A Taste of Spiritual Warfare


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John the Baptist Testimony to Christ

Stained glass of John the Baptist testifying to Christ.

It’s been over three months since I’ve posted anything on Reflections of a Lay Catholic. In a strange way, I wish I could tell you that I’ve been experiencing a dry spell, or had writer’s block, or have just been too busy to post. But, I’d be lying. The truth is I’ve written a half dozen blog-worthy reflections during this last quarter. But, I didn’t post them because I was afraid.

I first began experiencing this fear in May. I didn’t know what it was nor why I was feeling afraid. I posted a few times this summer but each posting took more courage and strength than the one before it. Finally, after my last post in September, I was able to define my fear, and, once I did, I couldn’t make myself post again.

My fear was that when others read my posts, they think that my personal reflections of how I am inspired by seeing God work in my life are attempts to brag at my growth in holiness, that I’m exhibiting a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and that I’m writing for the purpose of having my ego stroked. It wasn’t a fear that had me shaking in my shoes but it was debilitating, nonetheless. I was stymied.

I spent a lot of time rereading my reflections and thinking about how the messages in them might be perceived by my readers. Even though I could find nothing to support why I was afraid, my fear remained strong.

I cautiously ventured to ask some trusted friends if they sensed a lack of humility in my reflections. They answered just the opposite, that my posts gave credit to God working through me. I knew they wouldn’t lie to me but I still doubted them.

I questioned why God chose me to share my faith through my writing. Why didn’t he choose Joe or Steve, or any of the other men who were with me that weekend when we were renewed in Christ? I found some comfort in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”

Although I believed God had chosen me to share my faith and proclaim His Word to show others how He works in my life so that they can learn to see Him working in their own, I wondered if I was abusing the gift He had given me.

I meditated on why I write and share with others and whether I was being honest with myself. I learned from this that I have two different purposes: I write for myself. But, I post for the potential benefit of others.

I write every day to get more in touch with my own spirituality and I’ve discovered it’s one of the ways I learn. I know if I don’t write it down, I will forget it before the winds of worldly busy-ness whisk it away. During my morning prayer and meditation, I reflect on the scripture and I write what I hear God saying to me. Then I write how that understanding might relate to my life that day. And, finally, I make a resolution to take what I learned and apply it in some way that will make me a better version of myself.

Occasionally, I think, I believe that my inspiration might be worth something to other people. Thus, I try to write my thoughts and insights in such a way that others might find them valuable in building a stronger relationship with Christ. Then, I post, hoping that others may find God’s grace in the little things of their own lives and that they will grow in their own holiness.

Since I retired in May, I have tried to grow in holiness by attending daily mass and by reading and meditating daily on scripture to listen to what God wants me to hear that day. My desire has been to grow holier than I was the day before, not holier than someone else. This regimen has brought immense peace into my life and a closeness to Christ.

In November, while I was meeting with a group of other men, including our Deacon, I opened up about my fear and I mentioned some of these things. After some conversation, our Deacon, who saw that it was no coincidence that my fear and my new prayer life both began in May, asked if I’d considered that perhaps Satan was messing with me since I’d been especially focused on strengthening my relationship with Jesus. I had to admit that thought had never crossed my mind.

I had heard of this phenomenon from many people but had never consciously experienced it myself. In reading the lives of the saints, I’d heard them mention this same thing. I realized I had just had my first taste of spiritual warfare.

After admitting I had not considered the devil sabotaging my spiritual life, I was even more ashamed that I had not done the one thing that would have simplified it all: pray for help and understanding about what was going on. I hadn’t turned to Christ for help; I’d tried to manage it all myself. Later that night, before bed, I did turn to Him in prayer.

