No, I’m not talking about the ups and downs of family dynamics during the holidays. I am talking about the very interesting Christmas liturgical calendar.
On Christmas day we celebrate the birth of our Savior. It is, by any measure, a true celebration, a day of joy. So much joy that it can’t fit all in one day. Liturgically, Christmas “Day” actually lasts for an octave, or eight days!
Amidst this octave of celebration and pure joy are four very interesting feast days. The day after Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen the first martyr, followed by the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, then the Feast of the Holy Innocents and then the Feast of the Holy Family.
Why would the Church do this? Why go from the high of the birth of Jesus to the low of St. Stephen’s death? From the only Apostle not martyred, to the death of the innocent children killed by Herod. Finally to the Feast of the Holy Family, a remembrance of life and death.
All this and we are still within the Octave of Christmas. Do you see what I mean by a roller coaster? What’s the connection here? Is there one or was this just a chance occurrence that these feast days occur back to back? Perhaps the Church, in her Spirit led wisdom, has a reason to lead us from joy to persecutions.
The theme of martyrdom runs through each of these days. St. Stephen desired and endured martyrdom. St. John desired martyrdom, but did not have to endure it. The Holy Innocents never desired martyrdom, but endured it anyway. The Holy Family, the cradle and model of martyrdom, were each willing to surrender their lives for the other, with Jesus ultimately surrendering His life for all.
In Romans 6:3, Paul says, “Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” The Church is reminding us here that the wood of the crib becomes the wood of the cross. Martyrdom is the call of every Christian. We should all desire it out of love for God. And some of us may even have to endure it.
Venerable Pope John Paul I writes, the “manger and Bethlehem are only a beginning. Nazareth, Jerusalem, Calvary, the cross, the Resurrection complete it and say to us, “He has done so much for you. You, what will you do for Him?””
So, yes, celebrate Christmas fully! Embrace the joy. And remain sober enough to know that we have been baptized into His life and into His death. And praise God for that.
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines meditation as “a form of mental prayer consisting in the application of the various faculties of the soul, memory, imagination, intellect, and will, to the consideration of some mystery, principle, truth, or fact, with a view to exciting proper spiritual emotions and resolving on some act or course of action regarded as God's will and as a means of union with Him.” Wordy, but good to know that meditation is perfectly Catholic!
With that in mind, consider giving yourself a gift this Christmas by meditating upon the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation. After you read each section, close your eyes and recreate the scene in your mind. See the words come to life. Let the Holy Spirit guide your mind, body and soul. Let us be like our Lady and Saint Joseph, let us contemplate the Babe in the manger.
Imagine yourself to be one of the shepherds herding your sheep that night. Take in the sights and sounds and smells of your surroundings. Feel the wind, smell the crisp, chilly air, hear the silence, see the dark night sky illuminated by an unusual star.
There you are minding your own business, when suddenly and Angel of God appears.
"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
You head to the stable or cave that night, as you approach you see first see St Joseph. He appears to be a proud father, yet more than that, he is a humble father. A strong, powerful presence, a man who is both at peace and concerned about his family. See how he looks at Jesus and then at Mary, watching, waiting, wondering.
You next spot the Blessed Mother. You are struck by her simple beauty, her purity, her grace, her humility, her joy. You also notice a motherly concern in her face, as if she is already beginning to sense just who this child is destined to be and what He is destined to endure. Yet her heart is filled with joy, rejoicing in God, her savior.
You now see the Baby Jesus.
You notice His wobbly, oversized head, wrapped in a swaddling blanket, not yet wearing a crown of thorns.
His tiny body, not yet scourged and beaten.
His skin, beautifully smooth and pink, not yet bruised and battered.
His tiny hands and feet, not yet nailed to the cross.
His Spirit, not yet burdened with sin, not yet experiencing the Agony in the Garden.
You even notice the wood of the crib, not yet the wood of the cross
Then you notice His eyes, big, bright and beautiful. They sparkle and shine. They give off a heavenly light. You feel at once attracted to them and, at the same time, unworthy to look. They draw you in, seemingly penetrating your very being.
He can’t speak, but you know He is calling you to gaze into His eyes, the eyes of Love Incarnate. Let Him love you with His eyes.
You look into the eyes of love and you feel love beyond description. You feel transformed. You feel you have just encountered the true and living God.
Now say something to Jesus. Speak to Him as if you are there witnessing this moment as it took place 2000 years ago. Close your eyes and speak from the heart.
Speak now to Our Lady and to St Joseph. Listen as Our Lady says something back to you. She says, “Do whatever He tells you.” St Joseph nods in affirmation. “Do whatever He tells you,” she repeats.
Feel the presence of Divine Love filling your heart to overflowing. This year there is room at your inn. Praise God for He is good.
As you slowly turn to leave, do not be sad. Do as the shepherds did. Return to your home, singing glory and praise to God. Share with all you meet the Good News that has been proclaimed to you.
Remind yourself that He is with you always. He’ll abide in you and abound in you, if you’ll continue to make room for Him.
Rejoice, for unto you this day a Savior is born.
What is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
Who can make kings visit? Turn shepherds into evangelists? Bring amazement to those who hear? How could this infant inspire such intensity, both positive and negative?
Remember the kings of those times were not exactly benevolent. Even if these specific Magi were, they were not use to placing themselves in a position of condescension – especially to an infant.
The shepherds, as Aquinas spoke of them, they were to the desert what the tax collectors were to the city. They were not the image of the loving good shepherd we have in Jesus, they were more like outcasts and loners. Poor, yes, but misfits, often antagonistic to all but their own. Much like ourselves….
So again, what is the draw, the attraction of the Christ child?
Imagine the newborn Jesus in the manger. See him in His full fleshy humanness. See His folds of skin that newborns abound in, see His huge eyes searching, trying to focus. See His wobbly head, His tiny fingers and toes. Hear His cries of hunger, of cold, of needing His mother. Is this the one the star shines upon? Is this really the sign we are waiting? What can He possibly do for us?
One word: Love.
Love Incarnate arrived that first Christmas morn. He came in love, for love and He came as love. He came so we might love Him. Love is the attraction, love is the draw. This love was, is and will always be, the sign.
From his Midnight Christmas Mass Homily, Pope Benedict XVI said, “God’s sign is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care…God ’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty…God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby, defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. God made Himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him.”
