You need Jesus.

People often wonder, why doesn’t the youth go to Church and what is wrong with young people and their faith.  In fact, as I write this, there is a month-long Synod in Rome going over just this issue.

We should always listen to the youth, they have a fresh perspective and I am all for bringing the youth back to Church, but I’m not the youth.  I’m going to write about the people I know.  I run with the suburban parents.  I live in Suburbia.  Many of my parental friends don’t go to Church, so its not shocking to me that their children don’t go to Church.

In my circles, I engage those that are willing to listen regarding their faith.  I try and press and see what happens, and I’ve gotten deep into some conversations with many a fellow Mom or Dad.  Its my way of evangelizing.

These parents are good people.  I really like my town and the parents here.  Sure, some of us are crazy and not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but these are generally happy people.  We have good lives, good children, nice cars and houses.  That’s my circle.  We’re all basically middle class, but some friends of mine do have some really nice houses.

Life is good.

I can say to a fellow Dad, eat right, exercise and you’ll feel great.  I can say, work hard, be confident and you’ll get ahead.  If I say, love Jesus, you’ll….(that’s hard to explain to someone that thinks life is good).

There are some that will say that loving Jesus will give you joy, but loving Jesus doesn’t mean there won’t be hardship.  I don’t know a Mom that if I say, “Jesus brings joy to your life,” that she will just start smiling and won’t stop.  Its hard to just convince someone that your life will be joyful if you love Jesus.  Talking about Heaven is too abstract for many as well.

So, here is my attempt at why you need Jesus:

First, God (Holy Trinity) is involved.  If you call out to the Father, He will hear your prayer and He will act – if He wants.  If you ask God to let you win the lottery, that doesn’t mean He’ll grant your wish, rather, He knows what’s best; there are plenty of people whose lives have been ruined by the lottery.  If you ask for a promotion and you don’t get it, loving Jesus means it doesn’t matter.  Think about it, if you want a promotion and you don’t get it, you’re going to be mad.  If you love Jesus and trust in Him, not getting the promotion is His will and the disappointment is easily dealt with.  God has a reason.  Maybe there’s someone else who needs the promotion more, maybe you’d turn into a jerk with the power, maybe that team would get laid off in a year, who knows…God knows.  Loving God, loving Jesus turns this life from a panic filled world to a calm ocean, knowing there’s a loving, active God in our lives is comfort.

Here’s a quick example of God’s plan.  Thomas Merton was traveling through the back country of France when disaster struck.  He developed a tooth ache that devolved into a serious infection.  His mouth was infected and he began to run a fever.  He managed to make it to a small medical facility in Italy that subsequently pulled out a few teeth, let his infection drain and nursed him back to health.  This was a hard time for Merton.  Years later while living in America, Merton contemplated a life as a monk when war broke out and he was told to report to a medical evaluation prior to be drafted into WWII.  Merton decided God would guide him, if he went to war, life as a monk would be gone but if somehow God could steer him from the war, he’d enter the monastery as he desired.  Merton turned it all over to God.  At the evaluation, the doctor took one look at his mouth and said, “this man doesn’t have enough teeth to be fit as a solider.”  Why was Merton struck ill and had his teeth pulled, because God had a plan, one that led Merton to Him.  God has a plan, and only He knows it…and thank God for it.  We have a God that can strike you ill 10 years prior, just to save you today – that’s an awesomely involved God.

Second, life is good….or is it.  Is mankind so great?  You only have to look up just a little to see the world around you.  Watch the nightly news, or surf through foxnews.com for a bit and tell me if life is so good.  Death surrounds us, we’re just immune to it.  When we stop thinking we don’t need to ask Jesus for protection, then you’re not paying attention.  I worry about my girls, but I can’t protect them all the time, but Mother Mary hears my prayers and She intercedes.  I can’t protect my girls, but Jesus can, and I take comfort in knowing that Jesus is really doing just that thing, protecting my girls.  (I don’t just take comfort in believing that Jesus is watching them, but rather that He is actually watching them).

Third, there is a joy to loving Jesus.  It’s hard to explain, but its like a good friend that’s always listening.  When you feel low, Jesus will pop up for comfort, provided you know Him and His call.  You have to try and get to know Jesus, and when you do, you’ll see His loving Grace and His Providence everywhere.

