Saturday, December 29, 2012

How to Recognize Jesus in the in the hum-drum of everyday life

Saturday 12.29.2012
Lk 2: 22-35

Today didn't start off special, really. It was required by the Law of Moses that a woman had to be purified after giving birth. For the birth of a male child, this was to take place 33 days after the boy's circumcision. So Mary, with Joseph and Jesus, went to the temple to offer the prescribed sacrifice, and complete the ritual. It was also the Law that every male that opens the womb be consecrated to the Lord, and so Jesus was to be presented, and consecrated. Nothing out of the ordinary, really…this was a good Jewish family devoutly following the Law of Moses like every good Jewish family was expected to do.

But we all know that this wasn't the typical Jewish family. The child Jesus was conceived in the womb of an immaculate virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph had taken her as his wife because of an angel's message, and the infant Jesus' birth was announced to shepherds by a whole host of angels.

Yet here they were, fulfilling the law in humility and poverty, just like everybody else. Who would have ever known…who could have even guessed…that disguised in this ordinary act was the Messiah, the Savior of the world?

Simeon is simply described as a man who" was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." He had been given a revelation that he would not die before seeing the Christ. Simeon was old, and who knows how long it had been since the revelation? But he waited; he prayed and he sacrificed and he fasted…and he waited. He believed God, that he would send the Messiah, and that Simeon would live to see it. But this poor couple? This tiny baby? Today? How did he know? Simeon knew because he trusted God. He prayed, and he sacrificed, and he fasted…and after who knows how long, he was rewarded. He was able to recognize the Savior of the world disguised in this little baby carried in the arms of this young mother and father, in this everyday circumstance on this particular day.

What about us? Do we trust God? Are we praying, and sacrificing, and fasting? If we are not, will we be able to recognize the Savior of the world as he comes into our lives disguised in the hum-drum of everyday life; in the humility and poverty of people we pass in the street?  Pray, and sacrifice, and fast, and trust, and he will reward us just as surely as Simeon.  --BW

Friday, December 28, 2012

Is your Family a Holy Family?

Is your family a holy family?  This Sunday is the Feast oft he Holy Family, so this feast day presents us with a wonderful opportunity to ponder the question. Are our families holy families?

Let me paint you 2 portraits. 2 portraits of the Holy Family.

1st Portrait of Holy family = Marriage made in Heaven. We might call this the Holy card version of the Holy Family.

Mary = perfect mother - serene, meek, and mild mannered.
Joseph = perfect father - protective, caring husband and father figure.
Jesus = 'model child.'

No terrible twos, and other than one minor mishap as an adolescent (when he stayed behind in the Temple and worried his parents) Jesus did not give his parents any grief as a teenager. He grew up in wisdom, age, and grace... and they lived happily ever after.

That portrait is too shallow and overly sentimental. We look at our own families and find that they fall way short of this perfect holy family that has it all together, and that leaves us feeling discouraged and inadequate.

The 2nd portrait of the Holy Family looks like this:

Joseph and Mary’s Relationship began with a shaky start.

Mary was a pregnant teenager with an explanation too far fetched for even the most understanding fiancé to comprehend.

He considered divorcing her quietly, but in the end, he married the woman who carried another's offspring. The baby was born at a very inconvenient time and in a very inconvenient place. And then Joseph's dreams directed him to relocate the family to a completely different country for a few years for the child's safety. The child had a mind of his own, demonstrating an unusual degree of independence. Mary tried to understand her child's unconventional ways, pondering in her heart all that she experienced. No matter how much a mother loves her son, she can not determine his destiny. The sword of sorrow pierced Mary’s heart, and in the end, her son died a criminal's death.

1st portrait of the Holy Family is disturbing for its idealism. No family can live up to that idealism.

2nd portrait is disturbing for its realism. Unexpected pregnancy. Questions of divorce and illegitimacy. Dreams and angel visitations. Perplexed parents. When God decided to enter human history, he chose to do so through a human being who would live in a human family. Jesus’ human family was not un-real or ideal, but it was into the real world, with all its brokenness, that Jesus came bringing wholeness and reconciliation. Jesus knows from personal experience what it’s like to belong to a very real human family with very real struggles and difficulties.

A question for all the parents here –Have any of your children ever caused you a bit of anxiety, or when you were a kid did you ever cause your parents any concern? It seems that children do things that cause their parents some degree of consternation, and Jesus was no exception. As we hear in the gospel, instead of heading home with his parents after their annual Passover observance, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Have you ever asked one of your children “why did you do that to us”? or “why did you do that to me?” “why did you do that?” Joseph and Mary ask Jesus the same thing! It says in the scripture we heard today --The very anxious parents asked, "Son, why have you done this to us?" - It’s a question still posed by parents today. Life in the Holy Family was much like life in our families: The gospel also says that Joseph and Mary did not understand what Jesus said to them." Parents are often bewildered by their children - both when they do communicate and when they don't!

Consider this: If there was miscommunication and misunderstanding in the Holy Family, then there is hope for us all!

--So caring for our children can be tough. What about caring for our ageing parents? Many parents find themselves in what is sometimes called the "sandwich generation" - taking care of growing children along with aging parents.

We are advised by Sirach to help our parents in their old age, even if their minds fail, be patient with them. Every time I go to my parents house my Dad tells me: “be patient with the old folks.” He is talking about himself and my Mom. Be patient. Kindness to a mother and a father will never be forgotten. The model people set for elderly care now will probably be the quality of care they receive when they are old.

OK, so What makes a "holy family"? The spirituality of the family is not about excessively long hours of prayer and fasting. There are more than enough opportunities within family life to qualify for sainthood. Here is a list of a few: Changing dirty diapers, getting the kids up and to mass on time or to school on time, wiping runny noses, visits to the emergency room for stitches (when I was a kid the ER doctor knew me by first name!), Car pooling the kids and arbitrating squabbles in the car, helping to settle fights in the family, Fast food sandwiched in between piano lessons, sports, and play rehearsals, Crying with your children when a pet dies, Sitting through a three hour recital waiting for Missy to play the Minute Waltz, Waiting up for a teen out on a date. Stretching paychecks to cover college tuition, Agonizing whether to institutionalize a parent with Alzheimer's.

Folks, what family spirituality is about, is prayer, love, healing bruised egos, mending broken trust, and struggling with reconciliation. It was into family life, holy and messy as it is - that God came to dwell among us as Jesus Christ.

--Is your family a holy family? It is if it is bound by love –the love of Christ. Our families are holy if we find the love of Christ in our family and keep God first in our lives.

Oh yes, family life can be messy, but we also remember that marriage between man and woman is a symbol of Christ’s love for his Church. A marriage between a man and a woman is a symbol of Christ’s love for you his church, his bride. Through marriage, husband a wife share in the creative powers of God -- First, by bringing new life into the world by two people becoming one flesh.

-- And secondly, by bringing new spiritual life into the world by being the first teachers of the faith and the primary source for nourishment of the faith. Listen carefully, It is a serious mistake to think that the Catholic school or the Catholic church is the primary source for spiritual nourishment. I repeat: It is a serious mistake to think that the Catholic school or the Catholic church is the primary source for spiritual nourishment. Lest we forget let me read to you what we all promised at on behalf of our children when they were baptized. . . . (from the book). Faith must have a base upon which to build, and that base is supplied in the home by the family.

So --how do we help keep our families together? How do we bind them together? We are all aware of common experiences that bind people together. Disasters seem to bind people together --Hurricanes, Earthquakes, sickness, fires, war all bond people together. Why not use the common experience of prayer and God to bind our families together? The old saying goes, a family that prays together stays together. Is that still true? Do you as a family pray? I’m not talking about some rote recitation of something like prayer before meals. Do you really pray from the heart? Many families start off like that –do you still do it?

So I ask you, is your family a holy family? How can you transform the nitty-grittiness of your daily life together as a family into a holy family. You don’t do it by getting rid of your humanness, but rather by starting the day with strength from God – from prayer and closing the day with strength from God –from prayer.

Here is the list for building and maintaining a holy family:

Pray -- love -- Teach the faith – love --

heal bruised egos, love -- mend broken trust, love -- struggle with reconciliation, love -- pray.

