Tag Archive: Love


Love, Do we have it?

vine branches

Think of someone who you do not like. Think of that person, who just thinking about them, gets you feeling angry, and makes your blood boil. You know who I mean. Even now, you can feel the annoyance growing inside of you. Yes, that is the person to whom I am referring. Can you think of love at the same time? It seems impossible, doesn’t it? And yet, when Christ says, that we must, “love one another”, He doesn’t say except that person. There is a reason for this, let me explain.

Love is the active concern, for someone else’s health, welfare, growth and happiness. And here we are descendants of Adam, full of guilt, sickness, selfishness and sadness trying to perform a truly divine action, namely, “Love”. We cannot do it. No amount of our twisting and turning will get this shoe on our foot. So how is it, that Jesus tells us to love one another? How are we supposed to accomplish that?

Before we try to answer that, we have another question to focus on. Does He really want us to love everyone? Really? Without exception? Come on, let’s be realistic! But, in John 15:12, we read, the words of Jesus, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” There it is. It is repeated again a little farther on in the same chapter, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” This being a Christian is not for the faint of heart, is it?

This brings us back to the first question, “How are we supposed to accomplish loving one another?” Jesus gives us a hint, as I have loved you. Jesus, God, is Divine. How can we, mortals, tarnished mortals at best, love with a divine love? We might as well try lifting ourselves up by grabbing our feet in our hands and pulling upwards. Impossible. Yes, impossible. Mortals, such as we, cannot perform divine actions. But, He says, “…as I have loved you”. What is Jesus telling us? We know He forgives and loves us. We know He forgives and loves everyone. He even forgives and loves that person we were told to think about at the outset. Earlier in that same chapter of John 15:4, we hear the words, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

I think that brings us full circle, back to the beginning. We, of ourselves, will find it impossible to love everyone, (actually, to love anyone). We are imperfect and perfection cannot flow out of the imperfect. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.” Our attachment, our connection with, our reposing in Christ, allows this seemingly impossible gift to flow through us. It is really, not our love that goes out to others but the love of Jesus flowing through us to the world. If we do not love all, then we can truly question whether we love, at all. We cannot measure the amount we love. We cannot distinguish who we love. We can only accept the love of our God, freely and gratefully. And in turn, allow His love to pass through us to everyone, (even the person at the top.)

Even now, I can hear the protests of, “I know how to love”, and “I love my children”, and “I treat people with love and respect”. To which I guess the questions need to be asked, “What about the person singled out, up at the top?” Do you love those people who treat you poorly? Do you pray for and respect the people who make it clear that they don’t like you? Everyone? Is love an emotional knee-jerk? Or, is it a true concern for the well-being of someone else, with no exceptions? (If there are exceptions, then we are limiting it. And, limited love cannot be from God, and so, it is not love at all.)

If it is an emotional knee-jerk, then we can truly doubt whether we understand the concept of love and all its’ implications. If it is a true concern, then we must accept the fact that we, as imperfect mortals, can only pass on to others that perfect divine love which we receive from our God. We pass this on, not because we have it, but because God has given it to us to be shared, to be passed on. If we have Love, then by its very nature we must give it away to everyone.

The 5 Posts directly below, blend with this theme. They continue the thought. Thanks for coming:

1) Music In Your Soul
2) Triggers In Our Lives
3) A Time For Love
4) It Starts With Christ
5) Pro Abortion is Really Pro Self

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The Kernel of Christianity

Judas and Jesus

I heard this poem on the television. Then, I looked it up on the internet, so that I could share it with you. The title of this blog is what the poem has been called. The author is unknown. Please read this thoughtfully, savoring its every word and picturing Jesus speaking to Judas, while He is nailed to the Cross.

Judas, if true love never ceases
How could you, my friend, have come to this:
To sell me for thirty silver pieces
And betray me with a kiss?

Judas, remember what I taught you,
Do not despair while hanging on the rope.
It’s because you sinned that I have sought you;
I came to give you hope.

Judas, let us pray and hang together,
You on your halter, I upon my hill.
Dear friend, even if you loved me never,
You know I love you still.

None of us are perfect. We don’t even come close. To look at Judas and say, “How could he?” is rather a bit duplicitous, or two-faced on our part. We have betrayed Jesus many times in our lives. And yet, we, sometimes, look upon this fallen Apostle with disdain and outrage. If this were a “Morality Play”, the part of Judas would represent all of mankind’s errors, sins, faults, and deceptions. In speaking to Judas, Jesus is speaking to all of mankind (Me and You). He does so, not to embarrass us, not to demean us, but to let us know that He came into this world to give each of us hope. His love is such that it does not depend on how much we love back.

We don’t really understand this totally free, unconditional love that Jesus has for us. Only God can love with that much abandon. We look upon Jesus hanging on the cross, and know that this is being done for us. But we really don’t understand it. We cannot understand a love such as this. We are human, with all of the trappings of littleness, and selfishness. His love is selfless!

He came to give us hope. He came to show us how to love. He came to show us how to live. His life is the blueprint for the rest of mankind to follow. In following His example, by living our lives as closely as we can to His we are accepting God’s love, His total, unconditional and undying love. By following Him, we are placing our hands in His and saying, “I love You, I trust in You. I really trust You.” This is how we thank Him for never stopping His love for us, in spite of our failings that nailed Him to that cross.

