Monday, October 24, 2011

Share Yourself

"We were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well."
- 1 Thessalonians 2:8
How do we treat the people we love? We help them when they need it, we spend time in their company, we give gifts to show how much they mean to us. What is the greatest gift we could give anyone? I believe it is the gift of knowing Jesus.

Most of us have people in our lives who do not have a Christian faith. Family members, friends from college, co-workers, moms at our kids' schools. If we care for these people at all, we should desire that they come to know Jesus. We should be praying for that, but we should also be proclaiming the gospel, the Good News of Jesus, to them.

We don't want to scare these people off though. Come on too strong with the message of giving your life to Jesus, and we risk driving them away. That is why the second part of this verse is important. We can share the gospel by sharing ourselves with others. If we live out the teachings of Jesus, eventually God will touch their hearts.

Be a friend. Be someone they can reply on for support. Babysit their kids so they can go shopping in peace. Bring over dinner if they have to work late. Watch a football game together, and see where the conversation leads.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Harder Path

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths.
- Psalm 25:4
Imagine you are lost in the woods. You strayed from the path to look at a patch of beautiful flowers, then could not find your way back. You’ve been wandering for hours. Finally you come to a clearing. There is a man standing there, and on either side of him is a path. He gestured to the one on his left, and speaks.

“This path is easy. All the obstacles have been removed and the ground is smooth. There are fruit-bearing trees at every turn, and a stream of pure water runs alongside. Bunnies, deer and songbirds will accompany you. However, you will never be satisfied with where this path leads you.”

He turns to the path on his right.

“This path is much harder. There are huge rocks you must climb over, thorn bushes to get around, and many deep pits to avoid. There is nothing to eat, and no stream flows nearby. Snakes, bears and hunters will be waiting to attack you. However, you will never feel alone, and when you reach the end of this path you will find a reward like nothing you ever dreamed of.”

Which path will you choose?




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
- Isaiah 55:8
There are many times when we pray for something, and do not get the answer we want. Things happen that we don't understand. We wonder why God is treating us like this, or if He is even still taking any notice of us at all.

But we forget: God has His reasons. We don't always understand those reasons, because God doesn't think like us. He doesn't act like us. He knows what is ultimately best for us, and He has a plan.

A child doesn't always understand that he needs lots of sleep and a healthy diet to develop properly. Left to his own devices, he will eat cookies all day and stay up late watching Spongebob Squarepants. As parents we have to insist that he eats some vegetables and go to bed early, because we know what's best for him. The child may complain, he may beg us to change our minds, and he may cry and have a tantrum when we say no. But just because he doesn't understand our reasoning does not mean we will give in.

Our Heavenly Father treats us the same way. We don't know why He doesn't answer our prayer for a new job. We don't understand why we has allowed this disease to ravage us. We throw a fit when He takes away a loved one. We don't understand His ways, but we have to trust that He knows what is best for us, and give in to His plan for us.

When children accept the will and the guidance of their parents, they become happier and content. So will we.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let Go. Let God.

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
- Sirach 27:30
Why do we hold on to things that hurt us? Things like anger, jealousy, and bad habits? Maybe it's because we are just so used to those feelings and behaviors. They are familiar, and familiar things can be comforting, even when they make us feel bad. But of course, often these things actually make us feel good. At least for a while. In the end, though, they wear us down, leaving us frustrated, hurting and empty. So again, why do we hold on to them?

Because giving things up is hard. Especially things we've grown accustomed to, things we've become dependent on. And bad behaviors and attitudes are the hardest of all to give up. When someone does something thoughtless to us, it's easy to become angry at them, to think or say bad things about them, to wish them their own misfortune. It's much harder to react with a smile, to consider why they acted as they did, and to pray for them. If a friend just bought a beautiful new house and is pregnant with her fifth child, while you are stuck in a rented apartment and long for just one sibling for your only child, it's easy to become envious. It's easy to spend your time wishing you have what she has. It's harder to remember and be grateful for what you do have, a roof over your head and a child who loves you.

While giving up our bad habits, attitudes and behaviors is hard, it must be done. Sirach goes on to say:

Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
- Sirach 28:3
If our hearts are full of anger, envy and resentment, there is no room left for God's grace, mercy and healing. At mass each week we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." We're being hypocritical if we ask God to forgive us for all the things we do wrong if we're not acting the same way towards others.

Holding on to things that hurt us is easy, but destructive. Giving these things up is hard, but life-giving. God will help you, but you have to make room for Him first.




Friday, September 2, 2011

Do You Love Mass?

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
- Psalm 95:1-2

Does this sound familiar? It should. These two verses, in fact this whole psalm, describes how we should approach every Mass.

Mass should not be a chore. It is not something we do out of duty. We are not supposed to slip in late week after week, or run out right after communion. Mass is not a place to gossip with friends or ponder your grocery list.

Mass is about God. It is a time when we should consider all He has done for us, and celebrate that.

We should come to Mass joyfully, willingly. At Mass we come into God's presence. Who wouldn't want that? We should long for that moment. Our whole week should be focused on getting back into God's presence. We should be so excited for that moment that we actually arrive early, eager to spend a few extra minutes with our Creator and Savior.  If we fully understand whose presence we are in, we will spend the time praising Him for all that He is, and thanking Him for all he has done. We will be so filled with love and joy that we can't help singing joyfully. We will be so filled with awe and wonder that we will hang on every word proclaimed from the Word of God. We will be so filled with gratitude and amazement that we can't help but fall to our knees during the consecration. When Mass ends, we should be reluctant to leave. We should linger, not wanting to leave God's presence until absolutely necessary.

If this does not describe your attitude towards Mass, spend some time today considering why you go at all. Think carefully about what the Mass really is, and what we do there. On Sunday morning, spend some time in prayer before leaving for Mass, and ask God to open your heart to the true meaning of the celebration of Mass.



Friday, August 26, 2011

Peripheral Vision

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory.
- Psalm 63:3
I am fascinated by peripheral vision. Sometimes we just can't see something if we look directly at it. An object you can see out of the corner of your eye disappears when you look right at it. This is especially true in dim light. This is because the cells at the edges of our eyes are more sensitive to light than those at the center. So if you try and look directly at something in the dark, your eyes are not sensitive enough to see anything. But shift your gaze a little to the left or the right, and the object appears.

