Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the Child Within Us

As long as your parents are alive, there is still a part of you that is a child. Once they pass on, it sometimes seems that the child within us dies too. We are now the older generation. Even when a parent dies when a person is still young, a part of their childhood ends.
  Children are innocent, joyful and trusting. They live each day fully; sometimes thinking about the future, but only if there's an upcoming holiday or special occasion. They notice the little things in life--a bug on the window, a flower, the birds, the animals.
  It's not so much our age or whether our parents are alive or have passed on that determines whether the child within us still lives--it's our attitude towards life. No, we can't retain our innocence; life takes that away. But we can live each day fully, one day at a time. We can savor the beauty around us. There is beauty and goodness everywhere no matter how bad our circumstances might be.
  One of my Facebook friends often posts little videos with pictures of gardens, birds or other wonders of nature. She lives alone and recently had surgery which confined her to her home for three weeks. I'm sure those little videos brightened her day as they did mine.
  I am currently reading a book, Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, by Raymond Arroyo. It's a compilation of many of her wise sayings. She was a woman who grew up living as an only child with her mother. She suffered many physical ailments throughout her life. Yet she had a great sense of humor and looked at life's difficulties from a positive angle.
  Jesus says that in our relationship with God we must be like little children.
I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.  Matthew 18:3
  Let's pray for and strive to grow in trust of God and His great love for us and to keep the child within us alive.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Futility of Teaching Morality Without God

I know adults (parents, grandparents, teachers) have the responsibility of teaching good morals to the younger generation, but I think it's often an exercise in futility. You can't teach morality without the grace of God, for without God's help men and women are doomed to failure.
  All people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23
  It reminds me of the Old Testament where the Israelites were given the Law by God, but time after time, generation after generation, the people failed to keep it. At least then they believed in God and tried to keep His Law. Now people try to teach moral behavior without God at all!
  Maybe that's why many people lower the standards of character and behavior. Like those who think we need to teach children "safe sex" (a lie in itself, since no sex with multiple partners is safe) because they're going to "do it anyway."
  Way back in the 70's there was a very popular song "Jesus Is the Answer":
            Jesus is the answer,
            for all the world today.
            Above Him there's no other,
            Jesus is The Way.
  There needs to be a resurgence of that song. For it's only through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His commands, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we can hope to  be a moral society.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Spiritual Works of Mercy - Part 1: Admonish the Sinner

As Christians, it seems to me that more focus and attention is given to the corporal works of mercy--feed the hungry, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, etc.--rather than the spiritual works of mercy. People often read Matthew 25:31-46 regarding the final judgment and think that's all we have to do to be considered a "sheep" rather than a "goat".

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me.

But the spiritual works of mercy are just as important.

The seven spiritual works of mercy are:
  To instruct the ignorant
  To counsel the doubtful
  To admonish sinners
  To bear wrongs patiently.
  To forgive offences willingly
  To comfort the afflicted
  To pray for the living and the dead

I would like to focus on one at a time. I will begin with admonishing sinners.

My brothers, the case may arise among you of someone straying from the truth, and of another bringing him back. Remember this: the person who brings a sinner back from his way will save his soul from death and cancel a multitude of sins.  James 5:19-20

  I think that pointing out someone's sin is one of the most difficult of the spiritual works of mercy. It's especially difficult in our times because of the doctrine of relativism--that knowledge, truth and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. If we are dealing with someone who believes in the doctrine of relativism, it's useless to point out where he or she is straying from the truth.

