Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Apostles James and John

We celebrate the feasts of the apostles James and John, the sons of Zebedee the fisherman. They were rough-hewn guys—amazing, colorful characters. They could be very aggressive. And they also could be very insensitive. Perhaps this is why these two came to be known as the “Sons of Thunder”. They also seemed to have had an inflated notion about their importance in Jesus’ mission. These two young men had encountered an individual who captured their imaginations and nothing was going to keep them from following Him. He spoke a language that echoed in their souls and they wanted to make His dream theirs. Because they encountered Jesus of Nazareth, life had meaning and they wanted to live it to the full.

These two young men knew that “Jesus was the Man!” There was nothing they desired more than to be with Him. Like Abraham before them, they were willing to leave their occupation, their family and their father (Cf. Gen. 12:1). As light was the beginning of the first creation, the Light of Christ was the beginning of the new creation. The light of faith was entrusted to these earthen vessels. James and his brother John were young men with all the passions and flaws of youth. Perhaps some of us can remember when we acted like them, before we matured and life-experience made us cynical. With the idealism of youth gone, we may find ourselves being confronted by the Lord Who called us and them: “You have lost your first enthusiasm” (Cf. Rev. 2:4).

The apostles James and John

Like James and John we felt the fire of divine love burning within us (Cf. Lk. 24:32). But with the passing of time, we have lost our enthusiasm for the Kingdom. We have become afraid that the earthen vessel might break and so we insulate and protect it. In the name of political correctness and inclusivity, we no longer preach the Truth in love. Because we have lost our first passion, we hide the Light of the Gospel under a bushel basket. We no longer serve the Master in humility and self-abandonment.

Kindness is not charity. Excusing indifference is not compassion. Without copping an attitude of youthful impetuousness, we need to recover our first zeal, tenderness and seriousness for the building up of the Kingdom. The trick is to maintain a servant’s heart no matter how remarkable our deeds may be. We can’t be humble until we become one with God by letting go of the ego and allowing God to work through us as we serve His people in our daily lives.

Following in the footsteps of Saints James and John, we need to take on life and follow Jesus with a passion. It is not a matter of being politically correct but of doing the right thing in the name of Truth and Love. Jesus instructs His disciples to serve others, to discern their needs and attempt to meet them to the best of our ability. Having been grafted into Christ, let us kindle the fire of divine love. May we act in solidarity with others and not worry about how we are perceived or appreciated while doing so.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Friday, July 17, 2015

Unity and Peace: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

On the Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church; an event of grace that first filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world. If only everyone who hears the sound of the rushing wind and sees the flames of divine love would be of one mind and heart! The Holy Spirit is given to us to heal the wounds of division. The Spirit sanctifies, and makes us pure and holy, purges away the dross of sin, error and superstition; and enlightens our minds and gives us knowledge of divine and spiritual things; and fills us with zeal and fervor for the glory of God and Christ, and the good of the Church. It is essential that all Christians agree to love one another; for where brothers and sisters in Christ dwell together in unity, there the Lord manifests His glory and majesty.

For Israel, Pentecost - celebration of the harvest - had become the celebration marking the ratification of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence known to the people and then gave them the gift of the Ten Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the Exodus from Egypt, brought to fulfillment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a "togetherness" of liberty. For us, Pentecost constitutes the baptism of the Church. It is the seminal event that gave the Church the shape and thrust of its mission.

Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Gathered in prayer, the disciples found themselves in the midst of a driving wind and an all-consuming fire. When we speak about wind and fire, we are talking about vitality, excitement and energy. The Jerusalem Disciples were overpowered by the presence of God. They were consumed by the fire of divine love and were driven out of their comfort zones. Moved by the Spirit, in the bond of love, like them, we are called to bless and praise the God Who created us with our lives. Faith tells us that God is light and in His light we see light because in Him there is no darkness. Through the regenerating water of baptism and outpouring of the life-creating Spirit, we have been grafted into Christ and, with Him, we have been transformed into the Light of the world. We are to be a light of hope for those caught in the destructive vortex of darkness. We are the first fruits of the new creation for people who have lost touch with their humanity and are groping to rediscover the radiant glory that is theirs as the handiwork of God.

