A New Perspective on the Commandments

The key to getting our relationship with God right is the key to getting everything else right in the moral life. – Fr. Robert Barron

Fr. Barron gave a very insightful homily today on our first reading from this Sunday’s mass.

Here’s a summary of his thoughts on each commandment:

  1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me. Everybody worships something or someone – the center of gravity for your life. Everyone has the ultimate concern. What is of supreme importance to you? That is what you worship. What is of highest worth to you? The first commandment tells us it has to be God. If He is not, your spiritual life comes apart.
  2. You shall not the name of the Lord your God in vain. It’s one thing to claim that God is the center of your life, but do you speak like it and act like it? Don’t speak so casually about it. Speech matters. Right speech contributes to the building up of the soul. Wrong speech leads to the coarsening of the soul.
  3. Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Unless you incarnate your worship of God in some definite of act of worship otherwise that commitment becomes an abstraction and then irrelevant. It must express itself through action. God does not NEED our worship. WE NEED worship. Fr. Barron points out the falling off of people attending mass on Sundays. Sunday has become like any other weekend day like Saturday. This signifies this loss of focus of our society.
  4. Honor your Father and Mother. Not just your parents but also your family. If you love God but can’t manage to love and honor those closest to you, something is wrong. Family is the building block of society. The foundation will become lost if you love God but don’t love those closest and dearest to you.
  5. You shall not kill. 60 million unborn babies killed since Roe vs Wade. Victims of ISIS, casual murders in our streets/gang violence. God is the giver of life – We have no business interfering with that preogative. Do we enhance life or do we diminish it after meeting someone? In our dealing with people, do they feel more alive after being with us?
  6. You shall not commit adultery. Marriage is in serious trouble. Think of the pain that takes place when infidelity takes place. The family is the building block of society. Husbands and wives can’t stay committed and the sadness and pain that takes place when that commitment is broken.
  7. You shall not steal.  When you start bad mouthing someone, that’s a kind of stealing. You’re stealing the good reputation of someone.
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. How we love tearing each other down. It’s a function of the ego’s need to be superior and to feel protected.  Our favorite indoor pastime is critiquing each other. How often do you engage in bearing false witness during the course of the day? Do you lie about someone for your own purposes?
  9. You shall not covet your neighbors goods/ 10. You shall not covet your neighbors wife. We desire what our neighbor desires. We tend to desire things not because their good in themselves, but because someone else desires them. We want someONE or someTHING because someone else wants it.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Take one of the commandments and focus on it and how you are possibly, without even realizing it, comitting one of these sins. Are you honoring your family? Do you covet things just because someone else wants it too? Have you stolen someone’s reputation by bad mouthing them? Do you treat Sundays just like any other day without making it a holy day? There’s so much we can work on spiritually to live out these commandments. We can go through our own transformation this Lent as we make an effort to not only memorize these commandments but live them out as well.

Their Hardened Hearts

Mark 8:14-21

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

From the New Life Study Bible:

Jesus rebuked the disciples for their hard hearts. Today the Hardhearts believe:

(1) that poverty is always caused by laziness; helping the poor only enables them;

(2) that worship is best conducted in one way- our way- which has worked very well for forty years, thank you, and need not be changed;

(3) that evangelism doesn’t apply; people will never change anyways, so we don’t need to do it. Joining the Hardhearts requires only one pledge; you must refuse to listen to Jesus’ questions. Don’t be a hardheart. Be open to Christ’s truth. Let him soften your heart.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you allow Christ to “soften” your heart? It’s difficult to accept new ways of thinking. It’s hard to believe in God all the time. What’s EASY is the opposite: To believe in nothing; to think that change is not possible with any one or any thing; that evangelism can soften a heart or two. Shift your way of thinking and accept that your once hardened heart, is now softening for the love of Christ.

 

Falling Short while Looking Up

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

Today’s verses really hit the nail on the head as far as sin goes: We all fall short. We all sin. You can categorize some sins into “Big” and “Little” sins but in the end, we all fall short of His standard. Even Paul recognized this in his letter to the Roman.

It’s somewhat of a relief to read this though, because we probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to certain expectations; maybe from our spouses or parents or co-workers and friends. We might fall short in those relationships, too. But it’s comforting to know that God understands that as humans, we are not perfect and will have moments of walking away from God. In those moments of sin, we aren’t living up to His expectations.

But there’s Good News: He declares that we are righteous. When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. As the Deacon at my parish told me just yesterday, “God can read our hearts.”  When we stray, and we confess that we have strayed, God welcomes us back. He can read our hearts that we are sorry.

So while you may feel you are falling short, remember to look up. Look up to Him, confess, be forgiven, and walk the path of righteousness that God has set for you.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Where are you falling short, not just in God’s eyes, but in other parts of your life? We are not perfect but we can strive to be better Christians by looking up to God, before we fall down and sin again. Confess and be forgiven, then get up again.

