How are You Spending Your Talents

I hate to admit it but I am not always the smartest person in the room, especially when it comes to my faith, theology, the catechism, and especially interpreting the Bible. Sometimes passages will speak to me (sometimes they even yell at me) and other times they make no sense to me at all, or hardly any.

Today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 25:14 – 30 is one of those. It is  the “Parable of the Talents” where a business person has to leave on a business trip and entrusts three of his servants with some money. Two of them spend them wisely, doubling the owner’s money while the third, well, not so much. For some reason, I could never quite understand what this was supposed to be teaching me, even though the title should have been a clue.

Before I get into what it has taught me, let me say this. Since me reversion to the Catholic faith, I have realized that the more you seek, the more you find (Matthew 7:7). Each day I learn something new about my faith, whether through the Bible, reading the Church Fathers and other writers, listening to catholic radio, or just reflecting and thinking. I may read something more than once, and learn something new each time, or come away with a new insight I didn’t have before. It’s amazing what happens when you let God speak to you.

Ok, back to the talents. I have been writing for awhile now. When I first began it was before I fell off that truck. I used to write about politics and even became somewhat involved in it, helping candidates, etc. Through two presidential elections and three mid-term elections, I began to realize something, The problems in this country are way deeper than the political process. It is way more than the Democrats, the Republicans, the Libertarians and the Tea Party. I have come to believe it is a crisis of faith. I believe by removing God from “the public square” we have allowed Satan to take His place. It was then I realized that I was working for the wrong things. Not that these things can’t be changed through politics, but I believe we need to start with our faith.

And now the insight I received from today’s reading. On my phone I have an app called “Laudate” (you can find it in your app store). This app gives the daily readings for the day and a whole bunch of other great stuff. As part of the daily readings there is a “Reflections” tab which contains a daily reflection on the readings. Here is a paragraph from today’s:

What do coins and the law of economics have to do with the kingdom of God? The Lord entrusts the subjects of his kingdom with gifts and graces and he gives his subjects the freedom to use them as they think best. With each gift and talent, God gives sufficient means (grace and wisdom) for using them in a fitting way. As the parable of the talents shows, God abhors indifference and an attitude that says it’s not worth trying. God honors those who use their talents and gifts for doing good. Those who are faithful with even a little are entrusted with more! But those who neglect or squander what God has entrusted to them will lose what they have.

There is an important lesson here for us. No one can stand still for long in the Christian life. We either get more or we lose what we have. We either advance towards God or we slip back. Do you seek to serve God with the gifts, talents, and graces he has given to you? – Daily Scripture

God gives us talents, with me I like to think it is a gift for writing, well at least until He tells me otherwise, and I realize I need to use it to make a difference. That difference isn’t by trying to change the world through politics, but rather, through getting people back to God. It is to somehow stop people from making the mistakes I have made in my life, to either bring them back into the faith or stop them from leaving the faith. This is where the change has to come from, where it needs to begin.

Reading this reflection today I finally understood that I have been wasting the talents God has given me and I need to focus more on my writing, I need to use these talents for the right reasons. Yes, I will still write about politics, and recently have resurrected one of my old blogs and will soon resurrect a second, but with a slightly different view. In addition, I will continue with some other writing projects with the same ultimate goal in mind.

I don’t know if I will be successful, but I know I can no longer squander the talents God has given me.

For your reading pleasure from Amazon:

Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization

New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today

Enter Through the Narrow Gate

Yes, you wandered into temptation. But remember, you don’t often find temptation on the sure and straight path. Do you see where you left that path?

How many times do we stray from the straight path? How many of us don’t even now what the straight path is? If we don’t know what the straight path is, how can we follow it?

I think back to my past, when I strayed from the straight path and I realize I didn’t know what the straight path was. I didn’t learn what the straight path was until a few years ago when I began to read the Bible and came across

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. 14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few. – Matthew 7:13-14

This is where the “straight path” comes from, here and Luke 13;24, the narrow path or gate, being the path we need to stay on to enter Heaven.

