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Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Kingdom of God is at Hand




Mt 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8


Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
"Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: 'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give."

This gospel reading from the lectionary for today, shows the central message of Jesus. I did not quote the entire reading but was particularly interested in the mention of "The Kingdom of heaven" being at hand. In recent books such as "Love Wins" and others, different interpretations of what is meant by this phrase are proposed. The meaning may include the traditional impression of heaven, our destination if we are worthy after we die. But as well, the Kingdom may indeed be here on earth. To be experienced now, if we have faith in Jesus Christ and follow his will. I would propose that anyone can experience the love and the presence of Jesus Christ by joining a Christian community and participating. Read the gospel. Meet and get to know Godly people. The Catholic Church is ready to welcome you and help you to join the Kingdom. Start with one person and show your willingness to learn about the Kingdom.

What you can expect once you start down this path is a great sense of peace and purpose for your life. Also you will experience not only the love that God gives us but your own potential to love God's children on earth. You will seek truth. You will discard sinful ways. Not all of this can happen at once. But I do promise you will amaze yourself and find that God is not hidden from us. On the contrary he is alive, here with us, and we can feel and experience this once we are open to this.

Moses observed that the people of Israel that were his sheep, often had the fault of keeping their hearts cold and hard. They were not open to God at certain times in their history. We all have the same pitfall that is in our nature. I promise you that it is also in the nature of the creation of God for us to have a heart that can soften, can open up and trust. Start this now!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sheep from the goats


Today's mass reading from Matthew suggests that Jesus will judge his people on the final days,when the sheep are separated from the goats. This analogy was used because the animals were familiar to the people of the time. The goats are the sinners, who are denied eternal life. The sheep, who fed and clothed their brethren and the least of God's people, are going to be rewarded with the Kingdom of God.

Jesus I pray that all who hear your word choose to follow and accept God's kingdom in their hearts. In so doing they will enable you to fulfill your promise of the Kingdom of God, that you have lovingly offered to your children. We live in a complex world among people who are highly educated and successful. I pray that they accept you in their hearts because their knowledge cannot replace all the needs that each of us has, first and foremost to know and love God. We all need food, clothes, and have not achieve equality with God. On the contrary we are sinners and unworthy of God's love and mercy but receive it freely anyway. Once again I pray that our hearts are softened and receptive to the love, mercy, and healing that you want all of us to share. In Your name, Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seeking God


Wisdom 13
1 Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish. Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God. They have studied the things he made, but they have not recognized the one who made them.2 Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies.3 People were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that he is much greater than all of them, for he is the creator of beauty, and he created them.4 Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful.5 When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.

6 But maybe we are too harsh with these people. After all, they may have really wanted to find God, but couldn't.7 Surrounded by God's works, they keep on looking at them, until they are finally convinced that because the things they see are so beautiful, they must be gods.8 But still, these people really have no excuse.9 If they had enough intelligence to speculate about the nature of the universe, why did they never find the Lord of all things?


_____________________________________________________________

One of today's lectionary readings, which I took from a public domain Bible source, is a faithful translation of this portion of the book of Wisdom. It expresses a simple concept: that God desires, He demands, that we know Him and worship Him, not merely wonder at the majesty of his creations. The authority of the Bible has been handed down through tradition. Jesus quoted the bible regularly. He did not edit it or make corrections. This is the word of God and through study we can better know God and move closer to the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel.

I find it useful to look at the smallest of things to appreciate the concept of God's creation. The ant is among the smallest of all creatures, yet it behaves as if it has perception, decision making, cooperation, planning. Most remarkably, many ants have enormous strength, such as the ability to pick up and carry leaves that weight up to 30 times their own body weight (for me that would be carrying over 2 tons!). I would not have predicted, from my own schooling, observations of nature, reading of Bible passages, or even using a vivid imagination that such creatures were possibilities. I cannot invent God, and man cannot replace Him either! But we can seek him and know him, through his Word and most of all through the Son.

Jesus we seek you and marvel and your creations in the world. In our communities we can spread your word so that others can hear of your glory. Fortify us to do your will today as we go forth. Your goodness is our virtue. We praise your goodness and your blessings that we have and wish to thank you endlessly for them. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Humility



I recently purchased an e-book with an out of print volume titled "Humility" by Andrew Murray. This was written before 1900. The reviews from online readers were very good. It is not a Catholic book, but I've read about 1/2 the book which is short enough to read in one sitting.

I agree with the reviewers and I think it will stand as one of the more influential books I'll read this year. You can download it free from the link below (in multiple different formats) or a Kindle version for $0.99.

Humility, free versions

Humility by Andrew Murray, for Kindle for PC @$0.99

In the spirit of the intention of the book, I will not glorify the book, or try to give an example of its high worth and my esteem for it. Suffice it to say that Jesus calls us to be humble and did so by instruction as well as, most importantly, by example, and we could spend a lifetime trying to achieve a fraction of what we are called to do in this respect. Humility is not self-hatred, though. We do our very best, love our brothers and sisters, and love ourselves and most of all love God. I recommend you read this book and let me know what you think!

Matt F

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Catholic small groups



I enjoyed the small group session I had tonight. There were about 9 of us at the home of the generous hostess, along with a facilitator and a guide book. The amount of scripture reading was very minimal. It consists of a short bio on a significant Catholic (such as St. Damion, of Hawaii) whose life reflected some aspect of the topic of the week.

The trend toward home church experiences has been noticeable in my local church and I think it has at least 3 advantages. For one thing, the meetings are often mid week and give me a chance to worship other than just once a week. I find that I need to develop my faith and do this through fellowship, prayer and scripture reading. Another advantage is sharing information and getting other people's reactions to my ideas that are spiritual. Religion is a somewhat taboo subject even in this age, but since the program is voluntary and we're all there for the same reason, I can discuss spiritual matters freely. Finally, I can develop friendships and community involvement above the usual post-mass farewells. I have determined that I need to forge into the community aspect of Christianity and give up the individualist pursuits that I more readily gravitate toward.

Jesus I pray that you guide me to better community involvement in your Church tonight, as well as every day of the week. Through my greater efforts I ask that you bless me and others I may meet to see your love and to have stronger faith in you and spread your love and healing. In Your name amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blessed Monday!



Thank you Jesus for my day. I am alive. I went to work. I prayed to be a servant to your will. You listened. You responded. You blessed me with patience, wisdom, fortitude (really that too... did not need to think about a nap). I am blessed to have a job, to help people in my work, to have the love to work and to do your will.

I recognize that really, in my life I have not been tested. I feel that I have been richly blessed. If you see in your will to test me I will pray that I am ready and that I will maintain and strengthen my resolve to serve you. I pray to have the greatest balance in my life, the enjoyment of my family and time alone. The world is blessed with your goodness which truly does overflow. Praise the Lord oh my soul. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's

Gospel Mt 22:15-21
The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion,
for you do not regard a person's status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
"Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax."
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"
They replied, "Caesar's."
At that he said to them,
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."

