Tag Archive: our life


The Peace That We Desire

His Gentle Love

His Gentle Love

Who are You? Really!! What do you like about yourself? What do you think of others? Are you critical of others? Do you want people to act or talk a certain way? How do you feel if they don’t comply? We are so full of conflicting emotions. We want things to be just so, and when they aren’t, we get bent out of shape. We don’t want to be bothered by things. We don’t want to have to adapt, to adjust, or to change our way of doing things. And yet… we are not satisfied with where we are right now. As I said earlier, “we are so full of conflicting emotions”.

It is not an easy task to look at ourselves. We want things to be just so, and when they aren’t, we excuse them, we soften them, we ignore them and/or we change our focus. We will do anything so as not to have to cope with conflict, our conflict. What does Christ say to us? “Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven”, (Matt 18, 3); “you cannot bear fruit … unless you abide in me”, (John 15, 4). It sounds so daunting, so stringent, so demanding. And yet, remember who is saying this? It is the Christ, the Word made flesh, our God of Love. We really don’t want contention; we want peace

Read the following prayer of St. Teresa of Avila. But don’t just read it, ponder it, understand it, let it permeate you. Feel it grow inside. Allow the love of God to enfold you, and wrap you in His arms.

May today there be peace within Accept who and what you are, as you are, Accept Jesus, at His word, He has come to bring peace to us, to the world. Accept Him.


May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be All have made mistakes in our lives. We are what we are, where we are as a result of our past life. A past that God has seen, and still truly loves us, as and where we are.


May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith God is infinite. Think of the most outlandish and most beautiful accomplishment that you can think of. It is yours…if you strive for it and work towards that goal.


May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you What do you have right now? What gifts has He given you, enabled for you? Your ability to smile, to love , to laugh, to cry, to be gentle and tender…these are all gifts that He has lavished on you. What will you do with them? With whom will you share them?


May you be content knowing you are a child of God Don’t try to be someone you are not. Don’t wish for the accolades of the crowd. Rather, strive to accept the fact that God has created you, loves you and is happy just being with you.


Let this presence settle into your bones, Recognize that God’s love surrounds us and permeates us, always. This is true joy. Allow this fact to take control of you, of your existence…


and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love This realization will dominate all that you will do and a taste of Heaven on earth will be yours.


It is there for each and every one of us. All we need do is to say, “Yes” and accept Him into our life, our total life.

 

It sounds so simplistic, so uncomplicated. But, do we really think that Jesus, who sought to have the little children surround Him, would give the world complicated directions? He is just telling us, “Pursue your wholesome dreams, pursue those glimpses of joy and love, you so fiercely desire. In them, I will be waiting for you.”

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

1) Peace Within
2) Our Weakness, Our Strength
3) Our Demons
4) Our Strength
5) Thy Will Be Done

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Come Back to Me

return to God2

I have not written anything new since June 13, of 2013. To those who have been patiently coming back to see if anything new was published, I can only say, “I am sorry, and thank you”. To all I offer my sincerest apologies and hope that it won’t happen again. Having said that, today’s blog is a continuation of the 6/13/2013 blog: “Mankind and God: Body and Soul”.  I don’t blame you if you don’t remember what it said, so just click the underlined title above and it will take you to that blog.

Starting from there then, we have God as our Creator bringing into existence the entire universe, planets, stars, moon, sun and our own planet, earth. The infinity of God’s beauty and love surrounds us, each and every day. And, all of this beauty was created for one purpose…us. What other aspect of creation can appreciate the beauty of God? What planet, or star, or rock, or plant, or animal can see all of these wonders and experience the overwhelming magnificence of an eternal creator? Only mankind can. We say that God is infinite. We say that His love for us is infinite. He not only created us, out of His infinite love, but that same infinite love surrounded us with everything that we could possibly need, or want. (If you or I had been in the place of God and doing the creating, how much would we have done after the creation of the person, himself? Would we have thought about where he might want to go, to explore space, when he was ready (thousands of years from then)?)

In each person, in you and me, God elevated this human animal to a state that we had no right to expect. We have a body, a mind, and a soul. He put in each of us, a part of Himself; He gave us a soul. The soul is that part of us that craves to be re-united back with God. The body and mind stop functioning after death. But the soul, participating in God’s divine plan, strives, no, yearns to be embraced by God, again.

So, this infinite God breaks out His infinite plan. In each and every person whoever walked, walks or will walk on this earth God has placed a part of Himself in them. And in this soul that we possess, each of us has implanted in it a purpose, a goal, a piece of God’s plan. We are ALL called to be holy. We are ALL called to fulfill that portion of God’s plan that is in us. Each part of that plan is different for each one of us. We must find out on our own, what God’s plan is for us. The fulfillment of His plan culminates in our re-joining our God for all eternity. We call it Heaven, but is it not the presence of God that makes it heaven? And, sadly, if we don’t re-join our God for all eternity… what do we call that?