My brothers and sisters, we are created from the dust of the earth, and into these earthen vessels God has breathed His Spirit. The Lord Jesus overcomes our fears and calms our anxiety by lovingly and reverently entering into our lives. It is a comfort to know that nothing can keep the Lord from pitching His tent in our hearts. Each of us has been gifted by the Spirit in a unique and personal way. From the one Spirit comes a diversity of gifts and talents. These gifts may differ from person to person, some greater and some lesser but each one is necessary for the building up of the kingdom of God. The message of Pentecost is that we are never alone and no wall is too thick for the Holy Spirit to penetrate or too tall for Him to surmount.

The evangelist John tells us how the vision of the risen Lord brought joy to the hearts of the disciples who had barricaded themselves in the upper room because of fear and sorrow. The Lord came to people who were too afraid to come to Him. Into that space filled with stale and lifeless air, Jesus breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit. Those who had been dead were brought back to life. As they breathed in the Spirit, they were transformed. The Spirit of God made them all that the Father created them to be. It was no longer they that lived, but Christ the Risen Lord was living in them. The members of the Body of Christ should endeavor to build up one another in their faith, both by repeating what they have heard to those that were absent, and by making known what they have experienced. The newness which God brings into our lives is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good.

The Holy Spirit does not leave the disciples comfortable, safe, locked away in a sheltered world. He continues to push them beyond their accustomed boundaries. As He said to Abraham, our father in faith, He says to us: "Go from your country and your relatives and your father's house to a country that I will show you" (Gen. 12:1). We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that overcomes isolation and resentment is the strength of forgiveness. Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and consumed them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; He transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace. Nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome. Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness. Peace can only spring from reconciliation.

Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home Shed a ray of light divine!
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

You Have a Place at the Banquet of Life

            God makes all things new through the Paschal victory of Jesus Christ. He demonstrates His intention in the lives of all those whom he delivers from the bondage of Satan.  God manifests His justice by calling sin for what it is. He manifests His mercy by allowing the sinner to repent. All those who allow God to set them free from their bondage to sin, He makes heirs of the heavenly kingdom, the New Jerusalem. By His mercy, God brings each of us to newness of life in Christ. This re-creation is not something we have earned or deserved. It is total gift that has been lavished upon us as a consequence of God's abundant mercy and compassion. The Lord Jesus offers Himself to the Father as the sacrifice of mercy. In humility we confess our sins and in faith we partake of Christ's body that was broken for us and drink of His blood that was poured out for us. In Him we live and move and have our being. Knowing the depth of His love, we gather for the banquet of the Lamb, rejoicing in His love and grateful for all that He has done for us.

            God, in His abundant mercy, has prepared the Banquet of Life for us. On His table are set the choicest food and the finest drink. At each place is a name card, designating each invited guest. It is important to realize that the Father of the household notices each of the vacancies. Our loving Father has not only prepared a snack, but a royal feast. There is plenty for everyone and enough to spare so that no one need begrudge him/herself. The Master of the house offers us the broken bread, "Take and eat!" The Lord of the harvest offers us the precious chalice, "Take and drink!" The celebration of life is ready, "Come home!" Yet through it all, there are still empty places. I pondered this Eucharistic invitation, I remembered something my parents used to say: "Home is a place where when you're not there you are missed."

            God demonstrates His infinite mercy by setting the banquet of life before us. He allows the aroma of salvation to waft over the world and waits for our hungry response. Let us allow God to feed us and embrace us with His merciful love. Having come to know the depths of God’s love, let us show mercy to those who struggle with their relationship with God and with the Body of Christ and thereby offer the Father a sacrifice of praise.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who Do You Follow?

Follow can be a tricky word. Social media uses it for what we keep up with or find interesting. It can also mean to come after, go after, or be with. And while you may have friended Jesus, stood behind Him in line, monitored His actions, or hung out with Him, that's not what I'm talking about.

"No, I'm not talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me." --Jesus  We follow completely, or not at all

There's another definition of follow--to accept as authority or guide, imitate or conform to. This has a deeper purpose, one cleverly described in the Bible though the word is never mentioned.

Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gergesenes. Many Jews lived there but did not hold to Jewish laws. As Jesus got out of the boat, a man rushed toward Him and screamed. Upon Jesus' command, demons left the poor man, entered a herd of pigs, and killed them.

