Monday, March 27, 2017

What Does God See?

Friends of Faith:

Bishop Robert Barron wrote an interesting article (March 26 Witness) about what the culture wants us to see – tolerance, diversity and inclusivity. And the difference between that and what God really WANTS us to be and see, which is Love. A Love which may mean we have to be intolerant of sin and more truthful with each other, in order to protect others, so as to move us closer to what GOD really wants us to BE, which is much different than what the culture wants us to be.

What Bishop Barron is reminding us is that we cannot be tolerant at the expense of God’s truth, because that would mean we are tolerating sin and not seeing the world in God’s eyes, but rather seeing the world in human eyes.

Our love cannot be a love so inclusive as to be at the expense of God’s righteousness, because that would mean we may not be helping a friend, neighbor, or brother to grow holier, which is our call as a people of God.

"Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." 1 Sm 16:7

But in order to judge what is sinful, and in order to spread God’s love we must be able to SEE as God SEE’s – and in today’s world this is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because we are in a spiritual war that says we can’t judge, not even sin, and that we must be tolerant of all choices because choice is our right and we have a right to be free.

So instead of judging what is sinful, we are being conditioned to love everyone unconditionally. This then means we are not telling someone that what they are doing is wrong for fear of hurting their feelings. So we allow everyone to think they are a winner and to determine what is right by themselves, without God’s guidance.

Yet our call in life is exactly opposite of this scenario. Our call in life is to help make others holy. That may mean we are placed in someone’s life to be their example, to be their parent or teacher, or even to be their conscience.

And, I for one know that I do things wrong, that the sins I commit, I cannot always see and that I must constantly learn, seek guidance and be taught God’s perspective. And in doing so, I am aware of God’s constant forgiveness and mercy—a different sort of tolerance and intolerance.

And while many, over the last 2000 years have tried to deny, change, challenge or even vilify God’s one, holy, universal and apostolic Church we cannot deny that God would have left us nothing less than what could be perfect, that God’s eyes are all seeing, and that God’s ways (tolerant and intolerant) are known only fully to Him.

That’s why, although people are imperfect, HIS Church and the Sacraments He has given us are so perfect, because they were designed by Got to lead us to perfection, to holiness.

We become one with Him through baptism.  He sent His son, Jesus, to offer us renewal through the eating of the flesh of His body and blood given in the sacrifice of the Eucharistic table (John 6: 35 -59). And we are guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit given to us in Confirmation. (Father, Son & Holy Spirit –the Trinity)

He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom (priesthood) And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 16: 18 And completed the call to priesthood with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Mt 16:19  

And He gave us the gift of the Sacrament of Marriage, so that we here on earth could continue His manifestation in His gift of life and love through sacrificial giving to another as a reflection of our eventual union in heaven with Him.

So as we journey through Lent, drawing closer to the Good Friday memorial of Jesus’ death on the cross, may we constantly strive to “see” not from our human eyes of tolerance and righteousness; but rather from God’s eyes the right intolerance of human sinfulness. And let us look ever forward to the mercy granted by His death, by His perfect love, which just as He granted the “good” thief on the cross, also grants us His promise and hope for eternal life.

May we constantly seek to see and understand as God sees and understands,
Blessings,

Charlotte

Monday, February 13, 2017

Do You Love Me?

Friends of Faith:
I don't often send something I haven't written but this post by Andy's seminarian group who are studying in the Holy Land for 10 weeks seemed too appropriate not to share. I left the pictures in for those of you who want to spy Andy (Clue: it looks like he shared his Cubs hat with a friend.) Please say an extra prayer for them as they head to their Canonical retreat this week in preparation of their Diaconate ordinations when they return.
The greatest gift of love is God's love for us -- May you share it this Valentine's Day!
Blessings,
Charlotte



2017 Holy Land Pilgrimage


Posted: 11 Feb 2017 12:16 PM PST
Yesterday, after having spent a few days by the Basilica of the Annunciation, we left Nazareth, and spent the night in Tabgha, located at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Welcoming us was a spectacular and peaceful sunset reflecting over the water of the sea. It was like an invitation to enter into a more contemplative stage of our pilgrimage.
In the morning, we departed to the Mensa Domini Church, also known as the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. There we meditated about the Gospel of John 21, 14-17. In this gospel passage, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: Do you love me? To which Peter replied: “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Then Jesus said to him: “Feed My lambs.” “Shepherd My sheep.” “Feed My sheep.”

