Overcoming our fear of God

Henri Nouwen shows us the importance of overcoming our fear of God:

“Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness, and insecurity.

“The greatest block in the spiritual life is fear. Prayer, meditation, and education cannot come forth out of fear. God is perfect love, and as John the Evangelist writes, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.”

Henri Nouwen
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Lenten Reflection For RCIA, 2016

02-09-2016

RCIA on Lent

Introduction: Use the highlighted handout material. How many read the material?

“During Lent we follow the path of our Lord…

“The word Lent…

“The season of Lent…

“The number 40 has a symbolic meaning in Scripture…

“Jesus’ desert experience…vulnerabilities

“Turn stone into bread, hungry

“Jump from the roof, presumption

“Worship Satan for political power”

Hygiene Issues:

Abstinence: Starts at age 14 continues for life – all Friday’s in Lent

Fasting: Starts at 18 continues to 59 – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

These two practices are mechanical ways of bringing our bodies under submission. We are essentially telling ourselves, “No”. All of us should have someone in our lives that we allow to tell us, “No”. Pope Paul IV emphasized self-denial for the sake of internal conversion. Prayer and works must be combined with Fast and Abstinence for genuine Christian living.

Symbols of Lent:

Ashes: Are an annual reminder that we are not Earthly People having a Heavenly Experience, rather we are Heavenly People having an Earthly experience. Ashes remind us of the passage of time before our Spirits return to Heaven. The fact that those ashes are the result of burning last year’s palms again reminds of the passage of time. They are an ancient sign of Repentance.

Colors: The colors of the vestments and the decorations in Church are meant to set a tone. Like ashes, Lenten purple is a sign of reflection and conversion.

Palms: On the Sunday before Easter, the beginning of Holy Week, we hold palms in our hand in imitation of the people of Jerusalem who threw them into His path as He entered as a sign of honor. Reflect on how easily the people and us can swing from praising Him to Rejecting Him.

Like fasting, these physical symbols of Lent call us sinners to Repentance and Conversion.

 

So, in a very real way we are literally called to a Journey in Lent. Tonight we will take a look at what we hope to accomplish on this journey and share with one another our process.

The central issue for us is examining, and coming to grips with, our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. All other issues pale in comparison. Our human nature makes us want to major on the minors and minor on the majors. Lent calls us to face up to where we really are in that relationship.

Some of us grow gradually over time in our relationship with the Lord. Some of us have a “Knock us off the horse” quicker experience. God, in His wisdom selects the appropriate experience for each of us.

 

At this time, I would ask you to break up into two groups, and take a few moments each to share with your group how you came to your experience with the Lord. When did you’ know you know you know’ you accepted Him and you made the decision to follow Him through your life?

Have someone share from each group.

To have a relationship with someone means you periodically communicate with them. Since God is Spirit and we are Human, that process can be a bit more difficult, but necessary none the less.

At this time, I would ask you to reform into your groups and share with one another the ways that you speak to, and hear from, the Lord.

Have someone share from each group.

 

Consider the Eight Ways to Hear the Lord, three external and five internal:

I would like to share with you the three External Ways to hear the Lord and the five Internal Ways to hear the Lord. These are taken from Father Henri Nouwen.

“Man has always wanted to communicate with his creator. His creator has always wanted to communicate with Man. The channels of communications are imperfect at best because we are called to “Walk by Faith, not by Sight”. The following are only guides to be used by Faith-Filled People”

 

A – External Ways

1 – Scripture, the word of God written down

Logos – General truth, always evergreen, “Love everyone”

Rehma – Specific truth, leaps off the page here & now, “Love Bill”

Tradition is scripture through the filter of man over time

2 – Other People, what do the people I trust & respect say to me. “Beware

the naked man who offers you his shirt.” The world is full of them.

 

3 – Circumstances, one door closed and another opened. The phone rang

just as I was about to make the decision, ‘everything just seemed to line up’

 

B – Internal Ways

1 – Our Wills, what are my righteous desires, what do I want. Granted,

our wills are not sanctified, maybe even selfish, but “God does put every good desires in us.”

2 – Our Emotions, what are my feelings saying to me? Remember, feelings are certainly fickle, but they should be considered in any kind of discernment, am I at peace with this?

3 – Our Reason, analyze issues. What does my good common sense say to me? Look at plusses & minuses of the issue. When in doubt, choose and give the Lord the option to block.

4 – Our Memories, what did God say to me about this issue the last time around the mountain. If He said for me to tithe in the past, I don’t have to go over it again every Sunday.

5 – Our Imaginations, in the back of my mind it felt like I heard the Lord say this or that. This is a learned response over a long period of time. You get better it over time. Have you ever had a discussion with another person and later on you find yourself reviewing that conversation? You can end up replaying what was said by you and the other person. Then you get creative and begin to interject what you really wish you had said and imagine what they might have responded. Well, that same mechanism can be developed with how you converse with the Lord. It can be a very beautiful or it can be terribly off. Caution…

 

Summary: All of these ways of hearing God are imperfect. We are human beings and as such we are finite in our understanding. The internal ways can be especially open to error. The more important the decision we are trying to make the more we should test our input. A good spiritual director can save you a lot of wear and tear, but pick one very carefully because there are plenty of people out there who would love to tell you what you should do, but only a very few are qualified for you.