This all sounds like a pretty story, a fable with a happy/sad ending. But God gave us something else, when He created us. He gave us free-will. What kind of a gift would this gift of life be, if like a robot, we walked this earth, doing what our maker programmed into us? His infinite love for us also gave us this freedom to decide what we wanted to do, to say, and how to act. This free will to choose also applies to our response to God. If my love for you existed only because you have a gun to my head, then that would not be love at all. (You cannot dispute that statement.) So too, God does not force us to love Him. He does not force us to carry out His plan. We have a choice. We have free will.

Summing up then, God’s plan, for each of us, is that we have life, we have our own goal, and we have a portion of God’s plan. If we put that plan into motion, it will bring us back into the arms of God for all eternity. The ONLY thing that can prevent that plan from coming to fruition for each of us is our free will. What is our choice? There are many things to decide upon. What do we crave? What pulls our attention away from God?  Popularity, wealth, material goods, power, position, sex, drugs, complacency, laziness, hatred, anger, pride, worry, fear, jealousy, the list is endless. If we are to truly be a thoughtful, reasoning person, then we must look at this list and decide what it is that is interfering with our love of God. All of the above will move us farther away from Him, until He becomes a myth, a child’s story, a fable. Yes, we are free to choose our own life style. But I would caution you, that before you choose your life style talk with God and find out what His plan is for you. Then put your free will into action.

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.

holy week

We are fast approaching a very sacred time in the Catholic religion. This Sunday we will be celebrating Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. It is very easy to picture ourselves as part of the crowd welcoming Him into the town. That is the easy part.

That day, however, is the beginning of Easter week. The rest of this week we see different peoples in Jesus’ company. We see the Apostles gathered with Him at the Last Supper. Would we be there? They were together celebrating the Passover, or though they thought. Jesus introduces them to a new sacrifice. “This is My body”, “This is My blood”. What is this man saying? Would we accept those statements?

A short time later we see armed men sneaking up on Jesus and seizing Him, placing Him under arrest, and taking Him back to their superiors. Would we be part of that group? Or, would we be with His followers, who fled? He is beaten, whipped, and made fun of. Would we be the ones taunting Him? Pilate washes his hands as a gesture of saying that he is not responsible for what is taking place. Would we also be washing our hands? Refusing to help Him, but just pointing out that we do not agree, and remain silent?

He is beaten and whipped as He carries His cross. The people, who had been waving palm branches and praising Him, they are now jeering Him, spitting at Him…mocking Him. Would you be part of that? You were with this group earlier waving those same palm branches. As He reaches Calvary, and is stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, look around are you part of this group?

In all of these scenarios, we pick and choose who we would be, what we would be doing, where we would stand. But this choosing is not a conscious decision on our part now. It is, and has been, a life choice that we have been making all along through our lives. Have we been actively participating at Mass? Do we know and believe that Jesus is with us each time we attend mass? Do we go to Mass? Do we whip and beat Jesus? Of course, we do. Every time we choose to do something that is not right, something that refuses to help someone, something that seeks out our own pleasure regardless of the consequences, we choose something, someone other than Jesus, we shun Him; we mock Him. We oftentimes, think of ourselves in a righteous manner, maybe even now we are doing that. I wouldn’t do that. I don’t do that.

As was said earlier, this is a life choice. You are still alive. If you see areas where you don’t measure up, you still can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, to help you. Assess your actions, your motives. Where do you stand?

generations

The subject title could have read:
“To Everyone”, for we all are a son or a daughter.

You are thinking about your future. You are thinking of marriage. You are married. You are thinking of having children. You have children. No matter which of those sentences describes your situation, these thoughts are for you. They are for you and for us, your parents, as well.

Yes, we all know how children come about. We can argue till we are blue in the face about the spiritual, moral, social, and sexual issues. This article is not about any of those. (However, they sorely need to be addressed by all of us.) No, today we are to look at ourselves. Look at how we are doing in those areas. You may say, “Hey, my kids are all grown up. There is nothing more I can do, now.” We can understand how you feel, but do our responsibilities stop, because they are all grown up? At what point do we stop having a need to live our beliefs, to demonstrate what our beliefs are, to grow in our own beliefs and to understand ourselves? The moment we stop, we cease being a loving, caring parent, a loving caring person.

Let’s start by asking a simple question. What do you value most? The answers come flying back: my wife, my husband, my children, my mother, my father, my job, my home, my friends etc. What you value most is where you spend your time. “Now wait, that’s not fair”, we can hear you right now.” I work so that my spouse and children will have food on the table, so that they will have a roof over their head. I have to work long hours. I do it for them”. We will come back to this later…

What does your child want and need? Or better, what do they need? Your child needs food and shelter, yes. But, most importantly, your child needs YOU! They may say that they need an I-pod, or Xbox; that they need every doll or super hero; that they just have to go to this dance or that show. What they deem as necessary, as must have’s, are, simply put, replacements… for you. When was the last time you talked to them about… nothing and everything? You just wanted to be with them and hear their deep down worries and concerns. How often do you admit that you, too, had similar problems and what you did to work them out? That you too, had to face this kind of a school test, and what lengths you had to go to try to pass it? What kind of a relationship do you have with your children? What kind will you have with your children? What you do…they WILL do. What you crave…they WILL crave. Don’t get angry when they don’t know how to do something. Give them your time, and show them. Don’t give them things. Give them yourself. Give them your TIME. These toys, these technical things amount to so much filler. They are replacements for you.

