Tag Archive: Faith


Jesus Meets His Mother

4th station

The daily practice of saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, especially at 3pm, is one that all of us should do. As recommended in The Divine Mercy Chaplet, I was on the fourth day, and that meant meditating on the Fourth Station of the Cross, Jesus Meets His Mother. Think about and reflect on that most sorrowful meeting.

Picture the meeting of Mother and Son. Think about what each must have been feeling. How would we feel if our son or daughter is being tortured, and brutalized, in the way Jesus is. Yet nothing is recorded about that meeting other than the painful glances that were shared. Her heart must have been bursting with sorrow, choking her very breathing, as she witnessed the pain and suffering that her Child was being forced to bear. What woman has ever experienced such sorrow, such agony?

And Jesus, He, too, remained silent. But He knew what His mother was feeling, what she was enduring. The agony that both endured, remained bottled up inside them. To cry out would only make it worse for the other. And so, they suffered in silence. Yet, inside, both felt terrible anguish, terrible grief and sorrow. This meeting of Mother and Son speaks directly to each of us, both as a parent and as a child.

As a parent, we can feel the agony of what Mary was enduring, when we see our children suffering and feel so useless, because we are unable to help them. We wish that their hurt, their sorrow, their confusion would go away; and yet, we are powerless to do anything about it. And, so we pray. We pray for our child’s strength, and their enlightenment. We ask God to help them overcome their pain, their suffering, or even make it go away.

As a child, we know the strain we have placed on our parents, at times. Though we saw their conflict and agony, we persisted in our actions, in our way of life. What was important for us, at that time, was our own satisfaction, our own benefit, our own need. We were unable to even think of what our actions were causing our parents. They would understand!

But you see, that is the irony of the entire situation. Mary and Jesus were suffering, suffering terribly, yet each knew that what was happening was necessary for all of mankind. The horror of the whippings, and beatings, and insults, and pain, all sorts of cruel injustice, all of these were accepted and carried within their aching hearts, because they knew there was a benefit at the end of this. How can there be a good associated with being whipped, tortured, insulted, and ridiculed? Mary was just a woman, but she had faith, a faith that told her that God was present, that He was aware of all that was going on, and that HE PERMITTED THIS FOR A REASON. Because of her believing, and knowing that God is a God of Love, she knows that He has a purpose for even this horrific scene.

It is here, at this juncture, that we, you and I, slowly move away from Mary. Where she sees God’s love, God’s will, we see just the scene. How does this affect me? How does this hurt my son or daughter? How does this break my parents’ heart? We limit our sight to just the action and its’ effects. Our faith in our God doesn’t even come into play. Or, if it does, it is to ask God to make it go away. This is not how God wants us to believe, nor to act. His love for us is so true, so deep; He wants us to feel, to know and to experience His love. Do we really believe that an all-loving God would playfully allow us to be harmed? Every problem, every sickness, every death has a purpose. We may not see now, or even ever, why such evil enters into our lives. But if, like Mary, our focus is on our loving God and not the evil, we will trust that there is a very good reason. We will trust our loving God even in this.

Here are some other Posts that have a similar theme. Click on any one of them:

1) Dark Night, Emptiness, Sadness
2) Mercy Sunday and Trust
3) Dolindo Ruotolo segment 1
4) Dolindo Ruotolo segment 2
5) Dolindo Ruotolo segment 3

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Our Life and Jesus

jesus-last-supper

I fear that sometimes we don’t really understand what is going on with the Eucharist and Communion, at Mass. Let me explain, why I say this. This past Sunday my wife and I had the privilege of taking the gifts of bread and wine up to the priest. We think of the Offertory as the “collection”. But really, though necessary, the collection is symbolic of our lives that we bring to and present to God. In the morning offering prayer, we start the day, by praying, “…I offer you my thoughts, words, and actions of this day.” There is really nothing else, in our life, that falls outside those parameters.

I looked down at the golden ciborium which I was carrying. It held the little wafers of bread, to be received by us, after the Consecration. At that moment, I realized that these wafers represented, not just my offerings, but the offerings of all the people in the church. What a privilege to bring up to the altar all of the sufferings, pains, joys, thoughts, words and actions of all the people present at Mass, their offerings to their God. These small, seemingly insignificant pieces of bread carried with them all the hopes and dreams of the people present. Everything we do that day, we want it to be embraced by the small wafers. Our lives are poured into the chalice holding the wine. Everything we are, we are offering to God, through His Son, Jesus, at Mass.

