Sunday, September 23, 2012


Just wanted to share with you the speech that I prepared for this weekend and had the honor of delivering at our parish. God really helped me through it and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would :)

When Father Don asked me if I would be interested in saying a few words about Stewardship at the weekend masses, I was very excited! Perhaps a bit scared and nervous too. It such and important topic in the Catholic life, one that I am very passionate about. Most of the time when we hear the word Stewardship our minds immediately go to tithing and money. Don't get me wrong, that is an extremely necessary part of the Christian life. Without funding the church itself could not continue to lead the world in charitable works, missions, and ministries.  Hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and homes could not continue to work without that money.

But stewardship does not end there at all. Stewardship involves realizing that everything we have comes from and belongs to God. As our responsorial Psalm today says, “Behold God is my helper, the Lord sustains my life.”  It is so very easy in our materialistic society to get caught up in the daily life of earning things. “He works hard for the money” has become a mantra and it has allowed us to lose sight of the simple fact that those skills, talents, and even our lives themselves are gifts from God. We do often work hard to earn what we have, and that's good. Yet we must remember where we get the ability to work, the ability to breath, the ability to earn that gift and that the gift itself still belongs to the one who created all that we are and have.

How often do we ponder that the home we have, the car we drive, even the dishes we use for our meals are all gifts from above? Do we treat them as such? I know that when I borrow a car that belongs to someone else, I often take better care of it than I do my own. When I spend the night at someone else's home I take care not to throw my clothes on the bathroom floor, and usually make the bed in the morning, something I fail to do at my own home nearly every day. If we truly believe then that every thing we have, everything we use belongs to God, why then do we treat them as our own personal things?

When I was a  young man fresh out of high school I had the privilege of joining a fraternity. Being a member of that organization helped to shape my view of what stewardship is all about. As a young member interested in moving up through the ranks of officers I was installed as a Steward. It was an interesting position and essentially it meant that I got all the grunt work. Here I was the youngest member, and I got to clean the toilets, change the lights, and make sure the air conditioner was on before meetings. I wasn't allowed to just do anything I wanted. It wasn't my building. It belonged to the entire organization. Rather, it was my job to make sure that when members showed up, the building was in an acceptable state of repair. It was my job to take care of what had been given to us, to make sure that it was there when the 'owner's returned.

Now so far I've been talking about 'things'.  I'm not a wealthy man and in 2007 I had my spine fused. This has led my family and I into a much lower income bracket than we were used to. We are by no means rich, and we don't have a lot of 'things' to give. What we do have though, especially myself, is time. We also have talent to give, as does every person in this room. God has created each one of us as unique individuals.  Only you can do what you do, the way that you do it. There are likely many people in this room who can paint a wall, but there are some in here who really know what they are doing. There are others in this room who can sew together a blanket if they had to, but then there are some who can make beautiful quilts like the ones for our centennial. There are those who can speak well, and those who wouldn't want to be up here talking for any amount of time at all.

You see God wants us to take care of our time and our talents as well. When we truly search our hearts we all have a little time here or there to give. It may not be much. It may only be a few minutes on a Saturday morning. Or 10-20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon as your coming home from work. If we analyze our lives, especially when I analyze mine, I find that there are many moments in which I'm sitting watching television or looking at Facebook on the computer. I agree there is a time for relaxation, we all need to wind down after a long day of work, or a stressful day of raising the children, or even just recover from an illness or deal with some sort of cross that we are bearing. If we earnestly look at our lives though, we find there is a great deal of time in our life that we could be doing something for each other.

Here at Saint Catherine's we are blessed with a great deal of councils, committees, and groups that help out. One thing you find though is if you begin to look through the list of names on those committees you begin to find that many of them are the same names over and over. We need each and every one of your talents. There are things only you can do, that I cannot. Each of you has a singular unique individuality that you bring to the table that no one else can bring. God wants you to use that in your life, to help build his Kingdom here, to help keep it present and to help others come to know it.

I'd like to talk just briefly about a few of the ministries that I've been involved with. First and foremost, one of the most important ministries to me is the RCIA. It is through the RCIA that we as Catholics reach out to those who are not, and we offer them the beauty of the faith, the beauty of the Eucharist that we come to receive every chance we can. The source and summit of our faith, when Jesus Christ himself becomes present and allows you to receive him into your body, into your soul, and allow him to change you and bring you to eternal life. There are so many out there who are calling out for that chance to receive Jesus Christ, a chance to fill that emptiness with the only thing that can truly fill it up. So many out there are trying to fill it with something else, with television, with games, with entertainment, chemicals and substances. We need people to step forward and help find candidates. To reach out to those they know that are interested, or even to simply mention to those you think need it. We also need people to step forward and say, you know.. I'd be interested in helping out with this. This is dear to my heart and I want to help.

I have also had the wonderful opportunity to be on our evangelization team, which offers those wonderful programs like Awakening Faith, Living the Eucharist, and soon to come Seeking Christ. It is through these that we help each other grow, to learn more about our faith, and to learn more about one another. We are a community of believers, not just a personal relationship. We are a family and through this we can continue to grow as one. These programs need leaders who are interested in helping small groups get through the program. We also need members who are willing to come to the sessions.

During the summers I tend to come to daily mass a lot. This is an important part of our lives. Being able to receive Jesus daily is such a powerful reminder of how free the grace of God is, and how important it is for us to make an effort to come forward and make a commitment to him. During this time I've been allowed to be one of the daily lector's. I cannot tell you in words how powerful it is to come forward and be a part of that service. To stand up here and read to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from the very word of God. How powerful a moment it is for the Lector when he says the 'Word of the Lord', and everyone responds thanks be to God. For us to realize that God has just spoken to us through the scriptures, and through the mouth of one of our own.

Last year I began to help out teaching our 8th graders in the per-confirmation class. Here is an opportunity for someone to make a difference in the life of our children, and at the same time to help develop their own faith. While teaching you help share that faith with our youth and often I find myself learning things that I myself did not know, and getting fresh perspectives on our faith from children who see things in such an amazing way that we adults often miss. It doesn't take a great deal of skills or talents to help out, it just takes someone willing to try. We need teachers and we need aides. As the popular song says, “I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” We need our children to understand our faith, to grow in it, to help continue the life of the church.

I've also had the privilege of being a part of the respect life committee and I must say it's been one of the most rewarding ones to me personally. Being able to help out with our youth, knowing that the work we are doing is making a difference, and seeing the fruit of those labors in action is something that truly touches the soul. The various events that I've been able to attend and places I've been able to visit have reminded me just how much work we have to do. A few months ago Linda Dolder and I had the chance to visit our state capital and spend the day as lobbyist. It gave us a valuable look at our political process and how we can make a difference. We also visited the We Care pregnancy center, delivering some much needed supplies that will be given out to parents who are in need of them. This ministry allows us to spread the message that all life is sacred, and that is a message that our society is very much in need of hearing.

