July 16, 2015
The Morning Comes Nigh
"Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
1 Peter 5:9
It’s late on a Saturday afternoon. The party starts in a couple of hours. You’re rested and ready. The work week is behind you. And you even have Monday off. It’s summer time; freedom is in the air and your destiny awaits. Time to party!
You arrive at the party sober, though perhaps not so vigilant. No malice or duplicity to be found, all you want to do is have some fun. After all you’ve worked hard and long for this. You’ve endured the daily grind; now it is time to unwind. You’ve earned it. So let’s party.
Friends come and join you, smiles and excitement abound. Your inhibitions slowly begin to fall as the alcohol flows. More drinking follows. Your standards seem to slip as your soberness decreases. The celebration continues.
More friends arrive. Supplies are replenished. It seems that this night, and the fun that goes along with it, might never end!
Your wits are still about you, though perhaps a bit more dull. No real concern because you’re happy, they’re happy, we’re all happy. After all it is a party.
More drinking, more fun, more laughter.
“Wow, it’s late.” It seems to have hit you all at once. Sobriety has given way to inebriation. Morality has given way to desire. Absolutes are negotiated. Truth is bartered for tolerance. Lies are told for personal gain. “Never” becomes “whatever.” “No” has slipped to “maybe,” heading right for a “yes.” Your will is weakened; your decision making impaired; your judgment not so great. You’ve reached the point of no return. There will be a consequence.
Is this not our culture of the last fifty or sixty years? We’ve been speeding along the freeway of money, sex and power, with not a care in the world. And too many of us did nothing but shrugged. Oh sure, some of us offered a passionate declaration, but it remained within the confines of our house – or worse – our mind.
The signposts along the way, warning of the coming dangers, were largely ignored. Guess what? They’re here. We’ve busted through the last of the barriers and we are heading toward the cliff.
Morning has come and, man, does my head hurt. And my stomach is churning. My eyes are blurry, my breath stinks and excuse me while I throw up. Morning indeed.
There is a price to pay. There are consequences. Worshipping the false gods of money, sex and power (and promoting and even legalizing their agenda) has consequences for us as individuals and for us corporately. Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
It’s like we are watching a parade of lemmings jump off a bridge – and then we jump too.
No! Stop! We were made for more than this.
Awake! Sober up! Be alert! Heed Paul’s words before it is too late.
"For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober. Those who sleep go to sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Thessalonians 5:5
July 9, 2015
Cycle of Freedom
This time of year freedom is spoken of frequently. More marketing tool than any kind of deep contemplation, the freedom we speak of is too often wrapped in sentimentalities rather than substance. We might stand for the veterans as the walk by in the parade (at least I hope we do), but do we really understand freedom beyond a sense of nationalistic pride?
Far too misunderstood as license to do what we want, Pope John Paul II captures and distills the essence of freedom.
Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
Pope John Paul II
Archbishop Chaput takes John Paul’s quote to the next level when he says:
The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.
The cycle of freedom that is seemingly a “law” of nature (really of fallen humanity) is this simple triad:
We desire and fight for it.
We achieve and celebrate it.
We squander and surrender it.
Think back over history. This cycle replays over and over again. From ancient times to more recent we slide from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 far too easily. We go from “Give me liberty or give me death” to “Just do it” to “coexist” in no time at all. As a culture, what part of the above cycle do you think we are currently in? Before you answer, consider the quote From Fulton Sheen regarding freedom.
The bold fact the enemies of God must face is that modern civilization has conquered the world, but in doing so has lost its soul. And in losing its soul it will lose the very world it gained. Even our own so-called liberal culture in the United States, which has tried to avoid complete secularization by leaving little zones of individual freedom, is in danger of forgetting that these zones were preserved only because religion was in their soul. And as religion fades so will freedom, for only where the spirit of God is, is there liberty.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Is the spirit of God alive in our House of Representative, in the Senate, in the Executive office, in the Supreme Court? Is it alive in our local, county and state governments? Most importantly, is it alive in the people of our country? If we are honest with our self-assessment, the answer is no on all accounts. Sure, there are pockets here and there, but is that enough? Will that sustain us? Will that get us back to Step 1 of the cycle? Are we willing to fight for those freedoms we are squandering away? Only time will tell. For the sake of the souls of this nation I hope we wake up sooner rather than later. Pray, pray, pray.
July 2, 2015
On Being Healed
For I will close up your scar, and I will heal you of your wounds, says the Lord.
Jesus wants to heal us. He wants to heal all our wounds. He wants to bring spiritual, mental, emotional and physical healing to us. Jesus wants to heal spousal hurts, family relationships and memory of past sins. He wants to heal the effect of generational and familial sins. He wants to heal the wounds of doubt, despair and discouragement. He wants to heal the wounds of fear, of loneliness, of depression. He wants to bring an end to pride, anger and unforgiveness. He wants to heal physical suffering, disease, pain and illness. He wants to end addiction, be it drugs, pornography or gambling. He wants to end the idolization of the false gods of this world, money, sex and power. He wants to heal broken hearts, stressed out minds and worn down bodies. He wants to take our brokenness, our sinfulness, and our woundedness and redeem them. And He wants to do so now.
Now? Yes, now. Right here, right now.
But, if He wants to heal me now, why am I still suffering? Why am I still in pain? Why is my cancer spreading? Why is my dementia getting worse? Why I am I addicted to drugs, alcohol or pornography? Why am I filled with fear and anxiety? Why am I so prideful? Why am I lonely? Why am I so weak? Why am I so angry? Why do my past sins haunt me? Why do sins of the flesh envelope me? Why am I gluttonous, lustful or slothful? Why do greed and envy seem to overwhelm my thoughts? Why do my loved ones avoid me, abandon me and take advantage of me?
Forget about me. What about my children and grandchildren? Why are they suffering? Why so much pain, so many suicides? Why have they lost their faith? Why are they wallowing in the sins of the flesh? Why do they abuse their bodies? Why are they reliving my sins of the past? Why am I tormented about the past, fearful about the present and anxious about the future?
So if Jesus can heal us, why all these problems? If He is the Divine Physician, how come I’m not cured? What stops the healing from becoming effective? What prevents God’s healing from abounding in us right here, right now? What prevents healing once and for all?
Only when power is changed from the inside, and we accept Jesus and His way of life, only then can the world be healed and the people be able to live at peace with one another.
Pope Benedict XVI
In a word, it’s sin. A related word and co-conspirator is fear. A third word and equally culpable is woundedness.
It is in our sin that we give Satan a place to operate. It is our fear that fuels his operation. It is our woundedness that is manipulated and used against us. To be clear, it is not necessarily our committing of actual sin that allows him to set up shop, though, certainly that can be the case. It is also the effects of Original Sin and generational sin that can manifest as fear and woundedness in our lives and provide a welcome mat from which Satan can gain entrance.
It is in our fears that we allow sin and pain and woundedness to gain traction in our lives. We start trusting in our self, in the world, in one another, even in the evil one. Correspondingly, we start to doubt in God and His love for us. We start to believe the whispers. “Well, if He loved you, He would heal you.”
This perpetuates the downward cycle, keeping us down, destroying our joy, our hope and our faith. Trust in God becomes more difficult. We begin to doubt His motives, His methods and His means. We seek out other sources, but find that none satisfy. So we increase the frequency or intensity of our pursuit in the hopes of ridding ourselves of the pain. Anything to numb the pain. Anything, that is, but the only thing and the only One, that can heal – Love.
So, today, let us choose a different path. Let us choose to allow Christ to love us where we are at. Let us choose to allow His victory to bear fruit in us. Let us turn from sin, let us respond with faith, let us ask Him to redeem our woundedness. Let us cry out to our God who loves us and let the healing begin.
I cried out to you for help and you healed me.
I have found a Physician. He dwells in Heaven. He alone can heal my pains.
It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.
Pope Benedict XVI
Prepare for Simplicity
Prepare for simplicity. In a flash those words, with corresponding images, were spoken to my heart. It was very early morning on January 4th of this year. Prepare for simplicity.
Whether wholly imagined, divinely inspired or a distraction of the evil one, the words remained ruminating around my brain. More importantly, they made their way to my heart where I felt a tug to really sit with them. The questions (head) came at a dizzying pace. What’s does prepare for simplicity mean? Who said it? Was it for me? Was it for all of us? Does this make me a mystic? A prophet? What do you mean prepare? Why simplicity? Why me? Why now?
Through all the questions, through all the unanswered questions, came the steady tug to sit and ponder (heart). For five months now I have been sitting and pondering. In some ways I am no further along in my discernment, no further along to having answers to many of the questions above. (Well I can answer a couple definitively. I am neither mystic nor prophet, just simply a baptized child of God!)
The rest of the message from that day (images, words, sounds, Scripture) was consistent with and ancillary to it. The nature of the images was apocalyptic. The tone of the words was more matter of fact than scary. The sounds were crisp and real.
Floods. Civil chaos. Lack of church hierarchy/influence in local areas. Food supply issues. Governmental reach was limited at best. People were gathering together, desiring for leadership, desiring community. There was no or little power, electronics or technology. It was a back to basics living. Our basic needs were met, but basic needs only.
Nowhere in the message was there fear. (That came later the more I “thought” about it (head), but disappeared every time I pondered (heart) it. This was both a personal and corporate message with both personal and corporate implications. It was meant for me (us) to live more simply but also meant as a warning for the culture at large. The events were not so much inevitable, but rather consequential. They were the result of living apart from Him, of our doing, not His.
You might be asking, as I did, “What does this mean?” Further you might even be thinking, “How much did you have to drink the night before?’ or “Maybe it was a case of bad indigestion that caused you to have a nightmare.” I think I might say something similar if the situation was reversed.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, Paul tells us: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good.” So, I would ask you to test the above. Spend some time in prayer. Ponder the words and images. Basically, ask God what, if any, relevance does this have for you, for us. Be like our Lady and ponder.
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Worst case scenario, if we prepare for simplicity and none of the above comes to fruition, are we any worse off? Would we be in any way distancing ourselves from God if we prepared for simplicity? (Really, if we simply spent more time communing with God than usual, how can that ever be a bad thing?)
And if you think about, through all the advances and improvements of technology, with its promises of making our lives easier, simpler, has it really happened? Yes, we have a single smart phone that can do the work of a compass, flashlight, camera, map, newspaper, magnifying glass, calculator, answering machine, alarm clock, deck of cards, and, oh yes, a phone, but has it made our lives simpler? Has the technology brought us closer to God? (Imagine if we checked in with Him as often as we check our phones.)
Prepare for simplicity. That’s what He told me. I’d be interested to hear what He is saying to you!
Ride of Our Lives
I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters. For me the risk/reward ratio is way out of whack. Having said that, I have at times gone against my better judgment and stood in line for the latest and greatest roller coaster. While in line I begin the justification process, trying to ignore what I know to be true, trying to convince myself of what I know to be false. My internal dialogue tries to make up with volume and repetition what it lacks in believability. “It’ll be fun. It wasn’t that bad last time. Come on, just this once.” And, so, I go.
As I hop aboard the rollercoaster, the car begins its long climb to the top of the ride, the clickety-clack of the chain moving it forward. My internal dialogue continues with “This isn’t so bad. It’s just a ride. Lots of people go on it.” As the car crests at the top of the ride, my internal dialogue transitions to, “Uh-oh. What did I get myself into?” As the car starts its rapid descent, my internal dialogue increases in intensity and harshness, as in, “Are you nuts? This is stupidest thing you ever done!”
With no ability to do anything but go along for a ride, I am reduced to wishing I can go back in time and undo my initial assent. Up and down, twisting and turning, I am forced to go wherever the track is going to take me. After the ride is finally over and as my stomach returns to its intended location, my internal dialogue retreats to a “I told you so, though I wish I wasn’t right” mode.
Collectively, we as a culture aren’t much different. We are all being taken for a ride, a ride that we consented to, even if we aren’t fully willing to admit it. Either by commission or omission, we are all complicit. We are all being taken for a ride. Contraception. Click-clack. Abortion. Click-clack. Homosexual agenda. Click-clack. Pornography. Click-clack. Religious freedoms being eroded. Click-clack. Tolerance replacing truth. Click-clack. Divorce and remarriage. Click-clack. Idolization of money, sex and power. Click-clack. Government mandated sex education. Click-clack. Transgenderism. Click-clack. Sexual scandals. Click-clack. Baby mamas and daddys. Click-clack. Children having children. Click-clack.
Ratcheting us up higher and higher, as if we can pierce the heavens, we don’t stand up for God and His church, while others act as if they are God. Yet no one is paying attention to the inevitable death spiral that will soon follow this false ascent. It is coming, sooner than we think. Wishing we had made a different decision in the past does us no good. We are stuck in the car, on the tracks, with no brakes and no steering wheel. We are doomed.
No, we are not. All of the above is true except for the doomed part. We clearly are headed in the wrong direction. We clearly needed to reverse direction. We need to stand up and be counted. We need to bear witness to the truth in love. And the moment we do that, the moment we bear witness to the truth in love, it is in that moment that we are no longer doomed, but destined. Destined for eternal glory!
Destined for eternal glory we become an unstoppable force. Destined for eternal glory we become greater than that which seeks to control us. Destined for eternal glory we become more humble and obedient. Destined for eternal glory we become brave warriors. Destined for eternal glory we become all that God is calling us to be. Destined for eternal glory we no longer justify, excuse and surrender ourselves into the hands of the enemy. Destined for eternal glory we no longer live for ourselves, but for God and others. Destined for eternal glory? Yes we are; we are in for the ride of our lives. Hop aboard.
Years ago I desperately had the need of the sacrament. In fact, it would be fair to say that this was probably the most serious sin I had ever confessed, one that certainly warranted a return to the confessional no matter how recent I had been. I headed to the first available time and day in my diocese. So, there I was, early on a Friday morning, in the line of a priest I knew well, one ordained just a few years. As I entered the confessional and knelt behind the curtain, Father said, “May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy.” I then said, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been a week since my last confession” Whether real or imagined I felt and heard the “What are your sins?” spoken with a hint of weariness and a roll of the eyes.
Not really looking forward to this moment as it was, and less so after the perceived slight, I took a breath and blurted out my sins. In an instant the tenor of the conversation changed. Across from me sat Jesus. He spoke words of love with an overwhelmingly merciful tone. The gentleness and compassion and sincerity were palpable and other worldly. The tears started flowing on both sides of the curtain. I recited the act of contrition; Father prescribed a penance and offered the prayer of absolution. Through tears I thanked him and through tears he thanked me. Hope restored, I left a new man.
The stories of the lost sheep, of the prodigal son, of the good thief all came to life in that little box of redemption. The grace was real, the joy profound, the sins forgiven. God granted me, a sinner of the worst kind, His mercy. And, in a manner that only God can orchestrate, He also used this moment of confession to extend His mercy to His priest son, as well. It was as if there were three of us in that confessional, two brothers in Christ, sinners in need of a savior, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
What’s the moral of the story? First, go and sin no more. Second, if you do sin, go to confession. Third, repeat as needed.
He wants to redeem our sin for His glory and the salvation of souls. His mercy awaits. Go now!
Pulling the Plug
As a little boy I was always fascinated by the water in the tub, especially when I would pull up the drain plug and the water would flow out. I noticed, even as a little boy, if the tub was partially filled it was easy to yank the plug out. If the tub was filled it was that much harder. I also noticed that a bath, as opposed to a shower, got the dirt off my body, but it remained in the tub water. It went from dirty boy and clean water to slightly less dirty boy in dirty water.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae. Led by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, it reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Church that contraception is a grave moral disorder, calling it “intrinsically dishonest.” The collective response echoed the Jews of the first century who muttered, “This saying is hard, who can accept it.” Like water pouring into the cultural tub, opposition grew. (Saint Padre Pio, 11 days before his death, wrote thanking Pope Paul VI for his courageous stance and said "One day the whole world will realize how right you were.” Unfortunately, not yet.)
Often when I give parish missions the topic of contraception comes up, usually during a Q and A period. I remember one specific time I was at a very large, wealthy suburban parish. The question was asked and answered. Instantly there was a divide in the room. My guess was that about 25% of the people in the room supported my stating of the Church’s position and 75% did not. A vocal discussion ensued. After it was all over, the pastor of the parish, an older Monsignor came up to me and thanked me for boldly and unashamedly proclaiming the Church’s teaching on contraception. I thanked him for his kind words and said to him, “You know Monsignor, you can talk to them about it.” His response was poignant on many different levels. He said, “No I can’t. You get to leave. I have to face them again next week.”
A priest friend of mine once said “The priest, though not married, analogously contracepts the life-giving seed of truth when he refuses to preach the Catholic Faith-all of it. Priests who are silent about the teaching on contraception forget two very important things: first, priestly vocations generally come from large families. Secondly, priestly silence about contraception has eternal consequences. The price of that silence is the loss of souls.”
An increase in unfaithfulness in marriage.
A general lowering of morality.
A loss of respect for woman.
Government coercion to force contraception upon people and countries.
