Tag Archive: Following Jesus

Peace and Beauty

cloud and hawk

It must be my age because I have grown to love sitting on the back porch early in the morning. If you take away the sound of jet engines flying overhead, (only 8 miles or so away from the airport), if you blot out the sound of the cars’ and truck engines on the nearby interstate and roads, if you screen out the occasional sound of distant trains rumbling in the distance… what is left? Peace. Quiet. Beauty!

The sky, with its’ pale baby blue color and seemingly randomly placed clouds, can be so beautiful. The sounds of many birds, of different varieties, can be heard melodiously singing and chirping to one another. A hawk, gently circling on the thermals, effortlessly flies overhead. So much peace! So much beauty! Where did all of this come from? Why are we so fortunate to be part of all this beauty?

This beauty, this world, could not have just happened. Only a fool would say that this came about by chance. No. There must be an Architect, a Painter, a Creator. Since we know that no person could have brought this into existence, we postulate that there must be someone else, someone who has intelligence, has beauty, has love and above all has a purpose. This “someone”, we call God.

The whole concept of God is that He cannot change. If He did, then He would not be God. He cannot change His mind and He cannot make a mistake. So He knew from all eternity that the world would have problems. Problems that would arise because He gives man the freedom to choose. So He knew from all eternity that Jesus, the Christ, would also need to come in time, into this created world and show it how life is to be lived.

Christianity is not just a club. It is not a member’s-only organization. It is a way of life. It is a brotherhood. People believing in what Jesus did for us, what He said to us, and how He loved us. It is a people striving to live as He showed us. But there is more to it than just imitation, than copying a lifestyle. It is living a lifestyle.

So often, as a Christian we think along the lines of, “what should I be doing?” Should is the language of obligation not love. It has no business being in our mind, with respect to Christianity. Bonding with one another, treating each person with kindness and respect, these are actions that flow out of our love for Jesus. They are not mandates. They are not marching orders. These are actions that emanate from Jesus and the love we have for Him.

At the beginning of this writing I spoke of the beauty of nature and of God, the Creator, making us a part of this creation. What do the two have in common? It is not in the turmoil of the world that we will find peace and quiet and beauty. This turmoil must be stripped away so that we can truly find God. It is only when we can remove our worries, our frustrations, do we find real peace. The world says, “it cannot be done.” The world says, (or maybe we say), that our fears and worries and anxieties are necessary evils. Our fears, our worries, our anxieties ARE the evils. They are what consume us and prevent us from finding our God. It is only when we reach out and take the hand of Jesus which He holds out to us, it is only when we place ALL of our confidence in Him and trust Him, then, we can realize and understand the beauty of God. Think of what in your life is holding you back, preventing you from taking His hand. Do you think He doesn’t care about you? Do you think He is unaware of your worries? Trust Him. Believe in Him. Find the peace that He offers. It is there. It really is!

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

1) Come Back To Me
2) Memories
3) The Love of Creation


power of god

In today’s Gospel, the story of Lazarus and his sisters, Jesus tells them to roll back the stone at the entrance of the tomb. Martha, one of the sisters, urges Jesus not to, “…because of the odor”. “Jesus said to her: Did not I say to thee, that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God?” (John 11: 40) These words, I believe, are the key to Christianity. If we believe in Him, if we trust Him our lives will be on the correct path. We will be living the lives of Christians.

We see the Apostles, after Christ’s resurrection, going out and teaching people and being amazed at what “they” can do. They cure the sick and the lame. They raise the dead. All of this is done, “…in the name of Jesus”. They believe in Jesus’ words. They believe that He is the Son of God. What they can do is a reflection of their belief. What they can do shows the power of God.

The beauty of this one passage, this one sentence shouts out to all of us, “Believe in Me”. It is our belief in Jesus, our faith, our trust, our devotion and dedication that permit God to work through us. He never forces Himself on any of us. He gave us free will and He waits for that free will to embrace Him. It is not a simple task. We see the saints’ lives enduring all forms of torture, physical, mental, and emotional, all in the name of Jesus. Why? Because they knew His words were true. If they believed in Jesus, they would see the glory of God.

It seems like such a simple statement, “I believe in Jesus”. But it entails a dedication, a devotion that encompasses our total life. We don’t always manifest this belief, and that is where we doubt ourselves and stop. We feel that this is impossible for us, and we stop trying. And, it is impossible!! It is, if we think that WE are going to accomplish this on our own. Belief, trust in Jesus is truly a dedication of ourselves to Him, to His words, to His way of life. It is a gift. The more we believe, the more the gift increases. We will trip, and stumble and fall as we try to follow Him. He knows that. But do we really think that Jesus is looking for results? Isn’t He rather, more interested in our conviction, our dedication, and our attempts at following Him, at being Him in our life?

