...harden not your hearts.
There is always a potential...and then a possible response, an action in reaction.
Today, Ash Wednesday 2015, the nothing Catholic hermit appreciated a phone book discussion and ensuing conversation with a young friend--wife and mother of two with a third on the way. She has blossomed spiritually, grown in leaps and bounds in just the past few months! The Catholic hermit is so proud of her--and this nothing has no reason for pride other than a deep joy in seeing another soul responding to the graces of His Real Presence.
She heard His voice, essentially in various ways, and she did not harden her heart. She used her God-given will and made some choices, and she acted on the good of what He desired of her...and succeeded. How her life has changed! Anger has come under control and mostly wiped away as soon as it surfaces. She has learned how to discern her dreams (His voice in images and scenes given her subconscious in sleep), and then moved on after gleaning any valid lessons requiring action or reaction on her part and tossing any demonic trash into the do-not-recall bin.
She is living more and more in the present moment and blooming where she is planted. Previously, she longed for her husband to get an assignment elsewhere, never settling fully in nor fitting in with those in the area. Why? There are many reasons which we had discussed over time, but the outcome is she softened her heart and listened and made changes in her attitude. She grasped her vocation as wife and mother and started to see the honor in it, as well as the inspiring challenges for growth in the virtues, day by day and night by night.
She let go of the past memories that haunted her of her childhood and the perceived lacks therein. She let go of apologizing for herself and feeling inadequate, or in carrying a great deal of unnecessary guilt (something that some Catholic parents train into the children by innocent error of a mistype of tradition, creating an element of fear and control that can be misplaced later on).
She also kept to her spiritual reading--the classics of great saints as well as to making offerings of the mundanity of diapers and dishes. Rather than reacting in hurt to other women's not including her, she began to reach out to the one woman she might notice who also was not included. She started to create her own group or spiritual opportunity even if she was the only member, or just one other.
(For this young woman is a soul beyond what a bulk of women may find relevant and necessary, not to their fault necessarily; she simply is more a contemplative and most likely also born a mystic. Through numerous conversations, working with her prayers and dreams, being open to being called out on some issues, she started to listen and understand and to accept that her path is valid, too).
She heard His voice in so many ways that He speaks to us! And she hardened not her heart. What a gift of inspiration to others, and how much more peaceful her life! Faith has increased beyond measure. It kind of grew quietly, all this change, and today the nothing Catholic hermit could not contain the joy and gratitude for what an inspiration she is to this soul who happens to be facing a sense of backsliding and faltering, of weakness in will, and lack of discipline in focus, or so it seems.
We have selected another book to read "together" for our weekly phone discussion. Since this Catholic hermit has been so seriously ill for awhile, she has been kindly in postponing, so patiently.
Today nothing Catholic hermit, in the course of our discussion of sin and redemption, shared some deeply personal experiences of great falls from grace in ways that a person would obviously know were not good, but to learn just how weak the soul can be and how great is His Real Presence to allow some terrible falls in sin, yet bring such amazing, life-changing lessons that are never then forgotten. He is so merciful!
The young woman seemed to appreciate the candor and was probably stunned, and we laughed to think that this Catholic hermit has come through some awful sins and still, last night, slipped on something so little yet so ridiculously unnecessary. The penance it gave itself was to purchase a copy of our next reading selection for the young woman, despite its own finances being not good these days. But it sold a pair of boots last night, and in that transaction was part of the ridiculous slip-up.
My, how easy it is to sin, when one would think we'd get old enough and seasoned to avoid even the near occasion of sin! No! The Lord ever humbles us as He watches His children, especially the old ones, do something stupid and wrong--even realizing they are doing it but either too tired or too miffed to stop it right then and there. So forgiveness asked immediately of His Real Presence, and mercy granted even though the sting lasted a bit into the night.
No, 'twas time to put it immediately behind, for dwelling on a slip or fall after it has been forgiven, only leads to a kind of pride in over-thinking one's actions, or the tendency to be too upset at having sinned...as if we are too great and spiritually mature to have slipped up. Better to chuckle and remind oneself that even as we get old, we can tend to falter just as our bones grow physically unsteady. We are never free from error until our last breath.
It is Ash Wednesday. The nothing Catholic hermit made no grand plans for giving up this or that food or anything else. It did not even bother leaning on the crutch of being still sick and qualifying as old for any Church law exemption. Rather, nothing Catholic hermit hardened not its heart and realized His Real Presence will bring the opportunities for sacrifice, for penance, for listening and reacting and changing its ways to whatever God brings to the conversion table.
Yesterday, even though with an encouraging bit of energy enough to launder the bed linens, weed a bit in the sun and breathe fresh air, and then make some simple chili from a packaged soup mix, there started in the thoughts of how it might be able to stay on here in this hermitage, after all. So ideas started to pump up the enthusiasm, and the hermit got some encouragement from a long-time friend--until it realized the chronic pain and lack of physical consistency would make the idea not so stable, and research of like enterprises in the area showed the competition to be rather stiff.
Nothing Catholic hermit cannot compete with the wealthy who do such ventures as hobbyists, or the young, or the able-bodied, or those with spouses to help with the efforts. It is still out there as a possibility, but even though the long-time friend said just lower the price and business will happen--the potentials for the inconsistent and unannounced pain sieges or other blights could be disastrous with the particular idea to gain some needed income in order to remain.
Too much distraction in seeking ways to have it easier, to not have to pick up and go again, to have to detach totally from the remainder of the gardens and have some kind of enjoyment of the area and place instead of the heaviness of so much manual labor and hardship and expense since arrival here nearly two years ago! How can one hear His voice today or any day (or night), if the mind--if not the heart--is hardened to what it thinks might be easier or even better than what seems to be the unavoidable?
So this nothing Catholic hermit must silence the various ideas that start to jangle about in the mind--ways to remain despite the financial odds, or also ways to create a bit of hope and impetus to get back to the hard work ahead in order to finish the place in order to have it salable. The mind must listen for His voice will speak in some way, shape, or form, in the day and in the night, sooner or later and most likely sooner.
Silence is His voice, too, we realize. Just silence of His Breath, of His Peace, of His Love, of His Mercy. The heart must not be hardened by the weight of our heavy concerns nor by our fears of what is next even if we suspect it is going to mean more lessons, more suffering--for suffering and love always go together to bring about the best for our sanctification. And the suffering can be sweet. His Voice is in the suffering and sometimes more clear then than in seeming temporal success or happiness.
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love one another! Remain in His Love! Listen in His Love, and He will speak; and our hearts will soften to His plans for us no matter what.