Category: Christ's Work in us


The Power of YES!

Hail, Full of Grace

Hail, Full of Grace

I have often wondered why people, who believe that God created the world from nothing; who believe that He created planets, and mountains, and stars and seas; who maintain their belief that this same God could make human beings with all their faculties and the delicate workings of veins and arteries and synapses, and yet, these same people maintain that this same God could not conceive a child in the womb of a virgin. I know that first sentence was extremely long, but I could not see any other way of showing the disparity between what God did for mankind and the claim that a virginal birth was impossible.

Realizing that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, He could not be conceived as you or I. The Spirit of God will “overshadow” Mary. And in this way, Jesus becomes implanted in her virginal womb, to allow the human process of birth to take place.. This I know sounds like a child’s story. It sounds incredible. But therein rests our belief that Jesus is the Son of God. Mary is to carry this pregnancy for nine months, as would any other mother. The only difference is that she did not forfeit her virginity.

One other aspect about this article of faith that often gets overlooked. God created mankind. God gave mankind all sorts of abilities. We can laugh and cry, think and plan, and say “yes” and “no”. Mary had the human right to say, “No”. She had the right, the free will, to decline the offer. She could have said, “I don’t have the time”. “I am not worthy, so no, I can’t do that”. I have other plans for what my life will be. I don’t want to go through what lies ahead for the mother of that child. These choices were all available to her. And so, the sending of the Redeemer into the world, hung in the balance, waiting for her decision. God would never take away the gift of free will. God will never force her, or us, to be good, to do the right thing. We always have a choice. The choice will always be ours, to be answered with our free will.

And then the magical words, the beautiful words were uttered by Mary, “Be it done unto me, according to Your will”. With those words, the Heavens opened up, choirs of angels must have sung their loudest, most beautiful sounds. The entire universe was wrapped in joy. It is not a child’s story. It is not a fairy tale. For once the news was not of warring nations, was not of tragedies overtaking people. Relief was in sight. Mankind could once again function as it was meant to, as a caring, loving people. Such is the power of Redemption, of Salvation.

1) Our Strength

2) Take Her Hand
3) Pies and Surrender
4) Let Me Use You
5) Use Me As Your Mirror

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veronica

We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus. So, why are we talking about Veronica and the sixth station of the cross? Birth of anyone is a happy occasion. So how much more joyful is the Birth of the Savior of the world? However, in this time of joy, it is very pertinent to think about Veronica and her actions as Jesus struggled along the sorrowful way.

Jesus came into this world for one purpose, the salvation of mankind. In six more days we will be singing hymns of joy, thinking back to the time of Jesus. We will ponder the hardship and struggle that Mary and Joseph had to deal with to arrive at Bethlehem. But we just cannot pass that off as a small part in the Nativity story. Ask any mother who has given birth, and I believe they will tell you that riding on a mule, for eighty or so miles during pregnancy, is not something very joyful.

Jesus came into this world to save us, to show us how to live, to show us how to treat others… how to love our God, and each other. His purpose cannot be any clearer than that. So what does this mean to us? How does our life differ because He came? How does our world react, since He entered into it? Nice story! Nice presents! A time to be happy…at least for a little while! And then, back to the old grind stone? Back to the old same old, same old?

That is not true. That cannot be the answer. Think about Veronica and her action of wiping the face of Jesus along the via dolorosa.  As an early believer, she didn’t have the luxury of 2000 years of philosophers, and theologians discussing the every why and wherefore of Jesus’ life. She heard his message. “Love your fellow man. Treat them with love”. “Love your God, by treating everyone with love”. How simple. How straightforward. How challenging.

Many times we think, “What does God want me to do”? Or, “What should I be doing with my life?” Those moments, sadly, are few and far between. More often, we think of what it is that we need. What is it that makes us happy, sad, comfortable, or uneasy? And then we take the necessary steps to either enforce, and prolong the good, or strive to rid ourselves of the bad.

Veronica heard the message either directly from the Master’s lips or from one of His early followers. She heard it and believed: Love your fellow man. She believed it so much that she pushed through the crowd just to wipe the sweat and blood from the face of Jesus. No one told her that this is what she must do. No one said, “You, go do it.” She knew and believed the message of Jesus. She knew He really meant it when He said, “Love one another.” So, she used her veil to wipe His face. He was suffering. And, this was something that she could do to help Him.

We seem to be waiting for someone to tap us on the shoulder to tell us what we should do, what would be good for us to do, and when we should do it. However, no one is going to beat us over the head telling us when and what to do. If you believe that Jesus really said, “Love one another”, then we have already been told.. Ah… but that is so difficult, isn’t it? Love everybody? Everybody?? I am to love even the person who dislikes me, persecutes me, or ignores me? Everyone!

What does that mean? How do I love others? Start looking at their needs, and see what can help them with their problems? Can I alleviate their problems? Do they need a friend? Are they looking for a shoulder to cry on? The list is endless. It varies with every person that we encounter. But in order to do that, we have to stop embracing ourselves. We have to stop looking out for NUMBER ONE. Forget your needs and truly see others’ struggles, hurts and tears. Love is being aware of others’ problems and seeing what, if anything, we can do to lend a hand. Veronica saw the sweat and blood, on the face of Jesus, and did what she could do to comfort Him. Do we provide comfort to others? Do we try to understand their difficulties? Or, are we so wrapped up with our own problems, our own needs that we truly are unaware of the sorrows and trials of those around us? This Christmas, try being a Veronica to others. Not because it seems like the right thing to do, but because a person needs your love, your loving concern. Love the infant Jesus, by loving one another.

Here are some other Posts that blend with this one. Continue the thread:

1) Where Do We Find Truth
2) Jesus Walked Down the Street
3) Trust in God vs Fear to Relinquish Control
4) People or Objects

Mystical Body2

What is meant by the Mystical Body of Christ? We know what a body is. But the body, we know, is a physical body. Mystical? What makes a body mystical? What is mystical? It is defined in the dictionary as having a divine or sacred significance that surpasses natural human apprehension. That points us in the right direction, but we, already, knew that it was beyond our comprehension.

I think this is where we should add some wood to the fire. I am not dancing around the question, but rather trying to shed some light, some Catholic Christian light on the topic. Think about the following:
1- Jesus’ act of creating the Eucharist, at the Last Supper
2- His act of giving His life in sacrifice for us,
3- His words, “He that eats this bread, shall live forever”-1
4- The concept of the State of Grace

Addressing #4, first: The state of Grace. This does not mean that we are “worthy” of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Who on this planet is worthy of receiving Jesus? The answer is: No one. The state of Grace is in us, only if we believe in Jesus, and are truly trying to follow in His footsteps of love and concern for “everyone”, and have true sorrow about any sinful acts, which we have committed. For it is only if these conditions are true, can we validly walk up to the altar and accept His Body and Blood. We are still not worthy, but are doing what He asked us to do, namely, “Eat this Bread”.

#1 and 3: Jesus knew He would be dying, and to be with us, He institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist. And He tells us, “He that eats this bread, shall live forever.” This, then, is not normal bread. Something is magnificently different about it. The Person who cured the sick, who raised His friend from the dead, who, Himself, would rise from the dead, tells us, “This is my body”. Who can doubt His words?

#2: In dying for us, He has wiped the slate clean. He gave His life for us. He has shown us how to live, how to love others, and what is important in life.

We profess to be Christians, followers of Christ. If these four concepts mean anything to us, then we believe that the host is truly the Body of Christ. The person, sitting in the pew in front of us, behind us, across the aisle, if they, too, believe these four wondrous statements, then they, too are receiving the Body of Christ. He is in me, in you, in all the people in the church. We are carrying Jesus within us. If we truly believe this, then each person that we meet who believes in the same way has Christ within them too. Jesus is the head of this Mystical Body, and we are the arms, the feet, the eyes, the tongue, the ears of Jesus. We use our arms to help people up, our feet to go to their assistance, our eyes see the wrongs and injustices of the world, and our tongues speak out against these injustices. We hear the cries of the world and, as best we can, try to soothe them. For you see, we, the followers of Christ, make up the Mystical Body. Where we go, Jesus goes … if we bring Him.

-1 John 6:59

advent 1st

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. What does this mean to you and me? For that matter what does Advent mean to us? The word itself means “Coming”. What is coming? Who is coming? And what does this coming mean to us?

If we were told that in a month’s time, a famous sports star, an actor or actress, a governor, a president, or a billionaire would be walking down our street, past our home. How would we re-act? What would we do? Clean up our house? Paint it? Fix the broken fence? Tidy up our best clothes in anticipation of the person’s arrival? Oh, there is so much that we would want to do, so that he/she would see us at our best.

However, none of these personages are coming, so you can put away the paint, and the hammer and nails. But it is interesting to note that we would do all of that preparation for any one of those figureheads. And … why? To put ourselves, our lives forward in the best possible light, of course. You know, as well as I that we would go to extraordinary lengths, just to have these people find us pleasing. We want them to think well of us.

At this time of the year, we remember and celebrate the birth of an infant. The person who IS coming is a fragile, defenseless, guileless infant. Not an ordinary baby, by no means. This baby will teach us love and kindness, will preach integrity and honesty, and will encourage us to give these treasures to all, whom we encounter.

This child is special. He is greater than any king or president, and is known by almost everyone in the world. What will we do to prepare for His coming? We have a scant twenty four days, before His birthday is celebrated. What preparation do we need to do? The answer is different for each of us. Each one of us must look within ourselves, and find that special gift that needs dusting off, that needs polishing, that needs to be brought out into the light. The infant does not require it. He does not demand it. But, He gave to each of us a gift that when used, will bring Him to others. If we truly honor and love this Child, then His teachings of love and kindness, of integrity and honesty are already within us, waiting to be shown to the world.

“Oh, I can’t do that, I would look foolish”. “That isn’t what I am about”. “I would be too embarrassed to do that.” Whatever it is, inside you, that you feel would make Jesus happy, that is the gift He has given to you. It was given, not to be put under a bushel basket, but to be displayed to the world. We can think up hundreds of reasons why we can’t, we couldn’t. Can we think of one reason why we should?

Buying and giving gifts seems so normal, so natural at this time of year. We spend much time and money looking for “special” things to buy for our loved ones. Look within yourself to see what “special” things are there already, waiting for you to bring out of your sack and give to others. Is there someone, you know, who needs a drive somewhere? Is there someone who is sick and would love some company to chat with? Which of your friends do you know has suffered a loss and is not taking care of themselves, properly? Do they need food? Would they like your help in cleaning their house? What talents do you have, that they would enjoy? It doesn’t have to be about money. It has to be about giving of our self, our time, our affection.

We have twenty four days and counting. Each day leads us closer to His birthday. Begin now — a prayer here, an act of kindness there. Each gift that we give now is not to be done, just so we can check if off of a list. Each gift is given because we love the infant that is coming. By giving to others, we express our espousal of His doctrine, our embrace of His teachings. We give, so that in some way, we can say, “Thank you” back to Him, for all that He has given us.

TO THINK ABOUT…

souls in purgatory

Here is a thought. What if all the people, who we “know must be in hell”, aren’t in hell? “Oh they must be”, you reply “look at how they lived their lives. Look at what they did.” Even our legal law says that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Legal law recognizes that sometimes there are lessening (mitigating) circumstances. Are we the final judge and jury?

