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,