Moving Closer To Heaven As Sheep

In the reading (Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18) expands upon a portion of the Ten Commandments — the commandments about loving others, not about loving God. If we don’t love others, we don’t love God.

Why? Because he cares about everyone, even the worst of the worst. If we truly love him, we care about those whom he loves: everyone, even those who reject the truth about him, even those who reject us and cause us to suffer.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel passage (Matthew 25:31-46) that what we do to others we are actually doing to him. Why? Because he united himself to every sinner — even the most terrible sinners — when he came to earth as one of us and then offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

The worst of the worst people in our lives are the “least of these” whom we are to treat the way we’d like to treat Jesus, even if they don’t acknowledge what Jesus did for them.

Our love for others is our love for God. When we lie or speak falsely, we’re lying to Christ as he hangs on the cross. When we break a promise to a child, we profane the name of God, who is the Promise Keeper.Read More »

Golden Opportunities and God’s Will

Here’s a problem you might say is nice to have;

You have an opportunity. A golden opportunity. The chance to develop a serious relationship, or to marry. Or a job opening with generous pay and benefits. Or an invitation from your pastor to direct one of your church’s important ministries.

At first you’re euphoric, stunned at your good fortune, flattered that someone believes in you so strongly. Then, with time and reflection, come the reality checks: The relationship is too high maintenance. The job doesn’t fit you well. The church position doesn’t match your spiritual gifts.

Still, the door is so wide open. How could you possibly turn your back on such a wonderful prospect?

We each face this dilemma from time to time. And while we welcome the problem on one level (it’s nice simply to have an open door), the agony of deciding can be extreme. The problem is great enough for anyone, regardless of their spiritual outlook. For the Christian, though, questions about God’s will can add to the confusion. “If Christ is in control of my life, shouldn’t I assume that a shining opportunity like this is from him? Isn’t he showing his intention through this open door? Aren’t I sinning if I turn away from it?”

Read More »

Sowing the right seeds

We usually look at the Gospel reading and feel challenged to wonder: “Which type of soil am I?” Or we assess someone else and think: “No wonder the truth is not sinking in; his soil is hard-packed.” This time, however let’s put our feet into the sandals of the sower and ask: “What kind of seeds am I sowing? And am I sowing them in the right places?”

A good farmer knows his environment. He researches and studies the soil, the climate, and even the past use of the land. He learns what will grow best in the location where he farms. He pays attention to his own wisdom, i.e., which types of crops he understands the most. And he doesn’t try to grow other crops.

What seeds of God’s kingdom do you already have that you can offer in the environment where you live and work and recreate?

Don’t try to produce the fruits that others are good at growing, even though you enjoy their flavor. Don’t envy others for what they can grow. Instead, study your own farm: What experiences have you gained that can serve the needs of others? Sow those seeds. What lessons have you learned the hard way that could benefit people who are now in similar situations? Sow those seeds. What talents are natural for you? Sow those seeds. What wisdom have you gained in your spiritual growth? Those are wonderful seeds!

A good farmer knows not to waste seeds by tossing them onto the road or rocks or among briers and weeds. Don’t sow the seeds of your life’s experiences into those who aren’t ready to learn from their own hardships; that would be sowing your seeds onto the road.Read More »

When I Speak Your Name in Prayer

I’d like to sit you down and tell you everything’s okay
And have the strength enough to pull you through another day
I’d like to help you to believe that this will be all right
And that you will not have to spend another sleepless night

I’d like to hold your hand and wipe the teardrops from your eyes
And help you just to sort things out while you question why
I’d like to try and lift the load and carry it for you
And truly help you understand just what you’re going through

I’d like to have the words to make this trouble disappear
And give you peace of mind so you won’t shed another tear
I’d like to have the magic touch to take away your pain
And help you see the blue sky just beyond this blinding rain

But sometimes what we say or do just cannot be enough
To ease another’s passage through a trail so dark and rough
There is one thing I know will help much more than I can say
And rest assured that I will do it when I kneel to pray

