Tag Archive: human condition


Reprint of “Be Me”.

Jesuspic4x6

Again, I am re-printing a prior post. NO, I haven’t gotten lazy. In re-reading some of the older posts, I realize that what they said then is still true now. I am posting them again because they are pertinent to the Lenten season.

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 really 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, on that plate of gold?

.

1- John 14: 6

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40 days

This was originally posted on 2/14/2013, but I felt that rather than being referenced, it should be re-posted. Its’ words still ring true.

Here we are at the outset of Lent. Ash Wednesday has come and gone. The ashes on our foreheads have either been washed, or rubbed away. Regardless of which is true, the end result is that today has started like any other day of our lives. If we allow ourselves to stop and actually think about it, the only thing different is, we are in a very holy time of the year, a very holy time of our lives. These next forty days are leading us to the very proof of Jesus’ immortality. We are in the desert, alone with God. Our actions over these solemn days will speak either of our love for Jesus, or for ourselves.

This has to be a time of prayer for all of us. We know the world needs it, but we, too, need it. All of us have our faults, our problems, our worries and concerns. We are by no means perfect. And yet, with all of these imperfections, we must try to honor our God, praise our God, and love our God. It will not be a perfect love, because we are not perfect; but God is not asking us to BE perfect. He is asking us to TRY. Try to remember Him, try to seek Him out, and try to fall in love with Him, a little more deeply.

All three readings in today’s mass contrast the works of the loving and those of the wicked. The first reading (Deuteronomy) speaks of the good and evil in the world. It begins with, “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…” The choice is ours. It goes on to say, “…if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them.” It is an either, or. We cannot have both. Apply these words to our world, today. If we turn away from God, and not listen to His words of love for us, we will be drawn away and worship other gods. The word “gods”, I’m afraid make us snicker or relegate the words as so much gibberish. Gods of today, will not be golden calves, nor fire, nor wind, nor thunder. They come as distractions, as cell phones, as pleasure, as money, as material things, as power, as comfort, as popularity. They come as anything which grabs our hearts, our attention and makes them the most important treasure for us at that moment. They turn us away from prayer, and substitute themselves for our God.

The second reading though very short, continues this theme. In one short verse it says, “… the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” You cannot get more compact than that. And then Luke’s Gospel addresses why Jesus had to suffer as He did and to die, to be raised up on the third day. He continues, “And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Sounds like a perfect description of Lent. And it goes on asking the question “…For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

These are powerful words. These cannot be any more open and revealing. The choice is laid out for us, we cannot deny it. We may not like being uncomfortable, we may not like having to be a little more demanding of ourselves but no one said Christianity was a cake walk. We can speak of the love of Jesus for us. We can speak of our love for Jesus. But when all is said and done, if we totally believe in something then we will want to totally strip away everything that prevents us from attaining it. That means the creature comforts that we don’t want to give up; that means the lofty attitude that we have of ourselves; that means the friends we need because they will help us advance; that means the power, the wealth, the pleasures, the popularity, to all of these we must lose our attachment. It sounds unbelievable, unattainable but it is what it is. It is Christianity. May our love for Jesus grow to such an extent, that we cherish the very sacrifices that we are called to make.

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

1) Are We Free or Not?
2) Affecting Others
3) The Courage to Accept: Acceptance
4) To All Mankind

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                      IN THE MEANTIME….

I was reviewing some of my past blogs, and I came across this one which was posted on New Years Day of 2011. I thought it might be beneficial to all if I re-printed that post which contains an extremely beautiful video. (I wish I could take credit for it, but it is not mine, as I mention in the post below).

January 1, 2011

First I want to wish everyone, “A Happy New Year”. This is a time for reflection of our past, and aspiring to achieve the potential of our future. This can only be done by working on the now. We need to see ourselves as the culmination of all of our past experiences. Without our successes and failures we would be bland. We are unique, however, because of all that we have experienced, have endured, have overcome, have learned. This uniqueness is what we have to offer to the world.

I wish to start this year off on a positive note. I can think of no better way than to direct you to this video. May you enjoy it, understand it, and reflect on its implications within your life and those around you. Click here for video

I would be proud if I had created this video. (I am not that creative). I thank the producers of this video for making it available for public use…….TheSteppingStones.

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

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?

.

1- John 14: 6

The First Day Without Ashes

40 days

Here we are at the outset of Lent. Ash Wednesday has come and gone. The ashes on our foreheads have either been washed, or rubbed away. Regardless of which is true, the end result is that today has started like any other day of our lives. If we allow ourselves to stop and actually think about it, the only thing different is, we are in a very holy time of the year, a very holy time of our lives. These next forty days are leading us to the very proof of Jesus’ immortality. We are in the desert, alone with God. Our actions over these solemn days will speak either of our love for Jesus, or for ourselves.

This has to be a time of prayer for all of us. We know the world needs it, but we, too, need it. All of us have our faults, our problems, our worries and concerns. We are by no means perfect. And yet, with all of these imperfections, we must try to honor our God, praise our God, and love our God. It will not be a perfect love, because we are not perfect; but God is not asking us to BE perfect. He is asking us to TRY. Try to remember Him, try to seek Him out, and try to fall in love with Him, a little more deeply.

All three readings in today’s mass contrast the works of the loving and those of the wicked. The first reading (Deuteronomy) speaks of the good and evil in the world. It begins with, “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil…” The choice is ours. It goes on to say, “…if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them.” It is an either, or. We cannot have both. Apply these words to our world, today. If we turn away from God, and not listen to His words of love for us, we will be drawn away and worship other gods. The word “gods”, I’m afraid make us snicker or relegate the words as so much gibberish. Gods of today, will not be golden calves, nor fire, nor wind, nor thunder. They come as distractions, as cell phones, as pleasure, as money, as material things, as power, as comfort, as popularity. They come as anything which grabs our hearts, our attention and makes them the most important treasure for us at that moment. They turn us away from prayer, and substitute themselves for our God.

The second reading though very short, continues this theme. In one short verse it says, “… the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” You cannot get more compact than that. And then Luke’s Gospel addresses why Jesus had to suffer as He did and to die, to be raised up on the third day. He continues, “And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Sounds like a perfect description of Lent. And it goes on asking the question “…For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

These are powerful words. These cannot be any more open and revealing. The choice is laid out for us, we cannot deny it. We may not like being uncomfortable, we may not like having to be a little more demanding of ourselves but no one said Christianity was a cake walk. We can speak of the love of Jesus for us. We can speak of our love for Jesus. But when all is said and done, if we totally believe in something then we will want to totally strip away everything that prevents us from attaining it. That means the creature comforts that we don’t want to give up; that means the lofty attitude that we have of ourselves; that means the friends we need because they will help us advance; that means the power, the wealth, the pleasures, the popularity, to all of these we must lose our attachment. It sounds unbelievable, unattainable but it is what it is. It is Christianity. May our love for Jesus grow to such an extent, that we cherish the very sacrifices that we are called to make.

 

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.

People We Meet

I was thinking about people, recently. No one in particular, just people. They pop in and out of our lives. Some make a difference, some just appear and are gone, and some sadly, we hardly notice. I will pose you an example. Think of a doctor, married, middle aged, and has two children in grammar school. The doctor owns two cars, a house, and maybe he/she even lives on your street. The family seems to be happy and thriving.