At the time of Jesus, the Jews were occupied by the Roman Empire and Jesus did not take sides in the above discussion. Again he emphasized the need to maintain reverence and loyalty to God. The Pharisees described Jesus as "Teacher", truthful, and one who did not "regard a person's status." Jesus did not say these things about himself. However, Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees and the Jews in general, because he had come to bring a new covenant. No longer was merely the careful following of the laws of tradition and of scripture enough. One had to show faith in God and in Jesus himself, to be counted among the saved, and in so doing follow the teachings of Christ and his disciples in how to live, love, and spread the gospel.

Jesus I pray today that your blessings and answering of my prayer continue, that I can witness to your love, faithfulness and generosity. May I be worthy of your good and spread your word gladly and copiously. May I strive to show the greatness of God without emphasis on the greatness of the world, and help those who have not yet heard your word, and who may be suffering or less fortunate. We are all sinners and yet strive to know you and correct our wrongs. In your name, amen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

but Few are Chosen




Gospel Mt 22:1-14
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
"The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
"Tell those invited: "Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast."'
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, 'The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.'
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, 'My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?'
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'
Many are invited, but few are chosen."

In the Gospel today, Matthew recounts the parable of the King and the wedding feast. The story at the time of Jesus must have seemed remarkable. Think of a king like David or Solomon. Their son was getting married, and a feast was prepared. This would be an event that most everyone would relish attending. Also they would certainly wear the finest attire without even being told.

In the parable, the invited ones did not respond. In fact they responded with hostility. One who did come responded inappropriately. The king was not pleased.

Seemingly, Jesus used this parable to offset or balance others which were certainly much more positive and warm. He was talking to the chief priests and elders of the people, so he had to address them somewhat formally and spoke to challenge some of their assumptions and traditions.

I think when we hear the phrase "many are invited, but few are chosen," we naturally try to assume that we are among the chosen ones. Are we though? Have we proven ourselves worthy of the redemption of Jesus Christ? Though we are unworthy overall, Jesus has proven his love for us and his willingness to give us a second chance. And in his teachings Jesus showed the way he wants us to live. I pray that I will listen to the word, study the gospel more diligently and seek to love my family friends clients and coworkers as Jesus loves them and loves me. Thank you Jesus also, for the tools from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through their website I can obtain more insight into the meanings that the Catholic Church has attached to sacred scriptures. I want to pray for all Christians to respond to the invitation to the feast. God our King has asked us to come. May we come with warm hearts. Let us not always chose, as the guests did, the business or the farm as our destination but rather chose the Kingdom of God! Yes we are invited!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I too will go and seek the Lord.

"I too will go to seek the LORD."


1 Zec 8:20-23
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
There shall yet come peoples,
the inhabitants of many cities;
and the inhabitants of one city shall approach those of another,
and say, "Come! let us go to implore the favor of the LORD;
and, "I too will go to seek the LORD."
Many peoples and strong nations shall come
to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem
and to implore the favor of the LORD.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
In those days ten men of every nationality,
speaking different tongues, shall take hold,
yes, take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say,

"Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."

Father in heaven, bless us. We have heard the word and know our challenge. Let us go forth today as every day and seek the Lord. If we do not seek, we will definitely not find.

Jesus, I pray that I be reminded of your love and may my faithfulness equal that of yours as I walk the streets and paths of your will today. May I be an instrument of your healing and mirror your love in the hearts of your children today. That I seek in your name, amen!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feast of St. Matthew, evangelist

From rwufeinsteincenter.webs.com

I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

Today is the feast day of Matthew, and the gospel gives me time for some reflection. Jesus called Matthew as one of his apostles. He was a tax collector, who was not a person of social status in the Jewish world of Jesus' time.

The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
"Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
He heard this and said,
"Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

Well Jesus must have meant all of us, since we are all sinners. It is great to know we are all called by Jesus. And he desires mercy, not sacrifice. This message obviously was aimed at the Pharisees directly, whose hearts were somewhat hardened, and who were rigid, rules oriented and devout Jews. It's easy for me to fall into the same trap, and not follow my call from Jesus every day.

Instead of stopping my blog work and my audio program, I'll continue on and give more reflection to what Christ is asking. As long as I'm able to respond I'll gladly try to do my part, and show mercy to all my brethren. The meaning of that word "mercy" I will try to learn anew and apply it to people that I may find difficult, people who are hostile, indifferent, admirable, or faithful. Christ did not make any exceptions, and he did not with me. Thank you USCCB.org for your faithful listing of the daily mass readings which often are of great comfort and inspiration!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"My friend, I am not cheating you. "



Mt 20 1:16
In today's Gospel, Jesus tells of the parable of the landowner, his vineyard, and the laborers whom he selected to work. Some of the workers were found at 9:00 in the morning. There were more each time the landowner went to the marketplace, at noon, at 3:00, and at 5:00. He hired them all to work in the vineyard. When the day was over, they were all paid the same. The ones who had labored all day however, complained that they had been paid the same as the ones who started at 5:00.

The landowner, in the parable, replied, "My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?" I think this parable is a stumper when we think of it at face value. Surely it was not fair that the laborers who started at 5:00 should be paid the same as those who started at 9:00. Jesus taught that, like the landowner who is free to do with his own money what he likes, so God is free to dispense of his love.

Certainly, a parable is not a lesson that is taken at face value at all. The message I took from this is that God's love is not scrutinized for its fairness. If fairness were the test, then most of us would be unfit to be loved by God, because of our sins. Now as in Jesus' time, the world has many temptations. Many souls are not saved because they have not heard the Word. Others have heard but not listened. All are still loved by God and whether we repent at the 11th hour, or are faithful throughout our lives, we all share in the treasure of God's love, his protection, and his favor. We are called to believe in Him and follow his word. Let us be the laborer who was chosen at 9:00. It is our choice to select the Kingdom of God, or the vicissitudes of our earthly dwelling place. Let us have all day to receive the grace of God, and have the time to spread the Word through our prayers and our actions. Let us pray that others will receive their call at noon, at 3:00, or even at 5:00. From the word of God, we learn that it is never too late to ask for God's forgiveness and to believe in him. Now we should go and sin no more. Amen!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Communion




Communion: antithesis of alienation

We live in a society with many paradoxes. I'm thankful that Jesus Christ came and brought us the sacrament of Communion. In so doing he really shared His vital nature, his body and blood, and established His new covenant. The operant word was "share." Take this and eat.

Contrast these sentiments with the situation of many of our brethren who are the unfortunate, forgotten, left behind. For obvious or hidden reasons that vary from one case to another, there are many people who do not share at the table of Our Lord. Perhaps they have been in prison. Maybe they have contracted an infectious condition that requires them to be separated or aloof. Due to depression, anxiety, or paranoia, they may shun the company of others.

