Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Work of Prayer

Could you not watch one hour with Me?  Matthew 26:40
Many years ago, when I was initially baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was praying about how much time God wanted me to give to prayer. After some time, this passage from Scripture stood out for me as my answer.
  The Holy Spirit may have a different answer for you--perhaps even longer! Over the years my hour of prayer has developed a pattern; not exactly the same each day, but including praise, spiritual warfare, surrender, repentance, quiet time, intercessions, petitions and thanksgiving.
  I have learned that prayer is a ministry; and a job. I don't always feel like praying. It's not always rewarding, although most of the time it is. Often I doze off, especially if I'm short on sleep. But like any other ministry or job, it's what God calls us to. Not just me, but every Christian.
  Setting aside time for prayer is not an option; it's not "if I have time left in my day". It's a priority!  Because I am a morning person by nature, it's my first job of the day. If you are a night person, it's a little more difficult to set aside time to pray at the end of a busy day. There's always the temptation to relax or watch TV. On my "To Do" list, it takes first place. Some people have their prayer time during their morning commute or in the car while driving. This never worked for me since I am a very meditative person and would find myself veering off the road! But for some people it works.
  There's no excuse for not setting aside time to pray. When my children were small (and up very early) I had my prayer time very early in the morning before they woke. People who work outside the home can often find time to pray on their lunch hour. If there's no quiet place in your home, there are always churches or chapels open. If you have small children, naptime might be a good time.
  There's always the temptation to put off prayer time. Or to say to yourself "my service to my family or to others is my prayer." But there's no substitute for setting aside a specific time to pray.
  Of course, setting aside a specific prayer time is not the only time we should pray. We can read a devotional while we're eating. When someone comes to mind, we can pray for them. We can say the rosary or attend services at church. St. Paul said "Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17.
   We should always be ready to pray; for others, for ourselves. To always be listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit within us--guiding us, leading us, showing us how to pray and who to pray for. This is God's Will for everyone.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Miracle of a Child

One of my daughters is pregnant with her first child. As with each of my children and grandchildren, I enjoy tracking the development of the baby week by week. It's a marvel to see how quickly and intricately the baby grows in the womb of his or her mother. By the end of the first trimester all body systems have developed and are working. The only thing left is for the baby to grow in size and weight.
  It's good to reflect on the growth and development of a child inside it's mother for it helps us to remember that it is not just a fetus or a product of conception but a person, a little human being, a marvelous creation of God.  The following is that development, week by week.

Week 1: Conception; the baby is smaller than a grain of sugar, but the instructions are present for all that this person will ever become.
Week 2: The baby attaches and burrows securely into the wall of the mother's womb.
Week 3: The baby's blood vessels and sex cells form. Foundations of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system are laid.
Week 4: The baby's heart has begun to beat. Eyes, ears and lungs begin to form.
Week 5: Tiny arms and legs appear, as well as the baby's face. The baby's blood is now separate from the mother's.
Week 6: Tiny fingers and toes develop. The baby's brain is divided into 3 parts for emotion and language, hearing, and seeing.
Week 7: Buds of the baby's milk teeth appear. 99% of the muscles are present, and brain activity is detectable.
Week 8: The baby begins spontaneous movement and is now well proportioned, about the size of a thumb. Every organ is present, but immature. The skull, elbows, and knees are forming.
Week 9: If prodded, hands and eyelids close. Genitalia become visible, indicating whether the baby is a boy or girl. Muscular movement begins.
Week 10: The baby's fingerprints begin to form. Nerve and muscle connections have tripled. Eyelids fuse together temporarily to protect the baby's delicate developing eyes.
Week 11: The baby "practices" breathing and facial expressions, even smiling. The baby can also urinate and stomach muscles can contract.
Week 12: The baby is now 3 inches in length and weighs 2 oz. with fine hair on the face. The baby is able to swallow and feels and responds to skin stimulation.

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. Psalm 139:13-14

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When God Doesn't Answer Our Prayers

"For man it is impossible; but for God all things are possible."
 Matt 19:26, Luke 1:37, Jeremiah 32:27, Genesis 18:14

  If God doesn't answer our prayers in the way we think He should it doesn't mean He can't grant our request; it means that God is saying "No" or "not right now" or perhaps something is blocking the power of God and needs to be removed. It doesn't mean that He doesn't care or that He doesn't want us to be happy.
  The Bible, the Old Testament but especially the New Testament, is filled with illustrations of how much God loves us. When we look at the intricacy and complexity of all of God's creation, from the tiniest molecule to the vast universe, it's kind of silly to even imagine that God, who created all this and keeps it in motion, cannot grant our little request. So that tells us that there's some other reason why our prayer is not being answered as we would like it to be.
  The Book of Job in the Bible is an excellent answer to why God seems not to answer some prayers. Chapters 38-41 are God's response to Job trying to figure out why he has been subjected to such awful suffering. It can be summed up by saying "If you cannot understand God's creation, how can you hope to understand why God doesn't answer our prayers in the way we would like Him to ."
  With God all things are possible. We just have to continue to pray, trust in our all-powerful God and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our lives.