In Christ,
His servant and yours;

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Seeds? Words? Gardens?

Bear with me as I try to convey to you something that I do not know if I can put into words. Today as I was reading Sacred Scripture, a line of thought began to form in my mind. It begins with the concept of the logos, the Christ, the messiah. Jesus is the Word of God. That is something that almost all Christians agree on. It's also key in understanding the power of the tongue. First I want to talk about what the logos means to us, and what that means about Jesus.

We as Christians believe that when God spoke before time ever began, that the Word he spoke was Jesus himself. That the word that came out of his mouth, the word through which all things were created, was Christ. First off we see that when God speaks, he speaks a Word, and that Word is the messiah. It shows us how powerful that word is. All of creation, the universe, people, soul, spirit... all were created by a Word.

Next we see the concept that the Word is a seed. Jesus talked many times about the Word of God being a seed which is planted in the heart, in the garden of the World, which grows or not according to the condition of the soil. Here we see that the Word spoken by God has the power to multiply and grow, to create and uplift. The power of life and death, the power of all of God's creation is in a Word. The Word IS a seed.

Then I began to ponder the fact that we are made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God means that we should be aware that we also have power, spiritual power given to us by God's Holy Spirit. That means that when we speak, we also speak words. Now that seems very obvious on the surface. But let's look at what we said above, not only do the words we speak have power.. but they are seeds. When we speak we sow spiritual seeds in the garden of life. We have the power to plant spiritual food, or to grow weeds.

What does that mean for us? When we edify and uplift, when we build up and encourage... we are planting spiritual food, we are giving spiritual fruit... we are planting seeds of God's Kingdom. We are sharing the Word, through our word. We are spreading the Kingdom of God one seed at a time. At the same time, when we speak words that tear down or demean, words that harm and destroy, we plant weeds that choke and destroy the fruit we have planted. You see Jesus told us that the soil is very important to the growth of the seed. Did you know that God put man in charge of tilling and caring for the soil? Adam was given the job of protecting the garden of Eden, and we as descendents of Adam also have a duty to protect, till, and prepare the garden of our Spiritual world.. the Kingdom of God.

Are you building up God's kingdom? Are you spreading it one word at a time? Or are you planting weeds in your relationships? In your marriage? Is your home a garden of lovely flowers, tantalizing fruits, and gorgeous flowing rivers of kindness? Or is it filled with briars, burning sands, and empty river beds in decay?

His servant and yours;


Thursday, July 12, 2012

A personal relationship

I hear this phrase being thrown around a lot. It's very interesting to see how that people use it to mean something a bit different than what it really says. A personal relationship simply means a relationship between two people.  All relationships are personal relationships, no matter how many people are involved. But that isn't how it is being used. I find it is being used to say "My relationship is with God, not with you." I find it is being used to say I don't need to agree with you, or with the Bible, or with anything that anyone else believes; only with God.

There is a problem with that logic though, because God is not just a personal God, but a communal God. Let me try to give an example from my own life that will show what I mean. Back before my wife and I ever started dating we had a circle of friends, and then we had our 'own' friends. Our personal friends. Now one of those friends, a female friend of mine, decided that she did not like my wife to be. As far as I know my wife never did anything to her, but regardless of the story in the background, suffice it to say that this lady didn't like the woman I was marrying.

Now that's fine. She doesn't have to like her, but this is my wife we are talking about. As a Christian I am to love my wife as Christ loves the church. This 'friend' of mine decided to inform me that I could still hang out with her, but I couldn't bring my wife. That I could come visit her alone, but never with my family. There is a problem with that. I am part of that family. That is my wife. Those are my children. They come with me. They are a part of me. You don't want my wife around? Then I won't be around either.

Maybe that seems cold. Maybe. I am human after all. How can I say though that I love my wife, if I am willing to go hang out with someone who can't stand her, who bad mouths her, and simply choose that friendship over defending my wife. We cannot. Anytime we allow someone to demean someone in our presence that we love, and do not stand up for them, then we cannot say we truly love them. And oh how many times in our lives we have done just that?

So back to the topic at hand, a personal relationship. How can one claim to love Jesus, but not His body, the church? It's the exact same thing as saying to a husband, you can come but don't bring your wife... they are one person after all. (Ephesians 5:31) The same with Jesus.  You cannot divorce his body, and then claim to love him. You cannot take part of him, you must take all of him, body and soul, blood and divinity. Christianity is not a singular relationship between only you and God, but it's a family. That's what a covenant bond is.

You are part of the Family. That means you spend time with them, even if you don't like them. Our society is slowly eroding the family unit, the family structure in general. In the case of our spiritual family, we cannot simply walk away and pretend they are no longer one of us. God is who determines who is in our family and who isn't. It's not our job to do that. It's our job to live up to that family obligation. To love one another. To serve one another. To have a personal relationship not just with God, but with each other!

His servant and yours;

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Bars of Life

I thought he was gone,
This prisoner of war. 
In the dark night of the soul
A personal Darfur

An angry, dark man
Seeking for that happy day
Tripping down the ladder
Falling along the way

Thought to be in control
Truly tis but a myth
With St. Paul I cry out
My soul a vile pith

That I know to do
That I do not
A darkness creeps in
My essence of rot

There he is again
The man I thought I lost
A super hero, invisible
A heart of frost

Seeking freedom from this prison of sin
Found only in the word of the Lord
But truly as our Master has said
Tis a painful two edged sword. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Strong Enough to Bend

Do you remember Tanya Tucker? I remember her wonderful voice projecting from the speakers of my dodge Daytona. Tonight, the lyrics of one of her songs came back to my mind in a jarring moment of pain.

There's a tree out in the backyard
That never has been broken by the wind
And the reason its still standing
It was strong enough to bend

I woke up in the heat and walked into the living room. We have company, family from out of town, so both couches (and even a mattress in the middle of the floor) are filled with young kids. Someone had brought one of the plastic lawn chairs in and placed it in the corner. I sat down and began watching whatever was on the television, and before I knew it had returned to dreamland.

A few minutes later, I was startled awake with a painful reality. One of the legs of this cheap plastic chair had broken. There I was in an almost comical situation, except I was trapped, and my back does not bend. I was pinned between my own weight and the wall and my back was trying to bend under the weight. Since the titanium rods do not give...

Needless to say it was not just embarrassing, but quite a bit painful. My wife was awakened (I don't know if I made some kind of sound, or if God simply called her to my side, but I thank Him and her both) and she came in and helped me get out of this situation. As I lay there on the floor, still recovering from the pain of the pressure, I thought.. God I don't bend that way...

