All I need is a Miracle

Lately, I’ve been struggling with some emotions and difficulties.  I’ve been praying and obsessing over God’s plans and my role.  I’ve wanted something to happen and have been asking God for mercy and blessings.

It has been hard during this time, but it’s also been transformative.

During a moment of difficulty, I prayed to God, all I need is a miracle.  Suddenly, the song, All I Need is a Miracle sprang into my head.  I went home and played it on YouTube.  I know the song is not about Christ, but I was singing it to Him – all I need is you (Christ).

A few days later and I could see that God had started to answer my prayer.  I was really feeling it was going to work out and all would be right.  I decided to go for a celebratory cup of coffee at Starbucks.  I hopped in my car and the song playing didn’t suit me.  I flipped the channel up one and of course, wouldn’t you know it, All I Need is a Miracle started playing.

I laughed; God was truly playing a joke with me.  I knew He thought it would be funny to put that song on the radio.

I actually didn’t know who sang the song, so when I looked at the digital display, it showed Mike and the Mechanics as the artist.  Ha!  Being a Mike, how fitting that me and the great Mechanic of the world should be singing this song.

How true in life it is, that we live with the great mechanic, who through His grace, we are fixed.  It was then that a tear of joy sprang forth.

God Bless!

Blessings in Disguise

I have a good friend that has a genetic disorder that makes walking difficult.  With age, his ailment has become worse and he must use a cane to walk now.  His walk is labored but he always wears a smile.  He has learned to live with this difficulty and although at times it does weigh on him emotionally, by and large, I know him as a good and trusted friend.

On a drive, we got to discussing about a time in his career when he was at odds with his boss.  He commented that he hated his boss and hated his work.  One morning, dreading work, he took his sweet time getting to the office.  He was in no rush to be scrutinized for any perceived shortcomings.

The sun was shining, there was a slight chill in the morning but it seemed like the day would warm.  His ailment made riding the subway difficult so on that day, he decided to take a cab.

As he got out of his cab, he looked up to see a giant hole and smoke emanating from the world trade center’s tower 1.  He got back in his cab and went home to his wife and two children.

My friend would have never made it out of that tower given his handicap and he would have been early to work if he wasn’t at odds with his boss.  The difficulty in his career was God’s plan to save him that day.

Men flew that plane into those towers on that awful day.  God saved my friend that day and Jesus saved souls.

Sometimes God is at work and we don’t know it.  Sometimes, trials have reasons that we can’t see.  I can’t explain every tragedy or hardship, but I know God loves us, he allows free will even when that free will yields sin and through that sin, God can bring about good as it did with my friend.

Do your best to let life unfold before you.  Try and make sound decisions based on the Church’s teachings.  Use your brain and conscience in life and work hard but know one thing, you are not in control and you can’t always see the Blessed Trinity hard at work.  Trust in the Lord.  God Bless!

Paul, Apostle of Christ (the movie)

Here is my review of Paul, Apostle of Christ, released by Affirm Films; I really enjoyed it.  Prior to going to the showing, I hadn’t read any reviews and went in only knowing what I know about St Paul.  I expected the movie to be about St Paul and his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus to persecute and kill Christians.  I thought there’d be the martyr of St Stephen as well. 

Surely those stories are in the movie, but not as one would expect, and are weaved in during the movie to illustrate a point I hadn’t seen as well as build some of St Paul’s character.  Instead, we start with seeing St Paul, fully converted with a vigor and joy for Christ amidst the horrible circumstances of Rome’s bloody killing of a loving burgeoning Christian community.  The movie is not about St Paul mainly, but rather the growing of Christianity during troubled times.  St Paul is the guide that everyone looks to who is illuminated by Christ and St Luke is the servant that risks everything to spread out the teachings from St Paul.  

It is truly amazing to think how Christianity grew so fast and so far despite major opposition. 

We get to see St Paul as a man that amongst every good reason to want to lay down and die and to shut his mouth, beautifully and dutifully carries out Christ’s work.  An unwavering love of fellow man is on full display.  Its not a coming of age story, where at the end, we see Paul going out to do his good works, rather, we start with Paul having done his good works and we get to know the best version, the final flesh version of St Paul.  By showing St Paul in his fully realized role, we get to see what it means to be a saint and we can better realize our aspirations at our own sainthood pursuit (which we all should strive for in life). 

The story follows St Luke mostly, partners with St Paul, who is tending to a community that is hidden within Rome, surrounded by enemies.  The Christian Community fiercely wants to return hate with love as Christ has taught.  While widows and orphans are cast aside, the Christians take them in.  When faced with death, the Christians persevere through it, refusing to abandon their city, knowing without Christ’s love and His people, the city will fall further into sin.  Some in the community want to rebel and kill but we can hear the nonviolence of the Christ coming through.

