Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

Christ and the Pauper, Andrey Mironov 2009

Pope Francis asks to whole Church in our vocation and charism of love, to “go out to the peripheries.”

When you and I go into to the homes of families who are poor, not only financially, but broken by a complex labyrinth of suffering from generation to generation, often with knots of suffering, that is beyond our capacity to untie, we just have to love them. And in the process of being there to love them, you will absorb a lot. And if you’re a really sensitive soul, you’ll absorb more, for we absorb what is in our environment. We absorb that suffering, but without sin.

When, for example, Jesus came out to sinners, when he forgave people caught in sin, when he reached out to touch sinners, with compassion and mercy, he immersed Himself in the dirt! Pope Francis says, he wishes that “shepherds would smell like the sheep.” He prefers a bruised, beat-up Church, because it’s been out on the streets, rather than a Church that “healthy” but is self-preserved behind its own security and comfort zone.

Jesus got his hands dirty, helping people. And I’m sure He stank! Have you ever had a homeless person sitting next to you? They smell like urine and it reeks sometimes!

So when you are with the people, you ‘smell’ like them, not just physically but also spiritually. We absorb our surroundings, like Jesus on the Cross, who out of solidarity with broken humanity and suffering, took everything upon himself, except for the sin.

Not the sin. That, we don’t compromise with. Love the sinner, but we do not touch the sin. In other words, we don’t condone it, we don’t accept it, and we don’t embrace it. The sin, that part is off-limits. And that’s how Jesus was, in his whole mission of His Sacred Humanity, He became like us in everything, except sin.

Sin is very, very, real. Christianity is not all about sin, but about freedom; yet sin is very, very, real. And for that reason, Christ had to go on the Cross. That’s how real sin is. Christianity is not like other religions, think of Hinduism, and all the different incarnations of the deities of Hinduism, Vishnu and Krishna, and all the rest, and it’s not like our religion. The Hindu gods, you don’t see them suffering in the place of their people. You don’t see any resemblance to a God suffering for the people.

In addition, the Mystery of Christ is a historical event. Other religions like Hinduism, are a spirituality associated with a distinctive Oriental style of mythology. Similarly, the Greeks and the Romans had their own mythology- the Pantheon.

The radical nature of Christianity comes in, where the mystery, became event and history. God didn’t just come to show us how to meditate, to avoid all suffering— He entered into the suffering! So we don’t see The Deified One, in the lotus position, transcending all human suffering, and escaping this world; you see Him entering into the core of human brokenness and taking it upon Himself in order to liberate us.

What Jesus did for us is radical! Jesus is not simply a deified man – He’s The Deity made man. Not a simply a godly man, but God-made-man. Emmanuel with us, embracing us, getting messy in our midst, in order to lift us up to God’s glory. Amazing. Amazing! 

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

In Christ Our Way and Our Life, the theology of Father Sophrony, a holy man who comes from the Eastern Christian Greek Orthodox tradition, is explained. Father Sophrony grounds the whole mystical experience of God in “the mystery of Christ.” Entering into the mystery of what it means to be loved by God is the source of Christian mysticism.

Father Sophrony grounds the magnificent realities, the magnanimous truth of who we are, in what Christ accomplished. His Word is truth and everything about it is possible because of who He is and what He did. God’s work is not something that we can produce on our own, nothing that we can ever earn by our performance, nothing we deserve by being ‘good enough.’

What He gives us is nothing that we are, by ourselves, worthy of. It’s all free gift. It’s all sheer grace – amazing grace.

Father Sophrony says, “Christ suffering in the flesh, inherited and took possession of all people.”  In Christ’s Passion, He came and He took, as it were, possession of all people.

Reflect on that a bit. In Christ’s Passion, He takes possession of all people. Remember when Jesus said, “When I am raised up” — like when Moses raised up the serpent, on the staff — “When in the Son of Man is raised up, I will draw all people to myself.”

Jesus became like us, mystically speaking – in His sacred humanity, his human body absorbed the suffering of every human being ever to live. He absorbed the sins of all people, from Adam to the end; in His pure humanity, in His innocence – and He became like us.