Those same questions are asked to us by Jesus in our daily lives as Christians. These questions demand an active and affirmative response. “Do you love me?” is not a romantic question that looks for a sentimental answer, but the longing for a deep and authentic answer manifested through a way of living. It is a “Yes Lord, I love you” by extending our hands to our neighbor in need, and feed him, not only with bread, but with Christ Himself present in the Eucharist, in the Holy Scripture, and within ourselves. Our love for Christ should be reflected in our love for our neighbor.

Later, we moved from Mensa Domini Church to Tabgha Monastery, where the Church of the Multiplication is located. Here is where Jesus miraculously multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5 thousand men (John 6:1-14). Here, continuing with the lesson started on the previous place, Jesus gave us a concrete example of what to do; He is the one feeding his people. But there is something very interesting in this passage of the Gospel that resounded in my heart: “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are these among so many people?” (John 6: 9). Yes, it was Jesus who performed the miracle, but it was possible because a “little boy” shared all that he had and put them in Jesus’ hands. 
For some of the Apostles, what that “little boy” had was nothing in comparison with the present need, but for Jesus that “littleness” was sufficient to perform a great miracle. Just like that “little boy,” we are invited to bring to Jesus all that we have. It doesn’t matter if it is “too little” that it makes our name not to be found “worthy” to be remembered, just like the one of this “little boy”. The important thing is what Jesus can do with whatever we bring to him, and what others can receive through our “littleness.” Once again, here is Jesus asking: Do you love me? Then if you do, give me your “littleness” and let me perform great miracles.

After visiting the Church of the Multiplication, we had a very quiet and peaceful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. There I understood why Jesus needed those moments of silence, contemplation, and prayer during His missions. That brief, but very refreshing ride through the Sea was like a fresh breeze on a sunny summer afternoon. Once our ride was over, we returned to the hotel. 
In the afternoon, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I found a school of fish jumping very close to the shore. I slowly walked through the water to the place where all those fish were. I noticed that water was coming out from between a pile of rocks, and mixed with the water was something that the fish were eating. It was dirt. I looked at the immensity of the sea, and I thought of the many other sources of food that these fish could have, but they rather chose the spot that provided easy “food”, even if it was not good for them. They were hungry and in need of food. This was the last part of today’s lesson. Those fish were the representation of the people who experience hunger for God, and who in that need are able to eat whatever spiritual consolation they receive from the world, even if it poisons their soul. Once again, it was a call to feed God’s people.
My classmates and I are about to be ordained as deacons. We are about to become fishers of men as Jesus called us, and it is our responsibility to feed God’s people with the Bread that gives life (John 10:10). It is our responsibility to bring God’s people to “streams of living water” (John 7:38). And what a blessed way we have to prepare ourselves for our future ministry by living this pilgrimage, where we are following in the steps of the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (John 14:6).

Today’s spiritual nourishment is not only for me, or only for my classmates. It is for all of us who have heard these words: Do you love me? Then, be “salt and light” for the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
 

May God bless you all.

Monday, February 6, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Friends of Faith:
Do you remember the song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T—just give me a little Respect” by Aretha Franklin? I feel like that’s what God must be thinking as we make choices contrary to Church teaching formed by twenty century’s of guidance by the Holy Spirit in the Church Jesus left here to complete his salvation vision for all people.

“Brothers and sisters: Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are confident that we have a clear conscience, wishing to act rightly in every respect. Heb 13: 15-18

This verse from Saturday’s readings spells RESPECT to me and points to the issues created by the lack of respect of leaders in today’s culture.

God deserves our respect, praise and thanksgiving because everything we have is from Him: Life, the chance for eternal life given by His son, Jesus’, death and resurrection, and all that sustains our very being.

And leaders in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and our world should be given the chance to earn our respect when we equally serve each other—each doing our part in making our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our world a better place for everyone. Our world is not something we deserve, but something God gifted us so that we would have a “space” and a reason where we could reflect His love on others.

Instead our lack of respect is shown by our self-serving individualistic natures and our perceived needs for unbridled wealth and happiness which is reflected in the divorce rate, bullying and materialism.

The reading also defines respect in terms of sharing; doing good for the other (and not expecting anything back, or expecting something for nothing); obedience to authority; and experiencing joy in having done the right thing vs giving sorrow because of criticism, blame and complaining. 

R-Right Judgment through a clear conscience. Do I have a true desire to do what is right for others? And do I give obedience to those in leadership roles: starting first with God and then with those who are entrusted to lead us.

E-Empathize! Think about where the other person is coming from and how they perceive the situation. Right or wrong, if we aren’t at least trying to understand the other person’s heart, their upbringing, and the motivation for what they do it will probably lead to sorrow rather than joy. How much “sorrow” do we create in our own homes because we fail to respect those we profess to love the most?

