10/19/14

Want to know what we believe about Jesus; take a good look at what we do today?

Let’s keep some basic truths about Jesus in mind as we go about our daily tasks: Jesus came to reconcile all people to the love of his Father, Jesus came to call sinners, Jesus came so that no one would be lost, Jesus came to give us life to the fullest, and Jesus came to offer these free gifts to all.

Today, Jesus wants His Church to do these same things- and be a Church of love and mercy.  We can’t transform the lives of people especially “sinners” unless we find a way to meet and greet them.

Pope Francis reminds ministers that “We have to leave the sacristies and go out into the streets and bring them into the Churches.”  He also reminds us “to open our Church doors” if we want the people to enter and to feel welcome.

Someone once wrote: “our Church is a hotel for sinners and a greenhouse for saints.”  Thus, there’s no doubt that we have to welcome people as guests in our “hotel” before we move them into our “greenhouse.”

Pope Francis is constantly urging us to be missionary disciples and invite others to share our beliefs.  He urges us “to go out into the streets” and “get dirty for Christ.” Pope Francis knows it’s a difficult and risky endeavor, and literally jumbles our comfort level.

Our Pope reminds us that to be Christ’s disciple is not about comfort, it’s about “being sent” even “to the ends of the earth” to spread the Gospel.  It’s quite challenging, and yes, quite uncomfortable!

But first we need to heal our own sinfulness and reluctance.  For this, we need the Holy Spirit’s presence and strength.  We need what the early apostles had when they began preaching the news of the kingdom.  We need the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:20).  We can’t bring what we don’t have, and our world today needs a good shot of all these fruits!  We are invited to do what we can and to leave the rest to the Holy Spirit

Pope Francis continues to lead the way in this mandate.  We see that he “walks the talk” of discipleship everyday.  More importantly, he asks us to join him in finding the hurting, the disappointed, and the angry–to learn their pain.  Only then, as ministers and Christians, will our hearts be open to the healing power of Jesus Christ.

Let’s then as stated above, in the course of this day, simply watch how we live each moment, and it will tell us what we believe in our hearts.  For isn’t what we do and say– a good indicator of what we believe?  Look at Pope Francis and see if this is not true!

10/13/14

Does God Have Bad Days?

Philip, a university senior said,  “I just can’t figure God out.  Sometimes I get what I want when I pray and on other days, I can pray all day and get nothing.  It seems my prayer falls on deaf ears.  I guess I have to catch God on a good day if I want something bad enough.”

At times we all feel like Philip, don’t we?  Yet when we think seriously about it, we know our God isn’t that difficult to figure out.  We just have to remember where God is coming from.

God always has our best interests at heart.  He simply wants to give us what will do the most good at any given moment.  He wants each of our lives, no matter who we are to be successful.

Again, remember that it’s God’s idea of what is successful not the world’s.  To be who we are and to be that well as a true witness to Him who made us!  In fact, God knows what will make this happen better than anybody else–especially us!

So no matter what we pray for or how we pray, God always gives us the means and the manner to grow towards Him!  However, the problem arises because we think that our request should be answered even though God has something else in mind.  God always chooses that “other” thing, except in what may be those rare moments when we are both thinking alike.

We simply have to trust God, our Father, who loves His children and will only send what is best.

So Philip, hear this, there are no bad days with God!  We simply have to be “open” to understanding that the answer to our prayers comes out of God’s love and only His love for us.  God always has our best interests in His heart-and He does every day!

10/10/14

We are God’s Harvest

My Grandfather grew grapes in his large yard behind his house.  As the vines grew thick and tall, he made a sort of leafy gazebo there, which became a handy shelter from the warm summer sun and the surprising showers.

Inside this gazebo my father’s eight brothers and sisters and their families gathered on most summer Sundays. As everyone feasted on my Grandmother’s mouth-watering homemade gnocchi, her luscious meatballs and scrumptious bracioli dinners, we listened to numerous stories in the gazebo, triggering intermittent laughter or sometimes joining together in boisterous melodies–sung  of course, off key.

And almost on cue during these weekly get-togethers, my Grandfather sitting contently in the shade of his rustling grape leaves gave his usual “stump speech.”  He would point to his vines and say “Quest’e mi vigna.”  As translated, “These are my vines.”  And in the next breath, my Grandfather–pointing to us then said “Questa e mi vendemmia!” “But this is my harvest!”  After which everyone cheered and clapped!