As High Priest, He humbled himself to wash our feet, and He became like us in all things but sin. He identified with every aspect of  our human weakness; he became so in touch with our vulnerability as human beings and as broken persons.

He entered into all vulnerabilities of all mankind, in every aspect of brokenness except for voluntary sin.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: back to Galilee

 

When we talk about going to Galilee, and that place of the first love in our hearts, sometimes a song can bring us back. We all know that on a human level; it doesn’t take a religious person to experience that — music has power. You hear a song, and it was associated with a particular time or moment in your life, it immediately takes you back somewhere – a visit, a vacation, or a family trip.

It could even be a personal, emotional and interior experience of growth. But if that experience is associated with some song, then the moment we hear it, even  after ten or twenty years later, immediately, the song brings us back to that period.  Music can bring us back to our first love.

When I was first coming back to the Church, I remember often hearing the song, “Pescador de Hombres.” I was discovering Jesus, and turning my life around to Him. Everything was changing in my life, by God’s grace. I remember – that song used to pull so strong on my heartstrings.

Another song was, “Here I am, Lord.” I remember hearing that when I had barely just come back to church. I had been away from God, I had been anti-organized religion, anti-Catholicism, and didn’t believe Christ was real, nor did I believe anything about what Christianity said about Him.

I was totally away from anything that had to do with Church life and following Christ. I grew up as a baptized cradle-Catholic, and I would go to church every Sunday as a cultural Catholic, but I was going through the motions, and just going because I had to.

And as I was making my baby steps back to Church, He shared His Love with me, in a way I never experienced before.

When I became a teenager, I left the Church, but as I came back in my own terms, Jesus shared His Love with me. When a song like “Pescador”  or “Here I am Lord,” came on, I could just feel Him pulling out my heart – big time! I would think, “whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-what’s-going-on!

There was this revolution happening.

I felt like, “Whoa! You are going way too fast here, Lord! whoa-whoa-whoa! Hold up, wait a minute!”  For me, these songs, just bring me back to that Galilee, that first love. Songs like that can expand the heart and broaden the horizon of who we are, in the love of God.

In talking about this “horizon of the Love of God,” the “face of God,” Saint Augustine says says that “the further we penetrate into the splendor of Divine Love, the more beautiful it is to pursue our search.”  The deeper we go, the deeper we should want to go.

In other words, the discovery of God’s face is never ending. The further we penetrate into the splendor of divine love, the more beautiful it is to pursue our search, so that the greater the love grows, the further we will seek the One who has been found.

 

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: back to Galilee

In name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.  

My God, I believe, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. 

My Lord and my God Jesus Christ, I thank You, for giving Yourself for us, and being forever present, in your all-encompassing sacrifice through the Eucharist, that we may have life in the Spirit, through Your Heart as Risen Christ. May we drink from the brimming heart of your joy, which is the wellspring of living waters. And be filled, to the full, with Your life, Your light, and Your love for Your glory, and our true good. In Your most Holy Name Jesus, You who live and reign, forever and ever, Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. 

In his Easter homily, the Holy Father Pope Francis concludes by saying, “The Gospel is very clear. We need to go back there, to Galilee, to see Jesus Risen, and to become witnesses of his Resurrection.” This is not to go back in time. This is not a kind of nostalgia. This is returning to our First Love in order to receive the fire that Jesus has kindled in the world, and to bring that fire to all people, to the ends of the earth. “Go back to Galilee, without fear.”

The Gospel, at its core, of course is Christ, but as Christ communicates Himself to us, the implication of the Gospel is that it calls us to the fullness of authentic human living. That’s what the Gospel represents. It is not simply about the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is a means to an end. We need to be forgiven, in order to be set free. But freedom is the gift. Forgiveness is a means— a necessary, unavoidable, indispensable, means — but the fruit of the gift is freedom. This freedom is the fullness of authentic human living.

His person, Jesus exhibits what that freedom means. By His example, His words, and His deeds, Jesus amplifies and makes visible what human life is ultimately about. He alone could express it, because He is the author of it.

