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2015 Easter Time

It always happens doesn’t it?  We are cruising along the highway of life.   Something happens,  a loved one falls ill,  an accident happens or a tragedy.   We don’t expect it, we can not foresee it and we never want it.   We have to adjust, adapt and move forward because there is not a rewind button.

The excitement of Holy Week rushed by.   And now I am finding myself standing in the pool of exhilaration like when you go down one of those big water slides!   It is Easter time!

Easter (FYI – the resurrection of Jesus) doesn’t end on Easter Sunday.   Jesus shows Himself multiple times to many different people (One of the many reasons that the christian faith is so strong is the fact that many people testified to this fact and not only was it recorded in many letters (aka the Bible), but it also had to be passed down, verbally, to many more friends and family.  Which makes up our deposit of faith.)   One of my favorites is on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) when Jesus comes upon two men walking home from Jerusalem, three days after Jesus was crucified.   He walked and talked with them.   He explained to them why He had to be crucified.  They were amazed.   They wanted more.   Later that day as they were about to dine with Him  I think they were astute enough to ask Him to say a blessing before breaking the bread.   And Jesus “took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them” , their eyes were opened and then Jesus vanished.

This year during Easter time, let us be willing to open our eyes, our minds, our hearts and recognize Jesus in our lives.   Now Jesus can appear in many ways such as; movies, music, children, animals, scenery, sports, work or even old family pictures.   The funny thing is if you seek Him, you are more likely to find Him!

Why I am catholic ……. the crucifix

I grew up in a “non-denominational” church, Church of Christ.   Our building had no decorations or windows.  We did have a very large baptismal pool and vaulted ceilings.  It was never decorated for any season or purpose ( maybe weddings had some decorations).    The outside was just as boring.   All brick and no signs that it is even a church, other that the road sign that says “Church of Christ”.

So why do some churches profile a plain cross and the catholic church show a full crucifix?    Well I grew up with neither.   So here is my observation, years and decades later.   The plain cross is a “nice” reminder.  It reminds us of Jesus’ death, that it He suffered on the cross for our sake.  It helps us to remember His sacrifice.  The cross was once a symbol of suffering and ultimately death by cruel methods.  But Gods use of it has turned  that symbol upside down for us to be able to see  past the suffering and death.   The cross is now a symbol of hope, love and the life to come.

So why is it so important to remember this?  What can the cross do for me?

When I read the bible and it details the not so pleasant events of the process of torture, hatred, humiliation and the hammering Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross.   When we reflect upon Jesus hanging there on the cross one does wonder why did God do this?  Why would God put His Son through this human suffering?   In Luke 23:35    “The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.””   So the question is why do we need reminded of this?  Well, I, us, we tend to forget.  We want to look past the suffering and only be reminded of the positive.   Well that is what I usually want to do, I want to look past my past.  I only want to look at the positive, never the negative.   I do not like to look in the past and the mistakes I have made in life.  Now God did not make a mistake, but we need to be reminded of His sacrifice and His love for us.  Remember that He came down to us, to show us how to live, love, laugh and to follow Him.

So now we begin to understand the crucifix, not just a cross, but we see Jesus’ agony on the cross.  We are reminded that He was 100% human and 100% divine, we need this reminder.  We need to see the suffering,  we need to see that our agonies and sufferings are miniscule compared to His!   So we need this not-so-nice reminder.

God may we begin to understand your love and mercy for us through your Son who died on the cross for us!

Why I am catholic ……. I confess

Let me tell you a secret.

Close the doors.

Pull down the shades.

Turn off the sound on the computer.

I ……. am ……. not ……. perfect!!!!

Okay…phew! 😉    I feel better.     That is such a relief to be able to confess to you.   And if you said this out loud with me it would be even better because misery loves company.

