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The Spirit works deep within us, so deeply that we cannot always identify its presence. The effect of God’s spirit is deeper than our thoughts and emotions. That is why setting aside a special time and place for prayer is so important. Often we do not feel like praying and our minds are distracted. The lack of motivation and difficulty focusing make us think that our prayer time is useless and wasted time. Still, it is very important to remain faithful to these times and simply stick with our promise to be with God, even if nothing in our minds, hearts, or bodies wants to be there. Simple faithfulness in prayer gives the Spirit of God a real chance to work in us, to help us be renewed in God’s hands and be conformed to God’s will. During these sacred times and places, we can be touched in deep, hidden, and tender places. We can become more fully aware of the divine presence and more open to God’s guidance as we are led to new places of love.

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Jesus, the Blessed One, mourns.  Jesus mourns when his friend Lazarus dies (see John 11:33-36); he mourns when he overlooks the city of Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed (see Luke 19:41-44).  Jesus mourns over all losses and devastations that fill the human heart with pain.  He grieves with those who grieve and sheds tears with those who cry.

The violence, greed, lust, and so many other evils that have distorted the face of the earth and its people causes the Beloved Son of God to mourn.   We too have to mourn if we hope to experience God’s consolation.

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Jesus says:  “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness”   (Matthew 5:3-10).   These words offer us a self-portrait of Jesus.  Jesus is the Blessed One.  And the face of the Blessed One shows poverty, gentleness, grief, hunger, and thirst for uprightness, mercy, purity of heart, a desire to make peace, and the signs of persecution.

The whole message of the Gospel is this:  Become like Jesus.  We have his self-portrait.  When we keep that in front of our eyes, we will soon learn what it means to follow Jesus and become like him.

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What makes us cling to life even when it is time to “move on”?  Is it our unfinished business?  Sometimes we cling to life because we have not yet been able to say:  “I forgive you, and I ask for your forgiveness.”  When we have forgiven those who have hurt us and asked forgiveness from those we have hurt, a new freedom emerges.  It is the freedom to move on.

When Jesus was dying he prayed for those who had nailed him to the cross:  “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).  That prayer set him free to say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

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When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us.  The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, which means “breath.”  We are seldom aware of our breathing.  It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.

The Spirit of God is like our breath.  God’s spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves.  We might not often be aware of it, but without it we cannot live a “spiritual life.”   It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy.  It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy.  Let us always pray:  “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”

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Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die.  But love will remain.  Love is eternal.  Love comes from God and returns to God.  When we die, we will lose everything that life gave us except love.  The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us.  It is the divine, indestructible core of our being.  This  love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.

When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled.  The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort.”

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We often wonder how death will occur for us.  Through illness, accident, war, or a natural disaster?  Will our deaths happen suddenly or gradually?  There are no answers for these questions, so we really should not spend time worrying about them.  We don’t know how our lives will end, and this is a blessed ignorance!  But there is an important question that we should considerWhen our time to die comes, will we die in such a way that those we leave behind are not devastated by grief or left with feelings of shame or guilt?

How we leave others depends largely on how we prepare ourselves for death.  When we can die with grateful hearts, grateful to God and our families and friends, our deaths can become sources of life for others.

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Many people say, “I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying.”  This is quite understandable, since dying often means illness, pain, dependency, and loneliness.

The fear of dying is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is the most human of all human fears. Jesus himself entered into that fear.  In his anguish “sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44).  How must we deal with our fear of dying?  Like Jesus we must pray that we may receive special strength to make the great passage to new life.  Then we can trust that God will send us an angel to comfort us, as he sent an angel to Jesus.  

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I have a poem, “Who is the man,” in the Spring 2013 issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review.

Emptiness and fullness at first seem complete opposites.  But in the spiritual life they are not.  In the spiritual life we find the fulfillment of our deepest desires by becoming empty for God.

We must empty the cups of our lives completely to be able to receive the fullness of life from God.  Jesus lived this on the cross.  The moment of complete emptiness and complete fullness become the same.  When he had given all away to his Abba, his dear Father, he cried out, “It is fulfilled” (John 19:30).  He who was lifted up on the cross was also lifted into the resurrection.  He who had emptied and humbled himself was raised up and “given the name above all other names” (see Philippians 2:7-9).  Let us keep listening to Jesus’ question:  “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).

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May 2013