Tag Archive: Reflecting Christ


Jesus 1to 5

No matter what your “ISM” is, it still needs Jesus. Let me explain. Agnosticism (Don’t know about God’s existence), Atheism (There is no God), Islamism, Buddhism, Shintoism, (all of these believe in a god or gods as their basis of religion but go no farther), Judaism (belief in one God but still waiting for the Messiah), Protestantism and Catholicism, (belief in one God and the Messiah came in the person of Jesus), all of these need Someone to represent their god.(See NOTE below)

Without a Jesus, God would be an impersonal deity, perched somewhere, probably above, looking down at his creation and who knows what. And that is exactly, my point. Who knows what? He would be impersonal. How can I say that? To be personal with his creation, he would have to reveal himself to it. Would nature alone be sufficient for man to develop a relationship with his god? I can’t see how a tree, or clouds, or mountains (though beautiful) would help man feel a closeness with his god, feel a bonding with his creator. Without Jesus, god would be mysterious, unknown, and probably looked upon as one to be feared.

So Jesus is not a myth to be viewed at Christmas time. He is not a child’s fairy tale. He is not someone who was dreamed up to impress people. No. He really walked this earth. In fact, He made such an impression on His times that people tried as best they could to put together a chronicle of the events that surrounded Him. He did live. Even natural historians of the time, wrote about him in their writings of the day. And, His followers also documented the events, not for historical purposes, but so that others might be able to glean a glimpse of Him, to impart a feeling of the importance of this person.

With statements, like ‘…the Father and I are one”, and “…he who sees me, sees the Father”, we get to realize that this MAN was not like any other. That same God, who we hold as the author of life, the creator of the universe, He came to live among His people. He came to show them how to live, how to treat one another, and how important each person is on this earth. Through His goodness, His love, His willingness to die for His creation, we get to know our God as a God of love. Yes there is a moral law. Yes we will be held accountable. But we also know that this God really cares for us. How do we know it? Because of Jesus! His way of life, His concern for ALL people, His stressing, again and again, the importance of living lives that are selfless, all of these showed us a God who is personal.

Ok, of all the “isms” then, Catholicism and Protestantism are the big winners! Right??? WRONG!!!! If their Jesus is merely a figurehead, then these religions aren’t any better than the other isms. If we put Him on a pedestal to be adored, worshipped, and prayed to… BUT NOT imitated, nor emulated, then He might as well be a myth. If we put Jesus on a cross accomplishing salvation for a mankind that grossly ignores and does not care about His message, then I hope He was a myth. I can’t imagine how a God/Man would feel knowing He sacrificed His all, He suffered almost intolerable pain, He was mocked at, ridiculed and scorned by His executioners, and the people who He loves, who He dies for, didn’t care. His life and death really didn’t matter to them, at all.

It is time for all of us to seriously look at our own lives. Don’t view your lives through those tinted glassed you have been wearing. WHAT IS CATHOLICISM? It is not just following a bunch of rules and regulations. I must go to Mass on the weekend. I should not eat meat on Good Friday. I must observe Holy Days of obligation. It is not “do this” and “don’t do that”. It is your loving of Jesus so much, that you want to be Him. You want to live as He lives. You want to view other people, not as you want them to be, but as they are, right now, struggling, dirty, foul mouthed, uncaring and still be willing to help them, care for them, still be willing to die for them. But to love Jesus that much, you must know Him, talk with Him, and view yourself as He sees you, as you are, not as you want to be. It is time to put away those rose colored glasses and see the world as it is. It is time to recognize that Jesus was not saying “Hey, look at me”. He was saying to all of us, “Hey, BE ME.”

NOTE: This is not a dissertation about any religion (including Catholicism). It is intended only to point out that it is time for ALL peoples of this earth to start seeing each other as brothers and sisters, and not as someone to be taken advantage of, nor persecuted. We ALL look up at God, the same God. We ALL are children of that same God.

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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.

generations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR INTENTIONS

praying hands2

Yesterday morning at Mass, I was thinking of those relatives and friends for whom I was offering today’s mass. And I kind of got distracted. Why do we make these intentions? What are we expecting? For what purpose are we telling God about these people? Does He not know about their plight, already? Do we think that “SINCE IT IS I” that is making this request surely God will hear and answer it? Are we saying that the merits that I would normally receive from this Mass should be given to them, instead? This last seems plausible, until you think, “How does God distribute something that is already infinite”?