We all knew that my Grandfather loved his vineyard, but he wanted it known loud and clear that he loved us more–for we were his true vineyard and his real harvest.  And believe me, none of us ever doubted this truth.

Yet despite all the love my Grandfather showed us over and over again, we know that God loves us more-even more than Grandpop.  For God makes it clear over and over again, we are  His  chosen and His beloved.

And didn’t God make each of us to spend eternity with Him?  And doesn’t God long for that special day when we finally enter heaven forever?  Isn’t that why Jesus came, died, rose again and returned to heaven?  Indeed, Jesus did all this so that God, like my Grandfather, can wait with a big smile for the day when he can give us a big hug of welcome.

God may even say “mi vendemmia-my harvest is here!”  And looking at God’s smiling face, we can be absolutely certain that we have made God’s day- forever!

 

10/6/14

What about Angels

A while ago a man stopped me in a parking lot and asked:  ”Reverend, it seems to me that Catholics have the Holy Spirit and Angels all confused?”  I responded, “Why do you say that?”

“Well,” he went on, “You have Angels and the Holy Spirit doing the same thing-watching and protecting us.  To me it’s confusing.”

I paused ever so briefly and I answered him, “I don’t see any confusion, I believe it’s all about God’s generosity.”  “How’s that?” he replied.  “Well, God loves us so deeply and desires our company so strongly and with such joy that He doesn’t care how many, or by what means it takes to get us there with Him!”  I then added, “believe me; I am very grateful for the help!”  The man just shook his head and walked away in disbelief.

In Matthew 18, Jesus spoke these words “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”  Imagine that–Angels always look upon the face of Jesus’ heavenly Father.  They do now what we long to do.

No wonder Angels are so eager to do their job of guarding and protecting us more eagerly.  Indeed, Angels are our greatest supporters.   You might well ask: What’s their reward?  Probably seeing Our Heavenly Father smiling, as He waits to embrace each of us, as we “Look upon the face of God” for the first time!

My advice to that man and everyone is: Stop wondering and be grateful for the passionate and personal work that Angels do each day for us–keeping us enroute to our heavenly reward.

Since they are still doing it–their success rate must be smashing!

10/1/14

Leaving the Right Kind of Footprints Behind

We keep hearing about the “The Ecological Footprint” and how we can’t leave it behind worse off than how we received it.  This particular footprint estimates how much of God’s creation, i.e., the lakes, the forests, and the other natural resources, we will have abused, overused, consumed and wasted on an annual basis in our lifetime.

We are told over and over again how terrible this is now and for those coming after us.  Instead we are encouraged to give nature, the attention, care and proper respect in an effort to avoid or reduce the “Ecological Footprint.”   We are told that if we do this, all will benefit!

Now on the other hand, isn’t Jesus’ gift of faith a great footprint to leave behind?  In fact, we can call this life giving footprint our “Faith Footprint.”  This footprint can tell everyone who sees it how we have followed Jesus.  It stamps our path with the imprint that Jesus invited us to accompany Him on this journey and that we accepted.

And along the way, the imprint will show the signs we left, i.e., that we treated people fairly and justly; that we did our best to do what’s right; and that people saw that Jesus was our friend.  “Faith Footprints” show we invited the people we loved to share this friendship with Jesus.  Lastly, it shows how we worked daily to build God’s kingdom in what we did.

Yes, our “Faith Footprints” boldly proclaim that we are grateful to have walked this earth, and delighted also to enjoy God’s creation while here.  Today in all you do–leave your Faith Footprint wherever you walk.  It’s the stamp on creation our God enjoys seeing every day!

09/21/14

Christ Offers the World Real Peace

The headlines these days are about wars or preparedness for war and the need to rid ourselves of enemies. They tell of the way to find peace, and the price we have to pay to insure this peace.  And the price tag is enormous.

In the gospel, Christ too speaks about peace, and how he wants to give it. His peace does not come with scary headlines.  His peace seems different, and it comes differently too.  He says his peace is not “not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.”   So what is different about His peace?

Does Christ have a different understanding of peace?  It seems so.   Shouting voices from advertisers talk about the need for a good burglar alarm to protect our home, politicians preach invincible military might, labor leaders fight for a substantial pension plan for our retirement, and insurance agents sell policies that cover every major disease that can inflict harm.

Each believes that these are the ways to peace, contentment and security.   To all these clamoring voices, Christ softly says again that his peace is   “not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.”

Christ peace is the reality that God, His Father, loved us from the first moment we were created.  He loved us as a friend and never backed off from this promise.  God also knows our mistakes and still continues to offer His forgiveness.  These truths alone are enough to instill peace.

