I was recently asked the question, “is temptation always a bad thing?”.  Our immediate response may be, “of course it is, life would be so much better if it never happened!”  Is that really the case, though?  While temptation can be blamed for our falls, we can all look back at times when we’ve resisted a particular temptation and felt great having done so.

Think of it like this, temptation is one aspect of spiritual warfare that the evil one constantly wages with us (whether we realize it or not).  We can either succumb to that attack or we can meet it head on and be victorious.  That victory provides us with a new level of spiritual strength that will aid us later in life.  Sure, other (and more challenging) temptations will arise along the way, but we’ll continue to grow in our spirituality and ability to resist that temptation.  I don’t think any of this is possible if the temptation didn’t arise in the first place.

To me, this is another case of God using what may be perceived to be bad and using it for good.  Temptation starts out as something to trip us up, but with His help we overcome it and become even stronger.  That strength is necessary to continue our climb of the mountain called Holiness.

suffering as currency

The world seems to look at suffering as something to either be avoided or cured.  Why is this?  True, suffering is never fun, but neither is practicing to perfect any skill or technique.  Nor is studying in order to become a doctor or lawyer.  We seem to be pointed towards anything that is easy, pain-free, pleasurable and “fun”…which clearly excludes suffering.

But why should we fall into this trap?  Haven’t all of us experienced growth in some part of our lives coming out of a difficult situation?  Sometimes we have to suffer in order to learn where growth or change is needed.  One of my favorite quotes (an old military saying) is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  In terms of physical pain, perhaps the growth or strength that’s derived is not physical strength (though sometimes it is) but emotional or mental strength.  It takes incredible mental fortitude to block out the pain and continue on with life.

Suffering doesn’t always come in the form of physical pain, either.  Sometimes suffering could just be a hard and stressful time of our life (something all of us can relate to today).  We can choose to either give up in despair or place our trust in God that we’ll be carried through this.  If we choose the latter, we experience some degree of spiritual growth as a result of our suffering.  Of course the suffering wasn’t fun, but our growth in holiness is always worth it.

This is what brings me to the title, “suffering as currency”.  Any form of suffering, whether it be physical, mental or emotion, can act as currency if we treat it as such.  Most of the time we let it go to waste, just like wasting our money on something transitory.  Instead, we should focus our minds and hearts on using that suffering, or that currency, on either growing in our own spirituality or in offering it up for others, or both.  If Christ’s dying on the cross served the purpose of saving us all, then clearly there can be salvation from suffering.  Christ experienced the greatest suffering that could be experienced and, in turn, had the necessary currency to save all of mankind.  We certainly aren’t called to the same level of suffering (after all, He was God and we aren’t), but our suffering carries with it a proportionate value or weight.  Shouldn’t we be using that for others’ sake?

So next time you experience a headache or have a rough day at work or just feel horrible emotionally, offer that up for someone in your family (or a friend) who you know needs some help.  If all of us do that, you’ll get your own relief courtesy of someone else’s suffering.  As we’ve read in many places in Scripture, “you’ll have your reward in Heaven.”

Let us all begin piling up those rewards in Heaven by helping others along the way through our suffering.

preparing for life

I was able to experience the joy (and pride) of running my first half-marathon over the weekend.  For the last 12 weeks or so I’ve been training for this, starting with my longest run being 2.5 miles (which was all I could run at the time).  By following a program and being dedicated and diligent about keeping to that program, I was able to get my training to a point where I could run 12 miles in one go prior to the event yesterday.  Running in that event would not have been possible without the preparation or the diligence in keeping to the program.

It occurred to me while running that just about everything in life is the same.  Any challenge, great or small, is possible to overcome with planning, preparation and the necessary discipline to keep to those plans.  Whether it be running a marathon, passing a test or course, getting a degree, making a sale, it really doesn’t matter.  With the right amount of preparation it can be done.

With all this in mind, why should our faith be any different?  We’re all striving to be a better person and part of that being “a better me” means that spiritually we become more and more like Christ.  We are constantly asked to shed our “selves” and take on the face of Jesus, which is certainly a huge challenge.  Just like with running, studying or anything else, that challenge can be met with preparation and discipline.  In this case, though, it’s preparing our “selves” for Heaven.

Before even getting into what those preparations entail, as it’s multi-faceted and a lifelong process, ask yourself if you’re up to the task.  It will require a lifetime of diligence, discipline, sacrifice and everything else “the world” would call uncomfortable.  If not, what is the in the way?  If you are, let the adventure begin.  The actual preparations are different for everyone, as we’re all called to different vocations and we all have our own unique crosses to bear on our own paths to Heaven.  Regardless, it’s important to recognize that we ARE on that path and we need to have a plan for how we’ll climb.

spiritual warfare

Have any of you ever noticed how, when things get down, the attacks of the evil one steadily mount?  It’s amazing how we don’t recognize them for what they are.  We let him continue to hammer us down and we simply accept the emotion/feeling for what it is (anger / rage / depression / sadness / whatever).  Not only that, but he does a good job of deceiving us that it’s some external reason as to why we feel this rather than the attack itself so that we can’t simply dispel it.

The great news is, as soon as we do realize it is an attack, it subsides.  Sometimes quicker than others, but at least we can become armed for any further attacks rather than being blindsided by them.  It’s no different than what we would consider “true warfare”.  If your flank is unguarded and the enemy is slowly picking apart your reserves from that flank, you’ll continue to suffer from that attack until you realize what’s happening and put up a guard there.  In that “true” sense, the enemy usually backs off an considers another retreat.  I don’t think spiritual warfare is any different.  Once the evil one is “caught”, he backs off and bides his time for another angle or opportunity to come at us.

The purpose of this realization, at least for me, is to be constantly aware of the reality that evil exists and wants to ruin our days/lives/souls/etc.  We not only need to be aware and vigilant, but keep our focus on things that provide our armer.  That would include the Eucharist, sacraments, prayer, Rosary, etc.

all is well

St. Josemaria Escriva writes in The Forge (#335), “My little friend, say to him: Jesus, knowing that I love you and that you love me, nothing else matters – all is well.”

This sentiment is shared by saints and mystics throughout history.  All is well.  It’s helpful for us to remember this in light of economic difficulties, religious controversies, political battles & power struggles, etc.  All is still well.  All will remain to be well.  The reality behind all of the junk that we allow our lives to be clouded with is the truth that God created us, loves us and will always remain with us.  Because of that, all is well.

time to wake up

One of my favorite quotes of Anthony de Mello (a favorite of mine, as you’ll find) is as follows:

“My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance.  If you profit from it, fine; if you don’t, too bad!”.

That definitely sums up my purpose here.  Consider me another voice in the cacophony of voices today’s internet hosts.  Nonetheless, I hope you’ll find some interest in my reflections on spirituality and what that means to a Catholic.  Plenty more to come, but for starters…thanks for having me.