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Archive for January, 2014

Every Friday I go to daily mass at St. Brigid Catholic Church, and last Friday I was so blessed by Fr. Joshua Allen’s homily.  His homilies are always outstanding and inspirational, but this Friday his words really resonated in my heart.  “The key to happiness is to figure out God’s will, and then just do it!”  He went on to say that we may find many things interesting in life; possibly music, art, science, etc., but that these interests might not be where God is calling you.

As we all know, it can be a long, arduous process discerning God’s will, but as Fr. Josh advises “keep asking”! Spend time in prayer, get the counsel of close friends, get spiritual direction, and most of all, keep surrendering your will. Many years ago my husband and I owned a small, successful cafe.  We were only open breakfast and lunch, and closed Sundays and dinners, which allowed us to spend more time with our daughters as they were growing up.  But when they were in high school we decided to sell the cafe, and my husband went back to the corporate world.  We missed the benefits of inexpensive health insurance and paid vacations, and I was excited about my plan to open my first Catholic bookstore with two other wonderful ladies.

Of course we encountered problems, but since we had discerned with close friends that this was God’s will, we were blessed beyond measure.  Conversely, if God is calling you to a certain path, such as to become a priest or minister, and you instead choose to become a stockbroker, you will never experience true peace and happiness.  Sometimes you may discern God’s will, but you are afraid; if you become a minister or priest, you certainly won’t make as much money as a stockbroker.  I gave up my career as a legal secretary when my girls were in middle school so that I could help my husband in our cafe.  This also allowed me to spend more time with our girls.  We missed the money I used to make, but the time with the girls was priceless.  By owning his own business, my husband’s career in the corporate world was side-tracked, but the Sundays and evenings he was able to spend with our children was worth more than any position or amount of gold.

You may be afraid that if you follow God’s will you might miss out on the ‘good things’ in life; expensive cars, trips, vacations, etc.  And you may be right.  But as the parable of Jonah illustrates, you won’t be completely happy or fulfilled until you quit running away from God and fulfill the mission he has laid out for you. God instructed Jonah to go preach repentance to the city of Ninevah, a city known for its unbridled wickedness.  Jonah was terrified of the reaction of the inhabitants to his message, so he hightailed it to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, the opposite direction of Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break apart the ship. The terrified crew blamed Jonah for the storm, Photo: The fluke of a diving sperm whale and feeling guilty Jonah told them to throw him overboard. When the frightened sailors finally tossed him into the sea, the water immediately grew calm.  Jonah was immediately swallowed by a whale; inside the dank belly of the whale, Jonah repented and promised to complete the mission God had appointed to him.  When he delivered his message to the Ninevites, they immediately repented and changed their lives. (Jonah 2).

Nothing went right for Jonah until he quit “running away from God”; when he followed God’s will the results were abundant, with the entire town returning to God.  Many times we may discern God’s will, but we procrastinate, thinking we need to follow our own will first.  As Fr. Josh explained “We allow the things we want to do to take precedence over what God wants us to do.”

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Paul, and in the Liturgy of the Hours there was a reading from a homily by St. John Chrysostom.  “The most important thing of all to him (St. Paul), however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.”

By following God’s will, St. Paul was shipwrecked, stone, beaten, jailed, persecuted, and finally beheaded; but since he was in God’s will, he found the ‘key to happiness’.  But don’t be afraid; most of us won’t experience the same sufferings as St. Paul.  Instead, we may not make as much money, or we may suffer ridicule and scorn for our beliefs, or we might miss out on the ‘good life’.  But we will find deep, abiding happiness, which can only come from God.

Remember God’s assurance in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” So in the words of Fr. Josh “Don’t be afraid; He has a plan for your life, and it is better than anything you can come up with!”

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MCCatholic - Making Scripture Known

When You Were Under the Fig Tree

John 1:43-51

“Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathaniel said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

You can find some interesting sayings on the Internet:

If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple of payments.
Change is inevitable … except from vending machines.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
He who hesitates is probably right.
No one is listening until you make a mistake.
Two wrongs are only the beginning.
Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

I really like this last one:

If at first you don’t succeed…

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The world is sharply divided on ideological and political lines, with much contempt for the other side.  I am shocked and saddened by the vitriol, contempt and disdain I have witnessed simply because someone disagrees with another’s  viewpoint.  There are so many hot button issues which trigger deep-seated hatred, and unleashes an avalanche of invective and hostility.  Because my views are radical in today’s world of political correctness, I have been called old-fashioned, rigid, out of touch, hate-filled, racist, and deranged.  And these names came from other Christians.

The second greatest Commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), yet I see so much division, scorn and bitterness directed against other Christians. I have truly puzzled over the reason for so much venom, and over time have come to the conclusion that the answer is simple.  How can you love your neighbor, if you don’t love yourself?

Once I can love myself, including my imperfections, then I can love others and accept their faults.  The verse “Love is patient” in 1st Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known, but seldom followed scriptureWedding Bible Verses passages.  We hear it at weddings and it is bandied about so often we tend to tune it out “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

And we gloss over the first paragraph “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 

So you can be the most brilliant scientist in the world, or the most learned and educated theologian, or the most generous philanthropist, but if you hold contempt in your heart for those with differing views, then Donation Formyou are simply a ‘noisy gong’, and the most useless person in the eyes of God.