Fourth, if you travel far from Jesus, deeper and deeper into sin, you’ll not hear His call.  You’ll not hear His warnings and you may find yourself worse off.  If you drive recklessly, you may get home ok.  If you continue to drive recklessly, you may be ok for a while.  If you drive recklessly, don’t be surprised if you get hurt.  Same applies with Jesus, the farther you travel from Jesus and His ways, you may be ok for a while, but it is reckless and it will catch up to you.  Justice from the sinful man is demanded – often here on earth.

Finally, without Jesus, life has no point.  Sorry, it doesn’t.  I heard some group that really wanted everyone to be an atheist.  Their slogan was, “Stop worrying, God doesn’t exist.”  I’d be terrified knowing that God doesn’t exist.  Life would be just one experience to the next, each more fleeting than the last, knowing it all ends in death and nothingness.  Life without God is a bubble.  Life with God means there’s more to life than this one.  Life has a purpose, but without God, life has no purpose, it ends and then nothing.

I want to stress here that loving Jesus doesn’t mean all will be ok, we still live in this broken world.  Loving Jesus and trusting in Him makes this world bearable.  There’s a plan, God is in charge and He wants what is best for us.

To answer my question as to why you need Jesus, here is my summation.  If you love Jesus you can find true peace.  No matter what happens in this world, you’ll know the Lord is watching and He wants what’s best for you.  Take a deep breath and relax, God’s in charge.

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

God Bless!

Wait, was that a miracle?

I’m very close to a family where the daughter became sick and was diagnosed with a malignant tumor.  I love this little girl who was now sick and worried.  My heart ached for this little girl and her father, mother and siblings. 

I turned to God.  I did everything I knew how to do, dedicated rosary prayers, fasting and pleading to the Lord.  I asked God for a miracle.  I pleaded with the Mother Mary to intercede, who herself had a child that was killed.  Mary knows what it means to lose a child and I asked that she not let another mother experience this loss.

I felt at one point, during a tearful prayer, that Mary answered me, that she had already interceded. After all, it was amazing that we caught the tumor so early. 

I was sure, the Lord had heard my prayer.

After a long hard few weeks of surgery, tests and scans, nothing more was found.  The cancer diagnosis though is both rare and aggressive and has a 65% chance of returning with a vengeance.  We were all scared. 

One week later, we learned there was a mistake, the diagnosis had been wrong.  The tumor was not malignant after all. 

Wait, was that a miracle?  God had answered my prayer.  How quickly can we turn to the thought, well, it was all for nothing.  How quickly can we dismiss the prayers, the sadness and turn to one of indignation at the treating physician. 

When I was praying, I was never closer to God.  When I sought Him, I felt comfort.  When I heard the Mother telling me it would all be ok, I felt her love and compassion.  When it was all over, I felt normal, not sad, not worried and I didn’t cry out to God day and night.  The strife brought me closer to God during the battle.

God put this challenge before us, to bring us closer to God and it worked.  God answered my prayers because He is loving and He granted this prayer.  Was it all for not, no.  I was reminded and strengthened when all else looked bleak, that it’s only Him that I desire and it’s only Him that can answer the call. 

Not all cancer ends with a miracle but all challenges can bring us closer to God if you let it.  One thing is for sure, without God, no miracles can occur.  The universe is not a sentient being that grants things, only God can deliver. 

Miracles are everywhere.  He is always at work, He never rests and all things are possible. 

God Bless!

Thanos vs Jesus

I recently tried to argue with a facebook group that is dedicated to Marvel Studio’s content.  The FB Group did not engage with me nor did their community but often a voice can get lost in the midst of comments.  The meme post I tried to engage depicted Spiderman above and Thanos below.  Spiderman’s captioned read, childhood is idolizing Spiderman and for the Thanos picture it stated that Adulthood is realizing Thanos makes more sense.

Spoiler alert!  In Infinity Wars, the recent blockbuster film by Marvel Studios, Thanos gathers ultimate power with the infinity stones to wipe out half of the universe with the snap of his fingers.  Thanos accomplishes this feat and half of everyone just wipes away to death.  Mothers, Fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents, friends, idols, leaders, loved one and more, just wiped away.  If you are married with two kids, the next day, you’d have no spouse and one child would be gone.

