faith

On the Inside; On the Outside


 

All Souls’ Day

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Today we remember those who have passed from this life with faith, hope and trust in the promise of eternal life. Life is a gift from God and nothing that God gives or does is ever wasted. And let us always remember that each of us is a beloved child of God.

Our lives are a reflection of God and his love. Those who have passed whom we remember today somehow reflected that love. Sadness, sorrow, and grief may fill us today, but that is a reminder of their presence and love in our lives.

While we still mourn, we are confident that our loved ones are enjoying the peace, comfort and joy of eternal life. All Souls’ Day is a great reminder for each of us that we are given the gift of life.

So we pray today for our deceased parents, spouses, children, relatives, and friends. We want them to be capable of receiving the full bounty of God’s love; so we pray for them in our daily prayers.

All Souls’ Day touches us personally. Yes, it is a day of mixed emotions. It is our day to remember, to miss, but also to be joyful. We also reflect on our own existence. Each of us is a soul…a soul on a journey. We are still walking on that journey to become all that we were meant to be – a child of God enjoying eternal life with him.

“I will not reject anyone who comes to me,” the Lord said in our gospel today (John 6:37-40). We trust in the God who loves us – to care for us and our loved ones in life and in death. And so we pray, “May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”

Are You a Seeker?

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While on retreat a few months back, my spiritual director asked me this question: what am I seeking? (She asked me this question because it states that I am a seeker on my website and business card.) And, it was a good question for me to ponder while on my retreat. And ponder and pray I did – while walking and sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here is the answer to this question as it came to me.

I am seeking to grow ever closer to the God of love. I want to continue to deepen my relationship with Him so that I can help others to have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father through a solid prayer life.

I seek to learn more about our faith.

I seek to become a better husband, father, and man of faith.

I seek to discover new and fresh ways to show the importance, relevance, and need of our faith to teens and young adults.

I seek to help others know that God is always present and with us – no matter what we do, say, or think.

I seek because I never want to be complacent or stuck with where I am. I may not always know where I am headed, but I want to try to enjoy the journey. And I am always looking forward to the surprises that God has in store for me.

I am seeking to help others find the way.

I am seeking; forever seeking.

What about you? Are you a seeker too?

Off the Rails

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In 1980, Ozzy Osbourne released a song called “Crazy Train.” In this song, Ozzy asks when we can all learn to love in a world gone mad:

Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes.
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love, and forget how to hate.

Mental wounds not healing,
Life’s a bitter shame;
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.

What the apostles were doing in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:27-33) must have seemed a little crazy to much of the surrounding world. The Pharisees and leaders certainly seem to think this. Drawing attention to the public proclamation of Jesus as Lord was indeed crazy.

The apostles preach the gospel, encounter imprisonment, are miraculously released, and immediately get back to preaching the gospel – in the exact same place their message seemed to fail the first time! Crazy, right?

How often are we eager to shake the dust off our feet when opposition to our faithfulness arises? There is a time for counting our losses and moving on, but our scripture encourages us to return to those hard places, to keep at the work of faithfulness, and to proclaim the good news again regardless of the results we see. Twice the apostles preached in the temple. Twice they were arrested. Once they were flogged. And yet, Acts 5 concludes with the apostles rejoicing in their sufferings and preaching in the temple every single day.

Too often, discouragement and indifference creep in, and we cease to proclaim and live the gospel. When we find the strength to obey God’s commands and respond to the promptings of the Spirit, God becomes more present in our lives.

Let us get off of our crazy train and persevere in our faith. If we strive to become witnesses and partakers in God’s joy, we will never go off the rails.

Prayer Changes Our Hearts

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Don’t hold back when praying to God – tell him exactly what’s wrong and insist on holding him to his promises. Prayer should be like speaking face-to-face with a friend: “without fear, freely and also with insistence.”

Pope Francis made these comments in a homily based on today’s reading from the Book of Exodus (32:7-14), when Moses begs God to spare his people, even though they have created a golden calf to worship as their god.

Pope Francis said that Moses shows what praying to God should really feel and sound like: not filled with empty words, but a heartfelt, “real fight with God.”

Moses is courageously insistent and argues his point, and prayer must also be “a negotiation with God, presenting arguments” supporting one’s position.