Specifically, we have seen an incredible rise in the incidences of divorce, adultery, fornication, child abuse, prostitution, homosexuality and the homosexual agenda, an attempt to redefine marriage, sexual perversions, an explosion of pornography in our homes, sexually transmitted diseases, government mandated sexual education classes and worst of all, abortion. Sadly, in many cases we have also seen a rise in acceptability of the above.
We have also seen a frightening decline in the birthrate of Christians as a whole. If demographics are destiny, and praise God they are not, Christianity is in for a dark night. We need to re-Christianize and re-populate the world. We need to start with our own families. I need to start with me.
Contraception messes with the very essence of life giving love. It destroys the unitive and procreative, it destroys intimacy, it destroys marriages and families, it destroys morality and logic. Ultimately it destroys humanity and our relationship with God.
From the document Married Love and the Gift of Life comes this:
Living God’s design for human sexuality in marriage can be difficult. But husbands and wives have not been left alone to live out this fundamental life challenge. If you have failed to do so in the past, do not be discouraged. God loves you and wants your ultimate happiness…
And, from Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, we hear:
The Church knows the path by which the family can reach the heart of the deepest truth about itself. The Church has learned this path at the school of Christ and the school of history interpreted in the light of the Spirit. She does not impose it but she feels an urgent need to propose it to everyone without fear and indeed with great confidence and hope, although she knows that the Good News includes the subject of the Cross. But it is through the Cross that the family can attain the fullness of its being and the perfection of its love.
It is going to be hard to “pull the plug” on this enemy of our soul because we have allowed so much dirty water and gunk to build up on our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. We need a spiritual shower. We need the living water to pour out upon us. We need to pray to God for renewal. We need to pray for ourselves, our families, our friends, our priests, our bishops, our religious, that we would all believe, accept, live and teach the truth in regards to contraception.
May 14, 2015
Summer of Love?
A recent survey stated that 96% of Americans believe that this summer will be a summer of riots and civil unrest across the country. I find this stat surprising, sobering and a bit scary. (Surprising: Try getting 96% of us to agree on anything. It is nearly impossible.) (Sobering: I tend to agree that it is likely outcome given the current state of our culture.) (Scary: Were Ferguson, New York, Baltimore and the parallel sympathetic “protests” a portent of much larger unrest or where they isolated “social fads” which will soon be forgotten once the next fad takes its place? I fear the former.)
There is a basic philosophical phrase that rather accurately describes a simple truth relative human behavior and morality. Its accuracy was confirmed once again by recent events. It is called Cops or Conscience.
It works like this. In order for there to be “order”, one or the other needs to be strong. Morally strong consciences don’t need cops to tell them what to do. Morally weak consciences, if societal order is the goal, do need cops to tell them what to do – and lots of them.
When riots break out, the mob mentality overwhelms conscience and the mob overwhelms the police. (Not in all cases, nor for all people.) For ordered to be restored, one or the other cops or conscience, must rise up. Perhaps the mob “think” weakens, conscience wakes from its drunken stupor and the riot dissipates. Or perhaps the cops gain reinforcements, flex their muscles and eliminate the threat. Either way the principle holds true.
If conscience never regains the upper hand or if cops don’t regroup, then mob rule rules.
What is needed is well-formed consciences and well-formed police forces. Together, each keeping the other in check is where we will find proper order and true peace.
Said another way, if we strengthen our internal police, then the external police won’t be needed.
Isn’t that what Jesus came to tell us? He didn’t come to replace the law, but to fulfill it. He came to tells us that love is the fulfillment of the law. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He doesn’t want us to be prisoners under military rule any more than he wants us to be “tossed to and fro” without any guardrails.
The Catechism says this: "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."
So while 96% of us believe that we might be in for a bumpy summer, 100% of me knows that through prayer all things are possible. A prayer for strong, well-formed consciences might be a worthwhile prayer. A second prayer for strong, well-formed police might be equally worthwhile. (After all, concupiscence remains with us.)
Let us pray…
Fire and Brimstone
So the other day during his homily a visiting priest made sure to emphasize that he never speaks of hell, never does any kind of fire and brimstone. His logic was simple; “No one was ever frightened into God’s loving arms.”
Assuming his strategy is well intention, (and I have no reason to assume otherwise), it is, nonetheless, misguided. Fear is a prime motivator. Fear can motivate us into God’s arms. True, fear is not the highest motivation (love is), but it is a motivator. Imperfect contrition anyone?
The Council of Trent clearly acknowledged that imperfect contrition, properly called attrition, does dispose the soul to receive grace. How many times have we recited “I detest all of my sins because of thy just punishment, but most of all because they offend, Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love…”
As for hell, clearly our Lord spoke of it. And He even used it as a means to get us to compare what eternal life without God would be like.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Hell exists because God allows us the freedom to love Him – or not. If Hell is not real, then we have no freedom to choose God. If we have no freedom to choose God, we cannot love God. If we cannot love God, we cannot be with God forever.
So, yes, let’s speak of God’s love early and often. But let’s not discount the need to speak also of Hell. Despite Father's adage to the contrary, I can remember many a night as a child, being scared and rushing right into my parents’ arms where I knew I would be safe.
Holy Thursday 2015
The Fourth Sorrow of Mary: Mary meets Jesus carrying His cross. Luke 23:27
A friend of mine has 6 children, same mom, and same dad. Five of the six are great kids with a bright future. One is a great kid with a future that’s not so bright. He is a drug addict and has been for about ten years. In and out of jail, in and out of rehab, his story is like countless others who fall victim to the drug culture. In talking with his mother, she said watching Tommy walk this road is the most painful experience of her life. She said, “I can not describe the hurt, the pain, the frustration, the guilt that I experience every time I see his face. When he lies to my face, I still love him, and it hurts. It hurts when he gets those phone calls, when he’s gone for days, and when he returns. But most of all I hurt because he hurts.” That is what a mother does, yes?
In talking with Tommy, he, too, says it is the most painful experience of his life. I can’t stand to see my mom in pain because of me. Look, I can deal with the choices I’ve made, I’ve made them. The jail time, the rehab, no steady job, no family – I can handle that. I don’t like that I am this way, but, again, these are the choices I’ve made. But the mom thing, that I can’t handle. Seeing her cry nearly kills me.
Tommy, to his credit, acknowledges and accepts his role in this situation. He recognizes his culpability. His mother also recognizes his role, but that does not lessen her love for him.
The image of Mary meeting Jesus on the Way of the Cross comes to us through tradition. That makes it no less authentic, though open to what was said. In Mel Gibson’s movie the Passion of the Christ he has the beaten and bloodied Jesus echo the words of Revelation 21:5 when He says, “See, Mother, I make all things new.”
Imagine the pain Mary must have felt as her eyes met her Son’s. In that moment, only the two of them existed. Perhaps in that moment Mary received what she needed to remain strong in the face of what was yet to come. His words meant as a soothing balm for her pain might have had their effect, but not right then. Right then, she was not Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of God, she was Mary, mother. She was Mary mother, watching people abuse her Son, jeering at Him, throwing things at Him, whipping Him, mocking Him, displaying their utter contempt for Him. These same people just a few days prior were waving palm branches, calling Him king. Now they were looking to kill Him.
Mary’s sorrow was intensified by several factors. The first was the complete innocence of her Son. A second was Mary being torn between her natural desire to see her Son not have to suffer and die and her desire to submit to God’s will. A third was captured in Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s words. She writes that several woman of ill repute insulted Mary as she tried to get near her Son. They mocked her purity with words of vulgarity. She also says that at the foot of the cross some soldiers said to her “What have you to do here, woman? He would not have been in our hands if He had been better brought up.”
…….Jesus our savior, who put his life on the line when he was only thirty-three. He sacrificed Himself so our sins could be forgiven. He sacrificed Himself so we could go to heaven.
Imagine the pain, imagine the sadness, and imagine Mary, mother of God. (excerpt from a song)
Imagine. My head shakes side to side thinking of the inhumanity. Then I realize it was equally my inhumanity, my sinfulness that caused Jesus and Mary to suffer. As Lent winds down, and the Passion of our Lord begins, let us beg for the grace to recognize our role in the suffering and sorrowing experienced by our Mother Mary. Also recognize that just as she has forgiven us before we even asked, so has her Son.
And just as she was there to support her Son, she is with us today to help us carry our cross.
Filled with Frequencies
What has God said? What is He saying? How can I hear Him?
I was at my desk a couple of weeks ago preparing the talks for a parish mission I was to give. The talks were to focus on answering the above questions.
With my Bible next to me, and my computer screen staring back at me, my fingers were waiting to start typing. Nothing was happening when suddenly my phone buzzed. It was my sister looking to chat on Facebook. We chatted back and forth a few times. I went back to looking at my computer screen. Before too long I received a tweet from a friend of mine. Then I received an email from a work colleague, answered a call on my cell phone, and got notified that my daughter posted her blog. After reading it, I got a Linked In message, an Instagram notification and a Snapchat from my niece. Finally, my mom wanted to Skype.
All this happened within an hour or so. When just about every possible social media interruption had been exhausted I turned once again to my computer screen. Not having been distracted enough, I turned up the volume on my music to try and refocus me! I then got knocked over the head by the Holy Spirit with a quote from Pope Benedict:
Staring back at me was this:
We are no longer able to hear God – there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with Him and to Him.
Pope Benedict XVI
And we wonder why God seems so far away from us sometimes. While technology is not in and of itself a bad thing, it can be a huge distraction. Sometimes we get so tuned in to all the earthly frequencies that are out there, we forget about the most important frequency of them all, the Holy Spirit frequency.
These last few weeks of Lent, perhaps we can all try to prioritize the frequencies we frequent.
So, How Is Your Lent Going?
Too often we overpromise and under-deliver in our relationship with God. (Thankfully, He does neither with us.) During Lent we offer to give up something, to do something extra or to change some behavior. And right about a few weeks in, we often stumble, veer off course or hit the brakes altogether. We go in with the greatest of intentions forgetting that we have enemies pushing against us with opposing and very strong counter-intentions. We still love our Lord; we are just a little weak in the demonstration of it. We need to remind ourselves that Lent is a battle; as it was for Jesus.
The observance of Lent is the very badge of Christian warfare.
Pope Benedict XIV
Now that we are reminded it is a battle, why does it happen that we so often fail to follow through on our Lenten mission? There can be many reasons, but so often, at least for me it comes down to one simple lesson, one that we were reminded of again on the first Sunday of every Lent.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil…
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan...
Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil…
In each recounting, the Gospel writers make sure to emphasize that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the desert to be where He would fast and then be tempted by the devil. Imagine if, instead, Jesus had decided to go to the mountains to pray? A good thing, yes, but one that would not have been consonant with the Father’s will for Him at that time. Imagine if Jesus had decided that rather than fasting, He would redouble His efforts to “spread the Good News” to those He encountered? Again, a good thing, but it is not the right thing. (And, yes, we must acknowledge the absurdity of Jesus going against the will of His Father, but hopefully it illustrates a point for us.)
To recap: Jesus knew the “Lenten” mission the Father gave to Him. Jesus followed the Lenten mission the Father gave to Him. Jesus fulfilled the Lenten mission the Father gave to Him. He was humble and prayed. He was docile and discerning. He was obedient and trusting. Likewise, when we take the time to pray for proper discernment of God’s will for us, when we are obedient to His promptings and when we trust in Him to sustain us, we will have a perfect Lent!
So, how is your Lent going? It’s okay if it’s not perfect. God doesn’t abandon us when we fall short. He doesn’t forget us when we fail. He does, however, call us to return to Him.
So seek Him out.
Do the first steps first.
Be humble and pray.
Be docile and discern.
Be obedient and trusting.
And, if we do this, like Jesus, we will be victorious and the angels will minister to us after our trial is complete.
Come Holy Spirit
Last week I had the privilege of leading a Parish Mission for four nights. The theme was “Inspired.”
The word has an interesting etymology. It can be rendered as “to breathe in” and as “breathe into.” There is both an active donation and a passive receptivity inherent in the word. In the talk I gave after each mass, I spoke of two simple goals for the Mission. The first was to “Come and be inspired.” The second was to “Go and be inspiring.”
Doesn’t that in some way sum up the entirety of our Christian life? To first be filled with the Holy Spirit, then to go and spread the Good News? To first be inspired then to go and be inspiring? To first receive and then to give? To first receive love and then to give it away.
The Holy Spirit is so willing, so ready to share Himself with us. He is such a believer in all of us! It’s time to trust in Him as much as He trusts in us. It is time to give away all that He shares with us. Give away, spread the Gospel, reclaim this generation, save souls. So today breathe in the Holy Spirit. Then go and breathe the Holy Spirit into others!
Prayer and the Cell Phone Charger
The cell phone cord charger has become pretty much ubiquitous. Everywhere you go - airports, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, offices - there are outlets filled with phone chargers. Our cars have become mobile power stations. All this so that we won’t be caught with 0% charge left on our phone, our lifeline to the world we live in.
The lifeline to the world we want to live in for all eternity is just as vital, just as simple and even more powerful. What is this eternal lifeline? It is prayer. Prayer is our lifeline to God and Heaven. Sadly, it is not as frequently present in our daily lives as it should be. It does not possess the “don’t leave home without out it” urgency of our phone chargers.
Prayer is intimacy with God. Through it good prospers, evil is destroyed and sinners will be converted
St Gregory of Nyssa
The consequences of not recharging frequently enough in our spiritual life are severe. Take a look around at the world we live in; it is a mess. Forget the world, look at our own lives. Look how messy they are, especially when we don’t pray. Could you imagine what it would be like to charge your phone for only an hour each Sunday? How long would that charge last? A day, maybe two? If so for your phone, how much more so for you?
Prayer extinguishes the violence of fire. Closes the mouth of lions, ends wars, drives away demons, illnesses, and storms, breaks the bonds of death, averts from us the wrath of God, and all evils.
Prayer is a grace (think free app) that allows us to “wirelessly” charge and recharge anytime. It charges our mind, body and soul. It brings us deeper into relationship with our Creator; it refocuses us from the finite to the infinite. It connects us to truth and love. It forges a bond between who we are and who God is calling us to be.
The lack of prayer can never be taken to mean that you do not need prayer. Indeed, the longer we do not pray, the greater the need grows, so that at a certain moment it explodes in the search for some outlet.
Prayer gives us light by which to see and to judge from God’s perspective and from eternity. That is why you must not give up on praying!
Pope Saint John Paul II
Let us not think of prayer as a plug in type of situation, to do so only when the battery is draining. We should think of prayer as this ongoing, ever active movement of the heart toward God. Much as we breathe every moment to fill our lungs, we should pray very moment to fill our souls. In the words of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton:
We must pray literally without ceasing – prayer constant without ceasing; in every occurrence and employment of our lives. You know I mean that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation, or which is, rather, a habit of lifting up the heart to God, as in a constant communication with Him.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
So plug in early and often. Plug in all day and all night. Plug in at work, play and everywhere in between. Plug in at while at home and while away. Plug in alone and with community. Pray, pray, pray. It is the best way to ensure a fully charged soul!
Winning the Race
Ever since I was little swimming has been a huge part of my life. From age group swimming, to high school, college and even now as an adult, I have competed and trained. I have also spent many years teaching swimming to others.
Whether I am working with a beginner or an experienced swimmer, I always focus my time and energy on teaching technique. Get the stroke down properly and you will have a friend for life. Get the technique down properly and you will be able to swim faster and reduce the risk of injury. The goal is, with enough practice, for you and the technique to become one, so that you perform it without having to think about it.
One of the simple truths of swimming technique is that any motion that is not propelling you forward is not proper technique. Pushing against the water in a manner that moves your body up and down is a waste of time and energy. Arm stroking in such a manner that moves your body side-to-side is counterproductive to making forward progress. Likewise, a kick that originates from the knees and ankles instead of the hips will end up slowing you down not speeding you up.
What does any of this have to do with our faith journey? Simple, in 2 Corinthians 5:24 reminds us that the “love of Christ impels us.” The love of Christ is to be the “technique” by which we move forward in the world. It is to be the foundation for all of our actions. Anything we say, think or do that is not undergirded by this truth is not moving us forward and is not keeping us in relationship with Christ.
So, proper technique for every word, thought and deed of every Christian is love. When properly performed this love impels us, moves us closer to rejoicing with Christ forever in Heaven. Given enough practice you and this love become one.
And isn’t that the goal of every Christian, to “win the race?”
Green for Go
We live in an app world. None gets more use on my phone than Google Maps. Traveling across the country, it is nice to know that I can easily figure out the best way to get just about anywhere. Of course a map will do the same thing; but a map does not have real time updates.
Heading from Point A to Point B, a quick glance at the screen will tell me if the road ahead is colored coded green, yellow or red. Green means the going is smooth, yellow means expect a slow-down and red means trouble ahead. Updated constantly and instantly, it is astonishingly accurate, even frighteningly so. Right as I enter the yellow zone, traffic slows. As I approach the red zone the tail lights light up and traffic stops.
