Tag Archive: Listening to Christ


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.

Advertisements

Come Follow Me

Jesus taught people about God, even in the face of death! This may be a strange way to begin a blog, but it is accurate, and at the same time thought provoking. Today’s Gospel, Matthew 14, 1-12, reads like a satanic modern day novel. It addresses the lust of Herod for Herodias, the wife of his brother, Philip. An evil oath made and a horrible promise kept. All of this happens because a young girl, Herodias’ daughter, dances before him. And then, it speaks of the beheading of John the Baptist, the cousin and friend of Jesus.

Why would Herod do something atrocious like this? To a man, that he quietly admired? That is one thought that screams out at us. Another thought is how did Jesus feel when He heard the news and the manner of John’s death? He was a man. He knew fear and sadness, just as you and I. John had reprimanded Herod, telling him that it was not lawful for him to lust after Herodias. For this John’s head was severed from his body to satisfy the wrath of the woman.

Jesus was preaching a revolution within people’s hearts and minds. He was advocating peace and love, not war and lust. He did not seek out wealth and riches. He could be found with the sick, the dying, the sinner, and the wretched of the earth. He was not addressing just one evil. He was overturning the lives of everyone. His call was for each person to review their lives, to see what it is, inside them that is preventing them from honoring their Father in heaven. Jesus knew that all mankind was suffering. It was suffering then; and it is suffering today. If John was beheaded, how much worse would Jesus’ own death be? “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Yes, Jesus knew fear. He also knew, and preached with His own life, that good shall not bow down to evil.

He tells us, here in the 21st century that our lives must be lived in a manner that has concern for all. We cannot judge others. We must not. Each person that we see riding the bus, or the subway, each parent pushing a stroller, each service provider, every person that we pass by…all are struggling, are searching, all are wondering, “why me?” No one can point a finger. Not you. Not me. ALL are struggling. We don’t like this person. We don’t like that action. That person annoys us…we don’t know why… but that person annoys us. We allow our feelings, our anger, our frustrations, and our hurt to rule our lives. We should know better. We have been taught how we should live, and yet we do as we please. And Jesus, our Teacher, still says, “Come, follow Me.”

Worries In Our Lives

When was the last time you didn’t have a care or worry in the world? Think back, when was it? It was a time when you didn’t worry about job, or salary; bills and debts did not exist; responsibilities and should’s and ought to’s were not part of your thought process. The last time I can remember I must have been five or six running down the street in North Philadelphia to see my playmates. How about you?

It is a shame since many times we put off thinking about God, praying to Him…because we have so many other things on our mind. I will start going back to Mass, soon, but not right now. I have so many things to do, so many thoughts in my head. Aren’t we really saying, “Mass isn’t the most important aspect of my life? God will understand, because He sees how busy I am?” What is more important than being united with our God? If we think this way, that God can take a back seat and wait, then maybe, we don’t really understand how important He is to our life. Period.

We amass all of these worries and concerns, and then parade them around in our mind as justifying reasons as to why we cannot go to Mass. They become the mechanism why we cannot see good in others, why we should not help those less fortunate. “I am too busy. I don’t feel comfortable around people like that. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” And on it goes, our excuses build up and soon we actually believe these excuses to be real, to be formidable.  So, when we say, “I will go back to Mass, as soon as these concerns are over…,” realize that the last time we were free of concerns was…when??

It is the nature of man, to worry, to fret. It is part of our life. It is almost innate in us. So there must be another way around this issue. Why must our worries be over before we speak to God? Why do all the items in our to-do list have to be checked off, before we can focus on our union with our God? They don’t have to be. It is us! We want order in our lives, so much that we are willing to put off the most important relationship for our lives. But of course, we don’t think of it as so, because … there are so many other things in our life that concern us.

At the end of chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel, verses 28-30 speak directly to this point. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” Don’t wait until the trials, and problems and money worries, and sicknesses and everything else that oppress us, end. Don’t wait. Run to Him; Seek Him out. Lay these burdens that are suffocating you, at His feet. “Lord, I can’t bear them any more. I am so troubled by all of this.” THIS IS your prayer. This is how you seek Him out. In two small sentences you present yourself, as you are. A person that is seeking, troubled, weighed down, and confused. There are no pretenses here. This is who I am right now, Lord. Help me. Don’t expect the troubles and problems to magically disappear. Don’t expect magic. Expect peace. Your prayer is for peace, not solutions. Solutions will solve one problem. Peace will be your strength in all of your battles. Christ, who loves you, who hears you, who has told you to do just so, will flood your mind and soul with peace. The problems may still be there, but they are no longer insurmountable. You have peace within. And in that peace, in that calm comes the realization that our life is truly meaningless without Jesus, without God in our lives. And with this realization, we know that all of life’s burdens are not mighty majestic mountains, but merely speed bumps that crop up from time to time.