It struck me though that there was indeed a lesson to be learned. Much like the rods in our back, the Holy Spirit we are infused with as baptized believers of Christ, doesn't bend. It strengthens our spiritual core and it keeps us 'straight'. When we then who are filled with His Spirit try to do things that are against that nature, against the Spirit, it should hurt.. it should be uncomfortable.. it should be a little embarrassing.. and yes, we should be declaring in a painful gasp of breath "God, my soul doesn't bend that way!"

Thank you Lord for this lesson, I pray that I have learned it enough that I do not need another refresher!

His servant, and yours;


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Stranger

There was a child who lived with his grandfather by the side of a busy road. One evening the grandfather and this child were outside listening to the meadowlark singing her clear, sweet song as she perched on the fence post. Suddenly they heard a commotion up the road. A crazy beggar man, with a tilt to his head and a glaze in his eye, was lurching up the lane. All the children of the town were chasing him, throwing sticks and stones. Even the dogs were nipping at his heels. As the beggar man passed the house, the grandfather could see his humiliation beneath a sheen of desperation on the man's face. The child, however, saw a chance to have some fun and joined his friends. Too old to move very fast, the grandfather could only call out to his grandson to come back. Above all the commotion, the meadowlark’s song could be heard sweet and clear. The child broke from the group and ran back to his grandfather. Together they looked at the beggar man lurching and stumbling down the road chased by children and dogs.

The grandfather, eyes glistening with tears, knelt down and wrapped his arms around the child. The child dropped the rock in his hand and touched the tear that rolled down his grandfather's cheek.

"Grandpa", he said, "what's wrong?"

"Ah, laddie," said grandfather, "would you be knowin' who that crazy beggar man was?"

"No, Grandpa," said the child.

"Well I'm not sure as I know either, lad. But did you hear the lark? The lark was singing on the fence post, she was. And do you know what she was singing? There's words to her song lad, and never forget them, for she was singin:

"Often, often, often, walks the Christ in the stranger's clothes.

Often walks the Christ in the stranger's clothes."

Two tears struck the ground, one shed from the face of the grandfather, the other from the eyes of the boy, as together they watched the King of Glory stumble down the road. Often walks the Christ in the stranger's clothes.

Ever Wash Your Sandals?

Every summer, my sandals begin to start looking pretty filthy. That's when I get out the trusty scrub brush, dish soap and a water hose. As I was sitting outside scrubbing the inside of my shoe, I began to have several thoughts go through my head. First I began to think about how disposable our society has become. So much so that often times when shoes get this grimy, they throw them away. My children usually have worn them out by that time anyway. They seem to think that we are supposed to buy new ones when they are dirty, the same with socks!

Then my mind began to drift on how that God cleans our souls, just like I'm cleaning these sandals. I do it carefully so I don't damage them. I do it thoroughly so that I don't have to come back and wash them again, I make sure they are clean! Another thing I notice... even though they are dirty, they are scuffed, dinged up... they are pretty good sandals. All too often we Christians see ourselves as bad things, and yes our flesh can do some bad things... but we are also made in the image of God! We are pretty good things! We just have to get the dirt out and keep it out, and God can do that for us, and he has poured his grace out immeasurably through the sacraments of His Church.

Then my mind stumbles upon a very profound truth. We live in a very clean society as far as things go. We have running water, showers, and deodorant. We have paved streets, concrete sidewalks, and homes with floors. Our feet don't get that dirty in the grand scheme of things.. but look at the inside of my sandals and you'll see that dirt builds up fast! Those little bits of dirt don't seem like much on their own, but over time they build up and up, until you find your shoes filthy and nearly unusable. That's how the church sees venial sin. All sin is bad! Too many see venial as not bad, it's still bad! It adds up! It's the pebble that starts the avalanche, it's that little bit of dirt that on it's own isn't much.. but when you keep doing it... it begins to be visible.. eventually leading to the sin that leads unto death. (Mortal).

So keep your sandals clean. Frequently make available to yourself those sacraments that pour out daily in our church. Go to Reconciliation. Go to daily Mass when you can. Go to Church every Sunday reverently for that mere hour(sometimes less sometimes more) that it takes. Spend time frequently in Adoration when you can, find a chapel near your job or your home and go there when you have a free moment. Make use of sacramentals! Pray often! Repent often! Examine your conscience daily, so that you can see how dirty your sandals are getting.. and clean them before it's too late!

His servant and yours;

Monday, June 25, 2012

How important are your things?

We've all heard the "you are on a desert Island and can only take" stories, but I want to really think about that for a few minutes. Let's try a different scenario that is much more likely to happen in our world. But first let's address the real problem, we in our society live with our 'needs' and 'wants' all mixed up. We think we need so much, when they are really wants.. and those things we really need, we often don't even notice. We have homes stuffed with many things. Multiple pairs of this or that, four and five televisions, computers in many of our rooms etc.

How much do those mean to us? Are we really living the gospel? Now there is room in our life for nice things, but at the same time... if we have more than we ever use... then someone out there is going without. What do I mean by that? Well if I have a television sitting in my garage... doing nothing... then someone out there who has no television, can't afford one, and wants one... is doing without one.. or better yet, someone out there who needs food.. is going without the food that they could have had, if I never bought it in the first place, and instead bought food and donated it.

So, what would you save in a fire? If you could only take 4 things out of your house (besides your children and animals), what would they be? Then, while standing outside watching what you own burn to the ground... what would you miss? If you had no insurance at all, what would you mourn having lost in your home?

His servant and yours;

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Living for Eternity.. not Retirement

Let's look at that very closely and think about how we live our lives. If we just look at how long men believe the universe has been here, as we know it, then we ourselves live much less than a second in comparison. We spend the greatest portion of that second living as if the last /100th of a second is the most valuable thing ever. We spend our lives storing up possessions, working towards retirement, making sure we are happy...

But if we truly believe that life lasts forever.. think about that.. if the universe only lasted 46 years so far.. and that's not even a glimpse of eternity... then why are we living 1/2 a second in search of a better 1/2 of a second... instead of living that 1/2 a second in a way that reflects the rest of our lives.. the 46 years.. the 80 years.. the 1000 years...

We should be living life here, the same way we believe it will be for eternity. The Revelation of John gives us a superb glimpse into that life. The altar, the angels, the lamb standing as slain, the worship, the songs... the love! That is how our life and worship should be here now! Let's live our second, for it's all we get here on this earth.. to prepare us for our eternity... If we live our second without God.. then we'll spend out eternity without him... but if we live our second FOR and with him... then we can rest in security that we will spend it with him as well.

There is nothing wrong with being a good steward. It is indeed important to make sure we use our money wisely, save up for retirement, and make sure our kids are taken care of.  When we do that to an extreme, where pleasure drives our goals, where we store up more than we can ever possibly use while others starve, live without homes, and without clothing... then we have made our choice. Being a good steward is indeed taking care of your family.  Being a good Christian is recognizing that your family is more than just human blood.. but the blood from the cross.

