There is a lot going on in the Church today causing discouragement among faithful Catholics. While there are many similarities between our time and the apostles, we have one thing they had not yet received: hope in the resurrection. They had a theoretical understanding: there was going to be a resurrection some day in the future. But I doubt they felt it was going to be anytime soon, most especially, not the next day. And when the resurrection did occur, although nothing else in their lives had changed, it made all the difference in the world.Continue reading “Holy Saturday: A Time to Regroup and Reassess?”
As promised in my This Week: 1/23 to 1/29 here is the Josiah Presley video that so impressed me. I am also including a video of a speech he gave in Ireland. This is the same video that was at the end of the story I quoted in This Week, so if you’ve already seen that one you can skip to the next one. This video exposes one of the lies told to the world by Cecile Richards at the recent Women’s March. The video was produced by LiveAction whose founder, Lila Rose, is another very impressive young person.
I will be sharing the materials provided by the USCCB on the prayers, reflections, and call to action for each day on this blog. If you would like to download the PDF that includes all 9 days you can download it at the USCCB.
From the USCCB Novena 9 Days 2017 Full Color PDF:
Day One: Saturday, January 21, 2017
Intercession: For the conversion of all hearts and the end to abortion.
Prayers: Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be
Reflection: Pope Saint John Paul II described the “culture of life” as “the fruit of the culture of truth and of love” in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (no. 77). Do we build up the culture of life by living in truth and in love? Are we the kind of people whom a woman could and would come to if she found out she were pregnant and needed loving support and encouragement? How can we help those who suffer from the pain of abortion to experience God’s tender mercy? The brief articles in today’s “One Step Further” give suggestions for extending God’s merciful love to others.
Acts of Reparation (choose one):
- Go to an abortion clinic and pray, or set aside an hour today to pray for those who are struggling with a decision of life or death for their unborn child.
- Spend some time reflecting upon no. 77 of The Gospel of Life.
- Use the Respect Life social media toolkit (goo.gl/i8msnP) to build up a culture of life on social media.
One Step Further: If a woman who was unexpectedly pregnant came to you for support, would you know what to do? “10 Ways to Support Her When She’s Unexpectedly Expecting” (www.goo.gl/MkBfb9) provides simple, concrete tips for loving, life-affirming support. In “Bridges of Mercy for Post-Abortion Healing,” (www.goo.gl/MpC7RG) learn how you can be a bridge of God’s mercy for people suffering after abortion.
My own addition: no. 77 of Evangelium vitae
You can read the entire encylical Evangelium vitae here, but if you would just like to reflect on no. 77 of the encyclical I’ve provided that text for you below:
“77. This new law also gives spirit and shape to the commandment “You shall not kill”. For the Christian it involves an absolute imperative to respect, love and promote the life of every brother and sister, in accordance with the requirements of God’s bountiful love in Jesus Christ. “He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).
The commandment “You shall not kill”, even in its more positive aspects of respecting, loving and promoting human life, is binding on every individual human being. It resounds in the moral conscience of everyone as an irrepressible echo of the original covenant of God the Creator with mankind. It can be recognized by everyone through the light of reason and it can be observed thanks to the mysterious working of the Spirit who, blowing where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8), comes to and involves every person living in this world.
It is therefore a service of love which we are all committed to ensure to our neighbour, that his or her life may be always defended and promoted, especially when it is weak or threatened. It is not only a personal but a social concern which we must all foster: a concern to make unconditional respect for human life the foundation of a renewed society.
We are asked to love and honour the life of every man and woman and to work with perseverance and courage so that our time, marked by all too many signs of death, may at last witness the establishment of a new culture of life, the fruit of the culture of truth and of love.”
Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), no.77 © 1995, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved.
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-8
When the Lord speaks of harvest what comes to my mind is something that is done or has come to fruition. I’m not going to harvest a wheat field until it is finished producing wheat. That would be a complete waste. Yet, prior to this, Lord Jesus perception of the crowds is they ” . . . were harassed and helpless . . .” They hardly sound like a people who are done or complete. Yet, Christ viewed them as ripe for harvesting. Why might that be?
This doneness and ready for harvesting referred to by Lord Jesus could be about putting an end to the law, but when understood correctly and with the right spirit the law could provide joy and counsel, as it did for the Psalmists, and even be fulfilled as Lord Jesus did. Besides, Lord Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to write it on our hearts. What if the law was capricious? What if the world just randomly made up rules and laws based on their own whims?
