Friday, September 30, 2011

St. Therese Teaches us How to Be our True Selves

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Despite dying more than 100 years ago, St. Therese is a saint for us today in our modern age and can teach us so very much.  She knew what it was like to be falsely accused, to suffer physical and emotional pain, and to find the need to grow up so that she could begin to live maturely in the way Our Heavenly Father deemed fit.  For her this meant leaving her childishness behind, in order that she could embrace spiritual maturity in a seemingly contradictory state of spiritual childhood. 

St. Therese knew the pain of losing a mother at an early age, and then losing several of her subsequent 'mothers' who were her sisters to the convent.  She experienced severe psychological anguish because of this, and suffered from what amounted to a nervous breakdown.  She suffered from scruples and in this difficult state was compulsive about all of her faults, failings, and sins.  Despite all of these emotional challenges, she desired to know and love God truly and deeply.  Her pious family provided her with a beautiful example of love and trust in God.  

A true miracle occurred while St. Therese became seriously ill with a high fever and convulsions.  Her sisters and father were desperately praying for her cure, and were praying to Our Lady, when Therese was suddenly cured through Our Lady's intercession and her smile.  She would receive a further grace when she received a healing at Christmas time to leave her childhood behind, and to allow Jesus to completely transform her with His love.  From this point forward, her vision was clear and unobscured on what she wanted. She slowly began to embrace the childlike confidence and trust in Our Lord, that so many of us associate with her today.

What is amazing is that although one can imagine St. Therese as sweet and endearing, she was no spiritual lightweight.  Indeed, in the convent she demonstrated complete mastery over her feelings no matter the circumstance. She smiled when she felt annoyed, she remained silent when she wrongly accused, and she retained her gentle and joyful demeanor while in the throes of a painful illness that would eventually take her life. 

In addition to her amazing mastery over self, she became in a sense a wounded healer. Despite the fact that she lived in an era of Jansenism and many were taught a profound fear of God, St. Therese promoted the image of God the Father as a gentle and loving mother.  She did not seek severe penances, but instead took the opportunities provided her in daily life to shine God's love upon others, and to thereby serve Him.  As one who had suffered so severely from scruples, she now taught others how to have complete confidence in Our Lord's Mercy and offered herself as a holocaust of this love.

The fruits of St. Therese's transformation into Divine Love has resulted in nothing less than the conversions and healings of millions of souls around the world.   St. Therese shows us that Our Lord can use all of us for His Glory, when we abandon ourselves freely and completely to Him. Let us ask her to continue to intercede for us that we may not fear Our Triune God, nor life itself, but trust completely in the plans that Our Lord has for each and every one of us. Amen. 

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer 29:11

Sunday, September 25, 2011

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Yesterday my daughter and I had the opportunity to attend the public Thanksgiving Mass at Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Tonopah, AZ.  (See This beautiful monastery is where the Poor Claire nuns of Perpetual Adoration now call home, and pray day and night before our Lord in thanksgiving for His gift of the Eucharist, to present the needs of the diocese, our communities, and for all souls in the greater world.

The architecture itself was a lovely reminder of how a church can raise one's mind to heavenly realities.  With its wood beams and archways, along with the stained glass windows of some of our most beloved saints, and of course the altar and tabernacle itself which depicted the Lamb of God, the monastery does a fine job of drawing one's mind and heart to higher mysteries. It is interesting to note that two Carmelite saints will eventually be depicted in the stain glass windows: St. Therese and St. Teresa Benedicta.  A beautiful statue of St. Therese of Lisieux already stands at the back of the church, showing us yet again how universal her reach and spirit.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Wall with a spirit of sincere thanksgiving and sharing of many memories over these past several years since the 'Desert Nuns' packed up their few belongings at the Mother House in Alabama, and came out to the desert with big hopes and lots of prayers.  During Mass, the nuns sat behind the grill with their visiting Dominican sisters who teach in many Phoenix area schools.  Their chanted hymns added another element that raised our hearts and souls to God. 

In such holy, prayerful, and joyful surroundings it was a good time for me to take stock of my own call to Discalced Carmel Secular Order whose vocation is to "undertake to live in the world and evangelical life of fraternal communion imbued with the spirit of contemplative prayer, in imitation of the Virgin Mary, and animated with apostolic zeal according to the example and teaching of Carmelite saints, and whose mission is to a life both contemplative and apostolic, to carry into the world the distinctive witness of Carmel: 'The Lord of Hosts lives, before whom I stand' 1 Kings 17,1.  

