Friday, March 28, 2014

Forgiveness and Unconditional Love: 2 Samuel 19:5-7

Reading 2 Samuel 19 reminds us of the unconditional love and mercy that Jesus offers us.  King David, after learning of Absalom’s death, mourns for his son. The voice of Joab, however, reflects the voice of the world -- why forgive your enemy when you can hate them? Our task is to reject this voice, as David does, and instead become conduits for God’s love and mercy toward others.

“‘My son Absalom! Absalom! My son, my son!’ So Joab went to the king’s residence and said: “Though they saved your life and your sons’ and daughters’ lives, and the lives of your wives and your concubines, you have put all your servants to shame today by loving those who hate you…” 2 Samuel 19: 5b-7a

As an accusation, Joab points out David's unconditional love for his wayward son, Absalom. We are called to embrace this level of forgiveness and love, for Jesus teaches us to “love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us” ( Matthew 5:44). David is forced out of Jerusalem and greatly wronged by Absalom, but David still loves and forgives him, not holding Absalom's sin against him. David is even ridiculed by Joab and warned that all of David’s people will abandon him due to the love and forgiveness he extends to Absalom. This is the level of forgiveness we see in Jesus, when during his Passion, he forgave those who scourged, mocked, ridiculed, and pinioned Him to the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We are called to imitate Christ, to whom David is a type, emulating our Lord's unfathomable mercy toward others.

Loving God,
... Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Amen

Friday, March 14, 2014

Prayer, Love, and Mercy: Witnessing Jesus Christ in Others

Have you ever contemplated the ways in which our Lord communicates with us?  For mystics, it is clear and vibrant. He appears and speaks in a very corporeal way. Few are mystics, however. But the Lord does communicate with us in equally clear ways.  We have to pray for His grace, the eyes to see, and the ears to hear His presence. In seeing Christ among us, we have to look at the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Jesus uses the faithful to affect others.  We, too, then can be operatives of God’s love and grace.
            I have the privilege of attending 15 minutes of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament each morning on my way to work.  This opportunity in itself is a gift from God and another story, but there are many graces that lie within these precious minutes each day. Today, for instance, I had an incredible moment of spiritual consolation.  I met a man who was a conduit of the Holy Spirit and messenger of our Lord.
            Each morning during adoration, I receive the Eucharist. Before receiving Jesus, an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Communion and I pray the “Our Father” and “Lord, I am not Worthy.”  Today, however, I was compelled to add the following words from the synoptic gospels (Matthew 8:2; Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12): “Lord if you will, you can make me clean.” This quote comes from the beautiful scene in the gospels where Jesus instantly heals the faithful leper and makes him clean.  Our leprosy is sin, and although I regularly seek reconciliation and offer true contrition for my sins, I know that I still sin and hurt God. Jesus Christ is mercy and love and infinitely offers His mercy to us, but we must ask in prayer. We must pray for the grace of true contrition and offer ourselves to His will; God always answers.  I am far from perfect and need Christ’s healing touch, and what better place to ask for His grace than before receiving Him in the Eucharist while in front of the tabernacle.
After this prayer and Holy Communion, I felt peaceful silence and love fill my heart. Consolation abounded.  In the distance of the church behind me, for it was empty besides a few attendants and me, I heard the slow approach of padding footsteps and rhythmic swishing vinyl-on-vinyl.  I was almost irritated that this sound was disturbing my tranquil consolation.  I looked up, however, and saw a man whom I never met before with tears in his eyes -- living tears.  He said, “Thank you,” turned around, and left.  I responded with the same and a “God bless,” not realizing at first what had happened.
My simple witness of prayer affected someone else, brought them closer to Jesus.  If I was a conduit of grace to this man, then he was a message of love from our Lord.  After I finished my last few minutes of prayer, I looked for the man in the church, but he was gone.  Jesus uses ordinary people to communicate His grace.  I truly encountered the living Christ, for He is truly in and with all of us.  


"Faith Matheny" by Edgar Lee Masters
At first you will know not what they mean,

And you may never know,

And we may never tell you:—

These sudden flashes in your soul,

Like lambent lightning on snowy clouds
         5
At midnight when the moon is full.