So now, you know someone else, right? ………………Wrong??!!? What else do you know about your next door neighbor, or the person down the street? Do you know what they really like? How about what bothers them? What hurts them to even think about? What pains and sorrows do they have? What silently do they think about, and worry about before falling off to sleep?  Who is sick in their family? What aspect of life are they struggling with? What are they struggling to overcome? These and millions of other things invade their lives, but we don’t know about, or possibly, don’t even care about them.

Think of someone you see on the television. He or she is not really there in the same room with you. It is just a series of electronic dots of varying colors that represent a person to you. And if you like or dislike that person who is represented on TV, then you will instinctively relive a good or bad emotional feeling about that person. AND…. he/she is not even in the same room with you.

The point I am trying to make here is that we feel towards people and in that feeling, we think we know that person. We don’t have a clue what they are struggling with. We don’t care what they are struggling with. We only can see and feel our needs, our feelings. These are what we lay on the people that we meet. I don’t like you, because you have a body odor, and I will shun you. You are not my color, so I don’t trust you. I don’t like your smile, so I don’t like you. You are filthy, so I will avoid you. People…. We are portraying our feelings and treating these people accordingly.

Think of how Jesus treated people. He bathed them. He healed them. He cried over them. He felt their agony and wept. He saw their problems and they affected Jesus accordingly. We, on the other hand, see OUR feelings and treat people accordingly. In that brief little statement is the huge difference, the wide gap that separates us from a true Christian life. In Matt. 11: 29, we read, “…and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls”. In short, be as Christ is and we will find peace. And again, in Luke 18:9-25, which begins with, “…And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable: …” In which, Jesus compares those who judge others with those who judge only themselves.

No matter who we think we are, or what we think we are, each one of us has so much to change in our lives. The best way I can think of to help me change my attitudes towards others is to think of Jesus being inside them. If we open our eyes and see Jesus needing water to bathe, won’t we give it to Him? If we see Jesus as a person of different color than our own, wouldn’t we still trust Him? If His smile seemed somewhat off, wouldn’t we make excuses for Him? We see Jesus fallen and lying in a filthy, smelly mess, would we not cradle Him in our arms and wipe the dirt from His face? Jesus suffers today, just as He did when carrying the cross. The trouble is today is just like that time. The only ones who seem to help are those who are forced to do so, or do so because it is their job.

Maybe, it is time to forget OUR feelings, and feel the hurt and shame and suffering of those around us. It may take the rest of our lives to change our ways. For that matter, our whole life has been spent bringing us to where we are right now. Maybe now is the time to nudge our thoughts into a slightly different direction. Maybe now is the time to change our thoughts, our way of thinking about others and to begin seeing Jesus in the people around us, in the people on TV. The trouble is, we love Jesus in the abstract. Can we love Him in the real people we meet and see every day? He is there with arms extended to receive us. How long can we ignore Him?

People and Me

Think of someone you find it difficult to like. Think of a person who annoys you, makes you feel uncomfortable, who lives totally differently from you. Does that person dress the way you think they should? Is he clean? Shaven? Does he have tattoos? Does she dress modestly? Does she reek of perfume? Does she walk and talk as ladies are supposed to? Are these the reasons why you find it difficult to like them?

Why is it that we want people to be as we picture that they should be? Is that really how love works? I will love you, but you must fit into my expectations. I will help you, but you must look like you really want my help. Everything must be in its proper place, before we can start to show our affection, and our concern for these individuals. It sounds more like a duty that we grudgingly give, than a true concern for what the person needs at that time. If it is a duty and not a concern, then we have missed the meaning of Christianity.

If Jesus felt that way before taking up His cross, I wonder which one of us would still be looking for salvation. I dare say that all of us would have been left behind. Why is it that we see what is wrong with others, but don’t view ourselves in the same way, with the same scrutiny? We make allowances for ourselves. Or, more accurately, we don’t even see the imperfections that flow from us. This is not to tear us down, but rather to help us realize that all of us, every person who lives, struggle with our own problems. We pray that we can grow in love to reduce our own frailties. This is a huge enough task, so much so, that criticizing others is a waste of time.

Jesus has told us again and again, “I am the Way…” That is not just poetry. He is telling us simply that if we want to live our lives as God wishes, then we must be like Jesus… be Jesus. Jesus didn’t say to the beggar, I would make you clean inside, but first go wash yourself. He didn’t tell the adulterous woman that he couldn’t help her until she helped herself. The lepers, well they just wouldn’t stand a chance if Jesus felt as we do.

We cannot continue to put people in boxes. We cannot continue to categorize people, silently putting them into a niche we have set aside for them. If they don’t fit, well just drop them into the catch all bag of “unimportant stuff.” The next person you see is the same as you, struggling, trying to cope, fighting their own niche placing exercises, (for all you know, maybe you just fell into someone else’s niche).

The only way that we can be the person that God is looking to find in us, is by following the way of Jesus. People are not obstacles, are not annoyances, and definitely are not below us. We have all flowed from God’s goodness. Just as the trees and flowers, the sunlight, the birds in the air, all creation (that includes us) flow from God’s beauty. We are not here to criticize, to step on people so that we can get ahead, to take advantage of people. No, we are here to give honor and glory back to God. We do that in a myriad of ways. But probably the most important way is to see the beauty of God in all of creation (others as well as ourselves). It is then and only then, that the way of Jesus becomes a meaningful, true option for us.

On my way over to the hospital today, I felt a complete emptiness inside. This void inside seemed so great, I truly wondered what I was doing going to talk to hospital patients. How could I speak to them of Christ’s love? How could I let them know of the joy that fills us when He embraces us? I felt as joyous and as loving as the street signs I was passing. I truly questioned whether it was right for me to go there, today. Out of nowhere, a gentle thought came across my mind. “It isn’t about YOU”. Talk about being struck between the eyes.  It doesn’t matter what I feel; what I think; what I want. Serving our Lord and God, means we just step out of the way and let Him work through us.

At Mass, today, a lot was said about being in the presence of God. I tried picturing being there in God’s presence. I definitely could not see myself high-fiving God, or even asking Him how He was today. I could only picture myself standing, kneeling, hovering in the back, and not daring to raise my eyes. I believe the two thoughts are strikingly similar. It’s not about us…and… how we act when we find ourselves in the presence of God, If we blend those two thoughts together, a singular thought jumps out at us. When in the presence of God, we must be struck with our own puniness. How insignificant we, probably, must feel in the presence of the Almighty. Our actions at that time, whatever they are, surely must be filled with love, and awe. We probably desire to do perfectly, everything we can. This desire for perfection does not stem from our unworthiness, but rather, anything short of perfection would be out of place. And so we strive, at that moment, to be the person that God has envisioned us being, throughout all eternity.

This leads us back to the original thought. IT’s NOT ABOUT US. How does God envision us? What are His expectations? Does He expect us to be the chairman of the board? Does He think of us as the leaders, who are to make sense out of this world? Will He be upset, if we don’t reach the heights that we think we must? Just what does God want from us? What does He want us to achieve?

Throughout all of creation, God knew that He would be sending His Son. He knew that an example of how to live our lives would be required. Mankind may have intelligence, but we can also let our baser instincts cloud that intelligence. And so, in time, He sends Jesus to be the example, to show us how to live, how to act, how to love one another. To Thomas’ question, “Lord, how can we know the way?” Jesus tells him, and us, the plan to follow, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me”.-1  Nothing that we do, or say, or feel can add anything more to what Jesus has already given us. The path, the plan, is simple…Follow Jesus. He has demonstrated how we are to treat one another. He has, without a doubt, given His all for mankind. Through our inter-connection with each other, we know and experience the goodness and love that is Jesus. We know the way our lives must go.

