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;


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are you ready? Are you sure?

A documentary I just watched talked about the beatitudes. How that each one called us to a further detachment from the world, and a radical attachment to God. Then it spoke about how happiness, true happiness, was doing God's will... All of that I believe and have thought of on some level...  In fact, detachment is such an appropriate word for how we as exiled children of God should see this world.

I believe sincerely that God created each man with a spiritual void in his heart, one that can only be filled when we are in communion with our God. Just like those little blocks we had as kids, with the ball or cube that had a hole for each one. The star went in the star shaped hole, the block went in the block shaped hole, the triangle in the triangle shaped, etc. We as humans often try to fill that hole with something other than God.. and just like when we were kids sometimes we could shove the triangle into the square shaped hole.. but it had to be beaten in.. and it never stayed comfortably. Sometimes we even had to dig and pry to get them back out.

Thomas Aquinas said there were four attachments in this world that we usually try to fill the void of God in our hearts with. Wealth, pleasure, power and honor. Four of the beatitudes (the negative ones) deal directly with those four things.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) (wealth)

This one reminds us to not be attached to material things. It is not necessarily a call to radical poverty, nor a demonization of wealth. It is though a reminder that love for money is an evil, and that we must have the right attitude with money. We must be detached from it so that if we are blessed with it, we can reach out and bless others with it. We must have a radical gratitude that makes us want to share that blessing with others. Not so very common in our society.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) (pleasure)

Here again we see a powerful call to detachment! A detachment from pleasure. So often we think that we have to be comfortable, we have to be happy all the time. We then go out and try to take things in this world and make them make us happy. This doesn't mean that we have to be dour and taciturn, on the contrary, it means that when we are detached from personal pleasure we can begin to see pleasure in our lives by doing things for others, and by serving God. That we can be happy, comforted even, when we are suffering! That we can follow the will of God, even when it means suffering, without fear but with joy!

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” (Matthew 5:5) (power)

Ah, in this video by Fr. Barron he described this in such a powerful way. That only when we are weak do we truly have power! Only when we are detached from wordly power, when we are meek indeed, can we get out of the way of God and let him work through us. As he phrased it, free from the addiction to ordinary power — you can become a conduit of true divine power to the world.  Think about that for a moment... we, mere humans, can become a conduit of grace into the world. When we are no longer seeking power... we then can be channels for divine power... wow!

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10) (honor)

The most difficult at all, at least from my perspective. It seems like society calls out to us to have 'honor'. They tell us to strive our best, to always come in first! Our society is so consumed with the concept of honor, that we even give trophies to the ones who come in last or ribbons to those who don't even try. How wonderful a person we must be when we can forget honor, forget reocgnition, forget our own personal comforts and desires.. and put God first? When we can go do whatever God asks, even when that path involves being ignored, dishonored, and, at the limit, persecuted

All of that above is powerful! It's amazing in it's simplicity! It points to Christ as our ultimate example. It's all something that I have pondered in my own words already in my life, though not as vividly or as beautifully as he phrased it. It was the next part of the video that blew me away. The next part that challenged me to be a better Catholic.. to be a better human being. I know we must be detached. I know we must put things in their right context and put God first... but look at this image:

Fr. Barron then contended that the man on the cross, is the ultimate example of the beatitudes. I have  for the last few years of study always concluded that Jesus was indeed the way to live the beatitudes.. his life, what he stood for, his words.. his actions.. But the image in my mind was always the 'happy' Jesus. The laughing man surrounded by children, the loving man breaking bread for 5000+, the praying man with his head covered in linen... all of these was the Jesus who was living the beatitudes to me...

But there he is.. the man.. the God... completely detached from all things. Wealth? He doesn't even have clothing! Power? He's nailed to a cross, he can't even move to defend himself... Pleasure? If you've seen the Passion of the Christ you and both know there can be no pleasure on the cross.. his broken body bleeding out, his torn flesh pressed against the splintering wood! His lungs gasping for breath, forcing him to pull himself upwards to breath.. all the while pulling his nerves against the nails of his hands... His worn and aching body hanging in the sun.. with nothing to drink, no comfort to be had.. no pleasure.. Honor? The soldiers were mocking him, he had been spit on, beaten and bloodied. He was suffering the death reserved for the most heinous of criminals.. for the murderers, rapists, and scoundrels. There was no honor in the cross.. at least on the surface...

