Monday, April 21, 2014

Be Not Afraid and Have Peace

Friends of Faith:
The Resurrection message is about the peace we find by placing our trust in the Lord.

Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! … Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.” Mt 28: 1-10
The published “count” for the number of times “do not be afraid” appears in the bible differs – up to an often quoted 365 times (once for each day of the year).
 
But the actual count really doesn’t make as much difference as the message itself and WHY God is so adamant that instead of having fear we should place our trust in him. And the promise that God gives us if, and when, we place our trust in him – the promise of eternal life. A life filled with something more than just worldly happiness, a life of eternal peace!
 
Calming the disciples fears the risen Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jn 19:20
 
Yet what feeling is described as the peace Jesus speaks of? Isn’t the often asked for cliché of “world peace” more than just the absence of war, of conflict and of fighting? Isn’t that peace more aptly represented by our own internal desires not to fear, for our hearts to have peace within us, a peace represented by the absence of worry, stress and anxiety?
 
I think the peace I feel in my heart is achieved directly in proportion to how much trust I place in God. The more I trust what God wants me to do, the easier I can accept the things I have to do; and the more I accept and trust the direction that God leads my life, the less I am afraid that my decisions will not bear His fruit in the outcomes.
 
Because trying to find peace by myself, trying to control how those around me act or react to situations, trying to control the forces of nature, even trying to control how my computer will react to my commands – is really beyond my control.
 
And if I think I have control, I will quickly find out otherwise –by a virus of some sort: the virus of illness, the virus of computer technology, even the virus of a friend or clients frustrations.
 
While at certain times I might think otherwise, the bigger influence, the biggest influence, the only one that has complete and total control, of my life and this world, is God. Therefore, He deserves my entire and unconditional trust. He is the only one who can give me peace of mind and peace of Spirit – a peace that allows me to accept what is beyond my personal choice, that which I cannot control.
 
The hope I entrust to God is that the daily choices I make will lead not to difficulty, turmoil or struggles for myself or others, but to an acceptance of whatever sacrifices I have to make to deal with those struggles and forces of nature; a hope for contentment, a removal of stress and a freeing of my mind because the burden of unmet expectations are placed in God’s trust. I hope and trust that God will give me peace on earth as well as eternal peace!
 
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. “Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and our shield. May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.” Ps 33: 20, 22 Amen.
 
May your faith and hope bring you peace in trusting God,
Blessings in Christ,
Charlotte

Monday, April 14, 2014

Engagement Holy Week Walk with Christ

Friends of Faith:
I have had others agree with me that Holy Week is their favorite spiritual and sacramental week of the liturgical year.

I don’t remember very many times, over the years, that I haven’t been able to attend liturgies every day from Thursday thru Sunday – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil) and Easter Sunday. It was then, and has over the years become extremely important for me to have a full experience of not just history, but to be a part of Christ’s saving journey for us during Holy Week.
Certainly I didn’t go to church every day when I was younger because I was “holy,” nor do I now. I went then because I was lucky enough to be part of a family who found Christ not just in his Resurrection, but also in his passion and death.

And I go now because I understand that without his passion and death we would not have a Resurrection. Christ’s passion and death, his suffering, allow us the grace of forgiveness, so that through His death we can have the gift of eternal life—Resurrection. I would feel denied and empty if I was unable to engage in the liturgies of His death and Resurrection, not just during Holy Week, but every day of my life.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane,*and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” … He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.” Mt 26: 36-45

One of my earliest memories of Holy Week is spending Holy Thursday night with my dad from 11 p.m. to midnight in church. Dad explained to me that our hour of prayer in front of the exposed tabernacle (Eucharistic adoration) was to commemorate the time the disciples spent at watch with Jesus as he prayed, and I remember thinking that I could not and would not be like them – I was going to stay awake (a difficult task for someone age 5 or 6 in a quiet church that late at night).

