An Inconvenient Pandemic

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Christ Healing the Leper

About a month ago, on a Tuesday, I had cataract surgery on my right eye.  I went in on Wednesday for a follow-up visit and all looked fine.  But, by Thursday, my vision in that eye was a little cloudier than it was the day before so I made an appointment to go back in on Friday.  However, also on Wednesday, I was having some chest congestion, some shortness of breath and a minor headache, so I made an appointment to get a Covid-19 rapid test at a clinic.  A quick swab up the nose and bingo!, I had Covid.

Well, I had to do the right thing and let the ophthalmologist’s office know I had Covid. After some hemming and hawing, they decided I could still keep my appointment with some conditions:  I had to wait outside until they were ready for me, they had to prepare a room just for me, I had to double mask with my mask taped to my face, and I couldn’t speak while I was in the office.  On top of that, the doctor came in attired in full operating garb from head to toe.  

It was an inconvenience for me but I didn’t take it personally.  I knew the doctor couldn’t afford to catch the virus and risk giving it to other patients.  But, when I got home I told my wife that I now knew how the lepers of biblical times must have felt!

This morning’s Scripture passages brought this recollection to mind.  We heard in the first reading, Leviticus 13:1-2 & 44-46, how the Lord told Moses and Aaron that those with a “scaly infection” (leprosy) shall be declared unclean, be required to cry out “unclean, unclean!” whenever near another person, and shall dwell apart from other people. It always seemed cruel to me that they should be outcast from society, and I always felt sorry for them because there was no known cure which would allow their re-entry.

Today, as I meditated on that passage, I saw that there was perhaps a purpose behind God’s instructions to Moses and Aaron.  An uncontrolled outbreak of the contagious disease could wipe out a significant portion of a civilization.  I can see how God, in His wisdom, saw the necessity to sacrifice a few for the benefit of many.

This theme carried over into today’s second reading, 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, in which St. Paul says, “…do everything for the glory of God.  Avoid giving offense…just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

And then, in the Gospel, Mark 1:40-45, we read about how Jesus, moved with pity, cleansed the leper.  My first thought was that Jesus, as I would expect, was more concerned about that one leper than he was for Himself and His disciples.  But, then I considered that Jesus, seeing the bigger picture, obeyed the Father’s instructions to a tee, with one significant twist:  He sacrificed Himself on a cross for the benefit of many, including you and me, and for the salvation of our souls.

Ever since the onset of the Corona virus pandemic, people’s opinions have been all across the spectrum on how we should live with it.  Some are extremely cautious while others throw caution to the wind.  There is much debate about whether masks are effective and if they are safe for the wearer or if they make matters worse.  We are a mobile society which makes isolation painful, if not impossible, for some folks.  Throw in the politicized aspects of the pandemic and one doesn’t know whom or what to believe.

I dislike wearing a mask as much as the next person.  But, our society, our culture, our entire civilization for that matter, is mobile and cannot isolate completely.  Thus, measures were implemented to protect the general population, the many, until science could catch-up.   And, so, I had to ask myself if it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.  I decided last year to wear my mask, including wearing it to church.  Not because I wanted to, or because the Governor told us to, but because my pastor asked me to for the well-being of the many.  Today, understanding that God advised the Levite priests to do much the same, brought me some consolation.  

I found even more consolation in knowing that Christ sought not His own benefit but that of the many when he offered Himself as a sacrifice for all souls, including mine, that we may be saved.  If He did that for me, then I can live with a little inconvenience.

“All loving and merciful God, I pray for the souls of those who have succumbed to this virus and for those who have suffered and survived, and I pray for a speedy end to the pandemic.  Until then, I pray that, in our inconvenience, we may imitate Jesus and make just a small sacrifice for the benefit of the many.  Amen.”

(An Inconvenient Pandemic was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2021 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Groundhog Day

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It’s been two days since the world’s most renowned groundhog, Punxsutawny Phil, popped out of his burrow and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. (For my international readers who are unfamiliar with Groundhog Day, go here to learn more).  Personally, I can’t make it through the second day of February each year without thinking about the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, one of my all-time favorites, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

In it, actor/comedian Murray, plays the part of Phil Connors, an abrasive and self-centered television weatherman who is sent on assignment along with his producer and cameraman to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania.  During the festivities, Phil records his news report on the celebrated groundhog’s prediction with all the contempt for the “rat” (and the people of the town) that fits his egotistical personality.

In a kind of karma, Phil and team are forced to spend the night in the small town because of a severe winter storm which he failed to predict.  The following morning, Phil awakes in his hotel room bed and discovers it is February 2nd all over again, a deja vu which only he experiences.    Then, every morning afterwards, for what seems like a lifetime, he wakes at 6:00 a.m. to the same song on the radio only to find it is still February 2nd.

As the film progresses, Phil’s life progresses from denial to rebellion to despair and then finally to acceptance of his situation.  With acceptance, he learns to replace his pride with humility, his lust with love, and greed with generosity.  He learns the importance of beauty in life and placing others before himself.  In a sense, he is being refined each and every day that he is stuck in the seemingly endless time loop which only he experiences.  In the end, when he finally experiences the true meaning of selfless love, he wakes up one morning and it is February 3rd.

On Tuesday as I was reading the daily Scripture during my daily meditation I thought of this movie again.  For the last four years I have hi-lighted in yellow pencil the passages I have read each day, and underlined in red those phrases which the Holy Spirit put on my heart that day.  And, next to each, in pencil, I have written the date I meditated on that passage.  I’ve now been doing this long enough to see that I’ve read that same passage on or about the same date in a previous year.  

Many Catholics don’t know that the Church repeats the daily readings on a two-year cycle for weekdays, and a three-year cycle for Sundays.  I knew this and always thought it was simply an effective way to read almost the entire Bible over a three year period.  But, on Tuesday, I saw it differently.

In the first reading from Scripture that day, I read in Malachi 3:1-4, “For He will be like a refiner’s fire…” so that their offerings, “will please the Lord.”  It struck me that the only way we can grow in holiness is to continually be refined; that our purpose on earth is to be refined to the point where our final offering will, indeed, please the Lord and we will be united with Him in heaven.  

As Catholics, we don’t wake up to the same song every morning like Phil did, but our two or three year cycle does give us the opportunity to grow in holiness and virtue every day.  

For one who does not spend time in daily meditation listening to the Word of God and asking what His will is for them every day, it can be a difficult journey.  Without prayer and trusting in God to help, you can easily do like Phil, that is deny, rebel and despair when life doesn’t seem to get any better.  But when you spend time daily in conversation with Jesus and you’re docile to the Holy Spirit, and you accept and take responsibility for your faults and weaknesses, it becomes much easier to resolve to grow in virtue knowing you can trust in Him for help.  One day He may show you where your pride is strong and how to replace it with humility.  The next day the Word of God may lead you to growing in love and charity and away from lust or selfishness.  Still another day you may decide that you need to be more generous, or less envious, less angry, more grateful, or stronger in your faith.  Some days it will seem like you’re stuck in your own Groundhog Day (movie) time loop because you didn’t get it the first time…or the second.  But, with each conviction, you can resolve to become better in a particular aspect of your life every single day until your vices have been refined into sustainable virtues that “will please the Lord”.

My goal in life is to become a saint.  I want you to become one, too.  I would much prefer our refinement take place day by day here during our time on earth than when we have no control of it in Purgatory.  Ask the Lord to show you each day how you can grow in holiness, and pray for the grace to resolve to take action daily.  Even if they’re just baby steps, they’re still steps forward towards your goal.  A lifetime of baby steps will get us there.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for this day and every day that I have to grow closer to You.  I pray for the grace to make the most of them by living my life as You would have me live it, with humility, prudence, fortitude, justice, temperance, faith, hope and love.  Amen.”

(Groundhog Day was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2021 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Come Holy Spirit

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As I read today’s Scripture for the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul during my morning prayer I recalled having posted a reflection on this passage sometime in the past.  Looking back, I found I had written Conversions on this date in 2019.  Immersing myself in that memory, I relived my own conversion experience and, once again, recalled the immense love I felt when I let myself hear God calling my name.

I also recalled this morning I had a similar recollection two weeks ago on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord about which I wanted to write but didn’t have the time.  This happens frequently – I get an inspiration but then don’t have the time to put it down in coherent form.  It can be a little frustrating but then I’m sure it’s all part of God’s plan.  But, over the last few days I’ve been confined to an upstairs bedroom/office with that little thing called Covid so I have some extra time to reflect and write. (Don’t be concerned, it seems to be a very mild case.)

That Sunday, two weeks ago, I was at the Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas attending Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Week.  As Deacon Tom Schumer read from the Gospel of Mark (Mk 1:7-11) at Mass, I was drawn back to that day eight years and ten months ago when I knew and felt in my heart for the first time that I was also a beloved son of God.  As it always is when I slip back to that life changing moment, I felt an intense warmth and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having received His love and being called to this life.

As Fr. Steve Sotiroff delivered his homily on the Gospel and related it to the Holy Spirit filling our hearts at our own baptisms, I naturally recounted my baptism almost a year after my conversion experience.  It seemed as though my heart had, over the previous year, already become enflamed to the point of being on fire for the Lord, such that my actual baptism was more an experience of intense gratitude (and a sigh of relief) for my sins having been forgiven.  

It crossed my mind how truly blessed I was to have had my conversion experience at the age of fifty-five.  I was able to not only remember it but to wrap it around me like a warm and comfortable blanket!  Although I truly believe it is essential for Catholics to baptize their children as infants, I thought what a difference there would be if every Catholic could have a “re-conversion” experience like mine, how we could, collectively, light the world on fire.  But, then, it occurred to me that they can have one, and many do, when men and women like you and me invite them to simply crack open the door to let the Holy Spirit come sweeping in, rekindling the fire that has been allowed to die down since their baptism.

A familiar prayer that I’ve recited hundreds of times came to mind:

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful.  Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.  Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.”

The Communion hymn at Mass that Sunday was a favorite, but one that, unless you’ve been in the Mentoring program would not know.  It is an original composition entitled Your Spirit, written and composed by Sr. Ruth Kuefler, AVI.  It is a truly beautiful song, especially when she graces it with an excellent in-person performance on her violin, which she did that day.  Ever since I first heard it four years ago it has pierced me like a sword and brought me to tears, so powerful are the lyrics.  The chorus particularly hit home that day:

“Send us Your Spirit we’ll hear the Father say: ‘My son, you are beloved, daughter you are my delight, I will care for you, and you will live in my love.’”

After Mass I caught Sr. Ruth’s attention and told her for the umpteenth time how beautiful her song is, how it strikes me, and suggested that she ought to copyright it and publish it.  To my surprise, she told me she had finally done that just the day before and published it as a YouTube video.  I feel honored to be able to share Your Spirit with you here (if you like it, please give it a thumbs up and share with others).

“Lord Jesus, thank You for Your love.  Thank You for sending the Holy Spirit, the love between You and the Father, into my heart.  Thank You for showing me through the people You’ve placed in my life, and the beauty of this world, like this song, that I am Your beloved son.  I pray for the grace to help others come to know the same.  Amen.”

(Come Holy Spirit was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2021 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Bring a Friend to Christ

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Jesus Sends the Apostles – Duccio di Buoninsegna, c.1300

Yesterday, as I read the Gospel from Mark 3:13-19, I zeroed in on Jesus’ summoning of the twelve whom he appointed as His Apostles.  I tried to imagine what they felt when they realized they were being chosen to stand out from the hundreds of other disciples who were following Jesus at the time.  Were they overcome with joy?  Probably.  Did their chests swell with pride for being chosen?  I’m sure they did.  Later, in Mark 10:35-45, we discover James’ and John’s ambition to be placed above the others.  

And what about the hundreds of other people who had flocked to Him, followed Him, and became His disciples?  How did they feel?  Did they feel left out?  Or did the joy they had discovered from following Jesus infuse new life into their vocations as spouses and parents, and into their occupations?

Two thousand years later, not much has changed.  The Holy Spirit is still calling men to be apostles by calling them into the priesthood, and women into religious life.  Their love for Jesus prompts them to embrace lives of poverty, chastity and obedience and live by divine providence as the first Apostles learned to do.  I am grateful for their sacrifices that, through them, the rest of us are brought closer to Jesus.

The rest of us.  What about the rest of us?  Because we have not been summoned, does it mean that we can’t or shouldn’t help bring others to Jesus as well?  Absolutely not.  Those disciples not chosen for the Twelve didn’t just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, that’s it, I’m not on the A-team so I can go home now.”  No, they remained faithful followers.  And, so should we.  

But, our job is not just to follow Jesus.  It’s to tell others about Him, to introduce them to Him.  In, Thursday’s Gospel we read in Mark 3:8, “Hearing what He was doing, a large number of people came to him….”.  How did they “hear” what Jesus was doing?  They heard because those following Jesus told them about His saving grace.  And, then, they not only heard, but they saw with their own eyes the joy and excitement  displayed by those who had seen the Messiah.

I know what you’re thinking:  “The point Jerry’s trying to get across is that we need to evangelize, that we need to go out and tell others about Jesus.”  You’re right.  And, I know what you’re feeling:  “That’s not easy to do.  Anyhow, most of the people I know already go to church and those who don’t don’t care.  What if people push back and don’t want to hear about Jesus?  What if they ask me questions to which I don’t know the answers?  It makes me uncomfortable!”  I get it.  Been there.

You might be thinking, too, “You know, I lead a good Christian life, I’ll let my example speak for itself.”  Well, that’s all fine and good, but it’s too passive.  That’s like seeing the guy or girl of your dreams and thinking you don’t need to speak to him or her because your good looks or your fancy clothes are enough of an attraction when, instead, it’s a vivacious, outgoing and charming personality that’s needed.  No, you have to take action, you have to do something.  But, where do you start?

I will assume you have friends.  And, every one of those friends is in love with Christ, they look forward to going to Mass every Sunday (and during the week, if possible), and they consider receiving Communion the high point of their day, right?  What, no?  They aren’t all that way?  You mean you have some friends who are perhaps a little lukewarm?  Oh, and even a few who don’t profess any faith?  Okay, good, you’re not alone, then.

The operative phrase in the above is that you have friends.  We all have friends and family whom we love but whose faith is all across the board.  And, since we are all sinners, every single one of us has room to grow in virtue that only Christ can bring through a close relationship with Him. Our mission is to help that happen.

What makes for good friendship?  Usually, it begins with getting to know each other through good conversation.  Good conversation brings with it a certain intimacy which, in turn, brings a level of trust.  A deep and trusting friendship turns into a loving relationship that desires the best for each other.  And, how can we love someone more than to wish for them a relationship with God that will bring them joy for all eternity?

I know, it sounds good, but how do you make it happen?  Well, it usually won’t happen by itself, meaning you have to set it in motion.  There are various ways to begin.  And, it’s not by following a “friend” on social media.

An easy way is to sit in a different pew than you’re used to sitting in, or attend a different Mass, and meet someone new.  Strike up a conversation after Mass.  If that’s the Mass they usually attend, make it a point to go back and meet them again.

It may help to have a plan.  I have a friend who, at the beginning of the year, spends time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to put on his heart three men whom he should try to bring closer to Christ.  Then, he makes it his mission for the year to help them get there.

You might think of a friend who is struggling in some way.  Perhaps someone who hasn’t been to Mass in a while due to the pandemic.  Give them a call to check up on them and see how they’re doing.  See if you can stop by and chat with them for a while.  If you can, follow up later and do it again.

Invite someone you’d like to know better out to dinner or for a drink at the local pub.  Sit around a campfire and share stories about your lives. Get together at your house for dinner and an evening of playing cards.  Then invite them to pray the Rosary with you.  Make plans to do it again soon.

Once you’ve come to know the person better, and they you, interject more of your faith into the conversation.  It can be done gently and unobtrusively.  Let them see your love for Christ.  Don’t worry if they don’t jump on board right away or reject your invitation, give it time.  You’ve planted the seed.  Keep watering and fertilizing that seed by following up.  It will grow.

If you meet with other men or women in a small faith sharing group or attend a Bible study, invite that friend, after a while, to come join you.  Perhaps invite someone to a Welcome, or Christ Renews His Parish weekend, or a Cursillo weekend.  Talk to them about how uplifted you are when you attend your Adoration hour and suggest they consider taking on an hour themselves.  

Above all else, PRAY.  You must pray for your friends.  Pray that they open their hearts fully to the Holy Spirit.  And, pray for your own docility to the Holy Spirit so that you will follow His lead.

You might think this sounds like manipulation.  It’s not.  It’s love.  Manipulation would be for the purpose of what you get out of it.  Through your love, you are helping someone find the love of Christ, for their own good, not yours.

Does it work?  Absolutely!  It’s what brought me to Christ and the Catholic faith almost nine years ago.  I was Agnostic, had no faith and didn’t care one way or the other.  But, two men, both strong in their faith, befriended me and slowly and gently led me to Jesus through friendship and good conversation.  They spent and invested time in me, invited me into their world, and in that world I found more love than I’d ever known.  Out of gratitude, I want to do the same.  Won’t you join me?

“Lord Jesus, thank You for placing friends in my life who, through their love of neighbor, took the time to patiently invest in me so that I would come to know You.  Lord, please help me bring those who do not know Your love, and those who have let their relationship with You become stagnant, to a full and eternal loving relationship with You.  Amen.”

(Bring a Friend to Christ was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2021 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

The Joy of Gift Giving

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“The Last Supper”, Jaume Huguet, c. 1470

It’s been a while since my last post, before Thanksgiving, in fact.  I hope you had a very merry and blessed Christmas and a peaceful and pleasant New Year.

Christmas 2020 was supposed to be the year that my wife and I would get together with all four daughters and their families, but, with COVID, that didn’t happen.  We had some disappointment but we understood the circumstances and declared, “No Foul”, and no hard feelings.  We were very thankful that everyone was healthy even though we couldn’t all be together. 

We did, however, travel to Lake Charles, Louisiana to spend Christmas with our daughter and her family who live there, and another daughter traveled to meet us from her home in Memphis.  We spent the week together enjoying mild weather, good food, and good conversation.  And, although we love our daughters dearly, the highlight of the visit was spending Christmas with our two grandsons, ages 4, and 23 months.   

It is always a special time on Christmas morning when the little ones open their gifts.  Paper, ribbons, and bows fly everywhere, and as soon as one gift is opened they are on to the next one.  I love to see the excitement and the smiles of magical wonder on the children’s faces. 

But, this Christmas, I found myself observing the morning mayhem a little differently.  As much as I noticed the grandchildren’s amazement at receiving their gifts, I witnessed the joy on my daughters’ and son-in-law’s faces as they watched the little ones open their gifts, gifts that they gave out of love.  It brought back beautiful memories of the joy I experienced of giving gifts to my own daughters when they were children.  That was always the best part of Christmas for me and I loved seeing my daughters experience that same joy.  The old adage, “It’s better to give than it is to receive”, came to mind, and I had to nod in agreement.

This two week old memory came to mind yesterday right after receiving Communion at Mass.  As I walked back to my pew I thought about all those who have denied themselves the Blessed Sacrament because of their social distancing fears, or who have, through laissez-faire attitudes, grown comfortable with the habit of not attending Mass.  Back at my pew, kneeling and offering a prayer of thanksgiving for having received Christ in the Holy Eucharist, I prayed for those folks by again making my own offering to Him as I do every morning and at every Mass during the presentation of the gifts:  “Heavenly Father, I offer You my prayer, work, joy and suffering, and I unite it to Your sacrifice made present in the Mass and I offer it for the conversion of souls.  Amen.”  

I wondered if they truly know and miss this gift of love that Christ so desires to give us if we just come to Him?  I mean, isn’t the reason we go to Mass to receive Him?

And then that’s when Christmas came to mind.  I had it wrong.  I had it backwards.  We go to Mass to give ourselves as a gift to God, to unite our hearts to the heart of Jesus through His sacrifice, to love Him for loving us and sacrificing His life for us.  We give ourselves freely to please God, to bring Him joy, to put a smile on His face.  And, in return, he gives Himself, and the infinite love of a happy Father which accompanies it, to us.

It’s the joy of giving that we miss when we don’t go to Mass.  It’s the missed opportunity to know that we have pleased God, and to show our gratitude for the experience.  And, since we know the happiness it brings when we give a loving gift to another, we fail to relate to the happiness we are denying God when He can’t give Himself to us. 

Thinking about that adage, “It’s better to give than it is to receive”, I decided there needs to be a corollary to it:  “The joy of giving makes the joy of receiving so much better!”  

I know there are certain folks for whom it may still be too risky to go to church to worship.  But, friends, if at all possible, find a way to return to Mass.  Rediscover the feeling of giving yourself to the Father so that He can give Himself to you with unimaginable love.  Find your happiness by making Him happy.

“Lord Jesus, I love You.  And, like giving gifts to my children and grandchildren whom I love dearly, I know it pleases You and brings You joy when I give myself as a gift to You.  Thank You for Your immense love and returning it to me in the Holy Eucharist.  Amen.”

(The Joy of Gift Giving was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2021 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Finding Peace In The One Who Is Really In Charge

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Christ, the King of the Universe

It’s been twenty two days now since the U.S. presidential election.  And, it’s been over thirty days since I’ve checked any news source to see how the election went down.  I’ve not watched television, read a newspaper, listened to the radio, or ventured onto social media.  I did stop by a friends house on Thursday evening after the election and he had his television on with election coverage.  It seemed there was yet to be declared a winner because of evidence of voter fraud in some states.  By now, that could even be old news.  I wouldn’t know and I have no interest in finding out anything more. I will learn when the time is right.  But, for now, I am at peace.

I am not a very political person in the first place, but I did vote for my preferred candidate.  I voted my conscience, which was guided by my faith, and for what I thought was best for the future of America.  Beyond that, there was not much I could do to affect the outcome other than pray that God’s will be done…. and hope that it matched mine.  Yes, like most folks, I have my concerns of how life will be if the election goes opposite of the way I would like.  

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “they will seize and persecute you… have you led before kings and governors….and you will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.“ (Lk 21:12-19The day may come when I am indeed persecuted, but I’ve decided I will not let it disturb my peace of mind and heart. 

I found I was losing that peace by allowing myself to get caught up in the pre-election noise and angry vitriol that was being spewed from both camps.  I’ve been voting for forty-four years and, although this is nothing new, I’ve never seen our nation as polarized as it is now, nor as divided between good and evil.

To compound my disillusionment with the whole mess, I sadly noticed that many people on social media who professed to be Christian, fellow Catholics included, were equally offensive.  The Christian faithful, in defense of their candidates and moral beliefs, seemed all too eager and willing to join in the artillery battle and retaliate by lobbing an equal number of bombs on their opponent.  For a child of the Cold War, it conjured up visions of a nuclear holocaust where he-who-runs-out-of-bombs-first is the loser when in fact everybody loses.  Eventually, someone will hold the office as the next President.  But, whichever way it falls, the character of our country has already suffered crippling losses because the morally right allowed themselves to be drug down from the mountain and into the muck.   

I wondered if a non-Catholic who knows that we are called to love our neighbor even when a part of us might wish he or she would get run over by a beer truck would recognize us by our words and actions?  It seemed to me that, in our Christian parlance, we hated the sinner and anyone associated with the sinner as much or more as we hated their sins.  Anyone who might have been considering joining our Catholic ranks could easily have deduced that our faith was in one political party or the other and not with Jesus Christ, himself.

Life is full of hard times and unpleasant circumstances – difficulties which we do not like, do not choose and cannot change – that go against our will and cause us grief.  Politics is simply one of  those circumstances.  You have only a fifty-fifty chance of being satisfied with the outcome.  God doesn’t create the outcome to be viewed as punishment for those who don’t get their way.  But, He allows it for the purpose of a greater good to be realized.  We are not God so we don’t have the inside scoop on what that greater good will be.  But, we are called to have faith, a faith that accepts that all will work out well for those who love and trust in Him.  Thus, anyone who finds themselves either overly ecstatic or depressed by the election outcome has placed their faith in a human being instead of God.

As Catholics, we are called to evangelize, a job at which, I admit, we are not very effective.  But, I can’t imagine that Jesus intended for us to evangelize by placing our faith in a political party and then beating the other side over the head with it.  If anything, we are called to have such a strong trust in His will that we are willing to turn the other cheek.  Rather than expending so much energy frustratingly trying to change other’s political views that don’t match up morally with our own, we ought, instead, to be putting our effort into living virtuously, making friends with people, getting to know them and understanding why they believe what they believe.  We might learn something and they might become open and comfortable to do the same with us Catholics, thus opening the door for us to introduce or reintroduce them to Jesus Christ.  Is this not what the early Christians did while they were being persecuted during that first three hundred years after Christ’s death?  Are they not the ones who, per today’s first reading are those who are “standing on the sea of glass”, “who have won victory over the beast”, and who are singing, “the song of the Lamb” (Rv 15:1-4)? 

You might think that I, by choosing to not follow the election coverage, don’t care about what’s going on in our nation, about all its problems and lack of unity.  You’d be wrong.  I care so much that I want to focus my efforts on what I believe are the root problems, namely a lack of faith and virtue, and a departure from the moral values inscribed on our hearts by our Creator.  I choose to turn my back on the one-sidedness of the news media, and ignore the anxiety to which the world would have us fall prey and which causes us to lose hope.  It may feel as though the world is going to hell in a hand-basket but I refuse to let it steal my peace.  Nor will I allow it to make me live my life worrying about the future.  The future is in good hands with God.  He will come, “to govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.”  (Ps 98:9)

This last Sunday morning, as I walked out of church after Mass, at which we celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, two friends began to complain about the election not knowing that I have chosen to remain reclusive with respect to the media.  I quickly raised my hand to signal resistance, let them know that I did not know where the election stood, and politely asked them to not spoil it for me.  Then, in response to their confused looks, I explained that, for me, no matter who wins the Presidency, the real One Who was, is, and will forever be in charge is He Who was raised to His throne by being hung on a cross.  He brings me peace and, in Him, I place my faith, trust and allegiance.  

In whom do you place your faith, trust and allegiance?  Does that one bring true and everlasting peace to your soul?  Are you inviting chaos and anxiety into your life and allowing the bitter dissonance of the world to control you?  There is a better way – a way of faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

“Heavenly Father, on this day before our National Day of Thanksgiving, I give You thanks that I live in the greatest nation ever created.  We may have our problems, but there’s no physical place, economic or political system on earth better than the United States of America.  I pray that we turn to Your Son, Jesus, as our guiding light, and for the fortitude to bring others to Him.  I pray for the intercession of our Mother Mary, to whom our great nation is consecrated, to protect us under her mantle from the Evil One.  Amen.”

(Finding Peace In The One Who Is Really In Charge, was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Wanted: Saints in Heaven. Please Send Resume.

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The Calling of Zacchaeus

This last spring I applied for a job which I thought would be interesting, would lead me closer to Christ, and was in-line with my passion for helping others grow closer to our Lord.  And, it offered full medical benefits at no cost to me!  However, there were two downsides to the opportunity:  first, that I would have to drive an hour each way to and from work (the cost of which would be offset by the savings on retiree medical insurance); and second, after being retired for three years I really didn’t want a full time job anyway.  

After waiting the obligatory two weeks, I received a response thanking me for my interest but advising that my engineering degree and 36 years of engineering related management experience made me exceedingly over-qualified for the position.  I felt neither rejected nor relieved at the response but, instead, looked at it as God saying that someone else needed the opportunity more than me.  I was happy to let His will be done.

I thought about this as I read today’s Scripture (Rv 3:1-6, 14-22; Ps 15:2-5; 1 Jn 4:10; and Lk 19:1-10 NAB).  I thought, “Every day I am adding one more experience, either good or bad, to my resume for the position of a Saint in heaven.  When the day comes and it gets reviewed, will I be qualified or under qualified? (Thankfully, there is no such thing as being over qualified although we humans may often think we are!).  How will my resume read?  Will it be an affirmation of the requirements mentioned in today’s scripture?:

“Has my faith been alive or dead (Rv 3:1)?  If it’s been alive, has it been on fire or has it been lukewarm at best (Rv 3:16)?

“Have I opened the door of my heart to the Holy Spirit and allowed Him to enter and form the interior life within me (Rv 3:20)?

“Do I hope for the victory and the right to sit next to Jesus on His throne (Rv 3:21)?

“Have I done what is right, and spoken the truth from the heart such that I can walk without blame (Ps 15:2)?

“Have I not harmed, defamed, or slandered a neighbor or friend (Ps 15:3)?

“Have I honored those who live a holy life, trying to live a holy life myself and steering away from the wickedness of the world in spite of the pressures to do otherwise (Ps 15:4)?

“Have I taken advantage of others financially and profited from it, or could I have been more generous in my charity (Ps 15:5)?

“Have I been grateful to God for His love and, out of love, sending me His Son for expiation of my sins (1 Jn 4:10)?

“Have I been grateful to God for all the love He has sent my way through my family and friends (1 Jn 4:11)?

“Have I lived in the present moment and been intentional about seeking Jesus through prayer (Lk 19:3-4)?

“Have I received Jesus with joy when He hears me, answers my prayers, and when I feel His presence (Lk 19:6)?

“Have I been grateful for all my possessions, especially all the graces the Lord has bestowed on me (Lk 19:8)?

“Have I confessed my sins when I know I’ve done wrong, and have I repented to do right (Lk 19:8)?”

Wow!  Those are some exacting job requirements!  And, I know it’s not all of them.  Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t get that job after all because I think I need to spend my retirement creating some new and positive experiences and tweaking the final edition of my resume.  

The good news is that each of us already has an office in heaven with our name on the door just waiting for us to occupy it.  It is not beyond our reach to become qualified for the position.  The benefits will certainly make the drive worthwhile! 

How will your resume read?

“Loving Father, as the blind man in yesterday’s Gospel (Lk 18:35-43), I pray to be able to ‘see’ – that is to grow in faith so that I may love You more clearly and more dearly; for the grace to live by Your commandments; and to never lose Hope that I may one day sit with You on Your throne.  Amen.”

(Wanted:  Saints in Heaven.  Please Send Resume. was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

That’s Why I Pray

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Yesterday I posted in I Love Because of You that I came up with the lyrics to the song of the same name while I was driving west across Iowa through 300 miles of non-visually stimulating cornfields on my way to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. What I didn’t say was that the same cornfields offered no improvement on the return trip.

The Jerry Jeff Walker CD, It’s About Time, which provided the inspiration for I Love Because of You, was still in the player so I hit play, cranked it up and started singing along. The first song on the album is titled That’s Why I Play, which is an upbeat lively tune about the fun of playing music. As I belted out the words with operatic fervor I mistakenly said, “that’s why I pray”, and realized I had just come up with the basis for another new song. Creating the verses and the chorus and dictating them into my phone kept me busy for the next couple hundred miles. After tweaking them a little bit, I thought I would share this song with you, too. I hope you like it. (Hint: listen to the original tune and then incorporate the new verses into the tune). Thanks again to Jerry Jeff for the tune and to God for the inspiration.

That’s Why I Pray – Lyrics by Jerry Robinson

I woke up this morning and thought what will I do with my day
I could stare at my screen and just let my day waste away.
Or I could stay off of Facebook
And open the Good Book
And let the Lord lead the way
Yeah, that’s why I pray.

I could pour me some coffee and go out and watch the sunrise,
And marvel at the beauty He makes and the clouds in the sky,
The birds and the bees,
The flowers and trees,
And give Him thanks for this day
That’s why I pray

Chorus
I like the feeling I get from the One up above
I like the feeling I get lost in His love
When we make time to talk every day
That’s why I pray

I have some friends who need a little help every day
And a few others who’ve let the world lead them astray
Now, I’m trusting in You
To pull them all through
I know they’ll all be okay,
That’s why I pray

I like the feeling I get from the One up above
I like the feeling I get lost in His love
When we make time to talk every day
That’s why I pray

I know there’s a better life waiting for me down the road
When I pass from this world, that’s where I want to go
But since a Saint’s life for me
Is no guarantee
I need to live like Christ every day
That’s why I pray

I like the feeling I get from the One up above
I like the feeling I get lost in His love
When we make time to talk every day
That’s why I pray

Yeah, that’s why I pray
That’s why I pray.

(That’s Why I Pray was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting, sharing or use of this material is not permitted without the express written consent of the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

I Love Because of You

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16″ Rainbow trout caught on a #22 midge and released

Last week I went for a little drive. From Cincinnati to Rapid City, South Dakota and back. Just 1,225 miles each way. I visited family and took the opportunity to do a little fly fishing in the Black Hills. I caught a few trout including this 16 inch Rainbow on a #22 Midge on what was going to be my last cast of the day.

The Black Hills are always stunningly beautiful, and with the fall foliage contrasting with the deep blue of the sky, they are even more so this time of year.

Upper Rapid Creek in the South Dakota Black Hills

But, to get to the Black Hills of South Dakota, I had to traverse from east to west the entire state of Iowa. It is difficult to describe the corn fields of Iowa with quite the same picturesque enthusiasm. I’m not saying corn isn’t beautiful in its own way, but 300 miles of it got a little boring.

Somewhere just west of Davenport, I slid in Jerry Jeff Walker’s CD, It’s About Time, a good sing along album, to break the monotony. Track 3 is titled Because of You, a love song to his wife about how their loving relationship changed his life. I thought about that a bit and transferred the idea to how our lives change when we turn to and have a loving relationship with Christ. And, by the time I made it to Sioux City, I had four verses and a chorus written to that tune (there are only three verses in the original song). I’m sharing them with you here. Thank you, Jerry Jeff, for the tune, and thank You, Lord, for the love You give and for the inspiration to write this.

I Love Because of You – Lyrics by Jerry Robinson

I never knew Your love, Lord, all those years ago,
I turned my back on You, and I chose to go alone.
But when I hit the bottom
Some friends brought me to You,
And everything I love now,
I love because of You.

You knew I needed love, Lord, so You gave to me my wife,
A partner for the good and hard times in my life.
You gave us beautiful daughters,
Sons, and grandkids, too,
And everyone I love now,
I love because of You

Chorus
Jesus, You have loved me for all my life,
Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true,
So, I want to thank You
And give my loving heart to You
‘Cause everything I love in life
I love because of You.

There’re a lot of people, Lord, who struggle every day,
There’re hungry and there’re homeless, and those who’ve lost their way.
You say to love our neighbor
‘Cause that’s what good folks do.
So, everyone I love now,
I love because of You.

Jesus, You have loved me for all my life,
Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true,
So, I want to thank You
And give my loving heart to You
‘Cause everything I love in life
I love because of You.

There’s no greater love, Lord, than what You did for me,
You sacrificed Your own life on a cross on Calvary.
Yet, You still sustain me
With Your blood and body, too,
And everything I love now
I love because of You.

Jesus, You have loved me for all my life,
Your grace and mercy are a love that’s true,
So, I want to thank You
And give my loving heart to You
‘Cause everything I love in life
I love because of You.

(I Love Because of You was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting, sharing or use of this material is not permitted without the express written consent of the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

“I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life”

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In today’s Gospel, Luke 9:7-9, we hear King Herod Antipas ask about Jesus, “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” I don’t think Herod wanted to simply see Jesus to identify Him, rather, I think he wanted to know more about Him. Certainly, his ego probably made him feel threatened by the attention Jesus was receiving, but he could also have been curious to know what made Him so popular. What was it about Him that enthralled so many?

As I meditated on this passage this morning, my mind wandered back a few years, to Saturday, 14 April 2012, when I attended a Christ Renews His Parish weekend. I was present not because I felt I needed to grow in my spiritual life – I didn’t have a spiritual life – rather, I was there to find some rest and solace from the grind which my life had become; to seek clarity on what I needed to do to improve my relationships with those whom I loved; and, possibly, to meet new men and make new friends.

My life had recently become almost oppressive from difficulties at work and work related travel that kept me away from home and family. Like it was for Qoheleth, the author of today’s first scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 1:2-11, life seemed to be just vanity with little hope nor purpose. I was working and making good money, but coming up empty on the happiness meter. Life had become just a “chase after wind” (Eccl 1:14).

Each day was a dread and, if I had been a Christian, the prayer from today’s psalm, “Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy” (Ps 90:14), might have been my mantra.

As I listened to men talk and give witness that day, I, like Herod, began to wonder who this Jesus was about Whom I was hearing such things? Listening attentively, I heard how they found happiness through their faith in Jesus in spite of many trials and tribulations, and even in the midst of severe tragedy, that made my problems in life seem insignificant. The love they had for Jesus, Whom they could not see much less hug, as well as the friendship they shared with each other, made me envious.

The men presenting that retreat were infected with something I did not have. It was something good and I hoped it was contagious. These were regular guys like me – they had jobs and families, heartbreaks and headaches, struggles and deep seated desires – but they had something more. They had prayer. They talked to Jesus like they knew Him, like He was their best friend, someone in whom they could confide and trust.

That night, bedded down in the church undercroft, sleep would not come. My mind was racing from what I’d experienced during the day. I knew that the only way I might catch their disease was to talk to Jesus myself, to pray and ask Him to help me. So, I rolled off my cot and went upstairs into the sanctuary. I took the third pew from the back on Joseph’s side and I knelt and truly prayed for the first time in my life. I spoke to Jesus and I called Him by name. I prayed to feel loved and that my family would know my love for them. Even though I got no response, I thanked Him for listening to me, and I went back to bed and let sleep overtake me.

The next day, I received dozens of cards and letters from my wife, children, parents, siblings and people I didn’t even know but who would soon become some of my closest friends. Each letter was one of love and encouragement, and the ones from my wife and children let me know that they felt my deep love for them as well. I had received all I had prayed for, plus some. In His mercy, God showed me His love for me, totally unexpected but as tangible as the love letters I held in my hand. I had never heard the scripture that is today’s Alleluia, John 14:6, but in that first inkling of naive faith I knew that Jesus is, “the way and the truth and the life”, and that I would follow Him from that day forward.

“Dearest Jesus, thank You for patiently waiting for me all those years. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me when I finally sought You and knew I needed You. Thank You for showering me with more love than I knew was possible, and for the grace to love You more every day. Thank You! Amen.”

(I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2020 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.