One Orthodox study Bible provides commentaries to the Scriptures that represents Patristic spirituality and theology— the teaching of the Church Fathers of the early centuries of Christianity. In it, we find the words, “As we behold Him, we become what we were created to be.”  As we behold Him we become what we were created to be. 

God is infinite. Therefore, growing in His image and glory has no limits. We shall ever see God more clearly and ever be transformed into His likeness. The theme of transformation or transfiguration, the metamorphosis that St. Paul talks about, when reflecting on Jesus on Tabor, this metamorphosis is very prevalent in the Christian East — the Greek Fathers, the Syrian Fathers, and the Egyptian Fathers.

But it’s also found among the Western Church Fathers, saints, and mystics. For example, St. Augustine points out that the discovery of God’s face – the image of God –is never-ending. The more we discover God’s face, “The further we penetrate into the splendor of Divine Love…” as St. Augustine would say.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christmas 2017 Homily

Baby Jesus, Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Granada, 16th Century. This is the statue that St. John of the Cross danced and celebrated Christmas with in Granada. Photo Credit: Prophet Elijah Media/The Speakroom

“God is often manifest where we need Him most…”

NOTE: Press the triangle to play. Please share this Homily by referring your friends to the website, but please do not download onto your computer.  Thank you!

Christmas Homily 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD.  All Rights Reserved

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and the Newness of God

The Virgin Holding the Sleeping Child With St. John and Two Angels by Bernardino Luini

During a 2013 sermon Pope Francis explores the theme of expanding our hearts. He says, “Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives.”

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. In other words, the God that I know, that I love, that I adore, that I worship— is a dynamic God. He’s a God who is ever creative, and full of surprises. He’s never dull, never boring, He’s not a God of reruns— like old TV shows — He’s a God of newness, everlasting newness. A God of infinite youth.  And we are to not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. God always wants to bring something new.

Pope Francis says let us not close our hearts. Let us not lose confidence. Let us never give up.  There are no situations which God cannot change, if only we open ourselves to Him, as in Mary’s “Yes” during the Annunciation. It only took a single “yes” to open up Paradise. And that “yes” allowed Mary to be the dwelling place of Paradise-in-person – Christ incarnate.

Pope Francis continues, “Let the Risen Jesus enter your life.” Let the Risen Jesus enter your life. He is Life. And He will give you the strength to live as he would have you do.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis, says, “The Christ is the Eternal Gospel, and His riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is…”  — I love this expression—  “… He is forever young.

The youthfulness of Christ is inexhaustible and the constant source of newness for us is that we’re to be forever young in our hearts. Everything else and our bodies are going to breakdown, but our hearts are to be forever young. 

Then Pope Francis quotes St. John of The Cross, “The thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it.”

We can always go deeper. So as St. John Paul II called us at the turn of the millennium, to “launch out into the deep.” We must never cease launch out into the deep. We can always go deeper because there will always be new depths.

And hopefully our hearts will always burn brighter, and always burn with more fire.

Pope Francis continues with this idea of freshness when he says, “He [Christ] is always able to renew our lives, and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old.”

There’s always going to be a perennial youthfulness and power in the Gospel. We’ve heard it before, a thousand times, the Gospel is always fresh, and new. Similarly, in referring to God as Beauty, St. Augustine said: “O Beauty ever ancient, and ever new. Late have I loved You.” God is Beauty ever ancient and ever new. 

Pope Francis continues, “Jesus can also break through the dull categories within which we would enclose him.” We want to put Jesus and God in a little box that we’re comfortable with, and we want to try to be able to figure everything all out. Jesus wants to get out of all of our boxes, to knock our socks off, and expand our horizons.

Pope Francis says, “He constantly amazes us by His divine creativity” — this is Spirit-laced language.  He continues, that we must “return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel…” and the focus of the Gospel is God, and not us. In other words, as St. John says in his letter, it’s not that we have loved God; God has first loved us. The focus of the Gospel is God’s initiative, God coming down from Heaven.

It’s not our seeking and looking for Him, it’s Him seeking and looking for us! And God expresses that there is no extreme that He will not take — by becoming Incarnate in order to rescue us. He does this to the point of the scandal of the Creator entering into his own creation and taking on our own weakness!