This got me thinking; “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a similar type app for sin?” You know, one that would remain green when we are on the right path, would flash yellow when we make a wrong turn and would call us out when we completely cross the divider or are heading toward the guard rails.
The thing is we do have such a device; it is our conscience. Properly formed it speaks to our hearts much the way Google Maps does to our eyes. And even better than real time update, which is subject to battery life, strength of signal and satellites flying through the sky, our conscience is assisted by the Word of God.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (1785): In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.
The Holy Spirit will show us the light, be it green, yellow or red. It is our choice to heed the warnings or ignore them. We can follow the Holy Spirit on the green path or run from Him while on the red path. I don’t know about you, but I want to get home as quickly and safely as possible. By God’s grace, I’m going to get there.
Every Sunday is Super
This is the big week, a week that culminates in a quasi-religious holiday of American sports, Super Bowl Sunday. The food, the festivities, the commercials and the game itself all play out with a fervor that borders on the fanatical. It has become a ritual during football season for people to be out and out and in their finest football jersey wear, identifying with this or that team; proclaiming to everyone their allegiance. Some go further and paint their face, their hair even their bodies. All for a game.
This is not an indictment of sports or television or fun. All have their place. It is an indictment of our collective priorities. What if the passion and the fervor displayed on game day were equally present, both in terms of quality and quantity, in service of the Lord? Where’s the foolishness on behalf of Christ and His church?
I’m afraid if asked too many of us might respond with; “Well I went to church today, so I’m good. I did my required time, now comes free time.” Too many of us do the minimum amount required when it comes to God. We are more obligation than passion; more lip service than heartfelt words; more “going through the motions” than charitable deeds.
I guarantee you that none of the players playing in this year’s Super Bowl are satisfied with doing the bare minimum. None of them went to their coach and asked what was the least amount of effort necessary for them to make the team.
Let’s not do that with God. So go ahead, watch the game. Enjoy it. Eat, drink and be merry; but let's make sure we give God His due. Today and every day.
Jan 8, 2015
New Year, Same Old Battles
It’s a battle out there. It’s a battle in here, too. The real estate between our ears is the place where the devil does his best work.
Paul tells us in Romans 12, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We are to resist conforming to this age and seek to conform ourselves and our lives to the will of God. We are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. I don’t know about you, by my mind needs renewal and it needs it now. It is filled with useless information, unnecessary anxieties, false beliefs, negative thoughts, crippling fears, sinful words and images, harmful lies, ugly prejudices, unjust judgments and on and on.
If I am honest with myself, I must admit that I have allowed myself to be conformed to this age. And in doing so, I am less able to discern God’s will for my life. I am also less able to know what is good or pleasing or perfect. Makes sense why when we separate ourselves from our good and gracious God we too often choose fleshy, fleeting and finite pleasures to fill the void. Yet, the truth is no amount of finite can ever satisfy that which is infinite.
So, I have a thought, a challenge for all of us. Rather than using January to set earthly goals, why don’t we set aside the rest of the month, take Paul’s advice and “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
“How do I do that?,” you may ask. I don’t know, but He does. So, let’s ask Him together and let’s ask Him for one another. Let’s pray this prayer together.
Lord, grant me the grace to renew my mind. Lord, grant my brothers and sisters the grace to renew their minds. Teach us your ways, strengthen our will, purify our hearts, draw us in ever closer to You. Help us to take every thought captive to You. Lord, we give you all of our anxieties, false beliefs, negative thoughts, fears, sins, lies, prejudices, judgments and all that is in our mind that is not of You. Redeem all of it Lord and renew our minds so that we may be transformed from death into life. Amen.
Dec. 11. 2014
Humility and Heaven
What was the single greatest act of humility? There is one act that is infinitely greater than any other in regards to humility. This act is known as the “infinite condescension.” Think about that before you read any further. What act required an infinite condescension? What act bridged the gap between the finite and the infinite?
It was the Incarnation.
And the Word became flesh. This was God becoming man, humbling Himself beyond all comprehension, teaching us all we need to know about the Christian life in this one act. The gap between the finite and the infinite, between human and Divine, between damnation and salvation was bridged in that moment. Jesus Christ one person, with two natures, “condescended” His “fully Divine” self to become “fully human” like us.
It makes sense then, that St. Bernard says, “Humility is the mother of salvation.” Both because through humility, God became one with us and through humility we can become one with Him. St. Francis de Sales says, “No humility, no holiness. No holiness, no heaven.”
This Advent and Christmas season, why not turn your focus toward humility? Why not ask for this grace for yourself and your family?
See the humility of the Christ child. See the humility of the Blessed Mother. See the humility of Saint Joseph. See it and imitate it.
See it and see Heaven.
Dec 3. 2014
As we lead, so will they follow. Are you willing to be that leader?
As a husband and father, if I am honest with myself, there are too many times that I am distracted from my the duties of my vocation. Too often I slack off on my prayers, forgetting my primary role in the family – spiritual head of the household. I imagine that is not an uncommon reality.
As Christians, as husbands, as dads - as principals - we need to be reminded that we are all called to be the spiritual heads of our households. Sadly, too often we have collectively abandoned our God-given right and responsibility of spiritual leadership and in doing so we have allowed Satan to advance his agenda.
Our marriages and families bear the scars of this turning away from our vocational role. When we, as men, are not the spiritual heads of our household, our families and our marriages are disordered. We end up conforming ourselves to the culture around us instead of transforming it. The stakes are too high to ignore. Pope John Paul II reminds us, “The future of the world and the Church passes through the family.”
We must repent of our ways. We need to recommit ourselves to our God, our Church, our spouse, our children. We need to take back what has been taken away from us. We as husbands and dads need to live up to our God given rights and responsibilities.
It is time to assume proper vocational order, the husband to be the spiritual leader, the wife to be the spiritual heart. Then you are, together, to lead one another and your children to Heaven.
It is time for all of us to stand up and sanctify our families, make them holy. We must pass on the faith, we must raise up a new generation of saints. We need to counter the culture. We need to become counter cultural in what we think, what we say and what we do.
It’s not an easy task. It is one filled with hardship, sacrifice and, quite often, ridicule from the world around us. But is a task for which God has called us to and for which He has supplied the grace to accomplish. So what are you waiting for?
With Our Lord in the lead, with the angels and saints by our side, with the sword of the Spirit in one hand and a rosary in the other, the time has come. The body follows the head. As we lead, so will they follow. Are you willing to be that leader?
Nov. 19, 2014
It seems that every few months there is “new evidence” to suggest that the truths of Christianity are not so true. From fake ancient manuscripts, to phony inscriptions on bogus ossuaries, to fraudulent research, the lies just keep coming. Yesterday I was asked by a friend about the alleged “new evidence” that Jesus was married.
Books and movies recycle these theories for their own monetary benefit and to aid in the subtle and unrelenting assault on the Church. But just because the world is willing to sell this rubbish, doesn’t mean that we have to buy it. Yet, on some level, I think we, at least part of us, (the sinful, worldly part of us) entertains these hoaxes without giving them much thought or pushback. While we may not necessarily condone them, we don’t condemn them either.
The notion that Jesus was married or that He had blood siblings or that Jesus was a gnostic or that the apocryphal Gospels of Thomas or Mary Magdalene are true has implications beyond just the obvious. If these (and other lies) are true, then Scripture and the Church are wrong.
If what the Church has taught is wrong, then we don’t have to listen to her.
If what the Church has taught is wrong, then I am free to do as I please.
If what the Church has taught is wrong, then my sin is acceptable.
If what the Church has taught is wrong, then there is no sin.
The truth is, too often we want the easiest path to salvation, one without reconciliation and accountability. The truth is that Jesus said to us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The truth is that the Church is not wrong. What she has taught as part of Sacred Tradition was, is and always will be true. The truth is that the world, the flesh and the devil will continue to wage war against the Church, knowingly or unknowingly. The truth is * spoiler alert * Jesus wins despite the best efforts of all those who oppose Him.
And while Jesus doesn’t need us to defend Him, we need us to defend Him. So the next time a lie is told, know that the Church speaks the truth. Next time a lie is told stand up and speak out. The next time a lie is told know who it is that is behind it. The next time a lie is told pray and then act.
Do what you can, where you are at, in charity and truth, as often as necessary and the let Jesus do the rest.
Nov 6, 2014
The Beauty of Baptism
The cleansing water of rebirth.
A new beginning.
Sin washed away, soul cleansed.
White garment, new life.
White candle, flame of enlightenment.
Sacred chrism, the presence of the Holy Spirit
The tranquility of order, the joy of freedom.
Reclaimed as God’s child.
Renewed in God’s grace.
A bath that purifies, sanctifies and justifies.
Incorporation into the Church, a bond of unity.
The eternal, indelible seal of eternal life.
Baptized into the life of Christ…
But also, baptized into His death.
Wait, Baptized into His death? I thought baptism was all about new life?
Well, Romans 6:3 says, Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
But being baptized into His death doesn’t sound too good. The life part sounds great, but I thought Jesus “died once for all” and that He “destroyed death and brought life?” I don’t want to have to suffer and die like He did.
Life comes through death. Eternity comes not in the avoidance of the cross, but in the embracing of it. The race must be run, not watched. It is through picking up our cross and following Him - to death - that death is transformed into life. It is in dying that we are resurrected.
2 Timothy 2:11 reminds us that: This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him.
And 1 Corinthians 15:55 beautifully sums all of this this up, Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting
Through death comes life.
His death brings us life.
Our death (through baptism) brings us His life.
Oct 30. 2014
Eucharist as Heaven on Earth
Psychologists often speak of four levels of knowing or learning. These levels are:
1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence
I would like to explore these ideas as they relate to our belief in the Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our faith. Where we are in this belief will determine at what level we are in our faith.
The lowest level, UI, is when you don’t know you don’t know. The Catholic concept of invincible ignorance is similar to this level of knowledge. The next level, CI, is when you become aware that you don’t know. The Catholic equivalent might be the age of reason. Next there is CC where, if we maintain focus, we can achieve our desired goal. The Catholic notion of this would be our struggle to submit to the will of the Father. The highest level is UC, where you no longer need to think, you just do. The Knowing and the Knower are one and the same. In Catholic parlance, we would call this participation in the Divine or Sainthood.
Unconscious Competence is the simplest of all the stages. It is ignorance personified. It is the stage at which we are not even capable of knowing, since we don’t know. In fact, all of us start out this way. This time is a pre-journey to Christ. At this point Jesus (and the Eucharist) is unknown to us, though we are not unknown to Him.
Conscious Incompetence is when we start to realize that those wafers and wine are, perhaps, something more than that. We know there is some-thing more than we know; we just may not know what it is. We are growing in awareness and we desire to know more about and ultimately, participate in this ritual.
Before we go to the next level, Conscious Competence, we need to draw a clear and distinct line. Once we cross over from CI to CC – that is from knowing we don’t know to knowing we do, there is no return. Any “protection” associated with not knowing is gone. We are now accountable.
The third level of Conscious Competence is probably where we, as sinners, spend most of our time. Though “we know, we know” we don’t always do what we know. Our struggle is often the struggle of the ages, to be in this world, but not of it. Relative to Eucharist, this level expresses itself as a true belief in the Real Presence of Jesus, but perhaps our actions aren’t fully consistent with our beliefs. Doubts creep in, your mind wanders and distractions are easy to come by. Again, as human beings, even faith filled ones; this is where most of us reside. We are equally body and spirit, it’s just that sometimes the body takes a more dominant and prominent position.
The fourth level, Unconscious Competence, is the level at which spirit and body unites and integrates the belief. At this level “you know you know that you know.” Belief and action are congruent with one another. In terms of Eucharist, this is the domain of saints. It is a level of communion so intimate, so profound, so breathtaking, and so beautiful that it is necessarily experienced only by those in a perfect state of grace. Listen to how the saints describe it:
Our Lord does not come down from Heaven every day to lie in a golden ciborium. He comes down to find another Heaven- Heaven which is infinitely clear to Him- the Heaven of our souls, created in His image, the living temples of the Adorable trinity
Saint Therese of Lisieux
The Eucharist is the supreme proof of the love of Jesus. After this, there is nothing more but Heaven itself.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard
I hunger for the bread of God, the flesh of Jesus Christ ...; I long to drink of his blood, the gift of unending love.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch
In this dark vale of tears, I wish solely to feed upon this secret manna, this delicious substance.
This is the Bread of everlasting life which supports the substance of our souls.
God is as really present in the consecrated Host as He is in the glory of Heaven.
Saint Paschal Baylon
It’s amazing isn’t it? Eucharist is a “taste” of Heaven. Don’t think for a moment that this level of knowing is reserved for the Saints in Heaven. It is not; it is also for us on earth. (How do you think they became Saints in Heaven?)
Yes, we must be in the state of perfect grace, free from any and all hindrance to full union with our Savior, but remember that is why He became man so we might have full union with the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Son. We may not access this level often or for an extended period of time, but when we do, it is spiritual bliss! It is communion with the Creator, Himself.
The transition through the first levels is typically quite ordinary, though certainly only by God’s grace. In the natural process of maturation we proceed rather orderly, without tremendous strain. The transition to the fourth level is the stumbling block for many. Though it can be just as “easy” a transition, it most cases it is not.
Too often the whispers of the world and Satan begin to be heard during our time in between the CC and UC, (which, interestingly enough, often takes place during the teenage years. “Facts” are more important than faith, love is separated from truth, the secular is exalted over the sacred and freedom without responsibility is desired.
We must come against these whispers with all of His might. We must beg Him, especially at the moment of consecration for His mercy. We must atone “for our sins and those of the whole world” by our prayer and fasting. We must plead to Him for the grace to do His will at every moment. We must humbly endure suffering for His Kingdom. We must intercede on behalf of those who are unable to access the grace that God has in store for them. We must love Jesus, as He His, present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist and do so at the highest possible level. This is Heaven on earth!
Spiritual Fitness & Yoga
Servant of God John Hardon said, “Yoga is not compatible with Catholicism.” I absolutely agree, but not everyone does. During my spiritual warfare talks, no topic stirs up more debate or elicits more passionate disagreements than yoga.
Yoga translates as “union with the divine.” The goal of yoga is to aid one in becoming one with the divine. (I can hear the criticism already. “I do yoga for the breathing or the stretching or the release of tension, etc. I don’t do it with any religious reasons. And to that, I say, “Hold on. Let me finish.”) The divine, as understood by the Hindu religion, (of which yoga is an essential part), is not the Divine of Christianity. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit are not known to or recognized by the Hindu religion. The “divine” that yoga seeks union with are false gods. Another word for false gods is demons. At its very core, yoga unites participants with demons.
Yes, I know, that sounds harsh, but it is true. The postures and breathing patterns of yoga were developed with one purpose in mind. Like lights on the runway that lead the airplane to the airport, the postures and patterns lead demons to your soul. As we are body and spirit, what we do in one are affects the other.
We speak with our bodies when we genuflect, when we kneel, when we make the sign of the cross, when we lay prostrate, when we bring our hands together in prayer position. Each posture speaks to our entering into a moment with God, an acknowledgment of the reality of His presence in our heart, mind and bodies. The physical act precedes and leads to the spiritual. The physical act has meaning far beyond the physical, positively and negatively. The sign of the cross makes the demons flee from us. Yoga postures make them flock to us.
Yet, despite the obvious demonic influence, or maybe because of it, yoga is growing in popularity. The fact that many parishes offer yoga classes, that many Catholics participate in yoga sessions, that it is offered in our schools does not mean it is compatible with Catholicism. It is not and never will be. No amount of tweaking or substituting mantra words changes the truth. Yoga is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally opposed to Christianity. It, like everything opposed to the one, true God, destroys the life of grace in one's soul. The more a person consents to the postures and the practices of yoga, the greater the danger.
Yet people will passionately fight for and cling to their right to keep their yoga! If there is any possibility that yoga is demonic in origin, and can affect your final disposition, why would anyone potentially sacrifice eternal pleasure for minimal finite benefit? Yoga, while it may have temporary, earthly benefits for the physical body, is not good for the soul. Any good yoga may bring comes paired with eternal side effects.
So, yes, breathe and stretch. Just do so in a manner that gives gory and honor to God.
The End, the Enemy and the Word that Changed the World
The end may not be near, but it sure feels like it sometime. The end may not be near, but our end might. The end may not be near, but the enemy certainly is.
The alarm keeps ringing and we keep hitting the snooze button. The enemy never sleeps. He is out to destroy the life of grace in each of us one soul at a time. And while he has been pretty effective in his efforts to tempt us to mortal sin, more and more he is capturing our souls, not with action, but inaction. He induces us to indifference and nudges us toward tolerance. He confuses us with his euphemisms, distorts with his lies and poisons with his partial truths.
We lack fortitude and courage. Afraid to offend, loath to speak the truth, unwilling to judge, we instead compromise. We have been intimidated into silence by a vocal minority of a corrupt culture. We have been duped into believing that there are no absolutes, only shades of gray.