I will be the first to admit that I am really struggling here. This is beyond my scope of comprehension. However, having said that, I still would like to offer another idea, another possible reason. We could petition God to distribute the infinite merits of the Mass to the entire world, and all would be covered infinitely. No more lists of names would be required. No more trying to remember that special group of individuals. But this does not seem right. It seems to be… too clinical, too mathematical. We as a person are not involved. There is no personal involvement, no love, nor commitment. God could snap His fingers and instantly all the problems of the world could go away. But He doesn’t. Why? He doesn’t want it to happen that way. He doesn’t want to remove our free will, our free commitment. He needs….us???

Could it be that when we sit or kneel in the pew and silently mention to God our worries about friends, our concerns about those we love, there is a real unmistakable reason. Could it be that we are silently telling God, all the people who we are mentioning in our intentions WE will try to bring Him to them, today? We will go visit them. We will truly pray for each throughout the day. We will help them in whatever struggles we perceive they are having. Not so much as “I AM DOING THIS”, but rather, “Please God, work through my actions. Help me say the right words, the consoling words, the uplifting words that this person or that person needs. If I am in a position to remove a problem, a weight, a concern, give me the guidance, the love, the courage to do so”.

The Blessed Sacrament of the Mass, even Christianity itself, is not something to be attended nor just enrolled in. As dynamic as Jesus’ love is for us so, too, our love for others must also be dynamic. I am afraid that very often we leave a Mass with a good feeling of having done our duty, of having done something that was painful, but we did it anyway. And we are filled with self-justification. The coming together at Mass, the whole concept of being a Catholic Christian, is to rejoice in the union with Jesus and with each other. We share a joy, a love for our brothers and sisters. This joy, this sharing is singularly visible when we attend Mass. We used to shake hands and say, “hello” to people sitting around us. Why? Why would we do something like that? We would do that, for no other reason than to visibly show this communal friendship. Without that communal friendship we have no community. If there is someone in that church that you cannot look at, speak to, or truly smile at, then your participation in that community is not all that it could or should be.

What does all of this have to do with intentions made before the Mass even begins? The Mass, Catholic Christianity, is all about brotherhood. We smile at and we embrace those who are present. We bond with them. But what of those who are suffering? Are unable to attend? Do not wish to attend? For whatever reason, they are not physically or spiritually present this week or this month? These people that we pray for (they may even be beside us, at Mass) we are telling the Christ that we will try to dispose ourselves today, so that He can act through us, bring the joy of this Mass to them. That is a major commitment on our part. Because, for Jesus to act through us, people must see Him in our actions, hear Him in our words, feel Him in our love and concern. This is no small task. We cannot feign love. We cannot pretend to be concerned about people. People will see right through our hypocrisy and will hold us and all that we stand for, at arm’s length, and thus defeating the whole concept of Christianity. To truly present Christ to a hurting, suffering world that we pray for, we must embrace it tightly. We must embrace the lame and the lazy, the blind and the dirty. Everyone is our brother. Everyone is our sister. Their condition, their disposition is not ours to judge but to embrace. We remember them before Mass, so that we can love and embrace them after Mass.

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?

Christ Works Through Us

In my last entry, “People and Me”, I mentioned Christ’s words, “I am the Way”. These words are the key to all of our Christian belief. We hold Jesus as not only our model, our example, but the way we are to live. We are to believe this so deeply, so intimately that His thoughts are our thoughts, His concerns, His love, His passion for people are to become ours.

In today’s Gospel, at the very outset we hear the 72 disciples exclaim with joy, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” -1 Jesus goes on to caution them to not rejoice in this fact, but just rejoice that their names are written in heaven. These 72 were no different than you or I. They did not instantly become angelic or saintly. However, they did believe totally in Jesus. And their belief spurred them into actions at which they, themselves, were amazed. They believed as the proverbial mustard seed, and mountains of people were moved.

They believed in Jesus. They believed with their entire being. Their lives reflected their belief. We know the story of Jesus. We know the events in His life. We know the wonders that He did, the sufferings that He endured. We know of His Resurrection. All that information that we have in our mind, must find its way into our heart. It must move us, shape us, and guide us. The truth will set us free. Our belief, our total belief in Jesus, will be the driving force in our lives. Not just on Sunday or when we go to Mass, but throughout our daily life we will be guided by our love for Christ, our love for our God.

