Saturday, October 31, 2009

TRICK or treat ???


"Happy Halloween!" ...so the saying goes but is it? What is the focus? Seems to me by just a reflection on my own experiences of Halloween and the images given during this time of the year that the focus is death, the macabre, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and, of course, the demonic. Of course all of this focus is hidden underneath a sweet and seemingly innocent fun atmosphere of getting candy, dressing up, and going crazy.

By the way, I randomly picked this picture up from a google search and I don't think what I find hidden in this picture was done intentionally by any means and this only emphasizes my point all the more.... there is something hidden underneath which we must be very wary of. Notice whose image is at the center of the photo, which no one here realizes of who they are in the midst of while they are just having "fun".

I am not saying all of Halloween is completely evil. It gives me food for thought of what I would really be left with if I did not have a life in Christ... impurity, seemingly "good fun", partying, ghosts, ghouls and goblins... death, decay, and of course demons. I used to party like that before my conversion and thought nothing of it. Now it is crystal clear of what my life without God would be like... Halloween. But there is a trick but no treat at the end of this game.

I don't think it is a mere coincidence that Halloween occurs on the eve of All Saints Day and All Souls Day (the day after). It is like looking at a coin and figuring out which side we really want to be focused on... heads or tails. One way leads up and the other... well. I will keep my eyes focused on Christ lest I fall where many have before me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you."


“The next day as John stood there again with two of his disciples, Jesus went past, and John looked towards Him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ And the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned, looked at them following and said, ‘What are you seeking?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi’ ~ which means Teacher~ ‘where do you live?’ He replied, ‘Come and see;’’ so they went and saw where He lived, and stayed with Him that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Immediately Andrew found his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ ~ which means the Christ~ and he took Simon to Jesus.” (John 2:35-42a)

~ How can we witness and teach about having a relationship with God if we don’t really take the time in our own daily life to really know Him personally? Notice I didn’t say taking time to get to know ABOUT Him, but really, personally know HIM. We have been called by God to teach and to catechize others so that they can come to know Him and encounter Him in their own lives.

I could read a book about a person and tell you all about their life history and their teachings, but it is still pretty much dried out chaff in comparison to if I shared my own personal experiences with this person, if I really took the time and effort to actually meet and come to know them personally. It becomes real ~ Living and Effective~ when I share my own personal witness to what I am teaching. This is when others could say, “Wow, I really wish I could come to know this person and meet them personally like you have.” How excited would they become if, in the middle of your teaching and class, you said, “Would you like to meet this person I have been talking about? Would you like me to introduce you to my Friend?” But how do we open ourselves to really come to know Him and encounter Him?

A friend of mine takes his lunch break from his office in order to go to confession and Mass. One time a homeless man came up to him and asked him for some money. My friend told him this, “I will give you ten dollars, but I will only give it to you if you come to Mass with me.” The homeless man quickly followed my friend and sat next to him in the pew and remained silent throughout the Mass. Once the Mass was over, my friend pulled out a $10 bill and was getting ready to hand it over to the homeless guy, but the man, with tears in his eyes, said, you already gave something to me worth more than $10. I don’t need the money anymore. My friend came to find out that this homeless man used to be a practicing Catholic and had left the Church a long time ago. This one act of kindness and openness to God, brought this other soul back to Him. Every day after that my friend would see that homeless man at that same Mass with a smiling face.

There was another time when my friend would go at three in the morning in downtown Houston to an abandoned warehouse to do ministry with the hardcore homeless. Some Baptist preachers heard about my friend and asked one day if they could join him. My friend told them they could on one condition: they could not bring their wallets and no expensive jewelry. The Baptist ministers met my friend and the designated place and they proceeded into the warehouse. On the way out they were held up at gunpoint. The man asked them to take out their wallets and take off their watches. The ministers proceeded to give the man their wallets and reluctantly their gold Rolex watches as well. My friend began to laugh because he knew God was testing these other men and at the situation they had placed themselves in by their disobedience to what was asked of them. The ministers began cursing and swearing at my friend and they all departed. A few weeks later one of the Baptist ministers called up my friend and began to apologize for the way he and the other ministers had acted. He pointed out that my friend had acted in a Christian manner in letting them come but they did not. After speaking on the phone for a while, the minister asked this: “Do you mind me asking you a simple question? Something in Scripture has been bothering me and I can’t figure it out. Jesus says, ‘Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood you do not have life within you.’ What does He mean by this?”