I think we have the same problem with Jesus sometimes. When we try and look straight at Him, we don't see anything. But if we allow our eyes to focus on our surroundings instead, He will appear in our peripheral vision. Look at the beggar on the street. Do you see Jesus asking for help? Look at a rose. Do you see the creator of all things?

When it gets dark, it can be even harder to see Jesus. When we're struggling, often we look for Him, and it seems He is not there. Again, we need to shift our focus. If you are sick, look at your doctor. Do you see The Healer? If you are out of work, look at a father. Do you see the One who will take care of all your needs? If you are lonely, look all around you at church. Do you see your brothers and sisters?

Peripheral vision is sometimes stronger than normal vision, more sensitive. When you look directly at Jesus, you may not see Him, Look away, and He will appear.



Monday, August 15, 2011

We Are Pegs

I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.
- Isaiah 22:23
We have many pegs in our lives. Our parents, spouses, teachers, priests, even close friends. These people are all people we can rely on, pegs fixed firmly in our lives. They are trustworthy, they are there when we need them for help, advice or comfort. They nourish and support us.

We too are pegs. Elderly parents may rely on us to meet their needs. Our children certainly do. Our spouse relies on us to be a partner in our marriage, supporting them in times of need, giving freely of our love. A good employee will be a strong peg in their company, building up the business, getting the work done. Those in any kind of teaching profession must be especially strong pegs as their students look to them for knowledge and guidance. Ministers in the parish (e.g. lectors, bible study leaders, musicians) work to deepen and strengthen the faith and spirituality of the parishioners. Friends come to us for companionship and understanding.

With so many roles to live up to, there is only one place to get everything we need to be good pegs. God. He put us where we are, and He will give us what we need to do the work He has assigned us. Look to God for wisdom, strength, courage, patience and enthusiasm, and you will be the peg He has created you to be.






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jealous Evangelizing

Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them.
- Romans 11:13-14
Many of the Jews had rejected Jesus. So Paul went to preach to the Gentiles, knowing that this would make the Jews jealous and willing to accept the teaching of Christ.

We are also called to evangelize to others, and like St Paul, we can use a form of jealousy to do it. When we live a truly faith-filled life, we can't help but let our joy shine through. There is always something to be grateful for. There are always blessings to count. When trouble comes our way, we can face it with confidence, knowing God is there to help us. Our souls are at peace, knowing there are wonderful things to come.

When others see how our lives are filled with joy, peace and confidence, they will want to know where it comes from. And they will want it too. They will long to have what we have, and that is the first step on a journey to faith.

I know this method works, because it was part of the reason I myself was converted. So live a faith-filled life, and be prepared to make someone jealous today.



Monday, August 8, 2011

The Power of Prayer

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
- Isaiah 56:7
Prayer is powerful. It can save lives, both physically and spiritually. St Augustine's mother, Monica, prayed for years that her son would be converted. And he was. People on the brink of death have recovered following intense prayer by their family and friends. But there is an even more powerful aspect of prayer. It allows us to talk to God.

Think about that for a moment. The God who created the entire universe has given us a way to speak directly to Him. And it gets better still. Through prayer, that same, powerful Creator speaks back to us. Yes, our God doesn't shut Himself off from us. He is not too important for us. We are His children. He is our Father. And what loving father would cut off all communication with his beloved children?

God wants us to talk to Him. He wants to hear our problems and struggles. He also wants to hear about our joys and successes. He doesn't require that we pray eloquently, and he doesn't want to hear recitations of written prayers. God wants us to simply tell Him what is in our hearts. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

When we learn to give everything to God, we will experience a powerful release. When you have a problem, doesn't it help to talk to someone about it? When you have good news, aren't you bursting to share it with someone? Make that someone God. He is always there, always ready to listen. You don't have to wait until He gets home. You don't have to wait until you get home. Whenever you need to talk, just start talking.

When you share a problem with a friend, do you expect to get some advice? Do you listen to that advice? Do the same with God. He wants to help you with your problems. Learn to listen to His advice and guidance, in prayer.

Maybe the best thing about prayer though, is that it is available to anyone. You don't have to belong to a certain church. You don't have to belong to a church at all. You don't have to be baptized or ordained, or receive any special sacrament. Anyone can pray, anywhere, any time. God is always listening.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don't Go

Jesus said to them, "There is no need for them to go away."
- Matthew 14:16
This is the prelude to the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus has just heard that John the Baptist has been murdered, and heads off alone in a boat to a deserted place to mourn. The crowds of followers are so desperate to see Him that they follow Him on foot to the deserted place. When Jesus sees them He is moved by their dedication, and puts aside His grief to heal and teach them.

When it gets late, His disciples tell Him to dismiss the crowd so that they can go and find food in the nearby villages. Even though they are hungry and far from home, the people are reluctant to leave Jesus' presence unless He explicitly tells them to go. Jesus knows this, and is again moved by their dedication. He sees no reason why they should have to leave if they don't want to, and provides for their needs instead.

If we love Jesus, we will seek Him out, even if that means traveling a long way, or into unknown parts. If we long to be in His presence, He will not send us away. He will heal us and teach us, and provide for our needs.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Great Barrier

What will separate us from the love of Christ?
- Romans 8:35
There us only one thing that can separate us from the love of Christ: sin. St Paul lists many things that we think might separate us: anguish, distress, persecution, death. But through all these things, we still have the love of God in Jesus.

Sin is the only thing that creates a barrier. The bigger the sin, the bigger the barrier. The love of Christ is still there on the other side. But no matter how big the barrier is, when we repent and ask for forgiveness, the barrier falls. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, if that is what we truly desire.


Friday, July 8, 2011

You Are a Field

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.
- Psalm 65:11
All farmers know that to produce a good crop you have to prepare the field first. The soil needs watering and tilling to break up the big clods of earth, so that the roots can go deep and the shoots can break through into the sunlight.

What a wonderful analogy for us too. God is our farmer, we are His fields, and His Word and the Holy Spirit are His seeds. If we want to be good soil (see Wednesday's post), we need to allow God to prepare the field.

God will drench its furrows. He drenches us with love. We should also soak up knowledge, wisdom and understanding through bible study and prayer.