Even as I watch the movie, how predictable for Hollywood would it be if there were an uprising and the Christians won out.  The strange thing is though, that’s not how the movie unfolded and not how Christ conquered.  If you want the Christians to up rise, you’ll find yourself with the Jews that wanted Jesus to come into Jerusalem to rule as King, not be crucified.  You’ll be the one shouting, come down from that cross!  Christ came in with a bold proclamation of love and won in such a counterintuitive, non-worldly way.

My favorite part of the movie is when we see St Paul reject an uprising.  St Paul comments that he knows what its like to hate a group, hunt them down and kill them.  Paul, as Saul prior to his conversion, hated the Christians and he killed them and by doing so, wounded his soul to a level he can only withstand through Christ’s mercy and forgiveness.  As the Christians cried out for someone to save them from Paul (Saul), Christ sent Paul (Saul).  Who better now 30 years later, in Rome, to speak from knowledge of the costs of hate then St Paul?

There is also a warden of the jail that houses St Paul that is struggling emotionally as his young daughter dies of an illness.  The prefect is sacrificing to the Roman gods to no avail and his wife is blaming him for a lack of faith.  I found myself thinking that Jesus was going to save the young girl and convert the prefect in a dramatic way.  I expected the candles on the alter of the false god to be blown out, the sun light to darken and the prefect to run to Christ. 

Instead, St Luke, a physician, comes to the girl’s aid at the time of need to save the girl.  How such is life!  That’s how life works with Christ, he works through others and a conversion occurs.  We are unsure if the prefect repents, but it would seem that he in fact does start turning to Christ and makes St Paul’s suffering easier, although not such that he can spare the saint’s life.  We often expect Christ to swoop in like superman and save the day, yet the Holy Spirit and the angles are hard at work, saving the day in a much more perfect and no less dramatic way.

Why doesn’t Christ save Paul?  There are some that are called to a higher purpose, to live a dramatic live, even risking life, and losing life, for a greater purpose.  St Paul gives his life to Christ and is willing to pay the highest price, death.  We are taught by St Paul’s life and we get to see it on full display in this movie. 

Are there holes in this movie, probably, but I did love how we get to see true Christian faith, amongst major adversity, as they keep the faith.  Truly, those Christians and St Paul, fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.  God Bless!

Adam, Eve and Football

I’m a bit of a Book of Genesis junky.  I don’t know how that happened!  I think its just a great depiction of how life came to be as it is and how God called to His people in the most perfect of ways.  I also teach a baptism course a few times a year to new parents entering their child into the Church, which drew me into the Book of Genesis.

As a result of my studies, I’ve shared some information with my children.  My son keeps brining up the story of Adam and Eve.  Just the other day, while throwing the football around, he was explaining to me that he loves sports and if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the apple, football would be boring.  Under his logic, each play would result in a touchdown.

That’s a stumper!  I couldn’t say to him, yeah, and there’d be no cancer either – a little too harsh for a 7 year old!

I told my son that Adam still did things, he tended the fields, just that it wasn’t burdensome.  (The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.) Gen 2:15. I also went out on a limb and explained that football would be played but without malice, jealousy or hatred.  A player would get tackled and he’d get up and say, nice tackle to his opponent!  There’d be no poor sportsmanship either.

My son also explained that to live life, Adam and Eve had to eat the apple.  Such an old lie, renewed through the eyes of a young child.  The lie that God and Man are opponents.  With God, we can’t do what we want, when in truth, without God, we couldn’t do anything, since all things come from God.

Here I did say that to live in union with God is always better.  Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God, so they decided to eat the apple and become like Gods, discerning good from evil, and this world is what we got.  God wanted us to know of sin and death but like a doctor, not like a patient.  A doctor knows of cancer without experience it, as such, God wanted us to know of life in such a manner.  In the garden, in union with God, we wouldn’t experience death or illness.

Finally, what I think hit home, was that even though we live on earth, in a fallen world, that doesn’t mean we can’t experience joy.  God still loves us as he loved Adam and Eve after their fall.  In this world, there are times I see Eden and there are times I see the fallen world.

My son was relieved, I think deep down, he was worried that his joys shouldn’t be experienced because of Adam and Eve’s sin.  No, joy would just be greater in union with God in the Garden, but joy still exists.

Right after the fall:  I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Gen 3:15.

I will put enmity (Jesus!) between you (The devil) and the woman (Mary!) and between your seed (the line of Cain) and her seed (the line of Seth, leading to Abraham – David – Joseph – Jesus); he (Jesus!) shall bruise (crush) your head, and you shall bruise (cross) his heel. Gen 3:15.

This is why most statues of Mary show her standing on the head of a dead serpent, signifying the devils defeat and the conquering of death.  Through Mary’s perfect yes, we usher in the Blessed Savior, making Mary the portal for the devil’s failure.

