Monday, January 28, 2013

Smelling Roses

Friends of Faith:

Smelling roses in January may seem a little odd, but that is why I love snow and ice days, because it allows me an opportunity to STOP for more than just an hour at church. The ice yesterday, gave me an opportunity to “stop and smell the roses” to stay home, to rest and to enjoy a day of relaxation.

“Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!” Neh 8: 8-10

But doesn’t it seem sad that we have to be “forced” to slow down, to do nothing, to stay home—to keep holy the Sabbath—not just one hour that I would have designated for church, but the entire day. Is history repeating itself “for the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law?”

Was I saddened because my plans for Sunday were cancelled, and I HAD to “rest” on the Sabbath?  Did I regret that church might be cancelled and I might not be able to spend time in a place of worship? Or was I frustrated or regretful because I realized the “law”—God’s law-- was going to be carried out without my control, beyond my control, and in HIS control –with an ice storm.

I personally felt true joy when Stan said it was still possible to go to church and I rejoiced because I was blessed to be able to dine with Jesus in receiving the Eucharist. Not only did I have the opportunity to spend time in the rose garden, but I was able to smell the roses in rest for the entire day.

Because everything in the secular world  was cancelled or postponed I felt a sense of peace that I did not even have to make a choice that I could just spend the day as it was originally intended when God created it—in rest, relaxation and quiet.

The saying “stop and smell the roses” always reminds me that there is something more than the busy stuff that I often find myself doing. It is a reminder for me to become Mary instead of Martha, (Lk 10: 38-42) to look around me for the “better part,” the creations of God, that I have put aside or missed because I have on blinders, I am “too” busy, and I have become desensitized to God’s purpose for me.

Yesterday was an opportunity to slow down long enough to find “the better part,” to “check” my attitude, my “values,” and my “priorities” for what is and what should be truly important.

So, how has the culture desensitized all of us to the original purpose of the day of rest? And beyond that how has the culture desensitized us to all of God’s purpose for us?

Has Sunday, the Lord’s day, become just another day to rush, to do, and to achieve something? Am I going so fast that I don’t have time to slow down for one day, yet alone one hour of one day?

And I think of someone who is in pain, who is suffering for any reason. Is that pain blinding them, or is the pain instead creating for them an opportunity to turn back to God, to grow, and to change? Is there a “silver lining,” a “rose” in nature, in what God proclaims for our Sundays, our today, and our every day?

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. …. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah…. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. …. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Lk 4: 14-21

Heavenly Father, Your Spirit and glory has created roses in every corner of the world. Open my eyes to see them and my ears to hear you. Help me to take the time to smell them and feel the joy they are intended to produce in my life. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity for a day off, to rest and to see beyond this hectic world. Amen.

Is time rushing past you? Are you seeing and feeling thorns instead of flowers? When was the last time you truly “stopped” to smell the roses?

The roses of God are true and beautiful. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,



Monday, January 21, 2013

New Wine

Friends of Faith
Last week I wrote about sticking with the familiar, brand names, the tried and true—even how we “get branded” by how we act and what we do.
But what about all of those brand names that deceive us with false advertising. What about when the brand DOESN’T stand the test of time, the test of God, or even the test of science? (“For more pure pleasure, have a Camel” and “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should”) 

I find that I must often be tested before I really begin to search for, taste or seek the “better part.”
So do I continue to believe the “Marlboro” man? Or am I ready to look for healthier options, new wine, and new brands? (GNC, Weight Watchers and Curves.)

In Sunday’s gospel of the Wedding Feast at Cana (Jn 2: 1-11), Jesus miraculously delivered new wine—a wine which tasted better than the wine drank earlier that wedding day.
But new wine appeared only AFTER the wedding party was tested and ran out of wine. Then they looked to Jesus, through Mary, to find something better—then they sought new wine.

Imitators are deceptive—they look fine, until we finally taste the new wine. Then just like those brands that have been exposed (like cigarettes), the imitators, which spoke of pleasure and getting what an individual wants, they become tasteless because we now know something better. Then we wonder HOW we could ever have been so deceived.
Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Heb 2:14-18

Because he himself was tested, Jesus was given the power to destroy the deceptive. And through our union with Him on the cross we have also been given the power to expose the deceptions, to choose the new wine, to choose His help.
It is in our nature that if we see evil, we will choose good. But the devil likes to work in secret, hiding behind a sham of deception—just like the Marlboro man.