The Apostles and the 72 were the first ones to recognize the importance, the impact of Jesus in their lives. They themselves, like us, cannot do anything except through Jesus. Or said in a more direct way, total belief in Jesus, and all that it entails, enables Him to work through us. This is very easy to type, to read, to say but to live that total belief will consume us.

Our lives will change, must change. We can’t just read this or say it and then say, “Ok, now where was I?” It’s like a two by four hitting us, awakening us. Do I take my belief in Jesus outside, when I leave my home? The first person I meet, regardless who he or she is, will I treat them as I would Jesus? Am I really concerned about people, or just the appearance of being concerned? These are questions that take on different meanings when asked through our belief. This is not saying that our goal is to be nice or good to people. No, this is saying that our belief in Jesus, in His way, will automatically drive us to being nice or good to people. The being nice is not an end in itself, but rather a beginning.

Why is this just a beginning? It is the start, because through the genuine love, and concern that Jesus has for mankind, and that we strive for, Jesus can and will work through us. This is not something to which we can aspire. We can’t say, “Ok, Jesus, use me”. But, we can believe so totally, we can love so completely that we are willing to be used. The danger will always exist that this becomes an end in itself. That is where pride takes over. I… I… I. This is why it is so important to remember Christ’s words that He is the Way. For it is that Way, that will change us.

1- Luke 10, 17-24

People and Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-1 John 14,6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triggers in Our Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Is Risen!!

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

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

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

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

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

Easter Vigil

For some reason, prominent in my mind today is Jesus lying motionless in his tomb. The horrible events of yesterday are over. All the commotion and butchery, all the insults and pain have subsided. The coolness of the cave, probably even a little damp, seems to offer some comfort, some balm to the raw wounds of His tortured body. The deafening silence seems in awe of Him, Who is laid there.

He, who taught us every day of His life, who preached by word and example how our lives are to be lived, what does He wish to show us now, as He lies there quietly, motionless? Soon there will be the Resurrection. Soon there will be the proof that He would indeed rebuild the temple that was destroyed. But right now, as He lies there motionless, what lesson, what insight can we glean?

By dying yesterday, by willingly giving up His life, He took upon Himself all the sins of the world. Everyone’s, yours and mine, He shouldered. This is what redemption required. One sacrificial lamb, the Christ, would be offered up for the sins of mankind. By our Baptism into Christ, we acknowledge that we are sinners. And, bearing the stains of sin we needed to be washed free of the effects of our misdeeds. Regardless of when the baptism was, when we were young, or in the recent past, every day we live we acknowledge our indebtedness to Jesus.

Today, though, right now, there is no movement, no preaching, and no miracles. He lies there still, as though He is waiting for something to happen. Maybe today is for us. Maybe, today is our day to feel the pain, the sorrow, the shame, that our lives have caused. Maybe today we are to focus on where our lives are headed, to recognize that there are areas in our life that need to change. What has transpired over these two days was necessary because of mankind, us. Use this time to contemplate where your life is going. How important are these events to us? Do we really see and understand that Jesus is dying for US? His conquering evil and death is so that we shall be able to rise with Him tomorrow in glory?

After reading this, close your eyes. Picture yourself there in the small cave with the buried Jesus. It is just you and the lifeless body of Jesus. There is no noise, very little, if any, light. You have witnessed the Last Supper, the agony in the garden, the mock trial, the scourging, and the crucifixion. What do you feel? What are your thoughts? Here is a man who died for you! He suffered intensely, so that you would not. Does the direction of your life change? Does it need to change? What one thing can we do to unite ourselves completely with Jesus? What will show our total acceptance of Jesus? It is to have the same love and concern for others that Jesus has for us. Then, and only then, do we reflect Christ. Then, and only then, can we consider ourselves ready for the Resurrection.

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.

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.

ASH WEDNESDAY

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

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

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

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

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

Silent Heroes

I have the privilege of visiting the hospital in our area once a week. I bring Communion to those people who are bed-ridden and unable to attend Mass. How much these people look forward to seeing someone and being able to just talk out their worries was a staggering realization. Yes, most of them wish to receive Communion, but almost all of them want to know that they are still important, that they are loved.

