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Friday, January 31, 2014

Rediscover Catholicism - Discovering Me

I have been reading a fantastic book titled "Rediscover Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly (link to free book: Rediscover Catholicism). I'm about one-fourth of the way through the book. On every page, in every paragraph, Matthew provides wonderful insight that makes me think, and challenges me to become a better Catholic.

I just finished reading one section on discipline (the word 'disciple' is derived from the same Latin root word as discipline: disciplina from discipulus meaning pupil). Matthew pointed out that the usual reason children are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports, is to build and develop discipline. However, in the modern world, where children are shuttled from one activity to another on a daily basis, the end result is not discipline but loss of focus.

What does this have to do with me? I've taken the Myers-Briggs temperament test several times. It turns out that I am an intuitive thinker. Yea, so what . According to Myers and Briggs, intuitive thinkers are interested in everything, and want to master everything. That's me! My interests cover religion, music, computers, politics, economics, plants (like cactus), fantasy, science, science fiction..... And, I am an insatiable reader. For example, I am now reading religion, fiction, fantasy, and politics. Everything.

Getting back to the chapter in "Rediscover Catholicism", I thought about children running from one organized activity to another. Then I realized that was me! I have spread myself over a wide range of interests. The problem with this was that I was having trouble seeing what God wants me to do. I slept on it, and woke up understanding that my path for God has two parts: music, and being a disciple of Christ to spread the Gospel.

I decided to focus my energies on these two activities. In music, I will work harder at becoming a better musician, emulating those individuals that I respect. I will continue to participate in the music ministry of my Church in any way that I can. As far as spreading the Good News, I will continue to facilitate and participate in Bible study groups at my Church, read the Bible and other religious books, and, of course, do what I can via these posts to inspire people to look for Jesus, and trust in him. With God's help, hopefully I'll be successful (in his eyes) with both endeavors.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"As you judge, so shall you be judged"

"For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."

My journey to Jesus has taken many twists. I have been forced to rethink many things in my life. The above statement, spoken by Jesus and documented in the Gospel of St. Matthew, was one of those times I realized that I needed to do some thinking. What is Jesus saying here? The next statement in the Gospel further clarifies Jesus' point: "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?"

I looked at those statements from a different angle, applying them to myself. How many times did I think someone sinned, and cursed them to go to hell for things that I do? Hmm. When someone was rude to me, did I respond with anger, cursing, damning, being rude to them in return? Or did I pray for the person that was rude, and forgive them? When someone didn't respond as quickly to my request as I would like, what do I do? Did I complain about them, and wish evil upon them, or do I show mercy?

When I use the first approach in the above scenarios, I am really wrong. Based on Jesus's own words, my actions, my sins will be judged as harshly as I have judged the sins of others, a pretty scary thought. I know I have been very critical of others, to my shame. I blamed instead of offering forgiveness and prayer. I cursed at them, instead of trying to be understanding. I have a way to go to be holy. But, I work at this every day, praying that I will be able to meet the challenge of Jesus, to be understanding and forgiving of others. How about you?

References
New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE), Matt 7:2

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/judge-not

Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding Jesus Again: What Inspirations Do You Use To Become Closer To G...

Finding Jesus Again: What Inspirations Do You Use To Become Closer To G...: What resources do you use to remain inspired and to help you grow closer to God? Two very common resources are praying and reading the Bible...

What Inspirations Do You Use To Become Closer To God?

What resources do you use to remain inspired and to help you grow closer to God? Two very common resources are praying and reading the Bible. Attending services at your Church is also key; it is here where the Word of God is expressed and celebrated in communion with other believers.

However, many other resources are available. For example, there are thousands of books available from many retailers. These books discuss almost every topic in relation to God including, but not limited to, how to pray, when to pray and the meaning of the Scriptures.

For me, I have one more very powerful source - music. God has gifted me with the ability to enjoy and be moved by music. So I find great joy in the fact that there are many Christian musicians that can express and explain God's word. One of my favorite musicians is Matt Maher.

