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!

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!

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! 

Move Mountains

I’ve often thought about Matthew 7:20 – “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So why, in all of time, has no one moved a mountain through faith alone?  Because if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will only want to move a mountain if its God’s will.  Faith is doing God’s will and what He wants.  If God put a mountain somewhere, chances are, He doesn’t want you to move it.  If you want to move the mountain, and He doesn’t, then you are in conflict with God and don’t have the faith the size of a mustard seed.

Those with true faith, could move a mountain but don’t want to because God doesn’t want that mountain moved.  The minute you try to move a mountain with your great faith, then, you don’t have great faith.

It’s a brilliant catch 22.

There are countless miracles that have happened throughout history that have demonstrated that faith can do wonderous things.  I believe those blessings are like moving mountains.

God Bless!

Cleansing Tears

In the Gospel Luke, Chapter 7, Jesus enters the house of Simon, a Pharisee.  Simon calls Jesus teacher, so we understand that there is some recognition of Jesus’ abilities by the Pharisee.  Somehow though, a sinful woman, a common lady of the street has also entered this house.  We are unsure what her sins are, what her name is, and we do not know how she came to be in the house of Simon other than she learned Jesus was around and sought Him out.  It has been suggested that this woman is Mary Magdalene and perhaps also, one in the same, the woman who Jesus’ saves from being stoned.

All three, perhaps more, are in this house and the woman is weeping.  She is weeping so much that a sufficient amount of water is being produced.  From this water, she is washing the dirty feet of our Blessed Savior.  This scene, to me, is dramatic and strange and to add to it, she is now cleaning His feet further with her hair and kissing His feet.

“Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.” Luke 7:37-39

There is much to this story.  The Pharisee seeks a teacher while the woman seeks a savior.  The woman’s sins, which are great, are forgiven and thus loves Jesus more than another.  Finally, we come to understand and appreciate the love of Jesus, who can even love a great sinner, where most turn their heads away in disgust.

What strikes me is the scene.  If I saved a person’s life from a burning building, would they seek me out if I were in town, hysterically crying at my feet?  My reaction would likely be of humility, giving all glory to God for saving her (right place, right time).  I most certainly would not nonchalantly continue with my dinner party as if all were normal, while a woman wept.

The woman pours out her sins in tears onto the Blessed Saviors feet, unburdening her heart as Jesus forgives them all.  Jesus, as a man, is made clean by her tears, her soul is made clean by her actions through His great Mercy.  Jesus doesn’t demand her repentance by accusing her of her sins but she freely and dramatically repents and weeps.

I’ve wept.  I wept when my daughters were born.  I wept when I told my wife about the time an Angel saved me, even though I wasn’t deserving.  I wept during a difficult time in my life when I went to adoration and couldn’t control myself.  Each time I wept, I felt better but never have my tears been so great as this woman in the story.

Finally, Jesus doesn’t admonish her actions, weeping and cleaning and kissing Him.  He is not humble of the fact that He has forgiven her and ask her to stop.  He allows her to wash His feet with her tears and clean them with her hair.  He let’s her do these things to Him for her own sake.  It is for her that it is good.  It is perfectly alright and recorded for all history of her actions.

Jesus is better than us and He knows it.  The woman’s actions aren’t over the top, so He doesn’t fake modesty.  Jesus allows her to fuss over Him because He knows that He truly is the Savior and we should run to Him, weeping away our sins as He wipes them away with His great mercy.

God Bless!

Worried

I am human and I worry.  I get stressed and am impatient.  I THINK I worry less and get less stressed than others, but I don’t really know.  I’m sure there’s many who do better and do worse than me. 

When I am particularly worried, I often turn to google for good advice.  I often find, the first thing I’m told to do is to breath.  You might be told to go for a long walk and take stock in the things in life that are important.  You might even read that you should drink three cups of chamomile tea.  My favorite advice was to not google how to worry less.

I’m not saying its bad advice, but with Christ at the center, to be honest, I’m not sure why anyone would think it will all work out.  Why will it work out if Christ doesn’t love us and want what is best for us? 

Well, here is my advice for how to worry less. 

