Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I am Worthless

by Fr. Jack McArdle

Listen ...............

Lord, when I say that I am worthless, I know I don't have to explain to you what exactly I mean by that. I feel, however, in pouring out my heart to you, and in trying to put words on how I feel, that, that in itself, might be a help. I'm not honestly sure where all this started, but, from a very early age, I felt that I wasn't worth much, that I wasn't as good as others, that I just didn't have what many of the others seemed to have. This was confirmed from a very early age through many experiences, many of which were quite painful. This ranged from comparing my family to other families that seemed much better off than we were; from children who had things that my parents couldn't afford; from comparing myself to others in school, to those who were brighter than me, much better in school, at games, school activities, or in general popularity. I always felt that I had to work much harder to get others' attention, or to get their approval. I longer for affirmation, and for assurance that I wasn't exactly an ugly duckling. I would freeze within at the slightest criticism, and I was often deeply hurt by sarcasm, or remarks that confirmed my suspicions that I was, in fact, worthless, and that there was nothing in me that drew admiration or praise from others. I spent much of my time wishing I were someone else. I wished I could sing like that person, play sport like someone else, or had the good looks and charm of another.

I know, as I say this, that there is a great deal of pride inset in all of this. I can see that with hindsight, but my feelings were no less real. I always considered myself as being shy, and I never thought of that as being fear. I was unhappy with how I was or what I had, and I never saw that as ingratitude. I coveted what others had, and I never saw that as jealousy. That's just the way it was, and that was how I felt. I lacked self-confidence, and I was afraid to venture an opinion in case I might sound stupid, or someone might laugh at my ideas. I often fawned, and sought approval, and would do anything to gain that approval. I became a people-pleaser, and I was afraid to say 'no', in case the other person mightn't like me. I carried a great deal of that into life with me. In fact, there is quite a deal of that still within me. Sharing with you openly how I feel gives me hope, because it may well be a step in the right direction. I don't ever want to be aggressive, but I would like to be assertive, to speak my mind, to express my opinion, and not to go on apologizing for my existence. I see this as a very real form of bondage, that greatly limits the quality of my life.
I know it sounds selfish and ungrateful, Lord, but I thought that you had not given me a fair shake when you created me! In a world of hungry people today, I know that this was pure selfishness, and self-centeredness. I often wondered why some people seem to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths, while others seem to have nothing going for them. Some people are just naturally gifted in so many ways, while others are just so dull, and ordinary. 'Ordinary' might be a good word to describe how I have seen myself for most of my life. In fact I had settled for the ordinary, and just wanted to be good at the ordinary! Oh, of course, I did discover some talent, and I knew I wasn't totally stupid, but the range of my abilities were so limited that I was fearful of stepping outside those perceived limits. I kept myself to myself a great deal, because I was afraid to tell people how I really felt about anything. I tended to agree with others, even when I had opinions that were different. I was conscious of some sort of moral cowardice, but I was too inhibited to take a stand on issues. I felt safer to hide in the crowd, to go with the flow, and to keep my opinions to myself. There were times when all this seemed to gather like a leaden weight within me, and I found it difficult to have any initiative, or to take risks. I now see this as some form of depression, even though I didn't recognize this for what it was at the time.

I always had a great fear of being honest. I hid behind a facade of confidence, even when I was totally unsure of myself within. I was afraid that others might get to really know me, and that they would laugh. I knew that their laugh would kill me, so I played games of pretense, I feigned indifference, and I was willing to be whatever I thought someone perceived me to be. Because of my own discomfit with myself, I was often very uncomfortable in the company of others. My life became a charade, and I could see no escape from my predicament. I harbored resentments, was easily hurt, and, I must confess, that I sometimes had a good feeling when someone else was seen to fail. I had a serious problem with authority, and I would do anything to achieve or retain their approval. I would complain to others about those in authority, but I would never question or challenge the directions I was given. I was always on my guard in the presence of an authority figure, and I always aimed to please at all costs.

As I recall my experience of growing up, I was very prone to guilt, because, Lord, you, too, were someone in authority, to be served and to be feared. I never actually had any conviction that you loved me. In fact, I felt that you couldn't possibly love me. I suppose I was trying to self-compensate for what others didn't give me, so I tended to be sneaky, underhanded, and dishonest. If others wouldn't give it to me, then, if the opportunity arose, I took it myself. I wanted to be able to have pocket money like everyone else, or to have something to show others that would get their attention. (I actually remember stealing a cigarette case, and giving it to someone, so that that person would like me). I never understood that love and respect were not items that could be bought. I never understood that, because of my low self-esteem, and lack of appreciation of myself, that I blocked off the possibility of being able to accept the love and respect of others. This low self-esteem meant that I was always giving other people power over me. It was as if I marched to the beat of someone else's drum. I became, on the outside, a total conformist, while, within and well disguised, there was a rebel anxious to break out. My anger was often expressed by becoming silent, and I often did not recognize this as anger. I was intimidated by violence, and I would go to any lengths to keep the peace. I was a pacificist through cowardice, and not by any great conviction about the merit of non-violence.

Forgiveness has always been a problem in my life, Lord. I was never good at forgiving myself, and, therefore, very slow to forgive others. Oh, I would pretend that all was well, but, underneath, I was planning some way to get even, or to ensure that the other person saw the wrong-doing, and would apologize, and thus give me the satisfaction of being proven right. It was very important for me to vindicate myself, and, even if I was unable to confront, I looked for other ways to set the record straight. I have never been good at confrontation, because of my lack of confidence, and my low self-image. I know of people who became alcoholics, because alcohol gave them the buzz, the confidence, and the honesty that they lacked in reality. I can fully understand how this could happen, and, providing the alcohol itself didn't take over, I could see great merit in finding new courage in a bottle.
Lord, I am sharing all this with you, because I want to begin to reclaim my life. I want to rid my heart of all the pettiness, the guilt, the self-condemnation, and the feeling of unworthiness. I want to open my heart to your message, and to the hope of the Gospel. I ask you, please, to heal every scar of mind and of memory. I ask for a whole new outpouring of your Spirit by way of a Confirmation, that will confirm, empower, and anoint me. My past can explain how I am, but I cannot go on using it as an excuse for how I am. I didn't have control over the past, but I want you to have control over my life from now on. I have no reason whatsoever to trust myself, and I don't want, nor do I ask that I myself might control anything. I know that it is never too late for you. I also know that I have to magnify you, in the sense that my concept of you has been far too small. If you were seen and accepted as all-powerful in my life, then, surely, a miracle begins right there. It is not a question of self-confidence, but it is about having confidence in you. If you are for me, then who can be against me? If the Father gave you to me, then, surely, I can trust that he will give me everything else. Lord, I feel it is time to roll back the stone from the tomb of my heart. I have been asleep, or in some sort of non-life for long enough. I know that you are now offering me a whole new chance to begin again, to be born again. Thank you, thank you, Lord, for the grace of salvation, for the grace to start again. I am willing to accept that gift right now, with a grateful and open heart. In my heart I feel that if I change, then my whole life will change. All I can do now is offer you every longing within my heart, every hunger within my soul, every hurt within my memory, and every hope for a whole new future.

Speak ......................

My dear, dear child, thank you, thank you for pouring your heart out to me. Thank you for the trust and the goodwill. I know you through and through, and I understand you much much better than you could ever understand yourself. You have no idea how much I have longed for this day. I stand at the door, and knock, but I cannot enter until you open the door. You are very precious in my sight, and I would like to share with you just exactly what I mean by that. If you can get this one central point, then, I know, you will become important in your own eyes as well.

In the Gospels I told the apostles "You did not choose me; no, I have chosen you". You, my friend, did not choose to be born. You had no say whatever in becoming a member of the human race, and in living out your life as a human being. This may be difficult to understand, but let me use several examples to help you see things from my perspective. If you were a teacher, going in to teach a class, it could be expected that you know what you were going to teach today, and what the pupils may know at the end of the class that they may not know now. If you were a builder, building a house, it could be expected that you would have an architect's drawing of the building, right down to the last measurement. In other words, before you begin something, you have some definite idea of what the finished product will be like. When you were created it wasn't just that the Father had nothing better to do! And, by the way, "God don't make no junk", as one writer put it. At the moment of your creation, you had infinite possibilities, and a life without end. Each person is very very unique. I'm sure you yourself wouldn't like it if people were clones of each other. Each person is uniquely gifted, and no two people are the same. That is evident if you compare the finger prints of each, or do a D.N.A. blood-test of each. It is as if my Father broke up the mould and threw it away, the moment he created you. Because of hereditary factors, the body of each is obviously different, either in colour, size, or appearance. Personality is like a bag that contains all of one's habits, good and bad. This is the result of both nature and nurture. Part of being human is that you are powerless, of yourself, and, on your own, your life is unmanageable. It often takes years for people to discover this simple basic truth. Oh, I said this in the Gospels in many ways, on many different occasions, but who heard, and who believes me? I said that apart from me you can do nothing, and that I had come in person to lead you on the journey of life into the Promised Land. If it were possible for you to do that on your own, then I need not have taken on your humanity, and traveled the road with you. I'm sure you've often heard the quote "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, so that those who believe in him may have eternal life". That word comes alive for you only when you can re-phrase it with conviction "For God loved me so much...."