Some will tell you how much they hurt, and are afraid. Others will take refuge behind a display of a false sense of security. And still others will manifest a calm that speaks volumes as to how they lived their lives.  However, most are nagged with the same doubts that we all have. They have doubts about the way they have lived their lives, doubts about some choices that they made, doubts about if they raised their children properly. All of these things prey on their minds, especially if they are in the twilight of their lives.

Some don’t have to say anything. The pain and suffering that they are feeling is etched in their faces. To even speak is an effort for some. Those in hospice are surrounded by their loved ones, who sit silently grieving and talk in whispers. Should the sick person be aware of their surroundings, they already know their end is near. Their worries, at these times, are almost overwhelming. Each person in the room seems to be confronted with their own worries at this time.

Amid all of this sadness, pain and suffering, worry and anxiety, people work their missions of love. The doctors, nurses, medical technicians, the people who deliver meals, or change the soiled linens all of these see more torment in one day than we see in a month. These are heroes, but do not see themselves in such light. They are performing tasks to help people who are in need, in distress. They see their lives in these positions not as jobs, but as opportunities to bring compassion and care to people in dire need. How strong their heart and emotions must be, to allow them to perform these tasks, day in and day out, without succumbing to the giant wave of sorrow that tumbles down on them daily. Pray for these people in the hospital. Not just the sick, but pray for the heroes who continue to perform these thankless tasks to benefit their fellow man.

When did we see thee a stranger, and take thee in? Or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And He answered them, “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me”. (Matt 25:38-40)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dust in us?

Have you ever walked down a stairway, and noticed the top of a cabinet or of a hall clock? There is usually an even coating of dust, up there, especially if they are taller than you. Or, have you played on the family room floor with your child and quietly have thought to yourself, “The rugs need to be vacuumed?” Or, maybe you are sitting on a soft chair and your hand touches the table top and you see a clear streak of wood where your finger just touched. When we least expect it, we come to the realization that our house is in need of our attention.

We also, can gather dust. The trouble with our dust is it is much more difficult to see and remove. Our perspective of ourselves so rarely changes. We look in the mirror and might observe that we are looking older, or have a few more gray hairs. We can see these outward signs, and they might even trouble us enough to make us try to stop these signs of age. But how do we see our inner dust? What mirror do we have that can see there? The mirror for that is called people.

How do we bounce off of other people? How do they bounce off of us? If we are constantly seeing others as being in need of change, in need of improvement, then we can be very positive that we are seen in a similar fashion. What, ME? Not me! It is because I am where I am, that I can see what these people need, what they need to do to improve. But, it does not work that way. We cannot see and treat people as so many objects that need to be fixed. Because the truth is…they are no different than us, and WE ALL NEED TO BE FIXED.

Our perspective of coming down the stairs, of being on the rug, of sitting in the chair allowed us to see things in our “clean” house from a different vantage point. So too, our perspective of people, of interacting with people allows us to understand their needs, and ultimately, our own needs. We cannot focus on a person’s problem and use that to describe the person. They are no different than us. We struggle together. All of us want, so desperately, to rid ourselves of that which is pulling us down. We want to be squeaky clean, but WE get in the way.

Once again, we look to Jesus, the Christ. He came to tell us that yes we need to see ourselves as we really are, not as we like to think of ourselves, not as we want to be seen. Is it really so difficult to admit that we have faults? That we are struggling with the same fault for oh, so many years? Our pride doesn’t want to recognize that fact. It is easier to focus on others’ problems, and not address our own. But really, the answer lies in seeing ourselves, as we are, as we really are. When we admit we have problems, we are stripping away the façade that we hide behind. We remove the mask that we are wearing, and see that we are like others. The mask removed shows our face to be the mirror that shows what we are. We are like the very people that we see who are in need of improvement. We, each, hold up mirrors to let people see themselves.

In this way, we become brothers and sisters to each other. We become people concerned about others, concerned about their needs, and concerned about what we can do for them. And in all of this, Jesus smiles. For it is by our actions, that He knows that we recognize and really understand that it is because of our dust that He came into this world.

Music in Your Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Should I Forgive Myself?

Flowing of Forgiveness and Love

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

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

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

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

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

Who Are You?