Jesus describes God, as the Forgiving Father on the hill, anxiously waiting like a loving parent to embrace us in heaven.   This is God’s daily wish that we be with him for all eternity.  That’s the peace Jesus shares with us.

It is a grand portrait of a loving and forgiving God who longs for our eternal presence.  How can this not be a  “peace that surpasses all understanding “says St Paul In Philippians 4:7?

And nothing can take this gift away.  God guarantees it forever.   When Jesus says  “My peace I give you.” Listen to these truly wonderful words. They are free and they are there for you every day.

09/17/14

The Battle of the “No’s”

Sometimes following Jesus can be a Mighty Battle of the “No’s.”  Now this probably sounds odd, but  how often do we hear someone say, e.g., “I can’t follow Jesus, I am not holy enough,” or perhaps “I am not good enough.”  And then there is always the proverbial standby: “I try but I just can’t stay on track.”  But what we rarely hear is that quiet little internal No!–“I can’t give up this comfort or that comfort just yet.”  I often wonder–“ Is it that I can’t?” or rather that “I won’t !”

The reality in all this–is that “battling No’s” is a life long struggle.  It simply appears every time we want to say “yes” to following Jesus, but to do so we have to hold in check these little “No” demons who want us to fail.

However, the best part of this struggle is that Jesus is on our side!  He knows how these “No” demons work.  Remember when Jesus was tempted three times in the desert–there it was all about saying “no” to being Savior and instead enjoying only the power and glory that came with the title.  Jesus said “No”– and He did it with strength.

This is the same strength Jesus shares with us.  He promises to help us defeat our “No’s,” and he does this with the power of His grace.  With Jesus on our side, those negative demons, don’t stand a chance.  So say “yes” to Jesus and  Jesus will always say “yes” to us.  Now that’s the way to win the battle!

09/14/14

“ Be Who You Are and Be That Well as a Testament to the Creator Who Made us”

God made us in His own image and likeness, but He loves us for what we become with His Image.  God is also truly creative.  He gave us personal gifts and distinct talents, and he sends us forth to mold and shape His likeness by these gifts and talents.  In gratitude surprise the Lord this day and become the masterpiece we are. It’s a wonderful way to say “thank You” for His love and concern.   Live today well!

09/8/14

“Earth is Crammed…”

We are assured from faith that God wants to communicate with us.  He does it in many ways.  My favorite is through a “small still voice.”   This whispering voice may offer encouragement, or some small consolations like “drops of water on a sponge,” writes St Ignatius.

God’s “small still voice” doesn’t come from a dark, far away “out there” place.  It comes from inside us; and it shows how we can be that wonderful gift called self!  St. Francis de Sales writes that this voice encourages us gently, to take the risks that can lead us to be “who we are and to be that well as a testament to the master craftsman who created us.”

Whatever our God given gifts and talents may be, they are our clues as to what God’s plan is for us.  Certainly, God provides differently to each of us.   The point is never to forget is that God does give and does it generously.  Gerard Manley Hopkins described it in this way: “For Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.”

We have to stop, look and listen, for if we don’t, we will miss the clues and not see the signs.  But above all, we will be the people that Elizabeth Barrett Browning described in her poem:

 

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he, who sees, takes off his shoes—

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries”

 

We can do better than pick blackberries.  We can and should endeavor to listen to God’s “small still voice” and strive to climb mountains instead!

09/3/14

Bidding Farewell

Jonathan is nearing 79 years of age.   When he reminds his family that his time on this earth may be running out, they cut him off with a humorous remark.  “God doesn’t want you yet.” Or “You look too good and healthy for your age!”

Jonathan explains he isn’t saying this for self-pity or for compliments, rather he is simply preparing now, to let go more easily when his time to leave this earth does arrives.

Jonathan is on to something.  In life we are always saying “good bye” to something.  We bid farewell to our “hair” to  “our youthful energy” in running  a 10 K race and even our hearing!  Life helps us to let go whether we are ready or not.

When St Francis de Sales was asked “If you were told you are to die in the next minute what would you do?”  He simply responded. “Exactly what I am doing right now.”  In other words, stay focused on the present moment.  There is no better way to live or to die, for that matter, than to be doing well what we are doing in our present moment!

Jonathan is right in preparing.  He understands that living on earth means we are always approaching eternity.   This is why it is good practice every once in a while, to remind ourselves of this by “Living  today well!”