Matt Maher is a Catholic artist, writing and performing songs which proclaim the glory of God. He adeptly combines his powerful lyrics with excellent song writing skills. Among my favorite songs of his is Love Has Come (video link: "Love Has Come").  This is a song we typically play around Christmas at my parish.

To me, this song begins ("With one voice the angels sing, songs that make creation ring") somewhat subdued, with creation anticipating the birth of Christ. As the song progresses, anticipation builds. The drive of the music increases. Asking God for grace. Looking forward to the fulfillment of the covenant. The song grows gradually louder.

The song culminates at about 3:05 on the accompanying video, with the hosts of heaven proclaiming "Now salvation has come, in the New Jerusalem, dancers dance and singers roar, proclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord!" How can one not be moved by the power of the words and the music?

I ask you to listen to the song. Read the words. Praise God!

To purchase this album go to Spirit and Song
.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beatitudes - A Challenge

We've all read the Beatitudes, heard about them in homilies, and seen them on wall plaques. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus said:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  

Here, Jesus is not negating the Ten Commandments. Instead, He is expanding the Commandments, and explaining them more clearly. He is challenging us to be bigger, better and holier. And what a challenge!

To be poor in spirit - to trust the Father in all things. That alone is difficult, since we tend to trust ourselves, our money, our leaders. We must get back to trusting the Father as Jesus did, even to the death. The Beatitudes build from there. For those that mourn, God will comfort them; again we are being asked to trust and have faith in the Father. Seek to be righteous, following the commandments and doing the will of the Father in all things. The righteous will be rewarded with heaven. Be merciful - really sympathize with others and feel what they feel, helping them as they need help. Be clean of heart to reap the reap the rewards of heaven.

As I said, the Beatitudes build on one another. Thus, one will not be comforted by God, if one is not poor in spirit. Only the poor in spirit will seek righteousness, or truly show mercy. Only the poor in spirit, righteous, and merciful can have a clean heart. If one follows the beatitudes as Jesus proclaims, one will be persecuted for being soft, being weak, being unrealistic, being a blind follower, being stupid. How wrong are the persecutors!

What's more, the greatest challenge, is that we are told to live ALL of these beatitudes EVERY DAY! It's not that today you are righteous, so that tomorrow you can be merciful. Think about that. All of them. Every day. Suddenly it doesn't seem so easy. Pray for God's grace, the only way we can live all of the Beatitudes every day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Many Paths to God

As I have spoken with many people and read about their journeys to God, I have come to realize the many paths that may lead one to God. One of the most frequent starting points for seeking God is emotional pain. The pain can be from the loss of a loved one, or from the scorn and derision of one close to you. It can be from perceived failure in one's life, or too many bad things that appear to have happened. The single common factor in any of these is great emotional pain.

I think there is a great misunderstanding about pain and God. Non-believers will say that seeking God during trying times is a way to make one feel good without really doing anything. Or, it's an excuse, a way out of the problem - give it to God, so it's not my fault any more. Or, it is just another way to run away. I don't believe any of these explanations for a minute.

If one reads the Bible, one finds that God frequently reaches out to individuals as they are suffering. I believe this is because, during periods of suffering, people are more likely to seek God and listen for him. In Psalm 51 we read "My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart." God seeks us out when we hurt.  

In the busy day-to-day noisy world where we live, God is drowned out by the tumult. When one is suffering and cries out to God, and their minds and hearts are receptive to the word of God, they block out the noise of the world. Thus, in 1 Kings 19:11-13, when Elijah was seeking the Lord, Elijah related "A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave." Elijah heard the Lord's voice in a whispering sound, in the quiet.

When you hurt, do not turn your back on God. Rather, pray. Be silent. Listen for God's word, and you will be healed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I Feel Like I Am Failing God

I have felt, many times, that I am failing God. I know that I sin, and sinning hurts God, who sent his only Son to die on the cross and save us from our sins. I pray for forgiveness for my sins. But, I'm not talking about sinning. I'm talking about the use of my God-given gifts.

