We don’t much like tax collectors today. But in first century Israel, they were held in even lower regard. Many of them were corrupt – lining their own pockets in a way that would make Illinois politicians look like saints. And worse – they were collecting taxes for Rome. The enemy – who not only occupied their land but defiled it by their presence, their idols and their false gods. Tax collectors were the sorts of people drug dealers wouldn’t let their kids hang out with. Read More
On the Inside; On the Outside
For some reason, I woke up this morning not praising God, but judging others. You may think that this is difficult because I haven’t even “seen” anyone yet. But for some reason, I was judging these people in my mind. I’m not really sure where this comes from, but this happens far more than I care to admit.
I often get this thought in my head that people don’t fit into the mold that I am trying to put them into. As I sit here writing this, I realize how terrible this action is. I am trying to make these people something they’re not. I am forcing my rules of living onto others, and they don’t even know that I am doing it. I am judging people according to my thoughts and beliefs. I am finally starting to realize when I am doing this, and I try to realign my thoughts as soon as possible. I was not placed on this earth to judge. That is not my job. God will judge – not me! My role is to love and serve the Lord and others each and everyday. I shall not judge because I have many obstacles of my own to overcome. I need to constantly pray for the strength to overcome my weaknesses and become more loving and caring.
It all comes down to realizing that I am not the one who is in charge. It is not about me and it’s certainly not how others should conform to my thoughts, actions and preconceived notions. I will continue to pray for the knowledge and understanding to accept this reality of God being the one who has control of every situation. By placing my life in God’s hands, I will be totally free of thoughts of judgement toward others. I will be able to love others for who they really are, and not what I expect them to be. I will be fully accepting of their gifts and talents and strive to live better because of them.
Help me, Lord, not to judge others – but to serve you with my whole heart. Amen.
I was sorting through a bunch of papers recently when I came upon a quote from a silent retreat that I had taken a number of years ago. Here is that quote:
What do you do when everything is going wrong and there’s nothing else you can do?
You hang on – just like Jesus did.
Jesus did everything that He could do in order to show people how they should live, how they should serve those in need, and how they should love everyone. Now, Jesus finds Himself heading towards His death – and there’s nothing more He can do about it, except hang on.
This is a beautiful, symbolic gesture of how we should accept the challenges that we face everyday. When we realize that things are out of our control and not going the way we had hoped, we just need to hang on. Things will eventually get better. (They always do!) After all, Jesus hung on in order to save us. And everything got better after that!
Jesus, give us the strength to hang on even when it seems impossible to do so. Let us feel your constant presence so that we may know that you are right here beside us, especially during our struggles. Free us from our burdens and lead us to the power of your saving love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A successful young executive was driving his brand new Jaguar down a neighborhood street when he noticed a kid darting out from between parked cars. As he slowed down, a brick smashed into his car’s door. He slammed on the brakes and drove back to the place where the brick has been thrown.
The furious man jumped out of his car and began shouting at the kid, “What the heck did you do to my car? Why did you do it?” The young boy was little scared, but was very polite and apologetic. “I am sorry Mister. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to throw the brick because no one else would stop to help.” With tears rolling down his cheeks, he said, “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell off his wheelchair. He is hurt and he is too heavy for me. Would you please help me lift him back into his wheelchair?”
The young man was moved beyond words and tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the other kid from the spot and put him back in the wheelchair. He also helped him with his cuts and bruises.
When he thought that everything would be ok, he went back to his car. “Thank you, sir, and God bless you,” said the grateful kid. The young man was too shaken up to say anything, so he simply watched the little boy push the wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk.
It was a long and slow ride back home for the man. When he got out of the car, he looked at his dented car door. The damage was very noticeable, but he didn’t bother to repair it. He kept the dent to remind him of a deeper message: Do not go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.
My sisters and brothers, the Lord is always speaking to us. Therefore, we have a choice to make: do we listen for the gentle whisper or do we wait for the brick?
Imagine that you’re sleeping soundly in your bed, comfortably snuggled up in your blanket. You are in a dream-like state, and you feel secure and rested. Then your alarm goes off; and suddenly, you have a choice to make. You know that if you get up, there are things to do and people to see. Or you can stay right where you are and just give in to the peace and comfort that you’re feeling. Even though the outside world is calling, in your mind you know that there is no other place that you would rather be than where you are now.