So what might we be missing, how might we be deceived by the devil in today’s culture? Is there a deception in the ideas that “sex” is free and “it is better to have no child, than to have a child who will live in poverty?”
Christ was born the poorest of the poor—in a stable—and he grew up the greatest of kings. Which kings, which leaders, have we killed and will we allow to be killed, because we don’t, won’t, or think it is too much of a burden to help our neighbor?

So I wonder as the anniversary of Roe vs Wade nears – is this the year God will fully expose the evils of abortion? Is this the year that the March for Life will expose Planned Parenthood and the devil working silently within, under the disguise of maternal health?
Will every ear hear the testimonies of those who have worked for, witnessed and been affected by the death of a child (like Abby Johnson)?

Will every mindset change and every eye opened to a “new wine” in the design and miracle of Christ’s creation brought by marital love that is faithful, given freely, and open to bear His fruit?
On December 14, 4026 children were killed. Yet we only heard about 26.  The other 4000 were killed by abortion, hidden behind closed doors, too tiny to bleed. Are we as shocked and horrified by the 4000 as we are by the 26 at Sandy Hook? Where is the advertising to keep the 4000 as safe as the 26?

Millions visit the Holocaust memorial, shocked and horrified by the 5.5 million Jews who were killed during WWII by the Nazi’s. Are those same visitors as shocked and horrified by the estimated 55 million innocent babies killed by abortion since 1973?
"Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.” Jn 2: 1-11

Abortion: hidden and silenced by the devil; deceived as “Planned” parenthood; legalized by our government. As women we should be angered that someone/anyone could convince us that our babies are not alive inside of us (although science and those who have survived abortions can prove otherwise.)
Heavenly Father, YOU are THE new wine. Help me to taste and be filled with Your truth, by answering Your call, by doing Your will. May the sanctity of life be exposed and revealed like the taste of new wine. Surround all those who have been affected in any way by abortion with Your loving mercy. Give all young mothers the courage to turn to You for their peace and strength, and help me to do my part in taking care of those who don’t have the means to care for themselves. Amen.

It is my responsibility as a Christian to do what Jesus asks—just like the disciples did at the wedding feast—without knowing for sure what will transpire from that obedience.
It is my responsibility to taste the new wine—for I have the free will to drink when it is set before me.

And it is my call as a Christian to share the new wine with others.
May your week be filled with New Wine. Taste and see the good news of the Lord. Ps 34:9


Monday, January 14, 2013

Brand Me

Friends of Faith:

Do you go out of your way to search for a certain brand name?
Have you ever thought about “Kleenex” for example? All tissues –regardless of their “brand” are associated with Kleenex. I can’t ever recall asking someone for a “Puffs.”

Brands become our identity, our label. Good or bad. We can even change that label if we want with a new ad campaign, by promoting ourselves differently to those around us. But there are also many “imitators” of those brands, imitators which can also become good or bad.
We are given our “brands” at our baptisms as Christians. We are marked with our identity. We are given a name, chosen by our parents, and accepted by God as His child. He has called each of us by name.  

Have you ever looked at the meaning of the name you were given? I find it interesting and surprising how often that name, chosen when we were infants, chosen before we had personality, even sometimes chosen when we were still within the womb, can have such truth in its meaning.
We celebrated Jesus Christ’s baptism this weekend. His baptism was the public revealing of his ministry here on earth. But his name, like ours, his eternal identity, was given to him by God before he was conceived.

“Such was his intention when, behold, 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.” Mt 1: 20-21
Jesus means God Saves, Emmanuel—God is with Us.  

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” Mt 1: 22-23

And whether he is denied, or he is embraced, he is known. His brand “is with us” through our own baptisms, so that we to might be saved.
There is only one Jesus, true God, true Son, and true man.

His brand has stood the same test of time. 2013 years!
So what makes a brand as timeless and enduring as Jesus Christ? TRUTH! Truth that can’t be denied, truth that can’t be changed, and truth that doesn’t wear out its welcome, truth that is “identifiable.”