The next morning I awoke and took my place in my comfortable chair to spend my time in silence, solitude and meditation. After my regular morning prayers, I went to my phone app to read the daily scripture passages and about the saint of the day. When I clicked on the latter, some quotes by well-known saints popped up:

“When the servant of God endeavors with all his strength to possess and preserve that joyousness of spirit which proceeds from purity of heart, and which is acquired by fervent prayer, the demons may try in vain to hurt him.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“We need to be especially alert to the evil subtlety of Satan. His one desire is to keep people from having a mind and heart disposed to their Lord and God….He wants to extinguish the light of the human heart.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.” – St. Catherine of Sienna

“Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” – Pope Saint John Paul II

I kid you not!  God answered my prayers that morning.

Over the last three weeks I’ve been debating how to get started again posting my reflections. I knew if I didn’t begin again, the evil one would win this round. I wasn’t sure how to resume and, to be honest, I’ve been procrastinating. Until today.

At mass this morning, I heard the lector read from Isaiah 61, “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor…”, and the purpose of my reflections came to mind.

In the Psalm, I repeated, “My soul rejoices in my God” and I gave thanks for the relationship we have.

In the second reading, 1 Thes 5:18, I heard, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus”, and it occurred to me that I had not thanked God for this long and painful experience.  I thanked Him.

In the Gospel, John 1:6-7, I heard our priest proclaim, “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” I couldn’t help but think that this was God telling me it’s time for me to get off high center. It’s time for me to resume testifying to the light of Christ. My daily resolution was to write and post this, to alert others to the devil’s designs, and to get it behind me so I can move forward.

After mass I sat down to complete my daily meditation before beginning to write. I read the day’s reflection by Fr. Francis Fernandez from In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, 114, “What is more, we should have no opportunities at all for growing in virtue if we had no obstacles to overcome.”

Ain’t that the truth!

“Thank You, Lord, for Your love. Thank You for Your gentle ways of teaching. Thank You for Your patience as I learn to love You more. Lord, help me to never stop pointing others to you and witnessing the truth of Your Word and grace. Amen.”

“St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

(A Taste of Spiritual Warfare was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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 Choosing


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Take Up Your Cross pic

As I read and meditated on Tuesday’s Gospel,  I couldn’t help but wonder about a few things.

“In those days He departed to the mountain to pray, and He spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose Twelve, whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” (Luke 6:12-16 NAB)

Did Jesus spend the night in prayer discerning which of His disciples He would choose to be the Twelve? And, if so, what criteria did He consider? Was He looking for the one with the greatest love for God? Or, the one who was most faithful? Or, maybe the one most loyal to Him? Perhaps the deciding quality was the ability and willingness to show compassion and mercy to others. Could it have been the ones who demonstrated love for their neighbors as they loved themselves? Or, was it the ones who had the greatest zeal to go out and spread the Good News?

One would think it would have been several or all of those things. But, then, maybe it was none of them.

And, did He learn from his prayerful conversation with God that night that Judas Iscariot would betray Him?

Who knows.

But, an even more important question came to my mind: “Would He have chosen me?”

Followed by, “If not, why not?”

In which of those qualities that, on the surface, would seem to have been the most important to Him, do I not measure up? Just a few? Or all of them?

It gives me something to pray about, to ask Him to show me where I should focus my attention.

Would you have been chosen? What would have excluded you?

“Lord Jesus, I love You and I desire to grow closer to You. I give You thanks for Your Mercy. I pray for the Grace to always trust in You, to always live the Father’s commandments, and to be Your voice, hands and feet in spreading Your Good News. Amen.”

(The Choosing was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.


From the Archives: I Thirst For You


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Today, 5 September 2017, is the Memorial of Saint Teresa of Calcutta and it marks the 20th anniversary of her death.

When I wrote the following post two years ago yesterday, I didn’t know I was writing it on the eve of the anniversary of her death.  Nor did I know that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would become Saint Teresa of Calcutta exactly one year later.

No, I wrote it simply because I was deeply moved by the meditation, I Thirst For Youwhich is attributed to Saint Teresa.  The meditation still moves me today and is one I fall back on when I’m feeling the need to be lifted up.  I hope it lifts you up as it does me.