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

1) One Of You Will Betray Me
2) Another Look At Jesus’ Humanity
3) Three People In Our Life
4) Thou Art Peter- Upon This Rock?

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

God’s Gift

the gift of God

I want you to think about some words and what their meaning is. Take as long as you need to. The words are:

“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood,

Soul and Divinity of  Your dearly beloved Son,

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our  sins

and those of the whole world. Amen.”

These are the words I want you to think about. What do they mean? What do they mean to you? Take as much time as you want. When you feel you have a good understanding of them, continue below the Line of Yellow X’s. Read them, maybe, one more time before going on.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 

Now, I need to ask you a rather important question. How do we, you and I, have the right to offer back to God the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of his Son? How did we come into possession of them in the first place? It seems rather easy for us to tell God, “This is what I am going to do. I will offer You that which is the totality of your Son and I will do that to earn atonement for my sins.” Again, I ask, “How did we come into possession of them, in the first place?” As the saying goes, “No one can give what they don’t have”.

I know many of us were baptized as infants. In that case, someone made a choice for us. If we chose to join the Christian religion, then we made that choice for ourselves. But, in either case, the choice was, and still is, a promise to believe in, to follow, and to emulate the life of Jesus. About life, and our living it, the Bible says many pertinent things, such as:

John 3:16-17 –“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”.

John 15:8 – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples”.

Romans 12:1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

I asked earlier, “How do we have the right to offer back to God, His Son?” Well, it is not a right. Jesus is a gift that God gives to the world, to you and me. As we all know, a gift can either be accepted or rejected. But this gift, Jesus, is not something we just casually take and stuff into our pocket, while nodding our heads in appreciation. No, my dear friends, we accept Him with gratitude, in awe, and oh, so much humility. That which we like, that which we love, we try to emulate, to imitate, to bring and show to others. Our acceptance of Him spurs us on to look within ourselves and to be aware of what we need to change.

It is that looking within that is difficult to do. Because what we see, what we recognize as not being like Jesus, we know must be eliminated, if we really do accept Him. And it is our own weakness that holds us back. We don’t like to do without, to be without. We want things to be comfortable, to be easy. In short, we are fearful of what this acceptance will entail for us. This, however, is what must be overcome, by us. The first step is always the hardest. It was the most difficult to take when we were infants. We did fall down, but we got up and tried again. The first step onto a playing field is always filled with dread and concern. What if I am not good enough? The first time we meet someone and realize that we really like him or her. Will that person feel the same way towards me? There is always a “what if” to be answered.

Well the “what if” in the case of accepting Jesus into our lives is much more difficult to see, because it involves eternity. We don’t accept Jesus out of fear of loss. That is not the acceptance that God wants of His Gift. He wants us to take that first step at knowing Him, of realizing the love that awaits all of us. Love begets love. Good begets good. That swelling of love within our heart, that is real. The joy that we feel in our life, that is real. It is there for each and every one of us. What we feel within, if it is real, we must, we cannot do otherwise, we must pass this onto others. We will want them to experience the love, the joy that is Jesus. We have taken our first step back to God. And, He smiles. His Gift has been accepted and lovingly returned back to Him.

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

1) Be Me
2) The Courage to Accept, Acceptance
3) Accept It, He Really Does Love You

Our Life and Jesus

jesus-last-supper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People or Objects?

people3

When you see someone walking down the street, toward you, what do you see? Do you see a person? An object? An obstacle? The question isn’t as absurd as it sounds. Let me rephrase it a little differently. Do you love everyone you meet? Do you love most of the people that you meet? Or is it about 50-50? If you answered that last question with anything other than loving everyone, then you don’t really see people walking toward you. Let me explain.

All of us, we are people. We are not dogs, cats, trees, rocks or anything else. Each of us was created for one purpose and that is to love our God…to the best of our ability. We stumble, we trip, and we fall. We get up and trip some more. Throughout our life, we keep making mistakes and falling short of our one purpose: to love our God. We are not the only ones carrying this problem, though. Every person who has been created, every child of Adam and Eve, has tripped and will continue to fall short. God saw this when He created us, and yet He loves us, encourages us, even dies for us.

We cannot look at others and critique their lifestyle, their habits, or their way of life. It is not fair. It is not just. Why should we excuse our problems, lessen our guilt, and at the same time, hold others to be accountable? All of us are people. All of us share in the guilt. All of us, with our way of life, have hammered the nails into Christ’s hands and feet. And yet, we still excuse our problems, our sins, and our lifestyle.

In the post, “Beginning of Lent”, it was said that during this sacred time, we should treat each person that we meet with love and compassion. (Actually, this should be being done throughout the year, but let’s use these forty days before Easter as a good starting point.) Each person bears God within. Each person that we meet, no matter what their lifestyle is, has the same objective as we. That purpose is to love God. How well we do that is borne out by how well we love our fellow man, in short: Other People.

When all is said and done, I guess it all comes down to how seriously we believe that God has created man in His own image and likeness. It hinges on our belief that God has breathed Himself into mankind, His creatures. What we do to others, how we feel about others, how we treat others really reflects our love for our God. If God is present in all mankind, then in loving our fellow man, we really do show our love for our God. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, said, “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. Matthew 25: 35-40.

