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We need to refocus our thoughts: on Heaven! Someone sad can gain a new perspective, by looking at a traditional scene, and realising that he or she enjoyed many more happy Christmasses than sad ones. What counts is to realise that in every season we are deeply loved by God, as precious individuals whom He wants to bring to enjoy eternal joy with Him.
God our Father loves us. He hears us, every time we pray. As we 'hold up' before the Father, in the name of Christ, people who are dear to us, and people who are sick, bereaved, or suffering temptation or other trials, it's as if we are strolling round our neighbourhood, asking the Father to grant His peace, strength and joy first to one person then to another; and our prayers are worthwhile, whether or not we notice visible results.
A Catholic who can not be bothered to practice the faith has a soul so dead, perhaps, as to be almost lifeless - like the frozen landscape pictured here. Where can he go when he dies, except into the Abyss, if he has refused to acknowledge, honour or serve God and enjoy His friendship - if he has refused the help of the Holy Spirit, Who carries towards Heaven, after death, all who die 'in Christ': as friends of God?
If we know someone who endangers his own salvation, and we pray to the Father, in the name of Christ, with faith, it is as though Christ on the Cross has freed an arm, in order to point to that great sinner, saying: "He is one of Mine: one of those I came to save"; and so, for Jesus' sake, the Father hears and grants us Jesus' prayer, obtained through our intercession. We should be joyful that, in Christ, we have so much power.
God knows all our needs, fears, hopes and joys. God asks us to live in a beautiful relationship with Him, now that we have been reconciled. He asks us to entrust ourselves to Jesus as comfortably as a tiny child entrusts itself to a good mother, never doubting that she is there to feed, console, hold and nurture him.
God's entire nature is Love. He is never unloving. The Father wants us to entrust ourselves to His care as confidently as a tiny child who entrusts himself to the care of his good mother. He knows of our sufferings and problems; yet He can bring good out of evil, make the weak strong, and make us joyful, ready for the joy of Heaven.
Earthly idols have sometimes been so glorious as to make men tremble with awe - yet the glory of Almighty God is a million times greater. How important it is, that we sinful creatures show reverence and love towards God. Christ, the Son of God, looks with kindness upon all who approach Him or His Father in sincere prayer; yet it is reverent souls who are invited to enjoy intimacy with God.
It is a cause for concern, when someone is following the Way of Christ, and had seemed willing to continue, but keeps pausing, wasting time, as he puts off doing the good things that he needs to do, to be worthy to enter Heaven joyfully rather than have to suffer in Purgatory. The temptations which threaten to overcome us could lead to our falling into the Abyss, nearby, and rising Eternal Loss.
If we are in need of purification in Purgatory, when we die, we should welcome it, because we would be unable to bear the sight of God's glory; so our purification can be seen as a sort of acclimatisation. When we are ready, we emerge, joyfully, longing to enter Heaven, just as a diver ends his slow acclimatisation by bursting joyfully though the surface of the water to be greeted by his friends.
All who persevere in love, and enter heaven, find that the blind, the lame, the deaf are healed. No-one suffers shame in Heaven. All are forgiven; and they are as joyful as carefree children. And no-one is sick or disabled. They might bear visible wounds, as Jesus does; but the formerly blind now see, the lame walk, the deaf hear; and everyone - the Blessed Trinity, and all the Saints, and all the Angels - is beautiful!
People who want to enter a foreign country are foolish if they routinely make fun of its ruler, mock its laws, and make few preparations, whilst blithely expecting to enter, and find a warm welcome, when they feel like entering there. Heaven is reserved for those who are true friends of the King. Having enjoyed His friendship, those friends continue it in Heaven, unlike those who made no preparations.
Only the holy can share God's holiness in Heaven, in perfect joy and peace. There are people who say - 'I'm not a bad person. I try to be good, but I don't need all that advice about prayer and Church-going'. They reveal the depth of their ignorance by such words, and on their state of soul. It's as if, within them, is a labyrinth of blocked passages and alley-ways: of unchristian attitudes, prejudices, unused spiritual faculties, a dark conscience locked in a cul-de-sac, and the gloom caused by Original Sin.
The Church is a home like no other: a true home for sinners. Christ wants us to hold up our heads bravely despite all the criticism currently made of the entire Church because of the wicked acts of a very small number of priests. He sees the Church as a giant, amongst institutions and organisations as She sustains and promotes life through her medical work, educational projects and care of the poor - as well as her main task: the care and salvation of souls, for the glory of God and our eternal joy.
If we want God to make a beautiful pattern out of our lives, using our various gifts, interspersed with weaknesses, failings, unhappy memories and foolish ambitions, it's as if we must allow Him to shake up our lives, by the various crosses we carry and the trials we endure. Then, from all those odd pieces, God can form a beautiful, unique pattern, as seen in a wonderful kaleidoscope such as children enjoy.
We are not wrong to say that there is 'one true Church'. That is the phrase used within the Mass, in our official prayers. It is the simple truth about the one Church founded by Christ so that He can give the sacraments to all who believe in him and do his will. Other groups called 'churches' are groups of sincere people who do not, however, enjoy Catholic privileges, or the constant and true teachings that Catholics enjoy.
By our own freely-made choices, we alter our destiny. Those who persist in selfishness and sin, despite the help given by God to reflect upon their lives, and to turn to Him in contrition and trust, will find themselves led, at death, into total alienation and spiritual hopelessness, as if through a dark doorway, unlike those who have persevered in faith and love, and who are raised up in the glorious life of Heaven, to share the joy of the Saints, forever.
As a healthy bush in a well-tended garden hides within itself little birds who joyfully sing all day, so the soul of someone who loves Christ hides within itself Christ, Who sings out His praise of the Father, all day; and that soul can join in!
Within the soul, as if in a bright interior chamber where the contemplative meets Christ in prayer, it's as if there is a secret chamber into which Christ can draw that person, to bring her to meet the Holy Spirit and the Father too, and to share Christ's secrets, about the life of God and the life of grace. Only those people who have sincerely tried to live in charity, humility and purity can enjoy such intimacy with God.
Just as in a childrens' play-house there can arise nasty squabbles, and an adult has to swoop down to help the children to see reason, so in the Church, our joy can be spoiled by squabbles about doctrine or Liturgy, especially when the truth offered by those in authority is ignored; and so God swoops down from time to time, to help, by means of an inspiring vision, or a message, or a new call to penance, or a new gift of encouragement for the Church.
It is important to remain joyful, and hopeful, trusting in Christ. We might sometimes find our minds dwelling on sad or horrible events of our life, of many years earlier, and we experience heartache, just as we do when we dwell on the sufferings of other people - especially starving children - in the present day. But sad memories should propel us not towards despondency but action, whether thanks to God for His many gifts to us, or help for the needy.
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