We are all given gifts, skills, talents from God. As St. Paul says (1 Cor 12:7) "To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." One of my gifts, I believe, is the gift of playing guitar. Don't get me wrong. I am not as talented as Jimmy Page, Muriel Anderson, Andres Segovia, or BB King. However, I will admit that, even as a teenager, I was told regularly that I played well; I continue to hear that even now.

Why do I sometimes feel that I am failing God? I have recently decided to devote my life to performing music, as a way to share God's gift to me. Maybe in my naivete, or maybe because my ego was bigger than I thought it was, I expected to be more successful by now, in the earthly sense, than I think I am. Have I not been practicing diligently enough? Have I not been as aggressive in sharing my talents as I should be? What am I doing wrong?

I have thought about this and prayed about it. A discussion with a priest opened my eyes to what is really happening. First of all, this process is teaching me to trust God. God will provide in his time, the perfect time. And, probably more importantly, I am looking at things as a person; I cannot see what God sees. God sees our what is in our hearts (Ps 139:1-4 and Rom 8:27). So, while I think I have been failing, God is looking at things differently. He is guiding me along the path that he wants me to take. I don't know if stardom is on that path or not. But, it doesn't matter. Doing the will of God is what matters. In that way, since I am trying my best to do his will, I guess I am not a failure.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How Did I Learn To Trust Jesus?

1 Jn 5:14-15
 

And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours.

One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome, and am still fighting with, is trusting Jesus 100%. Not 75%. Not 90%. But 100%. Because of who I am, and the world I live in, this has been difficult.

What makes it so difficult? We are taught to be independent. To trust ourselves. Be wary of strangers. The other guy is always after you. Don't be a sucker. On. And on. And on. We are taught that we MUST be in control. Control the television with the remote. Control the volume. Control your emotions. Control your words. Control, control, control. I don't think this is odd in today's world. Today's world is a selfish world. Look out for number one.

How does one get from this rigid faithless attitude, to trusting Jesus 100%. I'm not going to lie. For me, it has been a struggle. A struggle against my inner nature. A fear of 'what will happen if I'm not in control'. I wasn't sure. It seemed ridiculous to say either "I'll stay in my house praying, and God will get me everything I want" or "I will control absolutely everything around me".

I got an idea how to start trusting Jesus from Norman Vincent Peale. I read his collection of three books "A Guide To Confident Living", "Stay Alive All Your Life", and "The Amazing Results Of Positive Thinking". I'll admit, I read them several years ago, and cannot remember exactly where in the book I found this suggestion, but I will pass it on how I use what I read.

To build up faith in Jesus, you must ask him for help. I didn't start off with something like "help me win the $100 million lottery and get me my island home by Friday". Rather, I started off with small requests. Something like a particularly vexing problem at work. Or that decision I was having trouble making. I prayed to Jesus for help. I offered up my problem to him, and BELIEVED. I believed that he would help me. It seemed reasonable to me to trust that he would take care of something small, probably because I did not have much to lose. I prayed every day until my prayer was answered. Sometimes the answer was an outcome - something happened. Sometimes Jesus told me the answer, while I was sleeping or thinking about the problem or not thinking of the problem.

I found that Jesus did answer my prayers, and the answer was always good in the end (though it may not have seemed so immediately). I kept repeating this process, asking for bigger and bigger things. And, guess what? Jesus always came through! Not sometimes, not usually, but always. I ask for pretty big things now, things that I have little to no control over. I ask. I pray. I wait. And the prayers are answered. Give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised, and your trust in Jesus will grow.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Sign of the Cross

How many times have you seen people use the sign of the cross? It's quite a common occurrence. People invoke the sign of the cross before boarding a plane, before stepping into a boxing ring, before that all-important field goal kick. I'm sure you can name many more times. Usually, it seems to me, it's an act performed at a time when the individual is asking God for help or protection.

But, how many realize the power of the prayer? From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2157):

"The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties."