Each of us has experienced this feeling of wanting to remain in bed where we feel great peace and comfort. While we do not always have the luxury of staying in bed and sleeping in every morning, there is a good place that we can remain in every moment of every day; and that place is in God’s love.
Every day, we have the opportunity to remain in the love of our Father. While we can all agree that sleeping in is a pretty nice every once in a while, it is nothing compared to the peace and comfort of knowing that we have a God that loves us so much and only wants us to have the best. God is love, and there is nothing greater in this world than loving and being loved.
I heard it said the love of Jesus is like an electric current. If the current does not pass through you, it cannot enter into you. Similarly, if the love of Jesus does not pour through us to others, then that love is not really in us. The love of God has to be recognized, responded to and passed on. It is not just a ‘given’.
We have a chance to remain in that source of that love, but we cannot just hold onto it for ourselves. We need to find a way to share that love with others, giving to others what God has given to us.
By remaining in God’s love, and sharing that love with others, we will experience a life like we have never known; because His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.
May the peace and joy of the Lord be with us each and every day!
Has this ever happened to you? You are in a grocery store, the mall, maybe even taking your dog for a walk, and someone comes up to you all smiles and beaming eyes. They say “Hey! How have you been? It’s been such a long time. You look great.” You look deep in their eyes and you think for a second and the truth begins to sink in….you have no idea who this person is. This is truly embarrassing to say the least. Unfortunately, this happens to me more times than I care to admit. I have met so many people through the church and sometimes the face looks familiar but the name escapes me. I think we’ve all had a case of an unrecognized identity at one time or another in our lives. Read More
The expression, “Don’t have a com, man!” was made popular by Bart Simpson in the TV sitcom The Simpsons. But its history can be traced back to the 1950’s when first introduced in Great Britain as an expression of “having kittens” rather than a cow.
“Don’t have a cow” means to chill out, calm down, to not to be worried, upset or angry about something. I also think this expression has a significant meaning in our own Lenten journey. Read More
What’s great about social media is that you can make a connection with people across the globe in seconds flat. You can instantly communicate what is happening at any moment of your life. And it’s an excellent way to stay in touch with your family and friends wherever they may be. I just love social media!
However, there is a downside to social media. We often become so self-centered and making things all about us, getting consumed with how many likes we receive or how many people are following us. When we make things about us (which is a nasty form of vanity), we often neglect, we criticize, we say rude and crude things about others, and we spread lies and rumors in order to make us look better or more superior. Sometimes, we are just downright mean and not very Christian-like. And it doesn’t matter if we are not on social media. We all find ourselves doing these exact same things without being online.
We are living in a constantly-connected world but have somehow allowed ourselves to become disconnected from our God.
During Lent, we are asked to turn away from evil and return to the good. We are asked to repent sincerely, to openly recognize and admit that we are sinners and need to re-connect with God through fasting, prayer and sincere sacrifice. And this all needs to begin with internal conversion of our mind and heart.
I challenge all of us this Lent to stop the lies, negativity, anger, and hatred toward one another – whether on social media or in face-to-face reality. Let’s start this right now, by truly feeling the cross that will be traced on our foreheads. Conversion of our mind and of our heart must lead to loving God and others. It’s all about connecting with the One who leads us to conversion. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
I was looking through some old photos of our past family camping vacations not too long ago. It was fun looking back on all of those vacations that we took, many to some incredible places with some amazing campsites. As I was looking at the pictures of all of us sitting around the campfire at night, I fondly remember lighting all of those fires – and keeping them going well into the night.
If you’ve ever been around a campfire, you know that once the wood catches fire, there is a need to poke the wood every so often in order to keep it burning. Sometimes you even need to adjust the position of the logs so that the entire log has a chance to burn. And that is a great analogy for our spiritual life as well.
As St. Paul wrote, each of us must “stir into flame the gift of God.” (Timothy 1:1-8) Sometimes, we become stuck right where we are. We become comfortable in our faith, almost to the point of non-action. We go through the motions and do what we’ve always done, but we don’t go any farther. We become stagnant, complacent, and our fire doesn’t burn completely – and we need to be poked. We need to get re-energized, renewed and redirected so that we can continue to follow our baptismal calling and mission to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world.
Let’s not hide our lamp under a bushel basket, but spread our light for all to see. Let us use our gifts to serve our Lord and our neighbor. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.
Consider yourself poked!