Hell has become a metaphor, sin is situational, truth is subjective, murder of an unborn child is a choice, marriage is redefined, gender is an expression, commandments are obsolete, love is misunderstood, mercy is distorted and the list goes on and on.
When are we going to wake up? When are we going to take a stand? When are we going to say, “enough is enough”? When are we going to live our faith as if we were willing to die for our faith? When are we going to respond to the grace God has given us and “stand firm against the tactics of the devil?”
Nothing new under the sun. This is the reality since the fall, though the intensity and the in-your-face nature of the opposition seems to be at a peak. Paul, in speaking to the Galatians said:
I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by grace for a different gospel. But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Galations 1:6-10
A single word breaks the silence. A single candle lights the darkness. A single act of the will stops the indifference. A simple prayer aligns you with the forces of good. With God on our side it is never too late, we are never outnumbered.
Are we willing to utter that word?
Are we willing to be the light of truth and love?
Are we willing to act with Christian courage?
Are we willing to pray for the grace to be fully aligned with God’s will?
If so, let's speak -proclaim- the word that changed the world.
Let Our Lady’s yes be our yes. Let her light be our light. Let her courage be our courage. Let her prayer be our prayer.
Hail Mary, full of grace…
Prayer in Three Parts
III. Prayer as Surrender
The foundation of prayer is humility. The virtue of humility needs to be present to some degree in order to pray. Praying to “someone or something” implies that “someone or something” is superior to the one who prays. Who would pray to an inferior being?
So, prayer on some level is a surrender. Prayer, at its purest level, is total surrender. It is this total surrender that we must move towards and seek to imitate. We must soak in God’s grace, discern His call and follow Him unconditionally.
Now the great means by which one may enter into the path of perfection and of holiness is to surrender oneself to our good God.
Saint Therese Couderc
For this we have a great cloud of witnesses, the many who have gone before us and are now praying in Heaven with our good and gracious God. (And, yes, prayer continues in Heaven as prayer is our relationship with God.)
Mary’s prayer of surrender sounded like this: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” Saint Joseph’s prayer of surrender sounded like this: “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” Saint John the Baptist’s prayer of surrender sounded like this: “He must increase, I must decrease.” Paul’s prayer of surrender sounded like this: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” And the greatest example of all, Jesus’ prayer of surrender, sounded like this: “Not my will be done, but Yours.”
Notice the thread that runs through all of them, a prayer of surrender. All their responses are simple, holy and humble. If only our prayers were like theirs. For when our prayers are like theirs, when our prayers are simple, holy and humble, then our prayers will be consonant with the Father’s will. Then our prayers will be answered!
The prayer that is faithful and humble and devout shall certainly pierce the clouds and enter heaven, whence with equal certainty it shall not return empty handed.
Let us take this next week and honestly examine our surrender. Is it partial or full? Is it filled with anxiety or hope, fear or faith? Then, let us pray
Lord, grant only that I may love you, and then do with me as you will.
Saint Alphonsus Ligouri
There is no relationship with God apart from prayer.
There is no love of God apart from prayer.
There is no surrender to God apart from prayer.
And, so, we pray.
Prayer in Three Parts
II. Prayer as Love
Has your relationship with God improved since last week? Or maybe I can simply ask if your prayer life has improved since last week? Keep it up. Keep turning to He who loves you. Keep listening for His voice. Keep seeking His face.
The more we grow in relationship with God (and let’s be clear here, as God is perfection and therefore does not change, any changing in my relationship with Him must occur on my end) the more we realize, as Scripture tells us, that it is the heart that prays. True prayer is of the heart.
When we pray the voice of the heart must be heard more than the proceedings from the mouth. Saint Bonaventure
How does the heart pray? Said another way, what is the prayer of the heart? The prayer of the heart is love. The heart prays by loving. The heart demonstrates what it loves by where its attention is focused. (Remember “believe behavior” from last week?)
It is the heart that prays for it is the heart that loves. Equally, it is the heart that loves because it is the heart that prays. Prayer, as we discussed last week, is our relationship with God. And as Scripture tells us that God is love, (cf. 1 John 4), prayer, then, is our relationship with love and is a relationship of love.
Prayer, then, should be a surge of the heart, an expression of love. It can be a fervent cry, an active silence, a focused listening, an inexpressible groaning, a deep cry, a simple glance, a knowing smile, a penetrating question, a passionate plea, a grateful word, a reverent posture, an act of piety, or a faith filled devotion. Ideally it is any expression of your deep love for God and of Him for you.
For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy. Saint Therese of Lisieux
Let us take this next week and honestly examine from where we pray. Do our prayers flow from the heart? Are they an act of love? Then, let us pray.
Prayer in Three Parts
I. Prayer as Relationship
So how is your relationship with God? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being lousy and 10 being great, rate it
Now, how is your prayer life? Same thing, scale of 1 to 10. It’s okay, no one is looking, be honest. How is your prayer life?
Look at your two numbers? Are they the same or are they different? If you are like most people you probably ranked your relationship with God higher than you did your prayer life. True?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, Paragraph 2558) says that prayer is our relationship with God. If what the CCC is saying is true, then shouldn’t your numbers be identical? “But, my numbers are different. How did that happen?”
It is easy for us to overestimate our relationship with God. “After all, He is God, you know, all merciful. He’s always there waiting for me. He’s like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, waiting to slaughter the fatted calf. Right?”
Well yes, but really, and I mean this charitably, no!
Of course God is all merciful, and waiting for you, and ready to celebrate your return, but if we are in relationship with Him, then shouldn’t we be communicating with Him? Shouldn’t we be talking to Him, listening to Him, loving Him, sitting with Him, waiting for Him, crying with Him, laughing with Him, seeking Him on an ongoing basis?
Are you praying daily? Are you praying as much as you think you should be? Are you “hearing” back from God or are you monologue-ing it? Are you simple reciting rote prayers from your head and not speaking to Him from your heart? Are you including Him in your work, your play and your home life? Do you give Him His hour a week and not much else?
There is a two word expression that is relevant. Believe behavior. People believe behavior, not words. Believe what someone does, not what they say.
Children know this to be true. So does God. It’s time we did too. It is time to let our behavior answer the questions for us. It is time to recommit ourselves to building a better relationship with God – through prayer. Let us take this next week and honestly examine our relationship with God. Let us be mindful of what prayer is, then, let us pray.
If we pray, we will believe; if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta
Prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.
Saint Padre Pio
Lent as Boot camp
There have been many reminders from our bulletins, social media outlets, homilies, etc. that Lent is upon us and we are to pray, fast and give alms during this time. (More so than I remember in prior years which is a good thing.)
If you went to Mass on Ash Wednesday, did you catch the language the Church gave us in the Collect prayer right before the readings? The prayer read:
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast as we begin our Christian warfare, so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Let us not forget that our Lord was led into the desert to be tempted, to do battle with the Evil One. Denying Himself the comforts of this world (food, shelter, companionship) our Lord prepared Himself for the journey ahead.
It might help to think of Lent and the prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a spiritual boot camp, not just a time to deny yourself some sweets and treats. Think of it as a time to prepare for the journey that the Father has for you. Think of it as a time to prepare for the inevitable battle. Think of it as a time to recommit yourself to the Lord. Think of it as a time of grace. For it is all of those and more. Now, more than ever, Lent is our time to prepare!
Led by the Spirit
In Mark's Gospel, we read: "At once (after the baptism) the Spirit drove him out into the desert" (Mark 1:12) Strange, isn’t it, that it is the Holy Spirit that leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days and, eventually, into a confrontation with Satan.
Why the desert? Why 40 days? Why the temptation?
So often in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, the desert is meeting place with God as much as it is a place of temptation and spiritual struggle. The 40 day time frame reminds us of the 40 days of the flood in Genesis, of Moses 40 days on the mountain, even of the Jews 40 years in the desert. With the temptation, the mission of Jesus is set to unfold. He is now “like us in all things but sin” because of the devil’s attempt to distract, defeat and destroy Him. He is now set to begin His public ministry.
Why I find most fascinating about this story is that immediately after being baptized Jesus is led into the desert to for a period of prayer, reflection and fasting – none of which He needs to bring about greater union with God. Yet He submits. Then after 40 days, hungry as can be, probably very weak physically, but as strong as He can be spiritually He encounters the devil. (Again, the Divinity of Jesus didn’t need the time of reflection or fasting, nor was it affected by the fast. But certainly His humanity felt the hunger pangs. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15)
At His lowest point physically, but His highest point spiritually, He encounters the devil. Is there a meaning there for us? Trusting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is led into, through and out of the desert. He didn’t balk, didn’t grumble, didn’t seek His own way. He accepted His physically weakened state as part of the Spirit’s plan, and allowed the Spirit to work in Him.
Lessons to be learned? Trust the Holy Spirit. Go where He leads. When in a “desert” pray, reflect and fast. Reject Satan’s propositions. Don’t grumble as did the Israelites, you might be stuck there much longer. And know, just know, that if, by God’s grace you “pass the test” and the devil leaves you, remain vigilant and docile to the Spirit for the evil one will return.
So often I am asked, what is spiritual warfare?
Paul says in Romans 7:15: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.
The struggle between doing what you want and what you hate is spiritual warfare.
Saint Augustine says it this way: Our hearts are restless O Lord until they rest in You.
This restlessness, is spiritual warfare.
God loves you and He wants to spend eternity with you. Satan hates you and he wants to spend eternity with you.
The tension between those two realities is spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare is the battle that takes place for your soul, on a daily basis. The battlefield is your mind and the enemy is the evil one. By God’s grace and through prayer, the sacraments and sacramental you can win this battle. Fight on!
As a little boy growing up, one of my enduring memories is of the kitchen in our house. Tiny by today’s standards is was the hub of our family life. It was there that we cooked, we ate and we discussed. We also did our homework there and even talked on the phone there. All the while in the background the sound of a small, white AM radio played in the background. Sometimes it was the news that was playing; sometimes it was the softer sounds of the day. Either way, it was seemingly always on.
One song I remember hearing on that radio is“Everything Is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens. For some odd and unknown reason, the lyrics of this song have taken up residence in my brain for over 40 years. I can remember singing along, especially with the first verse. I can also remember the song prompting conversations within me and also with my mom.
Similarly, I’d like to use this song as the point of departure for this week’s blog.
The first verse is really quite simple, straightforward and maybe a little sappy.
Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
While it might not pass today’s standards of politically correct in regards to skin color, its core truth is the same as that taught by the Catholic Church.
Everything is beautiful in its own way.
Like a starry summer night or a snow covered winter's day. Everybody's beautiful in their own way. Under God's heaven, the world's gonna find a way.
While the refrain is sappier, it is also problematic. Poetic license aside, claiming that “everything is beautiful in its own way” is a step toward the lie of tolerance.
Only the evil one wants us to believe that “everything” and “everybody” is beautiful just the way they other. Only the evil one benefits when we start to accept and embrace our sins as “beautiful.”
There is none so blind as he who will not see. We must not close our minds; we must let our thoughts be free. For every hour that passes by, you know the world gets a little bit older. It's time to realize that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
The next verse starts out with what sounds like a truism, but the last sentence reveals the lie. There is one who is blinder than one who will not see; that is one who denies what he does see.
G.K. Chesterton once said, “An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut.” A mind which is endlessly open is a mind which is destined for an endless search.
Letting our thoughts be free leads to chaos, asymmetry and lies. It is the pathway of pride, inching closer to Satan. Any objections to conforming our will to the Father’s is pride.
The erroneous claim that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder is the original sin, as first told by the first liar. It is arrogance piled on top of ignorance. It is a euphemism for subjective truth, the rallying cry of dissenters.
We shouldn't care about the length of his hair or the color of his skin. Don't worry about what shows from without but the love that lives within. We're gonna get it all together now and everything gonna work out fine. Just take a little time to look on the good side my friend. And straighten it out in your mind.
The final verse also starts out with a truism in the form of a platitude, but its real meaning is revealed in the final sentence. According to our song, ugliness, or evil or badness only exists within our minds. All we need to do is collectively straighten out our minds and – poof – all the bad stuff is gone.
See the good, ignore the bad. Who cares if his expression of his sexuality is different, I don’t see how it affects you? So what if she’s had multiple abortions, it’s her body, right? He wants to die, so let him. What are you God or something?
Lies, lies and more lies. Only Satan is capable of such treachery. Only Satan wins if we buy into his propaganda. Only Satan desires our demise. Only Satan encourages us to reject truth and reject God.
The Lord of Life wants us to know that true beauty is found only in His reflection. The Lord of Life can only reveal what He means by beauty when we learn to accept and embrace His truth, His beauty. It is His definition of beauty that matters, not our own. His beauty is revealed in His truth; His truth is revealed in His beauty. It is only in the union of truth and beauty that one can experience true beauty.
Too often in today’s Church we avoid such topics as sin, Hell, purgatory, abortion, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and euthanasia preferring to focus on pop psychology, false ecumenism and tolerance of all. After all, we wouldn’t want to offend these nice people. We wouldn’t want them to feel bad about themselves. We wouldn’t want to ruin their self esteem.
I don’t know about you, but please Church, show me the error of my ways. Convict me in Christ’s truth. Call me on my sins. Show me my envy and my avarice, my lust and my sloth, my gluttony and my anger and most of all my pride. Show me where I am lacking in charity and kindness. Remind me of the eternal burden that my unforgiven sin carries.
It is true that “Everything Is Beautiful” was not meant to be a theological treatise, nor was it written from a Catholic point of view; nonetheless its depiction of the current state of affairs for many in our church is all too accurate.
Music, like no other expression can move the soul. But only His music moves the soul toward Him. It is His melodies and His words that our souls were made for. St. Augustine said: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Lord, we pray for the day when we recognize what true beauty is and what it is not. May we be a reflection of this true beauty. May we reject all beauty that is false. May we recognize true beauty in our surrender, in our humility and in our meekness. May we only sing your song.
Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth, single hearted and revering your name. I will praise you with all my heart; glorify your name forever, Lord, my God.
From the Book of Job, chapter 2, after all sorts of suffering falls upon Job and his family, we hear these words from Job’s wife’s mouth, “Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and Die.”
Job’s response was, “Are even you going to speak as senseless women do? We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?” Through all this, Job said nothing sinful.
There in a few sentences we have polar opposite response to the same suffering. One hope, one despaired. Suffering, as it often does, can bring out the best or worst in people. (By the way, Job’s wife is never mentioned in Scripture again!)
St. Teresa of Avila repeatedly said, “Let me suffer or let me die.” She saw no use to live without suffering because she knew to suffer was to love and to love was to live in God. Saint Madeleine Sophia Barat said, “We must suffer to go to God. We forget this truth far too often.” Pope Saint Leo the Great tells us, “The lot of humanity is to suffer.” Saint Vincent de Paul reminds us, “We can only go to Heaven through suffering, but it is not all that suffer who find salvation. It is only those who suffer readily for the love of Jesus Christ, who first suffered for us.”
It is in our moments of greatest suffering that we are faced with a choice. We either chose God or lose God. We either realize we don’t have control and turn back to Him or we blame Him for not doing His job and turn away from Him in anger and pain. We can respond as Job did, or we can respond as his wife did. The choice is ours.
They’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers!
Have you ever been asked about your faith, about why we as Catholics do some of the things we do and believe some of the things we believe? (I hope you have been asked. If you haven’t perhaps you are not bearing witness to your faith as you should. We’ll save that for another blog. :) Are you saved? Why do you worship Mary? Why do you pray to the saints? Why do you confess your sins to a priest? Why do you believe false traditions of men? Et cetera, ad nauseum.
When you were asked, did you have a clear and concise answer? Were you confident in your delivery of the answer? Or were you, like many Catholics, unsure about what to say and unwilling to even engage the person. Maybe their questions even raised some doubt in your mind, their perspective seeming logical and, let’s face it, easier. Or maybe, filled with best of intentions and a bit too much pride, your enthusiastic responses came off as defensive and demeaning or bold and boorish. Neither approach is going to win many souls.
To help avoid these pitfalls, here are four simple truths about our faith that will hopefully help you to respond more confidently, more charitably and help you evangelize more effectively.
1. There is absolutely nothing that we, as Catholics, believe that violates Scripture.
Now, there are many things that we as Catholics believe that violate other’s interpretation of Scripture, but that is a completely different story. They may sound persuasive, and seem sincere, and they are wrong. It is the Catholic Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit that gave us Scripture. And it is she that remains the proper guardian and interpreter of Scripture. Trust in the Church Jesus founded.
2. Every question that could ever be asked has already been asked and answered.
Saint Francis de Sales in his book, The Catholic Controversy, (written in the 1590s) answered every question that any well-meaning Protestant or Evangelical friend could ever ask you about our faith. The 21st century questions are really no different than the 16th century ones. Now, you may not know the answer, but someone does. Perhaps you can ask your parish priest, a knowledgeable friend or a trusted teacher. And if they don’t know, St Francis de Sales (and many other saints and scholars) does!