How do we know what happens in the split second before death? Does God, Who abounds in love, Who IS love, give them one final chance? Did He cause their lifestyle to flash before them? Did the horror of their ways assault them and they cringed in terrible shame and remorse? Did they beg for forgiveness? Maybe hell, right now, does not have as many souls as we think! We know that Purgatory exists for those whose lives fell short, that didn’t quite make the “passing –into –heaven” grade. They are waiting for all the stains of their lives to be removed. Maybe, Purgatory is filled with more souls than we ever imagined.

These are just thoughts. If they are counter to the Catholic Church’s teachings, then I renounce them. But, and it is not that big of a “but”, if there is some semblance of truth to this, then I think we should look at the importance of Purgatory. Today is all Saints day. This day we remember and honor those lives that excelled in God’s goodness. We use their lives as measuring rods for ourselves. We strive to be like them, to imitate them, in some way. How often, though, we fall short; we fall FAR short. Then we too, will have to endure Purgatory, as well.

We read, “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins” in 2 Maccabees 12:46. There is a purgatory. Mankind has recognized this from before Christ. WE can help those who are there. Tomorrow is All Souls Day. These are not the Saints that we honor today, but those who wanted to be, who strove to be like those saints, but failed.

In the book, “The Flame of Love”-1 the diary of Elizabeth Kindlemann, we read again and again, the urging of Mary and Jesus to pray for the dead. “If at any moment”, Mary says, “someone prays three Hail Mary’s in my honor, while referring to the Flame of Love-2; they will free a soul from Purgatory.” She goes on to say, that during the month of November, one Hail Mary, again referring to the Flame of Love, will free ten souls. I know this statement will raise some eyebrows, and doubts, but listen to the words of Jesus. On March 27, 1963, Our Lord said, “The face of the earth will be renewed because something like this has not happened since the Word became Flesh. Earth will be renewed by Our Lady’s intercession.” And Mary is pleading for us to pray the Rosary, and to include the Flame of Love phrase.

Why the Flame of Love? Why, now? We can only speculate as to why this urgency has fallen upon us. We know that all of us have had our heads turned in the wrong direction, and, might, even now, continue to look away. Allowing the Flame to enter into and take over our heart is the only answer that will help us, help the world. If we truly want our hearts to be changed, then listen to the words of Mary and Jesus. The urgency in their words, their desire that we become part of this movement, is clear to us. We realize that we can/should participate in this global movement to help the world return to God. If we truly are affected by the Flame of Love, then we will want to, no, desire to pass this Flame on to others.

If we do nothing else, during this month of November, pray for the souls in Purgatory. They (our relatives included) are waiting to be released, finally back into the arms of God. Let’s empty Purgatory, PRAY THE ROSARY!!

-1 “The Flame of Love” visit http://www.Myconsecration.org

-2 “referring to the Flame of Love”: Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, spread the effect of grace of thy flame of love over all of humanity, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

“O Lord, help me to understand your ways. At times I am
unable to understand them and I cannot see them. But take
me by the hand, as if I were a child, and lead me where you
want me to go, so that your will is done in me. Amen.” -1

Rather than putting a picture at the top, as I usually do, I felt that this prayer was much more explicit. I urge you to get a copy of Neil Velez’s book, “By His Wounds”, and read it. No, that is not correct, don’t just read it. Let it pour into your soul. Let it lift you up and let you feel the closeness and love of Jesus.

The prayer at the top, pray it slowly. Right now, stop reading this blog and pray the prayer with feeling, wanting desperately, to be one with its words. I will wait………. Now, isn’t that prayer saying everything that you feel, that you want? “O Lord, help me to understand your ways.” We spend our lifetime, looking for how we are to lead our lives, and never really being satisfied. What should we do? What magical way is there for me to become a better person? This quest, this desire haunts us, continuously. But our error lies in thinking that WE can do something, through our own efforts. You know, we do think too highly of ourselves, of the value and validity of our efforts. Lord, help me understand what you want, what your ways are.

This prayer continues on as to why we need the help of God. We don’t understand His ways, and most times we don’t even want to see them. We know what we want. We know what we desire, what we expect, and what we look for. But, truly, think of your life, how have you lived, and are living. Does it really mesh with God’s Will? For me, I know most often, I wrestle with a problem as to what direction I should be going. In the tossing and turning, something enters my mind, and I believe it is good, and so, I pursue it, AS THOUGH IT IS GOD’S WILL. Is it? Is this really what He wants of me? I don’t know, but it seems right, and so I clamor after it. I fear that most often I like the feeling, the emotional uplift, and as a result, proclaim to my mind, and my heart that this must be God’s Will. How is it for you?

God loves us. He really does love us. He created us, not for his own enjoyment, but that we could experience what Love is all about. What He is all about! Think of everything that this Heavenly Father has done for us. Life, no matter how difficult, provides us with the opportunity to love and be loved by God. We can see His beauty in the snow-capped mountains, the amazing sunsets, and a baby’s smile. He is all around us, loving us, and yes, protecting us. So, it is only natural that we be not afraid of Him, but trust in Him. Take my hand, Lord, as if I were a child and lead me where YOU want me to go, so that your will is done in me. We both know, Lord, that left to my own devices, I may not be able to find, nor follow your ways. I willingly give you my hand. Take it. Lead me. I trust in you. I, truly, trust in you. Amen.

-1 By His Wounds by Neil Velez, MDJ Ministries, Inc.
http://www.missionerosdejesus.org

pope francis peace

On this past Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis made an appeal to all mankind. He made a plea that we, fast and pray for peace in this world. Unfortunately, they are two words, “fast” and “pray”, that we seem to shun, to pull away from. To fast means to deny oneself of something pleasurable, namely food. To pray means to stop worshipping ourselves, but rather acknowledging and praying to a higher authority. The pope’s appeal said many things to us. I am unable to focus on more than one or two salient points in his public prayer. To read the entire meditation of Pope Francis, click here.

What I want to focus on, what I want you to see and hear, are his words on Syria, on world peace. The body of nations, at least most of them, agree that the use of chemical weapons is a horrible form of murder. The body of nations also agrees, again most of them, that they should be banished. And yet, we have some nations that don’t agree with those last two statements. They find these instruments of death “useful ways” of controlling their citizenry. This, I am sure is one of those crimes that cry out to God for vengeance. And that is exactly what we must do. LEAVE it in the hands of God. Trusting that God will rectify this horrible situation, is not burying your head in the sand.

Pope Francis speaks in terms of horrific evil. And though this is so, he pleads for sanity, he begs for calm. His most pertinent words are these, “You cannot purge evil, with evil.” Evil will only flare up and create more evil. These are very deadly times. These are times when we cannot stick out our chin and declare that we are right, and that we must retaliate. To do so, at this time, will truly rip apart a world that is already torn by grief, by hatred, and by pride.

And yet, the argument will be made, “…if we do nothing, evil has won.” That argument goes on and points out more stupidity. “…by retaliating, we back up our words. We stand firm. We show them that we mean business.” As I said, earlier, evil begets evil. Our pride, whether it be personal or national, is misplaced here. Do we really think that a show of might is what is needed now? Let’s bludgeon them into submission…is that the idea? There will always be a dictator that feels he has nothing to lose. He will throw those very same people that he would have gassed, up to be his defenses against the world.

The pope emphasizes that prayer to God, that Supreme Being, who is Father of us all, is the only measure that makes sense. Extend a hand in friendship, as horrible as that may seem. Ask the nations to sit down and each side explains their position. Have we not learned anything from the Christ? He sat with harlots and thieves. He mingled with those suffering from leprosy, the unclean of the world, so to speak. He did not lash out at His persecutors. He answered their questions and even gave them an opportunity to repent, to change their ways.

We live in a civilized nation. We extend our hand in friendship to countries and nations. Some times that extended hand is just frozen there in time, and is never grasped. But we do extend it. Don’t we? Or, are we saying that there are just some things that we cannot, and will not tolerate. So rather than talk, rather than negotiate…we will crush them?

“We will look foolish if we don’t retaliate”. “We cannot sit back and do nothing”. Are these your thoughts? We are not doing “nothing”. We are trying to deal with evil in the only way that makes sense…with goodness. You think we will look foolish? How foolish will we look and feel if we get embroiled in a war, when diplomacy was NOT tried? This is not the time to flex whatever muscle we still have. This isn’t when we should stand on our pride and exclaim, “We told you, “Don’t use the chemical weapons”. Death is death, no matter how you look at it. Is it ok to kill the unborn? Is it ok to retaliate, causing countless more lives to be slain? Do we really think that our individual judgment is so “right on”, that we can throw the whole world into hell, with impunity?

Pope Francis is asking us to pray. Individually, we are playing a game of Russian roulette. Collectively, the whole world, the civilized peoples of this world must come together and say, “Enough is enough”. There must be a civilized way of getting obstinate nations to talk. Ostracize them? Don’t trade with them? Bring them to their senses without trying to bludgeon them. If you still feel that justice must be served, then seek it, but only after negotiations, peaceful methods, Christian methods have been tried.

We seem to keep lowering ourselves to the standards of those with whom we disagree. Isn’t it about time when we try raising other people’s standards to ours? Or, is the problem, we have lowered our standards so much, in the past, that our standards, our principles are not much higher than other peoples? It is time for us to decide what we want to be, if and, when we grow up.

THERE IS NOT MUCH TIME. PLEASE, CIRCULATE THIS TO EVERYONE IN YOUR EMAIL. ASK THEM TO DO THE SAME.

three_men_silhouette short

If you believe in life after death, then read on. If you believe there is something special about the animal, called “man”, then read on. If you can’t say, “Yes” to those two statements, but want to understand yourself better then maybe you should read on, also.

I truly believe that this can help all of us understand the beauty and love of the person of “Jesus”. To do this I will point to three persons in your life. They will be different for each one of us, but their deaths will bring about the same reaction, the same feeling of loss. Well, at least, two of them will.

The first person that I bring back to your memory is that close friend or relative that died, maybe recently or maybe a long time ago. Whenever it was that he/she died, it still hurts to think of your loss. To think of those good times that were lived and will not be realized again, at least not in this lifetime, is still painful. You remember who it was. That person was a joy to be with. There was no façade with this person. What you saw, was what you got. Their heart was on their sleeve, and they were always true to their heart and to you.

The second person that you are to recall is not a close friend, but rather a person who you really never liked. This was the person who made you feel dumb, or pointed out your flaws, your misgivings. You never felt comfortable around him or her. You maybe never could put your finger on the reason why, but it was there, all the time, the dislike. Or maybe, you could point out their flaws, the things that you didn’t like about them, but were too courteous to tell them. Or, at least you felt you were being courteous.

Both persons have now passed on. Both have gone to their eternal reward. One you miss, the other, you hardly think about. But… stop right there. Let me get this right. The first person is gone, but you still miss them. Even though they lived a good life, (as far as you were concerned they led a good life), even though they are now reaping their eternal reward, you are still sad?? And, the other one, the one you never liked (you didn’t feel comfortable about them, you didn’t like their attitude) they too are reaping what they sowed. You don’t think about them. You don’t care about them.

Two lives have intersected with your life and you have different feelings about both. The one, who you liked you are sad with the loss. The one, who you disliked, you could not care less about them. Both deaths seem to revolve around YOU and YOUR feelings. Both evoke emotions that are totally different, but stem from your attitude towards them, or, their attitude towards you.