Do you know your children’s friends? No? Invite them over to your house to meet them. AHH… you don’t have the TIME. You have work to do. You are needed at the office. Work has to be done at home. You have to work on the computer. The list goes on and on and on…all in the name of “Doing it for my kids, my spouse.” Ask yourself, am I running away from things, because I am too ashamed to admit that I don’t know how or what to do. Ask your parent, because he or she should have spent the time necessary to help you. If they didn’t, then they probably didn’t know what to do, either. Do you see where this is going? The problems of the parent spill over to the children. The children then become parents and do the same harm to their children. It is time to break the cycle.

How do we stop re-tracing the same steps as our parents? First, we have to recognize that our parents, as loving as they tried to be, didn’t have all the answers. They struggled to understand, too. Once we can take that step, the next one is fairly easy, is fairly obvious. We don’t have all the answers, either. We would like to but we are ashamed to admit it…we don’t. Your children don’t need or want a super hero for a parent. They want to know you as a person, as someone who had to face the same struggles that they have. They want to know how you solved them. They will truly understand if you were unable to solve them. They will probably feel a relief that they are not unusual. Problems are not always solved immediately. Problems may linger around for a while. But facing them, addressing them, trying to figure them out is part of life. Trying to forget them is no solution at all. We don’t need to cover them over with gadgets, or pleasures, or whatever else we do to make the problem go away. We try to address our problems, our children’s concerns, honestly, but always with our relationship with Jesus guiding us, every step of the way.

jesus on trial

(Parables and Impact on Church and State)

“Jesus’ whole life, every word and action was His teaching.”-4 That is why we can’t just look at His miracles or the events touching Him. His whole life, blended together, was his teaching. Throughout that public life, He utilized one special form of teaching: parables. Simply put, parables are short stories depicting a human trait with some moral to be learned.

Many times in the parables, there are multiple people with whom we can identify. For example, in the Prodigal Son parable-5, we can identify ourselves with the erring son, the older brother, the father, or the servant. Each person’s role portrays something, some value that we can identify with. Jesus would use these stories to help the people understand their role in life, the direction their life is moving, the good or bad quality of their life. Whenever He used a parable it was not to condemn but rather to help the person come to a better understanding about themselves. Even in His teaching, his love for the person was of paramount importance. At the heart of each parable was the kernel seed of the Kingdom of God.

In fact, many of the parables would begin with the words, “The kingdom of God is like…” The parable would go on, not about what heaven was, nor where it was, but rather the dispositions needed to acquire it, to get there. As the Church (the people of God) matured down through the years, their understanding of some of the parables grew, as well. For example, the parable of the owner of the vineyard-6 paying the same full wages to those who came very late in the day was originally viewed as God’s mercy. Later, as the Church grew, she realized that it was deeper than that. At the heart of this parable was the teaching that nothing that we can do “earns” salvation. It is purely God’s gift. God calls everyone to the kingdom. How we respond to that call, how we accept that gift is what is critical. Before the break we used the phrase “this makes sense, therefore I believe”. Intellectually, it can make sense, but we cannot leave it there. To accept the kingdom is to place our trust in God. That, placing of our trust, is our response to God’s call.

In another parable we hear that the kingdom of God is the forgiveness of huge, un-payable debts of sin out of God’s mercy.-7 If God has forgiven us these huge debts of our sinfulness, it only stands to reason that we must forgive those debts that are owed to us. Why do we see the splinters of faults in others eyes, when we don’t see the beam protruding from our own eye? So, the kingdom of God will have the good and the bad in it, much like the parable of the net that indiscriminately gathers all kinds of fish.-8 Or, the kingdom is like the field that has wheat and weeds in it.-9 Both of these parables indicate that there will be a separation forever at the end.

To summarize this chapter, it is a glowing example of Jesus’ methodology of teaching. He gently loves us, and tries to urge us to look deeper into what the kingdom of God truly is. His love for us precedes everything else. He wants us to love Him back. He wants us to love our fellow man. Yes, we are sinful and lazy, but His love for us is always there. He died for us, so that we may live. Our acceptance of Him is something that will affect us the rest of our lives. It will affect how we live the rest of our lives and treat others. All of us are guilty of sin. No one can claim innocence on this charge. Because of this common guilt, it makes no sense to treat others as though they are less than us. And, through it all, Jesus (God) loves us and has forgiven us. If we accept all of this, then we accept the kingdom of God.