3. It is not your job to convert, only converse.
Fear can easily work its way into your brain when someone challenges you about your faith. Don’t burden yourself with the lie that it is up to you to convert souls. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. Your job is to simply have a conversation. Learn your faith, live your faith and love your faith? Yes. Convert souls? Nope, God’s got that.
4. Truth and love must both be part of the conversation.
It can’t be said any better that St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. “Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth. Do not accept anything as truth which lacks love. One without the other is a destructive lie.” Don’t be right and wrong at the same time. Yes, the truth is on our side, and we must share it with love otherwise we risk winning the battle, but losing the soul.
So, the next time you get a knock on the door, or are questioned about your faith from a friend, family member or stranger, remember these four truths. And respond with truth and love and watch the Holy Spirit do His job through you.
Is His Grace Really Enough?
Greek mythology recounts the story of Sisyphus who incurred a punishment of having to push a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down time and again as he neared the top. The physical toll on his body was great, but the emotional toll even more so. The futility, the frustration, the utter hopelessness was the real punishment.
Ever feel that moments of your life are similarly frustrating? Ever feel like you are banging your head against the wall, that no matter what you do, nothing changes? If you find yourself in one of those moments stop and ask yourself a question; “Where is God’s grace in this?” In the midst of a stale relationship, a bad job, an ongoing struggle, a stalled new venture, or any other “cross” you might encounter, ask the question.
If the answer is that the grace is in the struggle, then struggle well. But if the grace is not there to continue, then stop. Let the absence or presence of His grace be the deciding factor, not pride, opinions or inertia.
If His grace isn’t there, why are you still engaged? If His grace is leading you in a different direction, then why are you resisting? God doesn’t ask us to do more than His grace permits. He doesn’t lead us into frustration, task us to futility or desire hopelessness for us.
Matt Maher’s popular Catholic song, “Your Grace Is Enough” is true; it is enough, but only for what God intended. A friendship may have been graced for a period of time, but now it is not. Time to move on. A job may have been graced for a period of time, but now it is not. Time to move on. A prayer group, a service for the church, a particular devotion, a ministry – all may have been graced for a time, but if the grace has stopped, you should too.
Remember, grace, like God is not time bound. It has no past, no future, only the ever present now. Take them time in prayer to ask where His grace is leading you now. Let the presence of His grace in your life guide you at all times. Stop when it stops; go where it flows. Seek it amidst the struggle and you will either be given sufficient grace to continue or the grace to realize that He is leading you elsewhere. Either way, His grace is enough!
The Christmas Rollercoaster
No, I’m not talking about the ups and downs of family dynamics during the holidays. I am talking about the very interesting Christmas liturgical calendar.
On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. It is, by any measure, a true celebration, a day of joy. So much joy that it can’t fit all in one day. Liturgically, Christmas “Day” actually lasts for an octave, or eight days!
Amidst this octave of celebration and pure joy are four very interesting feast days. The day after Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen the first martyr, followed by the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, then the Feast of the Holy Innocents and then the Feast of the Holy Family.
Why would the Church do this? Why go from the high of the birth of Jesus to the low of St. Stephen’s death? From the only Apostle not martyred, to the death of the innocent children killed by Herod. Finally to the Feast of the Holy Family, a remembrance of life and death.
All this and we are still within the Octave of Christmas. Do you see what I mean by a roller coaster? What’s the connection here? Is there one or was this just a chance occurrence that these feast days occur back to back? Perhaps the Church, in her Spirit led wisdom, has a reason to lead us from joy to persecutions.
The theme of martyrdom runs through each of these days. St. Stephen desired and endured martyrdom. St. John desired martyrdom, but did not have to endure it. The Holy Innocents never desired martyrdom, but endured it anyway. The Holy Family, the cradle and model of martyrdom, were each willing to surrender their lives for the other, with Jesus ultimately surrendering His life for all.
In Romans 6:3, Paul says, “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” The Church is reminding us here that the wood of the crib becomes the wood of the cross. Martyrdom is the call of every Christian. We should all desire it out of love for God. And some of us may even have to endure it.
Venerable Pope John Paul I writes, the “manger and Bethlehem are only a beginning. Nazareth, Jerusalem, Calvary, the cross, the Resurrection complete it and say to us, “He has done so much for you. You, what will you do for Him?””
So, yes, celebrate Christmas fully! Embrace the joy. And remain sober enough to know that we have been baptized into His life and into His death. And praise God for that.
A Christmas Meditation
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines meditation as “a form of mental prayer consisting in the application of the various faculties of the soul, memory, imagination, intellect, and will, to the consideration of some mystery, principle, truth, or fact, with a view to exciting proper spiritual emotions and resolving on some act or course of action regarded as God's will and as a means of union with Him.” Wordy, but good to know that meditation is perfectly Catholic!
With that in mind, consider giving yourself a gift this Christmas by meditating upon the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation. Take a few minutes before the busyness of the next couple of days and sit with your God. After you read each section, close your eyes and recreate the scene in your mind. See the words come to life. Let the Holy Spirit guide your mind, body and soul. Like Mary and Joseph, contemplate the Babe in the manger.
Imagine yourself to be one of the shepherds herding your sheep that night. Take in the sights and sounds and smells of your surroundings. Feel the wind, smell the crisp, chilly air, hear the silence, see the dark night sky illuminated by an unusual star.
There you are minding your own business, when suddenly and Angel of God appears.
"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
You head to the stable or cave that night, as you approach you see first see St Joseph. He appears to be a proud father, yet more than that, he is a humble father. A strong, powerful presence, a man who is both at peace and concerned about his family. See how he looks at Jesus and then at Mary, watching, waiting, wondering.
You next spot the Blessed Mother. You are struck by her simple beauty, her purity, her grace, her humility, her joy. You also notice a motherly concern in her face, as if she is already beginning to sense just who this child is destined to be and what He is destined to endure. Yet her heart is filled with joy, rejoicing in God, her savior.
You now see the Baby Jesus.
You notice His wobbly, oversized head, wrapped in a swaddling blanket, not yet wearing a crown of thorns.
His tiny body, not yet scourged and beaten.
His skin, beautifully smooth and pink, not yet bruised and battered.
His tiny hands and feet, not yet nailed to the cross.
His Spirit, not yet burdened with sin, not yet experiencing the Agony in the Garden.
You even notice the wood of the crib, not yet the wood of the cross
Then you notice His eyes, big, bright and beautiful. They sparkle and shine. They give off a heavenly light. You feel at once attracted to them and, at the same time, unworthy to look. They draw you in, seemingly penetrating your very being.
He can’t speak, but you know He is calling you to gaze into His eyes, the eyes of Love Incarnate. Let Him love you with His eyes.
You look into the eyes of love and you feel love beyond description. You feel transformed. You feel you have just encountered the true and living God.
Now say something to Jesus. Speak to Him as if you are there witnessing this moment as it took place 2000 years ago. Close your eyes and speak from the heart.
Speak now to Our Lady and to St Joseph. Listen as Our Lady says something back to you. She says, “Do whatever He tells you.” St Joseph nods in affirmation. “Do whatever He tells you,” she repeats.
Feel the presence of Divine Love filling your heart to overflowing. This year there is room at your inn. Praise God for He is good.
As you slowly turn to leave, do not be sad. Do as the shepherds did. Return to your home, singing glory and praise to God. Share with all you meet the Good News that has been proclaimed to you.
Remind yourself that He is with you always. He’ll abide in you and abound in you, if you’ll continue to make room for Him.
Rejoice, for unto you this day a Savior is born.
What is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
What can make kings visit? Turn shepherds into evangelists? Bring amazement to those who hear? How could this infant inspire such intensity, both positive and negative?
Remember the kings of those times were not exactly benevolent. Even if these specific Magi were, they were not use to placing themselves in a position of condescension – especially to an infant.
The shepherds, as Aquinas spoke of them they were to the desert what the tax collectors were to the city. They were not the image of the loving good shepherd we have in Jesus, they were more like outcasts and loners. Poor, yes, but misfits, often antagonistic to all but their own. Much like ourselves….
So again, what is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
Imagine the newborn Jesus in the manger. See him in His full fleshy humanness. See His folds of skin that newborns abound in, see His huge eyes searching, trying to focus. See His wobbly head, His tiny fingers and toes. Hear His cries of hunger, of cold, of needing His mother. Is this the one the star shines upon? Is this really the sign we are waiting? What can He possibly do for us?
One word: Love.
Love Incarnate arrived that first Christmas morn. He came in love, for love and He came as love. He came so we might love Him. Love is the attraction, love is the draw. This love was, is and will always be, the sign.
From his Midnight Christmas Mass Homily, Pope Benedict XVI said, “God’s sign is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care…God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty…God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby, defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. God made Himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him.”
Is There Room at Your Inn?
This Christmas season, will there be room in your heart for Jesus? Amidst the busyness, the festivities, the gifts, the greetings, the visits, this question get right to the core. Will I allow Jesus to be born in the Inn of my heart this Christmas, or will I force Him to be born in the stable outside my heart? You get to choose which sign adorns your heart, Vacancy or No Vacancy, and which kingdom you will honor. Christ’s coming had two opposite effects upon the people of His time and in does in our time as well. Consider:
Mary had room. She said yes. She humbled herself. She obeyed. She surrendered. She pondered. She trusted. Joseph, because he feared, at first thought he had no room for Jesus. After the angel appeared to him he realized he did have room for Jesus. The shepherds had room for Jesus. They heard the message, acted upon it, went to see Jesus, spread the good news, returned home and gave glory and praise to God. The three kings had room for Jesus, traveling many miles and months to pay homage to the one King. By God’s grace they did not fear; they chose to embrace God’s will.
On the other hand, the inn keepers had no room for Jesus. They said no to love. King Herod had no room for Jesus in his heart; Herod feared Him and tried to kill Him. The chief priests and the scribes, whom Herod gathered together to determine if this Jesus could be king, didn’t bother to see for themselves if the king was born. His own people had no room for Jesus, eventually putting Him to death. Whether out of fear, indifference, envy, pettiness or arrogance, they chose to ignore God’s will.
In many ways, that is ancient, though obviously important, history. What is relevant today and no less important is this: Do you have room for Jesus today? Will you allow Jesus to be born in your heart this Christmas? Will you allow Jesus to enter into your heart and change it? It’s still early, we have time to prepare.
How do you prepare your heart to receive Jesus? Three simple steps. Prepare to receive our Lady into your heart first. Then beg God for the grace of the Holy Spirit to visit your heart. Then move forward with expectant faith and await the arrival of the King.
From O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Remind yourself that Jesus is waiting to be born in you. He wants to come into your heart, into your life and live with you always. His peace will be your present. His Body and Blood will be your feast. He’ll abide in you and abound in you, if you’ll make room for Him this Christmas.
For it is God who works in you, both so as to desire, and so as to act, in accord with his good will.
So much of what we are called to do in spiritual warfare is intercessory prayers for others. If it seems like your prayers go unanswered, or perhaps more accurately, unfulfilled, there may be a good reason. You find yourself praying for others, praying for their conversion, and yet it seems as if there is no change in their behavior. They are still not attending Mass, they are still drinking, they are still involved in the New Age or the occult, they are still engaging in immoral sexual activity, etc. What could be wrong? Doesn’t God want them to change? Doesn’t He want them to grow closer to Him? Doesn’t He want them to live in His will? Of course He does; He is, after all, our Father.
So, then, what is the problem? The “problem” may just be in how you are praying. When you pray for someone to return to the Church or to repent of their sins or to turn from drugs or alcohol you may be praying against their free will. For while God desires the person’s conversion, He does not desire a coercive conversion; He desires a cooperative conversion.
If I choose on some level to engage in sinful behavior, God is not going to contravene my free will decision. He is going to allow me to choose to sin, all the while supplying me with sufficient grace and every opportunity to avoid making the wrong decision. What, then, can be done? Are we to stop praying for others? Are we to despair? No, we are to do neither. What we can do is pray differently.
•For those who have left the Church, stop praying for their conversion and start praying for them to have a desire to have a conversion. •For those who are struggling with addictions, stop praying for them to be free from their addictions and start praying for them to have a desire to be free from their addictions. •For those who are engaging in immoral sexual activity, stop praying for them to end their immoral lifestyle and start praying for them to have a desire to end their immoral lifestyle.
And the list goes on. Stop praying for the action to occur, start praying for the person to have the desire to act. What a huge difference this makes! One prayer, while certainly noble and worthwhile, can be working against the person’s free will. Praying for the person to have the desire to change works before their free will is engaged.
Adding that one word to your prayer opens up whole new avenues of grace for you and for those for whom you are praying. That one extra word can make all the difference. As Saint Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ does not force our will; He only takes what we give Him.” So help that person give their will to God by praying for them to have the desire to do so.
Who’s Whispering in Your Ear?
“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” Satan’s words to Eve reveal much. He is a liar who uses doubt to try and separate us from God. (If only Eve had discerned who was speaking, she might have responded differently.) Thousands of years later his modus operandi hasn’t changed much.
No greater joy have I experienced than being a father to three daughters. From the moment they were born I have marveled at their purity, beauty, and innocence. Equally, no greater battle have I experienced than helping them stay this way. Discerning who is whispering is one of the most valuable lessons they have learned.
Discernment begins and ends with prayer. Saint Ignatius teaches that in a grace-filled soul, the promptings of the Holy Spirit produce peace and joy, or consolation. The promptings of the evil spirit produce the opposite effect, disturbance and selfishness, or desolation.
As we get ready for Advent, don’t allow Satan’s whisperings to dampen your resolve. Don’t allow him to steal your peace or to distract you from His plan for your life. Don’t give his lies a place to dwell. Do pray to God. Do discern who is whispering. Do trust in Jesus. Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And let Saint Catherine of Siena’s words be your own, “Give not ear to what the devil whispers to you.”
But Who Are You?
Satan loves to try and tell you who you are. He is after all the “accuser.” He spent the past few decades convincing many to place their trust and identity in the false gods of money, sex and power. He is now reveling in his successes and relishing the depression, despair and even deaths that have occurred because so many don’t know their real identity.
In Acts of the Apostles the story is recounted of the traveling Jewish exorcists who invoked the name of Jesus to try and cast out evil spirits. One of these evil spirits responded to them by saying, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?” Luke records that the exorcists, who did not have a relationship with Jesus, fled the encounter naked and wounded.
If an evil spirit were to ask you, “But who are you?” what answer would you give? To the degree that your answer is earthbound you are in trouble. If your answer is related to your job, your social status, your wealth or your self-esteem, then your identity is predicated upon that which can be easily taken away. This creates an ongoing need to continually renew and restore the false foundation. It also creates dependence and an attachment to them, in effect allowing these false identities to become your master.
Now more than ever you need to know who you are. The times are changing. Uncertainty about the present and fear about the future is all too real. Be not afraid. Remind yourself in whose image and likeness you are made.
So, who are you?
The only sure and certain foundation you possess, and the only real answer to the question is, “I am a child of God.” Any other identity you embrace will be gone in the blink of an eye. Any other identity you embrace makes Satan’s job easier. As a child of God, seek your identity in the God who created you. Rest in the arms of your “abba,” your daddy. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:14-15)
Don’t let the question of the evil spirit catch you off guard. Don’t allow the circumstances of our current times dictate your identity. Don’t allow your fear grip you to be bonded to this world, for if your identity is as a child of God, what is there to fear?
Which Path Do you Choose?
With every step we take, we either we choose to take a step toward God the Father or we take one away from Him, and therefore toward Satan. We are either traveling on the road toward paradise or perdition.
Saint John Vianney said it this way. “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.”
So which path leads to Heaven and which leads to Hell? Why not follow the signs.
Tolerance or Truth
On the road to perdition no sign is more omnipresent than the one for tolerance. We are told we must be more “inclusive” and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! Those who frequent this road preach charity at the expense of truth, as if one could stand without the other.
On the road to paradise you will find true charity. The difference is true charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá reminds us that “Holy steadfastness is not intolerance.” Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is love, He is truth, and He cannot be split in two. Either you take one with the other or you reject both.
Agenda or Authority
On the road to perdition no sign is more oft quoted than this one: “Let your conscience be your guide.” This is the rallying cry of those heading to Hell.
Those who frequent this road reject the Divine authority of the one, true Church in favor of their own human authority. In it homosexuality, woman priests, artificial contraception, abortion and moral relativism are the gods that are worshipped.
Many in the pews are Catholic in name only; they are in every sense of the word protestants. The only difference being that they lack the courage of their own convictions and instead of fleeing the Church, they seek to destroy Her by imposing their heretical agenda upon others.
On the road to paradise you will find those who lovingly assent to revealed truths, even the tough ones. As Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us "We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe."
Christ promised us an eternal reward, not an easy road, when He said: “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”
Pride or Humility
On the road to perdition no sign is more revealing than this one. “Who are those white haired, cranky, celibate men in Rome to tell me how to live my life? What do they know about .....”