He was born in poor circumstances, not in a palace, but in utter poverty. The scandal of the Incarnation is that God is so humble, that he would become so small and take on all our vulnerability to the point of becoming an infant. There is nothing like this.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and our First Love Exodus

Sunset at Mt. St. Josephs Monastery. San Jose, CA. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

As I was driving, I was so struck and breath-taken by the vastness of the sky, which was just so magnificently broad and wide and it looked majestic. It reminded me of— how God wants us to expand our hearts, how infinite God is, and how our faith, in terms of our confidence in God, is meant to be limitless. We have to widen our hearts, not limit our faith to what we see in ourselves, but to what we see in Him, and therefore, allow our lives to be expanded.

We have to rekindle of our first love, our spiritual exodus. This spiritual journey is an eternal newness” — an expression Pope Francis uses in [the Apostolic Exhortation] The Joy of The Gospel. “An eternal newness,” an expression of Love’s inexhaustible fountain.

Pope Francis, says, “a disciple of Jesus has a heart opened to his unlimited horizons.” To his unlimited horizons. In other words, what is possible for us is more than what we see in ourselves. What is possible for us is more than our own potential!  It’s God’s potential in us. And potential, potencia, comes from the Latin word for the word potential, which means “power.” This power in us is more than our own strength- it’s the strength of God. It’s the Spirit of God. It’s His potentialAnd so we have to allow our hearts to expand to unlimited horizons based on what we see in His Heart. That is a key becoming more captivated and charmed by Christ – attracted to Christ.

Pope Francis calls the church to evangelize by pointing to a horizon of beauty. And the beauty is Christ!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian Orthodox Christian in the 19th-century, said that the ultimate, and only beauty in the world (“only” speaking of the essential and ultimate beauty) is Christ.

He is the Infinite Marvel. He alone is He who is most beautiful. He is this horizon of beauty.  And this is how we understand the Gospel, because the Gospel is Christ. He is the Message and the Messenger. Christ is the Gospel. Pope Francis refers to Him in The Joy of the Gospel as “the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Jesus is Love’s inexhaustible fountain. He is the source of authentic personal fulfillment. He is Who we are made for. Jesus is who and what we long and wait for.

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Gettin’ Out of His Way

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

The Litany of Humility is a great introduction to the ‘nada’ the negation of St. John of the Cross. Why? Because his ascetism is all about desire. It’s not about things and it’s not about people. It’s about what’s inside, and the space that we need to make inside for the savior to reside and thrive. The biggest obstacle to this mystical space, the biggest obstacle to this presence of God, the gift of His presence and His grace is nothing less, and rooted in pride – the false pride of an ego-centered existence.

This Litany goes totally against the grain of our human, automatic, natural need. By nature, especially if we’re looking at the human person simply from an emotional and psychological perspective, we need at times, to feel esteemed. We need to be loved. We need to somehow, some way, feel honored; hence, the birthday parties.

We need, at times, to want to be approved and validated. By nature, we cringe and are afraid of being humiliated. We don’t want to be despised. We don’t like to suffer rebukes. Nobody wants to be calumniated, or feel forgotten. Nobody enjoys being ridiculed, wronged, or suspected. In the prayer, we ask God to give us the grace of not allowing our happiness to be dependent on things, and our well-being to be attached and dependent upon other people.

When my sense of self-worth is dependent on other people, and how they respond to me, and if that’s the center, then my life will always be disordered. There will always be something missing, or upsetting me, or disturbing me, or making me afraid – if my life is dependent and entirely intertwined with how other people respond to my personality. This is a recipe for disappointment.

These fears of humiliation, being despised, and of suffering rebukes are normal, but we ask in the Litany, ‘from the fear of this, deliver me!’ Ultimately, what causes this anxiety is pride. The pride that is rooted in egoism is annihilated when I embrace my nothingness, and my total dependence on God.

‘I am not God, I am not in total control, in full charge of all the ramifications that affect my life. I can’t dictate the consequences and outcomes of how everything is going to be. I’m entirely dependent on someone greater than me. I am not sovereign in and of myself.’ That’s embracing my nothingness. I am a human being. I am not God.