God breaks up the clods. This is the tough one. If we want the roots of God's seeds to go deep, we have to allow Him to break up those things that are in the way. If we want the shoots of God's seeds to sprout and break through to the light, He needs to break down the barriers we create. Once the clods in our life are gone, then our faith will be rooted deeply, and we can break through into the Son Light.

God softens the land with showers. God never ceases to shower us with His blessings and mercy. He will pour out on us everything we need to survive, everything we need to grow, everything we need to thrive. And He continues to soften us, to ensure the clods don't return, that the earth does not harden, so that the seeds can continue to grow.

God blesses its yield. When we allow God to cultivate us, He will bless the crops that we produce. When we allow God to be our farmer, He will bless all that we do. God's seeds can only produce good crops. But first we have to let Him prepare the field.



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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Make Every Word Count

Thus says the LORD: "My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."
- Isaiah 55:11
God is talking about Jesus here. Jesus is God's Word, whom He sent out to do His will. Jesus did not return to God until He had achieved the end for which He was sent.

Although our words are just words, they can still hold much power, and we should choose them carefully. A careless word thrown out without thought can cause great distress and harm. But the right word at the right time could result in salvation. If we do it right, we can 'send out' our words and accomplish many things. Words of comfort to someone grieving. Words of advice to someone in trouble. Words of faith to someone searching.

How can we be sure we are choosing the right words? God's Word was guided by the Holy Spirit. Ours should be too. Whenever possible, and especially in high pressure situations, take a moment to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for His guidance. Ask for the right words to say, and words NOT to say. Let Him speak through you, and you can be sure that your words will make a difference.



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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good Soil

To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
- Matthew 13:12
This verse comes after the parable about the sower, which is one of my favorites. The image of the Word of God as seeds falling on various types of soil is easy to understand, and each of us can see ourselves in there somewhere, hopefully as the 'good soil'! But the people to whom Jesus originally told this parable did not understand it, leading His disciples to ask Him why He taught in parables. His response includes the verse above.

As first I did not understand Jesus' response. It seems rather harsh and unfair. So I checked my bible's notes, and discovered that Jesus is not talking about physical possessions and money, but about faith and understanding. To anyone who accepts the revealed mystery - Jesus - God will grant more understanding. Those who reject Jesus will lose what little wisdom they had in the matter.

So to understand God's Word, we must first accept Jesus, and have faith in Him. We must believe that He is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, that He rose from the dead and that He will come again. Once we have that faith, then wisdom and understanding will follow, because God will grant it to us.

Let the seed of God's Word fall on good soil in you. Then it will grow and bear much fruit.



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Friday, July 1, 2011

Hide and Seek

At that time Jesus exclaimed: "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones."
- Matthew 11:25
It doesn't matter how smart you are. Whether you have a PhD or dropped out of high school makes no difference. God doesn't reveal Himself to us in the classroom. He reveals Himself to those willing to believe. Those who hear His Word and accept it. Those with faith.

We are to be like little children. If you tell them something is true, they believe it. If you make them a promise, they have faith that you will keep it. They don't need deep knowledge. The don't understand where food comes from, but they have faith that you will feed them. They don't understand why Daddy has to go to work to earn money, but they have faith that he will come home each night. They don't understand why it hurts when they fall down, but they have faith that a kiss will make it all better.

God does the same for us. He feeds us, provides for us, is always with us, and picks us up when we fall down.

If we withheld our love and protection from our children until they were smart enough to understand everything we do for them, we would be cruel monsters. God is not a cruel monster. But if you try to find Him through knowledge, you will fail. He hides Himself from the wise and learned. We can only find God if we look for Him with faith. We need to become like children, then He will reveal Himself to the little ones.



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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We Need the Spirit

You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
- Romans 8:9
It's simple. You can't be a Christian if you don't have the Holy Spirit in you. We receive the Holy Spirit at baptism, and we receive Him more fully at confirmation. He is part of the Holy Trinity, and is inseperable from Jesus. The Spirit can be thought of as the love that exists between the Father and the Son. Their love for each other is so powerful that it takes on a form of its own - the Holy Spirit. This love is so sacred that in Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus states that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only sin that can never be forgiven.

If you don't allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, you don't belong to Christ. If you are a Christian, a follower of Christ, you have the Spirit in you. If you have the Spirit in you, you are a Christian. Let the Spirit, the sacred and powerful love between the Father and the Son, fill you today. Let it guide your every thought, your every word, your every action. Let that love shine through you today.



Three flames. One light.


Today is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Breath of the Wind Praises God

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
- Psalm 145:10
All of God's works praise Him. Everything that He has created praises Him. The billions of stars in the night sky. The tiniest flower and the tallest Redwood tree. The sun and the sky. The squirrels, ants, horses and whales. The apples and the oats in the fields. Even the mountains and the streams.

They praise God by simply being what they were created to be. Stars to break the blackness of the night sky. Flowers and trees to beautify our world, and provide shelter. The sun to warm us and light our days, the sky to contain the atmosphere that keeps us alive. Animals to provide us with food, service, pleasure, or just to balance our ecosystem. Apples and oats to feed us. Mountains to protect us and streams to water us.

Every created thing has its purpose, and it praises God by fulfilling that purpose. We are no different. God created us, and gave us a purpose. Maybe it is to be a great scientist who discovers cures for terrible diseases. Maybe it is to be a farmer who grows food and raises cattle. Maybe it is simply to be a loving parent. Wherever you are, God put you there. Praise Him by fulfilling your purpose.


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Test of Faith

Moses said to the people: "Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments."
- Deuteronomy 8:2
Having faith when everything is going smoothly in our life is easy. We thank God for the many blessings He has poured out, and praise Him for the good life He has given us. And there's nothing wrong with that. We should thank God for all His blessings.

But what about when things get tough? It's much harder to keep your faith, and to keep praising God when you lose your job, when your house is foreclosed, or when there is sickness or death in the family. Yet it is at these times that our true faith shines through. It we can continue to thank God for His blessings, however small they may be, and to praise Him and trust that He will get us through the tough times, then we know that our faith is strong. And God knows it too.

All of us will pass through phases in our lives. There will be good times, and bad times. Times when life is easy, and times when it is tough. But whatever phase we are in, we need to keep our faith strong. Thank God for your blessings - there are always some. Praise Him for all the good He has done in your life. And trust that when things are bad, He will be there with you, supporting you, guiding you, and He will get you through it. Things will get better, and they will seem to get better much quicker if you keep your faith strong. With a strong faith, even the worst situations become bearable.