S-Share. It’s one of the first virtues we teach children. But as adults we can be very self serving and neglectful of doing good, sharing our time, talents and treasures with others. When we receive a shared gift given from the heart it is difficult not to respect the person giving the gift.

P-Prayer and “Please and Thank you.” (Not power, not politics--‘Nough said)

E –Expect the Best, Don’t look for the worst. (Again, enough said)

C-Character, Built on Christian values and morals.

T-Truth. Tell, Teach and Trust the Truth. Not our “relativism” truth, not culture’s truth, but God’s truth. The kind of truth you would tell if you were swearing on the bible. And be honest with yourself about your own faults. I believe if everyone was more truthful we’d have much less division, much more respect and abundant joy.

Let us give God Respect. Pray and truthfully seek to share the gifts He has given us for the good of others so that everyone can get a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, January 30, 2017

Fact or Fiction

Friends of Faith:
There is so much talk about what is fact or fiction. It has become increasingly difficult to know what is the truth and what is a lie. The passage of unnatural and self-serving laws and the influence of popular media have blurred the lines so much between right and wrong that this difficulty has multiplied exponentially (one lie building upon another) in the last few years. So what is fact, what is fiction and what and who should we believe?

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed His law; seek justice, seek humility;
perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.
“But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: the remnant of Israel.
They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.” Zep 2:3, 3:12-13

Fiction: Popular news media, reality TV and most of what the culture wants us to believe. (I find myself in disgust of not only of the lies I can easily discern, but of our vulnerability to believe, without further research, everything we are told.)

Fact:  God’s Word, Scripture, Jesus & the Church He left here under the guidance of the Holy Spirit are always right.

These two alone might be enough to convince you that we need to be much more discerning about what we believe and who we trust; that the propaganda we are hearing and are subjected to by popular culture is a lie and that God is the Way, the Truth AND the Life. But if you either have time, or yearn to be further convicted in truth, please read on….

Fiction: Wealth creates happiness and we have a “right” to happiness so happiness can be bought with money or should be given to us because we “deserve” it.

Fact: We deserve an opportunity to attain knowledge of riches and we will be judged by what we do with that knowledge because our greatest responsibility is to love God and our neighbor and to do whatever God asks. If we are blessed with money it is our duty to do “good” with it. (Know who it is that you donate to – this is a great area of hidden deceit).

Fiction: The sports god, entertainment god, Facebook god, shopping god, food god, envy god, or any other addiction god that consumes us and blinds us from the needs of others and makes us self-centered in our thoughts and actions.

Fact: Spending a few minutes in prayer, an hour in church, or some time helping a neighbor will gain us more peace, joy on earth and happiness in a day than hours, days or years of time spent with the above mentioned gods. And time with God and service for his “least ones” will be doing the will of the Father while offering us a glimpse of the peace and joy in heaven.

Fiction: Freedom means the right to choose without responsibility or consequences. And women and men lack this freedom, this “right,” when they are asked to do something contrary to what they feel like doing.

Fact: God equally gave all women and all men life, liberty (free will) – the freedom to choose between right or wrong --and the ability to pursue eternal happiness. To choose between God’s will and the devil’s temptations; to choose between eternal life or death; and to choose to live by God’s law or man’s. And every choice we make has a consequence and a responsibility. True freedom is to be free of the grip of sin allowing us to focus on the “good of the other” which is true love.

Fiction: Men and women are created exactly the same.

Fact: Every man and every woman is extremely different. In fact, even twins aren’t exactly the same. That is a fact of nature and of God’s design. Male and female are created uniquely Holy and supremely sacred. As such male and female together are designed to give life and have been given the responsibility to protect human life while subduing and having dominion over all other forms of life (Gn 1:28).

Fiction: Sex is free. Sex is without responsibility, consequences or cost. Sex isn’t a choice, it’s a right.

Fact: Sex is a gift given to us by God when HE chose to create a man AND a woman. Choosing to act sexually as God intended: for the binding of a man and a woman in marriage and for the continuation of His creation story through procreation is Good (Gn 1:28). And like all good choices it comes with a responsibility: to love the person we are bound to by it’s unifying nature and to love the gift of life which might be created by the act itself. Choosing to “use” sex for any other reason is to scorn God’s design.

And lastly: Fiction: Making it a law makes it right.

Fact: Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right and/or just.