---Oh yes, life is messy, relationships are messy, families are messy -- I come from a family of 9 kids, dogs, cats, fish, parents, you name it we had it. I know it can be a struggle -- Is your family a holy family? Not a perfect family – but a holy family.?   --DH

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What to hope for

Saturday 12.15.20, Mt 17:9a, 10-13

John and Martha had been high school sweethearts. After graduation, John had gone off to college…and then the war. Martha became a teacher. They had tried to stay in touch…but there was so much that had gone on. Martha eventually married, and she and her husband had three kids…but then there was an accident…and she was left to raise the kids by herself. John never married…the war had really been tough…but he was absorbed in his work, and was quite successful. It just so happened that they had a mutual friend who put them back in touch, and had actually set up a rendezvous. It had been a long time…a lot of water under the bridge, so to speak. Martha arrived early, and sat at a table where she anxiously watched the door. He arrived shortly after, walked by her, and sat at another table, anxiously watching the door. After a while, they both got up to leave, and as he held the door for her, she thanked him…and he recognized her voice. “Martha??”…”John??”…

After all that time, they didn’t recognize one another…they just didn’t know what to hope for.

The chosen people were waiting…and hoping… for Elijah to return, and for the Son of Man to follow…but they wouldn’t recognize either…they just didn’t know what they were hoping for.

How do we know what to hope for? In a secular world that seems so filled with disappointment, so filled with senseless disrespect for life, for people, and for relationships, it can be a really tough question…

But as Christians, we have a blessed advantage. Hope for us is a theological virtue…a gift from God our Father…that gives us assurance…assurance…of salvation; it allows us to place our faith (ANOTHER gift ) in God, and helps us to do the charitable things that please Him.

The focus of our hope is Jesus; that he died for us…to wash away our sins; that he rose from the dead…so we can do the same.

During Advent, we are anxiously waiting…watching…expecting…and praying…that we recognize him when he comes…that we welcome him into our lives…not just at Christmas, but each and every day of our lives.  --W.W.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What kind of Judge is God?

What Kind of Judge is God, reflection on Luke 18: 1-8.

He’s fearless…and if he doesn't even fear God…he is shameless as well. He has no reason at all to even listen to her. It certainly isn’t her wealth or her power that moves him…she has none of either. And it isn’t out of pity or sympathy for her…he is capable of neither. He’s tried ignoring her…and she comes before him over…and over…and over. 

It’s her persistence that wears him down. This big, powerful, important, fearless and shameless judge is so disturbed by this desperate widow’s persistence that he finally…finally…decides in her favor. In his own words, “…lest she finally come and strike me.” Is he really worried that this weak widow woman will literally come down there and thump him? Maybe it’s not a physical thumping that has him concerned. Maybe he’s worried that this persistent and consistent cry for a just verdict from someone so weak and powerless will make him look bad if he fails to act…justly.

Now in our reality, our God is our judge…and he is nothing like the judge in the parable. He waits for us; he listens with love and concern, and while he will never be able to find any of us innocent, he is always eager to find us, through his mercy…saved.

Throughout God’s word, we see it over and over again: widows, orphans, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick and the lame, the imprisoned, and the stranger…the powerless…those who by a fearless and shameless world are judged imperfect or defective…the abandoned and the ignored; to God these are the most precious. Think about it…for a moment…just think about it. Throughout our lives, each of us will fall into at least one of those categories at any given time; and we may not even recognize it as it is happening.

So we have to pray…persistently and consistently…coming before the just judge over…and over…and over…and there is no doubt…he will give a verdict against the world in our favor.  BW

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Northwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association

There are no coincidences in life. Today, we mark the founding of the Northwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, and I think that today's Gospel (Luke 13: 1-9) speaks to this significant occasion.

The fig and the fig tree have been mankind's constant companion throughout all of recorded history, and even beyond that. There is solid evidence that it has been cultivated at least as far back as 7,000 years ago; it is mentioned over 50 times in the Bible, spanning both Old and New Testaments; and all of the references are full of meaning…it's not just a tree that bears abundant fruit with precious little care; it stands as a symbol of so much more.

Fig trees and fig crops were indicators of a robust economy, much like low unemployment figures are now. The fig tree was a symbol of Peace, Prosperity, and God's blessing. The Apostle Bartholomew was chosen by Jesus because Jesus saw him "sitting under a fig tree", which was a metaphor for being lost in deep prayer.

In all cultures where the fig appears, physicians have always recognized it as a source of power and strength, and as a source of healing for diseases of every description.

So, what is the point of the parable that Jesus tells us today in our Gospel reading? How does it speak to us…how does he speak to us…today? This tree, this fabled symbol of God's grace, is threatened with destruction…because it is not bearing fruit, despite many seasons of growth. The owner of the orchard even says "So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?" What a devastating conviction!!

Yet it is the gardener who comes to the tree's defense, giving it one more chance to bear fruit with his promise of extra special care…one more year…but only one more year

The profession of Medicine today looks a lot like the fig tree in today's parable…it has had many seasons of growth, and is flourishing physically and technologically, but it is not bearing the spiritual fruit that it is not only capable of bearing, but that is so much a part of what it is really meant to be…what we all want it to be.

Today, the Catholic physicians of St. Paul parish and our area take that first step…together…to begin the process of cultivating and fertilizing the fig tree of our beloved profession. We ask God's help for an abundance of fruit.  BW

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Noah, Mary, the Catholic Church and Faith and Works

God told Noah to build an ark. God created ex nihilo (out of nothing); He could have created the ark out of nothing. God saves, utilizing His creation. The thought of building an ark might have, at first, seemed ridiculous to Noah. It is possible that he could have refused. God gave Noah the instructions, but Noah had to obey. Noah’s faith alone would not have built the ark that saved mankind and animals from the flood; it was through faith and works that the ark was built and Noah, his family, and the animals were saved.

Noah prefigures Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Virgin Mary’s Creator; nevertheless, He was not conceived by the Holy Spirit until her fiat. Because of Mary’s fiat, Jesus became incarnate and redeemed us. Because of her fiat, she became the ark, the Mother of the Church, and the Ark of the Covenant. Nevertheless, it was not faith alone: She had to be obedient to God’s law; she had to raise and teach Jesus when He was an infant and toddler.

The Catholic Church is the Jesus Christ that the world sees. This is true because we are His Body. There is no other denomination more hated and despised than the Catholic Church. Muslims hate and despise us; Protestants hate and despise us. This has to be since our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, was hated and despised by Jews and Gentiles alike. We are the True Body of Christ; nevertheless, faith alone is not sufficient. How can we exist without good works?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Knowing the Cross I Must Bear

“And he called unto him the multitude with his disciples, and said unto them, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mar 8:34 RV). My natural inclination is to put off hardships, to avoid them. Hence, if I am not careful, it could very well be that I am walking contrary to Christ. I must, therefore, know whether the hardship confronting me is the cross that I must take up. This cannot be something that is in me, for I have known to be wrong many; henceforth, it must come from outside of me—the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Once again, I must always remember that truth lies with the Catholic Church since it is the Body of Christ. Any hardship which I incur because I am walking with the teachings of the Church is a cross that I must pick up and carry. If I believe a teaching of the Catholic Church is erroneous, I have made myself the judge of the Church, made myself superior to the Church—and to Christ by virtue of the fact that He is the Head of the Church. If I am not careful and follow my own personal opinions which would be contrary to the Church, I would be trying to form Jesus Christ into an image that I have created, not liking the true Jesus Christ. I must place my trust in the Catholic Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, the likeness of Jesus Christ. How do I know the teaching of the Catholic Church? By reading the Catechism. It is only then that I know which cross I must bear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ninety Nine and the One

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, which need no repentance” (Lk 15:4-7, RV).

I am sure most of us have heard this parable. For many years, I believed the owner had a hundred sheep (Christians); one was lost and He went out to find it. What was troubling: He left the ninety nine. I thought, “Well, they did not go astray, so He left them. The more I heard about sheep, the more I came to understand that sheep are stupid and must have a shepherd.

Now, when I read this parable, two words stand out: “wilderness” and “repentance.” The “wilderness” associates this with the Church because it is the Church that goes through the “wilderness.” “Repentance” means that there are those in the Church who do not believe they are in need of repentance and some who knows they are in need of repentance. Another thing I notice is: “Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing near unto him for to hear him, and both the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them’” (Luk 15:1-2 RV). Jesus is speaking against the Pharisees and scribes because they were murmuring. We will readily admit that we sin and are in need of repentance. The ninety nine need no repentance; or, should I say, they did not think they had need of repentance. Because they felt they had no need to repent, the shepherd left to find the one that did need repentance.