Peace be with you.


I Thirst For You (reprinted from 4 September 2015)

Every now and then something comes along that is so special you can’t get it out of your mind. You keep revisiting it and replaying it. And, each time you do, you find one more nugget of inspiration that convinces you to repeat the process again.

Such has been my case ever since a friend shared a special meditation with our men’s faith sharing group a couple years ago. The meditation is titled, I Thirst For You, and its authorship is attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa. My friend read it to our group, in his baritone voice, slowly and with immense feeling. I closed my eyes and visualized as if Jesus was the One actually speaking to me. I was blown away. I could feel His love flowing over me.

Since that evening I have heard my friend read it a couple more times and I still get goose bumps. I have read it many times since, both to myself and to others, and each time I seem to focus on and ruminate over a new word or phrase that jumps out at me. I always find something new that brings me joy.

I read it again tonight and I thought back to that first time I heard it. I remembered how none of the six or seven of us men had ever heard the meditation before then, and I wondered how many other faithful Catholics have never heard it, either. It ought to be on the reading list of every Catholic. No, actually, it ought to be on the reading list of every Christian, not just Catholics. So, I decided to post it here on this blog and share it with all readers. I hope you get goose bumps, too.

Hint: Read this slowly and with feeling. When a word or phrase grabs your attention, take a moment to reflect on what it is Christ is trying to tell you at that moment. Then, I encourage you to share this with others and ask someone else to read it to you while you listen with your eyes closed and soak up its message. You won’t regret it. Let me know what you think.

God Bless.


“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (Rev.3:20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father (“As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…”[John.15:9]). I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all of your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know everyone of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations. I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all of you who thirst…”(John 7:37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I thirst for you. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you: I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation and give you peace, even in all your trials. I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give Me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart.

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life – and I will. I promise you before My father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest.

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you give Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal, so come now and unburden your soul.

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life, there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change: I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: ”I THIRST….”(John 19:28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…”(Ps 69:20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit: “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake. Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of you heart and knock…Open to ME, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

“Jesus is God, therefore His love, His thirst is infinite. He, the creator of the universe, asked for the love of His creatures. He thirsts for our love….These words: ‘I thirst’ – do they echo in our souls?” – Mother Teresa

(The introduction to I Thirst For You was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic, 4 September 2015.  The Post, From the Archives:  I Thirst For You, was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic on 5 September 2017.)


©2013-2017 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.

Thoughts on the Total Solar Eclipse


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Solar_eclipse_22_July_2009_taken_by_Lutfar_Rahman_Nirjhar_from_BangladeshToday’s the day the scientific community and millions of regular folks across America have been waiting for: the total solar eclipse. The last one to occur was in 1979, and prior to that, the last to be visible from the contiguous 48 states was in 1918.

From my perch here in southwest Ohio, the eclipse is supposed to begin at 1:02 p.m., peak at 2:28:41 p.m., and end at 3:52 p.m. – almost three hours. The sky is clear and we should see a 90% eclipse.

I don’t have any special dark glasses with which to look at the eclipse, nor did I make a pinhole viewer from a shoe box. I’m just sitting here on my front porch waiting to see it get dark in the middle of the day.

Waiting to see if anything special happens when the moon blocks out the sun.

I recall a story of an eclipse which happened about 2,000 years ago that also lasted about three hours.

“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle” (Lk 23:44-45).

It occurred in Jerusalem as Jesus was dying on the cross – a death demanded by the self-righteous of the time, most notably the Jewish scholars and priests who were blinded by their man-made beliefs to which they were attached and who refused to accept that God had finally sent their Messiah, the Son of Man, as He promised.

Their beliefs blocked out the “Son”.

