Moving from Worldly Grief into Godly Grief

At the time we had one of those cars that choked when the temperature went above 90 or lower than 30 degrees. That Monday, it finally did start after four sputtering attempts. Therese made it to the tiny parking lot behind the bank. But no empty spaces! That meant a thirty-minute parking meter in the municipal lot four blocks away. If she walked fast, she would only be a few minutes late for work… Until she opened the door and found seven people waiting in the customer service line as one frustrated teller kept repeating instructions to a frail old woman who was buying several money orders. Therese would definitely be late for work, with the bonus of a parking ticket. She was ready to launch out into full-scale complaining.

WHO NEEDS THIS?

“Who needs this kind of grief?” She muttered to herself and to God all at once.

If St. Paul had been the ninth person in line at the bank, he might have answered, “You do!”  His second epistle to the Corinthians (7:5-13) offers us a choice between worldly grief that leads to death, and godly grief that leads to repentance and faith. Standing behind him are centuries of psalmists who called out to God in laments.

Therese writes, “At that moment I had a choice. I was free to turn to Jesus with St. Paul and all the psalmists. I was free to offer myself and my complaints to the Lord, turning them into a holy sacrifice, instead of fuming until my blood pressure soared.” Jesus himself chose excruciating pain, thirst, and feelings of rejection, as he prayed Psalm 22.

GROANING AND GRIEVING

“My God, my God, why have you deserted me?  How far from saving me, the words I groan!”  He used this Psalm 22 to describe exactly what he was experiencing to his Father, then he moved forward in godly grief.  “Oh my strength, come to me quickly… You are the theme of my praise in the Great Assembly.” Another example is Psalm 139 that portrays a feverish mind riddled with doubts and anguish moving toward awe and trust.

The little band of people waiting at the bank had a very small share in the human experience of grieving. Perhaps you have mourned over grey hairs, bad weather, lost sleep, the price of beef,or a death.  Such losses, however serious, can set us back, or move us forward in faith.

THE HOLY SPIRIT MOVES

The Spirit of God can gently touch a grieving heart, moving it from self-absorption into calling upon God. The Holy Spirit knows our needs and can nudge us to view things through God’s eyes. Praying through our complaints creates “a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:2)  This sacrifice literally becomes an opportunity to “make holy,” to bless my car, the bank, and the old woman with the money orders.

Therese had this opportunity when the frail old woman sneezed. “God bless you!” Therese replied. “Amen!” said banking customer three. “Alleluia!” came from customer five. So turn to God with your complaints. And when this is too difficult, turn to a friend. Explain your needs, without blaming anyone. Ask that friend say a prayer with you, remembering, that some people are evangelized through helping others.

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Awake in the Summer-Like Brilliance of the Holy Spirit

Do you wake up to favorite tones on your cell phone, an alarm clock, music, or the voice of a household member? Do you wake up slowly or all at once? The Bible reminds us that waking up gives us a new opportunity to live with a capital “L”.  Therese enjoys opening the blinds before breakfast, especially on a bright summer day. What do you do when first wake up, or are you a night person?

“Live as children of the light…Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:8,14

Each of us is invited to follow Jesus by the ever-present light of the Holy Spirit. The voice of God beckons us. “Be alive and awake in my Spirit! Share my light with those around you!” And so we embrace being missionary disciples and witnesses. And we work at awakening those around us who seem to be asleep in the Spirit. We approach them as fellow adventurers seeking to stir up the embers of a vital summer-like faith.  We share with others who are aware of a God-given suspicion that Jesus lives, even in the darkness.

One way to do this is share a spontaneous prayer with someone in need. Another way is to share a similar experience with the added twist of a personal witness. A third way is to offer a piece of Scripture that is meaningful for you. Andrea’s sister, Jenn, was distraught about entering her friend’s house after that friend had died. So Andrea asked if they could pray for a moment. “Jesus, help Jenn. Be with her when she opens the door. Help her know that you want to walk in with her, as she cares for the pets and all the details that need your touch. Amen”

Who are you called to share the light with? Which of these three approaches are you most comfortable using? Why? Perhaps you might practice with a friend.

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Did You See Him? Ron Did! Kat Did!

Can you imagine the buzz after Jesus rose from the dead? Word spread from person to person like wildfire. And questions came just as fast. Did he look the same? Could he eat? Did you touch him? What did he say? And today is no different. News of seeing Jesus is meant to spread from person to person, like wildfire, the all-consuming wildfire of the Holy Spirit. Here are some examples of people who experienced Jesus from our latest booklet.

  • Ronald was a Presbyterian who rejected God because of a lack of support, ugly pastoral scandals, and professors who questioned God’s existence. He married a Catholic involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, but faith still eluded him. Then came September 11, 2001, when he watched out his office window as smoke billowed from the Pentagon. He cried out to Jesus in prayer. He experienced a deep desire for Jesus’s presence and the new life the Savior offers. Shortly after that tragic day, Ronald decided to join the Catholic Church and also a charismatic prayer group. “Now,” he writes, “I have a solid formation and have become a fervent… believer.”
  • Kat, from Ireland, often prayed the rosary and attended parish missions, but she did not have a very close relationship with God. She was just going through the motions. Then one day she hit rock bottom as a result of abuse. Kat was putting clothes on the line when she stopped and cried out to God, “Are you there? Do you care about what is happening to me?” It was a cry for God’s love and for a SAVIOR.

    Kat writes that three weeks later, as she was “sitting by the fireplace and thinking about Jesus, all of a sudden a tremendous peace came over me. I knew without a doubt that God loved me. As a simple confirmation of this grace, I noticed a nearby spider, and for the first time in my life, I was not afraid, and I have not been afraid of spiders since. The next morning, I went to Mass and asked Jesus to use me to help others. Then a lady sat down behind me who had an awful wheeze, so I started to pray for her. What a change! Here I was praying for someone else!

  • For more stories about people meeting Jesus in lots of different ways read our new “An Introduction to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.” This book is also a user-friendly guide for a post Resurrection meeting between you and Jesus.
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