The question I ask myself: Am I one of the ninety nine, or am I the one who needs repentance? Daily, I try to not sin; I attempt to keep the commandments at the forefront of my mind. I also realize that a righteous man sins seven times daily—the “seven times” meaning numerous times. This is extremely disturbing for, at the end of the day, when trying to confess my sins, I either can think of a few or none at all. This very well could be that I no longer am sensitive to some sins, having become calloused, or that I am so full of pride that I have become hard hearted with regard to some sins. At least, at a very minimum, I am able to confess that pride exists in me and that I am calloused to some sins, praying that the Holy Ghost gives me the grace to repent and to bring to remembrance my sins. Just as the twelve fell into periods of unbelief and sometimes had hardness of hearts. This applies to me also. At the time, more than likely I do not even realize I have fallen into unbelief or hardness of heart; but I do realize that it occurs because it happened to the disciples. Therefore, I need to remember to confess that daily, also at the Sacrament of Penance, and also ask our Blessed Mother and my patron saint to intercede for me and everyone else.  --TT

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is Jesus a Bad Farmer?

Most of us have heard the parable of the sower and the seed. Jesus said He was the sower. Does that make Him a haphazard, sloppy, farmer? Why would He be so careless as to throw seed where it has little chance of producing?

As a Protestant, I thought I was the good soil; that group over there was the wayside; that one, the rocky soil; and that one, the thorns and thistles. Now, as a Catholic, I see Christ making me the good soil by virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism; yet, due to my multitude of sins, I become the wayside sometimes, the rocky soil sometimes, and sometimes, the thorns and thistles.

In the Sacrament of Baptism, our sins are washed away; we become good soil. A farmer can plow a field, removing all the stones. The next year, when he re-plows that field, there are more stones. How do they get there? Every year, that farmer must remove stones from the same field. The same thing occurs in us. When we sin, stones show up in the soil. When we have difficulty with habitual sin, the soil becomes trodden, hardened. This is the wayside. Of course, the thorns and thistles are the cares of the world.

Our Lord tells us that the seed is the Word. When I hear Christ’s Word and have no understanding, it is because I have a hard heart. The Gospels often refer to the disciples’ unbelief and hardness of heart. I am no different. The prophet, Jeremiah, tells me, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is desperately sick: who can know it?” Nevertheless, I erroneously often believe I have a good heart.

Why does Christ sow His Word on the wayside? It is to bring me to repentance. When I do not understand God’s Word, it is not God’s fault; it is mine—because of my sins, my hardness of heart. Very often, I do not like what God’s Word says or the doctrines and teachings of the Church; therefore, I try to twist them to conform to my likes and beliefs. When this occurs, I do not like the true Jesus and am trying to conform Him to a Jesus I like. I am trying to become the potter and trying to make Him the clay. I must allow His Word and the doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church to bring me to repentance, to the Sacrament of Penance, in order that the stones, thorns, and thistles may be removed, and the hard wayside either re-plowed or hoed, softened up. I must always be comparing my thoughts and desires with Scripture and the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church. Where else can I find Truth? Where else can I turn? Jesus is Truth; hence, the Catholic Church must be Truth since it is the Body of which He is the Head. --TT

Saturday, September 8, 2012

If You Don't Forgive Them, Blot My Name Our of Your Book?

It is my desire to be like Christ, to see Him, to not sin. Nevertheless, the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Is it in me to love my neighbor as much as Moses? Moses had led Israel out of Egypt, to Mt. Sinai. He goes up the mountain to speak with God. While He is on the mountain, the Israelites get Aaron to mold a calf for them. God is angry, tells Moses to leave Him, that His wrath may run hot against them, that He may consume them. Moses go down, and then returns to God, confessing that Israel had committed a great sin, and then says, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin––and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exo 32:32 RV). Now, Moses begs this of God even after Israel had murmured against him. St. Paul confesses a similar thing: “For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:3 RV). It causes me to think of my family. Yes, I can pray that for them. God has given them to me that I might be their head. I am responsible for them, to lead and teach them.

I sit in our parish, watching people enter, kneel, and pray prior to Mass. My heart goes out to each and everyone. We are members of the same Body. “Oh, Lord, if You don’t take them, You can’t take me; we are of the same Body.” When our priests are celebrating the Mass, the bread he is offering is us also. Christ is the large host; we are the small hosts. Our priests are our shepherds; they desire that not one of us be lost. Can you not hear them pray in a similar fashion like Moses and St. Paul? Our Blessed Mother, who stands beneath our small crosses and intercedes for us, it would not surprise me if she prayed, before she was assumed into heaven, “If You don’t forgive the least of these my children, don’t take me.” Our Lord Himself, is that not the reason of His Incarnation, Passion, and death on the cross? And did He not rise for our justification? Only we must not be as the five foolish virgins. Let us watch, not only for ourselves but our brothers and sisters also.  --TT

The Response to "I am Blessed"

When I was working as a window clerk in Nashville, there were several people who would reply that they were blessed when I asked them how they were doing. That provoked my response: “In what way?” There would almost certainly be a moment of silence, and then the reply would almost always be, “Because I am alive; because I have my health.” If the reply was “I am alive,” I would ask, “Would you not be blessed if you were dead?” Similarly, if they stated they were blessed because they had their health, I would ask, “Would you not be blessed if you did not have good health?”

The response I never received was, “I am blessed because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became incarnate, suffered, and died for me; I am blessed because I am baptized into Him.” All blessings are contingent upon what Jesus Christ did. Even those who reject Christ are blessed, although they do not realize it. Their biggest blessing is that, because of the love of God, they are given every opportunity to repent. As Catholics, we are blessed tremendously also in that we have the Church and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist; we have all Truth. If we are in poor health, we can remain grateful because we know it is the providence of God, that it is for our good, not for our harm. May God continue to pour out His grace upon us in abundance through Jesus Christ, our Lord. --TT

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Impossibility/Possibility of Denying Myself

In the class presented by Fr. Doug on stewardship, we were reminded to deny ourselves. Two words haunted me: deny myself. What does that really entail? I have heard it often, but I had never pondered over it. I decided to look up the word “deny.” One definition under “deny” is: “(deny oneself) refrain from satisfying oneself.”

A little voice went off in my head, “No! Don’t agree to that!” Then came another voice, stronger, “What is right? What does God want?” Immediately, I realized the impossibility/possibility of denying myself. I realized that denying myself was an impossibility because it is ingrained in me to desire to satisfy myself. I also realize that all things are possible in Christ, Who strengthens me. Hence, it is time for prayer. Lord, this is impossible for me; but, by Your grace, I can progress towards accomplishing it. I also realized, “Is that not also one of the purposes of the Eucharist?”

Jesus continuously denied Himself. In the Eucharist, we eat Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, becoming what we eat. What did Jesus ever do for Himself? He did all for the Father and for us.  --TT

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Deborah! One of the greatest of all Judges.

The major judges can be very difficult. The question I keep asking myself is: Are some of the words superfluous? If so, which ones? Personally, I think every word in the original manuscripts is important; they are there for a reason. Therefore, I have missed a lot here; but it may aid others to input what I have missed.

“And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles” (Jdg 4:2 RV).

Because Israel again did what was evil, God sold them into the hand of Jabin (discerner, the wise), king of Canaan (merchant; trader; or that humbles and subdues), that reigned in Hazor (castle; fortified; enclosed court; hay). What I learn from this is, once again: In order to get His people to repent, God, who is wise and not desiring His people to perish, is going to humble them utilizing those who are nothing but hay and stubble. Without the grace of God, we do not have the strength to overcome those that reign in castles built of hay and stubble. Jabin’s captain was Sisera (battle array; servant of Ra). He dwelt in Harosheth (workmanship; nations) of the Gentiles.

Deborah (a bee—thinking of honey and honeycomb) was a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth (torches). When I come across women in the Old Testament, I attempt to find a connection to either our Blessed Mother or the Church. In this case, I can see both. With the word “torches,” I think of the fire that protected Israel at night during the Exodus. I also think of God as a consuming fire, bringing our dross to the surface in order they may be removed. This is also the Church and its doctrines. From the Catholic Church document, Domini Iesus, we read on the unicity and unity of the Church: “The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27), which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27;Col 1:18). And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single or whole Christ . This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2;Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9).” Therefore, the Catholic Church is also the “torch” which brings our sins and wrongful thoughts to light that we may confess and renew our minds, correcting the conscience.

Deborah “judged Israel at that time.” The word used for “judge” is defined in Strong’s: “A primitive root; to judge, that is, pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication to vindicate or punish; by extension to govern…” Hence, we see clearly our Blessed Mother and the Catholic Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, and we see the power our Lord gave the Church to bind and loose. Also, while there remains a fear because of sin, we can eagerly look forward to the Second Coming because He is coming to vindicate us, i.e. to defend us, to justify us. In the meantime, we must die daily to self, persevering to the end. If we think we stand, take heed lest we fall. We will not fall as long as we adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.