These brethren are alienated in the here and now, but are not forgotten by Christ. As God's children we are asked to extend a helping hand. Whatsoever we do for the least of my people, that you do unto Me.

Matthew 25: 35-40 "‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ "

Before coming to the Lord's Table at Mass and receiving the Holy Eucharist, a candidate for Catholic initiation would have to go through a formal process. However, they can be welcomed into the community in fellowship, love and service before they even know that their brother is working to serve the Lord. Will I answer my call to serve?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good fruit





Gospel Lk 6:43-49
Jesus said to his disciples:
"A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Today's readings are very good and suitable for Sunday readings, in my opinion, being clear and inspiring. In Jesus' day, as well as today, it was important to make a distinction between good and evil emanating from our brethren, and to know why. This enables us to use our influence to hopefully fight the evil when possible. Leading by example is always called for. The sinners, myself included, are the children of God that Jesus came to save. Surely a Christian would not fail to try to win their hearts, as impossible a task as it may be.

The good person, who is identified as the good tree, bearing good fruit, is a joy to behold. They are our leaders, our hope and Godly examples. Thank you Lord for these brothers and sisters in Christ that you have given us. May I gain strength from their example and in turn give witness to your teachings so that others can follow in your path.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blind leading the blind?



Gospel Lk 6:39-42

Jesus told his disciples a parable:
"Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.


In this passage, I'm reminded of the need for direction from the teacher. In my case I consider all my Catholic resources to be a collective "teacher, " foremost of which is Christ in the gospel. In turn I would like to help bring new vision and hope to others who may be in need. Further in the gospel is the metaphor of the "plank in your own eye." This reminds me of the need to avoid judgment in my fellow man especially in light of my own sinfulness.

One of the greatest instruments of vision in today's techologic society is of course the internet. I have been impressed with the way in which God's work can be facilitated with this tool. Bible passages are only a few search terms away. Organizations have found ways to reach out with their websites. In my case, I have been blessed and greatly enriched by developing this blog and the accompanying weekly audio session. Unfortunately I was not pleased with the quality of yesterday's podcast and I was going to rerecord it. Instead, I'll develop a better podcast for next week. By better I mean, better transitions, use of music, and other features as well as greater insight on my part and methods of transmitting the full excitement, glory and praise of Jesus Christ. That way He can become real in my life and that of any listeners and readers of the blog.

Pope Benedict XVI has commented on the need for acknowledgment of Jesus' presence in our lives and of His reality. May I become a humble channel for this great goal and may we, God's children, praise Him for His goodness and thank Him for our many blessings.

A glorious way to praise God is by praying the Rosary. The recitation is explained on a sheet that is in the public domain, found at this link. I have only recently revived this prayer for myself and find great moments of peace and spiritual communion with these prayers, and encourage you to rediscover them as well. God bless!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

If your brother sins against you

painting of Lois Fisher, available in New York

Mt18: 15-20, Gospel for Sunday, 9/4/2011


Jesus taught his disciples how to correct their brother in Christ when he had sinned against them. He instructed, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. an example could be, a brother stealing, gossiping, taking some kind of advantage. That would constitute a sin "against you." Other steps may have to be taken if he does not listen, up to the point of shunning the brother "as you would a Gentile or tax collector." (see my edit, below). These instructions were given to help the disciples practice the love and respect of one another that Jesus had taught, instead of seeking retribution for wrongs committed.

In our modern world, we still would do well to follow this advice with patient correction. I think that, overall, we are living in a very favorable time, in which the justice system of the secular world really can handle most disagreements that would fall under the category of sinning against each other.

What is assumed, and forms a very powerful underpinning, is the concept of forgiveness. The rebuke that Jesus taught is a part of Christian forgiveness because we are all students. We need to learn how to love each other and need the party that was wronged to confront the sinner with discipline and love.

Next comes forgiveness, in which the sinner is brought back into the fold after they have repented. Jesus showed us how to forgive and suffered, died and rose for our sins. I feel fortunate to have been brought up in a Catholic home where the lessons of the Gospel were incorporated into my daily life. I appreciate today's Gospel which reminds me of the love that can be expressed for my brethren in the context of sin and conflict. When things are going well, we might lose track of the potential for us to disagree, and to hurt each other. May God bless me with wisdom to serve my fellow men better. Amen.

edit: At Mass today Father Joe made an outstanding conclusion during his homily: Jesus did not actually shun the tax collectors and Gentiles. He ate with them, spent time with them. Taught them. Father Joe suggested that Jesus meant to imply: "Treat them specially. They are hurting." That is one of the most charitable and Christ-like scripture interpretations that I'd heard. Thanks Father Joe!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Forgiveness


Kim Phuc Phan Thi and others, 1972. Her story of forgiveness is included in the eBook, "Why Forgive?"


Forgiveness. In the past week I've reviewed this topic and am beginning to see the ways that God's grace provides this blessing. The book "Why Forgive?" is now a free ebook. Get it! It can illustrate the many ways that allowing forgiveness can help heal our brothers and sisters, as well as our own hearts.

Have I ever been wronged? Have I ever done a wrong? I need not ask this question since I am human and a sinner. The better question is, how have I responded to the challenge that forgiveness makes? I am blessed by the many who have gone before me and forged the way. The first was Jesus Christ himself who forgave us and showed us the way. The Lord's Prayer mentions forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus explains forgiveness when Peter asked about this:

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

My audio blog for this week discusses forgiveness in a hopefully entertaining format. I invite you to link up to the
live shoutcast or listen to the archive (available about 24 hrs after). Follow the link below. God bless you! Thank God He has forgiven us and may we follow Christ's teaching and allow the grace of forgiveness to enter our hearts and be an example to others. Amen.





Sunday, August 28, 2011

whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Photo attribute http://stocktondrugrehabs.com/drug-rehab/drug-rehab-stockton.html

In Matthew 16:21-27, Jesus rebukes Peter for his fear of Jesus' passion and suffering, and stated: "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

This bold statement still is applicable today. Following Christ is different now than in the age of antiquity, but still fraught with hazards and opportunities to lose one's life. For example, we have riches unimaginable to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in Jesus' time; surplus food; surplus leisure time, and freedom from direct bodily threats and uncontrolled disease (for the most part). Where we stumble is exactly here: we have become sincerely entitled, and often not thankful. Our riches flow from God's blessing and we dress in them with delight as to don a fur coat in a snowstorm.

Despite this illustration, there is the paradox that Christ foresaw: unsaved souls, people who do go without, people who have been discarded by their society for any number of reasons. Are we willing to minister to them? Are we willing to die to our comfortable lives and provide the love and concern as well as simple human respect that they require?