At the outset, I spoke of three deaths. Who is the third person that died? Jesus, he died, nailed to a cross. Beaten and punished for OUR sins, yours and mine. He died an excruciating death. What do you feel about Him? Do you cry for him? Do you regret that he died? Do you ever think of the part that you played in His death? This Man of love, who cares for each one of us, even as WE drive nails into his hands and feet. He loves us. What are your thoughts about Him? Do you miss Him? Have you met Him? Or, do you hardly think about Him?

I don’t mean this to be sarcastic, or hurtful. I am pointing out that three persons have touched our lives, and we have different thoughts, different feelings about all three. It seems as though we treat this world as if it revolves around us. It is bad that some people die (those that treated us well). Some people get what they deserve (those that made us feel uncomfortable). And some, we might not even think about, at all (you have to supply the reason, here). The world, this world, does not revolve around US. No matter what we think.

Jesus did walk this earth. Historians, not religiously connected, but natural historians back in the early 40-50 AD, spoke of the Christian sect and the troubles their presence caused. Jesus is real, just like you and me. If we are to be Christians (followers of the Christ) then He is to be part of our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, our way of life. We cannot treat the world as though it has us to thank. We cannot look at the world and choose to put it into different boxes. People, all people, those that we like and those that we have trouble with, deserve our best intentions. They deserve to be prayed for, treated with love and concern. They are not to be dismissed. Not the beggar, the addict, the lazy, the dirty, the murderer, the ungrateful (you get the idea), none of these should be excluded from our prayers, our love, our concern. All should be loved in a caring way, even those persons who don’t care about us and take advantage of us. Nobody said that the life of a Christian was an easy one. The eternal reward, though, is magnificent.

through him 1

I would like to focus our attention on a portion of the Mass which, I believe, is not well-understood. But, before we go there, think about the start of your day. You get up in the morning, brush your teeth, (or possibly, like me, retrieve some of them out of their soaking liquid). You then get dressed, go into the kitchen, have a cup of coffee, and maybe a Danish, or a donut. Kiss the husband or wife and the kids, and off to work you go. Wait a minute…let’s go back a bit. Did we forget something? Did we thank God for this day that is starting? Did we tell Him of our love? The prayer, The Morning Offering, goes a long way in doing all these things. In it, we tell Him, of our love, our joy, and most importantly, we dedicate all that we think, say and do that day, to Him. This day, there may be pain and suffering, but we offer that, as well. In our gratitude to Him, we tell Him that our day is dedicated to Him. However, you do know that if we say this in the morning, it makes it difficult to offer that finger gesture, that curse word, that flash of anger to Him. Doesn’t it? I guess we have to watch what we think, and say and do.

Okay, let’s move on. Say it is a Sunday, or a special occasion. This morning you are going to church, to Mass. It’s someone’s anniversary, or, someone who you love is very sick and you want to go to Mass, or, you are attending  a wedding and nuptial Mass, or it is simply a Sunday. What I am saying, here is, you find yourself at Mass. The readings are said. The priest’s sermon (homily) is given. And then, the priest begins the Offertory. (Oh, yeah, I know. That is when they take up the collection.) Unfortunately, THAT is the portion that was being alluded to in the first sentence up above. (Go up and re-read it if you want to. I will wait.) This portion of the Mass is not well-understood. Yes the collection is taken up, but much, much more is happening, something much more personal.

The Offertory is where we can offer ourselves (and mention all of our concerns, our intentions, like sick family members, the dying and deceased family and friends). But what is it that we are really offering? Do you remember earlier when we were talking about the Morning Offering? It was then that we offered to our God, our joy, our love, and every thought, word and action of the day. But isn’t that really like an ant saying to YOU, “Take these efforts of mine, they will be good for you.” Our intentions, no matter how noble; our offerings, no matter how fine; our lives, no matter how good… we are still like the ant giving what we have to Someone infinitely greater than ourselves. You might say, “Then why bother?”

We say that prayer in the morning, every day, so that, when we next attend Mass, we can put all of those offerings on the paten (the little gold plate) together with the bread that will rest on it. The monies collected (representing our sacrifices made to and for others), our thoughts, words and good actions of prior and future days, these are what we bring to the Mass. Our daily offerings are gathered up, and together with the bread and wine, are made holy, through Jesus. All of this is totally associated with the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross. The priest softly utters Christ’s words which He said at the Last Supper, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood”. By this far-sighted loving action, before His death, Jesus enables mankind to rise up from its depths and legitimately praise their God. These words will transform these natural, everyday items, resting on the paten, into Christ. But, you know our offerings are resting there, as well as the bread and wine. Our acts of love for one another, our concerns for others, our acts of generosity, all of these are transformed also. If we are capable of doing anything good, it is only because of the love of Jesus within us. Our lives, puny as they are, are made noble on that paten and they will be offered up to God. This is not blue-sky stuff. This is not make-believe. This is the love that God has for His children, His divine plan. We need Jesus to be in our lives, to be part of our lives. Otherwise, we are just so many other animals walking on this earth.

In this way, our insignificant lives become noble and suitable gifts to God, our Heavenly Father. The priest even says later on in the Mass, as he holds up the Consecrated Bread and Wine, now Jesus’ Body and Blood, “Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.” To which we simply reply, “Amen”, (Yes, I know. Yes, I believe that.”) For we know, that without Jesus’ sacrifice, all of our morning offerings would be meaningless.

friend def

What makes a friend… a friend? What is a friend? Think of the people who you call, “your friends”. What is it that makes you care about them? Makes you smile? Makes you feel that warm glow inside, when you think about them? Or maybe the better question is, “Do you really care about them?” Very often, too often, the people who we call our friends are people that entertain us, do for us, treat us very kindly, actually, treat us better than other people do.

The dictionary defines the word “friend” as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. Affection: love and respect. Regard: care for and concern about. Friendship says nothing about what this person does for me. The friendship is not caused by, nor based on, the “glow that we feel”; but rather, the result of the friendship causes that “glow that we feel”. It is NOT … “what’s in it for me”.

So now, we get to the root of this discussion. What are you willing to do for your friends? If they have egg on their face, will you tell them? If they are living a lie, will you tell them? If their moral values are all screwed up, will you point that out to them? In short, are you willing to tell them the truth? Or, do you talk to them cautiously, so as not to offend them? Do you look the other way, when they say or do something that strays from the truth? There are a lot of questions here, and ALL of them deserve an answer, by each of us.

You see, our value system comes into play when dealing with our friends. It is very easy to throw out the statement, “It’s none of my business”, or “What he/she does is their decision”. If that is how we choose to respond to these questions, then holding a person as OUR friend is not very meaningful, nor beneficial to that person. If it is none of your business, then your friend is not very important to you. You don’t really care about them. (Care, didn’t we see that somewhere in the definition of friend?)

To be a friend to someone else brings our entire value system into play. What do we believe? What principles do we hold sacred and thus we will never give up on? We want them to always be inviolate, unblemished, spotless, and incorruptible. How strongly do we feel about these principles? What do we value? What do they mean to us? Do we simply want to be pleased by others, or do we want to be a true friend to someone else? More questions, but these are critical to knowing ourselves and thus our fellow man and ultimately our God. To be a true friend implies sharing our value system. “I will not now call you servants: for the servant does not know what his lord does. But I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.” -1 Jesus shares with us, ALL that He holds dear. He lets us see and receive His value system. He loves us and the most important thing is the sharing of the truth. So should it be with us. If our value system means something to us, then we should want to share this with our “friends”.

Christianity is not something that we tuck into our pocket, and pull it out when we are alone, or kneeling in church. It is to be lived 24-7. We are not preaching to others. We are simply sharing our likes, our values with all who we meet. “But”, you say, “They may stop liking me”. Then, two more questions need to be asked. “If your value system, if what you hold most sacred, presents an obstacle to your friend and they end the friendship, ‘What were their expectations from this friendship?” And, secondly, “If the end of this friendship is too much for you to bear, then “How strong are your beliefs in this value system called Christianity?”

It is our fondest wish that these questions asked today, will prompt many, many more questions in the days throughout your lifetime. Christianity is not an instinctive instruction. It is not a “one and done” deal with God. Rather, it is a continual growth, a relationship that flourishes between us and our God. And that relationship, as it grows, as it becomes more and more a part of us, will of necessity spill over and touch our friends, for whom we care and have regard. Our friendships with others will be based not on what we receive but on what we can offer.

1-John 15:15

3 things

“Every now and then we see the world, as it is, and our heart, our very soul seems to sink. We see the ugliness, the selfishness, the way mankind treats one another and we feel so helpless. “Why do people treat each other so?’ we ask ourselves. It is so frustrating to be so helpless, really not knowing what, if anything, we can do. It is at these times that we must look into the eyes of Jesus for the answer.

While gazing at Him we must put ourselves into the very shoes of the people that discourage us. The immoral ones, the pleasure seekers, those questing for wealth and material things, the people that don’t like anyone, the people that think very little of the value of life, all of these we must try on their shoes. “Why should I do that? They are not me!” you declare in outrage. OK, let’s try a different tact. While gazing into His eyes, think of your own life. Think of that thing buried in the past that you really don’t want to think about. Think of those feelings, those hurts, those attitudes, those sins, those crimes even, that are buried in your past and you are glad that no one can see. The thought of “…it is good that nobody knows this about me, they wouldn’t like me, very much” is a good starting place. Oh, by the way, denial is not an option, because we ALL have these dark spots in our lives.

Are you still gazing into the face of Jesus? Don’t turn away in shame. Don’t avert your eyes. He is looking at you. Deep into your soul and … and … HE LOVES YOU. He loves us, in spite of all the ugliness that we have tucked away, hidden from people’s view. We cannot hide it from His view, nor do we need to. He really does love us. He loved Judas right up to the end, (and probably still does). He loved the soldier pounding the spikes into his hands and feet. He didn’t hate him, or wish him harm. He even loves the people in today’s world that are running amok, searching for something. He loves you and me, in our search for something. His love is unconditional. His gaze is not on the action that is driving the person. He is not focused on the lifestyles, or the immoralities, or the ugliness that we have. He sees a struggling, hurting, searching person that is desperate for relief, and doesn’t know where to turn, or where to look. His focus is on the person, on us.

Jesus is so very much a part of this world. We cannot bury Him in a history book. We cannot think of Him as living in a certain age or time. His message is so very much a part of the 21st century. His message is ageless. His hands are on our shoulders, as He looks into our eyes and softly encourages us, “Be Me”. Be me, when you see these people. They don’t need our condemnation; they need our love, our understanding. We cannot get bogged down in the filth, in the gluttony, in the search for pleasure, in the search for whatever is in vogue, today. Whether it is hammering a spike, or shooting a drug, we cannot, we must not focus on the evil being done. The person trapped inside that mind, that body, they are who we must see. He/she needs help our help. Maybe, it is our support they need. Maybe, they need our prayers. Maybe, they need us.

This is why it is so important to treat each person that we meet as a friend. Overlooking their actions, or rather into their actions, we just might meet someone who is looking for us. This cannot be pushed aside. These thoughts are Christianity, itself. We must see hope, when there seems to be none. We must see love in a loveless world. We must bring love to a loveless world. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that it is up to us, or, on our shoulders. That is an impossible task. We must bring that same Jesus whose eyes we looked into when we expressed our own woeful lacks. The love that He has given us is not for us to keep for ourselves. Filled with that same love, we must look into the eyes of others.