“And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth–el in the hill country of Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Jdg 4:5 RV). The phrase, “in the hill country,” catches my eye. This phrase is one of the reasons why the Church connects the Blessed Virgin to the Ark of the Covenant—of which I will not expound upon due to the length it would take. It also makes me think of Jerusalem and the Church. Whether they realize it or not all Protestants come to the Catholic Church for judgment because all the truths they do have come from the Catholic Church, of which they at one time were part of.

Deborah sent a [messenger—apostle] and called Barak (lightning), the son of Abinoam (father of beauty, father of kindness, father of pleasantness). In this I see that lightning, which we fear—Mt. Sinai—is from our God, Who is Love. Yet that lightning will lead us to repentance and the Father if we allow it.

Barak was called out of Kedesh-naphtali. Kedesh means “holy;” Naphtali, “struggles or fights.”

“Go and draw unto mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun.” Zebulun and Naphtali makes me thing of Matthew 4: “And leaving Nazareth, [Jesus] came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up” (Mat 4:16 RV).”

“And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand” (Jdg 4:7 RV). Kishon means “water course, torrent stream.” It causes me to think of the Red Sea and the Jordan River—Baptism. Notice the use of the word “draw” instead of “send.” This reminds me that God is constantly, continuously drawing us. Nevertheless, we must cooperate with His drawing. “And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, I will not go” (Jdg 4:8 RV). Let us not go anywhere with the Church, its teachings, and the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

“And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh” (Jdg 4:9 RV). The Blessed Virgin, by virtue of being the Mother of God, crushes the head of the serpent.

“Now Heber (alliance, associate; passing over), the Kenite (smiths), had severed himself from the Kenites, even from the children of Hobab (beloved), the brother in law of Moses, and had pitched his tent as far as the oak in Zaanannim (alliance, associate; passing over), which is by Kedesh. (Jdg 4:11 RV). There was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.

“Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And he turned in unto her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him. And he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and inquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No. Then Jael Heber’s wife took a tent–pin, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the pin into his temples, and it pierced through into the ground; for he was in a deep sleep; so he swooned and died. And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And he came unto her; and, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the tent–pin was in his temples” (Jdg 4:17-22 RV).

It is difficult for me to understand what this represents. All of the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ. Jael means “mountain goat; he that ascends.” Mankind, by virtue of original sin, Adam’s disobedience, made an alliance with Satan. Jael was the wife of Heber (alliance). She took a hammer and a tent pin (nail?), and drove it through Sisera’s temple. The Jews turned our Lord over to the Romans to be crucified. They put a robe upon Him and a crown of thorns. They, then, pierced His hands and feet and crucified Him. Although they did it out of hatred, God made it unto our salvation.

I will not go into Deborah’s Song. Someday I may come back to it.

And the land rested forty years.

In summary, we see God's providence at work, how He works in various ways, to secure our salvation. He gives us the Church to save us and keep us secure--only if we cooperate with it, recognizing that Christ has given the Catholic Church all truth, and we must renew our minds.  --TT

Who was Shamgar in Judges?

“And after [Ehud] was Shamgar (sword) the son of Anath (answer), which smote of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad (sometimes ten feet long, with a pointed end): and he also saved Israel” (Jdg 3:31 RV). Although this is essentially all that is said of Shamgar, there is a major significant point here: The answer to our prayer for salvation is Jesus Christ crucified and pierced with a spear. By His crucifixion, He saves us; by His Word, the double-edged sword, He sanctifies us and guides us. It is also noticeable that nothing is mentioned regarding the land having rest after Shamgar.

After the author mentions Shamgar, he then says, “And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.” It very well could be that Ehud had died prior to Shamgar slaying the six hundred Philistines, and it is mentioned here because Ehud was a major judge and Shamgar, a minor. It could also be that Shamgar killed the six hundred Philistines prior to Ehud dying. The problem with that is: If the land was at rest, why did Shamgar war against the Philistines? A third possibility is that they were contemporaries. Ehud fought against Moab, located to the east of the Promised Land. Shamgar fought against the Philistines, on the west side. When the two are put together, we have Jesus, the Son of God, wholly God and wholly man, crucified, which His redemptive work is the wisdom of God. Christ is the Judge; and, here, He vindicates His people by warring against their enemies, i.e. Satan and the world's ways.  --TT

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ehud and the Last Day

In the book of Judges, After the death of Othniel, Israel fell into sin. Utilizing the pagan nations He had left in the Land to test Israel, God strengthened Eglon (heifer, chariot, round), the king of Moab (the seed of the father). Eglon gathered unto him the children of Ammon (sons of renown, son of my people) and Amalek (dweller in a valley). God did this because Israel had done what was evil in His sight. Nevertheless, this was not for their demise, but for their repentance. When the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, He raised them up a savior, Ehud (union), son of Gera (a grain, pilgrimage, combat; dispute), the Benjamite (son of my right hand).

Now, Israel served Moab eighteen years. In the New Testament we also have reference to “eighteen years.” In Luke 13, we find: “And behold, a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years; and she was bowed together, and could in no wise lift herself up. And when Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.” This was the state of Israel at the time of Ehud.

In Eglon we see the world, its power and influence. In Eglon we also see the influence of Satan. Contrary to Moab and its confederates, Israel is now weak, without strength. In their weakness, they cry out in repentance (the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance). In our weakness, Christ is strong. At the repentance of Israel, God raised up for them a savior, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjamite. “Ehud” means “union.” In Jesus there is “union.” He is united with the Father; He is united with mankind, through His Incarnation. Ehud is the son of Gera, the Benjamite. Recall that “Benjamin” means “son of my right hand,” and that points to Jesus. “Gera” means “a grain, pilgrimage, combat; dispute.” For our passage, “combat” probably fits best. Putting all the words together, we basically have Ehud, united with the power of God.

“But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a savior, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a man lefthanded: and the children of Israel sent a present by him unto Eglon the king of Moab. And Ehud made him a sword which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he girded it under his raiment upon his right thigh. And he offered the present unto Eglon king of Moab: now Eglon was a very fat man. And when he had made an end of offering the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. But he himself turned back from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king. And he said, Keep silence. And all that stood by him went out from him. And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting by himself alone in his summer parlour. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly: and the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, for he drew not the sword out of his belly; and it came out behind. Then Ehud went forth into the porch, and shut the doors of the parlor upon him, and locked them. Now when he was gone out, his servants came; and they saw, and, behold, the doors of the parlor were locked; and they said, Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and, behold, he opened not the doors of the parlor; therefore they took the key, and opened them: and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. And Ehud escaped while they tarried, and passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah. And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the hill country, and he before them. And he said unto them, Follow after me: for the LORD hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand. And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan against the Moabites, and suffered not a man to pass over. And they smote of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, every lusty man, and every man of valour; and there escaped not a man. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years” (Jdg 3:15-30 RV).

Of course, Jesus does not deceive; however, St. Paul informs us, “We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory: which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Co 2:7-8 RV).

Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, and we know that the Word of God is a double-edged sword. Ehud used this double-edged sword to kill wickedness. The Word of God kills. It kills to give Life, or it kills both body and soul. The sword was not removed; neither is God’s Word removed from within us. We can either submit to it or rebel against it. In either case, the Word still remains within us. Ehud blew a trumpet in the hill country. “The hill country” brings to remembrance of the fact that our Blessed Mother went with haste into the hill country; therefore, the Church comes into play here. The blowing of the trumpet makes me think of the Last Day when the trumpet will blow and we go to meet our Lord. As we see in our passage, it is not a Day to be feared but the Day we can look forward to with eagerness and rejoicing. Can we not hear our Lord, our Savior, exclaiming, “Follow after me; your enemies have been delivered into your hands.” Nevertheless, the victory belongs to the Lord; He did all the work. Though He is all powerful, He yearns to exalt us, while we yearn to exalt Him. With Othniel, the land rested forty years; here, the land rested twice that time, perhaps connoting eternity. --TT

For more on Othniel see:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It is my money, and I want it now

“It is my money, and I want it now.” I always have hated that commercial; it sounded so greedy. Perhaps I have hated it because it might have a ring of truth about me. I was listening to St. Augustine’s confessions, and he was referring to his not being content with God although God was Creator and all belonged to Him, that he yearned more for created things than the Creator Himself. It was then that that commercial came to mind. Just as St. Augustine was, so goes I. Am I content with God, or do I yearn more for the temporal than I do the spiritual, the eternal?

