Monday, September 11, 2006
"To those affected by this immense tragedy I hold up the light of the Gospel and pray that by the prompting of the Holy Spirit they will be led to an ever closer union with the Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of His cross and resurrection. To all I solemnly repeat the Gospel injunction not to be conquered by evil, but to conquer evil with good (Rom 12,21), to trust in the power of God's grace to transform human hearts and to work fearlessly to shape a future of justice, peace and security for the children of our world. "
--Pope John Paul II in the days following 9/11
The above words were written by Pope JPII shortly after 9/11. One was in a letter to Cardinal McCarrick in Washington, D. C., offering his condolences and the other was in a speech to his General Audience on 9/12.
There is a darkness. A shadow so black that all that can be found is coldness and hatred. It's a darkness that prevails because Christ has not cast His light on it.
It's a darkness in a person's soul and it's a darkness that can kill thousands of people. It's a darkness that can cause buildings to collapse.
Yet from this evil came an immense good. The faith that came alive in the days after 9/11 was a good so astounding showing that God can take something truly evil and bring something beautiful out of it as He so often does!
I can't believe it's been five years since that horrible day. I remember my heart being filled with so much emotion. Fear. Sadness. Anxiety.
The two words that rang through my head for around two weeks as we were inundated with television coverage were, "mercy and justice."
May God show mercy on all involved in the 9/11 attack and may His justice always prevail.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
- When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2: 1-4)
Today, June 4, 2006, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Pentecost. This, in essence, is the birth of the Church. It's when Christ sent down His Holy Spirit to renew the face of the Earth.
Unfortunately the Holy Spirit can sometimes be the Forgotten Person of the Trinity...at least for me. However, many times in my life, I have been very strongly filled by the Holy Spirit. It's quite a feeling to have Him rush through you. It takes your breath away.
In my life, I have been taught that the Holy Spirit gives us 7 Gifts which help us daily with our faith:
7. Fear of the Lord
In prayer, as Christians, we can ask the Holy Spirit to come down and give us these gifts...however, be prepared!
For with every gift we grow closer to God. And as we grow closer to Him, the more we realize just how truly distant we are from Him.
In preparation for Confession, I have asked the Holy Spirit to reveal my sins to me. (That's a tough one) and He reveals them to me in spades.
While praying, I ask Him, "What is keeping me from You?" And the answers come to me. And sometimes (most of the time?) they are answers I quite frankly don't want to hear.
All in all, the Holy Spirit has blessed me with the above gifts.
And I am forever thankful.
Come Holy Spirit
Fill the Hearts
Of Your Faithful and
Enkindle in Them
The Fire of Your Love.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
To the ends of the earth...
Today, May 25, 2006, the Catholic Church celebrates Ascension Thursday. It is the day (40 after Easter) that we celebrate the above passage when Jesus Christ ascends into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of His Father.
If you notice in the above passage, Jesus' final words to them before He ascends is to "be witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and to the ends of the earth."
What does it mean to be a witness? Well, for the apostles, they lived a life of Christ and preached the Gospel and all of them (save one) had pretty horrific deaths.
Is that what God wants from us?
He wants us to be a witness for Him. This means that we must live a life of Christ. We must preach the Gospel (using words if necessary). We must follow His commandments obediently and we must bring others closer to Him.
But even more so, we must sacrifice our lives for God. We must die to self. It's no longer what I want to do. It's what God wants me to do.
It's in that sacrifice that we are with God.
Happy Ascension Day.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
--Pope Benedict XVI during his Easter Homily
I went to a great talk yesterday by a priest friend of mine. He mentioned in his talk that we should read the Pope's homily (sermon) from Easter on line and how profound it was. I read it and was really just blown away. Pope Benedict XVI is one of the true great Christian intellectuals of our time. Reading this one homily on line was better than any blog I've read from any person. I invite all people who read this to click on the Pope's homily and read it. It is quite meaningful to all Christians.
In the above quote, the Pope is talking about Baptism. In Baptism (and throughout our entire lives), we must die to ourselves and be reborn in Christ so that it is not "I" who lives in me but rather Christ who lives in me.
And if Christ lives in me, there can be no room for hatred...no room for jealously...no room for sin.
May all who read this follow Jesus obediently to eternal life in His resurrection.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Lately, I have been watching EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) and have actually been fascinated by the programming. On Monday nights, there's a show called the Journey Home which has a former Evangelical as the host. He has different guests on his show who talk about their journey into the Catholic Church.
A couple nights ago, he had a gentleman who mentioned that the Catholic Church makes wonderful use of Typology. He then explains about the parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I had never heard this word but started researching. In the previous posts, I have mentioned the following parallels:
Jesus and Adam
Mary and Eve
Jesus and Abel
All of the above were different typologies that I had learned (although I didn't know the word). There are many more and I just find the whole thing fascinating as I learn more and more.
That's all tonight...I hope to continue writing soon.
Here are some links regarding Typology:
That Moses Thing
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. (Luke 24: 13-16)
If Jesus were to appear to you today, would you recognize Him? What would you say to Him? How would you act?
I don't think He'll have a name tag that says, "Hello, my name is Jesus Christ." (Although that would make things very easy for us.)
No, I would hazard to guess that we would not recognize Him if we saw Him. We only know that He is God. And that's all that's important.
Since we don't know what Christ looks like, how do we resolve the dillemma of recognizing Christ if we ran into Him?
The answer is really quite simple.
We treat every person as if they were Christ.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Today we celebrate the feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It marks the beginning of the Easter Season which will last for the next forty days.
Side Note: Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon past the Vernal Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere).
On this day, we celebrate the day when our Lord God rose from the dead and kicked open the doors of Hell.
In His resurrection, He defeats Satan once and for all. There is no war between God and Satan. God won.
On this day, we celebrate the moment when God offers His creatures a shot at redemption. The chance at eternal life that was lost to us by Adam's sin.
Thank you, my Lord and my God.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Every day, God asks us that question.
Where are you?
Where are you in your relationship with God?
Where are you in your relationship with your loved ones?
Where are you on your journey to the cross?
During Lent, I've been reflecting about the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the image of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross, I have a mental picture of those who are around Him. I think about the scene and how it reflects the world today.
All of us are on a journey to the Lord's Cross. All of us are present in the Lord's Passion and as He hangs on the cross dying, the question that we have to ask ourselves is, "Where am I?" What group of people am I associated with right now at this very moment.
Where are you?
1. The Pharisees
Their hearts are hardened to the Lord. They know about God but don't love Him.
2. The Romans
They mock what they don't understand. They don't know God and would rather berate Him than love Him.
3. Peter and the Apostles (except Judas and John)
Less than a day beforehand, they had dinner with Him. He washed their feet. And yet, when Jesus was on the cross, they were nowhere to be found. When their faith was shaken, they ran. They denied God out of fear.
4. Mary, John and Mary Magdalene
At the foot of the cross. With Jesus. Risking their lives to be with Him and comfort Him in his most trying time.
God wants us to risk our lives to be with Him. He wants us to live our lives as though we are the ones at the foot of the cross. Gazing at His presence with so much love for Him that we will be there for Him as He's destroying death.