Holy Thursday

The Gospel of today, (John 13, 1-15) recounts the washing of the Disciples feet. The last three verses, pretty much say it all what Jesus is teaching us. “You call me, Master, and Lord: and you say well, for so I am. If I then, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.”

The foot is considered by many to be the most ignoble part of the body. It trudges heavily in the dust of the earth. Because of its distance from the hands, it is the hardest to clean. Its sole purpose is to take us from one place to another. Unlike the hand that creates and sculpts, or the tongue that sings and praises, or the eyes that see the wonders of the world, or the ear that hears the birds sing, the foot is our beast of burden. It takes us where we want to go.

To wash another’s foot, their lowliest part of the body, is to show that person that you hold them in higher regard than yourself. What is Jesus telling us, by washing His Disciples feet? This is not what we would call grand-standing. If we know Jesus, nothing He does is just for show. A message is being sent to them… and to us. If He is willing to wash our feet, to suffer and die for us, how are we to regard each other? Who among us is greater than Jesus? Later on in the chapter, Jesus tells them that He has given them a new commandment; they are to love one another as He has loved them.

The last Supper was truly a most memorable event. We are told to treat others with love and respect. We are told to love them as Jesus loves us. It is demonstrated to us to what lengths we should be willing to go for others, even to the extent of washing their feet. This is to let us realize that we cannot put on airs. We cannot look down on anyone, even those that have (in our opinion) made a mess of their lives. Again, we hear Christ’s words admonishing us that he, who is without sin, cast the first stone.

When will we get it? When will we understand that all of us are struggling, all of us have problems or pasts of which we are ashamed. We don’t want anyone to know how ugly we can be, how ugly we have been. Instead, we do everything in our power to appear “normal”, to have people look up to us. Beware of pride. It has taken down many before us. It is so subtle we don’t even realize that it has taken hold of us.

The people that we meet and greet are struggling like us. Don’t look at their clothes. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t wonder about their cleanliness. Look at their eyes. Their eyes are the windows to their soul. They are people, as lonely, as confused, as hurting as you. They are trying, like you, to understand where their lives are going, where it all fits in. Love them. Be kind to them.  We are to love them, all of them, as Jesus has loved us.

God continuously works in our lives. We may see these times as coincidences or as something special. That decision He leaves to us. I believe, God has been working on my life, well… for all of my life. I will try to keep this short, but I cannot guarantee it, right now.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, the nun teaching us spoke of a person living in Italy who was a member of the Capuchin religious community. His name was Padre Pio. This was the first time I had ever heard of the name, or of the man. I told my mother that I wanted to be a Capuchin priest. And, in her wisdom, she said something like, “Of course you can, but wait until you finish high school.” I exchanged letters with someone in Italy, I don’t know who. (Oh, how I wish I knew who it had been.) Teenage years came and I quickly forgot my desire of becoming a Capuchin priest.

My life ambled all over the place. Meandered might be a better expression. My immaturity moved me in so many directions, some very good, and some not so. I would like to say I was searching, but that would imply purposeful pursuit. It was more like a reed shaken by the wind.

Fast forwarding to the year 2008, three years ago, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Shortly before this time, Padre Pio again brushed my life. My son’s father-in-law also was diagnosed with cancer. It was through him that I again heard of Padre Pio. I can’t say I really began praying to him at that time, but it did serve to remind me of my first experiences and feelings towards this holy man. (Trying to keep this short, I urge you to click here on Padre Pio to read an earlier blog which describes Padre Pio’s impact on my operation to free me of cancer.

A brief synopsis would be: though the operation was a success a catheter bag would constantly fill up with crimson urine. This condition lasted for close to five weeks. It cleared up on the day I was supposed to go on a Padre Pio retreat. I was unable to go on the retreat because of this condition, so St. Pio came to me. God once again chose to forcefully touch my life and show me His goodness and desire for me to straighten out my life.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my bladder operation. Last week. I went to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital for my six month checkup. The Cat scans, the chest x-rays, the blood work, all of which had been done for the checkup everything came out negative with no new cancer growth. Cathy and I were ecstatic over the findings and both felt a tremendous worry and burden lifted. When leaving the hospital garage, the first car that we see has the license plate:        PDRE PIO.        We looked at each other incredulously. How many thousands of cars go by that hospital every day? How many cars have that license plate? THAT car passes by that hospital, by us, as we emerge from the garage. That car might have even made a wrong turn at some point, and in so doing passes by us. God DOES care for us. He is in each and every one of our lives. He really is.