Adam and Eve have fallen, foolishly and full of pride.  Not a few seconds later, God is promising a Blessed Savior, His Son.  That’s great love!

Being Judged and Judging

The other day, I was being judged by someone.  I didn’t like it and it got me down.  Was I really like that, I thought?  I really turned over the unfair judgement in my head for awhile.  Finally, I realized that it just wasn’t true and even if it were true, I could do something about it.  Did I say or do something wrong, yes, but was I really that bad?  Tomorrow, I’ll work on that but don’t think for one minute that I’m going to lay down and die about it.

“You’re not good at listening.”

“You’re not kind.”

“You gossip too much.”

“You’re just not good enough.”

“That actor stinks.”

“That author is stupid.”

“My neighbor is an idiot.”

“That driver is terrible.”

“That person pretends to be a good Christian.”

“That person is a flirt, probably cheats on his/ her spouse.”define meWhatever the judgement against you, does it define you?  It doesn’t.  There’s a difference between constructive criticism and judging.  Criticism is to help you be better, take it with the grain of salt if it is well intended.  When someone judges you though, that’s just a sentence, to hang on your neck if you let it.

The Lord’s prayer states, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  Matthew 6:12.

We will be forgiven how we forgive.  We will be judged how we judge.  (Oh crap!)  Truly, how we judge does more than just defines us, its how we will be defined by the Lord.

Next time you feel judged, remember, its worse for the judger than it will be for you.  How you in return judge, will define you.

Keep on your toes – and God Bless.  I know I need it, because I know I can get judgey!

Suffering

I understand that suffering for my loved ones is noble and good and rewarding.  For instance, my daughter will often cry out for me in the middle of the night because she’s had a bad dream.  I get up, go in to her bedroom, adjust her blanket and sometimes get her water.  I do and don’t love doing this for her.  I typically wake up early to go for a morning run and its harder for me when she wakes me up an hour or two before I need to get out of bed.  Still, she needs me and I like that she needs me and that I can comfort her.  It’s suffering but it’s also good.

For me, this type of suffering is good and noble and I understand it.  There are countless other sufferings I do for others, such as the dishes, or at work when I try and help another with a project or a deal.  I like helping even if its hard.

I even can understand suffering when its volunteering with the Knights of Columbus.  I know I’m helping and there’s a gratification with that help.

Obviously, if I’m only doing suffering for rewards and accolades, my heart is in the wrong place, even if the work is still good.  There are times when I try and secretly do good works for others or I don’t let others know of my trails.

I really try my best to act righteously with my good works through suffering.

(I hope I’m not even trying to convince you I’m a good person here, I’m just trying to put my thoughts down on how suffering is good).

Once in my career, I knew God was putting me through a trial.

I came across this quote that I felt was appropriate from St Thomas More: “Every tribulation whichever comes our way either is sent to be medicinal, if we will take it as such, or may become medicinal, if we make it such, or is better than medicinal, unless we forsake it.”

I was sitting in my car, about to go into work, and knew I was going to be publicly humiliated today.  A deal had gone wrong and my boss was set to make an example of me.  I wasn’t being fired, just ridiculed and my career was to take a hit.  The punishment was not just, in my opinion.  Had I made mistakes, yes, but had others made much greater mistakes – yes.  I also felt, truly, the buck didn’t stop with me, but my boss wasn’t going to take the bullet, so I was going to take the fall.

I didn’t want to go in to work.  I sat in my car wondering how this suffering was to help.  How was me being publicly humiliated going to help me and my faith?  Why must I suffer?  What must I learn from this suffering?  I felt I had learned the lessons of my mistakes from the deal gone wrong and knew I was better for it.  So why must I know be publicly shamed?

I started to pray the Rosary and it was the sorrowful mysteries.  The first decade is dedicated to Jesus’ agony in the Garden.  He knew he was to be shortly turned over and crucified.  He didn’t want to go but He must suffer for us.

In a small way, I felt I was in the Garden.  Certainly not to the extent of Jesus, who’s suffering was greater and was without sin, but I felt closer to Him then before.

On the next decade, I was to contemplate the scourging at the pillar.   I could hear His cries!  Next, was the crowning of the thorns and then his carrying of the cross and I could see Him in my mind, bearing the pain for me.  Finally, He was crucified.

Later, I prayed the Our Father for each of His five wounds, two on each hand and foot and one on His side.

Why must I suffer?  On that day, I was to suffer to have a greater appreciation for His suffering for us.  Even though I suffer, He Love me and His promise of salvation.  While my suffering didn’t help anyone that day, it helped me.  I felt closer to His love and only when I understand His love better can I love better.  I’m loved, you’re loved, thanks be to God!

