The Truth Does Not Change

I wish I knew where this reflection on this Sunday’s gospel came from in order to give credit to whomever wrote it. I’m going to assume, since I found it in my church’s bulletin, that it came from the USCCB. I felt compelled to share it, particularly because of this line: “Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel.” 

Was it always this hostile or is it just me? Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe I’m feeling the hostility because I’m interacting with more people? No idea. Perhaps the world was always this angry but because we are all communicating and sharing more than ever, it’s just becoming more and more apparent that the hostility was always there – we just didn’t see it.

For reference, the reading is Luke 4:21-30

“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.” Why were these folks furious? Because they didn’t like what Jesus told them. They took offense at his teaching that “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Jesus was implying that his fellow Nazarenes in the synagogue were blind to who he really was. And this made them mad. They didn’t like being told that they were wrong. But Jesus told them anyway. He knew that these people needed to hear the truth, even if it mean that he would be unpopular. In fact, he spoke the truth even at risk of his own life. “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”

It can be tempting to confuse Jesus’ kindness and goodness with passivity, mistakenly imagining him as a person who would never ruffle any feathers because he was so concerned about being “nice.” This one-sided image of Jesus can lead us to excuse our own passivity about the falsehood and evil that surrounds us.

We can justify our silence or inaction by convincing ourselves that we shouldn’t upset anyone. But the fact is that Jesus upset people on a regular basis. That wasn’t his goal, of course, but he was willing to deal with resistance for the sake of truth and justice. And we should be willing to do the same.

Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel. When we simply live our faith authentically, it makes some people angry. But we should not recoil from this reality. Jesus’ witness made people furious too. But when they got mad, he didn’t cave in.

Whether people like it or not, the truth does not change.

The Power of Prayer

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“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.”

— St. Therese of Lisieux

Since my life-changing experience at the TOB retreat in PA in June of this year, I’ve been attending Adoration several times a week in addition to daily mass.

And something awesome has been happening.

My prayers are being answered.

This shouldn’t surprise me. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has faith.

But without fail, every single time I read something that strikes a chord in me…

…or I come across a scripture passage that speaks to me

…or encounter someone who says exactly what I need to hear at that moment

…or I see someone so strong in their faith…

I am left in awe at the power of my small prayer.

I literally sit there in front of the Blessed Sacrament beaming, grinning from ear to ear.

If I’m at home or at daily mass, I catch myself smiling when I think about how every time I may have a moment of doubt, I am ALWAYS proven wrong. It’s almost like God is saying, “Why do you doubt me? You know I got your back.”

These are no huge miracles.  These things are really nothing to make a big deal about. But to me, they HELP reinforce my faith that all this praying isn’t all for nothing. It really is tangible. It’s real. He’s real.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Just two days ago, I received a letter in the mail saying my Medicaid had been terminated because I hadn’t sent in the correct information. Just reading the word “Terminated” was enough to throw me off my game and send me into a panic. I’m on a very expensive medication that I receive every 8 weeks thru an IV. So of course, after reading this letter, I immediately panicked and worried and prayed for a solution. That night, I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted some part-time work to help my financial situation. (He had no idea about the letter obviously, he just knows I’m always looking for extra funds to help pay down my debt.)

I had to smile…I think I even laughed as I listened to his voicemail.

“God’s got my back.”

I called the case worker the next morning to ask why it was terminated when in fact I DID send in the information that was requested.

Without even waiting more than half a minute, she said, “Oh you were approved 10 days ago. Disregard that letter. It was sent by mistake.”

After an entire day and night of panicked prayer, it turned out I worried for nothing.

Once again, I had to smile and laugh.

God has my back. All the time.

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Prayer isn’t magic. And contrary to what I believed for a very long time, it’s not something that you do only when you need something. It’s something, I think, that you need to keep up with.

Some nights I don’t feel like going to Adoration. Some days, I’m just not in the mood to go to mass. Sometimes, I’m really tired and all I want to do is sleep instead of doing an Examen of Conscience.

But, without fail, every time, even if it’s just a short prayer to God asking for strength, I always feel immediately better. (The website I link lists 10 super short prayers. Even gives the estimated time it takes to say them; some of them under a second!)

