Thanksgiving

My daughter was tasked to write a grace for Thanksgiving dinner.  Apparently, we are going to dispatch with the traditional prayer – “Bless us o Lord for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from the bounty.”  Bounty, of course, references the bounty given to our first parents, Adam and Eve in the garden, where the Lord our God created all things in variety and abundance.

This grace my daughter is to write is basically a statement about for which she is thankful.  Later she asked me how to write it and I responded, “Dear Lord, I’m thankful for:” then fill-in the blank.

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks.  It is a very secular holiday, although it was memorialized by Abraham Lincoln as: “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  Clearly the nation in 1863 wanted to give thanks to our Father in Heaven.  While many thinks of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians having a harvest feast, the feast was to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest which the Father creates.  Thanksgiving doesn’t really have any notion of being religious today, and it certainly doesn’t have to be for anyone, but its perfectly acceptable to make this holiday about our Lord our God, as it was once intended.

“Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining,” John 6:11

As we contemplate and remark to what we are thankful for during this Blessed time, let’s not lose sight of to whom we are thankful.

BTW – my daughter is thankful to the Lord for a great family, food and water.  (Nailed it!)

God Bless!

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!

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!

Hallelujah – The Song by Cohen

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

I first heard the song Hallelujah while watching Shrek.  I know, but that’s when I heard it first, and immediately, I loved it.  I assumed it was a song about faith and God’s love.  Wow, I was wrong.  I’ll admit, I’m a lyrics guy.  I want to know what the lyrics are and what they mean.  I’ve researched the song by Leonard Cohen and remain baffled.  It goes to show you, that religion fascinates many an intelligent person, but intelligence is not enough to grasp religion and faith.

First, if you’re going to sing Hallelujah, assume your listeners are going to think religion.  Its not just a nice word, Hallelujah, it means an expression of worship or rejoicing.  Often, this word means praising God.  Cohen uses it to express sex, apparently what he worships and put first before the Lord our God.  It would ALMOST be fine that Cohen uses the word in Hallelujah if he didn’t wrap in biblical references. 

The first 2 verses are clearly a reference to David and Bathsheba although Cohen starts referencing Samson and Delilah.  Either way, neither are enviable or admiral romances. 

The first verse is:

Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

Cohen seems to suggest that David found some magical secret chord that God was wowed by.  Ha! 

When David danced before God, it was in reckless abonnement of pure joy for God.  He was not baffled.  His wife Michal was jealous that David danced naked before all including the Ark of the Covenant (God) and chastised him for his actions, but David responds, “I was dancing before the Lord” Sam 2:21.  Michal is struck barren for her evil jealously and perverting David’s intentions. 

These actions by David don’t appear to show him as baffled, as Cohen suggest. 

The next verse starts that David needed proof (assumingly that God existed?). 

Here is Cohen’s verse lines: 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya

Clearly, David does not sleep with a married woman out of his need to prove God’s existence?  Here are the Biblical lines in question:

“From the roof, he (David) saw a woman bathing, who was very beautiful.  David had inquiries made about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.  Then David sent messengers and took her.  When she came to him, he had relations with her.” Sam 2:2-4.

There are suggestions in this song that Bathsheba seduced him, but David is far from innocent and clearly, seems to be the one doing the taking here!  David is a flawed man and he sins here.  This is not a high point for David and he pays dearly with the Lord God taking the life of his son he sires with Bathsheba; it should be noted that David has Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed in battle to cover up for his sin.  When we turn from God through grievous sin, we pay a price.  People like to pretend that sin is no big deal but the Bible suggests different; God allows us to feel the effects of sin, and those effects are not nothing.  When we travel far from the protection of the Lord, the Devil can get you, as it does with King David. 

Here is the end of the song:

She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

I like a song about a bad break up or a romance gone wrong.  I like a song that deals with pain.  I like a song that is raw and emotional.  Cohen’s song is romance gone wrong, standing before the Lord our God stinking of sin and shoving it in His loving face (I’ll stand before the lord of song) in defiance.  Stand before the Lord, stinking of sin, and scream – have Mercy.  Scream, forgive me!  Scream, Help Me!  Never scream, I did it, deal with it!  God will allow you to feel the effects of sin right here on earth – and possibly after death too! 

I think Cohen’s point is, he had a relationship and he did it all wrong and in the end, he stood before the Lord and said Rejoice (Hallelujah)!  I think he’s trying to suggest, he did just like King David or Sampson, but he misses that those two didn’t do well at these points in their lives, paid dearly and repented, receiving God’s mercy.  King David and Sampson were not proud of their sins, but Cohen seems to be in this song. 

I don’t care for a song that tries to warp a Biblical story into a justification for their own horribleness.  The message of the Bible is ALWAYS Good News.  The story of David and Sampson is Good News but not if you misinterpret it.  See David’s sin, see what happens, see David repenting and see the forgiveness of God.

See the Goodness of the Lord!  He is there – scream the right words to Him!

God Bless!