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

1) A Time For Love
2) Beginning of Lent

rcia 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIENDSHIP

friend in Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

love hate

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

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

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

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

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

Be Me!

Jesuspic4x6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1- John 14: 6

A Time For Love

a time to love

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

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

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

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

Remember Man, that Thou art Dust

YOUNG WOMAN RECEIVES MARK OF ASHES

What does New Year’s Day and Ash Wednesday have in common? Go ahead, think about it. We will wait…………………… Those dots could be seconds, or minutes or hours. You choose. Anyway, when you resume reading, the time is up. We’re back. And the answer is: On both days’ people make resolutions. At the start of the year, people see this as an opportunity to begin anew, to be the person they want to be. Stopping smoking, losing weight, cutting back on sweets, trying to kick habits of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or sex abuse…all of these are seen as something to avoid. Why? They are preventing us from being the person who we so desperately want to be.

Ash Wednesday comes along, and we see that our New Year’s resolutions are a little ragged at the edges. Every one of the do not’s have changed into have done’s. Most of the time we want to cut back or stop altogether, because we don’t like ourselves as we are. We don’t like what we see in the mirror. What we see in the mirror, however, is NOT what our mind’s eye sees. Our mind sees that part of us that a diet, a smokeless day, or a kicking of a habit can’t change. Our mind sees our weakness, our frailty, our inconsistency. Period. We have attacked the result, not the cause.

What is different about Ash Wednesday, then? The things given up and the sacrifices are not the end result; they are not the desired purpose. No, they are (pardon the pun), the stepping stones that bring us closer to being the person that we know we should be. We sacrifice for a purpose, not a result. We are kind and attentive, not because it does something for us, but because it helps someone who is need. We want to feel the hurt of our sacrifices; we want to feel the hunger, not because we are sadomasochistic, but because we have a love for our God, a love for the Christ, a love for our fellow man.

We know that Lent is leading us eventually to the cross. It is leading us to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our lives, from the moment we were born, have been relentlessly leading us to our own death and resurrection. So why now, do we emphasize the sacrifices that are so typical of lent?

We said earlier that we sacrifice for a purpose. That purpose is not pointed at ourselves. That purpose is for someone else. We give up candy, and cigarettes and alcohol so that that money can be used by someone else, who desperately needs it. We stifle our sharp tongue because people are weary of hearing our belly aching, our laments, our curses. No matter what the sacrifice, two things are happening: one, we are feeling a discomfort; and two, someone else is benefitting from that sacrifice.

So, the ashes are placed on our forehead, today. We walk around with them, not to proudly announce we were at church today.  Those ashes should serve as a reminder to ourselves and to anyone who sees them, “We are all dust and unto dust we shall return”. Now is as good a time as any to repent, to love Him, to love our neighbor. Have a Happy Lent.

love one another

Yesterday, after Mass, a woman approached me, and asked if my name was such and such. I told her it was. She then told me how much she enjoyed “TheSteppingStones“. I was surprised and pleasantly pleased inside. I am writing this to let her know that she doesn’t realize what a gift she gave me. For you see, I was having my doubts as to whether or not this blog site was of any benefit to anyone. In short, I was doubting the words and authority of Jesus. I was doubting that Jesus could work wonders, even with my puny attempts.

I would like to use that encounter as a springboard to this topic, namely, Our Actions: Their Influence on People. We have spoken many times about doing good, being kind and thoughtful, giving people the opportunity to laugh and we always have that action ending with bringing Christ to people. I would like to try, here and now, to connect the dots. How does a good action, or a kind or thoughtful word, or bringing a smile to a person’s face…how do these actually bring Jesus to people? In and of themselves …… they don’t. It is not like any action of ours will force Jesus’ presence to someone. We can’t think to ourselves, “That person over there, I will make him smile and he will think of Jesus”.

The answer lies in our love for Jesus. That is NOT a stretch. It is the truth. It is staring us in the face. God does not want us to be super heroes. He does not expect extraordinary sacrifices from us. He created man a little less than the angels. We are human beings. He wants us to be HUMAN. The woman after Mass did not think to herself, “I will help him feel better. I will tell him I like his blog site.” She doesn’t know if I am concerned about the blog site or not. She does not know what my thoughts are. She was just being human and told me of her appreciation of the site. That was it pure and simple. End of story….????

No, not the end, it is the beginning. Jesus showed us how to act, how to love, how to treat others, how to respect others. Why do we do this? Why do we listen to Him? Do we get a gold star? No, if we treat EVERYONE with love, concern and respect, because we love Jesus, then we give Jesus the opportunity to work through us. We might want to say one thing, but it comes out just a little bit differently. We might even wonder afterwards, “Why did I say that”, or “Why did I use that word”. We will probably never know if our words had any effect on someone. And so, we walk off wishing we could do something for Jesus, anything.  Meanwhile, the other person has a glow in their heart, a feeling of warmth, that wasn’t there before our action. Don’t you see? We can’t plan what good actions we are to do. We can only love Jesus for all that He has done for us. We can only thank Him for the example He has given us.

