Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Accepting the Gift

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” John 4: 10

What is at the heart, the beginning, the starting point of our Christian Faith? Is it trying to be holy? Trying to do good things? Being obedient to God and His laws? Serving others? No. At the very beginning, the Christian Faith is about God giving us the gift of His grace, His love—Himself. 

Do we truly understand this? Do we realize that the starting point of our relationship with God is not what we can achieve or accomplish, but that God has loved us and wants to give us this gift of Himself. Everything else in our journey is a response to this love. Everything we do is secondary to what He has done. Everything we give is a reflection of what He has given. Loving God, obeying God, following Jesus, keeping the commandments, serving others—all come as a response to the gift of God’s love given to us first.

But have we accepted this gift? Have we allowed God to love us? For we have the power to reject it, to ignore it, to limit the power of this gift in our own lives and therefore in the lives of all who come in contact with us. Are our lives a reflection of this love, this gift for us, or are they shadows? What joy our lives would produce if we truly lived in the acceptance of this gift. What hope and love our lives would bring forth if we truly allowed God to love us.

Yes, there are obligations and duties and commandments to follow. Yes, there is sin that we can commit. But all come after the acceptance of the gift of God’s love. All come after we allow Him to die for us, to save us, to redeem us. Without accepting this gift first, we are not responding to anything, but reacting to fear, or ignorance or shame. And lives lived in these shadows does not attract. When we accept God’s gift and allow His love to permeate our lives, then the laws, commandments and duties become sweet opportunities to love our Lover in return for His love. At that moment they cease to be burdens and instead become occasions of joy and communion with our Lord.

This is the secret of the Saints. With humility, knowing their true worthlessness and what their sins deserved, they accepted the gift of God and His love for them. And in this way, not only was pride dissolved from their hearts, but it allowed them to love God back with their whole hearts, follow Jesus with passion, serve others with selflessness and gain eternal life. If only we would fully accept God’s gift to us as well, what lives of greatness would emerge!

Dear Jesus, help me to accept Your love for me, Your sacrifice for me, Your gift to me. And then allow all of my life, my thoughts, my words and my deeds become a response to Your love for me. Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thorns in the Flesh

“Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7b-9

St. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”. I wonder what it was? Perhaps you and I can relate to St. Paul. What might your “thorn in the flesh” be? Maybe you suffer from some kind of illness or disease. Maybe you suffer inwardly with emotional or mental issues. Perhaps there is someone in your life that makes you feel little or insignificant or bullies you? Or maybe you just have a real thorn in your hand right now.

For centuries, scholars have debated about what St. Paul’s “thorn” might have been. I don’t think it matters really. What matters is that St. Paul was suffering and he was weak and he begged God to take the suffering and weakness away and God said “no”. The reality is that on some level, all of us can relate to this. I know in my own life that I have certainly gone through periods of intense pain, either physically or emotionally, and I can clearly remember asking God to either take away or the pain or to let me die. And God said “no”.

I think we might assume that when God says “no” to our requests that He is being mean. Or that He is trying punish us. But the truth is that in our times of suffering or weakness, we can more clearly see that it is God and His grace that we should be dependent on, rather than our own power and actions. It is in the times that we are desperate and knocked down that we have a better view of the world. A view that allows us to see that we are not in control, that we are not the center of the universe, that we are not omnipotent or all-powerful. It is at these times when our realization for something bigger, stronger and more stable than ourselves becomes more acute. It gives us perspective.

As a Christian witness, these times also make us more approachable, relatable and effective in spreading the Gospel. How? Well, most people are intimidated by people who seem to have it all together: the beautiful, the stylish, those ones with the best grades, skills, talents, speaking abilities, etc. People with all sorts of abilities and confidence can make others feel inadequate or insecure. But when we allow our pain and weaknesses—our imperfections—to be seen, people are more apt to confide in us, question us and trust us. Think about how much more beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II became when the signs of his Parkinson’s disease began to show?

The world does not need Christians to be more of the perfect, got-it-all-together, have-no-faults people that Hollywood seems to parade out to us year-after-year, movie-after-movie. In their heart of hearts, most people are looking for other broken human beings that have peace, joy, love and hope, despite their brokenness. When we can embrace our “thorns” instead of trying to hide them or get rid of them, then the power of Christ will work through us to transform the souls of others.