I have mentioned on many occasions in these blogs that all of us have our problems and struggles. To act like we don’t have these is an affront to our fellow man, ourselves and our God. His desire is for us to reach out to everyone. We must show everyone that He loves and is concerned about us. With God there is no coincidence. He is constantly with us, teaching us, guiding us and shaping our lives. He does not force. He merely presents us with choices, which we can lovingly accept or ignore. The choice is always ours.

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)

Here and Now

What do we write…Right Now!

“The beauty of the moment”, “the music of now”… these are expressions that gently remind us to stop worrying about the past, to stop anticipating the future. The past is over. We can do nothing about it. We must move on. The things we worry about in the future exist only in our mind. They have not happened. Our fear portrays them as reality, when, in reality, they do not exist. God IS. He speaks to us in the now. He loves us in the now.

“Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on…Behold the birds of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?” (Matt, 5:25-26) Christ tells us again and again how much God loves us. But, for some reason, we find it difficult to grasp. We believe it, but we don’t trust it. We say to ourselves, “Yes, God does love me. But I am not a fool, I need to do this, or do that.” No, we don’t.

What we need to do is trust an all-loving God. We have to realize that if He created us, had us in His mind, you and me, from all eternity, then this all-loving God will not abandon us. Brennan Manning, in his book, “Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God” states, “But faith in God without hope in his promises is tainted trust.” You can spend the rest of your life focusing on that one sentence. His premise is that mankind does not really trust God. To accomplish that trust… we must be ruthless in our pursuit of it.

To worry about the past, the future, even about the condition of our spiritual life is to rob us of the here and now. It is in this moment that we honor and praise and love God. In the next one, too, and the one after that. How difficult this is. So much is stealing our attention, is forcing us to think of what was done yesterday, and what we have to do tomorrow. Right now…if you are meant to be reading this, then focus on what is being said. “What happens after this”, I don’t know. It is YOUR moment.

How do we implement this moment to moment living? It just means that the next person you meet is to be treated, no… is to be acknowledged that he/she is the most important person in your life, right then. He/she requires and expects your full attention and concern. But, what if he is dirty? What if he is white, black, red, brown? What if he doesn’t meet my expectations? Jesus is in him or her; does He meet your expectations?

What if it isn’t a person, I meet? What if something happens which I don’t like, I don’t want? How do I see the beauty of the moment, there? Ask God, “What do you want me to learn from this?” Each moment is given us, by a loving God. IT IS YOUR MOMENT!

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

Our Connection With Others

Branches bearing fruit on the Vine

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, are all very popular tools, nowadays. Their growth and popularity are good indicators of how important it is for people to be connected with others. The desire to be part of a group, to let people know who we are, and to be connected with other people is almost an innate desire in each of us. Mankind is constantly seeking fulfillment. And in the search for fulfillment, many times it finds not fulfillment, but lesser things, like power, wealth, fame, popularity, and pleasure. Mistakenly, mankind will embrace these, thinking it has found its ultimate goal. About this, Saint Augustine simply says, “…for Thou hast made us for Thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee.” -1

In the Gospel of John, we hear the words, “…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” -2 Very often in these posts, the doing of positive things, is not only recommended, but is the purpose of the post. However, our acts of kindness and love for those we are connected to, grow out of our connection with Christ. So we must strive to be, first and foremost, at one with Him. For it is in our conviction of His love for us, of His forgiveness of all the wrong we have done; because of those assurances, we are filled with the desire to share this joy, this fervor with others. Then our connections with others can be something special. Our interaction with others won’t be just talking about circumstances, or events, or ourselves. It can be the mutual discussion, by both parties, of each one’s embrace of life, the true purpose of life, the expression of love and healing with our fellow man. Yes, we will still laugh and cry, feel good and bad. We will still wonder why certain things are permitted to happen. But in all of this we will know that Christ is standing there with us, with our friends. He may even be speaking through our words of encouragement and cheerfulness to those we mingle with and helping them bear fruit. Or, He may be using them to console us and helping us grow.

None of this however, can happen, if we pursue only the lesser goals that life presents. Though wealth, and power and all the rest may hold a certain allure for each of us, we cannot, must not forfeit our ultimate goal for them. All the restlessness that we feel, all that we strive for can only be satisfied until we feel the calm of resting close to Him. And only in that closeness will we know that our love for others can and will bear fruit.