His words to us are, “Love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” -1 If we, the church of God, the Body of Christ, loved Jesus above everything else, there would be no stopping the flow of love throughout the world. We wouldn’t have the madness that exists, today. If we love one another, AS Jesus loves us, how could we NOT love one another?  Don’t relegate your prayer life to an after- thought. It is your talking to Jesus, your God. Grow to know Him, grow to feel His presence in and around you. Grow to love Him. If you do this you WILL love all that you meet. You won’t have to think, “What should I say to him, or her”. Treat them with the love that Christ gives you. Your words will speak for themselves.

Finally, to the woman in church, if you should be reading this, “Thank you. This is one of those occasions when you DO know that Jesus used you to speak to someone.”

1- John 13,14

the blind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to RCIA: Index

Justifying Our Actions

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-1 These words seem to be aimed not just at the Biblical figures depicted, but at all of mankind, down to the present day. We, all of us, no one is exempt, have done so much wrong throughout our lives. Is this not true? And yet, we hide behind masks of our creation-2. We put up false fronts so that no one can see what we really are, who we really are. We are afraid that people might not like us, that people might avoid us, that people might even throw harsh words, like stones, at us. And so, we hide.

Keeping this thought before us, let us look at how we treat others. We expect, no, we demand that people behave in a strictly proper manner. Their actions, their way of living, must conform to our expectations. If they vary, even a little bit, then they can expect swift and harsh criticism from us.

Look at how we treat our leaders, be they politicians, or clergy, or our teachers. How do we treat our relatives, our neighbors? So what if they are human beings, just as we are. They are not allowed to stumble or trip. They MUST be perfect. They cannot have any lapse in judgment; they must not show any signs of weakness or they will surely incur the wrath of the populace (you and me).

But what high expectations do we have of ourselves? Surely we demand excellence of ourselves, as well.  Our personal code of honor must be off the charts. Right? Ehhh …not so!  You were rude to that person. “Well, she deserved it”. You spoke harshly to Harry and he was only trying to help you. “I don’t like the way he acts”. You purposely went out of your way to slander her. “She probably deserves it, the way she behaves”. You didn’t help that person who was ailing. “I didn’t have the time”. You took something that wasn’t yours. “They won’t miss it, they have plenty”. You should be home taking care of your father, your mother, or your children! “Hey, I need to have some fun time, too, don’t I?”

Don’t you see how we make excuses for ourselves?  No matter what the issue is, small or large, we will justify it, in our eyes. We can and will make it all sound so perfectly logical…to ourselves. So we continue to play our little game of hide and seek. Hide the truth about ourselves, but seek out the dirt in the lives of others. And yes, we do feel uncomfortable playing this game. We know deep down that we are only kidding ourselves, deluding ourselves into thinking that we are really ok. And then the horror strikes… What if someone realizes that I am a fraud, that I have the same frailties that everyone else has? What if they already know or suspect? We then go out of our way to put up that false front. Let them see only whatever good we have inside, or whatever good we would like to have. All the while, we make no changes to who we really are, but only polish up the outside, the viewable portion of our lives.

Having done that, we now can continue with our lives. We can now perfect our sharp tongue, our harsh criticisms, our flaunting of the things that we have and that others do not. These are the stones that we toss around. These are what seem to justify our existence. For a moment, think about yourself. Think about what actions you perform, what you do to others and how you are to others. It is time for you to reflect about yourself. Now is the perfect time to unclench your fists, allow those stones to fall from your hand. In so doing, you can now extend that same hand in friendship, true friendship. You have much to offer the world around you, but you must dig within to see yourself as you are and not as you want people to see you. Our actions to others, after all is said and done, reflect who we really are. Who are you?

1- John 8,7

2- “Masks, We Hide Behind”, TheSteppingStones.Wordpress.com

Valentine’s Day and God

I wish I could give you a reason why I have not written for such a long time. The truth is I can’t. I can only say, “I am sorry”. Days turned into weeks, and weeks, into months. The longer I stayed away, the more difficult it was for me to return. The more embarrassed I became over my inertia. This embarrassment, itself, became an obstacle to overcome as well. I was, and still am, embarrassed.  I wish I could point to something like… a dark night of the soul. At least then, it would seem to be more understandable. At least to me it would. It would have a kind of nobility about it. But that is not the case. I cannot, even now, put my finger on it.

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day when we open our hearts to those we care about. This seems like a perfect day to renew again a friendship that started almost two years ago. That is how long TheSteppingStones has existed. I will try to be more consistent, more faithful to this blog site and to you, the readership.

Valentine’s Day is a day we think of chocolates, rings, gifts, undying love, and marriage proposals. One more affection we should think of today …God’s love for us. He has created this world and the order in it. All life has its existence because of God’s love. What is man that You are mindful of him, Oh Lord? We all know of the account of creation spoken of in the Old Testament. Do we think of this as a nice little story? A poetic way of looking at mankind’s existence?  If we have no faith, no belief in God then that is about the only way we can look at this narrative.

But our faith says otherwise. God does exist. His infinite goodness means He is pure love. We can say that because love is a good thing, and if He is infinite goodness, then He is infinite love, as well. This infinite-love-Being created the planets and all life. Why? What for? For His own amusement? Much like a child plays with ants until he grows tired of them? This does not sound like an all-loving Being to me. It sounds more like a being that is bored, and needs to be amused. This is not why God created mankind. A loving God must create out of love. In this instance…God is helpless. His own perfection, His love insists that He creates mankind. You and I exist because God loves us. He has loved us from all eternity. Knowing what we are capable of, knowing what and where we lack…He still loves us.

