Monday, March 25, 2013

Too Important to Forget

Women of Faith:

It is too important to forget special birthday’s or anniversaries; the birth of our children; our First Communion or Confirmation; our wedding day; a best friend; a special celebration in our community; or where we were when a new pope was announced.

For most of us these are important days because they change us in some way leaving marks in our memories and in our very beings. They are too important to forget.

I remember anticipating the Jesus that filled my soul at First Communion and the Holy Spirit that entered my life at confirmation. I remember eagerly studying to learn all I could about who Jesus and the Holy Spirit were and would be in my life. Do I now anticipate their presence each Sunday by just as eagerly attending mass each week. Or do I deny that I need their presence, and forget that receiving Spiritual food every Sunday is just as important as the meals I eat every day?

We will never forget our wedding day, all of the planning and the pomp and circumstance, but how often do we as spouses forget the vows we took that special day? Do I accept the sufferings and challenges in my marriage the way Christ accepted dying for us. Do I work through the problems, or just give up and say it is too difficult to accept and more importantly forgive, the faults of the spouse I professed to love, for better, for worse, AND ALL OF the days of my life? What did and do those vows really mean? Do I encourage others to remain faithful to their wedding vows  or do I give them the courage to escape their commitment because it’s become a societal norm?
I remember my children’s birthdays and I will never forget the feeling of holding them tightly and safely as newborns within my arms. Yet some deny even trying to conceive a child because they prefer sex as a  choice with no responsibility and for temporary pleasure. Others deny their “first responsibility” to be teachers of their children about God, expecting others to teach them in school and at religious education class. And as they grow older are we afraid to discipline them? Do we forget that as parents our responsibility doesn’t end when they become a certain age, but that we must continue to pray for them, encourage them, and forgive them, welcoming them back to Christ?

As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road;  and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives,  the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”  Lk 19: 36-38
Yesterday at Palm Sunday we celebrated Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem with waving palms, tambourines and trumpets, and yet, the same Jesus Christ who we celebrated will be tortured and hung upon a cross in just a few short days, because His miracles of healing were forgotten and His true love for us was denied.

And Peter, one of his followers, one of his best friends, will deny even knowing Christ three times before the same week is done.
“This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.”
About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly.”
Lk 22: 56-62

Would we forget our best friend the way Peter forgot Christ? Do we stand up for the truth of the teachings of the Church? Or do we try to hide the fact that we are Christians? And will we fail to ask for forgiveness when we realize what we have done to hurt our relationship with Christ, with another?
Or will we be like Peter and Christ, willing to ask and give forgiveness for our sin of denial. Peter asked for forgiveness and Christ gave him the keys to the kingdom, making Peter his first successor, the first Pope of His Church.

Gracious Father, grant mercy on us Your children who are so quick to deny Your son, Jesus, in our lives. Increase the faith of all who place their HOPE in You. Help me to forgive those who have denied Your presence in their lives by denying your commandments and who by those sins have in turn hurt me. Help me never to forget that Your sacrifice for me forgives “my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.” Amen.
This Holy Week, may each of us remember to forgive others remembering that Christ died for us so that we may be forgiven.

May your faith in Christ never be denied, it is too important to forget,
In Faith,

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Way

Friends of Faith:

We are quickly approaching Easter. Next week is Palm Sunday and Holy Week when we as Christians will walk the Way of the Cross with Christ.
Holy week is a journey of THE life given for us, of Christ’s sufferings so that we might be washed clean and so that we might be allowed to reenter the heavenly garden which was taken away from us when we were divided by the first sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden.  

Our lives as servants, to love one another, (the definition of marriage) are meant to show us the WAY of the Cross; to teach us and remind us of the WAY to truth and life.  Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jn 14:6
The way of the cross is an invitation to follow Jesus.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.  Mt 16:24

Christ was condemned to death for what others believed of Him. Do we judge and condemn our spouse, or our neighbor, without full knowledge of the truth and reasons behind their actions? Do I presume ill will on the part of others, or do I try to see what they do from their point of view? Might there be another reason for someone’s actions—actions that might have a deeper unseen outcome, come from a lack of understanding, or that God is using to bring me closer to him?
Christ carries OUR cross. He takes on OUR burdens. Am I willing to suffer, to help others? The “only” promise Christ had was God’s promise of eternal life for us, he died not for himself, but for us. Will I die for my spouse, for my friend, so that I may be given eternal life, so that they may be given eternal life. Is this enough promise for me or do I expect more, do I expect earthly happiness and earthly wealth and belongings?