News spread quickly. When people learned what had happened and saw the man calm and in his right mind, they were afraid. Wanting no part of Jesus, they begged Him to leave them, even as the man begged to be with Him. But Jesus would not allow it.

Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion for you and mercy on you.

The man did as he was told. Then he traveled throughout the region, sharing what Jesus had done for him. And all people--Jews and Gentiles--were amazed. (see Mark 5:1-20)

This account tells of the presence of evil and Jesus' power over it, as well as the depth of His compassion and mercy. But these verses also speak of what it means to follow the Son of God.

Remember the disciples? In all that happened, they did nothing. Even after the man was released, none came to his aid. They followed Jesus just to tag along and accompany Him, but were not involved in His work.
What about the Gergesenes? They heard the report and rushed to see for themselves. Yet they were only keeping up with the news. They followed Jesus because they found Him interesting, but refused to be part of His work.

And what of the man himself? Tortured and chained, he had lived a horrible life. Jesus set him free and he was grateful. He desperately wanted to follow Jesus to be with Him. But simply being with Him was not enough for Jesus.

Jesus wanted conviction. He wanted commitment. He wanted this man to accept Him as his sole authority, guide, teacher, lord and master. He wanted him to walk as He walked, love as He loved, and conform his entire life to one of obedience. Jesus wanted this man to follow Him.

And he did. The man obeyed Jesus' instructions, going far beyond what was required. He went not only to his family and friends, but to people throughout the region. He shared what Jesus had done for him. He told of His compassion and mercy. And the people were astounded.

This is what God means when He says, Follow. We are called to follow Him. No one else. Not a beloved pastor, minister, or priest. Not a politician, community leader, or friend. In all we do, we are to follow the one and only Living God. And when we do, we stand amazed in His presence.

So tell me. Want to experience the love of a lifetime and beyond? Who do you follow?

Take Care and Be God's.

Chuck Graham

(republished with permission from

Trust in God in Whom Few Now Believe

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’   (Matthew 8: 1-4)

This Gospel passage is encouraging us to reflect on the whole notion of trust. This reflection is important especially at a time when trust is in short supply in the world around us. This reflection is important for a society that has replaced trust with whole networks of security systems. The notion of trust is important for our times because constant vigilance has sapped our energies from more productive endeavors. When trust is low, we tend to isolate ourselves from other people, putting up higher and higher walls and thicker and thicker barriers. The more we pursue security in in these ways, the less peace we enjoy and consequently the love we most desire becomes more and more evasive.

In his first epistle St. John reminded us: “God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). In order to abide in love, we must trust the Beloved. Unfortunately, many people have abandoned their biblical roots. Secular education has caused them to forget that they were created in the image and likeness of God. Consequently, they have recreated God in their image. Thus, the lack of trust threatens to erode our relationship with God. It is safe to assume that each and every one of us has felt abandoned or ignored at some time in our lives. Having been hurt, we set up defenses so as never to be hurt again. Not desiring to remain in darkness and futility, we push on, seeking meaningfulness, happiness and light. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; and for those living in the land of the shadow of death, light has shined” (Is. 9:2).

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Modern society has wagered that there is no God and that man is the master of his own destiny. Modern man, in his infinite wisdom, has rejected Pascal’s wager* (see footnote). By so doing, man has limited his scope of existence to the here and now, rejecting an infinity of an infinitely happy life. By limiting our vision to the earth, we inhibit our ability to mount the high places. Acknowledging our spiritual handicaps, may the Lord stretch out His hand and make us whole,

Quote from Hind's Feet on High, by Hannah Hurnard

In the place where just a little while before all had been fear and despair were the Shepherd and Much-Afraid, sitting on the rocks at the foot of the precipice, laughing together as though at the greatest joke in the world.

"Come now, little jellyfish," said the Shepherd, "do you believe that I can change you into a mountain goat and get you to the top of the precipice?"

"Yes," replied Much-Afraid.

"Will you let me do it?"

"I don't think I mind so very much if you do; only have your will and way in me, Shepherd. Nothing else matters."

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

* (Pascal's Wager) If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is....
..."God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

"That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Persecution of Catholics and Orthodox Christians in USA.

Persecution of Catholics and Orthodox Christians in USA.

