Monthly Archives: January 2014

Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

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Jesus has been baptized by John in the Jordan River; he has spent forty days in the desert, and now he is beginning his public ministry by choosing his apostles. It is important to notice that when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, they each left everything immediately and followed him. Why would ordinary fishermen drop what they were doing to follow a stranger? Were they religious men? What sort of disposition would they need to recognize Jesus as a man they should follow?

The Gospel of John shows Jesus choosing Andrew and Peter under different circumstances. John the Baptist has just said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” as Jesus walked by and Gospel continues, “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ’We have found the Messiah.’ Then he brought him to Jesus.” They were looking for the Messiah! They were Jews and their hope was in the promise of the coming of the Messiah. When they met Jesus, their lives were changed forever.

What is it that you hope for? What is the real desire of your heart? Is it in any way connected to your faith in God?

In article 1817 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states:

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

When we were baptized we received from God the theological gifts of faith, hope and charity as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have received from God everything we need to live a life close to Him, a life that will help us to reach our potential for happiness. This life close to God depends upon our response to His gifts. If we hope in God, He gives us the grace to recognize the ways that He comes to us throughout our lives so that we can follow Him, so that we can be His disciples.

Every baptized person is called and equipped to be a disciple. Whether we are fishermen or accountants, lawyers or ranchers, or any other profession – our first priority is to follow the Lord.

It doesn’t mean that everyone will have to leave everything, though some are called to do so. It does mean that we all must be faithful to the greatest commandment; we must love the Lord Our God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.

Through the ages men and women from every walk of life, from kings to servants, have been able to be faithful disciples. We now call them saints. We are also called to sainthood. After all, only saints occupy heaven.

To be a disciple is not a casual thing; it demands a real investment, a daily commitment to prayer and a desire to overcome sin by living the sacramental life. To be a disciple is to be willing to do things outside our comfort zone because we know God will give us the grace we need to do the things we need to do. It involves learning to trust God in all things, especially the mysteries of life that we all experience.

Perhaps you think it would be too difficult to be a disciple. It’s natural for us to want to do things our way. There is evidence of that all around. We can become impatient with God; maybe He isn’t efficient enough for us. When we pray for something we want Him to answer now, or at least in a few days. If God doesn’t answer our prayers right away, we can be tempted to look for help and answers in other places like astrology, fortune tellers or so called faith healers that guarantee quick results – or in any sin.

We cannot set the conditions that will determine how and when God will answer our prayers. Monica prayed for many years for the conversion of her son Augustine. Her prayers eventually bore fruit, and she became a saint in the process.

Prayer is first of all a trusting relationship with God in which we persevere because we believe in His goodness, promises and providence. His plan has been proven to be effective. Prayer leads us into a relationship with God that influences the choices we make, and the good news is, with God every moment has the possibility of being a new beginning because of His love and mercy. God makes everything possible. We can only be good disciples with the help of His grace, which He longs to give us.

What we need on our part is desire. If we have the desire, He will guide us in the right way through His Church. It will always be a challenge and maybe it will seem to be more than we can do, but that is how we learn to trust in Him.

We will never be fulfilled until we make God our priority and allow our faith to influence the decisions we make. St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you.” It is when we live and share our faith that we find rest in the Lord.

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How To Keep Your New Years Resolutions

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2014

With every new year comes the determination to improve ourselves. We want to be fit physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. Hope springs eternal as they say, but if we are honest with ourselves we have to ask, “I am the same me in January that I was in December, what will be different by just turning the calendar page?”  This honesty has inspired me over the last few years to just not bother with resolutions. Progress is necessary for our sanctification though, so this is not healthy either.

St. Catherine of Siena teaches that to progress we have to know ourselves. And thanks to a request from my mother, I have discovered the sure-fire way to not only know myself but to progress in all areas of my life. My mom is getting to the point she no longer wants to drive. She asked me to take her on her regular Wednesday errands and one of them is her hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the St. Gregory Catholic Church Adoration Chapel.