Recently I have seen a disturbing segment of society in great need: those who have been chemically dependent. Young people who display signs of intellectual damage, death of spirit. This should be the prime of their lives physically and mentally. They have wisdom to accumulate. Who will mentor them? Who can see the hope that could well up and begin to grow like the mustard seed? One thing we can know: Christ will be with us on this road and will bless us along the way. I feel that profoundly. I know I can start today to follow this calling; Jesus asks us to walk with him. Come along.

Try my Thursday Catholic Hour for live streaming audio content of interest to Catholics, Christians, and all who seek God and fellowship, weekly at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (archive of current program available 24 hrs/ 7 days on website link above).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Upon this rock



Upon this rock

The readings today include Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus is revealed, by the Father, as Lord. He instructs the apostles not to tell anyone of this. He stated "I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

What happened after Christ's crucifixion, death and resurrection are well documented in the gospels. However, exactly how the church was built, by Peter, requires some looking into to get more information. The Acts of the Apostles has much of this information. Peter did not work alone, but much of the spread of the good news came through Paul and other Evangelists, and went on under the duress of Roman persecution, and for many centuries. In addition to the gospel, historians look to contemporaneous documents from which to glean information to fill in the blanks.

God in his omniscience most likely could foresee what the future of the church would be. His creation, mankind, pushed forward into many lands and ultimately spread the gospel throughout the Western and New Worlds, and indeed into all the continents. But there has been division, greater and less manifestations of what the Church would become, and times when man has faltered.

What may be the most inspiring is the fact that Jesus' church, designated to be built upon the rock of Peter the disciple by Christ himself, has withstood over 2,000 years of peace, war, light and darkness, to get where we are today. I am glad to be a Catholic and a Christian, and am humbled by the numbers of faithful throughout the world. Peter was not perfect, but lived out his mission and allowed God to use him to spread the good news and save the souls of all who would choose to accept his Word. We are all called, like Peter, to be a rock of God's work in the world. Will we respond with an astounding YES?

Try Thursday Catholic Hour for live streaming audio content of interest to Catholics, Christians, and all who seek God and fellowship, weekly at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time


Friday, August 19, 2011

Conformity


Conformity

I admit I am much more comfortable when I have conformed to the expectations of my employer, family, and friends. It's what we all do, unthinkingly. But what about when it is necessary to instigate a change? What do we do then and how do we know what the best thing to do is?

Since starting an audio blog this conflict has come up a few times. I'm not a theologian. I don't have any experience as a broadcaster and no audio production experience. Also I am not able to do much quality control, such as editing, because it is a live broadcast and I don't have any staff working with me on this.

There are several ways to ensure that what I'm doing is appropriate and constructive. One is to strive to include material that is relevant, timely, and thought provoking. I don't have to be didactic. Actual religious education is best served in an academic environment or church, taught by people in authority. Also always holding high respect for others is a universal value that can be upheld even in a unique venue like a webcast. Basing my discussions on objective writings, such as book reviews, bible readings, periodicals is a safe bet too.

I think an audio blog can be a great way to share information on the internet. I am not actually a pioneer in this respect, but it goes outside my usual comfort level since I am a private person. I feel that keeping my audio blog anonymous is appropriate at this time. Feel free to listen in on the live webcast on Thursdays at 7:00 (EST). Also I will provide a recording of the webcast on the site as well. May Jesus and the Holy Spirit guide me and entrust me with the discernment to provide a little inspiration to a weary care worn world. May my comfort level not guide all of my daily activities or prevent me from seeking the Lord in new ways that provide spiritual growth for me and possibly for others. Amen.

Thursday Catholic Hour Webcast

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Faith



Image attribute: http://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/walking-on-water/

Walking on Water

These words have become often a cliche. Let us think about the original scenario, in which Jesus helped Peter who was sinking in the sea in a storm. He had been able to walk on the water with Jesus for a time, but then faltered.

Jesus helped Peter back up and admonished him for his lapse of faith. This recounting gives me reason to read other bible passages regarding faith. Jesus repeatedly speaks about the need and importance of faith. He told his disciples that if they had the faith the size of a mustard seed, "you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:21

Faith is what Jesus said could allow great things to come forth. Faith in God. Faith that does not require proof of God, but rather love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

However, faith that is blind has been criticized by philosophers. They state that we should use our God-given intellect to sharpen and test our belief, even that of our belief in God. This is part of theological education, as I understand it. However, for the common people, people such as myself still in the infancy of their theological inquiry, strong faith is still possible, still justifiable. This is because of my early childhood indoctrination in the Catholic Church. The schools, the churches, and most of all my parents, taught about the good news of Jesus Christ. They did not attempt to teach me the rigors of logic. I heard the telling of the birth of Jesus. At other times I heard the readings from the Old Testament, and of the activities of Jesus, the miracles he performed. I received the sacraments, first that of Baptism, then Communion. Later I was confirmed, and then married. I witnessed the sacramental events of my siblings, and later of my own children.

Most recently, I have been impressed with the value of intentional Christianity. In this mode of living, one DOES use rational inquiry, self education, and fellowship with other Christians to further one's faith. Sadly, some of the sacramental events in my life were somewhat automatic. They occurred according to a timetable. With intentional Christianity in the Catholic Church, I intend to move forward, deliberately. I am going to have stronger faith because I am going to live my faith. The greatest proof, or witness of the truth of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, has been my actual living among the faithful. I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to dwell among God's people. The love of Jesus Christ shines now more than ever, I believe. May I be an instrument of God's will and act as His humble servant. May those in pain or impoverishment find healing and, by witnessing the faith of their brethren, find the comfort and wealth of faith of their own. Amen.

Please join me Thursday 7/11/2011 for the first weekly Catholic Evangelist's Hour. This is a live broadcast so you will want to get online at 7:00 EST on Thursday night. God bless you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loaves and fishes


Loaves and fishes

The theme of multiplication is carried forward this week, from Matthew 13 regarding the mustard seed, to Sunday 7/31/2011's reading in Mtt 14 of Jesus' miracle of the loaves and fishes. According to the gospel, only 5 loaves and 2 fishes were multiplied sufficiently to feed 5000 people. After they ate, 12 wicker baskets were filled with the fragments of loaves left over. This was a miracle that hits home where we all have a soft spot: in our stomachs. Even the menu sounds acceptable, if not delicious. They didn't say how the fish were cooked. Typical of many gospel stories, it is conspicuously unembellished by such details. All who witnessed this event must have been moved, must have believed that Jesus could work magic. At that time in the long ago past, people had to communicate from word of mouth, one to another. That is where the embellishment most likely was rampant!


I think this gospel underscores the responsiveness of God to our needs, especially our most basic, that of food. Jesus did not charge for the food. He did not dispel the crowd to return home to buy their own food. Instead, he encouraged them to linger with him (even in the number that had amassed), to break bread, and to have a little fellowship. I am convinced, as I'm sure my Christian brothers and sisters could testify, that God wants us to have fellowship and fulfill this human need that is just as important as bread and fish themselves. That nourishes our body mind and spirit and multiplies in its benefits.

