Saturday, December 28, 2013

1 John 1:5-2:2: Acknowledging our Sins

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

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

~ 1 John 1:5-2:2 NRSV

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 forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ. 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

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

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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Luke 15:1-32 Jesus and the Parables of the Lost: God's Limitless Mercy

According to the University of Notre Dame's Dr. Robert Krieg, “Jesus did not speak of God turning his back to us, but said that God loves us unconditionally and relentlessly seeks to “save” us. " In Luke chapter 15, God is presented as the forgiving father who cherishes every one of His adopted sons and daughters, no matter the circumstance or offense. The following three parables from Luke chapter 15 provide examples of God’s limitless love and mercy:

The Parable of the Lost Sheep:
God is depicted as “searching” and not giving up until the lost is found. When we (the lost) are found, God does not simply stop there, but He lifts us on His shoulders and carries us home. When God arrives home with us, he calls together a community to rejoice in finding the lost, for, as Our Lord says, "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 RSV).

The Parable of the Lost Coin:
God is presented as bringing forth light and searching diligently for the lost. Again, the one lost coin is of great value in the eyes of the Father, for he calls the community together and rejoices at finding it. Our Lord states, “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10 RSV).

The Parable of the Lost Son:
God is presented as infinitely generous, for he takes an inheritance that should go to the older son (progenitor) and, through loving generosity, gifts it to the younger son.  Furthermore, God, the forgiving father, does not just forgive the wayward son, but the father “had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 RSV). This limitless forgiveness and love is how Jesus depicts God in all three parables.

In all three of the above parables, God’s love and forgiveness are limitless. But each parable mentions a form repentance.  Therefore, Our Lord teaches that we must first be humble, repentant, and contrite of heart in order to receive God’s infinite mercy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Luke 11:27-28: Venerating The Blessed Mother's Faith

"Throughout her life and until her last ordeal when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary's faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God's word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 149).

Always remember the beauty of Our Blessed Mother' s faith and discipleship.  For she is, as the angel Gabriel states, ". . . full of grace." The virgin Mary's model of discipleship is found in her fiat to God's word at the annunciation, her neighborly love and devotion to St. Elizabeth at the visitation, her giving flesh to the Incarnation of Our Lord, her submission to the purity laws of the Temple, her intercession at the wedding feast of Cana, her motherly loving and guidance in raising Jesus, and her faithful obedience and sorrow during the Jesus' Passion and at foot of the Cross. Our Lady, according to St. Josemaria Escriva in Christ is Passing By, ". . . lived [her faith] sincerely, unstintingly fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice each day." We, too, are called to "hear the word of God and keep it" in our daily lives, living the faith and discipleship modeled by The Virgin Mary, our mother in heaven. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Luke 10:38-42 -- Contemplative Prayer and Service to Others

"Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each of you to discover it [...]. There is no other way. Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or else we shall never find Him. That is why I can tell you that our age needs to give back to matter and to the most trivial occurrences and situations their noble and original meaning. It needs to restore them to the service of the Kingdom of God, to spiritualize them, turning them into a means and an occasion for a continuous meeting with Jesus Christ" (St. J. Escriva, "Conversations," 114).
* qtd. in The Navarre Bible New Testament

Let us take what both Martha and Mary did for Jesus and combine them into something beautiful that glorifies God. Make everything we do as service to others a prayer for the love of Christ. Gospel-focused action and contemplation for the love of God go hand-in-hand.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rediscover Catholicism: Following Christ more Closely