Jesus 1to 5

No matter what your “ISM” is, it still needs Jesus. Let me explain. Agnosticism (Don’t know about God’s existence), Atheism (There is no God), Islamism, Buddhism, Shintoism, (all of these believe in a god or gods as their basis of religion but go no farther), Judaism (belief in one God but still waiting for the Messiah), Protestantism and Catholicism, (belief in one God and the Messiah came in the person of Jesus), all of these need Someone to represent their god.(See NOTE below)

Without a Jesus, God would be an impersonal deity, perched somewhere, probably above, looking down at his creation and who knows what. And that is exactly, my point. Who knows what? He would be impersonal. How can I say that? To be personal with his creation, he would have to reveal himself to it. Would nature alone be sufficient for man to develop a relationship with his god? I can’t see how a tree, or clouds, or mountains (though beautiful) would help man feel a closeness with his god, feel a bonding with his creator. Without Jesus, god would be mysterious, unknown, and probably looked upon as one to be feared.

So Jesus is not a myth to be viewed at Christmas time. He is not a child’s fairy tale. He is not someone who was dreamed up to impress people. No. He really walked this earth. In fact, He made such an impression on His times that people tried as best they could to put together a chronicle of the events that surrounded Him. He did live. Even natural historians of the time, wrote about him in their writings of the day. And, His followers also documented the events, not for historical purposes, but so that others might be able to glean a glimpse of Him, to impart a feeling of the importance of this person.

With statements, like ‘…the Father and I are one”, and “…he who sees me, sees the Father”, we get to realize that this MAN was not like any other. That same God, who we hold as the author of life, the creator of the universe, He came to live among His people. He came to show them how to live, how to treat one another, and how important each person is on this earth. Through His goodness, His love, His willingness to die for His creation, we get to know our God as a God of love. Yes there is a moral law. Yes we will be held accountable. But we also know that this God really cares for us. How do we know it? Because of Jesus! His way of life, His concern for ALL people, His stressing, again and again, the importance of living lives that are selfless, all of these showed us a God who is personal.

Ok, of all the “isms” then, Catholicism and Protestantism are the big winners! Right??? WRONG!!!! If their Jesus is merely a figurehead, then these religions aren’t any better than the other isms. If we put Him on a pedestal to be adored, worshipped, and prayed to… BUT NOT imitated, nor emulated, then He might as well be a myth. If we put Jesus on a cross accomplishing salvation for a mankind that grossly ignores and does not care about His message, then I hope He was a myth. I can’t imagine how a God/Man would feel knowing He sacrificed His all, He suffered almost intolerable pain, He was mocked at, ridiculed and scorned by His executioners, and the people who He loves, who He dies for, didn’t care. His life and death really didn’t matter to them, at all.

It is time for all of us to seriously look at our own lives. Don’t view your lives through those tinted glassed you have been wearing. WHAT IS CATHOLICISM? It is not just following a bunch of rules and regulations. I must go to Mass on the weekend. I should not eat meat on Good Friday. I must observe Holy Days of obligation. It is not “do this” and “don’t do that”. It is your loving of Jesus so much, that you want to be Him. You want to live as He lives. You want to view other people, not as you want them to be, but as they are, right now, struggling, dirty, foul mouthed, uncaring and still be willing to help them, care for them, still be willing to die for them. But to love Jesus that much, you must know Him, talk with Him, and view yourself as He sees you, as you are, not as you want to be. It is time to put away those rose colored glasses and see the world as it is. It is time to recognize that Jesus was not saying “Hey, look at me”. He was saying to all of us, “Hey, BE ME.”

NOTE: This is not a dissertation about any religion (including Catholicism). It is intended only to point out that it is time for ALL peoples of this earth to start seeing each other as brothers and sisters, and not as someone to be taken advantage of, nor persecuted. We ALL look up at God, the same God. We ALL are children of that same God.

rosary

We look at today’s world and it seems like it has run amok. Crimes and violence outnumber anything else that we hear about in the news. The number of terroristic attacks seems to be increasing, both in their frequency and their violence. Nations think nothing of the lives of people, even of their own people. Material things have become the “golden idols” of today. And, should we speak out against these things that go counter to the moral law, we are made to look like we are the ones out-of-step. The very foundations of our beliefs are attacked and belittled. Abortion and birth control are promoted as the norm. Gay and Lesbian marriages are protected under the rights of the people. To speak of God is to encourage the mocking of others. The philosophy of “The ME generation” has taken over and now dictates to others. If, it is what I want, then it is ok, licit and moral. This is the thinking of the Me Generation.

Make no mistake about it, do not belittle these occurrences, our faith and morals are under attack. Do not fall into the trap of “everyone else seems to accept it, so it must be alright”. That is the thought process of the weak, the vacillating, the unconvinced and the uncaring. The principles that are, and were, engendered in us as we grew up, are dying by the wayside. If we do nothing to bolster them, if we let them wither and die, because of our own uncertainty and lack of conviction, then we are the lukewarm that Christ despises. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth”.-1 Even more sinister is the feeling of embarrassment in us, when we do talk about such things.

This is not intended to be a ‘fire and brimstone’ talk. Actually, it is just the opposite. The Apostles, fishermen for the most part, heard wondrous things from Jesus. How much did they really understand? They were attracted to this Man’s goodness and kindness. What He said, at times, must have been over their heads. But that didn’t matter, His presence and conviction reassured them, constantly. But then, He is taken away. He dies on the cross, and this man of gentleness and kindness seems irrevocably gone. His words are probably the farthest thing from their minds. All they knew was that the Master was gone. They were alone. The uncomfortable feeling of being orphaned, of no one around who could reassure them, this was too much to bear. Then come, the Resurrection and the Ascension, and Pentecost. All of a sudden, His words take shape again. They take on a meaning that they could now understand. They realize that His words were telling them, that they have to be like Him, to be Him. Live as He would. Have trust in Him. Death of body is meaningless, is unimportant to them. It is the death of soul that must be avoided. For if the soul dies there can be no resurrection, there can be no uniting with the Father in heaven. Christ’s words and actions take on a whole new meaning, and as a result so do their lives.

Today, our belief in Jesus, our trust in Him, like the Apostles, will affect HOW we live our lives. What are we willing to do with our lives? How are we going to live them? Do we feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus with other people? (I am not talking about incessantly doing this 24-7.) Simply, can we speak to others about our relationship with Jesus and His affect on our lives? Do we avoid conversations about abortion, or gay rights, or materialism, or prayer life? We are either with Him, or against Him. There is no middle ground. The middle ground is for the lukewarm, the vacillating, and we know how Jesus feels about these. If we cannot stand up for what we believe, then either our beliefs are meaningless, or we lack the courage required to be a Christian.

Many of Mary’s apparitions, like Fatima, urged the faithful to pray the Rosary. It is a means of growing closer to God. But the Rosary is not just the repetitive mumbling of words. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Marialis Cultis : “Without this (namely: the meditation on the mysteries) the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas.” Mary has urged us again and again to pray the Rosary, daily. The world of today clamors for devout prayer, a turning away from self, and movement towards selflessness. Do we think that the world will “magically” stop striving for its own wants, its own desires, its own pleasures? A reform is necessary. This reform, however, is too much for any one of us to bring about. It is way beyond mankind’s abilities. Our lives need to be filled with prayer and sacrifice. (Very much against the Me Generation philosophy, the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me philosophy’.)

Even the words, themselves, “sacrifice” and “prayer” cause an immediate knee jerk reaction. We seem to immediately cringe at the thought of voluntarily depriving ourselves of comfort, of time, of our freedom. (Shades of the Me Generation?) But Jesus is asking just that, to give Him our time, our comforts, our lives. Dedication to Him, and submission to His Will, must become part of our lives. Offer up to Him your prayers and sacrifices, in behalf of a struggling, suffering world desperately in need of God.

1- Revelations, 3, 16

multi Jesus

Towards the end of April (the 25th), in the article “Friendship”, I asked you whether or not you had a picture of Jesus on you? We have pictures of our friends, our children, our parents, but we don’t seem to think of Jesus, quite like these. You may argue, “But, I don’t know what He looks like”, or “They didn’t have cameras back then”. And you would be correct in both statements.

But the pictures in your wallet, how old are they? Do they really depict the people as they are today? Don’t they really represent the person, as you remember him/her? They might even point back to a time when they were much smaller, much younger. They might even point back to a time, when you, yourself, didn’t exist. In this last case, they are simply photos of a person whose life you heard about, but never met.

Close your eyes and try to picture what Jesus might have looked like. In your mind’s eye see Him walking with the Apostles, see Him laughing at something Thomas just said. How did His face appear when saddened by something a Pharisee said? When He was praying to His heavenly Father, wasn’t there a glimmer of an inner glow on His face? Let your mind rise above the mundane. Put yourself in His presence. Feel the joy and love that swells over you. When you feel that it is time to go, do you really want to?

Look through the myriad of pictures that portray Jesus. On the internet, you can find almost anything, there. Find one that really helps you feel His presence, for some reason, that draws you to it. You cannot explain why the affinity, but, you feel the bond. You know that this picture means something special to you. What? You don’t really know, but it does. Ok, that is the picture.

Without breaking any laws, duplicate it maybe five or six times. You might even enlarge one or two of them. Place these pictures on your desk, in your bedroom, in your car, on a wall in your house. Choose different rooms, different vantage points. These will serve as little reminders. They will help you, when you least expect it, to think of and possibly utter a prayer, at that time. You go from your house to your car, no problem, Jesus is there, too.

The best one is in your bedroom. You turn off the light and start searching for your favorite position to fall asleep. Look over to where Jesus’ picture is. You cannot see it, because the room is too dark. No problem. You KNOW He is there. You asked Him to wait for you there. Ahh, that’s it! My favorite position, knees tucked up, on my side. Once again, before closing your eyes for the night look over to where you know the picture is. Where Jesus is. “Good night, Jesus. Thanks for everything. I hope I won’t be as cranky tomorrow. I do love you.”

rcia 3

It is the beginning of May, and what began approximately 9 months ago is coming to an end. The time of “expectancy” is over. During this time we struggled and strained to grasp some of the basic truths of Catholicism. And then, on Holy Saturday with all the “book learning” over, we began to emerge as the Catholic Christians we so want to be.

But, though reborn, we now must look at ourselves and see how this new garment fits us. What adjustments need to be made? This period has been termed “Mystagogia”, which is a deepening of our understandings in the mysteries of our faith. But, to get this deeper understanding we must see ourselves, AS WE ARE. You don’t go to a store, see a jacket, like the color and then buy it. No, you put it on. You see how it fits in all of “those” places. You check the color against your complexion, with the color of your hair and eyes. You envision yourself “wearing it” so to speak. You know all of the “spots” that are important to check before you buy. The same is true of this new faith, this Catholic Christianity, which you have embraced. We have to know what our spots are.

1). Each of us has special talents, special gifts. These are the things that make us the people that we are. These gifts might be an easy smile, a genuine concern for others, an appreciation of other people’s talents, a desire to help. Whatever your special gift is, Jesus has sought you out because it endears you to Him. He can see how your gift will fulfill a need in the lives of people you know and love.