I'm not condemning or blaming you, but a great deal of your poor self-image, lack of confidence, or self-loathing resulted from the solitary confinement of choosing to be alone in your world. You yourself were the focus of attention, and you narrowed your world down to yourself and what concerned you. In simple words, communication is at least two-way, or no way. You receive back what you yourself give away. If you don't give, you don't receive. Oh, yes, you gave, but it was seldom given freely. There was always a price-tag on everything. You gave to gain attention, you performed to merit approval, you existed to meet your own needs through the crumbs that fell from the tables of others. That was never my Father's intention for you, when he created you. He has no favorites, nor has he any grandchildren. You are a child of God, on this earth with as much right as any other human being that ever existed. That is central to my teaching on Kingdom living. In the kingdom of the world, people are categorized all the time, either through ethnic groups, rich, poor, powerful or disposable. In my Kingdom the most handicapped child on this earth has as much right to be here than has the greatest genius that ever lived.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is said; but, for me, beauty is found within the human heart. All the bodies, the beautiful, the athletic, the disabled, and the plain, will return to the dust from which they came. When I look within your heart I see the hurts, the struggles, and the origins of your present prayer. I want to take you in my arms, to hug you, to confirm you as someone who is most precious in my eyes. If you were the only person on this earth, I would still have come to be with you, because, on your own, you could never make it back to the Garden. At the time of creation there is frequent use of the phrase "And God saw that it was good..." O.K., you have failed, you have sinned, but not because you are evil, but because you are weak. I love you exactly as you are, right here, right now. And I love you so much more than that, and so I don't want you to remain as you are. I want to redeem you from the slavery of self-hatred, of self-condemnation, of self-depreciation. I want to lift you up, to fill your heart with hope, to roll away the stone, to throw open the doors of the upper room, and, like Lazarus, to call you to come forth into new life.

You can never find security outside of yourself. The pearl of great price, that for which you search, is hidden within your own heart. No matter what the limits of the body may be, all of God's creatures have within them the capacity to lead a full and worthwhile life. Life is not measured by achievements or accomplishments. There are no Brownie points, nor it is marked out of ten. Life is about goodwill, and there is peace on earth to those of goodwill. The only limits of my power working in you and through you are the ones you set. I have endless dreams for you, unbounded possibilities, and nothing less than a call to share in Divinity. I don't waste anything, so I am hoping that you will use all of your sense of worthlessness, all of your moral cowardice, and all of your lack of self-confidence as an incentive to get out of the way, and let me take over the running of your life. Because I am totally present to you now, and you have my full and total attention now, all I ask is that you slow life down to just one day at a time. Just for today, I will lead you every step of the way. Just for today I will not lead you when I won't be there to see you through. Just for today nothing will happen that you and I together will not be able to handle. O.K.? You might wish to pause here for a few moments to reflect on the simplicity and the seriousness of what it is I am asking from you.............................

Life is a journey, that is made up of many different journeys. In the course of a life-time several different selves emerge. In other words, you are not the same person you were twenty or thirty years ago. Today is a totally different day from yesterday, and you cannot live today on a Yes of yesterday. There are significant conversion points in the course of a life-time, when someone opts to turn around, to travel down another road, to decide to take a whole new direction in life. Life is a whole process of being born, of becoming, of gestation. You are now at a whole new and very significant point in your own journey. Thank you for turning to me at this juncture. Thank you for recognizing my presence, and my part in the process. Let us move on together from here. In the Gospels I identified very strongly with the outcast, the marginalized, and those whom the world ignores. There is some of all of that within you, and that is why I am so pleased that you respond to my invitation, and that you are willing to accept me in a personal way, for specific reasons, and not in some sort of general and superficial acceptance.

There are many many others out there who are now experiencing what you have come through over the years. They desperately need someone to confirm and affirm them. Who better to do that than someone who has been down that same road? Compassion is not something you learn from a book. It is something you can learn and garner from your own hurts, pains, and struggles. Just as I entered into your life, to share the burden, the journey, and the struggle with you, so, you too, can enter into their lives, and become a life-giving person for them. This world is greatly in need of people with hearts full of compassion. They can be my touch-persons in the lives of others. You can turn what was a problem into a wonderful opportunity, what was failure into success, what you saw as worthlessness into eternal riches. Many are called, but few choose to follow. Thank you laying out your life before me, and for listening to my words of assurance and re-creation. Your life begins right now. Today is the beginning of the rest of your life..................

I have Cancer, Lord

by Fr. Jack McArdle

Listen ...............

Lord, you know me through and through. You know my every thought. You know my lonely moments, my quiet fears, my greatest guilt. You can read my heart like an open book. Because you can read my thoughts, you know that I have often reflected on life, on death ; on when and how I would die, and how all that would be. To a large extent I always tried to keep that at arm's length, because it was too uncomfortable to let too close. Of course, I knew I would die some day, but that had nothing whatever to do with my life just now. And then I heard that dreaded word cancer, the Big C, and the bottom fell out of my life. The immediate shock was the worst, before I had time to discuss it, listen to the doctor, or look at the news objectively. I know there will come a time, some day, when the word 'cancer' will mean no more than 'tonsillitis' or 'appendicitis' means today. In my parents' time, T.B. or diphtheria sent a shudder throughout the whole community, effecting more than the person who had contracted it. Cancer is a bit closer to our time, however, and, while medical research and treatment has come a long long way, and while the graph of recoveries continues to rise, there is, however, a very real dread of the diagnosis of cancer.
I know I have two clear choices : I can fold up, go to bed and die, or I can turn this into the greatest time in my whole life. If I choose the latter, I can grasp life with a much firmer grip, with a greater sense of appreciation and responsibility for how I live it, and I can become much more alive than I have ever been up till now. Jesus, Lord, you came to redeem, to save, to heal, and to give us life in abundance. I don't think it too far-fetched that having cancer might open me, at last, to all that you offer. Nothing is impossible to you, and you can always turn everything into good, no matter how bad it may seem to us. I don't come crawling to you, because I know you don't want that ; that would be an insult to your great love. I turn to you because I choose to, because I am free to, and because you want me to. I turn to you, because you, and you alone, can take my present situation and turn it into a good.

One of my first reactions, when I heard the word cancer, was to experience a sense of helplessness. The only hope I clung to was that the diagnosis was wrong, and that further checks would prove that to be so. My head was in a spin, and the questions were flying Why? Why me? Why now? Why this? I know rightly, Lord, that you understand all of this totally, and that you allow me deal with my own humanity, and all that is stirred up there, before I am ready to turn to you, and to turn things over to you. You are always and ever on standby, with the extraordinary patience and understanding that goes with extraordinary love. Lord, I don't pretend at all to be in control of things at the moment. I'm getting by, sometimes O.K., and sometimes very poorly. I try to generate some inner power and strength of my own, and, just when I think I'm in control, something happens, and the walls close in again. For someone who has always been able to cope, it is difficult for me to have to admit that, this time around, I experience myself as very brittle, very frail, very fragile. It's really hard to keep up appearances, to disguise my worries, and to hide my worst fears. Deep down within me is a very strong desire to go on living. I'm just not prepared to go to bed, and wait for death. I believe that strength must come from you, and I am grateful for that.

Only you, Lord, can understand the human mind, and how it works. My mind tells me that I have cancer, not just that I am sick. My mind wishes that it was anything else but what I have. There were many times in my life where I wished I were anywhere else than where I was. I find it really difficult to face reality, and to be prepared to live in that reality. I know that you are real, and, until I become real, and live in and with my reality, there is no chance that we can come face to face. And yes, Lord, that is what I want to do right now. I don't want to wait till I die before coming face to face with you. You know me through and through, and, so there's no point in trying to pretend, or trying to choose nice words, flowery language, or impressive speeches, when I come before you. I stand before you now, exactly as I am, with all my fears, worries, anxieties, and doubts, and I pray "Lord, please help me. Please place your healing hand upon me. You only have to say the word, and I will be healed". I don't understand faith too well. I always thought that, if I had faith, I would never have doubts. Now I'm beginning to accept that that cannot be so, or, at least, that is impossible for me. With all my doubts, with all my worries, with all my fears, above all of that rises the belief that you can heal me. It is as if my faith in you rises above all the rest, when I become still within, let the muddy water settle, and become aware of your presence within me. I am beginning to see that faith has really very little to do with how I feel, how I believe, or how good I am. I am also beginning to see that faith can actually be accompanied by doubts, and, it is in spite of the doubts, that my faith grows. I know that you love me, and it is from that fact, and from that fact alone, that my faith comes. This has nothing to do with church, religion, prayers, or practice. On my side, I have nothing to offer but my fears, my brokenness, and, yes, my cancer. If I concentrated on my side of the equation, I would be in the depths of despair long ago. In fact it is not an equation, except that you can equate my nothingness with your everything, my fears with your peace, my sickness with your health.
As I speak to you, Lord, I'm beginning to get some sense of the old paint being stripped away within my soul. I have a sense of being purified, of being stripped naked before you, of being totally exposed to your love. I have lived so much of my life in smugness, and in cozy confidence. I went about my business without a care in the world. I took my health for granted, I took my life for granted. I attended funerals, walked away, and continued to keep life sufficiently on the surface, that nothing really penetrated my outward veneer of coolness and calm. I was in control, and nothing really bad could happen to me. It was always somebody else's funeral. I don't pretend to understand, Lord, but I suspect that I may well need this cancer, to help concentrate my thinking, and deepen my living. I believe that you are more interested in the depth of my life than in the length of it. You are more interested in quality than in quantity. While I worry about the next life, you are concerned that there may not be much life going on now. In your eyes, I'm not dying, but, in your eyes I may not be living either. I believe it is your wish that I should live life fully, and live it right out to the end. I don't believe that you ever pluck a flower from the garden of life until you decide that the time is right.

Lord, my own understanding of Incarnation is that you came down here on earth to meet us and to be with us as we are. You easily could have loved us from a distance, but you decided not to. Incarnation, for me, at this moment, is that you want to come to me as I am, right here, right now. Reality for me is that, yes, I do have cancer, but that does not mean that it is terminal. My life is terminal, I know, but, because of you, I can have much of life to live still. Please help me accept the reality of my situation, to accept things as they are. Out of that reality will come a prayer that is from the heart, a prayer that wells up from within the depths of my soul, a prayer that will always reach and touch your heart. In the past much of my praying could have been nothing more than words, coming from my lips, but not from my heart. I now feel that it not possible for a human being to fall on her knees, cry out to you, and not be heard. Lord, Jesus, Son of David, Son of God, hear me, heal me, save me.