I know now that I fall asleep as the disciples did each time I sin. I fall asleep each time I don’t fully trust in my faith. And I fall asleep each time I justify a choice that is not God’s will for me.
But I realize that each time I walk this Holy Week with Christ, and that each time I am given the opportunity to celebrate Mass (the Last Supper) I am given another gift, another grace by which to bear my own sufferings, and another opportunity to feel His awe and presence in my life.

The glory of his Resurrection is just that much greater when I have am able to take part in the entire experience celebrated this week. I become a part of the crowd exalting His entrance into Jerusalem by waving of palms on Palm Sunday. I am a witness to the initiation of the Eucharist and priesthood, through the blessing of bread and wine and the washing of the feet of His disciples at His Last Supper on Holy Thursday.
I feel empty of His presence by the lack of Mass on Good Friday (while there is a liturgy service, no Eucharist is celebrated anywhere in the world on the day we commemorate Jesus’ death.) And great sorrow in the reading of Holy Scripture which tells of the pain and suffering Jesus Christ experienced – knowing that it is my sin for which He was nailed to and hung on the cross.

And I have witnessed with joy the rebirth given to those who symbolically become new lights in faith as they fully join the church through the blessing of the new water in baptism and in the first communions, and confirmations celebrated at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
Lord God, make me one with you. Help every human to have the opportunities I have been given, to be a Christian who walks with You, who is present in both Your death and Resurrection and who participates fully in the Sacraments You have initiated for us in faith. Thank You for the gift of salvation. May I be a faithful disciple whose awe for you keeps me awake, engaged and present in the journey. Amen.

Every ritual, every veneration and blessing allows me to walk one step closer with Jesus: to walk, fall, deny, and to be forgiven, as one of His faithful disciples; to feel the sorrow and pain of His mother, Mary; even to bear the judgments, hatred and the misunderstandings of the crowd.
If you have not been blessed to experience these days with a community within a church I would invite your participation in the liturgy of a Holy Week,

Engage. Make Christ’s journey more, take the opportunity and make it your priority to become one with Him on the journey He walked for us. Without you, His journey for us means nothing.
Have a Blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Easter,
In Christ,
Charlotte

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mistaken Notions


Friends of Faith:
I think I started this message last week, but Archbishop Jackels perfected it for me at mass this weekend when he talked about “mistaken notions.” His message projected a part of what Pope Francis keeps trying to instill in us as Christians; that it is not just okay to call ourselves the faithful, to be pious by attending church and praying, if we aren’t really doing something for each other with good intentions, lifting up those around us (the needy) in mind and spirit, and serving each other with kindness and compassion.

Each of us is a vehicle to help others make the right choices to become holy and it is the path of holiness that leads us to heaven. 
My mistaken notion may take the belief “that everyone else is doing it” to justify my own actions. I may condemn another’s beliefs by misreading Scripture to fit my own beliefs. O I may and spend a lot of time within church walls piously praying.

But if I’m not disciplined enough to look for God’s justification instead of my own, if I don’t learn about Christ’s teachings from the Church itself, or if I don’t take the time to serve others and do the work it takes to help others first then am I really driving the vehicle I am down a path of true holiness?
I don’t have the liberty to justify everyone’s action as freedom of choice nor should I make someone feel good when they are making a wrong choice, but instead I have the responsibility as a Christian to live up to God’s standards and God’s freedoms, hating sin, but loving sinners.

God put us here on earth as an extension of himself (we are created in His image (Gen 1:27)) and He gave us helpmates (our spouse (Gen 2:18) and the Spirit within His church (Jn 14:26)) to teach us and to guide us to accept His grace and eventually lift us back to Him for all eternity (Rev 19: 7-9) holy and unblemished—clean of sin (Eph 5: 25-27).
“Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.


God designed for us the vehicles to holiness: he taught us to pray, he gave us the commandments and he initiated the Sacraments so that we would not have any mistaken notions about our roles here on earth. We are to love and serve one another as Christ did.