This Christmas season, will there be room in your heart for Jesus? Amidst the busyness, the festivities, the gifts, the greetings, the visits, this question get right to the core. Will I allow Jesus to be born in the Inn of my heart this Christmas, or will I force Him to be born in the stable outside my heart? You get to choose which sign adorns your heart, Vacancy or No Vacancy, and which kingdom you will honor. Christ’s coming had two opposite effects upon the people of His time and in does in our time as well. Consider:
Mary had room. She said yes. She humbled herself. She obeyed. She surrendered. She pondered. She trusted. Joseph, because he feared, at first thought he had no room for Jesus. After the angel appeared to him he realized he did have room for Jesus. The shepherds had room for Jesus. They heard the message, acted upon it, went to see Jesus, spread the good news, returned home and gave glory and praise to God. The three kings had room for Jesus, traveling many miles and months to pay homage to the one King. By God’s grace they did not fear; they chose to embrace God’s will.
On the other hand, the inn keepers had no room for Jesus. They said no to love. King Herod had no room for Jesus in his heart; Herod feared Him and tried to kill Him. The chief priests and the scribes, whom Herod gathered together to determine if this Jesus could be king, didn’t bother to see for themselves if the king was born. His own people had no room for Jesus, eventually putting Him to death. Whether out of fear, indifference, envy, pettiness or arrogance, they chose to ignore God’s will.
In many ways, that is ancient, though obviously important, history. What is relevant today and no less important is this: Do you have room for Jesus today? Will you allow Jesus to be born in your heart this Christmas? Will you allow Jesus to enter into your heart and change it? It’s still early, we have time to prepare.
How do you prepare your heart to receive Jesus? Three simple steps. Prepare to receive our Lady into your heart first. Then beg God for the grace of the Holy Spirit to visit your heart. Then move forward with expectant faith and await the arrival of the King.
From O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Remind yourself that Jesus is waiting to be born in you. He wants to come into your heart, into your life and live with you always. His peace will be your present. His Body and Blood will be your feast. He’ll abide in you and abound in you, if you’ll make room for Him this Christmas.
For it is God who works in you, both so as to desire, and so as to act, in accord with his good will.
So much of what we are called to do in spiritual warfare is intercessory prayers for others. If it seems like your prayers go unanswered, or perhaps more accurately, unfulfilled, there may be a good reason. You find yourself praying for others, praying for their conversion, and yet it seems as if there is no change in their behavior. They are still not attending Mass, they are still drinking, they are still involved in the New Age or the occult, they are still engaging in immoral sexual activity, etc. What could be wrong? Doesn’t God want them to change? Doesn’t He want them to grow closer to Him? Doesn’t He want them to live in His will? Of course He does; He is, after all, our Father.
So, then, what is the problem? The “problem” may just be in how you are praying. When you pray for someone to return to the Church or to repent of their sins or to turn from drugs or alcohol you may be praying against their free will. For while God desires the person’s conversion, He does not desire a coercive conversion; He desires a cooperative conversion.
If I choose on some level to engage in sinful behavior, God is not going to contravene my free will decision. He is going to allow me to choose to sin, all the while supplying me with sufficient grace and every opportunity to avoid making the wrong decision. What, then, can be done? Are we to stop praying for others? Are we to despair? No, we are to do neither. What we can do is pray differently.
Adding that one word to your prayer opens up whole new avenues of grace for you and for those for whom you are praying. That one extra word can make all the difference. As Saint Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ does not force our will; He only takes what we give Him.” So help that person give their will to God by praying for them to have the desire to do so.
“Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” Satan’s words to Eve reveal much. He is a liar who uses doubt to try and separate us from God. (If only Eve had discerned who was speaking, she might have responded differently.) Thousands of years later his modus operandi hasn’t changed much.
No greater joy have I experienced than being a father to three daughters. From the moment they were born I have marveled at their purity, beauty, and innocence. Equally, no greater battle have I experienced than helping them stay this way. Discerning who is whispering is one of the most valuable lessons they have learned.
Discernment begins and ends with prayer. Saint Ignatius teaches that in a grace-filled soul, the promptings of the Holy Spirit produce peace and joy, or consolation. The promptings of the evil spirit produce the opposite effect, disturbance and selfishness, or desolation.
As we get ready for Advent, don’t allow Satan’s whisperings to dampen your resolve. Don’t allow him to steal your peace or to distract you from His plan for your life. Don’t give his lies a place to dwell. Do pray to God. Do discern who is whispering. Do trust in Jesus. Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And let Saint Catherine of Siena’s words be your own, “Give not ear to what the devil whispers to you.”
But Who Are You?
Satan loves to try and tell you who you are. He is after all the “accuser.” He spent the past few decades convincing many to place their trust and identity in the false gods of money, sex and power. He is now reveling in his successes and relishing the depression, despair and even deaths that have occurred because so many don’t know their real identity.
In Acts of the Apostles the story is recounted of the traveling Jewish exorcists who invoked the name of Jesus to try and cast out evil spirits. One of these evil spirits responded to them by saying, “Jesus I recognize, Paul I know, but who are you?” Luke records that the exorcists, who did not have a relationship with Jesus, fled the encounter naked and wounded.
If an evil spirit were to ask you, “But who are you?” what answer would you give? To the degree that your answer is earthbound you are in trouble. If your answer is related to your job, your social status, your wealth or your self-esteem, then your identity is predicated upon that which can be easily taken away. This creates an ongoing need to continually renew and restore the false foundation. It also creates dependence and an attachment to them, in effect allowing these false identities to become your master.
Now more than ever you need to know who you are. The times are changing. Uncertainty about the present and fear about the future is all too real. Be not afraid. Remind yourself in whose image and likeness you are made.
So, who are you?
The only sure and certain foundation you possess, and the only real answer to the question is, “I am a child of God.” Any other identity you embrace will be gone in the blink of an eye. Any other identity you embrace makes Satan’s job easier. As a child of God, seek your identity in the God who created you. Rest in the arms of your “abba,” your daddy. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Romans 8:14-15)
Don’t let the question of the evil spirit catch you off guard. Don’t allow the circumstances of our current times dictate your identity. Don’t allow your fear grip you to be bonded to this world, for if your identity is as a child of God, what is there to fear?
With every step we take, we either we choose to take a step toward God the Father or we take one away from Him, and therefore toward Satan. We are either traveling on the road toward paradise or perdition.
Saint John Vianney said it this way. “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.”
So which path leads to Heaven and which leads to Hell? Why not follow the signs.
Tolerance or Truth
On the road to perdition no sign is more omnipresent than the one for tolerance. We are told we must be more “inclusive” and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! Those who frequent this road preach charity at the expense of truth, as if one could stand without the other.
On the road to paradise you will find true charity. The difference is true charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
Saint Josemaría Escrivá reminds us that “Holy steadfastness is not intolerance.” Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is love, He is truth, and He cannot be split in two. Either you take one with the other or you reject both.
Agenda or Authority
On the road to perdition no sign is more oft quoted than this one: “Let your conscience be your guide.” This is the rallying cry of those heading to Hell.