  There was a word of wisdom spoken by the late Mother Angelica:
We don't like to speak the truth about evil because we're going to hurt somebody. Let me tell you, you are going to hurt somebody, but that Somebody is God. If you would rather hurt God than your neighbor, there is something wrong with your spirituality. It's your obligation to speak the truth and everyone can either take it or leave it. But truth must be in us. We live in such poverty of the truth today.
  Also, when we bring to someone's attention an area where they are going the wrong direction we don't want to do so in a Pharasitical way--that we are the holy one pointing out their error. No, we must approach the person in love and humility, as one sinner admonishing another.  He is able to deal patiently with erring sinners, for he himself is beset by weakness...  Hebrews 5:2
  We are not called to admonish every sinner we know. We must first have a personal relationship with them. They should feel that we care for them--that we are speaking to them about this area of their lives out of love, not out of judgment. (regarding judging others, we are judging their actions, not the person themselves.)  We should also sense that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to speak to this person regarding their sin.  We should pray for some time before confronting the person, asking the Holy Spirit to give us the words to speak and asking God to help them to be open to what we have to say.  Let your speech be always gracious and in good taste,...  Colossians 4:6a
  No one likes to be corrected. Almost everyone (including me) responds initially with denial, excuses or rationalization. Sometimes the person will become angry with you and remain angry for some time. Our job is not to convince a person of their error. Our job is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit; to share our discernment, to bring the sin into the light, and then to step back and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.  If the person doesn't return to the right path it doesn't mean we were wrong to confront them.

...and the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but must be kindly toward all. He must be an apt teacher, patiently and gently correcting those who contradict him, in the hope always that God will enable them to repent and know the truth. Thus, taken captive by God to do His will, they shall escape the devil's trap.  2 Timothy 2:24-26

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Responsibility of the "Rich"

Are you one of the "rich". If you have a computer or smartphone and are reading this, you probably are.
  We often think of rich people as "the other guy". But when evaluating whether or not we are rich, we have to look at the world as a whole. Most of us in the Western world and in other developed countries would be classified as "rich".
  Jesus said, When much has been given a man, much will be required of him. More will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted.  Luke 12:48b
  One of the reasons God blesses some people so abundantly is so we can take care of others. The poor do not have the means to help others; or the time and energy. Their lives must be focused on providing food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families.  Let's examine our lives to see if we are sharing our material blessings with those who are not so fortunate. It's not just a nice thing to do--it's what God asks of us. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Emailing God

Not attending church on Sundays (or Saturday evenings if your church has that option) is like always emailing someone, but never meeting them in person (like in the movie "You've Got Mail". When asked why they don't attend weekend church services, many people say, "Oh, we pray at home." Or "I don't need to go to church (or to be a member of a church); my faith is just between me and God (or me and Jesus)."
  When we gather to pray with others, Jesus said He will be with us. Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst. Matthew 18:20.
  St. Paul says in Hebrews: We should not absent ourselves from the assembly, as some do, but encourage one another;... (10:25)
  Reading the New Testament shows us that Jesus came to establish a church, not just individual people with a personal relationship with Jesus.
I for my part declare to you, you are 'Rock,' and on this rock I will build my church,... Matthew 16:18. Also, Matt 18:17, Acts 2:47, Acts 5:11, Acts 8:1, Acts 8:3, Acts 11:26, etc., etc.  The church is "a congregation gathered for public divine worship", not each individual just praying by themselves.
  For those who have the Eucharist at their church services (the real body and blood of Jesus), gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist is a real flesh and blood meeting with Jesus, rather than just a spiritual one. For those who have commemorative Communion services, the Presence of the Lord is still just spiritual, but with a much deeper presence than a person would experience by themselves.
  Another reason to attend church with others on Sundays is that God commanded us to "Keep holy the Sabbath day." (Exodus 20:8)  This is not just a church rule or a suggestion, but a commandment given by God. Jesus said: If you want to enter (eternal) life, obey the commandments." Matthew 19:17.
  We will all stand before God one day and be judged according to how we lived our lives on earth. (Matthew 25:31)  Even if we are saved, our behavior will still be judged. If you were to die today, how do you think God judge you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Guarding Our Fortress

"A strong city have we: he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us." Isaiah 26:1b

Whatever you see, whatever you hear, whatever you read, becomes a part of you. Our minds are like the hard drive of a computer and there is no delete button. Protect the fortress of your mind. Be discerning about what you allow to enter it. Ask God to strengthen you when you are tempted to see, hear or read something that may cause you to sin or not become the good person you were meant to be.
  God's Word says:
  Finally, my brothers, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On Disciplining Children

Disciplining children is like putting braces on their teeth. It's easier to deal with straightening the teeth when they are young and pliable than to deal with deformed teeth as an adult.

Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it. Proverbs 22:6