He is and He will always Be the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Blessings,

Charlotte


Monday, January 23, 2017

To Know Him

Friends of Faith:

The first of the 100 confirmation questions I was required to memorize when I was just 9 years old was from the very first paragraph of the Catechism: “What does God want from us?” The answer: “To seek Him, to know Him, and to love Him.” CCC1

And although I was baptized when I was just a few days old, have gone to mass at least once a week forever, attended Catholic school, have taken part in several retreats and more recently have attended diaconate formation classes with Stan for the past 4 years, I continue to be constantly in awe of the miracles God has performed and the prayers that I see answered.


And, I am constantly reminded of the many things about God I do not know.

Unfortunately I am also reminded of that first question and answer when I am asked why more don’t come to church, attend date nights, retreats or other faith sharing groups.

Is it because we are afraid to “know him;” afraid of what we might learn, or afraid of what we might have to change in our lives? Or is it because we are apathetic to anything beyond today, not caring what eternal life might look like and preferring instead to be unchallenged, avoid suffering, and to serve mostly ourselves?

One of the greatest gifts we have received in diaconate formation is the opportunity to meet very wise and well educated theologians and to be blessed with bookshelves full of resources. But if we don’t use these resources to deepen our faith in some way, and if all we do is put the books on a shelf and file away our notes, never praying to have the strength to do God’s will and never seeking to love others as He loved us then we too will have gained nothing.

So the even greater gift I have been given is the wisdom to KNOW that in order to KNOW God I must constantly strive to know Him by taking every opportunity possible: by taking time to pray (personal relationship), by reading Scripture and early Church writings (history), by making time to attend days of reflection and retreat (heart growth), and by attending faith sharing groups (such as date night) to share this journey with others (growing a community of support and love).

In order to grow, and in order to keep up with the times I am reminded by the questions I am asked that I, too, still have much to learn, about God, about the history of the Church, about how the Church has evolved, about Scripture, the Saints, and even the sinners and especially about God’s design and purpose for my life.

So, I seek Him and I yearn to Know and love Him – because in Him all things are possible, today, tomorrow and forever.

Be blessed in your journey to seek, to know and to love, because Learning to Know God never ends. 
Seeking God never ends. Loving God never ends.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Prayer

Friends of Faith:
In Saint Mother Theresa’s words: “Everything starts from prayer. Without asking God for love, we cannot possess love and still less are we able to give it to others. Just as people today are speaking so much about the poor, we too cannot talk too much about prayer and yet not know how to pray.”

We can’t be close to God without prayer, because although God knows us, we can’t know him without listening to him once in a while (we talk a lot, but since God already knows what we are thinking, it’s much more important that we “tune-in” to him and listen than the other way around.)

But he still wants us to tell him that we need him, that we love him, that we want his forgiveness and that we appreciate all that he has given to us. He is waiting patiently for our prayers, both those we speak aloud and those in the silence of our hearts.

First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone. 1Tim 2:1

God is love, and without prayer we cannot truly KNOW His love. And without knowing God’s love it is difficult, if not impossible to give love to others.

Saint Mother Theresa also says: “Once in a while we should ask ourselves several questions in order to guide our actions. We should ask questions like: Do I know the poor? Do I know, in the first place, the poor in my family, those who are closest to me—people who are poor, but not because they lack bread? There are other types of poverty just as painful because they are more intrinsic. Perhaps, what my husband or wife lacks, what my children lack, what my parents lack, is not clothes or food. Perhaps they lack love, because I do not give it to them!”

Are those closest to us one of God’s poor? It is something to ponder.

Do we love enough? Do we pray for and love those closest to us so that they too will know God, or are they poor in Spirit and poor in love?

Do we pray? Do we pray enough? Do we pray for those we love? Do we truly know God? Do we ACT on what God is asking of us?
Give your spouse and children a hug; give them love and pray for them today.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Peace

Friends of Faith:
 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
        "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men of good will." Lk 2:13-14
 
“Who does not know that to receive this Child, it is sufficient to be of good will . . .He came to bless good will, which little by little he will render fruitful and effective, as long as we allow ourselves to be governed by it. And I hope that we will do so.” Saint Padre Pio
 
We wish you good will and hope that you, in turn, reflect and do good will with the gifts you have been given and for all that you will meet. With a reminder that goodwill begins at home by loving in the service of kindness and forgiveness those closest to us, our spouses, our children, and our parents, this Christmas and throughout the coming year – no one could or would ask for more.
 
With every decision made by goodwill we would have our most often requested and hoped for dream: Peace on Earth.
 
Blessings and Merry Christmas to All!
 
Love,
Charlotte, Stan & the Upah family