Later during the Mass, the priest will say these words while holding his hands extended over those same offerings, (our lives), “Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ”. And then, shortly afterwards, the priest says the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “This is My Body, which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of Me”. It is done. Our very lives are merged with Jesus. What we do, what we offer is made holy because of Him.

We hear terms like Mystical Body of Christ, or love one another, or take care of one another, and judge not. All of these tie in back to the Eucharist that we receive at Mass. We each receive Christ. He becomes us. We become Him. We are joined with each other in this Mystical Body of Christ. We are the arms and legs of Jesus. He can act through us, but only if we allow Him to act, only if we take Him to where He is needed. By that offering of ourselves, our lives, our troubles, our days we are asking Him to bless them and make them holy. We must love one another. We must take care of one another. And why wouldn’t we? Do we not believe that Jesus loves all of us? Do we not believe that He is in the Eucharist? Do we not believe that each person is united with Jesus when we receive the Eucharist? We ARE truly brothers and sisters.

I started this talk by saying, “I fear that we don’t really understand…” Let me ask some questions that each of us need to answer for ourselves in the recesses of our hearts. I go to Mass, but WHY do I go? What part of myself do I bring? Joy? Sorrow? Fear? Worries? Money? I receive the Eucharist on my tongue or in the palm of my hands…WHO or WHAT am I receiving at that precise moment? What is the Mass? What is my involvement in it? Am I at church because of my belief or out of habit? How I answer these questions should tell me what areas of my life I may need to work on. Jesus is always with us, YES! But we still need to invite Him into our lives.

Here are some other Posts that have a similar theme. Click on any one of them:

1) The Meaning of the Mystical Body of Christ
2) To YOU, My Friend
3) Be Me

Thoughts on Pope’s Resignation

pope benedict

A friend of mine sent me an email, with some comments made by a Bob Betterton. If you wish to see his remarks, go to Betterton on Pope Gregory XVI Resignation. This is the reply I sent to my friend’s email.

I never heard of Bob Betterton, so I “Googled” his bio. He attended two colleges, LeMoyne and Fordham, both Jesuit institutions.In one of his books he speaks about going from a compliant catholic, to a curious catholic and now as a practicing critical catholic. I assume we are hearing the critical catholic, now. His statement of “Dear All” speaks a lot. In those two words, we are hearing a pronouncement from the master. (I personally think the Mr. Betterton has an extremely high opinion of himself.) But that is neither hear nor there.

I could be wrong, but it seems that everyone who has a contrary opinion comes out of Jesuit institutions. I suspect that the philosophy of that organization is to teach people to ALWAYS be critical of what is said. In and of itself, that is good. What is bad is that not everyone who is critical has the … wholesomeness??… (not sure that is the correct word) to provide positive counter thoughts. So much for my “argumentum ad hominem”. I will address his statements rather than attack the man.

I think , (I could be wrong, admittedly), that a plot against the church is being depicted. Maybe my head is buried in the sand, but I cannot help but think  that Mr. Betterton must have been privy to some secret conversation. Was he in a Roman wine cellar and overheard a conversation? Who does he know that presented this information to him? In short, where are his FACTS? Speculation is…. speculation!! And that is specious, at best. He sees ghosts and goblins. He expects dire consequences. His own words, “This is one of the most diabolical, Machiavellian, tyrannical, unconscionable and disgraceful plots in history”. Why would this be considered a plot? If perpetuating Benedict XVI’s philosophy is a plot then he, obviously, doesn’t like what has been going on in the church for the last 8 or 9 years..Having another pope with the same mind-set as Benedict the XVI would be devastating to Mr. Betterton. He, obviously wants more change. Why? What areas does he not like? Where is he most re-active? Unfortunately, I don’t know that much about him.

What I feel is that more and more of the people who have our ear, are presenting THEMSELVES.What has happened to hope? Where has trust in God, gone? Jesus said in reference to His church, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Apparently, Mr. Betterton feels that Jesus gave a timeline to those words. Does he think that the church will now flounder and fall? Does he think that this is the time? I feel that the 80 year old, Mr. Betterton, himself, is running out of time and wishes to have some impact on the church that he loves. (my observation, no factual content, deductions that I am making.)