Dear Jesus, I ask you to allow my “thorns” to cause me to rely on You more in my life so that Your power can shine forth to others in need. Let my hope in You, born from my brokenness, bring others closer to You. Amen.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Final Hour

“But of the day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone…therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come…so too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Matthew 24: 36, 42a, 44

The world didn’t end. The Lord didn’t come back. People weren’t raptured. But lots of people spent their life savings, quit their jobs, left their spouses and joined the fray of doomsday “prophets”. More sadly, many people lived in fear or ignorance and now face a life of uncertainty or ridicule.

In case you hadn’t heard, the world was supposed to end—or start to end. Again. Why do people keep trying to pick a date? Why do people rally around them? Seventh Day Adventists, Y2K, the Mayans, Harold Camping…the list goes on and on. On one level people are looking for hope and for something bigger and better than their lives or this world. And they’ve got a point. There’s a lot of violence and sickness. A lot of natural disasters and selfishness. Sometimes we might all be tempted to just wish it would all go away (or we could all go away) and we’d be in a better place. But at the same time God created the world good and no matter how bad sin and the consequences of sin can make things, we always have to remember that God created it—and us—good.

People are also looking for something to belong to, something to believe in, something to hold onto. Our culture is quick and slick and fast-paced and all of us can get lost in the shuffle from time to time. We all want to know that there is something that we can be part of that will give us purpose and direction.

We are also tempted with wanting to control things. We have trust issues. It’d be nice to change our spouse, our kids or our parents. It’d be nice to cheat death as many times as we wanted. It’d be nice to be “in the know” about things that are uncertain. And so we try to see into the future, bring back the dead or figure out when Christ will return or the world will end.

But it all really comes down to trusting in Jesus and then finding the extraordinary in the ordinary situations of our daily lives. Could the real end of the world happen in six months or a year? Sure. But if you died tomorrow, then tomorrow is the real end of YOUR world. I wonder how many people who have predicted and then spent their lives preparing for the end of the world died before the “date”? I bet that was anti-climactic. The point is that we need to live each day for today, knowing that any day could be our last. Not because some guy predicted it to be so, but because we want to be ready at every time and at every occasion to meet our Savior face-to-face, so that when we see Him, He can welcome us home as good and faithful servants.

Dear Jesus, I place my life into Your hands. I relinquish all control. I will live each day for as many days as You allow and I will welcome death when it comes. Please grant me the grace to trust You in my living and in my dying. Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Better Than Jesus?

“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” John 13: 16-17

Have you ever been treated badly for being a Christian? Have you ever been made fun of or mocked for what you believe? Have you ever felt judged or condemned or betrayed for being a follower of Jesus? Not too fun, is it?

I think sometimes in these instances we wonder…why? Why am I being treated this way? Why are people “killing the messenger”? Why do I have to suffer so much humiliation? We start to wonder if we deserve it and if following Christ is worth it? But you know what? Why do we think we should be treated any better than Jesus?

If Jesus was rejected, so will we. If Jesus was betrayed, so will we. If Jesus was condemned unjustly, so will we. Ultimately when people are rejecting us or the way we live or the beliefs we hold, they are rejecting Jesus. Why are we surprised?

Most people in today’s culture want to live however they want and they don’t want anyone telling them what to do. And yet there is Truth that must be lived and proclaimed. Not to condemn people but to show people the greatness they were created for—and yes, to sometimes point out how they are living below that greatness. But people don’t like being told what to do. Do you? The hair on the back of our necks normally goes up when we feel someone thinks they know more than we do.

However, God DOES know more than we do. And He has tried to communicate what is best for us in so many different ways throughout the history of salvation, even to the point of allowing His only Son to be executed in our place. But we still sometimes miss it. The situation in our world today though, has led to the point where many people do not just view us or the Church as a nice, little side-show trapped in ignorance or naivety, but as evil; as a threat—and the biggest threat—to living how one wants to live. So despite the fact that the Church has no armies or temporal power, She is the enemy. And so as members of the Church, we too become the enemy.

Our response to this is to love, love and love some more. As Jesus did. And in return we may be mocked, judged, condemned and made to suffer in various emotional or physical ways. But why not, are we better than Jesus?