I swear by it.  I live by it. And now I’m writing about it: This prayer thing?

Yeah…it’s the real deal. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Four Nonnegotiable Pillars of the Spiritual Life

Excerpt from The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality

Four essential pillars undergird any healthy Christian spirituality. These are universally prescribed spiritual challenges and are revealed by Christ as being nonnegotiable elements within Christian discipleship. What are they?

We see that Jesus was prescribing four things as an essential praxis for a healthy spiritual life: 

a) Private prayer and private morality

b) social justice

c) mellowness of heart and spirit

d) community as a constitutive element of true worship 

These are not elements we may choose or not choose to incorporate within our spiritual lives. They comprise the essence of the spiritual life. They also supply its balance. Only when all four of these are present in our lives are we healthy, as Christians and as human beings.

We can spend our whole life trying to live out all 4 of these pillars without 100% success. But the point of this section of the book is to understand that if we call ourselves Christians, THIS is what Jesus wants us to strive for. The Christian who has all 4 of these things present in their spirituality, they are the living the ideal Christian life. Chances are, though, that we are lacking in at least one of the 4 areas.  I know I certainly am, especially the part about social justice. But there’s hope! We can identify this absence and work on incorporating it into our lives.

For example, let’s say you’re like me and you do everything listed above except you do not have a passion for social justice. You aren’t the type to sign petitions or stand in front of a courthouse holding a sign or perhaps you don’t feel you are outgoing enough to take a stand. You can fix that by joining a group at your church that holds vigils outside abortion clinics or a group that helps the homeless by taking them meals at local shelters. You don’t have to be on the “front lines” to still take part in social justice. Personally, I was always pro-life in my mind but I never vocalized this opinion to too many people. Recently, and especially after reading Theology of the Body, I am very adamant and quite passionate about preventing abortions in society today. I also look at issues like human trafficking and capital punishment in a different light. Understanding that Jesus wants us to stand up for what He believed and what we as Christians believe has ignited a fire in me to take action.

You might recognize that you are passionate about social justice issues, you have mellowness of heart and spirit, and you pray everyday privately and you obey the commandments. However, you might be the kind of person that doesn’t actually go to church. (Letter D above). You might not “believe” in it. Some people think, “I don’t want to be among all those hypocrites,” or “I prefer to worship in private.”  Here are the authors thoughts on this:

The grounding, earthiness, and necessary pain that only real involvement within a concrete, parish-type family can give you [is what is missing from the life of a person who does not attend a church]. In parishes, we do not get to pick who we will be standing beside as we worship and celebrate various things together. A parish-type family is a hand of cards that is randomly dealt to us, and precisely to the extent that it is truly inclusive, will include persons of every temperament, ideology, virtue, and fault. Also, church involvement, when understood properly, does not leave us the option to walk away whenever something happens that we do not like. It is a covenant commitment, like a marriage, and binds us for better and worse. 

Fit in Your Faith Today: Examine these 4 Pillars  and ask yourself where you are lacking.  Pick up a copy of the book if this peaks your interest and you want to learn more! This exercise isn’t meant to make you feel inadequate or guilty. It’s meant to enhance your relationship with God and examine your spirituality as a Christian. It’s changing my life for the better; think about what it can do for you and for others!

Do You Desire Holiness?

This is an excerpt taken from Patty Schneier’s talk “Prove it, God…and He did!”

Do I desire holiness? Do I even want it? Do I search for holiness in my life?

Do you search for holiness like a mother would search for her missing child?

Do you struggle for holiness as if your head were being held underwater, how that person would struggle and fight to come up for air with every ounce of his being? Do you struggle for holiness like that?

Holiness is being nothing more than what God intended me to be in my everyday life.

How can one become more holy in their day to day life? It starts with prayer.

A day without quiet, reflective, meditative prayer time everyday makes you spiritually dead.

Just take the daily readings of the church and unite your prayer time with Catholics all over the world and ask yourself “What does God want to say to me today?”

Holiness begins right here and right now. That’s your challenge. Not, “When my kids are grown or starting school.” Not, “As soon as we move into our new house.” or not “next year or next week.” You start your quest for holiness NOW.

Get a reflection or guidebook to help explain these readings so you’re not just guessing at their meaning.

