Monday, December 26, 2016

Experience of a Lifetime!

Times does to language in the long run what alcohol does quickly – it slurs words. The word ‘Christmas’ is an example of this. The word is a slur or contraction of Christ’s Mass. Mass of course is the Catholic worship service of God and Christ’s Mass is where we come together to offer the Thanksgiving Sacrifice and celebrate the birth of our Lord. Time has further shortened ‘Christmas’ to ‘Xmas’. ‘X’ comes from the Greek Xi, or Chi, and is used to abbreviate the work Christ.

For a Christian, Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus, the second greatest event in human history. The creator of everything hung up his divinity, took on human flesh, and became one of us to dwell with us and show us through his example how to live in right relationship with God and each other. He did not choose to come forth as a mighty king demanding worship, but as a tiny, fragile baby born in a cave. In the beginning God said let there be light and it was good. Then the Light chose to dwell among us and we, in our great arrogance, have tried to snuff that light out so we can live in darkness.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the Light coming into the world. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas begins with Christ and ends with Mass. Without Jesus this season becomes nothing more than a time of greed and commercialism. People all around the globe, not only children, are excited to see what they will get and many get disappointed when the gifts received don’t match expectation. All over this country there are long lasting grudges between family members over something as small as not receiving a Christmas card from the other. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the birth of the baby God and trample over each other trying to get to the deals on Black Friday.

Today I enjoyed looking at the many posts on Facebook of the way many churches have decorated their sanctuaries to prepare for the coming of the light. Let us prepare Him room so he finds a warm resting place in our hearts and no longer has to lay his head in a manger. Then I came across one that utterly upset me. It was from the Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois. Heartland is the largest non-denominational church in the area and has a large following.

Experience something more this year at a Heartland Christmas!

Great music, videos, sound, lights, and a whole lot of Christmas cheer. No tickets needed…”

Music, videos, sound, lights, and Christmas cheer. All we had was beautiful worship of Jesus. No wonder so many are leaving the conventional faith traditions for Heartland. Nowhere in their post did the word ‘Jesus’ appear. In fact this wasn’t even referred to as worship.

Come to one or all of our 7 experiences this year!”

Worship is about giving to another. Experience is about receiving for the self. Being Christian in today’s age has become more about experience than worship. There is nothing more than Christ in Christmas and all of the great music, videos, sounds, lights, cheer, and all the presents in the world are meaningless if the birthday boy isn’t front and center. If you take Christ out of Christmas you are left with ‘mas’, which in many languages means ‘more’. Without Christ in Christmas you are left wanting more.

Did Christmas morning find you talking about what you got or what you gave? Did you have a great experience or a beautiful worship?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Run, Forrest, Run!

The thing I dreaded most in boot camp was the very first PT test we had to take. I wasn’t worried too much about the pushups or the sit ups. I feared the run. I have never been a runner. I have a long torso and shorter legs and am about as graceful as an albatross on ice skates when I run. I have never had any endurance for running so I avoid doing so whenever possible. The first run we had to do in boot camp was a mile and a half in nine and a half minutes. It was done in formation at a controlled pace.

Our company recruit chief petty officer was Seaman Recruit Brewer from Louisville, Kentucky. He was a man I admired, respected, and thought of as a friend. He gave a speech to the company the night before we were to take the PT test. He told how he would be disappointed with anyone not passing the test. This made me fear the test that much more because I did not want to disappoint this man.

I did ok the first couple laps but then the fatigue and pain set in. I wanted more than anything to quit, to move to the side with the other men who weren’t up to the task. At the back of the company was Seaman Recruit Brewer. He was yelling at the company to keep going, to keep up the pace, not to stop. A few others joined him as we ran. This motivated me to keep going, to push on through the searing pain in my side. My moaning and groaning got increasingly louder with each lap. Those around me tried to quiet my screams fearing one of the instructors would pull me out of the group and fail me. None did.

Brewer’s motivation continued the entire run. We had about ten guys who dropped out unable to finish. I was not among them. Although I screamed in agony over half the run I never quit. I never fell back or out of pace with the company. When I crossed the finish line all of the pain I suffered suddenly vanished and I was awash in a happiness and joy I had never felt before. I didn’t stop running. I couldn’t believe I had made it.

As a Catholic, I pray for the dead. I believe in purgatory. Heaven is the final place for the perfected. Hell is the final place for the condemned. Purgatory is the place where those who will warrant heaven, but are not completely perfected, go to be perfected. If I were to die right now I would die in right relation with the Lord. This means, that as far as I know, I do not have any mortal sins I have not been forgiven of. I do have a laundry list of venial sins racked up. I am not even close to being in a perfected state. I need a period in the fire of God’s love to burn away all that is not perfect within me. Then, and only then, I will be able to see God for what he actually is – perfect love.

When we pray for the dead we pray for those in purgatory. Prayers are offered in love and love is never wasted with God. We become like what Seaman Recruit Brewer was for me; motivation to continue to the fulfillment of the race. Those in purgatory can hear our prayers. They provide strength and inspiration to continue with the perfection. To let go of those stubborn attachments to sin we all have in our lives.  There are many who, through no fault of their own, have no one who is praying for them. They run the race alone and the temptation to quit is great.

