Monday, November 23, 2015

A Bigger Picture

Friends of Faith:
Many of you know that for the past 2 ½ years I have been attending Diaconate formation classes every other Saturday with Stan (part of a 4 ½ year formal discernment and formation process to be ordained as a Deacon in the Catholic Church). And you probably have suspected that some of my reflections come from this experience.

Much like my Sunday homily notes, my notes from these classes are starred and underlined with years of reflection material that this once a week writing will never thoroughly reflect upon.

My notes can never fully capture all the who, what, when, where, why’s or how’s of God, of Jesus, or of the Spirit of the Church. Because to capture approximately 4,000 years of history before God sent His son, or another 2,000 years of church history since Jesus arrived, is a much bigger picture than any of us individually have the time, energy or brain to absorb, or that any book (even the Bible) could contain.
Only God has the power to see the big picture. Only God is big enough to design and hold together that picture.

And what happens when we think we know the big picture?

Our instructor this Saturday said, “In terms of our witness to the world Christian division is scandalous.”
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mk 3: 24-25

So with each passing day I search for the bigger picture to be revealed to me. I search not to be swayed by the devil’s work that tries to divide, scandalize and reform the Church beyond recognition. I seek discernment through prayer, through partaking of the Sacraments, and through continual learning of Church history—especially that of the very early Church. And I strive to avoid political rhetoric and social posturing which makes government (the people) believe they can become bigger than God, or a god by themselves.
Heavenly Father: Thank you for allowing me the time to spend in instruction and formation with those who have been equipped for ministry, and with those who are being trained for building up the body of Christ.  I yearn for total unity and true maturity of my own faith. And I hope that each of my Christian brothers and sisters will never stop seeking the bigger picture and will take full advantage of the tools (Sacraments) and the grace that your Son was sent to bring to us through the Church he left behind. Amen.

Pray constantly and seek to find unity through love.
It is the devil’s work to divide us. Jesus Christ left us His Church to unite us.
 God is the ultimate artist and He is wants each of us to unite to be a part of the big picture he designed.
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heavenly Work

Friends of Faith:

Honestly I think part (and maybe all) of the problem with our culture today is that we think we deserve something so we don’t do enough work – not physical work (although there is some of that issue too), but spiritual work –heavenly work. Not some repetitive prayer or physical showing of charitable work to “get”  to heaven, but work because we believe there is a heaven, work because we believe in Him; work that is in a stewardship frame of mind – of the giving back to God, our time, our talents and our treasures.

Every time I write the word “work” in one of my reflections I tone it down by changing the word because I know that many Christians of denominations other than the Catholic faith think that Catholics feel like they can “work” their way to heaven.
But I think I am doing us all an injustice in toning down the idea of work because I don’t believe there is a true Christian out there who doesn’t believe and understand that we must not only be something more but that we must DO something more BECAUSE we are Christians.

First off, I agree, no one of any faith (or non faith) can “work” their way to heaven – Catholics don’t believe this – it’s a misconception about our teachings. Only God will judge who will go to heaven and it is God who has given us the freedom to choose or to deny him.
When I say I am “working” on my salvation I don’t mean I am “earning” my way to heaven forWhat good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?James 2: 14-17)

A Catholic who says they are “working” on salvation – is saying that salvation is not a one-time profession of faith, but rather a continual profession of faith, a process in which we are constantly choosing to accept or to deny the teachings of Christ the Savior (we can just as easily fall out of God’s grace as we can choose to be in his grace)—that is also why we continuously need mercy and forgiveness.
We are taught to pray, fast and to give alms—not just once but all the time (2 Thes 1:11).

And the “Be”attitudes (Mt 5), which I so love, suggest that to be something in Christ we must “do” something in Christ.
And true, faithful Christians of every faith do just that –they do “good work” because they believe in the Gospel message of Matthew 25 to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, etc– that’s how the world knows we are Christians. We deny ourselves to help others, to love others, to care for others and to support others –we “work” to imitate Jesus and our work is for our neighbor.