Those who frequent this road reject the Divine authority of the one, true Church in favor of their own human authority. In it homosexuality, woman priests, artificial contraception, abortion and moral relativism are the gods that are worshiped.
Many in the pews are Catholic in name only; they are in every sense of the word protestants. The only difference being that they lack the courage of their own convictions and instead of fleeing the Church, they seek to destroy Her by imposing their heretical agenda upon others.
On the road to paradise you will find those who lovingly assent to revealed truths, even the tough ones. As Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds us "We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe."
Christ promised us an eternal reward, not an easy road, when He said: “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”
Pride or Humility
On the road to perdition no sign is more revealing than this one. “Who are those white haired, cranky, celibate men in Rome to tell me how to live my life? What do they know about .....”
A more damning choice could not be made than to choose the way of pride. Pride is the origin of all sin; in fact pride is the “original” sin. Hardening of the heart is the unavoidable long term effect of pride. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it is crowded with hardened hearts. The Book of Proverbs contrasts the two saying, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
On the road to paradise you will find true humility. Humility is an unappreciated and unpopular virtue. Many perceive humility as a sign of weakness, not as a sign of strength. Yet, it is in our humility when we are nearest to God. It is then when He can form us; it is then when He can use us and it is then when we are most like His Son.
In the only words Jesus spoke of His heart, He said “I am meek and humble of heart.” We would do our souls well, if like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we would pray, speak and act in imitation of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Satan or God
On the road to perdition signs that lead to Hell are usually not labeled as clearly as this. Yet the consequence is the same.
When that which is dogma is denied and that which is heresy is embraced, we know Satan has entered the Sanctuary. When that which is truly sinful is said to be not a sin and that which is truly not a sin is said to be sinful, we know Satan is in our midst. When that which is reverent and pious is banned and replaced with that which is informal and ordinary, we know Satan is hard at work trying to prevail against the Church.When that which is traditional is viewed as outdated and is replaced with that which is the current fad, we know Satan is pleased with his efforts.
Despite all of this, we must not despair; the victory has already been won! Jesus’ death on the cross is the invincible act. Even Satan knows this to be true. His game plan is no longer to win, but to drag as many souls as possible into Hell with him.
We must resist the father of lies. We must continually seek our own conversion. We do this best through the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments, and through prayer and sacrifice. This is essential. It is only after we seek our conversion that we can even begin to help others.
Despite the obvious signs, some will choose the easy path. Jesus said “for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many. How small the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” Let us pray for the grace to be counted among these “few.”
The souls in purgatory too often are neglected, forgotten or ignored. They languish, unable to pray for themselves. They are reliant upon our intercession which comes far too infrequently.
For whatever reason, (and there are many) Hell is a topic we don’t hear much about during homilies at Mass. Sadly, Purgatory and its necessary role in our salvation, is teetering on the edge of that slippery slope. While Heaven is our goal and should be our primary focus, humanity is often motivated by both the carrot and the stick. To speak exclusively of God’s mercy, without mention of His justice, is to render Him impotent. (Similarly, to speak exclusively of His justice, without mention of His mercy is to render Him ruthless.) Both are inconsistent with who God really is. The locus of truth is found, not in the extremes, but right in the middle.
A couple of years ago in my travels, I had the opportunity to attend daily Mass in another Diocese. As it turned out it was a funeral Mass for a local parishioner. By all accounts Edna was a wonderful Christian woman; loving wife, mother and grandmother; a lifelong faithful and active member of her parish. She was also, according to the celebrant of the Mass, a Saint. That is, she now resides in Heaven, her eternal reward fully assured.
These words, spoken by the priest in his homily, likely brought tremendous comfort to Edna’s family and friends. There was a perceptible and collective sigh of relief with the pronouncement of these words. It was almost as if the sacramental principle of “ex opere operato” or “by the words themselves” were in effect here.
Edna’s priest did her and her family a huge disservice. He gave the family, not false hope, but worse, false assurance. He also likely extended Edna’s stay in Purgatory, (that is, assuming she was not judged immediately worthy of Heaven). How so? What sane person will pray for Edna’s soul “knowing” she is already in Heaven?
I pray that Edna entered into her eternal glory the moment she died. I just cannot know that she did for certain. And until she is declared a saint, no one else can either.
Praying for the souls in purgatory is not a “nice thing” for us to do. It is our duty, our obligation to do so. Yet, it is our duty to pray for our brothers and sisters who are part of the Church Suffering. If we only knew the power they possess to help us on our journey toward Heaven, we would be praying for them unceasingly.
As covered in last week’s blog, when we gossip, detract, slander or calumniate we do damage to our self and others. With all sins of the mouth, the “bell cannot be unrung,” the damage is done. Far better to be silent than to do the devil’s work.
A few other sins of the mouth are important to mention. Meant to speak of love and praise God, the tongue, through vulgarity, curses and blasphemy can do just the opposite.
When we use vulgarity or tell off-color, racist or inappropriate jokes we put out a welcome mat for the evil one. When we issue curses instead of speaking blessings, we do the devil’s work. When we blaspheme we endanger our immortal soul.
Here is a brief look at these sins.
Vulgarity is a misuse of the gift of language. Crude, coarse and obscene language is fertile soil for Satan’s poisonous seeds. When combined with the taking of the Lord’s name in vain, it becomes doubly serious. It grates on the ears as it dims the light of the soul. Vulgarity’s greatest harm is not necessarily the words themselves; rather it is the doorway that is propped open by the use of vile language. Many other sins feel at home where vulgarity is spoken.
Filthy talk makes us feel comfortable with filthy action. But the one who knows how to control the tongue is prepared to resist the attacks of lust.
Saint Clement of Alexandria
Curses, the calling down of evil upon a person, are a grave evil and a misuse of the gift of speech. They are not harmless and they are not imaginary. Curses are real, they are malevolent and they are a mortal sin. Mortal sin blocks the path to God and opens the door to Satan. Curses should never be uttered by you, but don’t be surprised if they are uttered against you by those who are under Satan’s influence. If they are uttered against you, an ongoing, fervent prayer life and a grace-filled soul is your best protection.
The evil words of which we are speaking now are those whereby evil is uttered against someone by way of command or desire. Now to wish evil to another man, or to conduce to that evil by commanding it, is, of its very nature, contrary to charity whereby we love our neighbor by desiring his good. Consequently it is a mortal sin.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Blasphemy is expressing contempt, dishonor or irreverence toward God, either directly or indirectly. It may be a thought, word or action; though, its most frequent manifestation is spoken. Whether it is spoken as a false oath, a swear word attached to God’s name or the use of God’s name as an interjectory phrase, it is a sin against the second commandment. In some sense, blaspheming is the same as making a public proclamation against God, denouncing Him and His works.