So this man here had nothing left. He had none of the four shapes to drive into the God shaped hole in his heart, in his flesh.. but he didn't need it.. because there he hung on the cross.. doing the will of God.. He didn't need any of that, because the flesh that was human just like yours and mine, the human heart that needed something in it to be complete, that part of all of our human flesh that calls out to God for completion... was already complete... he already had God in his heart.. not just because he was God.. but because this man, this messiah... gave his flesh over completely to God's will.

There he hangs.. on the cross. A happy man... Are we strong enough to be happy? Are we strong enough to go through whatever it takes? Will we hang on the cross and stretch our arms out for love of God and one another? Will we respond to God's call until we have nothing left but love in our hearts?

The next time you go to the Eucharist, picture for a moment that what you are about to hold in your hands is that man, that God, who died such a horrible death.. with happiness in his heart.. not because of his contentment.. not because of his wealth, his power, or his honor.. all of which he could have had... all of which he had been offered!!! No the happiness in his heart was for YOU!   He is there with open arms, offering himself for all eternity for you and me. Will you accept that call? Will you in turn walk forward and give yourself completely to him? Will you once again take that oath as you place God in your body? That is what we are called to do... Are you ready for that? I pray I am ready. I pray not only that I am ready for it each time I step forward.. but that God will make me ready for it, and that he will help me to strive to live the life that he calls me to live!

His servant, and yours.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Land is your land?

This land is your land, this land is my land, from the Red Wood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters.. Do you remember that famous folk song? We often think of it that way too. But as Christians we have a different view on the world. My friend Deborah Prater shared this link with me and it got me to thinking:

As a man who has been studying stewardship the past few months, this article reminds me of much of what I have been discussing with my friends. Once we begin to see the world for what it truly is, a creation given to us by God, and not as some place that was designed for us to do with as we wish; it truly changes our outlook. How many of us would design a room for our children, fill it with good things, and then watch on with joy as they destroyed it.. ripped the walls down and then broke all the toys? Yet we humans often think that we should be free to destroy the earth because we have been given 'dominion over it.'

If a king is given dominion over his peons, and he treats them well we call him a benevolent ruler. If he beats them, destroys their land, and is a horror to them.. we call them a tyrant. How much more so are we in this day and age tyrants over the land that God has given us? Do not get me wrong, many of the very comforts I enjoy daily (including this computer that I type on at the moment) have come from the development of man throughout this working and subduing the land. Yet, we also have created some very horrible things. We have destroyed many beautiful forests in the name of money and progress. We have turned many of God's creatures into genetic aberrations and keep them confined in foul, disease ridden buildings with no windows in order to have $.99 hamburgers. We fill our bodies with chemicals, cholesterol, and high fructose corn syrup creating a society in which diabetes, heart disease, and obesity is the norm; all in the name of gluttony.

When I was writing about Buddhism a while back, the concept of mindfulness brought me to a new understanding of God's providence. The Buddhist practitioner tries to remain 'in the moment', conscience of what he is doing at all times. We as Christians can learn from that.. being in the moment.. realizing that we are handling things that belong to God. How many times do we angrily sling the dishes around or half heartily wash them because we just don't want to be bothered with cleaning up (or even just leave them in the sink for days). If we truly believe that this universe is Gods, and that all gifts come from him, those dishes aren't ours! How would we treat our great grandmothers fine china? Then why do we feel that anything that belongs to God is worth less respect and treatment?

It truly opens new windows in your mind when you realize that as St. Paul said, "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." When we are at work building something, we should do our best! Though it is our bosses request that we do this job, it is God we are working for! When we mow the lawn, do it right! Make it look as good as you can, because you are doing it for God. Take that extra second it takes to overlap the mower to not miss a patch here or there.. clean the mower up (I'm guilty of not doing this) when you are done and maintain it. Clean out the stale fries in the car, it's not yours! We are just temporary residents of God's world, with God's things. They may have been designed and built by God, but it's God who gave us intelligence to do so.. who made us in his image.. that we too can join in creation!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lent is Over!

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,
 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Matt 4:17 RSV-CE

Many people return to the same old routine after Lent is over. They stop doing their extra prayers. Stop giving up any sort of sacrifice to God (fasting, penance etc). The 40 days of fasting is over, so now they 'live it up.' Easter is indeed a celebration, but it's important to remember that after Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert, he didn't return to the same old life. Imagine how different the world would be if this man had fasted for 40 days in the desert, then simply returned to Nazareth to finish his days as a carpenter?

When Jesus left the desert fast of 40 days, he went immediately into the world to begin his ministry! That is what we are supposed to do as well. We are supposed to go into the world and bring that same Jesus we have received to others! We are supposed to take those lessons of Lent (the spiritual improvements, the drawing closer to God, the suppression of the flesh, etc.) and apply them to our lives!