I recall this morning’s Scripture passages:

“The children of Israel offended the Lord by serving the Baals. Abandoning the Lord, the God of their fathers, who led them out of the land of Egypt, they follow the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the Lord.” (Judges 2:11-12)

“They served their idols, which became a snare for them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” (Psalms 106: 36-37)

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Matthew 19:21-22)

Each of these passages spoke to me about how our society often puts other things ahead of God and His Son, Jesus, making it easy to turn away from Them. These other things, our “possessions”, our attachments, are the habits and “important” stuff we can’t turn loose of. They’re those things that keep us from focusing on, and spending time with, our Lord.

They, too, block out the “Son”.

One has to wonder if the Church picked these passages specially for today. But, I know they didn’t. I also know it’s not just coincidence. This is the way God works.

Perhaps, then, today, the day the moon eclipsed the sun, would be a good day to think about what things we allow in our lives to eclipse the “Son”, and what it will take to turn loose of them.

“Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for Your great glory. Thank You for this world in which we live with all its wonders – Your Wonders. Thank You especially for the greatest Wonder of all, Your Son, Jesus. Holy Spirit, help me to turn loose of my unnecessary worldly attachments so that I may grow closer to Christ. Amen.”

(Thoughts on the Total Solar Eclipse was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2017 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.Thout

You Reap What You Sow


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Sunday morning’s Gospel, Matthew 13:24-43, was the parable about the weeds being sown with the wheat. As I made my morning prayers, I asked what message God was trying to send me. I came up with an answer in short order and then readied myself to go to mass.

Come to find out, our priest’s interpretation of that passage of scripture was no where near what I came up with. Not even on the same continent. His was philosophically much deeper and, of course, right on the money. The only thing his and mine had in common were the words reaping and sowing.

Turns out that my take is more from Galatians 6:7.  Oh, well.

Since I was a child I’ve heard the adage, “You reap what you sow”. When I hear it, it’s usually with a negative connotation. Frequently, someone discovers, in hindsight, that they screwed up. They’re ruing about a choice they made sometime way back in the past that has resulted in unfortunate circumstances for them. Too often, the regret is over a relationship with another – a matter of the heart.

I usually hear, “If only….” somewhere in there.

Sometimes it’s me speaking those words.

But, my epiphany from this reflection was, “Why can’t it be the other way around?” Why can’t I, instead of regretting the seeds I’ve already sown, focus on the reaping before I sow them?

Why don’t I learn to ask, “What do I need to do now in order to reap what I desire later on?” Why don’t I have that foresight?

Then, I had an epiphany on top of my epiphany. In thinking about that last question, I realized there were too many “I’s” in there. And, that’s the problem.

What I need to do is ask God what the right thing to do is; pay attention and listen to Him; and then do it. Forget about the reaping and trust that there will be a harvest. That which I eventually reap, whether it’s what I desire or a surprise, will be His gift to me for sowing the right seeds.

“Loving and Gracious God, I give you thanks for the bountiful harvest of blessings you’ve bestowed on me. Please help me to discern your will, to sow the good seeds, in the decisions I make, and then trust in You for the harvest. Amen.”

(You Reap What You Sow was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2013-2017 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.

Take Up Your Cross


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Take Up Your Cross pic

“…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” – Mt 10:38

As I read this passage from this morning’s (Monday’s) Gospel I asked myself the questions, “What does Jesus mean by ‘take up your cross’?”, and, “What is my cross?”. It was like deja vu. I’ve asked myself those two questions a gazillion times and never took the time to reflect upon them.  But, this time the last four words of that verse, “is not worthy of me”, jumped out at me and I decided I really ought to know the answers.

I’ve been thinking about this most of the day.  Here’s what my simple brain came up with:

In the first sense, the cross is a sign of suffering. It’s where Jesus suffered and died and it’s where many were crucified by the Romans before and after Him. Our “cross” is that which causes us to suffer.

We all suffer in some way. It may come in the form of real physical or emotional pain. Perhaps our suffering is a physical handicap, the loss of a loved one, the experience of an injustice, or the loss of a job and the inability to make ends meet.