In the Sacrament of Marriage (as designed by God, see Genesis and Ephesians above) we are to be helpmates to our spouse, a vehicle to help another attain holiness. Just as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for it, so a spouse is to care for and love the other, serving each other as Christ served us.
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are taught to say “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you,” just as Christ forgave us.

And in the Sacrament of Holy orders the priests are given the duty to carry out his examples of prayer and discipline by sacrificing their own desires and using their talents and time, just as Christ sacrificed His own life for us.
And that is enlarged upon by Pope Francis’ message of caring for and serving  each other, to rid ourselves of the mistaken notions that Christ’s grace given freely to all ends when we accept that grace, but rather becomes our beginning to act upon that grace, to touch others, to become a vehicle for others, by our thoughts (prayer) and actions to live our lives as God designed.

All of life is a balance. I am called to choose to be disciplined enough to avoid making myself feel good, to be disciplined enough that I don’t  justify my own actions with the filter of human eyes, but rather to search for and see my actions and my intentions through God’s eyes and Christ’s example. I am called to avoid the earthly “mistaken notions” that I have rights, or that I should be given rights other than what God has intended for us in the beginning.
Heavenly Father, You created each of us in Your image. I know that I fail, sometimes miserably, in my decisions, in my mistaken notions, and justifying my choices. Thank You for the mercy You extend each of us. Help me to avoid my mistaken notions and to search diligently for your purpose in my life. Help me to do what it is You want me to do, rather than what fulfills my own desires. Help me to accept Your decisions in my life and to have the patience to bear heart aches and physical aches. Help me to remember that Your son, Jesus, died, not so that I could be fulfilled in this life, but so that I would have eternal life. Amen.

I have a lot to learn. The world has a lot to learn. It is my job, it is our job, to avoid the mistaken notions, to go out and seek God’s truth, to go out and to be Christ to others this week,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, March 31, 2014

The "Right" Right

Friends of Faith:

This weekend we saw the movie “God’s Not Dead.” Would you be willing as a college freshman (or an even more mature adult) to stand up to someone with authority and defend your choice to believe in God and to choose the right “right?” (If you haven’t seen the movie, I would highly recommend it.)
When God looks into my hearts and asks: “Have you been for me, or against me—what will I honestly be able to answer?” This is the “million dollar” for “all eternity question.”

“But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” 1 Sm 16: 7
What is permissible by God and what has been made by man to SEEM permissible by God?
God looks into our hearts. God sees differently than you or I. He sees differently than what the world sees.
Man may make “laws,” and deem something necessary (a choice, an equality), but God sees right laws, and true necessities (disciplines and responsibilities.) He sees the one, true, holy right.

The separation between what God teaches, what Christ gives us as an example and what the world wants us to believe as the truth can be very small. It is one of the reasons I keep seeking education about my faith, because sometimes the differences between God’s right and mine (human’s) can easily trick me into wrong decisions or judgments.

We all know the commandment: “Keep holy the Sabbath.” But yet Jesus preached, healed and performed miracles on the Sabbath. It was one of the reasons the “legal system” of that time abandoned and crucified him. Yet, as Jesus himself depicted, how can something be deemed a “sin” when it is performing miracles in God’s name?

“This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them.” Jn 9: 16

Christ chose to cure the blind man on the Sabbath. He chose mercy over the law. He chose to make God’s mercy visible to others even though it was the Sabbath. Otherwise he would have been the hypocrite who said, “go, take care of yourself, I can’t help you because I am “obeying” the law and not  working today.” So, will my own choices make God’s mercy visible and present to others? Will God see my choices as a choice for him?

Every time I make a decision to DO something is it “my desire” or a “work of God’s?” Does it draw me closer to God, or does it keep me FROM God? Is it of this world, or of God’s world? Am I justifying what I do because it is what I want to be believe (my right), or am I justifying what I do, because I truly believe that God would say it is the “right” right?

Some examples from my life: shopping—Am I spending money I don’t have, buying things I don’t need or am I stopping for a gallon of milk because the refrigerator is empty and I have hungry kids to feed?

Working: Is my work to help others, or is my work to make more money for myself out of greed (different than sustaining the needs of my family)?

Becoming more Christ centered: Am I fulfilled and satisfied by attending church, do I make it my priority, or do I let others convince me that something else is more important?

How am I “justifying” my decisions—based on God, or based on what “everyone else” is doing?
Christ Jesus, You were sent here to be my example. Teach me right from wrong. Help me to discern what is Your way, and what is deceptively just “my way.” Thank you for giving me the opportunity and the freedom to be in your presence each week. Help my life to make You and Your mercy visible to others. Amen.

God IS NOT DEAD!! Stand up for your beliefs. Choose the “right” right for the right reason this week.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hungry and Thirsty

Women of Faith:
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? By what, whom or how are you being nourished? Is it lasting, or are you constantly looking for more?

I was fed this past week by family, by spending time in Colorado with our new grandson, Caleb Joseph (born 3-9-14 to Sara and Luke, on his big sister Karolina’s 4th birthday, and joined by a very proud big brother, Colby.) Kristy, Tyler and Avery also joined us.
So we had two babies who very vocally made known to us like clockwork just how important it was to eat and drink, of our need to be fed.

And I was watered by this week’s readings and through our travel time, which allowed us silence and time to listen to God’s teachings in Scripture, on the radio and by visiting another church community.
Without food and water we could not survive—they are both necessities of life: physically, spiritually, even emotionally.

Symbolically the readings, especially this week were loaded with spiritual “living water”and the food provided by Jesus’ example—physically in His teachings (Scripture and Church) and spiritually by the nourishment He left us in the Body of Christ (grace and Sacraments.)
"In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me!” The LORD answered Moses, …“Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.” Ex 17: 3-7
 
"A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jn 4:5-42
 
In Exodus the people physically threatened Moses because they felt as if they were being left in the desert to die without food and water—which God provided through the power of miracles where he allowed water to flow from rock, and justenough manna each day for a daily serving. (Ex 16:4) (These verses prophetically tie to the need for water (Baptism) and to be fed daily by the transformation of bread into the Eucharist celebrated daily—the Jewish root of Mass.)
 
In the story of the unnamed Samaritan woman at the well she represents the lost, the lonely, the spiritually malnourished, the outcast, and the sinner—all of humanity. It is her “thirsting”for more and then her response in faith which gives her spiritual fulfillment.
 
Her encounter with Jesus ties us to our eternal salvation through the Sacraments of Baptism (by Christ’s grace poured out we are given new life), Eucharist (Jesus is the ”living” food and through our reception of the sacrificial meal we will never die), Reconciliation (although she was a Samaritan and a sinner forgiveness is offered to everyone), and Marriage (despite the guy she lived with and the five previous “husbands” Jesus is the perfected seventh—a representation as her one true and only eternal spouse. (In those days when a man met a single woman at the well she often became his spouse.))

(For more listen to: “I’m Not Being Fed” by Jeff Cavins available at ww.lighthousecatholicmedia.org)

When I thirst and hunger, when I feel spiritually lost or lonely, when I recognize my sin, I am fed and I am watered through simple prayer (a response in faith) or by going to the well’s of reception, the Sacraments: attending church (seeking the fulfillment of His community) and by physically and spiritually being fed by Him in the Eucharist, or by seeking His forgiveness thru the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And I am fed by the grace received in my vocation, marriage, through serving and through being served by my spouse—by sacramentally fulfilling my call, in the Spirit of sacrifice (doing for another) and in the joy of being lifted up, encouraged and accepted, by another.

Lord, I thirst and I hunger for the washing of my soul and food that strengthens my Spirit. Help me to respond to my deepest needs in faith. Take away the junk food of “happy meals” and shallow societal thoughts and allow me to be nourished by the deep well you have left in the teachings of the Church Fathers and through Your offering of daily, healthy food , the Eucharist. Amen.
Fill your body AND your soul with more than junk—search for the living water and the Body of Christ,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, March 17, 2014


Friends of Faith:
I like “definition,” to know right from wrong. I like black and white—not grey, to know that 2 plus 2 always equals 4.

And the laws of the Church have definition: good and evil, or sin and death, or discipline and life.
But faith in Christ is both, and, – it is both head and heart; both law and compassion; both the grace of faith and works because of the grace of faith. It is both Word and Tradition.

I am instructed to pray for my enemies, and to serve the person I love. I am justified in the good works I do BECAUSE I have faith (there is sacrifice in doing for others AHEAD of my own needs). And I am instructed to embrace BOTH the written Word AND the Tradition (example) that Christ intended for me to witness. Sometimes the rules are both black and white—AND the rules always make sense in the light of Christ’s ministry and life.
“And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Mt 17: 2-4

I am transformed by staying connected to the obedience of BOTH the Law of Moses AND having the Spirit of Elijah. My connection to prayer AND fasting; listening AND witnessing; believing AND acting on my belief is what transforms me.
To have one without the other will give us the grace of faith, but no one to share it with, no one to be connected with. There is no such thing as a community of one—only if I live to give others life can there BE life. I can be the example of Christ without being Christ, but I cannot be like Christ without doing something for Christ.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Js 2: 14-26
I won’t truly be able to abide by the law, without being led by the Spirit. I am asked to be connected by grace AND justified by the thoughts, words and actions which reflect that grace.

It is the reason we have priests and the single life—so that they will reflect  for us the visible sign of Christ AND marriages—so that thru a marriage which is open to new life we will have a visible sign of a Christian community (the domestic church), a family. Both vocations serve the other AND both vocations give love to the other.
It is the reason we are connected and transfigured by BOTH His death AND His Resurrection.

“May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, And the rain fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand” ― Irish Blessing
Faith is connected—to BOTH AND: To Christ, to the path of His road, to the words in the silence of the winds, to the warmth of the “son” and to the healing in the tears of the rain.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Beginning and the End


Friends of Faith:

This is not harsh, this is mercy. It seems so complicated, and yet it is so simple.

For God was. The Beginning and the End—AND everything in between.

In the beginning, God made us.

“The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,  and so man became a living being.” Gn 2: 7

We were tempted. Everything “in between” is a choice. Heaven or earth. God’s way or man’s way.

At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.”Mt 4:1-11

In the end, Jesus saved us.

“Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned. For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”
Rm 5:12, 17-19

I know the beginning... I am a sinner. I know what I want in the end... I want to be saved. And I struggle, like all humans, in between, to make the choice to worship and serve God alone.

Even Jesus was tempted (three times), by Satan’s distortion and application of the words of the scriptures.

One: “The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Mt 4: 3

Two: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Mt 4: 6

Three times: “Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Mt 4: 8-9

Jesus knew the whole story. Not just the beginning and not just the end. The devil tried to trick him with his own words, by three times taking His own words out of context. But Jesus knew the whole story, not just the beginning and not just the end. He knew that EVERY choice in-between was important.

“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”Jn 21:25 So, He left us His Church to instruct us and His Spirit to guide us.

I am called to Pray! to Learn! To Discern! And my choices will include being tempted to stop in-between. He gave me, He gives me, His son, every minute of every day, so that I can learn by my mistakes, be forgiven, and move forward to the end.

Merciful Father, You are slow to anger and great in Your kindness. Give me the courage and strength to withstand the temptations of this world and to have the desire to know You more. Thank you for the gift of grace which helps me to understand You more fully. The gift of Your words, spoken and unspoken, which give me the tools to move closer to You. And for the gift of Your Son, through the forgiveness of the cross, which allows me to look forward to You. Amen.

We have all begun. We all want the same end. We were put here to help each other through the in- between.

This is our Lenten journey—together in Christ,

Blessings,

Charlotte