Matthew Kelly's Rediscover Catholicism is a worthwhile read for any Catholic, no matter how tepid or passionate of faith.  Kelly presents the issues and hurdles that many Catholics face in life and gives welcome advice that can lead us to life's purpose and mission -- to know, love, and serve God.  Kelly identifies the problems of relativism, hedonism, and individualism in our everyday lives and how these problems can permeate our thoughts.  These three prevailing philosophical stances disease our minds and deaden our faith.  Kelly's book, therefore, deconstructs each and presents a way in which the reader can grow in his or her faith by steeping themselves in the lives of the saints, the seven pillars of Catholic spirituality (confession, prayer, Mass, Scripture, fasting, spiritual reading, and the Rosary), and taking action to be the change we want to see in the Church. His plan and the book’s discussion are thorough, practical, and brilliant.
Kelly's arguments fall short in two areas, though.  Although Kelly is spot-on with his analysis of the problems posed by a numbingly progressive secular society, he too often repeats the sales-pitch-like phrase "the-best-version-of-yourself." This is probably my personal irritation, but its repetition can cheapen the honest insight and heartfelt transformation Kelly inspires throughout the book. Another quibble is Kelly's teaching on friendship. In an earlier section of the book, Kelly rightly suggests that we surround ourselves with people of like mind and spiritual goals. Kelly's advice on choosing friends, however, jumps out at me. He states that when choosing friends we should ask if spending time with that person will make us better. Although we should seek out like-minded people of faith in order to share and grow in our faith, Christ befriended the poor, sick, sinful, and dishonest. We should not forget that our witness is for the good of the sinful and suffering. The joy our Lord gives us is not for ourselves but for the benefit of others. After all, Jesus is the model of self-giving and service to others. Kelly makes excellent points on self-growth and friendship, but emphasis should be on a self-giving spirit. But these are minor personal gripes I have with Kelly's superbly written, inspiring work on how to grow closer to Jesus through our faith.
The stated nitpicks aside, Rediscovering Catholicism is a true gem, however. Kelly shines in his use of the saints, Scripture, Catholic Tradition, prayer, and action needed to change the church. With every point he makes, he supports it with clear analogies (I love the sports analogies), Scriptural evidence, and personal witness.
In presenting how to grow in faith he writes a stimulating section on the witness of the saints, namely Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, John Vianney, Thomas Moore, and John Paul II. Each of their stories, yet simplified for the sake of the book, presents holiness in the everyday humanity of their lives. When we read Kelly's take on the saints, we want to be more like them and live lives of obedient devotion to God and neighbor. This section of the book shines.
Sacred Scripture is paramount to our growing closer to Christ, and Kelly suggests pouring over the gospels daily. Reading about the life of Christ, his love, teaching, miracles, life example, self giving, sacrifice, death, and resurrection is the key to imitating him, and Kelly presents this with justice throughout the book.  
Kelly weaves in the importance of Tradition and prayer as part of our spiritual growth and states that they are necessary practices that bring us closer to God. He provides a well written section on prayer, and I especially enjoy his personal story about 10 minutes of daily prayer in the presence of our Lord in the Tabernacle.
The book concludes with a section on change. Kelly lays out the needs of Church and individual change necessary to bring education, evangelization, leadership, and vocations necessary to propel the Church (The Body of Christ, not the buildings and infrastructure) toward the example God invites us to become. Kelly suggests that we nurture friendships, pray for people, tell our stories, and provide exciting, viable outreach to our neighbors.  
Our Catholic faith is multifaceted and rich in the beauty of history and Tradition.  Kelly's book is full of more wisdom and keen observation than I can mention in the small review. My copy was given to me by the Knights of Columbus as part of their parish outreach and evangelization, and it is full of notes and highlights and has proven to be a personally transforming experience. Read the Rediscover Catholicism and you, too, will be transformed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Recognizing God's Will: Fr. Ciszek's He Leadeth Me

            Fr. Ciszek mentions something that all of us dedicated to Jesus Christ seek - knowing and doing God’s will.  As stated, it seems like a simple task.  We look for the “good” choice and do it. Therein, however, lies the problem.  In seeking the “good” choice, our fallen human nature seeks our “good” choice.  How many times have we come across a situation and thought, rationalized, and justified our position and choice as the “right thing”?  Fr. Ciszek so clearly approaches this human mistake in the following passage from He Leadeth Me:
. . .but rather the will of God as God envisioned it and revealed it to us each day in the created situations with which he presented us. His will for us was the twenty-four hours of each day: the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time. Those were the things God knew were important to him and to us at that moment, and those were the things upon which he wanted us to act, not out of any abstract principle or out of any subjective desire to "do the will of God." No, these things, the twenty-four hours of this day, were his will; we had to learn to recognize his will in the reality of the situation and to act accordingly. We had to learn to look at our daily lives, at everything that crossed our path each day, with the eyes of God; learning to see his estimate of things, places, and above all people, recognizing that he had a goal and a purpose in bringing us into contact with these things and these people, and striving always to do that will—his will—every hour of every day in the situations in which he had placed us. For to what other purpose had we been created? For what other reason had he so arranged it that we should be here, now, this hour, among these people? To what other end had he ordained our being here, if not to see his will in these situations and to strive to do always what he wanted, the way he wanted it, as he would have done it, for his sake, that he might have the fruit and the glory?  (Ciszek 41)
            Contextually, Fr. Ciszek is speaking about his experience in a Russian labor camp circa 1940.  He and a fellow priest went into this camp incognito, with the hope of serving those people in spiritual need.  However, the grim reality of communism pervaded, and no one wanted to even acknowledge God.  Fr. Ciszek wanted to leave and consistently looked for a way out. Fr. Ciszek was looking to satisfy his own version of God’s will.  But all he needed to do was look around.  God’s will was “the people, the places, the circumstances he set before us.”
     Reflecting on Fr. Ciszek's epiphany, I pray that God gives us the grace to recognize and lovingly act on His will in the everyday "people, places, and circumstances" that surround us. Through God's loving grace, let us see and act with act with the eyes and heart of Christ, and let all our actions serve only His will in the "here and now" of life.  Amen. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sacred Scripture: Jesus Christ, Conversion, and Dr. Scott Hahn's Online Bible Study

