Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy New Year's -

Happy New Year!!!!

A new year holds more fascination for me than the Christmas season. We wish those we meet a merry Christmas knowing full well that not everyone we meet will have a merry Christmas.

I spoke with a business acquaintance who shared that her sister had been shot by her husband who then took his own life. Her sister survived the attack. A co-worker lost his dad yesterday the funeral is Saturday. A friend related in a blog that some years ago her mother attempted suicide on Christmas Eve many years ago. She stated that the attempted suicide had stripped the tinsel off the Christmas tree for her.

Unfortunately I could go on relating stories that at the very least put a real damper on Christmas.

But the New Year is a bit different in that it has an element of hope. We can say without reservation Happy New Year. There is no pressure to come up with the perfect gift or traveling from place to place with little or no time to relax and spend quality time with family.

I must interject here that Christmas this year for me was wonderful for many reasons. I do have a problem with the commercialism of the season. But my Christmas is made special because I am married to my best friend. My children are healthy and happy and our daughter was home for Christmas. Having her here was a special treat that I will keep with me forever.

I have no idea what the New Year has in store for me and mine but I know and believe the following:

1. God loves me and I love him.
2. My wife will be there for me no matter what.
3. I am proud of my children.
4. My wife knows I love her more than life itself.
5. My children know I love them.
6. My dog reminds me to be loyal to my friends.
7. I don’t have a large number of friends but the friends I have are an inspiration.
8. Books are important to me.
9. Sickness and suffering are not necessarily bad they teach us to lean on others.
10. I would have enjoyed having lunch with John Paul II.
11. I see the future in the face of my grandson.
12. I have lived long enough to know the end is closer than it was.
13. Not knowing seems to be better than knowing.
14. Our faith has elements of mystery accept it.
15. One person can make a difference.
16. Getting old is getting old.
17. Wide eyed wonder does not have to disappear with age.
18. My parents in large part made me who I am and I miss them.
19. This past year went by to quickly.
20. I suspect this year will pass even quicker.

The list is not in order of importance. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on your past year.

I am not big on New Year resolutions but for those of you who are let me offer this advice.

Resolve to lose weight – Wonderful no gym membership required save your money. Simply stop eating so much and move around every now and than. Going to the fridge to get a snack is not exercise.

Resolve to break a bad habit – Well if you know it’s a bad habit than that ought to motivate you to stop _________ fill in the blank.

Resolve to - you name it – Most resolutions don’t last much past January 2nd.
Is it due to lack of will power or resolve? No failure has much more to do with unrealistic expectations. We resolve to lose 25 pounds in two weeks. Set a goal to lose 25 pounds in twelve months.

If you must make New Years resolutions. How about resolving to set realistic goals in your life, that will make 2008 your best year ever.

May God Bless You and Your Family. Happy New Year

Saturday, December 1, 2007


First Sunday of Advent
Matthew 24:37-44

Sunday marks the beginning of Advent and a new Church year. Advent provides an opportunity for reflection. Our focus centers on three areas, the birth of Christ, the second coming of Christ and discovering ways to invite Christ into our daily lives during Advent and through out the year.

We are familiar with the persons place and circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ. So familiar in fact that we may not see the benefit of reflecting on this wondrous event. But consider just a few topics that come to mind, Mary’s role in salvation history. Jesus is the son of God and son of Mary. The star, shepherds and wise men led to the stable. A king set on derailing God’s plan of salvation. The birth of Jesus provides a wealth of opportunity to reflect on how this single event has changed our lives.

Our scripture reading from the gospel of Matthew centers on the second coming of our Lord. Jesus used the days of Noah as a back drop to explain his return to earth. Advent encourages us to reflect on our spiritual readiness for the return of our lord. Are we ready if the Lord were to return today? The good news as long as there is life there is hope. If you find your spiritual life has gotten off track Advent offers a great opportunity to get back on track.

Inviting Christ into our daily lives sure sounds simple enough but trust me it’s not. The invite is easy enough but seeing Christ and finding ways and having the courage to let him control all aspects of our lives is not. Advent if we take the time to reflect can help us find the Lord in nature people and the events of every day life. Can you see him in the suffering of others? Is he visible to us in natural disasters? How about when we experience a job loss? Seems easy to see Christ in the good times of our lives. Consider this Jesus suffered should we expect less? I think not. We need to see Christ in all things. What better way to spiritually train than spending time during Advent reflecting on the birth and seconding coming of the Lord and making room for him in our lives.

Remember there was no room for him in the Inn the Savior of the world was born in a stable. Are we guilty of not making room for Jesus? The liturgical year provides us with the method and means to celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons to the benefit of our souls.
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent a new beginning a fresh start, make a commitment to attend mass each Sunday throughout Advent. Make time to reflect on the true meaning of the season. God will honor your commitment and you will experience the Lord’s presence in a fuller way.

Have a blessed Advent

Friday, November 30, 2007

Merry Christmas

This That and the Other…….

Ringing the Bell for Pizza

I am not a pizza fan but on occasion I pick up a pie on my way home so I don’t have to go out to eat. Well tonight I stopped at a local pizza place no names but it starts with D and ends in O. I parked and walked to the front door to pick up my pizza and found the door locked. They were busy taking orders and putting pizza in boxes. There was no instruction on the door no clue as to what I needed to do to get in. I found a key pad but no secret code. I knocked and then saw a button on the key pad that said bell, now we are getting some where. I rang the bell nothing happened. I rang again and finally someone pushed a button and I gained entry.

To be honest while I was locked out it crossed my mind to let them keep their pizza. It actually crossed my mind several times. But hey it’s the season to be jolly not going to let a lock ruin my day. But what has the world come to when a place of business must keep the door locked. I could understand if we were talking about jewelry store. But a pizza joint give me a break. What do they think will happen? If someone was going to rob the place if they are smart they will hide the gun and ring the bell. Hey maybe they will take some pepperoni hostage.

Bah Humbug

Well maybe not this year. I have resolved to have a Merry Christmas. In an earlier blog I indicated that my problem with Christmas was the commercialization of the holiday. Well I am sure you have noticed that retailers have not in unison put Christ front and center this season. So what has changed? Quite simply I have. I cannot turn the tide of commercialism but I choose to participate in a limited way. I will spend time with family and friends. Attend mass and do my best to put Christ first during Advent and through out the year.

I have purchased my wife’s gift and she has made travel arrangements for our daughter to celebrate Christmas with us this year. Our oldest son will be home our youngest son will not be with us but we will get together by phone. First and foremost our grandson will celebrate his third Christmas. And you can’t imagine how much fun it is to watch him open his gifts. You can bet he is no scrooge. And he has reached the age where he knows what Christmas is about from a child’s perspective. Imagination is a wonderful gift.

I cannot control what others choose to do but I can make my holiday what I believe it should be. So if I choose I can have a Merry Christmas. I know the pressures placed on parents this time of year to provide for their children. The hustle and bustle in and of itself will ruin a holiday in a heart beat.

It is my prayer for myself and for you that this year Christmas will be a peaceful joy filled season. And may you be surrounded by the love of Christ and those dear to you.

Merry Christmas one and All

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wondering about heaven - Thirty Second Sunday Ordinary Time

Thirty Second Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 20:27, 34-38

Wondering about Heaven

The Sadducees a religious sect in Jesus day did not believe in the resurrection. They came to Jesus and proposed a scenario followed by a question. The scenario and question were an attempt to discredit Jesus teaching about the resurrection and life after death.

The scenario is about a young childless widow. Following her husbands death she is given to her husband’s brother in marriage as prescribed by law to provide descendants for her husband. The first brother also dies as well as the second third until all the brothers were dead leaving a childless widow. The wife also dies. The question proposed, following the resurrection whose wife will she be?

Jesus response affirms his teaching of a bodily resurrection and provides insight about what heaven will be like.

1. There will be no marriage in heaven.

Why, because there is no death in heaven. There are many benefits to marriage two of which I want to mention here. The first is children. Children ensured the continuing of the human race. Secondly marriage produces a bond between a husband and wife that does not exist outside the marriage bond. Sex outside of marriage reduces the sex act to one of passion and lust. No bond exists and a mockery of made of the marriage bond.

2. God is the God of the living not the dead

We live on through out all eternity. This is our hope. The apostle Paul said we sorrow not as others who have no hope. God is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. They are physically dead and yet live awaiting the resurrection.

3. Heaven is not an extension of this life

The Sadducees painted a picture of life after death much like this life. Who will her husband be?