How can we share what we have learned in Lent with others? What are some ways we can continue throughout the year to grow in the same ways we have in these 40 days of fasting? What are some things we have done during Lent that we should continue to do year round?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Joy vs Happiness not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

When we were in high school we studied the law of cause and effect. This law helps us understand that when something happens, there is a result. When you push a ball it begins to roll, the cause is that you have pushed it, the effect is it begins to move. By knowing this simple law of nature, we can also understand happiness. Happiness is an effect. When we see our children laughing, we too laugh. We are happy because they are happy. When we are on vacation and in the hot tub as the sun is setting, we are happy because we are comfortable and enjoying ourselves. If we are in a favorable circumstance, we are happy. If we are in an unfavorable one, we are not happy.

Happiness is much different from the joy of the Lord. One easily says they are happy when God has blessed them with abundance. When we are healthy and well, and our families are fed; we are indeed happy. Joy though is when we are in an unfavorable circumstance, and yet we still trust in God. We still have joy in our soul even at though things are not going our way. Christian joy is when we trust in God no matter our circumstances! The Lord's strength and promises allow us to be happy even when we are hurting.

You can see Christian joy and dignity in the face of the dying believer. As they lay there in their hospital bed, with a smile on their face. Their life is coming to an end as we know it, yet they are filled with joy! How can this be? They trust in the promises of God! They know this is just the beginning of their journey and despite the pain, the decline, the fading world around them.. they are still happy.

Happiness can be fleeting. It can be fickle. It can fade in an instant. Joy.. joy can be permanent. We learn to be joyful when we study the Word, we we live our faith. When we turn our baptismal promises into an action, not a birth right. What are some ways that you can share your joy with others? How have you seen joy present in the lives of other believers? How can you grow in Christian joy? 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Nothing makes me smile more than the laughter of a woman who is pregnant, the joy on her face, the glow on her skin. There is just something about that person who is joyfully doing something that reminds us all that we are made in the image of God. That very act of bringing life into this world shows just how we are a part of the creation process, just as God created us humans, we are allowed the grace of making humans as well!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was given the grace of being the only person to ever give birth to God physically! We can learn from that. I know there are many who avoid talking about Mary, I used to. I missed a lot of the gospel by avoiding thinking of her. After all, she gives us an example of devotion to God that should be emulated! Should be talked about! She always points to her son! Just as at the wedding of Cana, she declares with her very life, "Do whatever he tells you!" (John 2:5)

How does this apply to our lives? Each of us receives Jesus into our lives in communion with Him! At the Eucharist we are given the gift of receiving our God into our very body, and just like Mary we are allowed the grace to bring Jesus out into the world. We bring Christ spiritually into the world by our very actions. By our thoughts, our deeds, and our lives. So are you the kind of person that when others see you, a smile comes onto their face? Do they see a post from you on Facebook and think "Oooh I can't wait to see what they have to say" or do they say "Oh dear, what is he/she going to say now?" Be like Mary! Share the radiance of the life inside you with everyone you encounter! Give birth to the spirit of Christ into this world! Open your life in complete obedience with God, and say in your very soul "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

YOU deserve better! (Dignity!)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of
 God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

Dignity. That word seems to invoke ideas of some regal queen with her nose in the air, looking down on her peasants with disdain. Yet, the word itself is an important one. One that we need to remind each and every one of our children of, both boy and girl alike. To have dignity means to be worthy of honor, and respect. Each and every person, whether they know it or not, is worthy of honor and respect.

You see we treat certain people in our society as having dignity. The President for instance gets a lot of respect. Having the highest job in our country is a very difficult thing and we show him respect for it. We stand when he enters the room. For the most part people are kind enough to stop talking while he's talking and listen to what he has to say, though we need to work on that as a society (we are losing our manners.) Yet we also extend that dignity to members of his family. The First Lady for instance gets respect, even though she is not the one in office. The children are seen as deserving respect and often get invited to do things. Even the children of previous presidents are known and respected for simply being their children.

They get dignity because of who their parents are. How does that apply to us as Christians? Each and everyone of us is made in the image of God! God IS our Father! Now some of us deny it. Some of us reject it. Some of us have no clue about it. Even those of us who do have a clue, often forget that simply truth. Being made in the image of God means that every single person, no matter how rough around the edges, no matter how they treat themselves, deserves to be treated with respect.

