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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Umbrella of Christianity

I came across this term about a year ago reading material that had been written by Pope Benedict XVI.  I recommend his writings and many Catholics have been long term readers of his publications.  When he described this umbrella it rang true:  our world is truly blessed and is encompassed by God's love and Jesus' presence here on earth.  Evidence of God's plan being worked each day is found in the heroic acts of our government and law enforcement, our healthcare professionals, our families and our friends. 

Recent acts of violence have caused all of us to pause and wonder where such evil could have come from.  By focusing on shootings and other tragedies, even the weather, we lose sight of many realities, even the environment in which Jesus came and rose from the dead because he loved us.  The ancient world was not convenient, food not plentiful, and communication was virtually nil not to mention educational opportunities for the masses.  The government was oppressive, seemingly growing pains for the society which has culminated (in the Western World) in what we now so readily take for granted.

After Jesus resurrection, his apostles witnessed the plan of God and began putting it into action.  Since then the teachings of Jesus and that of the bible as a whole, along with the inspired traditions of the Church, have guided us to a very high level of cooperation, love of neighbor, and altruism (relative to other centuries).  Yes unbelievable acts of evil and crimes can and do occur.  And large segments of the population will be apathetic, apostate, atheistic.  But Jesus is calling us to faith in God and to act on this.  We have a very hard task as Christians, but I am thankful that the umbrella of Christianity is above, shielding me from much of what man's fallen nature is capable of.  God has truly blessed us all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is God present in my Sunday Mass?

I have presumed to ask this question and to discuss it because of its importance to me.  How do I arrive at the answer (which one would assume will be yes, but can I be persuasive in this topic)?  The fact is, I don't look forward to going to Sunday Mass.  I have tried to become enthusiastic.  I tried printing the readings ahead.  I have started this blog, over a year ago. I have studied a few lectures from an on-line seminary.  I have attended small Catholic group sessions.  All of these efforts have been extremely fruitful to my spiritual development.  So why don't I look forward to Sunday Mass?

I think I want God to be present at Mass.  I want my soul and spirit to be spoken to.  I want to feel enthused, connected, loved and protected.  My part of the bargain: showing up.  God's part:  inspire me.

Well, I am learning that God's part of the bargain doesn't depend on my showing up.  He promises to be present, wherever 2 or more are gathered in his name.  There He is.  He doesn't require red satin stoles, gold chalices, marble, brass, candlesticks or pipe organs.  He merely requires us to be present in his name.

I am grateful for my faith because it has strengthened me on many occasions and been a great comfort.  Through my faith, I have tried to do God's will in my interactions with others.  God's obligation to us was fulfilled three times, first in man's creation.  The second time was the covenant of Moses.  And finally with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

My feelings about Mass reflect where I am and who I am.  I am not a leader (yet!).  I am not together, or with it.  In fact, I am tired.  But when I step foot in church today to attend Mass, I will give glory to God.  I will thank him for what he has done for me.  I am so blessed.  Because God has a plan for my local priest, for my parishoners, and for me, I will pray that all of us, together, will praise God's name and do his will.   I will partake of the sacraments.  And I will open my life for God to do his work through me.  That will be my pledge.  May I make a difference in my church family for the glory of God!  AMEN.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are we fallen from grace?

I cannot give the doctoral level answer to this question.  With the knowledge I have accumulated while writing this blog I think I have made this assumption because I have heard it so often and it seems so plausible.  After all, man's relationship to God has been tumultuous over the centuries, as documented in scripture.  The answer was established in the first books of Genesis when Adam and Eve committed original sin, and became aware of the knowledge of good and evil, after eating fruit off the tree of the same name.  Their descendants have had the spot of the fall on their souls ever since.

Sometimes I'm not so sure that man is a fallen race when I hear the beautiful voices of the evangelical singers that sound so inspirational and so angelic.  I attribute my listening to their craft as one of the major things that continues to influence me in my worship.  Also my family is generally a group of not just good people but truly loving, committed, and positive people that would take the shirt off their back for anyone.  How are they fallen?

The answer is that the grace of God, praise be to Jesus, has permeated my life, my community, and my country.  This is thanks to generations of faithful people who have made daily sacrifices and focused their lives to the praise of God.  Yes they have made mistakes and they have sinned.  But many of them have listened to the calling of Jesus and put him first in their lives.  Then when they went about their daily lives the faithful have been a light to the world second only to Jesus Christ himself.  So don't be surprised if you sometimes wonder about man's fallen nature.  Believe me our perfection has not been achieved. 