2). This brings us automatically, to the second topic: our family life. No one has a family quite like ours. There are rough spots, maybe even some major hilly areas. There are the pressures that exist between children, the feelings of favoritism, or, the opposite, of dislike. No matter where your family stands on the bar chart, on the highs or the lows, your family is unique. And you, now, bring an extra quality into the mix. How will you use it?

3). Prayer starts with a relationship with God. Every person that we meet, every person in our family, every worker that we see regularly, with each person we have a singular relationship. We talk with them, text, and chat; we mingle with them, express our views and listen to theirs. Some we like, some we tolerate, and sadly, maybe some we avoid. What is the relationship that we have with any one of them? We need to know, because it is relationship that determines how we talk and what we talk about. With God it is no different. What is our relationship with Him? If we don’t talk, chat, and express our innermost desires and wants and hurts, on a regular basis, then we don’t have a relationship with Him, either.

4). Discernment is defined as the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently. We have to have that same ability with respect to ourselves. Do we understand our self? What drives us? Do we see our motives clearly? We must understand our self if we hope to know what our spots are.

5). Finally, holiness. This does not mean walking around as if you are not of this world. We don’t have to be speaking about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, 24-7. Holiness is really being so in tune with God that our life seems to flow naturally, honestly and with a singular desire to give of yourself. You may not once, in a given day, mention the name of Jesus, but how you live, how you treat others, will shout volumes.

In picking up the jacket, mentioned earlier, we must measure ourselves as to the fit. Each of the weeks that have passed, we spoke about some very heady topics: the seven Sacraments, The Mass, the Church, the People of God, The Mystical Body of Christ, The importance of Grace and Love, The Old and New Testament, and more. We have touched and explained all that is found in the Creed, the Catholic belief. This is not the time to say, “Ok, now where was I?” and go about our day, as though the last 9 months did not exist. If those 9 months are to mean anything to you, now is the time you must apply yourself. Now is the time you must measure all that makes you…YOU. Slide the jacket on. If Catholic is not just something you fill out on a questionnaire as to your Religion, now is when you must dig deeper into these mysteries.

Why is knowing who you are, what talents you have, what your family life is, what it is that makes your prayer life tick, why are these necessary? Because all of those five areas define us, AS WE ARE. The Catholic religion is not one size fits all. Christ’s love is not one size fits all. All the areas that define us, that make us unique, THAT is what we bring to Christ. He wants us to apply ourselves, AS WE ARE, and to grow with Him. Each of us is unique, and it must stay that way. The Church is not a group of robots, but rather living, breathing individuals in love with their God. We bring our talents, our family, etc. and our belief in Jesus and all of this is transformed into the love of Christ, which we bring to the world.

We ARE…

We Are The World

In 1985, a song entitled, “We Are the World”, recorded to right some wrongs in the world, made the top charts in 20 different nations. And yet, many things are still wrong in the world today. Our favorite sweet, Tasty cakes, are smaller but cost more. We still drive around with gas engines polluting the atmosphere. Gas costs a good bit more than three dollars. Our weather patterns are running amok. Our political parties don’t seem to represent us anymore. Our priests have gotten off of the pedestal, which we put them on in the first place, and are proving to be very much human. Everything in the world is topsy-turvy, is upside- down. In short, our world is run by very fallible humans.

We are not perfect. We are human beings. When we go up to communion to receive Christ we don’t do it because we are perfect, not even because we are trying to be perfect. We go up to receive Jesus because we need him to correct our imperfections. He said “…do this in remembrance of me”. And again, “He who eats this Bread shall live forever.” In short, Jesus is saying, whoever believes and eats this Bread, will receive Him and be united with Perfection. We receive Jesus, and our humanity, our sinful humanity, is once again united with God.

We, the tasty cake eaters, the gas guzzling enthusiasts, the political party people, the sinful humanity, we are united with God. All of those things that are wrong with the world stem from our fallen nature. WE are not perfect. Every person who does not measure up to OUR expectations is a human being, and by definition is ALSO not perfect.

WE are the church. We ARE the church. WE ARE THE CHURCH, the people of God. We need Jesus so that we can become associated with perfection. It is that simple. One of the most problematic peoples for Jesus was the Pharisees. He called them “whited sepulchers”. They did things on the outside to make themselves look holy, but inwardly they were a contradiction to what they manifested. We must take care that we don’t fall into that trap, also. It is very easy for us to say, “I am a sinner, Lord”. “I am so unworthy”. We may even tell others how unworthy, we are. But, inwardly, we rebuke others for not being better, for not being as we are. It is so easy to fall into that trap. So how do we guard against it?

Have you noticed that all of the above paragraphs begin with the word “We” except the first? In that paragraph we are busy pointing out what is wrong with the world. Hmmm… maybe we are answering our own observation. We don’t like how things are. We don’t like how people act, look, dress. We think they are too dirty, too noisy, too much in our face. We believe politicians are all dishonest and should be better than that. We think priests should be holier. We think people are too concerned about money, profits, and their own interests. We are always pointing our finger in an outwardly direction. So how do we guard against being like the Pharisees?

It is time for us to point our finger inwardly, at ourselves. It is time for a little self-introspection. Hey, we are NOT perfect, so we can stop judging and criticizing others. We can stop pretending that we are perfect. Each person (you and I) in this world has ONE major responsibility. And that one responsibility is to take care of our own growth, our own concern for others, and our own respect for others. What is our prayer life like? Do we truly understand what Mass is all about? Do we realize that we put our life on that paten, together with the bread, to be offered up to God? Are we joyous when we go to Mass on Sunday? Do we really believe in the Divine Presence in the Eucharist? Do we say our prayers regularly? Do we ask the saints to intercede in behalf of others, and not just ourselves? Do we pray to Mary? There are so many areas of neglect within us, that we need mirrors surrounding us, just to remind us of what things have to be done.

We end this article with a plea to all of us, to look at the Christ and realize His love for us is unconditional. His love for us is infinite. He is not enamored by our false humility. He is not taken in with our cries of “I am so weak, Lord”. All He is asking of us is to trust Him. He wants us to know that His unconditional, infinite love is given to us freely. We don’t earn it. We cannot earn it. Because He accepts us, as we are, then, and only then, can we see and accept ourselves, AS WE ARE, not as we want to be. At that moment, we can truly recognize and accept the problems of others, as well. We can truly be concerned for and love others. The Church of God holds each other’s hands, as Jesus holds us. We are the World.

FRIENDSHIP

friend in Jesus

A very common word, “friendship”, it is one that we use every day, either in our speech, or in our actions. We expect it. We want it. We seek it out. Do we really know what it is that we are in search of? What are the rules of friendship? What are its boundaries? What makes a really good friendship? And, what makes one that is just “so-so”?

A lot of questions were just asked. And, the questions, themselves, still beg the one, outstanding question: What is Friendship? The Webster Dictionary defines a friend as “one who is attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard”. That pretty much covers it, I think. Because, to have affection or personal regard for someone, you must spend time with that person, know and understand that person, and appreciate their difficulties. In short, you have taken the time to know each other, and have spoken to them about matters that concern both of you. You are on the same wave length. You may not always agree, but respect each other enough to be open to discuss those things that are of consequence to each of you.

Now comes the hard part. Here’s a question for you: “Are you friendly with Johnny ZZZZZZZZ?” A big Question Mark is above your head, right now. “Who is Johnny ZZZZZZZZ?” You are thinking. You cannot be friends with someone you don’t know! We ALL agree on that. To be friends, there must be a relationship of some kind between the two individuals. Where is all this going? We just laid the groundwork for the rest of this thought.

To be friends there must be a relationship, a relationship of trust, regard, affection and a feeling of comfort when together. What is my relationship with Jesus? That is the question each of us must ask ourselves. We cannot fall in love with a person we have simply read about, not real love, anyway. We must form a relationship with Him, just as we do with the people we hang out with. We talk; we meet; we laugh and cry; we trust. The Jesus that we read about in the Bible, the Man/God that healed the sick, raised the dead, preached love to one another, the One who hung on a cross for us, Who rose from the dead…He is the same person with whom we must form a personal, loving relationship. We shy away from the Eucharist, almost as though we believe… but, at times, are not quite sure. He really is present on our altars, in our Eucharist. We should be almost giddy with joy when we walk up the aisle to receive Him. That very same person, who we have read about in the Bible, who forgave us from the cross, who told us that He is the “…way, the truth and the life”, will be with us sacramentally in a few short moments. As you would a friend you meet, ask how He is, tell Him how you really are (you can trust Him), tell Him what you feel that day, tell Him of your love, and then, listen to Him. Listen to the thoughts that well up in your mind. Appreciate the feelings that you have in your heart, at that moment. The joy that God is with you, right then should be overwhelming.

It is not too late to begin forming a relationship with Jesus, the Son of Mary and Joseph. You have pictures of people that you love in your wallet or purse, don’t you? Do you have a picture of Jesus on you right now? Is there a picture of Him, nearby? What works for me, is to make copies of a picture that I like most, which I feel comes closest to how I picture Him. In my work place, in my car, in my bedroom, I have placed these pictures. I always have a picture of my closest, dearest friend around me. What a joy to have Him present throughout the day. What a wonder it is to receive Him at Mass. What a friend He is. Grow in your love for Him. Talk with Him throughout the day. Your relationship will grow. Your friendship will become greater than any friendship you currently have. And you will love Him.

fr forgive them

The title has a catchy ring to it. But, what does it actually mean? To understand that phrase, we have to take a look at forgiveness. What is it? How does it happen? Why does it happen? Each of these questions we will investigate. Maybe by the end of this brief discussion, we might have a better understanding not only of forgiveness, but its relationship to mercy and love.

Simplistically, forgiveness can be defined as letting go of the wrongs done to us by others. Questions arising from that one, simple statement:
1) What does letting go actually mean?
2) How severe are those wrongs?
3) Do we just forget that they ever happened?

I believe the list could go way beyond these three questions. But they will be sufficient for our purposes.


#1) Letting go. To experience a wrong, and be hurt by it, is one thing, but to let go of it, altogether, is to live as if it never happened. No condemnation is aimed at the other. No ill feelings towards the other. No remembrance of the hurt that we felt. If we could let go like that, we would be well on our way to forgiveness. Can we do that? Do we do that? Is it even possible to do that? We will come back to these thoughts momentarily.


#2) Severity. Minor things that bother us might easily be forgotten. But at what point does the severity of the action, itself, prove to be a major obstacle? Can we really overlook the hurting of our child? The killing of a loved one? Surely there is a limit to what is forgiven. We will come back to these thoughts again.


#3) Forget they happened. How many times do we have a disagreement with someone, and then “mend the fences” so to speak? Ostensibly, we treat them as if nothing had happened. But, down deep, the hurt, the anger, the feeling of betrayal is still there. And, it keeps reminding us of the incident, of the other person’s shallowness, betrayal. Every time we see the person…we remember. We will come back to all of these very shortly.