We may suffer from sickness, or pain; we may worry about our children, or our parents; we may struggle with guilt; whatever the hurdles are that confront us, God is aware, and waits for our acceptance of Him. Acceptance in His name, belief in Him, not ourselves, this is what really frees us and enables us to see the power of God in our lives. Do you really think the Apostles performed the miracles? No, their belief in God, their love of Jesus, their dedication to His way of life, their trust, this is what enabled God to work through them. “Believe in Me and you shall see the power of God”.

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

1) God Walks With Us
2) What is God To Me
3) Stop Tripping Over Yourself
4) Trust in God

Our (Lenten) Offerings?

I took my own advice from yesterday’s blog and went to Mass this morning. It has been a long time since I have attended a weekday Mass. Anyway, after kneeling down in the pew, before Mass, I began …absent mindedly… to recite the Act of Contrition. This is a ritual that I always do before the Mass starts. During it, my mind runs over the sins, transgressions, acts of impatience, unkindness, and all the rest of the little shop of horrors of my past life. It is like I am saying to God, “Here I am, and in case you forgot…I am the one that did these things.” Well, this morning, as I was going through my little ritual, a thought popped into my head. Why am I saying I am sorry for all of these things? I am, but I already confessed them. Some, I even confessed multiple times. Christ said, “That once a sin is confessed and forgiven in the sacrament of Reconciliation… it is FORGOTTEN by Him”.

This started me on a new line of thinking, before Mass, today. Do I think that Christ really didn’t forgive me when I confessed these sins? Do I trust Him or don’t I? If I was sorry, which I was, if I intended to not do them again, which I meant at that time (even though I might have slipped up afterwards) … then I was truly forgiven. It is over. This is not a time for moaning and groaning over milk that been spilled and wiped up? Why am I here today, right now? The Mass, the most perfect of prayers, is about to begin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, his offering of himself up to his heavenly Father for our transgressions will be celebrated once again. What is my part in all of this?

We listen to readings from the Old and New Testaments. We hear about God’s love and tenderness for His people. We hear of Jesus’ life and what it means to us and our relationship with God. We hear the Word of God stream out of the Bible. These are the very words, which we heard a long time ago, and told us that Catholicism, Christianity was something special to us. Something stirred inside our heart.

And so, we hear God’s Word and try to identify some aspect of our own lives to which it has meaning. We then express our own beliefs to all present, when we recite The Creed. And then… The Offertory follows. Unfortunately, we tend to think of it as the “collection”. But it is just this, “The Offertory”, which concerns us most intimately. Without realizing its significance, we think of it as merely, “the Collection”. Believe it or not, the collection is actually symbolic of what the Offertory really is. We take something of our lives and place it in the hands of the celebrant, and together with the bread on the paten and the wine in the chalice is offered to God as our combined sacrifice. This is the moment of truth. This is the time we acknowledge that we need Christ’s action, but would like to offer something of our own as well, imperfect as it is.

So here I am waiting for the beginning of Mass and what am I doing? Recounting past offenses? How much better would it be to think of things positive that I can do today, or this week and offer them as my symbol of my love for Jesus. It can be my thank you to Him. People are people. They are not obstacles, they are suffering, hurting, hoping individuals. “But what can we do?” we ask. We can cry with them. We can offer our hand in friendship to them. We can see their need and help them. And, when we run out of opportunities to assist, we can always pray for them. Who in the Church around us (including ourselves) does not need our prayers? Which leaders of our government do not need our prayers, in today’s topsy-turvy world? Name one country in the world, today, that does not need divine assistance with the handling of its problems. So, there is a lot that we can do. Before Mass, we can try to assess what qualities we have and can use for others. This is a much more positive way to prepare for the divine banquet we are about to attend, than thinking of past offenses. In offering our daily lives as prayer for others, we are saying “Yes” to everything Jesus preached, here on earth. We are putting our life on the paten with the knowlege that coupled with Christ’s life, it will be pleasing to our God

Who We Meet Along the Way

In today’s Gospel (Mark 8: 34-38) we hear the words of Christ echo down through the ages to us, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” It is easy for us to hear these words and cringe: “Deny himself!!”, “Take up his cross!!” “Follow Jesus??” To where? The cross? These words have traditionally sent shivers down our collective spines. We are used to pampering ourselves, getting whatever we want, whenever we want it. To purposely set out on a path to deny ourselves is almost alien to our nature. It is not ALMOST, it IS. (Altruism seems to be more of a divine quality, than a human one.)