One of the last things my mother said to me as she lay dying was  “all that matters is to love one another”.  She was in a coma for several weeks, and I believe God was walking side by side with her, whispering his words into her heart.  Her words echo Jesus’ words in Mark 12 that if you can love your neighbor as yourself, “you are not far from the Kingdom of God”.  I would say the opposite is also true; if you DON’T love your neighbor as yourself, you are quite far from the Kingdom of God.

Imagine a figure 8; by loving our neighbor more, we come closer to God, and in return receive more love, healing and forgiveness for ourselves.  Before we can love our neighbor, we have to change our image of God and our perception of the view God has of us.  Take time and do a self-examination; do you get mad at yourself when you make mistakes?  Are you unhappy with the gifts and talents God has given you?  Are you unhappy with the body God has given you?  Are you contemptuous of those whose viewpoints are different than yours?  Do you have friends or family members that are difficult to love, who are arrogant, or overbearing, pretentious or pushy?  Perhaps they are crude and opinionated?

Many times we have been involved in useless discussions, and afterwards feel extremely frustrated because the ‘other’ person just won’t see the truth!  Pointless arguing disturbs your peace and leaves you feeling irritated and upset.  One way to gauge  the worthiness of a discussion is to determine whether it is possible to change the other’s opinion.  If not, why engage?  In Titus 3 we’re advised to “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile.”

I know I am a thorn in many people’s side; they get irritated or frustrated after fruitlessly trying to bring me to their point of view.  Years ago when my faith deepened, virtually every single one of my beliefs was turned upside down.  Now I test every doctrine in the light of tradition and scripture, so it isn’t likely I will go back to the beliefs I held previously in my ignorance.

We all have people in our life that are simply difficult to love, especially those who are ideologically polar opposites from us.  Yet our faith tells us we are to love people we find disagreeable, even repugnant.  But you can’t love the unlovable on your own strength.  Only through Christ’s grace can his love flow through you and touch others; only by gaining a deeper understanding of the intimate and tender love God has for you, can you share that love with others.

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Several weeks ago the devotional “The Word Among Us” had a beautiful meditation comparing our faith to a foundation on a building.  “When an architect draws up the plans for a new building, he or she must Construction of an industrial building foundation pit -calculate how deep to dig the foundation, based on the weight that the foundation must bear.”  It asked the question “do you feel your foundation is strong enough to bear the weight of the challenges you are currently facing?  If your foundation is Jesus, the answer is a resounding yes!”  That particular day I was facing some challenges, and was experiencing some anxiety.  So the question resonated in my soul, and I realized my foundation needed to be strengthened.

1st John 5:4 reminds us “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  The study notes reveal that our ‘secret weapon’ is acceptance of Jesus Christ as savior, and obedience to God’s Commandments.  This is the power source that overcomes addictions, greed, violence and lust. The evil one tries to deceive us and make us believe that our loved one will NEVER be healed, that our finances will NEVER improve, and that our problems will NEVER get better.  But when we read the Word of God, he reveals the truth that he CAN change any circumstance, and that in a heartbeat our problems CAN be solved.

At times we think we have a solid foundation, but suddenly cracks appear.  In concrete foundations, cracks can occur for a myriad of reasons.  Sometimes the concrete contains too much moisture, or the foundation is poured on poorly compacted or else frozen soil.  In our spiritual lives, the crack in our foundation could be one of unforgiveness; someone may have hurt you terribly, and the pain and resentment just festers.  Did someone disparage you behind your back?  Did someone cheat you or a family member?  We know Jesus calls us to forgive ‘seventy times seven’, not just once.  Remember that forgiving another doesn’t remove the consequences of the sin, but it frees you to surrender your anger and allow God to dispense judgment.

What if your crack is insecurity; your boss criticized your work, and now you doubt your abilities or skills.  Or perhaps you sometimes make silly, but important mistakes.  You blame yourself and think that you are the worst idiot, forgetting that God is omnipotent and nothing can happen without his knowledge or will.  Your crack could be self-reliance; if the sales for your business have tanked, and you just don’t know if you can survive another year, you may be experiencing severe anxiety.

If a foundation for a building has cracks, the cracks  have to be repaired; repairing cracks in concrete consists of filling them with fresh concrete.  So too the cracks in our faith have to be repaired.  Jesus fixes these cracks with infusions of the Holy Spirit and his grace; he fills the cracks of pride with patches of trust; he fills the cracks of simmering resentment with patches of love and mercy.

And of course the only way our foundation can be fixed, is by spending time daily in prayer and meditation.Praying_people : Christian human praying with rosary in hands  Unfortunately, most Christians struggle to maintain a committed, daily interval with God.  The article below “Ten Tips to Help Your Prayer Life” has great suggestions to improve your prayer life; first and foremost is to pick the same time every day, and consistently set aside this time for prayer.  This helps you stay disciplined and to be able to pray on a regular basis.

Related Articles:

The Word Among Us http://wau.org/meditations/current/

Cracks in our foundation http://rpwlm.tripod.com/id266.html

Ten Tips to Help Your Prayer Life
http://www.str.org/articles/ten-tips-to-help-your-prayer-life#.UtQmevslg6A

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