Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Friends of Faith:
After a homily almost 3 weeks ago, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an “Authentic Christian.”
“You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?” Mal 2: 8-10
What I realized is that with all of today’s propaganda (fake news, reality TV, the “need” for equality, and the definition of choice and the perception of what is “deserved”), an Authentic Christian is an extremely difficult level to achieve – because it’s more than just NOT being a hypocrite and knowing the truth – it’s about acting on the truth even when those actions are so extremely counter-cultural that it creates divisions and undeniable backlashes from the people we would most expect to support us in the most difficult of situations (our family AND other Christians).
And unfortunately, breaking faith with one another, in today’s “equal” society is “okay,” because by cultural standards to be authentic means not conflicting with someone else’s beliefs so as not to hurt someone’s feelings – even if those feelings violate God’s commands.
And authentic Christian beliefs cross into every moral and character decision we make. Unfortunately, we see these decisions as being judgmental rather than a determination of God’s right from what is morally wrong. Authenticity is not about walking the middle ground, but rather about choosing the upper ground.
Recently, I read an email from a friend who was denied the right to be paid staff of a pro-life organization simply because she was Catholic. In fact, her motives were pure. And her desire to support pro-life objectives were as honest as any I could have imagined. In fact, she was so authentic in her desire to support the pro-life cause that despite their condescending language and misconceptions about her faith beliefs she continues to raise money and volunteer for the organization in a behind the scenes capacity.
So, while it’s difficult to perceive that any authentic Christian (and yes, Catholics are Christians) would deny another Christian the opportunity to support God’s greatest fundamental gift to each of us, life, her choice to continue to help the organization in lesser ways chose to focus on the real purpose of the organization instead of some man-made “rule” – a truly authentic Christian response.
“Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.” Mt 1:23-4
We are all individuals, with individual talents. Yet, despite this Jesus formed only ONE Church and gave us two new commandments (to love God and each other).
Yet it’s interesting how, even as aspiring Christians, we seem to look more to our differences. And we certainly seem to have difficulty living up to those two simple commandments that require us to put God first and love each other unconditionally. Authenticity is a high and difficult moral code.
God help me to: “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly, Rm 12: 9-18. Amen.
And so, I’m back to where I started – being an authentic Christian. Trying to discern what’s right, what’s important and what’s really God’s will – while doing the right thing and being in the right place while still appreciating all the beauty and opportunities God has given us.
A perfect place for a Thanksgiving message to circle back to – giving THANKS for our blessings AND SHARING those blessings with our neighbors in love.
May your week be spent with those you love, sharing the gifts and talents God has given you.
Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer and if possible, live at peace with all. Be Authentic!
Blessings of Thanksgiving,
Monday, October 30, 2017
Friends of Faith:
Christ is the Answer, but Jesus says there’s more.
“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” Jn 14: 23-26
The Holy Spirit is the “closer,” the part of God that is who Jesus promised to leave us when He left us (Acts 2) that is alive and moving around us and through us by all and through all that we meet – Christian and non-Christian alike – whether He, the Spirit, is recognized or not.
As much as I need to follow Jesus’ example I need to be able to hear and listen to the voice of reason and wisdom that Jesus left here on earth to guide us: that of the “Holy Spirit”, God’s third and often forgotten “person.”
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 12: 3
This is the season of retreats and formation days and I have spent several days in the past two weeks listening and having the opportunity to be formed by the Spirit of God.
God obviously knew both what I needed and who I needed to hear it from. He also heard and answered my almost unknowing prayers of “send me quiet peace and the time to receive it.”
Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Rm 8:8
The Spirit flowed from both the leaders involved in the retreats and from those whom I have spent the days with (leaders and attendees). I have pages of notes, hundreds of ideas and an invigorated desire to evangelize and be a witness for Jesus.
But more importantly I was forced to take the time to be quiet, to listen, and to reflect on God’s truth and His presence in the parts of my life I have been determined to ignore and/or avoid.
And I was given the opportunity to renew the gifts of the Spirit that I received in the Sacrament of Confirmation: Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, piety, and wonder and awe (fear of the Lord.)
We all need to do be renewed and enriched regularly – in retreat and by formation; through prayer and study . More than just as our obligatory one hour on Sunday (if we even make or take the time to do that); we need to sit quietly, to reflect, and to actively listen to what the Holy Spirit really wants us to hear and how the Holy Spirit is guiding us to move (or be silent).