Speak ......................

Thank you, my child, my friend, for that prayer from the heart. My grace works wonders in a heart like yours. Please accept that I know what I'm doing, and that you, and your welfare, are at the very core of all my plans for you. I would never let anything happen to you that would harm you, unless you yourself opted for that yourself. In that case, I could do nothing, because of my respect for your freewill. As you said, I know you through and through, and I understand only too well that it often takes something like cancer to turn the human mind totally to me. Please believe me when I say that that is not why I permit cancer to occur. In actual fact, believe it or not, it is not I that gave you cancer. You inherited it, your personality incubated it, or your life-style has caused it. How you got cancer is totally unimportant at the moment. The point is that you have it, and that you want me to remove it, arrest it, or contain it. I understand only too well why you should turn to me with all your heart, at this time, more than before. It is very natural and very human to do this. As I said in the Gospels, 'It is not the healthy who need the physician, but the sick'. I don't expect you to come running to me in panic every moment of every day, no more than I would want you to be running to your doctor, your dentist, or your physio every single day.

You know they are there if and when you want them. You know that I am here, that you have to travel no further than your heart to find me, and that you don't need words when you stand before me. It pleases me greatly when you are aware of my presence, because this can help you through the lonely moments, the sleepless nights, or the troubled days. I am in your heart for your sake, and for your sake only. That is why I came on earth in the first please. My healing must begin within your heart. My life must flow through your veins, my Spirit must radiate your body, if you want me to remove all growths that are not part of the person my Father created. I came that you should have life, and I don't want anything to destroy or limit your living of that life.

I can use anything and everything for good. Even your sins of the past can generate great compassion within you today. I have no desire to waste anything, and I can turn everything into good. At the moment you think of yourself as having cancer, and that is the extent of your knowledge of how you are. You cannot possibly see other areas of your life where healing is more urgently needed. I can see many many areas within you that are in need of healing. I am not interested in healing just one area, and allowing you remain unhealthy. 'Your sins are forgiven, arise and walk', was my way of showing that healing begins on the inside and works out from there. You couldn't imagine me healing a blind man, and letting him go down the road full of resentment towards his brother. In that case, the man wasn't healed, but continued to be very very blind indeed. What I'm asking you is to put the whole lot on the line. When I washed the apostles' feet, I said 'You are clean, but not all'. In your case I want all of you to be healed, and, the fact that you have cancer provides a good opportunity for you to open out your whole being to me, and for me to touch everything within you that is in need of healing. This is a moment of grace, it is an opportunity of great blessing, an occasion for great growth. If you think of cancer being a growth, or as something that should not be there, then, please let me include with that everything else within you that should not be there either. I want you totally healed; otherwise you are not healed at all.
It may surprise you to know some of the more serious barriers to my Power working within you. It has little to do with religion, practice, prayers, or anything like that. The biggest barriers are anger, resentments, and unforgiveness. In themselves, these are destructive, and my power cannot work alongside these. Having a resentment against another is like you are drinking poison, and you are expecting the other person to die. I know it sounds crazy, but it is very seriously crazy. A soul that is filled with unforgiveness is certainly not in a healing mode ; healing cannot take place there. This is something very serious, and I want you to give it your full attention. Of course, I want to heal you, but you must provide the conditions for healing to take place. I certainly will help you, I will give you what you need, but you must be willing to let go, to rid your heart, and to prepare your spirit. I know rightly that others have hurt you, I know only too well where the resentments are coming from, and I am very aware of the source of the anger. That makes no difference, however. They have to go if you are to be healed. It is never a question of will-power. You don't have what it takes to deal with all of this on your own. If you have the will, I will supply the power. Like the man at the pool, in the Gospels, I am now asking you :"Do you want to be healed?" Oh, yes, of course, you want to get rid of your cancer, you want that to be taken away. However, my child, my friend, you will still not be healed, you will still be quite sick. That is not my wish for you.

Speaking of forgiveness, how about beginning with forgiving yourself? That may surprise you, but, if you dig a little into your thoughts and memories, you will find plenty of guilt, regrets, hindsights, and misgivings. Part of you blames yourself for the cancer. You contributed to it through some pattern of behavior, though your use or abuse of food, nicotine, alcohol; through fretting, worrying, or anxiety; or, indeed though the accumulation of the emotional or spiritual toxins of unforgiveness, angers and resentments. As your God, I ask you to open out the canvas of your life to me....out...out....right out to the very corners. Nothing hidden, nothing denied ; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now, let us look at this together. Do you see what I see? Do you want to see what I see? Are you prepared to face and accept the reality of what you see? There is nothing really serious there. That's not what I have in mind. I'm not here to accuse you or condemn you. I am here to heal you. All I need is that you honestly admit and accept all the guilt, the regrets, the failures, the sins, and the brokenness that this canvas of your life is reflecting back to you.

(Take a few moments out now, to reflect on the canvas of your life, so that you can sincerely acknowledge and accept the reality of what it reflects.)

I now want to erase those from the canvas, to tell you that they are forgiven, and to join me in total forgiveness of yourself. O.K., so far? There is a difference between being healed, and being cured. To be healed means to be restored to health, and to be cured is to have some illness removed. I have much more interested in the ministry of healing, because I want all of you to be healthy. In the Gospels I speak of my joy, my peace, and my abundant life. I want nothing less for you. I'm sure you are quite aware how human organizations like the U.N., N.A.T.O., etc., may succeed is stopping a war, but they cannot bring peace. The war breaks out again, further down the road, or in some other country. What I am offering is not just some quick-fix that will allay your immediate fears. I am thinking of a whole new way of living, of being, and of recovering. I am now inviting you into a program of recovery, which, like the incoming tide, will lift all the boats, even those stuck in the mud. I want to raise you up, I want you to experience a whole new way of living, of thinking, and of seeing things. One of the effects of getting something like cancer is to concentrate the focus of one's attention on the next life ; whereas, I continue to try to turn the focus of your attention onto this life. This is the life you should be concerned about; the quality, the depth, the investment, and the Incarnational dimension. Heaven begins now, and you have to begin to find that heaven, that kingdom within your own heart. Seek that kingdom first, and everything else will be added to you. Leave the cancer to me ; you have enough to be getting on with. The very fact that you have cancer may be exactly what you need to open up your heart, your mind, and your spirit to a much wider and fuller living and experience of living. Life becomes precious when each day is cherished. You can get so involved with the urgent that you overlook the important. I never waste anything, whether it be experience, failure, sickness, or sin. I can turn everything into good, if it is given to me. What you see as a problem, I can see as an opportunity. I can see the beauty of the tapesty, whereas, from where you are, you can see only the reverse side, with threads going in all directions, with no apparent pattern, design or order.

It is not my wish, my intention, or my will that you should not be concerned, anxious, worried, or afraid, because you have cancer. You are a human being, and your reaction is the normal reaction of any normal human being. All I am asking is that you may be willing to let me into the situation, in such a way, that you do not have to continue, as if I were indifferent, unaware, or unwilling to become involved. All I have ever looked for from anyone is that I be believed, that I be accepted, that I be allowed do what I came to do. Healing the sick, replacing that sickness with abundant life, replacing the fear with my peace, and restoring the hope in the heart of the anxious one,....that, in brief, is central to my mission and presence among you. Someone said one time that if I had to break your heart, and break every bone in your body, I would do so, if that resulted in you letting me take over the running of your day-to-day living. That, of course, is not true, because the statement is made wrong way around. I was the one who was willing to have my heart and every bone of my body broken, so that I could become Lord in your heart, and God in your life. I love you, and I see your present situation affording me a very special opportunity to let you experience my love. You are mine. You did not choose me. No, I have chosen you, and, instead of you making promises, or any great commitment to me now, all I ask is that your accept and believe the very clear and the very definite promises I have made to you. Heaven and earth will pass away before my word passes away.

I am Lonely, Lord

by Fr. Jack McArdle

Listen ...............

God, Father, Son, and Spirit, I feel very much alone at this moment. I feel like a tiny boat out in the middle of the ocean, without oars or a rudder. Oh, I know there are people who are never far away, but, at times, I experience them as being miles away from me. I don't like being this way, and yet I don't like complaining, or running the risk of wallowing in self-pity. Life hasn't always been like this; indeed, I never thought I'd ever feel so alone in this big world. I turn to you now, because I'm sure there is some connection between my feeling of being adrift, and my failure to be fully conscious and aware of your presence within me. To be honest, this is not something that is part of my everyday living. I often confuse you with Religion, which, most times, doesn't do a great deal for me. Even, while present at a community celebration in church, I can feel totally alone, and not part of anything. I sometimes feel guilty, I must confess, because I seldom seem to turn to you unless I'm looking for something.

Because I don't understand much about how you relate to me, or how best I should pray, I just turn to you, and pour out to you exactly how I feel. I want this to be a moment when I can meet you, and really know and experience your presence.
(Take some time out, at this stage, to relax, to sit back, to follow your breath down into your inner being, so that you can begin to open up inside).
Here I am, Lord. I speak to you in the singular, even though I am thinking of you as being the total Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit. With what faith I have, I certainly know that you can do for me what I never could do for myself. I bow before you, and open up all emptiness and loneliness inside. I feel like a shell right now, and a very brittle and fragile shell at that. I'm not saying that there's nothing inside; it's just that it's all so stirred up, so much stuff spinning around, that I can't make head or tail of it. I don't know where to start, and I feel that I just don't have the mental energy to tackle it.

