Friday, October 23, 2015

Our Call, Our Mission, Our Legacy

Women of Faith:
My reflection today intends to share with you more of what we heard at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia already several weeks ago. The excerpt below is taken from a Family Life Today reflection and is a somewhat obvious (while not spoken about with enough frequency) summary of some of the problems we are facing as a country today. I conclude with some of the solutions and suggestions that were proposed to those of us in attendance at the WMOF in the hope that each of you will reflect and take the time to act and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose in your Christian faith.

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8
As a people, we are healthier but not happier. We are drenched in knowledge but parched for wisdom. Materially we are wealthy, but we suffer a profound poverty of the soul. The longer I live, the more I see that our nation needs a spiritual reformation in its inner spirit.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of the family. The biblical values that built our great nation--once passed on from each generation to the next as a national treasure--are being questioned and dismissed. As a result, never before have we seen such deterioration in our homes:
Never before have so many children grown up in broken homes.
Never before has the definition of marriage been altered to allow for two people of the same sex.
Never before has the marriage covenant been viewed with such contempt by a generation of young people.
Never before have parents been ridiculed for seeking to raise children with biblical values.
Never before have so many Christians laughed, shrugged their shoulders or did nothing about adultery, divorce and sin.
Never before has materialism been so flagrantly embraced over relationships.”
Never before has the family been in such need of a new legacy.
The pivotal national issue today is not crime; neither is it welfare, health care, education, politics, the economy, the media or the environment. The pivotal issue today is the spiritual and moral condition of individual men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and families.
Nations are never changed until people are changed. The true hope for genuine change in the heart lies only in the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Through Him, lives can be rebuilt. Through Him, families can be reformed.” (Excerpt from Moments with You by Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

I read a biblical reflection the other day that talked about a great battle within the early Church. One that was being lost, because just like now the Christians were divided against themselves – more worried about who was right and who was wrong then about building up a unified kingdom for God.

WHERE have all the Christians gone? WHERE AM I in forming a legacy for Christ – in my home, in my church, in my community and most importantly amongst those of you I call my friends and family?

I pulled three key thoughts from my WMOF notes:

The first is this: We no longer talk about the effects of sin or evil - hell. We don’t even talk about the earthly consequences of our selfish searches for happiness which run rough shod over others feelings, which are creating divisions in relationships and ultimately that are the result of the fall of others because our failure to lead by the truth influences and teaches others to believe that we deserve happiness and if “everyone else is doing it” it must be right. This in turn perpetuates the sin and evil doing.

As a Christian I need to remember that it is not only my goal to get to heaven, but it should also be my goal to HELP OTHERS get to heaven—most importantly starting with my own family.

From another reflection: “Jesus is not the cause of, but the answer to, all of our problems. The cause comes from the values of the world, from the evil one, and from our own weaknesses.

"The modern Christian family is often tempted to be discouraged and is distressed at the growth of its difficulties; it is an eminent form of love to give it back its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it. Yes, indeed, the families of today must be called back to their original position [the foundation of society, the domestic church]. They must follow Christ. It is through the cross that the family can attain the fullness of being and the perfection of its love." USCCB Daily Reflections

Secondly: We fail to continue to search for a greater understanding of the truth. We think we know it all because we have our own “personal” relationship with Jesus Christ. We hold back when we are asked to share our Christianity and are intimidated and made to feel like we are judging someone when we offer a suggestion for change or improvement of a moral lifestyle—even though God says we are to do exactly that:All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2Tim 3:16-17

And thirdly: Being good, living as a Christian isn’t enough. We need to boldly proclaim the Truth. We need to respect the Church and we need to form a unity between all Christians.

In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5: 17-21

Heavenly Father: Please help me to be a better listener and a better example. I pray also that I will be unafraid so that when you place it on my heart to do so I will be ready to boldly proclaim the truth and to stand up for you. Because where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more. Amen.

Seek Him, Hear Him, Live for Him and Proclaim Him to all,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Filling the Emptiness

Friends of Faith:

As I woke up this morning I started thinking about all I have to do and all I haven’t had time to do, like writing this meditation – and I realized that I have filled many empty spaces and a fairly disciplined routine with “junk” – meaningless and/or unstructured and unfulfilling busyness. Instead of my mission bringing me peace it is bringing me stress because I know it is incomplete and is missing flavor.

One of the things that I heard repeatedly at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago (yes, we did get to see the Pope J) was that if we didn’t take what we learned back out into our families and our communities, then being in the presence of “religion,” having faith, was meaningless. It would have no taste and result in no lasting change for the better.

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Mt 5: 13-16

As I think back over the last couple of years I realize that before being displaced at work by the fire I had a routine, everything had a place and for the most part my time was pretty structured. I had disciplines that put God first like getting up to go to mass, praying daily before we left the house and reading scripture daily (when my computer screen opened up).

Everything seemed to fall into place, to flavor each other, to carry out a God given purpose.

During the year we rebuilt I adopted a somewhat new routine in order to get new duties accomplished. And despite the fact that life was busier God seemed to always be at the center – not only did I need him to get through all of the decisions that needed to be made but I was very aware of all the blessings he was reigning down on us, on the many prayers that were being answered.

Both routines left me, for the most part, fulfilled and at peace. I got both house work and client work done in both a timely and orderly fashion-- answering messages and meeting deadlines. Life had a God given purpose.

But lately, especially this summer which has been filled with family, visiting friends and a very memorable trip to Philadelphia I have felt something missing – like the salt that had gone tasteless.

And most of you would think that moving into the new building would have “freed” me – given me more time, less stress etc, etc. However, I can’t seem to get as much accomplished and the routine days look a little like ground hogs day. I feel myself lacking the fulfillment and peace of what I know my faith should provide even when I accomplish most of what I put on my list for the day.

What I am realizing is that many of those “freed” up spaces haven’t necessarily been filled by Godly actions, by faith or especially by disciplines that put God first. They have been filled by me wanting “me” time, by “me” wanting “freedom,” and even by “me” wanting to hide.

Religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life. 
     -Pope Francis, 
Evangelii Gaudium, 183

God has a different purpose – a purpose I was reminded of yet again this week when several of you reminded me that you had not seen this message in a while.

God doesn’t want us to hide. God doesn’t want our faith to be left inside of us, or just inside of our houses, or just at Sunday mass. God wants us to give to others, to think less about ourselves and to remember everyone of our blessings every day.  

He wants us to spread his Gospel message every day. He wants us to pray in thanksgiving, to ask for forgiveness and to ask for all our needs. He wants us to be filled by him and He wants us to fill others With Him—not through our words, but by our actions – by loving and serving our families and our friends.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”

That is what gives me the most satisfaction, the most fulfillment – when I see those I love receiving what they truly need and thanking God for what they are being given. But without each of us doing our part, without each of us praying for, helping and being there for one another then we are the light under the bushel basket (hidden) and the tasteless salt that is searching for flavor.

May each of us fill our emptiness by serving and praying for one another. May all of us find our freedom in the discipline that puts God first.