And what about taking up our cross? Christ is saying not only play the hand that has been dealt to you, but for you to take comfort in it. This is too much!!! Who in their right mind would seek out some of the hardships we put up with? And…. accept it? I don’t think so.

But wait! Let’s take a closer look at what Christ is saying. We portray the words “deny himself” in a kind of Lenten-type denial, an abandoning of the pleasures and joys to which we have grown accustomed. But there is another possible meaning of these words. Blend that concept of denial of oneself, with the concept of allowing Christ to work in and through us. It is still a denial of ourselves, but the emphasis is not on what is being given up. The emphasis is rather on what we are seeking to become … a vessel to be used by Christ. In trying to be that person who wants Christ to work through us, is seeking to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus. When put in this light, the denial of ourselves fades into insignificance. Weigh on the one hand the pleasure or joy that we fear giving up, against the willingness to become an instrument of Christ’s love and peace for our little piece of the world.

Blend all of these thoughts together: Loving everyone (regardless of their cleanliness, of their ability to irritate you, regardless of their power, their color, their intelligence, their national origin), loving and treating them with true concern and affection. This is no small task. It cries out to being something other than human. It humbly asks Jesus to take us with all of our faults and problems and transform us into being a vessel of Christ. Asking Him is the easy part. Trying to do the “Loving everyone” part is the challenge of Christianity. But without the love, without the concern for people we won’t make the attempt to draw close to people. And without our coming in contact with our fellow man, Christ cannot act through us.

Jesus is no fool. He asked His disciples and He asks mankind down through the ages, to deny themselves and follow Him, to follow Him so closely so as to be Him. This is the challenge of Christianity. It has always been there, for all the ages to hear. Trust Jesus so much that every moment of every day we place our lives in His hands. Not my will, but Thine be done! This is the denial He seeks, a trust in Him, so profound, so complete that our very lives are handed over to be extensions of His will. This is a lifetime’s journey, but one that we must ask Jesus to help us start.

He died so we might live

(7th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

We touched earlier on Pontius Pilate, when we discussed the historical writings. The Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, so that they could have Jesus crucified and be rid of the upstart Messiah once and for all. But Jesus’ sufferings began shortly before His “trial”.

In Gethsemane, the human nature of Jesus knew that what was coming would be excruciating pain, would end in a horrible death. He cried. He was afraid. He asked that it not happen. His human nature responded just as ours does when we find out that we have an incurable illness, or a death in the family or of a friend. We cry, we wring our hands, we hurt, we cry out, “Please God, don’t let this be so.” Jesus knew that this was the reason, He came into this world. As a human, He could redeem mankind and once again, make it a holy people. So, He uttered the ultimate prayer, “…not my will, but Thine be done-1.”  And so, He was led away, taken to Pilate, and condemned to a horrible death.

His love for us shouts out with every torture inflicted upon Him, every pain He felt. Don’t lose sight of the fact that He has two natures, a Divine one and a human one. How this can be is not understood but is a belief we hold. We do know God does not suffer, and Jesus did. We also know that man cannot, of his own, suspend the laws of nature, but Jesus did. So everything that the Christ experienced during that time was felt by a man, allowed by God. Every time He was punched, struck with a stinging reed, whipped by a leather strap He felt with His human body. The thorns pressed into his scalp and forehead, falling onto the ground under the cross, being jolted by both the ground and the weight of the wooden cross, all of these His nerve endings, bones and muscles felt. We know that when we have a headache, or a back ache, our whole body seems to be out of whack, nothing seems right. How badly did Jesus feel, experiencing aches and pains in every part of His body?

We can wonder aloud, “Why did it have to be this bad?” That can be countered with the question, “How much would have been enough”? Man separated himself from God. In effect, man told God that He didn’t need Him. His actions shouted out that he could do what he wanted. He could choose what was good and what was not. He could be god. So what is necessary to repair this affront, this insult to God? Jesus gives up everything, his goods-2, his life-3 to regain the friendship that was lost. In so doing, His human act repairs, for all mankind, the relationship that man had forfeited.

You and I, now have something to do. Yes, we have been redeemed. Earlier, we spoke about how man separated himself from God. But, we continue to separate ourselves from God. We act as though we don’t need Him. We do what we want, boasting we know what is good for us, that we are self sufficient. We are not. We must recognize that Jesus did what He did, for us living in the here and now. He asks us to grow closer to Him, unite with Him, and follow His way of life.  “…let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.-4”  ……….. He died and was buried.      goto next segment

-1 Luke 22: 42-43
-2 Luke 9: 58 -Jesus said to him: The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air, nests; but the Son of man hath no place to lay his head
-3 Mark 15: 37 And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice gave up the ghost.

-4 Luke 9: 23