Christ fell under the weight of the cross three times. He allowed Simon of Cyrene to help him carry the cross. This is our reminder that we too will fall under the weight of our sins. But I must keep getting back up by asking God for forgiveness. Once is not enough, that is why I am given the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation, so that I can be washed free of my sins each time I fail and fall down. And I should be ready and willing to accept the help of faithful trusted friends, counselors, good Samaritans, etc, just as Christ accepted the help of Simon.
Christ met His Mother in the fourth station. Think of how Mary, His mother, suffered with him. It is probably easier for us to understand this by thinking of how we suffer when our children suffer. But can we imagine how our parents suffer when we sin? Can I imagine how much my sins hurt others? Can we imagine how God, our Father, hurts when we desecrate the sacrament of marriage and the gift of life, the gift of our body which He created in his own image?

Veronica silently wiped the face of Jesus. Are we willing to help others in their time of need? Are we willing to accept others help as Christ accepted Veronica’s? Do I silently offer care, love and presence or do I try to offer “too much advice?”
Christ was stripped of his clothes and made naked. Who are we stripping of dignity by our careless actions? Do we remember that God sees us “naked?” Could we stand without shame in front of him? As Christ is nailed to the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Lk 23:34

Do I realize what I have done? It takes great humility to admit my wrongs and then to ask for forgiveness for what I have done. Christ walked this WAY so that we COULD ASK for forgiveness. But I must open my heart and eyes to my failings and His love.
Will I be humble enough to admit that I am human, or have I made myself my own God? Do I think I am so good I can do it myself, that I don’t need to ask for HIS forgiveness, or that I needn’t admit my failings to Him and to those I have hurt? When Jesus forgave or healed he would admonish them by telling them to “sin no more.” “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore.” Jn 8: 1-11 Do I make a conscious effort to “go and sin no more” after I am forgiven by Christ in reconciliation, by my spouse, or by my neighbor?

Heavenly Father, You GAVE us YOUR son to teach us THE WAY. Help me to follow in His footsteps. Help me to be more like Christ, more like Simon, more like Mary and more like Veronica. Help me to seek true faith in you, help me to seek to serve, help me to seek to understand, and help me to seek to love as You have taught. Give me the courage to accept my cross and to follow you. Thank You for Your Passion to show me the WAY. Amen
His WAY is THE WAY. Make it your WAY,


Monday, March 11, 2013

Do We Realize?

Friends of Faith:

When I say I am a Christian, when I say I am Catholic Christian, when I go to church each Sunday—do I realize what I have, what I am, why I go, what I receive, how I should act or feel because I am present?
What a question!

But as Father Mike said yesterday, “If I read the Prodigal Son over and over and over I could write a homily on each and every line of the story.”
Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house …He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned …’ 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 …, 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.’ (Lk 15: 11-32)

One of the messages in this parable is that we are surrounded by richness IN His word, IN his church, IN our lives, IN our bodies as they are created, without embellishment. But just like the son who remained home we don’t begin to REALIZE all that we have been given.
If I realized what I had then I would not want more “stuff.” Instead I would only desire more understanding and more fulfillment thru more time with God himself.

No matter who we are, or where we are in our faith, because we are human, we don’t, can’t and won’t fully realize all that God has made available to us, in his love for us, in all of the gifts he has given us, and in the gifts we are meant to share with each other.
But the message is simple--He gives me what I need, when I need it, ALL the time—if I realize it!

I don’t even have to begin to understand all of it. But I do have to REALIZE it so that I don’t waste what I have been given or miss the beauty and the love that I have already received, both in the simple teachings and in the complexities of the mystery of the why, the how and the purpose of my creation.
Pope John Paul II taught (and teaches us) in Theology of the Body (TOB) much of what we as Christians should be taught and should want to learn about our creation. JPII has studied and given us this teaching to help us REALIZE our gifts. But as I study and learn these teachings I am continually saddened that so few REALIZE these teachings are even a part of our RICH library of Christian knowledge. It is almost as though we are afraid to learn more, afraid to REALIZE that we are made for more, afraid to REALIZE that our small world will grow bigger and that we will have to change if we learn what God has given us in the bodies he created—from love, by love, and for love.

JP II teaches in TOB that here on earth, if we are married God has given us a “taste and see” thru intimacy in marriage (it is the reason He created marriage). But many of us don’t  REALIZE, or even begin to try to understand or to learn the beauty of the relationship God has given us with the one we love the most here on earth. Or worse yet we reduce the institution of marriage to “just sex” or a relationship without the responsibilities God intended for its fullness (procreation.)
And for someone who is single, TOB teaches that this intimacy is received even more directly through and to God, by our chastity, by his direct love and caring for us.