A more damning choice could not be made than to choose the way of pride. Pride is the origin of all sin; in fact pride is the “original” sin. Hardening of the heart is the unavoidable long term effect of pride. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it is crowded with hardened hearts. The Book of Proverbs contrasts the two saying, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
On the road to paradise you will find true humility. Humility is an unappreciated and unpopular virtue. Many perceive humility as a sign of weakness, not as a sign of strength. Yet, it is in our humility when we are nearest to God. It is then when He can form us; it is then when He can use us and it is then when we are most like His Son.
In the only words Jesus spoke of His heart, He said “I am meek and humble of heart.” We would do our souls well, if like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we would pray, speak and act in imitation of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Satan or God
On the road to perdition signs that lead to Hell are usually not labeled as clearly as this. Yet the consequence is the same.
When that which is dogma is denied and that which is heresy is embraced, we know Satan has entered the Sanctuary. When that which is truly sinful is said to be not a sin and that which is truly not a sin is said to be sinful, we know Satan is in our midst. When that which is reverent and pious is banned and replaced with that which is informal and ordinary, we know Satan is hard at work trying to prevail against the Church.When that which is traditional is viewed as outdated and is replaced with that which is the current fad, we know Satan is pleased with his efforts.
Despite all of this, we must not despair; the victory has already been won! Jesus’ death on the cross is the invincible act. Even Satan knows this to be true. His game plan is no longer to win, but to drag as many souls as possible into Hell with him.
We must resist the father of lies. We must continually seek our own conversion. We do this best through the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, and through prayer and sacrifice. This is essential. It is only after we seek our conversion that we can even begin to help others.
Despite the obvious signs, some will choose the easy path. Jesus said “for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many. How small the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Let us pray for the grace to be counted among these “few.”
The Church Suffering
The souls in purgatory too often are neglected, forgotten or ignored. They languish, unable to pray for themselves. They are reliant upon our intercession which comes far too infrequently.
For whatever reason, (and there are many) Hell is a topic we don’t hear much about during homilies at Mass. Sadly, Purgatory and its necessary role in our salvation, is teetering on the edge of that slippery slope. While Heaven is our goal and should be our primary focus, humanity is often motivated by both the carrot and the stick. To speak exclusively of God’s mercy, without mention of His justice, is to render Him impotent. (Similarly, to speak exclusively of His justice, without mention of His mercy is to render Him ruthless.) Both are inconsistent with who God really is. The locus of truth is found, not in the extremes, but right in the middle.
A couple of years ago in my travels, I had the opportunity to attend daily Mass in another Diocese. As it turned out it was a funeral Mass for a local parishioner. By all accounts Edna was a wonderful Christian woman; loving wife, mother and grandmother; a lifelong faithful and active member of her parish. She was also, according to the celebrant of the Mass, a Saint. That is, she now resides in Heaven, her eternal reward fully assured.
These words, spoken by the priest in his homily, likely brought tremendous comfort to Edna’s family and friends. There was a perceptible and collective sigh of relief with the pronouncement of these words. It was almost as if the sacramental principle of “ex opere operato” or “by the words themselves” were in effect here.
Edna’s priest did her and her family a huge disservice. He gave the family, not false hope, but worse, false assurance. He also likely extended Edna’s stay in Purgatory, (that is, assuming she was not judged immediately worthy of Heaven). How so? What sane person will pray for Edna’s soul “knowing” she is already in Heaven?
I pray that Edna entered into her eternal glory the moment she died. I just cannot know that she did for certain. And until she is declared a saint, no one else can either.
Praying for the souls in purgatory is not a “nice thing” for us to do. It is our duty, our obligation to do so. Yet, it is our duty to pray for our brothers and sisters who are part of the Church Suffering. If we only knew the power they possess to help us on our journey toward Heaven, we would be praying for them unceasingly.
Sins of the Mouth Part II
As covered in last week’s blog, when we gossip, detract, slander or calumniate we do damage to our self and others. With all sins of the mouth, the “bell cannot be unrung,” the damage is done. Far better to be silent than to do the devil’s work.
A few other sins of the mouth are important to mention. Meant to speak of love and praise God, the tongue, through vulgarity, curses and blasphemy can do just the opposite.
When we use vulgarity or tell off-color, racist or inappropriate jokes we put out a welcome mat for the evil one. When we issue curses instead of speaking blessings, we do the devil’s work. When we blaspheme we endanger our immortal soul.
Here is a brief look at these sins.
Vulgarity is a misuse of the gift of language. Crude, coarse and obscene language is fertile soil for Satan’s poisonous seeds. When combined with the taking of the Lord’s name in vain, it becomes doubly serious. It grates on the ears as it dims the light of the soul. Vulgarity’s greatest harm is not necessarily the words themselves; rather it is the doorway that is propped open by the use of vile language. Many other sins feel at home where vulgarity is spoken.
Filthy talk makes us feel comfortable with filthy action. But the one who knows how to control the tongue is prepared to resist the attacks of lust.
Saint Clement of Alexandria
Curses, the calling down of evil upon a person, are a grave evil and a misuse of the gift of speech. They are not harmless and they are not imaginary. Curses are real, they are malevolent and they are a mortal sin. Mortal sin blocks the path to God and opens the door to Satan. Curses should never be uttered by you, but don’t be surprised if they are uttered against you by those who are under Satan’s influence. If they are uttered against you, an ongoing, fervent prayer life and a grace-filled soul is your best protection.
The evil words of which we are speaking now are those whereby evil is uttered against someone by way of command or desire. Now to wish evil to another man, or to conduce to that evil by commanding it, is, of its very nature, contrary to charity whereby we love our neighbor by desiring his good. Consequently it is a mortal sin.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Blasphemy is expressing contempt, dishonor or irreverence toward God, either directly or indirectly. It may be a thought, word or action; though, its most frequent manifestation is spoken. Whether it is spoken as a false oath, a swear word attached to God’s name or the use of God’s name as an interjectory phrase, it is a sin against the second commandment. In some sense, blaspheming is the same as making a public proclamation against God, denouncing Him and His works.
If the sin of blasphemy is rampant in your home, it will surely perish.
Saint John Vianney
The need to gossip, detract, slander, calumniate use vulgarity, curse or blaspheme often stems from a wound inside of you. Envy is the usual culprit. You feel you can build yourself up by tearing others down. Satan is happy to continually remind you of your wound inside if you will continually respond to his prodding by attacking others, committing sin or giving in to despair.
The envious man invents all sorts of wickedness; he has recourse to evil speaking, to calumny, to cunning, in order to blacken his neighbor; he repeats what he knows, and what he does not know he invents, he exaggerates. Through the envy of the devil, death entered into the world; and also through envy we kill our neighbor; by dint of malice, of falsehood, we make him lose his reputation, his place. Let us, then, be good Christians and we shall no more envy the good fortune of our neighbor; we shall never speak evil of him; we shall enjoy a sweet peace; our soul will be calm; we shall find paradise on earth.
Saint John Vianney
Jesus is the Word. His every utterance gave glory and honor to God. When we speak in truth and love we give glory and honor to God. We should always speak in a manner that honors the second commandment.
Sins of the Mouth Part I
When we gossip, we imitate the homicidal act of Cain when he killed his brother Abel, which makes us “Christian murderers”. It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in history.
Language is a powerful force. God spoke and creation was brought into existence. Language has the capacity to incite or inspire. Language is the landscape of the mind. It speaks to who we are and what is important to us. It forms the basis for much of our social interaction. The mouth can be an instrument of war or peace. Sins of the mouth cut deep, deeper than any sword. These sins may not be able to pierce the skin, but they can pierce the heart and do damage to the soul.
Satan will take our ill-spoken words and give them a life of their own, with the ultimate goal of using them to separate us and others from eternal life with God. He’ll keep those words echoing in our personal woundedness to the point where we believe and propagate them. He’ll keep them reverberating in our pride to the point where we begin to defend sin, deny our responsibility and even justify our actions. Satan will twist our heart and mind to the point where we become his instrument against Christ and the Church.
There are many different sins of the mouth that provide an opening for Satan. Once spoken, words cannot be taken back. Be careful how you use your words.
Gossip is idle talk, especially about others. It can be the revealing of secrets, the spreading of rumors or simply worthless conversation. The relative truth of what is being gossiped about is irrelevant to culpability; not all of what is true is permitted to be shared. Gossip can also be a sin of sloth; the time and energy wasted gossiping could have been put to better use. Satan uses gossip to spread his lies, to open doors and to weaken your resolve.
Let listening to worldly news be bitter food for you, and let the words of saintly men be as combs filled with honey.
Saint Basil the Great
Detraction is the spreading of a truth that will cause harm to someone’s reputation, either through the spoken or written word. The mere fact that you know something about someone else does not give you the right to disclose it. More harmful than gossip, which may or may not have an evil intent, detraction’s intent is to cause harm. Detraction is more clearly a work of the evil one. It is often the second wave of gossip.
Would we wish that our own hidden sins should be divulged? We ought, then, to be silent regarding those of others.
Saint John Baptist de la Salle
Slander is verbally defaming someone’s character with the truth. It differs from detraction only in its method of delivery; it is spoken aloud. The intent is the same, to malign someone’s good name. While the written word is typically longer lasting, the spoken word is often more immediate and more painful. Satan will goad you into gossiping and then inflame your passions so that you combine the two in an act of slander.
The one who slanders and the one who listens to a slanderer have the devil in their company. One man has Satan on his tongue and the other in his ear.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Calumny is the malicious uttering of a falsehood causing injury to someone’s good name. The sin of calumny is compounded in that it involves a lie and an attack on someone’s reputation. With gossip and detraction, what is being spread may be true. With calumny, it is a lie from the start. Much as Satan was a liar from the beginning, engaging in calumny places you deep inside the enemy’s camp.
To deprive a man of his reputation and honor, one word is sufficient. By finding out the most sensitive part of his honor, you may tarnish his reputation by telling it to all who know him, and easily take away his character for honor and integrity. To do this, however, no time is required, for scarcely have you complacently cherished the wish to calumniate him, than the sin is effected.
Saint John Chrysostom
In the next blog, we will look at some other sins of the mouth that are damaging to ourselves and others. Until then, make it a gossip free week!
Goals, God and the Glory of Heaven
The principal cause of drift in individuals is the absence of a goal or a purpose in life. Servant of God Fulton Sheen
In this culture we encourage people to dream big, set goals and do whatever it takes to accomplish them. We tell our children they can “become anything they want to”, “the possibilities are endless”, “go big or go home”, “what you believe, you can achieve.”
Typically this goal setting attitude is applied to school, sports and work. Floating just beneath the surface of these oft heard platitudes is an “I, me, mine” selfish undercurrent. An individualistic, bottom line approach that focus on self and not others, that focuses on self and not God.
And while good grades, winning and success are not in and of themselves bad, what about the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize, the ultimate success? What about Heaven?
Are we as focused on achieving Heaven as we are in getting good grades, lowering our golf score, landing the right job, toning our body, winning fantasy football, landing a new customer, buying the latest gadget, etc.? Are we seeking first His kingdom or our own? Are we storing up our treasure here where they will rust and decay? Are we turning our goals into gods?
You need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But you see there is only one; it is He, the only truth!
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
So often we, often unknowingly, substitute the stuff of this world for the glory of Heaven. And in doing so, we shortchange ourselves now and, potentially, for eternity. Yes, as Proverbs tells us, we need a vision, for without it we will perish. But the wrong vision, the wrong goals, the goals and dreams that place God in second position are just as deadly as having no goals. We need to be setting the right goals, to have the right dreams and visions for ourselves and our children.
Include God in your goal setting and decision making. Ask Him where He wants you to go to school, what job He wants you to do, what type of vocation He wants you to follow. Speak of the ultimate goal of Heaven and spending eternity with God, because ultimately, Heaven is the only goal that matters! Set your sights upon God and He will not disappoint.
Trust is a Must
8/27/13 Feast Day of Saint Monica
For a Christian, trust is a must. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul tells us “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”
While we are here, in our fleshy bodies, bombarded and besieged by the world, the flesh and the devil, we cannot possibly see as clearly and as fully as we will when we are united with God in Heaven. Until then our only option is to trust. Trust in Him who created us and is doing everything possible to lead us home safely.
So whatever your struggle may be today - a sickness, a prodigal child, a death of a loved one, a job loss, an addiction, fears, temptation, sin, scandal, depression – trust that our good and gracious God has a remedy for you. Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, pray for us!
Sanctification, Suffering & Love?
When most people think of sanctification, they don’t usually think of suffering. Prayer, fasting, alms giving, and the sacraments, maybe; but not suffering. But suffering, as it is allowed by God, is a powerful opportunity to grow in sanctification. Ultimately, every action permitted by God is ordained for our sanctification, even suffering.
Suffering cuts across all boundaries; rich or poor, old or young, male or female, Christian or non-Christian. It is an experience that we all know of, we’ve all suffered. But it is only Christianity, and really only Catholicism, that can give meaning and purpose - and even a motive- to suffering.
• In Hinduism, suffering is seen as the result of karmic debt owed from a prior incarnation.
• To Buddhists, life is suffering because we desire. If we were to achieve non-desire, we would no longer suffer.
• In Islam, suffering is seen as the result of Allah's positive will for his slaves.
• In Rabbinical Judaism, suffering finds its reason in the order of justice, a result of Jewish disobedience.
• For some brands of Evangelical Christianity, suffering is the result of personal sin, a "health and wealth" gospel.
• Other Christians are unable to grasp the nature of suffering because of their abandonment of the doctrine of Original Sin and the reality of its effects.
• We, as Catholics, believe suffering is never positively willed by God, but is allowed for our benefit in some way. We may not understand God's reasons for allowing our particular suffering, but we can still, by His grace, sanctify it.
In the Catholic view, suffering is to be sanctified. Not because it is by its nature a good or even necessarily part of God’s perfect will, but because it is, at minimum, part of God’s permissive will. Paul tells us in Romans, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”
So suffering that is sanctified is suffering that works for good. Every action that is permitted by God contains within it the seeds of our sanctification. Intense suffering is a powerful opportunity to grow in holiness because of the difficulty of practicing virtue while suffering.
This sanctification of suffering is called sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate act of sanctifying suffering is Jesus’ death on the Christ, His laying down of His life for us. His love for us was made manifest by His suffering, but not just His suffering, the sanctification of His suffering. He climbed upon the cross out of obedience to His Father. He stayed there out of love for us. He sanctified His suffering through embracing and loving His cross. Love blooms were suffering is sanctified. How could it not?
The link between suffering and sanctity is love of God. Again, Saint Paul’s verse in Romans tells us “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” For those who love God. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength; seek to do His will no matter the cost and you will be guaranteed to suffer well.
St. Teresa of Avila repeatedly said, “Let me suffer or let me die.” She saw no use to live without suffering because she knew to suffer was to love and to love was to live in God. Saint Madeleine Sophia Barat said, “We must suffer to go to God. We forget this truth far too often.”
An important distinction needs to be made here. I’ll let Saint Vincent de Paul make it for me. He said, “We can only go to Heaven through suffering, but it is not all that suffer who find salvation. It is only those who suffer readily for the love of Jesus Christ, who first suffered for us.” It is the love of God which animates the suffering, sanctifies it and makes it acceptable to God.
In Part II, we will discuss further sanctification through suffering and the connection to love.
Does it matter what religion you are?
The CCC refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).
But what does this mean? Many people misunderstand the nature of this teaching. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus means: "outside the church there is no salvation". But what does this mean?
Certain people claim that unless one is a full-fledged, baptized member of the Catholic Church, one will be damned. Others claim that it makes no difference what church one belongs to.
The truth is right in the center. Not the mushy middle of indifference, but right smack in the center of truth and love.
From Lumen Gentium: "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.
So does that mean I could nominally be Catholic, but not live the faith and still be okay?
Again from Lumen Gentium: “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."”
Saint Augustine says it this way: How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!
So does that mean that family, friends (or for that matter 5 billion people on the planet) are condemned?
Lumen Gentium: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation"
How could a merciful God condemn those who are truly ignorant? He can’t and thus we have what has come to be known as baptism of desire.
So does that mean that children, family friends who have left the church are okay or are they condemned?
Lumen Gentium: They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.
While we leave the final judging to God, those who reject Him and remain unrepentant are subject to eternal punishment. So often, those who leave don’t know who and what they are leaving.
The best thing we can do for them, and for ourselves is to pray and live the Gospel. We need to be willing to be missionaries and martyrs for both truth and love and let the love of Christ urges us on. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
The dismissal at Mass says it all. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord or Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Do that with zeal for souls and we will see our family, friends and even strangers flocking to the Church instead of away from it. Catholics living the Gospel is all it takes to make our religion matter!
Are You Waiting for Santa Claus?
Nothing better than as a little child, to wake up on Christmas morning and see the very things you wished for waiting for you with a bow on it. No strings attached, no effort on your part, you just wake up and there it is: happiness in a box.