We have a tendency to do the same. Heaven is much like this life only better. No death, taxes, tears or pain. All of which are true. But we carry the idea a bit further saying that golfers will play golf. Fisherman will fish and numerous other activities are noted that loved ones enjoyed in this life and will enjoy in heaven. These thoughts bring comfort during a difficult time but have no basis in scripture.

4. We are equal to angels

Angels are immortal and we like them will experience immortality. I don’t have a clue about what type of body we will have in heaven. Wings or no wings take your pick.

5. We are sons and daughters of God

We have the opportunity to have a relationship with God on earth by accepting his gift of salvation. We have a relationship with God in heaven. We fall asleep in death and awake in the presence of God. Quick note here Vatican II did not set aside the Churches teaching on purgatory.

Heaven is not about what we do but who we are. Heaven is about relationship. We experience a relationship with God on earth and that relationship carries on in heaven.

No relationship with God on earth, none in heaven. This life is about preparing for eternity. Are you getting ready for heaven?

Heaven is about experiencing God in a way not possible in this life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Santa Is Already in town!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

I am probably the only person concerned with Santa’s early arrival. I don’t have an issue with Saint Nick but it seems Santa arrives earlier each year. A local mall is proudly announcing Santa’s arrival on November 10th.

You have got to be kidding me. Maybe we should celebrate Christmas on the fourth of July. I think combining these two holidays could be a boost to both days. Not much patriotism these days and Christmas is not what it used to be. It’s no longer the celebration of the birth of Christ. Celebrating the savior’s birth is no longer politically correct. In stead of merry Christmas and happy New Year it’s happy holidays. Happy holidays give me a break.

Well we must be considerate of others beliefs and be careful not to offend. I wondered today if anyone was even slightly concerned with my feelings or faith. The answer is no.

I have never been called and asked by a TV pollster what programs I watch on a regular basis. Or which programs I think should be cancelled. I have never been questioned about my political views. And I have never been asked if I have been offended by the fact that Christmas has been reduced to happy holidays.

Well you bet I am offended, and tired of the birth of the Lord being used to set the cash registers humming for a commercial holiday. No religious symbols in schools, no merry Christmas.

And sad to say we Christians have done very little to stem the tide of political correctness. We are guilty of saying happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

So where do we go from hear. Well may I suggest we start by putting Christ back in Christmas? Celebrate advent preparing for the coming of the Lord. Teach your children the true meaning of Christmas. Santa has his place, but keep in mind Santa cannot forgive sin. Santa brings gifts but the gift of eternal life is not in his bag.

My prayer for all this Christmas is that we find the peace joy and love only Christ can bring.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Card Carrying Curmudgeon

Webster’s defines a curmudgeon as a crusty ill tempered and usually old man.

A co-worker called me a curmudgeon can you believe it? She was kidding of course; honest she said she was kidding. By definition I am not guilty. Well ok I can be crusty and I guess ill tempered at times but I am not and old man.

Those that know me would say if you look up curmudgeon in the dictionary you would find my picture. And if I am honest I am guilty as charged from time to time.

That begs the question have you wondered how others see you? Many will stop here and proclaim I don’t care what people think of me or how they see me. Yes you do and the more you protest that you don’t care are signs that you really do.

We all want to be loved and accepted by others. We seek approval and praise for a job well done. Yes even an old curmudgeon needs a hug now and then.

I have another question: From a Christian perspective should we be concerned about how people see us? The answer of course is YES.

As Christians we are to be Christ like. We are to be a reflection of Jesus to others. When people see us do they see the Lord? Of course this reflection of Christ filters through our personality and we are who we are projecting an image of Christ.

Please note that I am not talking about physical appearance, way too much emphasis is placed on our outward appearance. My father in law used to say if the barn needs painting paint it. Looking your best is one thing obsession is another.

Do you live your life mindful of the fact that you are a Christian? Can others see Jesus in you?

As for me I am striving and at times struggling to be a light in this dark world. At times I maybe a curmudgeon but my goal is to be a Christian and a reflection of Christ 24-7.

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Case in point Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas has a book on the best sellers list “My Grandfather’s Son. I have not read the book but I have seen two interviews on television and listened as Justice Thomas spoke about his upbringing in Savannah Georgia, his education and his confirmation hearings.

To this point Thomas has suffered in silence, the book opens the door to the heart and mind of this witty, intelligent man who paid a huge price for a chance to be all he could be.

Thomas indicated in one interview two reasons for the Anita Hill accusations. First they were an attempt to keep him in his place and second his confirmation might tip the court to set aside Roe v Wade and abortion would no longer be the law of the land.

After all these years Justice Thomas is still a polarizing figure. Those that opposed his confirmation still do, the black community has issues with his stance on affirmative action.

The interviews were of course designed to promote the book. But they opened the door for the first time to the mind set of Justice Thomas.

My first thought was this guy is still hurting after all these years. He suffered the injustices of Jim Crow laws. His degree from Yale in his mind is tainted his words not mine. I believe he said his law degree resides in the basement.

His confirmation hearings which he said were an electronic lynching were staged to keep him off the highest court in the land. According to Thomas the underlying issue was abortion. Many feared he might tip the balance of the court and over turn Roe v Wade.

Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back Thomas had to face the issues anew to write a book about his journey from humble beginnings to Supreme Court Justice.

Just a couple thoughts about what we may learn from the interviews and the book.
When we are hurt by others the effects can be life long.

Injustices aimed in our direction are not always seen for what they really are.

Defending ourselves is not always successful.

We cannot rely on others to determine our happiness or final destination.

One person can make a difference.

There is nothing a determined individual cannot accomplish if given an opportunity.

Well I am off to read Thomas book, Stay Tuned.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ghost Walk - - - - -

A Ghost Walk on St. Simons Island

My wife and I returned home yesterday from a wonderful vacation on St. Simons Island Georgia. Come to think about it all my vacations have been wonderful with only a couple of exceptions. The first exception was a trip to Graceland (Our daughters idea) it was memorable I don’t think I will ever forget the green shag carpet in the jungle room.

The second exception was a trip to Washington DC with our children in tow. I know it’s a great place for kids but not my kids. They all had moments they seemed to understand where we were and why we were there. But for the most part they were miserable and guess what I was not happy. Go figure.

Our children are grown so my wife and I have discovered we vacation very well on our own. Last week while on vacation our daughter joined us for a few days, yes she crashed our vacation. But I must confess her presence made a great vacation even better.

It was her first time visiting St. Simons and it was great as she discovered all the things we love about the island. Since it was her first trip we pondered doing tourist stuff. I work at not being a tourist; we have been visiting the island a couple times a year for over twenty years. But to some locals you are forever a tourist.

We settled on a ghost walk. Saturday night 9:00 PM we gathered at the pier with several other tourists and set out to learn about the spirits that haunt the island.

The first and most memorable stop was the lighthouse. It seems all lighthouses are haunted. Go figure. The story told by the local spirit guide informed us of a murder and the spirit of the keeper who still walks the stairs to tend the light.

Well the spirit named Fredrick did not appear. I was not disappointed though some in the group seemed to be. I don’t know what they expected given the price of admission. Besides if Fredrick had shown up I think those longing for him to appear would have disappeared quicker than he appeared.

I wondered as we walked what place ghosts and spirits have in our world? Yea boy I can really ruin a good ghost walk. I believe in the communion of Saints, but I have a problem believing anyone in heaven would long to return to this life. The answer is they would not return even if they could. St. Simons is a great place but heaven it’s not. But spending time with my wife on a beautiful island is pretty close.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Life's Storms - there is hope

Hope in the midst of a Storm

Luke 6:17, 20-26

Barak Obama Democrat running for president has written a book titled “Audacity of Hope”.

Apostle Paul admonishes us to “Sorrow not as others who have no hope”.

I meet and talk with people on a daily bases that are on the verge of hopelessness. The storms of life are numerous seemly unrelenting and hope of relief is waning. Where are we to turn how are we to respond when the storms come?

Psalm 1: 1-4 says in part is - Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in the flesh. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose hope is in the Lord.

Notice the contrast one man is cursed while the other is blessed. As Christians our hope during the storm is not found in our strength but our hope is in the lord.

Luke 6: 17, 20-26 say blessed are the poor, hungry, those who weep. Or we might say hopeful are the poor, hopeful are the hungry, hopeful are those who weep.

Many times people expect bad things to happen to them. And our life experiences have taught us that some times the storms of life do come. The scripture tells us it rains on the just and the unjust. But God uses all things as an opportunity to bless us. We must learn to face difficulties which arise in our lives from a position of faith and trust in the Lord.