At this very moment, all I want to do, and, indeed, all I can do, is to come before you, just as I am, and talk to you about it. You can see within me, and you know everything that's going on there. I like to think that you see much more than I can see, and that, maybe, from your point of view, the picture may not look so grim. I like to think, and I would want to believe, that you can make some sense out of it all. All I can tell you is that I'm lonely, I feel very much alone, and, at times, the future scares me. If this is how I feel now, what are things going to be like four or five years from now? Everyday I see people who seem to be bubbling with life; whose lives seem to be brimful of activity, and who appear never to have a dull moment. I can feel totally alone in the most crowded thoroughfare, even as I push my way through the crowds. Because there is life all around me, that makes me suspect that maybe the problem is within myself. It is from within the core of my being that my prayer comes, that my cry for help is spoken. I'm afraid of myself, Lord, because I don't want to fill this inner vacuum with anything else but you. There were times when I tried other ways, but they worked only for a while, and nothing really had changed. Now, with all my heart, I turn to you. Everything I have ever heard about you has had to do with love, friendship, goodness, and compassion, and belonging. I need all of that right now, Lord.

Father, the very word speaks of life and of love. You created me. You know me through and through. You put me together in my mother's womb. You breathed your Spirit into me, and gave me life. I am your child, and I would love to have the heart of a child when I come before you. You clearly see the Inner Child in me that now feels very much alone. I do not believe that that is what you want for me. You gave me life, and you want me to live it to the full. For many many reasons, I seem to have lost my way. I can deal with life so much better when there's something happening. It is much more than just a question of being bored. I don't seem to be going anywhere, and that feeling frightens me. I am also afraid that I might have recourse to any of the many self-medication drugs, to block out the feeling. Somewhere, deep within my soul, there is a spark of hope, and that is what has caused me to turn to you now. I don't understand, but somewhere within, I believe. There is something within that must be of you, because, while not understanding, I feel that you are the only one who can fill the void, who can remove the loneliness. Substances, such as drugs, alcohol, etc., can do that for a while. That was what happened before. This time, however, I want a permanent healing; I want something that will be there to-morrow, and for every to-morrow. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have had enough. Maybe this is what you were waiting for. Maybe, all this time, you were waiting for me to admit defeat, so that you could take over, and do for me what I never could do for myself. Even as I speak to you I am beginning to feel better; the spark of hope is beginning to be fanned into life.
Jesus, it is at a time like this that I think of you as the Good Shepherd. One of your sheep seems to have wandered away from the flock. I don't have any sense of belonging, or of being led. This is probably my own fault, but I know that you are not in the business of blaming, nor do you want me to blame myself. I'm with you now, and that's all that matters to you. I want to have a real sense of belonging, of belonging to you, and to the flock of your community, of your people. I know that I cannot find security outside of myself, in another person, or in possessions, power, or acclaim. That is why I am going within, knowing that you live there, and that you are always there with me, even when I forget, choose to ignore, or become my independent stubborn self. Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, please stir up within me a deep sense and awareness of your presence, of your love, and your accompaniment in my life. Sometimes I let life close in on me, so that I end up in solitary confinement, with only myself in my own world. I know this is wrong, but it doesn't stop me from doing it. I cannot look to myself for whatever it takes to prevent that happening, so I really really want to entrust this shortcoming to you, asking you to remove it, to stir up within me a whole new enthusiasm for life, to enkindle within me the fires of divine love. Jesus, Redeemer, please free me from the bondage of loneliness and of self. Loosen the chains, and set my heart free to live and to walk with the abundant life you offer. Let me put my hand in yours, let me know your constant touch, so that you can lead me along with a deep consciousness of never being alone.

Spirit, Breath and Power of God, Jesus calls you the Comforter. I know that you are like a gurgling vibrant living spring of water, deep within my being, even when I fill and clutter up the well with garbage, and with my own human cares and worries. With all my heart I pray that you may rise to the surface within me, bringing all that rubbish to the top, to be disposed of in the ocean of God's purifying love. There are times, many times, when the body gets tired, feels unwell, and is experienced as a burden that weighs me down. I want to think of you as the power, the engine, the generator of my inner self. Please set my heart on fire with new hope, and fresh enthusiasm, and burn away all that is not of God. Set my spirit free that I may know your presence and your power. Jesus said that you would never leave us. You are to my inner self what a breath is to my body. Of all the things Jesus said about you, the one that means most to me now is that you would remind us of all that he told us. That is at the heart of my problem. I keep forgetting; I drift along, without any great thought; and it scares me to think of how asleep I can be. I have no doubt that you must clearly see just how much of me is dormant, how much of me is stagnant, how much of me is lifeless. I see your presence as central to my awakening, to my revival, to my survival. Please lift me out of the quicksand, as you fill my soul with the divine helium gas of your breath. Please give me lift-off, allowing me rise above the morass of anxiety, loneliness and fear. Please continue to remind me, to make your presence known, to guide my feet along the pathways of your inspiration and your re-creation. Please help me, lead me, teach me to walk in your power, with a heart that has wings, with a mind that has peace, and with a tongue that whispers my thanks, appreciation, and praise.

Speak ......................

Thank you, my child, for turning to us in your need. Thank you for acknowledging our presence within you. A prayer like yours means great joy in heaven, and heaven itself comes into your heart. Yes, we are here, we are with you each and every moment of each and every day. Through creation, salvation, and redemption, we can share our life with you, and you can join in sharing your life with us. You are called to full membership in the Trinity, you are called to share in divinity, you are called to live with us and through us. You are never ever alone, because we have chosen your heart as our dwelling, and we are with you always. On a human level, Jesus often felt alone, very much alone, among the throngs. To refresh his spirit, he often slipped away to be alone, because it was at such times that he poured out his heart to me, from his place of exile, and it was at such times that he was least alone. I know it can be difficult for you to understand that being alone and being lonely don't mean the same thing. Quite often, you have to go aside, be alone, be still, let the muddy water within settle, and then you will know the presence of the Deity within you. Imagine a pearl in muddy water. It is only when the muddy water has settled and become clear that you can see the pearl.

My dear child, this is your Father speaking. If you think of me as a parent, you will have a much more real and accurate awareness of my presence. What parent would want a child to feel lost? Unlike earthly parents, I can watch over you, I can be with me, right there beside you, right there within you at every moment of every day. No, my child, you are not alone. Loneliness can come from choosing to be alone, and this choice can be made in the midst of things, on a busy city street. You have my full attention, and my total love and care at every moment, but nothing happens unless you acknowledge my presence, unless you turn to me, unless you go down into your heart and meet me there. I always love when you come aside for a while to be alone with me. I love when you spend time with me; I love when you have time for me. I created you in love, because I want to share all that is mine with you. I want you to think of me as watching over you at every moment. I am aware of your every thought and deed. I want you to allow me be God, and not try to take on powers, tasks, and burdens that are beyond you. I understand your failings, and I am always ready to raise you up on your feet again, every time you fall. I would love to be given the initiative in your life over all the many things that you turn into human endeavor. I would like to be included in all your plans, hopes, and desires, right from the start, rather than you going ahead on your own getting it wrong, and then turning to me. I will still be there for you, of course, but, as I see things, the loneliness, the isolation, and the alienation, are totally unnecessary. If you could take the focus off yourself, and turn to me; if you could let me be your starting point; if you were fully convinced, beyond all manner of doubt, of my constant and faithful love for you, and put that as being infinitely more important that any love you have to offer me......that would turn your loneliness around, because your beginning, your point of departure would have changed completely. When you begin with yourself, you are always alone, and always lonely, because I have never created another human being exactly like you. You are unique in the whole history of the human race. It is only when you turn to me that you will be open to meeting the others. I am the source of all human life, and when you are in touch with me, when you are deeply conscious of my presence with you, and within you, then your heart becomes open to fullness and to fellowship. You will never feel alone again...
My friend, this is your Friend, Jesus. I came on this earth to join you on your journey. Incarnation is not something that happened once off in Nazareth. That was only the beginning. I continue to become incarnate within the hearts of all those who allow me enter. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone open the door, I will come in, and I will make my home with that person. Not only will I walk every step with you, but I will guide you on the way, and protect you from the perils and dangers of the journey. I have no trouble understanding your loneliness. Even among my apostles, I often felt totally alone, because they were interested in their own way of doing and thinking, and failed to understand what I tried to teach them. It was because of such times that I always needed to get away on my own, to be alone, so that I could be in touch with my Father. He knew why I was on the earth, he knew what I was about, he understood the love and longings within my heart. I can understand the loneliness that comes from not being understood, appreciated, listened to, or confirmed. You may have heard what is called the loneliness of the long-distance runner, and that is a good description of how I often felt, as the apostles continued to lag behind, because of their fear of where they might have to go. I can understand the loneliness that comes from not being wanted, and from not having a sense of belonging. My own most painful loneliness was on the cross, when for a brief moment, it seemed that even the Father had abandoned me. I know just how terrifying it can be to feel totally alone.

There is a song, a hymn, called "You're not alone, my friend, anymore". I only wish your heart would sing that song. I will never abandon you, I will never leave you in the storm. I will be with you always, even till the end of time. Heaven and earth will pass away before any one of my promises to you will pass away. When you feel alone and lonely, it's usually because there is no one else in your life, and, at this moment, who you are, or what you do, doesn't mean a great deal to anyone. It is a basic human need to know that your life and your work are worth something to somebody. It is scary to find yourself adrift, out at sea in a boat with no sails, or no oars. Remember the stories in the Gospels when I came to the apostles walking on the water, or when they woke me up, just as the boat began to sink? You are not alone, my friend. I am here with a hand held out to you. Put your hand in mine, and feel my reassuring grip.

