Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Friends of Faith:
A very wise young lady has had me thinking for the past several days about this answer to “What is heaven like?”
Her response, “Heaven is right here, right now. Because we have everything we need.”
"Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.” Jl 2: 12-14
Since I knew early Monday that this reflection was going to be late, I decided to do an Ash Wednesday thought instead – one fed by my own soul searching after hearing her response—and tied to our Lenten journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Hopefully these questions and thoughts will help us all focus on Lent, our personal preparation, how we might make Christ present for others and how Christ has made himself a sacrifice for us on the Cross, to give us the heaven we have here on earth and the heaven promised by an Easter resurrection.
Prayer: What am I praying for? Is God telling me no, because I already have what I need? Do I ask (pray) to God for my wants or do I pray to Him for my needs (more trust, to let Him have control)? Am I praying for more and not recognizing what I already have?
If I am sick—am I turning down help and missing blessings God is trying to provide for me? Despite some of the financial headaches of our healthcare system we still have the best healthcare professionals available. Do I find and thank God for both the smallest and the greatest of these blessings?
If my spouse doesn’t seem to be all I think they should be—am I telling my spouse what it is I need, or are they attempting to fulfill the wrong needs because they truly don’t know what else to do? Am I praying to change others when I should pray to change myself instead?
Am I thankful that I have the opportunity to pray publicly? And do I take that opportunity?
Fasting: Our readings this week were about how we cannot honor both mammon and God. How much do we have and how much do we really need?
Most of us have plenty of food, and some of us could probably do with eating a little less. Most of us have a warm roof over our heads, while many are living without shelter or inadequate sanitation. Most of us have plenty of clothes in our closets, while some barely have the shirt on their back, or sandals on their feet. Who could we help by sacrificing a meal, a degree on the thermostat for even a day, or a single shopping trip? Should we be making a donation to the local clothes closet or food pantry, or as Pope Francis suggests “to look those in need directly in the eye” by helping in a soup kitchen?
Almsgiving: Our Christian call is to make ourselves holy, and to help others see Christ in and thru us—to help make others holy. Our baptismal call is to make this earth a small piece of heaven for others. That doesn’t mean to just give money (although we need to do this too), but more importantly to share a piece of ourselves, to do something for others, to make someone laugh or smile, and to make someone feel important enough that we care enough by being a good Samaritan—rather than walking past and hoping someone else will take care of them.
“Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward….. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,… “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites….Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.” Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18
Heavenly Father, You sent us Your Son, Jesus, a “peace” of heaven, to dwell within us. Jesus, You did not put on the gloomy face of a hypocrite, but accepted Your sufferings and died to save us so that we might have a piece of heaven. Holy Spirit, Enlighten us, to the pieces of heaven around us. Thank you for giving me everything I need. Amen.
Don’t make Lent about “me.” Make Lent about seeing the pieces of heaven around you, and about helping others to see the pieces of heaven around them. YOU may be everything they need!
Blessings this Lenten season,
Monday, February 24, 2014
Friends of Faith:
Over the past 2-3 months I have had several requests to be a part of a scripture chain. Because of my promise never to bombard you with “additional” email I have resisted even this particular forward.
However, I thought many of you might like to know what IS my favorite scripture and why, so here it goes….addressed not only to my faithful friends, but also to your friends who included you within their chain.
“ If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. “ 1 Cor 13
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5:40-48
I could probably add: “pray unceasingly” and “with God all things are possible” to my regular favorites, but I specifically choose the verses above for the following reasons.
My belief is that God truly desires us to be one in faith and one in love—to share “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” And if everyone would put these two scriptures into everyday practice, beginning with our spouse and those whose lives are influenced and affected by our decisions, then our marriages, our households and our world would be unified in faith, hope and charity—in LOVE and in peace.
Particularly if we would seek NOT our own interests or to brood over injury – if we were less selfish, and if we forgave more readily—taking responsibility instead of placing blame and forgiving AND forgetting instead of seeking revenge. If we would give God control of our lives and if we would pray to let him change us, instead of praying for him to change others.
I think it was Fr Larry Richards who in one of his presentations suggested that if we added our name in the place of the word “love”in Corinithians we would all have a lot of “work” to do, ie: Charlotte is patient, Charlotte is kind, Charlotte is not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude. Charlotte does not seek her own self interests… you get the picture.
Many days I can’t get even beyond the first three words, “Charlotte is patient,” especially this time of the year as I sit on hold waiting for an answering machine to reach a live person who has the capability to find an answer or fix a problem.
When I add the “love not just those who love me back” verse from the famous Sermon on the Mount verses I am then reminded that LOVE is a CHOICE—not a feeling.