Pray for the dead. Your act of love hastens the “time” in purgatory. A perfected person is a Saint living in heaven with God. There they can repay the love you showed them by intercessing directly to Jesus on your behalf. It is the goal of every person to get those they love to heaven. We do it on this side of heaven through our prayers for the ones who have gone before and those who have successfully finished the race do it on that side of heaven for us.
Love is great that way.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be a Gift

There are few things more magical to a young child than waking up on Christmas morning. Indeed, the entire Christmas season is a special time of year. Twinkly lights adorn homes looking like gingerbread houses blinking in the night. Evergreen and cinnamon hang heavily in the air as we watch Frosty, and Rudolph, and Ralphy dream of his Red Rider range model. Children wake at a brisk 6:00am with the energy to put an atomic weapon to shame. They rouse comatose parents who swear they just closed their eyes moments earlier. Then comes the mad dash to the tree and all of the brightly wrapped boxes Santa delivered earlier that night. In the corner sits a Red Rider and Ralphy would be over the moon.

Tis the gift giving season. Once upon a time you used to be able to tell a lot about a person by the way they wrapped a present. If you really cared you took a little more time to do the gift up right. You used heavy paper carefully folded. Just the right amount of tape held the paper in place. The whole package would be wrapped with a ribbon and bow and there would be a neatly printed name tag. Proper gift wrapping is an art form quickly going the way of the rotary telephone. People lack the time and patience needed to give a beautifully wrapped gift. Wrapping paper seems to get thinner every year and now to make things even faster and more convenient you can just plop your present into a gift bag. No muss, no fuss, no problem.

Sadly, far too many people are taking the same approach when they come to worship God. They fail to see themselves as the gift they truly are and are wrapping themselves as such. They believe that God doesn’t care how they dress and all that matters is that they show up. It is the thought that counts after all. This is either complacency or arrogance. Neither is a good thing.

We worship God because he alone is worthy of our worship. We worship God because we love him. He is worthy of more than a present plopped into a gift bag. God is worthy of the extra time it takes to clean up, to put on nicer clothes, to prepare ourselves to be in his presence. When we go to worship we are going to profess our love in front of the creator of all existence. We are not running down to the mega-mart for a loaf of bread.

When we wrap a gift we are putting forth an extension of the love we hold for the recipient. The more we care for that person the more time and care we should take in the wrapping. You wouldn’t present the love of your life with a ring wadded up in dirty newspaper and you shouldn’t present the gift of your love to the Lord in shorts and flip flops.

This does not mean that you have to come dressed in a three pice suit or formal ball gown, not there is anything wrong in dressing that way. It is not so much the clothes you wear as the preparation you put into it. My children have given me gifts wrapped in brown paper bags or newspaper that they are so proud of. It wasn’t that the wrapping was special but the love they put into wrapping it themselves. When we take the time to present ourselves properly to our creator he notices the love we have for him and love is never wasted with God.

You are a gift to God. Show him the love you have for him and wrap yourself just a bit better this advent season.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

World Religions Study - Week Three Assignment - Judaism

Judaism is a religion rich with history and tradition. It centers more on the right way to live for God than in a belief/faith of him. They are God’s chosen people, whom he made covenant with and dwelt among. God gifted the Jews with the Torah, handed down through Moses, to instruct them on how to be in right relationship with God. They are favored by God when they keep covenant fidelity and allowed to suffer when they don’t. They are a people who know what it means to suffer. Throughout their history they have faced slavery, conquest, exile, persecution, and attempts at extinction. The world has done everything it can to destroy God’s chosen people. Yet, through everything God remembers the covenant he made with the tribes of Israel and favors them to this day.

Judaism and Christianity have shared roots in Israel. The waters of our faiths flow from the same source through different branches. Jews are Israel by heritage, Christians through adoption. Many modern Christians have put the emphasis on the faith/belief in Jesus over the instruction on how to have a right relationship with him. Catholicism combines much of the richness and tradition of the Jewish religion with our faith in Jesus. We are a people of the temple who still offer sacrifice. We have our official prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. We believe the Christian Scriptures are the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures just as we believe that Jesus is the living fulfillment of the Torah. One does not abrogate the other, it is fulfilled by it and therefore both are necessary. A fulfillment of something that is unimportant is an unimportant fulfillment. Jesus is important to us therefore the Law has to be important to us. How we understand the Law is what has changed.

Christianity did not abrogate Judaism. It did not end the covenant God made with Israel. For me, if Catholicism did not have Jesus Judaism would be the only other possible choice as a religion. We believe that they are the only people God chose for his own and made an everlasting covenant with. 

Knowing your history is essential in understanding your identity today. We should not look at Judaism as an “outside” religion but more as a brother with whom we have a shared history.

B'Shalom - In peace

Friday, October 28, 2016

God said - man answered

God said, “Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil.”

Man said, “No, we will eat whatever we please.”

God said, “I am your God. You will have no other gods before me.”

Man said, “No, we will worship whomever we please.”

God said, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”

Man said, “No, we will use it as another day to make money.”

God said, “Honor your mother and your father.”

Man said, “No, they are not the boss of me.”

God said, “Do not kill.”

Man said, “No, we will make that a woman’s choice.”

God said, “Do not commit adultery.”

Man said, “No, we will sleep with whom we please.”

God said, “Do not covet your brother’s possessions.”

Man said, “No, it is not fair that he have more than I.”

God said, “Love your neighbor as I have loved you.”