There is one point that I wish to make very clear, so that you are left in no doubt about it. I don't want you to spend all your time with me! I want you to be so aware of my presence within you, that you have the courage and confidence to meet others, and to be with others. Wherever you go, I will go. Like my mother Mary visiting Elizabeth, you are carrying me within you. Be not afraid, you are not alone, my friend, anymore. Remember that I am with you, that I will never lead you where my power and my Spirit will not be there to see you through. Give your full attention to the other person today, remembering that, by doing this, you are doing it to me. I will come to you in many and varied guises this day. You may not easily or readily recognize me! But whoever you meet today, try to remember that that person is me, and whatever to do to her, I will take as being done to me. Because I am living in your heart, I would love you to live with the ideal : I will try to be Christ to others today, and to see Christ in others today.

My child, I am the Spirit, the Breath, and the Power of God. I am the breath that gave life to the clay at the beginning of creation. I am the Spirit that came upon Mary, and that completely changed the hearts of the Apostles at Pentecost. I am that inner energy that vitalizes your every word and act. I am to your inner spirit, what your breath is to your body. I am the Comforter in your loneliness. I am that Power Within that goes with you wherever you go. I can understand your loneliness, but my role, among others, is to inspire and remind you. I can fill you with enthusiasm, so that you have a sense of God(Theos) within. I am as near to you as the breath that you breathe. I can hover over the waters of your spirit, and bring order out of chaos, and fill all the emptiness within. I can make it that you will never be less alone than when alone. I can be that cloud by day, and the fire by night that accompanied the Hebrews on their journey through the desert ; the cloud to shelter from the heat, and the fire to keep away the cold. No, my child, as with the Father and Jesus, I, too, say that you are not alone, my friend, anymore. Please, let me accompany you in everything you do, in every path you walk, in every word you say.........

I am Sick, Lord

by Fr. Jack McArdle

Listen ...............

Lord Jesus, one of the things that always amazes me is how so many of the sick, in the Gospel stories, actually believed that you could, and would heal them. I know they may have heard of others being healed, and they may have actually seen others being healed, but the certainty of their conviction always amazes me. Since that time, two thousand years later, we have been anointed with your Spirit, we are part of your Body, we are members of a believing community, and we have had two thousand years to reflect on your words. Surely we, of all people, should live with the faith of conviction, with the expectation and the reality of miracles!

I realize that, in the Gospel, you yourself had not yet carried your cross, you had not died, you had not yet returned in triumphant glory to your Father. As you said "When the bridegroom is present, you are not asked to fast; but when the bridegroom is taken away from you, then you shall fast". I take this to mean that, when you have carried your cross, when your work is completed, when we have received the Spirit, when we answer the call to follow you, then, we, too, must take up our own cross, and walk in your Way. I accept that this is a call to suffering ; not involving any great heavy cross, but the splinters of daily Christian living. I know, and I accept that some of what we have to suffer is for our good, and that we are purified, and brought closer to you, through it. I look upon this as a vocation, as a calling, and I have known of people whose whole life was a call to suffering. That, however, would seem to be a special calling to special people, and, with the call comes the grace to live in that way. All of us, at some time or another, are called to put our shoulder to the cross, and the proof that such is the case is the evidence of the good that results from such suffering.

Why I come before you now is to ask your healing for sickness, for something that seems to produce no good results; something that burdens my life, and, indirectly, is affecting those who love me, and those whom I love. I come to you, Lord, because, with all the best medical attention in the world, you are the only one who can make me well again. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief. Lord, increase my faith. Lord, I know that you can heal me. Of that I am certain. I also know that, beyond your great love, I have no claim on your healing. I stand before you, open out my heart, and let you see each and everything within me, body, mind, heart, and soul. I am sure you see many areas there in need of healing. I'm sure you see healing needed where I don't suspect any lack of health, either physical, mental, or spiritual. Lord, please, for what you see in me that is not of you and from you, and that is not for my good, I ask you to touch that now, to heal it, remove it, and fill that space with new health and life. Say but the word, Lord, and I shall be healed.

Lord Jesus, I bow my head before you, and I reach out both hands towards you. Place your healing hand upon me, and proclaim your power and victory over anything that would take from my well-being. I fully accept that we must all, one day, die. I also accept and appreciate the gift of life, and would really love to live a full, fruitful and abundant life. I ask for your healing, because to whom else can I go? You, and you alone, have the power over life, health, and death. I open the door of my heart, and, as with Peter's mother-in-law, Jairus, Zacchaeus, and many others, I invite you to enter with your healing and restoring touch. Lay your hands gently upon me, O Lord; let them bring your forgiveness and healing. I claim the power of your victory, your Blood, and your name, and I cry out to you, Lord. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me! Lord, if you will, you can make me whole. Lord, I am not worthy; say but the word, and I shall be healed.

I trust your Spirit within me to give life to my words, to turn my words into prayer. I know that a cry from my heart will always reach your heart. I often feel so weak, so inadequate, and this creates its own confusion. I hesitate to ask, because I don't want to ask for anything that is not for my good, or for something that is not your will for me. The only way I can manage that, Lord, is to come right out and ask, and leave the answer to you. I believe that you always answer prayers, and that, sometimes, the answer is NO. That is why I dare to keep on asking, because there is nothing else I can do. I cannot trust myself to judge what is best for me, or what your will for me is. I have to continue to trust you, to ask you, to turn to you, because you are the source of all that is healthy in me, and I know that you take me seriously. I believe that you have my best welfare at heart, that you understand exactly how I feel, how I fear, and how I falter. I don't find it easy to be brave, and not to be in control. I may pretend with others that all is well, but you know me through and through, and you know exactly how I feel inside. You know my prayer even before I say it. You know my doubts, my anxieties, and my worries, even when I try to convince myself that I trust you. I sometimes get confused over faith, as if it were a question of me having faith in my own faith. Some sort of white-knuckle, gritted teeth, clenched fist type of prayer, as if I could force you to change your mind, and do things my way! I'm sorry for the times when I do that, and I know you understand. The healing has nothing to do with me beyond the two basic facts : I am sick, and I am asking you to heal me. I totally rely on your Spirit to inspire and infuse my words, and to turn them into prayer. I also ask for the grace of being able to leave this prayer with you, and get on with life. I think of the ten lepers who left, and were healed as they went along. I think of the centurion who took your word for it, and returned to find his servant healed.

Lord, please come with me now, and travel with me on the road of faith. Keep me close to you, Lord, and stay close to me. Lift me when I falter, and like Peter walking on the water, be there, please, to reach out a hand to hold me up, when I feel that I'm going under. If you travel with me, Lord, it must surely lead to health, and to life.

Speak ......................

My dear, dear child, I hear your cry, and I know your fears and your tears. Thank you for coming to me with your cares and worries. Come to me when you are struggling, or heavily burdened, and I will give you rest, and you will find peace for your soul. I know how difficult it can be to really trust another. I trusted the Apostles, and, when the crunch came, they deserted me. With me, however, it is so much more different. All I ask for is faith. Nothing more, nothing less. "The sin of this world is unbelief in me. When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on this earth?" Faith is much simpler than you think. It is a direct response to love. In other words, it is the trust you place in someone who loves you. If you believe that I love you, then you should have little trouble in trusting me. In this is love, not that you love me, but that I have first loved you. That was the whole purpose in my coming on earth. The only response I ask is that you trust me. I want you to ask me, and I have declared for all the world to hear : "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock, and the door will be opened to you". In the Gospel stories, it is not that I went around healing anybody. Rather was it a case that I went around, with the power to heal, and I left it totally to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, or the leper to stop me, and ask for healing. All I looked for from them was that they believed that I could cure them. Having that faith within themselves was the foundation of their healing. If that were missing, my power could not work in them, because such would be to intrude on them, to trespass on their privacy, and freedom to choose not to be healed. That is why I asked the man at the well "Do you want to be healed?" Up to that point he hadn't asked me, and I needed to hear him express his prayer.

Prayer is when you spend time with me, when you give me time and space in your life. It is a time of friendship, when a relationship is built. Communication is two-way or no-way. It is important that you speak, but it is also important that you listen. I want to know your every concern, your every worry, your every fear. I like when you trust me enough to turn to me. Being in my presence, being present to me, is, in itself, healing. I want you to be healthy. I want you to be well. I don't want anything bad happen to you. I only want what is best for you. You are my friend, and you did not choose me, but I have chosen you, and I have appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will remain. No one wants fruit that is unhealthy, or not life-giving. I want the long-term good for you, and, sometimes, this may mean a time of testing, and a time of growing. I will certainly heal you, but I cannot promise that I will always cure you. Healing is something that happens inside, and it moves out from there. "Your sins are forgiven, arise and walk". You must let me enter into the very core of your being, to every area within you in need of healing. When you look at yourself, or think about yourself, you are aware of things in you that need healing. When I look at you I can see areas in need of healing that you don't even suspect. I take your view-point seriously, and I do not at all say that you're wrong. All I'm saying is that I want to broaden the scope of your healing. I want it to work from the inside out. It may surprise you, but the body is the simplest and easiest part to heal! It is much more difficult to heal the inner hurts, the resentments, the unforgiveness, and the guilt. Quite often this is what has contributed to what is wrong with the body. When you have a resentment against somebody, it is as if you were drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die! In other words, you are the one who is being damaged by the resentment. Don't always imagine that the guilt you feel is coming from me! I came to save, not to condemn. If you were to take an inventory of your inner self at this very moment; if you were to spread that out before me; and if we both went through it together, we might find something like the following : regrets, hindsights, resentments, jealousies, angers, unforgiveness, pride, lust, dishonesty, pretense, etc., etc. and etc. You see what I mean when I speak of healing beginning from the inside?
Of this you can be certain : I definitely want to be involved in your healing, because that is central to your redemption. It involves redeeming you from bondages, freeing you from slaveries, releasing you from inner darkness. I want to proclaim my victory within your spirit, to set up my Kingdom there, and to ensure that you live with a life that is really abundant. This inner healing is the greatest miracle of all, and, when it happens, we see our bodily ailments in a totally different light. Continue to spend time with me, continue to sit in my presence. This can happen in a room, in a field, or in a car. I am always there when you turn to me. Because of your physical problems, you may have to involve yourself a great deal with doctors, surgery, or medication. All of these things can be good, and can directly effect your health and well-being. Doctors, by their calling, are involved in the healing ministry. Throughout all of this part of your care, however, I want you to remember that I am here in your heart, that I am with you, and that I will never ever abandon you, or leave you on your own. Make sure that prayer is your constant medication, which never changes, even when the doctors change the tablets. Pray for the doctors, so that my Spirit may guide them in their diagnosis. When I ask you to continually pray, I am not implying that you should always be saying prayers. All I ask is that you try to be continually conscious of my presence with you, and within you. You are not alone. I want to travel this journey with you. When you read the Gospels you see how I was there, ready to help, when the people were hungry, when the boat was being tossed about in the storm, when they ran out of wine at Cana.

