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


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.