Man said, “No, my neighbor is different from me. I will hate him.”

God said,” I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Man said, “No, we define truth for ourselves. We will live our lives our way.”

And then man removed God from the public square and from public discourse. Man decided that he was god and that God no longer mattered.

Soon man will cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who would like a Skittle?

There has been a lot of hubbub bantered about lately about the United States taking in refugees from war torn countries. One of our candidates for president has advocated for building a wall on our southern border to keep the undesirables out. The same man has used an old analogy about a bowl of candy in regards to the middle east refugees.

As his version of the analogy says the refugees are like a bowl of Skittles. In the bowl of one hundred Skittles there are one or two that are poisonous. If you eat one you will die. Who is brave enough to grab a handful and munch away?

He is correct in as much as there is no perfect way to check every refugee to ensure he or she is a peace loving person who wishes us no harm. People who wish to kill us are going to slip through and innocent Americans will die as a result. We are much safer as a nation if we do not allow any refugees into our country.

It is easy to hate a group of people when you don’t have to look at the person. Instead of Skittles imagine one hundred starving children. These children will die if you do not come to their aid and give them food to live on. One of those children will grow up to be an Adolf Hitler and be responsible for the death of tens of millions of people. Do you allow one hundred children to starve to death in order to save the tens of millions?

A leader of a country has to put the good of the country as first priority. The people have to be protected. The needs of the many out weight the needs of the few or the one. We must do whatever is necessary to protect the tens of the millions from the one. This argument sounds as logically sound as the bowl of Skittles argument and it is just as wrong.

It is never just or acceptable to use an evil act to stop an evil act. The good intent does not negate the evil of the act. For a Christian who honestly follows the teachings of Jesus it is never permissible to allow the ninety-nine to die to prevent the one from doing evil. It isn’t even permissible to allow the one to die to stop the one from doing future evil.

Jesus gave us the corporal works of mercy. As his disciples, we have been told to feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead. Jesus did not say to do these things only for those who wish you well. Jesus said to do these things for all in need, friend and enemy alike.

                Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done for me.” – Matthew 25:45

Do you think Jesus will be accepting of the excuse that we did not provide for the refugees in their time of need simply because there were men with evil intent among them? Would Jesus have eaten the poisoned skittle? A quick glance at a crucifix gives us the definitive answer.

                If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24

If we are true followers of Jesus we have to be willing to eat the poisoned skittle as well. We have to care for all those in need regardless of the intent in their hearts or the actions they have done. If we are to be a moral and just nation, we must recognize the importance and dignity of the individual. A society begins with the individual, not a group. Even a mass murderer has dignity that must be respected.

Jesus prayed for his persecutors and told us to do likewise. He told us to care for all life. Christians throughout this land have a mandate to care for those in need, including our enemies hiding among the innocent or posing as refugees. We have the duty to care for those in need outside of our borders and have been given the means to do so.  If we fail in this mission we will receive justice instead of mercy when we stand accountable before the throne of the Lord.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Do not go gently into that good night.

I sat watching the bonfire with my family. As my children were busily roasting marshmallows my mind began to wonder. A pop in the fire sent embers flying into the night sky. As I watched them rise on the breeze my inner voice spoke up.

“Do you get the point?” came the question in my mind.

“No, Lord,” my thoughts replied. “If you have a point to make please use a sledge hammer as I am quite dense.”


Darkness cannot exist where there is light for the light overcomes the dark. In God we have perfect light. When we reside in God we reside in a place where darkness cannot be. Darkness cannot overcome the light, it retreats from it. Darkness can only exist where once there was light if light fails to shine.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 19 – 20

Another pop; more embers sent skyward.

“Do you get the point?”

As Christians we are like the embers of a fire. We have been sent forth to take the light into the darkness. Even the darkest night gives way to the faintest ember. Every ember has the ability to start a new fire if it finds its way to a favorable location, a location ready to burn. A single ember, burning hot enough, has the ability of setting the world on fire.

No ember burns brighter than the fire that created it. Although thousands of embers are sent skyward, few produce other fires. This does not stop the fire from making embers. Nor does it stop the embers from burning brightly in the darkness.

Likewise, we will not be able to bring every person we meet to a saving knowledge of Jesus. That should not deter us from burning brightly with the love of God. We are called to be the embers in the night. We are called to leave the fire and bring light into the darkness. When we find that we are no longer burning brightly we can return to the fire and be filled with new life.

Go forth little ember. Burn defiantly in the night giving evidence that the fire still blazes and the light has not left this world.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Masterpiece of your Hands

Looking inquisitively at the solid block of marble he picked up his hammer. Placing the chisel to the rock he struck with a gentle force. A small chip of marble arced through the air. Another whack, another chip off the block. One small chip at a time. After more than two years of chipping Michelangelo put down his hammer and chisel, took a step back, and gazed upon his masterpiece, a fourteen foot statue of David made from solid marble.

We all are created in the image and likeness of God. God is the sculptor and each of us is formed by his own hand. Each and every one of us is a masterpiece created by the Father. Each and every one of us is priceless in his sight. Because we are each hand made there isn’t a single one of us the same.

God forms each of us with his own hand. Some of us are like malleable clay easily molded with a gentle touch. Others are like marble requiring repeated whacks with a large hammer. It took Michelangelo two years of strenuous labor through every type of weather to free David from the marble. God works on us continuously through our entire lifetime. We are a masterpiece constantly being changed and improved, much like the Illinois highway system.

God’s work in my life is constantly on-going right up until the point my body breathes its last. Then it returns to the dust from whence it came. The work on my soul continues until that is also made perfect. Again, for some of us our souls are like clay easy to form. Others require a long period of timelessness to perfect.

When our souls have been perfected God gathers the dust of our bodies and breathes new life into it. He then reunites our perfected souls with our newly formed perfected bodies. With all that is not perfect removed we now can dwell with God for eternity in heaven.

I am always amazed at God’s hand in my life. I lived in the shadows just shy of the darkness. God brought me forth from the shadows to the person I am today. This is not something I was capable of myself. People live in darkness because it is easy and it is fulfilling to our animalistic desires. To live in the light takes constant work. It takes discipline. It takes denial to things that seem to feel right. Addiction to darkness is the strongest addiction there is and all other addictions flow from it.

God has given me a vision of the person he wants me to become. That is the most frightening thing in my life, to see where I was and compare it to where I am supposed to go. There is no way I can ever accomplish that on my own. But the Lord knows this and he guides me through every step along the way. He is calling you to a new life as well and stands ready to take you by the hand and walk with you along the way. Will you allow him to guide you?

Whack me again with that hammer, Lord. I am your David waiting to be freed from this marble prison.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Guardian

In 2006 the movie The Guardian was released. It was a movie about the Coast Guard legendary rescue swimmer Ben Randall passing the torch to the next generation. Ben holds all of the Coast Guard’s speed records for swimming as well as most lives saved in the ocean. The class he instructs wonder how many people he has saved. One heard it was two-hundred, another heard three-hundred. No one knows for sure.

Near the end of the movie Jake Fischer, the man who replaces Randall, asks Randall what his true number was. Randall answers, “Twenty-two.” Fischer was taken aback for he expected a much higher number.

“Twenty-two is the number of people I lost, Jake. The only number I keep track of,” Ben Randall says soberly.

When we are baptized we take on the roles of priest, prophet, and king and are given the mission to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus. That is what evangelization does, brings people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

There are a bunch of Christians that believe they do not need a religion or a church. For them the only thing they need is Christ and Christ alone. They do not utilize the tools Jesus gave us to live our lives in an upright fashion or to complete our mission as priest, prophet, and king. Jesus does not want a billion individual relationships. Jesus wants a family. The trinity is a family and Jesus brings us into that family. God wants the same thing every other parent wants – his children to get along and love one another other sacrificially.

There is an idea that when we die we will stand alone before Jesus and we will be judged on all of the things we have done wrong in our lives. In reality we will be judged on our fruits, the good and the bad. Jesus will tell us what our true number is, the number of people we brought to a saving knowledge of Christ in the way we lived our lives. We do not stand before the judge alone. We stand with every person we helped get to heaven. They are the true fruit of our labor.

For those who have a relationship with Jesus alone, their numbers will be small. They will stand alone in judgment. Those who have embraced their true mission as priest, prophet, and king will stand with the family of God, not alone but united with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Save the ones you can Jake. The rest, you've got to let go.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Breath of God

The word used in Holy Scripture for Holy Spirit is pneuma. It is also translated as wind. Wind and Holy Spirit are interchangeable when we read Holy Scripture. In some translations you will read:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.  - Genesis 1:2

In other translations Spirit of God or Holy Spirit will be translated as a mighty wind.

Pneuma has another translation that I prefer over spirit or wind. It is breath. The Holy Spirit is the Breath of God.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Breath of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like the Breath of God, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. - Acts 2:2

What happens when you pass your breath across your vocal cords? Sound is created. If you use your mouth to manipulate this sound words can be formed. In a metaphorical sense what happens when God passes his Holy Breath across his vocal cords?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1: 1-4

From the Father came forth the Holy Breath and he uttered one Word – Jesus.

Father  → Holy Breath → Word ­→ All Creation

Wind is the movement of air. Movement is the action of the substance. The substance of wind is air, therefore, we can think of air as being the very Breath of God.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. -  Genesis 2:7

God breathed into man the Holy Spirit, the pneuma. As long as I have breath within me I have life. When I cease to take in breath I die.

Pneuma = Wind = Breath = Holy Spirit = Life

I am surrounded by and filled with the Breath of God. I can use this Breath to give God all glory, honor, and praise due to him and give blessings to all of his creation. Or, I can use the Breath of God within me to curse, chastise, belittle, or complain. All of these are bore on the Breath of God put within me by God himself.

Words have power. They are more than just mere utterances. Words have power because they are formed and carried by the Breath of God. Bad words can wound deeper than arrows flung by a toxophilite.  At the same time words can heal better than the most skilled doctor. Choose your words wisely. Recognize the power that carries them forth. Honor God in the way that you use his Holy Breath.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Light in the Darkness

As the saying goes, “You have to fight fire with fire.”


You cannot fight hate by being hateful.

You cannot fight intolerance by being intolerant.

You cannot fight discrimination by discriminating.

You cannot fight violence with violence.

You cannot fight injustice with revenge.

You cannot fight racism by being racist.

You cannot fight a fire by adding more fuel to it.

You cannot fight evil with evil. When evil is returned for evil you don’t have less of it, you have evil squared.

Only love can counter hate.

Only love can counter intolerance.

Only love can counter discrimination.

Only love can counter violence.

Only love can counter racism.

Only love can counter evil.

Darkness wins when no light shines. Darkness cannot suppress even the smallest candle.

Do you want to end the hate, the intolerance, the discrimination, the violence and the racism in America and the world? Do you want to end the evil brother commits against brother?

Then it is time to stand in solidarity with one another, not separation. It is time to stand in love with one another, not in hate.

I am the candle standing defiantly in the windy night. I know I do not stand alone. Stand with me and together our light can chase away the darkness.

When your brother extends a slap in hate extend your hand in love. When he curses you bless him. Return his injustice with mercy and his words of racism with words of praise.

Do not allow your heart to be poisoned by his hate but allow his heart to be healed by love. Love is truly the only thing that will heal our world. If we cannot learn to live with love for one another we will surly die alone in our hate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

...and to the Republic for which it stands, [words omitted], with liberty and justice for all....

It becomes easy to demand change for something when we do not understand its origin or why it came into being. After every mass shooting we see the knee jerk reaction to ban guns and do away with the Second Amendment to our Constitution. No one needs military styled weapons for hunting, home defense, or recreation. In that regard they would be absolutely correct. But the Second Amendment does not protect weapons used for hunting, home defense, or recreation. The Second Amendment protects the firearms used by the ordinary citizen to defend against our God given rights from being abused or taken away by a tyrannical government. That purpose has not changed and when Government tries to infringe upon that right they have broken the pact they made with the people and by definition have become tyrannical.
We see a like argument going on with our Pledge of Allegiance to this country. Since 1954 atheists have fought the battle to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge arguing everything from inclusivity to the separation of church and state. Memes abound on social media encouraging people to return to the pledge as it was originally written before “under God” was added to it. It becomes easy to demand change to something when we do not know its origin. The pledge we say today has actually been changed many times. Atheists would never want to go back to the pledge as it was originally written.
The original Pledge of Allegiance, now known as the Old Pledge was created by Colonel George Balch and was;
                We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!
It was later changed to the “formula of allegiance” and was recited as;
I pledge allegiance to my flag, and the republic for which it stands. I pledge my head and my heart to God and my country. One country, one language and one flag[
Along came Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister and Christian socialist. Bellamy did not like Balch’s pledge believing it was too juvenile and lacking dignity. He authored his pledge in 1892 and it read;
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This became known as the “New Pledge”. Notice, there is no mention to God in this version. There is also no mention to the United States of America either. “My flag” was changed to “The Flag of the United States” in 1923. It wasn’t until 1942 that the Pledge of Allegiance was officially recognized by Congress as our pledge.
In 1948 Louis Albert Brown initiated the addition of the words “under God” to be added to the pledge. President Lincoln had included these words in his Gettysburg address. In 1951 the Knights of Columbus also began to include these words when they recited the pledge. They began to petition the government to officially include these words into our National Pledge.
In 1954 President Eisenhower urged Congress to make the change in response to the growing Communist threat in that day. Congress did and “under God” has been in our pledge ever since.
It begs the question; are we still one nation under God? We have done everything we can to remove God from the public square. Children can’t pray in schools anymore. It is becoming harder to find a graduation ceremony with a blessing in it. Church attendance is in a steady decline and lines outside a confessional are short to nonexistent. For far too many people the only time the name of God is involved is at that magical moment in a place designed for slumber. We have gone from having a personal relationship with God to having a private relationship with him to having a long distance relationship where we send him a card at Christmas. Has God become irrelevant?
You could question if we are still one nation. This country has not been this far divided since the Civil War. Politics, abortion, religion, gun rights, global warming, all sources of the great divide. Red state, blue state, conservative, liberal. Everything we do separates us from our brother. Neither side is completely right and neither side is completely wrong but neither side is willing to work with the other for the real common good. Is man-made, man controllable, global warming a real thing? Probably not but drinking and breathing toxins are no good for anyone either. We all have a common interest in taking care of this planet. We should be able to work together to do so, not divide and fight each other.
A house divided cannot stand. The devil loves division and does everything he can to get us to separate ourselves. We either find a way to live together or we will die alone. God bless America, he shed his grace on thee. How long do you think God will continue to shed his grace on America when we have deported him from our borders and evicted him from our hearts?
Forty years I endured this generation. They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways. So I swore in my anger they shall not enter into my rest. – Psalm 95
Our forty years is about over.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Food For The Poor

Matthew 25: 34-40

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Today we had a missionary priest come and talk to us about Food For The Poor. This is a non-denominational Christian charity that lives out the Corporal Works of Mercy and truly cares for the least of our brothers and sisters. His homily was heartfelt and reminded us of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. His words were sobering. For many of us to be poor means not having the latest Iphone. To the people he ministers to poor means not having any food to eat today. Poor means only having dirty, feces contaminated water to drink.

We see these ploys for our money all of the time. Sally Struthers pulls at our heart strings with pictures of dirty, forgotten children is some foreign land. Closer to home we have homeless living in boxes and people on street corners holding cardboard signs looking for hope. Social media is full of memes about refugees and our own homeless veterans. Why should you care? Why should you give any of these beggars the time of day?

The truth is that God provides for all people. Some he provides exactly what they need to survive. Others he provides an abundance to. If he has given you an abundance he is providing you to someone in greater need. Do you respond to his call? Do you provide for another where you can or do you hoard the abundance for yourself?

I opened my eyes as if waking to a new day. The light was tranquil and warm, brighter than usual but not so much that it hurt the eyes. It was strange because I could not see the sun or any other form of illumination. The light didn’t come from any one direction. It just was.  I was dressed in a tunic so white that it seemed to almost glow with a brilliant radiance.

I looked around me. I was outside standing in front of a soaring fence with a massive gate made of ivory and gold. Beyond lay an immense palace like none I have ever seen.  It reached up into the clouds and ran left and right as far as the eye could see. The whole thing appeared to be made of gold and shimmered in this light. Each story was decorated in ornate statues and carvings. Thousands of windows lined every level.

To the right, on my side of the fence, there was a massive building that had a stone roof and no walls. It looked similar to a stable. The roof was supported by large stone pillars that reminded me of the giant sequoia in Yosemite National Park. There were hundreds of tables all aligned in a row under the stone ceiling. Each table had four chairs all on the same side facing away from the palace. Looking outward from the tables there was a stone railing that ran the entire length of the building.

Then people started to appear around me as if they were walking out of a mist. Each was dressed as I was, in a pure white tunic that glowed. Their faces also seemed to radiate light. Although we all were very close to one another no one spoke a word. We gathered and looked longingly at the golden palace beyond the gate. We must have numbered a thousand or more.

After a time, a man in a golden robe appeared. He was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. He welcomed us and told us not to be afraid. He invited us to a feast that was to be served in the stone building to our right. We all went and took a place at a table. Soon servants appeared carrying platters with the most mouth-watering foods upon them. One of these platters was placed before each person.

Before we began to eat I noticed another group of people gathering on the opposite side of the stone railing. These people we not like us. Their tunics didn’t glow and their faces weren’t radiant.  Their tunics were dirty and a dingy gray. Their faces were gaunt, eyes sunken and dismal. These poor wretched people reminded me of the pictures of the Jews in the concentration camps I had seen. They looked at us sadly almost pleading for our attention, but not a word was uttered.

The man in the gold robe gave the ok and our multitude ravenously attacked their platters. I grabbed a chicken leg off of my platter, one of my favorites, and brought it to my lips. But then I looked out at the other multitude looking so desperately back at me.  I put the chicken down and looked at them. Then I looked left and right at the people seated beside me. They all were so busily devouring their food that they couldn’t cast even the smallest glance at the people along the railing.

I sat for a while and thought about this. If I were dead would I really have a need for food? If this were heaven wouldn’t there be enough for everyone? I stood up from the table and grabbed my platter. I walked to the railing and handed my platter out to the people. Each took a piece of food and passed the platter to another. I returned to my place at the table and sat with nothing before me. The people to the right and left of me shielded their platters, fearful that I would try to take some of their food.

When the feast had ended and everyone had eaten their fill the tables and platters looked to have more food on them than before we had begun. Surely this food could be given to the starving masses on the other side of the stone railing. I looked towards them but, to my surprise, they were all gone. There was no sign that there had ever been a crowd there. My empty platter lay on the ground.

We rose and started exiting the great hall one by one. The man in the golden robe was at the end of the line. He said something to each person as they exited, then turning right they would wonder off in the direction of where the starving people had gathered. I watched them as they walked away. The glow of their tunics died out and they took on a dingy gray color. The radiance of their face faded. Their eyes started to recede. You would have never known that they just eaten the feast of their lives because they quickly started looking like the staving crowd that had been watching us.

I became very fearful for soon it would be my turn to leave this place. I was almost in a panic as I approached the man in gold. The person two ahead of me wondered off to the right. Then the one before me did as well. Now it was my turn and I wanted to run, hide under a table. The man in gold put his arm around me and we began to walk together toward the gate of gold and ivory.

“Have no fear.” The man said to me. “For you have received the kingdom of heaven.”

“What of the others?” I asked, still afraid.

“They have received their reward.” He replied calmly.

Continuing he said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me. All of you have been saved because of your faith in me but only you will redeemed this day because you have heard my command and have followed it.”

“And what becomes of the others?” I asked.

“They have been spared from the fires of Hell but they will not receive the kingdom until someone like you loves them enough to feed them the way you have done for these brothers.” He answered.

“How often does that happen?” I dared continue.

“Rarely one in a thousand will put the needs of others before their own desires.” He concluded.

As he finished his reply we were joined by a group of about thirty people led by a man I barely could recognize. Before me, in a glowing white tunic and radiant face, stood the man I had handed my platter of food to.  He embraced me with a hearty hug and a kiss on each cheek.

The man in gold motioned toward the palace and the now open gates. “Go inside. I have prepared rooms for all of you.”


Why should you care? Because Jesus has told you to care. He has told you to love your neighbor. To love is to will the best for someone. Any organization that serves the poor is worthy of your support. It doesn’t have to be this one. This is one of many. None of them can do it without generous contributors. If you have no money and you send a dollar you are a generous contributor. God will multiply that dollar as he multiplied the loaves and fishes. All you have to do is have faith. Give Food For The Poor a look and if you are able to help them do so. If you are unable to help them help someone in need even if all you can do is offer someone a warm smile and a hello. Recognizing their dignity and seeing them as a person is the first step to loving them.

Be a blessing to everyone you meet and allow them to be a blessing to you.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Window to the Soul

Matthew 6:22

“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

A related saying is that the eye is the window to the soul. The saying means that you can see into the soul of another through their eyes. Windows go both directions and the soul can only see what passes in through them.

The saying, “You are what you eat.” is true for the body. If you constantly eat a diet of garbage you will have poor health and probably a short life full of suffering. Garbage in, garbage out. Then it is also true that, “You are what you see and hear.” is true for the soul. If you feed your soul corrupt things you will have a corrupt soul. No one raises roses by planting thistle seeds. The same concept applies – garbage in – garbage out.

The brain is the world’s greatest super computer. It is constantly taking in information and storing it for later use. This information loaded into our memory banks is used to make decisions and drives the way we live our lives. When you load your mind with violent images from video games and movies or the dehumanizing images from pornography it changes the way you walk through life. It changes the way you see your fellow human beings. It is insidious in the way it works. The devil knows that he can’t get people to sin in one big step. He gets us to change one tiny step at a time over a long period of time. He gets us to accept the next step by making us numb to the step we are at.

How was the Grand Canyon formed? Was it through a cataclysmic event? Did a meteor crash to earth carving out the great valley? The Grand Canyon was formed by a trickle of water over millennia. Water – soft, cool water flowing over rock. It ate away at the rock one particle at a time. This is how sin works on the soul, one small step at a time.

60 years ago swear words were not used or permitted in movies. Today some of the most popular movies have a swear word uttered very seven seconds. Get numb to hearing one we will use three. Get used to three we will use nine. Get used to nine and the sky is the limit. Every aspect of our culture has morally eroded in this fashion, from how we speak to each other to the clothing we somehow find appropriate to wear to worship God.

C.S. Lewis said that the body and soul live so closely to one another that they share their diseases. What we do with our bodies we do with our souls. What we allow our souls to see will determine what we do with our bodies. When one is sick both suffer. No one becomes holier by watching or listening to unholy things. A body that has been fed nothing but junk food can heal once the diet has been changed. The same is true for the soul. Even the most porn addicted soul can be brought back to holiness by changing what the soul sees.

Parents, do you want to have good and holy children? If you do it is your responsibility to monitor what they watch and listen to. Just as you wouldn’t allow your children to consume nothing but Twinkies and Big Macs you can’t allow them to consume a constant stream of violence and pornography in what they see, listen to, and play. If you want roses plant rose seeds. If you don’t care the world will plant thistles for you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The image and likeness of God.

We live in such crazy times. We have lost our way and are walking down a road to lunacy that will be difficult to come back from. We have always identified ourselves by our attributes. I am a white, American, Catholic male. That paints a pretty good picture as to the group I am in but it tells you almost nothing about the person I actually am. We have gone to an extreme by attaching our self-worth on these attributes we have absolutely no control over. Every minority has their own “pride” month. We are allowing ourselves to be separated from one another based upon unchangeable attributes like skin color, sexual orientation, and genitalia.

The civil rights fight that ran from the Civil War through the sixties was about one group of people with an unchanging attribute trying to get another group of people to see and accept them as people. They weren’t looking for special treatment. They were looking for equal treatment. Martin Luther King’s dream was that his children would someday be seen as Americans who were black and not as blacks who were American. See the person first, not the attribute of that person.

Many in today’s culture have forgotten that lesson and are demanding to be accepted according to their attributes. We are regressing, re-segregating ourselves into like groups. Then the groups demand to be respected above other groups. How many stories are out there of bakers or florists being sued because they would not bake a cake or make flower arrangements for a same sex marriage? The same sex couple uses the same argument the blacks did when they fought for their civil rights. It was wrong for a restaurant to deny service to a black person or to require them to sit in a special section just because of their skin color, therefore, it is also wrong for a baker to deny the same sex couple a cake for their wedding day simply because they are of the same sex. The argument sounds logical on the surface but is not really the same.

Blacks were denied service because people did not see them as fully human. They did not view them as people with equality to themselves. This is not the truth with a same sex marriage. The baker is not denying service because the baker believes that the same sex couple are not fully human. The baker is refusing service because the activity goes against their conscience and they do not wish to participate in it. This is not discrimination but exercise of conscience. Now, if the baker had a brick and motor store and denied the same sex couple to enter that store because they are gay, that would be discrimination that should never be tolerated.

The devil is very crafty. A house divided cannot stand. He is doing everything he can to get us to divide ourselves. Once divided our culture cannot stand and we will look upon our brother with hate in our heart. Because I fear what is different I cannot look at you, who are different from me, with anything but fear and hate. I cannot see the person you are because I cannot see past the attributes of the person you are. These are truly the devil’s times.

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1: 26-27

So what does it mean that God created us in his image? What is God? God is love and from that love flows justice and mercy. We were created in the image and likeness of love. Not just any type of love. We were created in the image and likeness of agape, sacrificial love. Love is greatly misunderstood today because the word love has been redefined and abused. For many love is a feeling. A feeling is directed inward. It is something inside me. Sacrificial love is never directed inward. Agape is not a feeling, it is an action. It is to will the best for a person despite what is best for the self. I do not have to be attracted to you, to lust after you, desire you, or even know you to love you. All I have to do is to will the best for you, to put your genuine wellbeing first and I will have loved you.

If we all were created in the image and likeness of God we all are a reflection of God. When I look at you I look at the face of God. When I look at you I shouldn’t see a black or a white, a straight or a gay, a male or a female. I should see a person with God endowed dignity deserving of my love and respect. This is the way every Christian is called to treat every person, Christian or not, that they come in contact with. We are not to espouse hate or division. Let not an evil word leave my lips.

Jesus was God. Jesus hung up being God to become one of us, to die for us. He freely chose to die for what someone would consider the lowliest among us. If God, the creator of everything, respected the lowliest among us enough to give his life for that person I owe that person the same level of respect. Jesus loves the homeless, the poor, the drug addicted, the homosexual, the transgender, the Muslim, and the atheist. If Jesus loves these people and willfully died for them I must love them as well. Their worth as people is tied directly to their dignity and not to their attributes.

Do not give in to the devil’s attempts to divide us and pit us against ourselves. Love your brother as you love God, with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, and your whole being. Stop referring to people and grouping them by their attributes. They are not black people or white people or gay people or Muslim people or conservative people or liberal people. They are people, people made in the image and likeness of God. Love them first.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Velare....oh, oh, oh!

What do these things have in common?

If you said that they are all veils you would be correct. The first is a wedding veil, the second a chalice veil, and the third is a burka, the traditional covering for a Muslim women.

What then is the purpose of a veil? The Latin root of the word veil is vela meaning a cloth, sail, or covering. To veil is velare which means to cover with a cloth or sail. And that is exactly what a veil is supposed to do – to cover.

We veil that which is sacred, or, at least we used to.

A bride is sacred to her soon-to-be husband. She used to be a virginal and pure gift. Surprisingly few are anymore. The veil is lifted at the altar to ensure that the person the groom is marrying is the actual bride he desires. In Holy Scripture we read about Jacob. Jacob falls in love with Rachel. He swears himself into seven years of slavery with Rachel’s father in order to gain her hand in marriage. The day comes and Jacob takes his veiled bride as his wife. In the morning the veiled bride turns out to be none other than Rachel’s sister Leah. Jacob commits to another seven years as a slave in order to marry Rachel as well. From that day all men lift the veils of their soon-to-be brides to make sure they are marrying the right person.

At Mass, until the consecration, the chalice is veiled. The chalice is a sacred object for it holds the actual blood of Christ. The chalice veil also symbolizes the Holy Spirit. In the Orthodox Church the veil is waved over the chalice when removed to symbolize this to a greater extent. It is a beautiful tradition far too many priests have abandoned.

To many in the western culture a burka symbolizes a man’s dominance and is thought to reduce a woman down to nothing more than a possession. The burka, in reality, is nothing more than a veil covering something thought to be sacred. This is taken to extreme with the entire body being covered and only the eyes being seen. I personally feel that we can learn a lesson from the Muslims here. Before you start your hate letter, dear reader, please finish the blog….

The Catholic Church tradition has always been that women be veiled at Mass. This comes from Holy Scripture where Saint Paul instructs us that a woman should be veiled when she prays. The Church never stopped this tradition. If just fell out of practice on its own.

Actually, it was forced out of practice by the masculinists. Masculinists? Huh? This country has never had a true feminist’s movement. A feminist’s movement would exalt the virtues, qualities, and greatness of being a woman. Instead what we have masquerading as a feminist movement is an attempt to make women equal to or greater than their male counterparts. There is a misguided belief that a woman only has value if they can do everything a man can do. The early feminist movement worked hard to cast off man as head of the family and establish a free and empowered woman who doesn’t require a man for anything.

Woman, of course, is the greater of the two species and has been bestowed with a gift no other creature, including angels, have been given. Women bring about new life. This is a feat that a man will never be able to do naturally no matter how much he self identifies as a woman. This gift is so great that it makes all women sacred by their very nature.

This did not keep some women from turning their backs on their sacredness and led some to call for all women to burn their bras and free themselves from male tyranny. Did such tyranny exist? Of course it did and it will always exist where people put selfish desire over that of the love for God. But in the self interest of being better than a man woman lost such virtues as sacredness, modesty, and chastity. Chivalry didn’t die. Those who we were being chivalrous for disappeared.

We veil that which is sacred and now women wear as little as they can get away with. They have ditched the veil and now come to Mass wearing outfits that are smaller than what a typical bathing suit was forty years ago. There is no wonder why women are viewed and treated like objects today. We in the west view a covering, a burka, as a sign of ownership of an object yet our lack of a covering have made us the very objects we detest. There is no surprise that fewer and fewer people get married and even fewer stay in a monogamous marriage for life. We live in a throw away culture where we discard objects that have outlived their usefulness. This now includes people.

One of the things that must be done if we are to become the great nation we once were is that we have to restore the sacred nature of women. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if more women would start wearing veils to Mass again? Most women I know won’t even consider it because of what others will think of them. Only nuns, eighty-year-old women, and crazy shut-in cat ladies wear veils to Mass. That’s not me…

I have but one question for those who say that. Whom do you go to Mass for? If it is God wouldn’t you want to be the most sacred person you can be for him? If it is for those seated around you, you are there for the wrong reason.

Chastity and modesty are virtues this world desperately needs returned. If we veil that which is sacred be sacred in what you choose to wear. Short shorts and miniskirts make you an object of lust not a sacred temple to the Lord.