God creates mankind. His infinite love for us again dictates to Him. This time it compels Him to give mankind free will, even if it means mankind can choose against God. Without free will, mankind would simply be like a robot doing only what the Creator had instilled in him. So we, mankind, use our free will to pursue our God? No, not really. We pursue whatever we desire, whenever we desire, however we desire. God’s plan, from all eternity, saw this and knew that the bond between God and man could not, should not be broken. Jesus comes to man to show him how to live, how to love, how to treat his fellow man. These were not ants to be played with. These were lives to die for.

So here we are, two thousand plus years after Jesus’ arrival. We are still tripping over our own feet. We are still addressing our own needs first. We know but seem to have forgotten that God loves us. We know that Jesus came for a purpose, but that purpose seems too hard to adopt. We close our eyes and pretend that all is well, but we know, deep inside, that something is wrong. Oh, the effort! What must we do? “Lord God, help my unbelief. Help my heart burn with your love. Let me feel the warmth of your love and give that love to all that I meet today.” Let this Valentine’s Day really be a day that we give love to all. In loving each other we are loving our Creator.

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.

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

This morning I was sitting in the kitchen, looking outside. I saw two birds struggling with each other, playing tug of war with a worm. Each bird was intent on capturing the prize. Each bird was functioning in the way God intended, living by their instincts, no thought. A little later a father robin was gathering up bits of dead grass, presumably to help in the making of a nest for his offspring. Again, no thought, no logic, only instincts directing him what he should do.
Then, we have man, who has been given the greatest gifts of all, intelligence and free will. What great wonders man has produced with his intelligence. Every invention from the wheel to the latest aspect of technology, and everything in between have been designed, produced and marveled at through man’s God-given abilities. How much we have to be thankful for. How much we have that has been given us.

And here we are, a few days after Easter. Once again we are given a gift, Salvation, Redemption and Unity with God. How wondrous is your mercy and love, O God! Like the Psalmist, we can say, “… what is man that thou art mindful of him, O Lord?” He has given us a mind, and an intelligence with which we can inspect, evaluate and make decisions about our actions, our life. And then, He went one step further. He not only, promoted us beyond our instincts, He has also, allowed us the ability to say, “Yes and No”. In giving us Free Will God has given us the authority to decide our future.

To decide what we will do next is both a wondrous ability, and at the same time, a frightening liability. Our decisions not only affect our current situations, but have ramifications in the future, as well. It is when our decisions address only our present needs, and give no thought to the consequences, their effect on the future, then is when they fail to fulfill the aspirations of Our Father, the Giver of Gifts.

The Christ came into this world, not only to redeem us, but to show us how to live. That we are capable of mistakes we already know, for we, all of us, have made tons of them. Christ embraces us and loves us. When a person offers his hand in friendship, we must extend ours to accept it. Jesus is showing us, again and again, how much the Father loves us. All that Jesus asks is that we love Him back. In order for us to show Him our love directly, we must show that we understand His message for us. We must extend our hand in friendship to the people that we meet, to Jesus. We must love one another. We must be concerned about the well being, the welfare of others.

This is the use of free will at its highest. We are concerned about people, not because they are pleasing to us, not because they can do something for us, but because Christ loves them, all of them. How can we love God, who we do not see, if we cannot love those, whom we do see? This love for our fellow man is such that we love the unborn, we love the sinner, we love the unwashed, and everyone that causes us to cringe away. We may not be happy with the responsibilities that the unborn cause. We don’t have to welcome the actions of sinners. We may wish that the unwashed were clean. But we must love them, all. If we do this, then we are embracing the love of Jesus. We are embracing His message that He extends to us.

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.

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.

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.

Pope Benedict Lenten Message

In the March 11th issue of the Catholic Star Herald, there is an article about Pope Benedict’s Lenten message. The entire message will not be re-printed here, but one glaring excerpt will. The Pope stated that Lent is a time for self-examination and to let go of all traces of selfishness, which is the root of violence.  He said, “The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death”. He continues that we must engender giving, “which is the capacity to share.”

This was touched on earlier, in the Ash Wednesday blog. “Giving up things” and “denying ourselves” are all recognized forms of Lenten sacrifices. These in and of themselves are noble, difficult and well-meaning. But if we look at them closely, aren’t we focusing primarily on ourselves? I will give up cigarettes. (It is also good for me to do so.) I will cut back on cake and candy. (It is also good for me to do so.) I will diet and lose some weight. (This is definitely good for me.) I am not saying that we shouldn’t do these things. I am just pointing out that the beneficiary is….ourselves.

The Pope points out that we must engender giving, which is the capacity to share. What are we sharing if we give up things that we would normally be giving to ourselves? Before we leave this area, it would be wrong for us not to mention that we are saving money from not buying cigarettes, not buying cake and candy. If we then use these acts of denial as a means to obtain something of value that we can give away, that we can share with people in need, then there can be merit in these actions.