Is it possible to let go of a wrong against us? How could we overlook severe hurts and losses? Can we really wipe away something totally from our memory, so that we never think of them again? The answer to all of these is an unqualified “YES”. The answer to all of these is found in “JESUS”. He has forgiven all of us, of everything we have done, regardless of the ugliness. He has forgiven us, so completely, that He does not remember them. See “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque…”

“But this is Jesus”, you say? “Surely, we can’t be expected to act that way”. Does He not tell us to be Him? From the cross, this dying Man urges His Father to forgive us. He excuses us, saying, “…they don’t know what they are doing.” Does He not urge us to follow Him? “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. These are not pretty nosegays. They are not strewn around to pretty up the place. Jesus’ hand is extended to each of us. He waits for us to take hold and walk with Him. Think about it! If we have been forgiven so freely, so totally, of all of our harshness and doubts, our murky thoughts, our desires, our pride, our ill will towards others, can we not at least try to do likewise?

Once we totally forgive someone, once we recognize that they, like ourselves, are struggling, and, like ourselves, also don’t know what they are doing either, we can sympathize and understand them. But, if we set ourselves up as someone who is owed something, who is totally lovable, who is never wrong, then we prevent ourselves from . . . forgiving. Moreover, with that outlook we feel that others “think” they are owed something; “think” they are totally lovable; and “think” that they are never wrong. Under this false impression we withhold our forgiveness to other people. We must truly understand our need for forgiveness, before we can forgive others. And, everyone we meet is in need of . . . forgiveness. Thankfully, Jesus has already forgiven us.

Now we are free to look at people passing by, not as obstacles, not as persons vying for something that we want, but as people sharing life together, sharing hardships together, tripping, falling and getting up all over again. As Jesus extends His hand to us, we realize that we too need to extend our hand to our fellow man. Help them get up. Help them over their difficulties. Let them lean on us for a while. Forgiveness holds the key to Mercy and Love.

Jesuspic4x6

I was listening to a talk and the phrase was used, “Give your troubles to Jesus”. It got me to thinking about what troubles I did have and what were my concerns about them. All of us have problems. They might be physical, emotional, financial, social, familial, or any other “al” form. The question is, “what are we doing about them besides worrying”? Let’s say you are having family troubles. They can be of any variety. We try to correct them. We try to adapt. We try to ignore. We try anything that we can, to resolve the issue and lessen our own emotional involvement. But it does seem that things like family problems are immune to immediate resolution. There is nothing that we can do to bring about an immediate calm. They need to work themselves out. Our concern is, however, that the eventual resolution will not be to our liking, will not be the solution that we desire. That is really what we are worrying about.

What does that opening line mean to you? Actually, what does it mean? We know that a problem exists but all it causes is for us to be in pain, for us to worry. What does the anguish, the loss of sleep, the internal eating at our soul, what do they accomplish? They accomplish nothing but our own debilitation. “Give your troubles to Jesus”. Sounds catchy but in reality will it resolve the problem? I believe that what the phase is actually telling us is that our trust, our faith in Jesus isn’t where it should be. If we look to Jesus, and really see the love that He has for us, what could possibly exist that is more significant than Him? If we make them the crushing force that they seem to be, then our relationship with Him is lacking, somewhere.

Think of the Apostles as they gather around this Man who they don’t really know, don’t really understand. Peter walks on the water, but then realizes what he is doing and he begins to sink. Why? For a brief moment, he trusted in Jesus. But almost immediately, he realized what was happening and he trusted in himself, not Jesus, and began to sink. Thomas would not believe the other apostles, until he had proof. Even John, flees from the scuffle in Gethsemane, because he does not understand, at that time, who Jesus really is.

So, we trust in ourselves, and as a result, we worry, and fret over things that seem insurmountable. And they very well may be, if we trust only in our own devices, our own strengths, our own feelings. Look to Jesus. This is not some sweet nothing being uttered. This is not some daydream that sounds nice. Jesus tells us time and again, “He who believes in me…”, and again, “I am the way…” He really does love us. He is with us, right now, embracing us. But we are too fixed in our ways to recognize that He IS the answer to everything.

He looks at YOU, and smiles with love. He understands your dilemma, your problem and how insurmountable you think it is. Religion is not a bunch of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”, as in the Torah in the Old Testament.  It is a belief in Jesus. It is the realization that His heavenly Father loves us so much, that He sends Jesus to us. Again, not a pretty little story, but a reality that was, is, and will continue to be until the end of time. He sends Him, why? To show us how to live. To show us that our lives need fixing. To remind us that He is not only the Way, but the ONLY WAY. If we love and trust Him implicitly, what problem exists that could possibly overshadow Him? The “DO’s” and “Don’ts” have their place. But more importantly, we need to understand, love and trust Jesus and what He is to us. With that true understanding our lives will change, and willingly we will follow the “Do’s”. We will see His importance in our lives, and to the world that we live in. With our trust placed in Him and His love for us, we will know and accept that whatever happens in our lives is already in God’s plan.

Which of These Reminds you of Other Popes?

Which of These Reminds you of Other Popes?

Pope Francis is making quite a stir. We hear the public TV stations, the newsrooms, EWTN, and others all speculating what he will do in his papacy. What will he be like, what changes, will he make… etc. etc. The other day, I heard a woman actually being excited and looking forward towards his pronouncements on gay marriage and pro-choice.

A pope is a pope is a pope. Regardless of what his temperament is, regardless if he looks much warmer, friendlier than his predecessors, he is first and foremost a pope. As pope, he is the leader of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome, and oh, by the way, still bound by Moral and Natural Law. He does not make changes just because there are a disgruntled number of people who want something changed. “We want married priests”. “We want a bigger role in the Church for women”. “We don’t want a stigma on gay marriages”. “We want the right to choose”. These and other banners can be seen being waved, being uttered.

People, please, see Pope Francis as he is, not as you want him to be. I believe he IS going to make changes in the church. He will inspire those changes needed for reform. Reforms will come about because of his own actions, his own way of life, his humility, his love for the poor. He will lead by example. Pots can be banged outside the Sistine Chapel’s windows until the cows come home, they will not, nor should not, influence this man of God.

I see him as a leader who has been chosen by God, a loving and immutable God. Just because groups of people, of even nations of people are clamoring for this or that change does not mean that the natural law will be bent because of their protests. If something is better and should be changed, why would this good, loving, unchanging God not have brought it about at the outset? Where Natural Law is involved, God will not change it. God does not change. PEOPLE change.

You might say that the new ideas of today have progressed, and have advanced from the opinions of the past. They are more reasonable than the laws of the past. You have every right to think those thoughts. But you also have the right and responsibility, to know what these new ideas are based upon. Are they based upon normalcy, or abnormality? Are they based upon the need of the Church, which is the people of God, or are they based on public demand? Things don’t change just because people want them to change. The Church is not a democracy. It moves after much thought has been given to a proposal. Not the number of people who support a proposal or, even the pressure that is brought about for the proposal, neither of these will induce a change in favor of that proposal. The Church can change its laws, not the laws of nature.

You might say that the public demand is the public demand of the Church, the people of God. At that I would say you are forming another schism. The Church doesn’t agree with this view, your view, therefore you try to pressure or threaten the Church. And so, another age of splitting off from the Church would loom.I would then sorely question your affinity for the Church in the first place.

See Pope Francis, not through your eyes of someone who wants change, but see him as the person he is, a man of God, who manifests a love for the Church, warmth for the poor, and a desire to rebuild the unity of the Church. This cannot be done by jumping on whatever bandwagon is making the most noise. God’s plan for His church will come about, with or without the banging of a drum.

Watch over these next few years, how his own actions of poverty, of love, of goodness, of tenderness to the poor, his humility, see how all of these will bring pressure on all of us, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Nuns AND Laity. He is living a life that Christ wants all of us to live. We may not see the effects of his life’s stance for some time, maybe, not even in our life time. But mark these words, “This man of God is the beginning of a new era”.

Rather than demand this or that be modified, rather than expecting our wishes to be fulfilled, we should look with expectation and admiration on his life. We should emulate his example. We are being given a modern day lesson of what Jesus wants from each of us. We are being shown how our lives need to change, must change. Let this new pope truly be our vicar, our leader. Let him show us what it really means to be a Catholic. Let us be willing and courageous enough to live our lives following his example. Let us deal with everyone, as we would, as if Christ is standing in front of us. Because, He is.

holy week

We are fast approaching a very sacred time in the Catholic religion. This Sunday we will be celebrating Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. It is very easy to picture ourselves as part of the crowd welcoming Him into the town. That is the easy part.

That day, however, is the beginning of Easter week. The rest of this week we see different peoples in Jesus’ company. We see the Apostles gathered with Him at the Last Supper. Would we be there? They were together celebrating the Passover, or though they thought. Jesus introduces them to a new sacrifice. “This is My body”, “This is My blood”. What is this man saying? Would we accept those statements?

A short time later we see armed men sneaking up on Jesus and seizing Him, placing Him under arrest, and taking Him back to their superiors. Would we be part of that group? Or, would we be with His followers, who fled? He is beaten, whipped, and made fun of. Would we be the ones taunting Him? Pilate washes his hands as a gesture of saying that he is not responsible for what is taking place. Would we also be washing our hands? Refusing to help Him, but just pointing out that we do not agree, and remain silent?

He is beaten and whipped as He carries His cross. The people, who had been waving palm branches and praising Him, they are now jeering Him, spitting at Him…mocking Him. Would you be part of that? You were with this group earlier waving those same palm branches. As He reaches Calvary, and is stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, look around are you part of this group?

In all of these scenarios, we pick and choose who we would be, what we would be doing, where we would stand. But this choosing is not a conscious decision on our part now. It is, and has been, a life choice that we have been making all along through our lives. Have we been actively participating at Mass? Do we know and believe that Jesus is with us each time we attend mass? Do we go to Mass? Do we whip and beat Jesus? Of course, we do. Every time we choose to do something that is not right, something that refuses to help someone, something that seeks out our own pleasure regardless of the consequences, we choose something, someone other than Jesus, we shun Him; we mock Him. We oftentimes, think of ourselves in a righteous manner, maybe even now we are doing that. I wouldn’t do that. I don’t do that.

As was said earlier, this is a life choice. You are still alive. If you see areas where you don’t measure up, you still can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, to help you. Assess your actions, your motives. Where do you stand?

pope francis
Listed below is the First Homily given by Pope Francis.Translation by: Vatican Radio

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

Listening to God

seagull

This is the 2nd day since we heard the words, “Habemus Papam”, We have a Pope. Already we are seeing in him something different, something unexpected, something beautiful. He has taken the name of Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was noted for his humility, his holiness and (maybe strangely to our “sophisticated” minds) talking to animals, and birds. Pope Francis has shown already, through his demeanor, that he will manifest these qualities as well.

What does this have to do with today’s post entitled: ‘Listening to God’, you may very well ask? When we think of prayer, we usually see ourselves asking for this to go away, or that to happen, or whatever… And so our image of prayer becomes one of action, of asking, of promising. But there is another side of prayer. There is the side of listening. We define prayer as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. But God doesn’t speak to us with words for our ears and minds. We must listen to God, in what He says in our heart, in the depths of our soul, through the persons we meet, through what we observe. All could be His silent whispers to us. We need to listen, to observe, to be attentive. It is easy to ask, but it is much more difficult to hear the response.

Our faith has much to do with prayer. Do we really believe God listens to us? Do we really believe He cares? Does God love us so much, that He will respond to us? If we don’t believe that He cares, that He listens, then we really can’t carry on a conversation with Him. A conversation implies both a speaking and a listening by both parties.