WE have it all, if we realize what purpose God created us for.  He feeds us body and soul through His Word (into our mind and heart/soul) and His Word made flesh in Jesus (in true communion with Him –His real presence, the real presence we receive in the Eucharist.)
His message is simple. We have everything we need in His love and the mercy of His forgiveness. He has given us the ability to love because He loves us unconditionally.  Do we realize this?

And where would we be without forgiveness, and where are we when we don’t REALIZE that we are forgiven and that we can be forgiven—both by God and by those who love us for who we are (as the Father did his prodigal son AND the son who had everything but didn’t realize it.)
He has called us to use OUR ability to BE social justice –to give love and to share love—to give our riches to others. We are not to depend or expect that someone else will give it to us. We are CALLED to love our neighbor as ourselves. But do we REALIZE that this is OUR job and OUR duty—not something that we should give to the government or expect someone else to do for us. It is our responsibility to help each other and to care for each other. True love is sharing ourselves by serving one another without receiving or expecting to receive anything in return (just as Christ did for us.)

Heavenly Father, You are Love and You have created us FOR love. I am sorry that I ignore or complicate what you are trying to help make me realize. Help me to open my eyes, ears and most importantly my heart to the teachings of Your Church. Help me to realize, understand, and live the way I am called—and that is simply to love. Help me to realize that it is my responsibility to share the gifts you have given me with others and that I should not expect or demand that others do it for me. Amen.
Why are we choosing to ignore the messages he sends to us? What part of the gift do we not realize that we have been given by His gift of love and forgiveness?

May we love more, and may we realize that we are loved more,

Monday, March 4, 2013

Falling Asleep

Women of Faith:

He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” Lk 22: 46. As Christians we are to be on “watch” like the apostles were when Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray.
But, like the apostles, have I fallen asleep just as they did? They were faithful followers and still they fell asleep and even denied being with and following Christ. (Peter denied Christ 3 times.)

Yet Jesus was always very patient, forgiving them (and us) for their (our) lack of readiness and watchfulness. And eventually these followers became Saints because they repented, were converted, and chose to be awakened by Christ’s message.
How many times have I denied, grown weary, sat back and said nothing when I knew I was being asked to do more, when I was being asked to live or defend my faith—and sometimes, more importantly, to speak up and correct a friend or family member who was circumventing what in my heart I knew was the path of Christ’s truth.

All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. 1 Cor 10: 5-6, 10-12
Have you ever said, “It’s their choice, I can’t change it, It doesn’t affect me?”

And yet Christ taught that IT DOES affect me. I am warned that I have come from the same spiritual background and that God is not always been pleased with us (his people) who fall asleep, desire evil things, and grumble that our real work here on earth might be difficult and counter cultural.
Yes, I must be careful not to judge, and I must be careful to seek wisdom and to have compassion, for we are all sinners, but I CANNOT fall asleep, I must not confuse speaking the truth with judgment. If I want God’s highest goal for me, heaven, then I must always be ready to live by the highest standard, God’s.

And I must always be ready to ask God for guidance and the courage to speak when someone has fallen asleep to God’s truth. Because IT DOES AFFECT ME!!
I am being called to do more, not only to live my life as an example, but sometimes to speak up and awaken those around me, who are not living up to this higher standard. And I might be chastised and outcast by them for following God’s call, just as the apostles were. 

BUT this is God’s call—to be awake—to not hide or sleep, for I desire the same end as the apostles, sainthood—to be with God in heaven. Sainthood, holiness, is God’s call to each of us, and with His help, and by my choice, I can be awakened and I can awaken those around me. But I must be careful to never feel too secure or to be caught off guard because it is only human to fall asleep.
God made us in His image to be saints. And Christ made this promise possible with his death on the cross.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
Heavenly Father, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Help me to not grow weary but to stay ready and watchful. Give me a nudge when I fall asleep.  Help me to have the courage to rise up to the challenges of speaking Your truth, to love my neighbor and to help every person I meet to get to know You. Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart with compassion and right judgment, wisdom and understanding to live and to speak God’s command. Amen.

If I fall asleep, if I back down, if I choose to ignore sin, then I am no better and much more guilty, because God has shown me a better way. And I will perish for my choice to “be asleep.”
Stay awake, be ready and know that Christ’s encouraging Word is meant to help us rise up.