Monday, October 30, 2017

On Getting Old

Getting old is like youth in reverse.
  When you are born you are virtually helpless--totally dependent on others for your survival. As you grow you take on more and more responsibility for yourself until you reach adulthood and emancipation. Then you are able to support yourself and take care of your needs. You then work at a job or care for others--children, elderly parents, etc.
  After you retire from either work outside the home or raising children, things start to reverse--albeit slowly. Little by little your body begins wearing out. Then you find there are some things you can no longer do but need help with.
  If you live long enough or are in poor health you eventually need the help of others in more and more areas--just like a child. Often very old people who are near death and bedridden can be seen to go into the fetal position, just as they were inside their mothers uterus so long ago.
  If you are fortunate you will not get to that point. We can do our best to stave off the negative aspects of aging, but we will all eventually loose some of our ability to care for ourselves.
  It is sad, and often depressing, but the happiest people learn to accept and make the best of the inevitable. Life is still worth living. Live it to the fullest. Take joy in the beauty and good things around you--the beauty of nature, the birth of a child, a wedding, the joy a toddler brings, music, a good movie, the love of family and friends. These things never grow old.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Getting to Know Jesus

Sometimes people looking to evangelize will say, "Do you know Jesus?" If you don't "know" Jesus you might be puzzled as to what they mean. Or you might respond, "Yes, I know who Jesus is. He was a great prophet" or "He is the Savior of the world" or "He suffered and died so we could go to Heaven." But all these statements of belief are not "knowing" Jesus; they are knowing about Jesus.
  First you meet Jesus through others. They teach you about Jesus, who He is, why He came to live on earth, why He suffered and died in such a cruel way. They teach you the Bible and perhaps the catechism, if the denomination has one. You grow in faith in Him.
  Then you are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19). It's when you are baptized that you receive the Holy Spirit. And it's the Holy Spirit that enables you to "know" Jesus; to experience His Presence within you; to "hear" Him speaking to you and guiding you.
  Although baptism and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit is a one-time event, the power of the Holy Spirit increases in you over time as you grow in faith and surrender to God. The more you grow in the power of the Holy Spirit, the more clearly you experience Jesus. It's a little like light bulbs. When you are baptized you may receive 25 watts. At the Sacrament of Confirmation it may go up to 50 watts. If Christians pray over you for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, maybe it will go up to 200 watts. There is no limit to the power of the Holy Spirit. We are the ones who limit Him due to lack of faith, unwillingness to surrender to God or many other reasons.
  So to get back to my original statement, "Do you know Jesus?" If not, then find a church or group of Christians who are living in the power of the Holy Spirit and let them show you how to find Him. First you meet Him through others; then you meet Him for yourself.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On Marriage--Why Make A Vow

(Before I delve into this I would like to say that when I refer to "marriage" or "couple", I am referring only to normal marriage between one man and one woman. Any other "marriage" may be sanctioned by the state, but is not a real marriage in the eyes of God or rational people.)

Very often couples live together but do not want to commit themselves to each other for life. They say things like "we don't need a piece of paper to prove our love for each other." But a valid marriage is much more than just a piece of paper.
  We make vows when we marry because a stable marriage is better for men, for women, for children and for society. I won't go into the reasons why here since there is a vast amount of information available online or in books to show this is true. So what exactly is a "vow"?
  The dictionary defines "vow" as: "a solemn promise; one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition; to bind or consecrate." A couple makes a solemn promise before God and all those witnessing to join their lives together for life. They freely give themselves to each other. They promise to love and cherish each other. They promise to stand with each other in good times and in bad; in sickness and in health; whether wealthy or poor, until the death of either one of them.
  This is a scary thing. To place your life in the hands of another. But it is necessary and the only way to have a good relationship, a good family and stable children.
  When vows are broken, it's not because of the failure of the vows themselves, but because  the weakness and sinfulness of the individuals causes them to break those vows. Not making the vows in the first place only makes it more likely that the relationship will fail, the family will be broken and the children damaged mentally and emotionally.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Faith vs. Works

As you know, there has been much controversy in the centuries since the Reformation about whether our salvation comes solely through faith in Jesus Christ or if good works are necessary as well.

  I think we would all agree that the doors of Heaven were opened through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The disagreement comes in determining what we have to do to get through those doors.

  Since this is a very extensive subject, for reflection today I would just like to offer some passages from Scripture regarding faith vs. works as well as some of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about the subject.

Matthew 7:21:  None of those who cry out, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of God but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (works) 

Matthew 5:16:  In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father. (works)

Mark 16:15-16:  Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation. The man who believes in it and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe in it will be condemned. (faith)

Acts 16:30,31:  “Men, what must I do to be saved?” Their answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved and all your household.” (faith)

Romans 2:5-8:  In spite of this, your hard and impenitent heart is storing up retribution for the day of wrath when the just judgment of God will be revealed, when He will repay every man for what he has done: eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing right; wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. (works)

Romans 3:23-28: All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. All men are now undeservedly justified by the gift of God, through the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus. Through his blood, God made Him the means of expiation for all who believe. He did so…to manifest his justice in the present, …so that he might be just and might justify those who believe in Jesus. What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. By what law, the law of works? Not at all! By the law of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from observance of the law. (faith)

Romans 14:12:  Every one of us will have to give an account of himself before God. (works)

2 Corinthians 5:10:  The lives of all of us are to be revealed before the tribunal of Christ so that each one may receive his recompense, good or bad, according to his life in the body. (works)

Galatians 2:16:  Nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by legal observance but by faith in Jesus Christ, we too have believed in Him in order to be justified by faith in Christ, not by observance of the law; for by works of the law no one will be justified. (faith)

Galatians 2:21:  If justice is available through the law, then Christ died to no purpose! (faith)

James 2:14-26:  My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? … So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless. To such a person one might say, “You have faith and I have works—is that it?” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you the faith that underlies my works! Do you believe that God is one? You are quite right. The demons believe that, and shudder. … You must perceive that a person is justified by his works and not by faith alone. Be assured, then that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath. (works)

CCC 161:  Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. (faith)

So we see that some passages from Scripture seem to say we are saved by works, others seem to say we are saved by faith alone. Good Bible exegesis involves comparing all Scripture passages on a particular subject, not interpreting one passage alone.