My son, after having surgery on his skull when he was 3 months old.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Loaf

Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
- 1 Corinthians 10:17
In St Paul's time, the bread used for communion probably looked a lot like how we envision bread today: a loaf, from which pieces were broken off, consecrated and distributed to the community. Quite different from the thin, perfectly formed wafers we use at our masses today. So if we are no longer literally eating from the same loaf of bread, is Paul's message in this reading still relevant to us?

It is. Because he's not really talking about bread. He's talking about what the bread becomes when it is blessed by the priest: the body of Christ. In that sense, we do all eat from the same loaf. And so, because we all eat from the same loaf, though we are many, we become one. Not just with the people who are receiving communion at the same mass as us, but with all the believers all over the world who eat from the loaf. There is only one Jesus. So when we eat His body we are joined to all the others who also eat His body. We become one. We become the loaf. We become the body of Christ.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Better Than Chocolate

Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you."
- Exodus 16:4
Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
- John 6:51
When the Hebrews were wandering in the desert for forty years after their exodus from Egypt, God provided manna, bread from Heaven for them to eat, so that they would not die. But that bread could only prevent them from dying of hunger. It only met their physical needs.

Many years later, God sent another bread from Heaven, a living bread: Jesus. Just like the Hebrews, if we eat this bread, we will not die. But this bread does not satisfy our physical needs. It will not prevent us from dying of hunger if we have no other food. This bread will meet our spiritual needs. If we eat this living bread, and believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life with Him.

The Hebrews in the desert had to have faith that God would provide for them each day, and faith that this bread would be all they needed. We too need to have faith that Jesus will provide for us each day, and that what He gives us is all that we need. Accept God's gift of nourishment for your soul. Eat it, and have faith in its saving power.


Monday, June 20, 2011

In The Name...

And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.
- Daniel 3:52b
Anyone who has children knows the dilemma of choosing a name for the baby. You have about eight months to make a decision, which should be plenty of time. Sometimes it is easy. You might have a name you've always loved. Sometimes there is conflict. The mother and father can't agree on a name they both like, or grandparents expect them to choose an old-fashioned family name. Sometimes you pick a name during the pregnancy, but when the baby is finally born the name just doesn't seem to fit.

Names are very important. We assign a lot of attributes to a person based solely on their name. A guy called 'Norman' conjures up a different image to one called 'Rocky'. Someone with the same name as a celebrity is expected to look and behave like that celebrity. When you hear the names Angelina, Leonardo or Barack, a very specific personality springs to mind. As a writer, I have to be very careful what names I give my characters. If I want my readers to imagine a tough, mean guy, I can't call him 'Wally'. If my heroine is supposed to be smart and sexy, she shouldn't be named 'Minnie'.

We like to name things. We name our pets. We name boats. Some people even name their cars, computers and phones. Names create feelings in us. We like certain names, or we don't. They either fit their owners, or they don't. We remember some, we forget others. But we don't worship names.

God, however, is different. God is so awesome that even His name is blessed, and should be praised and exalted. In fact, the Jews consider His name so holy that they neither speak it nor write it down. There is power in God's name. We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When we cross ourselves, we bless ourselves "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." The early Apostles healed people in the name of Jesus, and priests today cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

When you need strength, draw on the power of God's name. Let His blessed and holy name be always on your lips, and in your heart.


Friday, June 17, 2011

No Greater Love

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
- John 3:16
This is one of the most well-known, and well-loved verses in the bible. It is beautiful, and powerful.

When God created the world, He made it perfect. But He gave us free will, and we screwed up. We damaged the perfect relationship we were supposed to have with God, and brought death into the world. Death was never part of God's plan, but despite this He still loved the world He had created, and wanted to bring us back to that perfect relationship with Him. So He sent us Jesus, His only son. Jesus took the death that was meant for us, and buried it in the tomb. Now, if we only believe in Him we no longer need to die ourselves, but instead can have eternal life.

Do you love anyone enough to die for them? Maybe. Would you sacrifice your only child for them? Hmmm. What if that person consistently disobeyed you, doing what you asked them not to, what you thought was wrong? What if they lied to you, and tried to make themself as great as, or greater than you? Would you still love them? Would you still sacrifice your child for them? Probably not.

When we fully understand just what God has done for us, we start to get a glimpse of how amazing His love for us is.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Everything We Need

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
- 2 Corinthians 13:13
These words should be familiar to any Catholics reading this blog. They are the words used by the priest to greet us at the start of each mass. Most of us probably give the automatic response, "and also with you" without really thinking about it. But these three things are the things we need to go about our daily lives in a Christian manner, the things we need to build ourselves up.

The grace of Jesus gives us many things. The grace to forgive. The grace to love. The grace to suffer. God's love fills a hole. There is a place in our hearts, in our souls, than only God can fill. Without God's love we are lost, drifters in this world. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is our everyday support. He is our constant companion, always by our side. He guides us, strengthens us, comforts us.

The grace of Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit are what keep us going. The gifts of the Trinity give us the strength, confidence and ability to deal with whatever life throws at us. We should ask for these three things for ourselves daily in prayer. It is also a beautiful blessing to give others. The next time you hear those words at mass, gratefully receive the blessing, and when you reply "and also with you", truly wish that blessing on everyone around you.



Fr Joseph Madanu, Pentecost Mass 2011

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Talents

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
1 Corinthians 12:7
Do you consider yourself talented? You are. The Holy Spirit has been given to you, to everyone, for some benefit. God has given us gifts, talents, through the Holy Spirit, and He wants us to use them. Think about the things you love to do, then think how you could use them to serve God.

Are you a good singer? Joining the choir is an obvious choice. Can you play an instrument? Again, there is a natural outlet for that. Do you enjoy writing? Consider starting your own blog, or offer your services to the weekly newsletter team. Are you a good listener? See if there is a support group that could use you. Do you love kids? Talk to the children's ministry team, or join the baptism preparation team.

Are you a hands-on kind of person? Good at fixing things? Have a green thumb? The grounds and buildings of our places of worship are always in need of care. Do you love to cook? Call your local meals-on-wheels group. Are you technical, an expert on all things internet? See if the church website team needs any help, or see if any of the church groups could use a website of their own.