Let us Lord, break bread together and encourage each other regularly. Let us conduct ourselves with dignity and humility, and show abundant thanks for the blessings you bestow on us each day. In Christ's name, Amen.

Thank you for following my blog. Starting Thursday, August 11, 2011 I will have a live internet broadcast available at 7:00 pm, EST, with the following link (that will only be live for 1 hour before and also during the broadcast):

Thursday Catholic Evangelism Hour

When the link is live (next Thursday the 11th), it will reference the live audio feed from my home studio in Louisville, KY. I hope to include a lot of interesting material taken from Catholic authorities in scripture, The New Evangelism, the Gospel, and local leaders in this exciting movement. I was able to get the software to broadcast this free of charge, by agreeing to post the following link to the source for the software:

NCS software

When you get a chance, look at what NCS is up to (in Australia, their home country) in low cost, high utility software. God bless you all.

Matthew

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taking it up a notch


Taking it up a notch.

I often think we are looking, we're searching. By reading God's word, we come closer to finding it. The readings from Sunday included the one from 1 Kings 3 (note that Solomon referred to himself as servant):

"Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong."

I think we all may have this prayer at some time. God gladly answered King Solomon's prayer. He could have asked for anything, because God had promised to answer the request before he knew what it would be. I am not called to judge anyone, in fact the converse is true. But I do pray for the understanding heart and the discrimination from right and wrong. And I fully believe this will be granted. Part of this includes the knowledge of appropriate action to take with my Christian brothers and sisters in regard to faith.

For most of my years I have experienced church as a very lukewarm ceremony. My actions are predetermined and do not deviate from liturgical outline. I sing, I stand, I sit, I kneel. Actually this is the right thing for this situation.

When there are situations where a more intense spiritual experience is possible, I will calmly discern their presence. Possibly an impromptu sermon by a person of God. Seeing good works in action. Kindness that will not be returned or rewarded. A need that I can fulfill. A family member who is hurting that can be comforted. These are not planned things. They are not actions that I am seeking in advance. They will present themselves and when they do I pray that I demonstrate an understanding heart and the knowledge of right and wrong.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ordinary time



"Hi, I'm Dave, welcome to my web site. I remember the first time I seriously
contemplated the possibility of God's existence. I was 13 when my parents became "born again" Christians. The change in their relationship and life style was dramatic. They began to love each other and showed a love for me that was not there before. I either had to give them credit for changing themselves or accept the possibility that God existed and that he cared enough about my parents to help them. If he cared about them, maybe he cared about me and everyone else, as well.

This was the beginning of my spiritual journey."

From Dave Matheson's website, Dynamicfreetheism.com


The first of the readings from today's mass is from Wisdom. It brings to mind questions of the nature and existence of God. It also illustrates the power, justice, and dominion of God. I then found interesting links to the above painting from Michaelangelo, of God. I often picture Him in this way but my relationship with God must be in an early stage of development.

I am often fascinated though, by arguments to prove the existence of God. I applaud them while at the same time find this unnecessary, sort of a non-sequitor. If one has the consciousness to discuss God at all, that is all that is necessary for the basis for one's faith.

The second element that I see essential to faith is the Christian community. That is illustrated by Dave's first paragraph of his biographical reference. His parents became born again Christians. He witnessed the change in their lives and that influenced him. From that time onward Dave has been on his Christian journey. God bless Dave for bringing his faith for all to view on the internet. The many "Daves" that I have encountered throughout life are my proof that God exists, he loves us, sent his son to redeem our sins, and reigns forever!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


On Sunday 7/10/2011, the gospel from Matthew 13:1-23 is a long reading. However, it is simple, easy to follow. I fall under the category of one "who hears but does not understand" often, by which I mean that complex messages nuanced by high level philosophical arguments leave me unsure and confused. This gospel is straightforward and describes various responses to Christ's word, which depends on the state of mind of the listener. Even when still alive, Jesus had many followers who listened to his message. Some of the seed fell upon fertile soil, which multipled a "hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." At one time I would say I strove to be intellectual and associate with intellectual type people. They are to be commended for their higher academic achievements. But if the truth requires a course of study of many semesters and analysis and microscopic examination, I would find the applicability to be very limited. I don't think God seems to present his Kingdom to such a restricted field. His message in the Gospel is full of love for all of us. His requirements, to listen and follow his word, are not conditional upon our independent scholarly research to the meaning of the original Greek texts. I have been taught that scripture is divinely inspired. I trust the translators who came before me. There are many people in my world who have inspired me not so much by their correct avoidance of the great fallacies of logic, but their simple Christian example of love, kindness, and service to their fellow men. By the way, I am thinking of taking a course in philosophy just in case I want to pursue some of these more abstract lines of reason and analyses of scripture. But I won't be basing the core of my faith on this alone.

Sunday, July 3, 2011



Matthew 11:30 is unquestionably a verse of comfort, invitation, and care. This was the Gospel today. We had a surprise and Father Jack was back for one more mass! His sermon was per his habit, insightful and inspiring. The sermon was framed in the form of a question: are you really free on this day before the celebration of the 4th of July? Are you free from the burden of addiction, of overwork, small mindedness, etc?

I think I am journeying towards greater independence from a number of things. Once I accomplish a small success in this area, the feeling of liberation stimulates me to work further toward the goal. I have to be mindful of many of the other lessons gospels on past Sundays have taught which carry themes that do not necessarily coordinate with this theme. There is a time for a call to peace, rest, and relief. Then there are times when we are called to action, to put father against son, in the name of Jesus. I think these differing ideas can coexist, and greater Bible knowledge and the blessed tincture of wisdom from the Holy Spirit are the reconciling forces.

Another issue that was presented was Parish Council discernment. I would like to participate in that, and possibly be chosen to be on the St. Agnes Parish Council. I feel, however, that I will need to do some reading and study to learn more about the issues that are facing parish councils and try to get information about recent business at St. Agnes.

The other 2 readings today are good to ponder, the second reading which was Rom 8:9, 11-13. Here Paul wrote "you are not in the flesh." Additionally, the first reading was Zechariah 9:9-10. This message proclaimed the coming of the king, "a just savior is he."

Next up: overdue to write several book reviews. Please check back often for new posts!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A time for healing


When one of my brothers and sisters is hurting, I pray that I have the sensitivity to be aware of this and to respond to their need. Although our church asks much of us, not all are empowered equally to respond to the needs due to overwhelming pain that many of us experience periodically.

First, I want to directly address the question of whether religion can foster poor mental health. Because Christ has asked us to consider others needs ahead of our own in order to fulfill his mission for us, and our faith has asked us to subjugate our needs as an offering to God, you should strongly consider the possibility that these could be maladaptive behaviors. Abraham Maslow, in his teaching as a psychologist, may have shed light on some of the paradoxes of meeting our basic needs versus the needs of others: he indicated that the former must precede the latter which he dubbed "self actualization." Each of us does have emotional needs and we need to address them. Most people who are "religious" are so because they have an emotional need that is fulfilled by seeking God. If someone has psychopathology (and we all may, to some degree) the role of religion needs to be more of that of healing, not of calling to virtue. To everything there is a time and a place.