Not a warm fuzzy choice like loving my grandchildren, but the work it takes in a marriage, so that instead of brooding over small irritants which might become a shield of self-righteous blame and a miscommunication which might become revengeful silence, it is God’s call for me to be more—to CHOOSE his way, to choose to love, to bring kindness, patience, forgiveness, and service into that marriage, day in and day out.
And as God allows me to practice those verses with “easy love”—like grandchildren and the care of friends who offer their help in times of need, I am reminded that I am called by Mt 5 not to just “love” when it is easy, but I am called to love with sacrificial heartfelt mercy e as Christ did. I am called to follow his example on the cross, to follow the modern lives of families like the Amish and Ed Thomas’ who publicly and intentionally forgave murder, evil, hatred and the wrong choice of another.
Heavenly Father, Your mercy and love are unconditional. Help me to find and seek Your goodness by choosing and working to love, not just when it is easy, but in every decision, and to every person, those decisions affect. Thank you for all those you have placed in my life who offer me glimpses of Your unfailing love and forgiveness. Amen.
Feel free to share your own favorite verse and your reason why. I would love to put them together and share them forward.
May we all share love, and be an instrument of peace to one another,
In the love of Christ, may You be blessed and fulfilled,
Monday, February 17, 2014
Friends of Faith:We have heard the saying and probably the song, “I did it my way.”
But do we realize that there truly is only one way, there is only one “I”, the “I” that is God’s way. For he said ,“I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Most of us are also familiar with the Sermon on the Mount which begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,* for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…..” Mt 5: 3-11But then we don’t get past those first verses to what follows; scripture passages which are instructions for living, for actually doing life God’s way. Passages which talk about anger, forgiveness, adultry, divorce, judgment and the wisdom and consequences if we do life or don’t do life God’s way.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” Mt 5: 17-37God’s way is always a resounding YES. A YES to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor (Corporal Works of mercy.) A YES to instructing, consoling, forgiving, advising, comforting and bearing wrongs patiently (Spiritual Works of Mercy.)
Our hearts know when we do it really right – like sacrificing our wants for our spouses needs (making them and taking them their first cup of coffee in the morning); our finances for the poor (taking the time to help at a food kitchen, or putting our only dollar in the Salvation army bucket); our time for the lonely (missing a social event because you spent a little extra time with your Grandma, time with a hurting friend or made a phone call to your neighbor who is recently widowed.)Heavenly Father, we praise Your Way. Sometimes it seems difficult to choose Your way, but when I do I know it is right. Help me to find the right way amongst all the choices presented by the world we live in. Your way isn’t usually the easiest or instantaneous way, but it is right, and I believe in your promise of mercy, forgiveness and redemption. You have given me a choice. Help me to choose Your ultimate love. Amen.
Think about this question: Do you make Jesus Christ visible to others, to your spouse, and/or to your children?Make the commitment to live GOD’s way!
Monday, February 10, 2014
Women of Faith:
“But I did what was asked of me.”
“Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” Lk 17: 9-10
I am made for more. More than I can possibly imagine.
God has made me for more than doing just what I am obliged to do: to go to Church on Sunday, to honor my parents/the elderly, to have compassion for my neighbor, to tithe 10% of my earnings and to respect and in love, serve, my spouse.
And often I fail at doing even what I am obliged to do. I am distracted at church, I don’t call my mom as often as I should, I judge a decision made by a friend, I waste money on a frivolous purchase, or I am impatient with Stan’s last minute change of plans.
And in this same chapter of Luke appear the words “increase our faith.” Make us MORE.
Heavenly Father, You have created us in your image. Please forgive my human imperfection when I do less than, or only, what I am obliged to do. Open my eyes to see those around me who are struggling in any way, and help those who need you, to see you, in me. Open my ears to listen with kindness and patience, just as you hear and answer my own prayers. And open my heart to say yes to what more you are asking of me. Increase my faith in you. Amen.
God’s call is not about just obeying his commandments. He knows we aren’t perfect.
God’s call is about changing myself to be more today than I was yesterday.
Strive to be more. God is always ready with more grace to make us more. The possibilities are endless.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Women of Faith:
Yesterday was the Feast of the Presentation – an ancient Jewish custom whereby boys (approximately 40 days after birth) were presented at the temple in sacrifice to God. The custom at that time would have been similar to ours of baptizing children at 8 days old (similar to circumcision dating): presenting and sealing our children forever as a Child of God.
"When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” Lk 2: 22-24
The custom recognized that even at 40 days old we were born with a purpose for God. That God’s mission for us isn’t to fulfill our own desires, but His.
“Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” Heb 2: 14-18
Here the writer gives us an insight into what our mission (our purpose) is when he says, “Jesus shares with those who BECOME SLAVES and then gives power to overcome the devil and death.”
Our call to God—to become holy—is fulfilled by Jesus’ death and resurrection, which grants us the forgiveness and mercy we need because of our human weaknesses.
But our “passage” to receiving “a share” is to humbly live in sacrifice and slavery to others: by loving my enemies and serving those less fortunate. By being willing to care for those who have less, by being patient with those who understand less, and by loving as Christ loved (granting forgiveness and mercy, not judgment) upon all those whom he puts in my life—most especially to those closest to us (our spouses and our families).
I am not here to judge, and I am not here to say, “Why do you ask this of me?” or “What will I get out of this if I do it?” My mission here on earth is to accept the challenges and to give Him control of my life, so that as I move forward in trust, I will remember in hope that His promise to me will be fulfilled not today, not tomorrow, but “on the last day.”
Jesus did not come to help angels, but to free those who have become slaves to each other. I am not expecting I will be served by others, but that I should be looking for ways that others need my service. My understanding is to believe in the hope that whomever I serve will see a part of Christ in me, some light, so that they too will seek to be become holy by imitating Jesus’ example of loving neighbor as themselves.
That doesn’t mean that I can’t accept or shouldn’t ask for help from others, it just means that I shouldn’t EXPECT someone to do and bear what God has given me as my responsibility and burdens.
To bring others to holiness is the call of a vocation. The vocation of the Priest and the religious is to serve the Church, sacrificing their desire for human intimacy to serve the needs of the Church community—to be one with Christ, to spread the good news of Christ, to be fishers of men, and to feed our Spirit with the food of Christ’s body in the Eucharist.
The vocation of Marriage is a call for a man and woman to serve each other AND to spread Christ’s Church by the one flesh unity which creates an ongoing, continuing presence in the creation of new life and new families. Our sacrifice as spouses gives up our own wants and desires for each other and for our new family so that as a domestic Church, as a family unit, we may all be brought to holiness. Marriage is not about me, marriage is about the other. It is about making a small unit into a community of believers who will work to fulfill God’s promise and in turn to become a Godly part of a bigger community.
And the vocation of singleness—is again to serve others and again a sacrifice of human intimacy by dedicating their life of holiness and to doing those jobs that take time and dedication not available to those with families.
Heavenly Father: “Show forth your work to your servants; let your glory shine on their children. Let the favor of the Lord be upon us; give success to the work of our hands, give success to the work of our hands.” (Ps 90: 13-17) ”Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to You.” (Mt 5: 16) Amen.
Present yourself to God, accept your responsibilities and your sufferings, put your needs behind the needs of those around you, and be ready this week to be HIS servant—someone needs you,
Monday, January 27, 2014
Friends of Faith:
A tribute to Grandma C, a child of God for 106 years, a teacher to many, a wife to one, a mother to three, a grandmother of 19, a great grandmother of 44, a great-great grandmother to 7½, a cook, a farmer, a fisherman, a musician, a rosary and prayer warrior, living one way—Christ’s Way.
Great-Great Grandma Hattie Agnes Cibula, 1908-2014.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Women of Faith:
Cozy, warm and tucked in. That is what I want to feel. It was difficult to get up this morning and face the fact that I have to go somewhere, anywhere. I want wherever I am to feel like it feels in bed—safe, loved and comfortable.
For me, it’s the cold, and colder, weather of Iowa and the knowledge that work for the next few weeks will consume me enough that I won’t be able to get even an occasional day off like I have grown accustomed to since last April. I can’t play hooky, stay in bed a little later or read a good book a little later or longer.
For many of those that I have been praying for who are going thru tough times—financially, medically, emotionally— they just want to be somewhere secure, safe, enfolded in comfort, and have the knowledge that everything will turn out in their favor.
It’s what we all want, to be surrounded by warmth, love and peace; to know pure contentment, to feel hope, accomplishment, and acceptance.
And then I read this.
The light of God surrounds me;
The love of God enfolds me;
The power of God protects me;
The presence of God watches over me;
Wherever I am, God is.
–James Dillet Freeman
It’s the prayer and reminder I needed. It’s all anyone should need. The knowledge that God is present in our day…. if we take the time to look, if we are aware of the people God has put in our paths to give or receive his direction through us or to us, and if we accept and react according to his will.
For even if things don’t turn out in my favor, even if it stays cold outside, I will find a blessing in going to work. God will surround me, enfold me, and protect me. He will give me what I need, when I need it.
Courage, strength, a perfect smile, a loving hand, a perfect opportunity, even the understanding of why it is my time for sacrifice, IT will be given to me—when I trust that God IS wherever I am.
Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will. Help me to have that attitude of gratitude that will make my sacrifice, yours; my burdens, lighter and my concerns, hopeful. Thank you for being my light, my love, and my power. Watch over me, wherever I am. Amen.
It will be a great day—because I am in the presence of God. My day is His! Make Him yours,