My first work is to pray –to pray for guidance as to what my purpose here on earth is for God, to pray for the knowledge to know how he wants me to show others I am his and to pray for the abilities to do my physical work with honor. I am refreshed in doing this by starting my “work” week by keeping holy the Sabbath in Church. For me, it seems that this is the one place where I can get away from the distractions and duties which seem to steal my time away from the time I want to spend with him. Then when I am “sent” at the end of mass to evangelize for Christ I will be able to charitably help others, to more frequently tell others WHY I am Christian, to stand up for Him and if necessary to not be afraid to rebuke others as to what the Church teaches as right AND wrong.
I need to not be afraid to work for Christ—but to be more like the “good thief” who was converted at his death. “The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?” Lk 23:40

In “working” to share the Gospel message the good thief challenged the other criminal, who conversely reviled Jesus with his “I deserve it” attitude, and so the good thief became Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:10

Salvation is a process which requires us to work in denying ourselves and in carrying what sometimes can be very heavy crosses. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,* take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Mt16:24-25 and as St Paul so bluntly stated: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil 2:12
Heavenly Father: I am called to Know You, To Love You and to Serve You. Help me to use the gifts of my time, my talents and my treasures wisely. It is only right that I work, and even suffer, by imitating Your son, Jesus. Help me to enrich my own belief in You and to help others to come to love you as I do. Thank you for making me everything I am. May everything I do be for you. Amen.

Let us not be afraid to work to unite ourselves to Jesus Christ,


Monday, November 2, 2015

On Your Mark, Get Set, Get Ready

Friends of Faith:

Am I chosen OR am I ready to be chosen?

“I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.” Rv 7: 4

Many of us have read this passage and probably wondered like I have what I could possibly do to be a part of the “chosen” 144,000, knowing as I know myself that this number over the last 2015 years is minutely small – a sliver of all of the Christian people that have come and gone, and in humility, without trying to fool myself, honestly knowing that I am not even close to being or becoming holy enough to being ONE of only 144,000.

So why do I, and should we, continue to seek holiness, to be Christlike, and to live for God? Why do I continue to strive to achieve heaven when at times it can appear to be so unachievable? Why do I have hope? Because this verse is followed by this passage:

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” Rv 7: 9-14

God may have only “marked” 144,000 but he has left the door open for all those who in hope seek his mercy; for those who in perseverance and patience seek to know Him and to do His will; and for those who remain faithful to Him despite temptation, persecution, sufferings and sorrows.

This passage is not about a few, about being “gifted or chosen,” this passage is about being prepared, about hope and mercy and about a lifelong journey towards God. For only God will know whether I am ready and whether I have done what it is that he has called me to do. My job is to be willing and to be humbly ready to lay down my life for Him so that I never feel too “chosen” or so “privileged” that I fail to do the one and only job he calls me to do – to love everyone else as unconditionally as He loves me.

Lord, we are a people that long to see your face. Help me to be ready to do your will, to stand against evil and to desire what is not vain. Help me to seek to know and acknowledge all that I have been blessed with, to be in your presence every hour of every day, and to be ready when I am called. Thank you for your patience and your mercy. It is through my hope in you that I find peace and joy. To all may there be blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might to our God forever and ever. Amen. (From Ps 24)

So I strive to give up my prideful ways and my desire for earthly belongings and in humility to become “marked” by a ready willingness and an eternal hopefulness that through His grace and blessings I will be chosen BECAUSE I was ready AND willing to do His will: in love, with love, by love and for His love.

So on your mark, get set, get ready – Love – because God awaits,


Friday, October 23, 2015

Our Call, Our Mission, Our Legacy

Women of Faith:
My reflection today intends to share with you more of what we heard at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia already several weeks ago. The excerpt below is taken from a Family Life Today reflection and is a somewhat obvious (while not spoken about with enough frequency) summary of some of the problems we are facing as a country today. I conclude with some of the solutions and suggestions that were proposed to those of us in attendance at the WMOF in the hope that each of you will reflect and take the time to act and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose in your Christian faith.

