A Forgiving Spirit

Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

The amount that we give will determine the amount given back to us in return. How much do you give? For those who give of their time and their hearts and their abilities, this is great news. For all that we give, we’ll be given back in return! And isn’t that usually the case? Sometimes it’s not right away – most times we have to wait patiently for it to come back to us. Some call it karma. I like to think it’s God. 🙂

But what about those times when we don’t do much good? What about those times that maybe we didn’t treat that stranger with respect. Or maybe that time we passed the donation basket down the pew when we knew we had a few bucks to spare? Or, that time we judged someone we just met based on their background or their accent or their clothing. We probably wish we could go back and do differently.

The good news is, it’s never too late. We can put some money in the basket at the next mass, we can give that stranger a smile next time we see them, or we can re-introduce ourselves to that person we misjudged. And for those “bigger” sins? We can confess and ask God to forgive us and the peace to move on.

Fit In Your Faith Today: As Lent continues, take stock of what you’re doing right now that is good. Are you shining your light on to others? Or are you still in the darkness of contempt or disappointment or shame? It’s time to be compassionate just as our Father is compassionate and merciful. Be merciful to others but also to yourself!

Hunger For God

Isaiah 58:6-9

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

This reading from Isaiah was read during Friday (yesterday) mass. It’s a good reminder to all of us what true fasting is. And what God wanted and sees as hungering for Him. It’s not just fasting from food or our favorite snack. No, it’s also clothing the naked when you see them, sharing your food with those who are truly hungry and in need, fasting from unjust practices, and abstaining from a particular bad habit that you might have.

Fit In Your Faith This Lent: Get creative with your fasting this Lent. Maybe one day you fast from social media, another day you fast from keeping that extra change and giving it to the homeless man sitting outside the grocery store, and perhaps one day you fast from gossiping about others. There are many ways you can Hunger For God, and not just with your empty stomach.

 

The Best Quotes About Lent

The practice of Lent

Matthew 6:1 Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

Pope Benedict XVI: “Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One. It is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism.”

Mother Teresa: “As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”

Pope Francis: “Live your Lent as if there is no Easter.”

“No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.” – John Chrysostom

Fr. Robert Barron: “Jesus, having resisted these temptations from the devil in the desert for 40 days, is now ready to make God the center of His life. This, too, is our purpose during Lent.”

Prayer:

Matthew: 6: 5-6 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Martin Luther: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

Paul E. Billheimer: “Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying.

Various Priests and Deacons: “Pray in your car, it’s the perfect setting. You’re alone, you’re forced to slow down when you’re stuck in traffic. Begin a conversation with God right there.”

St John Damascene: “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”

Fasting:

Matthew 6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Pope Francis suggests we fast from indifference to others:  “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Fr. Robert Barron: “The pleasures of the body sometimes dominate and take over – so we fast from them purposely so as to allow the deeper hungers to arise and emerge.”

John Piper, Author of A Hunger For God: “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.”

Almsgiving:

Matthew 6: 2-4 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Father Robert Barron: We all have too many material things. Here are 3 ways you can express almsgiving:

  • When you receive something in the mail and it is requesting money, donate to that cause.
  • If you see a homeless person who asks you for money, give them something (does not have to be money).
  • When you want to buy something, take a look at what you would consider your first choice. Then buy the model or the version just beneath it/less expensive than your top choice. Use the money that’s the difference between those two and give it to the poor.

Mike Aquilina – Catholic Education Resource Center: Almsgiving is a form of prayer because it is “giving to God” — and not mere philanthropy. It is a form of fasting because it demands sacrificial giving — not just giving something, but giving up something, giving till it hurts.

Book of Tobit 12:8-9: “Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness … It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life.”

Fit in Your Faith Today (and this Lenten Season): Practice the 3 aspects of Lent – Perhaps you take just one a day. Which one do you need the most help with? Do you find that you aren’t giving to the poor enough when it’s NOT Lent? Work on how you can give to those less fortunate, even if it’s not monetarily.

Do you go about your day skipping prayers and forgetting to give thanks to God? Arise every morning with a short prayer of thanksgiving.

What do you have too much of that you can fast from this Lent? It could be food, it could be social media, or it could be a certain bad behavior/habit you have been meaning to cease.