I pray that I not take for granted the grace that God has shown the world that has built the kingdom of heaven that we see, feel and hear constantly but fail to recognize.   May we be acceptable to God in our individual lives, may we accept him, learn more of the scriptures and involve ourselves effectively in the community to further the development of our Christian brethren on a daily basis.  Amen.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Simply, salvation

2 Corinthians 1
12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Do you understand God's plan for his chosen people?  Are you one of them?  How do you defend your Christian faith among nonbelievers and others who challenge your beliefs?

My position is that Christianity is understandable and straightforward for those who seek its truth.  Jesus himself reduced the laws of God's covenant with man to a few sentences in Mark 12:30 - 31.  Although He was a scholar of the Jewish law and a teacher, he did not contradict people who believed in him and followed his teaching.  He did not pigeonhole his followers based on their past.  He often showed love for his enemies.  He showed love for all of us and saved us from sin and damnation by his sacrifice when he was crucified.

When you are examining the finer points of Christianity, and make the fine distinctions that separate men and women in the body of Christ (the church), I would ask that you answer one question:  do the theories that you espouse serve the purpose of God and of Jesus Christ, to bring the message of salvation to all the world?  Or do they serve to elevate you or members of your organization with a sense of pride and piety?  I think you can use a simple rule to judge for yourself the righteous and loving path that Jesus would have us walk each day: to love God and man always.  May I remember the tremendous power of God's grace and not be burdened by the division wrought by the earthly wisdom that was prevalent even in the days of St. Paul.  Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The questions of life

If you are like me you question things.  When I do I find that it inspires me to think things over, to get more information, and to ask others for their opinion.  And a lot of my inquiring pertains to observing others and wondering about their welfare.  Are you happy?  Do you believe in God?  If not, how are you better off?  These are questions that are so fundamental that they are to some extent taboo.  That's where a blog is handy, to explore in a neutral communication medium, maybe for me to explore angles that I wouldn't in conversation because it could be a turn off for me or the other party.

If you are reading this because it is part of your journey, consider the following questions that Christianity addresses:  What is the meaning of my life?  Why am I here?  How should I treat other people?  Why do some people respond negatively in unpredictable situations?  How much do I know, and how much can I learn?  What I have learned is that I cannot assume I know the answers to these questions.  This is my journey to humility.  I cannot express to you the comfort of being humble - it is great.  What I believe is that Jesus is my strength, my knowledge, and my life.  His love for me props me up.  Yet he was humble and showed greater concern for mankind than for his own human life.  He died and was raised from the dead, to the witness of his disciples and family.  The miracle of this is indeed the answer we all seem to seek.  It is the ultimate.  And the way to live is clearly spelled out in verses of the books of the Bible.  Following the Word doesn't create an army of automatons and zombies.  Truly the world that God created can always amaze me, excite me and challenge me.  Read the word and find out for yourself what God asks of us.  "Will you love me, and your fellow man?"  How will you answer God?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Where is God?

Do you have the kind of relationship with God that you should?  I would answer this question no.  Still it is growing.  I want to talk to God, and more experience His presence and hear His voice.  Maybe I have a hard heart, I am too busy, or do things too often that harm this relationship (sin).  For a relationship to grow I must be an active participant.  God is remote only when we do not seek Him and read His word in scripture.

Why did God set up a world where His presence can be sensed in every living and inanimate thing, every day, at any time.  But in this world He cannot be seen, directly heard, or physically touched?  We can't answer this question since we don't have insight into God's reasons for doing things.  A good assumption would be that this was not an act of capriciousness, and that there was  a very important reason that benefits each of his children in this world.  Maybe the disobedience of Adam and Eve does play a part in this separation.

For me the experience of God's presence comes directly from my interactions with people.  Some of the most simple of interactions can be so significant.  A smile, a friendly gesture or greeting.  These convey love and concern from others.  Although we are born with sin and cannot fail to fall into its diabolical realms, God sent his son, Jesus, to redeem us.  I like to read about Jesus and all of his contrasts and paradoxes.  Mild and bold at the same time.  Casual and stern at times as well.  He was man and was also God.  As a Christian I strive to place Christ in the center of my religious focus.