The mission in preaching the Gospel is to bring others to the foot of the cross. To deliver the Good News of our Lord so that others have the love of Mary, John, and Mary Magdalene. To bring people to the Tree of Life which is the cross and to know that Jesus died for our sins so that we may have eternal life.
In my life, I feel as if I've been in at least three of the above groups. I am on a journey. There is a path that leads to the foot of the cross. If I follow God's plan for my life, my journey will end there. It's my choice to stay on the path. If I stray, I must get back on the path. If I deviate from His will, God will ask me the same question He asked Adam when Adam deviated from His will:
"Where are you?"
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them. To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me: (Psalm 22: 2-8)
Is it possible to recognize Christ in everyone? If all men (and women) are created in the image and likeness of God, then why can't we see it sometimes. For some people are truly evil. Some people are truly wicked. Some people don't deserve to be loved. Murderers. Rapists. Prostitutes.
Some people truly despise and hate God.
Do they still bear His image?
And they are still worthy of loving even if they don't deserve it. (Even if they will not turn from their wicked lifestyle to a life of God...Even if they lose their chance at salvation.)
When we are born, we are born with a certain innocence. Unstained by the world (with the exception of original sin.) At that point...at birth, we probably resemble our Lord and Saviour more than any other time in our life.
Unfortunately, as we grow older, the world lashes out at us and scars us. It beats us and wants to destroy us.
Eventually for some, the beating by the world (perhaps it's an abusive husband or neglectful parent or callous friends) disfigures them and they become of the world. Hateful. Prideful. Angry.
And then they become like a worm. Hardly human. Christ's image in them is so scarred and bruised that we don't recognize it.
And we scorn them some more.
And they become more bitter...and angry.
All of us are scarred. All of us have had the image of Christ in us mangled to the point that it may not be recognizable to others.
What are we to do when this happens?
Christ commands us to turn the other cheek.
Christ commands us to love our enemies.
Christ commands us to pick up our cross.
Christ commands us to follow Him.
Preach the Gospel. And if necessary...use words. (St. Francis of Assisi)
At the pillar, Jesus was whipped and beaten. Ridiculed and mocked. He was despised--for no reason. He became hardly recognizable.
But He was still God.
He was not angry.
He was not bitter.
He was not prideful.
He just silently preached the Gospel.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
"As the source of love, God desires to make himself known; and the knowledge which the human being has of God perfects all that the human mind can know of the meaning of life."
"Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life..."
"People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil. Christ is the Teacher, the Risen One who has life in himself and who is always present in his Church and in the world. It is he who opens up to the faithful the book of the Scriptures and, by fully revealing the Father's will, teaches the truth about moral action."
Today, April 2, 2006, is the one year anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. When I think about him, I recall the time that he was shot by a Turkish gunman at near point blank range back in May 1981. I remember--as a kid--hearing reports that when he arrived to the hospital that he had already forgiven the man who had shot him.
A few months later, he walked into the prison cell of the man who shot him. He sat down with this man who had pointed a gun, aimed, and pulled the trigger with the intention of killing.
And the Pope loved him.
And the Pope recognized Christ in him.
And the Pope forgave him.
What a great model of Christian love.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 1: 6)
Did you ever wonder why we (meaning Catholics) venerate Mary? (not worship...we do not worship Mary...no matter what some Protestants may have been told) I think if you asked most Catholics, they really couldn't give a good answer.
The above Bible passage is a continuation from my previous post. It's Eve's response to Satan as he tempts her with the Tree of Knowledge. She looks at the tree and even though God tells her not to eat it, she eats it anyway.
Then she gives it to her husband to eat too.
And then man falls.
Note that Man falls through Adam's sin and not Eve's. Paul affirms in the New Testament that Adam's sin is what caused the downfall of man and not Eve's response to Satan. It's only after Adam eats of the fruit that they realize that they were naked.
(Side Note: They were always naked! When they ate from the fruit, it's the first time that they took their eyes off of God and on to themselves...and felt shame.)
Unfortunately, it was Eve's initial, "NO!" that led to Adam's sin which led to the Fall.
- In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1: 26-38)
Today, March 25, is the Catholic Feast Day of the Annunciation. If you're Protestant and you're not sure what that means, it's the day that the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she has found favor with God and will bear His Son. This is the logical day to celebrate it as it's nine months before Christmas Day.
Imagine how Mary must have felt. She was probably around 13 years old...although the age doesn't really matter. Single but betrothed and a virgin. And an angel appears to her and says you're gonna have God's Son. Her whole life was about to change. She lived in a small town. People were going to talk. Perhaps snicker at a pregnant young girl. Rumors were probably going to spread. And she had no clue as to how Joseph was going to respond to all of this.
What's her response?
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
(Side Note: Her "How can this be..." is not a question of disbelief of God as Zechariah did, "How shall I know this?" for which he was struck mute. Hers is more of a "What's it gonna take to make this happen..." statement. At least that's how I've been taught it.)
And at that moment, her "Yes!" sets the foundation for the restoration of mankind.
Her "Yes!" was necessary to fix Eve's "No!"
So as Man falls through Adam's Original rejection of God (caused by Eve's "NO!"), Man is redeemed through Jesus Christ's obedience to God (caused by Mary's "YES!").
This is why Catholics hold Mary in such high regard. We call her the "New Eve" as Jesus Christ is called the "New Adam."
This is the understanding of the Catholic Church today and it's the understanding of the early Church Fathers all the way back to the first century.
We need to hold her as a model. We need to live a life like hers. When we hear what God wants from us--no matter how much it affects us...no matter how inconvenient it may be.
We need to say "YES!"
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary! Full of Grace! The Lord is with thee! (Luke 1:28)
Blessed are thou amongst women
And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus (Luke 1: 42)
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now...and at the hour of our death.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
- But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad."
- (Genesis 3: 1-5)
He lied to Eve and lies to us now today. He tempts us. He wants to take us away from God and wants us to put ourselves in the center of our lives in place of God.
Because he hates us.
He wants us to argue with God. He wants us to argue with our neighbors. He wants us to go to war. He wants us to kill if not with weapons then with our words. He wants division.
He envies us as he envied Adam and Eve. For we are with God and he is not. Through his envy, he wants to take us away from God. Not by turning ourselves to him but rather by turning ourselves inward to ourselves.
Recognize the lies and reject Satan. Avoid him and ask God for help.
Unfortunately for us, what Eve did not realize was that Satan was lying to her the whole time. The truth was that she already was like God as He created her in His image and likeness. The truth was that she already had knowledge of what was good and what was bad.
Satan lied and said that man will not die but rather become like god, the ironic Truth is that God fixed the mistake by becoming a man and dying.
Because He loves us.
Thank You, God.
I love You.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
- If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15)
How important is forgiveness?
Over the weekend, I have been reflecting on Matthew 18: 21-35. Great parable which I won't add to my post but please read when you have a chance. I haven't been able to get it out of my head.
In life, there will be people who cross your path--some close to you and some not--who will hurt you. Either intentionally or unintentionally, they will attack your very being. Perhaps they don't like the color of your skin or your faith. Maybe they don't agree with your convictions. Or maybe they're a family member who's been holding a grudge for oh so many years and lashes out at you.
And then you get hurt.
And you hold on to that hurt and let it fester inside of you. It starts to control you and soon, when you see that person who hurt you, you lash back at them to "even the score."