As an adult, that mentality can slip into our prayers and into our life as a whole. Come down here big, fat jolly guy and make me happy. Fix my marriage, fix my money problems, find me a job, make my kids behave, get me in shape, and, oh yeah, do it by tomorrow when I wake up.
How do we get past these troubling times? How do we “get fixed?” The first step is to realize that Jesus, not Santa Claus, is the answer.
The decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ Himself.
Blessed John Paul II
So, is this Jesus a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of guy? Does God only “help those who help themselves?”Do we have to do something? Or can we just wait around until Christmas morning? The answer is revealed in Matthew 6:25-34.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
We, of course, must do something as it says in verse 33. We are to “seek first” His Kingdom and righteousness. Practically speaking, when we are in the midst of trials, what does that mean, what are we to do?
It starts and ends with prayer. Prayer, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, is our relationship with God. If our relationship with God is prioritized correctly, we will prepared for, open to and receptive of His movement and grace in our life. If our relationship with God is prioritized correctly, we will trust, fully and fervently, in Him.
So whatever trials befall you this day, ask our Lord to lead you to His grace in and through these moments. Ask Him to direct your every thought, word and action. Ask Him for the courage to follow His lead. He will hear you and provide for you. He will gift you with the grace necessary. He will draw you in to Himself, bring you closer to Heaven. He will make you holy. That is greater than any gift Santa Claus can bring.
God wants only that we be made holy. Whatever He gives or permits in this life he gives for this purpose: trial as well as consolation, hurt and mockery and abuse, the world’s harassments and the devil’s temptations, hunger and thirst; illness and poverty as well as pleasure and prosperity. God permits all of these for our good.
Saint Catherine of Siena
July 15, 2013
This week’s blurb was written by my daughter, Rebecca, about 3 and a half years ago when she was 18 and our family was facing a huge trial. May it bring any of you who might be struggling a measure of God’s peace.
Two different people.
Connected through the bond of marriage.
They lived a happy and wealthy life and were in need of nothing.
Then suddenly… they had everything stripped away.
NOTHING was their own any longer.
Their family, their property, their animals- gone. Their life crumbled before them.
They had a choice. They got to decide how they were going to react to the stripping away of their lives and the detachment from the things of the world.
They chose two completely different routes.
The husband? He responded with the powerful words of, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
The wife? She responded with just as much of a powerful response. Her painful words rang, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)
Job and his wife.
God was in control. He had complete control and power. God could have prevented Job from losing everything. But He didn’t. Lord knows the reason.
Doesn’t this sound similar to everyday modern life?
The Lord tests His people. He desires for His children to know we are not of this earthly world. He gives and He takes away. He may strip everything away like He did to Job. Life may feel insecure. Life may be pain. Often times life IS pain. Life is uncomfortable. Life is having no idea what is going to happen next. There are times during life when we wonder if everything will truly be ok. We may lose friends, we may lose a job, we may lose money, we may lose a house. We may need to learn the lesson that nothing is truly ours.
We may have a story stupidly similar to Job’s story.
And if this is your story; you now have a choice. You are blessed enough to have the free will to decide how you will react to life’s struggles and trials and the stripping of the things of the world. The choice is black and white. Yet still, it is a hard decision to make.
You can respond to life’s struggles with Job’s words, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Or you can repeat Job’s wife’s words, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)
The choice is yours. You are blessed enough to decide.
After going through a stripping of everything I had known to be stable; I was given this choice. I had to decide how I was going to react to the stability that I once knew being shattered. I had to choose what I was going do to after I was ripped up and away from what I knew and was thrown into something new. I had to choose what my words would be after I felt let down time after time by the God who is LOVE. In my humanness, I have no idea which words I would have chosen. I pray that only words that glorify the Lord would have come out of my mouth, but I don’t know that for a fact.
However, what I do know to be true is that through the power of God I was given the ability to praise God, in the good times and even more so in the bad times. Though this year has not been what I would have guessed it would be nor what I would have chosen it to be- praise God. And praise God that He has given me the ability to praise Him through this year. And praise God He has given me the awesome ability to look at this past year and to look at the uncertainty of this current time and say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21)
Job was very faithful to Lord and to the Lord’s plan. Job boldly accepted the pain and hardships in his life. At the end of the book of Job, Job says to the Lord, “I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.” (Job 42:3-4)
Some words, huh? The man has NOTHING and he spoke not with hate or anger towards the Lord. He called his sufferings AWESOME! Are you even kidding me? The man is so beyond completely faithful. The Lord acknowledges Job’s faithfulness and rewarded Job. God rewarded Job by returning to Job everything he had owned before- in twofold!
Job. Was. Blessed.
He was blessed BECAUSE he was faithful.
Job’s story is pretty amazing. I wish I could be as faithful as this man!
May the Lord bless each and every one of us with a story like Job’s!
May we all walk through life’s trials and struggles with the grace of the Lord.
May we all have the courage to confidently say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
May the Lord bless us all in the divine manner in which He desires.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!
Then his wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your innocence? Curse God and die.”
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Intolerance Is Not a Dirty Word
There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, never to persons.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Our culture promotes tolerance seemingly above all else. We are told we must be more “inclusive,” to have an open mind and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! The end result of this culture’s misunderstanding of tolerance is that we must separate love and truth, as if one could stand without the other. True charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, to counsel the doubtful do not exist in a world of tolerance because to acknowledge the reality of sin or ignorance or doubt implies that truth exists, that there is a right and a wrong. This world would rather have us offend the Creator than offend a creature. Yet, in not “offending” a creature (with truth and in love) we do them harm as Saint Basil reminds us:
“Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter-----those who thus fail to correct sinners-----actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life.”
We are seeing this debate of truth versus tolerance play out in our courts, our schools, our churches, our families. Same-sex “marriages”, abortion “rights”, health care mandates, etc. Promoters of tolerance promise a utopian, all-inclusive society. But as Christians we are called to more than just an all-inclusive co-existence. We are called to love. And love cannot tolerate a lie. It can tolerate a liar, but not a lie. (If you have one of those “Coexist” bumper stickers on your car, rip it off!)
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross tells us, “Do not accept anything as love which lack truth. Do not accept anything as truth which lacks love. One without the other is a destructive lie”
Make no mistake the tolerance the culture is thrusting on us is destructive and it is a lie. This false tolerance leads to subjective truth and a relativistic culture that ignores truth. This is relativism, which contends that nothing can be in error because nothing is true. And there is where we are headed, to some degree where we already are. What is the end game for those who promote tolerance above all else? It is the destruction of religion. From Alice von Hildebrand, “Under the banner of tolerance, intolerance will achieve a diabolical victory, if no one religion is allowed to claim that it possesses the fullness of revealed truth. Once the notion of truth is eliminated, religion loses its legitimate meaning.”
Read carefully, if you will, the following quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen and then say a prayer for our country and its leaders – that we might all be more intolerant.
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance—it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. . . . Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error. . . . Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.
Taken from his 1931 essay “A Plea for Intolerance”
July 1, 2013
A Trio of Truths Part II
Satan, the enemy of God, and your enemy desires for you to act in a certain way. He wants you to remain silent, to be filled with fear and to curse those who would do you harm. By doing this, you make his job that much easier. Instead why not follow God’s plan by bringing the truth to light, asking for His guidance and blessing those whom you encounter. Your choice…
Reveal, don’t conceal
Whoever hides his crimes will not be guided. But whoever will have confessed and abandoned them shall overtake mercy.
For there is nothing secret, which will not be made clear, nor is there anything hidden, which will not be known and be brought into plain sight.
Concealment is not of God. Satan knows Scripture well and knows it is the truth that will set you free. He also knows that your pride can be used as leverage against you. As long as actual sin remains concealed, you offer Satan an access point. Go to confession; give it over to God and Satan is powerless. More powerful than an exorcism is the Sacrament of Penance. An exorcism frees the body from the grip of the evil one; a sacramental confession frees the soul.
Do not let pride, shame or guilt prevent you from being cleansed under a shower of God’s infinite mercy. Do not let Satan’s whispers of your unworthiness prevent you from appealing to the infinite merits of Jesus Christ’s salvific act on the cross. He shed His blood so that you might be saved, knowing of your unworthiness. If your sin didn’t prevent God from extending the invitation, it should never prevent you from accepting it.
Note well what the first condition the evil one makes with a soul he desires to seduce is for it to keep silence.
Saint Francis de Sales
When the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Do not fight against a temptation by yourself, but disclose it to the confessor at once, and then the temptation will lose all its force.
Our Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska
Petition, don’t panic
Be anxious about nothing, but in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Seek, ask, knock and be at peace. Your Father in Heaven knows your every need. Be not afraid to ask Him, He will provide. All that occurs is either part of God’s perfect will or of His permissive will. Like the perfect Father that He is, He will provide for you in accordance with your needs to the degree that you allow Him to do so. Petition Him often, yielding to His will in the process. Plead your case before the Lord, then rest in His peace. His delays and His denials are an expression of His mercy and love.
Panic points to a lack of faith, a lack of trust, a lack of surrender to God. Panic is an expression of self-will. Panic produces opportunities for Satan to lace your mind with murmurs of “I told you so,” “He doesn’t care about you,” or “You’re not worthy of Him.” He’ll do anything he can to disturb your peace, to get you to give up on God. Recall Paul’s words, have no anxiety, pray, petition, give thanks and be at peace.
Whence all the disturbance of mind, if not from following one’s own desires?
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Fear is the first temptation which the enemy presents to those who have resolved to serve God.
Saint Francis de Sales
The struggle with the enemy must not frighten you. The more God becomes intimate with your soul, the more the adversary fights in an interior manner. Have courage, therefore.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Bless, don’t curse
But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
And finally, may you all be of one mind: compassionate, loving brotherhood, merciful, meek, humble, not repaying evil with evil, nor slander with slander, but, to the contrary, repaying with blessings. For to this you have been called, so that you may possess the inheritance of a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
Bless those who are persecuting you: bless, and do not curse.
A curse is Satan’s version of a blessing. Satan would have you seek payback instead of prayer, revenge instead of reconciliation. By cursing your enemy you only serve to spread the disease of self that infected Satan and all the fallen angels. Your negative feelings toward someone can serve to keep that person (and yourself) bound. By blessing instead of cursing you confound your enemies, loose their binds and may even convert them. Regardless, you are called to respond at a higher level.
You have been given the grace necessary to bless those who curse you and to praise God in all things. If every time Satan attacked you, you took the time to praise God, It would not be long before Satan stopped attacking you. Bless those who curse you. Don’t let their stinging barbs turns into festering wounds. Ward off their attacks with charity and humility. See and respond to the Jesus in them. Perhaps nobody else ever has. You might be the one person God can count on to reach out to this soul. Serve God with a zealous love and your reward will be eternal.
A Trio of Truths
June 16, 2013
The basics, the building blocks, the foundation, call them what you would like, they are always worth remembering, As you continue on your journey this week, consider returning to the basics if you found that you have strayed from them. Don’t let the evil one keep you from the One who loves you.
Adore, don’t ignore
God is God. Because He is God, He deserves to be adored. He is Lord of all, creator of all, sustainer of all. He alone is worthy of worship, He alone is worthy of praise. To ignore God is to please Satan. Even in the midst of great trials of temptation or harassment, your primary focus should be on God and His grace and mercy.
Adoration of Jesus is more than keeping your eyes on Him, though. It is seeing the Lord through the eyes of faith and worshipping Him in His Eucharistic Presence as if He stood before you in the flesh.
Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart. Don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.
Saint Therese of Lisieux
Pray, don’t delay
Prayer is the means by which you keep in touch with God and He with you. Satan will seek to do whatever he can to interfere with this connection because he knows prayer is such a powerful weapon. He will annoy, harass and distract you to the point of frustration if you allow him. Do not panic, do not be anxious, do not grow weary; simply pray now, pray unceasingly. Do not give into the fear or frustration; rather, with the help of God’s grace, continue in prayer. If you can’t pray, stay in prayer until you can pray. Praise Him, thank Him, and then petition Him.
In the midst of triumph or tragedy, the extraordinary or the ordinary, pray.
Through fear, some souls grow slack in their prayer — which is what the devil wants — in order to struggle against these movements, and others give it up entirely, for they think these feelings come while they are engaged in prayer rather than at other times. This is true because the devil excites these feelings while souls are at prayer, instead of when they are engaged in other works, so that they might abandon prayer.
Saint John of the Cross
Praise, don’t grumble
To give God praise is to be humble. To give God praise is to acknowledge that God is God and you are not. The power of praise is profound. Grumbling is the anti-praise, it is the language of the prideful. When you praise God, you deflect all earthly glory and honor to God who is all good. Keep no glory for yourself. “Thank God,” and “Praise God,” should always be on your lips. When you engage in praise you tend toward humility allowing you to better accept God’s will.
It is not enough to just accept God’s will; He calls you to do so gracefully. Satan will attempt to goad you into grumbling. He’ll push your buttons if you let him. He’ll be glad to point out how things are unfair or inferior; he’ll be happy to prod you into fault finding. His target is your wound, whatever it is. Leave your grumbling behind and Satan will have once less point of entry and less leverage to get you to commit sin.
The great enemy of the virtue of obedience is grumbling. Grumbling is the compensation self-love resorts to in its powerlessness in the face of authority.
Blessed Columba Marmion
The End Is Near
June 10, 2013
I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, nor am I an apocalyptic proponent, but if I did lean toward either of those, now would be a great time to be one. Visiting Catholic websites it is relatively easy to come across ones that speak of “prophecies” about the “end of an era”, “the last pope”, “the coming of the anti-christ”, “three days of darkness” etc.
As I travel and speak on spiritual warfare, many times questions about the above are asked, usually coming from a place of fear or uncertainty. When it comes to these types of questions, here are three guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Yes, the end is coming. No we don’t know when.
2. Fear is not of God. Fear is the enemy’s weapon
3. Charity, and a state of grace, cast aside fear.
Of course the world is going to end and all biblical prophecies will come true (even regarding the anti-christ). There will eventually be a last pope and an era of peace will be ushered in at some time. It could be as you are reading this sentence; it could be a billion years from now. Like Jesus, we do not know the day or the hour. But we do know we should…
“Be not afraid” were the first words of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate. Let those words run through your mind and roll off your lips every time you feel fear, especially as it relates to the above. Do not let anybody steal your peace. Trust in God and follow His great commandment, which is to….
Love God, love your neighbor. Do that and remain in (or return to) a state of grace and you will be prepared to handle whatever may come. God has mapped out a plan for us to live with Him forever. Daily prayer and a sacramental life will help us get there. Have faith, not fear and “all shall be well”…
As long as we “conspire” with God and not with His enemies. (Conspire literally means “with one breath”.) Let us not fear the future, let us, like the words of Saint Peter remind us, to act in a manner that hastens the coming of the Lord.
Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
2 Peter 3:11-14
So yes, the end is near. So, too, is the beginning. Eternal life with God draws nearer with every breath. With whom will you conspire?
Finite vs. Infinite
June 3, 2013
Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to die in order for us to be reconciled to God? The feast of Corpus Christi is a great time to ponder that question. Here is one way to look at it.
Finite man sinned against an infinite God. Finite man could not restore right relationship with an infinite God by his own doing. Simply put, no amount of finite could ever add up to infinite.
The Old Testament sacrifices, while efficacious to a degree, fell short in its ability to restore right relationship with God. The OT sacrifices were offered by a finite priest, with a finite victim resulting in a finite sacrifice. What was needed for finite man to restore right relationship with an infinite God, was an infinite priest, who could offer an infinite victim resulting in an infinite sacrifice.
But how is that possible. How could a finite man be an infinite priest and where would finite man find an infinite victim to offer as an infinite sacrifice?
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Suddenly, with the incarnation we have an infinite man who would, in time, become an infinite priest, an infinite victim and an infinite sacrifice, but who was also a “finite” man. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, was able to restore right relationship with God. Fully human, He was (is) one of us. Fully divine, He was (is) one with God.
He is an infinite priest, who is eternally offering up Himself as an infinite victim, in an infinite sacrifice all the while being fully human.
That is why each Mass is not a symbolic representation or a memorial meal, but is actually that same “once for all” sacrifice that took place 2000 years ago on Calvary. That infinite moment that took place in the eternal now is made present again in the time bound now at each and every celebration of the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and each and every Mass. For that we should be eternally grateful.
May 29, 2013
This past weekend I attended a wedding of a dear friend. During the General Intercessions, the lector misspoke and included the newly married couple in the list of those who had recently died and for whom we were to intercede.
Though unintentional, it did bring a simple truth to light; that amidst the flowers, caterers, DJs, bridesmaids, wedding planners, etc. there is an often a misunderstood reality to marriage. It is as much about death as it is life. In fact, if marriage isn’t first about death, then it likely won’t have a long lasting life. Allow me to explain.
Using ratios to help understand what makes a marriage work, I will often ask an audience what is the right ratio for a successful marriage. What are the numbers between a husband and wife that will afford them the best opportunity for a long, loving, healthy marriage? Most people answer with 50:50. Most people would be wrong.