Some may think that confessing your sin to someone other than the Lord is ridiculous or just a way for the church to “control” you.   Why not just confess your sin(s) to God directly?    To which I say – “I do!”  and I did.   (I think God is one of my followers – I know I follow Him, I just don’t read “every” blog, sorry God – another confession!)   So let me try to give you my point of view on this.

I always thought I could handle it,  I’m a man, I’m an old fart, I can correct my sins and turn it around.   (insert chuckle here)

I am not the first one to think this way, nor are you.   Remember Adam and Eve in the garden,  they had it made – they had hit the jackpot.  ( I wonder where we all would be if Adam and Eve would of said “No thanks we’re good!” )  Well they thought they could handle it on their own and they didn’t need someone else to tell them what they could and could not do!  (dang it “free will”).     This is what Satan does to us,  scatters our thoughts, makes us think we are better off doing it ourselves.    After all don’t you feel good when you buy that new bookshelf at Target, open the box and follow the instructions and “Shazzam!”  it’s done and you do not have any parts left over!   I know I feel good – “I” did it!  Well yes and no,  did you catch what I did?   I followed the instructions (these had pictures!!).  Mmmm.  Simple.

Why do we complicate things?  God spoke to Adam and Eve with instructions of how to live in the garden.  Satan took a big red crayon to those and scribbled all over them to confuse us!   So then God spoke to Noah and gave him a set of instructions to build an ark – it worked!  Then Satan came along and kicked our ball away and we were confused once more.  Along came Elijah and Moses – they mostly followed but since they did not it fell apart.   Then along came Mary.

Who better to give us instructions (be it with words and examples) than God himself, Jesus (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).    He not only lived liked us so that He could sympathize  with our struggles, but He could also heal us right on the spot if He so choose.  But more importantly by selecting 12 men to be with Him 24/7, He taught them not only by words but by deeds and He taught them privately as well (Mark 4:33-34).  The most effective way to teach anyone is by example.

I will assume at this point you know a little bit about Jesus’ life (If you do not please say so and I will do a follow-up post).   So when Jesus arose from the grave and appeared to the 12 apostles;

Gospel of John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The apostles received the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Jesus himself.   And in James 5:15-17 we are told to confess our sins to one another.

Have you ever gone to apologize for an error of words or acts that you did?  It is difficult and causes a big lump in your throat or stomach.  It’s easy when you say it to yourself in the mirror or in a room by yourself, but put another person in front of you it is not so easy.   When you confess to a priest it can sometimes be difficult because he is representing Jesus, our Lord and God.   The priest has professed to do his best to imitate Jesus and walk in His footsteps and be a living example for us.

Reconcile with God; open your heart and reach out for God’s forgiving, loving mercy.

 

Why I am catholic ……. Mother Mary

Funny thing happened to me on my way to converting to catholicism…….I fell in love with another woman!!

Mary, the mother of Jesus,  Jesus the Son of God, Mary the mother of God.   When did Jesus become God or when did God become Jesus?  It’s like the question of which came first the chicken or the egg?    When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said “Do not be afraid!”   Now if an angel appeared to you would you not be afraid?  I am sure that I would or I would ask myself did I have 3 beers or 30?  I forgot.

So why is the Church so in love with Mary?   Well my question to you is why not?  Who else gave birth to our savior?  No one!!   Only one!  Mary!!!Okay, Okay….calm down  ( I am talking to myself right now!)  How did this happen and why is the catholic church so reverent towards Mary?   Well let me ask a simple question,  if the angel Gabriel appeared to you, would you say “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word”  (Luke 1:38)……………..me neither.

So why do we adore or reverence Mary so much?  Well who constantly reminds us of Jesus?   His mother, Mary.     Even the time when they (Mary and Joseph) lost Jesus.  Remember they went to the temple to worship and when they returned home Mary turned to Joseph and said “Where is Jesus?” (paraphrased)  and us fathers can understand Joseph’s confusion of – who?   And when they found Him  (three days later),  Mary asks “Son, why have you done this to us?”