Make a resolution – Pick one thing to think about, pray about, or do each day that will take you one step closer to living a holy life.

As busy as you may be, there is always time to pray. How much time a day do you dedicate to God? Is 30 minutes a day too much to ask?

Fit in Your Faith Today: Your challenge is the same as what was presented to Patty – Daily reflective meditative prayer is key to becoming closer to God. Without prayer, we are “spiritually dead.” Instill in your life this quiet time everyday. You’ll be surprised at how much your life will change after just a few weeks of this routine. If you already pray everyday, there is still no such things as praying too much. 🙂 Adoration, praying the rosary, reading spiritual literature, praying the Examen, bible studies, evangelizing, etc are more ways to seek a closer relationship with God as well.

And the Spirit is Truth

1 John 5:1-6

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

I had the privilege of reading this passage from the first letter of Saint John yesterday at Divine Mercy Sunday mass. It stuck with me most of the day as I thought about these beautiful words. Each line is so important and so inspiring. You can reflect easily on just one sentence to take with you throughout your day.

One line in particular is interesting to me because I heard it spoken by Catholic Speaker Patty Schneier in her talk, “Prove it, God!…He did!” 

She laments over the line “And his commandments are not burdensome…” In fact, she did think that some of his commandments were burdensome and thus, struggled to find herself thinking otherwise. But after a few weeks of prayerful reflection every morning and encountering the book “Good News about Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West, she concluded that his commandments are not burdensome. (She was speaking specifically about the sin of contraception). She was just looking at them through a stubborn lens. After reading more about the Catholic Church and the Catechesis, she discovered a whole other world and changed her mind completely about particular commandments that she had found once to be “old fashioned” and “silly.” So when I read that line I pictured and heard Patty’s voice coming through and I was so glad she had changed her mind about this.

But the conclusion is also very poignant. “The Spirit is truth.”

Yes, the Spirit is the one that testifies, that speaks the truth. Jesus Christ is this truth. I think it’s easy to forget this in our secular life. We go searching for the truth when it’s been right in front of us all along. We might be stubborn, we might feel set in our ways, we might not want to know the truth. But there it is:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6

Fit in Your Faith Today: What “truth” are you struggling to believe? What commandments do you find burdensome? How can you look at the commandments or seek the truth through a different “lens?”

Creating a Clean Heart and Pure Spirit

Psalm 51:5-10

“For I was born a sinner-

yes, from he moment my mother conceived me.

But you desire honesty from the womb,

teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Oh, give me back my joy again;

you have broken me, 

now let me rejoice.

Don’t keep looking at my sins.

Remove the stain of my guilt.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. 

Renew a loyal spirit within me.”

It’s so easy to do things that please ourselves only, with no regard for others. How often do we do things to please God instead? Probably not as often as we would like.

It seems we are always searching for instant gratification for ourselves. We want that piece of cake, now. We want to watch our favorite tv show, now. We want to get on social media and post something, now. We want to make more money, now.

But doing things to please ourselves is only temporary, as we know. Nothing we do for ourselves lasts very long and before you know it, we want something ELSE, NOW.

When was the last time we did something to please God? For some of us, it’s been awhile. We might have to search our memory banks for the last time we did something self-less.

We are born sinners, as this Psalm tells us in verse 5. But there’s good news of course! We don’t have to live that sinful life that we were born into. The secular world might try and get us to stay sinful, but that’s not our destiny. No, we can live a holy life, and we don’t need to be a nun or priest to accomplish this. We pray for God to cleanse us from within, to purify us and fill our hearts and spirits with His love.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Reflect on the times that you felt your heart was pure and your spirit was filled with the Holy Spirit. What action were you taking? Chances are, you did something self-less. How did it make you feel? How long did that feeling last?

Now, reflect on the times when you didn’t feel so pure, so holy. Was it a struggle to be without sin? It’s not easy to be free of sin and pure of heart, is it? We can find many examples of how, throughout the course of any given day, we are not the best version of ourselves. Instead of dwelling on those instances, repent and move on. Try to fit in your faith today by LIVING IT. Ask God for a clean heart, a pure spirit within you the moment you wake up. Keep asking it throughout the rest of the day when you need it!