When we look at someone as an object, we remove their dignity. Pornography, strip clubs, dirty pictures.. all of these remove the person and only leave an object, a thing to be lusted after. There is no love in pornography. No love in staring at someones revealing images on Facebook. No love in turning a person into an object for our own personal pleasure. All of which removes their dignity, and our own. They deserve better! Even if they don't know it! Even if they put themselves in that position, we as Christians owe it to them and to God to still keep their dignity in tact as much as we are concerned and able to do so.

Remember this in every relationship: You are made in God's image. God loved us so much that he not only bragged about us, but he died for us on the cross! He loved us so much that he holds us up to the world and says, they are worth everything to me! Even my life! I will suffer ridicule, hatred, and anger.. I will be beaten, spit on and bruised.. I will lose all of my dignity so that YOU can have yours.

Every Christian man and woman are challenged to love with that same commitment. When we love, we should be putting them first. We should be showing the world how much we love them, by being willing to go through anything to prove that love. Not hiding them and only loving them when others aren't around.

Yes, we are in God's image.. and that's a huge responsibility. It means we should be treated with dignity for that very reason alone, even if that person doesn't realize it or act in a way that seems to deserve it. Even the vilest of people were still created in God's image. Ah, that people would teach their children, their sons and daughters this simple truth. That dignity is not optional!

So examine yourself. Examine your life, your heart, and your conscience.   Are you showing dignity to everyone involved in your life? If you are married are you showing it to your spouse? If you are a parent are you showing it to your children? Are you teaching your children that THEY deserve better? Do your sons and daughters know that they are made in God's image, and a worth a sacrificial love? That part of that dignity means being worth waiting for? How can you show your family, friends, children, and spouses that you appreciate them and uphold their dignity?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

First Holy Communion

Last night was a life changing experience for me, and many other converts to the Catholic faith. There is a moment in each persons life where they must decide, do I want to follow Jesus Christ? For me that has never been an issue. The last seven years though my life has been leading me ever closer to God, and in doing so it has brought me to the Catholic church. As Scott Hahn said once, "it occurred to me that delaying obedience for me was becoming almost like disobedience."  Scripture was making itself more and more clear to me that receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was a necessary thing, something that Jesus himself said we must do.

With my wife and children, those of our families who could make it, my new family of RCIA members, and the church family as a whole present, last night I approached the table of the Lord. At previous masses I would always come up last if possible, and cross my arms. Then I would receive a blessing from the priest. It helped in a way, to know that I was partaking of the blessings and grace, even though I could not receive the Eucharist itself. But I felt like the gentile woman in the gospel, who said "Yea, Lord; for even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs."  Yes, I thought myself a dog who was eating the crumbs, and I longed for more. I longed to be a brother, sitting at the table with my Lord.

Now I know I was a member of the church the moment I was baptized, but being in full communion became important to me. Last night that became a reality. The moment the Eucharist touched my lips, there was an amazing transformation. I didn't know what to expect. Maybe I thought it might taste like a wheat thin, or a salted cracker. After all it is made of wheat and water. Yet, there was so much more. Yes, there was the flavor of wheat, but it was so profound. It was as if I tasted an entire field, with the wind blowing across my taste buds, and the sun shining it's rays of warmth throughout my body. It tasted of life! I was overwhelmed. Then came the wine which was sweet, sweeter than any thing I had ever consumed.

As I returned to my seat I bowed my head in thanksgiving. I was indeed thankful that God had called me to his table, but more so... I was thankful of the amazing act of forgiveness occurring around and through the congregation. As each and every person stepped forward to receive their Lord in communion, their body filled with the grace of forgiveness, and then that grace rippling into the world. Ahh that each person who ever takes communion realizes the oath they are entering under, the covenant, the family bond; and that each of us then takes that love, that grace, that hope and spreads it throughout the world!

In Christ,


Friday, April 6, 2012

Gethsemane of the Soul

Last night after communion instead of closing the mass, we had a ceremony that brought us back to the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. Father Tim walked slowly in procession with the altar servers through the aisles of the sanctuary to the altar of repose. As he walked, incense lifted in the air and the room became alive with tension and anticipation. The church was filled with flowers, lilies, and variegated leaves. The golden ciborium glistened in the candle light as the smoke of our prayers surrounded and flowed towards heaven.

As the lights were turned out and the adoration began there was a hushed silent for a few moments as people settled into prayer. After around 5 minutes, the exodus began. People began to rise from their pews and walk out the door. My heart cried out, "Couldn't you watch with me even one hour?" I began to mourn as more and more left the room. I wanted more people to stay with Jesus in the garden, to stay alert and watch with him.

