Look at me – Here I am

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Here we are, Holy Saturday, and I only kept one of my lenten promises and it wasn’t the one that I was going to write a blog post for each day of lent. I didn’t make the Good Friday “Celebration of the Passion” either. Maybe next year but I will be going to Easter Mass tomorrow morning.  More

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Trust in the Lord

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The last few weeks have been especially hard for me. And I admit they  have been testing my faith. There was a time when these same things would have beaten me but not this time. Why? Because this time, I have faith. I know that God is with me and will give me the strength I need to handle whatever comes my way. More

He Did it Again

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I have to admit that the last few months have been tough on me and especially on my faith. I was beginning to head back down a road that would lead me away from the church. I was losing faith because it seemed like God wasn’t there. And then He did it again…

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It’s No Yoke

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From Panoramia

 

Anyone who grew up in New England probably took a fourth grade field trip to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It is a recreation of a village from the 1830’s with original buildings and artifacts from a time where day-to-day life was, well although not easier, certainly less complicated. As part of this outdoor museum there is a working farm, and on this farm there is a duck, e-i-e-i-o, wait that is another farm. There are oxen on this farm which are used for many purposes, they were pretty much the precursor to modern day tractors.

I remember watching the farmer work a pair of the oxen through the fields, pulling the mower or the tiller or sometimes a wagon. The oxen wore a yoke. This yoke helped the oxen work as a team. Back in the time of Jesus, these yokes would have been made from wood, and hand crafted especially for the ox who would wear it. When you put the yoke on each ox, it would release the burden from the other, this way, the load would be lighter. As the saying goes, two oxen are better than one.

In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus tells us that when we are burdened we should take his yoke, and he will help relieve our burdens. And since it is Jesus who is making the yoke, it will fit perfectly and we won’t even know it is on.

How many times do we feel overwhelmed by life’s burdens and wish we would have help? I know this is where I was for most of my adult life. I know I was burdened every day, worrying about how to pay the bills, my kids, my marriage, all the things that modern culture tells us we need to worry about. My life was all about things and getting more or them, after all I wouldn’t be happy without them, again because our culture said so. I never asked anyone, especially not Jesus to help lighten the burden. I never took the yoke Jesus was offering me and my life greatly suffered from it. Not that my life was all that bad, but as those of you who have read this blog know, I definitely believe it could have been a lot different and better.

I also remember those oxen would also wear blinders, so they couldn’t see what was going on around them, these blinders would eliminate distractions. They might not even realize there was another ox helping them. Now sometimes we shouldn’t be wearing blinders but there are also some times when we do need them. In my case, whenever I write, I have a problem getting distracted. I tend to have either the radio or the TV on, or am talking to the woman I love, or have the internet going and start surfing. This is why I need blinders, to keep me focused. In fact, they might help me stay on topic when I write, like now.

Like with the oxen, blinders will not let us know that there is another in the yoke with us. We won’t even know Jesus is there for us, working with us. He is always there but unless we ask, he won’t help us, well okay, indirectly he still does, I can attest to that, but our burdens won’t be lighter. Until I understood that Jesus was there, right next to me, and more than happy to help, I struggled. When I finally woke up (have I told the story about falling off the back of the truck?) and asked Jesus for his help, my life changed. I am still struggling, but at least I can see the forest for the trees. I know that God has a plan for me, I don’t know what it is but I know there is one, and I am doing my best to discern what it is. As I have written before, I also know what the end goal of life is, I know what I hope is waiting for me, and I am working towards that goal. Whether I reach it or not I don’t know, but I am giving it my best shot.

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” – Matthew 11:28 -30

If you go to Old Sturbridge Village, be sure to visit Saint Anne’s Shrine and Parish, maybe I’ll see you at Mass.

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Where There is a Will

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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

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Who is Walking Beside You

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It has been awhile since I have written a Sunday Bible Reflection, where I take one of the readings from today’s mass and reflect on it, so let me do that today. And I promise there wont be one mention of either abortion or the state of morality (or immorality) in this post. Well other than the one I statement I just made.

Today’s gospel reading was Luke 24: 13 – 35. This is when Jesus appeared to two of the disciples on  the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked near them and followed them but the two disciples didn’t recognize him. He asked them what was wrong and they were surprised he hadn’t heard of the events which had taken place in Jerusalem.

Now, not being a biblical scholar or a theologian there certainly may be a whole lot more to this reading than what I write here, but here is what it says to me. How often do we walk along a road and not realize Jesus is walking along with us? Me? I tend to forget a lot. We don’t recognize him even when he is with us. In my case for many years I shut him out of my life. I never thought about him, I never talked to him, I never read about him, I just went on my way never giving him a second thought. Fortunately, he never gave up on me, he stayed beside me all the time.

The two disciples must have figured that Jesus was dead, and even though he told them he would return. that he would be resurrected, they must not have believed him. I think, if they had, they would have recognized him. They weren’t expecting him because they didn’t believe and they failed to see him when he was there.

I have been reading a lot of literature from the Jesuits. Their founder was St. Ignatius and he believed in finding God in all places. In his Spiritual Exercises he talks about how
God is with us, every minute of every day, we just need to take the time to look for him.

A few weeks ago I had to bring one of my cars to the shop for its annual inspection sticker. I hadn’t been into this place in several years. When I talked to the person behind the counter I asked him how his daughter was. A few years ago, maybe even ten, his daughter was stricken with spinal meningitis and was paralyzed, I believe from the waste down, she was 17 or 18 at the time. He seemed generally surprised that I would ask him about her and his face lit up with both surprise and joy. Especially when he told me she was due any minute to give birth to her second child. Her story could be a post in itself, but the point here is afterwards I realized two things:

1. I made him very happy.

2. Jesus was with me that day.

I thought about it later and realized how much a simple thing can do so much for someone. It was funny how right after that his whole manner seemed to change, not just to me, but to everyone. I knew Jesus had been walking beside me that day.

But then there are days I forget. Lately I have been stressed about many things. Things are tough at work, the editing gigs are slow in coming, but the bills aren’t, and I have been getting that hopeless feeling again. But then today, when I heard the gospel, I realized that Jesus is always beside me. He is always there for me to lean on when I need to. He has been there for me in the past and I know he will be there again now. I just need to continue to look.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink. When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40

The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life

Who am I to Judge

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matthew7_1

In my last post I wrote how I had done something I never had before, gave money to a street person. I wrote how it reminded me of  Matthew 25: 44 – 46 and “What you did for the least…” I have been reflecting even more on this over the last couple of days.

As I said I never did this before, mostly because I figured either the person panhandling was either scamming people or they were going to use the money for something they shouldn’t. The title of the post “There but for the grace of God” was intended as a reminder for me that this could be very well be me, and for a time I was close to this. What I have been thinking abut since then is who am I to judge these people? If it were me who was begging, would I want to be judged? Someone driving by me standing on the corner doesn’t know my story, they don’t know why I would be forced to panhandle, they would make assumptions, just like I have always done.

Too often we are quick to judge, whether it is the panhandler on the corner or the new person at our workplace, we make assumptions based on who knows what. It might be their looks, their clothes, the way they talk, the color of their skin, any number of things we judge someone on, all of which could be wrong. And by doing this, we forget what Jesus said:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” – Matthew 7:1

I don’t know what this person did with the money, it isn’t important. Maybe he bought a bottle, or maybe he bought a meal or maybe he used it to help him out of whatever problem he has gotten himself into. Certainly I hope he made a good decision and used it wisely, but then, who am I to judge?

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