Maybe God’s messenger is different than the one we’ve come to know.
God, through the Holy Spirit is around us constantly. Sometimes the Spirit is just a whisper that we have to be willing to search for and listen to. And sometimes He comes to us as loud as thunder in a storm or as visible as fire and yet we deliberately ignore the presence that is trying to awaken us from our sleep, or pull us back from our busyness.
Come Holy Spirit Come. Enkindle in me the fire of Your love. Fill my heart with the desire to listen and to answer Your call. Come Holy Spirit Come. Open my heart to the fruit of Your Spirit: love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5: 22-23)
Be in the Spirit of Christ,
Monday, October 23, 2017
Friends of Faith:
Like many people living in our current culture I am constantly searching for peace in the answers of how to live as a Christian and not be discouraged by all of the divisions reflected in our culture. And I hear friends and acquaintances asking similar questions.
Philosophical questions as to why someone handles a tough circumstance so well, speaks the truth even when it isn’t what “everyone else is saying,” or accepts someone else’s wrongdoings that are covered up under the guise of “we have to accept everyone," "I can’t judge them," or "it doesn’t affect me” and how and where to find peace and joy in this troubled world.
And practical questions of what to do or say to a spouse when they seem to pay little attention to feelings you think really matter, how to raise their children to be “good” adults, how to stay calm while a family member or friend attacks your point of view or to be charitable when we’re affected by someone who fails to pay their bills or earn a living even though they have the means to pay or work.
I was privileged to listen to Fr. John Ricardo last week and his answer, the answer I know, but sometimes “hide,” reverberates in my head: CHRIST IS THE ANSWER!!
I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I who arm you, though you know me not, so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, there is no other. Is 45: 4-6
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. 1 Thess 1:5
Christ is the answer. There is no other. He speaks to us in Scripture, in power, AND in the Holy Spirit with much conviction.
Am I searching? Am I listening? Am I studying and constantly seeking a deeper understanding of Christ, the Answer? Do I stop long enough to pray, and am I patient enough to wait for His answer?
The culture constantly pulls us away from Christ because God has thrown the devil down to Earth and allowed that evil to test us while giving us His freedom to choose and seek His answer in our daily decisions. Are we asking Christ and are we willing to listen to what HE has to say? Or are we trying to make our own way?
Am I willing to listen to the Answer of the One and Only Church Christ left on this earth, or am I menu picking and listening only to what I want to hear? And am I listening to the media, the culture, someone’s ego, or a half truth that is speaking louder than Christ’s whisper?
Fr. Ricardo said, “God gave us everything in this world, but the world often doesn’t seem to care or appreciate what we have been given as shown to Him because there is too much noise and we are too egotistical. But God WANTS HIS world BACK!!!”
Christ is the Answer! It is His Word (not everyone else’s); It is His truth (being judgmental does not mean acceptance of sin, and silence of wrongdoing says we accept the actions that are wrong); and we must know Him to become like Him. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life!
May you find peace in Christ’s answer.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Friends of Faith:
I can’t say enough about the Alexander House retreat weekend. Being with Greg and Julie rekindled and energized us as well as fueled the flame we have for speaking the truth designed by God, lived by Jesus, and carried on by the Church and the Holy Spirit with conviction and courage.
Please check out this short clip on Facebook and share with your friends: https://www.facebook.com/gregnjuliealex/videos/10209954265082604/
The devil is still on this earth right where God sent Him (Rev 12:9). So, the evil of this world is nothing new. Nor are the effects of greed, the culture, political influences and the media that he influences and we are prone to listen to. The culture feeds us lies and half truths and quite honestly makes us feel as if it is a shame to mention Jesus at all.
And Jesus’ message hasn’t changed in over 2000 years. It is why we know that His message is God’s message and why we should speak the name of Jesus – louder, bolder and more courageously than ever.
Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here." Lk 11: 29-32
We are being lied to about what equality is, about what we “deserve,” about what we can choose, and about who we are meant to be. Sin is made easy because it is normalized and legalized (contraception, abortion, gay union, euthanasia, pornography, speech that is “free,” entitlements without work or responsibility, sports “gods” who have Sunday morning ball games or practice (preventing us from attending Mass/worship service), prizes so that everyone wins, acceptance of the “rights” of all, lack of moral judgment, and the list goes on and on).