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Joshua 1:8
As a people, we are healthier but not happier. We are drenched in knowledge but parched for wisdom. Materially we are wealthy, but we suffer a profound poverty of the soul. The longer I live, the more I see that our nation needs a spiritual reformation in its inner spirit.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of the family. The biblical values that built our great nation--once passed on from each generation to the next as a national treasure--are being questioned and dismissed. As a result, never before have we seen such deterioration in our homes:
Never before have so many children grown up in broken homes.
Never before has the definition of marriage been altered to allow for two people of the same sex.
Never before has the marriage covenant been viewed with such contempt by a generation of young people.
Never before have parents been ridiculed for seeking to raise children with biblical values.
Never before have so many Christians laughed, shrugged their shoulders or did nothing about adultery, divorce and sin.
Never before has materialism been so flagrantly embraced over relationships.”
Never before has the family been in such need of a new legacy.
The pivotal national issue today is not crime; neither is it welfare, health care, education, politics, the economy, the media or the environment. The pivotal issue today is the spiritual and moral condition of individual men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and families.
Nations are never changed until people are changed. The true hope for genuine change in the heart lies only in the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Through Him, lives can be rebuilt. Through Him, families can be reformed.” (Excerpt from Moments with You by Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

I read a biblical reflection the other day that talked about a great battle within the early Church. One that was being lost, because just like now the Christians were divided against themselves – more worried about who was right and who was wrong then about building up a unified kingdom for God.

WHERE have all the Christians gone? WHERE AM I in forming a legacy for Christ – in my home, in my church, in my community and most importantly amongst those of you I call my friends and family?

I pulled three key thoughts from my WMOF notes:

The first is this: We no longer talk about the effects of sin or evil - hell. We don’t even talk about the earthly consequences of our selfish searches for happiness which run rough shod over others feelings, which are creating divisions in relationships and ultimately that are the result of the fall of others because our failure to lead by the truth influences and teaches others to believe that we deserve happiness and if “everyone else is doing it” it must be right. This in turn perpetuates the sin and evil doing.

As a Christian I need to remember that it is not only my goal to get to heaven, but it should also be my goal to HELP OTHERS get to heaven—most importantly starting with my own family.

From another reflection: “Jesus is not the cause of, but the answer to, all of our problems. The cause comes from the values of the world, from the evil one, and from our own weaknesses.

"The modern Christian family is often tempted to be discouraged and is distressed at the growth of its difficulties; it is an eminent form of love to give it back its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it. Yes, indeed, the families of today must be called back to their original position [the foundation of society, the domestic church]. They must follow Christ. It is through the cross that the family can attain the fullness of being and the perfection of its love." USCCB Daily Reflections

Secondly: We fail to continue to search for a greater understanding of the truth. We think we know it all because we have our own “personal” relationship with Jesus Christ. We hold back when we are asked to share our Christianity and are intimidated and made to feel like we are judging someone when we offer a suggestion for change or improvement of a moral lifestyle—even though God says we are to do exactly that:All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2Tim 3:16-17

And thirdly: Being good, living as a Christian isn’t enough. We need to boldly proclaim the Truth. We need to respect the Church and we need to form a unity between all Christians.

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 one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5: 17-21

Heavenly Father: Please help me to be a better listener and a better example. I pray also that I will be unafraid so that when you place it on my heart to do so I will be ready to boldly proclaim the truth and to stand up for you. Because where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more. Amen.

Seek Him, Hear Him, Live for Him and Proclaim Him to all,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Filling the Emptiness

Friends of Faith:

As I woke up this morning I started thinking about all I have to do and all I haven’t had time to do, like writing this meditation – and I realized that I have filled many empty spaces and a fairly disciplined routine with “junk” – meaningless and/or unstructured and unfulfilling busyness. Instead of my mission bringing me peace it is bringing me stress because I know it is incomplete and is missing flavor.

One of the things that I heard repeatedly at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago (yes, we did get to see the Pope J) was that if we didn’t take what we learned back out into our families and our communities, then being in the presence of “religion,” having faith, was meaningless. It would have no taste and result in no lasting change for the better.

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Mt 5: 13-16

As I think back over the last couple of years I realize that before being displaced at work by the fire I had a routine, everything had a place and for the most part my time was pretty structured. I had disciplines that put God first like getting up to go to mass, praying daily before we left the house and reading scripture daily (when my computer screen opened up).

Everything seemed to fall into place, to flavor each other, to carry out a God given purpose.

During the year we rebuilt I adopted a somewhat new routine in order to get new duties accomplished. And despite the fact that life was busier God seemed to always be at the center – not only did I need him to get through all of the decisions that needed to be made but I was very aware of all the blessings he was reigning down on us, on the many prayers that were being answered.

Both routines left me, for the most part, fulfilled and at peace. I got both house work and client work done in both a timely and orderly fashion-- answering messages and meeting deadlines. Life had a God given purpose.

But lately, especially this summer which has been filled with family, visiting friends and a very memorable trip to Philadelphia I have felt something missing – like the salt that had gone tasteless.

And most of you would think that moving into the new building would have “freed” me – given me more time, less stress etc, etc. However, I can’t seem to get as much accomplished and the routine days look a little like ground hogs day. I feel myself lacking the fulfillment and peace of what I know my faith should provide even when I accomplish most of what I put on my list for the day.

What I am realizing is that many of those “freed” up spaces haven’t necessarily been filled by Godly actions, by faith or especially by disciplines that put God first. They have been filled by me wanting “me” time, by “me” wanting “freedom,” and even by “me” wanting to hide.

Religion [cannot] be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life. 
     -Pope Francis, 
Evangelii Gaudium, 183

God has a different purpose – a purpose I was reminded of yet again this week when several of you reminded me that you had not seen this message in a while.

God doesn’t want us to hide. God doesn’t want our faith to be left inside of us, or just inside of our houses, or just at Sunday mass. God wants us to give to others, to think less about ourselves and to remember everyone of our blessings every day.  

He wants us to spread his Gospel message every day. He wants us to pray in thanksgiving, to ask for forgiveness and to ask for all our needs. He wants us to be filled by him and He wants us to fill others With Him—not through our words, but by our actions – by loving and serving our families and our friends.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”

That is what gives me the most satisfaction, the most fulfillment – when I see those I love receiving what they truly need and thanking God for what they are being given. But without each of us doing our part, without each of us praying for, helping and being there for one another then we are the light under the bushel basket (hidden) and the tasteless salt that is searching for flavor.

May each of us fill our emptiness by serving and praying for one another. May all of us find our freedom in the discipline that puts God first.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Peace on Earth

Friends of Faith:

It’s probably not often enough that I pass on the writing and intellect of someone who  speaks so eloquently the truth of Catholic teaching. I hope many of you will take the time to read this in it’s entirety.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
July 6, 2015
“Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years' time. He may come to be counted the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English history. For he was above all things historic; he represented at once a type, a turning point and an ultimate destiny. If there had not happened to be that particular man at the particular moment, the whole of history would have been different.” -- G. K. Chesterton, 1929

Catholics celebrate the feast of St. Thomas More, the great English statesman and martyr, on June 22. But the actual date of his execution was 480 years ago today, July 6, in 1535. Henry VIII had him beheaded two weeks after the judicial murder of his friend and bishop of Rochester, St. John Fisher. Both men died for refusing to accept the king’s debasement of marriage in divorcing his wife, Catherine of Aragon, and adulterously “marrying” Anne Boleyn – who later followed them both to the execution block.

The difference in their deaths, of course, is telling. More and Fisher died for principle and kept their integrity. Boleyn was simply disposed of.

It’s easy to sentimentalize More’s life. Robert Bolt’s great play, A Man for All Seasons -- later a wonderful film – captures much of the saint’s humanity, intellect and warmth. But he was also a tough public official in a bitterly conflicted time alien to the modern temperament.  More did not die, as Bolt suggests, for the sovereignty of personal conscience. That idea would have been foreign to him. Rather, More died for the sovereignty of Christian truth as taught by the Catholic Church, which he saw as accessible to all persons and obligating all consciences. In that, he very much remains a saint for our times.

Others have already done a good job of deconstructing the Supreme Court’s June 26 Obergefell v. Hodges decision forcing “gay marriage” onto the nation. Legally incoherent and impressive in its abuse of judicial power, it will have huge implications for the way Americans live their lives. Anyone who wonders what “marriage equality” really means need only watch the fallout in our laws, courts and public policies over the next decade.

Persons innocent enough to imagine that the Church might be allowed to continue her social mission without growing government interference will have an unhappy encounter with reality.

Christians have a privileged calling to respect the God-given dignity of all persons, including those with same-sex attraction. That’s fundamental to Christian love and justice. We are accountable to God for the way we treat others.

But Christians also have a duty to think clearly, and to live, teach and work for the truth about the nature of human sexuality, the purpose of marriage and the integrity of the family. No court ruling can change that. And the last thing we need from religious – including Catholic – leaders in the face of this profoundly flawed Supreme Court decision is weakness or ambiguity.

Half a century ago, during the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII – now St. John XXIII - - wrote a powerful text on the nature of peace. In his 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), he stressed that “peace on earth -- which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after -- can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order" (PT, 1; emphasis added).

We need to consider his words carefully. No political power can change the nature of marriage or rework the meaning of family. No lobbying campaign, no president, no lawmakers and no judges can redraw the blueprint laid down by God for the well-being of the children he loves. If men and women want peace, there’s only one way to have it – by seeking and living the truth. And the truth, as Pope John told us more than five decades ago, is this: "The family, founded upon marriage freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society. The interests of the family, therefore, must be taken very specially into consideration in social and economic affairs, as well as in the spheres of faith and morals. For all of these have to do with strengthening the family and assisting it in the fulfillment of its mission" (PT, 16).

We cannot care for the family by trying to redefine its meaning. We cannot provide for the family by undercutting the privileged place in our culture of a woman and a man made one flesh in marriage. Nations that ignore these truths -- no matter what their intentions -- are laying the cornerstone of war and suffering. And this is not what God seeks for anyone.

It’s a good day, this July 6, to remember Thomas More and his witness. In the years ahead, may God give us a portion of his integrity, courage, and perseverance. We'll need it.” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. July 6, 2015

May all of us draw strength and courage from knowing and sharing the truth to others—so that we may find true “Peace on Earth.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Life is About Relationships -- Thank You!

Friends of Faith:

Life is about relationships – the relationships, the people, and the lives God creates in each of us.
Today that life, those relationships are wholeheartedly thanked for their prayers, love and support over the past year that have made us truly grateful, more fully aware and appreciative of our faith and yours.

Over the past couple of weeks we have moved the USS Polaris business back in to a new building at our old location and reopened that building to the public. This would not have been possible without each of your friendship and encouragement, because without your support it would have been much easier to simply take the insurance proceeds and moved forward in a much different way.

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Cor 5: 17
God has told us all along that we are not in this for ourselves, but for the relationships and the community that we build – for “where two or more or gathered…..”

And as our video witnessed: “Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help.” Ecc 4: 9-10
This idea within our business did not just happen with the fire, but rather it has been our mission since the very beginning – our goal has always been to serve our customers, to be a part of a community, a family.

Being “two together” is not a new idea. The first relationship in the bible was a gift of two—“male and female he created them,” and from that gift of two came a family and a community which continues to grow.
“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” Gen 2: 18

Stan & I share the marriage God created and it is a relationship we hope everyone else will be able to experience within their families—either as a spouse or as a child of a loving relationship. It is not perfect, it has its ups and downs, even its disagreements. But it is our hope that we can and have witnessed why and how to live within the beauty of the most important relationship God created –marriage.
My job, my purpose in the life God has created for me here on earth has been to share with Stan, to support him and to work with him. And as goes our marriage, so goes our community. For the strength of our marriage is carried through in the community we live in, and the stronger the marriages within the community, the stronger the community is as a whole.

It is the relationships we have with people that have made the business and it is the people that we share with that make us a community. And it is life itself, given to us by God that allows us to be with each other – in good times and in bad.
The building, the place, is really irrelevant… a fact we have very much learned by the new friendships shared with the Zimmerman’s and all who have been so gracious in their hospitality and assistance during our recovery. The only way we can thank you is to continue to pray for your own successes, happiness and joy through a stronger faith.

The building is only a byproduct of our relationship with God. The building is only an outward sign that shows we can overcome, with his grace, and the help of the lives he puts in this place, whatever obstacles, whatever sacrifices we are called to make here on this earth.
Our obstacle was only a fire, only a building. Many others have obstacles much greater, sickness, injury, unforgiveness, pride and selfishness. But together, working in his grace ALL can be overcome to a greater, newer, more glorious life together with him in heaven – the greatest building of all.

Heavenly Father, we praise you and thank you for the relationships in our lives, for our very lives. We thank you for each other, for our family and for the friendships we make along the way. May we never forsake you by destroying our bodies, our heavenly created purpose, or the creation you have given us to treasure and to use as our daily bread. Amen.

As we are thankful for the relationships we share, we hope that you too will find a way to treasure the relationships God has given you.
In His name, may you be as richly blessed as we are,
Charlotte & Stan