So how are we to respond when you face the storms of life?

1. Don’t Announce the Coming Storm

Don’t expect to be devastated by the storm. Don’t let the storm be the defining moment of your life. Jews that survived the Holocaust have been an inspiration for me. They suffered atrocities my mind cannot fathom and yet they did not allow the storm to destroy their remaining days.

The disciples find themselves in the midst of a storm. Mark 4: 35-41 tells us how they responded. They were fisherman by trade and this was not their first storm or their last. So they did what they knew how to do. They rowed for shore bailed water and did the things they learned from previous storms to reach a safe harbor. When the storm comes respond based on past storms.

2. Don’t let your Faith of Yesterday determine the out come of today’s storm

Past failures of faith arise when we responded in our own strength and can ruin our tomorrow. We all stumble and fall from time to time it is part of the human condition. We also seem to enjoy living in the past and respond to a storm today with the faith of yesterday.

The disciples called upon the Lord. They had expectations they saw storm as a man power problem. They thought Jesus would help them row or bail water he would provide the additional man power to get them to shore.

We are guilty of calling upon the Lord and having expectations as to how Jesus needs to respond to our request.

Jesus answered the disciple’s prayer but not in the manner they expected. He did not row or bail water he did not help raise or lower the sail. He simply said peace be still. When Jesus answers our prayers he always exceeds our expectations.

3. Don’t be impatient wait upon the Lord

God does not have a watch and he has no time table. We must have faith and allow God to bring us through the storms of life in his time.

4. Pray

The disciples called upon the Lord and he answered their prayer. During the storms of life we must pray. We must pray even though it seems hopeless. Jesus said I will never leave you or forsake you. Keep in mind we are never alone. I am Alright Jesus is with me.

When you see storms on the horizon follow these four steps:

Don’t announce storm

Don’t let our faith of yesterday determine the out come of today’s storm



The same Jesus who calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee will stand in the midst of your storm and you will hear his words by faith

Peace Be Still

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Spiritual Direction

When you come to a fork in the road take it.
Yogi Berra

As a former Baptist minister the OCIA process provided much needed information about the teachings of the Catholic Church. The initiation process along with practicing my faith as a Catholic Christian for five years led me to accept the call to the diaconate program.

During formation I was confronted with doctrines and dogmas and numerous other concepts that were foreign to me. Not the least of which was spiritual direction. As a Baptist pastor I counseled numerous parishioners experiencing a crisis of faith or a marriage issue. These sessions were not identified as spiritual direction but were simply part of the job.

Entering the diaconate formation program I learned that part of the program included having a deacon mentor and a spiritual director. The deacon mentor is to assist candidates as they move through the program. The mentor knows the ropes and is available to answer any questions and address concerns as they arise.

The spiritual director assists in evaluating the spiritual progress of the candidate. Monthly meetings are required and evaluation reports are submitted to the director of formation.

The concept of spiritual direction was foreign to me and being the counseled and not the counselor was quite disconcerting. I had been the spiritual director for others as well as myself. So adjusting to monthly meetings with my spiritual director was quite a challenge.

I met with my deacon mentor quarterly for five years. I met with my spiritual director monthly, well that was the plan but let’s just say I had to explain on several occasions why my report was incomplete.

Well this does not sound like a rousing recommendation for spiritual direction but let me explain. My background and training made it difficult to get a handle on spiritual direction. I had two spiritual directors over the five year period. I had no frame of reference as to what spiritual direction was and how to get the most out of the sessions. Time and an understanding director helped me to find the purpose of spiritual direction.

So with all that being said I believe having a spiritual director is a tool we can use to make the most of our spiritual journey. The choice of director and frequency of sessions are up to you.

I believe that many Christians don’t utilize the wisdom of a spiritual director for many reasons the foremost being they have no idea what spiritual direction is.

The following article: "What is Spiritual Direction" is found on a website titled Catholic Spiritual Direction. There have been several different types or models of spiritual direction throughout the centuries. Some of us, especially those of us who have read the lives of the saints, have various ideas of what spiritual direction has entailed in the past. There have been relationships of spiritual guidance similar to father/son, teacher/student, master/servant, and confessor/penitent (such as is still common when spiritual advice is given in the confessional). There were also examples in the lives of the saints of spiritual friendships.
Modern spiritual direction most often refers to a relationship which is more like spiritual companionship or friendship where the director is present as a spiritual friend who listens with the intent of helping the directed recognize how the Holy Spirit is leading and working in one's life. The emphasis is on helping the directed develop a good prayer life and relationship with God. The director does not tell the directed what to do in a way that requires obedience. The directed has the final decision as to what to do in her spiritual life. Questions are asked to get to know the directed, her present life circumstances and spiritual life.
The goal is to help the directed to discern how the Holy Spirit is personally leading, recognizing that God has a special and distinct plan for each person's life and everyone is not called exactly the same way. In this sense, there are no better or worse callings or vocations, as the best calling for an individual is God's plan for that person in particular no matter what it might be. Like scripture says, there are many members of the body and all are good and necessary. The idea is to determine and encourage the directed to be the unique person that God made them to be, doing the things that God is personally asking of each of us.
While God has a unique calling and plan for each person and gives individuals different talents, gifts and vocations (and trials and sufferings) as just described, there is also the recognition that God has certain standards and principles that apply to everyone. Jesus gave us a way to know these truths when He founded the Catholic Church to spread his message. Jesus told the apostles, "Whoever hears you, hears me." This still applies today to the pope (and bishops) who are direct successors of the early apostles through the laying on of hands throughout the centuries. He promised to remain with the Church until the end of time and to send the Holy Spirit to lead until all truth. He gave us the Bible which is the inerrant Word of God. He also gave us various saints to teach us how to be closer to God especially saints who have been spiritual directors themselves such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
Besides utilizing the teachings of the Church, Bible and Saints for guidance on general principles, there is another dynamic that sometimes happens in meeting with a personal spiritual director. When the director and directed have the intention of prayerfully coming together in God's presence to discern the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is not only the two people joining together, but Jesus himself there with them. As Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Homily: Twenty Forth Sunday Ordinary Time

Homily: Twenty Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 15:1-10

A lost Sheep a lost Coin a lost Soul

The longer gospel reading includes the parable of the prodigal son.

I have chosen to focus our attention on the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

Tax collectors and sinners draw near to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and Scribes began to complain. This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Note the lack of respect the religious leaders of the day showed Jesus. This man welcomes sinners. This man indeed this man by his death will bring about redemption for all who see him as the savior.

Why would they complain? They were jealous of his influence. The Pharisees and Scribes offered nothing to the sinners the marginalized and the lost. Jesus on the other hand offered a message of hope and love.

Jealousy can over take Christians. They don’t accept the fact that a sinner can become a saint. The church offers a program for Catholics who have fallen away from the church. The program is called Returning Home. Classes are presented and participants are encouraged to discuss the reasons they left the church. In many cases healing of old wounds allow our brothers sisters to return the Church and the sacraments.

I have heard from Catholics that resent the fact that they have been faithful all these years and someone who has been away from the Church for years can take a few classes and all is forgiven.

Today’s gospel and programs like Returning Home are not saying Jesus will not honor our faithfulness. He is emphasizing the joy of conversion. The lost sheep is found the lost coin also is found and the prodigal son returns home.

The Shepard who seeks out the lost sheep is Christ. The second Vatican council applies these verses to priests and how they should approach their pastoral work. They are to seek out and assist believers and non believers, Catholics and non Catholics. Assisting Catholics who have given up the practice of the sacraments. This task is not left to the priests alone. As believers we must share our times talents and treasure to promote the coming kingdom.

The lost coin was probably a drachma a days wages for a farmer. A day’s wages is worth getting out the broom and lighting the lamp and sweeping the house. Is not a soul worth more than a day’s wages?

Have you lost your way? Good news God is looking for you.

Do you have an impediment keeping you from receiving the sacraments? Make a commitment today to do what ever is necessary to remove the impediment and begin again receiving the sacraments.

Have you fallen into sin? God is waiting patiently for your return.

The sheep and coin and a son were all found and the angels rejoiced.

When we make a conscience decision to follow God it makes an angel smile.

Have you made an angel smile today?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Will work for food - - - - -

Will Work for Food

It is hard to interest those who have everything in those who have nothing. Helen Keller

I am guilty of not seeing Jesus in those who stand on the side of the road holding signs saying they will work for food.