Thanos does this because on his world, he voices concerns that their planet’s resources are running thin and something dramatic must be done.  Nothing is done and everyone dies in war and famine.  Thanos is proved right and therefore, he sets forth to kill half of everyone on all of the other planets lest the universe meet the same fate.

On the facebook thread, more than a few people argued Thanos was justified.  A few days later, the FB group posted an Illustration where the villain was kind to his daughter, who hates him, in some twisted way to make Thanos look loving and caring.  Later, of course, Thanos must sacrifice his own daughter, against her desires, to gain more power.  While watching the movie, I believed that Thanos believed there was no other way to save us other than killing half of everyone, but I didn’t believe there was no other way; I thought Thanos was a psychopath.

Contrast, for a moment, Jesus’ saving power.  Jesus comes to earth and offers everyone salvation and He loves us radically and wants us to be saved by following Him.  Jesus though doesn’t force us to love Him or follow Him and He doesn’t just wipe us away.  Jesus offers salvation, He offers us Grace – but its often rejected.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”

“Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:2, 5-6

Thanos doesn’t offer salvation to all, only half – and that half will weep their lives away, having lost half of everyone they’ve loved.

Is Thanos merciful?  Is murder the only option we run to when faced with potential doom?

Dan Brown’s book, Inferno, had a similar plot, to sterilize a majority of the population to stem the growth of human civilization.  How many mothers weep because they are unable to have children?  Dan Brown’s book depicts this forced sterilization as humane.

When good is bad and bad is good you know the devil has got you.  When murdering is mercy and sterilizing unwilling man and women is kindness, you’ve fallen into the depths of the lies of the evil one.  In our world, those that are religious are thought to be hateful by many.  Many think if you follow Jesus, you have hate in your heart, but I tell you, when people think Thanos makes sense, who really has hate in their heart?

Will the debates over our population growth, our resources and our planet devolve into something worse than just fictional words and stories?  Its scary to think.

Jesus makes sense.  Debate His method.  He came, sinless, the sacrificial lamb, with ultimate power but He doesn’t destroy us, He loves us.  He offers radical love – not just love your loved ones, but love everyone, enemies too.  St Maximillian while in a concentration camp, offers his life for another man.  When the Nazi prison guards start dragging a Jewish man to be put in a building and starved to death, St Maximillian says, take me instead, I’m a Catholic Priest.  Following Christ means to love to the point where you’re willing to lay your life down for another.  Thanos doesn’t even make sense when compared to St Maximillian.  And what if Thanos had to wipe himself away with half of all, well then he’d just be like a terrorist, no different than those on 9/11.

Jesus offers something greater than death, salvation and life everlasting.  He offers His love.  Oh that the whole world, on the brink of disaster, fell to his and her knees begging for our Blessed Savior.  Thanos would wipe out half, but the remaining would still be men and women, living in a still broken world filled with wrong desires, sinning against a loving God.  The problem with this world is always one thing, sin, the answer is never, more sin.

God Bless!

Did Jesus ever sneeze?

Late one night, a few weeks before Christmas, a bunch of co-workers and I were at a bar when someone questioned, why is there’s not much in the bible about Jesus when He was young.  Another co-worker, Tim, disagreed and told us to pick up a bible sometime.  I was surprised and stated that I thought there was really very little about Jesus’ youth, just the presentation of the Lord and then the finding our Lord in the temple.

Tim was annoyed and again told us to pick up a bible sometime.  Another co-worker told us to drop it since Tim was apparently frustrated with our lack of biblical knowledge.  Religion can be so touchy!

I did drop the conversation but to this day, I am still a little perplexed as to why Tim was annoyed and to what was he referring to in the bible that spoke of Jesus’ youth that I was missing.  Ok, there’s some other stuff about Jesus and His youth, but its more about where Joseph took Him and Mary to avoid persecution.

I believe that Jesus was busy being a son to His Mother and a carpenter.  Jesus loved His life and believe He cherished His humanity during this time.  He was busy being human.  Remember the agony, Jesus didn’t want to die but was willing to drink the cup His Father had put before Him.

