Tag Archive: paths we choose


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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Reprint of “Be Me”.

Jesuspic4x6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

1- John 14: 6

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.

love hate

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

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

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

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

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

Be Me!

Jesuspic4x6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

1- John 14: 6

Our Purpose in Life

Lord, you are so beautiful. You and you alone will satisfy my hunger. All that you have created is beautiful. Why do I not seek you out, every moment of the day? Why am I only thinking of myself? Every time we rush to get ahead of someone, we think only of ourselves. Every time we lust after a woman or a man, we think only of ourselves. We don’t care about the other person. We wish only to use them for our satisfaction, for our pleasure. We hate. We steal. We abuse. We murder. When do we do all of these things? Whenever, we put our own interests above those of other people.

Why is this so? All that I desire should be you and you alone. But, very often, you are farthest from my thoughts. This world, our world, your world is filled with such beauty. We would see it, if we would but only stop for a moment and quietly look. Every tree, every flower, butterfly, lady bug, squirrel, rabbit, everything …has a purpose. We have a purpose. I have a purpose. If this were a painting, each aspect of it would occupy an integral part. But, this IS a painting…Your painting. And each of us has a role to play, a purpose. You have created this world for the benefit of mankind. Its beauty reflects your own beauty. It is your gift.

Each of us has been created and is part of your loving, divine plan. Each of us has a purpose in your creation. And yet, our lives many times shout out, “To hell with my purpose”. I want only to satisfy myself. And in so doing, THAT has become our sole purpose, our own satisfaction, our own gratification. In short we are saying, “To hell with others and their needs, only I matter.” You do matter. You are important to others. Others are important to you. We are the dots of paint that blend into the entire theme of life. We are part of creation. We depend upon others and others depend upon us. You cannot abandon other people. To do so, you will abandon the purpose of your life.

If God can cry, or hurt, or be disappointed, we can only imagine what is felt when we and all that we do are seen by God. His love for us is infinite. His patience for us is infinite. His just reward for us will also be infinite. This is not to discourage us, but rather to help us grow and come closer to Him. The only way we can do that is to pursue our purpose in life, the purpose He gave us when creating us.

You say that you don’t know what your purpose in life is? He has told us through His Word, His Son and His Spirit. The Scriptures cry out in every passage about the love of God, the mercy of God or the justice of God. Jesus, his Son, said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. He has shown us how to live, how to act, how to grow close to God. The Spirit of God fills us continually with His love. What is our reaction to all of these? Do we look within and see our faults, our waywardness. When we see this do we try, really try, to resolve our ways? Do we burn inside with a desire to reach out for God? Do we realize that in reaching out to our fellow man, (the rest of creation), we reach out to God, Himself? Or… do we turn our heads away? Do we rationalize how good we are most of the time? Do we favorably compare our self to others? At least I am not like…

People We Meet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

He Is Risen!!

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

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

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

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

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

Good Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of You Will Betray Me

The Gospel today, focuses squarely on Judas Iscariot. Why? Why not Peter, as well? Both men turned their backs on Jesus. Peter with his denial and Judas with his betrayal, both spurned the Christ. In effect, both men wanted nothing to do with Jesus either out of fear or out of greed.

The only difference between the two is faith. Though both had fallen, as all of us do, Peter never relinquished his faith in Jesus. The realization, of how great his offense was, reduced Peter to tears. And in his sorrow, in his time of trial, he fled back to Jesus who was waiting for him. Judas, on the other hand, on his realization of the magnanimity of his offense, despaired. One, relying on his faith in Jesus, returned with sincere sorrow, grateful in that faith that he would be forgiven. Judas had no such strength to fall back on. His faith in material things delivered no such solace. With no reliance on Jesus, his life proved to be empty, meaningless and he sought the coward’s way out, he hung himself.

No one is perfect. Neither you nor I can point our incriminating finger at Judas without turning that same finger back upon ourselves. Christ said it, Himself, “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…”-1  This is not an attempt to soften our own negligence, to make light of our own capricious living. We are all struggling to bring our lives into accordance with God. Yes, He understands our frailty. But our weakness cannot be our excuse. Our lives will always be a continuing struggle. Life is a struggle to excel, to succeed, to grow.

In what are we struggling to excel? To succeed? To grow? That is the important aspect of our lives. If material things are of paramount importance to us, then in that, we have placed our faith. What occupies our main focus during the day? Then in that, we have placed our faith. It is not rocket science. What do we want? What do we desire? What moves us, and motivates us? That, and only that, will show us what our primary concern is. Yes, we should be attentive to our finances, our children, our home, and our jobs. But these concerns must always be placed within our trust in God, our faith in a loving, caring God. We can, like Peter, place our trust in Jesus. Or, we can place our trust in things. What will warm you the most? Which will comfort you in your time of need?