What is possibly the most precious thing that we have? Think about it. If we are thinking along lines of material things, we are looking the wrong way. Not to turn this into a guessing game, let’s just point out that our life and all that makes it noble is probably our most precious possession.  Our mind, our ability to love, our desire to help, and our willingness to go out of our way for another and many more selfless acts dignify humanity. The time that we have, the strength that we have, the awareness and willingness to serve others these are all ways to engender giving. While we are doing any of these, we do not have the spotlight on ourselves. We are focused solely on the other person as being the beneficiary. Presumably, we know that such and such an action is needed, maybe desperately needed, by the person.

Pope Benedict points out that selfishness is the root of violence.  This may sound like a harsh sentence, but think about it. It is the person who thinks of him or herself before others; will put his or her needs ahead of anything else; who covets what others have; who prizes his or her possessions above people, this is the selfishness of which the Pope speaks. Because, if we feel this way, if we think this is true, then any action is seen justifiable to reach these goals. Lying, slandering, stealing, even killing will be seen as justified in our twisted view. Selfishness is truly the root of violence.

The call to being a giving person, a caring person is being once again laid before us this Lenten season. It is not to be practiced and then forgotten once Easter is celebrated. Lent is a time to practice our goals, to test out what we can and can’t do. We may stumble. We may trip up every day. Some of the goals may seem to be set too high. But we are not expected to be saints on earth. We are expected to try and after falling, try again. While we are trying, some people who we meet along the way will get the benefit of those efforts. Lent is a time to begin practicing the love that we will have for the rest of our lives.

‘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

Are We Free or Not?

Puppet or Free Will?

We speak of God as being our father, our creator; and, that He is love. In our mind’s eye, we picture some elderly person with a long flowing beard, dressed in a white robe. These are our attempts at trying to comprehend, something that defies comprehension. So what can possibly be said about God that contains objective truth and is not mere speculation?

This whole discussion is predicated on two beliefs. The first is that He is responsible for the creation of all that is in the universe. We look at the order that we see in the universe, and in ourselves. This did not just happen by chance. Someone, something is responsible for all the order. This someone we call God. The second belief, that we are holding here, is that He must be perfect. This is essential in our concept of an infinite being. And since perfection involves all positive qualities, and love is positive, God is love.

Before I go any further, I acknowledge that these few lines do not constitute a proof of the existence of God. They are just intended to present a summary of many lines of thought about God, His existence, His makeup, His love.

Having stated these things, picture a box. In that box is every person that has ever lived, or will ever live. Everything that has ever been in this universe is in that box. Holding this box is God. This box is time. We are in time; God is outside of the box, beyond time; He is infinite. He can see, right now, from one end of the box to the other. He sees (now) what we see as having happened in the past, and he sees (now) what will happen in the future. We on the other hand, living in time, we see everything as having a cause and effect, a start and an end. This start and end view constitutes what we call time.

Having said all of this, an interesting position comes forth, namely Free Will. There are some that deny the existence of free will. Instead, they claim that man is pre-ordained, or pre-destined to do things, even to what his eventual end will be. They say, “If God knows what we will do, then we must not be free; we do not have free will. It is already pre-determined what we will do.” Think back to the box. We can do whatever we wish. We can do good or we can do evil. The choice is ours. We are free to decide what we will do. God knows (now) what our eventual choice will be, because He is outside of time, outside of the box.
What we do, what we say, what we think, how we treat others, our lives are determined by ourselves, not by God. We cannot blame outside events, or other people as to why we do, what we do. We, and only we, are responsible. We may allow events to affect us, but it is WE that do the allowing. People may hurt us, but WE allow their words and actions to affect us. God has given mankind, and only mankind, free will. He has given us the intelligence to cope, to understand, to act in ways that we see fit. It is OUR choice to act as we do. What is your choice?

Music in Your Soul

How softly Johann Strauss’ On the Beautiful Blue Danube begins. It gathers strength and purpose until it reaches your soul. There it swirls around and dances with you, sometimes playful, but always purposeful. Gradually, you feel at one with the music and find yourself wanting to move with it. At that point, it has you and lifts you to heights you have always desired. I often have felt that composers, capable of writing songs that are beautiful and majestic, provide us glimpses into their very souls. Like painters and saints, they have the capacity of reaching out to their God, and in so doing, provide us glimpses of Him, as well.

Knowing that all analogies fall short let’s compare music with love. Music, in the mind of the composer, has a purpose, be it to bring you joy, or beauty or something else. Whatever its purpose, though, it is always something positive. A feeling of sorrow can also be positive, as long as it is not intended to leave you there. Music, when performed as the composer intended, lifts you up, plays with your feelings, and delivers you to a better place.

How does love compare with music? True love, not the love portrayed on so many TV and movie screens today, true love seeks out goodness for someone else, never self. When a person feels a love for someone else, their own spirit is joyous. They may feel light and airy, or they may feel quietly happy. Either way, the goodness that they feel is deep inside them and can’t wait to express these feelings to their beloved. When you feel this love, you know, not only that it is true, but that it will be beneficial to both persons. It is never one sided.

Christ has this love for us, you and me. When I see a picture of Christ smiling, for some reason, it touches me so much more than one of Him suffering, or performing miracles, or anything else. The smile that He has seems to convey to me His fondness, His love and His concern for me. Strangely, it is at these times, I realize how I fall so very short of being able to return His love. Knowing His love is there for us, though not demanding anything in return, how very much I desire to love Him. His smile, His love picks me up and dances with me.