The list is endless. But whatever your age or ability, there is a place where you can serve. God has given you gifts through the Holy Spirit. Think about what you are passionate about, then find a way to use that passion to serve God, His church, and His people.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Show and Tell

Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
- Psalm 104:34
I remember doing themes at school (we called them 'topics'). We selected or were given a particular topic. We then had to research that topic, and write a short essay about it, which we then presented to the rest of the class.

Many years later, I found a new theme to study: Christianity. I was not raised in a religious household, so when I started dating my husband (a cradle Catholic), I wanted to learn about his faith. I read books, attended some services, and eventually joined a group to study Christianity in more detail. Instead of writing an essay, what I learned was written in my heart. And instead of presenting my findings to a class, I presented them to my family and my community by being baptized.

It hasn't ended there though. I continue to learn more and more about my theme. In the age of the Internet, research is much easier than in my school days! I read blogs and articles, bookmark interesting websites, and follow inspiring people on Facebook and Twitter. I also read books, attend bible studies and classes, and serve in ministries that fuel my desire for knowledge. I am always learning something new about my faith. Even this blog is little more than my spiritual journal, and as I write this, I am learning.

My faith is my theme, the topic I want to learn more about, and share with the rest of the class.



CCOP Bible Study

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

8 Glasses a Day

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink."
- John 7:37
We all know that water is good for us and essential to life. Do you get your 8 glasses a day? Maybe. Some days you probably do better than others. Jesus is just as essential to life, and even better for us than water. Do you get your 8 glasses of Jesus every day? Again, probably more some days than others.

On days when we don't drink enough water, we feel the effects. Tired. Sluggish. We get headaches and food cravings. Sometimes it's more subtle, and we just feel a bit 'off'. It's the same when we don't get enough Jesus in our day. Tasks become harder, problems seem more severe, a nap seems like the best solution. Things just feel 'off'.

Some days we need more water than others. On hot days, or times when we exert ourselves such as when we exercise, we need more water to keep us refreshed and hydrated. There are days when we need more Jesus too. Days when problems are particularly hot. And days when we exert ourselves, physically, mentally or spiritually, to achieve a difficult task. On those days, we need more Jesus to keep us going.

Just as we thirst for water when we are dehydrated, so we thirst for Jesus when we start to run dry. But just as we should drink our 8 glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration in the first place, so we should drink constantly of Jesus. His living water never stops flowing, so we should never stop drinking from it. Get your 8 glasses a day, and more. Make sure you quench your thirst for Jesus, and never run dry.


Lake Tahoe

Monday, June 6, 2011

Praying in Tongues

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
- Romans 8:26
Sunday June 12th is Pentecost, the day we remember and celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit. And I can't wait to celebrate this incredible gift that Jesus has given us. The more I learn about the Holy Spirit, the more I fall in love with Him.

In this reading we learn more about how the Holy Spirit can help us in prayer. There are many times when we just don't know how to pray for a certain need, or can't find the right words. When this happens, we are told "the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings."

So what does that mean? It could refer to one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Gift of Tongues. The Gift of Tongues is a charism - a gift of grace from God, received through the Holy Spirit. When you don't know how to pray, ask the Spirit to help you. Then open your mouth and say whatever comes to mind. It might be words you recognize, and it might not. Try not to think too hard about the actual words you are saying though. Instead, concentrate on the reason for your prayer, feel the Spirit moving in you, and let your emotions guide you.

Praying in tongues is not for everyone. It's a personal choice. Some people believe it's all nonsense, just a bunch of people babbling incoherently. Other people have found it a very powerful way of praying. I say, keep an open mind. And the next time you find yourself having difficulty praying, give it a try.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Le langage de l'amour

The whole word spoke the same language, using the same words.
- Genesis 11:1
Wouldn't it be nice if we all spoke the same language? Life would be so much easier, wouldn't it? Learning a second language is hard, and communicating with someone who doesn't speak your language can be frustrating.

There are times when this is not a problem though. Have you ever been to mass in a foreign country? Or attended mass celebrated in a foreign language? Did you have any trouble following along? I would guess not. The Catholic Mass is celebrated the same way throughout the whole world, so even if you don't understand the words, you know what is happening. This is one of the things I love about our church. No matter where you go in the world, there is always a place you can call home, where you will be welcomed, and where the love of Christ and the worship of God transcends language.

There is a language that everybody understands though: love. The language of love is universal. Acts of kindness are always recognized and understood. Sometimes we don't really understand people even when they speak our own language. But we understand love. When we work together through love, we have no problem communicating.

When the people of Babel tried to build themselves up, God knocked them down and confused their language. If all we want to achieve is our own greatness, we will never succeed. But when we come together to worship God, as in the mass, we understand everything we need to. And when we work together in love, there is nothing we can't do.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Heaven is Lovely

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
- Psalm 27:4
When I first read this verse, the second-to-last line jumped out at me. I love it! Other translations of the psalm read, "to savor the sweetness of the LORD," or "to gaze on the LORD's beauty." But I like this translation best. God's words may be sweet, and His face may be beautiful, but His whole being is lovely. Made entirely of love.

The writer of this psalm asks just one thing of God - to spend eternity in Heaven gazing upon His loveliness. In fact, this may be a perfect description of Heaven. Heaven is simply being in the presence of the Lord forever, surrounded by His glory, enveloped in His loveliness, and filled with His peace. If this is what you also long for, make this verse your prayer today.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Always

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
- Matthew 28:20b
"I am with you always." These five words offer such comfort. When I am happy, He is with me. When I am sad, He is with me. When I am troubled, He is with me. Everything I do, Jesus is with me, guiding me, supporting me, loving me. When I make a mistake, He is there. When I accomplish something, He is there. He sees everything I do, and everything that is done to me. He knows when I have been mistreated, and He knows who did it. He sees when someone blesses me, and He sees who did it.

"I am always with you." So don't worry. Don't worry when things go wrong. He is there. Don't worry about justice. He knows. Don't worry about recognition. He sees. He is right there with you every step of the way. Sometimes cheering, sometimes comforting, sometimes carrying. But always loving. And always there.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Acts of Love

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- John 14:15
Short and to the point. Jesus sums up how our faith should shape us in these nine words. And it's true. If you love someone, you'll do what they ask you to do. On our wedding day, our spouse asks us to be faithful whatever life brings, and because we love that person, we promise to do what they ask. When we leave home, our parents ask us to keep in touch, and because we love them, we call, write and visit.