His servant and yours;

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grant me your peace

Lord make me an instrument of your peace. I say this prayer almost every morning as I awake, trusting God to transform me because I know I cannot make it through the day on my own volition. I am human. Just like the next person. I make mistakes. Almost all men and women of faith pray for God's peace, God's will.  We pray: Our Father, who art in heaven. They will be done. We pray:  Lord grant me the serenity We consistently pray for peace and joy.

Yet, there is also a disturbing trend to Christianity. We tend to be Christians+. On the surface that seems like a good thing, and sometimes it is; as long as it doesn't interfere with the Gospel. The problem is we tend to add something to our Catholicism, or religion, our Christianity. We take something we believe in, and we tack it on to the Gospel. Christianity + Democrats. Christianity + democracy. Christianity + republican. Christianity + the tea party. Christianity + a belief. Christianity + Occupy Wall Street.

It's ok to be a Catholic and a democrat. It's ok to be a Catholic and a republican. It's ok to be a Catholic and a member of the tea party. We must remember though, that we are Catholic first. We are Christian first. Our first and most important allegiance is to God. If there is a democratic belief that is contrary to the Gospel, then we cannot live by it.. follow it.. nor expect others to do so. The same with our republican beliefs.

We also have a tendency to say things like, real Christians must be members of this as well! If they really followed the gospel, then they'd be a democrat too! If they were really following Christ they'd be protesting on wall street with the Occupy Movement, etc. God has clearly laid out what we are to do. I agree there are causes we should join. There are indeed parts of certain movements I agree with, but the only movement a person needs to join to be a member of the body of Christ.. is the church. It's really that simple. If we examine every single movement out there, we are going to find there are parts of that movement which do not agree with our faith.

I agree with movements that want to help the poor. I don't agree with abortion. I agree with free market, I don't agree with removing the environmental protection agency in order to make business explode, at the expense of destroying God's creation. I am a vegan, but I understand that God has given permission (not requirements) to eat meat. I am Catholic. Not Catholic+, not Catholic-, but Catholic.

Let us all learn to follow God's peace, not our own. God's will, not our own. Let's learn to discern what God wants from us, what God calls us to do in the gospel.  Let us pray with all earnestly, God's will be done here on earth, as it is in Heaven.. and mean it.. live by it.. live it here, as we believe it will be lived there. The story of our lives is a many volume book filled with paragraphs of information, going on and on, filling shelf upon shelf. This life is but the very first letter... there is so much more to come after... let us start living as if eternity is what matters... because if eternity is what matters.. then love is what we need to be exhibiting here.. in every breath.. every action.. every moment.

His servant, and yours;

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What good is salt?

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.
- Matthew 5:13

Jesus talked in parables a great deal of the time. In this particular statement he made some very profound statements if we just take time to really analyze it. I just want to look at three particular thoughts that have been going through my mind the past few days. There are many other lessons that could be taken from here, but these are the ones that really stand out to me. They involve salt itself. These are the three things that I think of most when I talk about salt. So what does salt do?

Salt enhances flavor

When we add salt to our food it has a little flavor on it's own, but the major function of salt in gourmet cooking is to draw out the flavors of the food. It enhances them, makes them more pronounced. Jesus reminds us in this simple statement that we are to enhance the world around us. We are to make it better. To take the good in it, and there is good in the world, and magnify that. We are to edify, build, uplift. To increase the good by drawing attention to it, and avoiding the things that are evil. 

Salt preserves

It preserves food from corruption. It keeps the world away from what it is protecting. It cures it, and keeps it from rotting. We as the salt are to avoid corruption, and to preserve ourselves and our families from being corrupted. We try to spread the word to others, preserved in it's truth, not altered.  It is our job, our duty to preserve the world as much as we can from corruption. By spreading the truth, the gospel, in every action and aspect of our lives. We vote our faith, we walk our faith, we work our faith.

Salt makes one thirsty

Every action we do should help draw others towards God. They should be looking at us and saying, "I want what he/she has!" Our lives should make others thirsty for God, for love, for hope, for justice. Not just others, but ourselves! We should be thirsting for a closer relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ! Salt by it's very nature causes one to thirst even more.

So those are some simple aspects of being the salt of the earth. Are you being salt? Do you enhance the flavor of the world? Does your presence make others want you around or do they see you coming and go, "Oh great, here he/she comes again!" Do you preserve yourself and others, as much as you can, form corruption? Or do you live your life in a way that 'rots' your immortal soul and potential leads others to do so? Do you make others thirst for God, do you yourself thirst for Him?

Be the salt of the earth.

His servant, and yours;


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Prodigal Son

Most of the time when we hear this story, we focus on the foreground.. the son who has returned, we often miss the son in the background, toiling away in the field. 

Just about every Christian out there has heard the story of the prodigal son. We talk about it quite a bit, about how God's love is so powerful that he meets us where we are. That he runs out to us with open arms, and then pulls us back into his heart, his life, his home. Yet, most of the time we don't talk about the other son.

The other son is standing out in the field. He's upset. His father is having a party for the child who was wayward, but he's been here all along. He refuses to come to the party because all this time his father didn't even slaughter a goat for him and his friends! The father looks at him with love, and says "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." Everything... everything he has is yours. That's a powerful thing to think about.

Many of us think about God like he's an ATM. We decide what we need to be happy, ah if I only had a new car, if I only had a few more dollars, if only I could do more at school, etc.  We go to God in prayer and we consider faith our pin number, we pray "God give me that raise, cause that's what I need." What we need is God! God has already given us everything! All we have to do is receive it! Are we receiving it? It's not a bad thing to pray. It's a beautiful thing. Prayer, though, is a way of changing us to make us more like God. It's a moment in which we can indeed ask, but we can also praise, we can say "God, I thank you for all that you have given me for you have blessed me abundantly, way beyond anything I deserve. I don't know what you have in store for me in the future, but I know it is for my best. Help me to see your hand in every day, and to always give thanks for every blessing!"

Are you receiving all that God has offered? Or are you toiling away trying to earn them? We don't earn them. They are free. They are ours by grace! We should be in the field working through love, receiving God's abundant grace daily in the sacraments when we can, for they are offered every single moment of our lives! All His grace has been given to you already, all you need to do is receive it!  You see the one Son learned his lesson, he realized in the end that God loves him despite his shortcomings, that God's love is free and given when we come home in repentance, while the other still toils away thinking he must earn His love.. even though he already has it.

