Inhabited by God

Each day our Baptism brings us again to a radiant newness. Sin and evil can no longer dominate us, because within us is the One who conquers evil; the One who took all sin, all tears, all sickness, all evil upon himself. Baptism transforms the entire being of the person. You become nothing less than the home of the Holy Trinity, the temple of the Holy Trinity, inhabited by the Most High God. All of heaven is within you!

From the book Surviving Depression     

Meditation Six: Heal From Fear and Disappointments

“Were not our hearts burning within us?” (Luke 24:32)

The banging reverberated down the empty Jerusalem street cloaked in inky blackness. “I know they are in here,” Cleopas said under his breath to his companion. “Peter!” he called in a loud voice. “It’s me! Cleopas! Open the door. We’ve come back from Emmaus! We’ve seen the Lord! Let us in!” 

Step One: Allow yourself to go within. Embrace the stillness inside yourself, the peace. Even if you don’t feel it right away, it is there. Take a few moments for your whole being to settle down into that space in the center of your soul where God dwells. Even if you can’t feel him or sense him, God is there, shining, giving, and loving. It might help to picture a bright light, or a gentle candle, in the center of your heart, to represent God’s radiant presence within you.

Step Two: When you are settled, read the accounts of some of the experiences of the disciples after Jesus’ crucifixion in Luke 24:13-49. As you read, focus on the experience of Cleopas as he walked on the road to Emmaus and later returned to Jerusalem to notify the other disciples. Imagine the fear and disappointment he must have been experiencing after the death of his beloved Lord. When you have finished reading, sit in silence for some time.

Step Three: Slowly read the passage again. When you finish, you may wish to use the following guide to enter into Cleopas’ experience to find healing.

Praying with Cleopas

  1. Cleopas must have been frightened and confused as he walked to Emmaus! Have you ever felt like all is lost before? Imagine you are Cleopas, walking down the road to Emmaus after the death of Jesus. What regrets are you running from like Cleopas and the other disciple? Where are you trying to control your life? To fix a problem your own way? To redirect your own life without the presence and power of Jesus? Experience Cleopas’ joy when he realized that Jesus had appeared to him. Have you ever felt a change from dejection to joy in a few short hours? Do you identify with Cleopas’ sadness or his joy?
  2. Imagine yourself in the room when Cleopas and the other disciple returned to tell them what happened to the disciples who were in hiding. Watch the scene play out. You can imagine yourself as one of the people in the room or you can be yourself. You can watch what happens or participate. Allow your imagination to take over as you make this Scripture story your own.

To put yourself in the story, it may help to read this imaginative account:

A servant cautiously cracked the door open, raised a lamp, and peered out to see who was knocking so loudly. “It’s them!” he called over his shoulder, then quickly pulled the two disciples into the house where the Apostles were hiding.

Everyone started speaking at once.

“We saw Jesus!” Cleopas said excitedly.

“You saw him? So has Peter!”

“Where did you see him? What did he look like?”

“Tell us, Cleopas. What was he like?”

“Quiet!” said Peter, “Give them something to drink. They’ve come from Emmaus, that’s a long journey. Let them catch their breath.”

Cleopas sat down, took a drink of water, and then began. “You all know we left Jerusalem yesterday morning. I saw no reason to stay. Jesus was dead. He had died like a criminal. I couldn’t believe I had given up so much to follow him and then he died like that. I wasn’t going to hang around in hiding. On the way back to Emmaus we were talking about what had happened, what went wrong, what we could have done, should have done. It felt so lonely out there on the road, walking back to our old life. We were trying to figure it out, to make sense out of it. Attempting to comprehend what our own lives meant after this devastating loss of Jesus. We were getting nowhere.”

Cleopas paused and reflected quietly, then said, “We were getting nowhere until this man joined us on the way. There was something different about him. He was so full of joy. Peace flowed from him.”

“Was it Jesus?” James asked.

