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 13, 2017
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!
Monday, February 6, 2017
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.” 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.
Monday, January 30, 2017
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?
Monday, January 23, 2017
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.
that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. Jn 10: 9-17
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.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
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.
Monday, December 26, 2016
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!
Charlotte, Stan & the Upah family
Monday, December 19, 2016
Friends of Faith:
The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Is 7: 10-11
I’m always thinking about what I’m going to do next. And I pray to God often, what is it you want me to do, and help me to say yes.
But I wonder how often I am like Ahaz, that when God says, “Ask for a sign, I’ll tell you what to do.” My answer is: “I won’t ask, I’m too proud, I can do it myself, or I’m too afraid of what the answer might be.”
I so desire to be an obedient and humble servant, like Joseph and Mary, listening to and
IMMEDIATELY following the signs they received that brought Jesus into the world.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: , (Is 14) which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Mt 1: 18-24
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Lk 1: 38
For hundreds of years, even before Jesus was born, we have been asking for signs. I personally have received many signs and God has answered many prayers. And still, I ask for more. I fail to listen or I fail to act even when I have asked and been granted a sign. There are some who won’t ask. There are some who fail to believe in God or even in Jesus’ coming.
And yet we continue to wonder, watch and wait for an answer to “what should I do.” Have I asked? Have I listened?
Maybe God is answering and I am just not looking in the right place.
In which manger do I look to seek Jesus? Will I listen to and answer God’s call? Will I say, “YES” like Joseph and Mary to make Jesus the reason and focus, not just for Christmas, but for life?
Be active. Don’t just watch and wait – ask and listen. God will give us a sign! This is what Advent is all about. This is what God promises!