Thank you for sharing your present situation with me. Thank you for letting me enter into your worries and concerns. Thank you for turning to me, and accepting me as a friend who loves you so much that you are always in my thoughts. When I say that I want to walk this journey with you, I mean that I want you to leave the past to my mercy, the future to my providence, and the present to my love and healing. I am fully present to you now, just as you are, at this very moment. I am the Good Shepherd, and I am concerned when one of the sheep gets tangled in the briars, or falls down a ravine. It is my role to rescue, to save, to come to the aid of the one who cries out to me.

I am Depressed, Lord

by Fr. Jack McArdle

Listen ...............

Lord God, Father, Mother, please reach down and lift me out of this dark hole of depression. I am surrounded by darkness on every side, and I can see no way out of it. It is like a dark thunder cloud, or a heavy black fog that has come down upon me, and I cannot see the road ahead. I feel drained, empty, useless, hopeless, and helpless. I just feel like going to bed, covering my head, and I don't want to face the world again. This is something that happens to me from time to time, and it frightens me. I feel so powerless, and unable to do anything about it. It feels as if something has died within me, that the lights have gone out, and the curtains drawn. I have a profound sense of loneliness, because no one else could possibly understand how I feel. I would be much better if both legs were in plaster, because then, at least, there would be some external sign that something had happened to me. But with this depression, I feel cut off from the world, I have no interest in anything, and I feel that no one has any interest in me. My own sense of hopelessness is reflected in the faces of my friends. They don't know what to say, and, when they try to say something, it is never really helpful. I do not blame them, of course, but I feel that I'd be better off if they just left me alone. They cannot enter my world, and I cannot enter theirs. I feel so bad, because it might appear that I am wallowing in self-pity, or voluntarily locked up in my own little world.

This awful feeling just fills me with fear, and I dread what the outcome will be. Sometimes I just don't want to go on living, and I hang in there in quiet desperation. All that keeps me going is the hope that it will pass, as it has before, and to-morrow, the sun will come out again. I have a sense of some heavy leaden weight within the pit of my stomach, and I cannot motivate myself to get up and go. The feeling that nothing is happening, that I'm stuck in a state of inactivity, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, ....all this is really scary. What makes it worse is that I'm afraid to be in touch with my feelings, and I just wish I could go to sleep until the cloud passes, when I could waken up to see the sun again. I don't believe, Lord, that it is your will that I should be in such a dark hole, and that my life should be so lifeless. That is why I cry out to you : Please, please reach down, reach out, take me by the hand, and lift me out of the dungeon. "It is not good for man/woman to be alone". Lord, I feel totally alone, totally abandoned. I often seriously query your part in all this. I'm sure you know, and I'm sure you care, but there are so many times when I see no evidence of that. Maybe the very fact that I'm crying out to you now is, in itself, a positive sign, a sign of hope. If I'm honest, I must confess that I turn to you, because I don't know where else to turn. I don't want a life that is dependent on medication to survive. I know the treatment serves a purpose, but it can never remove the anxiety in the depth of my being that yet another dark cloud is looming, and that I'm back in the hole again. This constant fear is crippling, and I don't want to have to live with it. I have no claim on your power beyond your love, and my own desperation.
Please, please, let me know your love. Let its warmth melt the fog, penetrate the darkness, and dispel the gloom. I feel I have nothing to offer but my cry and my despair. I cannot pretend to have great hope, or any great depth of faith, because when I feel like this I am conscious of nothing but the darkness. Somehow, in the midst of it all, however, I continue to hope against hope, because you are the only one who can get to where I am now. Even my best friends can have no idea what is going on inside me, and I feel powerless to let them enter there. I wouldn't know where to start, and I don't believe it would make much sense, even if I shared with them. There are times when I suspect that I'm going crazy, and, I fear that any attempt to share with them how exactly I'm feeling, would only succeed in confirming that fact to them.

Jesus, Lord, I have often heard it said that you came as a light to the nations, as a light to those who sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death. Please, please come into the dark cave of my soul, of my spirit, and bring your light to dispel the darkness. Please free me from my bondage, from my prison. Visit me in my solitary cell, and enkindle within me the spark of hope and of faith. Surely where you are there can be no darkness. I often think of you crying out on Calvary, as if the Father himself had abandoned you. You know what it's like to feel utterly alone. In Gethsemane, when the apostles kept falling asleep, you experienced the darkness of that hour. Somehow, I believe that you understand, and I feel I can open my heart to you, and let you see me exactly as I am. I don't really know how I am, to be honest with you, because I seem to have lost my inner sensitivity, and even my feelings are unclear, and hard to describe or distinguish. In the darkness, I'm not too clear where the door of my heart and soul are, but I trust you to find that. One of my reactions to this awful experience of depression, and inner darkness, is that I get to a stage where I just don't care any more, one way or another. In my present cry, there is no order or priority, because I just don't know where, or how, you could start to set me free. With my finger nails, I cling to the hope that, in the midst of it all, you can see what I cannot see, you can go where I cannot go, and you certainly can do what I myself could never do.

Lord, I think of all those times in the Gospels when you entered the darkness of other people's lives ; when you healed the blind, raised the dead, and gave hope to those in desperation. I remember you walking into the life of the widow of Naim, who had lost everything, and you restored her son, and her joy. You reached out your hand to Peter as he sank in the waters, and your raised your hand to quell the raging storm. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Lord, increase my faith. Lord, to whom else can I go? I believe that you are the Christ who has come into the world. Even as I speak to you, I can experience a spark of hope being lit within my heart. It was for people like me that you came. You came to find the lost ones, and to bring them safely home. You came to give freedom to captives, and light to those in darkness. Without wishing to be dramatic, Lord, with all my heart I now believe that I qualify as one of those you came to redeem, to set free. My faith cannot stretch far enough to accept that there might be some good purpose in my depression, but if it means that I have a deep personal encounter with you in that darkness, then it surely will have led to a good. There were many people in the Gospels who made contact with you in the most unusual and unlikely ways, whether it was up in a sycamore tree, or being lowered through a roof on a stretcher. Nicodemus came to meet you in the dark of night, and you walked with distraught and defeated disciples all the way to Emmaus. Lord, if this is your way of entering my life, then I can accept it. I can accept it, because I believe that if you make your home in my heart, that the darkness will be dispelled, and that the lights will come on again.
Spirit of God, you came to enlighten us, and to guide our feet into the ways of peace. You came to be our Comforter, to complete the work of Jesus, and to bring us the fullness of grace. Grace is gift, total gift, and that is why I dare ask you for the grace of enlightenment, of hope, and of faith. Please flood my soul with light and with life. Roll away the stone from my heart, and let the doors of that room be thrown open once again. Lead me out into the light. Jesus said that you would never leave us, so, with all my heart, I ask you, please never to leave me, and may your presence, and the light of your presence, be the one constant experience in my life. When I am trapped in the midst of a depression, it appears as if you have left me, deserted me, and I return to clay again. As the Hebrews made their way through the desert, for forty years, towards the Promised Land, you accompanied them all the way. In the heat of midday, you were a cloud to protect them from the desert heat, and in the cold of the night, you were a fire to keep them warm. You hovered over the waters, at the time of creation, and brought order out of chaos. I keep reminding myself of this, as I turn to you. I open my hands and my heart, just as I open my lungs with a deep breath, and I invite you to fill the sails of my boat, so I can move on, and not remain stuck in the one spot. Please give me lift-off out of the quicksand of terror, when I experience myself sinking, without hope. Spirit, Breath, and Power of God, please breathe power and life into me now, so that I may live again. Like the dry bones in the vision of the prophet, please bring the bones together, put flesh on them, and breathe life into them, so that I can live and walk in your power. Thank you.

Speak ......................

My dear, dear child, my friend, thank you for turning to me, and for pouring out your heart to me. I am always on 'stand-by', waiting for any of my children to call to me. I didn't create you to be miserable, to be lost, to be a failure. I gave you life, and I want you to live that life to the full. My grace builds on human nature, but it does not, or never will replace it. Therefore, at the end of the day, you are still a human being, who is heir to all the frailties that go with being human. Human nature is very complex. It is full of emotions, drives, instincts, inclinations, moods, etc., etc. You are created in such a way that, left to your own devices, you can do anything you choose, you can go down any road you select. I know what is best for you, but I cannot deprive you of your choices, of your free-will. There is something that is inbuilt into your nature, which you call conscience. In simple language, that is a way of knowing things. (You notice the word 'science' as part of the word?). In other words, because of your conscience, you, too, know instinctively what is best for you. It is like some little inner voice that approves or disapproves whenever you do something. Original sin was the result of believing or accepting a lie. All the damage to human nature flowed from that. It follows, then, that the only antidote to that is truth and honesty.