Knowing His love is there for us, realizing it is continually there for us, we are invited to join Him. Once we recognize His love, once we see how it is freely given then our love that we return to Him takes on a deeper significance. We are loving someone who gave His life for us. We are loving someone who asks us to become Him. Our love for Him has grabbed us, awakened us. How can I say I love Jesus, if I do not love my fellow man? It is impossible. No excuses. No golly gees.

That person is of a different color. That person is dirty or slovenly. That person is not charitable. That person is downright evil. All the people that we have difficulty with… we must love, have a true concern for their growth, their sickness, their lack of morals.

Christ came into this world, for sinners, YOU and ME. Our expectations that others clean up their act, goes equally for ourselves, as well. With this love that Christ brings us, it swirls around us, it lifts us up, and it makes us better than we ever dreamed. We are then, finally, caught up in the music of love.

Why Should I Forgive Myself?

Flowing of Forgiveness and Love

A good friend of mine, a priest, was talking to me about growth. During this conversation, he pointed out how forgiveness of self is just as important as forgiveness of others. “Actually”, he continued, “if we don’t’ forgive ourselves, it becomes impossible to forgive others.” My head did a double take on that. A gigantic lesson was being placed in front of me, one to which I knew I had to pay attention. We spoke of many things that afternoon, but I would like to pay particular attention to this thought.

It all begins with Christ and His love and forgiveness for us. This is not just a pretty grouping of words, but rather it is the heart of Christianity. When all is said and done, the central theme of Christianity, Catholicism, all revolve around Christ. He knows who we are. He knows what we are. He knows that we don’t always accomplish the good, we desire. However, His love for us is constant, always there. Yes, we must strive to do better with our lives. Yes, we must strive to return this love to Him. But, in spite of our slips, our falls, our downright evil actions, He is constantly loving us and desiring our love in return.

So, think about this, to Jesus, what we did last night, what we want to do today…He forgives and loves us. What we did in our distant past…He forgives and loves us. He knows that once we accept His forgiveness….wait….really accept His forgiveness, feeling truly sorry for our actions, craving to become more like Him and loving Him, as He is, in us and others, then we have truly begun our journey to and with Him.

Do we know we are forgiven? Do we know that Jesus loves us? Take out the “we” and “us” and let it read, “Do I know I am forgiven?” Do I know that Jesus loves me?” Why is it so important for us to know these things? You and I are no different than ANY other person walking this earth. Think of the best in your eyes, and think of the worst in your eyes. We are all alike. There is no best and worst. We are all loved by and forgiven by Jesus. We cannot look upon others any differently than we look upon ourselves. We have all sinned. Because of us, it was necessary for Jesus to come into this world. And because of Jesus, we are all saved. What we have to do is acknowledge, accept, and embrace the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

There is one last thing that we should consider. It can be very informative to us. If we DO find fault in others, if we find it difficult to embrace others with their problems, their faults, their way of living, THEN we have not yet forgiven ourselves the way Christ wants us to forgive. We do not have to embrace other’s problems, other’s faults, other’s way of living, but the person saddled with these, we must embrace, we must forgive. Forgiveness is a willed action, not a feeling action.

Who Are You?

Finding out Who I Am

Who are YOU? I mean it, really, who are you? Where are you going with your life? What does Jesus mean to you, in your life? Please, stay with me on this. I believe that this is one of the most important posts, I will ever publish. The thoughts contained in this can free all of us from the grasp of whatever is holding us back. These thoughts can free us to the point where we will look on our lives differently. So, buckle up your seat belt, we are going for a joy ride that will land us in the arms of Christ. It may be a little long, but if one post can help get our heads on straight, if one post can help us move towards Christ and be free of the demons that haunt us then maybe an extra five minutes may not be so bad.

Jesus has already forgiven us, you, and me, the world. On the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. He saw me. He saw you. He saw our past transgressions, and those we don’t even know about yet, because they are still in our future. Jesus loves us in spite of our faults, our laziness, our lusts, our greed, our intolerance of others. He loves us even though we expect others to be perfect, but it’s ok, if we allow ourselves to fall a bit short. Ok, hold that thought. Jesus loves us in spite of our faults.

We know that Jesus is the head of the Mystical Body. We also know that we, being baptized, make up the Church which constitutes the arms, legs, mind, heart, eyes and tongue of the Mystical Body. Christ is dependent on His Church (us) to bring Him to the sick and the poor, to wrap our arms around those who are desperate for love. He wants our minds and hearts to be overflowing with love and kindness and to bring those treasures to people who live their daily lives without them. It is we who must see the injustices of the world and speak out against them. We must bring Christ to the world, into the world. Who me? You must be kidding. I am part of the problem. I have too many failings. Ok, but hold onto the thought, we must bring Christ to the world.

When you slipped on ice, fell and broke your arm you learned a valuable lesson. And that lesson was: you must walk carefully when on ice. You know what happens when you don’t. So, you can feel confident when you tell a young person of the dangers about ice on the sidewalk. You are married and have been for … oh, so many years. You have learned how arguments start, and better yet, how to end them smoothly or maybe, not so smoothly. You have discovered the art of balancing your checkbook and knowing how to keep yourself within the budgets that you set up. In short, you have gone through high school, college, dating, courtship, marriage years, raising children, coping with employers or employees. To say it in one sentence, “We have lived lives that had good and bad points.” That’s another thought we are going to hold.