The second way that I see a nuance that religion affects emotional health is that of a comforting, parental sort of presence. Even the name "Father" attributed to the priest suggests this. The sacraments are highly significant episodes, at the most important milestones in our family life and are appropriate times for celebration.

The third way that religion and emotion are connected may be the goal that I have for myself and that I would like to see for my brothers and sisters: that is the constructive, symbiotic relationship that religion and emotion can have when one is a healthy, integrated, and whole person. Jesus' life as recorded in scripture is the embodiment of that. He had his trials, his psychic pain no doubt, but he was able to love us all unconditionally. His treatment of the sick was not the same as, for example, his disciples, which is appropriate. I hope that I can achieve and maintain the greatest spiritual maturity, for the purpose not only of having that self satisfaction, but because I will be doing God's will and exhibiting the greatest degree of faith and loving my fellow man the best.

Corpus Christi


Corpus Christi

These words reverence the body of Christ and the celebration is an annual event on a Sunday. I can remember once or twice participating in a Corpus Christi Procession. This was certainly in the 1960's or 1970's and they are no longer present in our community, to my knowledge. In Louisville, this event was, of all places, at Churchill Downs, a horse racing facility that is very famous.

Corpus Christi is also the Sunday when the beautiful Mozart choir piece, Ave Verum Corpus, is sung by our choir. This Sunday was no exception and they did a very nice job. There is a beautiful recording you can download, I think for $0.99, from Amazon.com
that I made a small "movie" using Windows movie maker. I just added a slide show of religious themed pictures from Google Images.

I read and meditated on the first reading of Mass, which was from Exodus.

The day was also marked by Vespers celebrated by our priest, Father Jack, who is leaving. Good luck for your future endeavors and let's keep in touch!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Go so loved the world




Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:18

Every so often I need the above reminder of the significance and essential
need for faith and belief in Jesus. Living in a secular world secularizes
me, and the readings such as today's gospel at Sunday Mass is a blessing.
Over time, I have found that the example of faithful men and women
have been my greatest influence. One of the closest to me would be my
father, also deacon at our family's parish.

Although Dad died in November, 2004, his influence continues to this
day. He was not a proselytizer. He was really a quiet type and didn't
socialize that much either. But his faith was exemplified in his
demeanor. He had a sense of dignity and larger than life persona. In
that sense he seemed not to live in this world, but in the realm of the
spiritual.

Sons often have an insight into their father because they observe and
learn from him over such a long period of time in childhood and
adolescence. I like many sons had a period of time when I did not want
to follow Dad's example. At this time in my life I welcome his memory
of quiet gentle spirituality, faith and fidelity.

Dear Father in Heaven, I pray that my faith grow each day and that my
spiritual family may nourish my seed-like kernel of faithfulness. I
pray that the worldly distractions will act rather as you generous gifts
that can help as tools to spread your grace and good will and faith in
Jesus Christ. I pray for peace in the world as your faithful children,
and many who have not sought your light or accepted your message of
love, learn to coexist in a manner that is acceptable and glorifies your
name. Amen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pentecost


Pentecost - Holy Spirit for a Community

Pentecost this year had a lot more meaning for me. This is because I

have been studying the Sunday readings, writing blog entries, and

reading the blogs of other Catholics and Christians. Basically I am

just paying more attention. So I was glad when I found that today is

Pentecost and that it made more sense to me, than the past 50 plus years

of prior Pentecosts. It is as my readers would tell me, the celebration

of the Holy Spirit, having been introduced by the breath of Christ in

the upper chamber where the apostles were gathered. I think that this

is indeed a significant celebration. Some have said it is or should be

on par with Easter and Christmas.

What I think is significant about Pentecost is the relationship between

this holy day and our faith communities. The original faith community,

that of the apostles, was transformed in at least 3 ways by Pentecost.

First they received the peaceful but action oriented gift of the Spirit

itself. Secondly, the ability to communicate with people of vastly

different cultures speaking different languages was given them.

Finally, a fervency and desire for their work was instilled, symbolized

by the tongues of fire above their heads. I think each of these

phenomena are best portrayed in the context of their effects on the

Christian Community, at a time when it was in its infancy.

The apostles had fellowship and communication was facilitated by the fact

that they spoke the same language. I'm sure they had their share of

disagreements over the years they worked together following Christ and

his teachings. The presence of the Holy Spirit, following Jesus'

resurrection and ascension, served to fortify their mission. The gift

of language enabled them to reach out to people of different backgrounds

and cultures than their own. Christ was asking them to spread the news

of his resurrection and Salvation to all the world. This sounds great,

but because it takes work, even the apostles were not always up for the

job I would suspect. That is where the gift of awareness of mission, of

work ethic, blessed the 12 apostles.

Dear Father, I pray that I receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit

today, on Pentecost, and each day and that I work with a mission and

goal as sharply focused as your apostles in doing your will. I ask that

my fellow man may understand my words, and more so that I may listen and

witness to your love and understanding and that the news of your

salvation may spread not only to the edges of the earth, but more

importantly to my brothers and sisters who are with me in my daily course of

activity. Amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ascension



Today is the feast of the Ascension. This feast day was moved from Thursday to Sunday to give it more of its deserved attention. At the time of the Ascension, Christ was taken bodily up into heaven, prayed to his Father, and gave words of reassurance to His disciples. In so doing, He left the earth and the disciples to do their work.

Like many events that are recorded in the Bible, this is not really dramatized as are remarkable events that appear in modern media. It was stated in reverent, sober terms. Despite that, many scholars criticize the reality of this event and other miracles that occurred during Jesus' time on earth. The scholars seem to be convinced by their research and education that they can judge the impossibility of a human body going into the sky, and into the heavenly realm.

My response to that is that my faith tells me that this did occur, just as recorded in the Bible. I see no reason to doubt the possibility of this or any other supernatural event or miracle. If I have sufficient faith and humility and respect for the teachings of generations of faithful who went before me, I just don't have a problem with this. It can engender a great deal of reflection, marvel, and seeming disbelief, in light of my educational achievements. But science is composed of theories. Our very perception is in an experiential realm. We don't actually possess our seeing, our hearing, or our feeling. They are, as science teaches us, merely perceptions that register in the outer layer of our brain called the cortex. I feel that faith progress is not achieved with the same tools as that of science. I feel that the tools of faith are the tools of Godliness, being the faithful men and women of God, the word of God in the Scriptures, traditions of the Church, and the Sacraments. As God's children too, even those who have not yet found faith can help witness to God's love and His mercy.