Is that what we should do? Is that what God wants?
God wants us to forgive--the way He forgave us. We put Him on a cross and nailed Him to it. The Jews didn't kill Jesus. We did. All the sinners who have ever walked on this planet. Every person who has ever said, "Thanks God for the advice but I'm doing it my way." With every sin we commit, we pound that nail into His flesh harder and harder. With every sin, we make Him scream louder and louder in agony.
And yet, He still forgives the penitent.
When someone hurt us, I can assure you, we don't feel the same pain that Jesus did on the cross. Forgive them as He forgives us. Don't dwell on the pain and the hurt. Don't let it control your life.
As Christ acknowledged His pain while hanging naked on a cross to die, we too must acknowledge our pain when someone hurts us for we cannot forgive without acknowledging that we've been hurt. Take the pain and the hurt and nail it to the cross and forgive whoever it is who hurt you.
What if we don't? What if we let it fester inside us? What if we let it eat away at our soul?
How important is forgiveness?
Our salvation depends on it.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me
Today, I'm taking a small break from my Lenten posts to write about St. Patrick. As most people probably know, March 17 is St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick is one of those saints that has transcended the Catholic Church and has their days celebrated by all people. (Usually by going to the local Irish bar and having a few pints of Guinness and by wearing green).
But there's more to Saint Patrick than this. Sure we know that he's Irish and we also know that we celebrate his feast day by eating corned beef and cabbage. What else?
Well, to learn more about St. Patrick, please visit this site which tells us what we need to know about him.
The above prayer is his and I love it for it's simplicity and how it shows that this man had a very good love for our Lord.
I'll end this post with a quote from Saint Patrick himself:
I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.
If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ's name. I want to spend myself for that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.
It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in the Gospel: "They shall come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.
O Saint Patrick, thank you for your wonderful example. I ask that you pray for all who work to deliver the Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world and that today--on your feast day--ask Jesus Christ, whom you love above all things, to touch the hearts of all who read this post.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
- Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.' He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'" (Luke 15: 26-32)
I think this is the most intriguing part of this parable. If you may recall, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees who have just complained that He welcomes sinners and eats with them. (Luke 15: 2) This parable is a rebuttal--one of many--to their complaint.
The older brother, after toiling in the field all day hears the celebration and wants to know what all the fuss is about. He asks the servants who tell him that his brother has returned and the father is celebrating.
What's the older son's reaction? Does he too become excited and happy and want to celebrate?
He becomes angry at his father and refuses to enter the house. His heart--not filled with love--is filled with envy. He doesn't want to welcome his brother as he probably does not love him (or his father).
How does the father react to this? He goes out and pleads with the older son to join the party. But the son sadly refuses. I obeyed your orders. I served you. But you never gave me anything.
Oh how blind he is. For the father has given him everything he owns. And he doesn't even realize it.
Lest anyone think that God hates the Pharisees (from Matthew 23), He does not hate them. He loves them. He wants them to join in the feast. They are the elder son in this parable.
The elder son represents all people who take God for granted (Christians and non-Christians). The ones who say they are Christian and do all the Christian things but don't really love Him. Please note that the elder son never says he loves his father...just that he served him and obeyed him.
Let's not be like this.
If you notice, Jesus never mentions if the older son ever comes back to the celebration. Did he ever repent as the younger son did? I don't know. It brings me to a final question which is something I would like readers to ponder...
Which one is the lost son?
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
- Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."' So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began. (Luke 15: 17-24)
This is the second of a three part post regarding the Prodigal Son. I appreciate the comments that have been left in my comments section from the first post. Honestly, there is a lot of depth to this parable and it has so many dimensions and meanings that we could probably write an entire book just on the parable of the Prodigal Son (if one hasn't already been written.) I'm only covering one facet of this beautiful parable.
In this section of the parable, the lost son realizes just how lost he is. He is in a foreign land working for a cruel boss and finally comes to his senses.
This section is all about repentance and a father's love. He realizes that without his father he is nothing. He is lost. He is dying from hunger and yearns to be a lowly servant to his father. For even a servant to his father is well cared for. He decides to go back to his father and ask him to be his hired hand for he is no longer worthy.
And there's his father. Waiting for him.
Waiting and looking out into the horizon. Waiting for his lost son to return back to him. Why? Because he loves his son who is now dead to him and his desire is for him to return.
And when he sees his son far far away in the horizon, his love for his son fills his heart and he RUNS out and meets him and before his son can even say, "I'm sorry for all the pain I've caused you"...
He embraces him.
He kisses him.
He loves him.
The son repents and the father celebrates for his dead son is now found.
What a great example of God's love for us. God wants us to repent. He wants us to have a contrite heart when we stray from Him and when we have that, before we even have a chance to say, "I'm sorry God!" He's already welcomed us back into His family.
For all sinners, God is waiting for us. He wants us to repent.
He wants us to repent and come back on our knees wanting to be His servant. Not worthy of His love or our righteousness.
And when we do, He will run out and embrace us and welcome us back.
Monday, March 13, 2006
- Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. (Luke 15: 11-16)
That's what this poor soul essentially tells his father at the start of this parable.
I wish you were dead.
Give me my share of your inheritance and let me do whatever I want with it.
I wish you were dead.
I will take all that you have given me and leave to a far away land. Far away from you and far away from your control over me.
I wish you were dead.
I will take the talents you gave me and waste them--on things that I want to spend them on.
You can't tell me what to do...for You are dead to me!
And then disaster strikes and this life of licentiousness leads to a life of serving pigs! (Rember...Jews don't think too highly of pigs) and then I long to be a pig...to live like them and eat like them. And I'm not even worthy enough to do that!
This is what a life of lawlessness leads to. This is what a life without God is like. We see it in our society now and it is evident in our media, in our schools and in our governments.
All of us start out as part of God's family. All of us have unique gifts and talents that God graciously bestowed on us.
Let's use them wisely--for the greater glory of God-- and not waste them--or else we'll end up wanting to live like pigs.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
- "A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong. " (2 Corinthians: 7-10)
Oh Lord, why is there suffering in the world?
This question is asked whenever we see a person dying. The pain that a person endures as their life is drawn out of them due to an illness like cancer is something indescribable. Some people choose to avoid it through assisted suicide and some persevere until the very end.
Suffering is a result of the Fall of Man. In Eden, there was to be no suffering. After the Fall, Man brought a curse to the earth that has scorched it since the beginning of time.
Does God want us to suffer?
Why? I don't know. Who am I to question God? However, He wanted Christ to suffer and Christ knew the suffering that was to come and His anxiety was so great that He sweated blood. Perhaps He wanted Christ to suffer as an example to all of us who have to suffer to a much lesser degree every day of our lives.
He also wanted Paul to suffer as noted in the above passage. Paul did not want whatever affliction he had and asked God to take it away from him. God's response: "My grace is sufficient for you."
What are we to do with suffering?
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24)
My father died from stomach cancer two years ago and although he suffered immeasurably, he never showed it. At that same time, my wife was expecting our first (and for now only) child. As you could imagine it was a time of great joy and great sorrow in our family.