-1 John, 8, 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

First and Last

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

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

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

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

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

-1 (Matthew 20: 17 – 28)

Masks, We Hide Behind

Well, here we are, the 2nd day of Lent is upon us. Forty days seems like a long time, but whatever we do, the days will come and go. Yesterday, while getting ashes on my forehead, I could not help but wonder. “The ashes are placed on our foreheads, to remind us of our need for repentance, to remind us that we are still very much imperfect”. And what is the Number ONE capital sin? It is the sin of pride. It is really incongruous isn’t it, that we, a society of people full of imperfections, struggle with the sin of pride.

We know our faults. Lord, do we know them. We can’t help but know them. They seem to constantly be reminding us that they are still with us. We look at our lives, and almost to the point of embarrassment, we want to turn our heads away. “Oh God, if people ever knew how I am, if they knew how very much I can and do offend you, they would never talk to me or be with me again”. We do feel that way and think that way. So what do we do? We put up a false front, a façade. This mask is what we have people see. This is how we protect ourselves. Do we strive to correct? No, that is too difficult. We just cover it up. We put on fresh paint to cover the rust underneath.

And here is the most incongruous aspect of all of this. This façade, this mask, this is what we become PROUD of. We struggle, not to correct our problems, but to maintain this illusion. We feel good, when we know that other people think highly of us. We are happiest when others believe that the mask that we hide behind is really us. And so, we do everything in our power to maintain that illusion.

Jesus asked, “Who of you is without sin?” That question wasn’t just for those people in His lifetime. That question rings down through the centuries of time, and stares us in the face. He has already told us that He loves us. He forgave us on the cross, telling His Father in heaven that we didn’t even know what we were doing. He LOVES US!!! Not as we love, with our conditions. We say, “I love that person….. but….”. We immediately put a condition on our love. We don’t really understand, nor appreciate what unconditional love is. We know that Jesus loves us. But we struggle to understand how He could do it, unconditionally. He does not look at what we have done. He looks only at the good that we are capable of doing.

Every person that you know, or ever knew has been asked that question by Jesus. None of us, or them could ever step forward. We ALL are struggling with our faults, imperfections and sins. And Jesus loves us ALL. Why then, do we hide behind our masks, our self-imposed prisons of deceit? It is because we haven’t really embraced and enjoyed the freedom of being loved unconditionally. Every person we know is loved unconditionally. We cannot keep denying our love of others, by throwing up observations that he is dirty, or greedy, or sinful, or a different race. So what? He or she is struggling just as we are.

This time of Lent is a perfect time to start looking within, at ourselves. What is preventing me from giving my friendship, my time, and my energies to others? What are the things that I am throwing up as reasons why I cannot or should not love that person? Grow closer to Jesus. Feel His love and goodness for you. Realize that He doesn’t stop at the mask, but sees us as we are, as we really are. That is the freedom that comes with being a Christian. I cannot undo the problems that I have caused. But I can begin to love my fellow man who is struggling as I am; and see Jesus in him. Have a loving Lent.

Do you believe in God?

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

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

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

God must be all-good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Who Is Jesus?

How Do You Answer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Least of These

Whose Face Do You Put Here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(14th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

The gift of free will enables man to rise to the heights of heaven, itself. But this same gift, when misused, will turn man away from God and focus inwardly on his own wants, desires and pleasures. We know what is to be done. We know what loving unity with God will result in when we act in accord with that unity. But we willingly choose to ignore this path. Rather, our thoughts flow out, “That path is too hard”, or “Just this time, I want to do this, experience that”. And so we move steadily away from God, as “this time”, happens again and again.

God in his infinite goodness recognizes the weakness of man. Would an infinitely loving God, allow man to wallow in this wretched state? Christ said to His Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” -1 Christ’s references to the Holy Spirit are always a reference to the Spirit of God, of Truth, of Love. Receiving the Spirit, the Apostles, the known Church at that time, were given the power of forgiving or retaining sins. So, in addition to Baptism, “…He who believes and is baptized, will be saved”-2, Jesus provides still another way that man may be freed of his sins.

The words, “God loves us, not because we are good, but because He is good” should shake us out of our complacency, our smugness. Viewing our lives with their many false starts, with their fleeting promises to do better, we realize just how fickle and insincere we can be. And yet, in spite of our weakness, God loves us with a love incomprehensible. He saw our weakness and provided us a means to overcome even that. He says to each of us, “Just love Me in return. Love Me so thoroughly, so completely that your sole desire is to be always united with Me.” With such a love, our focus cannot be on our own petty wants.