-1 Confessions, Chapter 1, line 1
-2 John 15: 4

A Private Chat

Christ’s Tenderness with John

The fervent prayer in Sunday’s Mass was that we remain ever vigilant and faithful to Jesus’ message of love. We heard in a passage from the Gospel:
          “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”-1
The Gospel goes on to remind us that we don’t know when the thief, nor death, will come to our door. Our fervor must not be allowed to wane. But, it is impossible to consistently remain true to the message of Christ, if this all-important task is left solely to our own devices. Our human response will always have its high and low points. Because of our frailty, it is so very important for us to trust Christ, to ask Jesus to come to us, to ask Him to surround and protect us with His love.

We hear in His words, His disdain for the lukewarm soul:
          “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”-2
And,
          “I come into your heart so that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament”-3
And again,
          “…the souls …who have become lukewarm wound My Heart most painfully.”-4

In today’s fast-paced world, where energies are spent on the workplace, shopping, taking the kids to sports and social events, and a myriad of other attention and time-consuming activities, when do we talk to God? It can be so easy to push Him farther and farther back. We have received so much in our lives, and a thank you takes so little time. We have no excuse for ignoring Jesus. Our tepid, lukewarm fervor is either out of ignorance on our part, or worse, a matter of indifference. Both of which are an insult to our Savior and Redeemer.
Please, for your own good read the following and afterwards, close your eyes and do it. It only takes a moment:

Shut out all external thoughts from your mind. No worries or cares are allowed to enter for the moment. When quiet, inside, close your eyes and picture yourself next to Jesus. By the look on His face, you know He loves you. Put your arm around His waist and rest your head on His chest. Tell Him of your sorrow for your life’s actions. Tell Him of your love for Him and desire to be better. Then remain calm and listen to your heart. Allow His thoughts to well up inside you.

It only takes a moment, but you have allowed Christ to come into your life. Try to do this on a regular basis. This is not an action of the lukewarm.

-1– Luke 12: 37
-2—Revelations 3:16
-3– Third apparition of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
-4– Apparition of Jesus to St. Faustina

phone

We touched on prayer, just recently. We said it is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. Prayer isn’t just memorized words, or printed words in a booklet.Prayer is our talking to Christ. When we tell Him how we feel, what is bothering us, what is making us feel good, that is our prayer. Just as we would chat with our friends, telling them of some difficulties we are trying to overcome, our concerns about our health, or our child’s health. To some people we will talk just words, and to others, we can open our hearts and express our inner feelings. Even though we know that they may not really be able to help us, but it helps us, so much, just to unburden ourselves to them, kind of like an escape valve.

Is our talking to Jesus any different? Yes, it is. With Jesus, we know He can really help us; He will help us, if we let Him. The difficulty is in the listening. Jesus talks to us in whispers. A thought, a really good thought comes to us, just as a sudden breeze blows across our cheek. Was that coincidence, or the breath of the Holy Spirit? We are telling Christ how much our heart aches because of our children’s problems, and somehow, someway, just then, we kind of know that everything will be alright. Heaven is just a whisper away.

Christ isn’t distant from us. He is beside us in everything we do. Our actions, our words, our decisions, these are ours to decide upon and do or not do. Free will is a gift to mankind. We are not forced to do things, because of our instincts. We have minds to help us choose what we will do. This gift of free will is not something that Christ will ignore. He accepts our choices, though they may not be in our best interests. Christ is waiting to be asked to enter our hearts, our minds, our lives.

Try something different. I am sure no one has ever written this down before. (Well, almost sure.) We talk on the cell phone very frequently. We are relaxed, casual, and usually very true to ourselves. Clip the ear piece of the cell phone onto your ear, like you would normally do when calling a friend. Or, just hold the phone up to your ear. This time, don’t dial any number. Just start talking as you would, when on the phone with a friend. This time, your friend is Jesus. People talk on their cell phones, all the time on the street. Tell Him what you are feeling. (Maybe, you will feel a little awkward, when it is the first or second time.) But, look inside yourself, and tell Him how you feel. Tell Him what is bothering you. Tell Him something you feel good about. Let Him know what is going on in your life. Like all phone conversations, just pause and let Jesus talk. Listen to your thoughts, listen to your heartbeat. Christ will be in there, guiding your thoughts, your feelings, providing you with maybe some better choices. Your free will and you will still ultimately make the decision, though this time you may have more to choose from. Before you hang up, don’t forget to tell Him, that you will call later. His line is never busy.