When I first read chapter five, in our book, I thought it was very dry. So, I read it again, and still again. I slowly realized the necessity of this chapter. It shows the backdrop of the time, into which Jesus came into the world. It shows the attitudes that were present, and why the peoples resisted so strongly the teachings of this Messiah. The Israelites did not expect a kingdom like the one preached by Jesus. Their kingdom was going to be one to overthrow the Roman tyranny. Their Messiah was to be a general, a great leader. Jesus was an enigma to both the Israelites and the Romans, as well. The Romans feared that this upstart Jesus would cause a revolution. But both factions were confused, since his words were that of peace and love.

The Hebrew peoples had grown accustomed to doing the letter of the law. The Torah spelled out everything for them: what they should eat, when they should eat, what they should pray; when they should pray. Life was simply a matter of doing exactly what the Hebrew Law said. If they did, then they would be pleasing to their God. There was no thought of internal moral convictions. You were righteous if you did what the law said. No more-no less. Judaism was a Theocracy: A nation ruled by God. Because of this, the high priest and the Sanhedrin ruled over all, because they were representatives of God. The Sanhedrin was a tribunal that was made up of members of the priestly class, Scribes, Doctors of the Law and the Elders. These last three groups were kind of the learned elite. However, among all the people, there was a great divide, caused by two diverse reactions to paganism.

On the one side were the Sadducees. They were religious but had no difficulty in associating with the pagans. Their group was made up of higher officials, merchants, property owners and priests. They held only to written law. If the law was mute on a point they felt that reason should decide. The other group was the Pharisees. They would not tolerate any dealings with the pagans. If it were not Judaic then there would be no tolerance of anything else. For the Pharisee, all law, written and oral, must control every aspect of human life. Most of the Doctors of Law were Pharisees.

Jesus seemed to be always caustic with the Pharisees. On one occasion, He called them “white washed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones.”-10 On another occasion, when asked why he ate with sinners, Jesus replied, “Those that are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”-11 Because of their blind obedience to the law, they frequently challenged Jesus on why He did things on the Sabbath. Why did He and His disciples pluck ears of wheat and knead them with their hands to make a rough meal on the Sabbath? Why did He work a miracle on the Sabbath? Did He not know the law and that no work was to be done on the Sabbath? To which Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not Man for the Sabbath”.-12

It was in this period that Jesus lived. He was constantly being challenged by the authority of the day, both religious and political. Throughout it all, Jesus shows us how to address adversity. Whether it is persecution from others, people challenging our views, ridiculing our lives of temperance and modesty, or just dealing with the sorrows of life, He shows us that our eye must be fixed on Him, at all times. No other way can we survive as Christians. No other way will we want to live.

____________________________

-4 Believing in Jesus Chapter 4, Page 47

-5 Luke 15:11-32

-6 Matt 20:1-16

-7 Matt 18:23-25

-8 Matt 13;47-50

-9 Matt 13:24-30

-10 Matt 23:27b

-11 Mark 2:17

-12 Mark 2:27b

Back to RCIA: Index

Why Are You…. YOU?

Hello….??? Rise and Shine!!! It’s time to wake up…… And, so begins (sort of) our emergence from death’s sleep into …eternity. Who is standing before us when we are awakened? Is it an angel? Is it someone from our past? It wouldn’t be God…. Could it? There must be a hierarchy even in death. Who (or what) wakes us into eternity?

That is something we will discover when we read the eternal blog. Until then, maybe we should think a little about death, our death. This is not intended to be a morbid subject. Actually, I hope that it is anything BUT morbid. I used to know a priest friend that meditated on death. He had a full scale skeleton in his room. He did teach medical doctors about the anatomy of mankind, and hence, the skeleton.

Anyway, I digress. You may wonder what value is there in thinking about the hereafter. This is not an exercise to scare us into proper living, or ethical actions. This is just a reminder that an eternity does exist. This is to call back from the depths of our earliest memories, the fact that God, a loving God, created us with a purpose. He made this purpose unique for each one of us. Look at yourself in a mirror. There is something special about you, something that God gave to only you. That, “specialness”, entails a quality of thought, of feeling, of longing that you, and only you, have. And depending on that “specialness”, is a single purpose that you, and only you, have.

We need to examine our life. We need to look back and identify all the times, the many times, that God’s finger touched us. Those times, that God was involved with our life, may have guided us away from danger, or gently gave us another option to choose. However it was, whatever it was, His love for us moved Him in our behalf. Love is a strange commodity. It demands that the lover is ready to give all, just to help the one loved. The same demand exists for our God. His creatures, mankind, you and I are so totally loved by Him that He did give His all for us.

So what is it, that we have, that makes God take such an active interest in our life? An artist does not worry, or sacrifice for his creation, his art. Why would God be concerned about us? Worry for us? Die for us? I believe it all goes back to that single purpose that each of us have. Someone exists in this world whose path has crossed, or will cross, ours. That someone needs something which we have. His life depends on that single purpose which God has given to our life. Each person in this world has a need for someone else’s single purpose. And so, a web-like connection exists between all peoples. It is love that binds us together, that prompts us to be concerned about others. And through that love we are able to give what we have been given.