I asked myself:
1. Do I truly take the time in an attitude of humble thanksgiving to thank Our Lord for all that He has so generously bestowed upon me and my family? Do I recognize His gifts, and am I open to receive them? Is my attitude one of gratitude and joy no matter my exterior circumstances, or interior state?

2. Do I foster silence and contemplation in my daily life? Do I use words only as an instrument of peace and love, and seek to imitate Our Lady in all dealings with others?

3. When I do interact with others in the world, am I zealous only  for Our Lord's Glory or do I seek undue attention or praise for myself? 

In assessing these, I can truthfully say that much work still needs to be done to realize our charism within myself. I thank the Lord for His patience with me and His continual care for me in body and soul. Just as the desert nuns traveled far away without knowing how things would turn out, so we are asked to step out in faith and to journey our ascent of Mt. Carmel in a spirit of joyful thanksgiving, love, detachment, and acceptance of His perfect Divine Will.

After traveling far west over highways, past Arizona farmland, to the exit of the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant, and on 6 miles over a bumpy dirt road, it was a blessed pilgrimage that enabled me to assess my own Carmelite calling and how this is developing in my own life.  The First Reading of the Mass captured this opportunity perfectly, "“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14

I pray that we will all avail ourselves of these opportunities of silence and solitude when they present themselves, and allow Our Lord to speak deeply within our hearts that we may become a 'Praise of Glory' to His Most Holy Name. Amen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martyrs and Missionaries in Korea/Asia

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Korean martyrs who died for their Catholic faith during one of several  government-sponsored persecutions that have ocurred over the course of several centuries. In his Canonization homily in honor of the 103 Korean martyrs we celebrate today, Bl. Pope John Paul II had this to say,

The truth about Jesus Christ also reached Korean soil. It came by means of books brought from China. And in a most marvellous way, divine grace soon moved your scholarly ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the Risen Savior.

Yearning for an ever greater share in the Christian faith, your ancestors sent one of their own in 1784 to Peking, where he was baptized. From this good seed was born the first Christian community in Korea, a community unique in the history of the Church by reason of the fact that it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could already boast of some ten thousand martyrs. The years 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846 and 1866 are forever signed with the holy blood of your Martyrs and engraved in your hearts.

Even though the Christians in the first half century had only two priests from China to assist them, and these only for a time, they deepened their unity in Christ through prayer and fraternal love; they disregarded social classes and encouraged religious vocations. And they sought ever closer union with their Bishop in Peking and the Pope in faraway Rome.

After years of pleading for more priests to be sent, your Christian ancestors welcomed the first French missionaries in 1836. Some of these, too, are numbered among the Martyrs who gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, and who are being canonized today in this historic celebration.

As we approach the Feast Days of St. Therese (Patron Saint of Missions), and St. Teresa of Avila (who had great missionary zeal), it is important to renew our missionary spirit as Discalced Carmelites. Indeed, the order itself is a bridge between East and West. Furthermore, its charism is to share the face of Christ and His love with all our brothers and sisters worldwide. This is to be through active service as well as contemplative, passive means.

The first Mission Congress of OCD met in 2007 to discuss its missionary work in Asia, specifically India. It quotes some of the first friars who went abroad seeking the conversion of souls in the spirit of St. Teresa.  They wrote of the following confirmations of the missionary aspect of the order:

The first exceptional witnesses in the living tradition of Teresa’s missionary spirit are Fr. Gracián and Fr. John of Jesus-Maria, the Calagurritan. Gracián, according to our records, was aware of being identified with the Teresian spirit, which he also expressly confirms regarding the missions. He sent, when Mother Teresa was still living, the first missionaries to Congo; and later to Mexico (1585), and produced several fervent writings in favor of the missions. Fr. Gracián reminds always the apostolic spirit of Mother Teresa: “From here was born the fact that we all were formed from the beginning in this vocation to go and convert the Gentiles” (Escolias al libro de la Vida de la M. Teresa de Jesús de Rivera. Teresianum, 1981, 371). “As I spoke for a long time and with such intimacy with Mother Teresa of Jesus whose spirit was of zeal and conversion of the whole world, I am still more convinced of this way ” (Peregrinación de Anastasio, dial. III).