I actually love thinking about Jesus and Mary during their special time together, prior to our Blessed Savior beginning His ministry.

Jesus and Mary must have spent a considerable amount of time together, since Child and Mother often do.  Imagine spending day in and day out with the Blessed Lord.  Not as a pupil or friend but as with the bond of Child and Mother.

We believe at some point, Joseph must have passed and they, Wife and Son, undoubtedly wept together.

I still wonder, our Lord, both fully human and fully divine, did He experience the things I do?  I know He experienced suffering, which gives me comfort knowing our Lord knew what it meant to suffer, but did He ever sneeze?

Did our Lord have toys?

Did He swim?

Did He ever have a cold or the flu?

Did He ever slip and fall and have skinned knee?

Did He heal a friend?

We know He was with His Father and Mother: “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” Luke 2:52

From Ex Ore Infantium by Francis Thompson:

And did thy Mother at the night                                                                                                   Kiss Thee, and fold the clothes in right?
And didst Thou feel quite good in bed,                                                                                            Kiss’d, and sweet, and thy prayers said?

Happy musing.

God Bless!

King David’s 9 steps when facing disaster

The story is familiar to many of King David, from which the family line leads to Jesus.  David sins by sleeping and impregnating Uriah’s wife Bathsheba.  David then tries to deceive Uriah by calling him back from the war to also have relations with Bathsheba, tricking Uriah into thinking the child would be Uriah’s.  Uriah does not have relations and David sends Uriah to his death in battle, making his solders withdraw from assisting the general in battle, thus killing him.

You may be aware of this story but the rest is not as well covered.  The sin is great and the prophet Nathan declares that God will punish David by taking the resulting son’s life.  The child becomes ill and David puts on a sackcloth and fasts, sleeping on the floor.

“David besought God for the child.  He kept a fast, retiring for the night to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth.” 2Sam 12:16

The child does indeed die and when David learns of this he washes and breaks his fast.

“Rising from the ground, David washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes.  Then he went to the house of the Lord and worshiped.  He returned to his own house, where at his request food was set before him, and he ate.  His servants said to him: “What is this you are doing?  While the child was living, you fasted and wept and kept vigil; now that the child is dead, you rise and take food.”  He replied: “When the child was living, I fasted and wept, thinking, ‘Perhaps the Lord will grant me the child’s life.’” 2Sam 12:20-23

It can be easy to judge David and his faults but its important to remember this is a great king that united the tribes of Israel but was human with faults.  Over 2,000 years later, we know his story and from his line comes Jesus.  David is an important man in history, loved and blessed by God.  Don’t miss his importance and don’t think for a moment he didn’t pay for his sins, because he did and David still loves God and God still loves him.

The story of David has many important pieces but here I’d like to focus on David’s actions when faced with certain disaster.  Faced with doom that comes to fruition, here’s what David does:

  1. He runs to God
  2. He fasts
  3. He puts on a sackcloth
  4. He lays on the ground
  5. He pleads with God
  6. He cries
  7. He hopes
  8. He thinks, God is going to do whatever he wants but I’m going to plead with him anyway
  9. He accepts God’s punishment

It’s a pretty good 9 step process to try and get God to answer a serious prayer.  God is going to do what He wants anyway but like David, think, hey, perhaps…

I can tell you, I’ve fasted, reminding myself that I hunger for the Lord.  I’ve laid on the ground once, thinking myself not worthy of comfort and I’ve pleaded with the Lord, thinking, perhaps He’ll grant me this prayer.  Even though David’s prayer was not answered, David’s repentance and plead is worthy of imitation.

IF I may be so bold to add one little thing to the process, I’d add, ask Mother Mary (she hadn’t been born yet, so we can’t fault David here) for her intercession and while I’m at it, I might ask for intercession from my patron saint and friend, St Pio.

God Bless!

Faith is a Gift

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God” Ep 2:8

“And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father” John 6:65

Faith is a gift.  You can’t just discover it.  God told us a savior is coming in the Old Testament and Jews cried out for him, but no one went to Heaven and ripped Jesus from His throne.  No one persuaded God or tricked Him into Him gifting Jesus to us.