This is what the world does, whether it be worldly Pharisees teaching people to follow the traditions of men (Mk 7:8) or the secular world ruling by its own passions which produces laws (whether they be social or legislative) that have neither rhyme nor reason. You must have this type of house or car, be this thin, set this type of table, have this type of job, believe this about the unborn and marriage, tithe mint and anise, and forget about justice and mercy (Mt 23:23). There are no underlying principles to guide all of this, but only what someone has decided is to be. The result is people always trying to live up to these bizarre (just look at women’s fashion through history) expectations that are not written anywhere and can be changed on a whim. Who wouldn’t be “helpless and harassed” trying to live under such a rule? It would be like trying to run a race where the finish line keeps getting moved. (Compare this to the orderliness of natural law where there is reason and consistency.)
Woe to the person who will not or cannot meet these demands because the “world” is a cruel master. There is no grace and mercy, no comforter to tell them what they are doing wrong, no virtue or reason to guide them, no redemption of suffering, and no one to lead them into truth. No, when the arbitrary expectations of the world are broken there is nothing but being reviled, shamed and ridiculed: a spiritual crucifixion that can and does lead to spiritual wounding, diseased souls, and even real death through suicide. So what do I think the Jewish people were done with? I think they were done with the world and ready for a change.
“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” John 16:33
Image provided by someone who uses Asian characters to sign their name @Unsplash
The heavens are telling the glory of God;and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.Day to day pours forth speech,and night to night declares knowledge.There is no speech, nor are there words;their voice is not heard;yet their voice goes out through all the earth,and their words to the end of the world. Psalms 19:1
When I was first gifted with grace, but not yet a Christian I spent a lot of time contemplating God through nature. I had grown closer to God through contemplation of this beauty and this helped form my opinion about what this God was like. For example, my mom and I were great fans of Johnny Jump-Ups.
Johnny Jump-Ups always make me smile. – My mom
They are such cute little flowers that seemed to have no purpose on earth other than to make people smile and it was God that created them that way: a god who figuratively sculpted and painted them. I used to imaging this huge white-haired, white-bearded man in a white robe holding a tiny paintbrush in one hand and a tiny Johnny Jump-Up in the other. He did do this, but using His own means, which probably did not involve a paintbrush.
My contemplation finally led to the truth that the laws of nature were unchanging. Here I was coming to know this God who had created all of this beauty and who could have created the world any way that He chose and He chose to make it fixed. I remember marvelling at that idea.
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, . . . Genesis 18:16
In nature, a card laid is a card played. You fall or jump off a high cliff and that’s it. You’re done. Even an unintentional misstep in the tub can lead to broken head leading to all types of complications or a long recovery process. On first look that seems incredibly harsh, but I learned a lot about God from this contemplation.
God’s Word is unchanging
” . . . then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground . . .” Genesis 2:7
Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. Romans 1:20
There is no doubt in my mind that God meant us to be formed through nature, both human nature and the natural world around us. Take a minute to think about it. How do we form ideas? We do this through our own human nature and thoughts about the world we live in. For those things unseen, we draw analogies from those things seen. The reason we can do this is because God made these things analogous and because He gave humans the ability to draw analogies. Here’s one analogy.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Lord Jesus is the Word of God and through Him all things came into being (Jn 1:3). Using the quote above and substitute ‘The Word of God’ for ‘Jesus Christ’, then you get The Word of God is the same yesterday and today and forever. Now, in one sense it can be very hard to see how a person can be the Word of God. But what we can see is that God means what He says. Just like nature is fixed, God’s Word is fixed. This helps to explain why God seems so emphatic in the commandments: THOU SHALL NOT. Don’t do it because I mean what I say and I’m not going to change my mind even if I do love you. If a commandment is trespassed punishment will follow. This sheds an entire new light on salvation. Instead of “Well, I’m not really a sinner, but I love you. Thanks for saving me, now where’s the new car?” we get “Wow, sin is a serious business. By sinning I’ve put my butt in a grinder and I have NO way of getting it out except through believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ;” the only source of our salvation. Without Him we will have to pay the ultimate price ourselves. Thanks be to God we do have that salvation and that is very good news.