Is 46 days too much to ask to abstain and use that time/energy/money on something for your community of fellow Christians? Start your Lent off on the right foot and start a calendar or write down in a journal how and what you’re going to accomplish this Lent. At Easter, note how closer you have come to putting God first in your life.

Pursue Righteousness

1 Timothy 6:11

But you, Timothy, are a man of God, so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 

St. Paul has a final message to Timothy in his letter to him. But the letter is also addressed to all of us!

This is a prime example of picturing the author speaking directly to you when you read scripture. (Some translations say “But you, man of God,”)

The first thing I noticed is Paul’s language here. I love his use of the word “pursue.” And he uses the word “run” from evil. These action verbs definitely give us the impression that Paul was extremely passionate about how he viewed Christian life. There’s no sitting idly by and watching the world around us. Paul wants us to be active participants!

So how do we become active in our faith?

  • Speak up! Maybe you join a committee for the pro-life movement. Perhaps you start a group yourself dedicated to feeding the hungry or helping others less fortunate in your neighborhood. If there’s something you are passionate about like a social concern or health and safety of others, start your own group or committee dedicated to awareness.
  • Run! Training your body is just as important as training your mind. If you want to become active in your faith, you need to study up on it. Open your Bible, read the scriptures, go to mass, become involved in a bible study, write down and share your thoughts with others. Get them to “Train” with you!
  • Sacrifice for good! Giving up something doesn’t have to mean suffering for God. Think of sacrificing something like time. Volunteer your time to help someone else. Do you use social media as a break from reality? Give up the internet and use that time to do something nice for someone else like writing them a note, praying for them, or making them food.

Fit in Your Faith Today: There are plenty of ways to stop being idle and start to being active. Stand up for what you believe in. Stop making excuses for doing works that you know St. Paul would not consider “righteous” or “godly.” Get creative and think of your own way you can run from the evil and pursue righteousness that will contribute to your faith.

 

Give (Joy) to Those in Need

The scriptures for the next 31 days are courtesy of the 31 Day New Year, Fit Spirit Challenge started by Sarah Shaffer who works for The Dashing Dish. Give Katie Farrell and the crew over there a look, it’s a wonderful blog and recipe sharing website where our favorite dishes are made into healthy alternatives. 

Nehemiah 8:10

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

According to The New Life Study Bible: The people wept openly when they heard God’s laws and realized how far they were from obeying them. But Ezra told them they should be filled with JOY because the day was sacred. It was time to celebrate and to give gifts to those in need. Celebrating is not to be self centered. Ezra connected celebrating with giving. This gave those in need an opportunity to celebrate as well. Often when we celebrate and give to others (even when we don’t feel like it), we are strengthened spiritually and filled with joy. Enter into celebrations that honor Go, and allow him to fill you with his joy.

My first thoughts on this are what I have discussed and blogged about on my fitness site – “Share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared.”

I have recently tried fasting as a way to teach my body and my mind patience when it comes to my next meal. I also wanted to emphasize that I am fortunate enough to live in a country where there is no shortage of food. I, God willing, will always have access and the funds to purchase good food when I need it. So in a way, I fast as a form of expression to thank God that I don’t need this food RIGHT NOW. I will eventually eat it….but I don’t need it right now.

Right now, there is someone else in need. Right now, perhaps not in my neighborhood, but probably in my city somewhere, someone is hungry and really can’t afford a meal. So I can sacrifice a meal or two so that others can purchase that food that I would normally buy. Or, of course, I can literally give someone else my next meal. That’s my gift to those who have nothing prepared.

It’s also interesting and I think important to note that you should give with Joy in your heart. Even if you might not particularly want to, it’s not helpful to show especially in your face, how unhappy you are to give to others. You might feel like you deserve to be a little greedy. Or maybe you feel you deserve a reward (of food) due to a great week of dieting or celebrating a little victory. I think this passage is saying celebrate, but celebrate by giving with Joy to others. That way, they can have some of the joy, too!

Fit in Your Faith Today: When was the last time you celebrated by giving to others instead of rewarding yourself? How can you flip that switch and celebrate by giving to those who are in need? It doesn’t have to be a donation in the form of money or food. It can be something that costs you both nothing. Get creative and have a joyful look on your face when you share that gift with others!