And the Church Jesus instituted has also stood this same test of time. It too is branded, named Catholic, universal and one. “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Nicene Creed 325 A.D.
A brand, yes, but like Christ instituted by God: an institution to join us to Him, to unify us and to help us through a community and in communion with him, understand His truth.

Jesus Christ cannot be “disproved” or disgraced in the eyes of the true judge, God. Jesus Christ was put here on earth to help us to better identify God himself. Jesus was put here on earth to help us “see” God’s brand of love. The kind of love which chooses a path of sacrifice, of service, and of humility, even to give to those whom we have never met, or for whom we do not yet personally know.
Will our “brand” say that to others—I have given up everything for you? Will we be remembered for all eternity? Or will our brand be short lived and pass away without having left its mark? Do we need to change our identity with a new ad campaign?

God gave us life so that we would be “imitators” of Jesus, imitators of himself. But just like Puff’s is to Kleenex, when we are asked to serve God, we are asked to be “Jesus” to others.
This is what I promised at my baptism, and renewed at my confirmation: to live as Jesus did, with the same service, the same sacrifice, the same compassion and the same repenting and forgiving mercy as He lived for us.

Heavenly Father, You gave us your son, Jesus, to show us the way. You have branded me as Your child, to be Your imitator, to be You for all eternity. Help me to live my baptismal promises, by serving my spouse, my family, my neighbors, with my whole being, without thought as to what I must give up, but rather with the grace and strength, the courage and the wisdom, to live up to Your brand, to be a true “Christ”ian. Thank you for claiming me, for branding me, as Yours. Amen.
Let us be a brand that others desire. Become, and be, an asked for brand, a Jesus, this week.

Because it is in Jesus, through Jesus, and for Jesus, that we are blessed,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

With Humility

Women of Faith:

Someone (aka God) has been telling me to be humble. I say this because anytime the same message “shouts” out to me during the week I know that it is not just a coincidence, but a God incidence. HE is trying to get through to me about something.
Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with these words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:3

He could just as easily have said: blessed are the humble, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
I may think I deserve acknowledgment for what I have done, but is what I have done really as important as I think it is? And really, the only person that I should be trying to impress is God himself. And I’m pretty sure I am not as perfect as his image—the image that I have been created to be.

Praise God. Often heard, but not often enough done.
Praise (insert your name). While it may not be often heard, it is something many of us often receive and even more often many of us expect to receive.

But praise in itself should be humbling. What I achieve is not from my making, nor do I make good things happen. Everything I do, everything I achieve comes from God. Because with God, all things are possible.
And likewise a reward should not to be expected, or asked for. I shouldn’t “do good” so that I will receive something in return. I should instead “do good” because God created me to be capable of doing good and our God given purpose is to love, through service of one another, as He has served (loved) us.

And humility makes me teachable, changeable, and ready to be formed by God’s messages. Only in humility will I be willing and able to accept and change as He wants me to change. If I act as if I know it all, then why would anyone, including God, bother to teach me the valuable lessons that living life here on earth is all about?

So let me be like—
Mary. With deep humility she received from the Angel Gabriel the news that she was about to be the Mother of God’s Son. She accepted the challenge (and in those days, death by stoning was the fate of an unwed mother). She didn’t shout from the mountain top that Christ was coming. She didn’t broadcast her obvious holiness. And she certainly didn’t expect to receive any reward for the work of being a mother and even more so the suffering she would have to undergo when her son was hung to death on the cross.

She simply accepted. She humbly said “why me, I am not worthy.” She allowed herself to be formed by God.
The Three Wise Men. Thank God they were humble. They silently adored. But their faith, their wisdom was sharp enough to detect the sham delight and murderous intentions of the wily Herod. And so they paid their respects, left their gifts, and modestly departed for their homeland, sorrowfully aware of the terrible price justice had to pay for peace.

Jesus.  As always, God’s son is our greatest example: born in a stable. Humble enough to lay with the animals in a smelly manager. And yet he was the greatest human, ever born. He was the greatest of all kings. He deserved more than anything we could ever imagine or begin to deserve.
Heavenly Father, To You I Give all Praise and all Glory. In your name I pray this: A Prayer for Humility:
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled , Deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being calumniated (falsely accused), deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus

That others may be loved more than I. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease.  Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

 With all humility, seek to find what God is calling you to do this week for someone else,

And may your reward be with God,