Now my friend, very easily could have instructed this minister all about the Eucharist, the Mass and what this teaching was, but he didn’t. Instead, he looked at his watch and said, “Do you have about an hour to spare right now?” The minister did. He then told him to get into his car and proceed to St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church which was close to where he was and go inside for the Mass. After the Mass, he told him to go into the Perpetual Adoration Chapel and spend time there in silence. My friend said he would only speak to him about this passage after he did this. About 2 hours later the minister called back, crying, asking what it would take for him to become a Catholic.

My friend very easily could have just taught and instructed the minister but he didn’t. He stepped out of the way and let this man encounter the living presence of God. There is no teaching as powerful as experiencing God in our own life, of opening ourselves up to meet Him and draw others towards Him too. But where can we come to encounter Him???

PRAYER ~ We need to have a time to get away from everything and everyone and to go into deep silence. This is not the time to add your own prayers where you are talking and making interior noise… but SILENCE… complete and total silence.

“When we sit quietly in private prayer, we eventually face our true selves and the living God. This can be frightening for someone who has not faced himself and is afraid of what he or she might find out. It is also frightening for someone is afraid of God. Some of us, we might be afraid to admit, are afraid of coming into His Presence.

We might not pray because we are afraid that past hurts and pains buried in our own hearts will surface. We have to face ourselves. It is no accident that the spiritual masters have said that the spiritual journey begins with self-knowledge. When the mess that lies within each one of our hearts surfaces, it is painful to deal with. {This is why so many are terrified to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.} But facing ourselves is essential for a deep inner healing. We can’t begin our journey with the Living God without it.” (from “The Joy of Priesthood” by Fr. Stephen J. Rossetti, pp. 37-38)

In prayer we have the capacity to make a free and total gift of ourselves before God. When we come before Him as we are, we allow Him to touch us, to heal us, to prune us, to guide us, to give us a new heart and a new spirit. We allow Him to love us completely and entirely so that we can learn to love others in the same way.

When I pray vocal prayers, do I really place my complete and entire self into them? Do I pray from my heart to Him and know that He is listening or am I just repeating words?

ADORATION ~ We need to realize that He REMAINS IN HIS TRUE PRESENCE for us to come to Him. We waits for you. It is Him!

CONFESSION~ Open your wounds, let Him touch and heal the ugliness we hold back from Him so that He can forgive and heal our soul. Do not deprive Him of this joy. Could you imagine your own child falling off their bike or seriously hurting themselves and then run away from you when you have the desire to comfort them and heal them and protect them from hurting themselves again?

SCRIPTURE~ Take the Bible off your bookshelves… wipe off the dust and open it. Sit at Our Lord’s feet and listen to Him speak to you. Let Him teach you.

EUCHARIST~ Do you know WHO it is you are receiving? How do we receive Him? Story of paralytic receiving Our Lord on his knees. Ex opere operato/ex opera operantis Do we offend Him by receiving Him in a state of serious sin? If we don’t forgive, hold on to riches, anger, resentment, lust… we can block Him out.

KEEPING HIS COMMANDS, LISTENING TO HIS VOICE AND ACTING UPON IT~

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me. And he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. Judas saith to Him, not the Iscariot: Lord, how is it, that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not to the world? Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make our home within him.” (Jn 14:21-23)

Reflection Questions:

Do I find that spend more time trying to convince and teach others about God rather than drawing them to encounter Him in their own life? Do I honestly allow God to love me as I am… warts and all? Do I hide from Him or am I afraid to reveal myself to Him? Do I seek to encounter Him in my daily life? How? Are there other ways He is asking me to come to Him in a deeper way? After I avail myself to be loved by God, do I honestly try to love others in my life in the same way, even my enemies? Do I pray for my enemies and suffer for them? When I pray vocal prayers, do I really place my complete and entire self into them? Do I pray from my heart to Him and know that He is listening or am I just repeating words?

"Lord, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing..."

“And it came to pass, that when the multitudes pressed upon Him to hear the word of God, He stood by the lake of Genesareth. He saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And going into one of the ships that was Simon's, He desired him to put back a little from the shore. And sitting He taught the multitudes out of the ship. Now when he had ceased to speak, He said to Simon: Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch. But Simon answering said to Him: ‘Lord, we have worked hard all night, and have caught nothing: but at Thy word I will let lower the net.’