 

Preach On and Often

Matthew 28: 19-20

Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples; baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.

Ever have some good news that you can’t wait to share with someone? You remember that anxious and exciting feeling of anticipation as you told them, “I have something awesome to tell you!!” Well that’s how a lot of Christians feel too. As we learn more and more about our God and our savior Jesus Christ, we want to be able to share this information with others. Why? Because it’s helped us when we needed it. Because it’s great to know God!

Maybe you found hope in going to mass every Sunday. Maybe you attended a support group at your church. Maybe you found a great website or blog that shares inspirational scripture and it helped you through a difficult time. 🙂 Sometimes we need to share this news with others. You might hesitate because you aren’t sure if they want to hear it. Or maybe you’re fearful that they will reject your message as “hogwash” or hurt your feelings by telling you that they don’t believe in God.

Jesus wants us all to be his apostles. This doesn’t even mean we have to become great evangelists or professional speakers. You can share the message by just showing kindness to someone. Or by inviting them to come to mass with you. Let the other parishioners and the priest do the evangelizing for you. It really is easy to “preach” without sounding preachy. It’s in our actions and in our words but it’s also in the little things. Just showing someone kindness, giving a little gift to someone who is less fortunate, or simply sharing part of the written word on social media, or sending something nice to someone’s inbox (or the real mail too) is evangelizing. It’s a small but powerful way to share the Good News with others.

Fit in your Faith Today: Let the good news spread. Share part of your faith today in some form with someone today, either through the written word, or social media, or speaking to them, or showing them an act of kindness. Remember, don’t be selfish with your faith; share it with others!

The Word is Alive

John 1: 1-5, 9-14

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas to all the children of God on this most blessed day, the day our savior was born!

 

Fit in your Faith Today:  Be sure to spend some quiet time after the gifts have been unwrapped, after the last sip of egg nog, after the final goodbye to relatives. Spend time in quiet prayer in awe and wonderment at the true meaning of what this day signifies to all of us and to you.

Worry Less, Pray More

Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Are you a worrier? Would others describe you as someone who is always anxious and worrying about the problems in your life? I could be described as a worrier. But I kept hearing the same piece of advice being repeated to me over and over by various people: Give it to God.

At first you might scoff at it and think, “Give WHAT to God? My problems? How can that possibly help?” But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Worrying doesn’t really solve anything. What does? Well, praying about it can at least ease the tension. Once you speak the words of what is on your mind to God, even if you’re just praying out loud and not quite sure you think God is listening (He is) it really does help. You can actually feel the weight being lifted off your shoulders as someone else takes the burden.

A couple other key words in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians above is THANK HIM. So many times we pray ASKING for God to provide us with something. The more important word we should remember when praying is to start off by giving thanks. Because no matter what is going on in your life, there’s someone out there who has an even bigger dilemma and it’s good to recognize that despite your current distress, someone else out there could use a prayer too. So Thank God for all you have and then ask him to take the burden off your shoulders. Ask Him for guidance to help you figure out what to do. Ask him to bring you peace and ease your mind of any anxiety.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Who or what are you currently worrying about? How can you ask God to bring you peace to your current situation?

Doing His Will

Today’s Gospel Reading is from the Book of Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

I think it’s interesting that God might tell us to do something, yet we fight back and say “No, I don’t want to do this. No, I won’t do this.”  And we later find out that God was right. God knew best, just like a good Father.

The first son in Jesus’ parable says that he will not do as the father says. But he ends up changing his mind and doing it anyway. The second son does the complete opposite by lying and saying he will do his father’s bidding, yet doesn’t.

It’s this example that Jesus gives to show the people at the time that the sinners were following Christ, yet the chief priests and elders wouldn’t listen. They might have known in their hearts that Jesus came to show them love and share the good news, but they didn’t believe in him. They wanted to do things their own way.

The lesson is that we might think or be used to doing things a certain way. Is it the best way? Ask yourself if it’s Christ-like? Take the example of drinking alcohol on the weekends. Not a big deal, right? If it’s something you’ve done for a very long time then you probably don’t want to stop. But what if you notice you behave differently when you drink and you don’t like the person you become when you drink too much? Do your friends tell you that they don’t like the way you act? Or maybe they don’t care to notice? Are you proud of your behavior after a night at the bar?

Could your friends, or even God, be trying to tell you to stop? Listen to the voice that might be asking you to change your ways. You might be reluctant to change. But what God is offering is always the better option. It’s always the best choice.

It might not even be something as serious as drinking. Maybe it’s the way you treat others at your job. Are you judgmental and criticizing of others? Or maybe you just have a bad attitude because you’re not a morning person. Is there something you can do to change that label? It could be the way you always speed in traffic because you’re always running late. Do you think you should slow down so you don’t harm others with your careless driving? These are just small ways you can obey God and show Him that you are open to changing your usual ways.

Fit in your Faith Today: Think of one of your worst habits and take steps to stop it and do what is Godly.