Finding out Who I Am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intercession of Saints

(13th in a series of a presentation on The Apostles Creed)

This phrase is really a continuation of the presentation on the Church. The Church, as was stated, flows directly from Christ. In this unity with Christ, the Church (all of us, not the building) is sanctified, is made holy. Christ ascends into Heaven, so that He may send to us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the binding love of God. It all blends together, think about it. From the start of time, God’s love is being bestowed on creation, on mankind. Christ’s entrance into this world, a result of God’s love; Jesus’ life and death, a fulfillment of God’s love; the sending of the Spirit to His people, a promise of love for all time. Christ establishes His church, a means to grow in love and at the same time attain fulfillment in love. All mankind is called to be part of this holiness. We are called to be holy, to be saints.

The holiness of Christ flows through to His Church. Christ then is the Head of this Mystical Body. We, the believing Church, make up the rest of the Mystical Body. Our belief in Christ, our desire to be one with Christ, these enable us to participate in this Mystical Body. We are the eyes, mouth, hands and feet of this Body. Through us, Christ will, if we let Him use us, see the world’s needs, speak out against wrongs, help the sick, the dying, the needy, and go to where help is needed. In short, what we become, whatever good we do, whatever level of love we attain will help bring Christ to the world. We are part of the Communion of Saints.

Saints? We don’t think of ourselves, very often, in that capacity. Yes, we are tainted, we have our shortcomings. But our belief in Jesus, our cooperation with the love that Jesus offers draws us into this Mystical Body. We are His disciples, here on earth, who continue to spread His word and work.

Those who have died and rest in Christ’s peace, but not yet dwelling in Heaven, they too are in this communion of saints. Their suffering, like ours, continues until such time that all vestige of sin has been removed.  They are as much a part of the Mystical Body of Christ, as we are. Our good works, our prayers, our sensitivity toward others can and does extend to these souls. And their good works flow to us, as well.

Those who are recognized on earth for living good and holy lives while they lived, these are the ones we usually think of when we refer to saints. Their holiness strengthens the church. Though in Heaven, they continually intercede for us either alive or dead. The merits of their good works on earth, they present, through Christ, for our benefit. So we, the Church on earth, are continually sanctified and strengthened.

This communion of saints is not some pretty poetry. It isn’t just some nice thoughts brought about by someone. This is, and has been, in the Divine Plan from the beginning. God’s intent for us, as gleaned from the Old Testament and New, from the writings of the Fathers, as handed down to us through Tradition, God’s intent has always been to be with us. His desire has always been that mankind should perceive, recognize, understand that His love has been and will be with us always. God will be with us always. What we see and call love is our limited view of God. To live our lives in love for others is to live in God.
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Saul, why do you persecute Me?

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

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

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

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

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

-1 Galatians, 2: 20

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

His Gentle Love

Weddings are such special events, and they affect everyone who has the joy of attending. Those who are already married, find themselves thinking back to their own marriage beginnings. They remember their ceremony, their feelings of love and their intentions. The wedding provides for them, a time to remember and renew.

Those not married find themselves caught up in the festivities, the music and the solemnity of the occasion, and, they cannot help but rejoice with the new couple and wish them well.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a most beautiful wedding and reception. Everything about it was so well-planned, the slightest details were so perfectly executed that you knew the couple put themselves, their feelings, their emotions into the preparations. In short, the beauty of the couple’s souls, were laid bare, so that everyone could experience the joy, the love that they had for each other.

The parents of the bridal couple always have mixed emotions. They are happy for their son or daughter. They rejoice with them and wish for them every joy and happiness. And yet, with their own hearts brimming with joy, they feel a tug, a concern deep within. They want everything to be perfect for them, and know that life, at times, is not perfect. Will they be able to handle it? What did we not explain to them? What can we do, now to help them? These thoughts filter in, and mingle with their joys. And so, what should be a time for sheer joy and happiness, for the parents, becomes tinged with concerns and worry.

To this our faith helps us. We know the parable of the Good Shepherd. We know that Christ is the Good Shepherd. He watches over us with gentle care. He stays with us, without our even knowing that He is there. He respects our free will, allowing us to live our lives in the manner that we choose. He is always there ready to help us, but He waits for our invitation, our request for His help. His gentle guidance, His graces, they do not overwhelm.

The parents, in their growth in faith, must try to resemble Christ. As parents of the wedding couple, two days, two months, two years, two decades down the road, they must continue to strive to be like the Good Shepherd. Yes, at times they will worry, they will hurt and they will agonize over what they should do. Like Christ, they can love, they can gently guide by their own example. They cannot intrude, nor invade the couple’s lives. They must be strong enough to let the young grow.