My opinion: The world, the church is going through some very, very difficult times. No one feels comfortable in what is going on. No one person has the answer. The one person that could make a change has already come and been crucified. He did, however, give us the blueprint for conducting our lives. He has shown us how to live, “I am the way…” He was telling us how to live, what to do in times such as these. Pray. Pray for the people who rule. Pray for the countries in turmoil. Pray for the cities and towns we live in. Pray for our families. Prayer: “A lifting up of our hearts and minds to God”. …to Jesus. If  we truly pray (not just words, but our feelings, our convictions) then we will be loving that which we pray for. To live as a Catholic Christian we must believe in God. We must trust God. We must love God and one another. Faith, Hope and Charity…but the greatest of these is charity.

Yours in Christ

the blind

We know from past discussions that the readings from each Mass have a theme. Today, Acceptance Sunday is no exception. These three readings embrace you, the people seeking knowledge about, and entrance into, the Catholic Church. The theme in the first reading, from Jeremiah (1 Jer 31:7-9)
Thus says the LORD:I will gather them from the ends of the world,with the blind and the lame in their midst,the mothers and those with child;they shall return as an immense throng.They departed in tears,but I will console them and guide them

Make no mistake. God has called you. You might only see your coming to these meetings in light of a parent requesting you to come, or a situation deeming these steps as necessary. You might be curious, or looking for an answer, or seeking a deeper relationship with your God. But whatever the reason is that brings you here, make no mistake…it is a loving, thoughtful God who is calling you. You would not be here if He hadn’t taken the first step to call you, to set in motion those things that brought you here. And thus the words, “I will gather them from the ends of the world.”

In the second reading, (2 Heb 5:1-6) we hear: Brothers and sisters:Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God,to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Wait a minute! Priest? I am just requesting Baptism, or entrance into the Catholic Church. What is this priest business? The offices of priest, prophet, and king are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and we are baptized into Him. We all share in some way in these offices.

A Priest – offers sacrifice. A Prophet – teaches.  A King – serves. The second reading goes on…
He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring,for he himself is beset by weakness …No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.

This portion of the reading talks directly to all of us and how we are to conduct ourselves. We deal patiently with those persons who are struggling and erring and making wrong choices. We love and understand those people who are puffed up with their own importance because as the reading says “for he himself, who is called to patiently deal with others, is also beset by weakness”.  We live our lives loving and understanding others, because we, ourselves, are beset by these same weaknesses. And the second reading concludes with once again calling attention to the fact that we are called by God. It is not we, who are taking the initiative, but God.

In the Gospel, (Mk 10:46-52) … we hear:
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, who was passing by, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

What is this reading telling us, today, on Acceptance Sunday?  We know that God has taken the first step and is calling us to be priest, sacrificing, prophet, teaching and king, serving. But oh, how each of us is beset with weaknesses. In today’s Gospel, the blind man sees his weakness and cries out, “Master, I want to see”. We must be like the blind man and see ourselves as we really are. All of us have a glorified image of who we are, what we are about. But down deep, we know there are many things still lacking in us, our weaknesses. We have many good qualities and should be thankful for them. We cannot, however, overlook those weaknesses, those shortcomings, mistakes in judgment, wrong choices that fill our lives. All of these, good and bad, make us, us.

Acceptance Sunday is not a one and done deal. Every day of our life we must pray for the honesty to recognize and acknowledge what needs to be healed in us. Before the blind man could receive the sight he so desperately wanted, he had to first recognize and acknowledge his need for healing. So too, all God is waiting for is our recognition and acknowledgement that we need to be healed. Not a generality, but a soul searching attempt to see what it is that is preventing our forward movement to God. Once it is perceived, acknowledged, and admitted that we need healing, God’s response will be immediate, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.”

Back to RCIA: Index

Trust or Control?

In today’s first reading, we see Moses striking the rock, not once but twice. In verse 8 of Numbers, chapter 20, we hear God tell Moses, “Take the rod, and assemble the people together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak to the rock before them, and it shall yield waters.” They were instructed to just speak to the rock. St. Augustine on this passage, tells us that they were not commanded to strike the rock at all; and when the water did not come at first, they struck again. In verse 10, then, they speak as if the work that they performed was of their own doing, “Can we bring you forth water out of this rock?” For this prideful act, Moses was reprimanded by God and told that he would not be the one to lead his people into the promised-land.