If the sin of blasphemy is rampant in your home, it will surely perish.
Saint John Vianney
The need to gossip, detract, slander, calumniate use vulgarity, curse or blaspheme often stems from a wound inside of you. Envy is the usual culprit. You feel you can build yourself up by tearing others down. Satan is happy to continually remind you of your wound inside if you will continually respond to his prodding by attacking others, committing sin or giving in to despair.
The envious man invents all sorts of wickedness; he has recourse to evil speaking, to calumny, to cunning, in order to blacken his neighbor; he repeats what he knows, and what he does not know he invents, he exaggerates. Through the envy of the devil, death entered into the world; and also through envy we kill our neighbor; by dint of malice, of falsehood, we make him lose his reputation, his place. Let us, then, be good Christians and we shall no more envy the good fortune of our neighbor; we shall never speak evil of him; we shall enjoy a sweet peace; our soul will be calm; we shall find paradise on earth.
Saint John Vianney
Jesus is the Word. His every utterance gave glory and honor to God. When we speak in truth and love we give glory and honor to God. We should always speak in a manner that honors the second commandment.
When we gossip, we imitate the homicidal act of Cain when he killed his brother Abel, which makes us “Christian murderers”. It’s not me saying this, it’s the Lord. And there is no place for nuances. If you speak ill of your brother, you kill your brother. And every time we do this, we are imitating that gesture of Cain, the first murderer in history.
Language is a powerful force. God spoke and creation was brought into existence. Language has the capacity to incite or inspire. Language is the landscape of the mind. It speaks to who we are and what is important to us. It forms the basis for much of our social interaction. The mouth can be an instrument of war or peace. Sins of the mouth cut deep, deeper than any sword. These sins may not be able to pierce the skin, but they can pierce the heart and do damage to the soul.
Satan will take our ill-spoken words and give them a life of their own, with the ultimate goal of using them to separate us and others from eternal life with God. He’ll keep those words echoing in our personal woundedness to the point where we believe and propagate them. He’ll keep them reverberating in our pride to the point where we begin to defend sin, deny our responsibility and even justify our actions. Satan will twist our heart and mind to the point where we become his instrument against Christ and the Church.
There are many different sins of the mouth that provide an opening for Satan. Once spoken, words cannot be taken back. Be careful how you use your words.
Gossip is idle talk, especially about others. It can be the revealing of secrets, the spreading of rumors or simply worthless conversation. The relative truth of what is being gossiped about is irrelevant to culpability; not all of what is true is permitted to be shared. Gossip can also be a sin of sloth; the time and energy wasted gossiping could have been put to better use. Satan uses gossip to spread his lies, to open doors and to weaken your resolve.
Let listening to worldly news be bitter food for you, and let the words of saintly men be as combs filled with honey.
Saint Basil the Great
Detraction is the spreading of a truth that will cause harm to someone’s reputation, either through the spoken or written word. The mere fact that you know something about someone else does not give you the right to disclose it. More harmful than gossip, which may or may not have an evil intent, detraction’s intent is to cause harm. Detraction is more clearly a work of the evil one. It is often the second wave of gossip.
Would we wish that our own hidden sins should be divulged? We ought, then, to be silent regarding those of others.
Saint John Baptist de la Salle
Slander is verbally defaming someone’s character with the truth. It differs from detraction only in its method of delivery; it is spoken aloud. The intent is the same, to malign someone’s good name. While the written word is typically longer lasting, the spoken word is often more immediate and more painful. Satan will goad you into gossiping and then inflame your passions so that you combine the two in an act of slander.
The one who slanders and the one who listens to a slanderer have the devil in their company. One man has Satan on his tongue and the other in his ear.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Calumny is the malicious uttering of a falsehood causing injury to someone’s good name. The sin of calumny is compounded in that it involves a lie and an attack on someone’s reputation. With gossip and detraction, what is being spread may be true. With calumny, it is a lie from the start. Much as Satan was a liar from the beginning, engaging in calumny places you deep inside the enemy’s camp.
To deprive a man of his reputation and honor, one word is sufficient. By finding out the most sensitive part of his honor, you may tarnish his reputation by telling it to all who know him, and easily take away his character for honor and integrity. To do this, however, no time is required, for scarcely have you complacently cherished the wish to calumniate him, than the sin is effected.
Saint John Chrysostom
In the next blog, we will look at some other sins of the mouth that are damaging to ourselves and others. Until then, make it a gossip free week!
The principal cause of drift in individuals is the absence of a goal or a purpose in life.
Servant of God Fulton Sheen
In this culture we encourage people to dream big, set goals and do whatever it takes to accomplish them. We tell our children they can “become anything they want to”, “the possibilities are endless”, “go big or go home”, “what you believe, you can achieve.”
Typically this goal setting attitude is applied to school, sports and work. Floating just beneath the surface of these oft heard platitudes is an “I, me, mine” selfish undercurrent. An individualistic, bottom line approach that focus on self and not others, that focuses on self and not God.
And while good grades, winning and success are not in and of themselves bad, what about the ultimate goal, the ultimate prize, the ultimate success? What about Heaven?
Are we as focused on achieving Heaven as we are in getting good grades, lowering our golf score, landing the right job, toning our body, winning fantasy football, landing a new customer, buying the latest gadget, etc.? Are we seeking first His kingdom or our own? Are we storing up our treasure here where they will rust and decay? Are we turning our goals into gods?
You need an ideal, something that will draw you out of yourself and raise you to greater heights. But you see there is only one; it is He, the only truth!
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
So often we, often unknowingly, substitute the stuff of this world for the glory of Heaven. And in doing so, we shortchange ourselves now and, potentially, for eternity. Yes, as Proverbs tells us, we need a vision, for without it we will perish. But the wrong vision, the wrong goals, the goals and dreams that place God in second position are just as deadly as having no goals. We need to be setting the right goals, to have the right dreams and visions for ourselves and our children.
Include God in your goal setting and decision making. Ask Him where He wants you to go to school, what job He wants you to do, what type of vocation He wants you to follow. Speak of the ultimate goal of Heaven and spending eternity with God, because ultimately, Heaven is the only goal that matters! Set your sights upon God and He will not disappoint.
“Truth? What is truth?” Pontius Pilate’s simple, straightforward question has reverberated in the hearts and minds of millions of Christians for 2000 years. Why does the question grab us?
I’ve always wondered whether Pilate asked from a place of anguish, arrogance, ignorance or some combination of the above. Without the tone of his words to hear we are left with only the written Word and the interpretation of others.