I had left the faith, I didn’t study the Bible, I had never even read it as far as I can recall. so I had no idea what the straight path was, nor how to stay on it. I don’t recall ever learning about this in any CCD class or any where else. Now, this is not to say it wasn’t taught and I just wasn’t listening, the point is I didn’t know about it. If you don’t know about something, how can you follow it? I would like to think these things are covered in the religious education programs we have today, but I don’t know for certain.

Now I am certainly not blaming anyone for my not knowing these things, I take full responsibility for it, it was my choice to not learn my faith, I guess my point is it is up to us to learn these things. But, more importantly, if we don’t know where straying from the straight path will lead us, or keep us from, then why would we ever get back onto it?

Kicking God to the Curb

One of my favorite Catholic talk show hosts talked about a recent Gallup poll yesterday that reported on recent trends in the acceptability of things that used to be considered immoral and now are accepted as moral. (see Gallup poll here) I did write a little about it in my other blog, the more political one, but I feel it needs to be talked about here as well. ( Patrick Madrid, Right Here, Right Now)

The last caller, or maybe the next to the last really hit the nail on the head, when she said if we hadn’t kicked God to the curb, we wouldn’t have such a problem. Okay she didn’t use quite those words, but haven’t we done that? Haven’t we allowed others to remove God “from the public square” as the current saying goes? Now I am no scientist, nor do I even play one on TV, but isn’t there some law of physics or one of the sciences which basically says if you create a vacuum by removing something, something else has to fill its space?

What is going to fill the space that removing God has created? Um, how about Satan? I was never much of a Paul Harvey fan, but he once made a recording, I don’t know if it was on his radio show or somewhere else, entitled “If I Were the Devil.” If you have never listened to it, you should. It was very prophetic in 1965, especially since so much of what he predicted has come true today. Now before someone out there gets all in a tither, I know there is some controversy as to who wrote this, when it was written, etc. etc. and I chalk that up to the same people who are kicking God to the curb.

The sad thing is, we have allowed this to happen, especially we Catholics. Yup, I said it, I am blaming my fellow Catholics and myself, in fact, I am putting  a good part of the blame on my fellow Catholics and I. The reason I believe we are to blame is two-fold.

First, we are too nice, we are too Christian. We tend to mostly keep to ourselves and not push our religion and our beliefs onto others, at least until recently and even on ourselves. I only need to look at myself and my own life. I honestly do not remember the church ever catechizing (teaching) me why contraception was wrong, why abortion was wrong, only that they were a sin and that was that. They never fully explained these things. (Now whether or not I would have listened is another thing) The point is we have kept quiet and sucked it up, letting others push their secularist agendas on us without fighting.

The second point, and this could very well be a result of why we haven’t pushed our beliefs, is we have been convinced, or at least our pastors have been, that we can’t preach politics from our pulpits. We have bought into the “separation of church and state” myth and how f we preach politics, our church would lose its tax exempt status. This isn’t true as you can read here. When is the last time we have heard a good homily about what the left is doing to the country and especially religious freedom? Our Protestant brothers have no problem with this. Why even Michelle Obama says it is a good thing, so why  don’t we Catholics do it?

Yes, I do think things are changing for the better. We Catholics are beginning to come around. After all this is partly what the “New Evangelization” is all about, re-evangelizing Catholics about what we as Catholics are supposed to believe, and why we are supposed to believe.

The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on ‘re-proposing’ the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith. – USCCB

We need to relearn our faith, understand it, follow it and then share it. We can no longer be silent. If we remain so, it won’t be long before we no longer have any religious freedom left. I’ll leave you with this, written by Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.

Yes Virginia, it could happen here.