My mind turns to the prodigal son. The son was in the father’s house, was with him always. What was the father’s also was the son’s. It was his inheritance, but he wanted it now. He was not content with the father; he wanted his money, and he wanted it now. We know the rest of the story, how he left for a far country, squandered his inheritance with wild living, winding up feeding the pigs, and thereafter returning to his father. How often it occurs that I desire the “new thing” on the market and, after a very short period of time, the newness wears off and I desire something else. This comes with not being contented with the Father and attempting to satisfy my yearnings with the created. I know beforehand that the created will not satisfy; therefore, why do I so often fall into the same trap? In Christ and His Church, and in the Sacraments, will I find contentment. Only in loving God and neighbor will I find joy and peace.

I had always thought the prodigal son was he who did not know Christ. The prodigal son is he who knows the Father, resides in His house, yet is not content with Him, desiring the creature more than the Creator. Not only am I the prodigal son many times, but I will wear the other hat also: the hat of the older brother. This occurs when I desire someone not be forgiven for what he has done, desiring he be judged to the utmost, wanting something bad to happen to him. It is those times when I don’t pray for someone or don’t want to pray for him. How can I say I love God, who I cannot see, when I can’t love the brother who I can see? God loved, and does love, those who hate Him, desiring that they repent; hence, we—being in Christ and becoming more like Him--must love those whom He loves. May Christ pour out His mercy upon us, causing us to love the Creator more than the created things. In Christ, we have all things; in the created, we only have a minute portion. In Christ, we have fulfillment, contentment; in the created, we will never be satisfied.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jesus and Othniel

Many times I hear in homilies, "Come Judgment Day, if Jesus asks you..." If Jesus asks me anything, I must hang my head, speechless. I have wondered why the Book of Judges was given its name. Why wasn't it called something else, e.g. Book of Leaders, or something. Why "Judges"? This brought to mind that Christ is the true Judge. What if He being Judge is something that causes rejoicing instead of fearing? Therefore, I thought I would do some studying of the judges.

“From there they went against the inhabitants of De'bir. The name of Debir was formerly Kir'iath-se'pher. And Caleb said, ‘He who attacks Kir'iath-se'pher and takes it, I will give him Ach'sah my daughter as wife.’ And Oth'ni-el the son of Ke'naz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; and he gave him Ach'sah his daughter as wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field; and she alighted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to him, Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Neg'eb, give me also springs of water.’ And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.” (Judges 1:11-15).

This brings to mind Isaiah 6, where the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Here, we have Othniel (lion of God) answering, “Here am I; send me.” He conquers the “city of letters or books,” which is worldly wisdom. For his success, Othniel, the lion of God, is given Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, as his wife. As a reward for His work on the cross, Jesus was also given a bride, the Church. “Achsah” means “anklet or adorned.” The Catholic Church is the adornment of Christ. Those baptized into the Church no longer are in the city of worldly wisdom, but are now “Debir,” the sanctuary, the temple of God.

Now, when Achsah came unto Othniel to be his wife, she urged him to ask her father for a field. The Church asks of its Father a field, the world. Ascah alights from her ass, and asks her father to also give her springs due to the land being dry. This brings to remembrance the wedding feast at Cana when the Mother of the Church goes to Jesus, saying, “They have no wine.” The real wine Jesus gives is His blood, on Calvary, upon the cross. The “upper springs” is His blood pouring from His side when His side is pierced, pouring into the chalice, the “nether springs.”

“And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, forgetting the LORD their God, and serving the Ba'als and the Ashe'roth. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cu'shan-rishatha'im king of Mesopota'mia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel, who delivered them, Oth'ni-el the son of Ke'naz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel; he went out to war, and the LORD gave Cu'shan-rishatha'im king of Mesopota'mia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years.” (Judges 3:7-10). In the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist, God has raised up Jesus to deliver us. Especially in the Eucharist, we see Jesus going to war on the cross, on the altar. We see His victory in His resurrection, when the priest takes Christ’s body and mingling it with the wine, His blood. The Body and Blood are together again, proving Life. So, the land, the Church rests “forty years.”  --TT

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

God's Paradoxical Living

The bible sure can seem confusing sometimes or at least full of paradox. When it seems so, perhaps it is helpful to recall what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the truth of the bible.

The Catholic position is: the bible is without error in all it intends to teach. So when Jeremiah says God intentionally "duped" him, he is simply expressing how he feels. The bible is not trying to teach us a trickster god intentionally makes fools out of us; however, if we enter into a loving God's seemingly paradoxical teachings, we experience being duped in a beautiful way. That is what the bible is intending to teach us.

For example, when Jesus says in the Gospel we must take up our cross and we must lose our lives, He is speaking to us about the crosses and losses of daily living.  (Matt. 16:24,25; Mark 8:34,35; Luke 9:23,24)

When we live our lives for Him who gave His life for us it may seem at first that we are losing out on what our culture tells us are the goals of life, that is, you can not be happy unless you are getting, getting, getting.

The paradox is we will not be happy unless we are giving considerably more than we are getting. Perhaps you too have experienced that paradox: The more I give of myself, my time, my talent, my treasure, the more I receive. This type of giving is a beautiful way of "losing" our lives in Jesus and living in Him and for Him.

I have always wanted to be the kind of person who gives more than I take. What about you?

Instead of living that trinity of getting, getting, getting, why not live God's Trinity of giving, giving, giving like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live. They literally pour their lives out for us. If we too can do that, pour out a trinity of giving, we will experience the loving wonder of God's paradoxical living. --DGH

Am I Seeking God, or Do I Just Think I Am Seeking God

“Come, let us seek God with all our hearts.” How do we seek God? Do we seek God? What does “with all our hearts” mean? Do we seek God with all our heart? These are the questions that came to my mind when I read the quote.

First, how do we seek God? First impulse would be to say “pray” and “read Scripture,” and that would not be incorrect. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to say that is all it consisted of.

Children are to love their parents, but it is not sufficient that children just know who their parents are and to make requests of them. Loving one’s parents entails a continuous seeking to obey. Just because a child obeyed his parents yesterday does not negate the fact that he must obey them today. Because the child obeyed his parents today in one matter does not preclude him from obeying them in all matters. A child can “say” he loves his parents although he disagrees with them and walks in disobedience of them. He can “say” he loves them, but does he love them? What parent is thee who will tell his child, “I know you love me; therefore, you do not have to obey me, for I know you are not perfect”? The parents “laws” are not to enslave the child, but are for his instruction and protection. They are instructions to aid him and to “free” him from doing wrong and from developing bad habits, to protect him from evil people and instruct on what type of people to avoid friendships with and the type to make friendships with.

When we seek God, yes, we must pray and read Scripture. We know that He is our Creator and that He is thrice holy. We should know that to love Him is to obey Him. We cannot have love without obedience; hence, to seek Him is to seek to know Him better and to be more obedient.

How often have we heard the adage, “God knows my heart,” believing that, at heart, we are good people. God does know our hearts; hence, He says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is desperately sick: who can know it?” Because our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick, He tells us, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart.” In order to do this, He has given us the Sacrament of Baptism, which washes away original sin and cleanses us, placing us in Jesus. “O Jerusalem,

wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thine evil thoughts lodge within thee?” (Jer 4:14)

We cannot stop at Baptism. Only a dead child does not grow. If we do not grow after Baptism, we are dead. We must be fed and nourished. For this purpose Christ has given us the Church and the Sacraments. “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward” (Jer 7:24). Jesus Christ has given us the Mass. It is so vitally important that He presides over every Mass--from the cross. It was for this reason the priests, prior to Vatican II, faced away from congregation. Jesus gives us His Word; He gives us the Sacrament of Confirmation, giving us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, guide us, and to empower us. “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked everyone in the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer 11:8). They inclined their ear to the “wisdom” of the world and their own “wisdom,” disagreeing with the Wisdom and Truth of Jesus Christ and His Body, the Catholic Church--as if Jesus the Christ, the Head, would deceive His Body. Nevertheless, God is not desirous that we should perish; therefore, He gives us the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. He continues to feed us His Word and the Eucharist--His body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Seeing our own sinfulness, we confess our sins, and receive absolution and we pray, imploring Christ to pour His grace into our hearts. To whom else can we turn? He is Eternal Life. Reading holy Scripture, we meditate upon. As per our Blessed Mother, we take these things and meditate upon them.