And when they had done this, they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes, and their net broke. And they beckoned to their partners that were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they were almost sinking.” (Luke 5:1-8)

~ What would it be like at the end of your life when you stand before Our Lord and He asks for you to lower the net of your life to see what is inside… what souls you have brought to Him throughout your life? Would that net be empty or full? I remember one priest sharing with me what it would be like going into Heaven into this huge auditorium and seeing Our Lord with the angels and saints greeting me at my first entrance in (assuming I make it there, of course). But as I look around, will I see any empty seats? Will I say: “Hey, where is my spouse and children, where is my brother or my sister, where are my friends, my students, my co-workers?” Will Our Lord respond: “I gave you the opportunity to bring them towards Me but you didn’t. You chose not to let Me into your relationship with them.”

Again, it is impossible for us to catch a soul. We can’t touch or move souls, but God can. For Him it is easy. He knows how to touch each and every soul and draw us closer to Himself. He knows our wounds and how to heal them. He knows what we are really long for and how to satisfy the deepest thirst and desires within each one of us. He knows how to catch souls. He can teach us how to do it, or rather, will we allow Him to touch them through us?

“But at Thy word I will lower the net.” To catch souls we need to be open to listen to the voice of the Master. He is THE TEACHER. Remember and heed these words: “Apart from Me you can do NOTHING.”

Reflection Questions:

Do I take time to put a little out from shore by getting away in solitude on a regular basis with Our Lord and allow Him to teach me? Do I make time in my life to go on retreats, for at least one weekend a year? As a disciple, do I allow Our Lord to instruct me and teach me from Holy Scripture? Do I ever allow myself to go out into the DEEP in prayer and silence before Our Lord? Do I listen for His direction and wait for it? Do I work for Him and under His direction or do I see someone else as my boss? Do I seek the salvation of souls and pray those whom God has placed in my life? Do I honestly try to draw souls closer to Him and am I open to allow Our Lord to work in and through me?

Nunc Coepi! Right Now!

The Kingdom of God is at hand! It is within you!
"In Heaven my soul" ~ Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). And He saith to them: Come ye after Me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And they immediately leaving their nets, followed Him.” (Matthew 4:17-20)

It is very important to realize that God is calling you, calling your soul, to come CLOSER to Him. The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is not yesterday in what you could or should have done… it is not tomorrow so that you can put it off later… it is NOW. Right now… and God is waiting for your response. To enter into the Kingdom of God which lies within your soul, you have to respond right now… every moment that God calls you and guides you, every time He knocks. Our Lord means what He says in Scripture:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open the door to Me, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and He with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

Repent… in other words, open yourself up to change and draw closer to Him. Turn away from darkness and sin and turn closer towards Him. What are the obstacles in your heart that are keeping you from letting Him enter? Is there any anyone you haven’t forgiven from your heart… no matter how far back in the past this happened? Something you can’t seem to let go of? Any sin you don’t want to let go of? This blocks Him from entering in through the door of your soul. You need to remove it or let it go. Sin is NOT an obstacle for Him but you holding on to it can be. Remember, He came to dine with sinners. He can move through walls. But you alone can keep Him out by keeping the stone shut tight across your heart. He won’t force Himself in. He won’t pry the door open with a crowbar. He has to be invited. If you don’t make room for Him in your life He can’t enter:

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

It is interesting to note that when Our Lord states the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, that He immediately begins to call His disciples. He says, “Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men.” It is as if He his telling them, come after Me, let Me teach you and form you, and I will show you how to touch souls. I will make you fishers of men.

Look at the person next to you right now. Can you touch their soul? You may help them grow in knowledge, you can teach them about many things, but can you touch their soul and impact their soul deep enough for them to desire Heaven? Can you touch any of your students’ souls, your spouses’, your children’s? This is key… to know that we can’t. For us, it is impossible but for God it is so easy… easier than drinking water. But how can this happen?

Notice what happens in this Gospel passage right after He says “Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men”. What happens? The disciples immediately left their nets and followed Him. In other words, Our Lord needs from you complete docility and openness, to be like a sponge… open and ready to receive from Him. He asks for a complete and total surrender. He says to you… “COME”. You cannot wait or be hesitant. The Kingdom of God is at hand… nunc coepi… RIGHT NOW!

Please spend the rest of this hour in silence. Open your heart to Him.

Reflection Questions:
What are the obstacles you have in your heart that may be shutting Him out? Are there any sins you have not let go of, is there anyone you have not forgiven from your heart? Are you open and docile to responding to Him immediately when He calls you? Is your heart open like a sponge to receive His instructions and direction? Do you make time to listen to His voice? Is the “inn” of your heart too full of materialism, the TV, the radio, the computer and internet, too much business, doing too many things, too much time on my cell phone to make time for Him? Is there room in the “inn” of my heart for Him? Is my heart empty of these things so He can fill them with Himself?