Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“Leap” of Faith

“While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’” Luke 11: 29

I would wager that most of us have at one time or another asked God for a sign. Or at least we hoped for one even if we didn’t outright ask Him. Does this mean we are evil? I think we need to understand the difference between asking for a sign out of humility and a deep desire to only do God’s will and asking for a sign out of pride and doubt where we are only willing to believe in God or follow God IF He gives us the sign first.

I have encounter many people that are sincerely not sure God exists, but they WANT to believe. These people humbly call out in the darkness of their hearts and minds, yearning for hope and something real to base their lives on. They are seeking the Lord but do not know Him yet. In time, some sooner and some later, all of them found Christ. Their hearts were innocent and God revealed Himself to them over time, subtly, so as not to scare them away. But once they came to have that gift of Faith, nothing could hold them back.

On the other hand, I have encountered some people who are angry, resentful or filled with a knowledge based in pride that there is no God. And they are not sincerely seeking Him—at least not consciously. They do not ask God to reveal Himself, they CHALLENGE God to reveal Himself, assuming He won’t, because He can’t, because He isn’t. The sign they look for is a burden of proof, beyond ANY doubt, that God is real. They do not ask for Faith. They ask for proof and rarely do they come by it.

That is the real difference, one person asks for Faith, while another asks for proof. A person of Faith does not need a “sign” because we are going to follow the Lord whether we receive a sign or consolation, or not. Faith does not need a sign. Sure, they’re nice when we do get them, but we don’t need them to believe.

The greatest sign that anyone could ever need has already been given to us: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Who took on our lowly, human form and spread out His arms and died for us, so that we may live forever. We do not need any other signs to show us the love that God has for us. Jesus is not promising to lay down His life for us, He already has. And for 2,000 years, men, women, and children have believed in a God of such love. Once this unconditional love is accepted into our hearts and minds, no other sign is needed. Apostles preached this Sign, virgins sacrificed for this Sign, martyrs died for this Sign. And without seeing, we are blessed for believing in this Sign—the Person of Jesus. Let us take a “leap” of Faith today and ask for the gift of Faith—or a deeper Faith—so that we in turn, may become visible signs of Christ’s love to those who still seek Him and to all Whom He loves.

Dear Jesus, I ask You to grant me deeper Faith today. And please bless all those who do not believe in You with the absolute gift of Faith in Your love for them. Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Journey

“And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal [the sick]. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.’” Luke 9: 2-3

Have you ever been on a journey? Perhaps it was a road trip, or you flew to another country. Maybe you did a hike or visited a new place. I remember when my wife and I moved from New Mexico to Pennsylvania almost 17 years ago. We were pregnant with our first-born and we packed all of our junk into the largest U-haul truck we could get. Then we rented a full car trailer and put our little brand new Geo Metro on it and pulled it across the country behind us. My wife had meticulously planned out the trip day-by-day with KOA campground stops each night along the way (with “pull-through” camp sites so I wouldn’t have to back-up the truck and trailer). We were young, in love, had little money and hit the road with optimism. And the very first day only hours into our trip, as we attempted to cross over the mountains of eastern New Mexico, the truck overheated and we had to pull over. This was before everyone had cell phones and we were stuck in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. We kept trying to restart the truck with no success, hoping a car would pass by. But no one passed us by. We prayed a LOT (and I am sure I got angry and yelled some too). Eventually the truck cooled down enough to start and we made our way down the mountains. But by this time we had lost so much time there was no way we were going to get to our first planned KOA campground. So we had to switch plans, stop at a hotel and go extra hard and long the next day to make-up for lost time. Eventually, after many days and other stops, some good and some not so good, we made it to Pennsylvania. I’m sure many of you have similar stories. This reminds me of Lent.

Lent is a journey, not an event. But many times I think we forget this. We start off with all of our plans set: what were’ giving up (chocolate, facebook, coffee, etc.), what we’re going to do more of (pray, go to daily Mass, be in silence), what relationships we are going to heal, what sins we need to confess, etc., etc., etc. And then by the first Saturday after Ash Wednesday we have often failed so miserably at our goals that we admit defeat and just give up. Or maybe we scale back our plans to more reasonable levels of success. But Lent is a journey and on any journey there will be set-backs, problems, failures, delays, triumphs, and unexpected surprises.

Lent is a time to remind us, like any pilgrimage we go on, that LIFE is a journey, too. Some days we will do well and others we won’t do so well. We will encounter sickness, injuries, and unexpected surprises along the way. We will encounter people that cheer us up or send us spiraling. We will do great things for the Lord and we will sin like we’ve never sinned before. We will ride high and we will crawl on the ground—and some days we won’t even be able to get out of bed. But life is a journey and we ALWAYS have the next day! We always have the love of the Lord for us! We always have His unending mercy!

So this Lent be not afraid to set your spiritual goals high, but do not get discouraged when you don’t always succeed. And if you are failing miserably by this coming Saturday, start over again on Sunday. Jesus has already done this journey and shown us the Way. All we need to do is pick-up our own crosses and follow Him.

Dear Jesus, give me the grace and desire to follow You more closely this Lent. Allow me to see this journey as a pilgrimage and example of my life’s journey. And when I fall, help me to get back up as You did, with my eyes ever on the prize. Amen.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feast or Famine?

“Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5: 8

 Lent is fast approaching. And to be honest with you, I have a love-hate relationship with this annual penitential season of the Church. I love it because I know I need it for I am still far too selfish, greedy, and prideful. But I hate it because it is hard—well it is hard if you follow what the Church teaches about it, do what She obligates us to do during it and maybe even go a little beyond the minimal expectations of it. So I have to begin mentally preparing myself for it a little ahead of time, which is probably why I am thinking about it today.

I need to get ready to fast. Not just from food and not just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No, I need to get ready to fast from noise and busyness. I try to slow down a bit in my life during Lent (if possible) and I try to spend more time in quiet listening to God speak to me.  I do this in a special way when driving in my car when I don’t turn on the radio or listen to my iPod. That’s right, no music, no sports talk, no games. Nothing. And sometimes for ministry I have to be in the car for hours driving from one retreat or another. But this is good for me.

I need to get ready to pray. Sure, I try to pray every day now, but in Lent I try to take it up a notch. I try to spend more time in prayer. I try to do the Stations of the Cross with my kids. I try to read my Bible more and with more reverence and focus, not just for my job or ministry, but to see what God is speaking to MY heart for ME. I try to engage more of my heart and mind at every Mass I attend.

I need to get ready to give alms. While my family tithes already, we try to eat more simply during Lent. No more eating out, less fancy meals at home. Less snacking, more sacrificing. And perhaps give more financially to others in need during this season; as a matter of justice, as a matter of faith.

What might God being calling you to do this Lenten season to prepare your hearts for the Paschal Triduum and for Easter? What will you fast from? How will you pray better? What alms shall you sacrifice?

At times the 40 days of Lent can seem like a famine in our lives, especially as we suffer through it while others do nothing different around us except perhaps enjoy a cheaper #9 value meal at McDonald’s (the filet-o-fish). But in this “famine” we find a spiritual banquet. And come Easter, we will have 50 days of “feasting”. A stark reminder of our lives: that when the days of our earthly lives come to an end, hopefully we will be worthy of the eternal feast of heaven. Not for 50 days, but forever!

Dear Jesus, please help to feast with You, to fast with You, to spend each and every moment with You in this life, so that I can spend eternity with You in the next life. Amen.