Going Against the Tide

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As I mentioned last week I am now working full time at a non-profit, human services organization and it has opened my eyes to many things, mostly positive. Seeing first hand the remarkable things that are being done with so many of our mentally and emotionally challenged individuals is very uplifting. More

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Sunday Reflection: Duty to Live in the Light

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Every once in awhile I come across a passage in the bible that hits me, like a two by four. This happened last night when I read Ephesians 5: 6 – 20. I wish I had read this forty years ago. Maybe if I had I would have this whole thing called life figured out and would not have strayed off the narrow path like I did.

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John 1:38 What are you looking for

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It has been awhile since I have done a Sunday reflection, but then it has been awhile since I have done any reflecting or even much writing. So here goes…

“What are you looking for?”

This is what Jesus asks the two disciples of John the Baptist when they begin to follow him. (John 1:38) This is a question we all should ask ourselves.What are we looking for in our lives? Are we looking for the right things?

We should be looking for Jesus and spending the rest of our lives with one goal in mind: Getting to heaven and spending eternity with God. That really should be our purpose in life, the end goal. After all, we all start out the same, made in God’s image and without sin.We establish an “intimate and vital bond of man to God” when God creates us. But as we learn from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 29:

But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (GS 19 # 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man. Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of sinful man which makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.

If you recall the “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:1 – 9, 18 – 23) you will remember it is about a farmer who spreads his seeds and they fall in four different places: John 1:38

  • The path
  • The rocky ground
  • Among the thorns
  • The rich soil

The only seed that flourished was the seed that fell onto the rich soil. All the rest produced nothing. God is the sower, the seed is his love for us, given to us when he creates each of us. We all have this love and wisdom, but so many of us lose it. Why? Because we are going after the wrong things. Instead of keeping the end in mind, the next life, we are too focused on this life. This leads to us spending all our effort collecting material things, getting more and more “stuff”. And like the seed that falls among the thorns, we begin to grow in Jesus but soon the thorns choke us out. Some of the thorns are listed above in the paragraph from the Catechism.

Where do these thorns and weeds come from? We only need to look at Matthew 13:37 – 39:

He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man. the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil.”

Satan is the one who comes along and sows the weeds. We don’t see him, we don’t hear him, but he is there. He sows the seeds of temptation in us, things like greed, lust, envy, pride, and this leads us to sin. If we let these weeds grow, like in the first parable the good seed won’t grow, it will eventually die, it will not bear any fruit.

But the good news is that this doesn’t have to be. Unlike the man in the second parable, we don’t have to wait until the weeds have grown before we get rid of them. We are able to tell them apart as soon as they begin to come out of the ground. Even when they are fully grown it is not too late to pull them out. And like the weeds in my little garden, they will come back, but the more you pull them, the less they return. They may never completely stop growing and coming back, just like Satan, but you can keep ahead of them. We need to catch them early enough before they take over.

When Jesus asks where we are going listen when he says “Come and you will see.” (John 1:39)

The Pursuit of Happiness

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Here is a question for you on this day after Independence Day. How do you define the “Pursuit of Happiness?” What is your definition of happiness? pursuit of happiness More

Don’t Worry – Be Happy

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I haven’t written about any quotes from my spiritual friends lately so here we go. Today I went back to my old friend St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. He is talking about something I think we can all use more of – Serenity.

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Stop, Look and Listen

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Back in the day when railroads first came onto the scene, the railroads would post signs at crossings that read “Stop, Look and Listen.” The idea was to get a person to stop at the crossing, look both ways and then listen as an extra precaution. Why? Because it just might stop you from walking in front of a train, the results of which are never good.

Every morning I try to read the daily Mass readings and a reflection on them. If I don’t have time to read them I try to listen to a podcast of them (Great app here). I noticed the other day that many times when I do this, I am not really paying full attention, I am usually doing at least one other thing at the same time. Maybe checking email, listening to the news (on Catholic radio of course). (Yes I sometimes listen to other radio but honestly I really do get fed up with the mainstream media, but that is for another post on another day.) I notice when I am done, I hardly remember what I read, sometimes I cant even remember what the reading was.

In today’s world we spend all day “multitasking”, distracted by all the gadgets we just have to have. We have been sold on the fact that our lives are so much easier and better now that we have cell phones, laptops, notebooks, iPhones, and on and one. Do all these things really make out lives better? I say no, they only make our lives more stressful. Is that email really that important? The text? The tweet? The Facebook post?