God gave us a set of “rules” (commandments) to live by. He designed marriage between one man and one woman (Gen 1: 27-28 & Gen 2: 18-25); life is a precious gift from God—it is not for us to choose the timing of when it starts or ends; Our call to holiness is to serve others as Christ served us – by dying – to ourselves and our selfish desires (Eph 5: 21-32); and the path to eternal life is not easy, it does not accept sin without repentance or is given lightly (Mt 7: 13-14).
Who am I listening to? Do I go out of my way to seek the truth daily in Scripture and prayer? Or does social media, the division of politics and the noise of the culture drown out my inner spiritual being and the soft spoken whisper of God’s voice in my life? Am I ready, willing and able to speak Jesus’ name because I know and give thanks for His glory and His story?
And am I living my life with an assured hope that when He comes “today” I am ready to face HIS judgment with repentance and without shame because I have been blessed in the peace and comfort of the wisdom of knowing I have given it my all to live in the Spirit and stay within His design for my life?
Lord, send your mercy and your truth to rescue us from the snares of the devil, and happy to be known as companions of your Son. We will praise you among the peoples and proclaim you to the nations. Amen
May your faith be on fire and ready to ignite the flame of anyone willing to listen.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Friends of Faith:
Pray for me! Pray for us!
This week I had a reader reply to my inquiry as to her husband’s health. “The Dr. said that it was highly unusual for (this type of) cancer to be eradicated without subsequent treatments, to which (the patient) replied:" You've got to understand. I had a Mormon friend, a congregation of Catholics, and a bunch of First Baptists all praying for me so God had to hear SOMETHING!"
God is listening—are we speaking?
“Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mt 18: 19-20
Pray for each other!
Despite the current NFL controversy, I believe that we might have missed something much more revealing that is not being reported by traditional news media – the very idea that we should be kneeling in prayer (not at the time we are to be honoring the freedom (and heroes) of our country at the playing of the National Anthem) but to GOD, as one, in His church, in our homes and quite possibly BEFORE or after paying honor to our flag and nation. Not to stand in honor of power and principality, but to ask our maker in humility, and on our knees, for our needs.
God is the only one who can change the “game.” Pray for our nation and our world!
Prayer is powerful. It’s proven that prayer works for individuals who desire to be healed; AND whether or not they know those who are praying for them. And couples who pray together daily have an incidence of divorce under 1% (vs the nearly 60% overall divorce rate) – regardless of their religion or other factors – only that they pray together.
If you had a secret weapon... that could resolve personal problems, deepen your spiritual life, rescue your mind from anxiety, combat the powers of darkness, and save family and friends from the darkness of sin... It needs no sharpening, no loading, and no firing. It is held in the hand, but its power is spiritual. This weapon is the rosary. “The power of the rosary is beyond description.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen
There are many documented stories about the power of the prayer, particularly that of the rosary. These are not just “Catholic” stories, but real-life occurrences where the stories end in miraculous healings, conversions and survival. (Google: Catholic Answers Why Pray the Rosary)
Jesus honored Mary and granted her request when she asked that he make more wine at the wedding feast of Cana. His first public miracle.
We recently visited Champion, Wisconsin the site of the first approved United States Marian apparition which occurred in 1859, and in which local residents miraculously survived a horrific wildfire in 1871 (Peshtigo Fire) by praying the rosary in procession around it’s Marian chapel. (Google: Our Lady of Good Help)
And on Oct 13, 2017 we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions and the Miracle of the Dancing of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal – a miracle which many today are unaware or uninformed of and yet 100 years ago (during WWI) her appearance (the sun dancing in the sky) was witnessed by 70,000 plus pilgrims – some of them many miles away from the actual apparition site.
Mary’s message to the people of Fatima was one of the power of prayer, particularly the rosary: “Pray the Rosary every day, in order to obtain peace for the world, and the end of the war.” (Google Fatima and the Rosary)
Why are these powerful images, stories of conversion and prayer kept quiet? (There are many others—including Lourdes & Guadalupe.)
Why are we so slow to believe? And more importantly why are we so slow to act on our belief.
Prayer is THE life changer, because God is more than a game changer when he hears our prayers – both here on earth and in heaven. And I believe He gave us Our greatest prayer warrior in Mary, Jesus’ Mother. Because if we think about it, who is usually the first person on earth that we ask to “pray for us” – Our Mothers! Jesus continues to honor the requests Mary brings to him in prayer for us.
Join me in Prayer! (Google: Praying the Rosary)
Prayer changes more than just a game. It changes lives.