“We thought he was just a traveler,” Cleopas continued. “When we told him about Jesus’ death on Calvary, everything made sense to him. Where we saw roadblocks and problems, he explained to us the mysterious plan, the designs of God starting with Moses, David, and Isaiah and fulfilled now in Jesus. It gave me such a feeling of hope to think that what seemed like the end might just be one dark moment in a journey that the Lord has blessed—” Cleopas paused and the room was in complete silence for a moment.

“—we don’t really need to understand this on our own terms but on God’s,” Cleopas continued. “As the evening began to fall, we stopped and ate together. I realized how my heart was burning like…like…”

“Like the first time we met the Master,” Peter quietly broke in.

“Yes,” Cleopas agreed. “But the stranger gave himself away when he broke bread and gave it to us, just as Jesus had done at the supper we shared on the night he was arrested.”

Cleopas put his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Peter, I think everything is going to be alright. I think everything is just the way it is meant to be.”

“Look!” James exclaimed.

The room was bursting with radiant light and their hearts swelled with joy. A figure had appeared. He said, “Do not be afraid. Why do you doubt it is I?”

“Jesus!” Cleopas exclaimed.

“Look at my hands and my feet. It is me—risen—here—with you.”

3. As Cleopas walked away from Jerusalem in confusion and regret, his shattered expectations had become a wall between him and reality. Recall the times in your life when things didn’t work out as planned. Someone got hurt. Plans fell apart. Dreams were shattered through others’ mistakes or your own. A good question to ask yourself in these situations is, “Am I certain that this wall of fear and disappointment is the whole truth?”

Write down or recall a situation in your life that seemed bleak but that you were later able to see more clearly.

4. Quietly imagine yourself with the disciples and the stranger eating supper in Emmaus. Watch as Jesus quietly prays and then breaks the bread, handing it to you with the words, “This is my body. Take and eat.” Let the radiance emanating from the face of Jesus pour over you. Freeze the moment and soak in the warmth and light from around that table. …

This is taken from one of the meditations in Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments

My new book is officially released this week-end.

If you have felt moved by the above meditation, take advantage of the offer of free shipping this weekend (August 24 to 28), and start your own journey of healing.

 

Mary understands your burdens

Have you had to be strong, even as you bore great sorrow in your heart or suffered with depression? Have you watched new dreams and relationships and futures come to birth in the ashes of something you have lost? Gather, as the others beneath the cross, around Mary. Watch and listen. Share with her the burdens you carry. What does she say to you?

From the book Prayers for Surviving Depression

Sacred tears

Jesus made tears sacred because he cried. He knew the agony and the frustration of our problems. He chose to bear all that is human and as a man with our human nature he brought us with him on his return to the Father. The One who sits at God’s right hand knows what it is to cry. He preached an upside-down world in which the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, those who agonize through emotional pain, are the first, the guests of honor, and the privileged.

From the book Surviving Depression

If only I could do things over again….

You are busy. Life happens. You can barely keep up. You know that you could be thinking about more important things, but you don’t have the time to stop and consider what they would be, much less do them.

And then something happens. You are stopped in your tracks. A spouse leaves. A friend dies. A job is lost. Opportunities pass you by. A child makes decisions that break your heart. As you absorb the pain of what is happening, the important things begin to surface. What was hidden, suddenly seems so obvious. The knowledge of what you could have done, should have done, for years perhaps, or years ago, leaves you feeling profoundly empty, or guilty, or depressed.

If only you could do things over again…

Regrets come in all shapes and sizes. Navigating the questions, self-doubt, and haunting what-ifs of your life can be difficult. Facing how your regrets may have turned you into a person you never wanted to be is even more difficult. Yet no one escapes this part of life. It’s the nightfall between yesterday and tomorrow, between the past and the future, between sunset and the coming dawn.

You may feel bad about something in your life that has happened to you or someone you love. You may have a number of things for which you are blaming yourself. Perhaps you have given up hope that you will ever be able to retrieve what you have lost in life or fix what has been broken. A woman once shared with me that she still wonders what she did wrong after her marriage ended in divorce over twenty years ago. To this day, she wishes she could go to bed and never wake up. She is not alone in her suffering.