More importantly, I wonder if the question has relevance for us today. Assuming its relevance, is the answer even knowable? In short, my belief is yes the question is relevant and yes the answer is knowable. That does not imply that many will not seek to undermine its relevance or that the answer is easy to find. The question and answer are far too important for Satan to ignore.
So, what is truth? St Thomas Aquinas recognized two basic forms of truth, Divine truth and human truth. Divine truth, explained Aquinas, is one, eternal and unchangeable, like that which it describes. Human truth is just the opposite many, finite and changeable, again, like that which it describes.
Aquinas further distinguishes the two, by the object of their comparison or connection. If the object of comparison is human, then the truth is a human truth. If the object of comparison is God, than the truth is Divine.
God as the “uncreated Creator” only makes sense with God as the object of comparison. It is therefore a Divine Truth. We cannot connect the concept of “uncreated Creator” with a mere creature. It wouldn't be logical.
Likewise, if I say that grass is green and the object I use to compare that to is the accepted human convention that grass is green then grass being green is a human truth.
Aquinas’ belief in human truth lends itself to the relativism. That is, if enough of us believe a human truth, it becomes true for us. For example, if enough of us decide that what we called green grass will now be called blue, then blue it is. Remember, human truth is many, finite and changeable.
Again there is no problem in this – admitting that there is both Divine and human truth and that human truth is relative. That is its essence. The problem occurs when the attributes for one are applied to the other.
Specifically, the attribute of relativism, necessarily inherent in human truth is destructive when applied to Divine truth.
When it is “decided” that life begins, not at conception but at the point of viability, relativism has been applied to Divine law.
When it is “decided” that homosexuality is a legitimate lifestyle and not an intrinsic disorder, relativism has been applied to Divine law.
When it is “decided” that the doctrine and dogma of the Church are subject to cultural mores and not immutable, relativism has been applied to Divine law.
When it is “decided” that truth must be the servant of tolerance, and not the other way around, relativism has been applied to Divine law.
When it is “decided” that the focal point of the liturgy needs to be horizontal and not vertical, relativism has been applied to Divine law.
We have erred when we have applied attributes of human truth to Divine truth and in doing so caused untold disasters.
It would do us well to remember the words of William Shakespeare: “Truth is truth, to the end of reckoning.”
Lord we pray that we, and all of your Church, might adhere to your Divine truth and put our human truth in the service of your most holy and perfect will.
For a Christian, trust is a must. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul tells us "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially, then I shall know fully, as I am fully known."
While we are here, in our fleshy bodies, bombarded and besieged by the world, the flesh and the devil, we cannot possibly see as clearly and as fully as we will when we are united with God in Heaven. Until then our only option is to trust. Trust in Him who created us and is doing everything possible to lead us home safely.
So whatever your struggle may be today - a sickness, a prodigal child, a death of a loved one, a job loss, an addiction, fears, temptation, sin, scandal, depression – trust that our good and gracious God has a remedy for you. Saint Monica and Saint Augustine, pray for us!
Our culture is less able to penetrate the mystery of suffering than likely any culture before us. Ask the people of this culture what is most important to them and you’ll get a variety of similar sounding answers. Money, sex and power are the big three. Perhaps health, making a difference, success, peace might come from others. Rare is the person who will say “living out the will of God in my life is what is most important to me.” And yet isn’t that why we were all created?
From 1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
When a culture or a person puts second things first, and first things last, disorder is the result. Disorder breeds a lack of understanding. The culture we live in has no tolerance for suffering because suffering is not understood. It is seen as a bad, a negative, something to be overcome. As it is perceived as a bad, our culture wants to eliminate it. In attempting to do so, the good that is part of suffering goes with it.
At the bottom of every reason for suffering, even beyond sin, is love. For it was out of love that God gave Adam and Eve the free will to sin or not sin. Love is the fullest answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. Divine love, which is often inscrutable but always perfect, comes to us through suffering. From On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Pope John Paul II says we come to know, “the truth of love through the truth of suffering.”
It is in carrying and embracing our cross that we come to know about suffering and therefore love. Continuing with On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”
Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton expresses the need for this Christological perspective when it comes to suffering. She said, “We must often draw the comparison of time and eternity. That is the remedy for all troubles. How small will the present moment appear when we enter that great ocean! How much we will then wish we had doubled our penance and sufferings while that moment lasted.”
Love, and flowing from that, our redemption, is what allows us to embrace our suffering. Is it any wonder then, why our modern culture does not understand suffering? It does not understand love, how can it grasp suffering?
So suffering that is sanctified is suffering that works for good. Every action that is permitted by God contains within it the seeds of our sanctification. God is waiting to do His part, we only need to do ours.
Offer your suffering back to God – whatever suffering it may be. Allow Him to sanctify it. And watch the love bloom, blossom and burst forth from His heart to yours.
When most people think of sanctification, they don’t usually think of suffering. Prayer, fasting, alms giving, and the sacraments, maybe; but not suffering. But suffering, as it is allowed by God, is a powerful opportunity to grow in sanctification. Ultimately, every action permitted by God is ordained for our sanctification, even suffering.
Suffering cuts across all boundaries; rich or poor, old or young, male or female, Christian or non-Christian. It is an experience that we all know of, we’ve all suffered. But it is only Christianity, and really only Catholicism, that can give meaning and purpose - and even a motive- to suffering.
In Hinduism, suffering is seen as the result of karmic debt owed from a prior incarnation.
To Buddhists, life is suffering because we desire. If we were to achieve non-desire, we would no longer suffer.
In Islam, suffering is seen as the result of Allah's positive will for his slaves.
In Rabbinical Judaism, suffering finds its reason in the order of justice, a result of Jewish disobedience.
For some brands of Evangelical Christianity, suffering is the result of personal sin, a "health and wealth" gospel.
Other Christians are unable to grasp the nature of suffering because of their abandonment of the doctrine of Original Sin and the reality of its effects.
We, as Catholics, believe suffering is never positively willed by God, but is allowed for our benefit in some way. We may not understand God's reasons for allowing our particular suffering, but we can still, by His grace, sanctify it.
In the Catholic view, suffering is to be sanctified. Not because it is by its nature a good or even necessarily part of God’s perfect will, but because it is, at minimum, part of God’s permissive will. Paul tells us in Romans, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.”
So suffering that is sanctified is suffering that works for good. Every action that is permitted by God contains within it the seeds of our sanctification. Intense suffering is a powerful opportunity to grow in holiness because of the difficulty of practicing virtue while suffering.
This sanctification of suffering is called sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate act of sanctifying suffering is Jesus’ death on the Christ, His laying down of His life for us. His love for us was made manifest by His suffering, but not just His suffering, the sanctification of His suffering. He climbed upon the cross out of obedience to His Father. He stayed there out of love for us. He sanctified His suffering through embracing and loving His cross. Love blooms were suffering is sanctified. How could it not?