Thank you for being honest about how you feel. The road to truth is the road to health. Depression is often brought about by an inability to share what's happening within. We 'bottle' things up, as it were; we bury our emotions, we don't cry, and we insist that we're not really angry. Eventually the system becomes clogged up with unclaimed and unnamed emotions, and, like the engine of a car with no oil, our insides completely seize up, and we grind to a halt. It may seem simplistic to speak of the lack of a lubricant in the soul, but that really is part of the problem. The soul can become cluttered with repressed emotions, and unexpressed desires, hurts, angers, etc. You become as sick as your secrets. Satan loves the darkness, the secrecy, the festering unexpressed grievance. It is exposed and overcome when you open your heart totally to me, and acknowledge things just as they are. I am not at all in the business of apportioning blame here. It matters little how you got into your present predicament. It matters greatly, however, that you know how to get out of it. Thank you for turning to me at this time.

I am not interested in simply lifting a cloud of depression. I need and want to get underneath the sickness, to eliminate the causes; otherwise, in no time at all, you are back in the cloud again. My Spirit is like a fountain of living water, deep down at the core of your being. You may feel as dry as a desert, but, don't forget, that beneath every desert, there is plenty of water. I want that water to rise to the surface, so that you become an oasis, which gives abundant life to yourself, and to those around you. What is preventing that happening is the amount of wreckage and garbage that has gathered within your spirit. You have to be willing to get rid of all of that, if you want to be free. Like an engine with dirty oil, or a computer with a virus, you have to clear out all of those things that fill you up, and weigh you down. You have to get down to some serious stock-taking, that will enable you to name, claim, and tame your demons. You can do this through counseling, therapy, doing a full moral inventory of yourself, and sharing that with someone you can trust, or, if your religious upbringing has been within the Roman Catholic Church, then you could do nothing better than make a general Confession, where you could unload all that weighs you down, and cast it into the sea of my mercy, forgiveness and love.

Jesus told you that I would surely give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Implied in everything you have said is a clear request to be filled with my Spirit. It means entering into a whole new way of living and of being. If you live by the standards of the world, you find your power and your strength in material things, in wealth, politics, social status, etc. If you want to live in my Kingdom, then you have to accept that I will supply the power. That Power is the Spirit. That Spirit has to become for your inner being what your breath is to your body. When you are in a state of depression, you experience a sense of deadness deep within your spirit. The fire has gone out, the light is switched off. It is into that very place that I want to breathe my Spirit, to enkindle within you the fire of divine love. It is right there, at the very core of your being, that you are your most real, your most authentic self It is there, also, that all of your human weaknesses are to be found. That is why you must think of my Spirit as a burning fire, entering the very core of your being, ready to burn the rubbish, and to melt the ice. It is there that the Spirit wishes to flood you with light from within.

Living in my Kingdom is really very simple. It means that Jesus is Lord, and that the Holy Spirit is the power. If my Son Jesus is Lord, then you will allow him take charge of everything, and if my Spirit is to provide the power, then you will do nothing, literally nothing without involving and including my Spirit. "Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever else you do...." is how the Bible speaks of this. At the beginning of each day you go on your knees, hand the day over, and ask for help. At the end of each day you go on your knees and give thanks. You have to learn to live and to walk in the power of my Spirit. This may not be easy for you, because, after years of worry, self-centeredness, self-preoccupation, and trying to run the show yourself, you will have developed a pattern of behavior that may not easily be broken. Old habits die hard. That is why I want you to live in the power of my Spirit. Don't go out the door, make a decision, make a phone call, undertake a task, without first getting in touch with the Spirit that is dwelling within your heart. That Spirit will never leave you, but if you continue to do things your way, then in effect, you are on your own. And you cannot make it on your own. Of that you can be certain.

I said earlier that you have to develop a whole new way of being and of living. This is going to involve prayer. By this I don't mean saying prayers. It means being in touch with your heart, where the Divinity dwells. It means going aside for short periods, where you can be still, let the muddy water within your heart settle down, and be conscious of the Presence within. Words are not necessary for this. This is reflection, which is sometimes called meditation, or contemplation. It is taking time out to go downstairs, to be in touch with where the Power lies. You carry that Power around within you, and you are never one moment without that Power being there with you. On a human level, you may be a naturally depressive person, who is pessimistic and worried about everything, always expecting the worst to happen. In your case, no long-term resolutions will work, because you will naturally tend to drift back into your old ways. With you, this present moment is the most precious moment of your whole life. What I mean by that is that you can live in peace for only one moment at a time. At each and every step of the way, you have to practice becoming a person of NOW, where, just for now, you will do exactly as I have told you. I want you to reflect on developing the attitude that continually reminds you that : whatever I am doing, wherever I am going, whoever I'm with, I am walking in the Power of my God within. Nothing, but nothing can harm me, or come between me and that Presence. It is almost as if there was someone else walking in front of you, every moment of every day, making smooth the path ahead, and holding up a placard, with the words: Nothing will happen, nothing will go wrong, nothing will change unless you decide, unless you want it to. In a way, in a very real way, indeed, I am asking you to go back to school! You have to return to the very basics of living. Surely, living in the NOW is only common-sense, isn't it? You cannot change yesterday, and you have no control over to-morrow, o why not live today, enjoy it, and make the most of it?

I have given you life, and I offer you everything it takes to live that life to the full. Notice I use the word offer, because you must be free to accept or reject. You don't have to accept any of my gifts. I never want you to be depressed, lonely, afraid, or lost. That has never been my will or intention for you. I want you to experience my Presence at all times. One problem you might have with this is that you may be trying to understand it. That is not possible for you, with mere human intellect. All I ask is that you experience my presence firstly, and, perhaps you might come to understand something about it at a later date. My Spirit rises up from within you. In other words, it doesn't begin in your head! It begins in your heart, at the core of your being, like living water beneath the driest desert, and it rises up within you, to dispel the dryness, to refresh the spirit. Pride is a major obstacle to my work in the human heart. It is the on-going presence of Original Sin, that was a sin of pride in the first place. 'Human' comes from the word 'humus', which means clay. 'Humility' comes from the word 'humilitas', which means of the earth. You are totally subject to the law of gravity, and, by yourself, and on your own, you can only go down. That is a simple basic fact of life. Humility does not consist in believing that you are no good, or not as good as others. Humility is truth, and that means accepting the basic truths about yourself, and your human condition. It may seem a paradox, but you are at your greatest strength when you are prepared to admit your weaknesses. It is then, and only then, that my Power can be seen at its best, that the Spirit can take over, and become your strength.
You turned to me because you were depressed. Thank you for that. In my response I do not promise some sort of stop-gap solution that will get you by for a week or two. I want to fill you with such life and such love that your heart will be filled with gratitude, and, with time, you will come to know that it is not possible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. Mary sang her ‘Magnificat.’ She magnified the Lord. The bigger your God, the smaller your problems. The only limits to what I can do in your life are the ones you yourself set. O.K.? Let's begin again.....you are not alone.....I am walking with you. There is a Power within you that is greater than all the other powers you can meet on the road of life. With me, you will win..... All I ask is that you accept and believe that....

A Cry From the Bereaved Heart

by Fr. Jack McArdle

The person who has died could be anywhere within the range of the still-born or the cot death to an aged grandmother, a spouse, a child, a friend. The death could have been unexpected, as with heart attack, accident, suicide, or murder It could have involved several loved ones, through fire, car accident, etc. Because of all these possibilities, I will not attempt to write a prayer that would cover all eventualities. Rather will I make a few suggestions that might 'kick-start' your own personal prayer, and leave you alone with your God. My main attempt, in this chapter, will be to share what I believe the good Lord might want to say to you now, in the midst of all your pain.

Listen ...............

Dear Lord, I'm really hurting. I know that death is a fact of life. I see lists of death notices in every newspaper I read. For so long, death seemed to me something that happened to some family somewhere else. But, this time, Lord, it has hit me, and I'm caught up in the pain, in the reality..............
Death never seems to come at the right time. For some, it comes too soon, and for others, it seems to be long overdue....... In my case........
I know that, once a baby is born that it is born to die. That is the only fact of life that we already know about this newborn infant.....
Death frightens me, and puzzles me, because I just don't understand it. The timing and the circumstances are so unpredictable as to appear haphazard and at random. There seems to be no order of selection, where children bury their parents, or whether people are good, bad, productive, or destructive.........
No matter what the Christian faith may teach us, I still experience some sense of finality about the parting. I still expect to meet up again with those who have gone on ahead, but, in a very real way, for me, at least, life will never be the same again.....

I often heard it said that each person is very unique, and that no two people are alike. I now know that the loss of a person is very unique, and the pain of that loss is also unique. The pain I now feel is my own personal pain at the loss of that particular person............

I had often heard it said that guilt can be part of the grieving process, and that had puzzled me. Now I know what is meant by that. All the things I didn't do, all the things I didn't say....now it's too late. There are also the things that I did say and do that I regret...........
For so much of my life I tended to just plod along, taking things for granted, and not wishing to reflect too deeply on the realities or the possibilities. Now I am stopped in my tracks, as I waken up to the reality of what has happened......
I know that this time gives me an opportunity to really examine my beliefs, my faith, and my convictions. I'm not looking for some sort of 'holy balm' to cover over the hurt, and make it go away. I know rightly that I must go through the pain, if I am to come through this with greater strength. I'm not looking for any 'quick-fix' that will make everything different, and insulate me from the reality of what has happened, or how I feel. I just ask you, Lord, to help me through this time, and to enable me find you in some new way. Somewhere within me is the hope that, by doing so, I will strengthen the bond with the one I have lost, and that I can come to a deeper conviction, and a deeper awareness of what life and death is all about.