Then again, in the Gospel we hear Christ telling Peter, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:v18) But shortly after saying these elevating words, we hear Jesus tell Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”. This was said, because Peter refused to accept that Jesus would be crucified. He was thinking as man and not as God would.

In both passages, we hear quick rebukes being uttered by God, because of man’s refusal to simply allow God’s plan to play out. These readings today really cry out to us, trying to shake us into reality. Don’t we realize that God’s work will be done, must be done? Man strives to dictate how and by whom things will be done. When we see things happen that we don’t understand, we cry out, “How can God let these things happen?” Why does He allow the baby to die? Why is there so much suffering in this world? Why does He allow evil to co-habit the earth? We don’t understand and like the Hebrew nation of
old, we cry out against God.

We have often heard the adage that God writes with crooked lines. Isaias (Isaiah) in his prophecies pointing towards the Christ, says in 42: verse 16 “I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight: these things have I done to them, and have not forsaken them”. These are powerful words, comforting words from our God. We think He abandons us, has forsaken us. We can’t see the reason for things. We don’t know why things can happen to us and to others. And because we can’t see, because we don’t know… what do we do? We blame God. WE abandon Him!! Our faith gives out. We weep. We use this as an excuse to turn away, to seek our comfort in other things.

God continually urges us to trust Him, to believe in Him. What is faith, if not TRUST? If we really believe that Jesus is God, if we really believe that Jesus, our God, loves us totally, unconditionally, why do we find it so hard to trust Him? We are so reluctant to relinquish the reins of control. We think, “If I don’t hold onto these reins, if I don’t control these horses pulling this carriage, I will truly be hurt. I will suffer.” So we grasp the reins tighter, refusing to let go. We are totally unaware that the horses are running because God lets them run. Will God really do something that will hurt us? Isn’t it really, we are afraid that what God permits will be something that we don’t want. So we refuse to let go. We resist allowing our lives to be guided by our God. And in that resistance we prevent Jesus from working through us.

One of You Will Betray Me

The Gospel today, focuses squarely on Judas Iscariot. Why? Why not Peter, as well? Both men turned their backs on Jesus. Peter with his denial and Judas with his betrayal, both spurned the Christ. In effect, both men wanted nothing to do with Jesus either out of fear or out of greed.

The only difference between the two is faith. Though both had fallen, as all of us do, Peter never relinquished his faith in Jesus. The realization, of how great his offense was, reduced Peter to tears. And in his sorrow, in his time of trial, he fled back to Jesus who was waiting for him. Judas, on the other hand, on his realization of the magnanimity of his offense, despaired. One, relying on his faith in Jesus, returned with sincere sorrow, grateful in that faith that he would be forgiven. Judas had no such strength to fall back on. His faith in material things delivered no such solace. With no reliance on Jesus, his life proved to be empty, meaningless and he sought the coward’s way out, he hung himself.

No one is perfect. Neither you nor I can point our incriminating finger at Judas without turning that same finger back upon ourselves. Christ said it, Himself, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”-1  This is not an attempt to soften our own negligence, to make light of our own capricious living. We are all struggling to bring our lives into accordance with God. Yes, He understands our frailty. But our weakness cannot be our excuse. Our lives will always be a continuing struggle. Life is a struggle to excel, to succeed, to grow.

In what are we struggling to excel? To succeed? To grow? That is the important aspect of our lives. If material things are of paramount importance to us, then in that, we have placed our faith. What occupies our main focus during the day? Then in that, we have placed our faith. It is not rocket science. What do we want? What do we desire? What moves us, and motivates us? That, and only that, will show us what our primary concern is. Yes, we should be attentive to our finances, our children, our home, and our jobs. But these concerns must always be placed within our trust in God, our faith in a loving, caring God. We can, like Peter, place our trust in Jesus. Or, we can place our trust in things. What will warm you the most? Which will comfort you in your time of need?

-1 John, 8, 7

Hope and Trust

Where do we put our faith, in ourselves? In our job? What does it mean to us, when we go to church? Who is Jesus? How can we have hope, or put our trust in Someone, if we don’t know what that someone means to us? Sadly, all of us, at times, will go to church more out of ritual then wanting to go.