Jesus doesn't ask much of us. But if we love Him, we will do what He asks us to do. And although that might seem hard at times, He goes on to say in this passage that He will give us the Holy spirit to help us. So the next time you are struggling to do the right thing, remember what Jesus asks of you, draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit, and let your love for Jesus guide you.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Silent Evangelization

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.
- 1 Peter 3:15-16
What a beautiful and perfect description of evangelization. As Christians we are called to evangelize--to share and pass on our faith. However, the word 'evangelize' puts a lot of people off. We have images of people who stand on street corners with signs strapped to their bodies, bellowing out the Good News and imploring us to repent and accept Jesus and be saved. Or ministers on TV who enthusiastically tell us how much Jesus loves us. Or those smiling, friendly young people who knock on our doors and want to preach on our very doorsteps. Many of us try to avoid people like that. and avoid evangelizing because we don't want others to think of us like that either.

But evangelizing in big and flashy ways is not the only way to do it. Indeed, I believe the only people who really respond to those methods are people who have already accepted Jesus, who already believe in the message being preached. And it is far more important for us to reach those who have not yet accepted Jesus. To do that, we don't need to shout, we don't need to march through the streets singing. We don't need to start every conversation with, "Do you have Jesus in your life?" Instead, we should simply live our lives the way we are called to: honestly and joyfully. If we truly live out our faith, acting as Christ asks us to act, we are evangelizing through our every word and deed. We marry and build families. We raise our children to be caring. We earn an honest living. We attend church. We give to the poor. We give all our problems to God, and rest in His peace.

What do you think happens when others see us living our lives this way? When we are surrounded by a loving family. When we take pride in our work. When we continue to smile even though we are suffering hardships. Other people see all this, and they think, "What do these people have that I don't? And how can I get it?" Eventually your 'silent evangelization' will get through to them, and they will begin their search for the Truth. When they come to you for answers, be ready and willing to share your story and your faith. This is what Peter is telling us in this passage. "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope." And when we evangelize through our actions rather than our words, we can't help but do it "with gentleness and reverence."


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Helper

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
- John 14:1
It's such a simple command from Jesus; don't worry, have faith. But it's so hard to follow. When we have a problem, we can't help worrying about it. And the bigger the problem, the more we worry. We find it hard to let someone else take responsibility for it too. And again, the bigger the problem, the more control we want over its resolution.

But another part of us longs for someone else to take care of everything, to make everything all right again. We want someone to wave a magic wand and make all our problems disappear. Jesus wants to help, but He doesn't work like a magician. He will help you with your problems, but He will do it His way.

First, we need to give the problem completely over to Him. We need to have faith that He will help us. Then, we need to let go of the problem and stop worrying about it. Trust in Jesus, and have faith that He is dealing with the situation. Once we have given the problem over to Jesus, we need to be prepared: prepared to wait, and prepared for His response. We want our problems solved right away, but Jesus doesn't work on our timescales. Don't worry. Have faith. There is a time for everything under the sun. Jesus will respond when the time is right. But He might not respond in the way we were expecting, or hoping, and we need to be prepared for that too. Jesus knows what's best for us, and His plan might be different to ours. We can't see the big picture, but He can, and He will steer us in the right direction, if we let Him.

Jesus wants to help you. Let Him. Give Him all your problems, and let Him take care of them. Don't worry. Have faith. And be prepared.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Worship or to Serve?

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table."
- Acts 6:2
In an ideal world we could spend all our time reading the bible, praying and worshiping God, without worrying about money or responsibilities. But in the real world we have jobs, children and homes to take care of. Most of us have to make an effort to make time each day for quiet time with God. The Lord deserves more than that, as Peter says in Acts. But luckily we have people who have dedicated their lives to worshiping God. Our priests, nuns and monks spend most of their time studying the Word of God, praying and serving the Lord. They have set themselves apart for this special and holy task.

So what about the rest of us? Should we neglect the family dinner so we can spend more time praying? Should we study the bible instead of reading our children a story? Should we attend daily mass instead of daily meetings at work? Of course not. Our calling is not the same as those in religious life. Making time for the Lord is important, but serving at table is our first priority. Our families must come first. That means earning a living so we can buy food, clothing and shelter. That means doing the chores that keep the household running. That means spending time with our children, spouses, parents, friends.

God doesn't expect you to worship Him 24/7. But He does expect you to honor Him. God put you where you are now, and you honor Him by doing the best you can in the role He has given you. If you're a mother, be a good mother. If you're a husband, be a faithful husband. If you're a child, be a supportive child. If you're a friend, be the best friend.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Suffer in Silence?

If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
- 1 Peter 2:20-21
It's not easy to suffer in silence, especially if we think we don't deserve it. Our natural reaction is to complain, to try and get everyone on our side to support our position. If we're trying to do the right thing, and end up suffering for it instead, we might feel that it is a waste of time. Why bother standing up for Christ if He isn't standing up for us?

But of course we forget, that is exactly what Christ went through. He stood up for the truth of His message, even when all His friends and supporters abandoned Him. He suffered terrible ridicule, torture and death, even when it seemed as if His own Father wasn't supporting Him. He knew that what He was doing was right and necessary, and He suffered everything in silence and dignity.

We are called to do the same, and when we do, we receive God's grace. You might lend a friend some money, and he doesn't pay you back. You might offer to watch your friend's children, but she doesn't show up. Don't complain, and you will receive grace. It might be something bigger. Maybe you took in a homeless person for Thanksgiving dinner, and they stole something from your house. Don't think that you shouldn't have bothered trying to do good. God sees everything you do, and is always with you. Don't complain, and don't lash out angrily at Him. It's okay to ask your friends to pray for you as you deal with the situation, but keep the details and the resentment to yourself.

St Paul said that God will never give you more suffering than you can handle. And Jesus Himself said that God, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you. His grace is your reward for accepting the situation and suffering with a patient heart.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Circle of Blessings

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
- Psalm 23:6
Whenever I give to God, I get so much in return. I volunteered to become a lector, a reader at mass, and I have gained a much deeper understanding of the Word that I proclaim. I joined the RCIA team, and every week I strengthened my faith, and I have gained a whole new circle of friends. I waited for the right man to be my husband, and I have gained a soul mate for life, and have been blessed with two precious children. The more I give, the more I receive, which makes me want to give even more. It's a circle of blessings.