Forgiveness

This morning was like a gut punch from God.  I was driving in to work, really wrestling with the thought of someone who was unexpectedly hurtful to me the other day.  I find, sometimes, in life you’ll come across those that are jealous of you and will try and tear you down.  Just the other day, I heard that it’s not atypical for at weight watchers, for someone to lose a good deal of weight, only to make an enemy or two in the process amongst their peer group.  I was shocked!  I thought someone losing weight would give credence to the process and inspire those around them; I never thought you could be making enemies through jealousy.  BTW – I do love and support weight watchers! 

Such is the case in my life, where recently I had some success, only to have made some jealous in the process.  Yikes!  I was struggling with wicked thoughts and asking God what to do to the point of obsession.  I don’t like being mad and resentful.  I needed God’s help and His intervention! 

That’s when on the radio, listening to Seize the Day on the Catholic Channel, I heard about the importance of Forgiveness.  The commentary was on the reading where the master forgives a debt of his servant and later learns the servant would not forgive a smaller debt from another.  In the reading, the master learns of the affair and ends up punishing the servant who he had originally forgiven the debt.  The reading is Matthew 18:21-35 if you’re interested in reading the story in its entirety.   

I know in my life, I’m a sinner and know God’s mercy has been great.  I’ve been forgiven and blessed a thousand times over. 

Today, rather than focusing on my resentment and hurt I’m going to focus on forgiving.  What does that look like exactly?  I’m not going to hug those that hurt me but I’m not going to seek revenge by in turn spreading rumors.  I’m not going to have mock arguments in my head about the things I’d like to say to my persecutors.  I’m not going to return hate with hate.  I’ll say hello to them and try and have a conversation with them with no malice.  Today, I’m going to work on finding it in my heart to be ok with the wrong.

I’ll do my best to avoid being hurt again and the trust factor is damaged with some, but I’m open to helping them as much as I can and praying in earnest for those people.  Whether if forgiveness is sought or not, they’ll receive it, truly.  If ever I have the chance, I’ll even trust them, if possible. 

After hearing the reading and reflection today, I’m better for it.  That message was tailor made for me.  Thanks be to God! 

Jesus gets into your boat

And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.  Luke 5:3

I love this image.  Here is Simon Peter, minding his own business, having worked all day and is washing his nets, and then Jesus gets into his boat.  So it goes with God.  How often have you been about your day, all is normal, then the Lord shows up with a lesson.

God doesn’t need an invitation.  He doesn’t need our permission.  Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and starts giving out orders.  When you are THE MASTER, you don’t need permission.  There’s no squabbling with God’s wants.  If Jesus states to you, set out into deep waters, you go.  You don’t argue, but Lord, we’ve been fishing all day and what’s the point.  If I had shown up and got in Simon’s boat, he would have thrown me out.  When Jesus shows up in the boat, Simon does as he’s told.

God has a way of just showing up with a lesson.  Who are you to argue when the Lord gets into your boat?  Do we argue, get out of my boat, or do we do as we’re told?  We live in a society that says our needs are more important.  Who is anyone to show up and tell me where to go or what to do.  When the Master is God Himself, we’re better off when we listen.  We’re better off when we do as we’re told.

Complacency

Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the LORD came to Jonah, son of Amittai:  Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me.  But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the Lord.  He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down in it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD. 

Jonah is told by the Lord to do His work and Jonah jumps on the fastest ship he can find and races away from God’s desires.  It doesn’t go well being disobedient though and he finds himself thrown overboard by the crew, only to be swallowed by a fish.  For three days he suffers in the belly of the fish, only to find himself cast back to his original starting point.  Jonah has gotten the message, do God’s work.

Jonah lives a comfortable life and is told to do something uncomfortable, threaten 120,000 Ninevites with God’s wrath.  Where Jonah is directly disobedient, being complacent in life to God’s wants for us is similar.

I know I can get complacent with my love of God.  I get comfortable with my surroundings and don’t push myself in directions I think I’m being lead.  Sometimes, I even run like Jonah from the rightly thing to do.

There is something to be said about being in a good spot.  Soak in the rays and enjoy yourself.  There’s also a word of caution I’d like to input when it comes to sitting still and being complacent about the important things in life.

We shouldn’t be complacent with our spouse, our children, our health or our relationships, to name a few.  We can enjoy these things, but we can’t take them for granted.  For instance, my wife, bless her soul, does much of the housework.  While I appreciate this work and know she works hard, it doesn’t mean I can throw my clothes on the bathroom floor, knowing she’ll pick them up.  I can’t leave dishes on the table, knowing she’ll clean them up.  I can’t get complacent with her and her work or else I mind one day wake up only to find a dish shoved up my nose.

When it comes to God and my relationship, I have to continue to praise him.  I can’t take for granted that things are going well and therefore not do my prayers.  If I take Him for granted, I just mind find myself in the belly of a fish, making it abundantly clear after the turmoil, that I should have heeded His message.