Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Thank you, God, for sending us your only Son today.

Thank you, Mary and Joseph, for having faith in God's promise.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us.

Please remember to keep Christ in Christmas today.

God bless.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Keep Christ in Christmas

Two Christmas thoughts for you.

A wise person once told me two things:

First, never use the term Xmas. It takes the Christ out of Christmas.

Second, no one named Holly was born on December 25.
Next time you go to wish someone a Happy Holiday, wish them a Merry Christmas instead.

God bless.

Christmas is Not Too Good to be True

It might seem that way, but Pope Benedict XVI said it is not too good to be true.

In his general audience speech the other day, he made a few other comments I though offer great perspective on Christmas.

The Pontiff noted that Christmas -- as the "encounter with a newborn who cries in a miserable cave" -- can lead us to think of so many children who live in poverty, of infants who are rejected, and of families "who desire the joy of a child and do not see this hope fulfilled."

The birth of our Lord makes for a very beautiful story. The fact that the King of Kings was born in a stable rather than a castle reinforces everything Jesus stands for. But in reality, the Pope is right. Crying baby + miserable cave is not very storybook is it?

And Christmas, he said, "runs the risk of losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts."

I think this one speaks for itself. It is so easy to get lost in everything worldly Christmas stands for. The presents, the beautiful decorations, the parties. But as Catholics, we must always keep Christ at the center of Christmas.

"Let us," he concluded, "ask most holy Mary, the tabernacle of the incarnate Word, and St. Joseph, silent witness to the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they had while they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we can prepare ourselves to celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and enlivened by the determination of a sincere conversion."

We should all pray for this perspective as we get closer to Christmas.

Mary and Joseph, please help us prepare our hearts as you did.

God Bless.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't Miss Jesus!

I just came across a post at Simply Catholic that really made me stop and think.

A long time ago someone once told me that when Jesus died on the cross, the odds were that no one really noticed. What he meant was that this enormous event in our religion was just another daily occurrence for the people in those days. And the odds were, people were just going about their daily routines when Christ died to save us.

They missed it.

Simply Catholic posts about the same lesson, however, this time it is about the Holy Family's trip to Bethlehem. Click here to read it.

Please remember to keep Jesus front and center this Christmas season. Don't miss him!

God Bless.

Who Do You See Yourself As?

I attended mass at a church other than my own this weekend, and the priest gave me a perspective I had never heard before.

Today's Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28) focuses on John the Baptist, and the priest told us that we are like hundreds of thousands of John the Baptists. All of us are preparing the way for Jesus, just like he did.

This makes perfect sense, but in all my years of learning, no one has ever put it in that light for me.

Sure, I've heard that we are like his apostles, like Paul, and like the many saints that have followed them. But in that light, we are
trying to continue the ways of Jesus. If we think of ourselves as John, we are preparing the way for his second coming.

I found that slight tweak in perspective very interesting.

Of course, I cannot hold a candle to any of those mentioned above. But having multiple examples to follow surely helps me reflect on my role here on Earth.

God Bless.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Faith and more Faith

As you know from my last post, I love movies or books that try and bring biblical events to life.

I just finished reading a short book by Jim Bishop called
The Day Christ w
as Born. In it, Bishop gives a biblically true recap of the events leading up to, and the people associated with, the birth of Christ. However, he adds a lot of detail and depth to the book that make you feel like you are reading an eyewitness account of that day. It's a quick read and really helped me focus on the true meaning of this Season.

It also helped me reflect on how both Mary and Joseph trusted in God from the very beginning. Did you ever stop and
think about how much faith they had? I know I take it for granted.

They believed in the Immaculate Conception. (Could you imagine if your spouse went away for months and came back pregnant?)

They believed that their Son was to be the Messiah. (Remember, at the time everyone probably expected the Messiah to be born into royalty and power.)

They trusted God when he told then to go to Egypt - a foreign land to them - until Herod was dead. (Imagine traveling ... check that ... walking through a desert ... to a country where you do not know anyone, don't speak the language, and don't have a job lined up.)

These are certainly not small leaps of faith! And they serve as model examples for how we should lead our lives. Always trusting in our Father.

God Bless.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Joseph's Thoughts

Now that Advent is upon us, I am reminded of one of the most interesting, thoughtful quotes I have ever heard in a movie. It is from the Nativity Story (2006).

In one scene, Mary and Joesph are on their way to Bethlehem. Mary is very pregnant, and she and Joseph are mixing silence with wonder.

At one point, Joseph says “I wonder if I will even be able to teach [Jesus] anything.”

Simple enough quote right?