The link between suffering and sanctity is love of God. Again, Saint Paul’s verse in Romans tells us “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” For those who love God. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength; seek to do His will no matter the cost and you will be guaranteed to suffer well.
St. Teresa of Avila repeatedly said, “Let me suffer or let me die.” She saw no use to live without suffering because she knew to suffer was to love and to love was to live in God. Saint Madeleine Sophia Barat said, “We must suffer to go to God. We forget this truth far too often.”
An important distinction needs to be made here. I’ll let Saint Vincent de Paul make it for me. He said, “We can only go to Heaven through suffering, but it is not all that suffer who find salvation. It is only those who suffer readily for the love of Jesus Christ, who first suffered for us.” It is the love of God which animates the suffering, sanctifies it and makes it acceptable to God.
In Part II, we will discuss further sanctification through suffering and the connection to love.
The CCC refers to the Catholic Church as "the universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774–776), and states: "The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men" (CCC 780).
But what does this mean? Many people misunderstand the nature of this teaching. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus means: "outside the church there is no salvation". But what does this mean?
Certain people claim that unless one is a full-fledged, baptized member of the Catholic Church, one will be damned. Others claim that it makes no difference what church one belongs to.
The truth is right in the center. Not the mushy middle of indifference, but right smack in the center of truth and love.
From Lumen Gentium "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.
So does that mean I could nominally be Catholic, but not live the faith and still be okay?
Again from Lumen Gentium: “He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."”
Saint Augustine says it this way: How many sheep there are without, how many wolves within!
So does that mean that family, friends (or for that matter 5 billion people on the planet) are condemned?
Lumen Gentium: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation"
How could a merciful God condemn those who are truly ignorant? He can’t and thus we have what has come to be known as baptism of desire.
So does that mean that children, family friends who have left the church are okay or are they condemned?
Lumen Gentium: They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.
While we leave the final judging to God, those who reject Him and remain unrepentant are subject to eternal punishment. So often, those who leave don’t know who and what they are leaving.
The best thing we can do for them, and for ourselves is to pray and live the Gospel. We need to be willing to be missionaries and martyrs for both truth and love and let the love of Christ urges us on. (2 Corinthians 5:14)
The dismissal at Mass says it all. Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord or Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. Do that with zeal for souls and we will see our family, friends and even strangers flocking to the Church instead of away from it. Catholics living the Gospel is all it takes to make our religion matter!
Nothing better than as a little child, to wake up on Christmas morning and see the very things you wished for waiting for you with a bow on it. No strings attached, no effort on your part, you just wake up and there it is: happiness in a box.
As an adult, that mentality can slip into our prayers and into our life as a whole. Come down here big, fat jolly guy and make me happy. Fix my marriage, fix my money problems, find me a job, make my kids behave, get me in shape, and, oh yeah, do it by tomorrow when I wake up.
How do we get past these troubling times? How do we “get fixed?” The first step is to realize that Jesus, not Santa Claus, is the answer.
The decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ Himself.
Blessed John Paul II
So, is this Jesus a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of guy? Does God only “help those who help themselves?”Do we have to do something? Or can we just wait around until Christmas morning? The answer is revealed in Matthew 6:25-34.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
We, of course, must do something as it says in verse 33. We are to “seek first” His Kingdom and righteousness. Practically speaking, when we are in the midst of trials, what does that mean, what are we to do?
It starts and ends with prayer. Prayer, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, is our relationship with God. If our relationship with God is prioritized correctly, we will prepared for, open to and receptive of His movement and grace in our life. If our relationship with God is prioritized correctly, we will trust, fully and fervently, in Him.
So whatever trials befall you this day, ask our Lord to lead you to His grace in and through these moments. Ask Him to direct your every thought, word and action. Ask Him for the courage to follow His lead. He will hear you and provide for you. He will gift you with the grace necessary. He will draw you in to Himself, bring you closer to Heaven. He will make you holy. That is greater than any gift Santa Claus can bring.
God wants only that we be made holy. Whatever He gives or permits in this life he gives for this purpose: trial as well as consolation, hurt and mockery and abuse, the world’s harassments and the devil’s temptations, hunger and thirst; illness and poverty as well as pleasure and prosperity. God permits all of these for our good.
Saint Catherine of Siena
There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, never to persons.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Our culture promotes tolerance seemingly above all else. We are told we must be more “inclusive,” to have an open mind and make certain no one feels “marginalized” lest we commit the ultimate sin of intolerance! The end result of this culture’s misunderstanding of tolerance is that we must separate love and truth, as if one could stand without the other. True charity is tolerant of truth alone; never error. Correction of error, not tolerance of it, is a duty imposed by true charity.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, to counsel the doubtful do not exist in a world of tolerance because to acknowledge the reality of sin or ignorance or doubt implies that truth exists, that there is a right and a wrong. This world would rather have us offend the Creator than offend a creature. Yet, in not “offending” a creature (with truth and in love) we do them harm as Saint Basil reminds us:
“Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter-----those who thus fail to correct sinners-----actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life.”
We are seeing this debate of truth versus tolerance play out in our courts, our schools, our churches, our families. Same-sex “marriages”, abortion “rights”, health care mandates, etc. Promoters of tolerance promise a utopian, all-inclusive society. But as Christians we are called to more than just an all-inclusive co-existence. We are called to love. And love cannot tolerate a lie. It can tolerate a liar, but not a lie. (If you have one of those “Coexist” bumper stickers on your car, rip it off!)
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross tells us, “Do not accept anything as love which lack truth. Do not accept anything as truth which lacks love. One without the other is a destructive lie”
Make no mistake the tolerance the culture is thrusting on us is destructive and it is a lie. This false tolerance leads to subjective truth and a relativistic culture that ignores truth. This is relativism, which contends that nothing can be in error because nothing is true. And there is where we are headed, to some degree where we already are. What is the end game for those who promote tolerance above all else? It is the destruction of religion. From Alice von Hildebrand, “Under the banner of tolerance, intolerance will achieve a diabolical victory, if no one religion is allowed to claim that it possesses the fullness of revealed truth. Once the notion of truth is eliminated, religion loses its legitimate meaning.”
Read carefully, if you will, the following quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen and then say a prayer for our country and its leaders – that we might all be more intolerant.
America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance—it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded. . . . Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience toward evil, a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. Tolerance applies only to persons, never to truth. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error. . . . Architects are as intolerant about sand as foundations for skyscrapers as doctors are intolerant about germs in the laboratory. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.