His servant, and yours;

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on * the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

One of those moments

As our pastor, Father Tim, gave another of his rousing homilies this morning what he was saying really struck with my heart. As Catholics we believe that it is a blessing, a beautiful thing when we share in the suffering of Christ. The bible tells us to rejoice! So we go through our lives trying to offer up whatever pain, sorrow, or agony we receive to God, or even for others.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Today he was talking about how that sometimes we are scared to give. That we often seem scared to give because we might have to do without. That we might have to share in the suffering of that individual a little by sacrificing some of our own comfort. It's true. We often talk about how we could give if we had more money, but we can't give now because we just don't have it. Yet, we have internet access. We have air conditioning and heat. We have a home, often bigger than we truly need. We have all the clothes we could want, a bed for each of us, and indoor plumbing. All of these we talk about how we can't live without them, and sometimes this world seems to make us think we can't survive without a cell phone, a GPS, and high speed cable!

Father has reminded us many times of a very simple fact, one that reflects the truth of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25. Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Jesus Christ! When you give up something for one of your poor brothers and sisters, you are sharing in their suffering. When you give up some of your food that they can eat, you share in their hunger. When you turn your AC off for a month and use that extra money you save to help someone else.. the suffering of living without that comfort is sharing in theirs! You alleviate some of their pain, their hunger, their discomfort, by living it for them...  Christ is present in them.. and you are sharing in their suffering.. you are sharing in Christ's suffering THROUGH them.

That's an astounding thought isn't it? How many times do we turn down an offer because we want more soda, or to eat out with our families, or even to have a better car? Having nice things is not a sin in and of itself, and God wants to give us comfort.. he wants us to receive everything he has to offer... but not at the expense of others.

His servant and yours;

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Make crooked things straight

Life always seems so hectic. So confusing. So difficult. With every moment of our day we are flooded with information. From the radio, to the television, to the mobile devices, to the internet. We are encouraged to make rapid and fast paced decisions. People want it now, and not later. Choose. Choose. Choose.

So we go through the day quickly deciding what to wear, what to eat, who to see and who not to, where to go and when, and how long to stay. We run this race of life often twisting back and forth on the path, as we try to fit in as much as we can get, because tomorrow is not certain. Yet, in the grand scheme of things... this life is not the important part, but the one after.

We all seem so consumed as a nation with personal pleasure. Videos, music, movies, and even billboards are designed to tantalize the senses and arouse the body. Moments of silence are discouraged by most, likely because of a fear of having to face their own inner self. A great deal of us profess to be religious of some sort, which means that we believe in an after life.. but very few of us seem to be living with that in mind. Almost every major faith system, though, teaches that how we live this life determines where and how we will spend eternity.

That should make the path a lot less 'crooked', and a lot more straight. The path should have much fewer choices, and a great deal more time into every decision. Eternity should be a major consideration, and Love should be a driving factor. It brings a whole new meaning to the words of Jesus when he said for narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it.  As I was reading my morning prayers I was reminded of that simple fact, as I have been discerning a call to a vocation, that all I really need to be doing is trusting in God.

Tobit 4:15-16, 18-19

Do to no one what you yourself dislike. Give to the hungry some of your bread, and to the naked some of your clothing. Seek counsel from every wise man. At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.

All we really need to do at every single decision of the day, is ask God to make all our paths straight and grant success to all of our endeavors and plans.  That really is a simple truth that should make the day a lot less hectic. A day in which the rat race is not to find as much pleasure as we can, but to serve. A day in which we seek to share love, hope, and life with every person we meet. I do feel the call to serve. I feel it in my heart every day. God willing, that is where I shall always remain.

Do you know where God wants you? Are you choosing for yourself or allowing others to tell you where to be? Some will say don't go here to this place, or listen to this person, but go here to this place, and listen to that one. I say listen to God. If you truly follow Him in Spirit and Truth, he will never guide you wrong. He will make your paths straight, He will lead you Home.

His servant and yours;

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How human we all are

It seems the closer I grow to God, the more I am reminded of just how frail and weak this human flesh really is. With Saint Paul I cry out, I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Romans 7:15-19).  While my mind knows exactly what God requires of me and my heart knows what is right and good, getting the flesh to listen to my 'will' doesn't seem to always line up.

A few weeks ago we were attending an event which had a great deal of people in it. As people were walking in, we watched from the very top of the stands. At some point one of the kids went out and bought water bottles for all of us, and we sat talking, laughing, and sipping our drinks. The stands began to fill up and before long a group of individuals walked up and sat directly in front of us.

As they walked up the flesh began to think things that were not nice. I thought things like wow, they are going to be loud. They are going to be saying things my kids don't want to hear. Here I was, a man trying to live for God, and instantly I judged these people on their appearance alone. I didn't know where they were from, who they were, or even consider that I was dressed much like the fellows there and yet, my flesh wanted to judge them. My spirit rebuked me and I sat in silence, wondering if I would ever get such thoughts under control.

As the evening progressed, our youngest dropped her water bottle. She began to cry because it had fallen a long way to the ground and there was no way she could go right now and retrieve it. Without hesitating, the young woman in front of me placed her hand into her purse and pulled out a pack of gum, and handed one to my daughter. The simple act of kindness reminded me just how wrong I was to judge her, for while I was being judgmental out of instinct, she whom I judged turned and showed pure love and affection for those around her.

Ah that one day I can be as filled with love as this woman, and have the pure unconditional love to turn to a complete stranger and comfort them. Lord help me to become more like You, and less like myself.

His servant and yours,

Monday, May 14, 2012

You are chosen!

When I was a young man, I remember that a few of us were chosen to receive an award on behalf of our school. We went together to the event and we were on our 'best' behavior, physically representing an entire group of people and behaving in a way that showed the beliefs of that particular school.  We were honored to be chosen to do so. We were elated that our school thought enough of us, enough of our character, enough of our scholarly achievements to be included in that delegation.

The President of the United States does the same. He often chooses people who exemplify what he believes and that he trusts to do a good job of showing those values, and appoints them to represent our country to other countries. It is a great honor to be chosen to do that. Many people express words of great humility and awe that the President would choose them to do such a thing. That he thinks highly enough of them to choose them to represent an entire country.

Many people are also chosen by the Pope to represent him in countries that he cannot travel to at the time. These too are people who do their best to represent the Pope and his beliefs, his values as they travel around the world representing him and his organization, the Church. Once again this is a high honor! It is something that people accept with great humility, great reverence, and they try to do their best to live up to such an honor.

God has chosen each and every one of us. Think about that for a moment. When a school calls, the President, or the pope, we jump for joy that someone would think so highly of us to let us represent them; sometimes we even feel unworthy and wonder why on earth they would have chosen us.  God has chosen us to be his ambassadors.  He has called us to be His hands, His feet, even His voice in a world that so desperately needs to hear from Him. How do we respond? Often we grumble. "Oh dear, all these rules, I have to behave like this or that, and ahh, I can never have any fun!" Wow... the God of the Universe, the One who created all, has offered to let me represent Him! To reach out and touch others as He does, to tell them about His Word, to even speak the Word ourselves from our own human lips. Oh how light that burden is! It should be a joy! We should be so elated that God who doesn't need us, could easily do it on His own, has instead given you and I the honor to be a pathway for grace to enter our world.