I think its brilliant. All my life I took for granted that Mary and Joseph knew everything that was going on. But this quote made me really ponder that. What if they weren’t quite sure what to expect (which is likely!). After all they knew they were giving birth to our Saviour. But what did that mean? Was he to look like a human baby or something more God-like? We have the luxury of knowing that he was to be just like us in appearance. But they didn’t know that yet! They probably didn’t know if he would be all-knowing. Nor did they know the extent of pain and suffering that he would go through for us.

So it would be perfectly logical for any nervous father-to-be to wonder what he could pass onto his son, let alone one that was to be the Earthly father of our Lord. Odds are he really did wonder if there was anything he could teach his Son.

I don’t know about you, but I love movies or books that help me paint pictures of what life was like in Jesus’ time. The Nativity Story, and Joseph’s quote in particular, really gave me some thoughts to ponder.

God Bless.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Switch to Blogger

I just switched my blog over to Blogger, and in the process, lost all of the nice comments that readers posted. I apologize for that, but I needed to make the switch for a few reasons. The first was so that I had a larger file storage limit, and the second was so I could add on some widgets and things that I wanted.

Hopefully everything will work out for the better. Please keep posting your comments!

God Bless.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful for What??

House values are dropping. The stock market is plummeting. Companies are going bankrupt. Retail sales are way down. Unemployment is rising.

So what exactly are we supposed to be thankful for this week?

I’ll give you two things.

The first is something I know I take for granted. The freedom to worship as I wish without persecution. The ability to proudly show I am a Catholic without looking over my shoulder. The comfort to know that no one will try and burn down my church this week. If you want some perspective, Google Orissa, India and read about all the terrible things that are happening to Christians there.

The second is God’s love. We should all be thankful that He will always love us, and always forgive us. Could you imagine how depressing life would be if God didn’t love us? If we knew there was no hope of life everlasting with him in Paradise? Then we would truly have nothing.

There are, of course, many many things that I am thankful for. I certainly wont list all of them here, but I did want to list these two that I sometimes take for granted.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

God Bless.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let's Hope We Are Sheep

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46) sure comes at the perfect time doesn’t it?

Matthew details how Jesus painted a picture of judgement day for his disciples. The Son will separate the good (sheep) from the bad (goats), calling the good to Paradise, and casting the bad to eternal fire. The criteria, of course, will be how well each person treated the least of God’s people.

This is nothing new to most practicing Catholics - we’ve been taught this our whole lives. But how often do we practice it?

I just read an article yesterday that said that volunteering and donations peak in the U.S. during the period of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is certainly true for me. But while it is wonderful that we are reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters during the holidays, what does that mean for the rest of the year?

Suddenly I feel like the kid that is bad 11 months out of the year, but suddenly turns into a perfect angel in December when he knows Santa is making his list.

So as I enter 2009, I am going to make an extra effort to reach out and help the least of God’s people each and every month.

After all, I want to be one of those sheep!

God Bless.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What are You Doing with Your Talents?

Today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 25:14-28, always causes me to pause and think about what I am doing to further God’s kingdom here on earth.

The reading recounts Jesus’ parable of the talents (a form of money in those days). A man gave his servants talents to watch over while he is traveling. One servant received 5 talents, another 2 and the last 1. When the man returned, the servants that received 5 talents and 2 talents returned 10 talents and 4 talents to him, respectively. They had traded and doubled the money. The last servant buried his one talent in the ground, and thus, returned just the one.

The master lauded the first two and invited him to share in his happiness, and reprimanded the third - sending him outside “where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth”.

The meaning of this parable is very clear to me. God has given us all a variety of talents (and I don’t mean the money kind). Some of us have many talents (like the servant who received 5) and some of us have less. But quantity is not the issue here. Its clear from the parable that both the servant who received 5 and the servant who received 2 were invited to share in their master’s happiness (Heaven) because they did good things with what they were given. In contrast, the last servant was sent away (Hell), not because he started with only 1 talent, but because he did nothing with it.

Every time I hear this parable I ask myself if I am doing enough with the talents God gave me. And each time, I strive to do more than I am currently doing.

What are you doing with your talents?

God Bless.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Don't Forget to Smile

Just came across these “Christian one-liners” over at Inside Catholic.

Some are cute with a lesson behind them, like “Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect you couldn’t belong”. Some give us pause, such as “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period”. And some are just funny, like “The Good Lord did not create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close”.

Check out Irene’s post for the rest of the list.

God Bless.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What I'm Listening To

Song: You Reign

Group: Mercy Me

Selected Verse:

Even before there was a drop in the ocean, even before there was a star in the sky, even before the world was put in motion, You were on your throne, You were on your throne.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The First Christian Basilica

This weekend we celebrate the feast of the dedication of Christianity’s first basilica - the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran. Or St. John in Lateran for short.