I will take your name before the Father as I seek His face
And ask Him to enfold you in His arms of warm embrace
There’s no one who can comfort you quite like the Father can
And surely carry you across this dark and frightening span

Although, I dearly care for you and want to help so much
I know that what you really need is in the Father’s touch
So, I will take you to the throne and leave you in His care
I know He will deliver when I speak your name in prayer

Read More »

A Time for Silence

by Friar Jeremy Harrington, OFM

For many people in today’s world, time for personal silence has been stolen. It’s time to reset and recover this stolen treasure.

Think about Jesus’ advice in the Gospel of St. Matthew about not getting so absorbed in “what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear” that you miss an awareness of God’s presence. “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow” (Mt 6:26-28). Take some time for silence to appreciate what you have.

St. Paul is straightforward: “Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). Reset. Give yourself breaks of silence and prayer. Come up for some air.

The wonderful value of silence and prayer was imprinted in my mind by the visit of Pope Francis to Auschwitz in Poland last July. He was there alone. He walked through the gate of the Nazi extermination camp in silence. He sat on a wooden bench alone, in silence. Before the death wall, where thousands were executed, he prayed and placed a simple candle. In the underground cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan who volunteered to replace a husband and father marked for death, Francis prayed in silence. He embodied silent prayer. His silence, in effect, was golden. Giving silent time to talk with God is an example for all of us.

The pope had specified beforehand that he wanted “to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds. Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.” His only public words were written in the guest book: “Lord, have pity on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

There’s a time for words just as there’s a time for silence. We use words to reach out to one another, to connect, inform, console, beg forgiveness, and express our love. Pope Francis has spoken and written many powerful words, but his visit to Auschwitz was a place and time for silence and prayer. Such silence and prayer was not unusual for the pope. It enriches his life every day—as it can ours.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, had many things to say about the value of silence. “God is the friend of silence. In prayer and silence God will speak to you. In silence, we find new energy and unity. Silence gives us a new look on everything.”

Is it time to reset your life?

Ready To Call It Quits?

What are you ready to give up on, call it quits and say, “Enough is enough?

Would you change your mind if Jesus sent you an email from heaven and told you to try again, but this time do it from a different angle, take a different approach? Would you respond like Simon Peter did in the Gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11)? Would you throw your net on the other side, even though you couldn’t see any fish there and you’re way too tired?

Sometimes, Jesus does want us to quit, like when we’re casting pearls before swine. He said we should wipe the dirt from our shoes and move on. At other times, he wants us to quit because we’re not doing his will in the first place.

And sometimes he tells us to try again but differently, in a strange, perhaps foolish way. This usually occurs when success is only a few steps ahead but we can’t yet see it. Weary and losing hope, we’re unwilling to take one more step. We think God is not giving us any helpful guidance, but that’s only because we’re expecting him to say or do something that makes sense to us.

What’s your empty net? Read More »

Finding Hope in The Midst of Discouragement

Are you feeling discouraged? Then get your focus back onto Jesus!

Jesus is your reason to hope, not the circumstances nor the people in your life. God is bigger than your worst problem, and he cares – he really, really cares about you. But he doesn’t wave a magic wand to make everything suddenly become easy and nice and happy. What holiness would we learn in that? And how would the people who are troubling us gain humility?

If we could visit the far future and look back at this time and see two optional paths – one in which God took us on a short-cut to the end of our problems and one in which we walked all the way through the dark valley with Jesus – we would definitely prefer the latter. There is so much more to be gained! More blessings, more triumphs, more spiritual growth, more benefit to the others who are on the journey with us, more ministry that comes from it so that we make a bigger difference in helping others, and so on, lots more.

However, letting go of our wish for everything to be easy and nice and happy right now is a difficult death. We’ll mourn, but grieving helps us get beyond it to the joy of the resurrection that springs from hardships.Read More »