So why are we … here on earth? What is our purpose in life? God surely did not create mankind to see who could acquire more wealth than anyone else. God doesn’t jump for joy, just because we have more technical toys than others. The quest, for mankind’s purpose, is one that is very obvious and yet most difficult to attain. To discover our purpose in life, probably takes a life time. And the only way we can discover it is to see where God has been guiding us throughout that lifetime. What  thoughts, feelings and longings seem to be consistent, and constant, in our lives. Our life’s overall direction and the intertwining of those feelings and thoughts that we seem to always have, together they help us determine our purpose in life. They seem to be a compass showing us the direction our lives are headed, showing us what God has given to us to pass on to others.

We want to live so that our purpose is fulfilled. We want our lives to cry out that we thank our God. And, we do thank Him, whenever we treat ALL of His creatures with genuine love and concern for THEIR well-being. We give to our fellow man, whatever it is that we have, whatever it is that we have been blessed with, whatever it is that we have learned throughout our lifetime. We give ourselves.

So, who is it that is waking us up into eternity? Is it a smiling God, beaming with pride, that this creature found their purpose in life? Is it all the people that we helped throughout our lifetime? I hope so. I truly hope so.

Come Follow Me

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe in God?

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

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

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

God must be all-good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here and Now

What do we write…Right Now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Demons

What has a hold on us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we NEED now!

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

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

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

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

The Least of These

Whose Face Do You Put Here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you know that a sheep’s normal vision of sight is only seeing six feet? It will eat constantly and will have its head down; all the while it is eating, or looking for food. It moves from one patch of enticing grass to another. It’s like, the sheep is thinking, “oh here’s one, and oh, look, there’s another”. It is not concerned over what the rest of the sheep are doing, or where they are going. It will continue to look for something to eat, wherever it wishes. In short it is wrapped up in its own needs and becomes oblivious to the safety or dangers around it.

Now multiply that by a hundred sheep, and you can see that the shepherd must be on his toes, all the time. He is constantly bringing the herd together, ensuring that they will all arrive home safely. No matter how good the shepherd is however, one or two will invariably find a grassy spot behind a knoll, behind a large boulder, or in a stand of trees. And once that happens, the job of the shepherd doubles in its difficulty. He must still continue to keep the herd together, but he must locate all the strays that have wandered from his sight.

Why all of this about sheep? Yesterday’s Gospel was from Luke, Chapter 15, verses 1 to 10. In it is the parable of the Good Shepherd and looking for the one that strayed. The priest mentioned the fact about the sheep’s eyesight. It made an impression on me. I thought about the impact of keeping one’s head down, while coupled with seeing very poorly. We have to agree that this is definitely something that we cannot do in a bustling community with traffic whizzing by.

And yet, sometimes we do just that. Whether we call it tunnel vision, or blind spot, one-track mind or being oblivious, the end result is the same…we don’t see, nor do we want to see any other point of view, but our own. We can talk and hear about Christ and His love for us all day. But for it to be meaningful to us, to have this change our ways, we have to put away our blinders. Our blinders are usually set up by ourselves. We have grown comfortable with them. They help us see only as much and as far as we want to see. With them we only see the problems that other people have, the value systems that we know are not right (and are thankful they are not ours). These blinders prevent us from seeing our own, self-made problems, our hampering attitudes, and worst of all, they prevent us from getting closer to Jesus.

We are oblivious to the Shepherd hunting us down. We move on from one enticing “grassy” spot to another. We are constantly searching for something that will help us get through our day, something that will satisfy our immediate needs. St. Augustine chose to word it, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” In short, we seek out everything that we know of, that we think will satisfy the aching, yearning in our hearts. All the while the patient Shepherd seeks us out, waiting for that moment when we throw up our hands, and earnestly cry out, “God, help me!” Then, and only then, with our free will desiring assistance, the gentle Shepherd, caresses us and places us on His shoulders and carries us back to the fold.

Where am I Now?

Which One in the Crowd am I?

“None of us start out as saints.” That pretty much describes us and causes us to think, almost automatically, “Well, where am I, now”. I saw that statement used in conjunction with yesterday’s Gospel, when Christ chose the twelve apostles. -1 Couple that thought with Paul’s statement, in today’s Epistle to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus”. -2

When the two are brought together in close proximity, it becomes loud and clear that we are a work in progress. We agonize over our mistakes. We dwell so much on the errors of our ways that we forget about Christ’s love for us. It is almost like we can’t turn to Christ UNTIL we clear up our mistakes. Talk about the cart before the horse!! It isn’t up to us. We are not the solution to our problems, Christ is. We did not start out as saints, and we are not saints now, and yet, wonder of wonders…Christ loves us, right now.

Somewhere along the line, we, mankind, got the impression that we were masters of our own lives. We could do anything. Maybe it is pride, maybe it is a leftover from the first sin, maybe it is confidence in our mental abilities, but wherever it stems from, it falls short. When Christ said, “I am the Way”,-3 He turned the key to unlock the process for us. I guess we thought they were just pretty words, signifying nothing. Nobody told us to pursue this unlocked door. If we wish to be free of the guilt, free of the gnawing feeling that something is not quite right with us then open the door.