I can justify this position by touting to all who will listen that these folks have no interest in working for food or any thing else. Articles have been written about this cottage industry as to how much money the “will work for food” crowd make in a day. I don’t have the exact figures but the amount is more than I make in a day working eight hours and commuting three.

Well that being said I don’t feel any better. Thomas Merton said writing is prayer. So this is another attempt to pray for the homeless.

This issue comes to the surface of my life from time to time and I am forced to focus on those in our society who have to struggle to survive. I have a difficult time understanding how so many have so little in the country. Do they not have opportunities to climb the ladder? Did they miss the educational train? What happened to them that was not my experience?

In my case family made the difference in my being who and where I am. Education was a must and I was to do my best. My parents both worked and set the example for me, graduate from high school and go to college or work. No sitting at home while my parents worked. I went to seminary and graduated with a bachelor of divinity degree and was pastor of a church at the ripe old age of twenty two.

The key to my struggle with this issue is self sufficiency. I know this because it has been pointed out to me on several occasions by my spiritual director and a monk in a local monastery.

They offered advice and suggestions as to how I might find understanding that self sufficiency is folly. All I have comes from God and his grace in my life. I was challenged to use my rosary to count my blessings. But all of the counseling leads to more questions.

If all I have comes from God is God not interested in the plight of the poor? I know God loves and is concerned for all people. Why am I so blessed and others struggle for their next meal? Jesus said the poor you have with you always. So where and what are we to do with regard to the poor. More specifically what am I to do with the poor?

The key is not to focus on how they wound up where they are. Lack of family support may have contributed to their plight. Maybe adequate education was out of reach. Perhaps they were raised in poverty that has engulfed several generations.

Finding a man in a pond surrounded by alligators we can discuss with this poor creature how and why he is in the pond or we can get a boat and get him out.

You see I really do have an understanding of the issue but to discuss the totality of the issue is not possible here, my struggle is moving from understanding to action. Moving from the head to the heart is a constant struggle.

I have in the past given money to those who requested assistance. But I must be on guard my attitude can ruin a good deed. Money given a dollar at a time is not a sufficient long term answer to the problem but I don’t have the method or means to provide a long term solution. So I am left to determine the best short term response.

I utilize the resources such as Saint Vincent de Paul and local charities and governmental resources but those agencies leave me feeling empty because I find myself at arms length and detached from the process of caring for the needy.

So I have decided a change of attitude is in order. No matter my response or the method if I give begrudgingly it’s in vain. So I will sharpen my vision and give assistance as God makes it available one person as a time.

Please remember me in your prayers as I struggle to see Jesus in the poor and not be judgmental.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Discipleship - Twenty third Sunday Ordinary Time

Homily: Twenty Third Sunday Ordinary Time

Luke 14:25-33

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother wife and children brothers and sisters and even his own life he cannot be my disciple.

The Cost of Discipleship

This theme has pervaded the recent readings. We were encouraged to light our lamps and be prepared for the bridegrooms coming. Jesus statement I have come to set the earth on fire and do not think I have come to establish peace on earth, no but rather division. Gave us pause as we wondered what happened to love peace and joy. Next we were told to strive to enter through the narrow gate. Finally we are instructed to be disciples whose service is marked by humility.

Are we to interpret Jesus words literally? Am I to hate my family and my own life to be qualified to be a disciple of Christ?

Jesus used two examples to illustrate the cost of discipleship.

The building of a tower

The builder before beginning construction counts the costs of building the structure. By counting the cost he eliminates the possibility of running out of funds before the tower is finished.

The king going into battle

The king evaluates his troops and determines the strength of his enemy. If he determines his enemy is stronger he negotiates a peace treaty.

So the question we must answer, What am I willing to pay to be a disciple of Christ?

The answer based on the readings of the last several weeks is EVERYTHING

It is clear from the teachings of our Lord that we cannot be a part time casual disciple of Christ. We must choose Jesus over everything. We must be willing to accept suffering in his name. After all Jesus set the example by leaving his family and giving his all for love of the Father and you and I. His suffering puts any suffering I experience in perspective.

We cannot allow anything to prevent us from being faithful Disciples of Christ. Family and our own lives must not come between us and Jesus. What ever the cost it is not to high Jesus demands our all not a portion of our lives.

Like the builder and the king we count the cost and say yes to Jesus. In light of the gospel everything else is secondary.

We must set priorities. A deacon brother of mine is a huge Michigan football fan. During our formation if Michigan lost a game he would be in a funk for days. Saturday Michigan lost to Appalachian State. I sent him an email wondering if he was in mourning. He responded that since ordination college football though enjoyable was not a consuming activity.

Properly set priorities, counting the cost brings us to the place where we choose serving Jesus over all else. We must count the cost not only for ourselves but for those we serve. If we fail to be of service there is no one else to take our place.

The things of this world family and friends work children and any number of things pull us in many different directions. The cost must be counted and then we must understand that no matter the cost we must follow Christ.

Christ gave his all for us how can we give him less than our all?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sex - What does God have to do with it?

The Survey says ….. Part II

Part one the survey says was posted in August of this year. The sex survey completed by researchers at the University of Texas sought to determine why people have sex. The number one reason was because they were physically attracted to each other. The last reason people indicated they had sex was to get closer to God.

September marks the beginning of OCIA classes as well as adult education classes in many parishes. OCIA classes are offered to non Catholics who are searching and inquiring into the teachings and practices of the Catholic faith.

At some point during the inquiry process I present the Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. Marriage is a union between a man and women. This union is developed and enriched through sexual intercourse. In addition sexual intercourse provides the opportunity for the sexual union to provide for the birth of children.

The understanding that only married people are to engage in sex is met with approval if you are discussing teenagers having sex. Adults and parents have no problem saying amen to this teaching. When I tell them that if you are not married you are to abstain from sexual activity no matter your age or station in life they look at me and say you’re kidding? I am fifty years old and you are telling me I can’t have sex?

God has not provided a set of rules and regulations to keep us from enjoying sex. But sex outside marriage is not what is best for us. And God knows and wants what is best for us.

Teens and preteens having sex lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition children engaging in sex are not emotionally prepared for a relationship that includes sexual intercourse or the consequences that follow.

Adults in class will occasionally try to convince me that they unlike teens are old enough and emotionally mature enough to engage in sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage.

The sex survey indicates that nothing can be farther from the truth. We have sex because we are attracted to each other. It has been my experience that physical attraction outside the commitment that comes with the marriage bond is fickle. If you are introduced to an individual and discover you are more attracted to them than the one you are currently dating guess what it’s time for a change.

A recent survey indicated that women who date men they found through internet dating services are engaging in sex on the first date about twenty five percent of the time. The survey also indicated the women were engaging in unprotected sex. I can’t believe adults in this day and time participating in such risky activity. So needless to say the argument that mature adults should be allowed to engage in sex outside marriage won’t hold water.

The consequences of such behavior are obvious. The divorce rate is fifty percent. Why? Physical attraction cannot sustain the relationship through the hard times. Children are born into unstable families. Many are raised in single parent homes. Many single parents accept the consequences of their actions and do what is necessary to provide for their child. We need to remember these parents in our prayers. Others it seems are more concerned with what they consider to be best for them. They do not acknowledge responsibility for their acts and continue in a life style which tends to see history repeat itself. We need to remember these men women and children in our prayers. May God’s presence in their life be made know to them and may they be led to spiritual conversion. Lives lived apart from God are not the best choice. As Christians we are called to share the good news with the world so all may know the love of God.

God knows what is best for us, I see this demonstrated each day. The churches teachings are at times not easy to accept. But accepting them can keep us from the pain and heartache we experience when we focus on self.

The survey said the very last reason people have sex is to get closer to God. God being in last place, is it any wonder we have relegated having sex to simple physical attraction.

SEX: Anywhere, with any one, any time can only lead to trouble.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Monks find common ground in prayer

Monks find Common Ground in Prayer

The Trappist monks who reside at the monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers Georgia hosted Tibetan Buddhist monks. The monks offered prayers of thanks giving and fellowship.

The following article appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution news paper. The monks focused on what they share in common a life of prayer. Prayer is a wonderful example for a world that seems to focus on our differences.

