Understanding H.A.L.T.

With the daily struggle to be more Christlike making us feel like losers we often take a very negative view of ourselves. It is especially difficult for people who live or work together in close proximity, for example, spouses. We profess our Christianity with our mouth but live it out in an embarrassing charade with the other side of our mouths betraying us.

Years ago as I struggled with this ambiguity I asked a spiritual director how could this be? How could I at times be capable of great good and sweet words and at other times be capable of just the opposite. His laughter didn’t help my feelings at lot until he told me he experienced the same thing.

Then he shared a concept that set me free from my feelings of inadequacy. He told me of the acronym, H.A.L.T. He said it stands for Hungry, or Angry, or Lonely, or Tired. At those times we are most likely to be unable to behave in a Christlike way and instead revert to behavior learned in our formative years, when it was “all about us”.  He said that’s where the “Hardwired Feelings” lived.

Our formative years are when we grow the hardwired feelings and are often very different from those of other people. It is hard to overcome the feelings of those formative years when we are exposed to HALT conditions, and that is true even of people we consider filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, what do we do? The only option is to be aware of the HALT conditions and be on guard, making a special effort to avoid the negative feelings that can emerge during those times. Share the concept with those around whom we live closely. Agree to speak gently when things get out of control and work hard to show love for the other even at the worst of times. Jesus calls us to love one another in our sinfulness as He did when He hung on the cross for us.

Jesus, Meek & Humble of Heart, Homily

Homily, July 05-06, 2014: Cycle A, 14th Sun of Ordinary Time (Jesus, Meek & Humble of Heart)  

Throughout history, images of God the Father have run the gauntlet from an eye-for-an-eye-vengeful God, complete with Cecil B Demille drama & sound, all the way to a caring God who sent His own Son Jesus to show us by His life the true qualities of His Father.

I think the truth is that God presented Himself to humanity in the way humanity needed Him to be, based on its level of maturity. As we matured & experienced many paradigm shifts with respect to Him, we came to see that God really was more than a reactionary God playing wack-a-mole with us.

Sending His Son Jesus into the world as a servant for us was God the Father’s best chance to show us how He Himself really is.

Today’s Gospel gives us a striking view of the very Heart of Jesus & therefore the heart of the Father with these wonderful words:  “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

That is quite a contrast from the severe God of Justice to the Meek God who offers us comfort.

In our First Reading from Zechariah the prophet, 550 years before Jesus, we hear that our King will come to us – meek and humble of heart. So, we know that’s how the Father was all along, but we as a people couldn’t handle that early on.

What does it mean to be meek?  Unfortunately, in our lexicon today, the word meek has negative connotations. But, to be meek is to be patient & gentle.

It is not the surrender of rights, nor is it submissiveness, but the opposite of sudden anger, of malice, or of long harbored vengeance.

Jesus is meek.  He is NOT waiting for the right moment to strike us down for what we have done to Him with our sins, or how we have attacked those whom He loves, or how we have put him out of our lives altogether.  He is gentle.  He is patient with us.

And, He waits for us because He is so full of love that He is willing to be patient. He thinks we are worth it.

Our Gospel also reminds us that Jesus is humble of heart. Jesus treats us as if the universe revolves around us – not Him.

He is concerned with returning us sinners to loving relationship with Him. His concern is not with how we have treated Him. His concern is for us.

We are told in Philippians, that, “Jesus did not think that equality with God was something to be grasped. Rather He emptied Himself & took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men.

“And, then He obediently accepted death on the cross for us.”

That attitude and those actions by Him on our behalf are certainly not those of a proud person, they are in fact, humility personified.

What does all this mean to us?  It means that we need to give Jesus our burdens.  And, I don’t just mean the normal difficulties of life, sickness, marriage or family problems, jobs, etc.  Yes, we give these to the Lord daily, but there is more that He wants.  He wants us to give Him all that is keeping us from an intimate relationship with Him.

Perhaps there are sinful hidden areas in our lives. Perhaps there is some form addiction in our lives. Don’t forget, there are a lot of different forms of addictions, large & small.

The physical addictions are easy to see, but the internal ones probably do just as much damage, things like:

Incessant criticism of others addiction. It is all about me addiction. Incessant complaining addiction.

Those are more like personality quirks but they are additive in that we cannot make ourselves stop. Worse, we inflict them on our captive audience of family & friends.

We may think that we are condemned to go through life carrying these burdens & waiting for everlasting punishment after we die.

Well, the Good News in this Gospel is Jesus is saying “No to all that. Give me your burdens, come to me for I am meek & humble of heart.”  He is saying, “I am not so offended that I am shutting off mercy & compassion to you.”

“I am not concerned about how you treat Me.  I am concerned about you.  I suffered on the cross for you.  Give me your burdens.  I want them, no matter how ugly, how messy they may be.”

Then the Lord says, “And you will find rest for yourselves, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The burden of being a Christian, as demanding as it is, is light next to the burden of carrying our sins day after day to the grave and beyond.

Follow the way of holiness; be different from the crowd that exults in its sinfulness.  Holiness is being different.  Holiness is accepting the way of the Lord as our own.

By now, you must have heard this quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI many times, but it bears repeating: “The world offers you comfort.  But, you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”  Every one of us was created for greatness.

We were created for the greatness of being like Jesus. That is the burden & the yoke that Jesus calls us to accept in today’s Gospel – to be like Him. Shed all the other stuff & take on the yoke of being like Him.

The words of today’s Gospel can be a gateway to a completely new life for us.

We need to put them on our refrigerator door. We need to put them on our mirror. Most certainly, we need to put them on the doorpost of our heart.

“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”