Are you up to the task? Are you jumping for joy that God has appointed you as an ambassador? Or do you see it as a heavy burden, something you'd rather not do?

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Little Soles (Little Souls)

People often defend a woman's right to choose. Then they use many various heinous things that could happen to them to make that choice seem like a valid one. I'm not here to tell you what to do with your body, I'm here to remind us what is being done with the other bodies that aren't mentioned. This is not a blog about choice. It's a blog about life. 

Every day in the United States, 4000 babies are aborted via surgical means. That's a difficult thing to think about isn't it? 4000 is such a large number. It's hard to put a handle on how many that is. That is why we have the Little Souls display in our church at the moment. To give one an idea of how many little feet (soles) have been removed from the world before they could take their first breath.

We often talk about how precious it is to be alive. We as humans live our lives every day trying to get one more breath, one more day on this life. We eat right, we exercise, we go to doctors and spend fortunes on medicine to extend that brief time that we have here on this world. Then we deprive those unborn children of even one of those breaths. All in the name of protecting a choice. Yet, we don't give those in the womb a choice at all. A quote attributed to Ronald Reagan puts it in stark contrast, "I have noticed that all those who are pro-abortion, have already been born."

Take a long hard look at this display. Look at the shoes that are spilling over the top, pouring over the top in a silent avalanche of agony. They make no sound, for they too are voiceless. That is why it is up to each one of us to be a voice for them. To speak up and bring attention to this atrocity. Don't tell me about choice. Don't argue that the 1% of reported abortions that are for those repulsive things that people claim all are for, support the 99% of other reasons (including simple birth control.) Nothing justifies the mass murder of children, let alone their location. Being inside a room doesn't make you any less a human, why does being behind a wall of flesh change that reality?

If you are considering this, please, please... talk to me. There are options. We can find someone to help raise the child, we can find someone to adopt them. We can find someone to help care for you and help pay medical bills. We can find people to make sure you have a place to stay and food to eat. We can care for this child.

If you have been through this? I am not accusing you or trying to harm you. I instead call out to you with pleading and love, asking you too to become a voice for the voiceless. To step up, accept the forgiveness and grace that God offers; but then to go forward and help others not make the same mistake. To be a voice for that child who no longer has one, and to help the ones who are still in the womb be born to have their own.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A test of love

In our society today we often feel the pressure of giving in to our peers, lovers, friends, et al. We are told in each show we watch that an act of love is giving of our selves in a sexual way. The other day a fellow on the radio mentioned Jack and Rose on the titanic. These two star crossed individuals fell in love. How do you know they were in love? Well they had sex. They knew each other two days, had sex, and then when she dies.... she goes to see him in eternity.

Our media reinforces that idea consistently. That when you are in love, you have sex. How ironic is that? Intercourse is a beautiful thing, designed by the creator to be both unitive and procreative. That is it draws people together, which is indeed a lovely thing. It also creates life, allowing us to emulate our God and share in his creative power. We are allowed through an act of great pleasure, great beauty and bonding to create life! Yes, indeed that can be a way to show love.

But where is the test of love when we endanger someone else's soul for our own satisfaction? We as Catholics believe that to have intercourse outside of marriage, to remove that unitive aspect or that procreative aspect is indeed not an act of love but of selfishness. Which shows more love for your special someone? Saying I love you, so I'm going to have sex with you, even if that means one or both of us could go to Hell? Or saying, I love you so much and cherish you so much, that I am willing to wait. To deny myself my personal pleasure, in order to do what I know is best for both of us, physically, mentally and spiritually.

Proverbs 11:22, "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion."

All of you, both men and women are made in the image of the Most High God. You deserve dignity and respect, whether or not you realize it, whether or not you act like it. It's not about who you pretend to be, but who and what you are. Anytime we remove that dignity, anytime we remove that respect, we insult the very dignity that God has given you, that dignity you deserve.

You are worth waiting for! You are worth being loved sacrificially! If he/she is not willing to sacrifice their own wants and needs to show you the respect you deserve, then he/she does not love you! They 'want' you. There is a vast difference in the two. You are a great jewel of gold, created in a beautiful and fearful way by the hand of God Himself! Don't allow the world to put you in the nose of a swine, but instead know that God has placed you in a beautiful sanctuary of His own Immaculate Heart!

His Servant, and Yours;


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Confession Explained

I found this video on YouTube the other day and it does such an excellent job of explaining why we Catholics go to confession that I just needed to share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

(Updated video link 3/11/2013) 


I. Jesus Christ Granted the Apostles His Authority to Forgive Sins

John 20:21 - before He grants them the authority to forgive sins, Jesus says to the apostles, "as the Father sent me, so I send you." As Christ was sent by the Father to forgive sins, so Christ sends the apostles and their successors forgive sins.
John 20:22 - the Lord "breathes" on the apostles, and then gives them the power to forgive and retain sins. The only other moment in Scripture where God breathes on man is in Gen. 2:7, when the Lord "breathes" divine life into man. When this happens, a significant transformation takes place.
John 20:23 - Jesus says, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In order for the apostles to exercise this gift of forgiving sins, the penitents must orally confess their sins to them because the apostles are not mind readers. The text makes this very clear.
Matt. 9:8 - this verse shows that God has given the authority to forgive sins to "men." Hence, those Protestants who acknowledge that the apostles had the authority to forgive sins (which this verse demonstrates) must prove that this gift ended with the apostles. Otherwise, the apostles' successors still possess this gift. Where in Scripture is the gift of authority to forgive sins taken away from the apostles or their successors?
Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10 - Christ forgave sins as a man (not God) to convince us that the "Son of man" has authority to forgive sins on earth.
Luke 5:24 - Luke also points out that Jesus' authority to forgive sins is as a man, not God. The Gospel writers record this to convince us that God has given this authority to men. This authority has been transferred from Christ to the apostles and their successors.
Matt. 18:18 - the apostles are given authority to bind and loose. The authority to bind and loose includes administering and removing the temporal penalties due to sin. The Jews understood this since the birth of the Church.
John 20:22-23; Matt. 18:18 - the power to remit/retain sin is also the power to remit/retain punishment due to sin. If Christ's ministers can forgive the eternal penalty of sin, they can certainly remit the temporal penalty of sin (which is called an "indulgence").
2 Cor. 2:10 - Paul forgives in the presence of Christ (some translations refer to the presences of Christ as "in persona Christi"). Some say that this may also be a reference to sins.
2 Cor. 5:18 - the ministry of reconciliation was given to the ambassadors of the Church. This ministry of reconciliation refers to the sacrament of reconciliation, also called the sacrament of confession or penance.
James 5:15-16 - in verse 15 we see that sins are forgiven by the priests in the sacrament of the sick. This is another example of man's authority to forgive sins on earth. Then in verse 16, James says “Therefore, confess our sins to one another,” in reference to the men referred to in verse 15, the priests of the Church.
1 Tim. 2:5 - Christ is the only mediator, but He was free to decide how His mediation would be applied to us. The Lord chose to use priests of God to carry out His work of forgiveness.
Lev. 5:4-6; 19:21-22 - even under the Old Covenant, God used priests to forgive and atone for the sins of others.