Sunday, or late Saturday, means maybe getting dressed a little bit more fashionably, and maybe, not. We gather the kids in the car and we bribe with a promise of a breakfast or dinner out, if the children are good. We sit uncomfortably in the pew, waiting for the Mass to start, or maybe we rush in a few minutes late. We say a hurried prayer, or possibly continue a conversation that was started in the car. The priest walks down the aisle. Some people up near the front sing a hymn or something. We listen, kind of, to the few preliminary readings. Then the big one, the Gospel, is read by the priest (or the deacon). The sermon begins and we sit back into the pew and tend to the children. Our eyes wander, looking at the other people sitting around us. We wonder what they are wondering about. Sometimes we hear a few words of the sermon, and speculate what he is talking about. We then hear more readings from the book, at the center of the altar. The singing, the getting up and down, the Our Father, all begins to run together into an amorphous confused cloud. Pew by pew, we get up and receive a piece of bread. Our thoughts wander from the bread is stiff, to it is like cardboard, to it is stale, to watching the people walk past our pew. Every now and then we think to ourselves, “God what’s wrong with me?” The final blessing is made and we all go back to our homes.

If this sounds familiar, then we need help. The pivotal part of our week, around which all of our life should center has become meaningless to us. We have let it slip and fall, until it has become… we are not sure what! I asked earlier, “How can we put our faith, our trust in Jesus, if we are unfamiliar with Him?” It is not his fault that you don’t know him. His life, His work, His message is contained…no it resides in that Book they read from at every Mass. (But we don’t listen to that, do we. We are busy with other things.) It is not the church’s fault either. At every Mass, the sermon relates how the various passages that are read that day, affect us. (But we don’t listen to that either. We are busy with other things.)

Somewhere in our lives, we came to the conclusion that the Mass wasn’t important. Actually, we didn’t understand its importance and rather than try to understand, we decided it was easier to just let it drift away. A decision, made in the past, now erodes the very hope and trust that we so desperately need. That decision, fortunately, is not irreversible. All we need to do is resolve to understand. Read about the Mass and why things are done; read about Christ’s life and His message to all of us; read what our Baptism really signifies and how it empowers us. Our Faith tells us it isn’t Hopeless, if we Trust. All we need do is sincerely ask Jesus for guidance and hope and trust will become part of us.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you

(6th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

The Creed is everything we, as Catholics, believe in faith. Some which we have already dealt with can be “backed up”, as it were, with secular historical testimony. Some aspects, such as the one we deal with today, are not only impossible to prove, but difficult to even comprehend. We speak of Jesus, the Son of God, as being born of a woman. Mary is told when she asks how this could possibly happen, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you-1”.  The Lord, the Giver of Life sanctifies her womb and Mary becomes the Mother of God. ”Let it be done to me according to your word. . .-2  Mary responds to her calling, her vocation.

Let’s take a few steps backward, for a moment. Mary is greeted by the Angel, with the familiar words of “Hail, full of grace-3”.  Mary, being greeted in such fashion, leads the Catholic Church to realize and proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception-4. How could Mary be full of grace? Was she not like every other son or daughter of Eve, tainted with original sin? No, she isn’t. The dogma proclaims that from the first moment of Mary’s own conception, because of her future role as Mother of God, she comes into this world free of original sin. So imbued with God’s grace, Mary gives her fiat, her acceptance to her role.

We try to get our arms around this portion of the Creed, but it seems to defy reality. It does not conform to the way things happen, here on earth. But then, neither does the curing of the sick, by word or touch; neither does the suspension of the law of gravity and thus walking on water; neither does the raising of the dead back to life. None of these conform to the way things happen on earth, but God, the Creator of these laws, can and does override them.

From this beautiful section of the Creed, we see the Divine Love that God has for mankind. We see through the eyes of faith that God was not about to abandon His people, when the first sin was committed. We speak in words that are restricted by time, so we can only say that when this happened, He did such and such. But God has no restrictions of time. The concept of time came with creation. Things are and then, after a period of time, are not, they cease to be. God IS. God exists. His intention is always to be involved with His creation. Such is His love for us.

This was a very difficult section to put on paper. Our faith, our beliefs are not something that we can go out and prove. If we could, they would not be beliefs but proven reality. I feel that this one section, however, is a critical part of our belief. This leads to everything else that we hold dear and sacred. A beautiful prayer to say many times during the day, is: Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.                    goto next segment 

 

-1 Luke 1:34-35
-2 Luke 1:28-38
-3 Luke 1:28
-4 Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma in 1854