Grace is amazing

Ronald Rolheiser on Amazing Grace –

It was William Auden, I think, who wrote that when grace enters a room everyone begins to dance.

Would this were so! More often the opposite happens, grace enters a room and instead of dancing we become discontent and our eyes grow bitter with envy. Why? Nikos Kazantzakis, the great Greek writer, tells a story of an elderly monk he once met on Mount Athos. Kazantsakis, still young and full of curiosity, was questioning this monk and asked him: “Do you still wrestle with the devil?” “No,” replied the old monk, “I used to, when I was younger, but now I’ve grown old and tired and the devil has grown old and tired with me.” “So,” Kazantsakis said, “your life is easy then? No more big struggles.” “Oh, no!” replied the old man, “now it’s worse. Now I wrestle with God!” “You wrestle with God,” replied Kazantsakis, rather surprised, “and you hope to win?” “No,” said the old monk, “I wrestle with God and I hope to lose!”

There comes a point in life when our major spiritual struggle is no longer with the fact that we are weak and desperately in need of God’s forgiveness, but rather with the opposite, with the fact that God’s grace and forgiveness is overly-lavish, unmerited, and especially that it goes out so indiscriminately. God’s lavish love and forgiveness go out equally to those have worked hard and to those who haven’t, to those who have been faithful for a long time and to those who jumped on-board at the last minute, to those who have had to bear the heat of the day and to those who didn’t, to those who did their duty and to those who lived selfishly.

God’s love isn’t a reward for being good, doing our duty, resisting temptation, bearing the heat of the day in fidelity, saying our prayers, remaining pure, or offering worship, good and important though these are. God loves us because God is love and God cannot not love and cannot be discriminating in love. God’s love, as scripture says, shines on the good and bad alike. That’s nice to know when we need forgiveness and unmerited love, but it’s hard to accept when that forgiveness and love is given to those whom we deem less worthy of it, to those who didn’t seem to do their duty. It’s not easy to accept that God’s love does not discriminate, especially when God’s blessings go out lavishly to those who don’t seem to deserve them.

Allow me to share a story: When I as first ordained, I lived for a time in one of our Oblate rectories with a semi-retired priest, a wonderfully gracious man, who had been a faithful priest for fifty years. One evening, alone with him, I asked him: “If you had your priesthood to do over again, would you do anything differently?” The answer he gave me was not the one I’d anticipated. “Yes,” he said, “I would do some things differently. I’d be easier on people than I was this time. I’d risk the mercy and forgiveness of God more.” Then he grew silent, as if to create the proper space for what he was about to say, and added: “Let me say this too: As I get older I’m finding it harder and harder to accept the ways of God. I’ve been a priest for fifty years and I’ve been faithful. I can honestly say, in so far as I know, that in my whole life I’ve never committed a mortal sin. I’ve always tried my best and done my duty. It wasn’t easy, but I did it with essential fidelity. And you know something? Now that I’m old I’m struggling with all kinds of bitterness and doubt. That’s natural, I guess. But what upsets me is that I look around me and I see all kinds of people, young people and others, who’ve never been faithful, who’ve lived selfish lives, and they’re full of faith and are speaking in tongues! I’ve been faithful and I’m full of anger and doubt. Tell me, is that fair?”

In the end, we need to forgive God and that might be the hardest forgiveness of all. It’s hard to accept that God loves everyone equally – even our enemies, even those who hate us, even those who don’t work as hard as we do, even those who reject duty for selfishness, and even those who give in to all the temptations we resist. Although deep down we know that God has been more than fair with us, God’s lavish generosity to others is something which we find hard to accept. Like the workers in the Parable of the Vineyard who toiled the whole day and then saw those who had worked just one hour get the same wage as theirs, we often let God’s generosity to others warp both our joy and our eyesight.

But that struggle points us in the right direction. Grace is amazing, by disorienting us it properly orients us.

making peace with ourselves

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It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting an immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.

– Thomas Merton

The night holds no terror for me resting under God’s wings – antiphon from Compline (night prayer)

I posted the following on Facebook four years ago today. I don’t know why. Did I know in my gut that I was so near the end of my rope and that I would hit rock bottom – hard – some five months later? 


Richard Rohr ~
When we come to the end of our rope and hit rock bottom, we are not dashed but fall into God’s hands. It is here at our lowest that we discover our true source of power, the indwelling Holy Spirit. Many years ago, during a hermitage in Arizona, I had a particularly strong sense of the Holy Spirit, the One who is fully available to all of us “if we but knew the gift of God” (John 4:10). I slowly composed this prayer–imagining many names and movements of the Spirit–to awaken and strengthen this Presence within you. Recite it whenever you are losing faith in God or in yourself.

Pure Gift of God

monochrome photo of dark hallway

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

Indwelling Presence
Promise of the Father
Life of Jesus
Pledge and Guarantee
Defense Attorney
Inner Anointing
Homing Device
Stable Witness
Peacemaker
Always Already Awareness
Compassionate Observer
God Compass
Inner Breath
Mutual Yearning
Hidden Love of God
Implanted Hope
Seething Desire
Fire of Life and Love
Truth Speaker
Flowing Stream
Wind of Change
Descending Dove
Cloud of Unknowing
Uncreated Grace
Filled Emptiness
Deepest Level of Our Longing
Sacred Wounding
Holy Healing
Will of God
Great Compassion
Inherent Victory

You who pray in us, through us, with us, for us, and in spite of us.
Amen, Alleluia!

wounds and scars

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On this day in 1944, my Dad was a 25 year-old first lieutenant in the 4th infantry, leading the men in a landing craft like this into really unknown waters.
He made it to the outskirts of Ste. Mere Eglise, where he was hit with grenade shrapnel. His left arm and hand were significantly damaged; shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his too-short life, including in his eyes.
He’s always been my hero.
This poem is for him, William John Schulz, Jr.

Wounds and Scars

I have two noticeable scars
one on my forehead

from falling with a girl
on my back the other from

breaking a salt shaker in my hand
just before my first divorce

some wounds heal
from the inside out

raw and open for months
some wounds may never scar

Jesus had holy wounds
and Hemingway of course

Francis of Assisi had stigmata
as if Jesus was inside him

my father had shrapnel wounds
from a battle in France

I’d touch the scar on his chin
and he’d growl then laugh

over and over until
we both laughed and cried

ripples of hope

FB_IMG_1591395915191“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

― Robert F. Kennedy