joy

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.”

Forgiveness is a Tough Job

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Just the other day I was flipping through TV channels and came across a show about a guy who picks up road kill for a living. I thought, “Why in the world would anyone want to watch this?” And then, of course, I couldn’t turn it off! That show was called “Dirty Jobs,” and Mike Rowe was the man who became famous for trying some of the dirtiest jobs on the planet. He has waded through sewers, castrated horses, farmed worm poop, and sorted through medical waste, just to name a few. He goes out and learns about the jobs that none of us would ever want to do, and gets coached by the people who do these jobs every day for a living. It’s not just for entertainment, because Mike goes deeper in order to pay respect to the men and women who roll up their sleeves and do these challenging jobs every day. Read More

Slow-Roasted for Christ

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Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out in the year 258, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, “Father, where are you going without your deacon?” The Pope answered, “I am not leaving you, my son. In three days you will follow me.” Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. Lawrence said he would – in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor, the sick, the blind, lepers, widows and orphans. When he showed them to the Prefect and said: “This is the Church’s treasure!”

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. Lawrence was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but he was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!” And just before he died, he said, “It’s cooked enough now.” Then he prayed that Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic faith might spread all over the world.

Today, St. Paul tells us that whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (Corinthians 9:6-10) . St. Lawrence understood this and it led him to realize these two simple truths: that God is able to make every grace abundant for each one of us, and that God loves a cheerful giver.

May each of us burn with the fire of Christ’s love so that we can readily serve our Father and others with honor, joy, and holy humor.

Sleeping in God’s Love

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Sleeping Hermaphrodite: https://evolvingcritic.net

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!

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.

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.

Announcing a Birth

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The Witness of the Candymaker

How can a candy treat be a birth announcement? Many years ago a candymaker had an idea. He wanted to show, through the candy he made, that Jesus Christ was born among us, lived and died to save us all. So, through the use of color and shape, he created a piece of candy that told the story of Jesus from Christmas to Easter. He created the candy cane!

Color
The white stripes on the candy cane stand for the fact that Jesus was sinless and pure. The three small red stripes stand for the scourging Jesus endured before he died. The large red stripe stands for Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross.

Shape
The candy cane is shaped like a shepherd’s staff, reminding us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Turn it upside down, and it is the letter “J,” the first letter of Jesus’ name.

We can learn a lot from the candy cane – both to look at it and see Jesus, and, like the candymaker, to share the story of Jesus in whatever we do.

May the peace and joy of Christmas fill you, complete you, and overflow into everything you do and everyone you meet.

Merry Christmas!

A Little Man Meets a Big God

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October 4, 1979: I remember it well, for it was a day like none other. On this particular crisp autumn afternoon, my family and I headed to Chicago to see Pope John Paul II as he made his way from O’Hare Airport to Holy Name Cathedral. And being the first Pope to visit Chicago and the first and only Polish Pope, he was going to be traveling right through our old Polish neighborhood of Jefferson Park. Read More

Made Out of Love to Love

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20131008_180315I am always telling my wife Stephanie how much I love her. I tell her that my love for her burns with a fiery passion, that she completes me and makes me a better person, and that she fills me with joy and happiness every single day. And I often tell her that my love for her is so deep that she truly doesn’t know how much that I love her.

When I read today’s reading from St. Paul (Ephesians 3:14-21), I immediately thought not only of how much I love my wife, but also how much God loves us. And the similarities are quite amazing.

  1. Our relationships are rooted and grounded in love. We were made in the image and likeness of God. We were made out of love to love. God created us out of love and wants us to love others the way he loves us – unconditionally. That’s the same type of love that each of us longs for in any relationship.
  2. We can never fully comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of that love. God’s love for us simply surpasses all knowledge. Just like when I tell Stephanie that she doesn’t know how much I love her, we cannot grasp how much God loves us – despite all our flaws. I often think that if I love my wife as much as I do, how much more does God love me? I cannot imagine and it simply blows my mind.
  3. We are filled with all the fullness of God. In other words, God completes us. Every longing is satisfied when we place ourselves in His divine presence. We are filled with joy and happiness and our hearts burn with a passion when we spend time with our God who loves us so much and desires to be with us (and is with us) every minute of every day. When we spend time with God in prayer, we become whole, complete, and one with our heavenly Father. That is a fullness that can never be emptied.

It’s no coincidence that God compares the love he has for us as the love that a bridegroom has for his bride: filled to the brim and forever overflowing, abundant with joy and happiness, growing deeper with each passing day, and always rooted and grounded in unconditional love.

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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