The question is there for each of us, when we get caught up in ourselves. What shall I say? What should I do? What is expected of me? Why do I feel so empty? Why do these things keep happening to me?  These questions arise from where we stand, in front of a mirror, admiring ourselves, only to realize that we are greatly, woefully lacking.

Or, do we stand in front of God, no longer contemplating ourselves, but in awe of His beauty and love, striving for a perfection of which, anything less would be out of place. Where we stand does make a difference. Our attitude on ourselves, each other, and our world is vastly affected. And so, it is of paramount importance to us, that we reflect on the implications of what our answer means, when we ask, “Where do I stand”?

-1 John 14,6

A Letter to Aunt Molly


Dear Aunt Molly,

There are times in our lives when words cannot reflect the ache that we feel in our heart. We know what we are experiencing, but to form these feelings into words seems to be an insurmountable task. Whenever we experience the loss of a family member, a loved one who has been very close to us, we feel that deprivation. It seems that we can only focus our thoughts on what we have lost, on what we had and will never have again.  It is during these times that we seem to go about our lives as if in a cloud. We know that something else is beyond this time, but we cannot see what it is through the mist of our tears. This is when we must live on trust. A trust that tells us that our friends will be there for us; a trust that comfort and consolation will once again, fill our hearts; a trust in a God who loves us and will hold us ever closer to His heart.

We walk on this earth for one reason, and one reason only. God has breathed into each of us a life so that we can experience the fulfillment of His love, the fulfillment of bringing His love to others. This is a task that every person on this earth has. Each act of love that we perform draws us closer to being united with our God. I believe that Rose completed all the acts of love required of her on this earth. God has drawn her back to Himself, completing the act of creation He had started with her.

The love you have for each other is a constant, it will always be there. Her love for you and family will never cease. Her death does not interrupt her love. Your lives have been intertwined with love and happiness and even sadness. And, through all of your experiences together, you grew together. Love is like that. Love draws us towards God and towards each other.

But what can be said of the heartache that we still feel inside us? How do we address the longing, the hurt which wells up in our throats and almost prevents us from swallowing? How do we deal with that? It is a normal response. It is a sadness that cries out for the loved one. We don’t want the separation. We will miss the shared experiences.

It is at times like this when our faith will rescue us. Yes, we hurt, but its focus is one-sided. We see our life without. We see joys missed. We see experiences no longer shared. These are normal, don’t get me wrong, but we can and should look through the eyes of faith. Christ’s death allowed us to see that suffering on earth is not to be shunned but accepted. His Resurrection enabled us to see that there is more to life than what we experience here on earth. His love for us enables us to love one another, and in so doing, unite with others and to God.

So you see, Aunt Molly, the love that each of you had for one another has blossomed into an eternal joy. Rose will always be with you. Your shared memories, your moments of laughter and sadness, the times you worried together, in all of these, Rose is still with you. Cherish these. Don’t let them fade. Your familial love has united each of you with each other and to God. Be at peace. She is.

This rather personal letter is made public for all the Aunt Mollies of the world, both male and female, who are going through a time of suffering and loss. The hope is that you may find some consolation within.

Today, is May 21, 2011. We hear and see many declarations of the world’s end. Could it end today? Certainly, it could. Could it end tomorrow? Again, we have to answer with a “yes”. It could also end a thousand years from now or any day in between. Each day has the same degree of possibility. As we hear in the Bible, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away. But of that day or hour no man knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.” -1

Man has a fascination with the end-time. What will happen? How will it happen? What will be left? Man’s curiousity and inquisitiveness comes into play with full force, here. And yet, we should just ask ourselves, “Why do we want to know”? “Are we changing our lives for the better?” The only thing we know for sure is that time will most certainly, run out. The when should really not be important to us. What is important is what are we doing with the time available?

Let’s suppose that you did know the exact time. What would you change? Or, maybe better said, would you change? Curiousity can be just morbid, or it can prompt reform. An anticipated fearful event is NOT enough to prompt reform. Reform can only happen through our view of our lives, and our recognition of the gap between where we are and what Jesus asks of all mankind. But even then, the reform would be nothing more than a conforming to a plan laid out by someone else.

It is our relationship with Jesus, which sparks our feelings of love and affection to Him that can and will prompt the necessary reform. We cannot undo our past. We cannot remake our lives based on something that may happen in our lifetime. Our reform can only be brought about by our recognition of His love for us. His life, His teachings, and His death were all because of His love for us.

Padre Pio, in his writingspoints out, “…Jesus did not measure the blood He shed for the salvation of humanity, could He possibly measure my sins in order to lose me? I do not believe so.”-2 Our awareness of the completeness of Christ’s love for us, only that is what will prompt us to change and reform our lives. His goodness and warmth that we feel and recognize will be the mechanism which will spur us to joyously follow Him. The end time is as important as what kind of washing machine we will buy next. His love is our life.

1- Mark 13,31-33
2- Secrets of a Soul, Padre Pio’s Letters to His Spiritual Directors

Triggers in Our Lives

Throughout our lives we are faced with making decisions on how to improve things. Every year at tax time, we see our monies in and monies out. We pay close attention to dollars saved and spent. Based on these findings we make certain adjustments. Every six months or yearly we take our car to get inspected and tuned up. At work we are reviewed by our management and suggestions are made to help us advance in the company. The list goes on and on and seems endless. Most of these are triggered by a date or an anniversary of something. In short, we know it is time to do something, to improve something.

What triggers do we use to evaluate our spiritual progress? A retreat? A Holy Day? A death in the family? A marriage? How do we assess our friendship with Jesus? How do we know that our bonds are getting closer to our Savior and Redeemer? This is a difficult situation. On the one hand, we cannot just assume that because days are going by we are getting closer to Him. It might even seem presumptuous of us to think along these lines. On the other hand, we know ourselves and we see all the areas that need improvement. Our struggles seem to pulling us farther away.

Let’s take a look at one area of our lives that is with us always, our perceptions of others. You see someone of another race walking in your direction, what are your first thoughts? The dirty, unwashed beggar, you see at the corner, holding up a card board sign asking you to, “Please help”, what are your first thoughts? The woman in the bank or grocery store, dressed with a veil from head to toe, what first thoughts does she prompt in you? The noisy neighbor, the unruly child, the son or daughter that seems to do just the opposite of what you want, what do they prompt in you? Every person that we see on the street, in the store, in our lives, all of them prompt in us a first thought, our perception of them.

We cannot go to church on Sunday declaring to Jesus how much we love Him and then go out and harbor these first thoughts of others. John chapter 4, verse 20 says it clearly enough for us, “For he that does not love his brother, whom he sees, how can he love God, whom he does not see?” Our first thoughts of others, our perceptions of others, they portray the stereotyped images that we have built up in our lives. These images are holding us back and we may not even realize it.

In each person that we meet in our lives, the suffering Jesus resides. Each person is struggling as we are. They have the same basic concerns that we have. They, too, wish to be loved, wish they were better. They, like us, are trying to figure out the HOW. We must become aware of these perceptions that we have, when they occur, not the day after. Instead of wrapping ourselves tighter for protection, or aloofness, or disdain, try a smile, a kind word, a prayer. Be careful though, of feeling justified if you should do this. They are brought into our lives not so we will feel good, but so we can provide them comfort. We can give Jesus what He needs for that person.