Persecution of Christians in former self identified Christian countries does not happen over night. Neither did this growing dislike for orthodox Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and those Christians that maintain orthodox beliefs regarding faith and morals turn to hatred over night either. The fact is, that a great percentage of men and women who teach in Universities, colleges, high schools and even grade schools now, have been brainwashed into accepting the lies of secular humanism combined with agnosticism and atheism, has caused evil to spread in Western civilization. The goal is to rid society of God and his laws, but what will fill the void?  

Normally change from respect to vituperation goes in stages which grow in intensity. And hereby the Church, once a respected aspect of American life, has become increasingly marginalized and hated by many. Becoming aware of these stages of persecution is advantageous, because  things are going to get more difficult for the Church in the years ahead.  Upon reading an article by Rev. Monsignor Charles Pope on the stages of persecution I believed it was paramount to share these principles. The better one knows his enemy, the better one can be victorious.

Church and Christian Persecution

Here are the five stages:
I.                    Stereotyping the targeted group: To stereotype means to repeat without variation, to take a quality or observation of a limited number, and generalize it of the whole group. It involves a simplified and standardized conception or view of a group based on observation of a limited sample. So as it happened in  the 1960s and 70s,  Catholics and Bible-believing Christians were often caricatured in the media as Bible thumpers, simpletons, as backwards, mentally simple, haters of science, hypocrites, self-righteous, old-fashioned and so forth. Catholics in particular were also accused of having neurotic guilt, hatred or aversion of sexuality, of being in a sexist institution; of it being stuck in the past, with too many rules, being authoritarian, of having clergy who were sexually repressed, homosexuals or pedophiles. Basically as the stereotype goes, Catholics and Bible believing Christians are a sad, angry, boring, backward and repressed lot. To many who accept the stereotyping, we are a laughable, even tragic group, caught in a superstitious past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of faith. To be sure, not everyone engages in this stereotyping to the same degree, but here are the basic refrains of it. And the general climate of this sort of stereotyping sets the foundation for the next stage.
II.                  Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct: As the stereotyping grows in intensity, Catholics and Christians,  who did not toe the line in the cultural revolution, were described as close-minded, harmful to human dignity and freedom, intolerant, hateful, bigoted, unfair, homophobic, reactionary and just plain mean and basically bad people. The History of the Church is also described myopically as little more than bad and repressive behavior as we conducted crusades, inquisitions, and hated Galileo and all of science. Never mind that there might be a little more to the story, or that the Church founded universities, and hospitals, was the patron of the arts, and preached a Gospel that brought order and civilization to divided and barbarous times in the aftermath of the Roman Empire. Stereotyping will hear little of that, or,if it does, it will give the credit to anything or anyone but the Church and the faith. As with any large group, individual Christians and Catholics will manifest some negative traits, but stereotyping and vilifying, and crudely and indiscriminately presuming the negative traits of a few to be common to all is unjust. Yet all of this has the effect of creating a self-righteous indignation toward believers and of making anti-Catholic and anti-Christian attitudes a permissible bigotry for many today.
III.                Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society: Having established the (untrue) premise that the Church and the faith is very bad and even harmful to human dignity and freedom, the next stage seeks to relegate the role of the Church to the margins. To many in secularized culture, religion must go. They will perhaps let us have our hymns etc. in the four walls of our churches, but the faith must be banished from the public square. In this stage it becomes increasingly unacceptable and intolerable that anyone should mention God, pray publicly or in any way bring their Christian faith to bear on matters of public policy. Nativity sets must go, out with Christmas trees, even the colors green and red at “holiday time” are banished from many public schools. Do not even think of mentioning Jesus or of publicly thanking him in your valedictorian address--you could very well have a Circuit Court judge forbid you under penalty of law. You can thank the Madonna, but only if you mean the singer.The LGBT club is welcome to set up shop and pass out rainbow colored condoms at the high school, but Christians better hit the road, no Bibles or pamphlets better see the light of day anywhere in the school building…separation of Church and state you know.
IV.                Criminalizing the targeted group or its works: Can someone say HHS mandate? But prior to this egregious attempt to violate our religious liberty, there have been many other times we have had to go to court to fight for our rights to openly practice our faith. Increasing litigation is being directed against the Church and other Christians for daring to live out our faith. Some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information or referrals for abortion, to provide “emergency contraception” (i.e. the abortifacient known as the morning after pill), several branches of Catholic Charities have been de-certified from doing adoption work because they will not adopt children to gay couples. The State of Connecticut sought to regulate the structure, organization and running of Catholic parishes in 2009. And recently a number of Christian valedictorians in various states have suffered legal injunctions when it was discovered that they would dare to mention God and Jesus in their talk. Many of these attempts to criminalize the faith have been successfully rebuffed inthe courts, but the frequency of lawsuits, and the time and cost involved with fighting them, is a huge burden. It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior is a growth sector in this culture and signals the beginnings and steady erosion of religious liberty. Many indeed feel quite righteous, quite politically correct, in their work to legally separate the practice of the faith from the public square.
V.                  Persecuting the targeted group outright: If current trends continue, Christians, especially religious leaders, may not be far from enduring heavy fines and jail. Already in Canada and parts of Europe Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic Doctrine on homosexual activity. In this country there are greater provisions for free speech but, as we have seen, there is a steady erosion in religious liberty and many Catholic dioceses are well familiar with having to spend long periods in courts defending basic religious liberty. The trajectory points to suffering, lawsuits, fines, decertification, and ultimately jail. Unlikely you say? Alarmist? Well, stages one through four are pretty well in place. One may wish to whistle past the graveyard but it looks like we’re pretty well set for Stage V. You decide.
--Deacon Joseph Pasquella