Dear Jesus, help me to love even when mocked or hurt for following You. Help me to stand up for You and for Truth with charity and to suffer any hardships that come my way with patience and perseverance as You did. Amen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


“As for you, Solomon, my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing soul, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the mind’s thoughts.” 1 Chronicles 28: 9a

Have you ever felt misunderstood? I bet we all have. And it’s not too fun. Perhaps you were in a situation with a classmate or co-worker and you made a comment and they took it the wrong way. Or you tried to make a joke with a friend or sibling and it hurt their feelings and they accused you of being mean. Maybe someone made a judgment about you because of the way you were dressed, or the color of your skin, or because you were wearing a crucifix around your neck. Maybe you’ve stood up in class or in other public situations for your faith and people have mocked you for it and accused you of being bigoted for your beliefs.

But at the core of our being, we all just want to be understood. At times don’t you just wish that people could look past your words, appearance or actions and see your heart and your intentions? I think this is one of the reasons the human heart seems to yearn for an intimate relationship with another. We want to be understood by our parents. Then we want to have friends who understand us. And ultimately we seem to desire a permanent, intimate relationship with another that will bring us the understanding we seek. This is really one of the purposes of marriage (along with procreation)—the idea of intimately bonding with another soul in such a way that it becomes as much of a concrete image of the Trinity that it can be in our imperfect, fallen world. However, even in the best of marriages, where the man and woman are connected in every way, there can still be times when one spouse feels misunderstood by the other. Even in this most intimate of relationships, one can feel lonely.

This is why all of us, no matter our vocation, need to have Jesus as the most intimate of friends. Only He and He alone will never misunderstand us. In fact, He understands us better than we even understand ourselves. If we are really honest with ourselves, there are times when even we don’t understand why we said something or did something. Ultimately, we need to take comfort in the fact that Jesus will never misunderstand us and that if we have Him as our best friend it will not matter if everyone else in the world misunderstands us. Only Jesus can satisfy this desire of our heart. The sooner we learn this and invest more time into growing in love with Him, the sooner our hearts can be at peace and our lives can reflect the joy and confidence of Jesus to the rest of our seeking world.

Dear Jesus, please comfort me when I am misunderstood by others. Help me to invest more time into my relationship with You so that I can reflect Your love and peace in all of my relationships. Amen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How Long Have I Been With You?

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…’” John 14: 9a

Do you ever get exasperated by anyone or anything? I know I do. And you know what? So did Jesus. During the Last Supper Discourses he kept trying to get His Apostles to understand His words and they kept misunderstanding or questioning. And Jesus got exasperated with them. You can almost imagine Him throwing His hands in the air, looking to the sky and saying, “Father, what am I going to do with these guys?” But despite this, Jesus just kept continuing to explain what He was trying to get them to understand, no matter how many times it took.

This should give us hope because I am sure that all of us from time to time get confused by the teachings of Jesus. I bet there are times when we question or doubt what we have been taught in regards to the Faith. Perhaps we have misunderstood what the Church has been explaining to us through Scripture and Tradition and we need it explained again and again and again. Just like Philip and Thomas and all the rest of the Apostles. So we stand in good company in this regard.

The reality is that the Apostles ate with Jesus and lived with Him and saw and heard everything He did for three years. And yet, even after all that, they still misunderstood. They watched Him raise Lazarus from the dead, cast out demons, restore sight to the blind and pull lame to their feet. And yet they were still confused at the Last Supper. They still had fears and doubts. I think they wanted to believe everything Jesus was saying, but sometimes the limited human mind cannot grasp all the subtleties and mysteries of God. And yet here we are 2,000 years later dealing with situations and events that the apostles could’ve never even imagined (like abortion, gay marriage, nuclear bombs, etc.) and we are called to the same level of faith as they, without the benefit of seeing all that Jesus did or hearing directly from His mouth all that He taught. Should it surprise us that we might have some fears, doubts or confusion?

I think perhaps in these instances of fear and doubt and confusion, rather than get stuck on that which is causing these feelings in our hearts and minds, we should focus even more on Jesus. Go to Him in the Mass, in Eucharistic Adoration. Receive His mercy in Reconciliation. Listen to Him speak to you, listen as He explains His love for you, what He has planned for you, what He is preparing for you. Hear the love and gentleness in His tone of voice as He repeats Truth to you over and over and over. His desire is for you to know Him and to know the Father. We need to allow His voice and His Truth to enter our hearts and stop allowing fear, doubt and confusion to reign over us. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, even with our doubts, our fears, our confusion. He remains the same and He always seeks to lead us to the mansions in His Father’s house.