They come in solitude, or perhaps

You sit with your friend, and all at once

A silence falls on speech, and his eyes

Without a flicker glow at you:—
  10
You two have seen the secret together,

He sees it in you, and you in him.

And there you sit thrilling lest the Mystery

Stand before you and strike you dead

With a splendor like the sun’s.
  15
Be brave, all souls who have such visions!

As your body’s alive as mine is dead,

You’re catching a little whiff of the ether

Reserved for God Himself.





































Thursday, March 13, 2014

Walk of Hope: Loving our Neighbor with Catholic Charities

Dear Friends,
   Just recently, my wife and I were discussing paint colors, new lighting, and various home improvements, ways that we could improve our already comfortable home.  After this discussion, we sat down to eat dinner, and looking around the table, I noticed the shining, healthy faces of my family.  We had good food and a warm, safe home to call our own.  Many in our own communities, however, don't even know from where their next meal will come.
  Hunger, homelessness, poverty, and abuse are very real and effect more families than we like to admit.  Many children go to sleep with the hollow pang of hunger in their stomachs.  Many mothers shuffle their children to the nearest shelter to get their kids off the street and out of the freezing rain, hoping there will be one more bed available for their child.  Many families seek to reconcile but, due to an addicted or mentally unstable parent, undergo abuse; their only hope is to safely escape to a shelter.  Although many despair daily, we can do something to help solve the problem.
   Small steps can make the difference. Our family will walk on Saturday, April 5, in Catholic Charities’ Walk of Hope.  Help us to bring hope to the needy, give to those in despair, and be a beacon of joy in an impoverished person's day.  Your contribution will make the difference.
Donating is fast, secure, and tax deductible, for Catholic Charities is a 501(c)3 charity. Catholic Charities works to reduce poverty, promote recovery and strengthen families by offering programs that provide food, financial assistance, counseling, and support. Catholic Charities has been a trusted resource since 1913, making sure no one in crisis is left alone. So, please “walk with us" and pledge at the secure link below.


Thank you.

In Peace,

Stan

P.S. If you would be kind enough to forward this letter through your social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc), we would greatly appreciate it.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sponsor a child today! - Unbound

God lovingly brought a little girl from Columbia into our lives.  Through prayer and the desire to do God's will, we discovered CFCA (now Unbound Intl.), and began sponsoring a child.  Our life has been so rich knowing that the little we do can mean so much to a struggling child.  Unbound has been faithful in their personal responses and management of our sponsorship.  Hearing from our sponsored child, watching her grow up, and knowing the Holy Spirit connects us in charity is so comforting. May God bless Unbound, and I thank them, through the opportunity of sponsorship, for helping bring Christ into our lives.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jesus Christ's Salvific Love: Luke 5:12-13

"While [Jesus] was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him."
 Luke 5:12-13 (RSV)

       When we call out to Christ with contrite hearts, He answers. Sin is our leprosy, and if we are not careful we become outcasts of the kingdom and roam outside the gates of grace. 
       It is easy to let the leprosy of our sins infect our daily judgement, anesthetize us to The Trinity's truth, and to become modern-day people living in a relativistic world.  We are sometimes blinded by our secular society, thinking that we must adapt to the modern way of thinking.  But this thinking quietly paves the way for the insidious path of sin.  Before we realize it, we are in the middle of a deaf and blind existence.  We become numb to living the Decalogue, the teachings of Matthew 5-7, and loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. We wallow in the mire of disfigurement like that of the leper. 
       Through Jesus, however, all we need is to ask for His merciful touch, His unending forgiveness.  It starts with us, though. For we are given the free will to make God our choice. When in faith we cry out for the saving grace of Christ's touch, He cleanses us and we are made new.  It is through the infinite love and mercy of Jesus that "immediately the leprosy [leaves us]" and we are brought back to the loving arms of God. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Acknowledging our Sins: A Reflection on 1 John 1:5-2:2

Living Space 1 John 1:5-2:2 | Sacred Space

Moving closer to Christ moves us to an abrupt awareness of the darkness of our sin.  While this may seem intimidating and depressing, it is enlightening. This awareness, moreover, is a wake up call to our own imperfections and leads us to a child-like reliance upon our Lord's infinite love and mercy.  In 1 John 1: 9, the evangelist states, "If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing."  