Scripture is the spiritual game-changer for me.  Reading Scripture puts me in the direct voice of God, whether it is a dialogue with Jesus in the New Testament or Yahweh in the Old Testament.  Throughout my early life, my faith was like the seed buried beneath the earth that seemed dead but was waiting for the nourishing waters of Sacred Scripture. For many years, if asked about my faith, the standard answer was, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior," but that, and what I remembered about the Ten Commandments from CCD, was the extent of my faith, not that I was compelled to follow the Commandments or even study them.  
    Years later, however, I had a powerful conversion.  A significant part of Christ's reaching out to me came through Scripture.  Up until my conversion, the only Scripture I read was bits and pieces of the King James Bible the Gideons gave me before entering USAF basic training, and that interpretation left me baffled at times.  Through my discovery of Scripture, Christ led me to the New Testament where I was able to hear His voice calling me, as He does all of us, by name.  Reading the Gospels is like having an intimate conversation with Christ.  All of those years that I did not have Scripture in my life I found myself in a barren struggle to find happiness in things.  Yes, I had my loving wife and children, and they always brought joy into my life, but in the absence of embracing my faith through Scripture, I missed the pinnacle of reason for that joy, God.  I needed Scripture to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ’s salvific plan for me, and once God led me to Scripture, I was able to choose to develop and feed that submerged seed of faith.
   In reading Scripture, however, I found there were too many interpretive points of view in the Protestant camp of exegesis. Through prayer and discernment, God lovingly led me back to the Catholic Church, and by accepting that invitation, I discovered Dr. Scott Hahn’s online Scripture study program, From Genesis to Jesus.  Through this Catholic online Bible study, I was given the Catholic tradition and framework for understanding God’s inspired Word. 

* The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Love One Another: Help Feed and Educate Christ's Poor

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

-- John 13: 34-35 (RSV)


      Christ commissions us to ". . . love one another; even as I have loved you," yet I find myself buying something I really do not need or spending idle time using the many "things" that are so easily at my fingertips.  The device that I use to write this message, for instance, is something that I take for granted and consider part of my expected state in life.  But not all of God's children think or exist in this world of expectation and comfort.  Many children go days without eating and live in the reality of starvation and disease.  The liberating power of education and the safety of school are a scarce commodity among such children.  Recently, I viewed the April 21, 2013 episode of Sunday Night Prime on EWTN that featured the loving mission of Mary's Meals. Moved by the Holy Spirit, I decided to take a stand and make a difference even if it is only a few dollars. Out of every dollar raised for this noble charity, 93 cents go into the stomachs of starving children.  Not only do these kids get a healthy meal, but they are offered that meal in an educational setting. Mary’s Meals provides the life-giving filling of the stomach and the liberating filling of the mind.  Magnus's Mary's Meals story is moving, and I hope you can help make a difference in the lives of children in need.  Every dollar counts, but if you can afford it, $16.80 feeds one student for an entire school year.  If you can’t afford to donate a dollar, just pray for Mary’s Meals.

Please give directly to Mary's Meals if you can.

May God bless you.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Luke 18:9-14: Christ's Mercy and the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
-- Luke 18:9-14 (RSV)

          Reading Luke 18:9-14 is a humbling and emotionally-wrought experience.  The parable relates to all sinners and reflects Christ’s personal invitation to conversion.  We can absorb this lesson and witness the power of pride and ego at work.  When the Pharisee says a prayer of thanksgiving for not being "like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector,” he represents humanity's ego and self-righteousness.  How many times do we unknowingly look at others with disdain and condemnation?  Although I regularly pray that I see Christ in all people, there are moments when, through my own fault, I forget or stubbornly give in to my own concupiscence.  Frustration, pride, and temptation pervade during these moments, but we must call on God for His merciful grace.  That is exactly what this sinful tax collector does; he calls on God for mercy by saying, “‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”  Let us never forget that we are all hopeless sinners in need of God’s infinite mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us always humble ourselves before Christ and ask for forgiveness, and through charity, He generously gives us the necessary grace to amend our sinful ways.  Christ calls us from our figurative tax booths, just like Levi and Zaccheus.  I pray that we follow Him, too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mark 5:33-34: Loving Jesus in Faith