The Nature of Prayer

nature of prayer

Prayer is defined as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. That is how the Baltimore Catechism describes it. We know prayers. The Our Father, the Hail Mary, The Glory be, the list goes on and on. They are all defined as prayers. Very often we think of prayer and automatically, we recite one of these prayers.

Is the recitation of the words of the Our Father really a prayer? If that recitation consists solely of saying memorized words, while distractions fill our heads, then I truly wonder if that qualifies as prayer. The lifting up of our mind and heart to God involves more than mere recitation.

Look closely at the Rosary. It is a good example of what prayer is and is not. It is not the mere recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. If no thought, no feeling is involved, then we might as well recite “Row, row, row your boat, etc.” No disparagement is intended here. During the repetitive recitation of the prayers, we use our mind to recall different aspects (the mysteries) of the Christian religion and to allow our hearts and souls to embrace these wonders. In this embrace our hearts, our mind, our very being expands and rejoices with these events. This is the purpose of prayer, to become one with Christ.

We do, however, have to go to work. We have to cook, clean, mow the lawn, feed and bathe our children, work with people, in short, we must do other things, that prevent us from formally praying. Is it our lot in life then, to pray to our God, only at certain times? Times that are convenient for us or defined by others? Times that we can push back and delay until tomorrow?
Our whole day can and should be a prayer. We said earlier that the purpose of prayer is to become one with Christ. An act of love to a stranger, suppressing a biting word and replacing it with an act of gentleness, listening to that person we really don’t like, trying to love that person who we really don’t like, helping someone in your neighborhood, all of these can be our prayers. Why? Because Christ told us, He is in each and every person that we encounter. What better way to become one with Christ, then to show Him the love we have for others? His words, “What you do for the least of these, you do for Me”, must resound in our hearts and minds.

To make our day, our whole day, worthy of being called a prayer is not something we can say we will do, and it is then automatically done. If all we do is say we are going to do it, and then do nothing about it, we are back to reciting row, row, row your boat again. We must want to know and love Christ. This love for Him will be the driving force to make our lives a living prayer. This love will expand our hearts to want to help others. Not because we should, but because we seriously want to. Our journey through life is made up of steps, little steps. Sometimes the steps we take don’t move us forward towards Christ, at all. Sometimes these stumbling steps are our wake-up call that we must start anew. But, with each step that we take towards Christ we are that much closer to becoming one with Him.

As we look at the Church today, we might feel very dismayed. We see, or imagine, a long list of reasons, priests are leaving their vocation, the resultant shortage of priests and religious, the desire for something more in the Church, the state of the world and the seeming absence of the Catholic Church. But to perceive these things as directional arrows  leading to collapse, is totally wrong. Our Eternal Father in Heaven saw these events long before the creation of time.

The Church, the Body of Christ, is alive and well. The period of growth that we are experiencing in the Catholic Church, indeed, does not happen without the inherent growing pains. When a child grows into adulthood and moves out on his own, along with the joy of seeing an adult emerge there is the predictable sense of loss. I believe the Catholic Church, and all of Christianity, is realizing that to rely totally on its ministers is to miss the point that Christ preached. If you believe in Me take up your cross and follow Me. And again, we hear in the Gospels that they went out in twos to preach the Good News.

We are realizing more and more, that along with our Baptism, came a Priesthood. We are to preach Christ in the way we live. We don’t have to be an ordained priest, to reflect Christ. The tasks of visiting the sick, of preaching the Gospel, of helping the infirm and the shut-ins, of being just a bit kinder to people, of trying to understand another’s point of view, of not looking down on others… these are all within the realm of loving tasks that we can do. And, if someone should ask us why, don’t hesitate to tell them, “Because that is what Christ would want me to do.”

Today, more than ever, the laity of the parishes are becoming more active in their churches. They are not being told to. There is this feeling going around that challenges us to do something. This is reflected very appropriately, in those dioceses where churches are being merged. Sure there is a financial consideration here, but the driving force is being better able to preach the Good News. Along with these mergers, each parish brings its talents to the merger table to share with others. The result is a healthier, more vibrant community. The times may necessitate certain actions, but our faith will tell us what we can do to show a loving Christ to others. In our actions, we will help the Church through its difficulties, and preach the Good News to the world.

I was sitting in the chair the other night. The TV wasn’t on. The computer wasn’t on. My mind was. Continue reading