Or, maybe, our suffering is one of inconvenience – the perceived pain of not getting our way, of being “put out” by circumstances beyond our control.

By “taking up our cross”, I think Jesus is telling us in a round-about way that, no matter what our suffering is, we need to deal with it. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. In this life there will always be a certain amount of suffering. Not until we find ourselves in heaven will we live a peaceful and painless eternity.

Taking up our cross, then, means to accept that which causes us to suffer. It means we need to take ownership and, in doing so, we need to accept our suffering without complaining, moaning and groaning. But, I think there are two kinds of complaining.

The first, the good complaining, is like groaning that your legs hurt after you’ve just completed the fastest mile you’ve ever run. It’s a hurt that is expected, and one you’re glad to experience because it means you’ve grown/advanced/improved. It’s a hurt for which you’re grateful. There’s no cross to be taken up in this case.

The second, the bad kind of complaining, is when we express our misery because of an unfortunate circumstance: we couldn’t get our grass mowed this week because it rained and then our lawn mower wouldn’t start. The irony is that, if we think about it, we should be grateful for the time we have, while we’re not mowing the lawn, to do other things, like improving relationships, that often get pushed to the back burner. In this regard, I think about the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ.” By doing this, we’re elevating the circumstance to the first level, the good complaint.

With respect to this second type of complaining, taking up our cross is not making another person, intentionally or unintentionally, feel bad because of our situation. This is where taking ownership comes into play. It’s ours and we can’t make it someone else’s. Asking someone to pray for us and hoping for their compassion is fine. But, expecting someone to commiserate with us and personally feel bad over our personal issue isn’t part of taking up our cross.

On the other hand, there is one person whom we can ask to bear our suffering with us – Jesus. He tells us throughout the Gospels that He is there for us, that we can trust in and turn our troubles over to Him. He will make our burdens light.

Taking up our cross means that, in accepting our circumstances, we realize it is in the past, it’s behind us, and we can’t do anything about what’s already happened. We need to let it die.

It’s now that the second meaning of taking up our cross and following after Jesus comes into play. After we’ve let that which causes our suffering to die, we need to start living again. That’s when we not only take up our cross but we begin to follow after Jesus. It’s a resurrection for us.

Jesus died and, upon His resurrection, went to a better place. By taking up our cross and following Him, we, too, can find a kind of resurrection, a better place. We begin to open ourselves up to finding joy in the every day gifts which God provides. In opening up, we begin to accept His love for us, a love that is independent of our circumstances. Then, ultimately, our resurrection is complete when we begin to love others unselfishly in spite of our personal suffering. In fact, we no longer view it as suffering but, instead, as a unique gift.

You know what? I’m not going to expound on what my cross is. That’s because I can see that I have many crosses to bear. After going through this exercise, I realize my crosses can be different from one day to the next, or even one hour to the next. Some crosses are heavier than others. Some I accept quicker than others. I think the important thing is that I have figured this out for myself and can begin to see my suffering, both the real and the inconvenient, as crosses to bear.

And, I resolve to pray to our Lord, Jesus, for His help in lightening the load of each of those crosses.

Won’t you take some time to think about your crosses and how you take them up in following Him?

“Lord Jesus, I know that You know that I know what my crosses are. And, I know that You’re just waiting for me to turn to You, to place my trust in You to lighten my load. I know You will because You have so many times before. I pray for an increase in faith that it is Your will that is done, not mine. Lord, thank You for all your many blessings, even those which I didn’t recognize as blessings at the time. Amen.”

(Take Up Your Cross was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.

Who Do You Say That I Am?


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Who Do You Say I am Pic“Who do you say that I am?” That’s the question Jesus asked the Apostles in yesterday’s Gospel (Mt 16:13-19). As I reflected on what God’s Word was saying to me in this passage, I made a resolution to articulate my own answer and understand its weight.

