Monday, November 30, 2015

Hungry for More

Friends of Faith:
Why is it that I can say I am hungry just 4 days after Thanksgiving? Well, I’m not hungry for food, I’m hungry for something even more basic than food – I’m hungry for God.

And my hunger goes beyond that – it is also a hunger to know that everyone else is fed, that everyone else has the opportunity to know and to feel his presence like I do.

The more I know about God, the more I want to be about God. And I want to give everyone else the same opportunity of knowing Gods’s love while having the ability to share truer knowledge and greater wisdom of His grace with others.

"Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts,  to be blameless in holiness before our God and  Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us 
how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
1 Thes 3:12-4:2

It’s a hunger that knows opportunity and impatience; love and intolerance; wisdom and shame. And it’s a hunger that makes me feel both sadness and find the joy of fulfillment. And I realized that I have to be willing to receive what he offers.

I am grateful that I am willing to receive education which the Church has so prudently discerned. Right now that education is from the Theology of the Body which is a part of St. Pat’s regular Date Night program. Last week, my weekly email from TOB said: “What would happen to marriages and families if everyone knew more about the Theology of the Body?”  The email made me want so much more for so many more marriages. And I feel a deep sadness for the destruction of marriage and families when God has provided us so much “education.” But the email also strengthened my commitment to continue to promote stronger marriages and the enrichment of families while continuing to learn Church teachings.

I am grateful that I have been willing to receive His gift of a business which provides a livelihood to both our family and to our employee’s families and also provides the opportunity to serve others so that they can fulfill their own talents. Specifically my tax service has allowed me to see the gratitude and generosity of others. 
And quite often I am shamed by my own desires for more “stuff” when there are so many out there who are able to witness peace and joy and while having so very little materially.

I am grateful for the freedom to openly worship and to write about my faith. I am saddened when I feel the hunger of those who want to know more but who are searching in “all the wrong places” or who don’t have a spouse or someone who is willing to share a faith journey with them. I know in my heart that I could do more in prayer and friendship.

I have been blessed to receive signs from God especially in times when my life included challenges or suffering. I hope that others will not have to suffer in order to have their eyes opened to Him. But I have also found some of my greatest joys in being able to witness others eyes opened in faith and strengthened by His presence.

Heavenly Father, In this Advent season as I wait and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Your Son, Jesus, may my hunger for You be filled with prayer and love. Give me the wisdom to discern the answers you are granting me so that I will not to be discouraged when human nature seeks materialism, accepts mediocrity, and gives in to being less. Give me instead a deeper desire to continue a quest for more: a greater understanding of your teachings and a more committed desire to serve others. Grant me tolerance, acceptance and patience so that I may serve You by being hungry to love more. Amen.

This is also a good time to say thank you to God for Stan and our 35 years of marriage and to the many who wished us a Happy Anniversary on Kristy’s Facebook post – it made me realize and reflect on the “more” of your friendship and just how much marriages and families touch one another.

He is willing to give more, if we are willing to receive more.

Be hungry for more. Pray More. Love More. Share More. Be More!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Bigger Picture

Friends of Faith:
Many of you know that for the past 2 ½ years I have been attending Diaconate formation classes every other Saturday with Stan (part of a 4 ½ year formal discernment and formation process to be ordained as a Deacon in the Catholic Church). And you probably have suspected that some of my reflections come from this experience.

Much like my Sunday homily notes, my notes from these classes are starred and underlined with years of reflection material that this once a week writing will never thoroughly reflect upon.

My notes can never fully capture all the who, what, when, where, why’s or how’s of God, of Jesus, or of the Spirit of the Church. Because to capture approximately 4,000 years of history before God sent His son, or another 2,000 years of church history since Jesus arrived, is a much bigger picture than any of us individually have the time, energy or brain to absorb, or that any book (even the Bible) could contain.
Only God has the power to see the big picture. Only God is big enough to design and hold together that picture.

And what happens when we think we know the big picture?

Our instructor this Saturday said, “In terms of our witness to the world Christian division is scandalous.”
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mk 3: 24-25

So with each passing day I search for the bigger picture to be revealed to me. I search not to be swayed by the devil’s work that tries to divide, scandalize and reform the Church beyond recognition. I seek discernment through prayer, through partaking of the Sacraments, and through continual learning of Church history—especially that of the very early Church. And I strive to avoid political rhetoric and social posturing which makes government (the people) believe they can become bigger than God, or a god by themselves.
Heavenly Father: Thank you for allowing me the time to spend in instruction and formation with those who have been equipped for ministry, and with those who are being trained for building up the body of Christ.  I yearn for total unity and true maturity of my own faith. And I hope that each of my Christian brothers and sisters will never stop seeking the bigger picture and will take full advantage of the tools (Sacraments) and the grace that your Son was sent to bring to us through the Church he left behind. Amen.

Pray constantly and seek to find unity through love.
It is the devil’s work to divide us. Jesus Christ left us His Church to unite us.
 God is the ultimate artist and He is wants each of us to unite to be a part of the big picture he designed.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heavenly Work

Friends of Faith:

Honestly I think part (and maybe all) of the problem with our culture today is that we think we deserve something so we don’t do enough work – not physical work (although there is some of that issue too), but spiritual work –heavenly work. Not some repetitive prayer or physical showing of charitable work to “get”  to heaven, but work because we believe there is a heaven, work because we believe in Him; work that is in a stewardship frame of mind – of the giving back to God, our time, our talents and our treasures.