It is much better to take small passages and ponder upon them than to read vast amounts and forget what we have read. If we hear Scripture read during the Mass and forget what we have heard by the time we are dismissed, of what benefit was it? Rather, it would behoove us to a small portion of the Scripture passages being read and take a small portion of the homily and meditate on them than to not recall any of what was read of Scripture and stated in the homily. We must treasure them, “chew the cud,” and then we will live by them. It is then that the love of God will begin to be expressed in our words and deeds. It is then that we begin to walk in obedience because of the love of God for us.

As long as we disagree with the Church and its teachings, we continue to walk according to our own “wisdom” and in disobedience to Jesus Christ and His teachings. It is then that we are going backwards, not forward. We must not, cannot, separate Jesus Christ from the Catholic Church. To attempt to do so is to attempt to decapitate the Head from the Body. Just look at the fact that the Catholic Church has the Eucharist: Jesus Christ--body, blood, soul, and divinity--crucified and risen. (I will leave it to others to discourse on the differences between Catholics and Orthodox.)

When we ponder Scripture and the teachings of the Church, treasure them, and walk in harmony, in accord with them, we then “seek with all our heart.” We cannot say we seek God when we seek to justify our walking in disagreement with the Church, walking in discord.

Wikipedia states regarding Gregory Peck, “Peck was a practicing Roman Catholic, although he disagreed with the Church’s positions on abortion and the ordination of women. If this is true, he was not a “practicing” Roman Catholic. A practicing Roman Catholic “practices” the doctrines of the Church, walking in agreement with them. If the Catholic Church is wrong with regard to "anything" it teaches concerning faith and morals, then "everything" it teaches must be questioned. The individual who disagrees with the Church is essentially saying he is god, that he himself has more wisdom than the Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head. Therefore, he is not seeking God. We seek God through the Catholic Church and its teachings, the Word, and Sacraments.  --TT

Friday, August 10, 2012

The King and the Pauper

“Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him…” (Mat 14:31).

It is common to our nature to aspire. We want to be somebody, somebody important. We want stature, desiring that people look up to us. We sometimes feel that it is then that we can help others. We no longer teach our sons morals, how to be good husbands and fathers; we want them to be somebody. We no longer teach our daughters how to be good wives and mothers; we encourage them to “be somebody,” as if being a wife and mother is “low-life.” We are more concerned about who and what they will become in this lifetime.

Jesus was reared a carpenter’s son. The people desired to make him a king, but He would not be the king they desired Him to be. Nevertheless, He was King. Peter was a fisherman, a nobody. Matthew was a tax collector, a nobody. Jesus, the King, reached down and caught the pauper, who was sinking into the sea (Magnificat, August 2012, pg 99). The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm that was going on points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings.1 Although Peter was a nobody, no matter that he had little faith, no matter that he was hardhearted, c.f. Mark 6:52, the King reached down to save them.

Our Lord is like a strong man traveling with companions. When they have to climb higher than they can reach, He climbs up and then reaches down to help the others up. If they have to cross over places to far for them to jump, He helps them across. Peter, regardless of the fact that he could swim, called out to Jesus to save him. We must call out also.

We read holy Scripture, and we find nothing that would lead us to even think that Jesus elevated Himself above the lowest person. He always reaches down to “lift up” others. St. Paul tells us, “Let nothing be done through contention, neither by vain glory; but in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves; each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's; For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Php 2:3-5 DRB).

We are not Jesus Christ, but we can do as St. Paul tells us. Husbands can esteem their wives as higher than themselves, thinking of their wives before themselves. Wives can esteem their husbands as higher than themselves, thinking of their husbands before themselves. This creates equality out of love. We, often, are afraid to do that for we fear the other will not reciprocate in kind and we lose out. Jesus knew we would reciprocate in kind, yet He reached down to us regardless.

Jesus reaches down to us in the Sacrament of Baptism to save us from drowning in the “sea.” This is not enough for Him: He reaches down in the Sacrament of Confirmation to give us the Holy Spirit that we might be strengthened and encouraged. He reaches down with the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Marriage that we may more express His love for mankind and that we may express our love for our neighbor, loving husband/wife, children, and others as ourselves. Realizing that we fall often into temptation, He reaches down in the Sacrament of Penance in order that He may absolve us of our sins. The apex of it all, He gives us Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist—body, blood, soul, and divinity. He gives us Himself that we may continually grow more like He, more in holiness. Then He gives us the Sacrament of the Sick that we do not lose faith when we are ready to depart this life. He has given us everything that we need, e.g. the Catholic Church and the Sacraments. But we do not receive the Sacraments that we may live unto ourselves; we receive the Sacraments that we may live for others, reaching down to lift them up. --TT

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Providence and Love of God

"For thus says the LORD: Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise. There is none to plead your cause, no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; why cry out over your wound? Your pain is without relief. Because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, I have done this to you" (Jer 30).

This is the love of God. He is telling them: “Your wound is incurable, your bruise grievous. There is no one to plead your cause; there is no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. Your gods have forgotten you; they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; they did not come to your aid. Because of your great and numerous sins, I have done this to you. You see, I am seeking you. I have done this to get you to repent. Repent, and I will restore you. I do not seek to destroy you, but to heal you.” It remains true today. Through the hardships, the trials and difficulties, God is working providentially to get us to repent and to sanctify us. They are for our good. “Divine providence works … through the actions of creatures. To human beings God grants the ability to cooperate freely with his plans. The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (Par 323-324, CCC). We see this ultimately in our Lord’s passion and death. Through the evil done to our Lord, mankind was redeemed. Paragraph 2554 of our Catechism tells us, “The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God.” Just as King David, when he was on the run from his son, Absalom, look upon it as the providence of God when Shemei cursed him and cast stones at him. Instead of having his men kill Shemei, he stated, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done unto me, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing of me this day” (2 Sam 16). Let us look upon our tribulations in similar fashion.

Let us look at our gospel reading from Matthew 14:22-36. Jesus “made” his disciples get into the boat, knowing what was going to occur. He went upon the mountain to pray, knowing his disciples would be terrified, being tossed about by the waves. This is not a large ship, but a relatively small boat. They were miles from shore; it was evening. The evening turned into night. The night became pitch black. They can’t see their hand in front of their face. They have been on the lake for hours. They have no idea where they are now. It is now the fourth watch of the night, the darkest hour before dawn, and Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. It is pitch dark; they can’t see each other, but they see a figure walking on the water. No wonder they thought it was a ghost.

When I was a Protestant, I heard many sermons about Peter walking to Jesus on the water. They would talk about Peter “getting out of his comfort zone.” I do not think St. Peter was very comfortable in that boat. He was terrified. I think that, when Jesus said, “Take courage; it is I,” St. Peter knew that, if it was indeed Jesus, he would be safer on the water with Jesus than in the boat. I think that is more in the character of St. Peter at the time.

With this passage, many different homilies could be drawn out. In the meditation of the day in the Magnificat, it said the boat represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the apostles. I will also agree with that. Jesus, knowing what was going to happen, sent his disciples out nevertheless. It was not for their harm, but for their good. Regardless of what was going on around them, they were safe in the boat. Jesus put them in the boat; they were safe. Jesus puts us in the Catholic Church; we are safe. It is when we leave the Church and focus on the world that we begin to sink. For this reason, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance. In this Sacrament, Jesus stretches out His hand and catches us up. He puts us back in the boat, the Catholic Church, and the wind dies down.

In this we see clearly the providence of God and some of the ways He work. What He did to the apostles, He does to the Catholic Church and each of us. When “bad” things happen, let us try not to lash out in anger, but in humility look to God as King David did. Let us remember that God put us in the situation; therefore, He will not forsake us. Even if we blow it severely, just as Israel and Judah did in Jeremiah’s day, the penalty which occurs is not for our destruction, but to bring us back to repentance. Though our sins make us scarlet, He will make us white as snow. He does not desire that any of us should perish but that we return to Him. TT

Act of Hope

From faith flows hope. Faith is the conduit through which all graces flow. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Unbelief clogs up the conduit of faith. The more we become enhanced with the world, its treasures, its pleasures, the more the conduit of faith becomes clogged, the more we lose hope, the more we drift away from Christ. The more we disagree with the Church, the more we fall into unbelief.

“My Lord and God! Because Thou art almighty, infinitely good and merciful, I hope that by the merits of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Thou wilt grant me eternal life, which Thou hast promised to all who shall do the works of a good Christian, as I purpose to do by Thy help” (General Catholic Devotions, Bonaventure Hammer).

