“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
Who among us isn’t looking for joy, hope, and peace – you know, the kind that lasts?? Everybody, of course! From our inmost being, we desire joy and peace and hope. Unfortunately, many times our path to authentic joy, peace and hope is thwarted – and in a lot of situations, by our very own actions and beliefs.
Authentic happiness, joy, and peace are never found while consciously or unconsciously playing both ends against the middle. We may delude ourselves for a while as we pursue our own selfish in-the-moment interests that we erroneously think will lead us to happiness, not seeing (or in some cases not caring about) what the ultimate outcome will be – and choosing not to immerse ourselves in the gift of all that our faith teaches us to keep us on the right path to Truth.
In this day and time, there is a strong trend towards making normal that which is abnormal, and making abnormal that which is normal – pathologizing the normal, and normalizing pathology. Although we have rather alarming, increasing rates of diagnosed mental illness (with ever-changing definitions of what actually constitutes true mental illness), still the vast majority of us (>90%) are very capable of making good decisions despite the confusing array of morally relativistic behavior options that we can choose from. But, because of philosophical, societal, environmental, and cultural influences of the day – coupled with our own weaknesses and temptations – we simply choose not to make the choice for the good. Or, maybe we are so lost at times that we don’t know or remember how.
In my professional and personal experiences of helping people with their problems, I have come to understand that, somewhere way deep down within us, we truly do know right from wrong – it is within our very creation. There exists the desire for good that is innate within us, and yet we have a stellar ability to employ many rationalizations and excuses to block out the good when we are tempted to think something else will suit us better. At least partially due to our weaknesses, temptations, our wounds, and other various influences – we make poor choices that have far-reaching consequences. And there is a hefty price to pay, not only for ourselves, but for those who love us, and our world at large.
One of the beautiful attributes of Our Lord is that He is the Lord of true freedom. He lovingly allows us to follow our own pursuits. When it is for our greater good, He will allow the requisite circumstances to play out, as well as permit us to experience the natural consequences of what we have chosen as our plan of action. When we choose to seek our own will rather than God’s will for our lives, we can get ourselves into so much trouble, can’t we?? So many times we view the resultant suffering from poor choices from a distorted standpoint of “victimhood”, or we blame others for what our own hand (or eye, or mouth, or mind…) has done. Perhaps we haven’t looked far enough back to see the original poor decisions that have led us to our current difficult circumstances. Perhaps we think it is too painful or too much trouble to do so. Or perhaps we think it’s is someone else’s problem. In any event, seeking to justify our misguided actions, and continuing to make the same mistake(s) over and over again is truly not helpful at all, and only serves to perpetuate the problem and complicate our lives and the lives of others on many levels. At the very least, this is simply another prideful distraction that keeps us from getting to the root of the problem, thus continuing the path of misery, stress, and lack of peace.
To be sure, there are sufferings over the course of our life that are through no fault of our own, and we can draw deeply from the teachings of our faith to help us endure, as well as effectively utilize these sufferings. However, there are many sufferings that we bring – albeit unintentionally – upon ourselves. In seeking transfiguration we may hopefully prevent some of our tendency towards detrimental words and deeds. To be “transfigured”, we must take an honest, courageous look at the choices that led to our present painful situation, and make an objective assessment of what went wrong and why. This requires prayerful discernment, an openness of mind and heart, and willingness to surrender to what is the Truth, not our own manufactured truth. And, hopefully, so that we do not continue a pattern of destructive behavior, we may be deeply moved as we comprehend the suffering we have caused ourselves and others around us – and may begin earnestly to seek the path to Truth, only found in Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is Love and Mercy incarnate.
Truly seeking and making decisions that are obedient to Truth is the only way to find true happiness and freedom. No pill or psychotherapy, other earthly distraction or attachment will provide lasting joy or hope, or otherwise numb out the natural consequences of our sin. While there are times when medications and/or therapy are legitimately indicated, neither can negate the need for our faith in the restoration of emotional health. Many answers lie in the active embrace and practice of our faith…in falling in love with Our Lord, and choosing to serve Him with selflessness, humility, sacrifice, and virtue which lead to true joy and peace. This is where hope that springs eternal is found. Amazing, beautiful things happen – both within ourselves and in those around us – when we are obedient to our creation as daughters and sons of the Most High God.
What decisions or choices of yesterday are affecting you or causing suffering today? Are you thirsting for hope? – for that authentic joy and peace that surpasses all understanding? Begin your journey back to your Savior who is patiently and lovingly waiting for the moment that your heart and mind are open to receive Him. He is all Love and Mercy, and will lovingly receive you back, no matter what you have done or what has separated you from Him.
Here are some beginning steps to help you find your way home to Christ:
- Examine your conscience honestly using one or more of the many wonderful resources that are available to us in print and in digital media. You might be surprised to discover areas of dissent that you didn’t realize were sinful!
- Reconcile yourself with Jesus by making a good confession to return to a state of grace so that you may receive all that He has for you. Jesus is waiting for you In Persona Christi in the person of the priest in the confessional. There is nothing that He will not forgive when confessed with a contrite heart, and true effort and desire to avoid sin. He is Love and Mercy itself, and awaits your arrival.
- Return to Holy Mass, at least once a week on Sunday, but more often at daily mass if you can.
- Visit Jesus in the Eucharistic Chapel and adore Him, weekly if you are able. If you cannot commit one hour, try a short 15 minute visit to place yourself in His Presence. Bathe in the peace that is found in adoring the Blessed Sacrament!
- Read Holy Scripture and the Catechism – the roadmap for living a virtuous life is right there for you to immerse in.
- Read the lives of the Saints and the Early Church Fathers – these are real people who have lived throughout time, and who have suffered in the same ways as we have (human nature never changes), and who have so much to offer you in intercession, and in example of how to live a holy life and how to truly love Our Lord.
- Check out the many Catholic authors and bloggers who have tread such a path as you to return to God – learn from their experience.
- Take a look at the many websites and resources listed on this blog which may help direct you further into the areas that concern you most in your faith journey
- Ask for prayer from other faithful men and women, from prayer lines, from priests and other religious, etc. – don’t be shy or afraid to ask! We are called to pray for and support one another in the journey of faith. Pray for those who are praying for you, too! Be assured of my prayers for you.
- Be courageous. Learn and embrace humility. Persevere in hope and faith.
- Pray sincerely that the Lord will transfigure your heart and mind. He, Who is always faithful, will answer this prayer in His time and in His way – beyond your imagination.
Blessings and prayers to each of you for the healing of your hearts and minds – for authentic, lasting joy, peace and hope.