Taken from his 1931 essay “A Plea for Intolerance”
Satan, the enemy of God, and your enemy desires for you to act in a certain way. He wants you to remain silent, to be filled with fear and to curse those who would do you harm. By doing this, you make his job that much easier. Instead why not follow God’s plan by bringing the truth to light, asking for His guidance and blessing those whom you encounter. Your choice…
Reveal, don’t conceal
Whoever hides his crimes will not be guided. But whoever will have confessed and abandoned them shall overtake mercy.
For there is nothing secret, which will not be made clear, nor is there anything hidden, which will not be known and be brought into plain sight.
Concealment is not of God. Satan knows Scripture well and knows it is the truth that will set you free. He also knows that your pride can be used as leverage against you. As long as actual sin remains concealed, you offer Satan an access point. Go to confession; give it over to God and Satan is powerless. More powerful than an exorcism is the Sacrament of Penance. An exorcism frees the body from the grip of the evil one; a sacramental confession frees the soul.
Do not let pride, shame or guilt prevent you from being cleansed under a shower of God’s infinite mercy. Do not let Satan’s whispers of your unworthiness prevent you from appealing to the infinite merits of Jesus Christ’s salvific act on the cross. He shed His blood so that you might be saved, knowing of your unworthiness. If your sin didn’t prevent God from extending the invitation, it should never prevent you from accepting it.
Note well what the first condition the evil one makes with a soul he desires to seduce is for it to keep silence.
Saint Francis de Sales
When the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Do not fight against a temptation by yourself, but disclose it to the confessor at once, and then the temptation will lose all its force.
Our Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska
Petition, don’t panic
Be anxious about nothing, but in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Seek, ask, knock and be at peace. Your Father in Heaven knows your every need. Be not afraid to ask Him, He will provide. All that occurs is either part of God’s perfect will or of His permissive will. Like the perfect Father that He is, He will provide for you in accordance with your needs to the degree that you allow Him to do so. Petition Him often, yielding to His will in the process. Plead your case before the Lord, then rest in His peace. His delays and His denials are an expression of His mercy and love.
Panic points to a lack of faith, a lack of trust, a lack of surrender to God. Panic is an expression of self-will. Panic produces opportunities for Satan to lace your mind with murmurs of “I told you so,” “He doesn’t care about you,” or “You’re not worthy of Him.” He’ll do anything he can to disturb your peace, to get you to give up on God. Recall Paul’s words, have no anxiety, pray, petition, give thanks and be at peace.
Whence all the disturbance of mind, if not from following one’s own desires?
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Fear is the first temptation which the enemy presents to those who have resolved to serve God.
Saint Francis de Sales
The struggle with the enemy must not frighten you. The more God becomes intimate with your soul, the more the adversary fights in an interior manner. Have courage, therefore.
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Bless, don’t curse
But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
And finally, may you all be of one mind: compassionate, loving brotherhood, merciful, meek, humble, not repaying evil with evil, nor slander with slander, but, to the contrary, repaying with blessings. For to this you have been called, so that you may possess the inheritance of a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
Bless those who are persecuting you: bless, and do not curse.
A curse is Satan’s version of a blessing. Satan would have you seek payback instead of prayer, revenge instead of reconciliation. By cursing your enemy you only serve to spread the disease of self that infected Satan and all the fallen angels. Your negative feelings toward someone can serve to keep that person (and yourself) bound. By blessing instead of cursing you confound your enemies, loose their binds and may even convert them. Regardless, you are called to respond at a higher level.
You have been given the grace necessary to bless those who curse you and to praise God in all things. If every time Satan attacked you, you took the time to praise God, It would not be long before Satan stopped attacking you. Bless those who curse you. Don’t let their stinging barbs turns into festering wounds. Ward off their attacks with charity and humility. See and respond to the Jesus in them. Perhaps nobody else ever has. You might be the one person God can count on to reach out to this soul. Serve God with a zealous love and your reward will be eternal.
The basics, the building blocks, the foundation, call them what you would like, they are always worth remembering, As you continue on your journey this week, consider returning to the basics if you found that you have strayed from them. Don’t let the evil one keep you from the One who loves you.
Adore, don’t ignore
God is God. Because He is God, He deserves to be adored. He is Lord of all, creator of all, sustainer of all. He alone is worthy of worship, He alone is worthy of praise. To ignore God is to please Satan. Even in the midst of great trials of temptation or harassment, your primary focus should be on God and His grace and mercy.
Adoration of Jesus is more than keeping your eyes on Him, though. It is seeing the Lord through the eyes of faith and worshipping Him in His Eucharistic Presence as if He stood before you in the flesh.
Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart. Don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love.
Saint Therese of Lisieux
Pray, don’t delay
Prayer is the means by which you keep in touch with God and He with you. Satan will seek to do whatever he can to interfere with this connection because he knows prayer is such a powerful weapon. He will annoy, harass and distract you to the point of frustration if you allow him. Do not panic, do not be anxious, do not grow weary; simply pray now, pray unceasingly. Do not give into the fear or frustration; rather, with the help of God’s grace, continue in prayer. If you can’t pray, stay in prayer until you can pray. Praise Him, thank Him, and then petition Him.
In the midst of triumph or tragedy, the extraordinary or the ordinary, pray.
Through fear, some souls grow slack in their prayer — which is what the devil wants — in order to struggle against these movements, and others give it up entirely, for they think these feelings come while they are engaged in prayer rather than at other times. This is true because the devil excites these feelings while souls are at prayer, instead of when they are engaged in other works, so that they might abandon prayer.
Saint John of the Cross
Praise, don’t grumble
To give God praise is to be humble. To give God praise is to acknowledge that God is God and you are not. The power of praise is profound. Grumbling is the anti-praise, it is the language of the prideful. When you praise God, you deflect all earthly glory and honor to God who is all good. Keep no glory for yourself. “Thank God,” and “Praise God,” should always be on your lips. When you engage in praise you tend toward humility allowing you to better accept God’s will.
It is not enough to just accept God’s will; He calls you to do so gracefully. Satan will attempt to goad you into grumbling. He’ll push your buttons if you let him. He’ll be glad to point out how things are unfair or inferior; he’ll be happy to prod you into fault finding. His target is your wound, whatever it is. Leave your grumbling behind and Satan will have once less point of entry and less leverage to get you to commit sin.
The great enemy of the virtue of obedience is grumbling. Grumbling is the compensation self-love resorts to in its powerlessness in the face of authority.
Blessed Columba Marmion
I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, nor am I an apocalyptic proponent, but if I did lean toward either of those, now would be a great time to be one. Visiting Catholic websites it is relatively easy to come across ones that speak of “prophecies” about the “end of an era”, “the last pope”, “the coming of the anti-christ”, “three days of darkness” etc.