Shortly before the Cardinals entered into the Conclave to elect a pope, builders had the task of erecting the fire pit and chimney pipe. It would be through this mechanism that the cardinals would announce that a pope had been elected. After the election, their handiwork is dismantled, until the next pope needs to be voted in. So this is a very temporary structure.

Shortly before the white smoke billowed out of that pipe, a sea gull sat on that very same pipe for over a half an hour. You could not say that it was its normal resting place, because the chimney pipe had only just been built. And yet, there it was, on top of the building in which the cardinals were electing the new pope. “So what”, you ask?

Over a hundred thousand people in St. Peter’s square, and how many millions of Catholics around the world are praying to God, are asking Him that He give them a good pope, one to reconcile the many troubles of the world, and of the Church. And while this is going on, a sea gull perches on a chimney pipe. It sits for a half an hour or so. Shortly before the white smoke billows out of that same pipe, the bird decides to fly away. God heard the prayers and answered them, with a sea gull. He does not speak to us in words, for our ears. He speaks to us in our minds and hearts. So, we listen with our mind, and our heart, to what happens around us, to what we observe.

The new pope has taken the name of St. Francis. What better way for God to answer our prayers and tell us He heard us than by sending a sea gull on top of that pipe. It is like God is saying to us, “Do not be afraid, I will watch over Francis, just as I did with the one from Assisi”. “Coincidence, coincidence”, I can hear your thoughts. With God there are no coincidences. My heart, my soul, my faith tells me that God heard our prayers and spoke to us.

love hate

When we hear the word exorcism, our mind thinks immediately to what we know about this rite. We can’t help but think of the movies that we have seen. In them was depicted all sorts of oddities, a young girls head turning around and around on her neck, objects flying across a room, vulgarities and condemnations being slung from a person’s mouth. Strange as all of this is, it is a film maker’s attempts at capturing in the film, the ultimate horror of evil, the degrading of sin, in short, the ugliness of being without love. This being without love is the cruelest torment of all. It is the fate of all who live lives that care for no one but themselves, who seek to take advantage of anyone or any moment to satisfy their own needs. Such is a life without love. It has sought no love, it has given no love, and so, in the end it receives no love.

The Church in her wisdom holds up a scrutiny for us to consider. Last week we addressed the Creed, the articles of faith that we believe. If we haven’t read through the Creed and tried to, at least, attempt an understanding of its contents, we are wasting precious time. Your Baptism declares that you do believe these articles of faith, even if you don’t understand how they can be.  It is not something that we can prove with philosophy, or logic, but that which our heart knows to be true, but doesn’t fully comprehend. This is really what faith is.

So, this Sunday, the Church speaks to us of exorcism. Why? Why the jump from Creed to Exorcism. All that we believe everything that is contained in the Creed, brings us to love.  In the Creed we speak of God, a God who loves and creates, of Jesus and what He said and did for us, and the love He has shown us. In it we pray to the Holy Spirit to surround us in love. We speak of the Church which is the gathering of all who love. Why is the Creed so important to us? Because, it leads us to all that is loving and beautiful in this world. Without this Creed, without this belief structure, we would be nothing but plotting, conniving individuals seeking only our own good and not caring for anyone else around us. So the horrors of exorcism, or rather the horrors, that necessitate exorcism, would be rampant without the Creed and a belief structure that the Church teaches and reminds us to follow.

Baptism brings us into the peace and love of God; we become adopted sons of God. We become part of the mystical Body of Christ, a group of loving individuals. The purpose of Christ, of Christianity, is to bring peace and concern for others into this world. Catholicism is not a club. It isn’t something that we have in our back pocket and pull it out when necessary. It is a living of life. It is an attempt to show God our love, by living lives that reflect His goodness, His love.

And so, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, the scrutiny speaks about exorcism. It does this, not for us to focus our attention on it, but to help us realize the horrible lengths that living without the church will take us. We live Catholic Christian lives not out of fear of what may happen, of what condemnation we might endure. No, nothing like that. We live these lives because Christ, who we follow, who we believe in, has shown us how to live. Can we honestly call ourselves Catholic Christians if we don’t live lives that reflect the joy, the happiness, the love that comes with being at peace with ourselves?  This is what we are called to do, this Sunday and every day of our lives. We must recognize that Jesus is beside us, always.  And with Him, through Him, and in Him, we can live a life that presents joy and love to a world that needs it.

Be Me!

Jesuspic4x6

Other than rhyming, what else can be said about the topic? Hopefully, this post will take you through all the ramifications of being a Catholic Christian.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” -1 No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. With these nine words, Jesus is laying out for us how we are to live our lives. He is not saying imitate me. He is saying, quite forcefully, do what I do, and with my motives, with my concerns, with my goodness, with my love.

We don’t perform good actions so we can be seen, or recognized. We don’t perform acts of love for that warm and fuzzy feeling we get afterwards. We do good acts because we see a need and want to address it, to remedy it, to give love back to God. Our lives should be, must be, something we strive to be joyful about, to be wholesome, to be acts of love. This, I know, sounds like so many pious platitudes. But it isn’t.

The central part of our Catholic Christian lives revolves around the sacrifice of the Mass, and to be more specific, the Consecration of the bread and wine. The priest says the words of Jesus over the bread and wine, “This is my Body”, and “This is my Blood”. To really understand the implications of these words for us, we need to step back about 5 or 10 minutes earlier in the Mass, to the Offertory. We hear the priest say the words, “Pray, brethren (all present), that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father”.

What sacrifice did you just offer up? Was it a monetary offering? Maybe, it was some good action that you performed yesterday for someone else? Maybe it is a trial or problem, you are trying to cope with? All of these …our sufferings, our sacrifices, our lives… we offer up. They are our gifts to God. We know that they are not very striking, but they are the best that we have at this moment.  Maybe, tomorrow, we will have more, maybe we can do more, and maybe we can do better. But right now, linked to each other as the Mystical Body of Christ, together with the priest, we actively offer these gifts to God. So, together we say,” May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church”. Our gifts, our lives are on that plate, together with the Bread, all being offered to God.

Then, a little later, we hear the priest imploring that these gifts are made holy, (everything being offered up, everything offered on that gold plate), that they become the Body and Blood of Jesus. And then, finally, joyfully, the moment has come, he repeats the words of Jesus, “Take this all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.” Somehow, some way, our trite, meaningless lives have taken on majesty, that none of us dared dream.

Our sufferings, our sacrifices, our sorrows, our lives are deemed worthy to be presented as gifts to God. And this is so, ONLY because we know that “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” To this all heaven and earth sing out in a loud, joyful, triumphant voice, “AMEN”. We are united with Jesus.

We have come full circle, now. We end where we started this post. Jesus wants us to Be Him, to live our life, as He did, and to love, as He did. Live like there is no tomorrow. See the injustice of the world, see the sick, the guilty, the suffering, the proud, the pleasure seeker, and in all, see a suffering world. Don’t condemn, don’t dislike nor hate, for these are not the qualities that we wish to lay on the gold plate at Mass. See the need that is before you. What can you do to alleviate it? What can this Lent teach us? What can we do differently? What actions would we like to present to God?

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1- John 14: 6

nothing separates

When was the last time you felt good about yourself? Do you remember what it feels like? Stop a moment, close your eyes and think back to when it was. This is something that is very difficult to do and much harder than we think. It seems that we are always able to remember when we were displeased with ourselves. That is something which almost comes naturally to us. But, feel good about ourselves??? That takes some extra effort.

Why do you think that is? Is it because of the way we were brought up? Do we think that we should always do better, and so are never happy with ourselves? Are our expectations of ourselves too high? Do we think that we are capable of doing everything and when we realize we can’t then we are disappointed? Is that what it is? Or maybe, as a child we were berated constantly, so much so, that we have a very poor image of ourselves. We now feel that nothing we do is acceptable.

This article is not about psychology. That is left to others more capable. We are not trying to find out why we are as we are. Whatever stage of development we are now in, is a given. We are as we are. The desire, however, to improve, to raise ourselves up out of these doldrums, that is what we wish to work on. How is this to be accomplished? Isn’t it true that when we look at ourselves and see what we say, what we do, how we treat others then we become ashamed? We don’t like what we see. We cannot accept ourselves.

We have to ask ourselves three very important questions:

(1) Why are we ashamed?
(2) Why don’t we like what we see in ourselves?
(3) Why can’t we accept ourselves?

Each of these three questions has the same answer at its base. The answers may sound different, but in reality are just different ways of looking at the same thing. The answers might  sound like this: I am better than that. I should know better. That is not who I want to be. All of these answers, however, are based on the same thing, namely, PRIDE. We can’t stand to think of ourselves as being flawed. But it doesn’t stop there. If we are flawed, not only can I not accept myself, but we feel that others won’t be able to either. This is how our thinking goes. And so we hide our deficiencies, our flaws. We deny that they exist. We cover them over with something so others won’t notice. And in the process, we begin to loathe ourselves even more, for we see the falseness inside ourselves. We see the extent we are willing to go to hide who we really are.

The answer to this problem is simply, “Jesus”. Before you say, “Oh, brother, here he goes again.” Think about these facts.  He saw you and me before we even existed. He knew how petty we could be, we would be. He felt the pain of our sins. He knew the price that had to be paid. And what does He say to His Father in heaven? “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He makes excuses for us to His heavenly Father. He suffers and dies for you and me. Why? Because He loves us, ACCEPTS us. We won’t find one person in our lifetime, who will know us as completely as He does and still love us. He sees our pettiness, our sinfulness, the evil in our hearts that we are ashamed of. He sees all of this and fiercely loves us, unconditionally loves us. He loves you and me. He even, dare I say it again, accepts us.

If He can accept you and me, in spite of all the evil that we are capable of doing, why can we not accept ourselves? God can accept us, but we can’t. Is our value system better than God’s? Are we better than God? It is time to put away the false pride that is eating us alive. Recognize that we, all of us, are truly a wayward people and instead of prancing around with this false pride, accept that Christ loves us and expects us to treat each other with kindness, love and respect. To do this means we have recognized that we, as well as all the people that we meet, are prone to making mistakes, to committing sins. We are flawed. And, just as Christ accepts us, we must accept ourselves … and others! It’s time to forget the foolishness of false pride and get on with living a real Christian Life.A life that glories in the fact that Jesus really does love us, that God knew what He was doing when He created us. His plan for us rests on our acceptance of ourselves, on our acceptance of His love, on our acceptance that God wants nothing more from us than our trust in Him. Our lives will follow the path He sees possible for us, only when we accept ourselves, as we are, and recognize that our strength, our goodness, our wholesomeness rests in Him.

A Time For Love

a time to love

We are a week into Lent. This is a holy time for all of us. It is during this time that we can take a good look at ourselves. Look and see what we are doing, and what we are capable of doing. This time of forty days, a holy time, is our opportunity to watch with Him and pray with Him.

Try not to look at Lent as what am I giving up? What should I not eat? What should I not do? Or even, it may seem strange, who will I help?  If we choose to give up something, or perform some action for Lent, that is fine, but it doesn’t end there. The money that we keep, the time that we gain, is NOT the end, is NOT the purpose of the “sacrifice”. Rather, what will I do with this extra time? Be ready to give that money saved to someone who you come upon that needs it, who will benefit by it. There is nothing magical in the sacrifice, itself. There is a purpose in it. The purpose is something that you will figure out for yourself. Let me explain.