Through a program I designed called HeartWork, I have worked one-on-one with many people haunted by regrets.  The people I have worked with often believe that if they just had just one more chance things would be different, but they also feel that no more chances re available for them. But God always offers second chances.

Hi. I’m the author of the forthcoming book Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments. I’m excited about sharing the book with you when it releases in September. But right now I invite you to join me for a five-day journey via email, a journey to inner peace. The email journey has exclusive meditations, insights, and sneak-peaks into the book, along with a special offer. I hope to see you there!

Sr Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

PS You can get 12 free videos introducing you to HeartWork here

What’s holding you back from living within

I’m a religious sister, so, you could say, spirituality is an important part of my life.
I’ve always reached for the best in anything I did, and the same is true of “the spiritual life.” In fact, in my younger years, I pursued it with a vengeance.

So I prayed extra. I created schedules for spiritual reading. I tried to imitate the saints. I made lists in my journal of anything that could distract me from a single-minded devotion to God…or so I thought.

One year I was making the 19th Annotated Retreat with a Jesuit Director at Boston College. Each evening I sent an email with a short paragraph about my prayer that day. I struggled through the first month or so, treading water in what were my ideas of spirituality. It was a rocky start to a retreat in everyday life I had hoped would bring me closer to God.

Looking back now I realize how self-willed the exercise had been. The sense of inner violence that was marring my soul’s surface was painful as I tried yet one more spiritual practice. Then one day something changed. I can’t exactly remember the prayer experience I shared with my director which prompted him to send these words in response, but I will never forget what he told me. Somehow, that day, I must have yielded to grace, and he wrote in response to my evening email, “That is the Spirit. The Spirit is a gentle breeze, like perfume on the wind, a light fragrance you can barely catch.”

I remember sitting in my office, deflated and free. The years of soapbox speeches and accumulating spiritual kudos had not of the Spirit. The self-styled aggressive pursuit of holiness actually kept me from the inner life of the Spirit, kept me from living within.

The Apostle Paul was also a professional religious person whose spirit before the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus was marred with aggression. He rounded up the followers of the Way to put them in jail. Zealously he pursued his plans and religious career. Just outside the city of Damascus, he was met by Love. “I am Jesus the One you are persecuting.”

In an instant he realized he had been wrong. This Jesus that he had rejected as dead, was alive. The community he had persecuted were the ones who had truly understood the action of God in history.

This “conversion” experience is the freedom that arises from no longer knowing, having one’s plans overturned, becoming the servant instead of the protagonist, moving from autonomous isolation to community interdependence. “Go in the city and there you will be told what you are to do.” Though Paul had pursued perfection as a Pharisee, he had not lived within. He suddenly touched the immense horizons of the life within that were being opened up to him as he walked into the city of Damascus, blind and led by his companions.

Something that both I and St Paul didn’t ask in our early heady days of religious “conquest” was this: is God in all of this bluster? Do I want to see his face or my own?
God wants to shower on us the radiance of his glory. He wants to draw us into his plans for the salvation of the world. To convert us from our surface life to the deep inner wells of spirit, from pride to wonder, from zealous aggression to sensitive discernment, from certainty to the inner depth that can sense the slightest movement within without needing to know.

If you want this inner life, here is a simple practice you can make your own:

Stop and focus.

Calmly center. Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now?

Disengage

from any strong opinions and emotionally driven behaviors.

Ask:

Where is God in this situation? Pray: “Show me your face, O Lord. Show me your face.”

Imagine

God watching you as a dear old grandparent watches a grandchild. With that type of love, hear God speaking to you about what is going on.

God says, “Dear child, this is what I see when I look at you. (Listen as God describes the situation from his perspective and what he sees is your reality.) I hear your heart’s desire…. I can hear what you are thinking…. (Let God tell you from his perspective what he hears.) I want you to know, dear one, that I care about what happens to you. I have plans for you. I understand this event more than you could ever know. This is what I want for you… (Open yourself to God’s wisdom. Have the courage to see the situation through God’s eyes, and to want what God wants.)

