"Not so easily was I remade as made. He spoke and all things were made. But while he made me simply and at once by a word, he has in the remaking of me said many words, and worked wonders and suffered much." (St. Bernard)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Go Slowly!

When you imagine the jungle, I bet you imagine this.

Yep! You guessed correctly! Welcome to our home!

One of my favorite things to do is to work with different families in their fields (fincas): swinging machetes and drinking chicha! It truly has allowed our relationship with the people to deepen. They are extremely grateful and often surprised when we ask if we can help them work.

The other day, we went to San Pedro to work on the chapel. However, when we arrived we found that there was no one there to work. So, instead of turning around and going home, we seized the opportunity and went to Pedro's finca where he was working. Pedro is the catequista for San Pedro. His son Walter guided us there. We walked for about 25 minutes in thick jungle, through swamp and creeks, climbing over and under fallen trees, all the while machete in hand. Finally, we arrived. Pedro greeted us with a slightly confused look: 'Why are you guys here?' 'Well, since we are not working on the chapel, we wanted to help you in your finca,' we responded. He got a kick out of that. His laugh is so contagious. Joy is contagious! So, he showed us quickly what to do: cut down almost all the grown up jungle, except what he was farming. Within this thick grownup jungle are the sproutlings of cafe, cocoa, and guayusa trees. These we could not cut. We were all thinking the same thing: 'How do we tell these plants apart?' I had no idea how to differentiate them. But, Pedro gave some helpful advice... 'Go slowly.' Uhmmmm... yeah!

Before beginning, I tried to study some of those I knew: shape of the leaves, texture of the stalk and trunk, and how they felt. Then, I began to swing the machete. It was painstakingly slow. I just wanted to plow through it, hacking away at everything I saw. Just take it out, and ask questions later. But, I went slow, really trying to be careful. Of course, there were the obvious plants I could cut, but then there were the ones that looked identical to the ones we wanted to keep. Then, there were the unwanted ones that grew among the good ones, wrapping around them and choking them.

There is so much to take away from my experience with working in the field, cleaning out the jungle. We cleaned because the plants that they desire to bear fruit will not grow well or at all if they have to compete for space and nutrients. So, we cut down the unwanted plants, the weeds. There were a lot more weeds.

In my life, I still have a lot that I need to rid myself of. And sometimes it seems there is more bad than good. Yet, despite having so many sins and temptations in our lives, we can be cleaned. It will take time, and dedication and perseverance. Do not fear! First, we must recognize our sins, those weeds, those things we need to cut out of our lives. We might ask: 'How do they influence us? Do they bear bad fruits? What is our attitude? Is it God's will?'

Of course, there are those obvious weeds and thorns that keep us from living holy lives. We see them clearly for what they are and quickly cut them out. But, often, there are many things that we do and have in our daily life that may appear to be good for us, but in actuality are not, because they do not bring us closer to God. They may be similar in appearance to the good things the Lord desires in us and for us and those we want, but really are not the will of God, and so are only distractions and harmful. It could be devastating if we continue to grow and nourish that which is not from Him, and at harvest time the fruit we bear is terribly bitter or even poisonous. Do not despair! It takes commitment, practicing everyday as you ask the Holy Spirit to come and help you to recognize your sins and those areas you can improve on. And don't forget to permit Him to show you the blessings of your day. This will help to remind you that the Son did not come to condemn you, but came that you might be saved through Him. (See Jn. 3:17)

Also, no matter how hard I tried to only cut out the weeds, occasionally some plant we wanted got hacked. It is the same with the sin in our life. Even after ridding ourselves of our sin and repenting, sometimes good will go along with it. 'If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.' And essentially this is the consequence of sin. This is its desire. We know. We believe that our God is Mercy and Justice. There will be justice to all of the incredibly terrible things done in this world, and we better believe that we shall receive justice for every bad action, thought and word we have given. Let's offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Beg God to be merciful to us and all people, to teach us how to see the virtues within us that need to grow, that are from Him and direct us to Him; and to recognize the sins, temptations, and near occasions to sin so as to cut them out. May we not fear of cutting off some of that good. "Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit." (Jn. 15:2) For, if it gets us closer to our Heavenly Father, then nothing else could be better for us.

Now, it is your turn. Are you tired of being comfortable, always talking so as to maintain peace, but never getting out there and making mistakes? Pope Francis says: 'I prefer a thousand times over a Church of accidents than a sick Church.' If you are not making mistakes, if you are not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone in to areas where you have never been, areas where you have no idea what you are doing for the Gospel, then how can you permit the Lord to really work in you and through you? How can you say you trust in the Holy Spirit? "So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Cor. 12:9) Permit the Lord to be strong in you! Don't be a bystander or ,worse, hide in your house staying cozy, playing it safe, and never facing head-on your destiny. For you were made for Greatness! Christian recognize your dignity! Dust into light, uncleanness into purity, sinfulness into holiness, creature into Creator, man into God!