Fundamentally, that is the question Jesus asks all of us. Who do we say that He is?

A few short years ago, in the infancy of my faith formation, a friend read to me a passage from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  It profoundly opened my mind:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic…or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice (emphasis added). Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse….But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

You must make your choice.” Author Matthew Kelly explains in The Jesus Question, “not making a choice is making a choice.” There’s no in-between.

So, who do I say that Jesus is? To begin, I have to mimic Simon, soon to be named Peter, when he answered collectively for the Apostles: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus is God made man, the second person of the Trinity. He came into this world to suffer and die for me (and you), to offer me salvation for my sins, to give me a fresh start and the opportunity to live with Him in heaven for all of eternity.

Jesus is my Guiding Light, my North Star. He shows me the path I need to take in this earthly life to find my way to God, a God whose love for me is never ending and Who, after creating me, desires that I return to Him.

After Simon answered Jesus, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” I can relate to that.

The Heavenly Father offered His gift of faith to me in a manner I could neither ignore nor refuse, and, through it, revealed to me His love manifested in His Son, Jesus. It was a no-brainer that happened in a nanosecond. There was no learning involved and no teaching required from others to make me believe. It was after my conversion that other men and women, true “flesh and blood”, began teaching me about this thing called Christianity. And, it was only because I had accepted God’s gift of faith that I was able to accept the full revelation of what I was learning.

My faith formation has progressed such that I no longer have to rely on others to show me the way, although I still learn from them daily. I have found a better way – a way that isn’t just about learning, but about building a relationship with God. It’s called prayer. By talking to God through my verbal prayer, and by listening to God through mental prayer and meditating on the Sacred Scriptures, He and I are building an intimate relationship where He reveals Himself to me and I, by revealing myself to him, learn about myself that which He already knows.

It’s a beautiful thing!

When was the last time you stopped to answer Jesus’ question of you, “Who do you say that I am?” Maybe it’s time.

“Heavenly Father, I love and worship You. I give You thanks for Your Grace which has bent my free will towards you. Thank you, Jesus, for leading me to the Father. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for opening my mind and heart to the Word of God that continues to transform my life. Amen.”

(Who Do You Say That I Am? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.

A Spiritual Dichotomy


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7d77efabcfa5fc8fec489b03377d783c--baby-jesus-holy-holyI often think I have it tough. But, all it takes to jerk me back to reality is to read about the lives of the Apostles and the saints.

In today’s reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:1-10), St. Paul gives us an idea of what life was like for the Apostles. They had to endure through “afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments…”, by employing the virtues of “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, …. love and truthful speech”.

The Apostles were treated as, “deceivers but yet they spoke the truth; as unrecognized and yet they were acknowledged; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet they enriched many; and, as having nothing yet they possessed all things.”

Paul’s letter is evidence that he and the Apostles practiced what Jesus preached in today’s Gospel (Mt 5:38-42) about retaliation. They didn’t resist being persecuted. Their mercy for others let them set aside the old law of “an eye for an eye” and let them “turn the other cheek”. And, when someone needed help, they went the extra mile.

It’s evident that, from the beginning, living the life of a Christian was a spiritual dichotomy.

I may not be persecuted like the Early Christians. But, I still experience a spiritual dichotomy in my life. Since becoming Catholic, I have found an interior peace like I never knew could exist. But, because I am called to spread to others that peace and joy found only through the love of Jesus Christ, I may never be totally at peace again. At least not in this life. And, that’s okay.

Dear God, thank you for giving us Your Son, Jesus, to lead us to You. Thank You, Jesus, for showing us the way to the Father. And, thank You, Holy Spirit, for filling me with Your love and peace, and for the fire that has burned yet healed my soul. Through Your grace, I pray I may be an instrument for enlightening others to Your love. Amen.

(A Spiritual Dichotomy was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.

Do You Love Me?