In my father's last few weeks as he laid in his bed dying, a priest called him. He asked him if he'd had his last confession (which he'd already had) and then told him something that I'll never forget. (My father didn't tell me this...the priest did months later only after asking him.)
The suffering that my father was going through. The immeasurable pain he was feeling. The priest told my father to "Give it meaning." The term that the Church uses is "Redemptive Suffering." It's what Christ did on His path to the cross and it's what Paul is referring to in the above passages.
In redemptive suffering, we bind the suffering to our intercessory prayers and through the suffering the prayer has more meaning to God.
Although my father never told me what he was doing, I know that through all the pain that he went through, his prayer to God through it all was:
"Lord, I am suffering for my unborn grandchild."
When I think about that, I cry.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I've been having trouble writing a post lately. I don't know if I am having a writer's block or maybe what I want to write about, God doesn't want me to write or something altogether different.
As I started writing my original post, I scrapped it and decided to write about sin. I don't know why...perhaps God is pushing me this way or perhaps it's just me writing about sin. Anyhow, the above Gospel passage was read at the Catholic Mass last Sunday. It's Christ's first commandment to us. Repent and believe in the Gospel...Repent from what? Obviously, it's from our sins. Which brings me to the next question:
What is sin?
To be honest with you, I typed the above phrase into Google and got some interesting web sites that only confused me as I read people's thoughts on sins.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as follows: "The rejection of God and opposition to Him" or to put it more simply...
Actively choosing not to love God (and one another).
Why would we do that? Because, unfortunately, we are prone to sin and sometimes, we choose to do what we want as opposed to what God wants. It's been like that since Adam and will continue to be like that until Final Judgement.
What are we to do? Repent. As often as possible. Every day if necessary.
And of course, Love God.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18)
Lent is upon us.
Lent is a time of conversion. It's a time of living simply. This is the reason why the Mardi Gras/Carnivale celebrations are so festive. It's the last celebration before Lent begins.
During Lent, we are called to focus ourselves more on God and help us prepare ourselves for the Easter Sunday. In order to prepare, we must truly recognize what God did for us through His sorrowful Passion.
For in order for Christ to Resurrect on Easter, He had to die on Good Friday. And in order to die, He had to suffer. And His suffering was brutal. And His suffering was for me (and all of us) for which I should be truly sorry.
On Ash Wednesday at Mass, the above Gospel passages were read all over the world from the largest cities to the smallest towns on all the continents. The passages are a reminder of what Catholics are called to do during Lent to help us prepare and to help us grow closer to God as we reflect on His sorrowful death. We are asked to grow in conversion and righteousness specifically through increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
When all three are combined and bound together. We grow in the Lord and are graced with His presence in ways that are astounding (and sometimes truly humbling). Of course, we are always called to prayer but during Lent, we are more focused through our Liturgies and activities on Christ's Passion. At Catholic Churches worldwide, The Way of the Cross is celebrated throughout Fridays during Lent. When praying the Rosary, we have more focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries at this time and our Liturgical readings are all focused on repentance and preparation for Christ's crucifixion.
Fasting is a process that can be used to purge ourselves of anything that may keep us away from God. It's not the traditional fasting (although it can be if you choose) but rather something that one gives up during Lent as a sacrifice. Why do we give it up? Because we love God and we show our love through the sacrifice. If a person enjoys morning coffee, they may sacrifice drinking it during Lent as a minor offering to God to show their love for Him. Whatever is given up should be something that's meaningfully significant to the individual. If a person hates going to the opera and decides they're giving up going to the opera, that's probably not a worthy sacrifice. When we fast (or sacrifice), we should tie it with our prayer. Whatever it is that we're praying for, we should offer our fast for that prayer. Example, if we're praying for an individual, fast for the healing (or conversion) of that individual.
Almsgiving should be done because we love our neighbors and through the lowliest of men, we can find God...and perchance bring them closer to Him too.
Above all, we do these things privately. We don't do them to show off or to compare ourselves to our neighbors. We do them because we love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Well, I got back home safe and sound from Mexico. It was a good pleasant trip although there were a lot of interesting things that happened:
--Due to high winds, I missed my connecting flight to Mexico in Phoenix and had to spend the night there (It sure beats Detroit!) When I got to my hotel, I felt the urge to call a friend of mine who was just recently laid off. As it turned out, he had just arrived into Phoenix the night before. So, that evening, we were able to get together and spend some time.
--In Hermosillo, Mexico, I met up with a gentleman whom I met six years ago in another city about 500 miles from Hermosillo. I only met him a couple of times and we were at most mild acquaintances. Anyhow, he took me to his house to meet his wife (whom I had met before) and his kids. In his kitchen, I saw a picture in the center of his refrigerator. I examined it closely and realized that I took that picture six years earlier! Talk about weird!
--In Chihahua, Mexico, I met up with a gentleman whom I had never previously met. In the evening, we got to talking and it turned out that he had lived in Detroit about 15 years ago for a year. At that time, he went to my church! (at least my old church). Talk about a small world.
In these 3 instances (and a few other smaller ones), I could really sense God was present and that he wanted me there for a reason. Why? I don't know. I just need to trust His lead.
In the last week, I have been sensing another presence. One that's not so welcome. In the last week:
--My home computer where I write my posts completely broke down
--My daughter got very sick--just as I was leaving.
--I missed my flight down to Mexico (as stated previously)
--I kept on getting stopped by security and customs
--My flight home was delayed.
I sense a presence that is trying to discourage me. It's trying to afflict me and take my focus away from God. Were all the above instances caused by the Devil? I don't know. I just know that I need to have my love for God stay focused on Him and Him alone. We cannot let the Devil distract us.
For he hates us. His goal is not to get us to worship him. His goal is to turn us away from God and get us to focus inwards to ourselves. (Genesis 3:4) His sin is a sin of pride and he wants all of humanity to share in it with him. We cannot let him do that to us. We need to turn away from pride and focus ourselves on God and His love for us. When Satan tempts us, we need to turn to God and cling ever closer to Him and His cross and not let go.
We can't do this alone.
We can only do this with God's help and we can only receive that grace through prayer. The above prayer is a prayer that I learned from my parents who are/were members of a Catholic Charismatic Community. Unfortunately, my father passed away a couple of years ago. We used the above prayer for his prayer card at the funeral.
I need to remind myself and ask all Catholics who read this to pray the above prayer every day. There is a spiritual war going on and the only way we can win it is by completely turning to Jesus and helping others turn themselves to Jesus as well.
For my Protestant brothers who are probably uncomfortable with the above prayer, I understand and ask you to remind yourself to pray the prayer below or use your own words to ask God to help you reject Satan on a daily basis.
Above all, please pray from the heart.