Acknowledging our shortfalls is key.  I often find it too easy to dismiss my sins as part of the modern world's required human adaptation. But there is peace in the morality of Church teaching, which descends directly from the apostles. We grow closer to Christ through God's grace, but our free-will acceptance of that grace and cooperation with God's will are necessary.  Responding to God's grace brings us into the light of Christ, and His light enables us to see our pride-ridden faults and, therefore, depend on God's loving forgiveness. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Choosing St. Peter's Path: A Reflection on Exodus 36-38; Psalm 53-54; Matthew 27:1-26

In November 2013, I started a Catholic Bible in a year reading program created by the Coming Home Network.  As I am now on day 52, this reading plan has been incredibly fruitful for me.  In my daily reading, I am using the The Catholic Prayer Bible (NRSV) by Paulist Press.  The insights and reflective notes are very real-world and applicable to daily life, as expected by the great Paulist fathers. These notes inspire some of my reflections.  The Holy Spirit, however, is the true guide to my thoughts and prayers in all Scripture readings.  It is my aim to reflect every day in prayer and some days in writing.  Enjoy.


Exodus 36:2-7
The outpouring of time, talent, and treasure is too much.  Moses puts a limit on what is donated and asks people to stop giving, for “the people were restrained from bringing” (7). This is a far cry to what we see today in our parishes.  Although most people have the love of God in their hearts, they are reluctant to give their time, talent, and treasure.  Most parish ministries and community outreaches are in need.  Although many people listen to the call of the Holy Spirit, some choose the noise of the world and are reluctant to take a chance and give. I donate minimal time, talent, and treasure, but it sometimes is a struggle of will:  Am I worthy to be part of this ministry, are my talents just a bogus sense of pride, and am I being selfish in my giving? I cannot imagine there ever being a situation when a pastor tells his flock to cease giving.  It is often too easy to just write a check. Let this be our call to giving more of our hearts to God and our neighbor.


Psalm 54:4, 7
All of the struggles and near-tragic ends in my life have concluded in lessons-based survival, but not on my account.  God was (and continually is) always there picking my nearly-expired self off of the floor of sin.  As the psalmist writes, “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. . . for he has delivered me from every trouble”(4,7).  It is difficult to count the endless poor choices I made during the “loose-cannon” days of my teenage years, the near misses, the brushes with the enemy, the moments of delusion, and the pride-filled times of trial. Blinded by my own anesthetized sense of denial, God was there protecting, teaching, and guiding me to truth.  Part of my on-going conversion is the essence of God’s continual presence and salvific vindication, for I fall daily, but through His grace and love, I rise with Christ.


Matthew 27:1-26
The contrast between Peter and Judas Iscariot is stark.  In the previous chapter Peter “wept bitterly” 26:75. But in chapter 27, Judas “repented” but “hanged himself” in despair (27:3-5).  We are reminded of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this scene. Christ offers us the gift of His grace in the confessional, but many of us are too embarrassed by our sins and ignore the sacrament. I struggle with this every month, but only through God’s grace am I able to hurdle my own pride and ask for His loving forgiveness. Part of humility is humiliation, and confession is the key to peace. Peter later repents by offering his love three times to our Lord (John 21:15-19) and is vindicated by Jesus’ loving forgiveness. God loves us unconditionally; we must choose the path of Peter.


Pilate “wash[es] his hands before the crowd” (27:24) as a sign of purification and innocence.  How many times do we wash our hands of the difficult decisions in life. It is easy to say “my vote doesn't count” or “we live in a flawed world” and chalk up an unethical, immoral choice to relativism.  The message here points to the question Pilate asks Jesus in John 18:38, “What is truth?” Truth is listening to and acting on our well-formed conscience and standing up for what is right in the context of lies, even when everyone looks at you as if you, too, are wearing a crown of thorns.