Dear Jesus, help me to know Your love and Your Truth even in the midst of doubts, fears or confusion. Give me the grace to trust in You and all that You have prepared for me, not only in this life, but in the one to come. Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love…True Love

“You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride; you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride, how much more delightful is your love than wine…your lips drip honey my bride…” Song of Songs 4: 9-10a, 11a

After reading those verses above does anyone think the Bible is way more cool than you originally thought? And guess what? There’s more from where that came from. Seriously. I think sometimes we assume the Bible, or God or the Church doesn’t hold much weight for romantic love; that perhaps love between Christians is meant to be more like a contract or business agreement—a decision without any feelings. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course it is true that real love is a decision to do whatever is best for the other, no matter if you feel like it or not. But does this mean that feelings have no place at all in love?

When I married my bride 18 years ago this month, I certainly was filled with LOTS of different feelings. And when I read the Song of Songs, I see those feelings echoed in the words of Scripture. I felt gratitude and humility as I watched her walk down the aisle of the Church towards me that wedding morning. I felt chills as she said “yes” to me forever. I felt emotional when I tried to say my vows to her. I felt a holy desire for her. We did not come together in a contract of love, but a covenant of love. Yes, feelings were very much a part of that day and they are still very much a part of our love for each other today.

Do I base my love for my wife on my feelings? No. Because there are times when I don’t feel like loving her. It is in those moments that the depth of my love is given the opportunity to reveal itself by doing the loving thing even when my feelings don’t want to. And I can tell you for certainly, that there are times when my wife does not feel love for me. But she still chooses to love me in those instances.

We need to understand that God does not have a kind of contractual love for us either. He feels His love for us deeply. He is filled with passion when He thinks of you and me (which of course is at every moment). In fact, it was this very passion that led Him to THE Passion. The Song of Songs is written about the love between a man and his wife, but it is also a sign of the passionate love that God the Father, Son and Spirit has for us—His covenant of love with us. You may not always feel worthy of this kind of love, but it is the kind of love that God pours out on you every second nonetheless and it was this love that motivated Him to die for you.

And when we imitate God, we are choosing to love as He loves. So don’t base your love on feelings or make judgments by trusting your feelings, but when you have discerned that your vocation is marriage and God brings you to that place where you meet and fall in love with your best friend, the one God had intended for you from all of eternity, then yes, at that point there should be some feelings involved, wouldn’t you say? While my wife and I choose to love each other each day regardless of our feelings, I can tell you from the depth of my being that even after 18 years she can ravish my heart with one glance, that she is more delightful than wine and that her lips are still sweeter than honey. Who wouldn’t want that?

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your passionate love. Thank You for giving us feelings that can motivate us for greatness. Help us to allow our feelings to be part of our lives without basing decisions on them. Help us to love as You love us. Amen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let Go

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” John 14: 1

There once was a young man taking a hike in the mountains. As he hiked he kept going higher and higher, all the while enjoying the majestic views and awesome splendor of God’s creation. Finally he reached the top and spent a few hours of the afternoon just relaxing and marveling at the handiwork of God. But then he began to notice some storm clouds moving in from the west and decided to beat a hasty retreat down the mountain. Shortly after beginning his descent however, the storm began to roll in with heavy fog and mist blotting out the sun and making it almost impossible to see. In a near panic, he started to run down the trail, tripping over rocks and getting smacked in the face with branches. As the thunder began to boom he burst into an all out frenzied run and within minutes could not tell whether he was still on the path or not. All of a sudden, he found himself free-falling through the air. As he descended over the unseen cliff face, he grasped in desperation for anything he could find to stop his fall when miraculously he was able to snag a branch and pull himself up onto a small outcropping of rock.