As has been stated earlier in my posts, we cannot do this without God's help.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray this prayer in the power or the Holy Spirit
In the name of Jesus Christ, I bind, rebuke and bring to no effect, all division, discord, disunity, strife, anger, wrath, murder, criticism, condemnation, pride, envy, jealousy, gossip, slander, evil speaking, complaining, lying, false teaching, false gifts, false manifestations, lying signs and wonders, poverty, fear of lack, fear spirits, murmuring spirits, hindering spirits, retaliatory spirits, deceiving spirits, religious spirits, occult spirits, witchcraft spirits (including Jezebel, Delilah and Apollyon) and spirits of antichrist
I bind all curses that have been spoken against me. I bless those who curse me, and pray blessings on those who despiteful use me
I bind all spoken judgment made against me and judgments I have made against others
I bind the power of negative words from others, and I bind and render useless all prayers not inspired by the Holy Spirit; whether psychic, soul force, witchcraft or counterfeit tongues that have been prayed against me
I am God's child. I resist the devil. No weapon formed against me shall prosper. I put on the whole armor of God. I take authority over this day, in Jesus' name. Let it be prosperous for me, let me walk in your love, Lord. The Holy Spirit leads and guides me today, I discern between the righteous and the wicked
I take authority over Satan and all his demons, and those people who are influenced by them. I declare Satan is under my feet and remain there all day. I am the righteous of God in Christ Jesus
I am God's property. Satan you are bound from my family, my mind, my body, my home and my finances
I confess that I am healed and whole. I flourish, I am long lived, stable, durable, incorruptible, fruitful, virtuous, full of peace, patience and love. Whatsoever I set my hand to do shall prosper, for God supplies all my needs. I have all authority over Satan, all demons, and beasts of the field. God, I pray for the ministry that you have for me. Anoint me, God, for all you have called me to do for you
I call forth divine appointments, open doors of opportunity, God ordained encounters and ministry positions. I claim a hedge of protection around myself, spouse and children throughout this day and night
I ask you God, in the name of Jesus to dispatch angels to surround me, my spouse and my children today, and to put them throughout my house and around our cars, souls and bodies. I ask angels to protect my house from any intrusion and to protect me and my family from any harmful demonic or other physical or mental attacks.
I ask this prayer in the name of Jesus AMEN.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
- "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.' "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined." (Matthew 7:21-27)
These verses in the Bible frighten me.
Not because of the fear of eternal damnation that I may face but rather because if this were the case for me, I obviously did not love Him enough.
By loving God and being obedient to Him, He will give us a foundation built on rock. Not because we are obedient mind you, but because He loves us and through His grace we will receive it.
If we're not obedient, our faith is built on sand and can collapse in times of duress...and God may reserve harsh judgement on us.
Let's all try to love Him as I know that's what He really wants.
Well, I'm going to be on the road for the rest of the week in Mexico. I might have access to the internet and I might not. I'll find out when I get there.
May God bless all of you.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
This will be my final response to Mike Garner's comment to my post. I honestly thought I was finished but I think God wants me to do one more. I may do another one outside of this series about who killed Jesus but right now, I'm being pushed this way.
Mike graciously suggested that I read A Treatise on the Predestination. He is correct that it is very well worth the read. I've done a cursory read although haven't had much time to digest it.
Interestingly, in our latest comments, he suggested that I was reading my own opinion into John 6:45. "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. "
First of all, I will admit that when I read scripture that I look at it with a jaundiced view...that God loves you and He wants you to love Him back. That's not in one line of the Bible, it screams out at me throughout the whole of Scripture.
Secondly, upon reading Augustine's book upon Mike's recommendation, I stumbled onto this in chapter 14:
And yet in a certain sense the Father teaches all men to come to His Son. For it was not in vain that it was written in the prophets, "And they shall all be teachable of God." And when He too had premised this testimony, He added, "Every man, therefore, who has heard of the Father, and has learned, cometh to me."
I didn't read this until tonight but apparently, if Mike disagrees with me, he also disagrees with Austine's writings that he recommended to me.
I also think Mike (and all Calvinists) will disagree with Augustine in regards to his thoughts on Free Will (which makes me wonder why they would refer to themselves as Augustinians). He wrote a whole treatise on it titled On Grace and Free Will.
I have only read the first few chapters and skimmed the rest of it (but I'm sure it's also definitely worth the read). Augustine writes this in Chapter 2:
Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards.
The only difference between what I was saying and what he's saying is that he says it better than I do (and I erroneously preached the Semipelagian heresy...thanks again, Mike for catching that).
So, according to Augustine (and me):
Man has free will.
God loves us. All of us. He wants us to love him back freely and the whole of scripture does not make sense without free will.
I honestly don't think there's anything more I can write about this. When I started last week, my plan was to write about something completely different but God pushed me in this direction and I didn't understand it at the time.
I want to thank Mike Garner for this as it's helped me have a much better understanding of the subject. It's also given me a better understanding of the Catholic Church's teaching of Free Will of which I honestly only had a vague understanding.
I really hope that all who read this will be drawn closer to Him. I am not looking for division because that's not what He wants.
He wants us to love Him back.
May the Grace and the Love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all who read this post.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Hello everyone, first of all, I would like to thank Mike Garner for spotting an error in my logic. In my ignorance, I misinterpreted a Bible quote in Romans 1 and said that "us giving Him glory and praise comes first..."
Mike lovingly told me that what I said was incorrect. I did more research and reread Romans 1 and realized that he was correct. Before today, I did not know who Pelagian was or what a Semi-Pelagian is. Mike, you're helping me become a better Catholic! (Talk about irony)
Anyhow, God gives us the grace to love Him and as I had quoted Romans 1:20 in my misinterpretation, I failed to note that in Romans 1:19, that "God made Himself evident to them." The way that I read this (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is that He has made Himself evident through His grace.
And through Jesus, we have received grace in place of grace.
Does He give everyone that grace?
I don't know. I'm not God.
What I do know is that He's asking all of us to respond to His call. He has given us the grace to respond to Him and from that response, then we freely choose to love Him.
When we freely respond to His call and listen to Him, He will grace us with the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 6:44-45)
In regards to why I love God while our neighbors (or family or church...etc.) do not...I guess my answer is, "I don't know."
God doesn't want me to compare myself to my neighbors. That's like Cain comparing his sacrifice to Abel's. And that is frowned upon very strongly by Jesus (regarding the Pharisee comparing himself to the tax collector.) I can't judge them (although if they are doing something wrong, I can tell them that what they are doing is wrong...as Mike did earlier today); I can only love them as Christ loves me and of course, bring them closer to God.
I have a hard enough time with my own relationship with Him to compare myself to my neighbor.
As always, may the peace and love of our Lord, Jesus Christ be with everyone.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
2. Corruption of the Fall of Man?
From Mike's comment:
I would agree that Adam freely chose to sin against God. The question becomes if the rest of mankind has this same freedom. The question can be asked differently: Does the corruption of the Fall affect Man's free will?
Mankind did not lose their free will through Adam's fall. What mankind lost was the access to the Tree of Life as punishment for Adam's original sin. Because of the loss of access, we were all destined to die. Why? Because we bear the stain of Adam's original sin.
This is the original sin that Paul refers to in Romans 5. Because of Adam's sin, we are all inclined toward sin (or rather enslaved in sin). This is what Paul is talking about and not that we have lost our free will.
How can I be sure of my interpretation regarding the non-corruption of free will in Genesis 3?
By reading Genesis 4.
The very first story immediately following the Fall of Man is the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4: 2-5, it talks about how the two made offerings to God. Why did they (and especially Abel) make offerings to God? For Salvation? To get back in the Garden? That was lost to them. They did it because they loved God for God alone (at least Abel did). Not for reward and reading this passage indicates that it was all a free choice.