When God decides to not punish his people, it’s not God who has changed, but Moses, Pope Francis said.

“Prayer changes our hearts. It helps us better understand what our God is like. It helps us grow closer to him, recognize his love and rejuvenate our faith.”

The pope underlined what Jesus said: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”

“No, say what’s what: ‘Look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that … What can you do? Now see here, you can’t leave me like this.’ This is prayer.”

Pray like Moses did, face-to-face with the Lord, like a friend, freely, with insistence and good arguments, the pope said. “And also scold the Lord a little: ‘Hey, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it …’ Like that, like you talk with a friend.”

Open one’s heart wide to God and get to know him better, and you’ll be amazed at how your relationship with the Lord will deepen and grow.

The Cocoon of Self-Absorption

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One of the many wonders of nature is a cocoon. A caterpillar encloses itself in a type of tomb and then emerges transformed and flies through the air in the form of a beautiful butterfly. We view this as a type of death and resurrection.

An image for the Gospel today is that of a cocoon. Rather than a transformation into beauty, we witness a deformation into misery. The Gospel never says that this rich man committed any crime, but it seems that he is just so overly focused on himself that he cannot see beyond his clothes, his meals and his own doorstep. His wealth is something that he spends on himself and not something he shares with others. He is so tightly woven into his cocoon that he cannot seem to break out.

This disturbing parable tells us to not be absorbed with ourselves, to pay attention, and to wake up. We need to remember that our possessions are not owned by us, but loaned to us. They are entrusted to us; not only that we can meet our basic needs, but also so that we can help others. St. Augustine described sin as being caved in on oneself. Sin closes us in on ourselves and charity draws us out of ourselves and that is where we find joy.

We’re instructed to pay attention to Moses and the prophets; that is, to pay attention to God’s word given to us in the Scriptures and by Jesus.

And we need to wake up because most of us at times can be like the rich man. And the five brothers – they represent us too. We are not to expect some sort of personalized message, but should instinctively live out our faith by loving God and our neighbor. Actions have consequences, and so do our inactions. We can sin by what we do but we can also sin by what we fail to do.

This Lent, let us pray that we receive the grace to not be imprisoned in the cocoon of self-absorption. Rather, let us strive to live generous and joyful lives not selfishly but selflessly.

We Need to be Poked!

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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!

Being an Evangelist is Not What You Think

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Who wants to be an evangelist? Typically when I ask this question when giving a talk somewhere, no one raises their hand. On very few occasions one or two people have.

It seems evangelism has become a scary word for us. In general, it is a word with which we do not want to be associated. For some, it comes from being on the receiving end of someone else’s evangelism, often coercive, even threatening. For others, it may be that religion isn’t something people talk about; or that one’s faith is private; or simply the desire not to be perceived as one of “those” people.

Whatever the reason, most people not only have little experience in evangelism but are downright frightened of it. And that, of course, cripples our ability to reach out to others with the good news. Today’s story of Jesus’ baptism (John 1:29-34) might be the perfect reading to invite us not only to admit our discomfort with evangelism but also begin to overcome it. Read More

Prayer is a Powerful Thing

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Photo courtesy of RGBStock.com.

Photo courtesy of RGBStock.com

A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the priest arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. “No, who are you?” “I’m the new priest at your church,” he replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, the priest shut the door. “I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, “Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now. So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.” The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, and returned to the church. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked. “Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, In fact, beyond strange – kind of weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed.”

Prayer is a powerful thing. But we need to remember that prayer doesn’t change things for us, it changes us for things. That’s why we need to be able to integrate prayer into our daily schedule. It’s not difficult to do. We just need to get into the habit of doing it.

Let’s make a commitment, starting right now, to pray throughout our day. Let’s praise and thank God for all that we are and for all we’ve been given.

My sisters and brothers, Jesus is sitting right next to you. Let the conversation begin.

Unconceivable Beauty of Heaven

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What do you think heaven is like? Do you envision a place filled with white, puffy clouds with angels playing miniature harps while flying to and fro? Do you envision a place where there is no more pain, suffering, grief, or affliction? Is heaven found in your sweetheart’s arms? Or is heaven the most ginormous all-you-can-eat buffet you’ve ever seen?

These are just some of the visions of heaven that have been documented over the years in books, movies, and music. But what do we really know about heaven? Read More

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