So, when you make the sign of the cross, and say the prayer, you ARE calling on God. You are offering your actions, prayers, life, yourself to God. This is the type of offering God wants. He does not want sacrifices of bulls or goats, but sacrifices of thanksgiving (Psalm 50:9,14).

Also, notice that the prayer begins: In the NAME of the Father...  The singular NAME is used, not the plural Names. There is only one God, made up of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This prayer declares and affirms one's belief in one God, made up of three persons.

Again from the Catechism (253):

"The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross."

So, it marks the person as belonging to Christ, and as being one with Christ. It celebrates Christ's victory over sin and death, by his death and resurrection. How great are these words! How much power, and grace!  

References

Catechism of the Catholic Church Second Edition, 2157
The New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE), Psalm 50
Catechism of the Catholic Church Second Edition, 253

Monday, January 13, 2014

God will never forgive me

How many people believe that they are so bad, or what they have done is so evil, that God can never forgive them? I've heard this sentiment from many. But, is it true? Definitely not, if you repent from your heart, and truly seek forgiveness! Why do I state this so absolutely? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (982): "There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest. Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin."

And why does the Catholic Church aver this? According to the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 18:21-22), Peter and Jesus had the following discussion regarding forgiveness: "21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times." Jesus himself states that our sins can always be forgiven.

But, is there more? I think that there is more. St. Paul is a perfect example. St. Paul was a Pharisee, a devout follower of Jewish law, and a relentless persecutor of the early Christians. St. Paul was not passive about his persecution - he actively sought out, arrested, and even executed the early believers of Jesus. But, he was called by Jesus himself (Acts 9), and given the task of bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles.

St. Paul, after committing multiple acts of murder, was not only forgiven by Jesus, but recruited! St. Paul realized the mercy of God. In his letter to the Philipians he wrote: "12 It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. 13 Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus."  If Jesus can forgive St. Paul after all of his heinous acts, why would he not forgive you?

References
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, 982.
New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE), Acts 9
ibid. Philipians 3:12-14


Friday, January 10, 2014

Why should I believe in Jesus?

I have always had a scientific mind. In fact, I knew as a child that I wanted to be a scientist. One of my girlfriends even called me a computer, long before computers were popular. I began my science career at about age 18, and continued until 2010. With a skeptical, analytical, and cynical mind, believing in Jesus was a challenge. So, how can I convince someone not only that Jesus was an actual historical figure let alone being God? After all, he lived 2000 years ago, long before cameras, tape recorders or the internet. 

It turns out that there is a lot of evidence not only that Jesus existed as a person, but that he is God. Most modern scholars believe that Jesus did actually exist (see in Wikipedia). Their testimony solves one part of the puzzle, that he actually existed, especially since it has been suggested that he was made up by the Catholic Church to parallel some secular gods. 

But what about Jesus being God? What evidence exists? There is obviously the testimonies of Jesus's followers. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John were written by men that followed Jesus. They heard and saw Jesus first-hand. And, their writings were completed within 50 or so years after the crucifixion of Jesus which, for that time period, is essentially instantaneous.

You may say "Wait a minute. How do we know that these guys didn't get together and make this up?". Well, you have the fact that, between the day Jesus was crucified and Pentecost, something happened to these followers. A bunch of people, terrified for their lives and holed up in a room, suddenly got the courage to not only step out of the room, but to actively preach the gospel of Jesus. And, 11 of the 12 apostles of Jesus (including Judas's replacement) were executed for preaching of Jesus. Do you think they would have allowed themselves to be killed for something they knew to be a lie? And, these fishermen, tax collectors, etc, who certainly were not the well educated priests, Sadducees or Pharisees, were able to confound the religious leaders with their knowledge and insight into Jewish law and teachings.