At first, the stillness amplified the differences between the monks' prayers.
Soft and light as a whisper, the chants of the Trappist monks crept along the soaring concrete walls of the church. Each note seemed muffled by the thick, moist air at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers.
Later, when the Tibetan Buddhist monks began their own sacred song, each tone and vibration seemed to beat back the gray of a rainy Wednesday afternoon. Guttural and bold, each note charged forward and seemed to linger long after the red-robed monks were done.
Yet each group of monks, in its own way, was offering the same thing; a prayer of thanks and fellowship .
It was a mission of fellowship that brought the Tibetan and Catholic monks together. For two years the Tibetan monks have crisscrossed the U.S. and Canada as emissaries of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan culture and to support their monastery in India.
Their Indian place of refuge has a partnership with Emory University, which serves as home base for the monks when they are not on the road. Because of a decades-long relationship between the order of the Catholic Trappist monks and the Dalai Lama, it was only fitting that the Tibetan monks spent an evening at the Conyers monastery.
Despite cultural and language differences, the gesture of ritual united them. Bodies bowed in prayer. All eyes closed tightly in silent reflection. At supper, smiles and nods were exchanged over steaming plates of roasted squash and vegetables.
"The emphasis is what we have in common on a deep level, and that is compassion," said Brother Elias of Holy Spirit. "Today is an era of contention and people are so judgmental. Not to sound New Agey, but it's us joining together to bring positive energy to the world."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Michael Vick - the dogs have had their day

Well I Guess the Dogs have had their Day

I have made an effort to distance myself from the Michael Vick mess. But I can’t help myself. It is not a matter of Mike being an easy target and it’s time for me two pile on. I am addressing this issue for two reasons.

I live in Atlanta and can’t get away from constant conversation in the news or around the water cooler at work.

We truly do love a train wreck and Mike has plenty of company. The young Hollywood teen idols absorbed with themselves, going all out to experience pleasure at any cost. Older Hollywood types on entertainment tonight consumed with or just getting over an addiction. One guy who seemed to have it all tried to commit suicide and thankfully failed.

Mike Vick is not alone but that in no way excuses what he has done. The financial cost of his offence is staggering. The enormity of his crime has polarized the city of Atlanta. Sadly his actions to a degree go along racial lines. Some suggest dog fighting is cultural in nature. No matter how you wrap this package it is a crime that people can’t fathom. Mike training dogs to kill, and some how finding entertainment in watching one dog kill another. On top of that the dogs that failed to perform well were put to death. Defenseless creatures dying at the hands of their guardians.

Many are calling for forgiveness for Mike. Some want the harshest penalty possible. I am not passing judgment here it’s not my place. But I am glad the dogs will have their day when Mike Vick faces a judge.

The second reason I was compelled to speak my peace on this subject is the tarnished hero Mike has become to many children. Boys who proudly wore a replica number 7 jersey. Boys who now must try to understand how their hero could possibly be involved in dog fighting. Our sinfulness has a far reaching effect on others.

I wonder and I suppose many of you do to what in the world is going on? We seem to be confronted on every hand with evil. Well that is because we are or are we? I do not think sin is more prevalent but the reporting of sin and evil is constant. The news can be seen 24/7 we have folks with cell phones that have capabilities our grandparents never imagined. Don’t get me wrong there is enough sin to go around and enough people to participate in yes even dog fighting.

As Christians we have much to do to stem the tidal wave of sin. Be the Christians we say we are. Preach the gospel by our living and striving for holiness. Stand up for what is decent and leading others to the peace Jesus promised his follows in a sinful world.

I have no clue as to the sentence the judge will impose on Mike Vick. Many in the news recently have gotten of very light. There is a judgement day coming when God will impose his sentence which will be in accordance to his law.

The dogs will have their day in the Vick case and rest assured God will have his day.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Preparing to preach - A Homily is born

A Homily is Born Mark 10:46-52

Have you ever wondered how a homily is prepared? I of course can only speak for myself and my homily preparation practices. I am opening this door in hopes it will provide some insight into the preparation required to preach God’s word.

My homily preparation usually follows a well worn path. I begin by reading the first and second readings and noting themes found in both readings. I generally look for words that tie the readings together.

The second step is to read the Psalm and see if it pairs well with the other readings. I make notes here as well.

The third step is to read the readings and psalm together. I leave the homily process at this point and return the next day to continue.

The homily prep continues with the reading of the gospel. I take quick notes as thoughts jump out at me. I read the gospel several times and continue to jot down the themes and thoughts that come to mind.

All my notes are reviewed and a strong sense of a common theme emerges the theme is divided into an outline. The outline is used to compile bullet points that are used to preach the homily.

The process is quite simple but much prayer is required to effectively preach the word of God.

The following homily was prepared and preached by me at my home parish.

A Blind Beggar has a Vision

I want to point out two spiritual lessons found in our gospel reading featuring an encounter between a blind beggar and Jesus.

To spot light these lessons I want to call your attention to a statement Jesus made to his disciples and a question Jesus posed to the blind beggar.

Our story opens with a blind beggar begging on the roadside in Jericho.
He hears Jesus is passing by and begins to cry out Jesus son of David have mercy on me.

The disciples tried to keep him quiet but he cried out even more.

Jesus stopped and told his disciples to call him.

Why didn’t Jesus call the beggar himself?

This statement brings us to our first lesson.

Jesus wants his disciples and his church to be actively involved in bringing people to God.

Evangelism is our first priority. To be successful we all must share our time and talents and treasure to get the job done.

The message: Be of good cheer Jesus is calling you.

The beggar gets up and comes to Jesus.

He cast aside his cloak and the money received from passers by

He left his old life behind

Jesus asks the beggar a question what do you want me to do for you?

This question brings us to the second lesson

We must acknowledge our spiritual brokenness in order to be spiritually healed.

The beggar knew what he needed, I want to see.

If you are praying and your prayers are not being answered you may not have a clear understanding of your needs.

Jesus is still counting on his disciples to call people to him so he can meet their needs.
Let’s follow the blind beggar’s example, after he received his sight he followed Jesus.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

To bowl or not to bowl -- that was the question

Each year during the summer the men in the diocese of Atlanta studying to become deacons are required to attend a retreat. All the men in formation aspirants to seniors are required to attend. The retreat opens on a Friday evening and closes on Sunday.

The golfers arrive early and play golf Friday morning. Over the years the non golfers tried to find an activity that would provide fun and fellowship. In my senior year someone suggested bowling. Little did we know what lay ahead when we agreed to gather on the lanes in Cullman Alabama.

Men being men the competitive nature we possess came to the front almost immediately and the trash talking began. Teams were formed the lanes were reserved and the game was on.

At this point I am sure you are wondering why you should care about men in formation going bowling. Well the answer is not an easy one. As with many things that came up over my years of formation there was never an easy answer. Several events which took place as the retreat approached led to the pondering of a theological question and a paper explaining my answer to the question.

The first sign of trouble came just days before the big match. Two of my classmates announced they would not be able to participate. The first guy dropped his bowling ball on his foot and broke his toe; the other guy came down with pink eye in both eyes.

Emails abounded and it was decided that we would continue as planned. We arrived at the monastery on schedule unpacked and headed to the bowling alley to decide which class was the king of the lanes. As we approached we saw fire trucks police cars and what once was a bowling alley was burned to the ground.

Well being students of theology and all things related to God the conversation at the dinner table was filled with the events related to the great bowling alley disaster. Several men suggested that God had intervened and set in motion the events that disrupted our outing. The broken toe, pink eye and the icing on the cake the bowling alley burned down.
Others disagreed and implied that God had better things to do than disrupt a planned outing to a bowling alley. One of our instructors listened intently and suggested we return to our rooms after dinner and contemplate God’s divine providence in our daily lives.

Upon return for our first class for the evening we were asked to write a paper explaining our thoughts on God’s intervention into our daily lives. Writing papers is a large segment of the formation process. If a question arises more likely than not a paper on the subject will be in order.

Seems silly doesn’t it writing a paper about a bowling match that never took place. But seeking to find a better understanding as to how God operates in our lives is far from silly. The problem was we were limited to a couple of paragraphs. How can you discuss explain or begin to ponder such a question in such few words? I am not sure but my response to the question is written below. Read my answer, ponder the question and if you are so inclined please comment.