As the numbers continued to dwindle my mind was more and more occupied with how many where there. Then suddenly there where but three of us. I was startled into alertness as to what I had been doing. Instead of worshiping in truth and spirit, I had been worried about what others were doing. I was one of the three in the garden with Jesus, and I had been asleep. It was as if Jesus looked me in the eyes and said, "Could YOU not watch with me even one hour?"   As I buried my head in shame, I thanked God for what he had shown me and began to marvel at the forgiveness of our heavenly Father.

The garden became more real to me last night than ever before. All of those years that I have sat there in that ceremony, I had been preoccupied  with others things.. when Jesus just wanted me to be occupied with him. Lord may I never forget this lesson, and may I always come before you in Spirit and Truth.

The Washing of Feet

I've always wondered what it would be like to be the one who had their feet washed. My mind can easily wrap around how humbling and moving it could be the be the one doing the washing. To emulate our Lord in each  movement, doing exactly what he commanded us to do. I never really thought about the person sitting there having their feet washed by someone who loves them, someone who cared enough to do something so menial, so base, to serve our very needs.

Last night as Father Tim moved from person to person, my mind was transported through time. As he bent over before each candidate, sponsor, and young child... my heart and soul began to cry out with Peter, Lord what are are you doing? Why are you washing my feet? Is it not I who should be serving you? I am not worthy of this. No Lord, you shall never wash my feet! I never really understood those lines from John 13 until last night as I was put in that very place. Like Peter, I realized that the man washing my feet was a much better man than myself.

As Father Tim gently pulled my foot over the polished basin to wash it, I was reminded of Jesus other words in that situation, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me."  Oh how my heart was rent, my soul cried out with Peter "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" I finally understood Peter, realizing he must submit to this action in order to follow the will of God! I too wanted to shout out with joy, with exultation! Then Father lifted his eyes to mine as he was drying my unworthy feet, the very feet that had carried me through this life, the feet that were soiled with the 'dirt' of this world, the very feet that had walked me into sin many times... and I saw in his eyes something that went straight to my core.

I know Jesus is alive in each of us. I know that he lives very specially in all of our hearts. But there in those eyes, last night, without a shadow of a doubt, I saw a man filled with the Holy Spirit. I was once again transported through time. As my priest sat in persona Christi, washing my feet.. I knew that Jesus had once again washed the feet of his disciples.. and was challenging me personally:

"Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just a little bad?

Dying flies spoil the sweetness of the ointment. Wisdom and glory is more precious than a small and shortlived folly. - Ecclesiastes 10:1

We as Christians often encourage our children to do the right thing. That's part of our vocation as parents. We are supposed to be teaching them right from wrong, and how to make the right choice. Yet, today's society seems to be teaching anything in moderation is OK. Is that really true?

When we teach our children about stealing, we tell them it's wrong. Should we tell them, but hey if you're going to steal.. make sure to do it with a mask on, and only steal things worth less than a certain amount so it's not a felony? Of course not that's absurd. We believe stealing is wrong, so we tell them not to steal at all.

When we teach our children about drugs, we tell them it's wrong. Should we then tell them, but if you're going to do drugs, make sure to use a clean syringe, or stick to safe things like Marijuana? Of course not. We tell them drugs are bad, and they should avoid them always.

When we teach our children about sex outside of marriage.. why then do we tell them, if you're going to do it, use a condom? We should be teaching them to not do it at all!  Why is it clear to us that telling them that when they do it, to take precautions not to do it too much? Isn't that in fact telling them that we expect them to do it anyway?

If we truly believe it's wrong to have sex outside of marriage, then we should be teaching abstinence, not 'birth control.'

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One pink balloon

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ - Matthew 25:40

We decided to go to the store and get some lettuce for a salad for dinner tonight. While we were checking out an elderly gentleman walked up to the other counter, and the lady told him she'd be with him in a second. He said no problem and waited patiently. Another cashier came in and took over for her and she went over to help him. After he left and we finished checking out, the lady walked back up to us and said "The elderly gentleman over there left a quarter with me and asked if I thought you guys would mind if he bought a balloon for your little girl, she is behaving so well." We didn't mind at all. In fact, it reminded me how far a little gesture goes to share love in this world. One little pink balloon (only a quarter!) and my little girls face is lit up. She's running around the house playing with it now, and just having that joy of a child.

How often we think making a difference requires so much work and difficulty. Yet, this Holy Week we can make small differences. One quarter here, a yard mowed there, simply smiling and checking on your neighbor. What are some ways you can make a difference? Remember, it only takes a pebble to start an avalanche.