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It’s Sunday morning and I’m still ruminating over Friday’s Gospel (John 21:15-19) and what it said to me. It hit me so profoundly that I wanted to let the message sink in so I will never forget it.

When Jesus appeared to the Eleven the third time after being raised from the dead, He ate a breakfast of bread and fish with them. Right afterwards, He pulled Simon Peter aside and asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He didn’t ask only once. No, He asked three times. And, I think, by doing so, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to redeem himself for having denied Jesus three times before His death. I’m sure that is what was on Peter’s mind as he answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”

But, I don’t think Jesus was trying to rub it in. He wasn’t concerned about the depth of Peter’s love for Him, rather, he was looking for commitment from the one He was appointing to lead His church.

Commitment. That’s what He asks of me, too.

It’s taken two days for that to sink in. Jesus asks me in every waking moment, “Jerry, do you love Me?” Especially every time I am on the verge of sinning. I realize now that, at those times when I’m aware of the sin I am committing, my cognizance is actually Jesus asking me, “Do you love Me?” I’m ashamed that, by my actions, I all too often respond otherwise.

Jesus asks of us only two main things to be Holy: to love God, and to love our neighbors. Every sin contradicts one or both of those commandments. Each time an action, a spoken word, or a disrespectful thought, which damages a relationship with another person, damages my relationship with the Lord. That’s not conducive to getting me to heaven.

“Jesus, You know that I love You. I resolve today to make that evident in all that I do. I know I need the help of Your Sanctifying Grace to override my occasional wavering commitment. And, when I fail, as I will, I need Your loving Mercy and Actual Grace to let me try again. Amen.”

(Do You Love Me? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.

Waiting to Learn – Learning to Wait


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Trinity by Andrei Rublev

The Trinity by Andrei Rublev

Do you remember when you were young and Christmas or your birthday was just around the corner? Perhaps you had a good idea of the presents you might expect to receive and you just couldn’t wait for the day to get there. Remember the anxiety of anticipation?

That is one of the two thoughts that went through my mind as I reflected on Wednesday’s Gospel:

“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.’” (John 16:12-13)

Once again, Jesus was talking in figures of speech and he dangled a curious carrot out there by declaring they would have to wait to learn what ‘things were coming’. In all honesty, though, what else could He do? There was no concrete way to explain what the Holy Spirit was and even if He did try there was no way the Apostles would understand it. Jesus knew they would have to experience it a little at a time….and when the time was right.

At face value, the Apostles knew Jesus was going away and He was promising to give them something special (and it had to be very special) to take His place. But, there was a hitch – they would have to wait to learn what it would be. Waiting, and its accompanying anticipation, can be agonizing.

The second thought was more personal and immediate as it relates to me, and, I know, many of my cohorts in the Spiritual Mentorship Program. We are two days into our week of training and formation, the first of four sessions over a two year period, and we are on fire! The course work and practicum presented by the two professors from the School of Faith has been the best classroom experience I’ve ever had. They present the material with incredible wisdom and conviction that makes it easy to learn and, naturally, desire more. The Sisters and Brothers of the Apostles of the Interior Life demonstrate a special spirituality that is evident in their generosity, kindness, and desire to teach; and they exude a rare happiness that can only come from an intimate relationship with Christ. We want to learn how to get a little more of what they have!

We know we have a good thing going here and we don’t want it to stop. But, we know it will come to an end on Sunday. At least for this semester. Our mentors know, as Jesus did, that we can only absorb so much at one time, that we will have to ruminate on what we’ve learned so that it will become internal to us before we can move forward to learn more. Alas, in waiting to learn more, we will have to learn to wait. The waiting, and the anticipation of the good things to come, will be agonizing….but worth it.

“Heavenly Father, through Your grace, please instill in us the virtues of Persistence as we learn methods to bring others closer to You, and of Patience as we eagerly await to learn more about our faith and how to be Your disciples. Amen.”

(Waiting to Learn – Learning to Wait was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2017 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.