Saturday, July 4, 2015

God Carries Us in Our Weakness

He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. (Ezekiel 2: 2-5)

 I doubt anyone here would deny that Ezekiel was a great and powerful prophet. We have to keep in mind that this man of God was given an extremely difficult task to carry out. Understandably, he was fearful and anxious. After all, he was a frail and flawed human being, just like you and me. His human condition did not hinder God's ability to use him as an instrument of grace. The prophet could lay claim to no strength of his own. As we ponder the mission of Ezekiel, we are reminded that prophets do not assume their task on their own. They are called to the ministry by God. It is God who chooses His ministers and it is God who sets them on their feet. The choice of the message, of the prophet, and of the recipients of the message is God’s, and His alone.

By calling the prophets,God showed His need for ordinary people who are willing to acknowledge that they are weak and flawed, so that He can manifest his grandeur and power through them. It was his compassion for the people and his love for God that allowed Ezekiel to support the people who were with him in exile. Pain, suffering and mental anguish are part and parcel of walking the walk of faith. The prophet could not depend upon his own strength and had to rely upon the Spirit that entered into him. Similarly, when we are weak in ourselves, we need to depend on the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Writing to the Church in Corinth, Saint Paul reported that he had asked the Lord to remove a particularly bothersome suffering that he referred to as a “thorn in the flesh.” We have never been told what the thorn was. But we do know the Lord’s response to the apostle’s request, “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul never doubted that the Lord heard his prayer. Neither did he doubt that the Lord answered his plea for help. At the same time, he had to admit that the answer he got was not the answer he had expected or wanted.

We have no record of how long the apostle to the Gentiles wrestled with his disappointment. However, we know that he did come to peace with the Lord's response: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” I am reminded of the story of Jacob wrestling with God. As he hobbles away on his disjointed hip, he tells everyone he meets that even though he wrestled with God, he lived to talk about it. This encounter with Christ would become the foundation of Paul’s dealing with suffering. This great disciple never hesitated to recount the sufferings he experiences; nor did he hesitate to proclaim the power of Jesus experienced through them – “for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Paul’s message for believers is clear: Disciples of Jesus should not expect to be shielded from suffering. Rather we should expect our weakness to become the occasion for experiencing the power of Jesus at work in us. Because God loves us, he will keep us from being puffed up. Spiritual burdens can be used to cure spiritual pride. When we are tormented with a thorn in the flesh, we should turn our minds and hearts to God in prayer. Prayer is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; and if an answer be not given to the first prayer, nor to the second, we are to continue praying. Even though God does not take away our troubles and temptations, he gives grace to endure whatever comes our way. In times of distress, true to His Word, God will be our strength. We have Christ's word for it. “If you come to me when you are burdened by your daily task, I will give you rest. If you yoke yourself to me, your burden will be easier to carry” (Cf. Mat. 11:28-30).