The Safest Road to Hell

Isn’t that the truth? The road to hell begins smoothly, you drift a little to one side or the other and you don’t even realize it. As Lewis says, there aren’t any signposts, nothing to let you know you are going the wrong way. The Evil One won’t post signs for you, he will just let you go on your way. That was certainly the way for me.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t need a GPS to stay on the right road, the narrow path, all we need is to follow Jesus. He will guide us, He will provide us with all the road signs we will ever need. It took me a long time to understand this. As I am sure many from my generation did, I decided I would be my own guide through life, picking and choosing which lessons I wanted to learn from the church. keeping some, discarding most. Unfortunately one result of this is we also failed to teach our children that there is a road map to life out there they can use. This has led to at least one, if not more, generations either falling away from or never joining the church. We see plenty of evidence of this each and every day.

In my last post I talked a little bit about discernment. I mentioned an article by Peter Kreeft.  In the article he lists five general principles of discernment.

  1. Always begin with data
  2. Let your heart educate your mind
  3. Have a soft heart but a hard head
  4. All God’s signs should line up
  5. Look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit

If we don’t educate ourselves, we won’t know what the data is, how to educate our minds, how to soften our hearts, what God’s signs are or what the fruits of the spirit are. How can we follow if we don’t know what to follow?

Every day I am thankful for God waking me up to Him. Falling off that truck a few years ago woke me up and brought me back to the Catholic Church and the teachings of God and Jesus. While I certainly don’t claim to know everything, nor will I ever, I have come  a long way and now I can follow the five principles Kreeft lists to help me discern God’s will.

Will I get to Heaven or am I still on the wide path? I don’t know for certain, but at least I feel I am heading in the right direction.

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Where There is a Will

When I look back at my journey over the last three or so years, there are times when I think I have made so much progress and then there are days, like yesterday, when I realize I still have a long way to go. I will get into what happened yesterday a little later.

One of the bigger questions I have had in my journey has always been “What is God’s will for me?” How do we know what God wants us to do? I came across a writing from Peter Kreeft, someone way smarter than I can ever hope to be on theology and God and stuff. In this article on “Discernment” he says there are two points that are relevant to the question of how we can discern God’s will:

First, they tell us that God not only knows and loves us in general but that he cares about every detail of our lives, and we are to seek to walk in his will in all things, big and little. Second, they tell us that he has given us free will and reason because he wants us to use it to make decisions.

He then goes on to talk about how one can best discern God’s will.  The link is above so if you want to read the article you may, just come back when you are done. Back? Okay. Basically it comes down to learning as much as you can about the teachings of God, then letting what you have learned guide you in all your actions and decisions. If you believe it is right in God’s eyes, then it is the right thing to do.

What is one of the first things God teaches us? “To love our neighbors as ourselves.” Jesus also tells us:

40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25: 40 – 46

This means whenever we have a chance we should take the time to help others, to do the right thing. We never know if that person who needs help is Jesus.

Which leads me to yesterday and a wrong choice I made. While working yesterday, I was driving on a two lane highway out in the northern regions of Vermont, and to my left I saw a motorcycle lying on its side with the rider sitting in the grass next to it. I could see the rider was moving, and there were two bicyclists in front of me who stopped to help. I kept driving, in a hurry to finish my work so I could get home. As soon as I drove past, I realized I made the wrong decision, I should have stopped. Maybe I could have done something, maybe not, maybe the person was hurt, maybe not, I don’t know, nor will I ever now.

For the rest of the day every time I tried to justify why I didn’t stop I realized there was nothing more important than doing what is right in God’s eyes. What was the right thing to do? Stopping and helping.

As I thought about it, I realized a few things. For one thing, old habits are hard to break. We become so accustomed to “minding our own business”, especially if we live or work in the city, that we don’t “see” the problem, or we let someone else deal with it. Helping others isn’t always the first thing on our minds. We also live in a world where we are taught to fear everyone and everything, especially strangers. Media today is full of scary stories, how we aren’t safe from… well anything. This is where the whole concept of trusting in God comes into play.

The right thing to do would have been to stop. That was what God wanted me to do, that was my chance of the day to “be like Christ”, a kind of test, although God doesn’t test us. I failed.

As Jesus teaches us in the “Parable of the Good Samaritan”Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Here are some links to a few of Peter Kreeft’s books. If you purchase them using these links (or anything else using these links as a gateway to Amazon), you will be supporting the Wayward Catholic.