In addition, much secular literature attests to the divinity of Jesus. From "Why Trust Jesus?: An Honest Look at Doubts, Plans, Hurts, Desires, Gripes, Questions, and Pleasures" we can read in Chapter 6: "Josephus, who was not a Christian, wrote: At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders". Furthermore, "Dr. Norman Geisler and Frank Turek have noted: Including Josephus, there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life. By contrast, over the same 150 years, there are nine non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus. So discounting all the Christian sources, Jesus is actually mentioned by one more source than the Roman emperor. If you include the Christian sources, authors mentioning Jesus outnumbered those who mentioned Tiberius 43 to 10!" 

One more point involves St. Paul. Originally named Saul, he was a Pharisee, and a rabid practitioner and believer in Jewish law. He actively sought out and executed the early Christians. On his was to Damascus (Acts 9), it is recorded that Jesus (who had already been crucified) blinded him and spoke to him. Paul got his sight back after Ananais, a follower of Jesus, laid his hands on Paul. St. Paul then went on to preach the gospel of Jesus to the gentiles. St. Paul was eventually executed by the Romans for his preaching. How can one refute this testimony, this change of heart? Again, St. Paul certainly would not have suffered and died for something he knew to be a lie. What other explanation is there than that Jesus existed as a real person, and the Jesus is God?




References
Why Trust Jesus?: An Honest Look at Doubts, Plans, Hurts, Desires, Gripes, Questions, and Pleasures (2010) by Dave Stewart, ISBN 0802489729, Moody Publishers

The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Edition

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us"

My understanding of Christianity, my journey toward Jesus has been a long process, usually involving little steps. I'm not one of those individuals (so far) that suddenly has a great epiphany with a huge leap in understanding. Rather, things come in dribs and drabs. The phrase "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" is one of those baby steps, which was actually quite profound.

The revelation came while I was attending a funeral. Apparently there were many internal family squabbles that had occurred over the years. Several of the siblings were, at best, distant from each other, if they had not actually made the decision not to speak to one another. The priest presiding over the funeral service found out about these "trespasses". During his sermon, he took the opportunity to address the problem in a God-fearing manner. He explained the meaning of these words.

Think about them. When you are praying to God, you are asking him to forgive you your sins. But, this is not a carte blanche forgiveness. You ask God to forgive you in the same manner and to the same extent that you forgive others for their sins against you! Whoa! So. The person that kept you from getting that promotion, or that raise, you know, the one you cursed and wished were dead? Is that how you want God to forgive you? Or, the friend that borrowed some money and never paid you back; the one you haven't spoken to for several years; the one you gossip about to others. Is that how you want God to forgive you? Or, that family member that always criticized you, mister (or ms.) know-it-all. The one you make fun of especially when they are not around. Is that how you want God to forgive you?

We all have had (and most likely have) people that hurt us in our lives. It's easy, almost natural (with the help of Satan of course) to carry grudges, to relive the events over and over, justifying our anger. But, that is clearly not the right thing to do. If we expect God to forgive us, we MUST forgive others. That can be very difficult. We must call on Jesus to increase the Holy Spirit in us, to give us the strength and grace to forgive these people from the heart. This is the only way that we can continue on our journey toward God, following in Jesus' footsteps, so that we can truly find Jesus.

Monday, January 6, 2014

From The Darkness Of Sin Into Light The Light Of Jesus

As I mentioned in a previous post, I went through a period where I did not believe in God. After I decided that there was no God, a change came over me. I was in rock bands at the time, and listened to a lot of rock music. I started preferring darker music with demonic lyrics, songs like "Black Sabbath" and "Sympathy For The Devil". I didn't completely forgo other music; I just seemed to enjoy the darker music.

And, that wasn't the only change that happened. I became curious about the occult, reading about celebrities that were involved in the black magic, divination, seances. Movies such as "Rosemary's Baby" held a unique fascination for me. I began to wonder what it would be like to follow the dark paths. Is there really fame, fortune, and beautiful women? As a shy person that came from a middle class family, this had a certain appeal to me. Would it be worth it?