For those of you that are wondering about the name, here is some background. It is called an Archbasilica to show it is greater than other basilicas. The three names reflect its patrons - Jesus, St John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. And Lateran is the hill in Rome where the basilica sits.

This church marks the seat of the Pope as bishop of Rome. In other words, it is the Pope’s church. (I have to admit, I had always thought St. Peter’s served that purpose.) And if there is any doubt as to where the church ranks among churches in our faith, there is an inscription on the wall that reads “Mother and Head of all the churches of the city and of the world”.

There is a long history of the church, but the part that I reflect on the most is the actual dedication. When Pope Sylvester I first dedicated the church, it meant that the church could no longer be used for “worldly” things. It would be used only to worship God. Aside from having beautiful similarity to when Jesus cleared merchants out of his Father’s temple (John 2:15-16) it also reminds me how far our church has come. And how lucky we are.

Here in America, as in many other countries, we don’t have to wonder where we will gather to pray each week. We have a wonderful system of churches all branching off from this great church in Rome. Likewise, we don’t have to worry (for the most part) about our churches being used as marketplaces anymore. We can look forward to a dedicated, peaceful place of worship each week.

And so this week, I thank God for all of our churches around the world, especially St. John in Lateran. But I also pray for all of those people in the world who do not have a church to pray in, and may not have the freedom of religion we have here.

God Bless.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hello Fellow Catholic Bloggers!

Since I started this blog, I’ve been looking for somewhere to meet other Catholic Bloggers.

I came across this Catholic Blog Aggregator called St. Blog’s Parish Directory. I registered my blog and as of October 25th, I’m officially in!

I decided to start by checking out the other blogs that were posted on the same day.

South Dakota Catholic has an interesting post about the election and abortion. Kim goes into more detail than I did in my post, and really outlines the evil of abortion. Great job!

OSV Daily Take also has some posts about the election and abortion. This one in particular gives me great pause. John points out the trouble Catholic Bishops will face with the increasing number of prominent pro-choice Catholics that may take center stage in our government. I fear that they will be a terrible influence on other Catholics.

Musings at 85 has a wonderful post about how to pray for Obama. The election is over, and we cannot change that. So now as Catholics, it is important to pray that Obama will lead us as God would want. Thank you for this post Dorothy.

Its nice to see others trying to spread God’s word - each offering a unique perspective on things.

God Bless all of you.

Catholic and Muslims Meet

The meeting this week between Catholic and Muslim leaders got lost amid all the US Presidential hooplah.

In my opinion, this meeting was a long time coming. With all the violence and hatred in the world, it is important that the leaders of the two largest religions on earth show that they can discuss and accept their differences.

After all, isn’t that what Jesus would have done if He was on earth today?

These meetings are scheduled to occur every two years. I hope they become more frequent so that the rest of the world can follow suit in peace and harmony.

God Bless.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peter, Paul, and Mary

No, I’m not talking about that music group (for those of you that even remember them). I’m talking about Bart Ehrman’s book Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene.

I came across this book in the library (yes people still go there) after deciding I wanted to learn more about the most important figures in Christianity. Peter and Paul were at the top of my list, so this book caught my eye.

I was pleasantly surprised at Ehrman’s style. Its smooth, fluid, and kept me intrigued throughout. It wasn't the dry religious speak I was expecting.

And I though the content was excellent. He devotes about 6 chapters to each subject, taking us through their lives with and after Jesus. (Or in Paul’s case, before and after Jesus appeared to him) Throughout his book, he tries to dispel common thoughts and give solid evidence to support others. One of the more famous stories he shuns is that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and married to Jesus. (There is no historical evidence of either. Gregory the Great actually started this myth in a sermon 5 centuries after her death!)

In any case, if you are interested in learning more about three important figures in Christianity I highly recommend this book.

God Bless.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Virtual Tour of the Holy Land

For someone like me who has not been to the Holy Land, this site was wonderful.

It takes you through the various stages of Jesus’ life, and has pictures of what those areas look like today.

If any of you know of any other sites like this, please feel free to share!

God Bless.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Abortion as a Campaign Issue

If you are like me, you have probably asked yourself at one time or another, “How should Catholics evaluate a candidate?”

After all, I’ve yet to see a candidate that embodied all of the qualities and views I would want. So how are we to know which issues are most important?

The Catholic Key published a very good article written by Bishop Finn (Diocese of KC), which you can read here. The article focuses on abortion as the most important issue and how Catholics, by choosing a pro-choice candidate, are “put[ing] aside their conscience on this life and death issue.”