Every time I write the word “work” in one of my reflections I tone it down by changing the word because I know that many Christians of denominations other than the Catholic faith think that Catholics feel like they can “work” their way to heaven.
But I think I am doing us all an injustice in toning down the idea of work because I don’t believe there is a true Christian out there who doesn’t believe and understand that we must not only be something more but that we must DO something more BECAUSE we are Christians.

First off, I agree, no one of any faith (or non faith) can “work” their way to heaven – Catholics don’t believe this – it’s a misconception about our teachings. Only God will judge who will go to heaven and it is God who has given us the freedom to choose or to deny him.
When I say I am “working” on my salvation I don’t mean I am “earning” my way to heaven forWhat good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?James 2: 14-17)

A Catholic who says they are “working” on salvation – is saying that salvation is not a one-time profession of faith, but rather a continual profession of faith, a process in which we are constantly choosing to accept or to deny the teachings of Christ the Savior (we can just as easily fall out of God’s grace as we can choose to be in his grace)—that is also why we continuously need mercy and forgiveness.
We are taught to pray, fast and to give alms—not just once but all the time (2 Thes 1:11).

And the “Be”attitudes (Mt 5), which I so love, suggest that to be something in Christ we must “do” something in Christ.
And true, faithful Christians of every faith do just that –they do “good work” because they believe in the Gospel message of Matthew 25 to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, etc– that’s how the world knows we are Christians. We deny ourselves to help others, to love others, to care for others and to support others –we “work” to imitate Jesus and our work is for our neighbor.

My first work is to pray –to pray for guidance as to what my purpose here on earth is for God, to pray for the knowledge to know how he wants me to show others I am his and to pray for the abilities to do my physical work with honor. I am refreshed in doing this by starting my “work” week by keeping holy the Sabbath in Church. For me, it seems that this is the one place where I can get away from the distractions and duties which seem to steal my time away from the time I want to spend with him. Then when I am “sent” at the end of mass to evangelize for Christ I will be able to charitably help others, to more frequently tell others WHY I am Christian, to stand up for Him and if necessary to not be afraid to rebuke others as to what the Church teaches as right AND wrong.
I need to not be afraid to work for Christ—but to be more like the “good thief” who was converted at his death. “The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?” Lk 23:40

In “working” to share the Gospel message the good thief challenged the other criminal, who conversely reviled Jesus with his “I deserve it” attitude, and so the good thief became Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:10

Salvation is a process which requires us to work in denying ourselves and in carrying what sometimes can be very heavy crosses. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Mt16:24-25 and as St Paul so bluntly stated: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil 2:12
Heavenly Father: I am called to Know You, To Love You and to Serve You. Help me to use the gifts of my time, my talents and my treasures wisely. It is only right that I work, and even suffer, by imitating Your son, Jesus. Help me to enrich my own belief in You and to help others to come to love you as I do. Thank you for making me everything I am. May everything I do be for you. Amen.

Let us not be afraid to work to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ,


Monday, November 2, 2015

On Your Mark, Get Set, Get Ready

Friends of Faith:

Am I chosen OR am I ready to be chosen?

“I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.” Rv 7: 4

Many of us have read this passage and probably wondered like I have what I could possibly do to be a part of the “chosen” 144,000, knowing as I know myself that this number over the last 2015 years is minutely small – a sliver of all of the Christian people that have come and gone, and in humility, without trying to fool myself, honestly knowing that I am not even close to being or becoming holy enough to being ONE of only 144,000.

So why do I, and should we, continue to seek holiness, to be Christlike, and to live for God? Why do I continue to strive to achieve heaven when at times it can appear to be so unachievable? Why do I have hope? Because this verse is followed by this passage:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Rv 7: 9-14

God may have only “marked” 144,000 but he has left the door open for all those who in hope seek his mercy; for those who in perseverance and patience seek to know Him and to do His will; and for those who remain faithful to Him despite temptation, persecution, sufferings and sorrows.

This passage is not about a few, about being “gifted or chosen,” this passage is about being prepared, about hope and mercy and about a lifelong journey towards God. For only God will know whether I am ready and whether I have done what it is that he has called me to do. My job is to be willing and to be humbly ready to lay down my life for Him so that I never feel too “chosen” or so “privileged” that I fail to do the one and only job he calls me to do – to love everyone else as unconditionally as He loves me.

Lord, we are a people that long to see your face. Help me to be ready to do your will, to stand against evil and to desire what is not vain. Help me to seek to know and acknowledge all that I have been blessed with, to be in your presence every hour of every day, and to be ready when I am called. Thank you for your patience and your mercy. It is through my hope in you that I find peace and joy. To all may there be blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might to our God forever and ever. Amen. (From Ps 24)

So I strive to give up my prideful ways and my desire for earthly belongings and in humility to become “marked” by a ready willingness and an eternal hopefulness that through His grace and blessings I will be chosen BECAUSE I was ready AND willing to do His will: in love, with love, by love and for His love.

So on your mark, get set, get ready – Love – because God awaits,