Friday, May 8, 2015

Sad Statistics

I read an article from Pew Research the other day that saddened my soul.

It was entitled The Future of World Religions, and it does not present very encouraging predictions.

Christianity, according to the article, may no longer be the world's most dominant religion sometime around 2050.  In fact, cumulatively through 2050, Pew predicts that 40 million people will switch into Christianity while a whopping 106 million will switch out (by FAR the most out of any religion).  And those switching out are mostly expected to switch to an "unaffiliated" status.

Can you imagine that? Christ asked us to continue to spread His word, and the world is going in the opposite direction.  

In the U.S. alone, Christianity will shrink from 78% in 20101 to 66% by 2050.   Europe will see a similar decline.  Conversely, Christians in sub-Saharan Africa will rise from 24% to 38%, and stay about the same in Latin America.  

Are all these stats and predictions 100% percent accurate?  Of course not.  But the mere chance that they might be is eye-opening.

The good thing is that we can help influence this course through example and prayer.  

Please join me in praying for the strengthening - and growth - of our Faith around the world.

God Bless you.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

About Those Sheep

Based on today's Gospel from John, I wanted to learn a bit more about sheep and shepherds to feel more in-tune with Jesus' teaching.  Here are some of the things l learned:

  • Sheep are useless by themselves.  Completely.  Which is why shepherds pay such close attention to their flock.  (It is no irony that humans are also useless by themselves, and also need The Good Shepherd.)
  • When a sheep starts to wander off, the shepherd may use a slingshot to shoot pebbles at it to get its attention.  (Think of all the signs that God sends our way when we wander off...)
  • Sheep have excellent hearing.  Which, of course, helps them to know their Shepherd's voice.
  • They can, however, also remember human faces for over a year. This is despite them being considered one of the dumbest animals on the planet.  (New research, by the way, disputes this, and states they could be as intelligent as monkeys.)
  • When wolves attack a sheep, they often nip at it from behind.  Wolves are also capable of killing an entire flock, and scattering the remains over a large area.  Some experts believe they are capable of doing this just for fun.
  • The right shepherd will lead the flock to better pasture (which was not always easy to find in Israel).  The wrong shepherd would lead the flock to a slaughterhouse for personal gain.  
  • I read one article that stated from time to time, a sheep would get carried away by a river when crossing.  After being rescued by the shepherd, and returned to its flock, the other sheep would surround the shepherd and express their thankfulness with sounds of joy.  (This immediately brought to mind the parable of the Prodigal Son.)
  • Even more fascinating, I read a story about a shepherd who did not have to count his sheep anymore.  He knew by "sense" if one had wandered off.  (And yet another one about a shepherd who could identify his sheep blindfolded just by feeling their face!)

Prayers that we always follow Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and that we always recognize His voice in a world of wolves.  God Bless you.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Road to Emmaus ... The First Mass?

Was the Road to Emmaus the first Mass as we know it?

It might just have been.

For starters, there are two disciples gathered together.  

Second, along with the unrecognized Christ, they discuss the Old Testament and the events of Jesus' life, including His death and Resurrection.  We obviously do that in our first and second readings, and our Gospel. 

Third, it is clear that Jesus is interpreting these events for the disciples, which is akin to the homily our priests give.

Fourth, the disciples do not realize they are in the presence of Jesus ... just like some people at our Masses today!

Fifth, and most powerful, Jesus breaks the bread with them.  This is the highlight of their journey, and is also the highlight of our Mass.

And lastly, after their encounter, the disciples go forth and proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord ... which is exactly what we are supposed to do after our Mass!

I hope you are all having a joyous Easter season!  God Bless you!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Perplexing Passion of Palm Sunday

I'll admit ... I've always been confused on Palm Sunday.

It is a happy day? A sad day?  Neither?  Both?

The name itself ... Palm Sunday.  It sounds happy to me.  (At the very least, neutral, right?)

Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem and people rejoice, shouting "Hosanna!".  In my mind, that is a beautiful scene.  I mean, wouldn't you smile if people rejoiced when you entered your town?

Then I think of the image of Jesus, our Savior, atop a foal. What a sad image that must have been to see our King riding such a meek animal.  Imagine a government official, or very important person, entering a town today riding a small bike with training wheels instead of a caravan of impressive limousines.  It would look awkward, silly, and a certainly not have the pomp and circumstance representative of that person's status.

And while the people are shouting praises at Him, Our Lord must be thinking about his upcoming death.  

In fact, that scene itself is pure irony on many levels.   

The people that are blind to the story are the happiest, even though their desired storyline pales in comparison to what God will give them. Meanwhile, the One who knows all must have have been carrying the weight of reality on His shoulders - despite knowing what a Glorious story He was about to write.  

So, like most days in Lent, I chalk it up as a mostly sad day leading up to the happiest day in the history of mankind.   

Except when I think of it as a mostly happy day that led to the saddest day in the history of mankind. 

Which, of course, then led to a really, really happy day...

God Bless you, and hope you have a very spiritual Holy Week!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Four Questions about the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration is one of the most amazing stories we read in our Gospels.  Unfortunately, even as I grow to understand it more and more each year, it always leaves me with some questions ...
  1. Why did Jesus only bring three Apostles with Him?  Why not let them all see the Glory of Father and Son?
  2. What did God's voice sound like?  I mean, they heard God!  Mark describes how white Jesus' clothes are ... I wish he had also described God's voice.
  3. What mountain were they on?  Some scholars think it was Mt Tabor, some think it was Mt Hermon.  
  4. After the event, Mark tells us the three Apostles wondered what "rising from the dead" meant.  Why did they not ask Jesus more about that until they understood more?  Or did they ask Him, and He didn't explain further? 
Some of these are not for us to know right now.  Maybe someday.  

For now, we are left pondering the wonder of this miraculous event, and contemplating how we, too, can change to become more like Christ.

I hope you are having a Blessed Lent.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Once again, I am an idiot

As I circled the church on Ash Wednesday, I was getting more and more frustrated.  

There was not a parking spot to be found - in the Church parking lot or the street - and I was not a happy camper.  I mumbled to my dashboard, "Who are all these people?  Ash Wednesday is never this crowded!"  

After finally finding a spot way down the street, I trudged through the snow to the Church to find seats anywhere.  In fact, there was barely any room in the narthex to stand.  

Plus, I was now late.

To say I was not in the right state of mind to start the Blessed season of Lent would be an understatement.  

In fact, it wasn't until the second reading that it hit me.  

I had been given exactly what I asked for.

Those of you that read this blog regularly know that every Christmas and Easter, I pray that all of those people that pack the church on those two Holy Days return for our "normal" masses.  

And there, right in front of me, was a full Church.  In the past, Ash Wednesday ... if we were lucky ... filled the main part of the church.  But it is normally 1/2 to 3/4 full and never standing room only.  

Yet God had called others to this mass - maybe even those I prayed for.  And instead of immediately thanking Him, and praising His work, I was selfishly frustrated because I couldn't find a parking spot.

What an idiot I am.

God must have had His head in His hands watching me.  I am just lucky He is so forgiving.

I hope you are all having a Blessed Lent.  Please join me in praying that God will continue to call people to His church.  (And open the eyes of those that already go!)  God Bless.