Mark 5: 33-34
But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (NASB)

Faith is believing without seeing.  Faith, moreover, is loving Christ with a devoted heart, even when we lack the physical evidence.  As our Lord said to St. Thomas in John 20:29, “. . . Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  After the our Lord’s glorious resurrection, the apostle Thomas doubted the Lord’s identity and desired to see His wounds to verify that Jesus was truly resurrected.  In John 20, St. Thomas’ actions contrast with Christ teaching about faith in the Gospels.  In almost every miracle that our Lord performs, He states that it is our faith that saves us.  For example, one of my favorite episodes in St. Luke’s Gospel (Luke 7:36-50) tells about the sinful woman who was forgiven.  It is amid the Law-focused, hypocritical Pharisees that this sinful woman shows a beautifully contrasting humility and love for our Lord by cleaning His  feet with ointment, her tears, and her hair. Christ lovingly tells her that “(the woman's) faith has saved (her); go in peace” (Luke 7:50).  Likewise, faith is defined  when blind Bartimaeus, in his beggarly position outside the walls of Jericho and among the crowd, calls out to Jesus as He passes.  Christ gives Bartimaeus sight and says,“Go; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:46-52).  Finally, the absence of faith can define its importance.  When Jesus enters his hometown to preach the Good News, people shun him and don’t believe that this son of Joseph and Mary could be the Christ.  In Matthew 13:58, the evangelist states that “(Jesus) did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.”  Faith, therefore, is not only the belief in the unseen, but it also is an essential ingredient in the salvific power of Christ to touch our lives.  We need faith in order to grow closer to Our Lord and should pray for a deepening of our faith daily.  
    In defining faith, I come back to its significance in my relationship with God.  God offers me the opportunity to receive faith from Him.  Faith, therefore, is a gift, an offering from God to bring me into loving communion with Him. Faith is not something I posses outside of God, nor is it something that I can work hard for and earn.  Faith is a gift freely given to me, a gift that I am called to embrace, and something that I pray thanksgiving for each day.  There were certain moments in my life that I always maintained faith in God and held Christ in my heart, but my life did not reflect that gift of faith through acts of love.  For example, there were many years that I fell away from the Church.  Although I tried different brands of Protestantism, I struggled to find truth without result.  I ended up not attending Mass or any ecclesial community for a long time.  Although I convinced myself that I had faith in Jesus in my heart, without any active pursuit of faith-based love, I struggled to find meaning in everything and easily slipped deeper into a world of secularism.  Blinded by the world, flesh, and devil, my faith was dead, reduced to mere words without loving action.  Faith is a gift offered by God and requires acts of love in order to bloom, and it is what so wonderfully defines us as Catholics.  Once Jesus offered a conversion which I embraced, it reverted me back home to the Church. 

 Faith is the active gift that I embrace each day in my communion with Christ.  If and when my faith falters, I pray for God’s grace and ask like father of the boy with the unclean spirit did in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief.”  My faith, like me, is not perfect, but with prayer and heartfelt acts of love toward God and neighbor, God lovingly offers this gift of faith, and through the strength of my Savior Jesus Christ, I embrace it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mark 2:27: My Scrupulous Fault

I can focus on a goal and its steps with laser precision. My wife often tells me that when I take interest in a new task, I often get carried away and become stupidly single-minded in my focus. She’s right. I have the tendency to throw myself deeply into something for which I have passion, but in the throes of that passion, I sometimes lose my sense of reality and purpose. The following line from St. Mark’s Gospel clearly speaks to my situation:
And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath . . . “ Mark 2:27
          During my morning workout, I was watching an episode of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime. The Franciscan Brothers presented a message similar to that which our Lord teaches in Mark 2:27. We need to understand the love and peace that Jesus teaches and not focus only on doctrine or law. Don’t get me wrong, the commandments and doctrine are the north on our moral compasses. As Catholics, we honor important early Church traditions. Some of these traditions can be mistakenly seen as the ends in themselves, however. When this happens, we can lose sight of God’s merciful, forgiving love at the cost of the “step” we believe is required to achieve that love. Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to this Pharisee-like vision that Jesus warns us about. But through Christ’s love and guidance, I keep coming back to His infinite peace and mercy. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. Jesus loves us as we are and invites us to faith and love in return. Avoiding over-scrupulous approaches to the rules of our faith will lead us closer the truth of Jesus Christ's love, a peaceful, self-sacrificing love that was made for all.