions easily translate:  1) Stay close to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive the Body and Blood of Christ with a grateful heart; 2) Remain in the Word of God and actively do the will of the Father; 3) Live a life of mental prayer—residing continually in “your inner room”—where we encounter the Divine Presence and lovingly adore the One True Source of all existence.

Let us then not be fools and seek shortcuts. Let us put aside all fads and worldly ways. Let us instead properly train, keeping in sight, and practice, the very basics:

To build strength, we need resistance.

Accept resistance then in every form—obstacles, roadblocks, annoyances, ridicule, mockery, difficulties, delays…

Accept it all as if directly delivered to you from the personal-training hand of God.

Accept it willingly, thankfully, even joyfully, as if weight added to the bar—as part of perfectly planned resistance—individually and specifically designed to increase moral strength and spiritual stature.


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Friday Thoughts: Portrait of the Catholic as a Middle-Aged Man

 

george-seurat-aman-jean-portrait-of-edmond-francois-amna-jean-1882-83

Georges Seurat, “Aman-Jean (Portrait of Edmond Francois Aman-Jean)”, 1882-83, (The Met)

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So much is not seen.

What is heard hardly tells the story.

The hairline leaves little to gaze upon.

A good sergeant, he worries little about appearances.

He often feels what he believes is slipping away beneath his feet.

The commands barked from above seem detached from the situation on the ground.

He follows orders anyway.

To many he is somewhat of a joke.

A puppet. A man who cant think for himself.

Some may even use the word ‘coward’.

But none of this is accurate of course.

No, he is a man of honor.

A noble-man.

He takes his vows and commitments seriously.

He will protect his wife. He will raise his children.

He will stand when others hide.

He will walk forward when others turn away.

Firm and steadfast.

He lives out daily the faith of his fathers.

Quietly and efficiently as possible.

No, he’s certainly not perfect.

And of this he is very conscious.

So much so he wonders often if God has chosen the wrong man.

And this is saving grace.

Humility is purgatorial.

It burns away the dross.

It polishes the trophy.

It propels him to love to heroic measures.

It keeps him around, in the game, engaged, alive, an active participant.

As much as it hurts, he knows it’s true, and he carries on, toward the goal.

Toward what he cannot see, toward what he certainly does not understand.

This man is a hero of faith.

And at the same time he is just another Joe.

Another Tom, Dick or Harry.

But in heaven, when all is said and done, he shall receive a crown.

His cross finally laid down, he shall finally see it as a walking stick.

A beautifully-crafted staff in the hand of a just and upright man.

A righteous upholder of God’s eternal law.

Then he shall take his place, very close to the King and Queen, right beside that other unknown man named Joe.

That common nobody led by angels and mocked by men.

The one chosen by God to raise the Messiah.

For where you find the anonymous man of whom I speak, you too shall discover the Holy Family.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

On earth as it is in heaven.

A little humble home in the middle of nowhere.

An eternal kingdom emanating all that is good.


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—Howard Hain

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http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/339751.

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* Dedicated to my good friend, who I greatly admire.

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Morning Thoughts: Home Sick

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I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: Arriving in Hope

 

Camille Pissarro Entree du village de Voisins 1872.jpg

Camille Pissarro, “Entrée du village de Voisins”, 1872

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Waiting and waiting, for exactly what I’m not sure.

The sun to rise.

The day to end.

The water to boil.

Mass to begin.

The cock to crow.

Christ to return.

———

A new day is here.

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Father, thank You.

Jesus, I love You.

Holy Spirit, have Your way.


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—Howard Hain

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Friday Thoughts: Exhaustion

Jerzy Duda-Gracz

Jerzy Duda-Gracz, “Golgotha of Jasna Gora”, (ca. 2001)


 

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life…”

—John 6:27


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On a day such as this, our Lord, our God, our Savior Jesus the Christ was crucified.

It is hard to imagine just what He went through that long, hard day.

It is certainly a good exercise to meditate on Christ’s Passion. It bears great spiritual fruit.

This particular morning, exhaustion is on my mind.

I think of all those who are staggering out of bed. All those faces I shall soon see on the crowded bus, the claustrophobic subway car, the bitterly hot city street.