As C.S. Lewis writes in “The Screwtape Letters
” talking about Hell:

“…no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to…(music and silence) We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” – C.S. Lewis “Screwtape Letters, Chapter 22

Satan wants to fill our world with noise, noise so we can’t hear God talking to us, noise so we don’t have time to think about Him, noise so we don’t have time to reflect. Noise and distraction is what Satan wants. He wants to keep us from God. Which brings us back to the railroad sign.

We need to Stop, Look and Listen. We need to take time to stop everything and look around us, listen to the quiet, and try to find God. Look around at all He has giving us. Here in New England our leaves have completed their annual color change from green, to oranges, yellows and reds, how many noticed? Did any of us stop to take the time to look at them and appreciate this miraculous change or did you only think “I don’t have time to rake all these up”? Have you shut everything down and just listened? Do you hear God talking to you or only Satan and his minions?

We need to take time to “Stop. Look and Listen” every day. Look around and be thankful for what you have, believe me there are plenty of people out there who have more problems than you do or who are struggling more than you are. Take the time to listen to God, He speaks to us in very many ways, but we won’t hear unless we listen.

Stop, Look and Listen or you just might get hit by a train.

Looking for more great Catholic reading? Wait, I am not saying my writing is great, that certainly wouldn’t be humble. Check out these links:

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The Door Story

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A few posts ago I wrote about the recent deaths of two of my cousins. I also mentioned that one of them was the daughter of an uncle who passed away at a bad time in my life and there was a story of an answered prayer that goes along with the day of his funeral. I am not sure if I have relayed it or not on here, if so, forgive the repeat. One of the reasons I so strongly believe that God speaks to us is because of this story. I always refer to it as the “Door” story.

It goes way back to an incident from the early eighties when life wasn’t going all that good. I was drinking heavily, not running my father’s business like I should, I was committing adultery with a young woman who worked for me, basically making a mess of things, breaking lots of commandments. As I mentioned, one of my uncles had passed away and I left work to attend the funeral. I remember kneeling in the pew before the mass and looking up at the crucifix and saying:

“God, I know I haven’t been a really good person, and I probably don’t deserve anything from you, but Lord I am asking you for something now. I need help, my life is fucked up and I need your help. I can’t promise anything but Lord, send me some kind of sign, tell me what do do.”

This was a time when I had distanced myself from the Church, I had never really learned anything about my faith, although I did believe in God. But as so many my age, I had decided I knew better than the church and would pick and choose what I would believe. I would follow some of the church’s teaching and disregard the teachings I didn’t like.

After the funeral, I went back to work. There was a door which we used to enter into the back room of the building, separate from the customer entrance. As I reached for the handle, the door opened and coming out of the door was the man who I had basically replaced as the manager of the store. He had left and opened his own small store in the next town over from me. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic and gambler and ran his business into the ground. He had stopped by to tell me he had closed his business and wanted me to cash in some food stamps, which he had been taking illegally. (Yes I did cash them.) But what I remember most was seeing him when the door opened. I can only describe him as a ghost, his face was gray and drawn, eyes sunken in, a broken man. Even though I knew it was his fault, I had been hearing all kinds of stories about him, including from my then wife who had been working for him for awhile, about taking three hour lunches, coming back drunk, loud and boisterous card games at the store, while it was open, I felt bad. But going back to work I didn’t give it another thought.

That night I couldn’t sleep. Every time I would close my eyes, I would see his face coming through the door. That face and the look of defeat, beaten down, failure. It wasn’t until about dawn when it hit me as to why I kept seeing his face, this was the sign God was sending me. God was telling me if I continued in this way, I would be in the same place in a short time. (Many years later when I began my journey back to God, I had a different, more accurate interpretation of this dream, but it still was my “sign”.) I stopped drinking, I concentrated on my work, paid attention to my family, at least for awhile. I went back to my old ways, then would quit again, and then go back. This is another story for another time. The point is God sent me the sign I asked for, and it was the door opening for me.

A few years ago when I was first exploring this whole God thing, I thought about this incident. While I had always thought that the “sign” was seeing this beaten down man when the door opened and seeing myself the same if I didn’t change, God actually was giving me another sign, another message. And as He so often does he gave me the message through a scripture passage.

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7: 7 – 12

What God had really been telling me was that I had knocked (my prayer) and He had opened the door. I believe the door was, and still is, a symbol for several things. In this instance it meant I needed to enter this door, follow Jesus, learn what He taught, and follow Him. This was the door He was opening for me.

I wish I had understood this message way back when I first received it but I guess it wasn’t time yet. Had I, I am pretty sure things in my life would have worked out differently than they did, but, if they had maybe I wouldn’t be writing and sharing my faith.

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