II. The Necessity and Practice of Orally Confessing Sins

James 5:16 - James clearly teaches us that we must “confess our sins to one another,” not just privately to God. James 5:16 must be read in the context of James 5:14-15, which is referring to the healing power (both physical and spiritual) of the priests of the Church. Hence, when James says “therefore” in verse 16, he must be referring to the men he was writing about in verses 14 and 15 – these men are the ordained priests of the Church, to whom we must confess our sins.
Acts 19:18 - many came to orally confess sins and divulge their sinful practices. Oral confession was the practice of the early Church just as it is today.
Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5 - again, this shows people confessing their sins before others as an historical practice (here to John the Baptist).
1 Tim. 6:12 - this verse also refers to the historical practice of confessing both faith and sins in the presence of many witnesses.
1 John 1:9 - if we confess are sins, God is faithful to us and forgives us and cleanse us. But we must confess our sins to one another.
Num. 5:7 - this shows the historical practice of publicly confessing sins, and making public restitution.
2 Sam. 12:14 - even though the sin is forgiven, there is punishment due for the forgiven sin. David is forgiven but his child was still taken (the consequence of his sin).
Neh. 9:2-3 - the Israelites stood before the assembly and confessed sins publicly and interceded for each other.
Sir. 4:26 - God tells us not to be ashamed to confess our sins, and not to try to stop the current of a river. Anyone who has experienced the sacrament of reconciliation understands the import of this verse.
Baruch 1:14 - again, this shows that the people made confession in the house of the Lord, before the assembly.
1 John 5:16-17; Luke 12:47-48 - there is a distinction between mortal and venial sins. This has been the teaching of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years, but, today, most Protestants no longer agree that there is such a distinction. Mortal sins lead to death and must be absolved in the sacrament of reconciliation. Venial sins do not have to be confessed to a priest, but the pious Catholic practice is to do so in order to advance in our journey to holiness.
Matt. 5:19 - Jesus teaches that breaking the least of commandments is venial sin (the person is still saved but is least in the kingdom), versus mortal sin (the person is not saved).

Scripture quotes from Scripture Catholic, Sacrament of Confession - Click to learn more (and see Tradition!) 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Make Haste

There are so many lessons about discipleship that we can learn from Mary, the Mother of God. In every word written about her in Sacred Scripture, there is a way of life hidden that will teach us how to respond to God. In the Annunciation we find her submitting to God's will, in the Magnificat we find her calling out and magnifying God's glory. Yet there is a verse in between that truly teaches us how to respond to God's calling in our life.
And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.
Luke 1:39

Immediately upon assenting to God's will, Mary rose up and 'made haste' to follow God's plan. She accented, and then went into action. How many times have we been attempting to discern God's will and then sit back saying, "Oh I know this is what God wants me to do, but I just need to wait for this or that." Once we know for sure that it is God's will, we must make haste to do it! That's an important lesson! We must be quick to obey God's will in our lives.

Upon hearing those words, I began to ponder though how many times in my life I had been sitting around doing nothing. Well, sometimes God's will is for us to wait. In Genesis we find the story of the liberated Israelites as they were freed from slavery in Egypt and sat the the foot of the Holy Mountain. Moses told them that God wanted them to wait there while he went up the mountain and received something from Him. No sooner had Moses left the camp, then things began to go wrong. The people wanted to make haste, but not to do God's will. They wanted to make Haste to do the things that felt right!

They have quickly strayed from the way which thou didst shew them: and they have made to themselves a molten calf, and have adored it, and sacrificing victims to it, have said: These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt. 
Exodus 32:8 

They began to grumble that Moses had been gone too long, and said things that indicated he probably deserted them or died up on the mountain. So they convinced Aaron to build them a new god. One like they had in Egypt, when things were fun and great! So Aaron did, and there was a big orgy around it! They reveled in their gluttony and celebrated this golden calf. You see, in their haste they didn't listen to God first. That's an important lesson too. Sometimes we need to listen patiently, for God to tell us what to do.

So yes, once you discern your vocation, once you discern God's will in your life, once you discern what He is calling you to do; then make haste! But be careful not to make Haste for your own will and pleasure, while you are seeking direction from God make haste to wait!

Monday, April 30, 2012

How do I view the mass?

I find that I get out of mass what I put into it, on a physical level (while the spiritual benefits are always there.) When I first began to attend a Catholic church I made myself an outsider. I sat in the back with my protestant bible, demanding that every action have a corresponding biblical text. (To my shock it did.) Then, even though I was beginning to experience the reality that the mass was indeed the proper way of doing things; I made myself feel alienated by the people present.

No one ever did anything to make me feel that way. They shook my hand, smiled at me, waved as they saw me out town. In fact, after I began to realize it wasn't they who made me unwelcome but myself, I began to see how beautiful this parish was. Mass began to come alive for me in a special way.

Then I read the book "The Lamb's Supper" by Scott Hahn. After reading that book I began to really immerse myself in the mass. I began to learn what the words meant and why they were said. I started watching for those moments when the scripture were coming alive before me, where Heaven was becoming present, where Christ was becoming present. I began to truly 'believe' that the mass was more than what it looked like on the surface. I 'knew', but now I was beginning to believe.

After joining the church this Easter, the mass again took on a new dimension. Where as before I felt like I was calling out with the woman in the book of Mathew who called "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." I was there at the mass, but not at the table so to speak. Yes I know the people there also receive blessings for just being in the room even if they cannot participate, but there was still that longing to sit down for more than just crumbs! To partake of the meal!

Now that I am able to receive I am blown away by the grace. I often find myself drawn to tears and overwhelmed with the love of God for me and for every single person in the room! I sit in the front row so that I can be closer to the Eucharist, and I often stare in wide awe as my priest delivers Christ to his flock. My heart is completely ripped each time as I know that God is there, in my presence, the presence of a man who doesn't deserve to even be there; but there he is forgiving sins right before my very eyes! There he is entering each person and helping them to live by the Law of Grace, by living the law of grace through them and for them.