Mary, acknowledges that Jesus is her Son, the only one.  She knew this from the get-go.   Once she acknowledged Gabriel and said “Yes”, she knew she would have a Son and His name would be Jesus!   She had to let Jesus be Jesus.   Her will to let God come into her life and actually be a part of her is the most selfless act a person could ever do.   Her love of God and desire to be close to Him manifested inside her from the beginning as well.  Mary had the hunger for God from her beginning as well, praying, learning and seeking God.

And to cut to the chase, it was Mary ‘s last words who said to the servants at the wedding in Cana “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5)

And, usually your mother is right, right?   Honor His mother and “Do whatever He tells you!”

We pray for Mary’s  intercession and ask her to pray with us and for us;

Why I am catholic ……. the songs

Have you ever been in you car and “that” song comes over the radio, you know, the one you can’t help but belt out in your best and loudest voice, mixed in with the hand jesters that you hope no one sees, but they do and quickly change lanes.

This can happen at any moment of time.   When someone asks a question or makes a remark it seems to me that I quickly relate that to a song.  Why is this?  well it’s because, and this has to be God’s way of talking to us, we remember those musical lyrics,  And God has a plan for us, which I believe is going to be with a “clashing of cymbals” (Psalms 150) we will be celebrating His return!!!

One of my favorite songs is “How Great thou Art” and probably it is because it is my mother’s favorite song (God Bless you Mom!!).  Another one is my wife’s favorite song “Taste and See”, both of these songs bring out my best, out of tune voice, to belt as loud as I can, out of tune of course.

In fact the mass has many memorable songs throughout.   At times I feel that our musical director’s goal is to sing every song listed in the hymnal!  And depending upon which time you attend the music will vary from very old tunes to the newest ones that you hear on your favorite christian radio station.   The most current on that I enjoy now is Matt Maher’s  “Lord, I need You!!

Music does that, it’s brings us close to other which in turn brings us closer to God!  So keep the beat and sing out loud in the shower, car or even in church!!!

Why I am catholic ……. fear of God

Fear the wrath of God!!!!  That sounds old fashion doesn’t it?  The last time I heard about the fear of God was when Charles Heston was holding two tablets in his hands, the wind blowing his ZZ Top inspired beard,  to the golden cow groupies at the bottom of the mountain.

I grew up not fearing God, really.  We were always taught about the love of God.  For instance in Vacation Bible School we always sang “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” ….. (caught ya singing the rest!).   So the “fear of God” has never really entered my mind, until recently.

When Katrina hit New Orleans we heard from Pat Robertson which he said that was God’s punishment for that life style in New Orleans (note, my interpretation).   Not only did Pat Robertson declare this, even some Jewish leaders said God was mad at America.  Does God get mad?  really?

But why do we fear God?  Does God really punish us? 

Why, if we believe that God is ever merciful, every forgiving and loving, would we believe that God could punish us?    So we believe that God is almighty, all-knowing and all that is, was and ever will be.  We pray “Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever will be a world without end, AMEN!”

So WHY do we fear God?

I don’t fear God, I fear me.   I mean I fear that I will fail the faith that God has placed in me.  It is that God will not punish me, I will punish me.   How is that you ask, well God gives each one of us “free will”  to do as we please.  So where, with that free will, does that leave room for God to punish me?  yeah – no God doesn’t, I do.    I failed.  And what is the worse feeling?  Knowing I failed God or that I failed me?  Well, for me, that I failed God.  I let Him down.  I did not live up to His expectations.    We face this type of stress in our daily lives right?  Our spouse expects us to help out, communicate, love, laugh and share our life with them.  Our children expect the same but also food, clothing and shelter.  Our community expects us to volunteer unlimited hours to help out in keeping everything clean and organized.  Our church  If we believe (and I do) that God placed each of us here on purpose to seek a purpose with our own free will then He is unlikely to punish us.  In the Old Testament we read where God seemed to get fed up with the Israelites.  The Israelites kept breaking there covenant with God, notice that God did not break the covenant, man did.