There have also been various groups that argue that there are more issues to think about than just abortion - distribution of wealth and caring for the poor for example. They argue that those issues are just as important as abortion, and represent other important areas of our faith.

After much thinking, and after hearing an excellent homily in my own church a week ago, the priority is much clearer for me. Life has to come before any other social or economic issues. Lower taxes, a better healthcare system, more jobs … none of them matter if a person is not given the chance to live.

I’m sure if you were given the choice between being alive and paying higher taxes, or being dead and having low taxes (or even no taxes!) you would chose life.

Everyone should get to make that choice for themselves.

Now, if only I could find that perfect candidate before November 4th …

God Bless

Friday, October 10, 2008

My iPod, a Gentle Push from God?

“This year I’m going to start reading the bible.”

That was my mantra year after year. And year after year, I failed to do so. I can’t even come up with a good reason - other than the obvious one. I just didn’t set aside time to do it. I had every intention to do so. Really I did. But I just couldn’t find the time to make it a daily event. (I’m embarrassed to even admit that)

But sometimes God gives us the little push we need to get our priorities straight. In this instance, his push came in the form of an iPod.

That’s right. A shiny, new, sleek iPod. Perfect for storing thousands of songs, and, as I would come to discover, hundreds of podcasts. Initially, I downloaded all sorts of news podcasts so that I could keep up with the world while I drove to and from work.

But then one day, I found the Daily Audio Bible, which is a fantastic podcast run by a gentleman named Brian Hardin. Each day he reads from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, and then gives some brief commentary and inspirational words. I’ve listened to about 120 days worth (which equals about 1/3 of the bible) in the morning on my way to work, and so far and it has been life changing. I see my faith in a new light. I see the world in a new light. And I see myself in a new light.

I am finally making good on my promise to myself.

For those of you that are interested, here is the link to the site, or you can download it on iTunes like I did.

I’ll end this post with a HUGE thank you to Brian and the team at the Daily Audio Bible. Keep up the great work and may God bless you all.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jesus and the Dog?

Bible passages usually bring out two separate sides of me.

The first is that of a Catholic looking for the religious lesson buried (sometimes not so deep) within the stories and parables. The second is that of a curious “historian” who loves to think about what actually happened.

Today’s gospel reading - Matthew 15:21-28 - is a perfect example of such a passage.

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”

He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”

Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”

And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

The religious lesson in here is pretty straightforward. Our faith in Jesus will save us. And that faith should be as persistent as the Canaanite woman’s was.

But boy would the “historian” side of me sure like to know what was really said and why. After all, read literally, Jesus is calling this woman or her daughter a dog. (I think the actual translation can range from puppy to dog … but still, its not that flattering!) And this is after ignoring her!

So was Jesus really ignoring her? Did he really mean what he said - that he was only there to save the sheep Israel? Did he really think of the gentiles as “dogs”?

Perhaps Jesus had a full day at that point. Maybe he was tired of the hundreds of people that surely clamored around him every day asking him to heal them. Its not unthinkable right?

Or maybe the witnesses misread Jesus. After all, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away so perhaps they misplaced their own feelings on Jesus?

While both scenarios are certainly possible, I like to believe Jesus was simply teaching his apostles a lesson while testing the faith of this woman. After all, its hard to tell the tone that something was said when all we have is the written word. (Kind of reminds me of the problems we run into today with email being misunderstood or taken the wrong way) Maybe Jesus was not mocking the woman when he uttered those words … perhaps he was mocking society at the time. You know, with a sarcastic tone. Or perhaps he said them with a straight face to see how much faith this woman really had.

In any case, the real lesson is clear and that is all that is important. Jesus will reward our faith in him.

But I would sure like to have been the proverbial fly on the wall!

God Bless.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Assumption of Mary

I thought a Hail Mary would be appropriate today in honor of our Blessed Mother:

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death. Amen.

Mary, please pray for us.

God Bless

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reach Paradise

Curious as to how I came up with the name of my blog?

I thought you’d never ask.

In Luke’s version of the Passion, two criminals are crucified along side of Jesus. One criminal joins the Roman soldiers in mocking Jesus, while the other one asks Jesus to remember him when he enters Heaven.

Jesus replies with - in my opinion the most beautiful phrase in the entire bible - “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

That passage reminds me of two things:

One, Jesus will always forgive us. Even during our final moments and no matter what our sins. His love for us is never ending.

Two, we should all do whatever we can so that we hear those same words from Him during our final hours. Can you imagine how glorious is must be to hear those words from Christ? To know you will be joining him in Heaven?

And so this blog is one way that I am trying to grow closer to God. Its my own little way to try and reach paradise.

God Bless.