These people are letting us know how we can truly be a Christian. They are if you will, our daily triggers that let us know our progress or stagnancy in following Christ. Around 200 A.D, Tertullian cited, “See how these Christians love one another.” This remark was posed in stark contrast to the hatred and killing that their pagan persecutors were filled with. How well do we love one another? Don’t know? Just wait a minute. Another trigger will pass by shortly.

He Is Risen!!

Today, we celebrate. Today, we rejoice. The Christ, who suffered and died, has done what He promised. He has triumphed over sin and death. He has risen from the dead, as He said He would. This one triumphant act, this, the greatest of all of His miracles, shows to the world that His words are true. He IS lord and master of the universe. We CAN believe in Him. If we ever doubted, we have no reason to doubt any more.

But even now, in this jubilant and glorious victory, how does Jesus conduct Himself? He meets two strangers on the road to Emmaus and hides his identity from them. He quietly mingles with His apostles, continuing His teaching of them. If we were in the same position, would we not stand in the face of our enemies, gloating with every fiber of our body shouting out, “I told you so”? Thank God, we are not God!!!

So, today we have cause to celebrate. We know that our faith, our beliefs, do hold water. We are reminded, once again, that all mankind has been bought back, has been brought back to the loving embrace of the Father. (See the blog: Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting.)

Our struggles, our trials, our sufferings can be more than just some negative happenings that we experience in this life. We can merge our sufferings with those of Jesus. Together, we can offer them to Our Father in Heaven. At Mass, we say, “Through Him, With Him and In Him, all honor and glory is Yours almighty Father.” Attaching to the sufferings of Jesus, our own sacrifices, we acknowledge and recognize our own unworthiness and need for forgiveness.

So, we have been renewed. We have been exonerated. And, we didn’t even have to lift a finger.!?!?  WRONG!!!! We may act like we have nothing further to do, we may live our lives as though nothing further is required from us, but that is terribly, terribly wrong. The actions of Jesus were for our benefit. But they were just that, actions of Jesus. We have a commitment to make and to live. Jesus said, “Unless you take up your cross and follow me…” He has shown us how to live, how to conduct our lives. His words, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”… are not just poetic niceties. He is showing us our commitment. In Matt, Chapter 11, 28 He says, “Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you”, and again in 30, “For my yoke is sweet and my burden light”. He is not asking us to die on the cross. He did that. He is simply asking us to love one another. And, in loving one another, in living in such a manner, we embrace Christ’s life, death and Resurrection. We will rise, as He has.

Good Friday

Leaving the Last Supper, the twelve, Jesus and the remaining eleven, walked to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, the Christ was reduced to tears and fear. His humanity was once again evident. Why a man? Why this man? Was it really necessary that He die? Is God so demanding? What would be accomplished? To answer these questions, let us step back and quickly look at what has led to this state.

Someone, (Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve), defied the will of God. Using the free will that God had given them, they chose to use it in defiance, as we do, even today.  In so doing they paved the way for a weakened mankind to defy God. This action brought evil, sickness and death into the world. Throughout time this evil, this cancer grew and continues to grow and spread. To restore the balance in the universe, to restore justice, a sacrifice has to be made. What could offset the evil, the hatred, the murder, the lust, the continuing disregard of God and His Goodness, all of which built up over thousands of years? A god must suffer and die. But, then, God would not be God, if he could suffer and die. A man, a God-man, a person so perfect that He knew not sin would have to the sacrificial lamb.  He would have to be the sacrifice. And so, from all eternity we have Jesus designated for the task of saving mankind from itself.

All of this defies logic. It sounds like a fairy tale. But here is where our faith must bridge the gap. A loving, caring God wants man to freely love Him and so gives him free will. That it is possible that man can choose to turn his back on God, and does, is the price of free will. We have been given a gift. How we use it is totally dependent on us.

The sad part of this is that we, all of us, have sinned. Maybe it was a slight disagreement, or a heated argument, or a murderous attack. Maybe it was stealing a nickel, or something of much greater value. Maybe it was a desire, a lust, an adulterous relationship. Small or big, our sins are added onto the heap of mankind’s willful self-serving. Restoration of order in the universe must be accomplished. If it is not restored, if it is ignored, then God could not be perfect, could not be just, could not be God.

So, here we are in Gethsemane, the apostles , asleep, Jesus, afraid and in tears. We gather our clubs and go after this Man. His agony, His scourging, His pain and torture, and ultimately His death will all take place very soon. Which of these things are we responsible for? Surely, my evil was not this huge.  I am not a mass murderer, like Hitler. Mine was just a small, minor transgression. But, Jesus is suffering for ALL mankind. You and I are part of that group. Our transgressions, big and small are part of this trash heap that He is paying the price for. The pain in His muscles, the flesh being torn, the punches, the insults, the mockery, the nailing to the cross, we are responsible for these. And his response to all of this? “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. He makes excuses for us.

It is much easier to think of all of this as a fairy tale. It didn’t really happen, so I don’t have to be concerned about it. Let me shove it to the back regions of my mind, where my thoughts rarely go. … But it did happen. We are responsible. For us to make amends we have to honestly look at Jesus and see what He did for us and why. Realize that He did this for us. Our free will must again come into play. We must use it now to recognize our guilt, our complicity in this tragedy. With our free will, Jesus wants us to recognize and admit our guilt, accept His act of Love and freely give our love and concern to the rest of mankind. If we do this, we show our love to Him. We give back to God our love using our free will.

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

Continuing our look at Jesus’ humanity, we see in today’s Gospel Jesus revealing to the Apostles that one of them will betray Him. A friend, a follower, not only walks away, but is the mechanism that enables Jesus’ enemies to capture Him. Someone who Jesus walked and talked with, someone he had taught for three years, they ate and laughed together; Judas turned his back on Him and wanted to be with him no more. How this must pierce Jesus’ heart? The ache inside, the need to cry, the tightness in His throat… how this betrayal must have hurt Him.

We can look on this and say it was a necessary evil. It had to happen. Judas made a mistake. He thought he was doing something that would eventually advance the cause of Jesus. But, we really cannot explain it away, nor, should we. If we explain this away, then we will explain away our own failings, our own betrayals, our own “necessary evils”.

This is, however, one more time that Jesus shows us how we are to deal with the trials of our day. He could have thrown up his hands and shouted, “This is useless”, “Nobody seems to care”, “The heck with him”. But no, all He says is, “What you have to do, do quickly”. No verbal assault. No recriminations. No judgment. He sees the weakness, He understands the weakness, and yet He loves. In spite of the human hurt that must have been felt, He loves.

Each one of us has played the role of Judas at some point in our lives. It may not have been as drastic, or maybe it was, but the point is that our lives are full of hills and valleys. We valiantly strive towards our God and then again, we flee Him. Through all of this, He loves us, He understands. He patiently waits for us to return to Him.

We, all of us, every person that we know and meet have turned our collective back on Jesus. We do this time and time again…and we don’t even realize it. “Yes, I know I have sinned, but look at THAT person…” We just did it again! We turned our back on Jesus. We sit smugly, with moral superiority, judging others, while refusing to look within, at ourselves. In that judgment, we are saying we really aren’t that bad, at least not as bad as that person. If that is the case, then there must be levels of redemption.  Some need it more than others? Are we not saying too, that we don’t need Jesus, as much as other people do? We don’t need salvation, redemption as much as others? The other person does, but we don’t.