In my daily life hundreds of people seemingly cross my path each day.  The interactions may be brief or more prolonged.  I pray now that I can more cherish the times that I spend with my coworkers, friends, and family as well as clients and be more observant of the presence of God in these interactions.  I believe that as my faith in God grows, so will my ability to act in concert with the will of God and help represent His presence to others.  I also pray that I may spend more constructively the time I have alone to study the Word of God and learn of His works among the prophets of ancient times, the disciples of Christ, and Godly depictions from more recent Christian authors.  Maybe God chooses to show himself mainly through the face of man, who was made in His own image, so that man would revere his brethren greatly and in showing love, respect, and concern for each other, man would honor God and more closely experience His presence.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Et cum spirtu tuo

illustration from

I was in a renew group meeting and we were talking after completing the didactic material and discussion.  Someone mentioned the "and with your spirit" response that we use at Mass following the priest's statement "The Lord be with you."  I asked the group leader if she knew what the translation in Latin for that would be and she replied with the above quote.  Being 52 yrs old, I still recall that phrase from the old Latin Mass of my childhood and it still sounds as melodic now as it did then (it was often sung anyway).  The alliteration of the "tu tuo" is what makes it distinctive.

In addition to that, it draws attention to that entity known as the spirit.  How often do I recognize that I have a spirit and not just take it for granted?  And that all of God's children are composed of the body, the mind and the spirit?  I think the spirit becomes more evident in the emotional realm when one is experiencing feelings or attraction or love.  Also when one is praying or when one is strongly affected by a conversation, a song or something being observed.

The fact is, the spirit is an essential element in our Christian Faith.  The response that we all say in Mass "and with your spirit" seems less of a nonsequitor when we ponder our own spirit and its status.  Is our spirit clean?  Is it healthy and being nurtured?  Do we foster a strong mind and body to make the dwelling place (during our earthly lives) of the spirit more optimal?

The spirit can prevail in our lives more when we take time to be quiet, to heighten our senses while eliminating offensive stimuli or excessive noise and distractions for a period of time each day.  Reading the literature of Church fathers and various bible passages is another way to foster our spirit and help it grow.  And may the Lord be with you and your spirit today!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John 3
In this chapter Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus and states,

"13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

This is the chapter of John which proclaims Jesus is the light of the world. John states that Jesus did not come to the world to condemn it, but to save the world.

Jesus presence in my daily life is important to me but requires me to seek Him every day. I often become distracted with work that I have to do, people to talk to, and important family functions to attend. I have time alone for reflection as well which does help provide balance.

Still although Jesus responds to my prayers with many blessings and a divine sense of peace that has been His gift for many years, I must act. I feel that action is the imperative of faith. I cannot receive Jesus' blessings, comfort and companionship without any action on my part. In that way the relationship is elevated in importance. My actions are important in how they affect my man-God relationship. I seek to avoid sin but cannot completely avoid it since I am human. Strength is imparted by keeping the direction of my life spiritual. Because all of my human senses are interacting with the world, I can "forget" the spiritual side of my life.

I pray that I not neglect to nurture the spirit, to enhance my faith in God, and my prayers to His Son so that I can know more of Christ and what his plan for my life is. It is God's love that can make sense of the world. It is my faith that can respond to the love of Jesus. And it is faith that can make necessary the daily action that fosters a better spiritual life and witness to Jesus, especially to those who need this direction.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The ten commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai as laws for the people of Israel. They stand today as major influences not only on Judeo-Christian ethics, but on secular law as well. Take for example, the 8th Commandment, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. We have all seen the penalties for lying in cases of cover up schemes by politicians and high level businessmen.

Overall, the 10 commandments serve as one of God's clearest communications to man. Jesus came long after the 10 commandments, which were supplemented by a large body of religious laws instituted by the high priests and elders over the centuries in Israel. Jesus added clarity to the complexity of the legalistic religion that had overgrown due to man's attempt to refine God's laws. Jesus was able to summarize the new law when he spoke his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7):

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is not easy to follow the teaching of Jesus. Possibly a specific law that is spelled out and that has loopholes and exceptions would be easier for me to follow. But may Jesus bless me to follow the spirit of the teachings of Jesus, and to learn of them through the scripture and fellowship of other Christians who may influence me. May I be aware that I too have an influence on others and may a light shine from me that proclaims the love of God that has been freely extended to me an all my earthly brethren.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Feast of St. Timothy

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God. 2Tim:8

Today is feast day, in the Roman Catholic Church, of Sts. Timothy and Titus. I know of no churches in our community named in honor of this early Bishop, protege of St. Paul. Therefore I read with greater interest since I am not familiar with Timothy or knowledgeable of the Epistles to him. The above quote from 2 Timothy is Paul's directive to Timothy, a future bishop, to evangelize freely and spread the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ.