So there I sit with my hands folded in prayer, watching as the priest cleanses the vessels and my mind begins to dwell on how can I bring others to this table? How can I take this Eucharist, this Jesus that is dwelling inside of me now, out into the world and share it with others? How can I live my life in a way that makes others say "I want what he has, I want whatever makes him who he is." As Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said:

Dear Jesus,
help us to spread your presence everywhere we go.
Flood our souls with your Spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly,
that our lives may be only
a radiance of yours.
Shine through us, and be so in us,
that every person we come in contact with
may feel your presence.
Let them lookup and see no longer us,
but only you!
Stay with us,
and then we shall begin to shine as you shine;
so to shine as a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from you;
none of it will be ours;
it will be you, shining on others through us.
Let us thus praise you in the way you love best
by shining on those around us.

Anyway, that is my experience with mass at the moment with my spiritual walk. It is such a powerful thing that I am sure that I haven't conveyed it well, words can only express so much!

His servant, and yours;

Is this a sin? Is that?

All too often it seems that we Christians as a whole seem to be confused as to what is a sin and what isn't. Is it ok to do this? Or ok to do that? So I wanted to address something that the CCC tells us about how to determine for ourselves if something is, or is not a sin.

In order for an action to be morally good, we have to look at three components:
The Objective Act - (What we do)
The subjective goal (why we do it, intention)
Concrete situations or circumstances (when, where, how, with whom, etc). 

The Objective Act

Somethings are just sinful. We can usually use the 10 commandments to determine those, the beatitudes, or simply the statement from Jesus that we should love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. Stealing for instance is a sin. Lying. Murder. When we look at an act, we can find out if it's a sin at this stage by simply looking at what we are doing.

Now there are some acts that are not inherently sinful. Like painting, drawing, waving at someone, throwing a baseball, etc. These may or may not be sinful, because they can be a good thing or a bad thing (as most things in the world can be.) A gun being shot could be good or bad, based on other factors. A car being driven could be good or bad.

So the next thing we should look at is why are we doing what we are doing.

The Subjective Goal

Your motives, your intention, your heart; these are all important to determine if what you are doing is a sin. If your intention is to cause harm, hurt someones feelings, throw your hand up at God and say there! I did it! What are you gonna do about it? All of these indicate a bad place in your heart. If you do them out of love, then you know that the subjective goal is good. That doesn't mean what you did isn't a sin. If you murder someone, even for a good reason, it's still murder! It's still a sin. But as above, some actions aren't sinful of their own selves. You can still paint for a good cause, or a bad one. A mural you've been paid to do, is much different than graffiti (even if the graffiti is for something you deem to be a good cause, it's still not showing love for the people who own the object, or the people who have to see it.)

This brings us to the third concept that must be addressed. You can do things that aren't inherently sinful, for the right reasons, but they still could be a bad thing. Why?

The concrete situation/circumstances

Where are you? Who are you with? Who is around? All of these are important things to consider. How on earth could something be a sin if it's for a good reason, and the thing you are doing is not inherently sinful? Well some things shouldn't be done in front of children for instance. Certain conversations or actions which are not sinful of themselves, and can be done out of love for other people, still shouldn't be done in front of others. Having a glass of wine by yourself, or with your wife at the end of a long week in the right context, is not a bad thing. Having a glass of wine, for the very same reasons, in front of someone struggling with alcoholism, could be a very bad thing indeed. 

In essence, those three things will help you find what is a sin and what isn't. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who, what, where? Above all, remember that as Christians we do not see morality as something that each person decides for themselves. We have the living Word of God to help guide us, through Scripture and Tradition. These work together to help us understand what God wants us to know about sin, and it frees us in a way that others cannot claim! We know the boundaries, and should feel free to run around having a good time, being fun, enjoying life; but avoiding the boundaries that we know harm our bodies and souls. It often seems like it's those who have 'no boundaries' who are running around free, while those who know where the danger lies huddle in fear as far from it as they can. It should be the other way around. If you don't know where the snake is, or the pit you can fall in, running around in the dark should be the last thing you'd want to do! Those who know where the snake is, and where the pit is, who have a light that guides them.. should stride with confidence through life, free of fear, and free to make the right choices! 

Yes, the Yoke is easy, and the burden IS light!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A throne for Christ

One of the greatest qualities of our Priest, Fr. Tim, is that he challenges us. He continually challenges us to grow in our faith, and to grow in our love for God and our neighbors. Tonight has been no exception. Tonight he built on something that he had shared with us previously, though I'm not even sure he realizes how much it has touched me in my heart. 

Now I'm not going to go into deep theology about transubstantiation, consubstantiation, real presence, et al. I'm just going to talk from my experience as a new convert to the Catholic faith. We believe that Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist, that he is literally there. That when Jesus said "this is my body" it literally happened. With that in mind, just before our sacrament of First Holy Communion we were practicing. Since we had never received communion in a Catholic church it was necessary that we learn how to do so and what it means. As we were practicing, Fr Tim asked me if I wanted to receive 'on the tongue or in the hands.' I of course responded in my hands, being a germ-o-phobe. He looked me in the eye and said, when you come up... make a throne for Christ with your hands. 

Wow.... I was blown away. Here I was a mere mortal man, a sinner, a man who is not worthy; about to have the honor of holding the Eucharist, the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in my hands. Not just to hold it, but to enthrone it. To cherish it. To realize exactly what I believe is happening, and to attempt to be gentle, loving, and yes, reverent of what I am holding. To enthrone the King of Kings with my meager flesh.. how great a responsibility is that! My mind has been trying to grasp that and to come to terms with it for the few weeks that have passed since the Easter Vigil. 

Tonight he once again blew me away. As we were talking he talked about Mother Theresa of Calcutta. He spoke of how she would contend that the same Christ that is present in the Eucharist, is present in the dying child on the street. We come to church dressed in our finest, holding our unworthy hands forward almost with greed for the body and blood of Christ, for the Eucharist, and we touch it without reservation. We hold it with love and reverence. Do we do the same with the diseased ridden body? With the child covered in feces and flies? With the man and woman in the old folks home covered in sores? Do we enthrone the prisoner in prison? Or the young woman who is back-talking her parents? Do we reach out and wrap our hands lovingly around the broken heart of our daughters when their boyfriends have injured them? Or the skint knee of our child as she has fallen? 

Matt 25: 34* Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35* for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40* And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41* Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46* And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Are you enthroning Christ in your life? Are you seeing Jesus in every person you meet and trying to enthrone him, hold him reverently, treat him with love and purity? Are you hands reaching out to him in love? Or are you pulling them back, away from his presence in fear of pain? Fear of disease? Fear of germs?

Lord Jesus help me to see you in every person I meet. Help me to begin to enthrone all of those in my life, seeing them with your eyes of mercy. Allow me to realize that your presence is coming toward me and that I must reach out my hands to grasp it, to enthrone it, to revere it. That all life is sacred and that I, though a mortal man, am given the beautiful grace of being able to share it with others. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

His servant, and yours;