We don't have to give in big ways to receive these blessings. Take five minutes to talk to one of the quieter moms at school, and you could make a new friend. Take on a couple of extra tasks at work, and a colleague may offer to help when that big project deadline comes up. Offer to give an elderly neighbor a ride to church, and you will have someone to pray for you when you need it.

Offer goodness and kindness at every opportunity, and they will follow you all the days of your life. Then you will know you are truly dwelling in the house of the Lord.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Listen

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
- Acts 2:41
This Easter, 27 new Catholics joined my church. 17 were baptized, and 10 more were received into full communion with the church. This might be a record number for us, and the vigil lasted almost four hours. Can you imagine 3000 baptisms in one day? 3000 people listened to Peter preach, accepted his message about Jesus, and followed his command to repent and be baptized.

I wonder how many others rejected the message? How many others heard the exact same sermon from Peter, but just couldn't accept it as the truth? How many did accept it, but still refused to repent and give their lives to Jesus?

Every time we hear God's Word, we have the same choice. Will we accept the truth and do whatever we are called to do? Or will we take the easy route and reject the message? The 27 in our church, just like Peter's 3000, chose the narrow road.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting to know Him

He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you.
- 1 Peter 1:20
Jesus, God the Son, the Word of God, has always existed. He existed before our world did. Indeed, it was He who created the world. He didn't have to become flesh and come into the world, but He chose to. Because He wanted to make Himself known to us. Before that, He was known, but not fully understood. The prophets knew Him. The great patriarchs such as Abraham and Moses knew Him. But the ordinary people didn't know Him. The Old Testament is full of stories of how God tried to connect with His people, but they never really got it, and constantly fell back into old ways and habits.

So Jesus became the Word made flesh. He revealed Himself to us, so that we could really get to know and understand Him. In doing so, He also revealed the Father and the Holy Spirit to us.

Jesus is still revealing Himself to us today. He reveals Himself in the readings at mass. He reveals Himself in the love of a spouse or a child. He reveals Himself in a beautiful spring day, or a dark starry night. Everywhere you look, Jesus is revealing Himself. In people, places, nature, even food and drink. Take notice of your surroundings today. Look, listen, feel, and see how Jesus is making Himself better known to you.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Can I Get a Witness?

God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.
- Acts 2:32
The Apostles were physical witnesses of Jesus' resurrection. They were there; they saw His dead body, the empty tomb, and the Risen Lord. We are faithful witnesses. We didn't actually see any of what happened, but we believe, we know that it did.

Is there any difference? I don't think so. Whether you were there or not, we are all called to do the same thing: spread the Good News about the truth of what happened. God raised Jesus. Because of this we are saved. Alleluia!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Key

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."
- John 20:19
Jesus has the power to pass through locked doors and bring peace. He can pass through the locked doors of our hearts and bring peace to our souls, if we let Him.



Happy Divine Mercy Sunday

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Will Today Bring?

This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
- Psalm 118:24
Every day of our lives is a gift from God. What we do with that gift, the choices we make, shape how the day goes. God might have blessed you with a steady job. Do you thank Him by doing the best you can each day? Or do you complain that the work is too hard, your co-workers are slackers, and do the least you can to get by? God might have blessed you with children. Do you thank Him by caring for them, playing with them, and laughing with them? Or do you spend the day nagging them to clean up their toys, shouting at them for spilling a drink, and longing for their bedtimes?

What about the days when it rains, when your car breaks down, when your savings fall to zero, when your goldfish dies? These too are gifts from God. Rain is good for the grass, even if it is not good for the soccer game. Fixing your car will keep the local mechanic in business for another week - your recommendation of his good work may keep him going much longer. An empty savings account may be just the prompt you need to take a risk on a new job. And a dead goldfish? Well, no more tank cleaning for a while.

Every day is created by God, and is a gift from Him. Rejoice and be glad, and strive to make the best of everything the day brings you; the good, the bad and the ugly. Even a dead goldfish.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rejoice and be Glad

All who believed were together and had all things in common.
- Acts 2:44
It's interesting how much our surroundings affect our mood and behavior. Three days ago I attended the Easter Vigil. Twenty-seven people were received into the church (including seventeen baptisms). The four-hour mass seemed over in a flash, the whole church was filled with joy and celebration, and the presence of the Holy Spirit was strong. My heart was bursting with happiness and love for the Lord, and I was still buzzing long after midnight.

The next day I also attended Easter Sunday mass with my family, and what a difference. Despite the joyous occasion, the mood felt dull. The singing was muted, the people looked distracted. It felt like any other Sunday, and the lack of celebration for the Risen Lord almost broke my heart.

The difference was the attitude of the congregation. On Saturday night, every single person was there because they wanted to be. They were ready and excited to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and the initiation of twenty-seven new Catholics into their family. They expressed their joy in song, and the Spirit shone through in the smiles on their faces. On Sunday, I could sense that many of the people were there only because they felt they had to be. It was Easter Sunday, it was their duty to be there. For many that is the only day of the year they even attend mass. They weren't really thinking about the reason for the celebration. They didn't want to sing, they didn't shout the Alleluia with joy. They just wanted to do their duty and get back home.

If attending mass feels like a duty or a chore, we're really missing the point. We go to church to worship God, to give thanks and praise to Jesus for dying for our sins, and to celebrate His saving grace. Every Sunday should fill us with excitement and joy, as we once again profess our faith and receive Jesus bodily into our own bodies. If we truly understand our faith, and what happens at the mass, we should long for Sunday to come around again. We should desire to celebrate and worship with our brothers and sisters as often as possible, even more than once a week. We should be able to draw strength and support from our fellow worshipers. We should build up each others faith, and rejoice together in all that our Lord has done for us.

When I got home Saturday night, my face hurt from smiling, my hands hurt from clapping, and my throat hurt from cheering and singing. And I couldn't wait to do it all over again. I want to feel like that after every single mass. And I pray that everyone who professes the Christian faith would feel the same way.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Seek Life

Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Christ the crucified."
- Matthew 28:5
As we approach the glorious celebration of Easter, let us not make the same mistake of the women at the tomb. They sought Jesus the crucified. But we should seek Jesus the Resurrected. While Jesus' death for our sins is something we should never cease thanking Him for, it is His resurrection that is the root of our faith. He rose from the dead because death has no power over Him, and therefore it has no power over us either. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In Him there is life, always.