We can all take heed from these words. In our daily lives, we are immersed in the secular world. It is a great world, created by God, but distorted by errors and by, frankly, sin. Thankfully, we do not have to have great sorrow in the word sin. We are all guilty at some time of committing offenses against God and doing or omitting things which result in harm to ourselves or others. We are all guilty of failing, despite our faith and other Christian acts, to worship God with the strength and vigor that such a task demands.

The joy in my life is greatly attributable to the atonement for sin brought by Jesus Christ. When I learned of this gift, freely given, it inspired me to attain a higher level of Christian fellowship and follow the Word of God.

I hope that in reflecting on the words of Paul to Timothy in today's designated lectionary reading, that I will take heed and to not only witness to the love of Christ, but speak of it proudly and openly and help others come to Christ so that they can experience the freedom that our redemption has given us, to love, live, and long for the time we will be with Christ in the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Challenge to Catholic Evangelism

In this post I want to challenge you to consider the call to evangelism. There are a number of steps to start off with. First think about what your talents and gifts are. Do you write well? Are you good with people, with children, elderly, or other specific groups? You will call on your talents in this endeavor because evangelism is all about relationships. I discovered that I have a talent for interacting with the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. I hope that when I have the opportunity to witness to the love of Christ and His salvation, that I will exemplify the qualities that are present in the Gospel.

The second aspect of evangelism is having a cohesive message. Some groups you might encounter can be oppositional. There are people who feel they have been hurt by the Church and therefore have a bias. They may be critical of your efforts and contradict what you say to further their goals. So if your message is coherent and steadfast this will be much more effective. You cannot reach everyone and people need, more than anything, sufficient time to absorb new ideas, repeated exposure to the message and a gentle and respectful approach. Since the Pope is so supportive of this "new" evangelism, you can readily find material from Papal and other church writings, and certainly from the Gospel itself.

The third aspect I would propose was hinted at in the paragraph above, and that is persistence. You will not succeed with a one man show using a one time heavy handed approach. Instead, enlist the help of others and give your project months and years to develop. Sow the seeds of conversion and spiritual enrichment and nurture them to grow. Be flexible and allow people in your sphere of influence to be themselves, but to feel included in the Christian way. Invite, incite, and delight. There are a lot of hungry souls who yearn for something more than our secular culture can provide. God will bless you and your efforts as He does all of us and may His love shine from you like a beacon. In your efforts do not neglect those who are already in the fold, as they need regular encouragement too and reinforcement for the work they do.

Monday, January 2, 2012

When asked, "Why then do you baptize?

John answered them,
"I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."

I envy John who had first hand knowledge of Jesus. Despite living 2000 years after he walked the earth, I still feel that I can and do have a personal relationship with Jesus, just not on that level as John did. John spoke with conviction, without concern about his own personal effect. In addition he spoke with irony, as Jesus was humble and sought to serve others, not to be treated with royal decorum.

In my journey to know and relate to Jesus, I discovered after seeking advice of people who know, that all I had to do was talk to Jesus. These simple prayers have been a great reinforcement for my Christian development. In turn, I feel that I have been amply welcomed into the Kingdom, insofar as we experience it here on earth with Jesus and the Father.

I am reasonably confident that I am at still a very preliminary stage of knowing Christ. He is patient, and asks more of me when I make movements toward him. More of an effort to know the Word of God. More of an effort to witness his faith, and to develop my ways of the world that show that Jesus is Lord, that he is in my life and that I am standing up to show his glory.

May I listen to Jesus who gently urges all of us to follow him. He does not show his bodily form. Instead, he blesses our brothers and sisters and ourselves and asks us to celebrate his Kingdom here and now. I pledge to listen closer to the call and to call you and together we will journey toward Christ and his Kingdom. What could be a greater purpose for today and for the rest of all time!

Jesus you call me to serve you each day in my daily life which has many ordinary qualities and many which are extraordinary. May I be blessed to listen to you and to experience what John the Baptist did when he replied in the above quoted scripture. Those who heard John most certainly experienced his strong first hand brand of faith in Christ. May I show a fraction of this same enthusiasm, faith and good will in my life for your glory. Amen!