To Bowl or not to Bowl

I have searched my concordance from Aardvark to Xylophone.
I find no declaration from God that thou shall not bowl.
But recent events a broken toe, pink eye times two and a bowling alley burned to the ground might lead one to surmise that God would rather have us stay away from the lanes.
But scripture is silent on the issue as well as the catechism, tradition and cannon law.
So if your toes are not broke and your eyes are not pink if you can find a lane and maybe a cool drink.
Then bowl my brother bowl

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dark night of the Soul

Mother Teresa is in the news. Personal letters revealed that she struggled with her faith to the point she questioned the existence of God. Some are suggesting she should not be considered for sainthood based on her confession.
The Christians I have known who are on a level spiritually that I have yet to attain without exception all experienced dark nights of the soul.
The following is a paper I wrote while in formation expressing where I was spiritually speaking during my second year in a five year process. I decided to share these thoughts and concerns in hopes it might help someone who may be struggling with their faith. Additionally I wanted to share my faith struggle get it out in the open for all to see. My dark night of the soul according to some will eliminate any possibility of sainthood for me. Oh well as a Baptist I never considered sainthood any way. Truth is sainthood is between me and God not a bystander reading isolated thoughts and fears.
Please read on…….. A Dark Night
Deacons are obliged to give priority to their spiritual life. They should integrate family, professional life and ministerial responsibilities. The goal of realigning priorities in our lives is to grow in our commitment to the person and mission of Christ.
My life seems to be one realignment after another. A perpetual discernment process. Having traveled this road from a different direction you may think that this process is a walk in the park for me. In some ways it is easier and in others it is a mountain to climb.
I can say without reservation that God is first in my life. God however may wonder where I am at sometimes. I think alignment of priorities can not be done one time to be set in stone forever.
Last year I heard that the ideal list or order would be work, family then formation. The reality for me is that during formation the formation process is first. As the year progresses formation may get pushed down to last place behind work or family or ministry.
The key for me is to continue to examine where I am determine what the most pressing needs are and address those areas first. My relationship with God suffered when I was in seminary. Seems odd but trying to study, work and maintain a family life left little time to pray and meditate. After graduation the prayer life and bible study came easier because they took priority, pasturing the flock came next and as a result my family suffered.
At this point in formation the squeaky wheel is getting the grease.
The help I am receiving is coming from my family. Beckey has been very understanding when I have gotten up from the dinner table to go study. I could not begin to complete this process if she was not there to help me. In addition I have my Deacon Mentor. He has made time for me. But to be honest it is extremely difficult for us to get together. We talk on the phone from time to time. His insight into this process has been helpful.
My spiritual advisor, a good man with a big heart has not been a great deal of help. It is partly him and mostly me. I am in a different place than the other men in formation I have done many of the things we are preparing to do. My spiritual direction has been my responsibility for my entire Christian live. It appears I do not take direction well, and have a need to do my own spiritual direction. Old habits are hard to break. But I think more than that I don’t share what is on my mind with him. I suppose I still want to do it myself. I am not saying I have not been helped by his advice but I am not getting all I can from this aspect of the process.
My prayer life is much the same as it was during the interview process for formation. I get bored easily and making time for the office is not always easy. The office helps keep me on track but I am still learning to pray the office. I suppose I over look some things and at times do not pray the office properly but I don not think God is concerned with all that.
This year has been one of the most difficult for my family and me. We made the decision to have Becky’s parents move in with us. So we found a house suitable for all concerned, purchased the new house and put the old one on the market. In the midst of all of this Beckey’s Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was operated on and died nine days later, unable to recover from surgery.
Beckey’s Dad moved in and we are adjusting to the new living arrangements. The old house is still on the market, so we now have two mortgage payments. Through all of this I put my family first and my formation responsibility has taken a back seat.
We learned last week that Beckey has to have knee replacement surgery. It is scheduled for August 13. Once again I find myself adjusting and realigning my priorities. My formation has to be placed once again on the back burner. My family must take the top spot for awhile.
Many things have taken place this year; my life has changed and is evolving everyday. Though I may not always pray the office correctly it is a blessing to me. I know all the men in formation, all the Priest and Religious are praying with me. The sense of community I have found in this processes as well as the church is a comfort. I know I am not alone. If I ask for prayers for myself and my family I know my Brothers whisper my name to God.
This year has been a struggle. Just because you commit to formation does not mean life stops and allows you to get off for five years later and jump back on when it is over. Life happens during these five years of formation. Our loved ones die, difficult decisions are made. Life goes on. Hopes, dreams, troubles, trials all come our way. These things make formation more difficult to be sure. But the formation process can be the life line to get us through the hard times. The time we invest in formation can be a blessing or a curse. Our attitudes will have a great deal to do with how we view the things life throws our way.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Our Father who art in heaven ----------

Any understanding we have of who God is comes through Divine Revelation.
“It pleased God in His goodness and wisdom to reveal Himself and to make known the mystery of his will”.
The image of God seen in the Old Testament seems far from that of a loving Father: yet he did not abandon Adam and Eve after they fell into sin.
“But God did not abandon our first parents after the fall, God brought them up with the hope of Salvation”.
The love of the Father is seen in God’s actions to redeem mankind. We may have to look past the flood of Noah’s Day, the thunder and lighting, the tablets of stone at Mt. Sini. Yet who but a Father would love a simple people this much? When I read the Old Testament I admit it is at times difficult to see God as Father or understand His divine will as that of a loving Father, when judgment seemed to rule the day. But it was in fact the Father who called Abraham to prove his faith by sacrificing this son. The type and picture of the sacrifice the Father would make with His only son Jesus.
Then God said “Take your son your only son Isaac whom you love, sacrifice him there as a burnt offering.
God has in every age revealed Himself as a loving Father. Revelation comes to us from many sources which transcend time. Creation in an of itself is the beginning and foundation of all Gods works. My parents in partnership with God created me, my mother the vessel allowed the grace of God to bring me to life. Not a distant angry God, but a Father who sought to have a relationship with me.
“For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother’s womb”.
The Nicene Creed in its opening statement affirms God’s role as Father: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”. There can be no doubt that the church from its inception had a perception of God as Father through creation.
Looking back to the creation of our first parents and forward to my creation, God the Father has been the divine source of love that set our world and my world in motion. The church has an understanding of God as Father in redemption, as well as creation.
By calling God “Father” the language of faith indicates to main things: That God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that He is at the same time goodness and loving care of all his children.
God’s greatest expression of Himself as Father is though Jesus Christ. The revelation of God as Father in an unheard of sense. He is not only creator but he is eternally Father in relation to the Son.
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the son.”
Following this apostolic tradition, the church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, that is, one only God with Him. Jesus said, “if you have seen me you have seen the Father”.

Jesus the second person of the trinity as the Nicene Creed proclaims “Through Him all things are made”. We see the love of the Father though the creation of the Son. Jesus was the manifestation of all the attributes of the Father.
A father watches over his children, even with a passing glance at the life of Christ we cannot miss the unconditional love Christ expressed for all His creation. The sacrifice of his own life to redeem all of mankind is the perfect example of the Father’s love.
Creation, redemption and the second person of the Trinity has given the church ample understanding of God’s father image.
The liturgy of the Church expresses our understanding of God as Father. The disciples came to Jesus and said: “Lord Teach us to pray.” He said to them, “When you pray say: Father, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us or sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” The disciples had an understanding of God as Father.
From its inception the Church has incorporated the Our Father prayer into it liturgy. Together we as a church, Christian, sons and daughters of God express our belief that God is our Father.
On some level the early church experienced God as Father. As time passed our God experience has evolved to a greater appreciation of this image. Creation, redemption, Jesus and the liturgy are all evidence that God is seen as Father by the church.
Though the working of the Holy Spirit we are all given divine revelation. The path we take to come to a personal relationship with God is different for everyone. Yet together at the same time, we seek a very intimate relationship with our God. We are seeking to fill a void in our lives with a relationship with God. Not the God far way, all powerful and knowing, but a relationship with Father God, Abba, Daddy. It seems beyond our very imagination that he would set world in motion would desire to love me as Father.
The New Testament, the words from the mouth, lips of God bring us to understand God as Father. The Church experiences God and His love through the reading of scripture at Mass. The church understands and experiences God as a Father though our imperfect earthly fathers. Though imperfect many Dad’s exhibit the love of God. The care and concern for those placed in their care. Placing the needs of their family before own. The church has ample opportunity to know the love of a father as they walk with their earthly fathers. The sacraments, in particular the Eucharist shows us God as Father. The Father providing for the needs of his children.
The children of Israel experienced God providing for them as they journey through the desert. God provided manna. “He gave you manna to eat in the desert something your Father had never known”. Food from Heaven provided by the Father. The nation of Israel gathered the heavenly bread as instructed. They had no part in providing the manna, they did not produce it. It was a heavenly gift from their Father.
The lives of the Old Testament people serve as guidepost to the church. God provided the divinely inspired written history for our edification. The Eucharist our heavenly bread is provided by God. (Manna was a type or picture of Eucharist.)
God provides for this children the body and blood of Christ at each mass. It nourishes our souls. He provides exactly what we need. He knows what we need even before we ask. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Which of you, if his Son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask for a fish will give him a snake? If you then through you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?
If we miss the Father image in creation, or in redemption though I don’t see how, if we miss him though the roll of Father though the Son and prayer or scripture, we must surely see him as Father in the Eucharist. As a Catholic for six years I wonder at times how I ever grew as a child of God with out communion. I received communion (crackers and grape juice) but not the body and blood of Christ. The spiritual food provided by the Father through the Son. I am jealous of the cradle Catholics who have been blessed to have received this gift of grace for so many years.
The question; what is the churches understanding of God as Father? I don’t think of the hierarchy of the church when I read the question, I think of the individuals who make up the body of Chirst.
That being said, I can see God’s revelation of Himself as Father, but I think the churches understanding of God as Father ebbs and flows. At times I can see we get it, but there have been times when the light of revelation was dim. As I mentioned the Israelites wandering in the wilderness probably had a tough time seeing God as a father figure. The church pre-Vatican II, I don’t believe experienced God as Father. Their experience of God for the most part was less personnel. The parable of the talents would express their God experience rather well. The master gives one servant five talents another two and the thirds servant one. Then he went on his journey. The servant who received five talents put his talents to work and gained five more. The one with two talents gained two more. The servant with one talent went off dug a hole and hid his master’s money. When the master returned he rewarded the first two servants. The third said to his master “I knew you were a hard man harvesting where you do not sow.”
The scale of God with our sins on one side and good works on the other. At the very least we pry for balance. The image of scales and being weighted in the balance and found wanting. Thank God for Vatican II, post Vatican II the image of God has drastically changed. I think the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke Chapter 15.
A young man took his share of his Fathers Estate, squandered it in wild living, came to his senses and returned home. But while he was a long way off his Father saw him and was filled with compassion. Of course we don’t all walk the same path at the same time but the church as the body of Christ understands the term father as it relates to our God. The Father aspect of the first person of the Trinity is seen in all the ways I have mentioned. Creation, redemption, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. The scriptures with all the rich images of father. The liturgy, Eucharist and our prayer. Through all these things the church understands God as Father. God’s prayer and desire for us I believe is that all of His creatures would have the confidence to address Him as Father, Abba – “Daddy”.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How many commandments did you break today?