For the next 9 days (the days don’t really matter, it’s not magic, but 9 is a Novena, so let’s go with 9), do this:

-Find a quiet place and pray the Rosary, good and slow.  Mediate for a minute on each mystery prior to the Our Father prayer.

-Read the following, which is a short prayer from Dag Hammarskjöld followed by Matthew 6:24-34 and then meditate on the meaning of the prayer and passage:

The road, I shall follow it

The fun, I shall forget it

The cup, I shall empty it

The pain, I shall conceal it

The truth, I shall be told it

The end, I shall endure it

  

Matthew 6:24-34

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Why are you anxious about clothes?

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.

But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’

All these things the pagans seek.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”


God Bless!

Our Blessed Savior didn’t laugh on the cross

In the garden of Gethsemane:  “Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.”  Matthew 26:38 Again, in Mark 14:34 “Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch.”

“Then they spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?”  Matthew 26:67

“…he (Pilate) had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.” Mark 15:15

In John’s gospel, John 19:28 while dying on the cross, our Blessed Savior cries out, “I thirst.”

 “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.”  Mark 15:37

Jesus walks to His death but not with a smile on His face.  He hurts.  He thirsts.  He cries out.  With all the power to call down a legion of angles, He doesn’t.  Jesus could have ran for it but He doesn’t.

Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus laugh manically at what he’s accomplishing.  He is accomplishing what no man has or ever will do.  The innocent, only innocent man to ever walk the earth, who doesn’t deserve to die, is killed in a brutal fashion.  All men deserve to die for their sins; Jesus, sinless, doesn’t deserve death.

Jesus comes for us, our salvation.  He comes to proclaim the good news.  He comes and tirelessly preaches to turn away from sin towards God.  He comes, fully knowing His death will come at others’ hands.  In the Garden, He’s in anguish, knowing what will come.  He must carry His own cross after being beaten, scourged and crowned with thorns.  Jesus makes all things new with His laying down of His own life and it is hard.

Jesus dies on a Friday, the worst atrocity of all time, yet we call it Good Friday.  It is good what He has done for us, our salvation is purchased through His life, death and resurrection.  “Oh God, whose only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life;” Jesus knows what He is doing is good.

He suffers but He doesn’t smile through it all.  Jesus makes everything new, re-writes the covenant with man and purifies us with His most precious Blood.  “(B)ut one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” John 19:34 He purifies the world.  Jesus does all of this suffering for us and it’s the best thing ever, yet it is still hard.

In life, we too, must endure.  We must get up and go to work so that our children can be fed.  We must pull our children to Church, even when they are acting up and sleeping in is easier, because we must do the right thing.

Sometimes, God teaches us lessons in the most painful ways.  St Pio, bearing the marks of the stigmata, was wrongly accused of being inauthentic and was not permitted, for a time, to celebrate mass publicly or to hear confessions.  He did not complain, but endured this pain so he could be a standard bearer for how to suffer the difficulties of life by you and I.  St Pio must suffer so we can learn from his enduring strength.

St Maximilian Kolbe went to his death in place of another man that was a father and husband so that you and I can appreciate the importance of loving our God, even if it means our death.  St Kolbe loves another child of God and lays down his life in place of another.  The martyr a special person in history loves his God so much that he or she is willing to go into the depths of misery, even death for His sake.  A man doesn’t lay his life down for Zeus or for his dog but when he does so for God, we are made better for it.  “The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.” Tertullian

Things in life that are good, true and righteous are not always easy.  To not do them is worse.  If Jesus doesn’t die on the cross, we’re not saved.  It doesn’t mean Jesus should be gleeful while having His hands nailed to the cross.

When God is teaching you a painful lesson or when you must suffer for those that you love, its ok to cry out.  It’s ok to hunger and thirst.  It’s ok to shed tears.  A mother woken at night to care for her newborn doesn’t have to skip with a smile into her daughter’s room – but she must go to her child for love.

Endure my friends for Christ and His ways.  It won’t always be rocky but when it is, know to turn and run is worse.  Salvation has been paid for and there are many rooms in the Father’s house.

God Bless!