By giving us free will, God allows us to screw things up for ourselves.    Remember when you were learning to ride your bike and your Dad was right there at first, guarding you from falling, but then he let you go!   “I got it Dad!!  I got it,  I got it……I don’t got it!!! ”   BOOM ! CRASH !  OUCH!!  –  “why did you let go?!”  This is how we think of God in times of trouble – why did you let go?   And we become afraid of God because He let’s bad things happen or will cause them to happen.

God did not create us  for us to “Fear” Him, but rather He created us to Love Him!!

So to quote from FDR   “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”  Let’s rephrase that to “the only thing we have to fear is…OURSELF!”

Prayerful thoughts …….

Is every thought we have a prayerful thought?    Think a moment about that, take a deep breath – are you thinking a prayerful thought.

I pray that every thought is a prayerful thought.   I compare it to listening to jazz music.   How’s that you ask.   Well jazz has a foundation like most music, but it also appears to have a lot of freedom of movement so you don’t always know what is coming.  In the church we have prayers that are well written and thoughtful, in fact Jesus taught us the perfect prayer, the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father ( I always like to refer to as the “Art Father”).    But we also have the freedom to make our own prayer or cry out our prayer with no set pattern.    Most cradle catholics may not realize this freedom that they have or maybe they were never taught about it.

Our prayers can and should follow our thoughts.  We think at a very high rate of speed.   At times I have a hard time following  my own thoughts let alone my dearest wife’s thoughts at times.  Like beautiful music our prayers and prayerful thoughts will take to a beautiful beat of its own and suddenly we will be praying or thinking beautiful thoughts at a high rate only to slow down, collect ourselves and say “Thanks be to God”.

We should remember that every thought IS a prayerful thought and every prayer to God – counts!!

God Bless!!

Why I am catholic ……. forgiveness

Please forgive me if I seem off based here and ask you to forgive me for the potential of offending you.  But really I may offend you.

What is one of Jesus’ main themes in all of His parables?  Well actually, I think, it is probably two themes.   Love and forgiveness.   We are going to focus on forgiveness.   It ain’t easy to forgive, it’s even harder to forgive and forget.   We are, us humans, are like elephants when it comes to someone doing us wrong, hurtful or just something we do not agree with, we will remember to our dyeing days.

Do you know the Lord’s prayer?   Well you know the verse “forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespasses against us”

If God has put it on record that He will forgive us and that He has forgiven us, then we in return HAVE to forgive others – first!   This is really the true meaning of paying it forward.  You have heard of this one person in line pays for the next persons coffee/donuts etc..  Jesus paid this price – we have to get out of the way and let that grace reach past us and through us.  We pass this on by forgiving those who trespassed against us.   When you examine the Lord’s prayer He did not say forget those who trespasses against you, no He says “forgive”.  

Most of us have a hard time remembering what we did over the weekend but we will remember who did us wrong!  You don’t need to forget because it does help you point yourself in the right direction, the direction of forgiveness.   We learn from our own mistakes and by holding that grudge we are learning forgiveness.   By remembering what happened, how it happened the special events around “the event” we recall our own selfishness and we can let go to let God in.   It’s similar to ruts in the road – you don’t want to drive in the ruts because you will get high-centered and stuck.  Instead drive on top of them on higher ground always aware that the ruts are below you and if you lose focus you may fall in them again.   Stay centered – take the higher ground – “forgive us of our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”

Why I am catholic ……. beginning of the end

Most games we play have a countdown or even a time limit.   In ski racing, every race begins with a simulated “5-4-3-2-1-GO”.    In drag racing the lights change until there green!   In basketball the clock ticks down and as Kobe takes the last shot the clock ticks ZERO…game over! (hit or miss! and I hope he misses!!).