Therefore, when I embrace that nothingness, I embrace my own imperfection. I embrace the fact that I am not perfect, nor can I be perfect based on myself and on my own effort. If I am going to be refined and purified by correction, by my faults being brought to my attention – then that is the truth of who I am! That is the truth of my nothingness, and I have to embrace that truth in order to be set free.

If I try to embrace a fundamental falsehood that ‘I don’t need correction, or I don’t need improvement, or I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do and how to become better,’ then I’m going to be subject to these fears. And I’m still going to be enslaved to myself, a slave to myself!

Saint John of the Cross is trying to set us free from that slavery, from that Egypt. He calls us to an exodus, to escape from our self-centered existence.

In the last part of the prayer, we ask, ‘That others may be loved more than I.’ This gets to the core, the heart of how we normally, naturally, automatically think, feel, and desire – based on nature.

According to a secular, psychological perspective of the human being, this request seems like a total contradiction; it’s a total contradiction to healthy, human development, but it’s the wisdom and the power of the cross. This is the remedy to truly make us fully human.

That others may be loved more than I’ – prepares the way, on a human level, a certain altruism, desiring the good of someone else more than your own good. What a breakthrough that is! What a liberation that is! – to be more concerned with someone else’s good than my own?

That others may be esteemed more than I’ – to rejoice when somebody else is praised and I am totally left unnoticed? The moment of liberty is to truly be able to rejoice from the inside out. When you are truly happy from the core of your being for someone else’s accomplishment without a tinge of jealousy, but celebrating their victory as if it were your own – that’s humility. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s truly living as one, as a community.

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ In other words, according to the spirit of the world, I have no desire to be popular. If I am no longer esteemed as being ‘with it,’ if I am no longer considered to be hip or whatever might make the personality of an individual attractive to the spirit of the world, then maybe, I’m doing something right – in regards to what is attractive to Christ and with respect to my lifestyle.

‘That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.’ That is an echo of Saint John the Baptist, a restructuring of John 3:30, ‘That He (Jesus Christ) may increase, and I may decrease.’ One of my favorite lines from Saint Athanasius is ‘If the world goes against the truth, Athanasius goes against the world.’

‘That others may be chosen, and I, set aside.’ – that others may be preferred to me in everything!

Ultimately, the crown of them all, ‘That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as God is calling me to be, provided that I BE-come who I am created to BE.’

That’s true humility because humility always breeds confidence. Embracing my nothingness should always lead to a greater embrace of God’s greatness. The two are interconnected. I’m not dust, left to myself; I’m dust, redeemed by the cross, and therefore, united to God’s greatness.

This is a good introduction to the nada, the right kind of emptiness of Saint John of the Cross. We need to understand the right kind of emptiness and self-denial, as it is called in traditional spirituality.

Copyright  2017 Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

The battle begins in the mind. How do I relate to the thoughts that come into my head which are subject to all types of influences. More than just what I see and perceive with my senses and physically, we’re also influenced by other things that are alive and going on behind the scenes and are alive spiritually. All of that influences us. Through our senses, we process information which then comes into our soul.

More than what we see physically, we’re influenced by other things going on behind the scenes that are alive spiritually. The struggle gets down to a choice. Who’s side will we be on? Every sin is cloaked in deception. For a person to swallow a lie, it has to be sugar-coated with some kind of truth, a half-truth, just enough to make you bite it, and enough to make you sick.

This is our context of our human condition in a broken world before the beauty of God. The fundamental, essential, and basic step to enter into a relationship with God, is the humility to recognize that we are not God – that we need someone greater than us. This is an epiphany and a revelation.

We must recognize that ‘I need to bend my knee to someone other than me.’

Humility is the door of breakthrough for love. The world doesn’t understand that and the world can disfigure the whole notion of humility to mean that you have to be a doormat, that you have to be a slave, or that you have to be subject to a set of rules. You have to do what they tell you and have blind faith, and all these misconceptions and persecutions.