Side note regarding Cain and Abel:
When I first read this passage, I struggled with it. Why was Cain's offering displeasing to God? Well, for two reasons...
1. He was not giving his best fruits of his labor.
2. He was paying more attention to what his brother was giving than choosing to love God.
Moral of the story: God wants us to give Him our best...also note that Abel was a keeper of the flock who was killed as a result of his brother's sin...a direct point from the Old Testament to the Passion.
So, how does one get eternal life? By coming back to the Tree of Life! Jesus Christ (the New Adam) restored that Tree when He came down as a man and fixed Adam's original sin by remaining obedient to God's will. Choosing to die for our sins (note: He was not murdered. True, we nailed Him to the cross with our sins but He chose to be sacrificed; thus God did not want to be murdered. He freely accepted death on a cross. There is no contradition in Scripture.)
What does He ask from us in return? To love Him. To keep His commandments. To deny yourself and follow Him (to death on a cross if necessary). To be His friend.
Does this guarantee us eternal life? No. His grace does.
So when is the Tree of Life that's discussed in the beginning of the Bible (at the beginning of creation) restored?
At the very end of the Bible in Revelation 22 at the end of times.
I think that's enough for tonight. Hopefully, God willing, I will continue tomorrow.
Peace to all who read this.
A fellow Christian has asked me to go deeper into the discussion about Free Will. In my comment section, he left a lengthy rebuttal to my initial post and comment. In order to better organize my thoughts and ease of use (regarding hyperlinks, etc.), I will respond in post form.
1. Biblical foundation for Free Will.
In my comment section, I noted that man has intellect and free will as he is formed in the image and likeness of God who has intellect and free will. Free will and intellect (I would classify "thinking about thinking" as intellect) are what separates us from animals (along with a soul which I carelessly forgot to mention in my comment). Animals act instinctively and we have the tendency to act instinctively as well.
Anyhow, regarding Biblical foundation, there is Biblical foundation for this
thought and it's found in Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) 15:14.
" When God, in the beginning, created man, he made him subject to his own free choice."
For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it's because it is not generally found in a Protestant Bible. It's part of the Deuterocanonical /Septuagint books (or Apocrypha). Why it's not in the Protestant Bible, I don't know. It was generally accepted as Scripture at the time of Christ...anyhow, I know that some of my Protestant brothers in Christ don't accept this as Scripture and that's fine. I do. I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this point.
Additionally, me being Catholic, I'm not bound by the Sola Scriptura philosophy. Two Doctors of the Church, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas adequately argue on Free Will and the Catholic Church accepts their arguments as Catholic Doctrine. I won't reiterate their arguments but have hyperlinked their names to their thoughts on Free Will.
That being said, I stand by my thoughts regarding Genesis 1:26. Am I reading my free will view into the text? Possibly...as did the author of Sirach. I admitted that my beliefs color my reading of Scripture in a previous post as it is inherent in our humanity.
Without Free Will, the Bible would not make sense as there would be no sin. How can we sin against God if He programmed us to do it? That cannot be what God wanted. He had to want man to freely choose Him or else the whole of the Bible does not make sense.
That's all for now...I'll continue on my response hopefully tomorrow.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
About fifteen years ago when I was younger, more arrogant and knew everything I needed to know about life, I reasoned out that free will doesn't exist. Man is guided by his decisions using the pleasure principle. In other words, a person will make his decisions based on whatever derives the most pleasure. To do otherwise was illogical. Why would anyone do something that would derive more pain than pleasure?
This argument worked for everything. Every decision that is made is based on an outcome and as such, a person can reasonably deduce what decision will be made. Therefore, how can there be free will?
An example of this would be as follows:
1. Somebody you know loses $100 and asks you if you've seen it.
2. The next day, you find the $100. Do you return it?
Person A may return it because if he kept the money, it would be stealing and thus a sin and he didn't want to go to Hell. Thus, his keeping the $100 wasn't worth eternal damnation.
Person B may not return it because he doesn't think about Heaven/Hell and he could use that new DVD player he's been wanting and there was no way that the guy who lost it would figure out that he found it.
Either way, each person really doesn't choose freely, they are letting the perceived rewards guide their actions. My above argument makes a whole lot of sense and I couldn't see around it.
Well, around 9 years ago, I underwent a conversion experience that shook me to my foundation (another post for another time.) It came like a bolt of lightning for which I was truly not prepared. I could see so clearly how misguided I was regarding my theology, my understanding of the Catholic Church and my understanding of God.
At that time, I started to grasp the whole idea of free will. Our gift of free will has nothing to do with every day decisions for in a large part, our decisions are (or can be) determined by what derives the most pleasure.
Our gift of free will comes in our ability to choose to love God with all our hearts, all our mind and with all our strength.
Why should we choose to love God?
And for no other reason. Not for salvation. Not out of fear. Just because. It's in that choice that God gives us free will. To choose Him above all things. As a result, we choose to follow His commandments. Why? Because. This is where Adam failed. He actively chose to not love God. If Adam knew the consequences of his actions, he probably would have thought twice about eating that fruit.
So, regarding my dillemma, I guess I would fall under "Person C" who returns the $100 because God commanded me not to steal and I love Him and choose to follow His commandments for no other reason than because I love Him.
And loving Him is the only real free choice I have.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
God hears all of our prayers and He responds to all of them...in His time not ours. And His answer may not be what we want to hear.
God is calling us (and I mean ALL of us). He's knocking at our door and he's waiting for us to answer Him. (Revelation 3:20) That's what prayer is. Us responding to His call.
When you let Him in the door, He will deliver graces to you that will knock you on the floor. Not because you let Him in but because of His limitless love for you.
How do we respond to God?
1. By loving Him above all things
2. By thanking Him for all that we have
3. By repenting for our sins
4. By bringing others closer to Him
5. By LISTENING to Him (that's a hard one)
6. And ultimately by conforming ourselves to Christ
It is through prayer that we open the door to our hearts and let Him in. He thirsts for us. He wants us to be a part of the flock. It's why He gave us free will. So we can choose to do His will and love Him unconditionally for who He is (as He loves us for who we are).
We shouldn't be praying for things we want (e.g. a new job, a girlfriend, Salvation, etc.) That's not what God wants from us.
He just wants us to open the door; so that He can dine with us.
And He wants us to pray.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Lord God, heavenly king, almighty God and Father,
We worship you, we give you thanks,
We praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world:
Have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
Receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord
You alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
In the glory of God the Father.
For those of you who are not Catholic, this prayer is said every Sunday in Mass (except during Lent/Advent). In church today, I heard the prayer and started thinking about it and couldn't get it out of my head.
I did a little research and this exact prayer can be traced back to at least 380 AD. Something like it can be traced back to the second century so it's a very old prayer.
If you're Catholic, the next time you're in Mass and this prayer comes up, we may have a tendency to just say it without really thinking about it. If you know what I'm talking about, catch yourself and really work to give Glory to God. Also, for all Christians, think about what giving glory to God means in your life and how is this achieved. I have my thoughts however, I think this is something that individuals need to figure out for themselves.
May God bless all who give glory to Him.