Of course those faces can also be seen in the suburbs and the country. Those faces are all over the place.

All those Josephs. All those Marys. All those Peters and Pauls. All those just like you and me, like yours and mine—all on their way to work—each carrying a cross made of wood, no matter what the job may entail or what the work may look like, no matter if the “work” performed results in “pay” or not.

Exhaustion. Being spent. Having been completely poured out. Nothing left but fumes.

And many whom I shall see this morning will return this evening to ungrateful companions: spouses, children, in-laws, neighbors…all those in their lives who they provide for, but who rarely think about the effort it takes to generate that provision—let alone, to say, “Thank you”.

Jesus kept walking.

Patience. Strength. Perseverance.

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Lord, teach us. Show us. Show us Your blessed face.

Can we see You today in the tired, the taken for granted, the exhausted? Can we pour ourselves out on Your behalf? Can we serve those who serve others?

Can we be instruments of encouragement? Can we help the anonymous Jesus right next to us carry His Cross? And can we do all this in complete and perfect union with Jesus and all for the love of You, Lord God?

Father, can we continue to ask You questions such as these? Questions that bring us closer to You, and closer to the Passion of Your Dearly Beloved Son.

I love You, Jesus. Let me never take for granted Your crucifixion. Let me never take for granted Your exhaustive gift—a gift that took every bit of You and yet never runs out—a gift exclusively for me and at the very same time exclusively for each and every other member of mankind.

You, Lord God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit: Most Holy Trinity—are everywhere: on crowded buses, on claustrophobic subway cars, on bitterly hot city streets. You are all over the place. You are in so many who don’t even know that You are in them. Let me see You in them. And may that blessed encounter also be the moment in which he and she comes to recognize Your Divine Presence residing deep within.

You are God.

You died for each of us.

Your Passion continues.

On the Third Day, You rose again.

The Third Day is also today—this very day—this new and blessed day.

You are risen. You are risen, indeed!


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So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

—John 6:28-29


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—Howard Hain

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Morning Thoughts: God Waiting On Us

God the Father Cima da Conegliano c 1515

Cima da Conegliano, “God the Father”, c.1515


 

How sweet to my taste is your promise!

—Psalm 119:103a


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We all know well that we often need to be patient. In fact, we always need to practice patience.

We pray, we ask, and most times we need to wait. Waiting in faith on God.

We continually need to be reminded that God always hears us and always answers, always—just not always according to what we think best.

God answers in a perfect manner: He answers with what will best nourish our growth into salvation at that current moment in our particular journey toward Eternity.

Sometimes though the waiting is on the other side. Sometimes God is waiting on us. For God showers us with so many blessings, with so much grace—and at the same time He gifts our nature with free will—the freedom to accept or reject: to say “yes”, “no”, or “maybe so”.

These “circumstances” quite often result in a “backlog” of grace. Not that God ever runs dry or is stingy in dishing it out. No, of course not, the “backlog” is caused by us, when we do not properly use our free will to accept what God offers. And God, being pure kindness, in His perfect love honors our choice. He is patient with us. He waits.

We need to receive what He has already offered, previously sent, and is still pouring out upon us, before additional grace and blessings could possibly do us good.

God of course could make us instantly receive and utilize all the gifts that He offers. God can do anything. But He loves us so much that He wants us to participate and cooperate with Him, to co-labor, and doesn’t that make sense?

For when you love someone you want him or her to receive the maximum blessing, the maximum peace, the maximum joy that he or she can possibly receive. And God by not forcing Himself or His gifts upon us, is giving us just that opportunity—the opportunity to be part of His victory.

Put is this way, is it more fun to go to a victory celebration for someone you watched win from afar, or is more joyous to be part of the victory itself, to have actually contributed to the very victory that is being celebrated?

Participation always enhances.

God allows us to participate. It is one of the greatest signs of His love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16) And God allows us to share in that very sacrifice, that very victory over death itself.