Youth is a time for building our identities, trying things out, learning what works for us and what doesn’t. But when the moment comes when God’s face begins to show us what the world looks like in God’s eyes, we can let go of much of what we’ve built up on the outside to begin a new journey, gently deepening our inner life.

I’m excited to be coming out with my new book Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments September 1. You can get a special offer right now.

 

 

Set free to love

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them….” This passage, with its mounting joy and jubilant hope for an eternal covenant, is set in juxtaposition to the seeming darkness and threat of death in the final chapters of the Gospels, which recount the establishment of the New Covenant. What went wrong? Or perhaps we should ask what went right, that this covenant promised through the centuries should be written in the blood of the Son of God? The passion and death of Jesus makes visible to us the extent to which God goes to establish this covenant that sets us free to love him and to live entirely for him. God poured out all his love for us when he sent his Son to become one of us.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

Recognize Beauty in Broken Things

God doesn’t love me.

Everyone around me is healthy and happy and I can’t seem to make things work out.

God doesn’t love me.

I’m not good enough to be in the popular crowd.

God doesn’t love me.

I can’t feel his love.

God doesn’t love me.

I’ve failed at being really good at anything, especially at being a good person.

God couldn’t love me.

I spent too many hours in my early twenties in the back of our chapel alone. Crying. Angry. Lonely.

Months before my twenty-first birthday, a day surgery on my left foot had extended into a two-week hospital stay. I woke up from simple ambulatory surgery dizzy, unable to speak, remember words, use my hands, or walk. My mother knew the signs immediately, though it took a week to confirm through tests. I’d had a stroke.

The 1984 Winter Olympics flashed across the television screen above me as I lay quietly in my bed trying to take it all in. As the graceful Katarina Witt skated across the ice while my heavy body remained pinned to my bed, I thought, “I will never be able to do that” (not that I could ever ice skate!) The beauty, smoothness and grace of the ice skater’s movements was a sad reminder that I could no longer stand on my own without the nurses’ assistance. The sisters came to help feed me. I tried to practice praying the Our Father but could never reach the end of the prayer.

Within two weeks I was sent home on a walker for a year of recovery.

I prayed to God, “You gave me this stroke, it must be for a good reason. Your will be done.” I pasted on a smile as I relearned how to use a fork, how to stand up, how to bathe myself.

There was a beauty to those days, a childlike wonder. Everything was new to me. But the effort was exhausting. Once the novelty wore off and the grudging work of recovery set in, the fear began to surface “what if God does this to me again,” and the anger, “why me?”

One day I sat in the middle of our chapel, surrounded by sisters praying, and the words came out of my heart, breaking it with each syllable, “I. Hate. You.” They startled me. Shocked and even scandalized me. Here I had been in the convent for six years and… this was all I was capable of when it came to suffering.

No holiness.

No saintliness.

No heroism.

Just anger. For weeks and months I underwent the pressure of the divine hands compressing my heart, puncturing it with his fingers, and breaking it apart, into pieces… at last… before him… in need of him…. Blessedly in need of him….

I had to admit that the twenty-one-year-old who could do anything she put her mind to was now a needy child, at the beginning finally of the mountain of the spiritual life, ready to start the journey, ashamed and yet relieved that the truth was out there.

I was nothing.

I was not a great saint.

I wasn’t even as good a Christian as others.

I was in need of him.

If at some point in your life you find you’re disappointed in yourself, feeling that God couldn’t love you, wouldn’t care, that you’re worthless goods—know that you are at the beginning. Allow the pressure of God’s fingers to hold you, to break open the outer shell you’ve built up to survive in this world, and to expose the raw childlike innocence of your inner spirit that’s so in need of him.

For anywhere God finds need, he gives himself, he takes over and gives himself completely. God can’t not give himself.

So give up the idea of perfection.

Stop striving and dreaming of what should be, what could be.

Immerse yourself where God has shown himself to be, right where you are. Right now, as you are.

Accept the raw sense of sinfulness and the astounding gift of God’s glorious kindness.