When God created the world and Adam and Eve were perfectly happy in the garden, do you think they even cared about time?  I don’t think so.   Somehow I think that they ate, played, ate, played, ate, laughed, ate, played, slept?  I dunno.  Time and relevance came when sin entered the world.

So when did the beginning of the end come about?  Well, I think it was actually at that moment when sin entered the world.   The $64,000 question is when will it end?  My answer – I am not concerned, not that I don’t care, just that I am not worried.   Like Adam and Eve in the beginning, they were not worried about the what would happen if sin entered the world, they had no worries about that.  Why should they?  They were living in paradise and didn’t even know it!

So why should we worry?   I quote from Bobby McFerrin, Jr  “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!” 

In my opinion we are living in paradise and don’t even know it.   Say what?!   We should be living as each day is paradise!  and really it is when you think about it.   Some of us have no worries as to jobs, money or other drama in our life.  Some of us have no jobs, no money and nothing but drama in our life!   But one thing all of us have in common is the fact that today we started with the sun coming up and God’s mercy and love ALL around us.   And I choose to believe that most of us know this fact!  That a greater being than us is actually in control!   We can not control when it begins or ends for that fact.  BUT what we can do is help ourselves by helping others figure out that they are not in control – but that God has a plan for all of us.    I don’t worry about what John is telling us in Revelation because I know that God’s plan is His plan, not my interpretation of His plan.   Even the fathers of the church understood and understand this revelation of Revelation – that God’s loving plan is that those who choose to love Him, choose to follow Him, choose to believe that He sent His son for us to die on the cross for our salvation who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven,  that we will be saved and be in heaven.

So, the question of is this the beginning of the end?  who knows – well God knows so I am not concerned… like a good neighbor – God is there!!

Why I am catholic…….faith works

The aged old question:    Which came first  –  the chicken?   or the egg?

We still ask this question today.  Some spend their entire life asking this question.  And those that are considered experts still have no answer.   It reminds me of Stephen Hawking and his theories of explaining how the world was created.  His latest conclusion is or was that (this is my understanding,  I am not a physicist) two universes came together then pulled apart and that vacuum created the earth.   Okay – where did these two universes come from?

Faith alone will save you.  This is one of the reasons that protestants say the faith alone saves.  True.  Faith will save you.  But the fact that your reception of God’s grace and you believing in His word is the works involved for your faith to have developed.   The grace and mercy of God is there for us to receive.  We can not have faith without this openness to receive that grace, mercy and love of God.   I think that some faiths get hung up on the word “works”.   That the word implies that we have to work at it.   Well it does, but it also means about your spirit “works”.  The “works” of your spirit, the “works” of your heart and mind being opened to the word of God.   Is this not “works” as well as the phyisical “works”.   We associate “works” with the phyisical labor of love and charity.   We donate our money and time to charities to show our “works” of mercy.   We show our “works” at our own church by volunteering to be teachers, ushers and musicians for all to see.   We show our “works” to the government once a year by totalling up the dollars that we gave to those in need.   And we have faith in those who receive that they will use it for that purpose of helping and not for their own gain.   We have faith in Stop Signs and we see the works in action when everyone stops.  We see faith works in those who accept the Lord into their heart and soul.  Not only by saying the words but believing them and the action taken to receive the grace, mercy and love of God – that takes work.  The reception of this free gift is not easy.   Remember what happened in John 6 – Jesus said to them ” “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”  many would not receive this gift, many do not receive this gift today because it takes work to understand.  It takes effort to open your heart.  It takes faith,  and faith works!!

Learn more of what the catholic church teaches and go to straight to  the catechism of the catholic church (it should be hyper-linked).

Remember the teachings of the church is actually two-fold.   1. The inspired word of God – The Bible    2. The traditions/teachings of the faith passed down from the Apostles and Jesus  (go back and count how many times the Bible states – “taught”, “preached”, or “oral” teachings.  Also in the gospel according to John -“Jesus did many things that all the books in the world can not hold”)

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