Fr. John of Jesus-Maria was the explicit supporter of the charismatic maternity of St. Teresa, and therefore was the doctrinal supportor of the missional spirit of Teresian Carmel. This is his definitive argument:

“Finally we either approve the spirit of Our Mother Teresa or not; Similarly we either venerate her as our foundress or not. Undoubtedly to disapprove of her spirit is reckless and questioning her founding is extremely ungrateful. It is obvious that that our Mother Teresa wanted the missions more eagerly than martydom itself. To this end she guided her works and prayers as well as those of her people, so that whoever devotes himself to the conversion of the heretics may be crowned with success. Who can deny that her idea was to obtain with our Friars, her sons, what she could not obtain with her daughters? (Assertum seu Tractatus quo asseruntur missiones, 1603).

The Venerable Fr Juan Vicente of Jesus Mary (1862-1943) was a missionary in India for seventeen years. Afterwards he was one of the greatest promotors of missionary spirit in Spain, with initiatives that endure still today. He had a strong contemplative vocation, he believed even that he had an eremitical vocation, and in fact was the restorer of the eremitical convent in his Province of Navarra. For that, his perception of the Teresian Carmel charism is very important as a witness of life and doctrine.

“The sons of St. Teresa have understood and professed always, that a Discalced Carmelite must, before all else, be profoundly contemplative, but must be decidedly active. That is to say, he must try, in all sincerity, to burn with the fire of contemplation with that love of God which is as strong as death, and from there proceed to love his neighbour for God, until he makes himself all things for all men, in order to win them all for ever. This is what makes the true Carmelite missionary. Action without contemplation would not be Carmelite; contemplation without action, would not be teresian” (“La Provincia de S. Joaquín de Navarra y su exposición de Paris”, Monte Carmelo 426, 1918, p 367).

The Teresian Carmelite is “contemplative until maximum, apostolic until you can do no more”, “the Carmelite must be a contemplative who is totally apostolic and an apostle who is totally contemplative” (“Way of meditating as taught by our Venerable Fr. St. John of the Cross”, in Mensajero de Santa Teresa, 1924-1925).

Today, South Korea is 10% Catholic. The OCDS community in America is blessed to have at least three different Korean communities in Los Angelos, Washington DC, and New York. But what of the spiritual wasteland of North Korea, or the persecuted underground Church in China? How about the dearth of prayer that was lamented even by the Prime Minister of Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami of this past March? Many countries in Asia remain in dire need of the Good News of Jesus Christ. As the Feast Days of St. Therese, the patron saint of missionaries, and our Foundress St. Teresa of Jesus approach, let us ask for their intercession that more may receive and accept the transforming love of Jesus throughout Asia and the world.  And we pray for our OCD missionaries who already stand barefoot on the soil of foreign lands, in Uganda, India, and elsewhere, that they may be upheld with our love, prayers, and assistance to perservere in the assurance that good fruit will be forthcoming. Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Triumph of the Cross

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

It is difficult to even begin to meditate on the mystery of the Cross. Our whole lifetime is spent trying to "work out our salvation' by picking up our crosses daily and following Jesus. Some days we do so with added vigor, courage, and strength, while other days we drag our crosses, fall, and sometimes even want to refuse to get up.  Yet, we have the saints who have walked before us and show us how to say 'yes' to God's perfect will and designs for our life.  I don't think that I can express anything as beautifully as St. John of the Cross did in his sketch of the Crucifixion of Jesus, or the beautiful meditation of Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) on this Feast Day. I will leave these for your contemplation on the mysterious glories of the Cross.

John saw it from Heaven's point of view.
In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

Dali's Reflection on John's Drawing
My thought is how blessed we are
that our Father sees the cross
when He looks at us.

III.2 ELEVATION OF THE CROSS September 14, 1939: Ave Crux, Spes unica [Hail Cross, Only Hope]

"Hail, Cross, our only hope!" this is what the holy church summoned us to exclaim during the time for contemplating the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The jubilant exclamation of the Easter Alleluia silenced the serious song of the cross. But the sign of our salvation greeted us amidst the time of Easter joy, since we were recalling the discovery of the one who had passed from sight. At the end of the cycle of ecclesiastical feasts, the cross greets us through the heart of the Savior. And now, as the church year draws toward an end, it is raised high before us and is to hold us spellbound, until the Easter Alleluia summons us anew to forget the earth for a while and to rejoice in the marriage of the Lamb.
Our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it leads us to the foot of the cross to renew our holy vows. The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask. More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the Cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ's cross after him. Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise. Taking and renewing vows is a dreadfully serious business. You make a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth. If you are not deadly serious about your will to fulfill it, you fall into the hands of the living God.

Before you hangs the Savior on the cross, because he became obedient unto death on the cross. He came into the world not to do his will, but his Father's will. If you intend to be the bride of the Crucified, you too must completely renounce your own will and no longer have any desire except to fulfill God's will. He speaks to you in the holy rule and the constitutions of the Order. He speaks to you through the mouth of your superiors. He speaks to you by the gentle breath of the Holy Spirit in the depths of your heart. To remain true to your vow of obedience, you must listen to this voice day and night and follow its orders. However, this means daily and hourly crucifying your self-will and self-love.
The Savior hangs naked and destitute before you on the cross because he has chosen poverty. Those who want to follow him must renounce all earthly goods. It is not enough that you once left everything out there and came to the monastery. You must be serious about it now as well. Gratefully receive what God's providence sends you. Joyfully do without what he may let you to do without. Do not be concerned with your own body, with its trivial necessities and inclinations, but leave concern to those who are entrusted with it. Do not be concerned about the coming day and the coming meal.
The Savior hangs before you with a pierced heart. He has spilled his heart's blood to win your heart. If you want to follow him in holy purity, your heart must be free of every earthly desire. Jesus, the Crucified, is to be the only object of your longings, your wishes, your thoughts.
Are you now alarmed by the immensity of what the holy vows require of you? You need not be alarmed. What you have promised is indeed beyond your own weak, human power. But it is not beyond the power of the Almighty this power will become yours if you entrust yourself to him, if he accepts your pledge of troth. He does so on the day of your holy profession and will do it anew today. It is the loving heart of your Savior that invites you to follow. It demands your obedience because the human will is blind and weak. It cannot find the way until it surrenders itself entirely to the divine will. He demands poverty because hands must be empty of earth's goods to receive the goods of heaven. He demands chastity because only the heart detached from all earthly love is free for the love of God. The arms of the Crucified are spread out to draw you to his heart. He wants your life in order to give you his.
Ave Crux, Spes unica! The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.
The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell. Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows; then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do you hear the groans of the wounded on the battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the wounds. You are enclosed in a cell and cannot get to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You would like to be an angel of mercy and help them. Look at the Crucified. If you are nuptially bound to him by the faithful observance of your holy vows, your being is precious blood. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is. You cannot help here or there like the physician, the nurse, the priest. You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief, in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart. Its precious blood is poured everywhere soothing, healing, saving.
The eyes of the Crucified look down on you asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him? " Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Ave Crux, Spes unica!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9-11

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I thought that I would share this moving and heart-felt icon with everyone on this somber and prayerful day of remembrance.  Wishing everyone peace and that forgiveness and love reign in our hearts, as the Gospel invites us to experience and act upon today. Amen.

Lewis Williams, SFO
Artist's Narrative:
Our Mother of Sorrows offers healing liniment to those suffering from the tragedies of September 11, 2001. Old Spanish and Mexican images of Our Lady of Sorrows as well as the traditional icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help influenced the conception of this icon. The angels of the Perpetual Help icon, as well as their instruments of Christ's crucifixion are replaced by the American and United Airlines planes. The planes symbolize the victims at the Pentagon and Flight 93, as well as both planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. The planes invade the sacred space of the mandorla, the cloud of heavenly radiance that surrounds Mary. Represented by the almond shape and the radiating fiery rings, the mandorla is the intersection of heavenly and earthly realms. The stars of heaven surround Mary, the universal mother, in her sorrowful yet hopeful glance. The old church Slavonic lettering in gold leaf describes Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Traditional images of Our Lady of Sorrows depict Mary's heart pierced by swords, symbolic of the seven times her heart was broken by the passion of her Son. Within Mary's embrace the oval which surrounds the World Trade Center symbolizes her sacred heart, but even more so her womb. In this icon, Our Mother embraces all those lost with her enduring love, just as she embraced the Child in her womb. The towers are depicted as they appeared on that bright, sunny morning in early September. The smoke, stylized and sanctified, bears witness to the ultimate sacrifice of so many on September 11.

Her feast day is September 15.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Times and Seasons

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

Time has a way of slipping away so very quickly! There are so many seemingly contradictory religious feasts and secular holidays and observances going on these first two weeks of September.  Yet in my mind, they represent the continuum of life as we experience the various seasons of work and prayer, life and death, sorrow and hope in the Resurrection. Monday was Labor Day when we as Americans celebrated a day of relaxation and a final wrap-up to the more relaxed pace of summer. My family was blessed enough to be able to go to a remote lagoon/beach near Puerto Penasco, Mexico. We found the respite from being "plugged in" to be quite refreshing and to give us a chance to just be together as a family and enjoy the beauty of God's creation.  For me, it reiterated what we already know as Carmelites - that we are called to just 'be' and that there is a need for silence to be carved our amidst the craziness of daily life to hear the Beloved's voice.

Of course, we were quite aware of the fact that there are so many who are without jobs, underemployed, and really hurting with the current economic realities, natural disasters, and other crises. There are so very many to pray for. It truly is a time to take stock of our blessings, both spiritual and temporal, and to fix our eyes upon what is truly important.  The simplicity and silence of the beach and the ebb and flow of the tides were a good reminder that Our Lord speaks to us so often in the pure simplicity of everyday life, if and when we are open to listening.  In the hardships and often times resulting simplification of life we are reminded that, 'Where your treasure lies, there also will your heart be.'

Yesterday was the beautiful Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.  How special to be able to honor the ark of the new covenant, who brought Our Savior into the world, through her humble fiat. As the new 'Eve', Blessed Mother was able to reverse the reality of death due to original sin by means of her perfect union with the Divine Will of Our Triune God.  Her Immaculate Conception and birth paved the way for our salvation to later be born into the world.  Like all mothers, our Lady wants us to celebrate as a family to honor the gift of her life, and the lives of all of her children.  This is indeed a great occasion for joy.

In contrast, on this coming Sunday we celebrate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a day forever etched on the memory of all Americans. The sorrow and sense of united purpose and fellowship our nation felt for one another following the attacks was notable. As St. Paul reminds us, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28) Despite our differences, we were focused on our brotherhood and bond as fellow human beings. As we pray for the souls lost on that tragic day, along with their family, friends, and survivors we can remember as Carmelites that love conquers all and the truth sets us free. We are to pray for peace in hearts, homes, and between nations, as well as the conversion of all souls, just as St. Teresa of Avila implored us to do nearly 5 centuries ago.

Perhaps fittingly, just three days following our commemoration of this sorrow, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th and the Feast of the Sorrows of Our Lady on September 15th. How many tears Our Lord and Our Lady shed both then and now for the hatred so rampant in hearts.  Yet, amidst the pain and tears is triumph and resurrection through Our Lord Jesus.  This feast is also known as the Triumph of the Cross. In this lifetime, there is no victory without the cross. Our Lord's arms were stretched out in the form of a "v" while hanging on those two wooden beams suspended between heaven and earth.  Good Friday was in fact our "V" day for the entire human family. 

And so it is today.  Life is full of the ups and downs, victories and defeats. We go from celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, to mourning the loss of a loved one, battling illness, losing a job, and a myriad of other challenges.  We go from the mountaintop of prayer to the seeming abyss of emptiness and spiritual purification.  It is the rhythm of life. It is our story told in so many unique ways and forms.  It is a sign that Our Lord loves us and intends for us to share in the Resurrection that followed His own sorrowful death.  It is where justice and peace kiss.

In a spirit of hope, we move forward, knowing in faith that all will be well. That each heartache within our own lives, that of family and friends, that of our nation, and of the greater world is a dynamic movement towards realizing new life, for He promises us this by reassuring us, "Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21 :5) We need only say yes to the Holy Spirit's movement and opening of our hearts, for a metanoia to take place that leads to an expansion of love within.

In closing, I leave you with this beautiful passage that encompasses the various seasons of life. May you be forever blessed.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything
 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.