He tried to look up to see how far he had fallen, but all he saw was fog and dark clouds. He looked down to see if he could gauge how far he was from the bottom, but all he saw was more fog and a swirling sea of mist. In fear he began to scream for help at the top of his lungs. After what seemed like hours he finally lay down precariously on the sliver of rock and began to pray. Hearing nothing in reply he began to shout again for help. Suddenly a voice boomed down to him from above, “I can help you!” “Awesome” replied the hiker. “Who are you?” “I am God” said the voice. “But do you trust me?” The hiker replied, “Of course I trust You, You ARE God.” “So you’ll do exactly what I say, no matter what I say, right?” “Right” replied the hiker. And then God said, “I want you to let go.” At that point the hiker paused and then shouted, “Is there anyone else up there that can help me?”

What are you having a hard time letting go of today?

Anger? Fear? Resentment? Laziness? Over-commitment? What about friends that lead us down the wrong path? Or grief? Perhaps we hold onto our loneliness or our grudges or our pain? Maybe we’re addicted to a substance or sin or another person? What about your past or worrying about your future? Sometimes it feels safer to stay in our place of misery than to set out into the unknown of recovery or change or community. Maybe we’d rather stay trapped on that sliver of rock because at least we know where we are and if we let go we drop into the mystery.

But did you ever notice that most of the time the things we’re holding onto are precisely the things that are holding us back? Back from what? From freedom, from peace, from possibilities, from change, from adventure, from creativity, from joy…from GREATNESS! Obviously if we were to just let go of everything all at once without any faith or relationship with God the results could be as disastrous as not letting go. But when we know that God is there for us, when we know that He loves us and when we know that He only wants the best for us and He is saying “Let go!” how can we stay on that ledge?

Dear Jesus, I want to let go and fall deeper into the mystery of You. Help me to let go of whatever ledge I cling to in my life that keeps from experiencing all that You have in store for me. Amen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Am I Willing To Do?

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5: 6

I recently saw some clips from a new BBC show called Human Planet. It’s like their blockbuster series Planet Earth from a few years ago, but instead of focusing on nature, it focuses on man’s interaction with nature and his ability to adapt and survive in the harshest of circumstances, geographies and climates. It is fascinating stuff. What I found is that because a lot of the focus is on survival, many of the stories or clips focused on what the people in a certain location had to do or go through in order to eat.

Hunger can cause us to go above and beyond what we think we are capable of or what would normally be considered “safe”. We know that without food we will die and so on the risk/benefit scale, we are willing to risk some pretty amazing things to get food since the alternative is a slow, painful, guaranteed death. Of course for most people in the developed world, the greatest risks we’ll have obtaining food is getting in a car accident on the way to the grocery store, getting a sun burn working in our backyard gardens or getting food poisoning from a bad tomato at a restaurant.

But what the people in other parts of the world do for food is truly amazing—and in some cases very scary. On this BBC series, I watched people crossing rapids on flood-swollen rivers by walking across a wire suspended between two heights. With the wire about 30 feet over the rapids while wearing flip-flops, the men would carefully cross the river to get to an ideal fishing ground on the other side. One false step and he goes into the rapids and is gone forever. In another part of the world men were fishing very carefully near a seemingly tranquil pool of water. But when the camera pulled back you saw that they were literally 2-3 feet from the edge of Victoria Falls in Africa. One slip on a wet rock and over they plunge to the crushing rocks at the bottom. Another clip shows three men holding sticks walking slowly, but deliberately towards a group of 15 lions eating a wildebeest. The men lock eyes with the lions and keep walking until about ten feet from the animals, the lions scurry away about 30 feet. The men quickly cut off a portion of the dead animal for their own dinner and then hastily retreat before the lions realize they are being duped and attack them! One wrong move or breaking of eye contact and the men become a side dish to the wildebeest! Finally, one last clip showed a man in Indonesia who swims down to the bottom of the ocean (about 20 meters) and walks around with a spear gun until he can shoot a fish for dinner, before he comes back to the surface. The man can hold his breath for upwards of five minutes! But one moment of panic and he involuntarily inhales and drowns!

So the question today is: am I this hungry for God and for righteousness? If not, why? If so, then what I willing to do to satisfy this hunger? Am I willing to lose what others have? Risk losing my friends? Suffer ridicule? Be alone? These and many other things can certainly happen if we choose to really hunger and thirst after God and work hard to satisfy that hunger. But in the end, we are fed, and fed more abundantly and filled more completely than we could have ever imagined.

What is the alternative? A slow, painful, guaranteed spiritual death that will leave us empty, jaded and even more hungry as we keep looking to fill ourselves on things that cannot ever truly satisfy our hearts, minds, souls or bodies. Let us be inspired by those who risk much from their hunger to find food and be willing to risk as much to live for God.

Dear Jesus, You alone can satisfy all of my needs and desires. Help me to hunger after You and Your will more than anything else in this life. Give me the grace to risk everything to follow You. Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2011


“Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.“ Philippians 2: 9-11

In Biblical times, someone’s name signified the essence of who that person was. This is why so many of those Biblical names seem whacked by modern sensibilities. Could you imagine having little Habbakkuk or Peleg running around underfoot? Perhaps today we see things a little different with names like Jayden and Madison making the top ten baby names list for 2010. I mean, what does “Madison” say about your essence? More popular than popular names has been the practice of using Biblical or Saints’ names to signify not the essence of the child, but a strong filial connection on the part of the parents to the person who originally bore that name.

Names are powerful, even if they don’t signify our essence anymore. They do signify who we are in some respect and they differentiate one person from another. And from an early age we identify with our name and it means something to us. It is important to us that other people take the time to learn our name and remember it, as opposed to just calling out “hey you” every time they see us.

Names are powerful to God as well. That is why they used to signify one’s essence. God calls us by name. His followers’ names are written in the Book of Life. And while He has many different titles, God also has a name: I AM. And there is such power in the name of God that at the end of time, even those who did not follow Jesus, or who rejected Him, or who denied His existence will still bend their knees and proclaim that He is Lord. The name of Jesus can be used to cure people and to cast away demons. Many Saints have died rather than defame the name of Christ. The Old Testament people had such awe, respect and holy fear for the name of God that they would not utter it—even in prayer!

And yet so often we reduce the holy, powerful name of God to an exclamation, curse word or casual statement. We say His name not in prayer or worship with tender love and reverence, but in apathy, anger, excitement, fear or indifference. For many of us, it has simply become a bad habit formed out of ignorance or laziness. But for God His name is so important that the First Commandment given to us is to not use it in vain. What does this mean? It means to use the name of God devoid of its power, devoid of the honor and dignity it deserves; to use it in mockery of all it stands for and accomplishes. To waste the power and grace it should bring to our lives through carelessness or sin, in the end turning the power of the name against us to our own condemnation. Let us strive instead to use the name of God in prayer, with great affection and with a realization of the power we unleash simply by uttering it.

Dear Jesus, let me only use Your name with love on my lips and in my heart. Let me praise Your name and bless others with Your name. May the power of Your name transform my life and the lives of all I met today. Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Belong to….

“I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose…I mean that each of you is saying, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” 1 Corinthians 10, 12

It’s interesting that these words of St. Paul were written 2,000 years ago when they seem to apply so aptly today. It seems that throughout history the Evil One has been trying to rip apart the Body of Christ.

With the Protestant Reformation people followed Luther or Calvin or others. In today’s world it seems like people are squabbling over being a follower of Benny Hinn or Joel Olsteen or Rob Bell. Even among Catholics one finds followers among the myriad of Catholic “celebrities” on the left or right. Everyone’s got an opinion and everyone has a voice—especially in today’s world with the new media.

So whose opinion are YOU going to listen to? Who are YOU going to belong to? St. Paul was very clear that we need to be of the same mind. Jesus prayed that His followers would be one. And yet here we are 2,000 years later and we are divided among thousands of different denominations. But we are called to follow CHRIST and belong to Christ ALONE. So how can we do this? The only way is to follow Truth. How are we to know what Truth is among the cacophony of opinions? By following the words of Jesus as protected by the Church He established and gave His authority to. There is no other way.

The fullness of Truth resides in the Church that Christ left for us and every opinion is only true to the degree that it reflects THE Truth. Apart from this Truth, opinions are just opinions, no matter how persuasive or eloquently delivered. No matter if they come from a Protestant, Catholic, or even an atheist. Some people would argue that we can interpret Scripture and Truth for ourselves; that we do not need a Church to do it for us. Really? Even our own opinion is only true to the degree it coincides and reflects THE Truth of Christ. And without the safeguard of His authority and the Church He gave it to, how could anyone be sure of even their opinion?

It is tempting, and perhaps easy, to listen to the voices of so many or to become enamored with the dynamic speaking abilities or sensibilities or apparent knowledge of one of the many current Christian voices in our world today. But who is really speaking the voice of Christ. Who is really teaching the Truth? Who should we belong to? And who is really pointing us at every moment to the Lord Jesus Christ? And if we belong to someone other than Christ, what then?

Dear Jesus, help me to know and hear Your voice and help me to trust that the Church You established still speaks for You in our world today. I want to belong to you alone! Amen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chasing After

“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

At the very beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are reminded that God created us simply so that we could share in His divine love. Freely, we were created and invited to share in love. God does not need us or our love. He does not need our approval or adulation. He does not need our help or companionship. In fact, God is prefect love and contentment and glory within the One that He is in the dynamic, mysterious relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So with no other motive than for us to be happy and share in the joy, peace, goodness, brilliance, greatness and love that is God, He created us.

And how did we repay Him? By going our own way. By deciding against Him. By choosing something other than greatness and joy and peace and love. It began with Adam and Eve, but continues to this day in our own hearts, with our own Garden of Eden and our own “tree” that we should stay away from. And yet we do not recognize God’s protection and providence in His commandments. And so we turn from Him and disobey Him and do things our own way. And suffer greatly for it.

But you know the crazy thing about God? He had EVERY reason after Adam and Eve to destroy us or to stop thinking about us and let us fade into nothingness. He had every reason to send us all to hell. And yet instead He sent His only Son to die in our place as justification for our sins so that the only atonement known to His great justice could be transformed into His great mercy.

And how did we repay this ultimate act of sacrifice? We still reject Him. We still go our own way and we still sin. In short, we often limit or make ineffective the power and grace of the cross in our own lives. We go on living a life filled with love substitutes and shadows of greatness, for hollow hearts and empty promises. And yet even after all this, our God continues to reach out to us, to call us, to chase us, to keep knocking, knocking, knocking on the doors of our hearts. Not for anything that HE can gain, but for our gain, our peace, our happiness. And we are called to do the same with one another.

Dear Jesus, thank You for never giving up on me. Amen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vengeance is Mine…

“Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and when he stumbles, let not your heart exult, lest the Lord see it, be displeased with you, and withdraw his wrath from your enemy.” Proverbs 24: 17-18

Let’s be real honest today, ok? Sometimes it is just plain HARD to be a Christian and to live up to the ideals and way of life that Christ has set before us, isn’t it? Love our enemies? Pray for those who persecute us? Return curses with blessings? Turn the other cheek? How are these things possible? Especially in today’s world.

Let’s face it, the hardest part of trusting God is when it comes to His mercy and justice. If we truly follow the teachings of Jesus, then when someone hurts us it is the ultimate amount of trust to believe that God will handle the situation and that whatever the offender deserves, they will get. But are we really prepared to accept that the person who hurt us can be shown mercy by God? Can we accept that God loves them just as much as He loves us? Whether that be a bully on the playground, a stalker in high school or a terrorist? Or do we truly believe that only the “good” are worthy of God’s mercy? If this is true, then first of all, it isn’t mercy and secondly, we don’t deserve it either because none of us are “good” all the time.

It is easy when we have been hurt, either as an individual, a family or even a nation, to rejoice and exult when we see our enemy fall, stumble or be put to death. But this is not the way of the Lord. Does justice need to be carried out in our lives, in our families and in our world? Yes. But when someone is being punished there is an evil associated with rejoicing as that person is punished. There is something that hits us deep down inside with guilt and disgust when we see people cheering at an execution, or dancing in the streets because someone is going to jail, or even when we see one sibling happy because another is being spanked or put in time out. While punishments do need to be meted out from time to time, there is no need to be happy about it. We should be sad that they had to happen in the first place.

We need to see people and situations through the eyes of Christ, with eternal vision, and not with the limited, temporal sight our limited minds offer us. We need to trust that He knows the hearts of all people and that He is in control of all situations and that His mercy and justice will be handed out with infinite fairness based on what HE knows and not on what we know. And when we do need to issue temporal justice or punishment, may our hearts be burdened with the solemnity of the act, not enraptured with a sense of joy at the pain or demise of another.

Dear Jesus, some days it is really, really hard to follow You, think like You, and act like You. Sometimes it is easier to act on my own sense of justice then to trust in Your justice and mercy. Grant me the grace today, and all days, to respond to the world around me with Your love and with Your peace. Amen.