Addressing all the events of our individual life, we can say something without any fear of contradiction. I am unique. You are unique. No one else in this world, in the past, present or the future has the exact same experiences that we have. Since all of our experiences affect and shape us to some degree, no one else has the same make up, outlook, or thought processes that we have. We are unique. You guessed it we are definitely going to hold that one.

You were asked at the beginning, “Who are you”? You have some answers to that question, now. Let’s look at the points that we are holding. First, we pointed out that Jesus loves us in spite of our faults. Then we said that we must bring Christ to the world. We then pointed out that we have lived lives that had good and bad points.  And lastly, we are unique. Think of those four sentences. Let them almost run together as one. Jesus loves us, and we must bring Christ to the world, with our lives that had good and bad points but in our unique perspective. We have lived these lives, trying to do good things, but slipping and falling sometimes. In the falling and getting up we have learned some valuable lessons that could help others. What did our high school and college experiences show us? How difficult was it to avoid falling in with the “bad” crowd. Maybe, we were the “bad” crowd. What about dating and courtship? Can we pass on some of our learned experiences and failures to younger people? What did we learn with our marriages, good and bad points? What did the difficulties of raising children at the different ages teach us? Can’t we help some young parents, so they won’t have to learn it on their own?

YOU have so much to offer. You don’t have to preach Christ or stand on a corner holding up signs. Go out and be yourself. Show people the goodness that He calls you to have. You won’t be ranting and raving about Jesus. But by your words, your actions, your expressions of care and concern, these will shout the name of Jesus even though you are only whispering. What you have learned over the course of years with your life, this is who you are. You are NOT the person who periodically falls and feels abandoned. You are the person who has overcome some difficulties and trying to overcome many others. This is the person that Christ loves. He isn’t concerned about the perfect person you WANT to be. He loves the struggling person who you ARE. This is the real you, at this time! This is the real you that you bring to your world around you. Don’t wait until that perfect person emerges. That time will not come. Only one person in this world is perfect, and He died on a cross, loving you more than you can imagine. With your life, your unique perspective on life, bring Christ to those around you, as only you can do it. Christ needs YOU.

Our love touches one another

(12th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

If we hear the question asked, “Who or what is the Catholic Church?” What will our response be? Do we think of the church as just a building? Do we get lost in all the hierarchy and feel it is a gigantic organization? Or, maybe we feel that it is just a ploy to take our hard-earned dollars? How sad. How very sad that we are so willing to leave ourselves out in the cold. We overlook the very spirit of God that is to dwell in us, and push it off like so much lint on our sleeves. How often we hear comments like, “Oh, I can pray anywhere”, “I don’t need a church to pray in”, and “the sky’s canopy is my church”. They are all true, but sorely lacking in a fundamental truth. Let’s delve into what is the church.
First, let us put to rest that the word Catholic, as contained here, does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. This word in the Creed simply means universal, that is: She is not limited by any one kingdom, or to any one group of peoples, but embraces all mankind with her love. This Holy entity, flowing from Christ, can be nothing but holy. And, flowing from Christ, who came to save every one, must be universal.

The church, “ecclesia”, means a gathering, an assemblage, a group of people, a congregation. Over time we have gotten used to calling the building “the church”. We may say, “Look at that great set of wheels”, referring to a good looking car (synecdoche). Common usage today says “church” but thinks of the building rather than the peoples who congregate there. It has confused the building with the people who are drawn there. The church is not brick and mortar, it is people. It is you and I. We are the church. God’s love brought mankind into existence. The same love brought Christ into the world. We know He walked among us, worked among us and died for us. His love for us prompted all of this. He sends the Holy Spirit to us. Why? To ensure the flow of love to all of us will continue forever. This love bonds us, joins us, and permeates us. It draws us to come together and flows through us. This love is really our God at work in the world.

Yes, we can pray anywhere. No, we don’t need a building to pray in. The sky is indeed beautiful, impressive and inspirational. But it is not a church. A church is people, people who feel the love bonding them with their God and each other. This love is God in us. We need this church just as we need our life’s blood.

The church is how we will build up our love for God and our fellow man, AND it is also the purpose of why man was put on this earth. God, love, permeates all of creation. We were created for one purpose and one purpose only. Man was given free will so that he could/would use it to freely allow himself to be drawn back to God, to choose God. This is man’s purpose to be united again with God…here on earth, not just in Heaven. This is the church!

How is this to be done? How can this be accomplished? Again, we must look to the church, the people of God. The church, through Christ, has been entrusted with all the necessary means for salvation. The Sacraments, the Mass, the Word of God all of these are to be found within the people of God. These are all designed to uplift us, to cleanse us, to strengthen us. In short, they are there because of God’s love. Their purpose is to build up our love for God and our fellow man.

So, we can understand the words, “The Church is both the means and the goal of God’s plan”-1. We may not like certain things about the building that we go into to pray. There may also be other things that may annoy us, or make us uneasy. But we cannot say, “We don’t need the church”. For to treat it as a piece of lint and flick it away, is to flick away salvation. We are the church, we are God’s people. We are bound and surrounded by His love. We are drawn to each other by His love. We are renewed by each other’s love. In this love is our salvation.              goto next segment

-1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, art. 778