Speak ......................

My dear child, thank you for turning to me in the midst of your pain. I understand how you feel, and I can even understand if you have experienced anger at what you consider I have allowed happen to you. I, too, know what it feels like to cry at a grave-side. When I lived on this earth, just like you, I, too, lost a very close friend in Lazarus. When I met the widow of Naim, following the dead body of her only son, I was deeply moved, and I relieved her pain. (Don't forget that Lazarus and the widow's son still had to die at a later date, so things were postponed rather than solved). All of this happened before I myself passed through the gates of death. In doing so, I overcame death, and it was of primary importance to me to convince the apostles, beyond all shadow of doubt, that I had overcome death, and it was no longer an enemy. In the story of Creation, after God created anything, like the planets, the waters, the earth, etc., the Bible says "And he saw that it was good". Sin, sickness, and death were not part of that creation. These are like the weeds among the good wheat in the Gospel story. They are the direct results of original sin. It was to remove all three that I came.

When I publicly joined the sinners that came to John the Baptist at the Jordan river, I took upon my own shoulders the sins of the whole world. My Calvary began from that moment. It was then that "the heavens were opened", the Holy Spirit was seen to come upon me, and the Father's voice was heard, calling on the people to listen to me. When I bowed my head in death "the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Temple was torn in two". The heavens were opened once again, and it was now possible for you, and all of yours, to enter the Holy of Holies, to come right into the presence of God. That was made possible by my death. I paid the price so that you and yours could enter heaven, could return to the Garden.

Life is a journey, and, once it begins, it never ends. There are three stages in that journey. There is the womb-life, the womb of life, and the fullness of life. Under normal circumstances, the womb-life is a fairly fixed and definite time. The fullness of life is eternal, never ending. It is the womb of life itself that presents the problems. Death itself is certain ; it is life that is uncertain. As I said, life is a journey, but it is a journey that you have never traveled before. In other words, you don't know what's to be seen around the next corner. It is a mystery to be lived, rather than a problem to be solved. It is a process of growth, a journey of discovery. Each person continues to be part of my creation, within my love and care, and destined for eternal life with me. The problem with life is that there are many factors in life which I do not predestine or predict, because of the freewill of each individual, and the inherent frailties of human life itself. The body is like a very delicate earthen vessel, subject to all the pressures, hardships, violence, diseases, and mishaps of human living. The body is not you. You are a spiritual being, living in a frail human body for a relatively short while, and, at any time, for whatever reason, the body can break down, can fold up, and can cease to function. It is then time to leave the body, and go ahead to the third and final stage of life, when you join me in a whole new life that is eternal, free from all the hardships of human living. The timing of this is subject to a combination of millions of factors, most of them of human origin, and the effects of human situations, circumstances, and events.

I know it is very difficult for you to understand all of this. It may seem, at times, as if I just don't care, or I don't want to get involved. My love for you, my plan for your eternal happiness, and my accompanying you on your journey, never ever ceases to be. If I were to protect you from all the hardships of life, and to smooth out every step of your journey, then I am depriving you of growth, and interfering in your choices, and greatly limiting your options. I never wanted Judas to go out and hang himself, but I couldn't stop him, if he chose to do so. My love and my presence is totally and completely with you, no matter what happens to you. If I am with you only when things are going well for you, then I could not claim to really love you at all. It can be very hard to appreciate how I can be with someone, and yet allow nature take its course in the life of that person. For example, someone gets cancer. It was not I that gave that cancer, or that decided that this person should have cancer. Nature, inheritance, food, patterns of behavior, etc., has brought about the cancer. My grace builds on nature, it doesn't replace it. In other words, I will not manipulate you, nor will I attempt to manipulate human nature, everyday events, or the passing of time. I am there with you, I am there for you, and I will always be there within you. What I mean is that nothing will ever happen to you that yourself and myself together will not be able to handle.
I am very conscious now, that, in the midst of all your hurts, you certainly don't need some intellectual discussion. You are experiencing the pain of loss, and that is very real, and no amount of reasoning up in the head is going to ease that pain. Life is a whole series of letting-goes. The cord is cut at birth, and this can be followed by post-natal depression, where the system is reacting to a loss. Bereavement is like an amputation, where a limb has been removed. It will be possible to walk again, but certainly not for a while. Time is the great healer for the bereaved. This does not imply forgetting, but continuing to remember. "Do this in memory of me" can spur many a new enterprise for the benefit of others. Quite alot of the groups that help those experiencing bereavement of one kind or another, are made up of people, who, themselves, experienced bereavement, and who felt totally alone in the pain, and had nowhere to turn.

Quite often you may hear the phrase that "Sure it's the will of God". That is not always true. It is not my will that children die of hunger, that the unborn are denied their right to life, or that someone is brutally murdered. It is not my will that a young mother should live with great expectations, only to be faced with a still-birth, or a cot death. It is not my will that someone should be so overcome by life that he should choose to end it, or that some innocent passer-by should get caught in the force of an explosion. I have never planted a bomb or fired a bullet. I have never arranged things so that half the world should be dying of hunger, while the other half is on a diet, trying to lose weight. It was to prevent all this that I came on earth. From that first Christmas night, there continue to be doors and hearts closed to me and to my message. I cry out for witnesses to my message, and for others to heed the witnesses. Because people did not like the message, they have have often shot the messenger. But the message is still the same. There is a spiritual arms-race on for the souls and hearts of people. All I can guarantee is that evil will never succeed, but I need witnesses to show that goodness can triumph over evil

It is obvious that you have lost someone you dearly loved. Please accept the fact that I love that person also, and that my love will continue to safeguard, to hold, and to keep that person from all harm. You wouldn't want that person to be anything but completely happy after death. You would want the fulness of life and happiness, and eternal freedom from hurt or pain, for the one you have lost. I don't mean this as a put-down, but the best way you can continue to express your love is to entrust your beloved one to me, and to my Father's eternal hug. Those who have died, have not gone away; they have simply gone ahead. It is certainly and literally a case of 'au revoir,' and not goodbye. Until you meet again.......... Faith is a response to my love, even when you cannot understand it. Sometimes you can manage nothing more than blind faith, where you just hang in there, and cling to the hope that all will be well. Loss of hope is the one great disaster for the Christian. The falling leaves of Autumn is not a cause of despair, even if it is followed by a harsh bleak winter. You know that spring will come, and all those seeds, now dormant in the ground, will come to life, and all of nature will be born again. In the Bible are the words "There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven." This earth is not your home; you are just passing through. You are part of a pilgrim people, on your way home to the Promised land. Death is like the Red Sea, through which all must pass to enter that land. In the Old Testament, Moses was the leader. Now it I myself who lead you. If you follow me you will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. There will, of course, be dark moments, because life consists of ups and downs, and, until you reach total freedom in death, struggle will always be part of human living. It is in the times of struggle that real growth occurs, and it is in the moment of darkness that you often turn to me with a more open heart.

I want you to listen to the words of the Gospels again. They were not spoken as a once-off for a particular person, at a particular time. The Gospel is now, and you are part of it. In some way or other, you are every person in the Gospel, and the words are spoken now. Despite your hurt, despite your possible anger, confusion, and loneliness, the very fact that you have listened to me thus far is an indication that you might be ready to hear more. Try to hear these words with your heart, so that my Spirit can enter your heart through the words that you hear. "I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.....I will never abandon you, or leave you alone in the storm....It is not the will of your heavenly Father that any of those entrusted to me should be lost.....Like a woman in labor, you have struggle now.......you have sorrow now, but your sorrow will be turned into joy......In my Father's house there are many mansions...I am going to prepare a place for you...and when I have prepared a place for you, I will come and bring you, so that, where I am, you also will be......You are sad now because I must leave you, but your joy will be great when you see me again.....and your joy no one will take from you....The sin of this world is unbelief in me......Woman, why do you weep?.....Why do you doubt?...I have overcome death....I have put all your enemies under my feet....Your names are registered as citizens of heaven...." "There is so much more that I want to tell you, but you can't bear it now,....but my Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth, and the truth will set you free; and, if the Spirit sets you free, you will be free indeed."

Please notice that I have not asked you not to grieve, not to feel the real sense of loss that is yours. Grief is the price you pay for love, and, if you never want to cry at a funeral, then don't ever love anyone. That thought is repugnant both to you and to me. There is a direct connection between post-natal depression and bereavement, when the cord is cut, or the straps are pulled up out of the grave. The beloved one, who has now gone ahead into the fullness of life, is now all that was intended at the moment of creation, is now all that that person was intended to be. The body is disregarded like the booster rockets of a space shuttle, and can fall back to earth, having completed its purpose. The actual person you knew and loved did not go into a coffin, and the 'remains' were but the empty shell of a rocket that has been launched. Death is not the end. As you look out to sea, you cannot see beyond the horizon, even though you know there is so much more beyond your vision. As you look at the sea, your vision is limited to the surface of the water, even though you are well aware that there are millions of gallons beneath your scope of vision. Faith means living without the proof, but certain that the proof will follow. Faith and certainty cannot co-exist, because if there is certainty there is no need for faith. It is normal, natural, and very human to have a struggle with the whole area of death, whether that be the actual fact, the loss of a loved one, or the inevitability of your own death. Instead of getting too concerned about life after death, I would be really pleased, and you would be greatly blessed, if you switched your concentration to the quality of your life before death. I am more interested in the depth of your life, rather than the length of it. Everybody dies, but not everybody lives. Perhaps, as you work through your present grief process, you will come out the other end with a greater commitment to what is left of your own life. In doing this, your whole life could be totally transformed, because I would have greater freedom to touch others through you, and your beloved one would certainly be there to inspire and encourage you, as you move forward towards the Great Reunion, when you will never have to say goodbye again.