Some more good news is that this makes God someone you can trust totally and completely. God is not like fallible human beings that we can’t always trust or material things that don’t always work right. God is someone that is not going to go back on their word. Two things to bear in mind regarding this: the first is that God chooses the method and the time for doing what He has promised and the second is that we understand what it is God is promising. I say this because it’s easy, when we don’t have a good understanding of God, to misconstrue what God is willing to do for us. When God doesn’t answer our prayer instead of realizing that we asked wrongly we lose faith because, in our estimation, God did not hold up to His end of the bargain, when, in fact, He never made such a promise to begin with. However, when we understand what God has promised and ask Him to deliver on that promise, then, like Lord Jesus, we can say, “Thank you,” as soon as we have finished the prayer because that prayer is as good as answered. Now, it’s just a question of when. If it seems like it may be taking too long, then just remember that God’s timing is perfect.
May we all come to know and trust the Word of God implicitly! God bless!
On the Blog:
Monday 10/31 – How I Became a Christian, Pt. 3: Falling in Love
Although I had become a Christian I was not in love with Jesus Christ. That was until I read Matthew 11:28, then everything changed.
Wednesday 11/2 – The Fixed Nature of . . . Well, Nature
In this article, I propose that God purposely designed the world in such a way in order to form us and to inform us about the heavenly things. Because of this we can a learn a lot about God through nature. I pass onto you some things that I have learned about God and how that has given me a better appreciation of salvation and increased my faith.
Friday 11/4 – Post-It® Notes + Blank Paper = Awesome Planner
I go completely off-topic to explain how to use Post-It® Notes to organize your life.
Twitter and Facebook – Quote of the Day Posts
Wonderful quotes from stories I’ve found around the web. If you don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then consider this a weekly roundup. Just click on the image below the title to read the full article.
From “Courageous Pregnant Mom With Cancer Refuses Cancer Treatment and Abortion” by Steven Ertfelt (Click on image below to view article)
From “The Killing Pool” by Chad M. Robichaux, BCPC, MBA (Click on image below to view article)
From “Martin Luther King Jr’s Niece Alveda King: Christians Have a Responsibility to Vote Pro-Life” by Steven Ertfelt (Click on image below to view article)
From “Out of the Darkness: How God Transformed a Violent Criminal” by Mark Woods (Click on image below to view article)
From “To Say Their Names” by Michelle Fritz (Click on image below to view article)
From “Well, That was Weird” by Fr. V (Click on image below to view article)
“Divide and Conquer”
I had heard about this strategy, but never gave it much thought. I assumed the extent of its use was in war and since I wasn’t a general I didn’t have to worry my little head about it. Then the divisions over abortions and redefining marriage to include same-sex unions arose and it occurred to me that, in Christian America, you couldn’t have picked two better issues to divide the country, if you planned it. I was in no position to make an informed judgment on this, so I pushed it to the side.
Then it cropped up later in a Foreign Relations class when my professor explained to me how Southern Democrats used it to turn the freed blacks and the poor white sharecroppers against each other to keep them from working together. This kept them from working as one to change the power status quo. You can read more about that here. I kept it in the back of my mind. Now we have both poverty and racial division increasing and the Democrats are exploiting it. So once again we can’t work together?
More recently we learn from the Podesta emails how the Democrats, namely, the Clinton campaign tried to start a Catholic Spring in the Church. I think most Americans understand that politicians are not the most honest of people, but to intentionally subvert the religion of American citizens and to racially divide the country as a means to gain power goes beyond the pale. There’s not much we can do about keeping politicians from trying to exploit our differences, but I think we can do more to keep from being exploited.
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men – Robert Burns
Just because someone plans something doesn’t mean that it’s going to work. Even violence, which is normally a highly effective method of coercion, is ineffective if a person is prepared to die. It’s the same for a divide and conquer strategy. It requires our cooperation to work.
“Test all things and hold fast to what is good”. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Our salvation is in Christ
Christ is our salvation. The Holy Spirit leads us to the truth of God’s Word (His Son) and words (the Bible – which is encapsulated in The Word). Not only are we to trust The Word of God, but we are to listen to Him and adhere to His teachings. God addresses the issues currently dividing our county explicitly making it very simple for Christians to know which side of the issue they should be on.