To be clear, I never attended a black mass, never held a black mass, never performed a satanic sacrifice, never sold my soul to the devil. To my knowledge, I never really committed myself to this route. But, I did think about these things, and far too much. And, I did not even see the change that happened. I thought that was the way things were. Everybody was doing it. I wasn't different. Ha! Little did I know that I was being called and culled by evil forces.

This went on for some time. I was oblivious to the change. No one said anything to me. I wonder why no one brought this up? I don't remember being secretive about it. Now, I don't want to seem overly dramatic about this. At that time I did associated mostly with people my own age. Because of that, they may have had thoughts similar to mine, or just thought I was weird (I do have an unusual perspective on things, and always have.) So, it may have been coincidence. I don't know. I just remember what did and did not happen.

Eventually I had some pretty traumatic events occur to me. Life changing events. You know, the ones that make you think 'what is going on?" I wondered what I should do and where I should go. Then, I met the young woman that would become my wife and I started attending Catholic Mass. It seemed that, almost instantly, my fascination with the occult and demonic disappeared. I didn't consciously say "this is evil, this is wrong, I have to stop". It was more like one day I realized that I preferred happier music, comedies and scifi movies instead of occult movies. Life seemed to be brighter and more enjoyable. That's not to say that I never listen to bands such as Black Sabbath; on the contrary, I still listen to them for the memories of my teenage years (most people prefer music they heard as teenagers and young adults), as well as for their musical content. After all, the musicians in these bands were ground breaking folks. However, I have also broadened my scope in music, books, and movies considerably. Those darker songs and movies are just part and parcel to my entertainment package, and are no longer a primary source for my thoughts.

Thank God I was saved!

Friday, January 3, 2014

My "A-ha" Moment

What is an "a-ha" moment? I know you've at least heard of them. Televangelists show them frequently. You've seen them in movies, for example the river scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou? 

Probably the most striking a-ha moment occurred to St. Paul (Acts of the Apostles, 9:3-20):

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, sir?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; 3 so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and (in a vision) he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay (his) hands on him, that he may regain his sight." But Ananias replied, "Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones 4 in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name." So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, "Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit." Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. 5 He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 6
Okay, so mine wasn't that dramatic. It happened about 30 years ago, and I still remember the feeling. I was attending Mass where my future wife was singing with the parish folk group. At one point in the Mass, I think it was the singing of 'Holy, Holy, Holy', I closed my eyes and sung. When the song ended, I remained standing, oblivious to the fact that the rest of the congregation had knelt. I don't know how long I stood, my eyes closed, feeling the power of the song. I remember opening my eyes, seeing everyone kneeling, and seeing a look of concern? embarrassment? on my girlfriend's face. She motioned me to kneel, which I did, and the I continued praying at the Mass, but feeling uplifted. This marked the turning point in my search for Jesus. I was on my way.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Where I Started

I think a good place for me to begin is at the beginning. I was born into a Catholic family, and raised Catholic. I attended Catholic grade school from 1st grade to 4th grade. During that time, I was exposed to the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Okay, I was given a 'pile of Catholicism', as Jeff Cavins describes. But, I didn't know any better, and most others didn't appear to have either.

From my 5th year of schooling onward I attended public schools. Catholic students who attended public schools were typically sent for religion studies (CCD in my day). CCD classes were on Saturday mornings (which completely messed up Saturday morning cartoons, and playtime with friends), and for two weeks immediately after school ended (just what I wanted - two weeks taken off my summer vacation). After a few years, my parents pulled me out, and I was on my own.

At about age 17, I had a pretty typical teenage meltdown. A bad year. I prayed to God to make it better, thinking (a) I knew better than God and (b) God was basically my genie who would grant my every wish. Needless to say, the answer I got from God was 'no'. Of course, my interpretation as a teenager was 'there is no God', and I went merrily off on my own. Jesus didn't lose me. I lost him.

I spent the next several years pretty much as an atheist. Until my first wife died in a car crash. Then, things began to change. When I went to Mass with the young woman who was to become my second wife, I realized that I was wrong and that God did exist. This began my journey to find Jesus again.