I decided during this hour to take advantage of a technique I heard once by a priest.  He said when we visit the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration we should humbly present ourselves to Him. He recommended no prayer books, spiritual reading or devotions. The way he said it was, “I sit before Jesus and I simply look at Him as He looks at me.”

The fruit of my visits with Jesus have been nothing less than astounding! All my long-held desires to improve have shown positive results:

  • My stress level is lower and I enjoy much calmer and peaceful days.
  • My distorted passions for food and drink have tempered.
  • My tendency to extremes (i.e. too much exercise or none at all)  have moderated.
  • Priorities have been put in proper order and projects completed within deadline.
  • My life-long issue with arriving late is being remedied.
  • I am enjoying increased understanding and clarity in what I read.
  • I experience more confidence in my relations with others and in my abilities.

So how does this act of Adoration help me to grow in self- knowledge and make improvements in my life?

I am sure there is some deep theological explanation for these profound consequences, but the best way I can explain what happens is that the One who created me, explains me to me and I grow in self-knowledge.

Progress happens because in offering my presence to Him, I am giving Jesus what He thirsts for  . . . . me, and because He cannot be outdone in generosity, He returns my small act of self-giving by fixing all that in me needs fixing.

If would like to take advantage of this guaranteed way to a better you but do not know where an Adoration Chapel is, then visit the website: therealpresence.org for a listing of churches and chapels that have Eucharistic Adoration.

Coming Up: Ordinary Time

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The Feast of the Epiphany was on Monday, which means we’re coming up to the end of the Christmas season and the first segment of Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar. The first segment is between now and Lent, the second segment is between Easter and next Advent.

By now, the turkey is probably all gone, and unfortunately the ham too. The Christmas presents are all unwrapped and stashed in their places on the shelf, toy bin, or cabinet. As people return to work and school the joy of the season is ramping down, but at least a trace of the (hopefully!) warm and joyful memories lingers as people settle into the cold remainder of winter.

Around this time, the magi are on their way back to their respective homelands, and the Holy Family is traveling to Egypt, as Joseph is warned in a dream that Herod’s men are seeking his child’s life.

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

After the dramatic contrast of waiting in the darkness of Advent, and then a sudden culmination as Jesus the Light shows up at Christmas, it may be time to sort of settle into the pew at Mass and enjoy the more placid change of pace. That’s natural and probably needed after all the preparation and celebration. We can’t be fasting or feasting in a major way all the time.

Even in their exile, which must have been quite dramatic, so much of it must have been relateable to our own experience of daily life: keeping an eye on each other, another eye on practical concerns, and another eye (figuratively speaking) on what we can do just to just to pass the time, making things more workable, endurable, enjoyable for ourselves and our families. I can imagine Mary stopping to consider trading her sturdy, reliable shawl for a nicer one, and asking Joseph’s opinion. Or Joseph offering to hold the baby for a while, to give Mary some much needed rest.

In the liturgical readings, it may seem odd that we jump from the Christ child sitting on Mary’s lap, to Jesus feeding five thousand followers as a man. We just got to know him (again) as a baby so to speak, and already he’s all grown up! But, of course, the scriptures don’t include much about the day-to-day lives of Mary burping the Christ child or Joseph teaching the infant Jesus how to hold a saw.

First, because all that’s in scripture is what’s necessary for our salvation, and second, because if we want, we can fill in the details from our own lives, in order to relate more thoroughly. And what’s necessary for us is follow Jesus, and to be fed. What’s necessary for us is to look to each other, and keep passing the loaves and fishes.

We still have a little more time with the child Jesus, liturgically speaking. Enjoy it! Draw close, and pray the simple prayer of St. Therese of the Child Jesus: “Draw me” – perhaps on the way to work, doing the dishes, or attending to another child in your family. Then, if you let him, he will.