Jesus Shock

Prayer For Beginners

You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible

Shop Amazon – Get the New Fire Phone


The Log in Your Eye

It seems my last post has created quite a stir around here. I have heard through the grapevine that my ex may have taken offense to my remarks about one of the causes for our divorce.

First, I will say that I am surprised, but also happy she reads what I write. Of course I am surprised and happy when anyone reads what I write. Second, I said nothing in the post about our marriage which I haven’t said before to her or my children. Third, if she has read all my posts she would know I have never, nor did I in this post say our divorce was all her fault, and I have asked her for forgiveness as well.

Maybe I could have written the post differently than I did, I certainly had no intention of making it sound like it was all her fault, if we are honest it was both our faults, no one is perfect. No one knows better than I about the bad choices I made, the things I did wrong and the reasons for the things I did. I can come up with all kinds of justifications and excuses for them, but that won’t change anything, except maybe to make me feel better, although I know it won’t, what is wrong is wrong, bad choices are bad choices no matter why we make them.

We tend to see things from only one side, from one perspective, especially when something doesn’t particularly go our way. It’s a normal reaction, we all do it. We try to take the speck out of another’s eye without removing the log from our own. (Luke 6:42) But when we sit down and really think about things, when we are truly honest about things, we will see the truth. I have done this, I have accepted my share of the responsibility, I have asked for forgiveness, especially from God, and now, contrary to what others may think I am happier and better for it. I haven’t hidden from the truth of the things I have done, nor will I.

My family, like many others I am sure, has a habit of keeping things inside, not being honest with each other, instead only sharing the things each of us wants the other side to hear. I am guilty of this, as are all of us. Maybe some of us forget certain things or only see them one way, I don’t know. I do know that I accept responsibility for the things I have done, others should as well.

I’ll end by saying this: read what I have written, take the time to really, honestly, think about it, even pray about it, then come to your own conclusion.

And that is all I will say about that.

Here are two selections for contemplation, and in which I believe.

42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. – Luke 6:42 (RSVCE)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. Matthew 6: 25 – 34 (RSVCE)

What’s in it for Me

Back in November of 2013, Pope Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation titled “Evangelii Gaudium” which I believe means the “Joy of the Gospel.” In it the Pope exhorts Catholics to spread the Gospel to all. This is part of what has been called “The New Evangelization.”
One of the problems I encounter when I read any of these papal documents or the writings of the Church Fathers, is there is so much to think about, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to spend on them. I could spend the rest of my life reading these and writing reflections on just one paragraph at a time. Hmm, a new career maybe? If only I were qualified as an expert. Which actually brings up another thought, does one need to be an expert to interpret these writings? I’ll have to make a note of that and maybe write a post on it. But now, back to Evangelii Gaudium.

The second paragraph fits in so well with the way I feel about our world today that, well, I just have to comment on it.

2. The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

Doesn’t this describe many, if not most of us? Be honest now. Aren’t we all caught up in the “Gotta have it” mentality of today? Don’t we all believe we need more and more stuff to be happy? I was like this, my ex-wife was certainly like this, and I honestly believe this was one of the things that led to our divorce after 23 years or marriage. Whatever we had was never enough, it was never as good as what someone else had.

Because we were both always worried about getting more, we never took time for each other. When the kids were grown, and we had the time for each other, we had grown apart, our lives had diverged in different directions, leading to sins for both of us. Pope Francis describes me perfectly, “resentful, angry and listless.”And since I strayed from my religious roots, I didn’t have God to fall back on.

We don’t care about each other, certainly not like we should. Many of us only care about someone else when it will benefit us. “What can they do for me?” “How can I use them for my personal gain?” Even when we perform acts of charity, we feel the need to let everyone know about it.  “See how good I am,” we say, “see what I did?”

“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1

The voice of God is no longer heard. We have shut Him out of our lives and replaced Him with things. We have replaced our desire to do good with the desire to get more and more. Is it too late for us? That is the question, one for which I don’t have an answer.