Throughout His ministry, Jesus revealed the Father’s love for His people. Jesus exercised His power as one who came to serve others and not as one who expected to be served. He came to build up the Kingdom of the Father by ransoming all who were wandering in a valley of darkness. The Word became Flesh, not to destroy the people who opposed Him, but to redeem them by taking their sufferings and death to Himself. By emptying Himself of all the grandeur that is rightly His as the Beloved Son of God, He freely laid down His life for the life of the world. Having been rejected by His own people and followers, He grants forgiveness to all who stand in the shadow of his cross. By accepting death on the Cross, He offered all the children of Adam and Eve the promise of eternal life. Through His victory over death, Christ showed us that to be truly human means to pour ourselves out in the service of our neighbor.

Having come to the Light, we have reason to be confident in the abundant mercy of God. In our lowliness we can look up into the heavens and wait for a word from the Lord. The Psalmist put it quite beautifully. “As the eyes of servants are focused on the hands of the master, and as the eyes of a servant-girl are fixed on the hand of her mistress, so our eyes are waiting for the Lord to have mercy on us” (Ps. 123:2). We stretch out our hands, expecting a blessing from His outstretched hand. Let us humbly acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations, realizing that it is upon the downtrodden that God breathes out His Spirit. Having been brought to the fullness of life in Christ, let us strive to establish relationships with all people under the mastery and guidance of justice and love. As we enter into communion with the Living Word, let us allow Him to “set us on our feet.” Let us do for others what God has done for us.

Footprints in the Sand Poem

Footprints in the Sand - by Mary Stevenson

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gadgets and the Confraternity of Penitents Rule

Question on Gadgets and CFP Rule:
Dear CFP,
I have been working to simplify my life and cut back on my unnecessary purchases. My question is, I really want a new gadget that just came out (I've always been a fan of technology, though I have stopped buying the latest and greatest), and I have been really wrestling with whether or not buying it is contrary to the Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents. It would be a luxury... it is not something I need. It is a want. That said, it is something I would use every day. If I were to get it, I would buy the cheapest version available. 

I have talked to my spiritual director about it and he says he think it is not a problem. My wife doesn't think it is a problem either, and she wants me to have it as a gift. Still, I am struggling with whether or not a luxury like this is contrary to the rule, which I do take seriously. I don't want to be worldly and materialistic. I have prayed about it, but can't seem to come to a conclusion. What do you think?

Thank you for your advice!
S. (Novice 1)
Answer on Gadget and the Rule of the Confraternity of Penitents

Thanks for the question. Here are some thoughts:

We are to have the least sophisticated and amount of appliances necessary. But you said this was not necessary but something you want, maybe even a gift, something you would use daily. I don't know what this is and it is probably not sinful to have it, but it may not fit the spirit of our Rule in the area of simplicity.

I would think that, if you are wrestling with having this, then something inside is saying not to have it. I would not suggest going against the Holy Spirit Who may be saying "no" here. If you don't need this item, then it would be spiritually safest, in my opinion, to follow the inner block against having it. The prompting to get this seems to be coming from you and not from God, and we don't want to make idols out of ourselves and our desires. That's what worldly people do and we are trying to get beyond that lowest level and rise to Someone higher. Therefore, to get this gadget could be against God's Will for you as He does not seem to be prompting you to get it. Rather the Holy Spirit seems to be causing you to ask about getting it which means that you have doubts about whether or not to get it at all. We should not take an unnecessary course of action unless we know that God is asking us to do this, and that does not seem to be the case here.

How about taking whatever you would have spent on this gadget and giving it to a charity?

I hope this helps. God bless, M, CFP

Reply from S

Thank you! Your answer was very helpful. I believe you are correct---I am struggling with this and seeking advice because deep down I know it isn't God's will. I think this is the struggle of penance...sacrificing things, even legitimate things, for the higher good of seeking God with all my heart. The problem is, the "old man" doesn't want to die so easily.

This has been very healthy for me. For the first time in my life, I am questioning desires that I used to consider harmless, but that were holding me back spiritually. I've always struggled with being materialistic, and I think our Lord is teaching me that I need to find my happiness in him alone. Thank you again, truly.

Peace in Christ,