All of us wish to lead good lives. All wish to be better people; all wish to love Christ more deeply. Lent is a time for us to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. This falling in love with Jesus is not accomplished by doing without, as if we are going to prove to Jesus that we love Him, by what we give, or the pain we are willing to endure. We can say, “Lord, I love you” until we are blue in the face, but what does that really prove. Even a parrot can be taught to say that over and over again.  Use Lent to build your love with Jesus. There was a song, many years ago, “To know him is to love him”. During this Lent, get to know Him better. Read the New Testament. Talk to Him in your personal prayer. Tell Him what you are feeling, what you are experiencing. Talk to Him as you would a close friend. And then listen in your heart for his response. We will get to know Him and in that knowing we will love Him. That love will spill out into actions, actions that will become obvious because of our love for Jesus.  In John 13: 35, we hear, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” It is by loving Him.

Our singular purpose in life is to love our God, to love Jesus. Everything else is a distraction from that one objective. We don’t love Jesus to be noticed by others. We don’t love Him to feel better about ourselves. We don’t even love Him so that our sins are forgiven. We love Him, solely, because He is Goodness, itself, because love begets love. So, our love for Jesus spills out into actions towards others. We cannot plan whom we will help as though it were a military objective. We can see a need, and out of love for Jesus, we can try to do our best in satisfying that need. We don’t look at the person, their worthiness, their cleanliness, their likeability and then decide if we can help them or not. We look at Jesus, the source of all love, and allow His love to guide us in our actions.

generations

The subject title could have read:
“To Everyone”, for we all are a son or a daughter.

You are thinking about your future. You are thinking of marriage. You are married. You are thinking of having children. You have children. No matter which of those sentences describes your situation, these thoughts are for you. They are for you and for us, your parents, as well.

Yes, we all know how children come about. We can argue till we are blue in the face about the spiritual, moral, social, and sexual issues. This article is not about any of those. (However, they sorely need to be addressed by all of us.) No, today we are to look at ourselves. Look at how we are doing in those areas. You may say, “Hey, my kids are all grown up. There is nothing more I can do, now.” We can understand how you feel, but do our responsibilities stop, because they are all grown up? At what point do we stop having a need to live our beliefs, to demonstrate what our beliefs are, to grow in our own beliefs and to understand ourselves? The moment we stop, we cease being a loving, caring parent, a loving caring person.

Let’s start by asking a simple question. What do you value most? The answers come flying back: my wife, my husband, my children, my mother, my father, my job, my home, my friends etc. What you value most is where you spend your time. “Now wait, that’s not fair”, we can hear you right now.” I work so that my spouse and children will have food on the table, so that they will have a roof over their head. I have to work long hours. I do it for them”. We will come back to this later…

What does your child want and need? Or better, what do they need? Your child needs food and shelter, yes. But, most importantly, your child needs YOU! They may say that they need an I-pod, or Xbox; that they need every doll or super hero; that they just have to go to this dance or that show. What they deem as necessary, as must have’s, are, simply put, replacements… for you. When was the last time you talked to them about… nothing and everything? You just wanted to be with them and hear their deep down worries and concerns. How often do you admit that you, too, had similar problems and what you did to work them out? That you too, had to face this kind of a school test, and what lengths you had to go to try to pass it? What kind of a relationship do you have with your children? What kind will you have with your children? What you do…they WILL do. What you crave…they WILL crave. Don’t get angry when they don’t know how to do something. Give them your time, and show them. Don’t give them things. Give them yourself. Give them your TIME. These toys, these technical things amount to so much filler. They are replacements for you.

Do you know your children’s friends? No? Invite them over to your house to meet them. AHH… you don’t have the TIME. You have work to do. You are needed at the office. Work has to be done at home. You have to work on the computer. The list goes on and on and on…all in the name of “Doing it for my kids, my spouse.” Ask yourself, am I running away from things, because I am too ashamed to admit that I don’t know how or what to do. Ask your parent, because he or she should have spent the time necessary to help you. If they didn’t, then they probably didn’t know what to do, either. Do you see where this is going? The problems of the parent spill over to the children. The children then become parents and do the same harm to their children. It is time to break the cycle.

How do we stop re-tracing the same steps as our parents? First, we have to recognize that our parents, as loving as they tried to be, didn’t have all the answers. They struggled to understand, too. Once we can take that step, the next one is fairly easy, is fairly obvious. We don’t have all the answers, either. We would like to but we are ashamed to admit it…we don’t. Your children don’t need or want a super hero for a parent. They want to know you as a person, as someone who had to face the same struggles that they have. They want to know how you solved them. They will truly understand if you were unable to solve them. They will probably feel a relief that they are not unusual. Problems are not always solved immediately. Problems may linger around for a while. But facing them, addressing them, trying to figure them out is part of life. Trying to forget them is no solution at all. We don’t need to cover them over with gadgets, or pleasures, or whatever else we do to make the problem go away. We try to address our problems, our children’s concerns, honestly, but always with our relationship with Jesus guiding us, every step of the way.

OUR INTENTIONS

praying hands2

Yesterday morning at Mass, I was thinking of those relatives and friends for whom I was offering today’s mass. And I kind of got distracted. Why do we make these intentions? What are we expecting? For what purpose are we telling God about these people? Does He not know about their plight, already? Do we think that “SINCE IT IS I” that is making this request surely God will hear and answer it? Are we saying that the merits that I would normally receive from this Mass should be given to them, instead? This last seems plausible, until you think, “How does God distribute something that is already infinite”?

I will be the first to admit that I am really struggling here. This is beyond my scope of comprehension. However, having said that, I still would like to offer another idea, another possible reason. We could petition God to distribute the infinite merits of the Mass to the entire world, and all would be covered infinitely. No more lists of names would be required. No more trying to remember that special group of individuals. But this does not seem right. It seems to be… too clinical, too mathematical. We as a person are not involved. There is no personal involvement, no love, nor commitment. God could snap His fingers and instantly all the problems of the world could go away. But He doesn’t. Why? He doesn’t want it to happen that way. He doesn’t want to remove our free will, our free commitment. He needs….us???

Could it be that when we sit or kneel in the pew and silently mention to God our worries about friends, our concerns about those we love, there is a real unmistakable reason. Could it be that we are silently telling God, all the people who we are mentioning in our intentions WE will try to bring Him to them, today? We will go visit them. We will truly pray for each throughout the day. We will help them in whatever struggles we perceive they are having. Not so much as “I AM DOING THIS”, but rather, “Please God, work through my actions. Help me say the right words, the consoling words, the uplifting words that this person or that person needs. If I am in a position to remove a problem, a weight, a concern, give me the guidance, the love, the courage to do so”.

The Blessed Sacrament of the Mass, even Christianity itself, is not something to be attended nor just enrolled in. As dynamic as Jesus’ love is for us so, too, our love for others must also be dynamic. I am afraid that very often we leave a Mass with a good feeling of having done our duty, of having done something that was painful, but we did it anyway. And we are filled with self-justification. The coming together at Mass, the whole concept of being a Catholic Christian, is to rejoice in the union with Jesus and with each other. We share a joy, a love for our brothers and sisters. This joy, this sharing is singularly visible when we attend Mass. We used to shake hands and say, “hello” to people sitting around us. Why? Why would we do something like that? We would do that, for no other reason than to visibly show this communal friendship. Without that communal friendship we have no community. If there is someone in that church that you cannot look at, speak to, or truly smile at, then your participation in that community is not all that it could or should be.

What does all of this have to do with intentions made before the Mass even begins? The Mass, Catholic Christianity, is all about brotherhood. We smile at and we embrace those who are present. We bond with them. But what of those who are suffering? Are unable to attend? Do not wish to attend? For whatever reason, they are not physically or spiritually present this week or this month? These people that we pray for (they may even be beside us, at Mass) we are telling the Christ that we will try to dispose ourselves today, so that He can act through us, bring the joy of this Mass to them. That is a major commitment on our part. Because, for Jesus to act through us, people must see Him in our actions, hear Him in our words, feel Him in our love and concern. This is no small task. We cannot feign love. We cannot pretend to be concerned about people. People will see right through our hypocrisy and will hold us and all that we stand for, at arm’s length, and thus defeating the whole concept of Christianity. To truly present Christ to a hurting, suffering world that we pray for, we must embrace it tightly. We must embrace the lame and the lazy, the blind and the dirty. Everyone is our brother. Everyone is our sister. Their condition, their disposition is not ours to judge but to embrace. We remember them before Mass, so that we can love and embrace them after Mass.

#20 Acts #26 Acts

Kindness

Kindness

We are almost a week away from the Newtown tragedy. We are cried out. We sit in disbelief over how something like this could happen. Emotions run through us like a stampede: Anger, sorrow, confusion, disbelief, and still more sorrow. There is an empty feeling inside each of us. We are tired of tragedies such as these, and yet, we feel helpless. How can I do something that will impact this horror? What can I do? I am not a politician. I cannot enact laws to put guns out of existence. We cannot prevent people from being evil. How can we, as a loving people, anticipate insanely, irrational acts of violence?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”-1 That one line pretty much dictates what is necessary to be done. That is one side of the coin. On the Christian side are the words, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.”-2 Is this not what Jesus was telling us, when to Thomas’ question of how can we know the way, He responded with “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”?-3 Live and love as Jesus did. Follow His example. Let Him work through YOUR actions.

Spurring from the talk, by the father of one of the victims, grew the response of #20Acts  #26 Acts of Kindness. He said, “Let it [be] something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and humble people.  Let us please keep the sentiments of love that we feel for our families, and the compassion that we feel for others– even complete strangers– and keep them with us at all times, not just in times of sorrow and tragedy.  And may we do this so that we can better all of our communities, and all of our cities and all our states, so we can make everyone, everywhere in this country feel safe.”-4 He concluded by saying we cannot let tragedies define us.

“God writes straight with crooked lines”-5 loosely translated, God can make good happen, even out of evil. People’s tragedies, like blindness, or leprosy etc., Jesus turned into occasions of joy and conversion. From Jesus’ death on the cross, came our redemption. Each of us, right now, has the ability to turn the tragedy of Newtown into the beginning of an era of goodness and kindness. We CAN affect our little world. We CAN treat all the people with whom we come in contact, with love and concern. Each day we can perform an act of kindness for someone else. Each day we can think of someone else’s need instead of our own. Doing something for someone else, not because it will be noticed, nor because we feel guilty, but because there is a need, a person is suffering. The world is trying to do that right now. People are doing little things, good things, for others.

Don’t let the tragedy of Newtown fade from your memory. Let it fire up all the good instincts that are within you. Face your fears, address your weaknesses, go out of your way to be kind to others, even people whom you don’t know or like. Maybe Newtown was humanity’s wake-up call. It could be. It depends on all of us. There are 26 new angels in Heaven.

Let’s honor each one of those angels with an act of kindness …. again and again and again. If you think this blog has any merit, pass it along to your email friends. Don’t be shy, each one of us is called to be courageous for the sake of Jesus. If all my email address friends, and all of yours, and all of theirs do acts of kindness in the coming days… well…. that is how the world is changed, that is how we imitate Jesus.

A Happy and Blessed Christmas

-1 Edmund Burke
-2 St. Paul in his letter to the Romans 12:21
-3 John, 14:5-6
-4 Robert Parker, father of Emilie
-5 St. Augustine, OR Portuguese Proverb (uncertain which)