This obviously, is false, but our actions, how we live our lives, how we treat others seems to point in that direction. Each time a son or a daughter, a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, a neighbor, a co-worker, a person that we see on the street, each time we make a judgment on any one of these, we deny them the love of Jesus. We deny that Jesus’ way of life is anything but a pipe dream. Once again, we betray Jesus.

First and Last

There is a very human and warm Gospel passage-1 in today’s Mass. The mother of the sons of Zebedee, (James and John) asks Jesus that her two sons be allowed to sit at His right and left side. Isn’t this really a very natural and motherly trait, wanting the best for her children and willing to do anything to help them?

But, Jesus turns to them and tells them that they don’t realize what is necessary for them to do to accomplish what they are asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” These words echo down through the ages to all of us. What are we willing to do, to tolerate, to endure for the prize? Very often we want the accolades, the notoriety, and the fame. We want our lives to be comfortable, not plagued with difficulties. We want to be recognized and seen as someone special. But what makes someone special? Jesus tells us bluntly, “…Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave”.

Well there it is the formula that gains the prize. How simple is that? We cannot covet the accolades, the notoriety or the fame. This is not the way to the prize. This is not why Jesus came into this world, to teach us to strive for success and glory. How many times, how many ways does Jesus warn us with His words and Life, not to seek out the first position but the last? He goes on to tell them, “…that even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (I think it rather humorous that the other Apostles became indignant at James and John. They probably wanted those prized positions for themselves??)

If we are honest with ourselves, if we view our lives without those rose colored glasses, we see how picky and trite we can be. We look at people who are different from us and … look away. The unwashed, the dirty, the people who wear their clothes differently than we would, the people who don’t act the way we think they should, all of these we look down our noses at. We judge them to be problems. But, we don’t judge our problems. Who are we that we can treat them with little or no concern? Are we not all struggling to live our lives with a sense of decency and goodness? Ahh.. There is the problem! We don’t judge ourselves. We don’t do any introspection of ourselves. We don’t critically look at our way of life. So, how can we possibly see that our lives are struggling to achieve decency and goodness, if we don’t look critically at our actions, our motives, and our judgments?

Jesus wants us to follow Him. He has shown us the way. But before we can make that first step along His path, we have to place our trust and love in Him. We must love Him enough; trust Him enough that we can face our weaknesses. It is only through Him that we gain the freedom to accept ourselves, with our failings. It is only through Him that we gain the courage to judge ourselves and see ourselves as we are. Then, and only then, in seeing our own frailty and knowing that He still loves us, do we realize that all the people that we meet, ALL of them are loved and struggling. What we do then is….

-1 (Matthew 20: 17 – 28)

Jesus and Now

Oh, the beauty and simplicity of the Bible. Today’s Gospel (Luke 5:27-32) says in very simple words, why Jesus came to mankind.  Read the cited passage, but if you don’t have the time to look it up, verses 30 to 32 say it all. “And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

There, in less than 50 words, Jesus tells us, “I know you need help. It is for this reason, I have come to you. Trust Me. Acknowledge and confess your guilt, your confusion.” He came into this world for sinners, you and me. When will we recognize our plight? When will we admit that we are not the perfect person, we want others to think we are? We spoke yesterday of hiding behind a mask. We protect the illusion of goodness and propriety, at all costs.

And Jesus patiently waits for us. He waits for us to hear, really hear, His words and understand that He is speaking directly to us. We seek out so many things that are unimportant. We let them occupy our time, our thoughts and our energies. And that which is most important, namely, our acceptance of His words, our belief in His words, our living our lives based on His words, these we relegate to a dusty corner in our life.

All we need to do is go to The Physician. Tell Him we are not well. Tell Him we may not even know what is wrong with us, but we know that something is wrong. Believe in Jesus, TRUST Him. Trust Him with every fiber in our body. Know that He will be with us and provide us what is best. Then, having said this, having done this… live every moment of our life in the present. Don’t worry about the past. It is over. Don’t be concerned about something an hour from now. We have no control over the future. That person who you just met, give them your undivided attention. That problem that just cropped up, recognize it for what it is and not a crisis. That feeling that you feel right now, be aware of it but not a slave to it. Christ is NOW. He doesn’t dwell in the past. Nor is He to be found in the future. He is what makes the present, beautiful. He waits for us, in the now.

ASH WEDNESDAY

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. We go to Mass and afterwards, the priest gently presses his thumb in burnt palms from last year and makes the sign of the cross on our forehead. It winds up looking more like a circle, but we know a North, South, West, East mark was made on our forehead. “Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay, and thou wilt bring me into dust again.” (Job 10:9) These words or a paraphrase of them are said as the priest makes the sign of the cross on our forehead.

“Why, this ritual?” we should ask ourselves. Especially since the Gospel in the Ash Wednesday Mass makes it quite clear, how we should fast, and how we should do good. “When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you”, and again “when you fast, do not look dismal”, and still again, “that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father”. (Matthew 6: 1 – 6, 16 – 18) It seems almost like a contradiction. We wear ashes and yet are told to wash our face, to not appear any different to our fellow man. The fact is, we don’t wear the ashes to proclaim our holiness, or to appear to all that we are getting ready to fast, but rather to acknowledge that we are a community of sinners in need of repentance and renewal.

It is only when we look into our souls and recognize all that is preventing us from truly uniting with Jesus we begin to understand our life, our direction. Maybe, this should be said in a different fashion. Our desire to be so united with Jesus gradually frees us and allows us to understand what it is that is keeping us from getting closer to Him.

The ashes that we wear on Wednesday, do remind us that we are sinners in need of repentance. They should also remind us that Jesus died for us, loving us. We, who have so many imperfections and sins, are understood and loved. THAT is what breaks the bonds holding us back. His love for us, His total all-encompassing Love frees us. We can look at ourselves and our fellow man, recognizing that all of us are struggling with the same problems, the same sins, the same proud actions and all of us are loved. No one person is better than anyone else. No one person can look down on anyone else and feel superior. We are all struggling, all loved.

This Lent, whatever acts of self denial we choose to perform, let them be actions that cost us something, and not be actions that make us feel good about ourselves. We can give up smoking, or candy, or something that we like. We could also do something for someone else. Do we know someone who is home bound? Do we know someone who is lonely, grief-stricken, or depressed? What can we do for them? YOU who have suffered through illnesses, and grief, and depression, YOU who have struggled with sins and despair, YOU can quietly bring the love of Jesus to someone. How can you? You can, because Jesus loves you. This Lent is a time for all of us to bring Jesus’ Love to the world, the world of our friends and acquaintances. Let’s have a great loving Lent!

Do you believe in God?

Is this God all-good? Or all-bad? Or a little of each?

>If He is all-bad, where did all the beauty in this world come from, and why would you believe in Him?

If He is sometimes good, and sometimes bad, how can He be God, who is always constant, and never capricious?

God must be all-good.

His plan, therefore, must also be good, because He is good.

Since we are here, we must be part of His good plan; and His plan for us must be good, as well.

Does God ever stop loving us, ever stop being aware of us? The answer must be no, since God is constant. He always loves us and is always aware of us.