- Abortion – “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Exodus 20:13
- Marriage – one man and one woman as it was from the beginning. Matthew 19:3-7
- Racial divisions – Love your neighbor as you would love yourself. Mark 12:31
It’s truly that simple.
Common sense and some reflection go a long way
My problem B.C. (before Christ) was I didn’t take the time to sit down and really reflect on the issues. On a peripheral level I understood an unborn child was a baby. This is probably why I took the stance of saying a woman should have a right to an abortion, but I wouldn’t have one. Why wouldn’t I have one? Because I knew on some level it was a human person. Common sense told me that. Why would I then say that I believed it was okay to kill this person who was innocent of any crime? Because I didn’t sit down and reflect on what I was really saying. I didn’t take into account that it was an injustice and went completely against the core of everything I believed. We can spout that we are for social justice all we want, but unless the doctrines of social justice are actually just, then we’re just spouting nonsense. Common sense will tell us that an idea cannot be both just and unjust at the same time, but we don’t realize that unless we take the time to truly reflect on it. And we should take that time, because lives, sometimes innocent, are involved.
Issues at the state or federal level will affect everyone in that geographical area. On the federal level that is approx. 360 million lives; not only our lives and those of our contemporaries, but the lives of those who follow. When something is going to affect that many lives, then the truly responsible thing to do is to sit down and take a good hard look at it prior to supporting or opposing it, especially when that decision involves killing someone.
Divide and conquer has been a strategy used against people since the serpent first separated Adam and Eve from God. Since then all of us have been adding to it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have too much going on our side–the Holy Spirit, the teachings of the Church, the Holy Bible, and the sacrifice of Christ–for us to keep falling prey to it. There will be times when the information is insufficient to make a truly informed decision and we will still have to decide, but most of our decisions can be overcome by faithfulness to God, a dose of common sense and taking these decisions seriously.
May we all grow in the understanding of Christ! God bless!
The beautiful post photo was made available for use by jsutcllffe under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.
This is the first of what I hope becomes a series on stumbling blocks I’ve encountered since becoming a Christian. I write these to encourage and help those who’ve encountered these same stumbling blocks.
One of my first stumbling blocks as a Christian was the mercy of God. Here I had just confessed myself a sinner when I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and yet I didn’t truly believe I was a sinner. I was honest and didn’t steal, hardworking, paid my bills and took care of my family. What I didn’t realize, because of my secular upbringing, is that I was guilty of divorce, adultery, fornication, and advocating taking the life of innocent unborn children, which boils down to advocating murder. I didn’t see that at the time. In the secular world I was a good person. So, in my own eyes I was righteous and because of this I had a horrible time coming to grips with the depth of God’s mercy.
I don’t remember when I grasped the extent of His mercy, but one day I realized that God’s mercy was extended to even the likes of Hitler, Stalin and, yes, the CEO of Planned Parenthood. Instead of praising God for that mercy I thought He was unjust. What was He thinking? These people had committed horrendous atrocities in their lives and God was willing to forgive them. Sin caused so much heartache and suffering in the world how could He just wipe that slate clean? These people get a free pass, while their victims have to live with the mess these sins made of their lives? How could this be?
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Matthew 7:6-7
So I began searching for answers to these questions. As I have heard other Christians express theses same sentiments I share the answers that the Holy Spirit led me to in hopes that they too can get past this stumbling block.
The Precious Blood of Christ
“The Precious Blood belongs in an especial manner to men. Much more, therefore, does God invite them to come to its heavenly baths, and receive therein, not only the cleansing of their souls, but the power of a new and amazing life.” -Father Faber, The Precious Blood
The Holy Spirit brought me to the understanding of how truly precious Christ’s blood must be to the Father. That blood price paid for every sin, no matter how large or how small, ever committed since the beginning of time or will be committed until the end of time. There is only so much blood in a human body. For that small amount of blood to cover such a great multitude of sins the blood of Christ must be very precious indeed.
Marian offering of the Precious Blood:
IMMACULATE Heart of Mary, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of sinners, especially [Name].
God’s chosen method of glorification
Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’ and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Exodus 33:18-19
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. John 12:27
He [God] destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. Eph 1:5-8
So Moses asks to see God’s glory and God tells Moses His glory is grace and mercy. God is both omniscient and omnipresence, among other things. That right there is plenty to impress anyone, but it isn’t what God considers His glory. No, His glory is His grace and mercy. It’s incredibly telling. This awesome, powerful God wants to be known and loved not for his power, but for his graciousness and mercy. He probably wants this, so that sinners would know him to be so and not be afraid to approach Him.