Trusting Like Children

I was watching some videos of my grandchildren the other night. I noticed how they live almost totally entrenched in trust. They are so quick to smile and willingly offer their hand for you to hold. They know, that their parent will make everything right again. They live in a happy world, full of trust and goodness. Close your eyes for a moment and put yourself in their world, a world of no doubt, no fear, no anguish, and no worry. The only thing that exists in their world is trust, and joy and happiness.

Christ has told us, that “…unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” And here, all along, I thought we, the parents, the adults, were to be role models for children. It is truly the other way around. We are to strive to be as trusting, as loving, as kind, as children are.

I can hear your thoughts. What is he mad? Children don’t know the value of money. They don’t know the evil that exists in the world, and as a result, are defenseless against that evil. They don’t know the people that I know, and how they would willingly serve you up, just to get ahead in the business world. Ahh yes, we are sophisticated, we are knowledgeable. But, a synonym for “sophisticated” is “skeptical”. By saying we are knowledgeable we are really saying we know the ways of the world. We fear the ways of the world.

Christ knows that there are evils in the world. He knows there are snares and traps that are waiting for us. He does not tell us to ignore the temptations of the world, just be aware of them. He tells us to be like little children. Like little children, child-like, not childish! We can be aware of what the world is offering. But we must seek out what Christ is offering. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines trust as: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Christ is that Someone, on whom we can rely, on whom we must rely.

Consider the goodness of Jesus, which we find in the Bible. He leaves the ninety nine sheep to find the lost one. He does not judge people’s lives, He forgives them. He listens to their unspoken worries and He eases them. His love for us, for all mankind, is so evident that we don’t have to turn a page to read about it, to feel it. On Him, we can safely place our trust and be the “…little children that come to Him, for ours is the Kingdom of Heaven.

We are ALL alike

My dear friends, when I write these blogs, I have this tremendous urge to shout out to you, “YOU DO REALIZE, I AM NO DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE ELSE.” Each of us stands in a hole of our own making or because of our surroundings or upbringing, or poor choices. Regardless of what the reason is, we are all guilty as charged. Whether the topic is laziness or fiercely aggressive energy to succeed, to gain riches, position or fame in the process; whether we seek the pleasures of the world, or look down on others as being beneath us; whatever is our particular problem, we are all guilty as charged. We are no different than anyone else. Too often when we read or hear something, we instinctively think, “Oh, this is good. I hope so-and-so is aware of this”. Leave so-and-so alone for the time being. It is time to hear it for me-and-me, not so-and-so.

 What I write is not about something that I have achieved, or overcome, but rather, what I too, am struggling with. All of humanity is struggling with these obstacles. Regardless of race, color or creed, the human brotherhood suffers with the same problems. These are my insights as to what I must do to overcome them and grow closer to Christ. My hope is that in writing these posts, maybe they will have some benefit for someone else, as well.

Too often, we feel that we are unique, that our problems are not borne by anyone else, the way ours are. The truth, which we struggle to accept is, we are like everyone else. We are lazy, self indulgent, always looking for the loop hole. But rather than face this heart wrenching reality, we make excuses for ourselves. Our problems are more difficult. I deserve better. I can change whenever I want to. I am better than a lot of other people. I go to church on Sundays. (But, God help us for what we do the rest of the week.) As said in one of the Mick Dundee movies, “Wakey, wakey”. It is time for us to wake up. It is time for us to stop kidding ourselves and recognize just how weak we are.

This is not meant to be a sack cloth and ashes type of post. The Way is, and has been, clear for us for a very long time. Christ is not just throwing words at us. Every word that He uttered had its purpose for us. “I am the Way… ” “Blessed are the meek… ”. “I tell you to love one another, as I have loved you… ” Throughout the Gospels, we have directional arrows pointing out the paths to follow. We are not trying to navigate our way around the earth with a compass, or by reading the position of the stars. For every problem that could possibly confront us, we see in the Bible, a loving Christ holding out His hand. All we have to do is trust Him, take His hand and let Him lead us where we are to go. Ahh, but there’s the rub. To open our hand to hold onto His, we have to leave go of the those things that we are clenching tightly… our hollow pride, our fleeting pleasures, our desire to be right all the time, our quest for worldly fame and riches, our running ever faster to keep up with ourselves. And all the while, He is there beside us, with His hand outstretched. He is waiting for us to slide our hand in His, in childlike trust. In doing this, we will then be saying, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

Retreat. A Taste of Heaven?

How would you define Heaven? What feelings abound there?  What would you expect there? Continue reading