Everything we receive, that which we like and don’t like is part of this all-good God’s plan for us. We just don’t know why these things happen! And, we don’t know where they will lead? This not knowing, however, if we let it, can erode our trust in God. We can wind up not trusting the very One, whose good plan for us permits these things to happen.

And so, we vainly replace our trust in God with trust in ourselves, our abilities, our thoughts, our desires. We, like Adam, seek to be our own little god. In abandoning our trust in God and substituting trust in our own judgments, we begin our own private hell. Always striving to trust something else, while not knowing who or what, like a fish on a boat deck, we flounder aimlessly trying to get back into the waters of belief.

Oh Lord, I believe. I want to believe. Help my unbelief.

Friendship and Trust

People come in and out of our lives. Some enter with great fanfare and then quietly, drift off, or maybe, we just move on. Others’ entrances are less notable but we know they are there, and maybe, for a time, we even like what we see. Gradually, they also take a back seat in our lives. Still others, almost immediately, we see or perceive something that tells us that this isn’t right for us. BUT… the sneaky ones, they show up one day hardly making a noise. We might not even notice them the first one or two times we encounter them. They seem to mesh with the scenery. And so, these people blend so seamlessly into our lives that they become part of our life. And then it seems so natural that we can’t imagine ever being without them.

Think of all the people that you have met over your lifetime. They all fit into one of these categories. But the people who you associate with, who you want to be with, there is something special about them. You feel comfortable with them and, they you. You can feel your heart smile, when you see them approaching. You share with them your joys and your heartaches, knowing that their love will treat both emotions with kindness and respect.

Friendship is like that. The bond that grows between friends gets stronger and deeper, the more we are together. We get to know each other’s good and bad points, but because they are our friends, we tolerate, ignore, but understand their struggles. We know that they feel the same about our foibles, as well.
What we are describing here is a relationship that continually grows and deepens. (You know where this is going…) What can we say of our relationship with Jesus? Let me repeat a line said earlier. “The bond that grows between friends gets stronger and deeper, the more we are together”. Jesus is always with us. So, if we are not together, we must be the part that is pulling back. It is one thing to say, “Oh, my Jesus”, and “Oh, my God”, but these words do not form the friendship. The friendship gradually forms between us and Jesus when we strive to “chat” with Him, when we bare our souls and our struggles. It is during these times of sincerity, and openness that we get to know His love for us. Our belief in Him fosters our hope. And these two allow us to ultimately trust Him. Trust is the knowledge, the certitude that the Other respects and cares for us. Having this trust in Jesus, we place our lives at His disposal. Not my will, but Thine be done.

Our Demons

What has a hold on us?

Yesterday, the last day in January, the Gospel reading (Mark 5:1-20) was about Jesus casting out the demons into the pigs that were nearby. However, this is not about the exorcism, but the person on whom this event centers.

After being freed of the demons that had plagued him, only naturally, the man, wanted to follow Jesus. Isn’t this a normal reaction? Having been freed of some life-long illness, some evil that we have struggled with all of our lives, wouldn’t we want to follow and praise the person who had healed us? But, Jesus told him “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

How many demons do you and I have? What sins devastate us? What illnesses wreak havoc with our bodies? What things persecute us and wear us down? From some of these demons, we may even have been freed. Somewhere, somehow we got the strength to overcome them. We may feel that we found a way, or we might believe that only through Jesus’ help were we able to overcome them. The emphasis is not on how we were healed, but that we were healed.

The joy of having a heavy burden lifted from us floods our souls. The tears of relief flow down our cheeks. We have been healed. We are being healed. Our resultant life has been changed for the better. Christ’s words ring in our ears, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Here is where our faith in Jesus, our trust in His love comes into play.

Sometimes, our problem is a result of our own negligence, our own willfulness, our own doing. But now, now we are out of the hole that engulfed us. We look around. We make sure nobody has noticed the cancer that has plagued us. We don’t want anyone to know of the shame that we have carried. Tell someone else? Let somebody know what problems I am, and have been, struggling with? Why would I do that?

It has been said here, many times, that Christ loves us as we are. We are, right now, the result of everything that we have lived, and experienced. Someone with whom we see, or meet, or even love is experiencing a problem similar to what we have struggled with. If we truly try to love the people that we come in contact with, then in that love we will say something, stemming from our past experiences, that will help them. We won’t know WHEN we are helping them; we won’t know HOW we are helping them. But through that love which we have for them, Christ will use our experiences to guide us. “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has loved you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

‘I Wish You Enough’

 

This was sent to my wife and I, by very close friends, who are moving away. After sending it back to them, I felt that this was important enough for all of us to hear and appreciate. To reach as many people as possible, I thought it best to include this on The Stepping Stones. It truly reflects human love and affection. And, no matter what religion is practiced these human values perfectly fit within our hearts. The email is copied in its entirety:

* * * * * *

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure.
Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the father said, “I love you, and I wish you enough.”


The daughter replied, “Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.


They kissed, and the daughter left. The father walked over to the window where I was seated.  Standing there, I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?”
“Yes, I have,” I replied. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?”


“I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,” he said.
“When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”
He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. “When we said, “I wish you enough”, we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.


I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I  wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish  you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.He then began to cry and walked away.


They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.
Only if you wish, send this to the people you will never forget and  remember to send it back to the person who sent  it to you.  If you don’t send it to anyone it may mean that you are in such a hurry that you have forgotten your friends.
TAKE TIME TO LIVE….
To  all my friends and loved ones,
I WISH YOU ENOUGH

Jesus Walked Down the Street

If you were to meet Jesus as you walked down the street, what would you say? What would you do? How would you act? Would you even recognize Him? He won’t have a sign hanging around his neck saying, “I am Jesus”. So what would you do?

Even if we saw Him wearing a rough white robe, fastened with a rope of some kind around His waist, and wearing sandals on His feet, we probably still would not recognize Him. Having long hair and a beard would probably only add to the problem. The first thought coming to our mind, might be, “Look at this weirdo. What is his problem?” In a time and place where automobiles are speeding by, horns are honking, people chatting on cell phones as they walk down the street, we might, indeed, not expect, nor recognize Him. And that is very sad. The entire message of His life and death will have been lost.

During the time of Christ, the believing Hebrews still expected the Messiah to come as a king, with an army, delivering them from their oppressors. Today, we would probably expect to see Him preaching words of wisdom that would be so compelling in their nature that they would almost force us to believe. But He is not a warlord. He will not force our belief. He will continually respect our free will. His message is as clear now as it was in apostolic times. Christ (God) can be found in every person that we meet.

The truth of the matter is: we don’t really believe in the words of Jesus. HE is in every person. Whatever we do for the people that we meet, we do for Him. The people that we dislike, the people that bother us so very much, the people who have no manners, the people who act like animals, the people who are sick and dying, the people who live next door, the people who we fear are trying to take our jobs, the people who we fear, the people who have no “self-control” and take drugs and alcohol just to flee the thought of themselves, the people who commit crimes, heinous crimes, the list goes on and on… Whatever we do for these, we do for Him.

I think we believe that we would treat Jesus differently. Even if we did treat Him differently, would He really love us for that???? Aren’t we saying, by that act of “LOVE???” we can love Jesus because He doesn’t bother us, He meets OUR standards. Somewhere along the line, our Christianity got mired in the mud of our likes and dislikes. We choose the people who we can love and not love. And we do this IN THE NAME OF JESUS!!!! Where did we get off of the path? Where did we stumble and fall? Why do we love only those who don’t bother us?

Maybe, if Jesus were to come to this day and age, He would come as a beggar, a dirty smelly unwashed beggar. In His love for us, He would show us that love transcends what we find pleasing, that love does not weigh on a scale what gifts a person has or lacks. People are people. ALL OF US are guilty of crucifying our Lord. What crime, what indecency, what evil is greater than that? We cannot look at another with disdain. We are no better or worse. The love that Christ has for us is the same love that we must have for each other. If we loved one another, by that very act we would be accepting Jesus’ message that He delivered over two thousand years ago.

What we NEED now!

Well, here we are, one week into 2011. Gifts received about two weeks ago, don’t seem quite as important as they did then. The joy and luster that shone from our eyes has dimmed a little. Resolutions that were firmly made have begun to slip a little. What is wrong? Why is this happening? Saint Augustine said it quite well in the beginning of his “Confessions”. He said, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee”.

We see something and we think, “…maybe this will make me happy”. And we go out and buy it. We hear others are happy because they do this or that. So internally, we think again, “…surely this will fill the void that I feel.” We try it also. We see people laughing and having a good time, so we imitate whatever they are doing. All of these are our attempts to feel good, to feel good about ourselves. They all seemed to be promising at first, but none delivered the hoped for relief, the desired well-being that we craved. And, once again, we feel that loneliness, that sinking feeling that we are missing something. That emptiness cries out, “…there must be more to life than this”.

Our hearts ARE truly restless, until we find the comfort, the relief, the calm that only Jesus can provide. Man’s ache that he feels inside, that craving to understand why he exists, why he is, that ache has been in man ever since he walked this earth. Some philosophers attribute that very craving as proof that there is a God. They contend that it would not exist, if there wasn’t something that would satisfy it. That craving can be thought of as existing in us because of God’s love for us. He put this in us to help us strive to find Him. Because of it, mankind continually seeks to make sense out of life and seeks to find what will make him happy.

In our search we experiment and try this and that. We look in every nook and cranny. It seems like everything that might possibly provide relief we try. All of this, just to find a reason for our existence, to find something that will fill the void within. Again, we hear the words, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” Only one thing will satisfy these needs within. To say that Jesus will provide the relief that we seek is not a complete answer though. Yes, we can recognize that His goodness and love will be the salve for our wounds. But it only becomes meaningful to us, when we bring Jesus into our hearts. With His goodness and love inside us, we finally feel the calm that has eluded us. Only until we crave the relationship that must exist between us and Him, only then can we say our hearts have found rest.

The Seasons of Our Lives

First I want to wish everyone, “A Happy New Year”. This is a time for reflection of our past, and aspiring to achieve the potential of our future. This can only be done by working on the now. We need to see ourselves as the culmination of all of our past experiences. Without our successes and failures we would be bland. We are unique, however, because of all that we have experienced, have endured, have overcome, have learned. This uniqueness is what we have to offer to the world.

I wish to start this year off on a positive note. I can think of no better way than to direct you to this video. May you enjoy it, understand it, and reflect on its implications within your life and those around you.
Click here for video

I would be proud if I had created this video. (I am not that creative). I thank the producers of this video for making it available for public use. To see others, go to the website openoureyeslord.net.

Who Is Jesus?

How Do You Answer?

Who are YOU? That seems like a simple enough question. We might mention the job we have. We could respond with the size of the salary we have. We might call attention to the position we have in the company that we work for. There are many ways how that simple question can be answered. But these kinds of answers are NOT really for the question, “Who are you?”, but for the questions, “What do you DO?” “How WELL do you do it?”

Rather than playing a guessing game, I’ll just mention a few ways how, “Who are you?” can be answered. I am a human being. I am an animal, but with the ability to think. I have the ability to make good and bad decisions because I have free will. I can see, hear, and feel, but these are because of physical things like eyes, ears and nerve endings. I can think. Thinking is not physical. Thinking transcends, or rises above, the physical world. Thinking involves the spiritual realm. So, I am not only physical, but spiritual, as well.

In Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 16, vs. 13-17, we see Jesus asking the Apostles, Who do people say that the Son of man is? Their answer comes back with what they heard people saying, namely, John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremiah or a prophet. The question then turns to the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” -1 This is a question that He also asks us, you and me, to answer as well. We know Peter’s response, “You are Christ, The Son of the living God”. To which Jesus replies back to him that Peter has been blessed, because he doesn’t know this by his own doing, his humanity, but because of Jesus’ Father in Heaven, God.

So, Jesus asks us, also, “Who am I”? All of the ways we have been taught, from our earliest years on how to answer this, we know. We know them so well, that they have almost become meaningless to us. Jesus is the Christ! Yep, yep, I know that. What does that mean? He is the Savior, the Redeemer. What did He save? Who did He save? Why? What is this Redeemer business? Remember, we are animals, with the ability to think. We need to know the answers to all these questions. These answers should mean something to us. They must mean something to us! What does His life and death mean to me? To you? Did He really die for us? What is the relationship we have with Him, because of His life? His death? His Resurrection? If we are really being honest with ourselves, we must not just read these things, but internalize them. This is not question-and-answer time. This is question-and-what-does-this-really-mean-to-me time. Our life on this earth and for all of eternity is determined by how we answer these questions.

If we logically think through this process, we would hear our thoughts go like this: Christ, who is the Son of God, came to show me how to live. Mankind, of which I am part, has brutalized God. I turned my back on Him. I separated myself from God, through actions which I knew were not in my BEST interests. Jesus came to repair the damage. He died on the cross for me. For His life and death to mean something to me, I must know why He came into this world. For it to mean something to me, I must accept that He died because of things I have done.  For it to mean something to me, I must finally show my acceptance, by living in the fashion that Jesus showed me, namely, through love, concern and acceptance of others.

We look at our lives and realize we have grown soft. We like the comforts which we have become accustomed to, no matter how small. We don’t like to be inconvenienced. We are intolerant of others actions, especially when they disturb our peace of mind. We seek every creature comfort that we can afford, or want. The thought of right and wrong, we try not to think about. Our heads hurt when we think that deeply, so we turn up the sound box a little louder, so we can’t think, don’t have to think. Our children have become responsibilities that we put up with. They are no longer little people craving to learn how to cope with life, how to embrace their God, how to learn, how to love. We seek only ourselves and in so doing, are in the process of losing ourselves.

Christ knows how we are, with all of our deficiencies, and inclinations. He saw us before we were born and knew then of our shortcomings. And, He still loves us. Knowing our actions, He loves us and dies for us. He loves us, as we are NOW. How do we explain that? We who can’t tolerate another person’s awkward glance or stare, how do we explain a love that will die for us as we are? Infinite love is as incomprehensible to us, as the thought of an infinite God.

Knowing everything that we have said above, what does Christ want from us? He wants us to recognize who we are, complete with our deficiencies (our sins and evil inclinations), and still know that He loves us, right now! Does He want us to move towards Him? Of course, He does. But, He still loves us as we are, with an infinite love. We, for our part, must simply trust Him. We must totally accept His love, while acknowledging that our lives fall so very short of where they should be. How completely can we accept Jesus? Our life’s story will continue to play out, as we struggle to rein in our lives. Christ knows us for what we are, and we ashamedly, know what we are. The difference is we can’t tolerate ourselves, and Jesus loves us infinitely. He wants us to raise our minds, our hearts, our very existence, and offer them to Him. Take our lives, Lord, hold them, and do with them as You wish. We trust in You. If we trust Him, in this fashion, our lives will change. We will see others in a way we have never seen them before. They are our brothers and sisters, all struggling with the same problems we have.