Any parent can tell you how scared a child becomes when confronted with something he has done wrong and the fear of the punishment to come. It makes them afraid to admit what they’ve done. If you can assure them of your mercy, then they’re much more likely to confess. Once that happens, then you can you work with them and explain to them why it was wrong and, hopefully, set them on a better path; one where they won’t cause havoc, hurt others, and ruin their lives. It seems to me that God works in a similar way. First comes mercy, so there is no fear in confessing our sins and, next, comes the Catholic Church and Holy Spirit to lead us through discipleship where we learn a better way. So, it appears that God’s salvation is less of a justice issue, than it is of a Father trying to get His children on a better path and from hurting those around them.
God works for our good
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
When I was looking at the seeming injustice of wiping the slate clean for the sinner, I was only looking at one side of the scale. All I could see was the suffering and hardship endured by those who have been hurt by sin. The Holy Spirit showed me what I wasn’t taking into account: it’s what God can and does do for these people. I have heard of people going through some horrible things who, with the grace of God, come out the other side almost grateful that it happened because they have seen how much good God has made come from it.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I’m not saying that since God does this, then it’s okay to sin. What I’m saying if you are stumbling at the idea of God being merciful to sinners because it seems like they are getting off scot-free while others are left to suffer, then to be fair to God, you should realize that God works with those who have been hurt. It’s not a one-sided affair.
No sense beating a dead horse
God performs miraculous internal changes for those who come to Him through Jesus Christ. So miraculous that they are truly not the same people they used to be. If that old person has died, then what use is it to keep clinging to their past and beating them over the head with those transgressions? God is offering them a second chance at life. Who are we to try and take that away from them; especially, knowing that it is God’s chosen method of glorifying both Himself and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. God gets glorified through these people because they truly realize how much God has done for them. Thus they become powerful witnesses.
This is especially true to others like them. The redeemed sinner receives legitimacy in the eyes of the sinner because he has been through what they are now going through. This means that they are more likely to listen to them and the redeemed sinner can relate to them on a level that others, well-meaning as they are, cannot. God truly can accomplish great things through these people.
Love your neighbor as you would love yourself
This is the commandment that I have found the most helpful. For one, I think it most epitomizes God’s gracious mercy. If you’re hard on yourself, then it’s okay to be hard on another, even when it’s not merited. If you’re easy on yourself, then it’s okay to be easy on another, even when it’s not merited. It’s okay because you are meting out equal measures. The problem comes in when we mete out unequal measures. How many of us have laughed off one of our mistakes and misdoings then turned around and got mad at someone else for doing the exact same thing? I’ve seen this over and over again. As I’m sure I’ve done it over and over again.
I apply this here because when I think of hard core sinners (my figurative neighbors) as my father, mother, son, daughter, sister or brother I find out I would much rather they be treated by God as the prodigal son rather than being cursed and left to live a life of sin and damned to hell. What I try to do, (when I remember), is imagine myself as the neighbor, so this person becomes my parent, child, or sibling. I usually pick the person I love the most, which is my son. From that perspective I can then say, “This is someone I love.” Now, loving them (rather than hating them), what would I do if I saw them doing these things or living that lifestyle?” What I found is while I’d look down on an abortion doctor I don’t know, I would worry and pray for one that I loved. I’d reason or plead with them instead of disparaging them or putting them down. I would also pray for them much differently. This method helps me overcome that and see a person that needs to be saved. I can now pray more heartfelt prayers for abortion doctors and hardened criminals who desperately need our prayers where before it was just lip service, if I could stomach praying for them at all.
Lastly, in a very real sense we are praying for our children because the more sinners converted means less predators in the world to prey upon them.
Final words for now
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
In a nutshell, when sins are large, habitual, or directed at ourselves it becomes very hard to understand how God could forgive the unredeemed or even to remember that God does want to forgive them. As hard as it can be there are considerations that can make it easier. Hopefully, these considerations will help us into greater conformity with Christ. And if you think I missed something, then please fill me in.
Don’t fight against what you hate. Fight for what you love.
May we all come to realize the great mercy of God! God bless!
The photo was generously provided by Alan Alfaro under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.