Before, one of my perspectives was that Christianity was just a crutch for weak people who couldn’t figure it out on their own. But after my own conversion, I came to realize, ‘That’s the spirit of the world speaking which bows to the enemy.’

The enemy wants us to believe that Christianity is for weaklings. If you want to be strong, you don’t need a religion. It’s a waste of time. You’re your own master. Do it your own way. In our common fight of faith, these are just some things we will face.

God reveals Himself and He reveals himself through an evolution of covenants. His love is revealed and unveiled in a way that develops over time. The first covenant is the covenant of creation between Adam and Even. He designs creation so that humanity can be in relationship with Himself. He set things up in paradise in a beautiful manner. It was a sheer gift.

He did so not because he wanted a host of subjects and robots. No, He gave us free will. It was a pure, gracious gift. But then, brokenness came and He promised that there would be healing in this brokenness.

And for this complete gift of Himself, despite all the war and brokenness, we must always, forever — be thankful.

Copyright 2017. Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All rights reserved.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Pure Gospel Charism

A reading from the book of Isaiah 43

But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. 2When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you. 3For I, the LORD, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. 4Because you are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you.

10You are my witnesses, my servants whom I have chosen, To know and believe in me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none. 11I, I am the LORD; there is no savior but me.

Through the power of God’s word, may His spirit make His presence, that His promise may be accomplished in your life. May the blessing of Almighty God come upon us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Oh sweetest love of God, so little known. Whomever has found this rich mine is at rest.” That is from the Sayings of Light and Love, by Saint John of the Cross. Truly, we are meant to know the love of God from the inside.

Maybe once, we practiced our own religion – perhaps when we became teenagers and we started to think for ourselves,  we went through growing pains, that development process when we were trying to discover our own identity apart from our parents and family.

A normal part of the development of faith as a human being, be you male or female, is that young people will eventually begin to disengage themselves emotionally from their mother, father, and immediate family in order to discover their own individuality and what makes them unique. What they had normally previously assumed, received, and trusted in, starts being called into question. Everything is called into question.

We start to question everything and there’s a distrust of authority, especially religion. We can’t always fully and immediately explain religion with reasons that are at our fingertips. Often, in matters of faith, we have to have faith before we receive understanding.

But the problem is that when we question matters of our faith, we take the position of pride. ‘Unless I understand, I won’t believe. Unless you prove it to me, you won’t have my trust.’

We become aloof, and eventually, little by little, our faith can shrink. An erosion process based on the lack of trust happens. Eventually, we can even become strangers to God, ‘enemies of the cross.’

I also experienced this erosion process and became an enemy of Christ and the cross, but by God’s grace, He called me back to Himself. He calls all of us differently, at different times in our lives, and at different times of our growth. Usually, He will use a crisis to wake us up and to recognize our vulnerability, and need to get down on our knees, to recognize that we’re not all in control and that we are not invincible.

The fundamental first step of any recovery from any addiction or dysfunction requires that one act of humility – ‘I can’t save myself. I can’t cure myself. I need the humility to ask for help.’ This is when breakthrough happens.

However, the way and wisdom of the world says that to be powerful means you are independent and autonomous. You need nothing else besides yourself. That is strength. That is power. That is exactly what the serpent said to Eve in the original garden.

To create distrust, the serpent said, ‘What? God said that? Oh no, let me reframe the situation for you.’ This false perception and perspective was part of the deception to break down trust that would eventually lead to disobedience.

He said, ‘God only said that because He knows that if you eat from the tree, you are going to be like Him. He doesn’t want competition. He wants you to be submissive. But if you eat that fruit, you know what? You’re not even going to need Him anymore. You are your own person. You are your own god.’  That is exactly how we, and most especially the younger generation, are being challenged in our faith.

We are at a war, at war between light and darkness, and our souls are at stake. Our choices make the difference in our destiny. Where does this battle begin? – in the mind, and in our thoughts. If we don’t’ guard our thoughts, our thoughts will become our words. If we don’t guard our words, our words will become our actions. If we don’t guard our actions our actions will become our habits and our character…And our character becomes our destiny. (to be continued)

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved