Monthly Archives: October 2012

RECENT HOMILY ON ABORTION

THIS IS MY OTHER “SOCIAL TEACHING HOMILY,” DELIVERED LAST WEEK ON OCTOBER 21, 2012.  IT IS MOSTLY EDITED.

As you know, for four weeks the parish is focusing on different issues of Catholic social teaching.  (If you didn’t know that, you know it now.)  This week is week 3 in the series and it is essentially about abortion.  If there are some parents in the congregation who would rather their children not hear about this issue, I would invite you to take them in the cry room or in the back for about 20 minutes.  It is not my intention to offend anyone, but this is a difficult subject both to hear and to speak about.  So please bear with me.

The pamphlet is entitled, “Life Matters:  Responding to Unplanned Pregnancy.”  Honestly, I think that the pamphlet is was badly named and badly written.  Obviously, the teaching is not simply about pregnancies that are unplanned in households that are pro-life.  Lots of pregnancies aren’t planned.  There are many of us in this church who were not “planned” by our parents, and yet here we are, because they would never have dreamed to end our lives in the womb.

I once heard a comedian say that he had two brothers and a sister, and all four of them were not planned.  Their last name was “Johnagin,” which is a good Irish name.  So this is what he concluded.  He said, “So, my friends, what I’m trying to say is that if you ever meet a Johnagin, then you really shouldn’t have.”

We do not often preach about these issues from the pulpit, but since people are becoming less and less informed about their faith, it has become more important to do so.  Isn’t it strange that in an age where information can exchange hands instantly across the globe and can be ours at the touch of a button, we seem to know less and less about what really matters?  A great writer, T.S. Eliot once wrote, ” “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

First, let me just give you some facts about precisely what is going on with abortion.  Just to be conservative, I will stick with the facts as provided by the United States Government and pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood.

According to the official United States Abortion Statistics, Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended; about 4 in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion.  The entire number of abortions performed in 2008 in the United States alone was 1.3 million, and this was the most conservative estimate that I could find, with the highest estimated figure doubling that.  We should stand in awe that one-third of the younger generation is MISSING because they never got the chance to live.  Who have we allowed to die?  What musicians, poets, scientists, budding mothers and fathers–what great saints have we never met who lie in unmarked graves?

In 2010, Planned Parenthood, which is the largest abortion provider in the country, performed 329,445 abortions–and those were just the ones that were officially reported.  Those statistics are provided by Planned Parenthood themselves.  It is interesting that Planned Parenthood sets themselves up as an organization that pretends to help women and counsel them, and yet it is also a fact that it only referred 841 women that year to adoption agencies.  Why is that?  Because Planned Parenthood can charge between $300-1000 for an abortion depending upon how many weeks pregnant she is and whether or not she wants to be sedated during the procedure.  They get little or no money if the child actually lives.

My brother and sisters, I am convinced that there is truly something evil going on here.  I actually went to the March for Life last year in Washington, D.C.  Nearly half a million people marched on washington in the cold and the rain.  We stretched for miles through the streets.  And do you know that the event went virtually unreported by the major networks?  The AP showed pictures only of a few pro-choicers on the steps of the Capitol rather than the thousands behind them.  CBS and NBC were virtually silent.  I got to speak to at least a few hundred teenagers at the event the next day, and held up the major newspapers while they watched in horror that March for Life was not in those papers, and if it was, it was a tiny story that often showed pictures of the handful of pro-choicers rather than the pro-lifers.  The teens were angry, and they should be.  By contrast, there were multiple stories about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which was a tiny fraction of what had happened with the March for Life Movement.

Make no mistake.  You are not getting the real news or the complete news when you watch the news, and there is something truly evil going on when it comes to defending the culture of life.  We really need to wake up before its too late.

On October 10–only ten days ago–the minister for Education for the entire province of Ontario in Canada, Laura Broten, announced that Catholic schools can no longer teach that abortion is wrong because doing so is a hate crime against women.  The same bill that would pass this into law also forces Catholic schools to permit gay-straight alliance clubs.  Look it up.  It’s all over the news in Canada.  If you did not know, even Catholic schools are under the public school system in Canada because their system is essentially socialistic, which is where we are headed as well if we fail to speak out, and speak out very forcefully.

I am wondering precisely how we have become so insane to think that killing a child in the womb is more of a hate crime than allowing its mother to murder him or her in the womb?  The minister of education obviously thinks that those women who are pro-life are stupid and are being brainwashed by millions of men who are pro-life simply because they hate women.  And if you believe that, then you probably believe in UFO attacks and that Bigfoot is secretly running the country.

But you men, we are not off the hook on this.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that many women end up having abortions because their men actually do hate them or are too selfish to step up to the plate, act as protectors and leaders of their families, and support them no matter what.  It is absolutely not the case that abortion is caused by a bunch of evil women.  In most cases, they are poor, frightened, confused, and feel unloved.  And one of the main reasons for this is because of the selfishness of the men in their lives.  If men actually stepped up and acted more like men, then maybe women would not have to go through the horrors of abortion.

Now let me tackle a few arguments very quickly, because I want to get to the more spiritual point at the end.

Many people believe that there should be some exceptions for abortions in cases of rape.  In a study by Dr. Sandra Mahkorn, these cases are only .005% since abortion was made legal in 1973 numbering only a few hundred cases, and 75% of these women decided to have the baby hoping that God would bring something good out of something horrible rather than adding the guilt of an abortion to the shame of what some terrible monster has done to them.

There is an argument that if abortion is not fully legal and available, women will perform back alley abortions and hurt or even kill themselves.  Though it is true that a few have done this or might do this, the statistics about it were horribly trumped up by pro-choicers.  Dr. Nathanson, who was one of the original people who got Roe vs. Wade passed and then later had a conversion, said the following:  “We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures. We succeeded because the time was right and the news media cooperated. We sensationalized the effects of illegal abortions, and fabricated polls which indicated that 85 percent of the public favored unrestricted abortion, when we knew it was only 5 percent. We unashamedly lied, and yet our statements were quoted [by the media] as though they had been written in law.”

Did you know that the woman that was duped into making the lawsuit that legalized abortion in Roe vs. Wade, Norma McCorvey, is now pro-life, and goes around preaching how much Planned Parenthood and their lawyers lied to her and used her?  She is a native of Louisiana and was received into the Catholic Church in 1998.

But the argument that we hear the most is that women should simply have the right to choose what they should do with their bodies without exception.  This sounds on its face like a wonderful thing.  We’re all about freedom.  We’re all about equal rights, and that’s a good thing.  But the problem is that those who support pro-choice are not very clear about WHAT is being chosen.  What is being chosen is the life and death of another human being, and no one should have the right to make that choice.  That baby is not her body.  That baby has his or her own body, which is nourished by the mother.  It has its own heartbeat, its own nervous system, his own everything.  If something that belongs to you is in my house, do I have the right to destroy it or confiscate it?  But these people think that just because the baby is in the womb, they can do with it what they want?  What about protecting the defenseless?  Isn’t that what law is supposed to do?

Let’s do a thought experiment.  There are lots of mothers in this room, and in the very least, we all have a mother, don’t we?  Let me ask you mothers a question:  when did you really think you became a mother — was it the moment that you knew you had a baby in your womb or the moment it was born?  Every woman that I’ve ever asked that question has told me that she was a mother the moment that child was conceived, and no one can tell her otherwise.  Try telling a pregnant woman that she is not really a mother yet and see what sort of response you get, and good luck with that, by the way.

So think about that logically.  If there are millions of women who know for a fact that they are mothers as soon as they know they are pregnant, then they admit that what is in their womb is a child.  In order to be a mom, you have to have a child.  So what we have with the pro-choice position is a group of people who are deciding whether or not another group of people are human.  Or worse yet, pro-choicers admit that the baby is human but that it is better to kill it.  The only tragedies equal to the tragedy of abortion in history is the tragedy of slavery and that of the Holocaust of World War II.  My friends, we can never, never decide that a group of human beings are less than human, or that they must be destroyed because they are an inconvenience to us.

A very holy priest once told me that if your ship is sinking, it’s a good idea to plug up the biggest hole first.  My brothers and sisters, if we can’t get together and get on board with defending life itself from conception until natural death, I have a feeling that all of those smaller holes won’t matter, because the ship will have sunk.

I realize that some of you would rather not hear what I am saying.  Let me counter by telling you that I would rather not say it.  But I will not stand before God and say that I said nothing about the greatest horror perpetrated in my country.  Some of you think that this is a political issue and that it has no place in church.  I would counter by saying with St. James that “Faith without works is dead,” or with St. Paul that the one who will not care for his own family is worse than an unbeliever and has already cast aside his faith, or with St. John that God is love, or with Jesus who said that he is the Way, the truth, and the Life?  THE LIFE?!!  Do you think that a God who is love and life could look upon the destruction of his little ones with anything less than horror?  The church, as God’s hands and eyes and feet in the world, must try to act as he would act.  If we don’t, then we don’t deserve to be called his church.  And we may lose many battles, but our faith tells us that we will not, in the end, lost the war.  And that is why we should be pro-life.  Amen.

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Recent Homily on Pornography

THE FOLLOWING HOMILY IS (GENERALLY) WHAT I DELIVERED THIS PAST SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2012 — THE PASTOR WANTS US TO PREACH ON IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES.  IT IS NOT ENTIRELY CLEANED UP, BUT MOSTLY SO.

Some of you have already heard the rumors about the homily topic today, or guessed at it from the content of the bulletin.  And it’s on pornographyThat’s right.  I am so thrilled, and I am sure that you are, too.

So here is where we are going, just so that you know.  First, I’m going to give you a bit of an introduction to the topic and let you know why we are talking about it.  Second, I’m going to give you some statistics about the present state of the problem.  Third, I’m going to indicate how we got to this state of affairs and what some of the consequences are.  Fourth, I will indicate how there may be some healing.

So I include the same disclaimer that I included last week on abortion that it is not my intention to offend, but I don’t know any other way to tackle this issue but to do it truthfully and straighforwardly.  My guess is that if your children are listening then they may ask questions about this, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  You can guarantee that the world is bombarding them with information or will do so, and it is better that they do so in a forum where they are more certain to get the truth than the fantasy and the lie.  But as for whether or not it would be better to take your children to the back for 20 minutes, that’s your call.  But I think it’s my duty to at least  warn you.  You parents are better equipped to make that decision than I am.

As for you adults that think you should leave just because you’ve decided to be offended, let me suggest that that is a trick of Satan himself.  Because we will tolerate this junk on our T.V.’s, billboards, magazines, and just about everywhere else, but woe to us if we try to actually bring it up in church and expose it to the light of Christ?  Let’s stand up and realize how much of a problem some of these social issues are and actually have our churches try to take some responsibility for them.

The reason why we are doing this is because several years ago, Fr. Frank and the staff decided that there should be a set time when we do some specific teachings about Catholic Social thought, and it was decided that this would happen in October.  So we were presented with about 9-10 pamphlets, and the staff voted on four of them to be presented this month.  And pornography was one of them.

So I stand before you in obedience.  But I am not going to sugar-coat it, because that’s not my way.  If I’m going to teach about a topic, I do it.  When I read over my notes for this homily, I noticed that the word pornography came up a lot, and I didn’t really like it.  I even had an idea to replace it with some other word, like the writer of the old comic Bloom County, and call it snugglebunnies; but that just seemed ridiculous.  So I’ll try to make some of my references generic and let you guess what I’m talking about.

First, let me offer you some statistics as to the state of pornography in the United States of America.  I am gleaning this information from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, just so as you don’t think the figures are exaggerated because they come from a religious source that is trying to make a “big deal” out of this issue.

  • Every second of the day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 372 people type in explicitly sexual words on search engines on the Internet.
  • Every 39 minutes one of these videos is being made in the United States alone.  If we included the entire globe, this figure would increase to nearly every 2-3 minutes.
  • In the United States Alone, it is a 100 billion dollar industry, with 3 billion dollars of that being spent specifically on child pornography.
  • Every second of the day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, almost $4000 dollars is being spent on pictures and videos.
  • The last estimate is that there are about 4.2 million pornographic websites on the internet.  Please keep in mind that this figure is the number of websites, with each website containing the capacity to house thousands if not millions of demeaning text, videos, and pictures.
  • 10% of men have admitted being addicted to pornography, with the actual figure being closer to 20%, which is 1 out of 5 men.  Almost half of the male population admits to at least having some trouble with this issue.
  • Women are not free of this problem either.  Approximately 9.4 million women access pornography per month.  And although men are much more likely to have a problem with this issue because of the fact that men are actually mentally wired to be stimulated visually, women are 80% more likely than men to actually go and meet someone whom they know exclusively on the Internet, which is extremely, extremely dangerous.  The reason that the psychologist give for this fact is that women’s brains are more wired to respond to actual relationships, and so they will risk themselves more than men in order to attain that relationship.
  • HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT YOUTH
  •           The average age of initial exposure to it is 11 years old
  •           The largest group that accesses these sites is the ages of 12-17
  •           29% of these teens said they would or had given out their addresses online
  • And make no mistake about it parents, and this is vital information that you really need to know — MOST OF THIS ACCESS IS THROUGH THE CELL PHONE, AND NOT THE COMPUTER.  You can get anything through the internet on a cellphone, so if you were not aware of this before, than please make note of it.

These figures do not indicate that snugglebunnies is just a problem for a few disturbed people sitting in a dark room.  This is not a problem for bad, evil people.  That’s simply naiive.  It’s our problem.  It’s us.  It’s people in this church.  It’s our country.  And what should we expect from a world that has filled itself with garbage?  Have you ever tried to play and work in a garbage dump and not gotten dirty?

In 1968, in the encylical Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted that if widespread contraception were available, it would lead to a universal idea that man has dominion over his own body, it would lead to a cheapening of sexuality in pornography.  We have lived to see the face of the Unites States totally change since 1968.  And Pope Paul VI, who was once criticized and laughed at, is now recognized for the prophet that he was.  I would love to say so much more about this, but suffice it to say this:  the marital act is supposed to have two separate dimensions:  both unitive and procreative.  By unitive, we mean that it is an act by which marriage vows are renewed and love itself is born again.  If we look at this activity as merely recreational, we cheapen it far below what it was mean to be.  Sex is not suppposed to be GREAT.  Coffee is great.  Frosted Flakes are great.  Sex is supposed to be HOLY.  If we totally separate it from its dimension as procreative, then we divide it from the great responsibility that is necessary when two people decide to come together in that embrace.  If we treat ourselves like toys and recreation parks, those get boring.  Want to know why homosexuality is on the rise?  Well, if you cheapen this embrace so much that you think it should be recreational and separated from its dimension as procreative, then why not engage in that act with a person with whom it would be impossible to conceive a child with?  Why not use videos or pictures and treat my body like a toy?  Why not something even more terrible?  True love given by two unselfish people never gets boring.

CONSEQUENCES

With pornography, there are no diseases, no broken families, no children or risk of pregnancy, no issues involved with performance or negative emotions — in short, it is fantasy pure and simple.  But it’s not just a fantasy.  The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy.  Star Wars is a fantasy.  Mother Goose stories are fantasies.  But those fantasies can actually teach us something about heroism, about the meaning of life, the nature of suffering, and the battle between good and evil.  Pornography is a fantasy of epically destructive proportions.  It has nothing to teach us.  What it teaches us is that sex is a recreational act completely separated from love, that human beings are purely animals, and that human beings — particularly women — are nothing more than objects of pleasure, and that it never causes problems with relationships, children, or an addiction that feeds a 100 billion dollar industry.

Their fantasy will not tell you that regular use of pornography can wreck not only your marriage, but even your friendships, and that it can also wreck your ability to perform and enjoy true romance when it tries to show up in your life.  Their fantasy will not tell you about those statistics that I mentioned have.

There are five faulty believes that fuel this addiction.  I want you to listen very closely to these, and try to realize how much they truly are lies.  As a matter of fact, these lies in the soul are the fuel for almost any addiction:

1.  I am unworthy of love.

2.  If people knew me, they would reject me

3.  I cannot trust anyone, including God, to meet my needs

4.  I must find something that I can control to meet my needs

5.  Pornography is my greatest need and source of comfort.

How can these lies be combatted?  They can be combatted by the following things.

1.  Self-knowldge and commitment — realize that you have a problem, realize that you have these lies in your soul and that your behavior is wrecking that soul and those around you and make a decision to change.

2.  Purifying the environment — you need to get control of what you are looking at and what you are hearing.  If you are what you eat, then you are also what you watch, what you hear, and what you read.

3.  Get support and accountability from a group or a good trusted friend

4.  Get some counseling if you are able

5.  Make a spiritual plan of action and start a daily prayer life

6.  Continue to get education about this issue so that you are no longer fooling yourself (that’s what this talk is for)

My brothers and sisters, we are supposed to be temples of the Holy Spirit, and this world has us believing that our bodies are simply animal, and at worst, dirty.  That was not supposed to be the plan.  Look around you.  God’s plan for sexuality has failed and failed miserably.  As a church, we are called into an adventure in which we give ourselves to one another in love and mutual self-respect–not use one another to gratify our needs.

LEWIS:  “It is a serious thing,” says Lewis, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw [it in its full glory in heaven,] you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such [as if you met in hell], only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love…

If it doesn’t cost us something to get it, then it isn’t real love.  We might as a society spend money on pornography, but the Lord wants more.  He wants love to cost hearts and souls.  But he promises to give us his heart in return.  Satan wants it to cost our hearts and souls, and plans to give us nothing in return.  A heart hooked on such things ends up empty and lifeless.  And if we as a church allow that to happen, then we aren’t doing our jobs very well.

The problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much — as a matter of fact, it reveals too little.  We were meant to be immortal splendors, not cheapened toys.  So lets be about the mission of building a more heavenly, purer heart.  And let’s start with ours.

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Who Cares if the World is Ending?

This morning I said mass for the fourth graders.  There were some brand new servers there who had no idea what they were doing, and some new readers who couldn’t seem to find their place in the book.  There was a children’s choir there who got so excited that some of their singing was closer to yelling, and many of their grandparents and parents attended the mass to give them support.  (I also hope that they came to pray the mass–sometimes I think the children take that more seriously than their parents do.)  I asked several questions and the children were full of zeal and eagerness.  I even gave one of them three dollars for recognizing that the first thing we do after we make the sign of the cross at mass is the Penitential Rite.  During my homily, I told them how Jesus left us in charge of the world like the parable in the gospel says that he did, and I continued that they need to take that seriously and try to help get their friends into heaven.  The point is that the mass was full of life, and not a little bit of chaos as well.  It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it.  It was a good kind of chaos, kindof like a breakfast at the dinner table of a large family.

As soon as the mass ended, I got a phone call.  A man was dying at Slidell Memorial.  I went straight from a church full of life to an ICU unit full of sickness and death.  The man in his sixties was not really prepared to die, but his body had given up on him, so his family was removing life support.

There is such a huge contrast between those two events.  One place was full of chatter, prayer and singing, and another was full of bustling nurses and the beeps of machines keeping people alive.  One place was bursting with so much life that I was trying to contain it, and one place was draining with life so fast that you felt like you were trying to grasp it like sand running through your fingers.

The Lord says that we should watch because we do not know the day or the hour.  that promise becomes much more real when you come face to face with somebody’s hour.  I placed a tiny piece of the Eucharist in his mouth as he flatlined.

You know, a lot of people talk about the end of the world.  According to the Mayans, it might even end this December, but I don’t take it very seriously.  And even if it’s true, so what?  What is definitely true is that whether the whole world ends today or tomorrow or in December or 1,000 years from now, it will certainly end for each one of us.  No matter what happens, each one of us will hear the angel’s trumpet blast, the silver cord of the soul will be snapped, the golden bowl broken, and we will find ourselves face to face with our maker and our judge.

The Lord says, “To he whom much has been given, much will be asked.”  With that final ending in mind, I would ask you the following simple question:  “What truly has God asked of me?”

Spiritual Principle #3:  In the end, it won’t have mattered if you you did what you wanted, but only what HE wanted.

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Watching with the Lord

In the Gospel today, the Lord has asked us to stand vigilant.  He says:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants
.”  (Luke 12:  35-38)

Stand watch.  I think that we all know what he means.  But let’s try to delve a little more into the image and what it might mean for our lives.

There are several images for “those who watch” in Scripture.

Part of the image that the Lord gives us is a military one.  The soldier is supposed to stand at his post and watch for potential enemies.  If the soldier abandons his post, he can be subject to severe punishment, which could be imprisonment, beatings, or even death.  If he does not stay well trained enough to deal with the conflicts that he meets during his watch, he can be punished for that as well.  If he falls asleep on the job, he can be punished for that as well.  More importantly than being punished, however, is that other people can suffer harm because the quality of the solider’s vigil is poor. The military image emphasizes that we should be ready for extreme Christian combat.  In Romans 13, St. Paul tells us that we should wake from sleep and put on our armor, being ready for the combat that lay in store for us.  Can you think of anything less comfortable to put on than a suit of armor?  It appears that one of the last things that God wants for us is “comfort,” because comfort can make the soul so “fat and happy” that it no longer yearns for its God.  This kind of vigil is not comfortable, but I guarantee that when the demons come screaming with their temptations, you will be glad that you are wearing the armor of prayer, good deeds, fasting and sacraments!

 

The image of a watchman need not be a military one.  In the Gospel quoted above, it is important to realize that the Lord actually doesn’t speak of punishment here for those who fail to watch; but he DOES speak of blessing for those who DO watch.

There is another major image that Jesus uses for the watchman.  And that is the image of the Bridegroom.  In a Jewish wedding, the Bridegroom often went on a journey in order to get to the wedding.  His appearance at the wedding was often a complete surprise to the crowd, and it was the job of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to announce the coming of the bridegroom.  But what happens if you are sleeping or drunk or just get lazy because the bridegroom is taking too long?  The wedding image emphasizes that we should be waiting with eagerness and joy for something wonderful.

There is still another image of watching that is used in Scripture, which is that of a shepherd watching over his flocks.  We all know the story of how King David killed both a lion and a bear with his sling as he watched over the flocks of his father, Jesse.  Like David, we are supposed to be watching over our flock as well.  Did  you know that in Medjugorje, the Blessed Mother herself uses an image of David watching over his flocks to teach Christians what we are supposed to be doing as we wait for the Lord?  She calls the following activities the “five stones” that Christians can hurl at Satan to bring him down, just as King David brought down Goliath, the lion, and the bear.

The five stones are the following:  (See http://www.medjugorje.org/ol5step.htm for a summary.)

  • Prayer of the Heart
  • Confession
  • Fasting
  • Dailing reading of the bible
  • The Eucharist

So the military image stresses readiness for combat, the wedding image stresses waiting with eagerness, and the shepherd image emphasizes taking care of others.  All of the images stress that there is some great responsibility that must be taken care of.  In all of them, we are told to BE READY.

Did you know that one of the main practices of the ancient monks is to rise in the middle of the night and “wait on the Lord,” in fulfillment of his several commands to watch?  This was one common practice that they observed during Lent.

Sometimes it can be hard to pray unless we have a concrete images to act as a kind of “raw material” for our meditations.  These images give us something to chew on.  Something to imagine as we pray, which can lead to a very powerful experience with our Lord.

Does one of these images speak to you more than another?  Military readiness, waiting for the wedding, the diligence of the shepherd?  What might that tell you about your prayer life?  One final image of being vigilant is when Jesus asks his disciples to WATCH AND PRAY with him in his Agony in the Garden (which they failed to do diligently).  Isn’t it touching that we have a Savior that doesn’t just minister to us, but asks us to minister to HIM sometimes?  He doesn’t want simply inactive adoration–he wants us to share in his ministry of defending, announcing and caring for others.  I have found that this insight alone can help reinvigorate one’s relationship with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who wants our heart to keep company with his.

Spiritual Principle #2:  God doesn’t desire only to minister to us, but became low enough to desire that we minister to him.  One main way that we can do this is to “keep watch” with Him!

 

 

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Is Your Life “Worth It”?

When we hit an anniversary or a birthday, it is a very common thing to wonder whether all of our efforts–indeed, even our  very lives–are “worth it.”  There are some of us, myself included, who seem both cursed and blessed insofar as we constantly ponder upon the meaning of our lives.  It is a blessing because these meditations deepen the soul with thoughts that raise us above mere animals and make life worth living.  It is a curse because the same meditations can also lead to an unhealthy kind of obsessing that can spiral into guilt and even depression.  Just recently, I came upon two major anniversaries of mine:  my 42nd birthday (October 20) and my 12th anniversary of being ordained a deacon (October 21).  As far as anniversaries go, they were good ones.  I had some wonderful friends and parishioners who came to my rescue by remembering me in many ways–for this I thank them, and thank the God who gave them to me.

But that didn’t stop me from wondering if all of it is really worth it?  All the pain?  The toil?  So much time wasted, with little to show for it?  That is where my heart began to drift into dangerous waters.  But can we really afford such morbid brooding, and is it really true?  One very simple event happened yesterday to help shake me from this brooding and filled me with gladness.  Here is the story:

As is sometimes my custom (particularly when I’m trying to comfort myself), I went to the local one-stop and got a very typical snack for me:  Corn-nuts, Sweet-tarts, and a bottle of lime gatorade — not exactly a meal for champions, I realize.  I had just finished Mass so I was dressed in my collar, which I had just pulled out and put into my the top pocket of my clerical shirt.  The young woman at the counter looked tired and over-worked.  As she checked out my snacks, she looked up at me and said, “Are you a priest?”

I responded, “Yes I am.”  She began to cry.

I was just thinking that I was at the end of my rope and that God doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, and then you walked into my store.  I guess he hasn’t abandoned me after all.  Thank you. ”  I offered to talk to her, but the message that she needed was already given to her by GOD, not by me.  I simply patted her hand and said, “Hang in there.”

Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously.  Sometimes we place entirely too much pressure on ourselves to “be all we can be” or simply “do God’s will.”  But as this little event illustrates, God will use us to do His will quite on His own terms and in His own time.  Maybe all we have to do is our duty and attempt some kindness to our brothers and sisters, and God does the rest?  Could it be that simple?

Many of us actually claim (and truly believe it) that if we helped just one person in our lives–made one heart swell, saved one life, painted some bright beauty where only ugliness once scarred–then our life would have been “WORTH IT.”  I think you can come up with a single thing for yourself.  As for me, at least I can think of that one fateful moment that I walked into an Exxon gas station and simply was myself–a priest–for a woman who needed to see a reflection of God in me, no matter how dim.  And I wasn’t even trying.

So there.  I helped one person in my life.  My life is now “worth it.”  And likely, so is yours.  So now that your life is “WORTH IT,” what are you going to do NOW?

Liberating, isn’t it?

Spiritual Principle #1:  When you feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders, remember that isn’t your job because Jesus carried it on His.

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