As I travel and speak on spiritual warfare, many times questions about the above are asked, usually coming from a place of fear or uncertainty. When it comes to these types of questions, here are three guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Yes, the end is coming. No we don’t know when.
2. Fear is not of God. Fear is the enemy’s weapon
3. Charity, and a state of grace, cast aside fear.
Of course the world is going to end and all biblical prophecies will come true (even regarding the anti-christ). There will eventually be a last pope and an era of peace will be ushered in at some time. It could be as you are reading this sentence; it could be a billion years from now. Like Jesus, we do not know the day or the hour. But we do know we should…
“Be not afraid” were the first words of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate. Let those words run through your mind and roll off your lips every time you feel fear, especially as it relates to the above. Do not let anybody steal your peace. Trust in God and follow His great commandment, which is to….
Love God, love your neighbor. Do that and remain in (or return to) a state of grace and you will be prepared to handle whatever may come. God has mapped out a plan for us to live with Him forever. Daily prayer and a sacramental life will help us get there. Have faith, not fear and “all shall be well”…
As long as we “conspire” with God and not with His enemies. (Conspire literally means “with one breath”.) Let us not fear the future, let us, like the words of Saint Peter remind us, to act in a manner that hastens the coming of the Lord.
Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought [you] to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.
2 Peter 3:11-14
So yes, the end is near. So, too, is the beginning. Eternal life with God draws nearer with every breath. With whom will you conspire?
Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to die in order for us to be reconciled to God? The feast of Corpus Christi is a great time to ponder that question. Here is one way to look at it.
Finite man sinned against an infinite God. Finite man could not restore right relationship with an infinite God by his own doing. Simply put, no amount of finite could ever add up to infinite.
The Old Testament sacrifices, while efficacious to a degree, fell short in its ability to restore right relationship with God. The OT sacrifices were offered by a finite priest, with a finite victim resulting in a finite sacrifice. What was needed for finite man to restore right relationship with an infinite God, was an infinite priest, who could offer an infinite victim resulting in an infinite sacrifice.
But how is that possible. How could a finite man be an infinite priest and where would finite man find an infinite victim to offer as an infinite sacrifice?
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Suddenly, with the incarnation we have an infinite man who would, in time, become an infinite priest, an infinite victim and an infinite sacrifice, but who was also a “finite” man. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, was able to restore right relationship with God. Fully human, He was (is) one of us. Fully divine, He was (is) one with God. He is an infinite priest, who is eternally offering up Himself as an infinite victim, in an infinite sacrifice all the while being fully human.
That is why each Mass is not a symbolic representation or a memorial meal, but is actually that same “once for all” sacrifice that took place 2000 years ago on Calvary. That infinite moment that took place in the eternal now is made present again in the time bound now at each and every celebration of the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is present to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and each and every Mass. For that we should be eternally grateful.
This past weekend I attended a wedding of a dear friend. During the General Intercessions, the lector misspoke and included the newly married couple in the list of those who had recently died and for whom we were to intercede.
Though unintentional, it did bring a simple truth to light; that amidst the flowers, caterers, DJs, bridesmaids, wedding planners, etc. there is an often a misunderstood reality to marriage. It is as much about death as it is life. In fact, if marriage isn’t first about death, then it likely won’t have a long lasting life. Allow me to explain.
Using ratios to help understand what makes a marriage work, I will often ask an audience what is the right ratio for a successful marriage. What are the numbers between a husband and wife that will afford them the best opportunity for a long, loving, healthy marriage? Most people answer with 50:50. Most people would be wrong.
To enter a marriage with a 50:50 mentality is to enter into it with a limit as to how much you will give and an expectation of how much you need to receive in order to be happy. Give too much and you will be cranky. Receive too little in return and you’ll be upset with your spouse. You’re happiness becomes a matter of percentage points. (Under the 50:50 model, do the dishes for the 51st time when your spouse has only done it 48 times and you’re ticked.)
The next answer people usually give is 100:100. While half of the equation is right (you giving 100%) the other half is wrong. Again, you have set an expectation on the other person. If (and, really, when) they fall short of that 100% threshold, you’re not happy.
The correct answer is 100:0. You give 100% of the effort, 100% of the time and expect nothing in return. (Hopefully you marry someone who believes the same; otherwise it could be a tough road ahead.)
If you are thinking that is nuts, it’s not; it is simply love. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the truth of love is made known through the truth of suffering.” Scripture tells us that, “No greater loves is there than this to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Mother Teresa remind us that, “I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Think of your own life, perhaps when your child was born. The ratio there was 100:0 and it was done with joy and love. You did 100% of the work and expected nothing in return. In Catholic theology you died to self. That’s what marriage is. In order for the two to become one, each of the two must die.
To the degree that you and your spouse each die to self, your marriage will be filled with life and love. And if your spouse isn’t willing and it hurts, then follow Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’s advice and keep loving. No time is better than now for you to do your 100%.
Not one of us immune from having sinned. Often our sins remain hidden to the world, not compromising our status or reputation. Sometimes we get caught. Either way, whether our sins become public or remain private, they can become a source of regret.
It seems that as we get older, and perhaps more accurately, as we get closer to death, we start to reflect on our life. (And if you think about it, no matter how old you are, with every tick of the clock, you are that much closer to death, whenever it may come.) Perhaps by God’s grace we even begin to sin less and love Him more. Often in these increasingly frequent moments of reflection, we look back on what might have been, or what we could have done instead. We might even wish we had avoided this situation or a specific sin or even an ongoing series of sins.
Even after having availed ourselves of the sacrament of confession, so often a lingering whisper can be heard. It is the evil one trying to deceive us into believing that somehow we aren’t forgiven or that even if we have been forgiven we have forever wasted our time or our talents. If he can’t succeed in tempting us to sin in the future, he at least wants to gets us to feel bad about the past.
You see, Satan knows that God exists outside the boundaries of time. He knows that all time is in God, not the other way around. What that means for us is that it is never too late to redeem our past. It is never too late to turn our past (and perhaps current) life of sloth, of pride, of lust, of greed, of deceit into a redeemed past. God takes the ugly that we give Him and turns it into beauty; our sin becomes salvation, our shame, His glory. But we must turn it over to Him so He can redeem it.
Saint Catherine of Siena says, “Let’s keep in mind how short our time is. Let’s redeem with holy sorrow and grief the time we have spent carelessly or lost, and in this way we shall regain the past.”
So the pop-psych cliché that it is never too let to have a happy childhood has some truth to it. By giving our life (past, present and future) to God, He is able to redeem it. In doing so we are able to regain and reclaim our past life of sin and become a new man in Christ Jesus.