Friday, February 03, 2006
In case you didn't know, the Super Bowl has descended on Detroit. Living in the area, it has been non-stop coverage of the activities that accompany it. I see people all dressed up in black and gold or blue/green and they're all out having a great time. The big celebrities are here going to lavish red carpet parties and the media is eating it all up.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a big Lions fan and I like watching the Wolverines (who in my opinion should have been the sole national champions in 1997--Stupid Missouri can't do anything right--Sorry Daniel) but I don't lose my perspective. Sports is not the be all and end all for me.
We are living in a culture today where people stick chunks of cheese on their head to show they are fans of the Green Bay Packers and yet, if you asked them to follow Christ, they'd probably give you a blank stare. (If I'm generalizing, I apologize...just my perspective...on Packer fans)
God wants us to be fanatical. He wants us to worship. It's in our natural blueprint to worship. Everyone is fanatical about something. Unfortunately, for most people who wake up early on Sunday mornings to watch NFL Countdown, they're fanatical about the wrong thing.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
- On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." (John 2: 1-3)
When Mary was in Cana and they started to run out of wine, she approached Jesus and said, "They have no wine."
What can we learn from this?
Before I answer that, I know that Catholics and Protestants differ on our views of Mary (and I really don't want to argue about that) however, I think there's a lesson for all of us in this text. I think one thing that we can all agree on, however, is that Mary knew and loved her Son as any mother knows and loves her son.
When she approaches Him, all she says is, "They have no wine." At that point, Jesus knew exactly what she was asking Him and responded.
This is a great lesson on how we should pray. We really need to keep it simple when we approach Him. Why? Because He already knows what you're going to ask and He knows what you want. The words just get in the way.
We don't need long wordy prayers to God. Just nice short simple ones. If your child is sick, in prayer, just say, "Lord, my child is sick."
He knows what you want and will answer your prayer.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Yesterday, I mentioned how God has graced me in so many ways. Well, the greatest grace next to His death and resurrection for me has been my wonderful and patient wife.
Back in 2000, I was a happy single guy who loved God and tried to be as obedient as I could be to Him. On Christmas Eve at Midnight Mass, I made a simple prayer. "Thank You God for all that You've given me. I want to know Your love more. If it be Your will, I would like 2001 to be the year that I meet my future wife." At that point in time, I felt a rush of the Holy Spirit pour into me (I really do feel that a lot...it's VERY cool) and I knew that God's answer was "Yes." At that point, I got very excited. Who would she be? How would I meet her? But then I realized, just follow His will and He'll lead me right to her.
Since I was single and not dating anyone, I decided that I would treat God as my significant other that year. Really try to make time for Him. (Weird...sounds like something out of Brokeback Mountain except it's NOT). Anyhow, as the year progressed, I realized that I'd take God for granted or not do everything He wanted and thought to myself, "God, if I treated a woman the way I'm treating You, I'll never get married." That was an amazing grace as God was showing me faults that I would need to fix if I were to ever have a girlfriend (let alone wife).
Over the year, God kept on bringing really wonderful women in my life and my thoughts would be, "Is she the one?" And the little voice inside me said, "Follow His will and don't worry about who it will be!"
Of course, my friends all thought I was crazy. They were telling me, "You're setting yourself up for a big fall!" And my response was, "God made me a promise, I'm trusting Him!"
By around August and no girl in sight (alas, I met a lot of women but to no avail) I started to worry--not doubt--just worry. Maybe I wasn't following His will. I know the promise was real. At that time, an old girlfriend of mine and I started talking. She was telling me that she had met a guy and that she was hoping he'd be the one for her and although I still had feelings for her, I hoped that he'd be the one for her too because I wanted her to be happy.
So, I prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament one hot night in August two prayers. I prayed to God that He leads her to her husband and I prayed that He lead me to my wife.
Oh little did I know.
At that point, my old girlfriend and I started rekindling our relationship. We started out as friends, talking every few days. Pretty soon, she realized that guy wasn't the one for her and we started getting closer and closer.
And on December 28 of 2001, we started dating again and God delivered His promise.
We got married on June 14, 2003 and my life has never been the same.
Thank you God for making me so happy and teaching me more about Your love. She's been a true blessing to me. May I always have faith in You alone, hope in your promise to me, and most of all, may I love You with all my heart, all my mind and all my strength.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
First of all, I would like to personally thank all the people who take time each day to read what I write. It's humbling to know that people all over the world are viewing what I have to say. A couple of things that I need to constantly remind myself of:
1. I am writing this for God and for God alone. If no one reads these posts, that should not affect me writing it. As more and more people start reading, I may feel the urge to write for the wrong reasons. i.e. Maybe writing for myself instead of for Him.
2. I am writing this to bring all people closer to God. If what I am writing is not doing that, then I truly and sincerely apologize.
In that spirit, I ask the readers of this blog to please GENTLY remind me in my comment sections if I ever fail in either of my two objectives. e.g. I grandstand or say something really stupid that just isn't right (and you'll know it when you read it). I would greatly appreciate it.
I know that I can have a tendency to start trying to "show off" and that's what I really don't want to do. I want to try and stay humble before God.
In my life, I have received some very overwhelming graces. Things have happened that have made me very grateful for a loving God.
What is grace? Well, I've been thinking about it for the last few days and researching to make sure I was correct in my thinking.
Grace is a gratuitous gift from God. It's freely given out of love from Him and He has graced all of us (and I mean the entire world here) with everything that we have.
He's graced us with our lives.
He's graced us with our faith.
He's graced us with our families.
He's graced us with our friends.
The list goes on and on.
But above all, He's graced us with His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed the world through His death and resurrection. As you reflect on the Old Testament, you realize that God keeps giving us chances and we keep screwing up. We screwed up in Eden. He gave us another chance with Noah. We still kept on screwing up and then He gave us Abraham and made a covenant with Him. We still screwed up and finally it got so bad that He sent His son down here to fix things because of how screwed up the world was.
He could have just as easily left us wallowing in our sins and forgotten about us or just wiped us out entirely.
What makes us so worthy of salvation?
God's love for us. He didn't have to do this. This was a gift that was freely given by Him. The chance at eternal life through His beloved Son.
So salvation is a gift from God and as all gifts, they're not earned through works as what Paul says. They're freely given by God because He loves us. Of course, we still have to love Him back.
My view of grace is like a father who tells his child that if he's good, he'll get a bicycle for Christmas, does the father buy the bicycle for the child because the little boy or girl is good? No, the father buys the bicycle because he loves his child. However, if the kid's a real brat--self centered and spoiled--you know the type. Maybe the dad won't buy the bike for him or maybe he will--that's his choice; however, that dad still loves his kid just as much as if the kid were good and what's important isn't the bicycle but rather the relationship between the father and his child.
Most importantly, as when anyone gives us a gift, we have to say thank you to Him. Not just for the gift of salvation but for all of the other graces He's given us throughout our lives. Our life, our family, our faith and of course for loving us so much.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Modern Day Magi from Australia and I have been communicating these past few days in his and my comment sections. I've been contemplating his name and it's meaning.
From what I can tell, he is a very humble Christian who, like the Magi from Matthew, is on a journey and that journey will ultimately lead him to our Lord where he will be able to gaze at his presence.
Why is he doing this? Is it for salvation? Is it so that he can exalt himself in front of all of us who aren't doing that? No. He's doing it because he loves God and that's good enough for him.