And so, in the Creed, we proclaim yes, we believe in God and the Resurrection and the Ascension, and all the other articles of faith. But because of the love that God has for us, because of the words of Christ that ring down through the ages, we believe in the forgiveness of sins, as well. God created us in love. He redeemed us because of love. He promises His love to be with us for the remainder of time. And all He wants is for us to love Him back.

goto next segment

-1   John 20: 22-23

-2   Mark 16:16

phone

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

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

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

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

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

Christ Transforms Us

I have been confused for a good portion of my life. I was, and am happily married. Nevertheless, I felt that something was still missing in me. Within these past two years, I really believe Christ decided to wake me up, or at least, give me many opportunities to wake up. The most important thing that I realized was that, in my early life, I was not ready for responsibilities. I was too self-centered, too selfish. A gradual change began when I met my wife. Slowly, over the course of my marriage, I learned, by her example, that happiness did not depend on worrying about self, but rather being concerned for others. The beauty of our marriage blossomed with two wonderful sons, and a family that grew together.    

This transformation progressed over the course of our marriage. It did not happen all at once. It has taken over 39 years and is still moving forward to its conclusion. Things happen for a reason, I truly believe that. God is an all-knowing God, and is very much aware of what we suffer, want, need and feel. He is also timeless and very patient. All we can do is put our trust in Him, and say,“Your will be done”. I have begun to realize that Christ was with me all along, waiting for me to accept His love. He has been gently guiding me. His boundless love for us surrounds us every day. Even in our hardships, He is there with His hand outstretched, waiting for us to slip our hand in His.

The strange part about this awakening, however, is becoming aware how much our actions can hurt so many people. To think only of self is the best way to go to, and live in, hell. When we turn our heads, and look back at what we have done with our lives, we might see the hopes and dreams of others that we may have hurt. A difficult pill to swallow.

For the last few years, I have been obsessed with trying to make things right with Christ. I felt that I SHOULD be doing something for Christ, to pay Him back, so to speak. Maybe I should do this, or maybe I should do that. But that, in itself, was the problem… the words… “I SHOULD”. And I never realized it. So I aimlessly went around certain that I should be doing something positive, something Christian. I just didn’t know what. As I said earlier, within this past year or so, I started to recognize some very important facts. One of these facts was that our God is a timeless God. He does not view our lives at one specific time, or one specific act, but rather as a progression of steps. The meandering path that we take, will at times lead us towards or away from God. We must place our trust in Him, knowing that He will help us find and stay on the right path.  Another fact recognized and understood, was that Christ came into this world, solely for us. He showed us how to live, and most importantly, showed us that He forgave us our sins, by dying on a cross. When I finally realized and BELIEVED this, I knew that the rest of my life was not meant to be a repayment for a life of things gone wrong, of things not done for others. I am to live a life of a Christian, a Catholic and the rest will take care of itself. This is not a rationalization, something to convince myself that all is ok and make myself feel good. I know that I am finally on the right track, moving in the right direction.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am still struggling with my selfishness. I am still a person who does slip and fall. But, that is the beauty of Christianity, we all are. We all struggle with our problems, our lives, our sins. Christ is still there, patiently waiting for us to accept His hand. He knows the price of our struggles and has already paid for them. Everything that I am saying I believe with my entire being. The problem of what should I be doing does not exist for me, nor for anyone. “Should” does not contain any thought of love, but only obligation. The question that we all face is “How much do I/we love Christ?” “What does it mean for us to be His followers?” If we have something that is so beautiful, so inspiring, so uplifting, then we will want to share this with others. Our love for Christ will be visible to those around us in the way we live our lives. Our lives will do Christ’s talking. We will want to do things for others, not because someone says we should, but because we want them to know and experience the happiness that is Christ. What a wonderful world it would be if we all chose to follow Christ, listen to His words, and learn by His actions.

I do believe everything I have said. My should has changed to wanting people to experience His love. With a single brush stroke, Christ has changed my whole outlook. I want to let people know about Jesus. To let them feel His burning love. For this purpose I started thesteppingstones blog site. Not because I should, but because someone might see a benefit by coming here. My Jesus, I trust in Thee.

We are ALL alike

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

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

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

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

What determines right from wrong? What are sins against nature? Who has the authority to determine what is good and what is not? Continue reading

In Step with the Times

Many of the Acts of the Apostles, contained in the New Testament, address the early formation of the Christian Church. Continue reading

Early on in his “Confessions”, St. Augustine writes “For Thou hast formed us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, till they rest in Thee.” Continue reading