The First Commandment comes on the scene without much fan fare not unlike the opening declaration of God’s Existence found in Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning God created the Heaven and Earth”.
The First Commandment declares our God is one God and demands our love and attention. No explanation of who God is, or why we should be concerned with Him. But because He is … is all the explanation required to demand our undivided attention. The creator has no need for His creation. The creation however is dependent on the creator.
Three things come to mind as I have reflected on the First Commandment.
God created a covenant with Israel with the commandments
All sin is the result of the breaking of the First Commandment
God has provided the means through the sacraments and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for us to keep the commandments
The Ten Commandments are God’s love letter to this creation. But they are much more that a love letter they are a covenant relationship between God and Israel. As a protestant I have viewed the dialogue from the negative “Tho shall not” position. But the commandants and in particular the first commandment declare God’s love for us. I am the Lord found in scriptures and at the beginning and end of his commandments.
You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. Hear, O Israel …
God reached out, God expressed his love first. This action requires a response. The writings of the Old Testament reveal the nation of Israel’s response to God from the exodus the prophets, kings and finally to His son. The love God requires that we accept existence.
Atheism is a denial of the existence of God. I have met several atheists and I am not convinced by their arguments or actions that they actually deny God’s existence but rather use the argument to ignore God.
If my assumption is true our world has as abundance of people who choose to ignore God, call them what you will. We are called to love God and many ignore the call and the God who is calling.
We are to love with all out heart and soul and strength.
Many people who acknowledge God’s existence are guilty of ignoring Him. Calling upon Him when a need arises. Sickness, death or a natural disaster bring calls for God’s immediate assistance.
God is asking a great deal more from us. He is seeking a deep devotional love and relationship from His creation. But we continue to serve the gods of this world.
Materialism a desire to have or accumulate possessions and wealth. This attraction to things causes many to work instead of worship. Malls and stores open on Sunday without regards to God’s call to worship and rest.
We can elevate the most mundane of possessions to the place of prominence. How God must grieve over our choices of things to take His place.
Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. The greatest hindrance to putting God first and that is what he expects is ME. The face reflected back at me in the mirror is the biggest hindrance in placing God first.
We are to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and reject everything that is opposed to it .
Rejecting everything opposed to faith. I will either reject the things that keep me from God or the God who has provided all the possessions I hold so dear. The unemployed pray for gainfully employment and then work day and night, forgetting the God who provided the work.
We seek the love and companionship of others, family, spouse and friends. Only to allow the love expressed toward them to take the place of the creator of love. Rest, vacation and leisure time are all valid and required to live a balanced healthy existence. But we must reject the notion that these activities take the place of worship and time devoted to God.
A place on the lake visited on Sundays, a golf course packed with people seeking quiet and relaxation. We need to set our priorities and goals with God in His proper place. Seek Ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. What things will be given; Food, clothing and drink.
The present sinful condition of the world can be attributed to the godlessness of those who profess to know God and don’t follow Him. God is calling us to place Him first to love Him with all our heart and soul.
All sin is the direct result of the breaking of the first commandment. If God had His proper place in our hearts the sin that haunts us would be diminished.
God has challenged us to put Him first. It is plain to see we have not in mass headed God’s call. What do we need to do to comply with the first commandment?
Acknowledge God’s existence and proper place in our world.
Love God above all things.
Love our neighbor as ourselves.
Consider a world where these three statements were true even if only for a few hours.
If God had His rightful place we would be good to ourselves and others. My mind would be free from sin, doubt and fear.
What one thing would I be able to do for God if I was not afraid? God never intended for us to be live in fear. But we are fearful due to sin in our lives.
To love God with all my heart, and mind; the words imply completeness. No small corner saved from Gods influence. No hiding place or secret room. So God must be master of our very being. We must surrender our hearts to Him without reservation.
Let’s consider the complete surrender of our hearts and minds to God. What does it mean? What does it look like?
A changed world must begin with one person, loving and serving God in their corner of the world. The church has been commanded to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel. We are the catalyst God uses to save the world one soul at a time.
The calling of the disciples in the gospel of Matthew impresses me in its simplicity. Jesus called and one by one these unlearned fishermen responded. They had a profound influence on their world and that influence has reached out over thousand years to me in my world.
A long line of the faithful is to witness to the need for and the availability of God’s love.
As a convert to the Church I appreciate the loving sacrifice made by many to proclaim the truth found in scripture and tradition of the Catholic Church.
The deposit of faith held by the faithful down through the years. The salvation of the world, salvation of the soul is found in the Catholic Church. Truths concerning God and salvation are found in all religions. But the truth from Peter to John Paul II has been entrusted to the Catholic Church. The celebration of the Mass is a moment frozen in time when we experienced the love of God as intended from the beginning. We if only for a moment surrender ourselves; we see God as He is. We say AMEN at the consecration of the Host. We receive the body of Christ, His divinity, we are Christ like. We love God with all our hearts, minds and souls and our neighbor as ourselves.
This transformation is possible through the reception of the body of Christ. The sacrament of the Eucharist, and outward visible sign of the application of inward grace. A physical sign of an invisible reality.
The First Commandment is fulfilled in our lives through the sacraments, specifically the reception of Holly Communion.
I have reflected many times on the last six years. My reception into the Catholic Church. What was it specifically that brought me to Mass, the OCIA process and the Easter Vigil? Desire to love and serve God? The opportunity to experience the symbols so prevalent in the Catholic Church? Finding a spiritual power through the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments? When I narrow my search it is the power of God in the Sacraments that help me succeed in living out the First Commandment.
The commandments are not negative stop signs on my faith journey but green lights to experience Gods love as I turn from things that separate me from God and say “yes” to God, to love Him with all my hear and soul through the Sacraments.
The power of the Eucharist has been and is being revealed to me on a regular basis. The Eucharist enables me to say yes I love God and my neighbor. Because I am full of the divinity of Jesus Christ. At this time I cannot fully understand all the theological implications of the Eucharist but I know the difference it has made in my life.
I am not capable in and of myself to meet the demand of God in the First Commandment. But God had provided all I need to succeed. God has provided the sacraments, the Church, the Scriptures and the people of God to assist me, encourage me as I strive to meet the demands of the First Commandment.
To keep the commandment is to correspond to the wisdom and the will of God as expressed in His work of creation. When I keep the commandments I respond to the wisdom of God. It is this wisdom that created the commandment in the first place. God desired a relationship with His creation. He does not need or require such a relationship but wants what is best for us. A relationship with the Creator – what could be better!
Jesus acknowledged the 10 Commandments but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in the letter of the law. He preached a righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees as well as that of the Gentiles, He unfolded all the demands of the commandments. “You Shall Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
If you love the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping His commandments, then you shall love and multiply. God gave the commandments for our edification. The ten words sum up and proclaim Gods law. They also proclaim that God loved us first. The Ten Commandments have occupied a place of predominance since St. Augustine.
The commandments deal with loving God and neighbor. The first three deal with Loving God the last seven with loving our neighbor. “From the beginning God had implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law. Then He was content to remind him of them. This was the dialogue. We are obligated to comply with the Law of God. The commandments are engraved on our hearts.
Apart from me you can do nothing. God makes demands and then provides the means for us to meet His obligations. Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. TO adore God is to acknowledge Him as God, as creator and savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exist, as infinite and merciful love.
All men are bond to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His church and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it.
The revelation of the reality of Christ sharing His body and blood with the Church is the one doctrine that brought me to Catholicism. The fact that God is intimately involved in revealing the truth through the church was also important to my conversion. A Baptist sole source of authority is the Scripture. Thank God for tradition and on going revelation. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to mankind but it is not the only revelation.
The commandments push us to seek the truth, who is my neighbor? And once found we embrace it and live it. The scripture tells us of men and women of faith who followed God and loved their neighbor.
We gain insight and strength from reading about Abraham and his only son Isaac. Father we have wood and a knife but where is the sacrifice. Abraham responded “God will provide”. People caught in the snare of sin, the woman about to be stoned, Jesus said
“He who has no sin cast the first stone”. Then to the woman “GO and sin no more”. Truth revealed must be embraced and taken to heart.
God had placed his servants in my path to reveal truths to me with love and compassion. Truths that the commandments are expressions of love straight from the heart of God and not a list of Thou Shall Not's to make me miserable when I fall into the misfortune of sin. But valentines expressing God’s love for me.
Is the law valid in our day and time? Of course it is. The precept of loving God and our fellowman never goes out of date, but we are in the dispensation of Grace aren’t we? True we have been in a Grace period from the moment of our birth. The law points to our need of salvation and the inability of the law to save us.
We must love God with all our heart, mind and soul. We must love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said “Let not your heart be troubled” don’t be concerned with the concerns of day to day living.
God demands a great deal from his creation, but He has given so much more. I love God and my neighbor not out of obligation but from heart felt gratitude for all the blessings I have received. Not the least of which is the opportunity to receive Christ in the Eucharist and to worship and serve God in the one Holy and Apostolic Church, the Catholic Church.
If God’s revelation to me would cease today I am blessed by His body and His church. When I return to my seat after receiving communion and kneel down and pray I lift my head and watch my brothers and sisters receive Christ. As they make their way to their seats I see Jesus in them as they pass my pew. At that moment the Church is filled with the Love of God and His people are prepared to leave the mass to present Jesus to the world.
“This Mass has ended let us go forth from this place to Love and serve the Lord”, and the people respond –