But of course with participation comes some sweat, some effort, some trials, some moments of stepping into uncomfortable spaces—sometimes some extremely uncomfortable and painful circumstances. But be not afraid:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

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So the next time we are about to ask something of God, perhaps each one of us should consider this: Maybe we should first ask for the grace to fully receive the blessings, the love, the mercy, the grace that He has already sent our way but that we have not yet fully accepted or received.

For when we fully receive, we always end up surprised—supernaturally surprised at just how much God has already done!

He is not only a step ahead of us, He is eternally with us.

God is great.

He pours down blessings.

The Blood of Christ is powerful beyond our capacity to understand.

His promises are so real that they are currently being fulfilled—for they are always being spoken—and what God speaks He does.

Ask. Ask God, then. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach us how to receive—how to graciously receive—and we’ll find that we also learn how to generously give.

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Lord, may I receive the grace to receive your blessings: The grace to receive your grace.

May I be in a pure state of receptivity.

May I be purely passive within Your perfect presence—knowing that only then can I be effectively active—knowing that You are in complete control and have everything, every detail, perfectly worked out.

Help my unbelief!

Increase my love!

Deepen my trust in You, Triune God.

Thank You, Lord, for what You have already sent my way: The promise of eternal life, of permanent peace and joy, of love. Pure Love. Pure Perpetual Love.

Thank You for the gift of faith. The gift of prayer. The gift of Hope—Hope not only in eternal life but in the promise that You will always provide the help and assistance I need to reach eternal life and to do Your will while I travel through this world—a world in which I am a stranger—a pilgrim stretching forward, ever heading home.

May I practice profound gratitude by simply saying, “Yes”,

by simply saying, “Amen”,

by simply saying, “So be it.”

I do receive. I do accept.

And I do say, “Thank You, God.”

You are great.

I love You too.


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—Howard Hain

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The Patience of Job

I think the greatest of popes was Gregory the Great, who held the church together during Rome’s free fall into poverty in the 6th century. He kept his balance by reflecting on the scriptures, and one of his favorite books to reflect on was the Book of Job.  Here he is drawing on Job’s wisdom:

“Paul saw the riches of wisdom within himself though he himself was outwardly a corruptible body, which is why he says ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels’. In Job, then, the earthenware vessel felt  gaping sores externally; while an interior treasure remained unchanged. The gaping outward wounds did not stop the treasure of wisdom within from welling up and uttering these holy and instructive words: ‘If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?’ By the good he means the good things given by God, both temporal and eternal; by evil he means the blows he is suffering from in the present.”

Gregory quotes from Isaiah:

“‘I am the Lord, unrivalled,

I form the light and create the dark.

I make good fortune and create calamity,

it is I, the Lord, who do all this.’

“I form the light, and create the dark, because when the darkness of pain is created by blows from without, the light of the mind is kindled by instruction within.

‘I make good fortune and create calamity…’ Notice Job’s skill as he meets the arguments of his wife.If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not receive evil?’

 “It’s consoling, when we suffer afflictions, to remember our Maker’s gifts to us. Painful things will not depress us if we quickly remember also the gifts that we have been given. As Scripture says, ‘In the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and in the day of affliction, do not forget prosperity.’”

Losing Patience

The reading from the Book of Numbers in today’s Mass is a classic text describing the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.  After their miraculous release from Pharaoh’s armies, the people make their way through the desert where miracles are few and their steady march never seems to end.

The people lose patience. They had wished for an easier way. They complain about their food and they probably complained about everything else. Falling into a nest of snakes, they suffer from their poisoned bites. In answer to his peoples’ pleas, Moses fits a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who look at it are healed.

In the reading from John’s gospel, Jesus promises that when he is lifted up, he will heal those who look at him with faith.

The Lord wishes to lift us up by the power of his cross. This holy time is a time to receive healing through this holy mystery and gain patience for our journey.

Losing patience is still one of our greatest trials, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a long illness that turns our lives into a desert, or a strained relationship, or a marriage that ends without hope for repair, or dreams dashed by years of failure. We grow impatient, and impatience can be a poison.

So we look for signs that lift us up. Besides the cross of Jesus, there are people in our lives who are like him, who follow his example and his love. Look at them; they lift us up. They’re saving signs, strengthening us on our journey.