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Friday, April 25, 2014

Right Where I Am Supposed To Be

God is truly amazing. He speaks to me regularly, and he uses so many different ways of getting through to me. Sometimes he speaks to me in the quiet morning hours, before I get distracted by my day. Sometimes it's through my wife. Sometimes it's music. And sometimes it's friends.

God has blessed me with many friends from high school. No, we don't hang out regularly. Or go to picnics together regularly. Or even chat on the phone regularly. We don't live in the same cities or even in the same states. But that doesn't stop the contacts, the memories, the interchange. In fact, our most regular means of communication is via the internet and social media. As many downsides as there are to social media (one could spend all day posting and reading posts, to the exclusion of everything else, if one so chose), it is great for meeting new people and for reconnecting with old friends.

Maybe you are wondering what these two paragraphs have to do with one another. Well, let me tell you. One of the prayers that I make to God every day is to let me know his will for me. What is my calling? Music? Deaconate? Back to work? Stopping everything and just be a good retired husband and father? Something I'm completely missing? I was struggling with this. Until I got a message from one of my good high school friends.

He was relating to me what was going on in his life. Hectic. Busy. Trying to get things going. Then, he said that he realized that he was right where God wants him to be. Bingo! When will I learn? I was told this by a priest friend of mine years ago – God's timing is perfect. It was not in relation to my particular calling. On the other hand, God's timing isn't perfect for just some things. It''s perfect for everything. So, I realized that God has a plan for me. (as Van Zant sings, 'if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans'). My role in this? Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep listening. God will tell me what to next, and when I should do it. 

The peace of Christ. One of the results of trusting in Jesus.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

God's Power Is Amazing

In my continuing efforts to grow closer to God, and to gain a better understanding of Catholicism, I have been studying the Bible. Currently I am studying Acts, the acts of the apostles. As you know, Acts describes the spread of Christianity from the original 12 apostles and 70 or so disciples to the world. It is a truly amazing recounting of the changes that took place in all of Jesus's disciples.

For example we have the original 12 apostles. Terrified. Hiding in a room. Afraid for their very lives. After all, they followed Jesus, who was crucified! But, after they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they boldly went out and proclaimed the Gospel. And, they were unafraid to be confronted by the authorities, to the point of the apostles defending their own actions and calling out the authorities.

Then there is the apostle Paul. He was originally not only a non-believer of Jesus, but actively prosecuted, imprisoned, and voted for the death sentence for the believers. Again, God came to him, took away his sight, and showed him the truth about Jesus Christ. Saint Paul went on to become probably the greatest evangelist of the Gentiles that there ever was.

These two are pretty clear in the Bible. But there are other more subtle revelations that one must think about, look for or, in my case, be told. The events in chapter 10 of Acts contain one such revelation.

Chapter 10 begins describing how Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a Gentile, was instructed by God to send some men to Joppa to summon Simon Peter. In a dream, Simon Peter was instructed by God to take the message of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. When the men sent by Cornelius requested that Peter accompany them, he agreed to go. Simon went to the house of Cornelius, ate with him, then proceeded to preach to Cornelius, his family, and others, and converted them to Christianity; in fact, the Holy Spirit descended upon the household in a manner similar to what had occurred with the disciples on Pentecost.

When I first read this, my thinking was 'This is good. Peter is spreading the Word to the Gentiles'. But, upon further reading, contemplation and instruction, it became clear to me how big this event was. Peter was a Jew, and a devout follower of Jewish law. According to Jewish law, it was forbidden for Jews to be with, and especially to eat with, Gentiles. Eating and associating with Gentiles would render Peter spiritually and ritually unclean, since the Jews following only Jewish law were not righteous enough to overcome the unrighteousness of the Gentiles. This is not like going out to dinner with your friend that supports your team's competitor. The act of eating and associating with Gentiles was against everything that the early Jews were taught to believe. 

Could you do that? If God called you, would you be able to go into the home of your adversary and preach to them? Especially if their culture was completely different from yours – if they ate foods foreign and possibly disgusting to you; if their habits were strange or even sickening? Could you? I don't know if I could. But Peter did. All because of the awesome power of God working through Peter.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesus Christ Is Risen!

Jesus Christ is risen!



Easter is the greatest and oldest Christian feast. It is the Feast of Feasts. And, it is the holiest day of the year for Christians. Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the act that is core to Christian beliefs. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (647) "it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history".

This was an incredible event. Even the apostles did not believe what was happening. Consider this. According to the Gospel of Matthew (28:17) “When they (11 disciples) saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” And, in Mark (16:11) “When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her (Mary Magdalene), they did not believe.” Luke (24:10-11) relates “The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.” Jesus had been telling the apostles for some time that he would be crucified, and would rise from the dead. Still, the apostles, those men closest to Jesus, did not understand and did not believe.

Jesus's resurrection is not the same as raising Lazarus from the dead, which can be thought of as re-animation. With Lazarus, he came back in his earthly body, to continue his life. Jesus rose from the dead as God, in his glorified body. When we are resurrected on the last day, we too will be in our glorified bodies.

The Catholic artist Matt Maher does it again with his song “Resurrection Day”. It is an uplifting, joyous song celebrating Jesus's victory over sin and death, and our freedom from sin. It celebrates the opening of the gates of heaven for all of us. It celebrates, screams even, that Jesus Christ is God. Matt captures this latter reality with the lines: “you declare what is holy, you declare what is good, in the sight of all the nations, you declare that you are God.” Declare? Again I say Jesus is pretty much shouting it from the mountain tops.


Resurrection Day. Listen. Enjoy.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Blessed People

Over the past several years, I have been striving to better understand Catholicism and increase my faith. To achieve that end, I have been participating as both attendee and facilitator in several Bible studies at my Church, and have been pretty much continually reading Christian books. As a result, I have studied the works of various authors, theologians, and saints.

One thing has struck me in my studies - for some people, the yearning to understand and love Jesus occurs later in life. Saint Augustine relates in "The Confessions of Saint Augustine" that he was basically fighting against his calling for a long time, until he read one passage out of the Bible. The passage spoke to his heart. He broke down and cried, asking God for forgiveness, and turned his life around. And, as I have related, my own coming back to Jesus occurred when I was an adult.

However, there are some who heard their calling as children or teenagers. Of course, many saints were called when they were young. Among these are Saints Catherine of Bologna,  Dominic Savio, Colette, Casimir of Poland and Margaret of Cortona. All of these saints followed their calling from God even though they were called at a young age.

Many people who are currently living, though not saints, have similarly heard the call of God at an early age. Jeff Cavins, the theologian, tells how he first became very interested in understanding the Bible when he was confirmed, which I am guessing was when he was around eight years of age. He describes how Confirmation changed him, and inspired him to begin to read the Bible. I don't even remember if we had a Bible when I was eight years old; I certainly felt no great desire to read it!

Matthew Kelly is another individual who heard God calling pre-adult. For Matthew, his calling came when he was a teenager. Matthew began to go to a Church and pray almost every day, seeking God's wisdom and peace. This ignited in him a passion for God that continues to the present day.

I sit in wonder when I hear these individuals speak (Jeff Cavins) or read their writings (Matthew Kelly). Their passion for God, and understanding for his works, is so deep. Both of these men inspire me to become better, to become holier, so that I, too, can speak with the confidence, knowledge and love for God that is so clearly in these two. I pray that my efforts will one day come to fruition.