Monday, August 20, 2007

Do you shop on Sunday ........

Work is a foundation for the formation of the family life, which is a natural right and something that man is called to do.
We are called to work and we reap the benefits of our labor to a point.
We are also called to rest and if we focus on remembering the Sabbath and resting it becomes clear that work and labor have seen drastic changes. The compendium of the social doctrine of the Church calls these changes new things in the world of work.
A new form of property has appeared capital and a new form of labor – labor for wages. In this way labor became a commodity to be freely bought and sold on the market more over the worker was not even sure of being able to sell his own commodity continually threatened as he was by unemployment.
If you are not willing to work overtime, double shifts or Sundays there are people will to sacrifices freedom and family for a pay check.
The Catechism of the Church states: God’s action is the model for human action. If God rested and was refreshed on the Seventh Day, man too should rest and let others especially the poor be refreshed.
The Sabbath is a day of Rest against servitude of work and the worship of money.
The Scripture admonishes us to observe the Sabbath and keep it Holy. Deut. 5:12
The Seventh Day is a Sabbath of solemn rest Holy is the Lord. Ex. 31:15
God has set an example with regards to man and work that we have ignored. There are those who out of necessity must work on Sunday but are provided rest during the week.
Sanctifying Sundays and Holy Days require common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others.
Sunday has become like any other day with regards to commerce. The shopping malls are open; restaurants stand ready to serve – from fast food to fine dinning. Sunday appears to be just another day. It was not always this way. There was a time in our history when Sunday was as God intended – a day of rest. What happened – what has changed that has relegated Sunday to being JUST ANOTHER DAY?
The repeal of Blue Laws. Blue Laws restricted certain activities, particularly shopping hours on Sunday. It had its root in accommodating Christians Sunday worship. Though it persists to this day more as a matter of tradition.
In recent years 40 states including Massachusetts have scaled back those laws. MIT Economist Jon Gruber just finished analyzing the effect of those changes. He says “it is quite a sticking response, they go to church less and give to church less”.
One of the main reasons given to discontinue the Blue Laws is that they are out of date for today’s society. Nothing is further from the truth. If anything they are more compatible and necessary today than at any other time in history. Sunday closing laws are compassionate legislation that is pro-family, pro-environment and pro-labor.
It is highly likely that all Blue Laws stem from the first such statute set down by Emperor Constantine.
“Let all Judges and all city people and all tradesmen rest upon the venerable day of the Sunday.”
Blue Laws date back to the Colonial Period, starting with the first Blue Law in 1610 that required the citizens of Jamestown to keep the Sabbath day holy.
But it was not until the early twentieth century that such statute became common. Church groups and some merchants association supported these measures, auguring that society would benefit if citizens were required to take a day of rest.
In 1961 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sunday closing laws were Constitutional, since such laws were Civil and not religious in Nature.
Police found the strict enforcement was impractical and the Virginia General Assembly enacted twenty one exemptions to the Blue Laws. In 1974 the Legislation allowed each city and county the right to suspend or retain closing laws. Finally in 1988 a group of Virginia Beach businessmen initiated the case that ended Blue Laws in the state of Virginia.
One of the last remaining Blue Laws in the United States that covers virtually all selling is found in Bergan County, New Jersey. Grocery stores are allowed to operate.
Repeated attempts to lift the laws have failed. As many locals see keeping the laws on the books as a protest against increasing hours and days of commercial activity.
Texas as well as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota continue to operate car dealerships under Blue Laws prohibitions in which an automobile may not be purchased or traded on Sunday.
Many unusual features of American custom such as the fact one can buy groceries, office supplies and house wares from a drugstore are the result of Blue Laws. Drug Stores were allowed to remain open on Sunday to accommodate emergency medical needs.
The simple fact of supply and demand led to the repeal of the Blue Laws. People were ready and willing to shop and merchants were willing to open their doors, (even on Sunday) to take their money.
Will we ever see the Blue Laws in affect again? The answer is NO.
Commerce, retailers, consumers have become accustom to buying and selling on Sunday.
It is possible for a retailer to succeed in business today and close his business on Sunday? Yes, we have an example of a retailer in Georgia who from the beginning refused to cave in to the worship of money and has closed the doors to his restaurants on Sunday. Despite his loss of Sunday revenue his business has thrived. Who is this man that has taken a stand against conventional wisdom which says “closing on Sunday is folly”?
Truitt Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-Fil-A. Chik-Fil-A motto is - “We exist to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
The Family Christian Book Stores chain has enacted a policy of opening their doors on Sunday. As a Christian bookstore, they should feel especially obligated to close their stores on Sunday. Instead, they appear to have made a conscious decision to seek profit at the expense of others. By opening their stores, they are contributing to the weakening of the church's witness, the decay of our society and the lowering of standards.
Will we ever see Sunday as a Holy Day and an opportunity to rest? Not as long as Christians do not set the example. We leave our churches and race to our favorite restautant for Sunday Dinner. It used to be that the favorite place for dinner on Sunday was at home with family and friends. Now we rush through a Sunday service so we can get to the Piccadilly before the Baptist, who are trying to get there before the Methodist.
If we as Christians make a collective choice and honored the Lords Day by staying home we might turn the tide of supply and demand and force the closing of restaurants and stores for one day a week.
If no one enters the shop on Sunday the business owner would have no choice but to close shop. We can complain about no one horning the Lords Day but maybe a better choice of action is to honor the Lords Day ourselves and encourage others to do the same.