The door has been unlocked for us, by Jesus. He has redeemed us. He loves us. He has told us to follow Him, to follow His example. He is not asking heroic deeds of us. He is simply saying, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”-4 Sounds simple enough, but realize that includes ourselves, as well.

We asked ourselves, at the beginning, if we did not start out as saints, then “Well, where am I now?” That question is filled with high expectations of ourselves. The expectations arise out of the “NOW” part. We must have made some progress. Then, how much? How close are we to Christ? How much do we feel the love of Christ in us? How much do we love everyone else? How many exceptions are there to that love? Answer these questions, honestly, and you will know HOW MUCH.

-1 Luke 6:13
-2 Philippians 1:6
-3 Jesus said to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me. John 14:6
-4 A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34

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.

Welcome Home

(15th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

Man was created both body and soul, both physical and spiritual. He was placed on this earth to live and enjoy the beauties of this world, the beauty of God. God did not put man on earth to live for just a limited time and then die. No, man brought this on himself. “When did this happen”, you ask? It happened the moment man chose to follow his own wishes and not God’s. At that exact moment, the need for redemption was born. The sin happened in time, thus redemption must be completed in time, in the physical world. In the resurrection of Jesus, God’s original intent for mankind is fulfilled. We were created for a bodily existence. In a bodily existence we turned our back. And so, in Christ’s bodily existence, we are redeemed. His resurrection, a victory over death, told us we were back on track.

Our own resurrection would take place after our death. This is not speaking only to the soul, but rather to the whole person, as he had been created. Both body and soul will be re-united, trumpeting the victory over death, as God had intended it, all along. These are not just words. Man’s first sin brought sickness and death into this world. And so it is still today. We do grow old. We do get sick. We do die. But Christ has shown us, through His resurrection that belief in Him is to believe also in our own resurrection. “And every one that lives, and believes in me, shall not die for ever”-1   All of this is predicated on our living and believing in Jesus.

We cannot stop here, though. Our bodies rising and re-uniting with our souls is a pleasant enough thought….but then what? Tied closely to this is “Life everlasting”. We are coming close to speculation here. But what is heaven? We all can close our eyes and imagine what heaven might be like. Strumming on a harp and sitting on a cloud doesn’t really sound like something I could do for more than five minutes. Whatever we do imagine it to be, I know it will fall far short of reality. “…eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love him”-2

My belief is that we are all made by God, with a potential and beauty that only God knows. We will finally be free of the effects of sin, either through a Purgatory required, or a life of suffering willingly endured, out of a love for Christ. When we attain that potential and beauty envisioned by God, and can feel the love of God pulsing within us and surrounding us then we are in Heaven, we are united with God. In that union with infinite Goodness, there is no time, there is no future, there is only now. The peace of being at one with our Maker will permeate us, and happiness and joy will be ours, forever.    goto next segment

-1 John 11:26
-2 1Cor 2:9

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

Our Connection With Others

Branches bearing fruit on the Vine

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

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

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

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

Today is the feast of St. Alphonsus. The Redemptorists Fathers are saying this prayer after each Mass. I looked on their website to see what churches were having this devotion. There were none in the area. I downloaded this prayer, which they will be saying after each Mass, today. So this re-print is for those of us, who are suffering the aches and pains of arthritis, as did this saint. May this prayer help us cope with this debilitating disease. Pray it daily.

      Dear St. Alphonsus, friend of the poor, and arthritis sufferer, you are the special patron of all who suffer from arthritis and the pains of many years.

 When our joints, hips, arms, legs and knuckles hurt so much that tears well up in our eyes, help us to recall the tears, the sweat and the blood that flowed from our crucified Jesus who bore so much suffering out of love for each of us.

     St. Alphonsus, afflicted with curvature of the spine and nailed to a wheelchair cross in your final years, teach us to unite all our pains with those of Jesus, so our patience and love inspires others to accept the difficulties of their lives.

     We ask you to intercede for us so our pains will be eased but more so that we are enabled to be one with Jesus in His great act of dying and rising.                    Amen.

Saul, why do you persecute Me?

    St. Paul’s words, And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me…”-1 seems to be one of the best explanations of what Christianity is all about. Much has been written about the significance of Christianity and the meaning of Christianity. In these eleven words, I believe, St. Paul has succinctly described for us what Christian Living is.

Here is a man, who openly persecuted the Christians. “…And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? And he said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest…”-2   He progressed from leading mobs to kill and suppress the Christian Way, to ultimately dying for Christian beliefs.  Somewhere, during that progression, he found the meaning of Christianity. He found the joy of being at peace, of being one with Christ.

Today, we speak of reflecting Christ in our lives, of letting Christ act through us. What we are addressing is no different than what Paul found during his life. If we go out and think to ourselves, “Now, what would Christ want me to do?” Or, again, “What good things can I do, that would make me feel more like a Christian.” Then, sadly, we have missed the point. Our intentions are noble, but this does not reflect Christ. This imitates an end result only. The substance, the reason is missing.

To reflect Christ, to be at one with Christ, we must forget ourselves. Our wants, our needs will be seen as they really are, trivial pursuits after nothing of substance . Our focus must only be on Christ. Know His Life, know why He came into our world. See the extent He truly loves us, forgives us, and loves us some more.  Our desires must see Jesus, be centered on Him. If we can do this, our joy, here on earth, will be such that we never could have anticipated how wonderful it could be.

Now, we, filled with this joy, filled with this love for Christ can see each other in a totally different light. Forgetting ourselves, our wants, our needs, the person beside us no longer is a threat to us, no longer can hurt us, is not someone to dislike. He is a person, like us, like Paul, searching for meaning, searching to be at one with Christ. He may not even realize he is searching for Christ. He may still be striving after his own wants and needs. But if we are centered on Jesus, then the joy that is within us, will emanate from us. Our words, our actions won’t be those of a person focused on ourself. They will be those that Christ would say and do. He can freely use us, to say and do what people need to hear and see. Then like Paul, we can say, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.”

-1 Galatians, 2: 20

-2 Acts of the Apostles, 9: 4-5

The Nature of Sin

sin

Yesterday, we defined prayer as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. And we said that the purpose of prayer is to be one with Christ. What then, can we say about sin? Sin is diametrically opposed to union with Christ. The Baltimore Catechism says this about sin:
          “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, right conscience and God; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.”

Instead of having a genuine love for God above everythng else, we seek out those things that will give us fleeting pleasures, temporal goods, emotional gratifications. How sad that the One we should seek, with whom, we should strive to be united, we discard for this thrill, or that gratification, for financial rewards, or popularity.

What is the fascination of sin? Why do we so easily succumb to the very things that destroy our soul? The reason is simple enough. We do not perceive sin for what it is, namely, the separation of ourselves from  our God. No, we only see that which is offered. We see the momentary reward and are blinded by its seeming allure. We do not see the sin. Rather, we see the new friend to be added to our collection. We see momentary gratifications, as though they will last forever. And when they cease to gratify, we seek them all the more strongly. We see the ambition to move ahead in the company, the fame that it will bring and the money that it means. The allure is so strong, we think nothing of lying, or slandering, or anything else that is necessary to get ahead. Material things are sought as so many badges of honor. The more we have, the more impressed people will be, the more we are impressed with ourselves.

Maybe we aren’t seeking material things. Maybe we are seeking the ease of comfortable living. Let others do the work. Someone else will pick up after me. Leave me alone, let me watch my tv show. Let me do nothing. Why should I help that person? I don’t really know him/her. I can’t stand her, she’s so catty. Here comes Bill, what a boring guy. The list of worldly fascinations and attractions is endless.

Whatever weakness exists in our makeup, something in this world will exist to make it feel better. Whether we feel insecure, or persecuted, or lonely, or financially stressed, whatever our need the world will provide an immediate “solution”.  This solution, unrecognized by us, gradually takes over the weakness, and it becomes our new weakness. We then seek this out above everything else. It becomes our new need, because it seems better than what we had before. An example may be in order. A person feels insecure. So much so, that he doesn’t want to mingle with people. He stays home, by himself, and constantly watches tv. His mind is always occupied with tv shows, movies, serials and anything else that comes on. His insecurity, the original weakness, doesn’t come to the surface much, anymore. He has tv to turn to. He now must watch tv. It has become his new need.

Wordly attractions wrap around us. They cater to our weaknessess, our needs. They tie us up, and slowly they squeeze the desire to unite with Christ, out of us. We don’t see these things as evil, as sin. They have become our necessities. We can’t imagine life without them. They have become for us, our god.

The only way we can break this downward spiral, is to strive to unite ourselves with Christ. Prayer, not the recitation of words, but the linking of our mind and heart with Christ, is the only way to overcome sin. This is a lot to expect of ourselves, because we have slowly closed Christ out of our life. And, by ourselves, we will not be able to overcome the things we have gotten attached to. But with all the trust, all the faith, all the confidence we can muster, we must tell Christ our dilemna. He knows it already, but we must voice it, so we can hear it. Strive to link with Christ and feel His presence, hear His gentle whisper. Go back to church. Talk to Him in the confessional. The allures of the world will rise up and tell you how dumb you are, how stupidly you are acting. The Enemy will not give up easily. But once you realize how important it is to unite with Christ, you will know that He is there with you, listening to your plea. Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tug of War

tug left right

Just when we think we have found the secret, just when we know what we must do to be good Christians, our world turns upside down. The crazy thing about trying to lead a good Christian life is that just when we think we understand, that is when, more often than not, we find out we really didn’t. The trap is that we start to get a glimmer of what we must do, must be, and because of that glimmer, it is easy to be deceived into thinking that “that” is the Christian life.  “THAT” is just one action, one episode, in a life of many actions.

We know that Christ has forgiven us, our many transgressions. We understand that. What we don’t understand is that those transgressions cover our entire life, from beginning to end. We, however,  can only think of those that we have done in the past, the ones that we have agonized over, the ones we have said, “I am sorry for” many times. The ones in the future? What are you talking about? We are born again! We seem to feel that once we have accepted Jesus, once we feel we know what we must do, then… the battle is over. Knowing and living are two different things. The battle begins every day, every moment of every day. As Ann, a lay Apostle, says in her book The Mist of Mercy, “The Enemy never sleeps”. When we are confused, shaken, and yes, even satisfied, the Enemy lays his traps for us, to ensnare our souls, to cause us to doubt and retreat.

The danger is complacency, the feeling that we have finally arrived and feel good about it. This is an insidious side of pride. We are proud that we are “good”. If we feel confusion and surprise, at the times when our life looks us squarely in the eye and laughs at us, this should lead us to reevaluate where we stand. If we feel surprise and disappointment in ourselves, when we do stumble and fall, then we have not delved deeply enough into what our Christian life means.  The humble person is not surprised by this distress. They have acknowledged to Christ AND to themselves that they are truly weak. And this knowledge leads them to trust more, to cling tighter to Christ.

We are engaged in a tug of war, called Life. What we have read, what we feel in our heart, everything that we believe is pulling us towards unity with God. Christ has provided us the Way, the tools, so to speak, to mend, and strengthen our attitudes, to fix our broken lives, all while clinging to Him and His loving heart.

So who would dare try to prevent us from reaching true happiness? We don’t like to think of his existence, but he surely is there. The Enemy lies in wait, seeking to explore our weaknesses. Do we strive for position, accomplishments, money, pleasures, material goods, friendships? The list is seemingly endless. What is it in our lives that we want, oh so desperately?  We want it so badly, that we can almost taste it? The Enemy will lay it before you. All you have to do…seek it, not God; pay homage to him, not God. The quest for your soul began at your birth, and will continue until your last breath.

So we see the “THAT”, which we spoke of at the beginning, is not one moment in time. It is a continuous struggle for our very soul. We will slip and fall, and try to grasp tighter on the rope, only to slip and fall again. The beauty of Christ is that He is always there, with His hand outstretched to help us up again. Picture yourself as being involved in a tug of war. In front of you, in opposition to you is the Enemy, with all that he has to offer. And, standing behind you is Christ with His hand gently pressing on your shoulder. We must know that without Christ we are weak and no match for the Enemy. But with Christ… as St. Paul says to the Philippians, “There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me.” 4.13

How do our children learn? If you are a parent, you had better know. You have to know. It is your job, your responsibility, and your primary goal in life, to know. The baby, the toddler, the child, the adolescent, the teenager, the young adult, at each stage of their development, they are learning. Learning what, that depends on what they see, and hear, who they respect, who they listen to.

A child’s character is formed by watching the actions of others, of people they come into contact, of persons that they respect and admire. They see qualities in persons that they like and they want to emulate them. Their minds are formed by teachers, by persons of authority, by the books that they read, by the television shows they watch. Their ability to look people in the eye, to be able to speak confidently with others is achieved by their social skills that they develop at an early age. Their belief system is a combination of what the people do, who they respect, and what the child pursues in later life through study. In short, much of what our children are comes from the relationships they have as they are growing up.

So, we, as parents, must look in the mirror at ourselves and see what it is that we are passing on to our children. To ignore our children, to set them adrift without the tools which they need to be wholesome, productive adults, is gross negligence. If we know that children need adults, need heroes to emulate, and we still do nothing for them, what does that make us?

We can’t sit idly by and permit anyone to bring ipods and cell phones to the dinner table. Dinner time is when we learn from each other, when family issues are discussed. It is not a time to crawl into a hole and stuff our face, without speaking a word to those around us. If we allow this to happen, then our childrens’ social skills will definitely suffer, and will only be able to talk to their friends through an electronic device and not face to face.

>You are not wrong to set a curfew, dependent upon your child’s age. You are definitely not wrong to enforce it, strictly. You are not wrong to ensure that your child goes to church with you, and that he or she understands why. You must discuss your belief system with your child. (And if you don’t have one, show your child, by your example, how important it is to acquire one.) All the areas that will help your child grow into a productive, wholesome, charitable and happy adult, need to be provided to them at their earliest stages. This will require your patience, your love, your tenderness. You must be what you want your child to be. They will either, learn from you, and grow up to be, what they see in you, or they will learn from others, and do whatever the other person does. A child must learn from someone. It is the responsibility of the parent to be that someone. Ask Jesus to help you be that someone.

The Eye of a Needle

This weekend just passed, we heard once again the Lord’s directive about wealth. He compares the entrance into heaven Continue reading

Truth. Where Is It?

Truth is where you find it. Don’t look for it, only, in certain places, spoken by specific persons. To limit where we might find truth, is to limit ourselves, is Continue reading

ALMOST HOME

Have you ever gotten so distracted, you found yourself wondering how you got where you are? Continue reading

On Joy

Today’s post on joy may seem a strange choice during this time of Lent. Usually, that is a time we talk of sacrifice, penance, and suffering. Continue reading