To enter a marriage with a 50:50 mentality is to enter into it with a limit as to how much you will give and an expectation of how much you need to receive in order to be happy. Give too much and you will be cranky. Receive too little in return and you’ll be upset with your spouse. You’re happiness becomes a matter of percentage points. (Under the 50:50 model, do the dishes for the 51st time when your spouse has only done it 48 times and you’re ticked.)
The next answer people usually give is 100:100. While half of the equation is right (you giving 100%) the other half is wrong. Again, you have set an expectation on the other person. If (and, really, when) they fall short of that 100% threshold, you’re not happy.
The correct answer is 100:0. You give 100% of the effort, 100% of the time and expect nothing in return. (Hopefully you marry someone who believes the same; otherwise it could be a tough road ahead.)
If you are thinking that is nuts, it’s not; it is simply love. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the truth of love is made known through the truth of suffering.” Scripture tells us that, “No greater loves is there than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Mother Teresa remind us that, “I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Think of your own life, perhaps when your child was born. The ratio there was 100:0 and it was done with joy and love. You did 100% of the work and expected nothing in return. In Catholic theology you died to self. That’s what marriage is. In order for the two to become one, each of the two must die.
To the degree that you and your spouse each die to self, your marriage will be filled with life and love. And if your spouse isn’t willing and it hurts, then follow Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice and keep loving. No time is better than now for you to do your 100%.
Regret the Past? Why Not Redeem It Instead.
May 20, 2013
Not one of us immune from having sinned. Often our sins remain hidden to the world, not compromising our status or reputation. Sometimes we get caught. Either way, whether our sins become public or remain private, they can become a source of regret.
It seems that as we get older, and perhaps more accurately, as we get closer to death, we start to reflect on our life. (And if you think about it, no matter how old you are, with every tick of the clock, you are that much closer to death, whenever it may come.) Perhaps by God’s grace we even begin to sin less and love Him more. Often in these increasingly frequent moments of reflection, we look back on what might have been, or what we could have done instead. We might even wish we had avoided this situation or a specific sin or even an ongoing series of sins.
Even after having availed ourselves of the sacrament of confession, so often a lingering whisper can be heard. It is the evil one trying to deceive us into believing that somehow we aren’t forgiven or that even if we have been forgiven we have forever wasted our time or our talents. If he can’t succeed in tempting us to sin in the future, he at least wants to gets us to feel bad about the past.
You see, Satan knows that God exists outside the boundaries of time. He knows that all time is in God, not the other way around. What that means for us is that it is never too late to redeem our past. It is never too late to turn our past (and perhaps current) life of sloth, of pride, of lust, of greed, of deceit into a redeemed past. God takes the ugly that we give Him and turns it into beauty; our sin becomes salvation, our shame, His glory. But we must turn it over to Him so He can redeem it.
Saint Catherine of Siena says, “Let’s keep in mind how short our time is. Let’s redeem with holy sorrow and grief the time we have spent carelessly or lost, and in this way we shall regain the past.”
So the pop-psych cliché that it is never too let to have a happy childhood has some truth to it. By giving our life (past, present and future) to God, He is able to redeem it. In doing so we are able to regain and reclaim our past life of sin and become a new man in Christ Jesus.
How often have you heard this from your children or grandchildren? Or worse, how often have you uttered it yourself, either audibly or inaudibly? And how much more frequently these words are uttered today, in our supposedly more modern, advanced world filled with gadgets and gizmos. We have more stuff, less time and greater bouts of boredom. We have millions of bits of stimuli bombarding us daily, yet we are too often overcome, or give in to, boredom. We have God’s natural beauty surrounding us, His love residing within us at every moment, yet we yawn.
Boredom is unnatural; it is disordered. Whether it falls under the heading of apathy, sloth, indifference, idleness, dreariness or lethargy, the end result is a dulling of the senses and a loss of interest in the seeking of truth. This dulling of the senses often leads to sin by way of boredom. It is like a drug; it sets an ever increasing stimulus threshold in order to be satiated. It requires more and greater stimuli to zap us out of our self induced comas. Left unguarded, it eats away at our prayer life, and zaps us of source of strength.
Boredom, an act of the will, comes from the inside. It is caused by a lack of action on the inside, not the outside. Yet we seek solutions for boredom on the outside. This is insane! We try to fix the inside by looking for solutions on the outside. The problem is within. We look to the world for a finite fix instead of looking to God for an infinite solution. In doing so, we move further away from God and deeper into Satan’s web of lies. Saint John Vianney reminds us of the solution to our every boredom. He tells us that, “Everyone is ready to run after the latest novelty. But as for Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, He is deserted and forsaken.”
The maxim, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” is true because when we are idle the will is not directed or focused. If we don’t direct our will, someone else will do it for us. As boredom is not a natural state, our body seeks to rid itself of it, almost at any cost. Through the abuse of drugs, alcohol, sex, sports, shopping, work, etc., endless amounts of time and money are spent trying to fill the God-shaped hole inside of us with anything and everything but God. Stop seeking temporal solutions to an eternal equation. Do not let boredom be a contributor toward evil; let it be a catalyst toward good. Allow the restlessness you feel to motivate you toward seeking God’s will.
If we would only take the time to be with Jesus, through prayer, adoration, sacraments, we could not possibly be bored. As Saint Augustine tells us, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Be not bored, rest in Him.
May 6, 2013
“If only” is one of Satan’s favorite mines that he lays. If he can get you to trigger a couple of his If only mines, pretty soon the terrain of your mind is severely damaged. If only I were rich, if only I were pretty, if only I were thin, if only I were tall, if only I were…
From there, it moves onto others. If only my husband was, if only my wife was, if only my parents were, if only my kids were, if only my friends were, if only, if only, if only. Ultimately, it leads to if only God was….
If only is a subtle, but unmistakable first step away from God. Satan, with a little help from us, now has us questioning God. We go from doubt to discouragement to despair in no time at all. And it all started with a simple phrase, if only.
With these two little words, Satan sows negative seeds which can blossom into flowers of destruction. What started out perhaps as a moment of self reflection or maybe a simple daydream has turned into a nightmare.
So, the next time you are feeling sorry for yourself, rather than head down the path of "if only," and "what might be," why not move closer to "what is" and "what will be" praising God and claiming your birthright, as Child of God! Rather than desiring what is not present, why not be present to your truest and most complete desire, God.
As Child of God, there is no need for “If only,” there is only love. If we begin to desire only what the Father desires, we will soon be in perfect union with Him. Let Saint Peter of Castroverde’s prayer be your own, “Lord, may I think what you want me to think. May I desire what you want me to desire.”
The Wound of Loveable
April 29, 2013
One false construct of love (there are many) is the notion of being loveable. Too many of us are more concerned about being loveable then we are about loving.
Loveable is concerned about being loved in return. It wants to know that it is appreciated, acknowledged and reciprocated. True love loves without regard for being loved in return. Jesus Christ crucified did not seek to know from His Father how many of us would accept His act of love. He simply loved.
Lovable cares about being understood. Love simply speaks the truth. Lovable pleases and placates. Love elevates those who give it and receive it. Lovable will not die for others; it can't for it is selfish. Love, by its very nature lives to die for others; it is selfless. Lovable cannot inspire others, only intoxicate them. Love inspires and nourishes souls.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke these words, “Only when someone values love more than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death.”
Lovable tries to control the landscape and orchestrate everything. Love simply loves. Lovable is disposable. Love is eternal. Lovable can never fully connect, will never be vulnerable, will never trust because lovable is a lie. Love is truth.
Lovable is lukewarm. Lovable is inauthentic. Lovable flees if it's not appreciated. Lovable runs away when the inevitable cross comes. Love is zealous for the things of God, love is authentic, love remains on the cross and dies. Lovable is the crowds of Palm Sunday. Love is Mary and John at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. The end of loveable is death. The end of love is new life.
“Love attracts love” says Saint Catherine of Siena. Sadly, the opposite is also true, loveable attracts loveable. The choice is ours. Do we want to be the crowd of Palm Sunday or the few of Good Friday? Do we want to be Judas or Jesus? Do we want to be love or be lovable?
“Waiting on the World to Change?”
In light of recent events, ( take your pick among a seemingly endless number of tragedies),we probably all have uttered something like, “What is going on here?”” or “What is this world coming to?”possibly followed by, “When are things going to get better?” The truth is things are not going to get better, that is, not until we get better.
If you are waiting on the world to change, as the title of a recent song suggests, you will have a long, long wait. We don’t realize, like Saint Augustine did, that we are our world. He said, "The times are bad! The times are troublesome!" This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.
It is time to stop blaming “them” and start taking responsibility. We, you and I, are our culture. We are our times. We are responsible. It is up to us to change. It is not up to “them.””They” aren’t going to change until we do. Why should they? And, really, it’s not even we, it is me.
I need to stop my sinning. I need to avoid the near occasion of sin. I need to purify my heart, mind and body. I need to recommit to a daily prayer life. I need to return to the sacraments. I need to rededicate myself to my faith. And I need to beg God for the grace to do be able to do so. Beg Him for His mercy and forgiveness. I need to start living for Him and not for myself.
Saint John Vianney reminds us that “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God. If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to heaven.”
The corollary to that is if we continue to do for the world and not for God, what a great number of Christians will end up in Hell. It need not come to that. The truth is if we, as Catholics, ever lived our faith as we are called to live our faith, the world would change and it would change radically. The fire of His love would burn in us and through us. As Saint Catherine of Siena said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze"
In fact, the world is waiting for us to get up off of our collective rear ends and lead so they can follow. The light of Christ’s fire burning in us will light the way for the world to emerge from the darkness. We were made for greatness, for God’s glory. One by one we would become a force to be reckoned with. An army of truth and love can overcome any enemy. Lukewarmness would be replaced with zeal for souls, anger with charity, envy with generosity, pride with humility, evil with good.
If as you read through this, you found yourself agreeing with the sentiment, then I have one final question for you, “What are you waiting for?”
It’s Not Fair
April 15th, 2013
Fair is a word of our times. “It’s not fair” is a phrase that this culture embraces as if it is the highest good or a right. Yet fair rarely includes God’s perspective of the moment. If fair were the highest value, the greatest good, Jesus would never have died for our sins. Fair is not love, for sometimes love is unfair. Do you want your spouse to treat you fairly or to love you?
Fair is, in many ways, lukewarm. Fair will never die for another, will never extend itself for another, will never challenge another to greater heights. Fair is a judgment you make that is predicated upon your chosen perspective. Fair denies, or, at the very least, ignores, God’s perspective. Fair is in many ways opposed to faith.
It’s not fair is the wound that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden. Satan’s promptings were given a place to resonate in the hearts of Adam and Eve when they doubted God’s providence and said to themselves. “Well, that doesn’t seem fair.”
Fair is fear of God’s will. “It’s not fair” is the battle cry of those who are not willing to acknowledge with their whole heart, mind, body and soul that God is God and He is their God. Ultimately, your response to life falls into one of two categories, Job’s wife or Job’s. The choice is “curse God and die” or “The Lord give and the Lord take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“It’s not fair” means your heart is not ready. It is time for it to be ready. Prepare your heart by trusting in God grace and mercy. His will, though perhaps not earthly fair, is heavenly perfect.
King of Mercy
April 11th, 2013
To complete this trio of related blogs, we have Divine Mercy Sunday as the backdrop. In speaking of "God is love," there is so much depth to plumb, so many ways to try and explore the richness of those words as they relate to our daily journey. The notion of mercy is inexplicable tied to the truth That God is love.
Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy, 1981), tells us that mercy is love’s second name. This God who is love, can also be known by the name of Mercy. Dives in Misericordia also tells us that mercy is God’s greatest attribute. And while we toil away on earth we have full access to His treasure trove of mercy. The time for His mercy is right now! (It is true that at the moment of death mercy ends and justice begins – so please, don’t delay.)
Don’t just sip in His mercy. Drink fully of it. God desires us to be totally free, to be fully alive in Him. He wants us to accept His love, His grace, His peace, His mercy. When you find yourself frightened, turn to Him who is love. When you find yourself in need, turn to Him who is grace. When you find yourself in turmoil, turn to Him who is peace. When you find yourself mired in sin, turn to Him who is mercy. When you find yourself frightened or anxious or uncertain or desperate or lonely or sad or wounded or naked or tired or cold or abandoned turn to Him who is your Creator, your “Abba,” your Daddy, your Father.
Return to the sacraments. Stop wallowing and head to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After that, return to Holy Communion. Stay close to the Lord through prayer, fasting and alms giving. Then trust in His mercy!
Saint Gemma Galgani once said, “If I saw the gates of Hell open and I stood on the brink of the abyss, I should not despair; I should not lose hope of mercy, because I should trust in You, my God.” What beautiful words of encouragement. We need to be like Saint Gemma and to trust in God’s mercy, no matter what befalls us. Similarly, Saint Faustina Kowalska tells us, “Oh, how beyond comprehension is God's mercy! But, horror, there are also souls who voluntarily and consciously reject and scorn this grace!”
Do not be the person of whom Saint Faustina speaks. Humble yourself and accept His love, His grace, His peace, His mercy. You will be eternally grateful you did.
Jesus, King of Mercy, I trust in you.
What God Permits, He Can Redeem
Easter Monday 4.1.13
He has Risen! He has risen, indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia.
The simple truth mentioned in last week’s blog is that God is love. This week presents a corollary truth, that is, what God permits He can redeem. In the words of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, “Souls that really love God know that everything that happens in this world is either ordered or permitted by God.”
Nothing happens to us that is outside of God’s will. While certainly things do occur outside of God’s perfect will, nothing could occur outside of God’s permissive will. (If something could occur that was outside of God’s will, than He wouldn’t be God.) And whatever He permits can be redeemed.
Because of the true nature of love, God never forces us to love Him. In order to be able to freely give our love to God, we must have the ability to withhold from God this love. This is called free will. In the exercise of free will, we can choose to not love God. In short, we are free to sin. Our sins a are permitted by God, but certainly they are not willed by God. God never positively wills sin, but He does permit it, and can even redeem it for His glory and for the salvation of souls.
The greatest example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. It was, at once, the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In the Easter Proclamation, we hear, “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” What He permitted (Adam’s sin), He redeemed (via the New Adam, Jesus.) Without Jesus’ death and resurrection humanity’s relationship with God would have remained fractured and the gates of Heaven would have remained closed.
God, who is love, loves us where we are at, in the midst of whatever we may be doing. In loving us, truly loving us, He offers us the opportunity to have even our sins repurposed. God used Satan’s plan to destroy humanity to instead save humanity. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the “devil, in spite of himself, becomes, as it were, an instrument and coefficient of holiness.” Likewise, in our lives, God can redeem our sins and suffering, our trials and temptations. He can write straight with our crooked lines. Our moments of weakness, of anger, of fear, of pride, of envy, of hatred, etc. can be redeemed if we give them over to God.
Find yourself yelling at the kids or angry at your spouse? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself gossiping about a friend or lying to yourself? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself slacking in prayer or struggling with an addiction, Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself sick or suffering? Know that this can be redeemed. Find yourself doubting God? Know that this can be redeemed. God can use the worst to bring about the best. He can use ugliness to bring about beauty. He can use death to bring about new life.
So as we celebrate Easter and look forward to Pentecost, we can place our hope in a God who loves us and desires us to be saved. His mercy endures forever.
Simple, Yet Profound
Holy Monday 3.25.13
The simple truths are often the most profound. Too often we take these simple truths and try and compound them, as if in their simplicity they are somehow deficient. The simplest truth of all, and equally the most profound truth, is spoken through Scripture when John tells us that God is love.
God is love. Take a moment to hear those words as if for the first time. Maybe repeat the phrase to yourself a few times first emphasizing the word God, then emphasizing the world is and, finally, emphasizing the word love.
Think about this. God, this eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being can be “summed up” as this one “thing,” love. He is love. Since He is love, He must, by definition, by implication, love. He must love because He is love. Since He is love and must love, He must have always had an object of His love, someone to love. This someone would need to be someone who equally always was, is and will be. That would be His Son, Jesus. And this love between Father and Son is so real, so reciprocal, so alive that it always was, is and will be the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
Let’s take this a step further. In a sense, God cannot not love because He is love. Love is not only who He is, it is also what He does. God loves us no matter what. Nothing we do can separate us from the love of God. God even loves those souls in Hell. While they have chosen to not accept and, in fact, reject His love, He never stops loving them. Were God ever to stop loving them (or us) they would cease to exist for it is the very love of God that is the source of all life.
It is this love which triumphs over evil and conquers death, which forgives sin, which nourishes us in Eucharist. It is this love that endured the pain, suffering and even death on a cross, all for our sake. God is love is beyond simple; it is beyond profound. It is God, Himself.
This week as we focus on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, keep in mind this truth, that God is love. Allow each Station of the Cross bring you to a realization of His never ending love for you. From the palms of Sunday, to the communion of Thursday, to the grief of Friday, to the desolation of Saturday, to the glory of Sunday remember that God is love and that God loves you!