“Because Thou are almighty…” “God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (‘I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’): finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins” (Par 270, CCC). “God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace. ‘God, you show your almighty power above all in your mercy and forgiveness…’ (Roman Missal, 26th Sunday, Opening Prayer)” (Par 277, CCC).

“…infinitely good…” Holy Writ tells us that God is love. “Infinitely good” tells us that God is love without bounds, overflowing love. There are many who believe that, because of Jesus’ passion and death, He will save us regardless. This cannot be. Love knows no evil. If sin is to be “winked” at, there can be no love, there can be no justice, no good. Because God is “infinitely good,” He desired that His creation be redeemed. Because He is “infinitely good,” He condescended to mankind, to allow His only begotten Son to be born of woman, to become Man, to bear the sins of His creation, to die, in order to reconcile us to Himself. “‘We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.’ The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth: St. Catherine of Siena said to ‘those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them:’ ‘Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.’ St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: ‘Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.’ Dame Julian of Norwich: ‘Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith... and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time - that 'all manner [of] thing shall be well'" (Par 313, CCC). "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him… For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Par 2012, CCC).

“…and merciful…” All of Scripture and Tradition attests to this. To doubt this is to deny this, to deny Scripture, deny Christ, to deny God.

“…I hope…” Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope is something solid, concrete, although it has not yet arrived. Loss of hope and loss of faith run together. If you lose one, you lose the other. “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’ ‘The Holy Spirit…he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.’ The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity” (Par 1817-1818, CCC). “Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus' preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the ‘hope that does not disappoint.’ Hope is the ‘sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…that enters… where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.’ Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: ‘Let us…put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.’ It affords us joy even under trial: ‘Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.’ Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire” (Par 1820, CCC).

“…that by the merits of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Thou wilt grant me eternal life, which Thou hast promised to all who shall do the works of a good Christian, as I purpose to do by Thy help.” This can only be done by God’s grace. He knows my fragility. St. Peter denied Christ, but Christ had prayed from him, and St. Peter repented. Jesus also prayed for me. Our Blessed Mother intercedes for me; all the saints intercede for me. Christ instituted the Mass not because we are strong but because we are weak. Because of our weakness, He gave us the Sacraments. They are not given that I might continue in that same weakness, but to strengthen me. I think of the Eucharist, the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. Can I continue to eat the body of Christ and not be strengthened, not grow? Although I will not attain perfection in this lifetime, I must continue in steady growth. I must now allow myself to think, “I do not have to try to do anything; He will make me grow.” This would be presumptuousness, causing death, causing me to perish. We are told to take up our crosses, that we would face persecution. The desert is full of perils, but I am protected—as long as I do not lose hope. I must retain in my mind that whatever occurs to me is by the providence of God. It is not for my evil, but for my good. It is either to bring me to repentance or to increase my faith—or both. TT

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Thoughts on the Transfiguration

Thoughts on the Transfiguration
“He did not know what he was saying” Luke 9: 33b
                The movement to write this reflection started in a conversation I had with my pastor just a few days earlier.  We were meeting to discuss a liturgy I had planned and our general conversation flowed out to other areas—one being the subject of Eucharist Adoration.  Both he and I agreed that as a parish family, our commitment to Eucharist adoration could use some work.  Yes, we have it for 24 hours from Thursday morning to Friday morning but that seems to be the heroic bailiwick of a stalwart tiny few and not the prerogative of a large majority for a parish our size.  I mentioned that we could not find 72 adorers to sit with Our Lord for the very first ACTS retreat and that even after having reached parish consensus on moving our former practice of a daily Holy Hour at 12 noon to Wednesday nights at 6PM, that Holy Hour very quickly fell to the wayside and tragically disappeared.  I also mentioned that I felt it was odd that we have a recently emergent community within the parish with Adoration as one of their 4 pillars, and that we still cannot generate enthusiasm within the parish for Eucharistic Adoration.
                We then discussed why this was.  I told my pastor then, and I will stand by it firmly, that it is a matter of catechesis.  Not enough of us know what the Eucharist is and why we as Catholics practice Eucharistic Adoration.  Father rightly claimed that that could not be the case as he does preach on the Eucharist from time to time.  And I pointed out that yes, he did do that—but it was in a homily, and lets face it, how many of us really listen to the homily at Holy Mass?
                We are not alone in our faith story of disciples and apostles who did not really listen to the voice of their Shepherd.  A few days after the meeting, I was preparing a presentation for a Meet and Greet and I decided to preach on the Transfiguration as my jumping off point since the Transfiguration is two days prior to the Feast of St . Dominic—the occasion for which I was preparing the presentation.  I read the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration and took them to prayer to decide which one I was going to use and I chose Luke’s.  Many useful things percolated out from the Scripture in prayer, but several things kept surfacing repeatedly. 
The greatest of these was “But he did not know what he was saying.”  It stood out to me because it can be read 2 ways.  The first and the most obvious reading is “But he (Peter) did not know what he (Peter himself) was saying.”  And this would not be an incorrect reading of the text because it immediately follows Peter’s blathering on about building 3 tents on the mountain and at the moment, Peter was the only one speaking. 
However, is this the most correct reading of the text?  I would argue “No.”  I think that we can argue that the most correct reading of the text should be, “But he (Peter) did not know what he (Christ) was saying.”  Can we make this argument even though Christ never spoke a word to Peter in the actual Transfiguration account?  Yes, I think we can because the Transfiguration account is very peculiar in that its specific as to the time of its occurrence.  The Transfiguration occurs in Luke 8 days after 3 very important moments in the public ministry of Christ.  The first is Peter’s confession of Christ as the Messiah, which is immediately followed by Christ’s first prediction of His Passion, which is then followed by Christ’s declaration on the cost of discipleship.  The Transfiguration is said to have occurred 8 days after these things were said.  If we move forward in Luke’s Gospel to the events immediately after the Transfiguration, we see the an exorcism being performed where the father of the afflicted boy begs Christ to heal his son because Christ’s disciples could not do it.  Oddly, Christ chastises the lack of faith of the people, and presumably the disciples as well, and he foreshadows His Passion again.  Immediately after the exorcism, Christ makes his second prediction of His Passion, and then in Luke 9:45, we read “But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it.”    The lack of understanding among the disciples escalates to them arguing about who was greatest, and then culminates with their embarrassment that another exorcist was casting out demons in Jesus Name who was not in their company.  It could not get any worse for Jesus’ disciples!
I would argue that the entire Transfiguration scene “bookended” as it is with the accounts before and after is strikingly similar to the scene of Christ’s Agony in the Garden.   Immediately prior to the Agony in the Garden, Christ gave Himself to us in the Bread and the Wine, and I am sure that “they (the disciples) did not understand” what Christ was saying and doing at the Last Supper in the same way that they did not understand either the first or second predictions of Christ’s Passion.  The disciples in the Garden were also doing what disciples seem best able to do in moments of prayer with the Master—sleep!  Christ in the Garden revealed Himself in the agony of His Incarnate Flesh, unlike the revelation of His Resurrected Glory in the Transfiguration.  And we find Peter, the one who first confessed our Lord as Messiah, shortly denying Him three times after the Agony in the Garden, because unlike the Transfiguration, the Passion was not a good place to be for Peter.  And finally, with Our Lord’s Passion and Death, the true cost of discipleship is fully revealed.
That Peter did not know what Christ was saying is both a valid and licit conclusion when we look at the Scripture for the Transfiguration.  We can also conclude that Peter did not know what he, Peter, was saying when he confessed Our Lord as the Messiah.  He said it through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he did not know what he was saying because he could not know.  For Peter, as a Jew, the Messiah had to come as a King with the glory of the angels of Heaven—not as some poor carpenter’s son!  Yes there were the miracles, but Peter was one of us and we forget that because like Peter, we do not always know what we are saying and we do not always understand what Christ is saying to us.  Like Peter, we enjoy the comfort of our sleep and not the cost of Christ’s discipleship.  Like the disciples, we always argue amongst ourselves as to who is the greatest and then complain when we can’t do great things in Jesus Name but others can who are not a part of us. 
Like Peter, we also deny the Christ, but very fortunately, even then we do not know what we are saying.  How is it that we deny the Christ?  Our lack of faith in giving Christ Adoration in the Eucharist is probably one of the greatest and saddest ways we deny Our Lord.  As moderns , we can blather on with all the reasons why we do not have the time to find one hour out of 168 hours in every week to sit with the Master.  And yet, we know that true discipleship demands us to pay a  cost.  Is one hour of our time every week too much to pay for the promise of eternal glory from One who bought that promise of glory for us with the Sacrifice of His own Sacred Body and Blood?
And so Father, yes, you are saying the right things when you speak on Eucharistic Adoration in your homilies, but most us do not know what you are saying and we do not understand.  This is not your fault and if anything, you are in good company for trying to help us understand.  Less than 30% of Catholics in the United States do not even believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and yet just about everyone stumbles forward sleepily every Sunday to receive Holy Communion.  As we know the statistic is true, that means that at a Sunday Mass attended by 400 people only 120 people who are receiving Holy Communion know and understand Who it is and what it is that they are being given as free gift!  So it should be no surprise as to why we cannot find 72 adorers for 1 weekend or even sustain 1 Holy Hour one night a week.  Too few of us know, understand, and believe—even though we sleepily stumble into the Greatest Miracle every week--or even every day.  --RD