I pray that your Ascension, oh Jesus, may be an example to me and my brothers and sisters on earth this day as we commemorate it, of the miracles that you used to nourish our faith and love for you. We look forward to your coming in the future as the Gospels attest. I thank you for the gifts that God has given us, the greatest of which is your atonement for our sins, so that we may believe in you and some day join you in Heaven. I thank you for your love and mercy. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

On this Memorial Day, I think about my father who was a veteran of WWII. I think about the many soldiers who have lost their lives in the conflicts of the Middle East and, in the past, Asia. I think about the many soldiers who are Christians, men and women of conviction. This conviction is evident in the execution of their military duties, and in the act of upholding the teachings of Jesus Christ. Because there can be conflicts that high ideals and convictions such as these can engender, I think of the suffering of the soldiers who return home with a lack of the peace of mind that I and many in my safe, secure world take for granted.

Father in heaven, I pray that your children who have taken the dangerous responsibility of defending the earthly safety and security of their homeland, the soldiers who also bring peace to foreign lands of danger and despair, might heal the hurt and injury of the villages in which they toil. I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring peace to them, and to their families who must exist under conditions of uncertainty and danger as well. Bring these brave men and women home and make their transition back to their family and community as victorious as the battles they fought for all of us back home. Amen.

Photograph attributed to This website.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Heaven


When I tried to find an image for this blog entry, I came up with innumerable pictures of the sky and clouds, with rays of light beaming down. Now how can I float in the sky? how will I breathe? Where will I sleep, take walks, and have meetings with friends and with God himself?

John's gospel quotes Jesus describing heaven as "my Father's house [where there] are many rooms." In the beginning God created heaven and the earth. Therefore, heaven is similar and analagous to our home on earth, most likely a place that will have familiar aspects, and be very appealing. The most significant thing about Christ's description, is that he was responding to his desciples, who wanted to follow him to heaven. They wanted to be with Jesus; they had the ultimate friendship with him. He had taught them, led them, respected and tested them. He assigned to them the job of carrying on after he was gone.

When I think about staying in someone's house, my liking of this thought depends on my relationship with this person and not just the comfort and beauty of the house. If they are a close friend, I will have the utmost enjoyment in this place. If it is a relative or friend with whom I do not have a close relationship then my visit could be awkward. Also I could be unknowingly an annoyance to them.

I believe in the existence of heaven not so much because I am seeking an eternal reward for my holiness, piety and faith. I believe in it because Jesus has promised it. I hope that my relationship with Jesus will develop so that I have the conviction and desire to reach his Father's house. Some day this will be foremost in my mind.

Dear Father in heaven, your dwelling place has many rooms. Jesus went to prepare a place for his desciples. I pray that I might find favor with your Son and that I will know Him, through the Gospel, the Sacraments, and through His many faithful servants whom I meet throughout my sphere of daily life. Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Via, Veritas, Vita



In today's reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you. " Also He responded, to Thomas' question of how do we get there, we do not know the way, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Hence the Latin quote noted above, which according to Wikipedia, is the slogan of many Catholic Universities.

There were 2 sacraments celebrated at Mass today. One was baptism; 4 babies received their first sacrament and absolution from original sin. This is a happy joyous time. Father Jack had the young children of the parish come to the baptismal font in the back of church and stand by as the babies experienced their first step toward fulfillment of their Catholic affiliation. We all sat and turned toward the back, where the font is positioned. The advantage of this placement is that we see this reminder of baptism whenever we enter the church, as one of the first things we see.

The second sacrament is one that we gladly may receive each Sunday. Even more I could elect to attend daily mass and receive it each day. I am not yet of the habit of doing that. The accompanying song was "I received the living God, and my heart if full of joy." I just downloaded this from Amazon.com, and found out with minimal searching that this is a song with an unknown composer. It is based on John 14, 15. I encourage you to download this and listen to it a few times when you want some inspiration and to experience some of the wonder, joy and mystery of the Church.

Dear Father in Heaven, may the 4 infants baptized today grow to the fullness of membership in your church, and receive the support and encouragement of their families and parish in their development. May I know the way that I can participate in this mission and may the sacraments become a more central part of my Catholic faith and community. Amen.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Afghanistan war: study in hope


In early October this year, the war in Afghanistan will have surpassed the 10 year mark. Also expensive in terms of cost of American lives, over 1000 soldiers from our country have given their lives in the conflict. The financial cost is indeed very high by anyone's measure.

A recent television program was a grim reminder that all is not well in this desert country of tribes. The Taliban, once declared driven from the country, is still revered by the populace and present in the wings to quickly resume control if the allies withdraw within the forseeable future. The show, Frontline, aired on public television, took a decidedly unbiased position, and was given access to Taliban militia as well as top officials. Their responses, through the sobering words of interpreters, stated their continued resolve for their cause, their religion, and their attitude about life itself: "We want to die anyway, and we are glad to fight for our cause fearlessly."

From my perspective, it is difficult to understand this point of view or to have any hope whatsoever for this conflict and the safety of soldiers assigned to go to this war zone. That is, without the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. In my opinion, the impoverished, zealous, seemingly evil Afghani's and Taliban fighters (decidedly evil) worship the same God that I do. Most likely, they are in the habit of praying several times a day, which is more often in comparison to my usual practice. My vision of hope for this situation is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten these men (predominantly, as the women do not appear to be politically or militarily active) and foster in them a cooperative spirit. They are killing my brothers and sisters who are fighting this war on terror. This killing is not expressly allowed or blessed in their Muslim religion and yes, prayer can remedy this situation.

I think we can really hope for a prayer answer first because prayer is powerful. People who pray regularly know this and see the results, as well as feel the effects from prayers of others (at least, speaking for myself). Secondly, as already stated above, Muslim teaching and discipline requires periodic times for prayer of their adherents. I believe that God will touch the hearts of the Afghani people through their prayer. And not only them, but may the hearts of so many throughout the world who are without faith in God see his presence and radiance. The soldiers of prayer have a great challenge if they wish to foster the work of God on earth. I have to get working now.

Dear Father in heaven, I pray that the villagers, elders and religious officials (Imams) will listen and receive your command to love all their brothers and sisters, whether they are their own people or those who are assigned to fight the war on terrorism (and hence foreigners). May I be blessed with a greater sensitivity to the needs and beliefs of my Muslim brethren. May the peaceful and loving message of Jesus Christ reach receptive ears in this ancient country, Afghanistan, and I pray the the work of Christian Missionaries be allowed there without bloodshed. In Christ's name I pray. Amen.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hope



Hope. I would like to define and expound upon this word. Hope is something that I feel I excel at. I would define it as, first, a gift of the Holy Spirit, a wish and a belief that something will be better in the future. In so believing, one experiences a peaceful feeling. In my case I think that the hope is part of a tendency I have to counter reality with something better that is, for now, imaginary but not without some possibility.

I think the Holy Spirit does bestow the gift of hope to anyone who seeks it. They may also see this gift for what it is and where it comes from, if they open their eyes. I don't think that it is enough to experience hope. Most people would agree that hope can and should be coupled with a yearning to take action in some respect. Try to spread the hope. Try to provide the dream to those who cannot achieve the beauty or bounty for themselves. Share. Pray. Listen. And most of all, love.

Dear Holy Spirit, you provide to your children on earth many great gifts, for which there is no charge. The value cannot be calculated, and it cannot be bought or sold. Grant that my hope may give me vision for many possibilities of a better future, one that will be more pleasing to you and that will foster the good in the world to replace the occasional dark, painful or hurtful experiences that we must face. Give me the tools to spread this gift to the people that I encounter in this world, and especially my close family members, coworkers and friends. Amen.

photograph from alwaysnewmistakes.files.wordpress.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Large Catholic Families


On Mother's Day, like many other sons and daughters in the U.S. I visited my Mom. She's always a wonderful host, very sympathetic and a good listener. Earlier in the day it occurred to me: I'm the 6th of 7 children in our family. Although I had 3 of my own, there was never a 4th or 5th much less a 6th. I'm not only glad the folks had a large family, I owe my existence to this fact, it would seem.

My parents sacrificed quite a bit when we were growing up. They also instilled in me a very good work ethic, a desire to excel, a belief in my own potential, worth and abilities, and served as an outstanding role model.

A Mom is a great thing and of course all children to some extent take theirs for granted. I'm glad there is the annual day to celebrate this central figure in my life. I think that the custom of having a large brood was a great thing. My parents did not have to pay extra (at first) to have the kids. They were very fortunate and all were healthy and hearty.

I think both my Mom and my Dad (who passed away 6 years ago) lived an exemplary Catholic life (not to mention, Dad was a deacon). They didn't mention religious specifics that often, but it was rather through their example of what it is to have faith, to live a simple life, to give back, to attend worship, and to have community. I have not yet surpassed these attributes, not by any stretch. This is why they remain such an inspiration to my current endeavors and will for a long time to come.

Oh, and thanks for not stopping at 5! (or I should say 4, since #4 and 5 are twins!). And thank you God for giving me all the years together with Mom. One of her greatest teachings was the independence that a son needs (per Genesis 2:24):

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Father in Heaven, I thank you for my Catholic Family, and most of all for my mother, who remains your faithful servant on earth. May you bless her with continued good health, wisdom, and fortitude. I cherish the time in history which you chose for my birth, and for my existence, which your followers allowed by answering your command to go forth and be fruitful. I thank you for my siblings who are God's people and reflect your love each in their own way. Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Humility



Why humble? Jesus did mention this, as recorded in Matthew 6:3

"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

This gives me a moment of reflection, as to the purpose of Spirit Garden. Let me assume for the time being that I am not announcing it with trumpets, and that my writings do not inspire the honor of men. I would not mind that, I do admit. However, the Lord has told me that my pleasure from this is my reward in full.

I think that humility can be defined as knowing the place of man before God. When we give thanks we are showing humility. We are given so many gifts, freely, only with the price that we believe in God, that we accept the sacrifice of his Son to pay the price for our sins.

But I must know that I have a great purpose in accepting God's love. That is to reflect, like a polished sterling plate, and shine forth the witness to His love and many blessings. How do I do this? That is my question, and I don't have the answer. Many have gone before me and have been examples for me to study. Listening. The humble act of listening to the thoughts and concerns of others. This will touch their heart. This will inspire them to question why I care about them. This will enable God to bless them again, it seems to me.

I think I will ponder the importance of humility, and the paradox of shining like a star to witness the love of God to my fellow man. It is one of the great mysteries that I cannot solve. I pray the Holy Spirit grants me peace to accept the many mysteries of the ways of God. In a great way they keep me humble.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What it's like to have an answered prayer

. Photograph from mybapc.com.

I am blessed, and I can see that every day. My prayer requests often center around changes I would like to have in my personal life. These are peacefulness, productivity, and better interpersonal relations for example. I am praying for my own happiness it would seem, like many of us probably do. Some of the wishes I have seem simple on the surface but the complexity comes from observing the process of change within my own life.

For example, when my prayers for transformation of spirit are answered, new challenges emerge. I may be able to communicate more clearly, but then I have a new agenda of things to say, meaningful things that don't hopefully center on me or my own comfort and fulfillment. I have an improved vision to see the needs of others and my need to help them get their needs met.

I may be blessed with more stamina and endurance. Then I have the new capabilities to serve in a greater way. Another blessing is that this is often my fulfillment, I have humbly observed. I pray that God opens my eyes, my heart, and my spirit to acceptance of his teachings and revelation and that I may be an instrument of his peace.

Now "Go forth into all the world, and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gathered in His Name



For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20


Really. This passage is powerful, exciting. Why should Jesus come among us in our gathering to read God's word, to share time together in His name? I don't think there is any answer and it may be wrong to even ask. The Bible is ample evidence for God's love that is given to us freely. But the question comes up because Jesus' promise is evident in activities I've recently participated in. One was a series of home meetings with fellow parishoners with a planned sequence of discussion topics. Over the course of about 6 weeks, I made new friends and we'll likely get together in the future for a cookout or something like that.

Another was a free clinic that was held on Saturday. I really didn't go in, as volunteer, with a great attitude as I already had things I was doing and other things that I wanted to do. But this setup was indeed impressive. The number of volunteers that get together for this activity in the spirit of service is amazing. The charity expressed was sincere and contagious. My day was transformed by my participation and by the people I met, both fellow clinicians, and especially the clinic attendees.

I wish I could express my gratitude to the people at Sojourn Louisville for getting me involved in the service project. I can vouch for the palpable presence of God in such gatherings. The blessing can be pushed forward by my own acts of sacrifice and sharing in the spirit of faith sharing and I pray that I be reminded of this holy obligation on a daily basis.


Dear heavenly Father, we seek your fellowship and praise your providence and blessings. May I be blessed with insight for making more opportunities to spread your message for my brothers and sisters, unselfishly and in your name. Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Light, cannot be turned off

There is a book and music exchange on Bardstown Road, here in Louisville KY. That is actually the name of the establishment, and when I walked past it on this rainy Easter morning with our dog Elsa, the open sign was still illuminated. Across it was a printout which stated the following:

"For the time being, the open sign cannot be turned off. Our hours of operation are 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, and 10:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sundays. Thank you for your understanding."

Well, I do realize that this is an opportunity to draw some parallels with this blog. I have not really shared it with many people, or given anyone else the opportunity to read, respond, or reject. I may be fearful of trying this. My open sign is not lit, much less stuck in the turned on position.

I have to think about what the old spiritual song 's words say: This little light of mine, I'm a gonna let it shine" Happy Easter to all. And I believe that Jesus Christ "Rose on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures, and sits at the right hand of the Father."