God offers each and every one of us salvation.  Grace is gifted to us, we aren’t in charge of that gift, but we can willingly decline it.

God so desperately loves us that He’s willing to do more than lots to save us (think of the crucifixion…).  If we die and our record is one of sin so grave it demands justice (think murder, or much less…idk) than justice demands punishment.  If WE reject God, He won’t save us.

The gospel speaks of Hell – read Matthew 22 and the parable of the wedding feast, where the Father throws out those not worthy or ready and there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t speak of Hell to scare you, only to remind you that God desperately doesn’t want you there.  He wants you with Him in Heaven; this is why He sent us His only Son.  The Father wants you in Heaven so much, that nothing really matters more.  He will call you and offer you salvation.  If you don’t hear the gentle call, the call gets louder and louder.  That loudness can be painful.  I know an electrician that was shocked, literally, and lived.  He returned to Church when he was better.  God had to send an electrical current of pain to that man just to get his attention and return to the Church.  That shock was good and just what he needed, pain and all.

St Thomas More, a man killed by King Henry the VIII, stated: “Every tribulation which ever comes our way either is sent to be medicinal, if we will take it as such, or may become medicinal, if we will make it such, or is better than medicinal, unless we forsake it.”

Wouldn’t you prefer a shock to the heart than an eternity in Hell?

Here’s my point.  If you don’t go to Church, go.  If you want to start small, I’m ok with it, but any good priest will probably tell you to go all the time and skipping is a sin.  Can you go once a month?  Can you go every other week?  If you skip, can you go next week?  Can you attend during Advent and Lent?  Start small if you have to, but try and attend Mass and be open to hearing His voice.

Regardless if you go to Church or not but particularly if you can’t bring yourself to go, answer me this one small request.  Ask God for more faith, it is a gift to be granted and a privilege to receive it.  Find a prayer for more faith, or just ineloquently ask – “Dear God, please grant me more faith, whatever the cost, so I can be near you.”

God Bless!

The Onion Woman

I recently finished The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and wanted share a story within the book, told by the character Grushenka to Alyosha.  Grushenka, at this point in the story, is coming to the realization that she is a wicked woman, with pettiness and anger in her heart.  She is extracting revenge for perceived (and real) slights to her character.  Alyosha is a Christ like character, very pure and good.  Grushenka feels she is the wicked woman in this story, though not yet dead.

Once upon a time there was a woman, and she was wicked as wicked could be, and she died.  And not one good deed was left behind her.  The devils took her and threw her into the lake of fire.  And her guardian angel stood thinking: what good deed of hers can I remember to tell God?  Then he remembered and said to God: once she pulled up an onion and gave it to a beggar woman.  And God answered: now take that same onion, hold it out to her in the lake, let her take hold of it, and pull, and if you pull her out of the lake, she can go to paradise, but if the onion breaks, she can stay where she is.  The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her: here, woman, he said, take hold of it and I’ll pull.  And he began pulling carefully, and had almost pulled her all the way out, when other sinners in the lake saw her being pulled out and all began holding on to her so as to be pulled out with her.  But the woman was wicked as wicked could be, and she began to kick them with her feet: ‘It’s me who’s getting pulled out, not you; it’s my onion, not yours.’ No sooner did she say it than the onion broke.  And the woman fell back into the lake and is burning there to this day.  And the angel wept and went away.

Love is willing the good of others; God wants us to love Him and by doing so, love others.  The onion woman clearly doesn’t do that; she is selfish and petty and lacks an ability to love.  She’s offered Grace and Mercy but doesn’t know what to do with it because she knows nothing of God.  She learns nothing from her time in the lake of fire and as a result, causes her own fall and her own misery.

Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 20 where the owner of a vineyard continues to hire laborers throughout the day and at the end of the day, pays each the same amount.  The first workers, those that had worked all day long, had expected more wage than they had previously agreed to work for and more than those that had worked for only an hour.  The owner responds:

“Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?” Mat 20:15-16

I hope this relates well to you but I’ll get right to the point.  Any time you are envious of others, be careful that you don’t break your onion.  If you feel your onion is breaking – repent!

God Bless!