What a truly honorable and heroic example of witness this is. For today, we live in a world and society that thinks, "What's in it for me?" There's a humble man living on the other end of the world from me who's so truly searching for God. And when he gets there, he's not going to ask God, "Where's my reward!" Instead, he will kneel in front of him in awe and say, "God, I've brought you a gift."
MDM, we may differ on some doctrinal issues. But thank you for being such a heroic witness to the Truth.
Well, it's been a week since I've officially started blogging. I can honestly say that I've been feeling truly graced by God in that time. I'm reading the Bible a lot more than I ever have and I am communicating with other Christians from all over the world. I have a feeling that there are readers out there whom God is reaching or will reach through me. Praise Him! I feel a calling that this is truly what God wants me to do and I have to respond.
I have a confession to make. When I read Scripture (and believe me, there's a lot of it that I haven't read yet), I look at it with a jaundiced eye. I think most of us do that. It's inherent with our humanity.
When I read Scripture, I go in with the following premise:
1. God loves you
2. He wants you to love Him back
Everything I read in Scripture is colored by that assumption. I'm reasonably sure that this is the message of the early Christians. It's the message when they decided what books were considered Scripture. And it's the message of John Paul and Benedict.
I intended to write on something totally different tonight; however, I feel as if God is pushing me in a different direction. In one of my comments yesterday, a fellow Christian pointed me towards John 10. Before his comment, I'd read it but never really reflected on it. So tonight, I want to share some of my reflections on John 10: 1-17 and also on Matthew 25: 33-46.
What does it mean to be a sheep?
In case you don't know, I'm from Detroit. There aren't too many sheep around here and my knowledge about them is somewhat limited. If you asked me about cars, I could offer an opinion. Sheep...not so much.
What I think I know about sheep is that they are very easily led. They will follow the shepherd to wherever he goes. Why? Because he's their shepherd and he's calling them.
That's what God wants from us. He wants that kind of blind obedience. He wants us to follow Him and do His will and become His sheep. What's in it for us? He will lay down His life for us because His concern for us is so great.
Contrast that to Matthew 25: 33 where God will separate the sheep from the goats. Why does Jesus use sheep and goats?
Again, I'm not a goatherder and really don't know much about goats but what I think I know about them is that they are very stubborn and when the goatherder calls them, they probably don't listen all that well.
God wants us to be sheep. Who are the goats? From the way that I see it, they're the ones who don't have the blind obedience to Him. i.e. They are not following His will and thus not loving Him.
And from my perspective, he's not talking about non-Christians. The sheep and the goats know who He is and call Him Lord. And interestingly enough, He's not talking about loving God.
He's talking about loving one another. He says that it's not enough just to love God. We need to do more than minister to God. We need to love all people. Not just Christians either. He's talking about the very worst people on the face of the earth (There probably aren't too many righteous in prison). We need to love them. Care for them. Clothe them. Feed them.
Because they are God's people too. They may not be saved by God (that's God's judgement not ours) but they are made in the image and likeness of God and we need to know that. Because if we treat them like dirt, we treat God like dirt.
And we lose our righteousness.
Friday, January 27, 2006
- "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast." (Ephesians 2: 8-9)
I bet most of you are probably surprised to see this on a Catholic blog. I started reading blogs last month and have stumbled on a few that don't think too kindly of us Catholics. Saying that, I have also come across a lot of really good Protestant blogs too. i.e. Regardless of what the writer's opinion may be about Catholics, their main objective is to love and serve the Lord and they very humbly try to bring people closer to Him.
I'd like to start this post by mentioning that I don't care if you're Catholic or Protestant. My objective in my posts is to point people to God. Please don't think I'm trying to convert people to Catholicism or that I'm trying to pick an argument. I'm just offering my opinion. You, the reader, can choose to agree or disagree.
I guess I should start out by saying that I absolutely agree with Ephesians 2: 8-9!!! I, however, have a bit of a different take on it than my Protestant brothers in Christ.
Do I have that faith?
I wish I did.
What did Paul mean when he wrote those famous words? Well, to answer that, I have been focusing my thoughts on Romans. As most of you know, Paul is trying to deliver the Truth to the gentiles. He tells us that all men are under the "domination of sin." (Romans 3:9) And that we need to turn to Christ for salvation.
By the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees had "forgotten" about God. They were still following the Mosaic laws (like circumcision for example) but they really lost the faith that Abraham had. They were following the law for the law's sake and not because of God. This is why Jesus was so angry with them in Matthew 23. (Of course, He still loves them for you can be angry at someone and still love them. I can't tell you the number of times that my parents were so pissed at me--for my own fault--and yet, they never stopped loving me. Alas, another post for another time). They lost their righteousness when they stopped believing (Matthew 23: 28) and thus broke God's covenant with them from Genesis (Romans 9: 7).
They were filled with so much pride and sin that they stood in the presence of the Lord God and nailed Him to a tree.
Because they had lost their righteousness; they lost their faith; and they didn't love God. They were still doing the things that a good Jew should do. But it's not enough.
Who did have this righteousness? Abraham.
God made Abraham a promise.
- "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." (Genesis 12: 2-3)
Why did he do this? Because he had hope in the promise that God made to him. That he would be the father of nations. And also because this man truly loved God.
So, what does it mean to have faith? It means to be fully obedient to God's will as Abraham was fully obedient. God kept testing him and Abraham continued to respond.
So when Paul talks about faith and belief, he's not talking about simply believing in God. The Pharisees believed in God. That's not enough. Paul's faith is a faith of obedience (Romans 1: 5/Romans 16:26) to completely conform yourself to the will of Jesus Christ. To follow ALL of His commandments as Abraham followed ALL of God's. Honestly, I struggle with that every day for I am a sinner and I need to be forgiven by Him.
What does Paul mean when he talks about works? Well, again with Abraham, in Romans 4, Paul says that Abraham isn't the Father of Nations because of his actions. It's because he had that faith in God to do His will and not argue or object to any of His commands. Because he believed what God told him; he had hope in His promise and because he loved God. (Faith, Hope, and Love...the greatest of these is love) So, it wasn't his actions highlighted in Hebrews 11: 8-17 that made him righteous. It was his faith.
But above all, God didn't make him a Father of Nations because of his righteousness or his faith (or his works) but rather because of God's grace. As our faith doesn't deliver us eternal salvation but rather His grace.
So what's Paul telling us?
Well, for the gentiles, he's telling them that they don't have to get circumcised to be a Christian (which was probably a huge relief to all of those Roman guys) for Abraham was given the promise before he was circumcised and that that's not important because it's not the works of the Mosaic law which are important, but rather the obedience of faith.
Do I ever do works without faith? All the time--unfortunately. When I go to church because I have to and not because I love God. When I'm "just going through the motions" of my Christian life and not actively loving Him.
I guess in conclusion, Faith is being completely obedient to the will of God.
And as Abraham had faith in God (through his total obedience) and believed in his promise to him about becoming a father of nations, we must have faith in Christ (through total obedience to Him) and believe in His promise for everlasting life.
For anyone who has accomplished this, praise God and please pray for me for I am a humble sinner who yearns for everlasting life.
May the Lord God bless all who read this.