-1 This is covered a little more thoroughly in the blog, “Who Do You Say I Am?

The Least of These

Whose Face Do You Put Here?

For the last three or four days, the phase “…the least of these…” has been running through my head. I know I just heard it somewhere, but I can’t remember where or when. I know that it is in reference to Jesus’ words about whatever we do for even the least of our brothers, we do to Him. So, I used the Concordance-1 to find the phrase in the Bible. There the king (Jesus) speaks to his subjects and tells them when he was hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or sick, or imprisoned they provided for his needs. And they asked him, when did we do this for you? His reply was, “…as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”-2

The more I thought about this phrase, the more I was inclined to write about it here. Jesus cannot assert nor be any clearer on what we must do to follow Him. This one phrase sums up Christianity. If we really love Jesus, then we MUST love one another. He didn’t say it would be nice if we did. He didn’t say when we have the time to focus on someone else’s needs. He simply said, if we do these things for anyone else, we do them to Him. Not just kings, or our boss, or people we look up to, but we must be mindful and caring to everyone.

If this doesn’t thump our foreheads, and exclaim to us, “wake up”. Nothing does. He said, “I am the Way”. He is now pointing out the Way for us. I can write this, and you can read this, and we all can say, “yeah, ok” and continue to live our unchanging lives. We sometimes run around in circles, like a dog chasing his tail, trying to find out what we can be doing, to grow in our love for Christ. Well, He has told us. We can stop chasing our tails and start following His way of love. Love others as we love ourselves. Be mindful of others’ needs as we are mindful of our own.

When we see someone who causes us to tense up, to feel uneasy, (I am not talking about scared uneasy), to feel annoyance or disgust, we must realize we are looking at Jesus. If we start making excuses as to why it is right to tense up, to feel uneasy, to feel that annoyance or disgust then we are making excuses why it is ok to not love Christ.

To say this so bluntly, in such a matter-of-fact fashion is harsh. I know that, and so do you. We cannot expect to be perfect, nor arrive there any time in our lifetime. Perfection, sought by imperfect beings, is not possible. But small acts of kindness, of love, of concern, of awareness of other people’s needs, should be done by you and me. Maybe that sentence should read, “But small acts of kindness, of love, of concern, of awareness of everybody else’s needs, must be done by you and me.” We don’t have the luxury to pick and choose for whom we will care, or love. Jesus has the face of every person we meet and know.

So, there it is. We must love everybody. Do we start today? I doubt it very much. If we could love everybody, just by saying it, we would all be wearing haloes or there would be an “S” “t.” in front of our name. But, we can start trying today. We can start with just one person. When you reach the end of this article, close your eyes; think of the people who you find it difficult to get along with. Think about their lives, their suffering, and their problems. Realize that they are no different from you. They also have problems of which, you are totally unaware. See yourself in them. Don’t think of what you would do, if you were in their shoes. But rather, think of how you would feel, facing their problems. Would you be able to smile? Or Laugh? All of us are struggling in this world, while standing in holes that make it difficult for us to see out of. How good it is when someone extends their hand to assist a fellow human being out of their hole. See how the Christians love one another…

-1 http://www.drbo.org/
-2 Matt 25:40

The first recorded miracle of Jesus was done at the joyous occasion of a marriage in Cana. Mary’s simple statement, “They have no wine”-1 results in the beginning of Jesus’ public life. From Cana He travels to Capharnum and then Jerusalem. Where today’s Gospel shows Jesus in the temple where he found people selling pigeons, oxen and sheep.-2 His righteous anger spills out of Him causing chaos among all the bewildered sellers. They in turn, challenge Him with, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” To which Jesus replies, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” -3

These three encounters are listed here to show how even the earliest events in Christ’s life affected the Apostles, later on. The Gospel verse John 2:22 shows the impact of these events with, “When therefore He was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed…”

We commonly understand that Christ’s public life lasted for three years. We don’t exactly know when the group of the apostles came into existence, but it seems to be shortly after Jesus’ public life had begun. So for three years, this group of men had heard and seen things but, more than likely, did not really understand what was going on. What kept them together? Curiosity? Wonder? Amazement? Can you imagine the arguments that must have been started within the marriages of those Apostles that were married? It probably sounded something like

Wife: Where are you going now?
Apostle: Me and the guys are going with this Jesus fellow.
Wife: Again? You’ve been wandering all over this countryside with him.
Apostle: Don’t start on that again. He is different, somehow.
Wife: Different? Is he going to put food on our table?
Apostle: No, he just says things that I feel inside me. I can’t explain it.
Wife: Mark my words. No good is gonna come from this. Just mark my words.

And still, they stayed with Him, listened to Him, thought about what His words meant, and how they applied to them. What happened after those three years? What changed them? The best comparison we have in the terminology of today is when someone says a light bulb went on. OR RATHER…….
Jesus told them that, only if He went to the Father, could He send them the Holy Spirit. Picture that first Pentecost. There they were, leaderless, afraid. They probably spent those days together praying, recounting the things that Jesus had said, and remembering the things that He had done. (Very much like our modern day retreats.) Maybe one, maybe it was Peter, or John, maybe all together, but at some point things began to make sense to them. Things started to add up. The more they thought, and talked, the more they realized the significance of Jesus’ actions, His words.

Can you imagine that first Baptism of the Holy Spirit? They were probably crying with joy, fascinated with the goodness that had been part of them, and that was, now, in them. Joy, relief, understanding it came upon them in waves. They understood. They were fearful, no more. They may have been poor in the eyes of the world. They may have been considered ignorant, illiterate men. But, they possessed the most beautiful gift of all. The Holy Spirit had enlightened them, had given them wisdom beyond all comprehension. Their hearts were filled with compassion.

Though it appears that it happened all at once, these men had been growing and learning beside the greatest Teacher ever known. But, the Apostles, who at times, floundered in their disbelief, who struggled to understand, who argued who would be first in the kingdom of Jesus, they had been reduced to shells of men because of the weight of all their anxieties. The goodness was there, had been nurtured by Christ, carefully shaping these men. It was there, but now, without Christ, they had allowed these things to overcome them, to cloud their vision. And then came their Pentecost.

It can happen like that to us, as well. Our minds and nerves are overwhelmed with problems. Some are of our own making, and some are not. Our daily planners look more like children’s scribble we have crossed out and entered so many things. We say things like there isn’t enough time in the day, and don’t know where to turn next. We are confused, bewildered, stressed, anxious and many times even depressed. The more we twist and turn to extricate ourselves, the deeper we seem to sink in this quicksand of activity.

This helter skelter life may actually be telling us, warning us that we are distancing ourselves from Christ. We have so much to do, we cry out, “WHO HAS TIME FOR PRAYER!!!” We flee the very thing our heart is craving, peace. It is time for us to begin the journey back. It may be shorter than we think. It is time to reacquaint ourselves with Jesus. It begins by reading about Him, getting to know Him again, talking to Him in meaningful conversations, listening intensely to hear His words in our heart. If we do these things, we cannot help but to love Him. Because we will realize that all He said and did, was for us, for me. His words, His love will prepare us for our Pentecost.

-1 John 2: 3
-2 John 2: 13-15
-3 John 2: 18-20