Although the crucifix is the symbol of our faith, never forget that that was not the end. We are Easter people, and Easter is not today, Good Friday, the day Jesus died. It is Sunday, the day He resurrected. Easter Sunday is the biggest celebration of the year for us! So don't dwell on the cross. Don't dwell on the fact that Jesus had to die to save us. Rejoice in His resurrection!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Happy Easter :)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Can Only Imagine

Think of what is above, not of what is on the earth.
- Colossians 3:2

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Is this what you spend your time thinking about? Or do you fill your head with trivial matters? Do you spend all day planning what to cook for dinner? Are you stressed because you couldn't afford those new shoes you really wanted? Do you have a job that consumes your every waking moment? Are you feeling guilty because your son poured milk in the fish tank and killed the goldfish?

In the end none of these things matter. Whether you cook chicken or pasta for dinner will have no effect on eternity. What shoes you wear is of no concern in Heaven. Instead, spend some time just trying to imagine how wonderful it will be when you finally meet Jesus. Will you rush into His arms like a child, or will you fall to your knees in worship? Will you tell Him how much you love Him, and thank Him for what He did, will you sing of His glory, or will you be struck dumb in awe? What will He look like? What will the angels' singing sound like? What will Jesus say to you?

If you have a small child in your life, ask them what they think. Their imaginations are often a lot closer to the truth than we are.




MercyMe
I Can Only Imagine

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hindsight is Always 20/20

We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
- Acts 10:39
The apostles and disciples of Jesus' time were lucky. They got to see everything Jesus did, and hear everything He taught. Believing must have been easy for them. How could you not believe that Jesus was the Son of God after witnessing His life, death and resurrection?

It's easy for us to assume that we would believe in Him without question if we had been there. After all, we're already believers based purely on what other people have told us. If we had seen it all with our own eyes, how much stronger would our faith had been! But is that really true? There were plenty of people who spent weeks, months, even years in Jesus' presence, yet were not convinced of His true identity. They were so unconvinced in fact, that they put Him to death for His claims.

If Jesus had been born in this day and age, how would we have reacted? A man from a poor part of town, with little education, challenging our way of life and our long-held beliefs, and claiming to be God. How would that have gone down? Just as 2000 years ago, there would be believers and opponents. Jesus' miracles and teachings would convert many, and enrage others. Which side do you think you would be on?

Perhaps we should be grateful that Jesus came when He did. Things often look very different in hindsight than they do in the heat of the moment. We can look back over the last 2000 years and see that everything Jesus said was true. His message has endured the test of time, and His followers have been justified. We have a written record of all His actions and teachings, we have the complete picture. As awesome as it would have been to have walked with Him in Jerusalem, in many ways we are the lucky ones.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lead Me

If the Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.
- Romans 8:11
What an amazing thought: the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit who dwells in us. If He can raise Jesus from the dead, just imagine what He can do in us! Nothing is impossible for Him. He gives us wisdom, courage, strength. He guides and protects us. He gives us gifts and talents to share. He listens to our prayers, and at the end of time He will also raise us from the dead.

Take some time today to talk to the Spirit that dwells in you. Feel His presence. Thank Him for all the blessings He has given you. Ask Him for what you need. And let Him lead and guide you today.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Was Blind but Now I See

The man answered and said to them, "This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes."
- John 9:30
This Sunday's Gospel reading is the account of Jesus curing the blind man. Jesus spits on the ground to make clay, rubs the clay on the man's eyes, and tells him to go and wash. When he does this, he can see.

There are two very different reactions to this. The blind man - now no longer blind - immediately understands where Jesus' power comes from, and becomes a believer. His eyes have been opened in more ways than one. The religious authorities on the other hand, refuse to believe, despite the evidence in front of their eyes, as well as the testimony of the man's parents. The authorities are more bothered by the fact that the man was healed on the sabbath than the fact that he was healed. Despite the miracle that Jesus has performed, they cannot see who He is, where He is from. They remain blind.

Are we more often like the blind man, or the authorities? Do we allow our faith to open our eyes, or do we get caught up in irrelevant issues that keep us blind? Pray for wisdom to recognize what is really important. Pray for faith to believe in Jesus' words. And pray for courage and strength to open your eyes.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found.
Was blind but now I see.



Thursday, March 31, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
- Ephesians 5:8
We are all children of God. But we don't usually think of ourselves as actual children. We see ourselves as adult children, but that's not how we are called to live. We are called to live as children, little children, kids.

Children are innocent, trusting, honest. If you tell a child that something is true, they believe you. They love with a passion. They're curious, always asking questions, always wanting to know more. They put their whole self into everything they do. They find joy in the little things. And at night they sleep peacefully, knowing they are loved and protected, looking forward to the next day.

We can live like this too. Believe what Jesus tells you. Love Him with a passion. Stay curious, ask questions about your faith, keep growing. Put maximum effort into everything you do for the Lord. Find joy in the little everyday things. And at night sleep peacefully knowing you are loved and protected.

Pay attention to the children in your life. Watch what they do, how they act, and see what you can learn from them. How can you apply their attitude to your own life today?


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Happy Re-birth Day

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
- Psalm 23:1
Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known of all the psalms. Although quite short, it is filled with beautiful images and promises. And it has special meaning to me today. Nine years ago today, I gave my life to Jesus, and was born again of spirit and water with my baptism into the Catholic Church.

It was the culmination of a two-year journey to find the truth. I had many doubts, many questions, many fears along the way. But by the time I stepped up to the font, I was at peace. I knew, as the psalmist did, that Jesus was my shepherd, my teacher, my guide, my protector, my savior. And I knew that once I gave my life to Him there would be nothing else I needed, nothing to fear. I knew He would always be there for me, ready to give me everything I could need.

And so He has. Since that day He has given me a husband, children, friends, food and shelter. He has got me through some tough times, and has filled my life with joy and blessings. I remember the night of my baptism well. I treasure it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and relive it. Then I see how far I've come spiritually since then, and I am excited about how much further I can go. I wonder where I will be nine years from now...

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.