The Act of Faith

The Acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity have long been beautiful Catholic Prayers. Some are longer, some shorter. I do not know how many Catholics still pray them, but they should be prayed daily. They are beautiful prayers, meaningful way to begin a day. They are succinct, and keep us focused upon what we do believe as Catholics. If we do read/recite them, perhaps we get in a hurry and rush through them without meditating upon them. For this reason, it is my desire to treat upon them, beginning with the Act of Faith.

What is “faith”? Paragraph 166 of the Catechism says: “Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”

The Act of Faith I am utilizing is from General Catholic Devotions, by Bonaventure Hammer.

"My Lord and God! I most firmly believe all that Thou hast revealed and all that Thy holy Church believes and teaches, because Thou, who art infallible Truth, hast so revealed and commanded."

“My Lord and my God!” Why “Lord” and “God”? Why not one or the other? This brings into remembrance St. Thomas, the apostle--sometimes referred to as “Doubting Thomas”—when Jesus told him to thrust his finger into His wounds to verify that He indeed had risen. “My Lord and God” is also what we say silent when the priest elevates the host during the Eucharist. “Lord and God” is not saying the same thing twice. “Lord” is someone or something having power, authority, or influence. Sarah called her husband, Abraham, “lord” (Ge 18:3). St. Peter tells us, “…Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord”… (1 Pe 4:6). “God” is defined “(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.” [Martin Luther erred in many things, but I think his definition of “God” is good: “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart.”] Hence, when we pray “my Lord and God,” we are essentially saying: “You, Lord, have power over me, authority over me; You influence me. You are the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, the Source of all moral authority. You are all that is good. You are Supreme; You are God.”

“I most firmly believe”… “Firm” is an unyieldingly, in a determined and unshakable way, steadiness. When it comes to the word “believe,” we are using it in the same sense as we do in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. Paragraph 185 of the Catechism, treating on the Creeds, states: “Whoever says ‘I believe’ says ‘I pledge myself to what we believe.’ Communion in faith needs a common language of faith, normative for all and uniting all in the same confession of faith.”

“…all that Thou hast revealed and all that Thy holy Church believes and teaches, because Thou, who art infallible Truth, has so revealed and commanded.” Here, we are confessing that all the Catholic Church believes and teaches has been revealed God and is absolute truth because Jesus Christ is the Head of the Body, the Head of the Church, and He will not deceive His Body, the Church. If we do not believe this, then we must believe that truth is relative, that whatever we sincerely believe is truth, although we know that that is false because we have all sincerely believed something which later proved to be false. The Catholic Church has to be right; otherwise, we perish for we will not know Truth or where truth lies. This is why there must be One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. TT

Friday, August 3, 2012

What the Catholic Church Means to me

When I was attending school in my youth, I recall that one of my Health teachers told us that it was unknown what the purpose of the appendix was, that it was an unnecessary part of the body. Perhaps, they have discovered the purpose of the appendix. When it comes to the Church, the Body of Christ, I “feel” that I am an appendix. Now, I know that there are no worthless “parts” in the Church, that God has an extremely important purpose for every single member of the Body. Nevertheless, the “feeling” remains, regardless of the fact that I realize that our feelings are fallen and deceive. Everything I put my mind and hand to, I fall extremely short. I can identify with St. Paul when he said, “That which I desire to do, I do not; that which I desire not to do, I do.” Yet the question always remains: Did I not do what I did because I wanted to? Even if a knife was put to my ribs, would I be forced to do something? Could I not choose death rather than sin against my God? Therefore, do I not do what I do because, at the time, I want to, whether out of fear or not? How does this make me love the Catholic Church?

All my life I was a Protestant. Twenty some years ago, the Truth began to be extremely important to me. I had to know Truth, otherwise I was going to perish. I was, at the time, a Baptist. Questions started coming into my mind. I would go to the pastor with my questions, and his answers would create more questions. Finally, he asked me, “Why can’t you just believe the way you do, and I believe the way I do?” I said, “I can’t; I must know Truth.” I left the Southern Baptist, and went to the Presbyterian PCA. From there, I went to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). I began to fear one thing: I knew that truth was not in me; but would I recognize Truth when it came to me? I knew something was not Truth just because I sincerely believed it; hence, how would I know Truth was Truth if it confronted me?

As a Lutheran, I found a Lutheran website called Wittenburg Trail. They would ridicule the Catholic Church, especially the Pope, who we were taught was the Antichrist. This bothered me for I was taught in the LCMS that we were saved through Baptism and the Pope was baptized. If the Pope was saved through Baptism, how could he be the Antichrist? I was told that the Pope as a person was not the Antichrist, but the position. But how do you separate the person from the position? This caused me to wonder what Catholics really believed.

The Catholics I had met in the past did not impress me at all. They did not know why the Catholic Church believed as it did; they had very little knowledge of Scripture. When I was in the military, a Catholic told me that one only had to go to Mass twice a year—Christmas and Easter—that, if you missed either one, you would go to hell. The Catholics I met could not explain to me why they believed as they did. But, because of the attacks on the Catholic Church by those on the Wittenberg Trail, I decided to search out what Catholics believed, why they believed. I came across the Catholic Answers website.

I was impressed that they did not ridicule or attack Protestants. What was also impressive was that the Catholic Church did “not” believe that Protestants were going to hell because we were not members of the Catholic Church, that indeed many would be saved. This encouraged me to delve in further. I learned that, in order for me to become a Catholic, I had to believe that the Catholic Church was The Church, that I had to accept what the Church taught regarding faith and morals was Truth, that I would perish if I left the Catholic Church, after having admitted that the Catholic Church was The Church. This made me very hesitant. Then I learned that the Catholic Church believed that it only had the fullness of Truth. Then they had the audacity to prove it. I began attending an RCIA class to learn more about the Catholic Church. I was still teetering, couldn’t readily accept that the Catholic Church was The Church. I had to be very sure before I became Catholic because I knew there was no turning back if I became a Catholic. While in RCIA, the doctrines regarding the Virgin Mary troubled me so much that I knew I couldn’t go forward; but I also could not let go. I began downloading the Catholic Answers radio programs and listening to them. I knew more and more I was leaning towards Catholicism.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I would never know Truth from within, that it had to come from without. I knew of no other denomination that stated it had Truth, the fullness of it, and then set about proving it. Then came the comforting words, “We are the Body of Christ, of which Jesus is the Head; and He will not deceive His Body.” The Catholic Church, I realized, was the Ark. Our Bless Mother is the ark of the Covenant, making her the Mother of the Church. There was safety in Noah’s ark; there is safety in the Catholic Church. Just as there was a devil in Noah’s ark—Ham—I could become a cancerous tumor, a devil, in the Catholic Church if I did not trust that Jesus Christ was the Head of the Catholic Church and that He would not let His Body be deceived, be wrong, and therefore what the Catholic Church taught is Truth. It is so comforting to trust that Jesus would give discernment to the Catholic Church, who in turn would teach the members. The Catholic Church is not an organization; it is a Living organism. In the Mass, God gives us His Word, gives us His only Begotten Son dying on Calvary for us, and He rising for our justification. He gives us the Sacrament in order to maintain our holiness. Let us not receive the Sacraments ignorantly, without knowledge, haphazardly; but let us receive them with knowledge, repentance, with growth. The Israelites believed they would be safe if they cling to the altar, e.g. Joab; let us cling to the Catholic Church and its doctrines, teachings. If we do not agree with them, we are theoretically believing that the Catholic Church does not have the fullness of Truth, that the fullness of Truth is what we sincerely believe. It is then we begin drifting away from Jesus Christ. TT

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: