Monday, August 14, 2017

It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini...


I had a friend tell me that he came home from Mass the other day offended and deeply hurt. His adult daughter paid him a visit and they decided to attend the anticipatory Mass together. The problem was that his daughter was dressed in clothes that would make Daisy Duke blush. During the sign of peace an older parishioner took a hold of his daughter’s hand tightly and said, “You should be ashamed of how you are dressed.”

“The lady didn’t look too happy with me either,” he said. When I asked what he was wearing he said that he had on his favorite cut off shorts, tank top, and flip-flops. “Who are they to judge? God doesn’t care what we wear. He’s just happy that we came.”

Personally, I find that to be one of the most arrogant statements I hear. The creator of all existence is overjoyed because we managed to carve out forty-five minutes of our day to go sit in church. My friend’s daughter is getting married at the end of the year. I asked if it would be ok for me to wear my cutoffs and tank top to her wedding.

“What? No it wouldn’t be ok. It is her special day. You’d ruin the pictures.”

For far too many people Mass is a place where they go to get. They get to listen to good music. They get to hear a sermon that makes them feel good about themselves. The get communion. They don’t see anything wrong in wearing beach attire when it is all about them and what they get.

But Mass for a Catholic isn’t about receiving. It is about giving. It is the highest form of worship we have. Mass is where heaven and earth come together as one and we are taken through space and time back to the foot of the cross at Calvary so that Jesus crucifixion is made present in real time to us. When we go to receive communion we don’t go to get a host but to give our lives to our Savior who is giving his to us. It is the most awe-filled solemn event a human can have on this side of heaven. Unfortunately for far too many Mass has lost its awesomeness.

Dress is one area where I think our Muslim brothers have an advantage over us. No, I am no supporter of the full blown burka but I do admire the respect they have for a woman’s body. See, we veil what we hold sacred. Brides wear veils. Our chalices get veiled. The Holy of Holies was veiled. What we hold sacred we cover. They take it to the extreme by covering their women from head to toe so nothing can be seen. What does it say for our culture when women, when our daughters wear as little as they possibly can?

“You should be ashamed of how you are dressed.”

My friend took that to mean “how you are dressed for church”. I am sure the parishioner really meant “dressed in public”. Where is your sense of decency? Where is your respect for yourself? If you hold your body to be a sacred temple of the Lord why do you show it off as if you dance around a pole for a living?

And then to show up for the most holy event in a Catholic’s life dressed as if you were headed to a pool party?

My friend should not have been offended. Instead he should have been humbled and thankful that this person cared enough about his daughter to actually say something to her. Love takes on many forms. Not all of them make you feel warm and fuzzy.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Boiled Frogs


Jake was a high school superstar. He was strong and athletic, excelling in both baseball and football. He took second at state in wrestling. He got a full ride scholarship to a good university and graduated four years later with a degree in structural engineering. By his tenth year class reunion he had landed a good paying job and was enjoying the fruits of his hard work.

By his fifteen year class reunion Jake’s weight had ballooned up to almost three-hundred and fifty pounds. The most athletic thing he did was enter eating contests on the weekend. He had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If he had ever checked his blood sugar levels he would have known that he was already considered diabetic. He was starting to have many other health issues and his classmates were worried.

At his twenty year class reunion Jake was sporting some new body art. He had an eight inch scar that ran down the center of his chest from where he had open heart surgery to correct a clogged ticker. Jake complained of increasing shortness of breath during a physical so his doctor sent him for a stress test that lead to a quadruple bypass. Jake was lucky. The danger was found before any serious damage was done.

Jake’s classmates barely recognized him at their twenty-five year class reunion. He had shed the weight and was now a trim 182. He started an exercise program and was looking good. They all gathered round to listen to him tell his story.

“How did you lose all the weight Jake? What’s your secret?”

“I went on a plant based diet,” was his reply. You would have thought that Jake had three eyes by the looks he received.

“You’re one of those?" someone asked.
“I could never give up mu bacon and burgers,” another added.

“You’ve never had to look death in the face,” was Jake’s reply.

How often are we like Jake’s classmates? How often do we willfully choose something that we know is bad for us? Some drink. Some smoke. Some of us eat too much of the wrong things. All of us sin. Whereas all of the other activities kill the body, sin kills the soul. Much like the other activities there are many of us who don’t know what is bad anymore. We have become increasingly numb to depravity.

There was a time when decency wouldn’t allow a toilet to be shown on TV.  Now even the commercials show all kinds of explicit material that used to be reserved for rated R movies. The family hour has gone the way the VCR and eight track tapes. Our frog had been thoroughly boiled. The water in the pot is at a full roll and we are kicked back and comfortable.

Many of us won’t get a clue until death comes knocking on our door. By then it will be too late to make a life saving change. All we will be left with is the parachute of God’s mercy. Let us pray that we will be smart enough to pull the rip cord in time. An unopened chute kills the sky diver.

Instead, let us be more like Jake. Let us realize that the way we live our lives is actually stealing our lives out from under our feet. Let us make the difficult choice to walk away from the things we think we need and love and live as we were made to live. Let us say no to temptation and yes to God.

That burger may taste good today but it isn’t good enough to go through open heart surgery and suffer debilitating health problems over. That sinful action may be enjoyable now but sure isn’t worth facing the fires of hell for. Jake had to relearn how to eat right. He didn’t do this on his own. He sought the advice of a nutritionist. Likewise, those who have only known sin can’t change on their own. They need to seek advice as well. Where a nutritionist can teach you to correctly feed your body the Church can tech you to feed your soul. Make an appointment today and start the healing!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Invited to Candidacy


On Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 10:00am my wife and I, dressed in our Sunday best, entered a classroom at the Rockford Diocese administrative building. We were met by smiling faces of the eight people who made up the candidacy scrutiny board. For roughly the next half an hour we answered questions about our spiritual growth, how the Aspirancy had gone, and the types of ministries I might be interested in pursuing. Then it was off to the chapel to wait as they deliberated.

This scrutiny was much different than the first. In the first the devil latched on to my anxiety and had me convinced that I would be passed over based on my psychological exam alone. I was getting angrier the longer the process took and really considered not even showing up for the scrutiny at all. This time I was at peace. I was not worried about making it through. If it was God’s will it would happen and if it wasn’t he would make it clear to me. I was not fearful of the questions. God would give me the words that needed to be said. Plus, I was able to brag a little about my class, some of the best men I have known. We challenge each other in the best ways possible and inspire each other to be better. I have been truly blessed to be among them. It has made me a much different person.

Father Ken came into the chapel with a smile and an envelope in his hand. The board had decided favorably and I was officially invited to candidacy. Now I and my wife had to independently petition the Bishop with a hand written letter to seek admission into candidacy.

This is where it all becomes real. If I choose to move forward I will be forever considered by the Church as a man who was a candidate for Holy Orders. Even if I leave formation sometime in the next three years that will follow me in everything I do from this point on. I will no longer be looked upon as a normal layperson and everything I do will be done with extra scrutiny. Why was this person whom we intended to ordain wasn’t ordained? As they used to joke, it is a mark in my permanent record.

I have every intention of finishing formation. I no longer believe that I have been called to service as I did when I started this program. Now I believe I am being called to be ordained. Service will still be a huge part of what I do but God wants me to be ordained. Holy Orders is one of the seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church. A Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Jesus, to give grace. Grace is favor from God that strengthens us to live a fuller Christian life. Sacraments are permanent – they cannot be removed. To receive Holy Orders is to receive an indelible mark on one’s soul. The fringe benefits are the best in the industry but it does call one to live by a different standard and set of rules. To be ordained is less about what you can do and more about who you become.

The role of a deacon is somewhat foggy for most people, even many Catholics. The Permanent Diaconate was only restored in the US fifty years ago and is constantly evolving and growing. What makes it foggier is that other faith traditions also have deacons that serve in a variety of roles. I have a friend who is a Baptist deacon. He was shocked to learn that my formation is a total of seven years. His was two weeks long. But what he does as a Baptist deacon was the same thing I was doing as a Catholic layman. A lot of the stuff reserved for his pastor I will be doing as a deacon. In some traditions deacons act more like elders or advisors to the elders. It the different definitions and roles across the faiths it is not surprising many are confused. Here are some quick facts about the Permanent Diaconate in the Rockford Diocese:


DIOCESE OF ROCKFORD
QUICK FACTS ABOUT PERMANENT DEACONS



Who is a Deacon? A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. There are three groups, or "orders," of ordained ministers in the Church: bishops, presbyters (priests) and deacons. Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came "to serve and not to be served." The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church. 

  

What are the requirements to become a permanent deacon? Men must be between the age of 35 and 55 and must complete two years of ministry formation and five years of diaconate formation. These programs are conducted by the Diocese of Rockford. For more specific requirements and how to get started, men should first contact their parish pastor or contact the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.



What are these "various ministries" of the Deacon? All ordained clergy in the Church are called to be ministers of the Word, Sacrament, and Charity, but bishops, presbyters and deacons exercise these functions in various ways. As ministers of the Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services.  As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to try and meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to work toward eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. No matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they all flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does, but WHO a deacon is, that is important.

May married men be ordained deacons? Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to "mature married men," later clarified to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which some married men were ordained into ministry. Also in keeping with ancient practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if his wife should die, would not marry again.



Is a Deacon ordained for the Parish or the Diocese? Whenever a person is ordained, he is to serve the diocesan Church. Deacons are no different in this regard: they are assigned by the bishop to ministries for which the bishop perceives a great need, and for which the deacon may have special gifts or talents. Most often, this will be within a parish setting, just as most priests serve in a parish. Once assigned to a parish, the deacon and any other clergy assigned to the parish, minister under the immediate supervision of the pastor. However, this assignment may be changed at the request of the deacon or the initiative of the bishop. 



This is the life that I am choosing to live. There are fourteen other men in my class with me. Our wives are our primary support network. Although not ordained themselves they are absolutely vital in our success in this endeavor. Just being in this program paints a big bull’s-eye on us for attacks not only from those who do not like the Church, Christianity, or religion in general but it also brings on spiritual attacks by the devil and his minions. There are two types of clergy the devil loves – those he can get to walk away from their vocation and those he can corrupt. Those he can’t make bad he makes busy and there isn’t any clergy who isn’t over tasked and over burdened these days. Pray for me and my classmates, our wives and all clergy. We sure could use it.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Of Infinite Worth


The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field.

We often look at this passage and think that heaven is the hidden treasure that we are to go out and find. When we find it we are to sell all that we have to buy it. Oh joyful the man who can buy the kingdom of heaven.

In actuality we are the treasure buried in the field. The field is death and all of us treasure is buried in it. Out of love for us God bought that field using his most valuable treasure, his only begotten son. Jesus’ blood was poured out into that field to redeem us from the bonds of death. God is the joyful merchant who regains that which was lost to him. We are a treasure to him, pearls of infinite worth.

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.

The offer of heaven is made to every person. It is made not only to Christians but to Hindus, Muslims, pagans, and yes, even atheists. I suspect that at the particular judgment we each will stand alone with Jesus before a charcoal fire. For those who have never heard of him Jesus will be his own best advocate. They will learn of who Jesus is from Jesus himself. And then, like with Saint Peter, he will ask us one question, “Do you love me?”

Love for Christ does not have to be perfect. It only needs to be present. Jesus meets us where we are at and will walk with us the rest of the way. We will be purified until only perfect love remains. We are the treasure buried in the earth. God finds us and cleans us up. He buffs us up until we are shiny and new again.

For those who hold no love for God in their hearts, those who cannot be persuaded by Jesus, those who choose themselves and reject God, those will be the fish thrown into the fiery furnace. These are the ones for whom the pain of hell is reserved. God condemns no man to hell but he does respect their choice to go there.

Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

The head of a household is responsible for every member in the house, both family and servant. It is the responsibility of the head of the household to show those who are in his house how to get to heaven. We do not go to heaven alone. The kingdom of heaven is a family not an individual relationship. When we go to heaven we do not stand alone. We stand with every person we have helped get to heaven along the way. It is the responsibility of each and every person who can answer Jesus’ question with an imperfect “yes” to live in such a way that they become a beacon to all those in darkness. A beacon drawing others closer to God.

People should look to you and say, “I want what they have.” A righteous, upright life is a beautiful thing that draws others to live the same way. Be that beacon to those in your house. Let your love for God be present in all that you do. You are a treasure of infinite worth that God paid for in full. Infinite worth paid for in full. It doesn’t take a math major to see the impossibility of that statement and yet God did that very thing, for you.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Joy be with you.


The mood was sober. The air hung heavy and still. The people gathered together were straight faced, tight lipped, and void of emotion. Every word and gesture seemed labored as if bearing a heavy weight. People seemed to be going through the motions with little thought or care. There was rarely a smile and I often caught looks of distress on some faces as the little children among us fidgeted, cried, or made noise. It was exactly the mood I would have expected had we been at a funeral or memorial of the passing of a person deeply loved and respected.  Instead of being at an occasion of sadness we were celebrating Sunday Mass. We were celebrating the greatest event of human existence. Heaven and earth were being connected as Jesus came down from heaven, becoming our life giving food, and dwelling within us.

This is actually something that has been bugging me for some time. There seems to be a general lack of joy as we celebrate the Eucharist together. It is easy to understand why more and more people fall away from the Catholic Church, preferring one of the mega churches that concentrate on experience and emotion. People have a hard time putting their finger on the exact reason for it. They claim to like the music better or get more out of the sermon. Every reason I have heard always points back to one thing. Joy. Those mega churches fill people with a sense of Joy. They feel good going there. We were made to be happy and people will crawl through the desert on their hands and knees to find happiness. The joy these mega churches offer is real joy but it is a false joy. It is a happiness directed in. The music or good sermon makes us feel good about ourselves. True joy is happiness that radiates outwards. Instead of being filled from the outside in real joy is like a spring that wells up from within us and bubbles outward.

Church leadership struggles with ways to fill the pews. We look for the right combination of things to bring parishioners back. Homilies have changed through the years. It is rare to find a church that preaches about the pains of hell. We strive not to dive too deeply into what makes a moral life. In our rebellious nature no one wants to hear what is the right or wrong way to live. Even absolutes like X and Y equal male are subject to personal interpretation. The more we stand up for what it right and good the fewer people will show up to hear that message.

No matter what we do or direction we take it has to be joy filled for it to have any chance to work. We need to let Jesus work from within, to bubble up and shine through us. Anything done with joy causes a glow about a person that makes people take notice. A joyful person is one others want to be around. A joyful parish is a parish people want to be part of. The Catholic Church offers the greatest thing available to mankind. We offer the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Looking in from the outside, who would be interested in receiving him when the communion lines look as if they are filled by the walking dead?

Be joyful and joy filled in all that you are given, even your sufferings and trials. Even those are blessings from God who will use them to bring about a greater good. It is through  joy and love that they will know we belong to the Lord.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Conservation of Energy


When I started out on my journey for my spiritual retreat I had a car with a full tank of gas. As I traveled the gas in the tank went down. When I arrived at my destination the tank was nearly empty. This is the law of the conservation of energy. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can only change form. I had changed the potential energy in the tank into a mechanical action producing velocity and motion and ending in distance.

Because of this physical law many find it difficult to believe some of the stories in the Bible like the feeding of the multitude.  In two separate stories Jesus takes a couple loaves of bread and a few fish and feeds thousands of people with them. This just isn’t physically possible so it has to be just a fable. Skeptics offer any number of ideas how this actually happened naturally and miraculously.

Yet, with God all things are possible. God does not go about breaking the rules he has put in place for the world willy-nilly but there are two things to which the law of the conservation of energy does not apply. These are mercy and love. Like the loaves and fishes love and mercy can start out seemingly small and will continue to grow to satisfy the need of every person. But how?

Love and mercy both flow from the very nature of God who is infinite, therefore, like God, love and mercy are also infinite. If you continually draw water from a well the well will eventually run dry. It does not matter how much you draw from the well of love and mercy for they are infinitely full. The amount of love and mercy available never diminishes even a drop.

The people were with Jesus for three days and had no food. They were hungry and he was concerned that they would not be able to make the journey home if he did not feed them. The loaves and fishes were not simply physical food for them. It was an extension of his love and mercy. There would have been enough to eat for the entire world had they been present at the time.

For love and mercy to multiply it has to be freely passed on. The multitude would not have been fed if the first people who received the basket with the food had kept it for themselves. They would have their fill but the rest of the people would go hungry. Love and mercy can only grow if you take what you have been given and pass it on to another. You will receive love and mercy from God in the same measure as you give love and mercy to another. If you wish to received God’s love in its fullest you need to love to your fullest. As you give away your love and mercy to another, God will replenish that love and mercy within you from his infinite well and increase your capacity to love and be merciful.

Love fully, forgive freely, grant mercy to those who neither request nor deserve it. In doing so you will be like God and he will find favor with you. You will find the more you give the more you will have to give but the more you try to save for yourself the more you desire to have even more to the point that there is never enough. The only thing that grows when you save what you have been given is your hunger.

86,400 Seconds


My father meant the world to me. Every year for his birthday or Father’s day I would strive to find just the right gift. He never asked for anything. I was always so proud to present him with my gift of love. He was always appreciative and grateful but I could tell that he never really was thrilled with any gift I gave him. I didn’t understand why until I became a father myself and understood even better once my first born spread his wings and headed out to make a life for himself. There is only one thing a father truly wants from his children. It is the one gift only they can give. All a father truly wants is more of their time.

Time is the one thing that makes all men equal. Rich, poor, powerful, lowly, free, or slave, all men get the same amount of time. We are given one day at a time. Twenty-four hours to spend as we see fit. Once it is gone we will never get it back. Time is the most precious treasure we are given. With time we can make or take a life. With time we can save or we can squander.

What has more value – something we treasure and put away, like expensive jewelry or fine china, or something we use all of the time? The common thought is that the more valuable something is the less we use it. We bring out the good china for special events like a big family Christmas dinner. We put on the good jewelry only when we are going out for that special night on the town. The rest of the time is it safely tucked away, protected from losing its value.

If time is the most precious treasure we possess then it stands to reason that whatever we spend more of our time on or with is more important to us. By this rational the plastic plates and cheap flatware that I use every day is more valuable to me than that set of china I got when I was traveling the world. By that very same notion all video games, TV, and other useless garbage I do must be more meaningful to me than my father, my wife, or my children seeing I spend much more of my limited time doing those things than spending time with those who mean the most to me.

How much of that twenty-four hours do you spend with God? The great commandment is to love your God with all of your heart, all of your strength, all of your soul, and all of your being. You cannot love someone that strongly that you do not spend time with. Yet, many of us find it difficult to impossible to even give God fifteen minutes of our precious day. We make sure we have time to sleep. Many of us never miss a meal. Far too many of us are working more than forty hour weeks. We spend hours a day on social media or gossiping about who is cheating on whom.

Obviously it is not a matter of having enough time. It becomes a matter of priority. What truly matters in your life? Where do you spend your time and money? The devil wants us to squander the limited time we are given. He wants us to get to the end our lives and realize that we didn’t spend enough time with our parents or our children. He wants us to put social media and video games ahead of showing our love for God. A love not expressed is a love that does not exist.  For God so loved the world that he was preoccupied with creating rocks and trees and bugs that he forgot to send his only begotten son so that all who believed in him would have eternal life.

Call your parents. Spend time with your children. Talk to God in everything you do. One day the days you have been given will turn to seconds and slip away like the sand through a hourglass.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Parable of the sower and the seed.


On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

"A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear."  Matthew 13: 1-23

This parable is an easy one for us to understand. In the verses immediately following Jesus explains its meaning to his disciples. The Word of God is given to many people. In some it takes root and flourishes leading to a holy life. Others hear it and embrace it for a while until something else captures their attention. For some the Word of God falls on deaf ears and is rejected whole heartedly.

I would like to focus for a moment on the rich soil, the fertile ground. Rich, fertile soil is the dream of every gardener and the bane of his existence. You need good dirt to grow strong, healthy plants, but the very characteristics that make my soil good for growing a bumper crop of tomatoes are the exact same characteristics that make the soil good for growing weeds. Every gardener knows the constant battle to protect the good while eliminating the bad. Why do home grown tomatoes taste so much better than anything you can ever get from a store? Well, they are better in no small part to the amount of love, hard work, and sweat that goes into each and every one. Unlike Ronco rotisseries, you simply cannot just set it and forget it.

The Word of God is very much like seeds in a well tended garden. As long as we don’t have stony hearts God’s Word can always find a place to take root. It then is up to us to nurture those seeds so they can germinate and begin to grow. We need to tenderly care for the new plants. We need to keep them watered and pluck out any weeds that come in from the outside world. We need to feed the plants so that they will grow strong. A gardener’s reward is a bountiful harvest with much fruit. Some of this fruit is given to others to enjoy while some of it goes to seeding more plants. A gardener’s work is never done.

Today you have received the seeds of God’s word. May they find within you a fertile heart where they can take root and grow.  Water and feed them daily through prayer and by reading Holy Scripture. If you wait until this time next week to visit your garden you will find that the seeds you have received today will have withered and died. A forgotten garden is quickly overgrown with weeds. Watch yours closely and don’t allow the seeds of the culture to grow better than the seeds from the Lord. Stay vigilant, tend your garden with great care and love and God will bring forth in you a bountiful harvest of the finest fruits.

Ears were made to hear and hearts were made to love. Hear the Word of God and enkindle it into your hearts.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who gives more?


John worked at a prestigious university. One Saturday he took his four year old son to the campus to show him where his father worked. As they walked around the campus John pointed out the various buildings and told who they were named after.

“That one is Donnelly Hall son. He gave ten million dollars to the university.”

“That is Baxter gymnasium. He donated twelve million dollars.”

“Here we have Todd Palmer Auditorium. That man donated twenty-five million.”

This went on and on until John’s son asked his father what was named after him. John beamed with pride. “Follow me son. The most important part of this university is named after me.”

John led his son into a building and up to a door with a brass plate on it. John’s son could recognize the capital J but couldn’t read the rest of the name. He was so very proud of his father for being an important person around the campus.

Many years passed and John’s son attended that university. While walking the campus with his girlfriend he thought he would take her by the room named for his father. He found the small building and the door his father had shown him many years earlier. On the door was the brass plate. In big bold letters was the word “JANITOR”.

John was the university janitor. It was his job to keep the place looking clean and regal. John’s father had a job of service to others. These types of jobs are often overlooked or looked down upon. Many important men had given obscene amounts of money to the university and were honored for an age. Yet, without people like John the place would fall into disrepair. It would become dirty and it would become a place no one wants their name associated with it. It is the faceless, forgotten people, like John, who keep this world running smoothly. They will never be honored with a hall, gymnasium, or auditorium.

The rich men gave money from their vast abundance. They will be remembered by a building with a sign. They have their reward. John gave service. He was building his reward in heaven. It is not the man who is blowing the trumpet who is really important. It is the man that spent the time buffing and polishing the trumpet to its shining perfection who is the better man.

Friday, June 23, 2017

4X + (3Y-6X) = 17


When we first start in school we learn how to count. Then we learn to add by single digits. Eventually we are doing algebra with letters and are even able measure constant change through calculus. If you present a quadratic equation to a normal first grader you will get that blank stare and all famous, “I don’t get it.” One thought builds upon another and the next cannot be grasped until there is a firm hold on the first.

Anyone who reads Holy Scripture through the big picture lens can easily see that the Old Testament foreshadowed the New. The Old prepared us for what was to come next. There are many who cast off the Old Testament as having little importance and some who believe there to be different Gods between the two books. The God of the Old Testament is so barbaric and cruel. Jesus is so gentle and loving.

Take for example the command in the Old Testament, “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” This seems to advocate violence. This certainly contrasts with, “Turn the other cheek.” It undoubtedly seems barbaric to allow the return of violence for violence received. Why didn’t the gentle and loving God just command them to turn the other cheek from the beginning?

Actually, an eye for an eye was a command to scale down violence from the norm of the day. A typical response to losing an eye through violence would be to kill the other person and probably his family while you were at it.

I want him dead. I want his family dead. I want his house burned to the ground. The command to limit your response to a like punishment was the equivalent of teaching a people who barely knew how to count how to add 1 + 1. If God had skipped to calculus with “turn the other cheek” the people of the time would have looked inquisitively towards God and said, “I don’t get it.”



God is a lot like a school teacher. If you struggle with a command he gives he will give you more to work on it. God started with one command – Do not eat from the tree of knowledge. Man did and fell from Grace. Next came the seven laws of Noah, or the Noahide Laws. These laws were given by God to the children of Noah, or all humanity. These are:

1: Do not deny God.

2: Do not blaspheme God.

3: Do not murder.

4: Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.

5: Do not steal.

6: Do not eat from a live animal.

7: Establish a legal system to ensure obedience to said laws.

It wasn’t long after the flood that man started to slip back into his human nature. God took a particular group of people for his own to show the rest of humanity how to live in a right relationship with God. These were the twelve tribes of Israel. To Israel, through Moses, God gave a new set of Laws we know as the Ten Commandments. The numbering of these commandments differs between the Jews, the Catholics, and other Protestant denominations but all groups have all the commandments covered despite of the numbering used. The Catholic numbering of the ten is:

1: I am your God. You will have no other gods before me. The command not to make graven images is included in the long version of this commandment. It was not removed.

2: Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.

3: Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy.

4: Honor your mother and father.

5: Do not murder.

6: Do not commit adultery.

7: Do not steal.

8: Do not bear false witness.

9: Do not covet your neighbor’s wife.

10: Do not covet your neighbor’s property.

As Moses descended from Mount Sinai with these new commandments from God he found that the people had already reverted back to idol worship. Out of anger he destroyed the tablets the commandments were written on and returned to the mountain. When he returned God had added 603 more laws to the list. Moses presented the Torah to the people and they have tried to live by it ever since in as much as human weakness permits.

Everything in the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. The New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus, who Christians believe is the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus is the living Torah. He ushers in the last age of preparation before man is restored to what he was created to be. The New Testament ends with the Book of Revelation. It is the story of the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, the Church. It gives us a glimpse into heaven.

In much the same manner this life foreshadows the next. This life is a preparatory time for the life to come. The next life will fulfill what we have started in this life. If we love God in this life we will know that love fulfilled and complete in heaven. If we reject God in this life we will know total rejection and isolation in hell to follow. Use the time you have been given here wisely. Do what is right. Hate what is evil. Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, and your whole soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Living Bread from Heaven


What is faith but trust in God? How do you know how strong your faith is unless your faith is tested? It is easy to say that I trust in God with my whole heart when times are good and the way easy. It is much harder to actually trust in God when the way is difficult and full of trials. That is where the rubber meets the road.

God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt only to have them wander in a desert for the next forty years. Those forty years were more difficult than any they had ever known. Their lives were much worse than what they had been in slavery. Their lives were in danger at all times. They knew hunger and thirst. They died from snake bites and scorpion stings. They grumbled and complained they entire time. They even went as far as to make an idol to worship.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in Christianity is the question why would a loving God allow suffering? Does he like to see us suffer? Does he do it to see what we are capable of? God allows suffering so that love can exist. Love can never be forced. Love is always a choice. For there to be a choice there has to be alternatives. The proof of love is trust. God does not test us to see what we are capable of. He knows. God tests us so that we can see what we are capable of. Is your love for him strong enough that you will put your life in his hands no matter what the outcome?

God is always there to save us when we ask. When the Israelites were dying from snake bites God provided the golden serpent Moses raised high on a staff. When they were dying from thirst he brought forth water from the rock. And when they were starving to death he gave them the food of the angels and brought down manna from heaven. Through their trials they knew that God loved them and they God.

When we are faced with trials we can react to them in one of three ways. We can be filled with grief and wring our hands in despair. Woe is I, why am I made to suffer so? We can put the trust in ourselves and try to control the chaos. Or we can turn to God in love and trust that he will take care of us. We should look upon our trials, no matter how great or small, as blessings. These trials do two things for us. They give us opportunities to prove our love for God to ourselves in our trust that he will care for us.  Our trials also act as conduits through which grace can flow.

When the Israelites were starving in the desert God’s grace came in the form of bread from heaven. The manna sustained the people through their trial. God also provides us with bread from heaven to strengthen us to face our trials with love and trust. He does not give us the manna that he gave to our forefathers. Instead God gives us the true bread, the Bread of Life. He gives us himself in the Eucharist and whoever eats of this bread shall never perish but have eternal life.

All things in this life including our trials will pass away. The love of God and the life he offers through the Eucharist is eternal. The Israelites would have continued to starve in the desert had they not eaten the bread God provided. Likewise, we will be dead in our sin if we do not consume the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, which God has provided to us. It is not merely bread made of wheat and water. It is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of God himself. We invite him into our being so that we may co-exist together for eternity.

Give thanks today for all that you have, the good and the bad, for it all is a blessing from God.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The devil likes more than just idle hands.


Idle hands are the devil's playthings.
The aspirancy period for my brothers and I in diaconate formation has officially ended. We now have the summer to prayerful discern if we wish to formally declare to the Church that we want to be ordained. At the end of the summer we will face our second scrutiny and the Church will determine if they want to officially invite us to candidacy for ordainment. Please pray for my brothers and me that the Holy Spirit guide each of us to the decision God wants us to make. Pray also for our spiritual protection as the spiritual attacks will increase the farther we travel down this road. You may believe that it is all mumbo-jumbo but I can tell you for a fact that the devil is real and he does not want good, ordained ministers.

Our summer assignment is to write a personal reflection on one of the daily scripture readings. Sunday’s reflection is to be a two page typed reflection. The goal of this exercise is to get us to start thinking as preachers who will one day be prepared to give a daily homily. For you non-Catholics a homily is akin to a pastor’s sermon except it is focused on the daily gospel readings and how they are relevant to our modern lives. We are not permitted to preach on whatever subject we choose. A good homilist is a godsend. A bad homilist is a cure for insomnia or worse.

On top of this we also are to pray the Liturgy of the Hours at least for the morning and evening periods. We are always encouraged to do more. We were warned about getting behind and missing multiple days. We had the same assignment last year, only with fewer days during the week required. I managed to do a reflection for every day during the summer last year and post them for others to read and respond to. Some of my brothers did likewise. We got in a pretty good habit and it wasn’t overly difficult to keep up with the assignment. This year it has been a bit tougher for me to keep my head above water.

During the last month or so of formation my work schedule started to ramp up. As soon as summer break hit so did my workload. I have been assigned as the point person on a very important project and I have had some late hours and increased travel. I have even had to do a few 24+ hour days. This has made it very difficult to get on a schedule of reading, reflecting, writing, and prayer. I am not worried that I will catch up but it is making me very conscious of my spiritual life.

One of my favorite instructors always says that if the devil can’t make you bad he will make you busy. I never fully grasped what that quote meant until this past week. The devil actually loves two types of holy men – the ones he can convince to walk away from their vocation and the ones he can corrupt in their vocation. If he can’t corrupt you he will make you busy.

A busy man quickly uses the time he would normally spend in prayer doing busy work. A busy man spends reflection time and time he normally spends with the Lord doing busy work. Once the devil is successful in getting a man to do busy work and stops him from his time of prayer and reflection he has started to corrupt him. Then once he can make you busy he can make you bad. A question you can ask any ordained man who has walked away from his vocation and get the same answer every time is when did you stop praying? It is a common thread for those who leave a religious life. The stronger the prayer life the stronger the spiritual life.

There are times where I get to the end of the day and I realize that I didn’t read the daily readings, I haven’t written my reflection, and I haven’t prayed the LOTH. How did the day get away from me? Then I examine my day. Did I eat today? Yes. Did I sleep? (most days) Yes. Did I watch TV or play any video games? Yes there to. Did I engage in any unnecessary social media or text messages? Of course I did. It becomes apparent very quickly that I don’t really have a problem with being busy but I have a priority problem. I must learn to reorder my day so that the big rocks go in the glass first. What are the big rocks? Eat, sleep, family, prayer, and exercise. I must reorder my life so that I touch each of those areas at least a little every single day. The more I touch those areas the happier a person I will be. Putting in a twenty hour day at the office never makes me happy. Reaching the line, “May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.” always fills me with happiness. Everything else in my day is just filler.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tomato - Tomatoe

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perishbut might have eternal life.” – John 3:16

This is undoubtedly the most well-known and often quoted verses in the Bible. It manages to pop up on signs everywhere from sporting events to protest marches. For far too many it is about as deep as their religious convictions get. I believe in Jesus so therefore I am saved and am going to heaven. I certainly do not need a church, its Sacraments, or to do anything further than simply say, “I believe in Jesus and accept him as my Lord and Savior.”
Is this really the point God meant to get across to us or have we lost something in translation? Most people read the Bible in their native language using a modern understanding of word meanings. They have no desire to ever dig deeper. This is unfortunate because they will never experience the true flavor and complexity that is in Holy Scripture.
If all you have ever tasted was a hot-house tomato bought from a mega-mart in January you would never know what true tomato flavor really is. Once you sink your teeth into a ripe, home-grown, heirloom tomato during the height of growing season you will never desire the bland things you buy from the store ever again. The same holds true for Holy Scripture. Once you get some understanding of the rich and complex meaning of scripture as it was written in the original language you will find a new appreciation and love for the words.
So how does this apply to the most quoted verse in the Bible?
A good modern day definition of “believe” is:
                to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.”  
If this is all the scripture meant to convey then Satan would be more saved than any of us for he not only has confidence that Jesus is God’s only begotten son but he knows it to be fact. Satan believes in Jesus for he knows him personally. Unfortunately many of us have confidence in the truth that Jesus is God’s only begotten son and because we have this confidence we believe we have been saved.
The word used for believe in the original Greek holds a much deeper and exact meaning. In this verse believe becomes synonymous with the word “faith” which is always synonymous with the word “trust”.
                “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who trusts in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
What separates trust from simple belief? Your actions. There is no action required when you simply believe. When you simply believe you have confidence in the truth. Trust requires proof. What is proof that you trust? You do what is asked of you by the person you trust.
If a stranger walked up to you right now with a glass containing an unknown liquid and told you that you had been poisoned, drink the liquid if you want to live, you would not drink the liquid until you had a chance to verify the claim. You have no trust in the stranger. If someone you trusted did the same thing you would drink the liquid without needing verification of the truth.
“…everyone who trusts Jesus, and does what he commands, might not perish but might have eternal life.”
As a Catholic I believe that all official Church teachings were given to her by Jesus himself. To trust in Jesus is to trust in his Church. If I trust in Jesus I cannot pick and choose which teachings of his Church I believe and follow. If I trust in Jesus and wish to do as he commands I must do my best to follow every teaching of his Church. If I have to follow the teachings of his Church it cannot simply be me and Jesus.
Satan believes in Jesus for he knows for a fact that Jesus exists. Satan does not trust Jesus for he refuses to listen to his commands. The first step to eternal life in heaven with God is trusting in and listening to Jesus through his Church here on earth.
Off to make a BL – heirloom Tomato sandwich.


Monday, June 5, 2017

You have the power!


"Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." - John 20: 23.


The authority to forgive and retain sins was indeed given to the first bishops of the Church and is currently exercised in the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church, but the authority to forgive sins was given to each of us on a much more personal level. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the two sacraments of healing.  Open wounds do not heal on their own. Forgiveness acts as stitches that bind spiritual wounds closed and allow the healing to begin.

We have each been given the authority to forgive those who trespass against us. In the “Our Father” we give God permission to only forgive our sins to the same degree as we are willing to forgive the sins of those who have sinned against us. We tell God that it is ok for him, through his Church, to retain our sins and not forgive us for them if we are not willing to forgive those who have wronged us.

If your brother has wronged you the first step of healing that wound is not an apology from him. Healing can only begin by the person who has been wronged. Healing can only begin by closing the wound by forgiving your brother of his wrong.

There is nothing a penitent man can do amend for his wrongs to a god who does not forgive. God, our Father, is a loving God who will forgive our sins and allow us to show our deep sorrow to him through humble hearts and penance.

We in turn need to offer our brother the same kind of forgiveness for the wrongs we have suffered. We give God praise for his great glory when we imitate him and freely and completely forgive those who trespass against us. When we truly forgive from the heart we let go of the pain and suffering the wrong as caused. We close the wound, allow the healing to begin, and are liberated by love.

We live in a world where people want everything to be permissible but forgive nothing. We live in a world of hurt, anger, and hate where everyone seems so easily offended. Now imagine a world full of love and kindness where neighbors do not quarrel over trivial things. That world begins with forgiveness. That world begins with you.

In the next week find at least one person with whom you have had a long standing grudge and do your best to forgive them from the heart. Take that first step to mend an old wound. Let God’s infinite mercy flow through you and see just how liberating forgiveness actually is.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What is value without a cost?


There is no argument that BMWs are great cars. They run well, they handle well, they are safe, and they are stylish. If BMWs are such great cars why do so few people drive them? The answer, of course, is cost. BMWs are expensive to buy, paying retail anyway. They are expensive to own and maintain properly. Their cost puts them out of most people’s reach. The people who do buy them care for them. They know not only the cost of a BMW but the value a well maintained one holds.

Today we live in a throw away culture that recognizes the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Cheap is always best. There is no reason to take care of or maintain something we own. When it breaks we just throw it away and get a new one. Cell phones are a great example. We barely have one model when we start looking at upgrading to the next, best thing. I just got the Universe 8 last week and the 8A is already available.

The throw-away culture is affecting our faith as well. The “nones”, that is the people who check “none” when asked about religious affiliation, are the fastest growing group in first world nations. Catholics used to leave their faith for one the easier to follow Protestant faiths and now Catholics and Protestants alike are leaving for one of the many mega-churches that concentrate their services on feeling and experience over a relationship with Jesus.

Something that comes at great cost usually carries with it great value. Becoming Catholic used to come at a great cost. It used to take years instead of months to be accepted into the Church. As a catechumen you weren’t allowed in the Nave during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist. Porters used to remove anyone not a Catholic in good standing and lock the doors. You were allowed one confession in a lifetime. That was made in public before the entire Church. Penance was harsh and took more than a year to complete.

Most would say that the Church was too strict in the way she did things. But the Church knew the value of what she had – the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ through which eternal life was obtained. The Church was strict, but the lines for confession were long and the Masses were full of people dressed in their Sunday best. That all started to change in a major way when the documents of Vatican II were used as an excuse to undo the shackles and open the Church up to a more liberal interpretation.

Sixty years of watered down catechesis has done its damage. Churches and church organizations all over the first world are closing due to lack of parishioners. We make things easier and simpler in the hope of keeping the modern parishioner from going to another faith that is easier and simpler. The fast before Mass used to start at midnight the night before. Today it is only an hour long and is too much of an inconvenience for some. Instruction to join the Church consists of a few hours a week for about six months. Lines for confession are short despite easy penances. We live at a time where everything seems to be permissible but nothing is forgiven. People understand what is happening at Mass so well that they see nothing wrong showing up to receive our Lord in the Eucharist in shower shoes, shorts, and T-shirts full of holes.

Because we have lowered the cost of our faith we have lost the understanding of the immense value it has. It has become a commodity. It has become something we no longer need in our lives. Yet, the Church is thriving in third world nations where there still is a great cost to be Catholic. We have more Saints being created through martyrdom today than we did during the years of the early Church. People will walk through life threatening conditions for ten or more miles just to attend Mass. They have what we have lost – faith with value.

The house I grew up in has been torn down and replaced with new town homes so I cannot go home again. We cannot return to the way things were. We can only move forward. If we want the Church to flourish in this country once again we need to live our faith joyfully and publically. We need to pass down our faith through proper catechesis so those who are new to it will know the value without being charged the cost.

What value does the Catholic Church offer? We have the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus given for the salvation and redemption of all those who love him. Nothing on earth or in heaven is more precious. The cost? Your life. The value? Eternal life with God in heaven.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Pray for us


My brothers and I have just completed our second year of diaconate formation. Our aspirancy period has ended. We get the summer to reflect and further discern our future. At the end of July we will face our second scrutiny. If we are found worthy our diocese will invite us to Candidacy. This is where the Church publically declares her intention to ordain us at the end of our formal formation. We will have to make a choice. If we decide to go forward we will be publically declaring our intention to be ordained.

This is no small decision. In a world that doesn’t believe or understand the supernatural many do not get why this is such a big deal. I have a friend who is a Baptist deacon. His formation period was two weeks. Mine is a total of seven years. When a man is ordained in the Catholic Church the Bishop passes along his authority through the laying on of hands. The Bishop received this authority through the same manner, passed down through the ages from one man to another back to when Jesus did it to the original Disciples. Like baptism, receiving Holy Orders puts an indelible mark on the soul. It is permanent. It cannot be undone. If we publically declare our intention to be ordained and we accept the invitation to candidacy we will be forever marked as men who were found worthy of candidacy. Even if we never get ordained that will be a mark in our permanent record.

When I was originally discerning the diaconate and in the past two years of aspirancy I thought I was being called to serve. God wanted me to serve as a deacon. Upon further reflection I do not believe this to be the case. If all God wanted me to do was serve there are plenty of places to do so without being ordained. There are many great humanitarian organizations in and outside of Church that are in desperate need of good people to help. No, God is not calling me to serve. God is calling me to be ordained.

Holy Orders are one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. A Sacrament is a conduit through which the Lord delivers special grace. If God is calling me to Holy Orders then he wants to use the Sacrament to deliver a special grace to me. Graces and gifts are given to us to help us complete a mission that the Lord wishes us to do. If God wants to give me a special grace it is to strengthen me for a mission he wants me to embark on.

Like Abraham, Mary, or Jesus before me I am being given an option. Are you willing to trust me and let me do my will in your life without the need to know what or why right now? Are you willing to be ordained so that I may use you for something special later? Often these questions come with great suffering and trial and the grace is given to provide one with strength to see the mission to completion. Knowing that is what makes this one of the hardest decisions I will ever have to make. Do I have the faith of Abraham to do as the Lord asks no matter what that may be? Do I have the conviction of Mary to say yes to the Lord’s invitation? Do I have the strength of Jesus to say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”

That is what my brothers and I must discern this summer. That is the decision we must make. Our response cannot be lukewarm. We either have to go all in or walk way.

Pray for us, that we be open to the voice of God over the next couple months and discern correctly. May the Holy Spirit lead us and guide us to make the right choice. This is no small decision.

But wait...there's more!


"Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers."
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
the Pharisees did not realize what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said again, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
"

John 10: 1-10


The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. But God does not yell at us. He does not scream. He does not raise his voice. God speaks to us through a still, small voice. Knowing this, the evil one has filled our lives with as much noise and distraction as possible. There are a million different things vying for our attention.
Turn on any television. The average thirty minute program is less than twenty-two minutes long. What fills the remainder of the time? Advertisements. Advertisements that tell you what to eat, what to watch, how to look, how to smell, how to act, and even how to think. You cannot open a paper or a magazine or even drive down the road without being inundated by advertisements all trying to manipulate you into buying that one thing that will make you truly happy. And yet, this generation has the lowest happiness level ever. How can this be?
We have forgotten what true happiness really is. A good working definition of happiness is the feeling you get when an expectation is met. We are really happy when an expectation is exceeded. There is such a level of unhappiness in the world these days because our expectations are not being met. We buy the latest weight loss product but we don’t lose weight. We are unhappy. We buy the latest fashion hoping to be noticed and we are unhappy when we aren’t. We buy the coolest car or the latest phone or the newest gizmo looking for satisfaction but satisfaction is fleeting. And now the biggest trend in this manipulation of thought is with prescription drugs. There seems to be a pill to cure anything that ails us. Do you want beautiful skin? There is a pill for that. Do you want to lose all of that stubborn belly fat? There is a pill for that. Want to re-grow all of that hair you have lost? Yup, there is a pill for that too.
The devil did not start by filling our lives with noise. A truly happy person does not go out looking for something to make them happy. The devil started by changing our expectations. Not all at once, but slowly over time. He capitalized on the pride, vanity, greed, and laziness that are all part of our fallen nature to change our expectations from something real to something unattainable. Once expectations are unattainable happiness is unattainable. Once happiness is unattainable misery and grief fill the void where love once lived.
The devil is a thief, a robber, and a liar. Do not be deceived by him. His way leads to misery and grief. Follow the Shepherd instead. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In him expectations are exceeded past anything you thought possible. But he will not yell and scream at you to get your attention. His sheep know his voice and know to follow him. Make the time to turn off the distractions of the day. Shut down the screens, turn off the noise. Listen for that still, small voice calling you to have life and to have it more abundantly. Real happiness does not come from having more stuff. It comes from recognizing more of God’s infinite love poured out in your life.
If today you hear the voice of the Lord harden not your heart.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Stone Tomb


“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.”

Matthew 27, 57-61

When Jesus had died they placed his body into a stone tomb and sealed it with a large rock. Jesus body was placed in a cave, a cold, dark, lifeless cave.

I have heard it asked if God is all powerful could he make a rock so heavy that even he couldn’t move it. If he can then he isn’t all powerful and if he can’t move that rock he also isn’t all powerful. The truth of the matter is that God did make a rock so heavy that even he can’t move it. That rock is called our hearts and out of love for us he chooses not to move it if we do not want to be moved.

My stone heart is a cold, dark, lifeless place.  My heart is the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest. It is precisely because my heart is stone and I do not hear the voice of the Lord that he had to give his life for me.

In the early morning of Resurrection Sunday a bright light filled the tomb of Christ. This was the light of God’s love. This was the Light returning to the world. This was the Light who conquered death and paid the ransom for the sins of humanity. The angels of the Lord ministered to him, releasing him from his burial cloths.

If my stone heart is the tomb in which Jesus was buried then my heart will be filled with the light of God’s love when Jesus conquers death and is raised up. The light of God’s love is a transforming light that will turn my stone heart into a natural heart bursting with love for my Lord. At that time God will have moved the immovable showing us that he indeed is capable of all things through love.

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. “You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.”

Ezekiel 36, 26 – 28

Prepare you hearts of stone. Allow God to move them. Be filled with the light of his love when we celebrate Jesus resurrection this Sunday. Empty yourself and become a lantern to carry the light of God’s love with you wherever you do. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoice knowing that death has been conquered.

Become the person God created you to be.